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Danganronpa: GHOST TOWN

Chapter Text

Hon'yomi Nakajima: The Ultimate Poet:

 

Saori Gekijo: The Ultimate Singer:

 

Kimiko Mataga: The Ultimate Artist:

 

 

Akemi Mataga: The Ultimate Illustrator:

 

Mae Umari: The Ultimate Dancer:

 

Manukena Josei: The Ultimate Comedian:

 

Haruko Arakawa: The Ultimate Seamstress:

 

Hana Kuno: The Ultimate Sailor:

 

Utsumi Takeru: The Ultimate Chemist:

 

Kyofu Mashima: The Ultimate Thief:

 

 

 

Kiyoshi Hashumoto: The Ultimate Inventor:

 

Shiyota Kazuyoshi "Kaz": The Ultimate Climber:

 

Renji Hamasaki: The Ultimate Ventriloquist:

Chapter Text

"No, that's wrong!"

How many times had I shouted that? Twice? Five times? With the despair that welled within me threatening to overflow, I was beginning to loose count of our trials.

The words rushed out of my mouth before I contemplated whether what I was thinking, was right. They carried across the courtroom loudly, turning everyones attention to me.

"T-that....that isn't what happened." I stuttered, sure that they were doubting me again.

"Oh yes, let's all listen to what Hon'yomi has to say, because she clearly knows what she's talking about." Ryu said, criticism and annoyance dripping in his voice.

My hands grew sweaty as I thought of the next words that would leave my mouth, and I found myself clenching the podium before me. My words would lead us to another moment none of us wanted to face, another execution we didn't want to see.

Not for the first time, my thoughts tumbled over themselves towards the beginning. Towards the start of our despair. I tried to fathom how what I was about to say was acceptable....and right.

As colors and words echoed through my mind, some how the walls around us seemed to fold upon themselves. I cast a glance around the room, but without warning it began spinning. Faces of my classmates swirled together and the sound of Monokuma teased me through the chaos. I felt myself struggling blindly for the podium I had been clinging to so tightly before. But hands grasped empty air, and my eyes went dark as the world soon followed after.

* * *

My name is Hon'yomi Nakajima and I've just enrolled at Hope's Peak academy. Since the day I received my letter of invitation, my life has been a whirlwind of excitement and hope. No other person in my family had ever received such a chance as attending the most elite high school in the world.

Hope's Peak Academy is a school reserved only for the very best students, and their skills are what gets them through the door. Their skills can range from being the best martial artist to simply being lucky. Yeah, some of the "Ultimates" are pretty off the wall.

Since the accepted students are the very best at what they do, they are given the title of Ultimate to acknowledge their honed skill. As an Ultimate they are given the option of attending Hope's Peak and becoming the hope of our future. Anyone invited would have to be insane to turn them down because the fact is: if you graduate Hope's Peak, you'll be set for life.

When I received my letter of invitation I couldn't have been more excited. My life had drastically changed from receiving one letter, and now, I was going to Hope's Peak Academy. The anxious waiting and longing to finally arrive plagued me in the time the followed, until I stepped foot in front of the doors...

A soft wind blows across my face as I stand at the entrance. I couldn't lie, at this moment the excitement seemed to be swallowed up by the enormousness of the building before me. The towering windows glinted dully with the thriving city behind, and the door looked ominous in the grey light of the cloudy day.

I couldn't help it, at the sight of my future, my breath began to rush loudly from my lips, and my feet longed to push myself forward. But, there was one thing holding me back.

I was afraid. Afraid that I wouldn't be accepted by the other Ultimates. When I thought about it, if I was ever compared to say, the Ultimate Leader, or Doctor, my title as the Ultimate Poet would be dwarfed in comparison.

Another brush of wind fills the air, making my skirt flutter in the breeze. I suppose I was being a bit ridiculous. They had already accepted me as an Ultimate so I didn't have to be afraid. If none of the other students liked me, then I would simply ignore them and continue my studies. I didn't need others to like me.

'One day she'll receive her wings.'

The line bubbled up in my mind, filling me with new found strength, and I stepped forward.

'Through words and poetry.'

The familiar beat and rhythm of my poem conquered my fear and I felt myself rush forwards, hair flying in the wind. I was leaving much behind me; my family and friends, but I had finally decided that I would be the best at what I was good at, and never take it for granted.

I halted quickly as I reached the great doors, I was ready. I let myself have one last smile before my life would change, and quietly finished, "Wings so she can soar away free."

The cool metal of the handle vanished at the warmth of my hand, as I pried open the great doors. But just as I stepped one foot inside a crippling wave of nausea and dizziness over came me. I couldn't move, in fact it was as though my body didn't respond the feeling at all. Eyes blinking I tried to shake it off. But it was like my thoughts began melting as quickly as I began to conjured them....and then.....and then I.....and then I went....inside?

* * *

'There is a vision of hope on the mountain.'

Light and colors mingle together, building a chaotic kaleidoscope above me.

'There is a vision of hope on the mountain.'

The disctinct sound of twittering birds sounded almost melodious as they sang me from darkness.

'There is a vision of hope on the mountain.'

"What?" My set of greenish blue eyes burst open at the words I heard.

'There is a vision of hope on the mountain.'

Or rather....words I thought.

I blinked in the light of day, mind raging for an explanation of my surroundings. I found myself sprawled on my back on the greenest grass I had ever seen.

'There is a vision of hope on the mountain.'

I shook my head as the words replayed again in my thoughts. I had no idea what they meant, or more importantly; where I was.

Cautiously I began to sit up and observe my surroundings.

"Wha-?!" I was most definitely not at Hope's Peak Academy. I was instead, on a round patch of grass beneath the biggest oak tree I had ever seen, in the middle of.....a town?

There was no other word for it. I was in the center of a small square surrounded by multiple buildings. Each had a different title, but I hardly focused on the writing. The consistent twittering of birds made the place seem almost normal. Almost. But no matter how many birds I heard, none of their songs curbed the fear and confusion of the sight that lay just beyond the buildings.

A wall. But it wasn't your standard stone or brick wall that surrounded upper class neighborhoods. This wall was metal, thick and at least 50 feet tall. The very sight of it filled me with a strange sense of fear that made my body shake. For some reason....I felt that that wall was designed to keep people away. But whether it was people outside or.....myself inside, to that I had to clue.

I felt as though I was in a daze, everything around me seemed unreal and my mind felt foggy. What happened when I walked into Hope's Peak? Why was I here, and where was here?

I struggled unsteadily to my feet, prepared to hunt down some answers when a voice spoke to me from behind.

"Hey."

I let out the most embarrassing screech imaginable as I spun around to face the speaker.

"Whoa! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." The voice belonged to a guy I had never seen before.

Greeting the newcomer with a glare I kept my hands in fists ready to throw a punch if needed. I certainly didn't feel safe here. "Who are you?" My voice severely lacked the confidence I'd been aiming for.

A flicker of brief surprise appeared across his face, but quickly vanished. "Who am I?" He looked at me in a way that was almost quizzical. "Who are you?"

"I'm Hon-" I slammed my mouth shut the moment I realized what I was doing. Why had I been so comfortable with answering this strangers question the moment he asked? I shook my head in confusion and looked him over.

He was very tall and even from a few feet away it seemed as though he towered over me. His clothes were casual; a simple red t-shirt, faded jeans and a black jacket tied around his waist. The sun glinted off his brown hair and his green eyes shone with puzzlement.

"You see what I mean?"

I blinked completely side tracked. "Huh?"

He frowned, looking more puzzled. "Why I didn't tell you my name."

"Oh..." I nodded. "Yeah." I guess I did, because even though I had started to answer, I was wary of telling anyone anything at this point. "Do you know about," I gestured to our surroundings, "anything?"

Immediately his face fell, "No I don't, I was hoping you would be able to tell me."

I gasped, "Don't tell me you just woke up here too?"

He nodded, "I have no idea how I got here....or where here is...or anything." He said helplessly, shoving his hands in his pockets.

Seconds passed filled with tense silence, and a creeping sense of fear grew as we studied each other causiously. I met his eyes as a thought popped in my mind. "Do you think we're-?"

He shook his head. "No." Sure enough, just as he spoke a scream tore through the repeating sound of birds singing.

I didn't wait to see if he followed, and I suppose it wasn't very smart to turn my back on some stranger in a situation like this, but a fierce sense of needing to know what was happening took over as I rushed down a perfectly paved street.

The sound of quick footsteps followed me, as the scream sounded again. I glanced back to see that my companion was running after me, with the same look of confusion on his face. Together we followed the sound of hysterics and rounded a corner past a huge white building. I hardly realized when the pavement turned to grass, or that there was a small lake before us. My mind was focused on two people. One, was a girl wearing a sailor uniform, the other, a boy in a blue hoodie with white stripes laying face first in a patch of daisies.

"Too you guys long enough! I didn't think anyone heard me!" She said looking up at us with blue eyes that matched her hair. "I think he needs help!"

I was pretty sure half the country heard her screams. "What do you mean he needs help?" I asked, my mind reeling from the start one event after another.

"I mean help for fucks sake!" She shouted, making me and the boy who followed, cringe. We weren't expecting to hear her use such language.

"I think...he's dead!" She turned back to the boys unmoving body and a look of horror covered her face.

My companion looked skeptical. "How do know you he's dead?"

"He hasn't moved, even when I shook him!" She said like it was completely obvious.

"He's not dead." The three of us jumped in unison as a low feminine voice interrupted our banter. A petite dark haired girl had suddenly emerged out of nowhere and stood beside me. I fought the urge to back away from yet another stranger.

"How can you know that?!" The sailor girl asked, completely glossing over the surprise of the newcomer.

The dark haired girl rolled her eyes, gracefully moved closer to the boy and kicked him in the ribs.

"Uhgn!" The boy let out a painful grunt, making us shrink back.

"He's....he's not dead?! I was sure as shit that he was!"

"Like I said." The petite girl replied, stepping away from him.

I cast a glance over to the boy who'd followed me. He looked just as lost as I was. "So um...."

"What the fuck?!"

All eyes returned to boy on the ground as he began to stir. Once he quit blinking in the sunlight he leapt to his feet. "Who the hell just kicked me?!" His dark brown eyes scrutinized each of us, his hands clenched into fists as if ready to swing at anyone who dared to look at him. It couldn't be helped though, because we were all looking at him. But despite this fact he immediately zeroed in on the petite dark haired girl.

Her own dark eyes stared steadily back at him. "That was me." She said nonchalantly.

"You?" At first he sounded doubtful, but it quickly vanished as he observed her more closely. "Who the hell are you?" He stepped closer to her. "You want to kick me again and see what happens?!"

I was surprised to see that someone as petite and short as her didn't shrink back. He wasn't that much a taller than her, and he was definitely shorter than me, but I was sure I would've retreated a few paces.

"Hey." The boy from earlier stepped towards them both. "Listen, calm down I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt you or anything."

I knew neither of the boys saw it, but the petite girl raised her brow at his words, and I got a strong feeling that she wasn't afraid of much.

"I don't care what she was meaning! She fucking kicked me!" The boy glared down at her, and a strand of wavy black hair fell into his eyes.

"I was merely proving the point that you weren't dead." She crossed her arms and met him with such a gaze, that it chilled even my bones.

He remained almost unfazed. "So? You didn't have to fucking kick me to do that did you?!"

The tall boy looked over to me and then at the sailor girl. None of us were sure what do to, or what was really going on.

"I apologize. We could try it again if you like." He voice was smooth and sincere but it was obvious that she had no intent on being so.

"I dare you-"

"Oh thank goodness!" A huge shape burst between the angry boy and the short girl. "I'm not the only one here!"

A broad strong looking guy worked his way among us, as if he was desperate to be surrounded by people. His attire was alarming at first; a nice white button up with a burgundy vest followed by a long black and gold coat. He even wore a hat with goggles on his head.

"I have no idea what's going on! I just woke up over there in a bark pit! I think I have splinters in my face, and my jacket is just-"

"You don't have to shout." My first companion muttered. The big guy didn't respond, instead he began brushing off his elaborate coat and fixed a black tie around his neck.

"You're not the only one who had a bad wake up call." The angry boy said, still glaring at the short girl. "At least you didn't get kicked in the ribs."

"You got kicked in the ribs?! That has to suck for you."

I felt myself cringe, as the angry boy turned now, to the huge guy, a look of challenge on his face. But before he could say anything, the first boy jumped between them.

"Listen, I don't really get what's going on here, but can we avoid trying to kill each other? Please? I think everything will be much easier if we just calm down-"

"Um...what the fuck is all this yelling about?" I felt like burying my face into my hands as yet another newcomer joined the mess of strangers. She appeared behind the sailor girl, in a black and white plaid skirt joined by a crop top with an intense look of judgement on her face. "You guys need to chill."

"Yes please!" I shouted exasperated. Honestly, most of these people here seemed easy to set off.

She glanced over to me brushing brown hair over her shoulder. "Seems like that worked."

Sure enough as I turned to face the boys again, the angry one and the big one were no longer shouting, but rather staring at each other intently as if gauging one another. The tall boy still stood between them, and even though he towered over both, he somehow looked small and insignificant between the two.

"Um...I don't think that worked..." I glanced around at the ever growing group, my mind reeling. First the surprising boy appeared, then the sailor girl screaming about the angry boy, followed by the small fierce looking girl interrupted by the huge guy and now this other girl and-

"Someone was screaming? Is someone hurt?" The voice was soft and worried with a touch of curiosity. I spun around to see who spoke and found myself seeing double.

Two different people with the same face stood behind me, equal looks of concern on their faces. It took me half a second to realize that they didn't have the same face, but faces so similar they could've only been...

"Twins." I said, thankful that I hadn't lost my mind and began hallucinating.

"Yes?" They both said at once, greeting me with kind looks. I think I gasped in fear or something, because they answered so in sync it was creepy.

"No one is hurt." Once again the petite girl materialized out of nowhere beside me. I moved a little bit away from her, not comfortable being near anyone here.

"Then why was there screaming?" The twin on the right asked, tilting her head. She wore a yellow skirt while the other wore shorts.

"Depends on when your talking about." The girl in plaid called, moving closer to the group.

"What do you mean? There was more than one person screaming?" The second twin asked looking at the girl who spoke.

"Oh there's about to be a lot more than one person if this guy doesn't get the hell away from me." I glanced back over to the boys, the angry one spoke this time still staring up at the huge guy. The tall one had given up on them and stood warily to the side.

The huge guy hadn't given up, but the slight movement of his hands caught my eye as I realized they were trembling. I almost laughed aloud at the fact that he was scared. He looked strong enough to crush the other guy in a second.

"I don't think you'll want to deal with me in a fight." The huge one said despite his trembling. His tone was even, but none of us were fooled.

"Um, should we be worried about someone getting hurt?" The twin in the shorts asked. She sounded sweet but looked as though she was figuring out how to wrestle them to ground if things got out of hand.

"If they get hurt it's their own fault." I heard the girl in the plaid skirt say.

I frowned. "Um, considering our situation I don't think it'd be a good idea to have anyone get hurt."

"Our situation? I agree with her." The boy who'd followed me, nodded at the girl in plaid. "Let them fight if they want to."

"And then what do we do if they need medical attention?" The petite girl asked.

"I doubt it'll be that bad." He answered.

"How would you know?" I asked critically. "You have no idea what they're capable of."

It all escalated from there. Before I knew it, a bickering fight broke out between us all. We all took different sides arguing about what we should do about the two of them, like we could somehow control them. The twins and the sailor girl didn't join in the argument but all three looked deeply concerned. As I noticed that no one was listening to what I had to say, I found myself growing desperate. We had other things to worry and argue about.

"I doesn't appear that they're going to fight in the first place." The same petite girl spoke. "We might as well leave them be to establish who's the coward and who isn't."

"I'm not a coward!" The huge guy shouted.

The argument continued. We weren't really fighting about anything but I felt that we were so confused that we had started feeding off each other's tension. I began to consider leaving all these strange people and continue on my quest for answers when someone else interrupted us.

"WOULD YOU ALL QUIT FIGHTING LIKE A BUNCH OF CHILDREN?!"

All at once everyones voices stopped, and we looked for the speaker in shock. The voice was so loud, and filled with such authority that even the two upset guys forgot about their exchange and looked around.

Just ten feet away, standing on a boulder was a tall, pink haired girl with her arms crossed, face daring anyone to question her. "NONE OF US WILL BE ABLE TO FIGURE OUT ANYTHING IF YOU GUYS DON'T SHUT UP!"

She shook her head as she spoke causing her short bubblegum pink hair to fall in front of her glasses. I quickly felt bad that she had to be shouting at us because she was right; we were behaving like children.

"Well said." Another girl emerged from behind her, her hair tied in a bun at the top of her head. Soon after, another person followed, and then another, until two groups stood across from one another.

"How the hell did you guys get here?" The huge guy asked.

"We could ask you the same thing." The girl with the bun answered.

I glanced at the one on the rock and when our eyes met, I knew we had both come to the same conclusion; none of us knew how we got here.

Nervously I skimmed over the now large group of people gathered by the lake. "I'm just going to assume that no one knows how they got here."

Not a single person said a word but the looks on their faces told me I wasn't wrong.....I strongly wished I had been. "Okay well....can anyone remember something before this? Like, where they were or what was happening around them? Anything?"

"Um...I'm not sure if this is important exactly, but I know Kimiko and I remember arriving at our new high school." I directed my attention to the twin wearing shorts as she answered.

My heart skipped a beat. "New high school?"

Some other people gasped among the group. "What school?!" The tall boy asked.

"Was it-" The girl in the plaid skirt began.

"Hope's Peak?" The angry guy finished.

At this point, we didn't need to hear the girls answer. It was evident now that we'd found the connection: Hope's Peak.

"What the hell does this mean?!" The sailor girl asked loudly.

"I don't understand." Said the girl with the bun.

"Maybe this is Hope's Peak?" The huge guy suggested.

"Don't be ridiculous." The petite girl interjected. "Does this looks like Hope's Peak to you?"

"I don't know!" He said tugging on his black tie.

"This definitely isn't Hope's Peak." The girl with pink hair said.

Hesitantly I agreed. "She's right. Hope's Peak is a school not a...town or whatever this place is."

"Well....still! Have you ever been in Hopes Peak?" The huge guy said, still yanking on his tie.

My mind spun as I remembered my arrival there. I walked to the door and opened it but...."N-no I haven't."

"There! Then how do you know this isn't Hope's Peak?!"

"Just look around." The petite girl said. "Do you see anything around here that's familiar at all? Do you even see the school?"

We didn't. All that was in sight was the buildings surrounded by a huge metal wall.

"I think I agree with um....them." The twin in the skirt said nodding at me, the petite girl, and pink haired one.

At her vague words I suddenly realized no one knew each other's names, other than the twins. Frowning in thought, I decided to speak up. "I'm Hon'yomi Nakajima by the way."

The twin in the skirt smiled. "I'm Kimiko Mataga. This is Akemi." She gestured to her sister who gave a little wave.

"Oh! We're introducing ourselves now?!" The huge guy shouted. "My name is Kiyoshi Hashumoto!" He had finally released his tie and was fiddling with some chains on his coat and vest.

In hearing this, the petite girl shrugged. "Haruko Arakawa."

"My name is Toshiro Kiyata." Said the tall boy I'd first met. He looked at me knowingly as he said his name, and I recalled how he refused to share it earlier.

"I'm Mae Umari." The girl in the plaid skirt admitted.

"Saori Gekijo." Said the pink haired girl as she stepped down from the rock. "Everyone else?" She looked at those who hadn't answered questioningly.

"Hana Kuno." Said the sailor girl who'd been been screaming at the start of all this.

"Well, I guess you should all know what my name is." The girl with the bun said. "Manukena Josei. Kena for short...nice to meet you all."

No one returned the feeling.

"Well okay then." Kena awkwardly stuck her thumbs in her jean pockets.

"I'll go next," A boy in square glasses and a lab coat stepped forwards from Saori's side and introduced himself. "Utsumi Takeru, and....I guess won't expect an answer."

Sure enough, no one said anything.

"I suppose everyone is gonna want to fuckin know who I am now." Said another voice from the newer group. "The names, Chikara Ishikawa assholes." The voice belonged to a muscular guy with a strange contraption on his back.

I figured him to be the asshole. Not us.

Now everyone looked to the angry guy who'd been kicked by Haruko. He glared at us as we all looked at him expectantly. "This is all good and nice and everything but we're getting a little sidetracked don't you think?"

"He has a point." Saori said looking over at me.

"Sure he does." I answered. "But I think things will go more smoothly if we can figure out who were talking to."

"She has a point." Saori said looking back over to the boy.

"Fine whatever. Kyofu Mashima, now can we get back on track?!" He adjusted his blue hoodie which looked two sizes too big on him.

I glanced around. Everyone had been introduced it looked like. So that meant there were thirteen of us. I frowned, it seemed like a strange number. "Is this everyone?"

"I don't see how I couldn't be." Saori said. "Everyone could hear Hana's screams."

"It can't be!" Mae suddenly shouted looking around desperately.

"How do you know that?" Toshiro asked in surprise, clutching the jacket around his waist.

Mae looked at each of us, brown eyes widened. "Y-you, you all remember going to Hope's Peak right?!"

A few of us nodded uncertainly.

"Well that's what I remember too! Except I wasn't going alone, my-" Mae shook her head. "He has to be here!"

"Who does?" I frowned as a strong feeling to comfort her filled me.

"Ryu!" She shouted as if that explained everything.

"Wait, do you know what's going on?" Utsumi asked, looking at Mae suspiciously.

"Ugh! No you idiot!" She shouted at him. "Screw this! I'm going to find him!" She spun on her heel and stalked off towards the square.

"Wait!" I called. "Mae just tell us! We're all confused, maybe if we talk this through we can figure out what's wrong."

She twisted around to face me. "My boyfriend and I got to Hope's Peak. We walked inside, and then I woke up here! If everyone remembers something like that too, then he should be here right? Especially because we got there together!"

"I think so?" I said doubtfully. "We still have no idea-"

"Mae?" A figure from behind her ran towards us. "Mae?!"

She spun around. "Ryu!" Mae launched herself forward, throwing her arms around a guy in a suit.

On my left I heard Toshiro make a disgusted sound. "This is suddenly like a gross romance movie."

"Tell me about it." Saori agreed, her tone equally disgusted.

We all watched Mae and....Ryu embrace and break apart. I noticed that Mae sparkled with happiness that wasn't present earlier.

"So who the fuck are you shitheads?" Hans asked, her hand on her hip.

Shit....heads? I leaned around the couple in front of me to see two more guys standing farther back as if they were unsure about us.

Ryu glanced up from Mae. "Who wants to know?"

I rolled my eyes. "Us, your fellow....." Fellow what? "....confused companions?" I finished awkwardly.

He slung an arm around Mae's waist, sliding his other hand in his suit pocket. "Ryu Okamoto." He spoke as though his name should mean something to us.

"Okamoto." Haruko said, resting her hand on the dark purple belt she wore. "As in, the famed Yakuza hitman."

He smirked. "Ultimate Hitman now, isn't it?" He looked at us all, "Because that's what we are, we're Ultimates."

"Well....I mean that what Hope's Peak said we are." Kimiko said.

Ryu laughed. "It doesn't matter what Hope's Peak says. We were invited because we are the best. We are Ultimates." He gazed among us all critically. "Though many of you are clearly uninteresting ones."

My cheeks heated. "Like hell we are!" I wasn't sure where my anger came from, but it was probably from the fact that I thought that my own ultimate was uninteresting.

"Really? What's your ultimate then?" He studied me in a way I had never been scrutinized in before.

His gaze felt cold, but it made my hands sweat. "Poet." I answered quietly.

"See what I mean?!" He exclaimed looking at Mae. "Unimportant."

I fixed my best glare on him, even though I was sure it only made myself look like an idiot.

"You're the ultimate poet?!" Kiyoshi shouted.

I gasped as the huge guy sprung forward and picked me up around the waist. "That's so great! Don't listen to him! I love poetry!"

I made a strangled noise and tensed up. "What are you doing?" My legs kicked a little and I felt one of my white socks falling below my knee.

"Hugging you! You're so skinny, you must eat healthy food!" He said happily. I cringed more wishing he would put me down, but his grip was so tight I couldn't move.

"Boy!" Saori ran up to Kiyoshi and grabbed his arm. "Put her down!"

Kiyoshi looked at her in surprise like he hadn't realized he was doing anything wrong. "Oh! Geez..." He carefully set me down, "sorry, I guess that was out of line."

I quickly backed away gasping. "Don't do that!" Angrily and a little bit scared, I pulled my sock back into place over my knee.

He looked away blushing. "Yeah sorry."

Saori shook her head at him. "Damn..."

Kiyoshi fiddled with his black tie again ignoring us.

"Since when is it okay to just pick up a complete stranger?" Toshiro asked aggressively.

Kiyoshi didn't answer but his cheeks flushed even more.

"I-it's...it's...forget about it." I muttered in complete shock and anger. I had no idea what had just happened.

"Um, I know this is off topic now, but what are your names?" Akemi asked the two boys who had followed Ryu.

The boy closest to Ryu ran a hand through his bright orange hair. "Hey, I'm Shiyota Kazuyoshi, but I'd like it if you just called me Kaz." He had a young face and a bright attitude.

Akemi smiled. "Okay Kaz," She looked over to the second boy. "And you?"

He had greenish blue hair and was taller than even Toshiro. He looked at Akemi almost in fear or shock. Some how everyone found a way to watch him curiously as we all waited for him to answer. As the seconds continued to pass, I think an entire minuet ran out before he realized he'd been asked a question.

In looking around to us all, he began to dig through his shorts urgently searching for something. No one spoke as he did so, it was like he drew our attention and held it long enough for us to become captivated. When he finally withdrew something like a doll from his pocket, he used it- instead of himself- to answer.

"Renji Hamasaki." The doll moved around happily, gesturing to the boy. At first I was sure we all believed the doll moved and spoke on it's own, but then logic took over each of us as we realized he was voicing the little doll. His skill was brilliant and nearly flawless and his lips barely twitched as the girl on strings spoke to us. "My name is Aimee! It's nice to meet you!"

I wasn't entirely sure how to respond. I'd never been talked to by a puppet...no a marionette before. But I didn't have to.

"Nice to meet you both." Kena interjected quickly. She seemed in awe of his skill and observed the doll closely.

"So, I'm guessing you're a puppet master...or something like that?" Utsumi said.

The marionette shook her head. "He's a ventriloquist!" Aimee seemed to look over at Ryu, "I guess he's the Ultimate Ventriloquist!"

"And what do you remember about waking up here? Weird shit about Hope's Peak too?" Hana asked.

"Weird?" Aimee said, "All Renji knows is that the moment he walked inside Hope's Peak everything became blurry and he passed out."

My blood felt cold, "Th-that's what happened to me."

Saori spoke next, her face deep in thought. "Same here....." She frowned, "Well, whatever happened, and however it happened, we know that we're here because of Hope's Peak. Or something like that...."

Toshiro looked at her suspiciously, "Wait...what do you mean?"

"Are you saying Hope's Peak Academy brought us here?" Kimiko asked.

"I'm not sure, but I think we can agree that it certainly has something to do with the school." Saori finished.

Haruko nodded, looking heated in her long sleeved black shirt. "I agree. At this point, that is our only explination."

"So everyone here, was all going to attend Hope's Peak?" Everyone nodded as I spoke. "And then you passed out and woke up here?" None denied the story, and found myself looking at the metal walls in fear again. "Why?"

"What do you mean, 'why'?" Mae said at Ryu's side.

"Why are we here? Where is here?"

"Maybe we should look around to figure that out." Kyofu said from the back. "I'm sure I can find us a way out of here."

"But, well I know it's weird and everything, but why leave at all?" I cast an alarmed glance at Utsumi. "I know, I know I sound crazy but it's not like there's anything bad here right?"

Kiyoshi looked horrified at the thought of staying. "Those walls look pretty bad! And I don't know about you guys but I have a life I'd like to live in the world!"

Ryu looked at him scornfully, "What life?"

"Hey! Enough from you alright?! You're pissing me off and being an ass!" I shouted loudly in his face even though he was taller than me. All the confusion and tension that had been building within me burst out. "No one needs someone like you around!"

I guess I could've chosen my words differently, because something I said clearly struck a nerve. He carefully let go of a livid Mae, and stared me down. "The fuck did you just say?"

Regret attacked my common sense, but my anger prevailed. "I said quit being an asshole to everyone here before you know a damn thing about them!"

I definitely should've let my common sense win out because before I knew it he was reaching inside his jacket, and I didn't have to guess what for.

But before I had to stare down the barrel of a gun, Toshiro leapt forwards, latching onto Ryu's arm, keeping him from drawing his weapon. "Do you really think that's a good idea?" Toshiro spoke calmly although his face was fierce.

"Let me go." Was all Ryu said. His green eyes never left mine.

Toshiro didn't oblige and things probably would've taken a turn for the worst if a flicker of confusion hadn't drained Ryu's face. It was something he tried to cover, but our gazes were locked and I didn't miss it.

"Mae?" He said, wrenching his arm from Toshiro's grip, his hand returning empty. "Let's go."

Mae nodded and took his hand, but not before casting an apologetic look at me. I didn't bat an eye.

No one moved until they disappeared behind the huge white building. "What the hell? That guys crazy." Kena said.

"Or simply easy to set off." I jumped sky high as Haruko appeared beside me. I guess I hadn't noticed her move towards me during the exchange.

She looked at me in slight amusement. "Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."

"No that's- that isn't what scared me." I admitted.

"Is everyone okay?" Toshiro asked, turning to us.

"Oh just grand! What the fuck will we do if he tries to kill someone every time he gets pissed off?!" Hana shouted.

"I think...I think that was my fault." I muttered. "I should've thought my words through." Inside I laughed at the irony of my statement. When writing, I always thought my words through.

"Are you saying we should forget about what just happened?" Kimiko asked.

"No-"

"What I think she means is that we can't really do anything about it." Toshiro interrupted, watching me carefully. "I think right now it'd be best for us to search this place and go from there."

"Do you think that's safe?" Kiyoshi said looking around nervously.

"We can most likely assume that we're the only ones here." Kena said. "Right?"

Saori squinted behind her glasses. "Maybe...but I agree. Let's split up and look around."

"Meet back here in about 20 minutes. We'll talk about what we've discovered." Toshiro ordered.

"Okay! Come on Akemi." Kimiko gestured at her sister and they headed off towards a park area.

Pretty soon our group dwindled until only myself and Toshrio stood by the lake.

I couldn't figure him out. At first he was cautious and didn't seem to trust me, but then he quickly jumped to defend me multiple times. And now, he stayed here with me. I glared at the lake trying to get ahold of my swirling thoughts.

I tried to push aside the strange sense of urgency I felt towards him. I couldn't discern exactly as to why I felt that way, but it was something I couldn't ignore. Just like the situation we were in. How were we here with no sign of anyone who knew what was going on? What did Hope's Peak have to do with it?

I clenched my fists as the words exploded into my mind again;

'There is a vision of hope on the mountain.'

What did that mean? Where did I hear it, and why....why did it fill me with so much dread?

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Chapter Text

The constant twittering of birds filled my ears like cotton. Since everyone had departed, their songs had, once again become the most prominent noise in the strange place.

It would've felt peaceful and pleasant if I actually saw birds in the trees. It occurred to me that to make such noise there would have to be many spread out among the town. But the only living things I had seen was everyone I'd just met. I sighed, it was just another questionable thing that added to my confusion.

"Hey, Hon'yomi?" I had forgotten Toshiro still stood with me.

"Yeah?" Reluctantly I left my thoughts.

"Is something wrong? I mean...is something else wrong?"

"Something else?" My voice was harsh. "Something else? I think there's enough things wrong here to categorize it as one huge problem." I said with a huff and crossed my arms.

Toshiro looked thoughtful, "I guess you're right about that. I could've been more careful to see it that way."

I frowned, "Didn't you want to search this place?"

"Huh?" He looked back at me. "Well, yeah..."

"Okay...?" I said questioningly.

He seemed to finally get it, "Oh. Well I am going to go look around, it's just, you looked troubled."

I barely stopped my eyes from rolling. "Of course I am."

Toshiro backed away a little. "Alright I get it. I'll leave now." He stuffs his hands in his pockets and began to turn away.

"Wait- I'm sorry about that." I usually wasn't so snappy.

He paused. "It's okay, we all deal with stress in our own ways."

He was right, and when I was stressed I always wrote. But here I was without paper or pen and a mind barely focused enough to begin. I wondered how Toshiro delt with stress, he seemed more than comfortable with intervening in the events from earlier.

"Thank you...for earlier with Ryu. That was a crazy thing you did." I wasn't sure if I could've done something so bold.

He shrugged, "Don't sweat it. It's sorta my thing." He turned away and began walking towards the square.

I shook my head. He was certainly an interesting character.

I began to move along the bank contemplating more about what I was thinking instead of where I was going. I wondered what his ultimate was. It was definitely something I should've asked him...

I kept wandering along the lake, trying to come up with explanations as to what was going on. Maybe this was a joke? I shook my head, no it was too elaborate. I also thought of kidnapping. My heart lurched at the very idea. It almost made sense except kidnapping wasn't taking sixteen people from the same school and putting them in a nice neighborhood. Or...maybe it was. It wasn't like I could be sure, I wasn't a kidnapper.

I looked around as I approached the great metal wall and stopped. I didn't feel like going up to it just yet, a desperate fear shook me even thinking about it. Instead I turned around, finally taking a moment to look at the area I had ended up in.

With the wall at my back and the lake on my right I viewed an expanse of vibrant green grass marching all the way to a small road. Across from the road sat two houses, and possibly more behind that. On my left was a small playground.

Just as Kiyoshi had said, there was bark and a cement step that surrounded a plastic and metal structure. It rose high containing a slide and some monkey bars. Beside that was a set of three swings, and next to them; were the twins.

I made my way over to them deciding that it was time I looked for some answers. In seeing me their faces brightened.

"Hon'yomi!" Kimiko called.

"We've been looking at the park!" Akemi said.

Their attitudes made my mood lighten for the first time since I woke up. "Anything special about it?"

Akemi plucked a piece of lint from her turtleneck sweater. "Actually yes." She threw a glance at Kimiko. "Though we're not entirely sure what it means."

"What is it?!" I said eagerly. Maybe this would explain why we were here.

"Over here." Kimiko left the swings and made her way towards the edge of the bark until she stood against the metal wall. "Look."

Wishing I didn't have to, I ventured towards the huge wall and squinted at the ground were she gestured. Bark had been cleared away to show something poking up in the ground.

"Isn't that?"

"Yep." Akemi said. "It's exactly the same."

"Then that means...."

"Correct." Kimiko said.

I turned away from the wall and moved back to look at the playground. The posts that held the structure were dark blue, square and bolted deep into the ground.

"I don't get it. Why leave this part of the playground here and tear out that section?" I nodded towards the area by the wall.

Together they shrugged.

"We also noticed that the bark doesn't end surrounded by a cement boundary like over there. It continues all the way up to the wall and I'm guessing it probably goes on to the other side too." Kimiko knelt down, studying where wall met bark, careful not to let her yellow skirt drag on the ground.

"If that's the case then that means the wall was built after the playground was." I looked over to the huge wall, studying it closer than I had before. It was smooth and silver, and appeared to be brand new. "You wouldn't build a playground unless.."

"...people lived nearby it." Akemi said.

"Then, this place wasn't built by Hope's Peak?" Kimiko said nervously. "It's an actual town?"

My face contorted in puzzlement. "If it is then where is everyone?" I wondered if I would want to know the answer.

The three of us shared looks of distaste as our minds conjured up scenarios and possible explanations.

"That means that the houses over there...people-families lived in them." Kimiko said with a touch of sadness among her confusion.

"Lived..." If what we were assuming was true, then what did that mean? How was what happened to this town related to us?

"I'm going to look around here more." Akemi said in determination. She looked energized, like she was focusing on finding more answers rather than trying to guess.

I managed to nod. "Alright, tell me if you find anything else." I looked out beyond the small park towards the square and the buildings around it. "I'll go see if anyone else has found something."

Kimiko didn't answer, but I could tell that she was thinking. Akemi sent me a look of weak encouragement and I left them together at the park.

I put my thoughts on pause while I headed for the square. If I thought too much now, I wouldn't be able to focus on much else.

My feet met the evenly paved road and I tried to decide which building to enter first. There were four that surrounded the large oak tree, each of which structured the square. To my right was a tall circular white building, and to my left was what looked like a small diner. Two blinking lights across the square showed an arcade and a general store.

Choosing at random I headed left. I'd start with food.

The diner had a revolving glass door like ones at old hotels. I slowly pushed through it and entered a black and white tiled lobby. It had an old time American feel, with a jukebox, plastic booths and a counter with high stools.

I was relieved to see that the room wasn't empty. Sitting at the counter drinking a coke and eating a plate of fries, was Kena.

"Hey Kena." I hoped she had found something.

She spun around on the stool, her bun bobbing a little. "What's up Hon'yomi?" She chewed on a fry.

I looked past her over the counter. "Did you look around at all?" My voice was doubtful.

She nodded and stood up from the seat, tugging her 'I ❤️ Penguins' sweater down. "Yeah. This place has enough functioning equipment for business, and it's completely stocked in the back."

"Wait...so we can eat here?"

"As far as I can tell. Nothing looked damaged and the food isn't rotten." She ate another handful of fries as if to prove this.

What did that mean? The food was fresh but according to the park, this area wasn't new...

"Hey Kena, how'd you know nothing was damaged?" I wondered if she had any experience with fast food.

"How'd I know?" She shrugged, "Everything works was all I could tell."

I lifted my hand to my chin in thought. "You've never worked at a restaurant before?"

Kena paused, frowning deeply as if struggling with something. "Uh...." After a few seconds her face cleared. "Nope. Never."

I was puzzled. "Huh...that's weird don't you think?" I pointed to a huge box-like metal thing behind the counter. "I can't even tell what that is."

Kena looked at me like I was crazy. "That's the dishwasher."

I sighed, "See what I mean? I bet most people here wouldn't know what that was."

"I think I knew because...well it's just obvious." She swallowed the last of her fries and sipped on her coke.

I didn't answer, I found it weird that she even knew how to make fries. But then...it could have something to do with her Ultimate.

"Kena." She looked at me, "What's your Ultimate?"

Kena finished her soda. "Comedian."

Or maybe it didn't, but her answer brought a smile to my face anyway. "Really? That's a tough thing to be isn't it?"

She shrugged again. "Not really. It's always been something that's come naturally to me."

My mind clicked in understanding. "Like my poetry."

Her face brightened. "Oh yeah! I want to hear your poems sometime. I feel like they're really good."

Her praise made me uncomfortable. She didn't know me so why would she think that? "Thanks." I said uncertainly. "Maybe, but only if you tell me some jokes!"

Kena grinned. "Great idea."

I smiled as well, it seemed like we got along pretty well. I found myself relaxed and almost happy as we talked, maybe...we would be friends?

"Was there anything else you found?"

"Not really, there's an old register over there but it's empty."

Moving over to where she pointed, I noticed an old beat up cash register at the end of the counter. Kena was right, when the lever was pulled the drawer shot out but it was indeed empty.

I couldn't be sure if this is important or not. There was already so much to think about.

"Hey I still have time to make some more food right?" Kena asked.

"Huh?" My thoughts turned sharply. "Oh! Yeah I think there's still some time before Toshiro wanted us back at the lake."

She nodded, "Great!"

Time...that reminded me, there were still some places I wanted to see.

"Hey I'm going to go look around more. Maybe there's actually some answers here."

"Sounds good." Kena moved behind the counter clanking around the stoves. I smiled and left her to her cooking.

When I made it outside the sound of birds flooded my ears immediately. Groaning I walked across the square. Their song was starting to get annoying.

In passing the oak tree I drew myself to a pause as the sound of someone muttering grabbed my attention. Stopping, I peered around the tree and saw the boy in the lab coat scrutinizing it. I frowned. His name was....Utsumi.

I thought of speaking up, but he spotted me first. "Hey!"

I jumped. "Hi."

He adjusted his glasses. "You're Hon'yomi right?"

"Yeah..." I narrowed my eyes. "What are you looking at?"

"Oh!" He pointed to the trunk of the tree. "This tree...there's something not right about it."

Squinting, I approached the tree. "What do you mean?"

"Well, if you look closely, the texture doesn't look like your average oak tree bark." Utsumi ran his finger along the grain in the wood.

"Is that significant?" I didn't exactly follow how the tree would help us.

"Absolutely."

I waited for him to elaborate but he stayed silent looking at it closely.

"I woke up beneath it and I didn't notice anything strange."

"Hm...but your not a scientist."

"Huh? Wait...are you the Ultimate Scientist?"

Utsumi shook his head. "I'm not that good. I'm the Ultimate Chemist."

I stared at him. I didn't see how that was much different than being the Ultimate Scientist. "Alright then...how will this tree get us answers?" I didn't try to hide the doubt in my voice.

"I haven't figured that out yet. But when I do I'll let everyone know." Utsumi didn't look at me as he spoke. He was engrossed.

I also wondered how a chemist would know anything about trees, but I didn't bother asking. "Do you know who's in the arcade?"

His face drastically changed to resentment. "Yeah, Ryu and his girlfriend."

Ryu's name brought anger to my bones. "I guess I won't be going in there then."

"I think that's a good idea." Utsumi said. "It was lucky that he decided to leave instead of making things worse. Who knows what could've happened. I don't think anyone should feel safe if that guy has a gun."

I glared at the arcade window almost hoping he saw me. I did wonder what changed his mind about pulling the gun.

"Do you think he really would've shot you?"

My eyes found the Chemist. "I don't know."

"I think he-"

"I'll be going." I needed to move otherwise I'd probably end up charging into the arcade, despite the asshole's weapon.

"O-okay." Utsumi looked worried.

"See you around." I stalked off, passing the arcade. Maybe there'd be some less stressful people to talk to in the store.

As I pushed open the door I quickly took my thought back. Kyofu and Chikara; the guy who labeled us all as assholes, stood among the shelves. I felt like turning around, but I was curious about their Ultimates.

Kyofu was closest so I stepped forward. "Hey Kyofu-"

"There's no one here to buy things from." He spoke in the most disappointed and agitated manner possible.

I glanced around feeling caught off guard. "There isn't?"

"No." Kyofu said.

I wasn't sure why this was something to be upset about. "Isn't that nice though? That means everything is free right?"

He looked at me as if I just said something asinine. "And?" He countered raising his eyebrow.

"Uh...nothing?"

Kyofu scowled. "No, not nothing. There's no one here manning the store which means there's no one here to fool."

I tried to catch up to his thinking, but I knew I was failing miserably. "And why are you fooling people?"

He shrugged causing light to catch the earrings in his ears. "It's what I do." He then reached into one of his baggy pockets and pulled out a familiar folded piece of paper. "What is this anyway?"

My eyes widened and I gasped, "How'd you get that?!" On instinct I jumped forward to snatch it.

Kyofu nimbly alluded me. "Fell out of your sock when that jerk picked you up."

I glared. I was beginning to discover what his Ultimate was. "Well give it back."

"You'll have to convince me." He looked at it curiously. "Who knows, maybe it has some answers as to why we're here."

I felt like stomping my foot. "It doesn't! Just give it back!"

Chikara looked at us from the back of the store, but we both ignored him.

Kyofu laughed at me. "It doesn't matter. I already read it."

I growled, "How dare you!" It was all I could say in my anger.

His dark eyes widened beneath his bluish black hair. "Wow. I didn't think it would be a big deal." He flicked it into the air. "I thought it was good."

Desperately snatching it from the air I held it tightly. "It wasn't yours to read."

Kyofu raised his hands innocently. "You know, as the Ultimate Poet you shouldn't be so afraid to let people read your works."

I narrowed my eyes. "You know, as the Ultimate Thief you shouldn't be so careless about what you steal!"

He sighed running his hand through his wavy hair. "Ultimate Rouge."

"I don't care what you call yourself," I snapped. "Don't take my stuff!" I stomped away seething, shoving the paper back into my sock. I was so upset I walked around the store in anger

"What the hell is your problem?" Chikara asked, coming out from behind a shelf.

"Ask that idiot thief over there!" I shouted.

"Rouge!"

"Shut up!"

Chikara glanced between me and Kyofu like he was making an important decision. As if coming to a conclusion he stood between the stretch of space between us and glowered at us both. "If you two don't stop I'll shoot you both."

"What?!" I exclaimed.

"I'd like to see you try." Kyofu muttered.

"You have a gun too?!" I was starting to regret not ever getting one myself.

Chikara looked insulted. "Does this look like a gun?" He reached behind him, removing a large curved instrument from his back.

My mind made the connection a second later as I recognized it's shape. "You're an Archer?" I was impressed. Archery had always been an interest of mine.

Chikara frowned. "Ultimate Archer dumbass. And I don't miss." He shot looks of contempt to Kyofu then to me.

"If there's anyone you should be shooting its him. I'm leaving." I hadn't planned on leaving yet, but the store looked standard and normal other than the fact that you didn't have to pay anyone. Anyways, these two weren't being very cooperative.

Chikara looked at me but I didn't wait to hear his or Kyofu's response. I had already been threatened once today with a gun, and I wasn't going to stick around waiting for an arrow. Ignoring them both I left the store hotly, kicking the door open.

The sky looked a shade darker as I escaped, and I fixated on strangely shaped clouds in the distance. I was still angry with Kyofu. That jerk had taken something of mine that meant a whole lot to me, and on top of that he read it.

It didn't matter to me that he had said he liked it. It was none of his business.

So far, I hadn't had too much luck with getting answers other than with the twins and Kena. And even though I hadn't bothered with the arcade, I figured that I would need to go in there eventually. But before I tried to deal with Ryu I had one last destination in mind.

The large white building had an air of importance and significance. It stood out in the square facing the oak tree with two wooden doors. I raked my eyes over it in observation. It had a tall dome that almost felt out of place in the small town. I wasn't sure what to think of it.

I kept making my way towards it in anticipation but something hard slammed right into my chest. "Agh!" All breath escaped me and I slammed roughly onto the ground. Glaring I looked up for the culprit.

My eyes landed on a small figure standing in front of me; rubbing his orange head looking confused, was Kaz. "Hey! Why are you on the ground?"

I grunted. "Why do you think I'm on the ground?" I cringed. "Geez what are you, a wall?"

Kaz blinked unevenly, "You ran into me?"

I groaned. "Yes."

"I'm sorry! I wasn't paying attention." He reached down with a hand wrapped in tape.

Reluctantly I took it. "Actually I wasn't paying attention."

Kaz yanked on my arm with surprising strength, nearly throwing me and tearing it out of my socket.

"Hey! Be careful!" I let go of his hand wincing.

Kaz's face fell. "I'm sorry again! You're a lot lighter than I expected."

I huffed in annoyance. I was tired of my size or weight being discussed.

"What were you doing anyway?"

Kaz adjusted the leather strap around his chest. "I was looking at that gate over there." He nodded at a huge gate, the same type of metal and height of the wall, except this had hinges.

"It looks like it slides open."

"Yeah, but that isn't what I was paying much attention to."

"Huh?" I looked at him curiously. "Why not?"

"Look closer." Kaz pointed at the top corners of the gate. "Do you see that?"

I squinted, my vision was quite blurry. "Um...not really." I stepped closer but suddenly stopped. "Oh, no way-"

"Now you see it?" Kaz asked.

I nodded weakly. "Yeah. But...why are there cameras up there?"

"To watch us?" He turned and pointed to the tops of the buildings. "And if you look up there you can see just about three cameras on every building in the square. There's even some in the trees by the lake."

Feeling stupid I struggled to see the boxy shapes on the roofs. "I didn't notice before." I said quietly.

"Probably because they're not very obvious. Or," He gave me a knowing look, "you're eyesight isn't the best."

I shifted. "Well, I mainly wore glasses when I was younger but I haven't worn any in years." I squinted harder at the cameras.

"I think you could use some now." Kaz observed.

"Yeah too bad there's no way to get any."

"I know." Was all he said.

I looked at him curiously and realized why his glance seemed so off kilter. His right eye was green while his left was blue, making it hard to meet his gaze.

I got a little fascinated, having always wanting to meet someone with Heterochromia. Kaz blinked probably wondering why I was staring at him.

"Hon'yomi?"

"What's your Ultimate?" The question shoved its way through my lips.

"Is that why you were staring at me?" Kaz wondered.

"No you're eyes- but, yeah what is it?" I asked filled with honest curiosity. He was so short and yet so strong I wasn't sure what his Ultimate could be.

Kaz grinned and bounced a little. "Rock climber! Or climber in general." He rushed away and began scaling the store wall so quickly I could've blinked and swore that he had flown to the roof.

"That's-" Kaz descended even quicker, "insane."

He stood in front of me again bouncing with energy. "I can do it again!"

I laughed a little. "You don't need to I believe you."

He seemed disappointed. "Okay."

I felt bad but the white building stood behind him loudly beckoning me.

"Hey, maybe later? I'll watch you climb fifty walls!"

He grinned. "I'll do it!"

I smiled. "Sounds good Kaz! I'll see you at the lake." My voice filled with a touch of seriousness. "And thanks for telling me about the cameras."

He nodded, his face serious at once. "Of course! Everyone should know, so I'll talk about it when we meet up again."

"Alright." I waved a little to him and rushed towards the white building. Time was running out.

The doors were huge and wooden, carved with intricate designs of trees and flowers. I took a second to stroke the door, admiring the hard work and detail. It was extravagant but it didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the building. It was almost like it was added later...

I yanked on the metal handle, unable to block the memory I had of opening the door to Hope's Peak just this morning...how had everything changed so quickly? Worry ate at me like I was expecting a repeat of events, but nothing unusual occurred as I entered the building.

A wooden floor shimmered under lights positioned along the perimeter of the ceiling. The interior was something marvelous to take in; the walls were a pale off white but they were covered with painting after painting of immense beauty. Scenes depicting the night sky, birds or extravagant landscapes overwhelmed the walls with pieces of such color it was hard not to call it glorious.

"They're amazing aren't they?" Saori said walking over to me.

I only managed a nod in response. I was too busy admiring a beautiful painting of what looked like the moon in a dark blue sky.

"It makes you wonder who did them." Saori had her own look of pure admiration.

"Yeah..." It was hard to tear my eyes away, but I managed and took in the rest of the room.

Haruko and Toshiro were also present looking around curiously and cautiously, but I began to doubt they discovered anything.

Straight across from the doors was a small wooden stage, slightly raised as if it was waiting for some official to make a speech. To the right of it was a narrow dark green door, and to the left was a wide metal one that looked as though it slid open. Other than the doors, stage and the artwork, the building was pretty much empty.

Saori noticed my wandering gaze. "The green door is locked, and the metal one...we couldn't figure out how to it open."

I sighed in disappointment. "Too bad..."

Toshiro walked over to us, "I tried to break the door open but...well it didn't work." He rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment.

I frowned looking over to Saori for an explanation, I wondered what I had missed. She merely shook her head at me, covering a smile with her hand.

"He should've been more thoughtful about his plan." Haruko commented, her hands resting on her belt.

Toshiro blushed a little. "I guess so."

I felt like grumbling, I wanted to know what happened. But Saori caught my eye and sent a look that clearly said: later. I guess I would wait.

"Is that all that's in here?" I said instead of progressing the topic any further.

Haruko nodded. "It's all that we could access at this time."

"Should we head back to the lake then? It's been awhile." Saori asked, looking evenly at Toshiro.

"I think so. People are probably already there." He said and the three of them began heading for the doors.

I shuffled awkwardly. "Wait!"

They all stopped and looked at me expectantly.

"Um...you guys all know my Ultimate and well...I wanted to know what yours all are." Mostly Toshiro's and Saori's because at this point they could be anything.

Saori nodded. "I guess I'm the Ultimate singer." I raised my eyebrows, I wouldn't have guessed but I hoped I would get to hear her sing sometime.

"Seamstress." Haruko said smiling softly. "I made everything I'm wearing." She gestured to her grey pants, black button up and belt. I couldn't say I wasn't impressed by her Ultimate either.

Toshiro was next. He looked uncomfortable, clutching the jacket around his waist. "I'm just the Ultimate Actor."

"Huh? Actor?" I almost didn't believe him. "I've never seen-"

He sighed, "Theater. On stage acting. Nothing movie related."

I blushed regretting my words. I hadn't meant to insult him. "Sorry." I liked plays, but I just hadn't seen too many of them.

He shrugged. "It's okay, but I think we should get going."

I agreed and hurried out with them. The sky had grown even darker since I had entered the building. If I had to guess I'd say it was probably after seven o'clock.

Toshiro had been right, the twins, Hana, Kiyoshi, Kena, Renji, and Utsumi were already there. But we didn't have to wait long for the rest to arrive. Kyofu and Kaz showed up with Chikara who looked pissed about something. Lastly Mae appeared with Ryu.

Everyone ignored Ryu.

"So...who's going first?" Utsumi asked, looking over his glasses.

"I don't think it really fucking matters." Hana said.

"Yeah, we'll all get to talk eventually right?" Kena added.

Toshiro looked over at me. "Hon'yomi? Want to go first?"

I blinked, "I kinda went everywhere so..." Akemi caught me eye. "You two can start."

Akemi nodded. "Me and Kimiko looked at the park. And we found that-"

"That the wall was built after the playground was." Kimiko finished.

"How is that important at all?" Chikara said.

I felt like glaring at him. "It means that if the wall was built after the playground, we can assume that this town...or neighborhood was real."

"Okay, but still how is that important?" He said aggressively.

Saori rolled her eyes, "It means that obviously something happened here or something happened outside." She looked over to me. "Right?"

I nodded, "That's what we were thinking."

"Yeah but what about the food in the diner? That's all new right?" Kena said.

"The wall looks new too." Kaz added.

"So if something happened here, it had to have been pretty recent." Kena concluded.

"But that's unlikely. Something happening to a whole town? That would be on the news, and we would've known about it." Utsumi interjected.

I struggled to fit the pieces together. "I think you're right about that but too....if this place was built after the wall or specifically within in it, then how to do you explain the incomplete playground? It even looks like it continues beyond the wall."

No one had an answer.

"Speaking of the wall," Kaz began, "I noticed something about it that we should all know."

Saori scrutinized him, "What is it?"

The Rock Climber started bouncing on his toes. "I was thinking about climbing over the wall- because that's what I do-" He added quietly, "but I noticed something. At the top, every twenty feet there's small cameras! They're on the buildings too!"

"Cameras?!" Kiyoshi looked ten more times nervous.

"Someone is watching us then." Haruko said.

"How the fuck do you know they're watching us?" Chikara asked.

Haruko raised an eyebrow. "We're the only ones here to watch."

"Hold on, hold on. They?" Kena spoke doubtfully. "Who's they?"

"Hope's Peak?" Akemi suggested.

"Maybe." I muttered. "Maybe not."

Kyofu spoke up. "We should be talking about Hopes Peak. Not this place." He looked at each of us. "That's how this started for all of us right? Who cares when this place was built or why there's cameras, how is Hope's Peak involved?"

"Maybe this is a retreat?" Hana said.

"Does this look like a retreat?" Mae asked.

Hana narrowed her eyes. "Not really no, but I don't hear anyone else trying to guess or shit."

Suddenly Haruko spoke looking deep in thought. "I believe that thinking about Hope's Peak will be useless right now."

"What?!" Kyofu shouted looking at her in outrage.

She steeled herself. "We have no way of finding any answers about Hopes Peak here, so we might as well forget about it."

I supposed could see her point but I wasn't sure if I wanted to 'forget' about it exactly.

It seemed like the others felt the same way because no one looked happy with the idea.

"I don't know Haruko. I think it's pretty important." Toshiro said.

"Sure. But there's no answers." Haruko looked up at him fearlessly.

Toshiro shrugged. "Doesn't mean we have to forget about it."

"I never said we had to." Haruko countered.

The Actor shoved his hands in his pockets

"Hey, so...would this be a bad time to bring up the weird houses with our names and pictures on them?" Kiyoshi said nervously.

Kaz jumped. "Houses?!"

"With our names and pictures?" I began to doubt my theory of this being a real neighborhood at once.

"Yeah....they like, have keys in the door knobs for us. They're the ones over there." Kiyoshi jabbed a thumb at the group of houses by the grass.

"Sweet! I get a house!" Kena exclaimed enthusiastically.

Kaz on the other hand looked sick at the idea of being indoors.

My curiosity was immediately peaked and I found myself longing to go find mine. It was getting dark and the thought of a nice warm bed sounded wonderful.

"Hey...maybe we could finish this discussion tomorrow?" Utsumi said.

I found myself nodding in agreement. "Yeah."

Most of the group collectively muttered agreements and murmurs, but no one moved to leave.

"Fuck it. I'm going to bed." Chikara turned away heading straight for the homes.

"Me too." Hana said following him.

Forgetting our discussion, people began breaking off to investigate the houses or to just simply go to bed. Toshiro looked stricken, like he'd just lost something. Oddly enough, Haruko had a similar look of disappointment. I thought of staying to possibly wrap up the discussion but I too found myself heading towards the houses.

I reached the street from the grass and turned right. I didn't have to look very long or very hard because my house was in the front, facing the square. Kiyoshi had once again been telling the truth. There was a key in the lock of the door with my name dangling from it on a keychain. And just beside the door where an address would usually be, was a school picture of me.

I cringed just looking at it and thought of how wrong Haruko had been about forgetting Hope's Peak. Our school life- no....our plan to have a school life there, was certainly important here. I considered contemplating the subject more, but if a mind could reach it's limit, mine certainly had.

I turned the key and pried open my house. Tonight sleep would be a gift in light of everything else. Something as simple as sleep would make me have a little of something normal.

Hardly glancing around the living room I kicked the door shut behind me, not bothering with the lock. A hallway straight across from me led to a small bedroom where I removed my shoes and collapsed into the bed.

The thoughts from the day melted like putty, and I found it difficult to make something of the mess. I could've thought more, more about everything a thousand times over. I would make ideas and guesses and possibilities but in the end, the itching, burning feeling of not being certain, of not being right would crumble any theories I had to rubble without the right clues. The time spent would be useless.

So I focused on sleep. I focused on normal. Not the repeating phrase in my head. Not the wall or the playground or cameras. I clung to what I knew in the moment which was one thing: I was tired.

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Chapter Text

A loud ringing of a bell ripped me from sleep. I sat up gasping, wondering what it was. It echoed throughout my room in a strict rhythm: ding dong, bing bong.

It didn't take long to see grey static on a T.V. monitor which I had failed to notice the night before. Cautiously I slipped out of bed and approached it, afraid that someone could possibly see me through it. At first I noticed nothing until a strange silhouette shimmered on screen, and a high, yet menacing voice replaced the bell.

"Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?" There was a pause in which I stared intently at the screen. Someone...someone was here?

"Ehem, you've all been waiting so patiently, but now's the time for the game to begin. Come to Town Hall immediately!"

What-.....what was this? What was going on?

"Huh?" Town Hall?

I tumbled around the room, frantically snatching up my tennis shoes and shoving my feet in them. Someone would give us answers?

'...now's the time for the game to begin!'

Game...what game?

I tugged my laces tight and grabbed the key as I slammed the door behind me. All around the others were also emerging from their homes, bleary eyed and frantic.

Saori rushed by and I caught up to her stride. "What do you think is going on?"

"I don't know." She said fiercely, fumbling with her green jacket. "But I have a feeling-"

"It's not good?" Haruko finished for her, coming to our side.

Saori didn't reply, but her look chilled me. It couldn't be that bad right?

I tightened my loose ponytail as the three of us entered Town Hall first. Our footsteps reverberated from the arching ceiling and artwork on the walls. No one was in sight.

"I don't get it. Where are they?" Saori asked loudly.

"Maybe they're waiting for us to arrive first." Haruko inferred. I had a feeling that she was right.

Next the twins came through the doors looking wide awake, as if they had been up for hours. "Do any of you know what's-?" Kimiko began.

"No." The three of us answered in unison.

Their faces fell.

"Ugh. How many times am I going to be woken up by some dumbass?" Kyofu stumbled into the hall, his dark hair sticking up on one side.

I rolled my eyes at his outburst, and a response found its way onto my lips, but I swallowed it. There would be more important things to say.

Maukena showed up next, her hair hastily arranged in a messy bun. Hana soon followed looking livid along with Mae who had her arm around Ryu....of course.

Kaz appeared then, his orange hair glaringly bright above his two different colored eyes. Utsumi next, hands nervously kept within his lab coat pockets.

"Is everyone here?!" Kiyoshi blundered through the door, his clothes still crisp and unwrinkled. "I thought I might be the first one." Everyone noticed the touch of fear in his voice.

"Damn it! I was trying to sleep!" Chikara grumbled, shoving Kiyoshi out of the doorway. Kiyoshi gave him a dark look but didn't say anything.

Renji silently slipped into the room keeping to the shadows. He kept his hands within his pockets.

I watched the door waiting for the last person to show up.

"Is everyone here? Is everyone here?!" The same high voice spoke loudly.

I looked around expectantly, eyes trailing across the polished floor and decorated walls. My eyes found nothing to name as a source.

"I said....is everyone here?!"

No one answered, but we glanced among ourselves. No, not everyone was here.

"Um-"

"Sorry!" Toshiro tripped into the hall looking extremely disheveled. His hair was wild and messy and his red t-shirt was backwards. He had managed to put on his jeans correctly but his shoes were untied and his usual black jacket was nowhere in sight.

We all took a few seconds to gape at him awkwardly, before the voice called us back to attention.

"Now that everyone is here, let's begin!"

The voice came from the empty wooden stage and all sixteen of us watched it intently. I knew we had a hundred questions each, and we watched with every single one held tightly within our minds.

We didn't wait much longer because suddenly something small, and something strange appeared on the stage.

"A teddy bear?" Mae said first.

She wasn't wrong. Standing center stage as clear as day was a small black and white teddy bear. But it seemed the teddy bear disagreed.

"I am not a child's toy!" The bear shouted angrily, raising its paws in the air.

"Wha-" Kiyoshi began to stutter.

"W-why is there a talking bear?" Toshiro asked weakly, blinking like he was hallucinating.

I had no answer for either of them. I couldn't comprehend exactly what I was seeing myself.

"I can't wait to get things started! Good morning everyone! Let's begin our meeting!"

"Meeting?" I asked. Did a stuffed bear just say we were having a meeting?

"Meeting! Gathering! Discussion!" The bear shouted. "We're having one!"

"What the fuck?" Hana looked completely lost, like everything she ever knew had become a lie.

Haruko stepped forward, being the first to say something logical. "Who are you?"

"I'm Monokuma!" The bear said from the stage.

"Mono...kuma?" Akemi asked.

"How are you...why are you here?" Saori glared at him in such hatred that her dark look filled me with fear.

"I'm here to tell you the rules." A red eye gleamed from the dark side of his face. "And the punishments."

"Punishments?! What punishments?!" Kiyoshi fearfully pulled on his tie.

"Don't be fucking stupid. It's remote controlled or some shit. What can this thing actually do?" Hana glared heavily at the bear.

The bear turned away from us. "Oh how you wound me." Monokuma said hopelessly. "How could I ever harm you big strong Ultimates?"

He sounded so genuine but I had no doubt that a layer of twisted sarcasm was the true feeling beneath his words.

It felt as though the shock hadn't settled in yet. A talking bear? A bear that had rules for us to follow? We all wanted answers but I was sure none of us ever expected something like this to happen. It brought tension to most of us, and it seemed we lashed out under tension.

"Do you think I'm going to listen to anything you say?" Ryu looked mockingly at the pouting bear. "I could shoot you to shit in seconds."

"Oh really?" Monokuma looked at the Hitman. "How are you going to do that without any bullets?"

Ryu's face reddened. "How the fuck did you know about that?"

"Because I'm the one who took them!" The bear shouted angrily.

"How the hell...? Give them back you fucking chew toy!" Ryu shouted.

"Hmm...I wouldn't want to make it too easy for you." Monokuma said.

The events from the day before clicked into place. I held back a shudder as I wondered; would Ryu have shot me if he had a loaded weapon at the time? There was probably no way to be sure.

"Ugh! Enough of this! I'll tear you to shreds." Chikara stepped forwards fuming.

"Go ahead. Let's see what happens when you do." Monokuma said.

"Wait." Saori threw her arm in front of Chikara. "I wouldn't."

"Well, someone here has a working brain." The bear observed.

Saori only glared in response.

Kyofu pushed past the twins. "If you're here to tell us 'rules', why are we here?"

Monokuma grinned, and I wondered if we would like the answer. "Puhuhuhu! You're here to kill each other of course."

It felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. Kill each other? I wished I could shove Kyofu's words back into his mouth.

Kiyoshi made a strange noise from my left.

"What?" Haruko's brown eyes widened in shock.

"What makes you think we'd do that?" Kyofu asked shakily.

"Yeah. Killing people is too much work." Mae tried to sound unaffected, but it was obvious she was trying not to believe what the bear said.

"You all want to leave, don't you?" Monokuma said darkly.

"Leave?" Saori's tone was so harsh it could've slapped someone in the face.

"You wouldn't want to be stuck here with these weirdos forever." The bear spoke without mercy. "But, you can go home. If you kill someone."

"What does that mean?!" Kiyoshi stared down at Monokuma, for the first time looking scary instead of scared.

Among my own chaos I caught a lost look of fear on Kena's face.

Even Mae looked a bit horrified now. "Kill and we get to leave?"

"Puhuhuhu. Only the one who does the killing of course." He covered his mouth with a paw. "And only one person can get away with it."

"H-how can you expect us to kill someone?" Kimiko clutched Akemi's hand. "I could never do that."

I wanted to say I couldn't either...but it wasn't like I hadn't ever wondered if I could.

Something like a growl escaped Monokuma. "No? I guess you'll be stuck here." Something evil flickered in his eye, "Or maybe you'll just end up a victim."

Kimiko trembled a little at the thought.

"You can't be serious." Kaz said, clearly stricken. His face was scrunched up in fear.

"I-I don't understand." Toshiro's voice added to our fears and disbelief.

"Kill someone and get away with it, you get to leave! Kill someone and don't get away with it..." He lifted his white paw showing off three claws. "You'll suffer the punishment!"

Utsumi looked terrified. "Punishment as in...death?"

Monokuma looked gleeful. "Beaten! Burned! Electrocuted! Smashed! Blown up! Stabbed!"

Something inside me began churning and I clutched my stomach. Things like that never bothered me in movies...

"How would...how would we get caught?" Kena asked unsteadily.

Toshiro, Kiyoshi and I looked at her in shock. How could she ask a question like that? Like she was accepting...like she was believing something like murder would happen...

"By being discovered during a class trial! When someone's been murdered, you get time to investigate. After such time we'll hold a class trial to discover the blackened." It was clear that the bear enjoyed the looks on our faces.

"What happens if we get it wrong?" Haruko asked carefully.

"If the blackened gets away with their deeds, then the rest of you will receive punishment!"

"You mean-" Toshiro's face went pale.

"You mean the rest of us die." Saori concluded.

"Exactly!" Monokuma said exuberantly.

"Can we- do we all have to go to the trial?" Akemi spoke quietly and unevenly, clutching Kimiko's hand.

"It's mandatory to be apart of the class trial!"

"What the hell are you going on about? Stop saying that shit!" Hana said.

"You'll have to accept it sooner or later." Monokuma said gleefully.

Accept it? Killing each other....killing to leave? To go home? What waited for us at home?

"Do we have to kill?" An unfamiliar feminine voice spoke quietly.

Monokuma glared at someone in the back of the room. I turned around to see who he looked at. Renji, the Ventriloquist held up his marionette using it to speak.

"No." It almost appeared as though it hurt Monokuma to say so. "But, if you don't, you'll stay here forever and never know anything about what's outside."

"About what's outside?" Ryu said doubtfully. "Like hell something happened in the one day since we've been here."

"Exactly. You expect us to believe that?" Mae agreed.

"Oh my. You really are stupid aren't you?" Monokuma's little body seemed to shrug. "Of course all you Ultimates are right about everything. Always believe what you know."

This time, he didn't try to hide his sarcasm.

Clutching a pain in my stomach, I felt like doubling over, but I didn't wish to draw attention to myself. I didn't want to be the focus of the terrible bear.

I felt like screaming all of a sudden, and glared harshly at the floor. How was...how had this- a bear?! A bear?!

'Beaten! Burned! Electrocuted! Smashed! Blown up! Stabbed!'

I had seen so many shows, movies and games with death and murder. But when it found you in real life...when you thought of those things happening to people around you....you couldn't help but drown in horror and fear. And imagination became no help either. Monokuma's words plagued me, building pictures in my mind.

"I'm-I'm sorry! I can't-" I turned and bolted from the hall, a hysterical feeling choking my throat. I stumbled out into the perfectly paved street and stood beneath the oak tree. Surely this wasn't...? A twisted laugh escaped me. Of course it was real. How could it not be? There was nothing more real than this moment in which I lived. And in accepting that it was real, it began to make all the weird things here make sense. I shook my head, there was no way that Monokuma thing was lying to us.

Of course, none of these thoughts helped the sick nauseating feeling in my throat lessen. Truthfully it made it worse. I closed my eyes hoping I wouldn't hurl everywhere.

"Hey hey! What, did you think running out here would change anything I said?!"

"Ahg!" I stumbled backwards at Monokumas voice, sprawling out on the grass.

The evil bear stood in front of me grinning darkly. "Oh, and you should be more careful when you fall." He said breathlessly. "I wouldn't want to glimpse anything inappropriate."

It took me a few seconds to realize what he meant. Angrily I tugged my black skirt down, my face awkwardly heating up at his words.

"H-how'd you get out here?" I stuttered.

Monokuma answered like I was an idiot. "I can go wherever I want! Whenever I want!"

I couldn't comprehend how something like that was possible, but I simply ended up accepting what he said.

"Hon'yomi?" Haruko exited the hall. "Are you okay?"

I scrambled to my feet, tugging my skirt down. "I don't really-" I gasped. "Where'd he go?"

Monokuma had disappeared.

Haruko looked around. "Do you mean the bear? I don't know. As you ran out, he vanished." She sounded deeply troubled when she spoke.

I nodded. "He was right out here! He followed me..."

Why had he followed me?

Haruko looked around at the cameras. "Now we know who's been watching us."

I followed her gaze, "Yeah but, at least they're just out here right?"

She shook her head. "I'm afraid they aren't. I don't think anyone noticed yet, but when Monokuma appeared, cameras came out of the ceiling in town hall. I assume there are probably some in the other buildings now as well."

I shivered. "To keep watch on us."

"To see who murders who."

I glared, a fuse of anger bursting inside me. "Why are you saying that?! We're not....we're not going to kill each other!"

"You think so?" Haruko looked at me steadily. "Then why is there doubt in your voice?"

"I-I just..."

"We don't know one another, and because of this we can't trust one another."

I was shocked at how negative she had become. "That doesn't mean we'll kill each other."

"Maybe you won't but you can't expect others to feel the same way."

My thoughts ground to a halt. "Then, how do you feel?"

Haruko sighed, "I couldn't bring myself to kill under such a weak motive."

Weak motive? "You mean, to be able to go home?"

"I hardly bat an eye at the thought. I left home for a reason and I'm here to fulfill it."

A reason...what did that mean? We all left home to go to Hope's Peak right? Unless she had a different purpose....

"Why did you leave?"

"Why did you?" Haruko said aggressively.

"I left to-" Suddenly my reasons for going to Hope's Peak sounded extremely selfish and I couldn't bring myself to answer.

"You withhold your answer, as I withhold mine. Clearly we have our own desires for privacy." Haruko spoke almost carelessly. "Anyways, I think we should head back inside now. We'll want to discuss what has just been revealed." The seamstress didn't wait for me to follow, but turned and left me stunned. I wasn't sure what to make of her at first, but now I had a very different opinion.

Filled with dread, I too reentered the building.

The first person I noticed was Saori, who was pacing around the room fuming, hands on her hips. The lights on the ceiling caught on her glasses, so it was almost as if her eyes were glowing with fury.

Everyone seemed to be freaking out in their own way. Hana looked livid again, staring at the floor with her fists clenched at her sides. Toshiro was leaning against the wall, his face in his hands. I heard quiet gasping on my left and saw Kiyoshi nervously wrapping and unwrapping his tie in his hands. But the one who confused me the most was Kimiko. She stood stalk still, eyes vacant staring at the walls.

"Everyone needs to calm down." Haruko spoke quietly, but there was no mistaking the order in her voice.

Saori looked over at us and stopped pacing. "Maybe we could try to get out of here?"

Kaz, who had been trembling nodded. "I could get over that wall! I swear!"

My heart jumped at the idea. We wouldn't have to think about killing anyone if we got out of here.

"I don't believe it's as simple as that. Besides, it's probably best to stay put for now." Haruko responded evenly.

"Stay put?" Toshiro pushed himself off the wall. "How could you suggest a thing like that? Staying put means staying at the mercy of that...thing. That Monokuma."

"If there's a way out of here, there's no fucking way in hell anyone will stop me from taking it." Mae said fiercely, a frightful undertone of determination within her words. "If we can get out, me and Ryu are going."

"I-I think...Haruko may be right...." Everyone looked at Kena in shock. "I'm just saying, I mean why would it be that easy to leave if he wants us here to kill each other?"

Her theory didn't sound unbelievable. In fact, it sounded like it could be pretty accurate.

"Even if that's the case, how the fuck is that thing going to stop us?" Chikara asked.

"I don't know..." I pondered, "...but he seemed pretty excited about punishments. I don't know if any of us will want to know what he means by that."

"Punishments?! Bullshit, that thing is lying!" Hana looked up from the floor. "It's a fucking robot!"

"How do you know that?" Akemi asked, looking at Kimiko in worry.

"What the hell else could it be?" Hana shouted. "It's a toy!"

Amie, the marionette addressed us quietly. "But, he said that he wasn't a toy." Renji had finally stepped towards us some, allowing light to strike his dark to light blue hair and...his face. I guess I hadn't really looked at him clearly until this moment, and I regretted not looking sooner.

I wasn't sure how long I gazed at him, but Saori loudly cleared her throat making me jump. I blinked uncomfortably and looked around like an idiot, but according to Akemi's and Mae's faces, I hadn't been the only one staring at him. Renji was beautiful. There was no other word for him.

"I don't care what he says, I'm not going to believe him." Ryu's voice dragged me from my distraction.

"You're just saying that because he took your ammo." Utsumi said. "Just because you're angry at Monokuma doesn't mean he's lying to us."

Ryu opened his mouth to speak but Saori quickly intervened. "Alright enough arguing about shit we can't do anything about right now. We should figure out a way to leave this place."

"I'll go up the wall right now!" Kaz bounced on the balls of his feet eagerly, as if glad to have a task to distract him.

"I don't think that's a wise idea." Haruko repeated in annoyance.

"You keep saying that but you never give a good reason as to why." Kyofu scrutinized her carefully.

The seamstress scrutinized him back. "You all want a reason? I have only one; and that is to avoid revealing our weaknesses and plans to Monokuma. If there is a true way out of getting out of here then the bear doesn't know about it. But if we start trying to escape now, he may double check and discover it."

"So what, we should just wait?" Utsumi asked.

"We should be careful and not act upon our whims of fear and doubt, is what I'm saying." Haruko fiddled with her belt, rubbing something within one of the many tiny pockets on it.

"You could've simply said that in the first place." Toshiro noted.

Haruko shrugged.

"Then what should we do in the mean time?" Kena asked.

"W-what can we do?" Kiyoshi asked nervously.

"He's right." I said. "We can't really do anything..." Anything but wait, and pray that no one kills anyone.

"So we just...live here?" Hana glared unhappily.

"I mean, it's not like we have a choice." I said.

"Hon'yomi is right." Saori said. "And we shouldn't..." She took a deep breath. "We shouldn't hold ourselves back because of fear."

"It's not that easy!" Kiyoshi said.

"Try harder." Chikara suggested.

"We'll never get anywhere if we keep going in circles." Ryu glowered. "You guys need to learn how to handle shit." The Hitman stalked out of the hall, but Mae stayed behind.

"What you're not going to go follow your boyfriend?" Utsumi raised his brows above his glasses.

Mae turned slowly towards him, but her voice was anything but calm. "Mind your own damn business, asshole!" For half a second I thought she would slap him, but Mae twirled away in grace and strutted out the doors.

Those two would definitely be a problem...

"Geez, you would think I kicked her or something." Utsumi muttered.

Saori looked pained and annoyed at the same time. "I can't handle this petty shit right now." Saori brushed past me as she exited the building.

No one else had much to say. We had to live here...well, it could've been worse, couldn't it have? At least we had houses and food from the diner and store. Games in the arcade and a park... They weren't bad things, no matter how strange or scary the situation was.

One by one we began to drift off in pairs or on our own, reentering the town. I stayed put, unwilling to return. It felt too...fake. Like someone had tried too hard to make it seem normal. It didn't feel right.

I realized that I wasn't the only one remaining in town hall. Akemi and Kimiko stood together looking equally worried. Akemi whispered to Kimiko who seemed to be completely ignoring her sister, by gazing at the walls.

"Um," I walked over to them, "is everything okay?"

Akemi quickly noticed me. "Yeah! Kimiko is just easily distracted by artwork."

Her sister didn't respond.

"Oh! Um, I guess I can be too sometimes..." I wasn't sure if that was the real reason. Kimiko looked as though she had seen a ghost.

"Well it's especially distracting for her because, you know, she's the Ultimate Artist!" Akemi forced a smile.

"Artist?! Well, what's your Ultimate?"

Akemi smiled. "Illustrator!" She caught the strange look on my face, "I know, they're kinda similar, but that's because we like a lot of the same things. So we are very similar."

I looked again from Akemi's face to Kimiko's. No kidding.

"Well, there's a lot of pieces in here so, uh...won't it take awhile to see them all?" My voice pitched high in doubt. Kimiko couldn't just be admiring the artwork...

The Illustrator cast another worried glance at her sister. "For sure." Her voice was pitched with doubt as well.

I nodded and proceeded to turn away heading for the carven doors. I wanted to stay to understand what was going on with Kimiko, but I wasn't sure they would talk with me in the room. I just prayed that everything was okay, or as okay as it could be, considering.

I guess now I had some extra time on my hands. I wondered what I should do...

I walked through the square towards the lake. Maybe there was someone there I could talk to. Remembering what Haruko said about not knowing each other, I decided I'd change that. For me at least.

I stepped on the grass, coming up on the lake. As it came in sight I noticed Hana standing solemly at the bank and I realized I still didn't know her Ultimate.

She was pretty harsh when she spoke but...she seemed nice enough...

"Hey Hana." I walked up to her causiously.

"Oh, hey. What was your name again?"

Well. What a great start. "Hon'yomi."

"You're like, a poet right?"

"Uh...yeah. And you are?"

Hana flicked her light blue hair from her face. "Ultimate Sailor, but I'm a fucking captian on my ship."

"You have a ship?"

"Hell yeah I do. She's my pride and joy. Along with my crew."

I couldn't say that I wasn't surprised.

Her face turned back towards the lake and her expression softened. "So, you got any good poems about the sea?"

"Huh?!"

"You're the Ultimate Poet, there's no way in hell you don't have a poem about the sea." Hana looked over at me critically.

 

"Um...I mean...I do..."

"Good! Let's fucking hear it! It's been way too long since I've talked about her."

Her? I frowned, she must mean the sea.

"Um.."

"Oh come on! It can't be bad, you're the Ultimate." Her eyes bore into me expectantly.

"I guess..." I took a deep breath. I normally told my poems to my close friends. Although, I did want to get to know these people.

"I no longer desire air, It's so soft and calm beneath..." I looked out at the lake, trying to connect with the words again. "In sinking, I'm no longer blind, to the beauty in the deep." Hana grew still and I could tell she was listening intently. "I could gladly lay to rest, below grey and churning waves. Add to the graveyard ships infest, a skeleton nobody saved." The poem died on my lips and drifted through the air between us.

"That was beautiful." She sounded calm for the first time.

"T-thanks." I wasn't sure what else to say.

"Have you ever been on the ocean? Sailed the seas?"

I frowned, disappointed I couldn't relate with her. "Not really. I've been to the beach many times but-"

"That's not the same." Hana had a lost look on her face. It was almost as if my poem had begun to trouble her. Immediately feeling bad I changed the subject.

"So your a sailor. Does that mean you can tie all those fancy knots?"

Hans brightened at my words. "Hell yes I can! Want me to teach you some?"

After that, I didn't really get much of a choice. Me and Hana spent hours by the lake, tying and untying a single piece a robe from her pocket. I discovered that it wasn't something I was very good at.

Hana finished tying one last complicated knot and sighed. "I'm starving. Want to go to the diner?"

I was hungry too, but I shook my head. "Go ahead. I'm going to see who else is around."

"Alright. And thank you."

"For what?"

"The poem. It reminded me of my days at sea...and my crew." She sounded grateful but also a bit depressed. "It filled me with hope that I'll see them again. I'd do anything to be with them."

Anything? I grew uneasy, "No problem Hana." I was lost a little with her praise and hope. It wasn't exactly a happy poem.... "I'm sure you will someday."

She sighed, "Maybe." Hana turned away, the sun shining on her hair.

I was glad that Hana and I got a little closer today, but I also began to worry.

'I'd do anything to be with them.'

Surely that didn't mean she'd kill someone?" I shook my head. I didn't want to fathom the thought.

Seeing that no one else was in sight I headed back to the square. It had to have been past midday already, and I hadn't eaten since....wow. I hadn't eaten since the morning I left for Hope's Peak.

I decided to head for the store. It probably had lots of food to choose from. Fueled by this thought I rushed into the building.

The moment I saw Mae, I was prepared to turn around, expecting Ryu to be here as well but for now she was alone.

I thought about talking with her. Much still remained a mystery about Mae, including her Ultimate. With Ryu not around, this may be the perfect chance to have a conversation.

"Hi Mae." I said brightly.

"Hey." She said, munching on something. "Have you ever had these?" She thrust a bag of chocolate covered pretzels at me.

I nodded. "I'm not sure. Are they good?"

"Oh they're great! Here." She shook the bag, holding it out to me.

I took a few and ate them. "Mmm! You're right."

"Welcome. Oh!" Mae rushed towards a rack of magazines. "I wonder if I'll be in here."

I follows after her curiously. "Are you a model?"

Mae shook her head. "Ultimate Dancer." She flipped through the pages of a brightly colored tabloid. "Ugh, of course not. Just a bunch of stuff about popular fashion models."

"Well, don't most magazines feature models?"

Mae rolled her eyes. "I guess, but I have been in a few."

I frowned, wondering how she could ever like someone like Ryu. "So how does a dancer and a hitman get to know each other?"

Mae looked out the window, as if seeing a long lost memory. "He saved me from some bad people. We haven't been apart since."

I never would have thought a Hitman would be known for saving people. "You know he's not really...well he isn't exactly very...I mean-"

"I know. But it's not his fault. And it isn't like he hates you all either. He's just, tough." Mae finished defensively.

Tough? I would've been a bit more harsh than that.

"Just tough? He was going to pull a gun on me." I challenged her without fear or awkwardness. Just like with Kena, talking with Mae felt natural.

"He wouldn't have shot you." She eyed me, crossing her arms over her black crop top. "Anyways, you were the one who was getting in his face."

"After he insulted everyone! Including myself!" I narrowed my eyes. "Do you really like I'd openly provoke someone?"

Mae took a step back. "How the hell would I know? I don't know you. As far as I know you could have been."

My heart sunk. Why had I asked that? Like I expected her to be on my side. "Whatever. Forget about it."

"No, you forget about it. Ryu doesn't kill people whenever he gets upset. Besides, it's not your business." Mae grabbed the pretzels and tabloid, leaving me alone in the store.

I felt like I had just lost something, but I wasn't that petty. Losing an argument wasn't a big deal...not here at least. Then, why did it feel like I had lost more than that?

No answer graced my mind and I sighed turning down an aisle. My stomach was rumbling in hunger and I grabbed a few things off the shelves. It was strange to just leave the building without paying. I carefully carried my snacks until I reached my house.

Once inside I dumped the food at a small wooden table in the front room. It looked like this area had once been a dinning room.

I sat down on a chair that didn't match anything in the house and dropped my chin in my hand.

'There is a vision of hope on the mountain.'

Hope.....

Absolutely distracted I began eating the chips I took. If that phrase was key then how did I know it? I had never heard of a saying remotely similar to this in my life. What did it mean?

A loud beep exploded in my silence and I screeched, throwing chips every which way. My eyes shot around the room looking for the source of the noise. I jumped as it beeped again.

Shoving my food out of the way I scoured the table, searching. Just beneath a bag of cookies was a small black device that looked like a phone. There was one button and the screen glowed with a bluish light. It beeped again in my hands causing me to jump. Annoyed, I pressed the button and my name appeared on the screen.

HON'YOMI NAKAJIMA: ULTIMATE POET.

The screen flashed and a list popped up replacing my name.

1. RULES (12)
2. REPORT CARDS (15)
3. MONOKUMA FILES (0)

I glared at the device in my hand. So this was from that bear. Angrily I tapped on the rules. He said they were important...

1. Residents may only reside within the community at all times.

2. Nighttime is 10pm to 7am, although this does not restrict you from leaving your homes at night.

3. You are free to explore the community at your discretion, keeping in mind areas which are off limits. Anyone entering an area as such, will be punished accordingly.

4. Violence against Monokuma is strictly prohibited, as is the destruction of surveillance cameras and weaponry.

5. Lending e-handbooks to other residents is strictly prohibited. As is stealing other resident's handbooks.

6. The Body Discovery Announcement will play as soon as three or more residents discover a body for the first time.

7. Anyone who kills a fellow resident and becomes 'blackened' will be free to leave, unless they are discovered.

8. Once a murder takes place The class trial will begin shortly thereafter. Participation is mandatory for all surviving students.

9. If the blackened is discovered during a trial, they alone will be executed.

10. If the blackened is not discovered, the remaining students will be executed.

11. As a reward the surviving blackened will be forgiven of their crime and allowed to leave the community.

12. Additional rules may be added as needed.

Trials? Murders? Weaponry?! There was weaponry?! I began to realize how much control Monokuma had over us. If he had weaponry and...and ways of executing us...what choice did we have but to do what he wanted?

I shivered at the thought. Even if I ever killed someone...if I got away with it I'd be killing everyone. That was something I could never do. Haruko said that because we didn't know one another it meant that it would be easier to kill each other. But I disagreed. In not knowing these people...how could I ever make them suffer? They had never done anything to me. What gave me that right?

Angry tears flooded my eyes and the e-handbook clattered loudly as I threw it across the room. Screw Monokuma and his rules.

I left the chips where they scattered and my food where it sat. Abandoning further plans of eating I ventured down the hall and fell into bed. I hated waking up early and when the bear had done so he had deprived me of sleep and ruined my life.

I closed my eyes in exhaustion. Today has been just as terrible as the one before. Probably even more so. The rules never really said we had to get up at 7. I'd be damned if he woke me again...

* * *

Ding dong. Bing bong. The bell ripped me from sleep again.

This time the bear actually appeared on screen to give his announcement.

"Good morning everyone! It is now 7am and nighttime is officially over! Time to greet another beautiful day!" Monokuma's voice was sickeningly chipper and carefree. It made me glare daggers at the T.V even after it went dark. It looked like he would wake us up every morning.

Glowering I rose from my bed and exited the room. The e-handbook glinted at me from the floor in the front room so I picked it up reluctantly. I decided that I wasn't going to carry it around, and left it on the table. Grabbing some leftover food I emerged from my house.

Blinking in the early sun I almost missed the person waiting for my arrival.

"Hon'yomi!" Kena stood in front of me holding something white.

"Hi Kena." My head was groggy and slow.

"Did you happen to see Hana leave her house last night?" Kena looked worried.

I shook my head. "No. I fell asleep early. Why? Isn't she in her house?"

"That's the thing. You see I woke up about fifteen minutes before Monokuma gave the announcements and I decided I was going to look around some more but when I went outside I saw Hana's hat in between our houses." She held out the white object in her hand.

"I knocked on her door but she didn't answer, so when I heard the announcement I figured she'd come out but she hasn't." Kena looked down the street as others left their homes. "I just got worried. I'm sure she's okay."

It didn't matter how Kena spoke about Hana's disappearance. My worry was immediate. As the twins walked closer I rushed over to them. "Have you guys seen Hana?"

Kimiko shook her head.

"No we haven't." Akemi answered.

"Maybe she overslept." Haruko materialized beside me and I jumped.

Kena looked doubtful. "I don't know...the bell is pretty loud. And as a sailor she would be used to early mornings anyway."

"Hey what's going on?" Toshiro walked over to us, hands in his pockets.

"Hana's missing." I said.

"We don't know that." Haruko interjected.

"Missing?!" Toshiro's face lit up with fear. "Well we have to find her!"

"That's what I was going to ask you all to do." Kena said.

I nodded. "I'll go right now." I made my way from the group refusing to belief she was...that she had been....

I looked through the square briefly, and peaked inside the Hall. Hana wasn't around. I looked over to the arcade and store but the twins were already searching them.

I told myself we would find her.

It was only when I stood at the edge of the lake did I spot her. Her light blue hair blended in with the water as she floated face down twenty feet away.

"Hana!" I started charging into the water. "Hana!" I surged forward with desperate strength, running, wading then eventually swimming towards her.

My hand brushed her cold body and I struggled to flip her over. She bobbed lifelessly and her empty eyes looked up at the sky.

Refusing to believe the worst I wrapped my arm around her and began to pull us to shore. "Help!" I screamed, blinking and swallowing water. "Hana-Hana needs help!"

My head slipped under water as I swam for us both. Coughing and sputtering I wrapped my arm tighter around her, continuing to padded forwards. The sound of shouting from the shore filled me with more desperation. The rest of us were running to the beach to see what was wrong.

In spotting us, Toshiro surged forwards, fear and horror playing like a slide show on his face. Water flew through the air as he sprinted towards us and dove into the water.

In the next second he emerged next to us, grabbing Hana's left side.

"S-she's okay." I wasn't thinking, but muttering and coughing in fear and surprise. I was barely focused on swimming to shore but Toshiro guided us in shocked silence.

My feet were heavy in my shoes and my body felt slow in my clothes. As we neared the bank I sank my feet into the mud dragging Hana. She wasn't moving. I didn't know why she wasn't moving.

I tried to lift her as we ran out of water and ran into shore, but my arms were trembling.

Toshiro bent down to carry her and I reached forwards trying to help again but stumbled over my feet. Falling, I sat down hard in shallow water. I didn't get up.

"Oh my-"

"Hana-"

"Is she really?"

"-I can't believe it."

"D-don't look."

I hardly payed attention. I stared at her face, willing it to move. Willing her to cough up water and be okay. "Hana?" She didn't answer.

Toshiro carried her to shore and carefully set her in the green grass. She looked pale and empty. Blue hair stuck to her face and her hands were clenched together.

I crawled to her side, uncaring of the mud I got on my clothes. "Hana?" I shook her arm. "Hana?"

"She's-shes-" I heard Kiyoshi but I didn't listen.

Hana couldn't be....we had just spoken to each other. Just yesterday...she taught me how to tie knots...

I reached inside her pocket and removed the piece of rope. "Hana?" I clutched it tightly.

Someone's hand fell on my shoulder. "Hon'yomi." Kena spoke softly in my ear. "C-come over here." She took my muddy hand.

I didn't look away from Hana.

"Hon'yomi."

She was dead? This...this was what a dead body looked like?

I felt numb and cold and I was shivering profusely. With no more strength I let Kena lead me away.

Monokuma's voice filled the air. Something about a discovery...

I shook my head. "But-but-" We wouldn't kill each other. We...wouldn't...."But-"

'but it is not on the peak which we stand.'

My mind fumbled through the events and the words that spoke to me.

'but it is not on the peak which we stand.'

More. More chaos, more mysterious words and...and Hana Kuno was dead. Without warning I leaned over, and threw up.

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Chapter Text

"A body has been discovered! After a certain amount of time, which you may use however you like, the class trial will begin!"

A body had been discovered.....I was sure none of us needed reminding of the fact. Everyone was by the lake at this point.

'but it is not of the peak which we stand.'

"Are you okay?" Kena's voice was loud in my ear.

Her words dashed the phrase from my mind. Brushing my dripping bangs back, I nodded. "Y-yeah." I wondered how convincing I sounded, especially since I had just lost what little food I'd eaten. Me and Kena moved away from my sick while I longed for a glass of water.

"Can you believe it?" Kaz said, his voice was thick with fear.

No one answered.

My eyes found their way back to Hana and I noticed Toshiro hadn't left her side. Instead, he sat next to her looking lost....I wondered if he felt how I did. As if sensing my thought he looked over to me, his expression unchanging. I dropped my eyes.

Hana Kuno, the Ultimate Sailor was dead, and now the rest of us had to prepare for a trial. That's right...we had to prepare...we had to figure out who...who killed her otherwise we would die...

I shivered, in a way we were condemning someone to death ourselves. I felt as though this thought would plague me...

"Well, well!" I gasped as Monokuma appeared among us. "Finally!"

"Finally?" Kyofu looked down at the bear. "Finally?!"

"Hey! I've come to give you all something. But if you're going to be like that..." The bear turned away.

"What is it?" Kena asked.

Monokuma raised his paws. "The Monokuma File!"

A very pale Kiyoshi looked around. "I don't see a file."

"On your e-handbooks!"

"Um," Kimiko spoke softly, "what is the Monokuma File?"

"It contains information about the victims death. If you want to find out what happened, you have to read it!"

"Information?" I said, but Monokuma was already gone.

I'd have to start there. And my e-handbook...it was still in my house.

Unsteadily, I rose to my feet, water dripping from my clothes and hair. Mae and Saori looked at me with concern, but I didn't stay for further discussions. I had focus on the Monokuma File instead of...instead of Hana.

I didn't look at anyone as I left them standing in discouragement and confusion. But I hardly left those feelings behind, they followed me back to my house. Like a bolt of lightning I remembered the rope in my hand, and gazed down at it. It meant nothing now....

As I fit the key into the lock, I kicked open my door, trailing mud across the tiled floor. When I entered the front room I realized I was shivering, water clinging to me relentlessly. Trying to ignore my shaking I set the rope on the table and snatched up my handbook, clicking on the blinking file.

Victim: Hana Kuno
Time of death was around 6:30am.
The body was found in the lake.
Cause of death was inhalation of water through the lungs and sinuses.
There are no visible external wounds or injuries on the body.

Blinking, I looked up from the screen. Hana had drowned to death? I shook my head, despite the situation, the irony was difficult to ignore.

I looked back at the file, 'no visible external wounds or injuries on the body.' No wounds...so she only drowned. I tried to imagine how it would feel, how it would feel to loose all air and suffocate in water...

Gritting my teeth against the thought, I sank into the chair at the table. I felt so foolish for reacting the way I had in front of everyone. It obviously hadn't made me appear very strong or capable, and yet, I felt as though I couldn't have reacted in any other way.

My face collapsed into my hands, and the tapping of water droplets against the table filled the room. I had to dry off somehow, maybe there was something in the store...

My body felt very heavy and I closed my eyes. I knew I had to investigate, and I wanted to. I wanted to find the person who'd killed Hana, and yet my energy felt sapped and my stomach felt cramped with pain. I feared I would get sick again.

On top of everything else, another phrase had come to me: 'but it is not on the peak which we stand.' What the hell did that mean? If I put the two to together...

'There is a vision of hope on the mountain, but it is not on the peak which we stand.'

Somewhere there was hope. But hope for what? Didn't people usually hope for specific things?

I felt my legs starting to bounce in nervous anticipation. There was hope, but it wasn't where we were. Assuming that the 'we' was indeed everyone here and assuming that these words were relevant to what was happening at all.

I frowned, there was two references to a mountain. The word 'mountain' itself and the word 'peak.' Only....what if it wasn't referring exactly to a peak of a mountain but rather...

"Hope's Peak." My voice was quiet whisper.

I remembered how Haruko said that we should forget about it, but if what was emerging in my mind was important, then it proved the opposite of what she believed. Hope's peak was important, and something important had happened there relating to us.

The sound of someone opening my door made me lift my head in slight fear. I had completely forgotten to lock it, but I calmed as Saori looked over at me.

"I got you these from the store." She held out two plush white towels.

I was surprised, I hadn't expected anyone to think of me during a time like this.

"Thanks." I said quietly, and took the towels.

Saori nodded, "You'll want to start investigating soon." She said carefully. "You're losing time sitting in here." Her voice wasn't harsh, but full of understanding. Something told me that she may have known how I was feeling.

I nodded. "I know."

She sent me a look of encouragement and stepped outside, heading back for the square.

My hands immediately dirtied the towels, smearing mud on the pure white. They only got filthier as I tried to dry myself and my clothes the best I could. My white shirt looked greyish and my socks were no longer white but a dirty brown. My shoes sloshes with water and my skirt hung heavily.

I was a mess, and I would enter the trial as such. I didn't have much time to try and do anything about my attire, so I dried off as best I could and slipped out of the house. I shivered again in the early sun with my e-handbook.

Even with the information provided in the Monokuma file, I figured that there would still be much to discover. Reluctantly I made my way back to the lake.

Most had cleared out, leaving Hana almost alone on the bank. Only Renji stood by her now, his face unreadable, and Kiyoshi who looked speechless. I cautiously made my way back towards her, wishing I didn't have to lay eyes on her empty ones again.

I remembered how much longing clouded them just the day before. She had had hope. Hope that she'd see her crew again, and sail on the seas...

A deep pain triumphed over my aching stomach. I had barely known her, why did it bother me so?

Renji looked at me in a quizzical way. "You don't want to see her like this."

I think I gawked at him, I know I widened my eyes. This time he hadn't used Amie to speak, but used his own voice. And that wasn't the only reason why I stared. His voice...it was so...it was so...handsome? I was surprised Kiyoshi hadn't reacted.

He put his hand in his huge pockets, as if wishing he hadn't spoken himself. Hoping I hadn't insulted him somehow, I spoke up.

"Y-yeah. You're right Renji."

He blinked when I said his name.

I looked down at Hana. I didn't want to see her like this, but I had no choice. To get to the truth I needed to investigate.

I got on my knees and studied her, trying to look without seeing. Fingers shaking, and feeling overshadowed by Renji, I searched her pockets. I turned up with nothing.

"Has anyone else looked in her pockets?" I asked the both of them.

Kiyoshi didn't move to speak, so I looked at Renji.

He looked nervous and I could see that he wasn't sure how he wanted to respond. "Yes." He had settled on himself again, while I stared again.

"Uh...did they find anything?"

The Ventriloquist shook his head.

So she hadn't had anything other than the rope in her pockets, and there was no other evidence left behind...

I looked at her closely, everywhere but her face. The file was correct, there was no sign of injury or wounds. No blood stained the grass and I didn't see any sign that she had come in contact with anyone.

It was then I noticed something odd. Her right hand was resting open on the grass, but her left was nearly beneath her body keeping it out of sight. Carefully grasping her arm, I pulled her hand out and gasped. Her hand was closed around something. I gingerly pried her fingers open and removed the article which she held.

A crumpled piece of multicolored paper was clenched in her hand. Frowning I peeled it apart, and laid it flat. It was sopping wet and the ink was blurring and mingling, blending the images together. I gasped, it was page from a magazine.

I squinted looking at the images, it appeared as though a photograph had been circled and words were scrawled across the page among the text in pen. I tried to decipher it but the ink from the photos already bled across the writing. I glared angrily.

"What's that?" Kiyoshi finally spoke up.

"I don't know."

Renji looked at it in curiosity, but I picked it up. I didn't want to think about it, but I knew I couldn't trust anyone.

The wet page spread ink on my hands. I quickly stood up and turned to leave, I had to get it to dry somehow, maybe then I could read it. Without a word I abandoned Renji and Kiyoshi by the lake.

I walked towards the store figuring that there would be something in there to help. I looked at the page in curiosity, wondering how I could possibly read it clearly. If there was a way to separate the different inks then maybe there was a way. But how would I be able to accomplish something like that?

"Hon'yomi!" Kaz bounded up to me like a lost puppy. "I have something to tell you!"

I halted in my advance and looked down at the rock climber. "What do you mean? Did you find something?!"

He shook his head. "No. Well maybe! Yes?" I waited for him to elaborate. He blinked his different colored eyes in thought. "I think so."

"Well, are you going to tell me?" Bleeding ink trickled down my hands and arms.

Kaz nodded. "Yes! It's about yesterday."

Yesterday? Did that mean he saw something?

"I was climbing on the store wall," he spoke very naturally of this, "and I made it to the roof. I was sitting up there, watching the sunset and I heard someone shouting below."

I listened intently.

"I ran to the edge of the store because I wanted to see if something was wrong and I saw Hana."

"You did?! What was she doing?"

"Yelling for Monokuma." Kaz said. "She was holding something, I couldn't see what, but she looked angry. It was only a few seconds until Monokuma appeared. Hana started yelling at him and asking him questions."

"Like what?" I asked anxiously.

"She said things like; 'Is this true?' and 'What happened to them?" Kaz frowned in deep disappointment. "I couldn't hear what Monokuma said to her, and when he left the nighttime announcement went off." He sighed, "She left after that, I didn't see where she went."

"That's okay Kaz. This is important, thanks for telling me." My mind rushed a thousand miles a second.

"It is!?" He looked brighter, "I'm glad I was able to help!" His face abruptly fell. "I'm sad that she's..."

"Yeah, me too." My eyes drifted towards the oak tree and suddenly, an idea struck me. "I have to go Kaz!" I rushed away towards the houses, "Thank you!" I shouted one last time and my shoes splashed water while I ran.

I wasn't sure where Utsumi's house was, but he wasn't hard to find. I came across him standing by the front houses.

"Utsumi!" I held the page carefully, hands now multicolored like a rainbow.

"Oh! Hey Hon'yomi." He looked at the page in my hands. "What's that?"

I bit my lip. Alright, I had to trust him at least. "I found in Hana's hand. It's a page from a magazine. I noticed there's something written on it but the ink from the page has distorted it. I was wondering, is there a way that you could somehow reveal only what's in pen?" As I said my idea aloud I started to doubt it.

Utsumi looked at the page in my hand closely. "I could, but I don't have any of the right supplies here."

I rolled my eyes. "There's a store! I'm sure it has lots of cleaning supplies and chemicals!" I narrowed my eyes. "You make a solution couldn't you?"

He looked insulted. "Of course I can, if I find the right things for it."

I nodded, "Here." I slide the paper into his hands. "Let me know if it works. I want to know what it says."

"Okay." He said. "But...how do I know you're not the killer?"

My world ground to a halt. "What?"

"How would I know?"

Hot anger filled me. "Have you not been paying attention to anything?! I didn't kill Hana!" I glared at him. "If I did, why the hell would I give you a piece of evidence?!"

He realized his mistake, and opened his mouth to apologize but I cut him off.

"I don't care. Just, try to figure that out please?! Our lives may depend on it!"

The Ultimate Chemist nodded and turned towards his house.

I felt like yelling some more. That was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard; me kill Hana? I crossed my arms and stalked back to the square.

I had no desire to talk with anyone one else, but when I noticed Kiyoshi standing by himself I had a strong feeling to comfort him. Despite my anger I felt like I could mange something encouraging...maybe.

"Kiyoshi?" I recalled how he'd picked me up so suddenly, with no regard as to how I would react. When I thought about it now I wondered if it was just an honest slip up.

The huge guy was fiddling with some wires and gears, twisting them together and pulling them apart. "What are you doing?" I felt my anger begin to dissipate slightly and curiosity replace it.

He shrugged, light catching on the many gold chains on his coat and red vest. "Just making something." He sounded indifferent.

"You make things?" Maybe that was apart of his Ultimate.

Kiyoshi nodded. "I'm an inventor. I've been making things since I was a child." He hands grew still at his own words.

"Are you okay?" I threw the question forwards, it was what I originally wanted to ask.

"She reminded me of them..." His voice became shaky.

"Who?"

"Hana..." He looked away from his hands and up to the sky. The early light of the day rebounded from his eyes. They were a purple black color. "She reminded me of my little sisters..."

His sisters? I thought of Hana, she, well she swore like a sailor. When I thought of that it didn't make me think of little siblings.

"She was just so...alone." He clenched his big fist. "I could've protected her." Kiyoshi spoke like he was to blame.

"Kiyoshi. It's not your fault." I looked at him in admiration, he was easily scared when it came to himself, but when I came to others...

He sighed and tugged on his black and gold tie. "I don't care. I could've helped her."

He was probably right. He may have been an inch taller than myself, but he was built strong. I had no doubt that he could've stopped whoever had gotten to Hana. "Maybe you could have." I said. "But you didn't know. None of us did." Except the killer of course.

"I guess." He still sounded down. "Thanks but I should've been better." He solemnly turned away from me, his long coat shimmering as light hit the cogs and gears sewn onto it.

I couldn't find the words to make him feel better, so I let him go. Kiyoshi was an inventor. An inventor with two little sisters. I could tell he loved them dearly.

Oh. It was like a train had hit me.

Little sisters, like his family.

Family.

My family.

How could I have forgotten?

A new hole tore apart my heart. My-my family. I hadn't spared a thought, a single thought for them once. Did they wonder where I was?

I could imagine them, my siblings especially, tearing apart the city looking for me. They wouldn't find me though...I wasn't within their protective reach anymore. My sister...I didn't want to think about how she would react. And my brother, I knew he'd use everything available to find me.

A sob creeped up my throat and my eyes burned with unreleased tears. In the middle of the square I released a choking cough, burying my sob beneath the knowledge of the approaching trial. I had to remain calm. Or at least try to.

It didn't banish the guilt I felt though. How could I have been so heartless?

Movement in my vision was a welcomed distraction. Utsumi emerged from the store, an assortment of bottles in his hands. I hoped that meant he would be able to get the writing separate. I was still angry with his assumption about me being the killer, but I did want to see if this would work.

"Utsumi." I made my way towards him. "Is it going to work?" I forced myself to sound calm.

"Hypothetically." He struggled to carry all the bottles.

"That's a lot of chemicals." I made no move to assist him as we approached the houses.

"I know. Too bad the store doesn't have bags for some reason."

Huh. That was a bit odd.

"So when you say hypothetically, you really mean to say it's going to work right?" Time had to be running out. Monokuma couldn't wait forever and I felt that this page was essential.

He awkwardly shrugged with the bottles and we walked between the boys houses coming to his. He set the supplies down and opened the door with the key.

Without waiting I brushed past him inside the front room. It was identical to my house except the furniture was different. Yet the table didn't match the chair just like mine didn't.

Utsumi followed in with the chemicals and I picked up the page from the table where it lay drying. The photos remained blurred and the pen's ink illegible. I wondered why she had this with her. Could this have been what Kaz had seen her holding last night? And what made her so upset with Monokuma? I doubted the bear would tell me if I asked.

Utsumi began mixing certain liquids in plastic cups he'd found at the store.

"Will this take long?" A nagging feeling of the loss of time set my teeth on edge.

"No." He sounded annoyed but I wasn't leaving yet. The Chemist set a cup down filled with bluish chemicals and removed a blank piece of white paper from his coat pocket.

"Where'd you get that from?" I couldn't remember if I saw paper in the store or not.

"My lab book." He ignored me after that, unfolding the paper and laying the page I'd found on top of it. He didn't wait or pause, but immediately poured the bluish liquid onto the page and waited.

I inched closer waiting to see something interesting happen. But instead of the words revealing themselves they simply vanished altogether.

"Hey! What'd you do?!" I glared angrily at him. "You realize how important-"

My words died on my lips. Utsumi removed the original page and on the paper beneath was a single sentence:

The captain goes down with the ship

"What does that mean?" Utsumi looked extremely puzzled. "She was a sailor not a captain."

I shook my head. "No. She may have been the Ultimate Sailor but she told me she was a captain."

"I didn't know that." He looked over at me uneasily.

"Well, I'm sure she told others right?"

"As far as I know Hon'yomi, you were the only person she talked to one on one."

I felt like I was backed into a corner. "That-that doesn't mean someone else couldn't have know she was a captain."

Utsumi looked doubtful. "You should leave."

I was at a loss. "Alright." I snatched up both the papers and rushed out the door. This was my discovery, he wasn't going to make it incriminate me for something I didn't do.

I was heading for my house when Monokuma's voice echoed throughout the neighborhood.

"I've waited long enough. It's trial time! Make you're way to Town Hall!" His voice turned sinister. "Attendance is mandatory! Get inside the elevator so we can begin!"

The time had come...

When I entered town hall everyone but Utsumi was there. They were gathered where the metal door used to be. Now it was a gaping hole, an entrance to an enormous elevator.

"Are those the only clothes you have?" Haruko asked, like she'd been standing by me the whole time.

I managed to hide my surprise at her appearance. "Yes." I had almost forgot about my clothes.

I looked for Toshiro, to see if he too was shivering slightly like myself. But the actor no longer wore his shirt. Instead he had zipped up his black jacket, so the only article of clothing he wore which was still wet was his pants. I hadn't noticed at the time but he had removed his jacket and his shoes before he jumped in the lake.

"Afterwards, I'll make you something to wear so your clothes can be cleaned and dried."

I looked at Haruko. "You'll-?"

She smiled carefully. "You look dreadful Hon'yomi. You don't want to look like that all the time do you?" I was about to answer but she moved away and stepped into the elevator.

Utsumi finally appeared at the hall and the rest of us filed into the lift. It fit all fifteen of us perfectly. If there had been one more person then it would've been an uncomfortable journey.

The metal door slid closed and the room lurched, moving downward with a faint creaking sound. No one said a word as we descended. It was as though we had an unspoken agreement to not say a word until we got out.

I couldn't be sure how long we fell into the earth but I quickly lost track of time. There was something deadly in the air. Something deceptive and deceitful. The elevator ground to a halt and the space in which we stood felt thick with the riddle of Hana's death. This was it. This was the moment where we would discover what happened...or maybe we wouldn't.

Fear was among us all. We would all die, or just one of us would die, by the end of the day. This trial was nothing like redemption. The offender wouldn't get a consequence, they'd get a sentence of death. No matter the outcome, this day would end in more death. This day would be judged by this deadly class trial.

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Chapter Text

~ALL RISE!~

It was like a curtain had rose, and we were on display for the entertainment of others. The only 'other' was Monokuma of course, but it still felt as though this was all one show. I wondered who exactly the audience was.

The courtroom was large, with a high ceiling and lots of open space. The only structures in the room were a tall throne-like chair and sixteen podiums arranged in a large circle facing inwards. On the wall just behind the 'throne' was a blank screen. In the corners of the room there were more cameras fixed on us.

We spread out and I stood by myself waiting for the bear to arrive. Monokuma burst into existence, standing before the enormous chair. "Do like my courtroom?! It's just so hopeless, right?!"

Looking around I couldn't quite agree, it didn't look like 'hopeless' to me. I scrutinized Monokuma for saying such a thing in the first place. This bear definitely had something against hope.

"It's terrible." Ryu sounded anything but serious. "When the hell are you going to tell us what happens next?"

The bear shouted glaring down at the Hitman. "Find your assigned spot, and the trial will begin!" Monokuma sat in the chair and gestured to the podiums.

Simultaneously, we each walked over to the stands, looking for our place. Mine was on the complete opposite side of Monokuma. Reluctantly I stood, facing down the evil bear. Toshiro was also straight across from me, while Kena was on my right, and Kiyoshi on my left. There was a spot for everyone, including Hana. At the far end of the circle on Toshiro's right, was a framed photograph of the Sailor. Except it was crossed off with a huge bright pink X.

"Let's begin with an explanation of a class trial." Reluctantly we looked to Monokuma. "During the trial, you will present your argumetns for who the killer is and vote for the 'whodunnit'. If you vote correctly, then only the blackened will die..."

I scanned everyone's faces, watching for some flicker of fear from a possible murderer.

"...but if you vote wrong...I'll punish everyone besides the blackened, and they will be allowed to leave the community!" His voice was sickeningly happy.

"Do....we really have to do this?" Kaz asked.

"Unless you want to die." Mae said looking annoyed. "We have to."

Haruko looked thoughtful. "But are we sure there is a killer among us?"

"Hana's d-dead! Of course there is!" Kiyoshi shouted.

Haruko didn't respond, she looked like she was deeply contemplating something.

"Puhuhuhu! Does everyone understand?" Monokuma covered his mouth with a paw.

"Yes." There was no denying the harshness of Kyofu's tone.

"What now?" Chikara asked.

"Before we jump to conclusions, I think we should start with what we already know as a group." Everyone looked to me when I spoke.

"You mean the Monokuma File." Akemi said.

I nodded.

"I remember what it said." Kena said from beside me. "Hana drowned at 6:30 in the morning, but there weren't any signs of injury."

"6:30?" Chikara looked troubled. "That was only thirty minuets before the morning announcement."

"That doesn't sound like a very long time to kill someone." Kaz said.

Ryu scoffed.

"He's right." Saori said. "That means whatever happened...the killer was up before everyone else."

Up before everyone else? Wait a minute....I knew someone who had been up early...

I glanced at my right. "Kena...you were up before the announcement right?"

She nodded, "Yeah. I went to bed early last night and saw Hana go in her house! In the morning I woke early because-" Very quickly her eyes widened and face paled, "Wait! That-I mean...I didn't kill Hana! I-I just couldn't sleep!"

"Can you prove that?" Kyofu asked skeptically, crossing his arms.

Kena looked around, "I-no! But that doesn't mean I killed her!"

"She's right." Toshiro spoke for the first time. "It doesn't."

"Huh? But no one knew where she was!" Kiyoshi said, leaning forwards.

I found myself agreeing with Toshiro. "Actually, none of us knew anyone's whereabouts."

"Exactly!" Kena said in relief.

"Of course it doesn't mean she didn't kill Hana either." Toshiro continued.

Kena gaped at him, a hurt look on her face.

"Then what are you saying?" Kaz nervously wrapped and unwrapped his left hand.

"Everyone here could be the killer, am I right?" Saori looked to her right where Toshiro stood.

"Everyone." He agreed.

I narrowed my eyes, he said it as though he was heavily implying something...everyone?

"Then how can we move forward if everyone had the chance to kill her?" Kimiko asked.

"Continue with what we know. Something is bound to be discovered." Haruko said.

Chikara shrugged. "What do we know that we haven't talked about?"

"Well," Kena seemed reluctant to speak. "I did find her hat between our houses."

"Then the killer grabbed her there!" Kiyoshi shouted.

"Hardly." Toshiro looked slightly annoyed. "There was no proof or evidence that Hana struggled with anyone."

"That doesn't mean she wasn't grabbed by someone. Is it possible she could've been drugged?" Kimiko said.

"With what?" Kyofu asked. "The store doesn't exactly have chloroform."

Chikara nodded, "The thief is right-"

"Hey!" Kyofu objected.

"-there wasn't anything a killer could use."

"Unless..." I looked over at Utsumi. He knew how to make chemicals...

"Unless what Hon'yomi?" Saori asked.

"Well..." I steeled my gaze. "Utsumi could've made some."

"What?!" The Chemist quickly became angry. "I didn't drug her! You should be looking at Hon'yomi!"

I gasped.

"Look how willingly you accuse each other!" Monokuma gloated. "This is wonderful!"

"Hon'yomi?" Toshiro asked Utsumi. "Why are you suddenly pointing your finger at her the moment you get mentioned?"

I looked at him greatfully.

"I didn't kill Hana!" Utsumi glared.

"How about you just answer two questions?" Haruko look directly at him.

"It wasn't me understand?! Hon'yomi is the one-"

"I never said you were the killer." The seamstress's gaze grew cold .

"Doesn't matter! That's what you're all thinking!" Utsumi looked around wildly upset and agitated.

"How the fuck would you know?" Chikara glared at him.

"I can tell!"

"Just answer two questions." Haruko repeated, there was a strong look of demand in her eyes.

"I-I...fine! Whatever!" He shouted raising his hands in exasperation.

"Do you know how to make chloroform, or something like it?"

"Of course I do! I'm a chemist! But that-"

"Could you have made some with the little resources we have here?" Haruko continued.

"No." Utsumi shook his head, a little calmer. "There aren't enough proper ingredients."

"Can you prove that?" Ryu asked, as if we had finally peaked his interest.

"As a matter of fact, I can!" He threw a dirty look at me. "In my lab book there are instructions for countless chemicals and solutions." Utsumi removed a well kept looking notebook from his lab coat, and opened it to a page. "See? Read right there, it would take chemicals that aren't found here and lab equipment to properly make some."

I didn't feel like squinting so I was glad when everyone started passing it around. When it came to my hands I read it closely. I wasn't a science geek, but it looked as though he was telling the truth.

Hmmm....I wondered what else was in here? I felt like thumbing through a few pages but I didn't get a chance because Utsumi shouted for me to hurry up. Glaring, I passed it on.

"So this means she wasn't drugged." Ryu concluded.

"Then what's the significance of her hat?" Akemi asked.

Toshiro looked thoughtful. "Maybe she dropped it."

"Huh? But it's-" Mae began

"I think he may be right." Her hat...it was a strange thing to consider.

"Just because the two of you agree doesn't mean the rest of us do." Mae interjected.

I felt like rolling my eyes, I guessed she was still upset over our argument about Ryu.

"Mae is right but I too think it significant." Haruko stated.

"...why did you even say that?" Kyofu asked.

Haruko looked at him. "Why do you steal things?"

"Hey- I don't just steal things." Kyofu looked offended...again.

"Well I don't just say things-"

"You just did."

Haruko clenched her teeth, for the first time looking agitated. "That isn't what I meant."

Kyofu rolled his eyes. "Well then say what you mean the first time."

"I d-"

"Both of you shut up." I didn't yell, but raised my voice just enough that they both realized their banter was way off topic. "As I was saying-"

"It doesn't matter! We don't have to agree!" Mae loudly cut me off, an angry look on her face.

"If we don't all agree on what happened then we all die!" I said in exasperation.

"Well I think you're wrong!"

I blinked, how could she think something that?

"Well what if the killer put it there for some reason?" Akemi jumped in trying to cut through our argument.

"That doesn't make sense. Why would the killer put something that belonged to Hana's right where we would find it?" I looked over to Kena. "The moment Kena found her hat she started looking for her. If the killer wanted to hide what they did why would they put her hat there?"

"Then the killer didn't put it there." Chikara said.

"Or, the killer didn't know it was there." Kyofu added.

"Or Hana dropped it." Toshiro repeated loudly.

"Why would she drop it?" Kiyoshi said in confusion.

Toshiro looked straight at me. "What do you think Hon'yomi?"

"Wha-?" I was at a loss for words, nervously looking at Toshiro.

Why would Hana drop her hat? Between hers and Kena's house...it was white so it was noticeable... "Hana dropped it so...so we would find it."

Toshiro looked satisfied.

"If she dropped it so we could find it, doesn't that mean she knew she was going to be killed?" Kena said on my right.

"Yeah!" Kaz agreed. He didn't add anything more.

"What?! If she knew she was going to be killed then why didn't she tell one of us?!" Kiyoshi shouted, horror on his face.

"Idiot, because the killer is one of us." Ryu said.

"Then Hana knew she was going to die." Saori concluded.

"But- how can you be sure? There were no signs of a struggle. If she knew she was going to die then why wouldn't she try to defend herself?" Chikara looked doubtful. "How can we determine all that from her hat?"

"I agree. We should be looking at concrete evidence." Kyofu said.

"Even if we do, there isn't much to go on is there?" Kimiko said looking at us. "We don't really know anything about what happened."

I shook my head, "No, you're wrong Kimiko."

She looked at me in surprise.

"What do you mean?" Ryu glared at me.

I glared back, what did I know? I knew Hana had been upset and angry about something, I also knew that Monokuma could tell us what that was. I turned my glare to him, if only he would tell us. But too, there was that note on the page...

"Kaz?" I looked to my left. The rock climber stood between Kyofu and Chikara looking thoughtful. "You saw something right?"

His green and blue eyes looked at me. "Are you talking about what I told you?"

"What'd he tell you? What did you see?" Kyofu looked at him.

Kaz turned back to the center, "I was on the roof of the store yesterday and I saw Hana."

"What was she doing?" Saori asked earnestly.

"Yelling. She was angry about something."

"Angry? Do you know why?" Kena asked.

Kaz pouted. "No, but she had something in her hand. I'm sorry I couldn't see what it was."

Mae scrunched up her face. "Wait, yelling? If she was yelling then that means she was talking to someone."

Kaz nodded. "She was."

"Who?"

Interrupting, I looked up at Monokuma. "You."

"Wha wha wha what?!" The bear tried to feign innocence.

"Don't lie!" Kaz said forcefully. "I-I saw it!" He seemed like he was scared of addressing the bear.

"Hmm well...." Monokuma looked away. "Guilty as charged!"

"Hana was yelling at you?" Saori asked, a look of deep thoughtfulness clung to her.

"I don't blame her." Toshiro muttered.

"Besides the obvious reasons, she must have had an additional one for doing so." Haruko said. "Can you tell us what it was?"

"I can!" Monokuma said.

We waited a beat.

"Well?" Chikara glowered. "We don't have all fucking day."

"I can!" He repeated. "But that doesn't mean I will." He grinned darkly.

"Damn it!" Ryu shouted. "This is ridiculous!" Mae grabbed his hand. "I'm tired of your shit!"

Monokuma simply ignored him.

Kimiko entered the conversation hesitantly. "The thing in her hand? Is there anything more you can tell us about it?"

Everyone looked at Kaz, tension thick in the air. I wondered if it was something I already had.

"It wasn't very big." He squinted in thought. "It looked flexible and flat..."

My heart jumped. "Like paper?"

"Yeah! Like paper!"

Utsumi caught my eye from the left side of the room, and I knew that I'd have to bring up the page soon otherwise...he would, and if he said it first...

"Maybe the paper was from the store." Akemi said.

"I didn't see any paper there." Kena spoke prudently.

"Neither did I." Chikara said.

"Are you sure you didn't?" Haruko said in caution.

"I'm sure." Chikara crossed his arms.

"I didn't see any either but there was-" Kyofu was abruptly cut off.

"Then it couldn't have been from the store." Ryu paid no mind to Kyofu.

Glaring and fierce I shouted at Ryu. "No, that's wrong!"

His eyes glared at me in anger.

"Just because the store doesn't have blank paper, doesn't mean there isn't some other type." I looked over at Mae. "Mae and I saw a rack of magazines and tabloids. Any one of them could be missing a page."

"Wait a second...Hon'yomi is right." Mae nodded. "Just before the trial I went into the store. When I was there I saw a torn magazine on the floor."

"What kind of magazine?" I asked.

She shrugged. "I don't know. Some sort of informational one. All I know is that it was missing a page."

From the corner of my eye I saw Utsumi take a breath.

"Could it have been this?!" I swiftly removed the page from the waistband of my skirt, careful to leave the transferred paper alone.

Mae studied it. "Yes probably. Where'd you find that?"

"Yeah, where'd you find that Hon'yomi?" Utsumi said cynically.

I clenched my fist while Haruko, Toshiro and Saori tried to observe the page from afar.

"I found it in Hana's hand."

"Her hand?!" Kiyoshi looked at me in fear.

"Yes." I confirmed. "It was clenched in her left hand."

"What is it?" Kyofu looked at it cautiously.

"It's an article about...something." I once again tried to read the page but it was no use. "The water made the ink bleed together.

Haruko looked up in thought."It's possible that she was upset about something she read."

"We have no way of knowing that unless Monokuma tells us." Toshiro looked annoyed.

"The paper isn't important!" Utsumi burst out. "What's written on it is!" He turned his accusatory gaze at me. "Hon'yomi."

I fixed him with my best glare and withdrew the paper with the transferred sentence. "I noticed that there seemed to be writing on the original page." I carefully folded the original and tucked it away. "I figured if there was any way I'd be able to read it, I'd have to ask Utsumi for help."

I definitely regretted it.

"So with his help he used a..." I tried not to roll my eyes, "chemical solution he made to separate the inks. It eventually revealed this,"

I held the white paper out for all to see, revealing the sentence scrawled across it.

" 'The captain goes down with the ship.' " Kyofu read aloud. "She was a captain?"

Utsumi spoke up. "According to Hon'yomi, Hana was a captain. It's interesting that she was the only one who knew this at the time of Hana's murder."

"Hey! I already told you I didn't kill Hana!" I felt like pounding my fist on the podium before me, especially when I saw the look on everyone's faces. "I-I didn't do it."

"Well...you are a poet." Ryu said.

"Wha? What does that have to do with anything?!" I could feel the shock and hurt plastered on my face.

"You like to write, so you could've written this and put it in her hand." Ryu studied me carefully, as though he hadn't expected me but was beginning to contemplate the possibility. "You never struck me as a killer."

"Because I'm not! Are you seriously considering this?!" My hands began to sweat. If everyone believed it was me then that would mean we would all suffer the punishment. I had to get them to see that I wasn't the killer! Otherwise we would die.

"Hon'yomi, I don't want to believe it but you had been talking to Hana yesterday." Kiyoshi said on my left.

E-even Kiyoshi was doubting me?!

"Why would I put something like that in her hand and then bring it to trial?! I found her body. What you're saying doesn't make sense!" I could feel my thoughts begin to melt and become disorganized. I had to remain calm...calm...but death was staring us in the face!

"Hon'yomi." Toshiro's voice brought my focus back, his tone was smooth. "Calm down, we'll review the evidence."

I nodded slowly and told myself he was right. We would go over everything, they would see I was innocent.

"What, your on her side?" Chikara asked the actor.

"They've been backing each other up this whole time!" Mae said.

"Stop." Haruko spoke harshly, surprising Utsumi who was standing on her right. "They've been backing each other up because they are reviewing the evidence and discovering what truly occurred."

"You sound like you know something." Kena looked skeptical.

"I have only theories." Haruko said. "Too early to state them now."

"You can't just say something like that and not tell us." Chikara looked past Utsumi, his gaze bearing down on her.

Haruko remained uneffected by his look, and maintained her resolve. "This isn't as difficult as we have made it."

"How do you know so much about everything?" Kiyoshi asked. "Come to think of it...you've said said some pretty suspicious things since the moment we arrived here!"

"Hey!" Saori had her arms crossed, and a dangerous look flickering on her face. "Enough. Leave Haruko alone."

Something unreadable emerged on Haruko's features, but I was sure no one but myself and Saori noticed.

"Anyways," Ryu said, "we can't write Hon'yomi off. She's clearly the one to be looking at right now."

I forced my hands to clench the podium tighter. Ryu...he pissed me off like no other, and right now, he was doing it perfectly. I closed my eyes trying to focus on Toshiro's advice. Calm down and review evidence...only, the evidence was pointing to me.

"Hon'yomi," Saori put her focus on me. "You found the page in her hand and after realizing you couldn't read it, you asked Utsumi to help you, right?"

I nodded. I was grateful she was restating things clearly.

"Then," Her blue eyes flickered to Utsumi from behind her glasses. "you were able to separate the writing."

"Yes." The Chemist looked proud.

" 'The captain goes down with the ship.' " The singer recited it easily.

"If we can figure out who wrote that, we can find the killer." Kaz was bouncing on his toes again. I was sure that he wasn't thinking everything through because I knew he wouldn't be excited about an execution.

"You're probably right." Saori agreed with the little climber.

"So who could've written it?" Kena said. I felt uncomfortable, for certainly she suspected me right? "I don't think Hon'yomi did, so who does that leave?"

Huh?

"And why don't you think Hon'yomi could've written that?" Ryu

"Because if any of you used your brains it would be obvious she didn't do it." Kena sounded so certain, I began to wonder why, and how. Had she figured out the killer?

"Hon'yomi is the one who writes poems here!" Ryu said.

I once again felt like screaming about how that was irrelevant.

"And she was the only one who knew Hana was a captain!" Utsumi's determination fueled everyone's uncertainty, less than half seemed unswayed by this accusation, but no one spoke up.

I wasn't sure how I could prove all this on my own, but I had to try. I glared at the floor, here they were trying get me to be the one executed, and yet I was working to save their lives.

"So you're saying that Hon'yomi killed Hana." Kimiko said, not agreeing but pondering the possibility.

"Yes! She planned it all!" Utsumi yelled.

Chikara was doubtful. "So you're saying Hon'yomi, drowned Hana? A sailor drowned by a poet?"

"Well, when you say it like that..." Mae frowned. "It doesn't sound like that could've been what happen."

Ryu looked at her in surprise.

"Well think about it!" She said.

"It doesn't matter! Hon'yomi wrote the note!" Utsumi glared at me, his body tense and tone accusing.

"Sorry. But, that's where you're wrong." Kyofu's voice cut through the spiraling debate in an insensitive manner.

"I'm wrong?" Utsumi looked personally insulted. "Go ahead then!" He gestured wildly at Kyofu. "Prove it!"

Kyofu looked straight at me. "Well? Show them."

I felt my mind fumbling for an explanation. What did he mean? Show them what?

"What, did you forget about how upset you were when I read it?" He gave me a knowing look.

It clicked into place and I gasped. "That's right! There's no way I could've written that note!" My hands went to my damp sock, and I retrieved the now crinkled and wet poem. "This is my hand writing."

Gingerly unfolding the old piece of paper, I held it out for all to see next to the note.

"It looks nothing alike." Kiyoshi muttered.

"Exactly." Kyofu looked pleased. "Hon'yomi didn't kill Hana."

I looked at the thief- no...rogue in relief. I was actually happy he had stolen it earlier. It turned out that I didn't have to prove this all on my own.

"You just changed your hand writing on purpose!" Utsumi wasn't giving up, he leveled his gaze directly at me.

"I wrote this years ago!" I shouted.

"You're the only one who knew she was a captain!" He roughly pointed at me.

"There's no way I-"

"You must be the killer!"

"It's a-"

"You're not fooling me!"

His voice overlapped mine, making anything I said sound useless and unimportant. I clutched the podium before me. If I wanted to prove my innocence I'd have to cut through his words.

"You're the one who found Hana! You wanted to hide that page!"

Oh yes definitely. I thought dryly. That's why I asked for your help.

"That poem of yours is a fake!"

My eye caught something on the old piece of paper, I had an answer this time.

"The corner is dated!" I jabbed my finger at the paper, voice rising and tone sharp. "And if you're still believing a lie, you can test how old this piece of paper is if you really want to!"

Utsumi's face shattered, his argument scattered. "You could've-"

"No." I answered.

He finally shut up, but anger was clear on his face.

"Um, Hon'yomi didn't write it but then, who did?" Akemi looked devastated. Our clues had run out.

"There was one other person besides Hon'yomi who knew Hana was a captain." Saori said.

"Who?!" Utsumi demanded.

"Hana." Ryu and Saori jumped as Renji spoke for the first time.

Was it bad that I had simply forgotten about the ventriloquist?

"Why is that you're just now saying something?" Ryu asked, glaring at Renji on his right. The Hitman stood a little straighter even though Renji still towered over him.

Renji didn't answer but he didn't need to.

"Maybe because he wasn't wasting his breath saying random shit and accusing innocent people." Kyofu said angrily, glaring daggers at Ryu.

Ryu opened his mouth to speak.

"Anyway." Quickly recovering, Saori nodded at Renji. "Yes. If Hon'yomi didn't write the note, it means that Hana did."

"Why would Hana write that? Maybe she was forced?" Kiyoshi was clearly thinking hard.

Renji glanced at Saori. "That can't be, because it would still mean the killer knew Hana was a captain." Renji spoke softly, but we all listened. His voice inevitably drew your attention towards him.

"But...why would she write that?" Kaz asked.

I frowned. The answer to this question would be key. The only reason why she would've written 'The captain goes down with the ship,' was to...go down with her ship?

There was the answer. That one word that could draw this trial to an end. I closed my eyes as it began to emerge within my mind. I didn't want to say it. I didn't want to believe it, but as each letter fell into place...

"Are you sure we're not missing something?"

S

"What could that mean?"

U

"Hana didn't write that!"

I

"It obvious what happened!"

C

"What are we forgetting?"

I

"Have none of you considered this?"

D

"Why was it Hana?"

E

"Because...." I opened my eyes. "The killer and the victim are one in the same. It was....suicide." I said. My eyes found the Ultimate Sailor's portrait. "In the end, she's the only one..."

No one said anything for a while. I think most of us hadn't thought that this was going to be the answer. Just like Monokuma had said, we were all so ready to accuse each other.

"What?!" Shaking and shocked, Kimiko looked at our faces. "She k-killed herself?"

"Why?!" Akemi finished.

My eyes found Kaz, and we shared s look. He had discovered the meaning of what he had witnessed the night before.

"She read something that upset her." Kaz said.

"She read something so she killed herself?" Utsumi was extremely unconvinced.

"The only thing I can think of..." The day before flashed into my mind.

'The poem. It reminded me of my days at sea...and my crew. It filled me with hope that I'll see them again. I'd do anything to be with them.'

"I can only think of her crew, and her ship. Hana told me she would do anything to be with them again. If she read an article about her crew...if they had died...based off what she said doesn't that mean she would do all she could to join them?"

"Hana died to be with her crew..." Haruko had an empty look on her face. Like she couldn't comprehend the thought of dying to be with others.

"Are we sure this is what happened exactly?" Chikara looked stern, "I don't want to fucking die because some of you assholes missed something."

"Fine." I said. "Let's go over everything."

I tried to gather my thoughts as best I could. In order to correctly discover the truth we had to put everything together. I felt the trial room hold it's breath as I thought. S-suicide. It was the only answer right?

Uncomfortable and terrified, I cleared my throat. "I got it."

Taking one last deep breath I launched into my explanation. "Yesterday, before the night announcement, Kaz decided to climb the roof of the store. Wanting to see the sun as it set, he waited, but he ended up witnessing something much different than what he originally expected.

I paused for half a second, expecting someone to object or disagree. Surprisingly no one spoke up.

"As he sat atop the store, Hana was inside. While in the store she found a magazine. She must have only been looking to read something, but she too saw something unexpected."

Cautiously my eyes drifted over everyone's faces.

"The exact details of the article are unknown, but one can confidently infer the contents. Something about her crew..."

Ryu glowered at this but said no word.

"Shocked and angered by what she read, she tore out the page and rushed out of the store seeking an explanation. Meanwhile, hearing a commotion Kaz looked down and saw Hana. She was angrily shouting for Monokuma." I cast a dark look at the bear. "Eventually he showed up, and they exchanged in conversation. Kaz was only able to catch a glance at the article in her hand and few phrases of what was discussed."

I prayed my memory wouldn't fail me.

"Hana asked; 'Is this true?' and 'What happened to them?' Whatever Monokuma told her furthered her frustration. She ran off and Kena saw her enter her house. That was the last time anyone saw her before...before her death."

A chill shot down my spine.

"The time between entering her house and time of her death...we can only guess at what she was doing."

Or feeling...or thinking...or remembering...

"Sometime that night she must have come to a conclusion..." I hardly felt the will to continue, I didn't want to believe Hana had killed herself, and yet in accepting that, it meant none of us had become a murderer. "She wrote the words; 'The captain goes down with the ship,' on the page torn from the magazine, and left her house before the morning anouncment." I fought to keep my focus off the choking feeling in my throat. "I believe she dropped her hat because she wanted us to find it and Hana and went to the lake."

I wasn't sure what compelled me, but I looked to Kena on my right. It seemed as though she felt the same because the comedian sent a look of encouragement my way.

"Hana went into the lake to be with her crew again...th-thirty minuets later..." My eyes found the person across from me. "Toshiro and I found her..."

"That-it sounds like it makes sense.." Mae had her own look of sadness on her face.

"It fits with the Monokuma File." Saori said. "It explains why there was no sign she struggled."

Stretched silence.

"So...we vote now?" Kena asked, she gazed sadly at Hana's portrait.

I looked down at the lever before me. We each had sixteen choices, was this the right one? Everything fit and yet that nagging doubt was still there. What if we were wrong?

Hesitantly I grasped the wooden handle. "Yes."

One by one we each made our choice and cast our votes...

The screen above us lit up with color as each of our faces spun in four rows like an arcade machine. One by one each column landed on her face.

Hana Kuno has been found guilty!

Obtained Present: The Sailors Knot!

 

It was so carefree it almost didn't feel real. Was this truly happening?

"This was all because of something she saw in a magazine?" Mae's eyes were wide, looking for an explanation. "What are the odds of that?"

"No odds. Monokuma gloated from his chair. "Everything here has a purpose."

"You mean you-!" My vision blurred in anger. I was beginning to see how clever this bear was.

"Don't be so surprised Hon'yomi. You might hurt yourself." The bear's red eye gleamed with hidden knowledge.

I forced myself to remember the rules. I forced myself to stay in my place, to not lunge forward and drop kick that damn bear as far away as possible. I wanted to yell obscenities and curses. I held it back. I restrained myself like the bear wanted me to. I had to think this through, I had to refrain from recklessness.

The bear seemed to grin.

It was like this was test or an experiment. Whatever Monokuma wanted from it, I would make sure he never got.

Kiyoshi was quietly gasping beside me. "She...she really killed herself..." He closed his eyes. "I could've stopped her!"

"Puhuhuhuhu! That's what you'd like to think isn't it?" Monokuma spoke to us all. "That you could've stopped poor Hana Kuno from falling into despair."

My thoughts sharpened.

"But in the end....it consumed her!" Monokuma looked as though he had won a wonderful prize.

"You're wrong." I could see what drove this bear and what hindered it. "She didn't feel despair."

"Oh?! Yes Hon'yomi Nakajima! Tell us all you know! Tell us about that poem you gave her."

I immediately felt sick.

"Poem?" Kyofu said.

"What poem?" Toshiro looked at me in confusion.

"The super duper despair inducing poem written by the Ultimate Poet!" Monokuma glared at me with his red eye. "It was just enough to send her spiraling into despair!"

No no no no no. He had to be wrong. I clenched my skirt in my fists. I didn't- I never-.....he was just saying that....right?

"Such a perfect poem for you to remember! Such a perfect time to say it!" The bear stood from his seat and almost began prancing around. "Such a perfect rhyme that Hana couldn't forget!"

I felt like running. I wanted to run towards the elevator, towards the metal walls. I wanted to get out. Away from his words. It-it was just a poem...

"I didn't tell her that because I wanted her to kill herself! She asked for it!"

"Wait! What was this poem about?" Saori looked between me and the bear.

I couldn't bring myself to recite it again.

"Hmmm.....oh I remember!"

I cringed.

"I no longer desire air, It's so soft and calm beneath..." Monokuma repeated it word for word but his tone was all wrong. He twisted the flow and made it sound taunting and cruel. "In sinking, I'm no longer blind, to the beauty in the deep."

I felt the eyes of my companions bore into me.

"I could gladly lay to rest, below grey and churning waves. Add to the graveyard ships infest, a skeleton nobody saved." Monokuma paused. "Puhuhuhuhu! Yes. Of course that was why you told her." He then sat down like he had finished giving a long inspirational speech. "So what really pushed her over? That old article about her ship and crew? Or the repeating words of suicide in her head?!"

"Th-that wasn't-...I mean I didn't know-..." I couldn't fathom what had just happened. I wouldn't fathom it.

The door to the elevator dinged, signaling that our time here was over.

I couldn't move.

No one moved. All eyes were on me.

"It wasn't-" The words died on my lips. How could I get them to understand?

"Hon'yomi?" Saori stepped towards me.

I immediately turned away from the trial room. Away from the screen, away from Monokuma and Hana's portrait. I fled for the elevator. I was shivering again. My clothes were still damp and muddy but this time it wasn't because of the cold.

I stood in the back unlike before. Hesitant and wary, everyone began to file in and soon it was filled with all six- no...fifteen of us. It began to rise and no one said a word.

We had survived and not only that, no one else had to die. I felt relived and sick. One shouldn't feel relief when someone was dead.

It was like my mind switched off on our journey to the surface. The long ride I remembered from before felt like a passing breeze. The trial was finished.

I was the last one off the elevator, but I was hardly alone.

"Hon'yomi." Haruko didn't seemed to pop out of nowhere this time. "Here." She held out some folded black cloth.

"W-what's this?"

"Pants. They're for you to wear while I clean your clothes." Her tone sounded very 'matter of fact'.

I felt awkward, embarrassed that someone would be doing something as kind as that for me. Especially after what had just happened. "I-I thought you were making them after the trial?" I carefully took them.

"Well, I already had these made but I didn't have time to make a shirt." She looked over my shoulder.

"Um...but what about a shirt for now?"

"I have one in mind you could borrow." Haruko said, walking past me.

Confused I spun around.

"Kyofu." He was across the room and nearly out the door but somehow he heard her steady voice.

"What?" He narrowed his eyes as if expecting this to be unpleasant.

"Give Hon'yomi your sweatshirt."

"Wait-" I began.

"What? No way!" Kyofu was incredulous. "Why would I-..."

Haruko raised her brow and Kyofu looked at me.

My hair hung in rough strands, no longer curly and full. The once white shirt I wore was splotched with mud and turning grey, the blackness of my skirt was interrupted with smudges of dirt and my socks were now brown.

"Well?" She looked up at him as if daring him to challenge her.

Kyofu glared at Haruko, his feelings very clear about her request. I started to feel a little anxious. I didn't understand why we didn't wait until morning for Haruko to make me a shirt.

Neither of them said a word, but their eyes spoke for them. "Fine." Kyofu rolled his eyes away from hers and began pulling of his sweatshirt.

I opened my mouth to object, but one look from the seamstress made me swallow my words. I wondered if she would stab me with a sewing needle if I said no thanks.

"Here." Kyofu held out his blue sweatshirt for me, adjusting his T-shirt.

"Th-" My eyes were immediately drawn to his arm. "-anks." I didn't mean to stare but it was too late.

Kyofu's left arm was covered in an uneven rough pattern of scars. They twisted up his shoulder with random flourishes and disappeared beneath his pale blue shirt, however they were still visible climbing up towards his neck and on his chest. Dark and angry red, they drew ones focus directly to them. Like Renji's voice they were nearly impossible to ignore.

Awkwardly I took the sweatshirt from his hands hoping to make my stares unnoticeable, but I didn't fool him.

He cleared his throat uncomfortably crossing his right arm over his left. "Is that it?" His mood and changed radically, his voice was clipped and shaky.

I had no answer, so we looked to Haruko, except she didn't look like Haruko. Her usual calm face was feverish and pained, her brow was furrowed in evident agitation and her dark complexion looked drastically lighter.

"Haruko?" Fear crept up on me.

She looked like she was struggling with something, some debate within her mind. She didn't answer or turn to me, she was far too busy looking at Kyofu's scars.

"Hey." Kyofu's face reddened. "What the hells wrong with you?"

Again, she didn't respond. Confusion flickered across her face and her breathing quickened.

"H-Haruko!"

Something in his voice snapped her out of her trance. "N-nothing. It's nothing."

She was lying, and we all knew it. She had just stuttered.

"Then," Kyofu adjusted the collar of his shirt clearly agitated. "when can I get that back?" He looked longingly at the sweatshirt in my hands.

Haruko's face fell into a deep frown. She was clearly concerned about something. "Uh..." She shook her head slightly like she was confused. "Tomorrow afternoon."

We stretched into silence again, Kyofu kept looking away and fiddling with his shirt. I felt bad. Not only was I taking someone's clothes but I was also forcing them to expose something that they may have never wanted us to know about.

"Um, thank you." I held his sweatshirt tightly.

"Just hurry up with it okay?"

He walked away in an air of nervousness, shoving his hands in his jean pockets leaving me wondering why he gave it to me at all.

"Thank you too." I said to Haruko. She still looked unwell and sick.

"No thanks. It is important for a person to never look disheveled, if possible." She began to slip into the regular Haruko I knew.

"Why?" I was sure her answer wasn't a simple one.

"Honor." She began to walk away. "Change in your house and leave your clothes outside. They'll be clean by tomorrow." The seamstress vanished before I could object.

I was the only one in town hall. The night poured in through the double doors and it felt like the paintings on the walls were watching me. The clothes in my hands suddenly felt heavy and exhaustion overcame me.

'but it is not on the peak which we stand.'

A laugh escaped me. Out of everything that had just happened, that was what my mind jumped to?

My feet shuffled my body forward and out the door. I looked to the sky but somehow all the stars felt far away. They were no comfort to me. It felt as though they were taunting us, glittering in free beauty above our prison.

As I walked through the square and past the oak tree Monokuma's words followed me. Was he right? Did my poem lead Hana to choose death?

It was a chilling thought. It ate away at my heart and regret bubble over my soul and spilled out among my thoughts.

My fault.

In the light of the stars, shuffling to my house, I slowly began to hate my poem.

SURVIVING STUDENTS: 15

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Chapter Text

Everything was as I had left it. Mud trailed across the floor, dirty towels lay in a heap in the corner. My e-handbook rested on the table and next to it, the rope. 'Obtained Present.' I grimaced, yeah right.

Still coated in a fine layer of grime from the lake I ventured to the bathroom. The shower was actually very spacious and two towels hung over a rail on the wall. Pink and green. Complete different colors.

I moved slowly due to exhaustion but managed to take a comfortable shower. I washed away any evidence of entering the lake and any evidence of finding Hana.....

Desiring not to turn my thoughts down that path, I exited the shower and swiftly changed. The pants Haruko had made me fit perfectly and were extremely comfortable. The dark blue hoodie also fit well, leaving just enough extra space to be cozy.

Reluctantly I did as Haruko had asked; I folded my damp, muddy clothes and set them outside my house. Appreciating the key I was given, the door sounded with a satisfying click as I it locked.

Snatching a muddy towel from the heap in the corner, I shuffled to my room in the back, once again barely glancing around the house.

In entering my room I went directly to the T.V monitor and flung the towel over it. I didn't want to be woken up in the morning, hopefully it would block out the sound as well as the picture. Having accomplished this I flopped onto my bed in the corner of the room. Letting my wet hair tumble across the pillow.

Once again Monokuma's words found me. 'Such a perfect poem for you to remember!' Aside from everything else, the word choice itself seemed strange to me. I remembered all my poetry. Why did he point out something like that? I never had trouble keeping track of my poems so what did he mean by it?

I wondered what everyone else thought of me now. Kena had been so eager to hear one of my poems. Now that she had...she probably didn't want to hear any more. I was sure Kiyoshi didn't either...and frankly, neither did I. My last one hadn't been a gift as intended. I didn't need to recite any of my others, no matter what they were about.

I figured this would be the best way to go about things, but it also hurt. My poetry was very dear to me, and cutting myself off from it wouldn't be easy.

With a sigh I rolled over. I didn't know what tomorrow would bring. Eyes growing heavy I climbed beneath the covers and tried to get comfortable. It felt like something tickled my back, but I rearranged myself and the discomfort disappeared.

I closed my eyes slowly. Maybe I didn't have to get rid of my poetry entirely...I always cherished every poem I created...

This thought in my head, I drifted off to sleep, the soft scent of peppermint dancing around my face.

 

* * *

A stabbing itch pricked my back with each deep breath I took. Laying sprawled across the bed, I groaned. My consciousness was slowly abandoning the world of sleep. I tried to cling to it, screwing my eyes tighter and pulling the blankets over my head. But the itchiness didn't fade at my attempts to ignore it.

With a defeated sigh I threw the blankets off my head. The morning announcement hadn't even gone off yet! I glared angrily at the ceiling. What kept poking me? I huffed some more in annoyance, unwilling to exit my warm bed but I rolled to my feet anyways.

I blinked at the clothes I was in, confused at first as to why I was wearing them. I stood bleary eyed until it hit me. All too quickly the memories from the day before slammed into me.

Hana.

The trial.

Suicide.

My poem.

Kyofu's scars.

I fell back onto the bed, sitting down in one unexpected motion. I reached for a moment of solace before I would have to face the day, but something stabbed at me again.

"Ugh, what?!" I angrily tore Kyfou's sweatshirt off, turning it inside out to look for the answer.

Something curious caught my eye and I paused in my annoyance to look more closely at his hoodie. Small squares of cloth speckled the interior of the sweatshirt. I took some time to puzzle at them before I discovered their purpose. They were tactifully hidden pockets, expertly sewn to hide their existence. They varied in size, but their job was clear; hide stolen objects from others.

I marveled at the handiwork. It was really quite clever, I certainly never would've guessed. They all looked empty though so what had been stabbing me?

With no regards to Kyofu's privacy I searched each pocket, frowning. He had invaded my privacy by stealing and reading my poem, so after this, I guess we could be even.

Each time I returned empty handed. I narrowed my eyes, I hadn't been imagining it. I checked each pocket again until something stiff brushed my finger tips. Careful not to tear it, I work a folded piece of paper from a tiny pocket in the back of the sweatshirt. The moment I laid eyes on it there was no way I wasn't going to read it, and depending on what it said would change whether or not I returned it to it's place. Kyofu clearly didn't want to be caught with this...

Feeling a chill in my room, I slipped his sweatshirt on back over my head properly, and unfolded the paper. It was badly crinkled and appeared old, many of the words were blacked out but none the less the contents weren't disappointing.

Hope's Peak Academy Incident Report.

Hope's Peak?! I looked up before I read more. My thoughts had to be cleared and certain before reading whatever this was. As far as any of us knew (or claimed to know) we had all been invited to attended Hope's Peak. But once each of us arrived we simply lost consciousness and woke up here.

My hands gripped the the paper tighter.

Location: N. District. Old School Building.

Date:--------

Time:--------

Injury or Illness involved: Yes

Type of Injury/Illness: Multiple

Multiple? A frown etched itself across my face. What did that mean?

Description: On -------------------------------------- discovered----------------- student council------ old school building. -- appears ------------- committed acts of violence ----------------------- death occurred ------- individual. ------------ resulted in --------------- members ------------------------------------------ president, ------------- comatose-------------------------------------.

Police Records: NA

Witness: --------------
Account: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- interviewed throughly. ------------------------------- tests. Cleared ------------------------.

Actions Taken: ------------------- steering committee and headmaster ------------- concluded-- best ----------- Hope's Peak ---------------------- incident --------------------------- faculty alone. --- responsible---------------------------------------------------missing.

Below that were fifteen blacked out names of students who were listed as having been involved.

I looked up from the page, unsure of what I should be thinking. This was something unrestricted, a source from the outside.

I held it tightly, creating wrinkles. This had suddenly became the most important thing in my world.

I looked back at the report, skimming what vague clues it provided.

Three things were painfully clear right off the bat. One, something bad had obviously occurred. Two, the student council of Hope's Peak were involved. And three, people died.

I huffed. It wasn't very insightful. I glared at the black lines hiding the words. I longed for them to yield, giving me answers instead of more questions. But of course, I only received questions.

I decided to take every words on its own. The beginning must be discussing who discovered the victims and where they were discovered. Based of the continuation and number of students listed as involved one could only assume that the entire student council itself had been involved. According to the "multiple" injuries as noted and "death", they must have...died in many different ways. And by the phrase "committed acts of violence" it was safe to say they had been murdered.

The witness and account had been blacked out as well. It seemed like they had been cleared but...why were they blacked out? What did this report really mean?

As I tried to decipher the report my body grew still with different questions. How did Kyofu get this? Why was he hiding it? Was this the real reason why he didn't wish to lend me his sweatshirt? If he was heading it, did it mean he was involved? But how could he be involved if he never went to Hope's Peak? Unless he did. If so then he was lying to us, but he was the same age as us so....

I fell back on my bed in a confused befuddled heap.

Hope's Peak Academy Incident Report.

An incident had occurred at Hope's Peak. Did it somehow have to do with us being here?

I shook my head. But how would the deaths of student council members effect us? We never stepped foot inside the walls of the esteemed academy.

And what was the "actions taken" about? The "steering committee" and "headmaster". It sounded as though...it almost sounded like...what ever happened was...covered up?

My stomach grew sick at the thought. Fifteen students had been killed and a school covered it up?! What kind of school was this really?

My thoughts ground to a screaming halt. But, what if this wasn't real to begin with? I looked carefully at the paper, getting close enough that I could see the texture of the paper and it's pattern. It didn't look fake.

While I closely observed it I noticed more writing, like it was written beneath the report...like it was- I flipped the page over. Like it was written on the back.

A scrawled note spread out across the back of it. Thankfully none of these words had been blacked out.

I understand your position on this tragic event that has occurred. Nevertheless I believe it in the best interest for this academy and the future academies of Hope's Peak to keep this incident a secret from the public. One only needs to think of the reaction the population would have towards this to know it would mean our end and the end of Hope's Peak Academy. And so with the headmaster and steering committee's wishes in mind I bid you warning: don't go against this decision. What will occur, will occur and most of all do not forget the hope we have created in all our hard work here.

The note was unsigned and unaddressed. The same sick feeling returned to my stomach. So they had been covering up what happened. I glared at the paper. What did they mean by "hope we have created"? The hope they accomplished by aiding Ultimates? Having students graduate and enter the world as leaders?

I made myself take a breath. Today I simply wanted to sleep in, and what did I get?

The paper crinkled in my hands. I had no real idea. It was a clue, but I didn't know why it was important to us. But now I knew Haruko was definitely wrong. We couldn't forget about Hope's Peak. It clearly overshadowed all that was happening now.

I stared glassy eyed at the floor. It was simply the best school in the world. What on earth had happened?

*BANG BANG BANG.*

My knees jumped in response to loud pounding on my door.

*BANG BANG BANG.*

My eyes flew to the monitor. As far as I knew the announcement hadn't gone off. I seriously doubted the towel I threw over it would've actually muffled anything. So who was awake?

*BANG BANG BANG.*

I jumped to my feet, shoving the paper inside my bra. Safe keeping right?

Hastily I exited my room and tumbled down the hall past the bathroom and up to the front door. Who could be knocking?

*BANG BANG BANG.*

"Hon'yomi!"

I almost choked. Kyofu's voice called through my door. Surely he wasn't here to...

"Hon'yomi!"

I shook my head. With him yelling like that he wouldn't try to do anything. Double checking that the paper was safely tucked away I yanked open my door.

A small, distraught Kyofu stood in the morning light, arms crossed and hands clenched tightly around his shoulders.

"Finally."

I blinked, distracted once again by the prominent like quality of his scars. His face reddened like it had the night before. So did mine.

"Can I have that back?" He asked weakly, nodding to his sweatshirt that I currently wore.

"Um..." I wanted I say yes but I wanted to look through the pockets once more. And besides, my clothes weren't-

"She put them right there." His wavy hair flopped around when he nodded to a neatly folded pile of clothes next to my front door.

I recognized them immediately of course. They were indeed my clothes, except they looked cleaner than when I washed them at home.

I awkwardly bent down and picked them up. Kyofu watched dejectedly.

"I'll change and you can have it back."

He didn't respond, but nodded and looked around uncomfortably. Sympathy arose in my chest but I smashed it down. Something told me Kyofu wouldn't want it.

I closed my door, clothes in hand and quickly changed. It felt good to have my own clothes on again, and I continued to marvel at the bright cleanliness. Haruko had worked some magic, both my shirt and socks were stark white. I wondered how she had managed it.

I glanced outside the small window next to my door. It was strange to think I had hardly noticed it before, but now that I had a reason to use it, I became very aware. Kyofu would be waiting anxiously, but I had to check his sweatshirt one more time.

Making sure he wasn't looking through the window (I doubted he would but checked anyway), I turned his sweatshirt inside out and frantically searched each pocket again. All I found was some lint.

I frowned in disappointment and thought of how I should proceed. I had to return it to him, but I was keeping the paper. If he realized it was missing then he would instantly suspect me.

Huh.

Maybe if I played it dumb...acknowledge the pockets and admire them. That way he wouldn't think I would have the paper right? Because who would be dumb enough to point out a place where they had discovered a secret?

I bit my lip. Okay there was a slim chance any of this would go as I wished but hopefully he'd just conclude that it fell out between our first exchange. That it had simply been lost.

Hopefully.

I rearranged his hoodie so it was right side out, and opened my door.

Kyofu snatched it from my hands so quickly and so forcefully that for a moment I seriously doubted that he had the skills to steal anything.

Once his head emerged from the sweatshirt his body immediately relaxed.

"Here you go." I said, hands still up from holding it out.

"Huh?" Kyofu looked at me in confusion. "Oh." He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked over my shoulder. "It's cold okay?" His voice dared me to challenge him.

I raised my eyebrow. "Okay."

I watched him closely, looking for any sign that he was worried about the paper. Nothing came up so I spoke.

"Those are some really clever pockets you have in there." I nodded to his hoodie.

He looked a me like I was crazy. "You mean the kind of pockets that all sweatshirts have?" Kyofu withdrew his hands from the front single pocket.

My heart jumped for a second. Wait what?

"Don't be stupid of course I would've noticed." I began to regret my decision to mention the hidden pockets.

"Noticed what Hon'yomi?" Kyofu narrowed his eyes in dead confusion, defiance and slight worry. "What are you trying to say?"

I tried to hide the deer in the headlights feeling I was experiencing. "The pockets inside the sweatshirt. You know, the ones for stolen goods!"

Suddenly he had a deer in the headlights look and shoved his hand inside the sweatshirt. "What are you-" His furrowed brow melted away and was replaced by extreme bewilderment. "What the fuck?" His brown eyes widened and stared right at me.

I awkwardly looked back just as confused. What was going on? Did he seriously not know about the pockets? Did that mean he didn't know about the paper?

"Uh...Kyofu?" I shifted foot to foot, watching his reaction with genuine concern. "You okay?"

"The fuck is this?" He ignored me completely and tore his sweatshirt off to peer at the inside. Once again my eyes found the many pockets sewn into the interior of his hoodie. Kyofu stared at them in complete and utter surprise. "I have no idea when..." He shook his head. "How?" The rogue spoke softly to himself marveling at their existence.

My thoughts about him and the paper crumbled. Did he really have no idea? But how was that possible?

"Kyofu how would you not know about those?"

His head snapped up. "I have no idea!" He held his sweatshirt tightly as if feeling sorry for it. "I don't remember this! These weren't here when I arrived at Hope's Peak..."

"But Kyofu..." My head spun with a strange sensation. "...that doesn't make sense."

"No shit." He muttered softly looking as though he'd personally been violated.

"Maybe you forgot?" I suggested weakly. My mind seemed to ache as I considered the existence of the pockets. Now what did this mean?

Kyofu grimaced in pain. "N-no. How the hell would I have forgotten about this?"

"Hey," I stepped forward. "Are you okay?" His face had grown pale and sweaty.

"I-I'm fine." Kyofu glowered and roughly pulled his sweatshirt on for the second time. Despite his words it was extremely obvious that he was lying. His brow was pinched with pain, and he rubbed his head like it was hurting, making his hair stick up.

"Are you sure?" I frowned wondering what had caused him to so quickly become pained.

"Y-yeah. Just a sudden headache." He rubbed his head again but it sounded like he was trying to convince himself more then me.

"Are you sure you don't-"

He was already leaving. "Thanks for giving this back. Sorry if I woke you."

"Uh, no you didn't...and thank you!"

Kyofu shrugged. "It didn't look like Haruko was going to give me much of a choice." He had made it to the street. "See you later." Kyofu stole away towards the boys houses, shoulders hunched in pain.

My eyes followed him, and once again I wondered about the origins of his scars. They bothered him enough that he felt intensely insecure when they were exposed. And what was his headache all about?

I felt swamped with the insane amount of questions I'd come to ask just in this morning alone. Was this to be my daily life here?

I sighed. That was yet, another question.

I turned away kicking my door closed and locking it. That would become a routine now. Close the door, lock the door, ask questions and wonder what would happen next. After that followed; survive the night, survive the day and each morning repeat. It sounded exhausting.

I shook my head. All I had wanted was to attend Hope's Peak Academy, and look at where I was now. I was living in someone's house who I never knew, with people I'd never met, in a town I had never been to. Hell, I had just worked to figure out how someone had died the day before. That was something I'd only pretended to do when I was child.

 

My life had become something I could've never imagined. A game of life and death.

It terrified me. I didn't want to die and I certainly didn't want to die for something I didn't understand. I wasn't going to die without seeing my family again either......

That is...I hoped I wouldn't.......

*Ding dong. Bing bong.*

"Goooood morning everyone! It is now 7am and nighttime is officially over! Time to greet another beautiful day!"

I glowered. I had been right then. The towel wouldn't muffle anything.

So much for sleeping in.

I had nothing else to do here really. Trap myself in my thoughts was an option of course but that didn't sound healthy, or pleasant. I'd just have to face the day somehow.

I tidied up my room, making the bed and removing the muddy towel from the monitor. Next I made sure the towels from my shower were hung up to dry.

My routine was interrupted by a loud rumble. I looked at my stomach in shock, surprised that it could've made such a noise. But I guess it had to tell me I needed food. Everything had been so distracting, that I hadn't had a proper meal in days.

I remembered the fries Kena had been eating. Fries sounded wonderful right now.

I dropped the dirty towels to lay, once again in a heap and ditched my house.

In exiting I ran into two people but they were so engrossed in their conversation that they didn't even notice me.

Kimiko and Kiyoshi walked side by side talking excitedly about art.

"Oh yeah! I can show you how to paint like that!" Kimiko said happily. "It's not hard trust me!"

Kiyoshi listened intently. "Really?!" He smiled. "Amazing! I've been working on a new way to..."

His words drifted off as they moved away towards the square.

.....that was interesting.

"Hon'yomi!"

I spun around and Kena bounded up to me grinning. "So I let everyone who's up know already."

I raised my brows.

"But if I want to get started you better go so tell everyone else okay? It's just Toshiro, and Saori."

She started to turn away but I grabbed her shoulder. "Hold on! Slow down, what's happening?" This morning was moving a bit fast for me at the moment.

"I'm making breakfast for everyone in the diner! Tell them we're meeting there, okay?"

"Uh..." I shook my head. "I guess."

"Cool thanks!" Kena leaped towards the square her hair bouncing the whole way.

"No problem." I said quietly.

Saori, and Toshiro?

I stifled a yawn and headed to Saori's house. Unfortunately hers was placed in the far back corner of the girls homes. I moved slowly, yawning some more until I reached her door.

I raised my fist and knocked smartly. I wondered if the announcement hadn't woken her up or something.

I waited half a second until it was widely pulled open, revealing Saori. "Hon'yomi!" She smiled. "What's up?"

Very suddenly I had to hold back a laugh. Her bubble gum pink hair was nice and smooth, brushed to one side, while a small section in the back stuck up obnoxiously. "Kena is making breakfast." Was all I managed to spit out.

"Really?" She looked taken aback. "That's so nice of her." She sounded genuinely thankful.

I nodded. "She seems pretty excited about it. We're all meeting at the diner so head there if you want food."

Saori nodded. "Hell yeah I do. I'll be there in a bit."

"Sounds good!" I left her, relived that I hadn't needed to wake her up. I always hated doing that to people.

The next was Toshiro. Recalling how he'd stumbled into Town Hall hastily dressed the first morning, I had a suspicion that he was a heavy sleeper. Or was just slow to get out of bed.

He was lucky if he was a heavy sleeper. That meant he could sleep through the announcement and get more rest.

I reached his house just next to mine and tentatively knocked on the door.

There was no answer for a long time, so I knocked again, a little louder this time. I waited expectantly, bouncing on my toes. When it still remained silent I lifted my hand to knock once more but the door was pried open.

Toshiro blinked, still looking very much asleep. His brown hair stuck up in a hundred separate directions and his face was very vacant. "Yes?" He leaned heavily on the door, closing his eyes and I found myself trying not to stare. He stood in his jeans barefoot and shirtless, half awake in the morning sunlight.

"Kenaismakingusbreakfastinthediner." I blurted out in one breath, forgetting to think.

He didn't open his eyes but he nodded slowly. "Oh hey Hon'yomi." He sighed sleepily.

I stood frozen. He obviously hadn't understood anything I just said. But then...I hadn't either.

As another second passed, and a frown of confusion awoke awareness in his face. With a look of fear and surprise Toshiro's hazel eyes popped open. "Hon'yomi!"

I jumped. "Y-yeah?!"

He moved behind the door uncomfortably. "What are you-" He looked around. "What time is it?"

"Um....its after seven." I forced my voice back to its normal tone. "You slept in."

He groaned. "Shoot..." He shook his head, trying to wake up. "What's going....-so why are you here?" Toshiro squinted in the sunlight.

Um...ouch? "Kena sent me to tell you that she's making everyone breakfast in the diner." I answered unsurely.

"She is?" He frowned. "That's...considerate."

We stood there for some time awkwardly. I was still bouncing on my feet, much like Kaz often did.

"Well I'll be there in a second!" Toshiro said.

I nodded. "Okay. I'm just gonna....go..." I turned away slowly.

"See you there." The sound of his door closing bid me farewell.

My glowering was instant. What the hell was my problem? Way to sound like a dumbstruck idiot. There was nothing special about Toshiro. I'd seen tons of guys shirtless before! I grumbled to myself all the way to the diner.

The door spun solemnly like it didn't want to admit my entrance. I shuffled my way into the diner, unsure of how people would react to me after what Monokuma had said. Kyofu hadn't seemed to care. Kena hadn't shied away, and neither did Saori but I had no idea what Toshiro may have been thinking.

Everyone was already here, Saori, Kiyoshi and the twins were piled into the middle booth. Mae and Ryu sat in the one behind it, arms over each others shoulders. In the closest booth Haruko sat on the table, leaning against the wall while Kyofu and Renji sat on either side in the booth.

Kena turned towards me from behind the counter. "OH HEY!" She nodded to me with a ridiculous look in her face. "Sit I'm cooking!" She grabbed a stray fry and threw it at me.

I was so caught off guard by her randomness I started laughing.

"I'm cooking too!" Kaz popped out from behind her holding a spatula.

Kena shook her head. "You think you are."

"Huh? What?" He blinked up at her in confusion.

"Don't worry about it Kaz." Kena said flipping a pancake.

I laughed again and walked past the counter where Utsumi and Chikara sat, heading to the middle booth.

"Hey."

"Hey Hon'yomi!" Saori scooted over, making a place for me across from Akemi. I sat down comfortably and looked around, wondering when Toshiro would arrive. "Did you get Toshiro?" She asked.

I jumped, face heating. "Huh? I...yeah I did!"

Saori gave me a curious look. "Oh?"

"N-nothing." I shook my head dismissively.

It was then that I noticed how quiet the twins and Kiyoshi were. I met Akemi's eyes and opened my mouth to give a greeting but she pointedly looked away. I looked over to Kimiko and Kiyoshi but they too avoided my gaze.

My heart sunk to my feet. It was apparent how they felt.

Saori on the other hand seemed annoyed at their reaction to my presence, but she didn't say anything. Her hands simply tightened around the cup she held.

"Hon'yomi." Mae called my name from over Akemi's shoulder. "Where's Toshiro?"

Before I could answer the door spun around, spitting out a tired, fully clothed Toshiro. "Sorry I'm late." He plopped right next me in the booth.

"How do you manage to sleep through the announcement?" Haruko asked skeptically from the table behind us.

He shook his head and buried it in his hands. "I'm just a heavy sleeper. If Hon'yomi hadn't woken me up I don't when I would've got out of bed."

Saori sent me a look. "Well, Hon'yomi you can wake him up from now on."

"What?" I shook my head, scooting closer to her. "I like sleeping in too!"

"Yeah but do you actually sleep through the announcement?" Mae asked, leaning forward.

I glared at her.

"It's settled then." Haruko said with a hint of something similar to a smile on her face.

Toshiro groaned into his hands again. "I hate mornings."

"That's why coffee was invented." Saori said. She lifted her mug from the table and took a drink. Toshiro lifted his head and looked at it longingly.

"Hey Kena, how'd you learn to cook?" Kyofu asked, still rubbing his head.

The comedians head appeared around the corner that lead farther into the kitchen. "My dad...sort of." She vanished in the next instant.

"What about you Kaz?" Kyofu added.

Kaz's bright orange head barely made it over the counter top. "I didn't!"

"Wait what?" Ryu said. "Then what are you doing?"

"Don't worry!" Kena shouted from the back. "He's only helping."

"That's reassuring." Saori said weakly.

"Neither of you better catch anything fire!" Kyofu shouted worriedly, although he tried very hard for it to sound nonchalant and joking.

I cast a glance at him, and I wasn't the only one. Haruko was also studying him closely.

"Hey Hon'yomi?" I looked at Kiyoshi in surprise. I thought he wasn't going to speak to me. "How'd you become the Ultimate Poet?"

My frown as instant. Did he really want to know or was he looking for something else? "How?" I looked around awkwardly. Everyone was watching me waiting for an answer. Except Toshiro. He had laid his head on the table. "I mean...I just wrote a lot and-"

"She published a book." Toshiro said from beside me.

"Huh?!" I looked at him in surprise.

"How would you know that?" Chikara said, speaking from the seats at the counter.

Toshiro lifted his head and shrugged. "I like reading. I spend more time at libraries then I do at home." He looked over at me. "I found your book one day and read it in one sitting."

I blinked. I had never met anyone who'd read my collection of poetry other than my friends and family.

He gazed at our group. "She really is an amazing poet."

"Maybe too good." Ryu noted, regarding me carefully.

"What does that mean?" I challenged him. I wasn't afraid now that we all knew his guns were useless.

"Just that Monokuma could've been right." Mae looked at him with uncertainty when he spoke.

"Hold on. Are you really going to believe what Monokuma was going on about?" Kyofu asked angrily. "That's pretty fucking naïve."

Renji sat up from behind Kyofu, his eyes going between the rogue and the hitman.

"You're going to trust Monokuma?" Saori looked at him fiercely. "He's the one who is telling us to kill one another."

Ryu didn't look away from me. "But he hasn't made anyone kill."

My breath got caught in my lungs. "I didn't make Hana kill herself!" I shouted loudly, fighting tears.

For a moment, no one spoke until, "Why the hell is there yelling?" Kena emerged from the back of the diner. "Food is ready!"

Kaz and Kena came around the corner carrying plates piled with pancakes, waffles, bacon and French fries.

I never doubted the belief that food brought people together again. All at once we forgot our argument and dispute. Utsumi grabbed a pile of plates and started passing them around. I gratefully accepted mine and took three pancakes from a platter that had made it's way to our table.

The diner was filled with the sound of forks and knives clinking on plates and food being eaten. I was extremely thankful for Kena in that moment. Not only did she save the mood, but my hunger slowly began to vanish with each bite I took. Everything was amazing, the pancakes, the bacon and the fries.

Kimiko piled her plate with waffles and looked around at a loss.

"What is it?" Kena said between bites of food.

"Is there whip cream anywhere?" Kimiko asked.

"Oh!" Mae jolted in her seat. "Yeah in the store! I'll go get some!" She leaped up from her seat and ran off, her black heels clicking across the tiled floor.

"Thanks!" Kimiko shouted after her.

Mae tossed a wave over her shoulder and dashed across the square.

I turned around and watched her make her way to the store but before she opened the door Mae froze. It was as though something caught her eye and she paused, looking to her right.

I squinted trying to see around the oak tree's leaves but my vision was obstructed.

Suddenly Mae spun on her heel and raced back to the diner abandoning her task. I rose to my feet as she pushed through the door.

"You guys....come see this."

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Chapter Text

I wished Kimiko hadn't asked for whipped cream. Maybe if none of that had transpired, we could've continued our meal and not had to worry about the outside until after we had had our fill.

But of course, nothing here could be easy could it?

"What is it?" Haruko nimbly leapt off the table and went to Mae's side.

"The wall...it's open!" Mae said.

Toshiro got his his feet, his tiredness forgotten. "What?"

The diner was filled with everyone shouting in exclamation.

"Does this mean we can leave?!" Kaz shouted.

"Hold on, how is it open?" Chikara stood up from his seat.

Kena set her plate down. "Let's go!"

Mae would've been shoved out the door if not for Haruko and Toshiro.

"Calm down everyone!" Toshiro jumped in front of Mae, preventing her from being run over. "I don't think-"

"Puhuhuhu!" Monokuma appeared right in the middle of us all.

The mood in the room drastically changed. As the bear showed up, our hopes for leaving vanished.

"You don't really think I would let you out, do you?!" Monokuma studied us all menacingly.

"But there is a wall open." Mae said, trying to grasp for a possibility.

"Of course there is, airhead! If you didn't have so much air in your head you would be smart enough to see it!" Monokuma said.

"Airhead....? I did see it-" Mae's hands rested on her hips. "Say that again asshole!" She glared down at him.

"Airhead!" Monokuma shouted, raising his paws.

Mae took half a step forward but Ryu grabbed her arm and spoke quietly. "It's what he wants, love."

I looked at Ryu in shock, surprised that he could speak so softly, and so kindly.

Utsumi also looked at him unexpectedly.

"Did you show up for a reason, or are you just going to be insulting people?" Saori crossed her arms and glared at Monokuma through her glasses.

"I'm going to do what I want!" He shouted.

I felt a weight settle upon my chest as Monokuma spoke. Each time his voice sounded I wanted to escape. I didn't feel like myself when he was around.

"Why are you here? To talk or just hinder us further?" Haruko asked.

Monokuma sprang forward in sarcasm. "I'm here to explain to all you clever ultimates how this place works!"

"You already did that." Renji said softly.

Monokuma ignored Renji, continuing as if the ventriloquist didn't exist. "After every class trial a new area of the town will be available for access!"

Every? Was he really so certain we would kill one another? I pondered the thought, and I was met with fear. I didn't want to think we would, but...I had no way of knowing what these people would do. After all, we were in an unpredictable situation here.

"So a wall did open, but we're still trapped." Chikara said.

Kaz was the only one who looked happy about it. "We can go somewhere new?!"

"Don't sound so excited." Kyofu muttered under his breath.

"What is this?" Kiyoshi towered angrily over the robot. "Our friend dies so we get some new place to go?"

"Is that supposed to make it even?" Kimiko asked, face pinched in painful thought.

Monokuma grumbled. "You're missing the point!"

The seamstress shook her head. "I think you're point is quiet clear." Haruko turned her level gaze away, and abruptly slipped out the door.

My heart leapt, telling me to follow.

"Hey!" Monokuma shouted.

Haruko didn't wait, and I didn't leave. I only remained standing by the booth.

"Screw this." Kyofu followed her outside, hands shoved into his pocket.

I looked around, and a thought occurred suddenly. Why did we ever stick around Monokuma unless we needed to talk to him? Why were we bothering with this stupid routine? There was no rule stating that we had to listen when he talked to us. Nothing told us to stay. I took a breath and shoved my way past everyone. I didn't look back at them or Monokuma. The door spun quietly and for half a second I was encased in glass and silence.

I exited the diner, and moved around the oak tree. Sure enough the large wall that Kaz noticed before, had been slid open. I hoped to find something helpful but a flash of dark blue drew my attention away from the new area. I turned my head just in time to see Kyofu disappear around the corner of Town Hall on the lake side.

I thought of the paper again, and wondered what he could be up to. I didn't see Haruko either. How had they both moved away so quickly?

My lungs drew breath and the decision to follow Kyofu pushed my feet forwards. I didn't assume I could sneak up on him, but if I stayed quiet just long enough maybe I'd learn something.

I reached the edge of the white building, standing against the stone wall. I considered peaking around but sound approached my ears before I had the chance.

"I don't know what you mean." Haruko's words surprised and stilled me.

"Don't be ridiculous." The rogue spoke. "You're obviously-" Kyofu cut off his own words.

I then thought it would be an excellent time to run away but in the next instant Haruko and Kyofu stood in front of me.

"Hon'yomi." The Seamstress's brown eyes shimmered while they bore into me.

"Haruko. Kyofu." I said back, voice smoother than expected, contrasted to my pounding heart. I'd been caught sooner than expected. "Is everything okay?" I tried to mirror the clam and even look on Haruko's face, to keep my intentions hidden. "I saw you head this way." I worked some genuine worry into my words and nodded to Haruko. "I hope nothing is wrong?"

Kyofu narrowed his eyes and I was sure neither of them believed me. "Everything's fine."

"And you Hon'yomi? Are you okay?" I frowned slightly, having not expected a question like that from Haruko.

"I'm fine." Her eyes still stared at me like they were searching. I distinctly became aware of the paper hidden in my clothes. I fought to keep my face blank and my thoughts scrambled looking for something to say. "Thank you....for my clothes."

The strange feeling of being cornered lifted.

"You're welcome." Haruko didn't smile exactly, but it felt like she had. "It was nothing."

The voices of our companions drifted towards us in the air. I suppose they had grown tired of Monokuma. Most headed to the open wall, some appearing burdened with curiosity, others with wariness.

"Well. I'm going to go explore." I moved away from the wall, turning my back to Kyofu and Haruko. Neither said a word of farewell, but I felt their gazes watching me grow smaller.

My brain buzzed with contemplation and focus. I forced myself to remember word for word what I had overheard. Kyofu had confronted Haruko about something? My eyes narrowed in thought. Maybe something had happened? But when? We only just returned from the trial.

"Ugh." My stomach convulsed in sudden pain. It brought me to a pause before the opening and I grimaced. That was odd. I usually didn't get stomach aches.

I waited for it to fade away, wishing it would be nothing. I had only just eaten. Eventually it dissipated and normalness returned to me.

"Hon'yomi?"

"Huh?" I looked around and found myself having to tilt my head up. "Oh! Hello Renji."

The tall ventriloquist gazed down at me curiously. I was quite surprised he wasn't using a marionette to speak again, but I was also glad. I assumed this meant he was more comfortable around us now.

"You're not feeling well?"

I didn't respond for a moment feeling caught up in his voice.

His perfect face frowned. "Hon'yomi?"

I shook my head. "Um, I was but I think I'm okay." I tilted my head. "Hey how'd you know I wasn't feeling good?"

Renji turned his head, "I could tell." A beat of silence. "Are you okay?"

"I think so." I felt touched at his concern. He didn't seem worried about anything Monokuma had tried to imply about me.

He nodded, light catching the many shades of blue in his hair.

"Thank you." I said, suddenly feeling a lot better.

Renji only nodded again, no longer focused on me. Instead he was watching something behind me. Puzzled I followed his gaze to Haruko and Kyofu. Renji didn't seem to see that I had noticed what he was doing. He looked at them with something like...longing?

"Eh, Renji?"

He jumped a little, his face growing red.

Wait a second.....

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"I'm fine." He said quietly, looking away from the figures behind me.

"Okay."

We stood across from each other a few more seconds, until I sighed. "I'm gonna go."

Renji nodded.

"Thanks again."

Renji smiled, and I stared. "You're welcome."

It took me a few seconds to actually go, but I managed to tear my eyes away and head towards the new building.

I studied it closely. It was grey, with a flattop roof and a blinking green and white sign.

TOWN POOL AND GYM!

 

I felt disappointment weigh me down. It wasn't as exciting as expected. It appeared to be split in half. The front was the gym, while a door leading to the pool was placed near the end of the building facing the store. I hadn't the faintest desire to go searching through the building, despite my constant desire to know about, and understand things. I looked up at the young sky, it was a funny shade of blue today. I felt as though it was suggesting that I should explore, for what else had I to do?

 

Indifferent I approached the door and entered the gym. What I walked into was so alarming, that it didn't surprise me that Kena seemed to be the cause of it.

Saori was laying on floor mats, loudly laughing and clutching her stomach. Akemi was perched on Kimiko's back and Kena stood on top of a bench making the strangest movements I'd ever seen. I noticed Kiyoshi watching the three of them, laughing quietly.

 

"OH! Oh no!" Saori pointed at me. She fought to speak between her laughs. "Hon'yomi!" Her hair flopped across her face. "You missed the greatest thing!"

I looked around, half confused and half amused. "What happened?" A smile grew on my face.

Kena jumped from the bench, her hands in her armpits, leg kicking out obnoxiously. "I have no idea." Her face was so serious and grave, but her eyes were lit with humor and enjoyment.

Saori hadn't finished laughing. "The things Kena does!" She rolled over, laughing into the floor.

 

I looked between the five people in the room, desperately curious about what I had missed, but no one appeared capable of conveying what had transpired.

Akemi slid off Kimiko's back. "Let's go look at the pool!" Kimiko and Kiyoshi nodded and the three of them quickly departed.

 

The mood drastically changed. "I wonder if they would've stuck around if I hadn't come in." I asked softly.

"Don't do that Hon'yomi." Saori sat up, her laughter fading from her face. "It isn't your fault. They chose to feel that way."

Kena nodded, "They just need to figure out that they're wrong."

"How do you know they will?" I asked doubtfully.

Kena and Saori shared a look. The comedian shrugged. "I did."

I remembered the trial, and how Kena hadn't believed I was guilty for a moment. "You knew. During the trial you knew. How?"

Her face filled with deep thoughts. I could see she was searching for something. "If anyone who accused you had been smart enough to remember the look on your face when you found Hana, they would've realized how wrong they were." Kena looked at me. "And if they remembered that now, they'd see that they are wrong again."

"Th-thank you." I was grabbed by an impulse, and I threw my arms around Kena.

She hugged me back. "Duh, Hon'yomi."

I pulled away and nodded at Saori. "You too." I kneeled on the floor and hugged the singer.

I could hear a smile in her voice. "You're not a killer Hon'yomi." She said truthfully.

Moving to my feet I pulled her off the floor.

"SO...pool?" Kena walked towards a door in the back of the room past weights and workout contraptions.

"Sure!" Saori said.

Together we entered through the connecting door.

The room was filled with everyone. The remainder of our company stood, filing in front of shelves, and looking around the area. Most of the girls surrounded a shelf against the wall closest to us. They were obviously looking for something. I squinted. Swimsuits?

"Here Hon'yomi." Mae walked over to us and shoved a black and white bikini at me. "This one is yours."

I took it in surprise. "Um, thanks but...how do you know that?" I looked at it in reluctance.

"It has the smallest top!" She said with a smile and walked away.

I sort of stood there, swimsuit dangling in my hand too embarrassed and too in agreement to move.

"Wow" Kena muttered with a disappointed laugh.

Saori shook her head in confused exasperation. "What the hell?"

 

"I mean....she's not wrong." I said weakly looking at the bikini in dismay.

"Just forget it." Saori said, moving forward. "Let's look around."

Too bad there wasn't much to look at. The pool was in one large room. It took up most of the center space, leaving a boarder of tiled floor around it. On the far side there were lounge chairs and a stand with snacks. The wall on our right held shelves of swimsuits and towels, with a place for shoes beneath the racks. Boys and girls bathrooms were placed behind the lounge chairs but that was all there was to see. Nothing else took up the space, there was no way leading to an escape, and nothing to lend us clues.

Saori and Kena wandered off to find their suits, so I seated myself on a chair to wait.

 

A splash threw water into the air, dropping a spray of droplets onto my legs. Kaz was in the pool, paddling and swimming easily, his orange hair somehow even brighter in the water. I looked around and he wasn't the only one in a swimsuit.

 

Both Ryu and Mae were in theirs, Utsumi was, along with the twins. Toshiro held his in hand and looked like he was making a very important decision. Chikara still wore his clothes, as did Kiyoshi, Saori and Kena. Renji and Kyofu also still had their clothes on, but Haruko was wearing her swimsuit.

I was a bit surprised, but she was the second one in the pool. Everyone's suit was different, even the style. Haruko wore a dark purple two piece, but the top was long sleeve. She looked happy in the water, swimming under the surface and holding her breath for a long time.

 

The mood her and Kaz gave off was a bit contagious. Pretty soon Mae and Ryu got in the shallow end, leaning against the wall and holding hands. I did a double take, squinting at Ryu and noticed something his usual button up and suit hid very well. Ryu had a tattoo of a dragon twisting down from his lower neck to his shoulder. Even from a ways away, I could make out the red and black ink. The style and details made it eye catching and I wondered what it meant.

"Hey Hon'yomi." Toshiro sat down on the chair beside me. "Are you going to go swimming?"

I shook my head, still watching the swimmers. "No. I can't-" I sighed and looked over to him. "It doesn't seem right after Hana..."

He nodded. "Yeah. I can't bring myself to it either." Toshiro looked throughout the room in interest. "It is nice to be around everyone anyways. I'm glad that after what happened, no one is feeling held down by it."

I shrugged stuffing my slight disagreement away. "I was surprised, but me too."

The actor suddenly let out a sigh. "You don't have to wake me up in the morning. I'll be fine."

I shook my head and smiled a little. "Too late. Besides we can't be freaking out every time you're late to get up, wondering if you've been..."

My lips fell closed. Here I had been so ready to believe the possibility of murder. But no one-

"No one has killed anyone Hon'yomi."

I jumped as the thought was plucked from my head.

Toshiro looked at me with the same expression he wore when we first met beneath the tree; puzzlement. "You don't have to believe everything Monokuma says."

I glowered at the mention of his name. "I don't."

"Then you're letting what he says get to you." Toshiro leaned forward. "If you do that Hon'yomi you're letting him win."

I turned away, resting my head in my palm, distracted by his closeness. "I guess you're right." I suddenly felt like leaving the conversation. I didn't want to talk about Monokuma.

My stomach grew uneasy again, and I leaned over clutching it in discomfort. It gurgled painfully, making my stomach feel small.

"Hon'yomi what's wrong?!" Toshiro was filled with concern.

I grimaced. "It's just my stomach. It's been hurting."

"Do you know why?"

I shook my head even though I felt like I should. "I've kinda had a crappy eating schedule since I got here but I really don't know."

"Maybe you should go back to your house. I can ask one of the girls to make sure you're okay-"

"No." I raised my head, the pain ebbing away again. "I'll be fine."

Toshiro sent me a worried look. "Hon'yomi you can't let yourself to get sick."

"I'm not." I said. "I'll be okay-"

"SHIT!"

I looked up just in time to see Kyofu pitch forwards into the pool, fully clothed.

I stood up in shock, and worry -although I couldn't place the worry- and tried to see what had happened. Ryu stood at the edge of the pool near where Kyofu had been. I frowned, that asshole hadn't seriously pushed him in, had he?

I watched Kyofu's shape beneath the pools surface, waiting for him to come up cursing and sputtering. Except he didn't. My heart pounded a little faster why wasn't he coming up?

"Kyofu!" Before I could think about acting, Renji tore off his sweater and shirt in one swoop and dove gracefully into the pool. He made a beeline to Kyofu, but someone smaller got to him first.

Haruko dragged Kyofu above the water, her arm around his neck in support. Renji swam to her side and helped keep Kyofu afloat, who was coughing loudly, blinking water from his eyes. Once they reached the steps in the shallow end, Haruko left Kyofu with Renji and stalked towards Ryu.

"What was that?" Haruko glared up at Ryu, her dark hair dripping with water.

Ryu had a look of worry and apology on his face, but his words covered it up. "How would I fucking know he couldn't swim?"

Haruko didn't respond she only stared, a look of pure anger upon her face.

I couldn't see very well, but I was quiet sure that a flicker of anger found it's way onto Ryu's features.

Haruko's attitude didn't match up with her mindset from before. She had made it clear that we wouldn't care about others because we didn't know one another, and yet here she was angry that something had happened to Kyofu.

She remained completely still, body relaxed and unmoving. There was a moment when everyone seemed to be holding their breath. Except Kyofu of course. (He was still coughing up water.) We all waited for the tension in the air to clear until-

Without any warning, Haruko sprang forward, landing a punch right into Ryu's gut.

 

I stepped forwards as Ryu collapsed, my eyes flying open wide. "Holy-"

Toshiro leapt up from beside me. "Haruko?"

"Shit!" Kena looked around enthusiastically.

"Haruko that was badass!" Saori shouted, with no regards to Ryu's welfare.

 

Haruko scowled at Ryu "You need to start thinking your actions through before acting upon them! An attitude like yours will easily get someone killed."

The Hitman picked himself off the floor and towered over the Seamstress, but looked more surprised than afraid. I was sure that it was more because he was shocked she had had the guts to punch him, and wasn't backing down.

"You need to res-"

"Haruko." Kyofu managed to speak from the edge of the pool. "I'm fine."

Haruko paused and looked over at Kyofu and Renji. Kyofu hadn't seemed to have looked around yet. His eyes were red from the chlorine and he blinked at the pool in confusion. "Don't-" He coughed. "I'll be fine."

Renji leaned over him, his hands on Kyofu's shoulders. "Are you sure?"

"Huh?" Kyofu looked up half confused. "Yeah I'm-"

Even from across the room I could see Kyofu's face grow unexpectedly red. He stared awkwardly at the shirtless Renji, all words leaving him. He seemed to have frozen in surprise and attraction.

I felt like blushing for him. Everyone in the room had fallen quiet.

Renji looked at him awkwardly, unsure of what was happening. "Kyofu?"

Kyofu blinked in a flash and looked away, hopelessly failing to cover up his pause. "I'm fine." He grumbled.

Haruko blinked as if nothing unusual had happened.

It was then I realized that Ryu had left the pool. Though I wasn't sure what I should be thinking about now. Ryu almost drowning Kyofu, or Kyofu's reaction to one shirtless ventriloquist.

Kyofu pushed off the floor and got to his feet, his clothes and hair clinging to him. I felt bad but I almost felt like laughing. He looked like a small wet cat.

Renji got up but didn't follow. Kyofu marched his way to the adjoining door leading to the gym, but Haruko was in his way.

"Haruko." Kyofu groaned, standing helplessly, while a puddle of water formed beneath him.

The seamstress had her arms crossed. "I'll dry them for you in ten minuets if you give me your clothes."

From across the room, Mae's eyes and mine seemed to meet simultaneously. I bit my lip to hold back an embarrassing giggle.

Haruko shoved a pair of blue swim shorts at him. "Put these on."

Kyofu didn't take them, they rested over his shoulder sticking to his wet clothes. "Haruko." He looked around at everyone watching them and his face heated again. "This is it?" He threw a pointed look at her, heavily implying something.

It clicked in my mind a second later and I realized he was worried about his scars. I felt bad again, he had just got his sweatshirt back.

"Here, take mine." Renji stepped forwards, his sweater in hand. "Don't- uh...don't be distressed please- just take it!" He pushed the sweater towards Kyofu's chest as his eyes shifted around the room to look at anything but the Rogue.

Kyofu looked at Renji with bewilderment and slight awe. "Um..." There was no way he could argue. "Okay." He carefully took the sweater from Renji's hands, and looked to the floor.

"Here." Haruko intervened before anything else could occur. She tossed a bundle of dark blue swim shorts at Renji. "You wears these for now. I'll dry your shorts."

Renji blinked. "You're-"

"The bathroom is over there." She gestured to the restrooms behind Toshiro and I.

Kyofu glared a few seconds longer at Haruko. It was a glare that seemed to say many things, but he turned away, new clothes in hand.

"You caught all that didn't you?" Toshiro glanced at me as Renji and Kyofu walked past us.

"Yes." I said nodding. "Yes I did."

The door leading out snapped and I noticed Mae slip outside.

"I'll talk to you later." I said hastily over my shoulder and left Toshiro in a room full of tension.

The door clicked and wind caught my skirt once I stepped outside. I noticed Mae a few feet away, crop top thrown over her bikini and a purse covered in little cats dragged in her right hand.

"Mae?"

 

She spun around and pleaded at me. "He wasn't trying to kill Kyofu! You understand that right?!" Mae looked around like she was struggling. "He doesn't just- I mean, he won't hurt-. No...it's not like-" She looked at me, her brown eyes begging for the words explain how she felt.

I wasn't sure how to respond. I wanted to comfort her and yet, I didn't agree with her about Ryu all the time. "We don't know him, Mae. We don't know you." I looked up at the sky, it was colored a deep sickly blue. "Haruko was right, he has pulled some pretty messed up things."

Recognition boiled in her eyes and I knew she remembered the guns.

"But..." I searched for some solice. "...that doesn't have to be a problem anymore."

Hope bubbled from her. "It isn't! I mean, it won't!" Mae sighed. "I love him. I do, really. Every piece of him."

Once again I wondered about how they had ever crossed paths.

"I don't want to keep making exuses-"

"Then don't." I shook my head. "Let this day change what happens next, okay?" I felt like I probably should've been telling this to Ryu instead of Mae but...he had threatened to kill me.

"Hon'yomi." Mae lurched forwards and hugged me gratefully. "You don't hate him do you?"

I heard her question, but it that wasn't what she was really asking. "No. I don't" I said.

She sprung away and walked off again, mood lighter.

I shook my head. "I don't hate you Mae." I muttered softly.

 

How, and why was I doing this? I didn't like Ryu. I didn't hate him but, I didn't like him. Did I really think things with him would change? I took a breath, feeling nervous about thinking it through. It would be nice. It would make life here easier.

 

I studied the sky again, and sighed in conflict. Maybe it was safe to hope for the best...

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Chapter Text

Here upon this midnight hour,

When shadows fade and night devours,

A tolling clock shouts to all,

And crows nest as all light falls.

I climb the steps of this tower,

Here upon this midnight hour,

A task to be done atop this prison,

A curious desire among the living.

With a sigh I looked away from the notebook I took from the store, pen in hand. My flow of words became interrupted again, but by what I couldn't name. I was only trying to pass away some time on my own. Just me, a pen and some paper. I usually thought my best at a time like this but today I was failing. It was like something invisible was popping up within my mind, making me stop.

A sound alerts all my senses,

I forced the words onto the page, trying to focus.

Fear arrives and body tenses.

Another sigh racked my lungs, and the swing squeaked under my weight. I tossed the notebook to the ground with a soft thud, resting my head against the chain. The park was lonely and quiet. A perfect place to sit and see the lake and houses. I couldn't believe what had already happened in this day alone. Nothing bad really. Suspicious and immature yes, but nothing bad...I guessed.

The notebook looked at me, it's dark red cover begging me to write within it's pages. I had decided to take a break from poetry but...it was the only thing I had to do while on my own.

The afternoon sun broke through a drifting cloud, casting warmth across my face. No one was in sight, and I had a clear view of all ways to approach the park. Carefully glancing around, I quickly fumbled with my shirt, eventually retrieving the incident report. The old paper crinkled softly in my hands and my eyes bore into it. Questions resurfaced immediately looking at it.

An uneasiness settled over me. Kyofu hadn't seemed like he had lost something today. Although it was extremely clear from earlier he wasn't sure about that pockets, and he had been distracted by Renji. Their interactions surprised me. None of us knew each other, how were they so infatuated by one another already?

But then...if I thought hard enough about it....to me...something about nearly everyone here seemed familiar. I immediately shook my head, my thoughts drastically losing shape and comprehension. I couldn't handle the thought, it was too much. What was I thinking? That wasn't possible...

My eyes found their way back to the paper. If an incident so terrible had occurred at Hope's Peak...an incident that could've meant 'the end of Hope's Peak.' Then-

With a glare I frowned, scolding myself. No. That definitely wasn't possible. This must just be an old paper, but if so, then why and how did Kyofu get ahold of it?

"Ooh! What's that?"

"AGH!" The swing lurched violently, and my hands crumbled around the paper.

"I'm sorry Hon'yomi! I didn't mean to scare you!" A small voice said from above me.

"KAZ!" I shouted, blinded by fear and surprise.

The small climber nimbly jumped down from a tree splayed above the swings. He appeared to be struck with pure curious intentions. "Are you mad at me?" Kaz blinked unevenly up at my face.

The air in my lungs worked to slow and return to the normal intake rate. "I-I'm..." His eager gaze somehow got to me. "No."

"Okay!" He grinned widely and leapt onto the swing beside me, standing on the seat. "So what's that?" Kaz asked, nodding to my clenched hands. "And why's your shirt undone?"

"Kaz!" I shouted.

"What?!" He shouted back, matching my volume.

"Just-" I sighed. "Ask one question at a time would you?" I hastily buttoned up my shirt, sloppily replacing my small bow tie to it's place.

He leaned over towards me, his hands tightly latched around the chains of his swing. "One question: what is that paper?"

My thoughts fumbled around, searching for a lie. I couldn't let anyone see this. I didn't know what it meant yet. "It's a poem." I said dully.

"Poem?!" His eyes lit up. "Can you read it for me?!"

"Huh?" What? "You want me to read it?"

"Yes! You're the best poet aren't you?"

I felt my face grow warm. "I suppose..."

"Okay! Then it's really good and I'll listen!" In a flash he was sitting on the swing on which he once stood, looking to me hopefully.

"Um..." I fought through murky memories of my poetry, searching for an appropriate one to "read". I carefully unfolded the paper halfway, making sure Kaz wouldn't be able to read it from his angle.

"Ehem....I wrote this a long time ago so it's probably not very..." I rolled my eyes. What did it matter? "Here I go....." I cleared my throat once more, and reached into my mind, plucking the words from their recorded place in my memories.

"I've got Egypt and London in my back pocket.

Two cities of stone at my feet.

One was strong, the other old,

A city once called Greece.

Now Rome was most difficult,

With it's sprawling streets and halls,

But it weakened eventually.

I watch her as she falls.

These cities aren't my first,

I've been around the globe,

I've crushed, and tore, and taken,

Destroyed houses and homes.

My hands tore the iron tower, from it's place in France,

And crushed the Great Wall of China, at my first chance.

I've held the Green Lady of the west, among a snowy storm.

My feet have trampled the Red Gate, that call sailor men home.

My destruction has crumbled the Empire, of the Big Apple State,

And melted down the clock of London, whom many have called great.

I come to cities as a mist,

A silent storm in the air.

None suspect my destroying hand, to tear down what they've built there.

I come to take, or burn away,

Dear things that you have made,

I take these things and make them mine,

Through my desire I annihilate."

I looked up from the paper to see his reaction, but his face was only inches from mine. I found myself holding my breath and almost going cross eyed looking into his double colored eyes. "Kaz?"

His small face was blank and empty. My heart pounded, that poem couldn't cause harm to anyone, could it?

"Kaz?"

His eyes widened and he grabbed my shoulders in a vicelike grip. "THAT WAS SO GOOD!" He pushed away, rushing around in circles. "Do you know who did those things?! Do you know them?!"

I laughed slightly. "Kaz..." I watched him in his excitement. "No one...no one did those things. I just wrote it to sound like that."

He halted in his frolicking "Huh? But you said I! Who is the 'I'?" He rushed back over to me, hands clenched on the chains of my swing.

I leaned back a little. "That's what you call the 'speaker' of the poem. To me it's like an...entity of destruction."

"Entity? What is that?!" Kaz looked curiously at the paper.

In a flash I folded it up and hid it behind my back.

"Hey! Hon'yomi can I read it?" He pouted sadly.

"I already read it to you." I felt a prick of disappointment in having to lie to him.

"Then what is-" Kaz swiftly looked towards the sky. "Tenshi!" He ran smiling after a small yellow bird.

"Hey wha-?" I spun from the swing to my feet. He was going a mile a minuet, shouting, laughing climbing and now, running after a small bird.

Kaz ran past me and clambered to the top of the spiral slide. Squinting in the sun I could just make out the bird sitting on the climbers shoulder. He talked pleasantly to it, like it was an old friend.

"Hey, uh- Kaz?" I had a difficult time gathering what was in his mind one second after the next. "Kaz?"

He blinked and waved me over. "Hon'yomi! Come meet Tenshi!"

Hesitantly I scooped up my notebook and made my way past the lamppost towards the base of the slide. Kaz had a bird? It wasn't the strangest thing, but how was it here?

He bounced to the ground, Tenshi fluttering a little to reattach to his shoulder.

"She's my best friend!" Kaz held out his arm and the yellow bird flew to his hand, and studied me.

"Um," I smiled awkwardly, hand clenching around the paper in hand. "Hello Tenshi?" The bird chirped happily, and flew to my face, rubbing her head against my cheek.

Kaz laughed. "That means she likes you!"

Tenshi lingered a few seconds, her soft feathers brushing my face.

"I think I like her too." I said, feeling very caught off guard. "Kaz?" Something about her troubled me. "Where has she been this whole time? I haven't seen her around town at all."

Speaking of birds, my mind remembered the recordings of birds chirping. I listened closely, amazed that I had forgotten about the noise that had driven me crazy and I realized it was still playing. Had I gone deft to their consistency already?

Her bright yellow body zipped away and placed herself on his bright hair. "She's a bird Hon'yomi." Kaz said like I was a student who didn't understand his lesson. "She can't stay around all the time." He adjusted a strap on his climbing belt, making his small canteen of water slosh. "And she's smart! She can always find me!"

I felt a sense of doubt at his declaration. Sure, she was here but was it really because she had flown her way from Hope's Peak to find Kaz? That is, if she had been with him. "Was she with you when you arrived at Hope's Peak?"

"Of course!" He said brightly. "She knew it was important to me."

My doubt continued to grow. "O-" The sudden feeling of a brick settling itself in my stomach slammed into my gut. "-kaay..." I managed, under sudden discomfort and pain.

"Hon'yomi! Are you okay?" Kaz asked, concerned.

I winced. It was never easy to answer that honestly. "I'll be okay Kaz. I'm just...going to get water." Maybe Toshiro had been right. Did I really need to lay down?

"Are you sure?" He rushed over to me, Tenshi fluttering around his head.

"I'm sure Kaz." I forced smiled. "I'll see you later, okay?"

Kaz pouted, but more for my sake than his I think. "Okay..."

I waved with my free hand, and spun around. The store would have water. I could be dehydrated.

I left Kaz at the park to catch up with his best friend, and stuffed the report in the waistband of my skirt. I wondered how many people had stayed at the pool swimming. Kaz had got out the moment Kyofu left, saying he was going to go climb things. But as far as I knew, everyone else who'd been there had stayed, but whether they swam or not I wasn't sure. After Mae left, I wandered off on my own, finding myself at the park.

My stomach felt heavy with each step I took towards the square. Maybe I was just hungry again? I sighed loudly, what ever I needed, I would start with water. My shoes tapped against the paved square, as I emerged from wide gap between the diner and Town Hall. I made a direct beeline towards the store, convinced water would make me feel better. But I was just passing under the oak tree when a desperate voice shouted my name.

"Hon'yomi! Hon'yomi!" It sounded strangely muffled but it was the sound of pounding that made me turn.

I wondered what look appeared on my face, because before Saori could shout for help again, she loudly burst out laughing.

"I don't know how this happened." Toshiro admitted holding back his own laughter.

I shook my head, a smile growing on my face at the predicament they had gotten themselves into. They were trapped within opposite sections of the revolving diner door. Saori was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall with her feet stretching upwards, resting her rainbow shoes against the glass. Toshiro was also sitting, but his legs were stuck beneath him at odd angles. Overall, they both looked a little cramped.

"What were you doing?!" I asked, walking over to them my quest forgotten. I tried to look for an explanation of their encasement.

"Well...I was leaving the diner..." Toshiro began.

"And I was going into the diner..." Saori added.

"Then she started spinning it and I got stuck running in circles with her!" The actor said, casting a joking look of annoyance at the singer across from him.

"I didn't know we would get stuck!" She shouted with a smile, her voice getting high.

"You could've broke the door! " I said shaking my head. I had the distinct image of the two of them spinning in the door laughing. "Wait, how long have you been in here?"

"Um...." Saori looked around. "Probably a while..."

"More like half an hour." Toshiro muttered. "I've lost all feeling in my legs."

"Half an hour!? Where is everyone?!"

"Earlier Kena and Mae ran to the store yelling about dinner tonight annnnd....Kyofu went to his house and the twins are in Town Hall. Everyone else is in the pool and gym still." Saori said, running her fingers through her bright hair.

"Well," I studied the door. "I don't see anything that's blocking the door." Frowning I ran my hands along the edge on Toshiro's side.

"Maybe you should get Kiyoshi?" Toshiro suggested, looking up at me.

"That would probably be best." I stepped back, "Don't go anywhere."

"Ha, ha." Saori grinned.

"And don't break the door leading to fries. I don't think Kena would be too happy." She seriously seemed to love those things. I smiled and rushed towards the pool and gym, my stomach the only reminder of my orginal goal.

I entered through the gym, moving at a fast pace. "Kiyoshi?!" I looked around for the large inventor, but only managed to smack my head into Renji's chest.

"Oh, hey Renji." I hid my wince. Was his chest really that hard?

Renji looked at me in surprise. "Hey...." He looked a lot different in just his button up shirt and his swim shorts. I noticed that the white oh his shirt contrasted with his colorful blue hair. "...what are you doing here?" He finished slowly.

"Kiyoshi! Have you seen him?" I looked around the gym only to find it empty.

Renji nodded. "Yes I have, do you need him for something?" He smiled a wonderfully dazzling smile, catching me off guard.

Once again I was embarrassingly struck by his looks and I found myself losing track of my thoughts. My thoughts stopped as I stared.

His honeyed colored eyes widen with understanding. "Um...I mean..do you need him for something?" A funny looking expression appeared his face. He looked like we was struggling to return to a straight face.

I stared at him confused. "What are you doing?"

"Em." He looked away. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to distract you." He said quietly and apologetically.

My face heated and I shook my head. What was wrong with me? "Uh huh.....um...." I looked around desperately. "Well...thanks!" I made my getaway quick, dashing into the pool.

The door closed with a satisfying snap, blocking my exchange with Renji. I internally scolded myself, thankful that my face slowly began to cool down. Fighting my own embarrassment and aching stomach, I managed to abandon my inner banter and look around for Kiyoshi.

He wasn't hard to spot, even without his hat and coat on. He was so large that my eyes zeroed on him first. "Kiyoshi!" I called. The inventor looked away from the mini snack bar, pushing his curly hair from his face. He didn't look reluctant to have been addressed by me. I hoped that was a good thing.

"Is everything alright?" Even after avoiding me, his words were still genuine. I tried to find comfort in that as the inventor walked up to me.

"Yes. No...sort of? Listen, can you come with me?" I didn't tell him what exactly was going on. I wanted to see if he would trust me.

Kiyoshi looked over his shoulder, but I couldn't be sure what he glanced at. His fingers were restlessly twitching, like they often were. As if he was making some invisible invention with them. "Sure." He mindlessly pulled some pieces of metal from his pockets and worked on fitting them together.

I sighed in relief. "Awesome. Alright, to the diner."

We made our way through the gym, and I was glad to see it empty now. I didn't want to suffer through more embarrassment. However, my relaxed demeanor didn't last too long because Renji was now outside the diner conversing with Toshiro.

"How did this happen?!" Kiyoshi asked loudly and with surprise. He interrupted whatever exchange was already happening, yet no one seemed to mind.

"How isn't really important anymore." Saori insisted through the glass. "The thing is, now I really have to pee and we don't know how to get out here!"

"I'm going to pretend that you aren't blocking the entrance to the diner." Kena's voice made us all turn. The comedian stood next to Mae, both of their arms laden with packaged food.

"Oh hey." Toshiro gave a halfhearted wave from his side.

Kena looked straight past us all, directly to Kiyoshi. "You can get them out, right?"

Kiyoshi looked offended. "Of course I can!" He faced the door. "I don't have to make anything either. I'm not sure how any of you missed this but-" Kiyoshi reached up, going on the tips of his toes to wrench a strip of rubber from the doors track. "The rubber seal has just come lose. It jammed the door."

The diner doors shifted at the release, granting it's captives freedom. Saori struggled to twist around and get to her feet. Toshiro was able to clamber to his, groaning in pain. Together they slowly rotated the door until they both stood outside breathing fresh air.

"I'm never going through the door again." Toshiro stretched his legs wincing.

Saori shrugged her shoulders grinning. "Just don't go through with me again." She said, glancing over at Toshiro.

Toshiro laughed. "If only I'd known that sooner."

Saori smiled and nodded to the inventor. "Thanks Kiyoshi." She glanced around at the small crowd. "And....I'm going to go pee before this gets awkward." Saori tossed another 'thanks' over her shoulder to me, and rushed towards her house.

"Well, we should probably tell everyone to be careful about the door." Toshiro said.

Everyone nodded. "I can fix it." Kiyoshi interjected. "I'll see what I have." The inventor followed Saori towards the houses.

"Good idea." Kena looked worried. "The diner is our source of food!"

I raised my eyebrow. "Kena, you do realize your arms are full of food from the store right?"

"That's different." She insisted. "There are fries inside that diner. There are no fries in the store."

Mae laughed from beside her and I was glad to see her mood had changed. Then again, hanging out with Kena seemed to have that affect.

Toshiro popped his knee loudly. "Ouch..." He muttered. "I'm going to walk this off." He weakly pointed away, and made his way from the diner, stretching his legs as he went.

Renji didn't bid a farewell as the others did. He headed off towards the houses quietly.

"Alright then. Let's get to work." Kena said to Mae, forging forwards to the diner.

"Hon'yomi? Help me carry this, would you?" Mae asked, teetering forwards with her arms stacked with food.

I shrugged to myself and lurched to her side before anything could fall. Carefully grabbing some hotdog buns and bags of chips, I followed her to the diner. "Um, what's all this for?"

"Well it wasn't my idea, but Kena asked me to help her plan for dinner tonight with everyone." Her words were chopped into pieces. The diner doors moved slowly, due to our wary pace. The second I was completely encased the glass I realized how little room I had. I couldn't help but to be touching every wall around me.

We were spit out into the diner, juggling armfuls of food supplies. Mae's heels clicked loudly on the tiled floor and she dumped her burdens on the counter. "Kena where do you want this stuff?"

I followed suit and set my load next to hers.

Kena emerged from the back of the diner. "That's fine."

I glanced at all the goods. "So what's the plan again?" How did she know anyone would come?

"Okay, apparently I'm good at cooking." Apparently? She sounded like she didn't understand why. "And there's a bunch of people here. There's also a lot of wood stashed in the back of the store."

"Wait, are we having a fire?"

"A bonfire!" Kena exclaimed.

Huh? I trusted myself with the element, and how to contain it but....what about everyone else? "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"Come on, do you think someone would do something with all of us there?" Mae asked, leaning against the counter.

"We don't even know if anyone will go!" I fiddled with the bags of chips. "It would be a good idea if we were at some summer camp-"

"Except we aren't?" Mae said.

"Exactly." I agreed. "Kena, dinner is a good idea! We can eat in here and-"

"Bonfire! Food! At the lake!" Kena spun around to busy herself in the kitchen.

"Oh hey! I have something to show you guys!" Mae held out her e-handbook.

I looked between the both of them feeling hurt. Did nothing I said carry any weight?

"Hon'yomi." The dancer tapped my arm. "Look." She typed away at her handbook.

Sighing, I tried to let go my disappointment. "What?"

"Wait for it." She watched the screen as if waiting for some sort of confirmation."

*Beep. Beep.*

"Huh?" Hesitantly I removed my e-handbook from my waistband. "What did you do?" I asked, tapping my screen.

"Just look!" She said enthusiastically.

At the bottom left corner of my screen was a blinking icon of a chat bubble. It's purpose became clear as I tapped on it.

MAE UMARI SAID: hey :)

"Wait." I looked up from the message. "We can message each other?!"

"Yeah! Look," Mae showed me her screen. "just go to your report cards for each of us." She clicked on Kena's. "There see? It says 'message'." Mae grinned and selected it, hastily typing something.

After a few seconds we heard a collection of beeps from the back of the diner.

"Mae I swear! That's the sixth time!" Kena shouted.

I shared a laugh with the dancer. "So you can talk to anyone."

"Yes! And, you can message each other anonymously too." Mae showed the option of remaining anonymous.

"Hold one." I frowned, studying the option on my own screen. "How do we know that works right?" I suddenly had a bad feeling.

"Well let's test it." Mae typed quickly.

*Beep. Beep.*

I glanced at my screen.

ANONYMOUS SAID: sup?

"That's you?" I asked.

She showed me her screen. "Sure thing." She tapped mine. "And, you can message me back."

Sure enough she sent a 'sup' back to herself. "That's um..." Mae looked excited with her discovery. "...cool."

"Yeah! That way if we need to pass information we don't have to run around the whole town looking for everyone!"

I gave a delayed nod. "Awesome. Do you know if anyone else knows this?"

"As far as I know it's just me, you Kena and Ryu."

"No one else?" I asked.

"No. Why would it matter though?" Mae looked at me critically.

"Well it's a good way to trick-"

"Geez you're so paranoid Hon'yomi." She rolled her eyes and focused on her handbook directly ignoring me.

I suddenly looked for an excuse to leave. I wasn't feeling well enough to deal with the cold shoulder. "I'm going to run to the store." I muttered. "I've been meaning to get some water."

No lie. I thought.

"Hmm." Was all she acknowledged me with.

"See ya Kena!" I called over the counter.

"You better come!" She shouted back.

That at least gave me a smile.

I guess this way I did get to do as originally planned. Once in the store I grabbed a bottle of water. I drank the bottle quickly longing for the substance to calm my stomach but it seemed to have no effect.

Sighing I crinkled the bottle I'd drained, and tossed it in the trash. I peered outside the large store window. I guess I had more free time to pass.

A bright head of hair caught my eye. Saori pushed up her glasses, making her way to the arcade.

My heart leapt. Maybe I could spend time with her. She wasn't doing something, and she hadn't given the slightest impression that she was afraid or didn't like me.

I kicked open the door of the store and headed to the arcade.

The door was dark green, metal and heavy. I heaved it open in one motion to step inside.

The arcade was fairly dark, the windows tinted to prevent bright sunlight from entering the room. Along the walls were boxy game machines blinking and making noise. Many table games were spread out across the room. Things like ping pong, foosball, air hockey and pool blocked a lot of the space.

Saori however was leaning over a slanted screen on four legs next to a small stage-like platform.

"Hey Saori." I said.

"Hon'yomi." She said in greeting over her shoulder. Her swift response surprised me. Maybe she recognized my voice? As the Ultimate Singer, it made sense.

I curiously made my way to the game she was focused on. I looked at it with interest having always had a liking for video games. As a child I remember often times sneaking into my brothers room to watch him play long after my bedtime.

An uncomfortable knot built up in my chest at the memory. My brother...

"Shit!" Saori shouted.

Even though I was grateful for the distraction, I still jumped in surprise. "I'm guessing you lost?" I asked lightly.

She sighed. "Yeah. Oh! Do you want to play?"

"Um...I don't know how to play."

"Oh wait. Your a poet." She sounded as though she didn't understand the concept. "I mean, no one is bound by their ultimate but do you like video games?" Saori looked down at me in question.

"Yeah I do, I've just never really played them before."

"Hmm." Her pale eyes brightened then at a thought she must have had. "Hey, how'd you become a poet?"

I opened my mouth in response. "I already-"

"I don't mean how you're a ultimate. That's self explanatory. How'd you become a poet?" Every time she said 'poet' I gathered the feeling that the word didn't carry the same weight for her as it did for me.

I thought back to my beginning years as a writer, gathering memories from the past. "Hawaii and my grade school teacher."

Saori gave an exasperated laugh. "What?"

I smiled. "I mean it. Hawaii was my original inspiration. I wrote my first poem during my last night on Maui. After that, it's my elementary school teacher. She encouraged me in a hundred different ways to pursue writing."

"And you've always been good at it?"

"Yeah. I've always had a knack for it."

"A really good one." She noted.

"What about you?"

"A bit like your story, in the fact that it's something I've always been good at. Even as a child." She almost smiled as she spoke. "I grew up surrounded by music and musicals. I've never been a quiet person, -I'm sure you've noticed." Saori laughed. "So I've never had an issue with auditioning for solos in choir. I inevitably got the part every time."

"And then Hope's Peak contacted you." I said.

Saori nodded. "And now we're here." She added grimly.

"Yeah." I agreed. "Who knew that being good at something would get us into a situation like this."

"It's pretty shitty."

We remained silent for a few moments. I wasn't sure what she was thinking of but I was questioning my decision to leave my life behind for...for what ended up being this.

A few more seconds of quiet spanned until we burst out laughing.

"It's a thousand times worse than shifty!" Saori managed.

"It really is!" I couldn't believe how light we could make such a terrible situation, but somehow the two of us did.

"Hey hang on. Is that what I think it is?" She walked past me and over to the mini stage. Resting on the back corner was what appeared to be a karaoke machine.

"Oh no." I said shaking my head. I may have extremely enjoyed singing myself, but I wasn't about to do karaoke with the best singer in the world.

"Don't worry about it!" Saori exclaimed pressing the button. A small projector screen slid down from the ceiling.

"Easy for you to say." I shook my head. "Honestly this will be terrible."

"Hey. I'm not here to show off or anything." She picked up two microphones and tossed me one. "I'll sing first so you're not freaking out, okay?"

I was pretty sure I'd still be freaking out.

She selected a popular song that I thankfully knew. As the music reached the first verse I waited expectantly for her to begin. And she sang all right, but it was nothing like I'd anticipated.

Saori opened her mouth and let out horrible sound. It took me a second to realize she was just singing terribly on purpose but I still dissolved into laughter.

She had to pause to mange her own laughing before she continued. I couldn't help but grin the farther she went along.

Saori and I spent some time singing karaoke in the Arcade. If you could call it singing.

"It's pretty convenient that that's here don't you think?" I asked when our voices could no longer be strained.

"That's what I was just thinking." Saori studied the machine. "I also thought that about the diner and the lake."

My heart skipped a beat as I caught onto what she was saying.

"It's like, the diner was put there for Kena, you know?"

"And the lake for Hana." I finished.

She frowned angrily. "But then that goes against the evidence that this was originally a real town in the first place."

"I mean, it could be a coincidence." My own words were hard to believe. I couldn't see anything here being as simple as a coincidence. And yet, was there really another possibility?

"Do you think your poem was a coincidence?" Saori looked careful as she spoke.

"What?" The feeling of being cornered made it's way into my bones.

"I'm not accusing you of being the cause of Hana's death. But I'm just wondering...maybe your poem served a purpose without you knowing it."

"Hey." I felt hurt. "That doesn't make sense. No one...." My eyes widened. "Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no."

"What?!" Saori grabbed my shoulders. "What are you thinking?"

"My book." My mind spiraled. "The s-second book I had published."

"You had two?" She asked.

I nodded in horror. "One, was a general collection. There was no theme. The other...it's only been selling for a few months but-" My hands clenched. "It's theme was nature. That poem. The one about the sea and, you know..." I met her equally surprised eyes. "It was in that one."

"Then that means-"

"Monokuma could've known that." I felt sick again.

"There's been a lot of thought put into this." Saori concluded. "It's not as random as I first assumed."

"What's going on?" My words spoke to no one in particular.

"That's funny! That's what I was gonna say!" Monokuma shouted, appearing before myself and the singer.

"Do you always have to listen in?!" Saori shouted, not sparing a second to be surprised.

"I hear everything! I see everything! I am Monokuma!" He said innocently.

Somehow it came across as menacing.

"You knew about my poem. Didn't you?" I was fuming with anger. "How dare you use me like that! And then- then to tell everyone it was I who planned it!"

"Aw, is that what's got your panties in a twist?" He cocked his head.

Saori put a hand on my shoulder.

Monokuma looked exuberant. "I can't help it if I'm more clever and adorable than you!"

"Then you did-"

"Ah hahahaha!" He let out an evil laugh. "I'm surprised you didn't figure that out on your own!"

"And why's that?!" I shouted back.

"Puhuhu! If you don't know, then I'llllll just be leaving!" The bear vanished as swiftly as he had appeared.

"Ugh! What the fuck?!" I shouted without thinking.

Saori shook her head. "Hon'yomi, calm down."

Immediately I felt compelled to listen to her.

"I wonder what he meant-"

"I'll figure it out." I vowed angrily.

"How's that?" She raised her brow.

I spun around to pace. "I don't know yet. But I will. All it takes is careful thought."

"Hon'yomi-"

"I have to go." I faced her. "I'm sorry. I had fun, really but I need to get out of here."

"If you need anything-"

I nodded. "Sure."

The day had grown older, the sun fading. The only other person in the square was Akemi. Seeing her didn't really help my mood. Her feelings of distrust were not my doing and yet I knew she thought they were.

I tried to wipe the anger from my face but she still noticed it.

"Um, Hon'yomi?" She changed her direction towards me. "Are you alright? Did something happen?"

Oh now she was concerned about me? I thought bitterly. But looking at her face I felt guilty for thinking that. Akemi looked wary of me but she also looked concerned. Geez ever since I arrived here my moods had been swinging all over the place.

"I'll be alright." I said.

Akemi looked curious. "What's wrong?"

I sighed and crossed my arms. "Monokuma."

"Oh." Her face twisted in distaste and disgust. "I try to avoid him."

"Me too." I admitted. "But sadly he has his own free reign around here."

She burst out with a giggle.

"What?" Was that somehow funny?

"I was just thinking that you could hide out in the bathroom." Akemi giggled.

"Bathroom?"

"Well I noticed that there aren't any cameras or monitors in the bathrooms." Her expression became fierce. "Which good because if there were-" Akemi glared angrily.

I stood unsure of how to feel, still hotly mad at Monokuma. "Akemi. I have to tell you something."

I spent time carefully explaining how Monokuma had used the knowledge of my poem against Hana and myself.

"Is that really what happened?!" Akemi looked horrified. "I'm so sorry Hon'yomi!" Her glare returned. "That stupid fluffing bear!"

Fluffing? Oh wait, she must mean...

"Anyways, I just want you and Kimiko to know. I didn't- at least not intentionally-"

"I get it now." Akemi smiled at me. "It's okay Hon'yomi. We don't hate you, we were just worried and unsure of you."

Relief beat some of my anger away. "I hope no one is given a reason to hate me." I said honestly. "Or anyone else."

She nodded. "Me too!"

"Hey, so what was Kimiko up to the other day?"

"Huh? Up to?" She clasped her hands together.

"Yeah." I recalled the image of the two of them standing in Town Hall looking at the art. "The paintings on the wall. Did she...recognize them or something?"

"Oh no." Akemi shook her head. "Not at all. She's the Ultimate Artist. Kimi gets easily distracted by any kind of art."

She sounded genuine but I was hesitant to believe her. Sadly I didn't know Akemi well enough to be able to tell if she was lying or not either. "Okay then." I forced a smile, hoping to cover up my unsureness.

"Hey where are you going?!"

I shrugged. "No where in particular. I just needed to get outside."

"Well it's getting late." The Illustrator looked to the sky. "I heard Kena has invited everyone to go to a bonfire and dinner tonight!" She sounded excited at the thought. "Kimi went to go help a little bit ago, do you want to come?"

I guess I had nothing better to do. "Sure. Why not?"

Feeling at least a bit better, Akemi and I rushed to the diner.

"Oh! Be careful going through the door."

"Don't worry! Kiyoshi told us earlier!" Akemi smartly pushed her way into the diner.

Well. I guess we didn't have to worry about anyone else getting stuck if everyone knew by now. I followed and joined the group people in the lobby.

Akemi went straight to Kimiko and began whispering in her ear. I was thankful that she was explaining everything for me.

"We're almost done. Kaz can you take these out by the lake?" Mae was busy pointing to piles of fire wood on the floor.

"Yes I can!" Kaz leaped forward and plucked up the stacks like they weighed nothing.

"Watch out Hon'yomi!" He called, moving past me and out the door.

"Is anyone else wondering how that's possible?" I asked pointing his direction.

"He's a climber." Utsumi said. "He has to be strong." The chemist was busy folding utensils into napkins.

"I guess that makes sense." I said curtly.

Utsumi looked disappointed at my response.

"Hon'yomi." Haruko emerged next to me.

"H-hey." I said caught off guard.

"Take these to the lake." She handed me a pile of blankets.

"O-kay." I secured the material in my arms and spun around.

I followed the Kaz's shape to the shore of the lake. A large area had been cleared out and dug up making a circle about six feet across and few inches deep.

"Hey when did this happen?" I set the blankets down and began unfolding them.

"Me and Chikara did that awhile ago." Kaz dumped the wood into the circle.

"Hey, where's Tenshi?" I asked, spreading a patterned blanket next to the fire pit.

"She went to go find dinner!" Kaz said cheerily. He came to my side, snatching a blanket and laying it out.

"Has she met anyone else?"

"Oh yeah! Almost everyone!"

I smiled. "That's good."

Chattering voices made their way to us. I was happily surprised to see the amount of people who showed up. Mae, Kena and Ryu arrived carrying food. The twins and Haruko trailed behind with plates and Utsumi followed with the napkins and utensils.

"Hey Kaz." I laid the last blanket. "Is Chikara coming? He helped with the pit right?"

"I'm already here." A gruff voice said from behind me.

"Oh. Hey Chikara." I turned and looked up at the archer.

He nodded in greeting and sat down on a blanket.

"Okay. We have hotdogs -already on the bun- hamburgers -already on the bun- and chips." Kena gestured at some foil containers brought from the diner.

"I brought salad." Kiyoshi appeared once again clothed in his coat and hat. "Everyone's welcome." He set down a large bowl next to the other containers.

"You made salad?" Kimiko asked him.

"It's my favorite." He insisted with a smile.

"Is this everyone who's coming?" I asked.

Haruko shook her head. "Kyofu will be here."

"So will Saori and Toshiro." Mae said grabbing a plate.

I counted in my head. "But wait, what about Renji?"

"I told him." Haruko answered peeling an orange.

"And you thought no one would come." Kena said.

Saori emerged from the square. "I mean, there is food. Who the hell wouldn't come?"

"Good point." Utsumi agreed with a laugh.

My stomach grumbled and I realized that I had slipped a meal today. Shaking my head I let out a sigh. "Aw well... " I grabbed a plate and took a hamburger, adding ketchup.

"I'll start the fire." Chikara murmured, getting to his feet.

That seemed to be the phrase that allowed everyone to relax. One after the other we piled our plates with food.

I settled on the blanket closest to the growing fire and began eating. Akemi and Kimiko settled next, sandwiching myself between them.

"I'm sorry Hon'yomi." Kimiko said and tugged her skirt down.

I shook my head and swallowed. "It is what it is." A phrase I didn't say often. "I just don't want this to happen to anyone else."

"If we're careful-" Saori crossed her long legs, sitting next to Kimiko. "-it won't."

I nodded, taking another bite of my hamburger. "Kena!"

"What?!" She asked from across the fire.

"This food is amazing!"

Utsumi nodded on my right. "It really is Kena."

"Oh hey Toshiro! Kyofu! Come get some food!" Kaz exclaimed watching figures approach our group.

"That sounds...good..." Kyofu paused mid step, just close enough to reach the food. His face flickered with nervousness.

My eyebrows furrowed.

Kyofu remained frozen, uncomfortably watching the flames. However Toshiro moved past him, continuing to the blankets.

"Is something wrong Kyofu?" Utsumi looked worried, looking up from his plate of food.

The rogue shook his head. "No." He bent over cautiously and grabbed a plate. He looked poised like he was ready to back away at a moments notice.

"Haruko, how are you so good with clothes?" Akemi spoke on my right.

The seamstress glanced away from the orange she'd been eating. "My mother taught me."

"That's it? I mean, you cleaned all of Hon'yomi's clothes. You dried Kyofu's and Renji's so fast!" Akemi looked around at us. "Don't you guys agree?"

Mae nodded admirably. "I've been interested in learning how to sew actually. And I thought about asking you for some advice."

Utsumi laughed. "Really? You?"

Mae glared across the fire. "Yes, me. Is there something wrong with that?"

Utsumi shook his head and looked at his plate in disbelief. "I never would've thought you would want to sew."

"What the hell does that mean? You think I'm stupid or something because you're a fucking scientist?!" Ryu grabbed her hand and her words faltered.

"Let's give it a rest." Toshiro suggested and I couldn't help but to agree.

"What if we played a game?" Saori offered.

"A game?" Chikara asked.

"Yeah, to break the ice."

Kena munched on some chips. "What game?"

"Never have I ever?" The singer asked hesitantly.

The twins spoke in unison. "What's that?"

"It's-" I began.

"Hang on. Not everyone is here." Utsumi pointed out.

"Yeah and, I don't want to play some stupid game." Ryu added.

"Renji is here." Haruko stated without looking up from her plate.

Sure enough Renji had placed himself near Ryu and Mae. He must have sat down while we had been talking.

"Hey Renji." I said, feeling bad that no one had noticed him.

He nodded my direction, pulling on the sleeve of his sweater.

Kyofu still hadn't sat down. Instead he stood just outside the bright circle of light emitted by the fire. He looked tense, standing and eating fast. I wondered what was wrong.

"Well if we're not playing a game, then let's find another way to get to know each other." Kiyoshi said, working on what had to be his fifth plate of salad.

"Like what?" Kaz asked.

"How about our favorite colors?" Kimiko suggested.

"No Kimi." Akemi frowned across me to her sister. "That doesn't break the ice."

"It could." I muttered.

"Fine. Then how about where we're from?"

Ryu let out a bitter laugh. "Let's see how well we can all answer that."

Kimiko frowned. "Well I don't know!"

"Don't worry about it." Toshiro said. "How about..."

"Has anyone found a way out of here?" Ryu interrupted.

The mood grew heavy.

Kyofu lowered his voice. "I thought we decided to not worry about that."

Ryu glanced at a camera situated in a nearby tree. "No. It was said, but we never agreed."

"I haven't seen anything." I admitted.

Akemi sighed. "Not me." Kimiko nodded in agreement.

"Neither have I." Renji spoke smoothly.

"No one?" Utsumi set his plate aside. "Really?"

"Well what have you done around here besides look at a tree?" Mae countered.

"Hey! That tree is-"

"Oh my gosh it's just a tree!" Annoyed, Kena collapsed onto her back.

The fire popped, throwing sparks into the air.

"It can't just be a tree. There's...."

I tuned out the conversation around me, my thoughts louder than my companions. What would we do if we got out? Go to the authorities? But who could we implement and blame? We had no idea who put us here, or why. Hell we didn't even know how.

I thought of Hope's Peak. Was the academy somehow responsible? But if we said that, we'd be attacking a world famous school. Getting out of here would lead to a whole new collection of problems.

Of course that didn't mean I didn't want to get out.

The fire popped again, pushing forward a new wave of warmth. Setting my plate aside I yawned and looked to the sky. Specks of light were emerging as darkness fell.

"No way!" Utsumi shouted.

Saori laughed loudly.

I smiled softly, but felt like I needed another moment to myself.

"I'll be right back." I said to the twins, and rose to my feet.

The lake lapped quietly against the shore, calling me it's edge. Sand crunched beneath my feet loudly. I sat down, untying my shoes and slipped my toes into the cool water.

My thoughts inevitably turned to Hana then. I wondered where she was. If she was-

I took the thought back.

Hana was happy. I could picture her shouting amongst her crew, cussing and laughing. Together they were sailing off into the night.

My eyes grew blurry and a few tears escaped my eyes to slid down my cheeks. But in this case they were tears of content sadness. I liked thinking of Hana away from here. At least I could think of her as not alone in darkness.

The sand shifted and changed, and someone sat down next to me. I looked away from the night sky at the towns thief. "Hey Kyofu." I hastily wiped away my tears. I didn't want anyone to think I was seriously upset.

Lack of light helped me notice that his clothes blended well in the dark. Despite being obviously blue in the day light, his sweatshirt appeared black when the moon was out. I also sensed that he had picked up on my mood. Kyofu leaned on his hands, mirroring myself, and looked out at the lake. "You're thinking about Hana, aren't you?"

I nodded, and followed his gaze. At night, you almost couldn't make out the wall on the other side. For while, it could feel like we weren't trapped here.

"You shouldn't blame yourself. Hana chose her actions out of loyalty to her crew." He paused, and I wondered what he was thinking. "She died to be with them. Which meant she loved them." Kyofu glanced at me. "You know, I bet she would've been a good friend."

I smiled, immediately agreeing. "I think so too." Her friends obviously meant a lot to her.

We sat in silence, the voices of our group bringing a feeling of normalness to the situation. We were just teenagers having dinner at the lake.

I started to count the stars though I knew I'd never keep track. They were extremely bright on this oddly clear night. I wasn't used to seeing so many at once. Usually city lights blocked out their splendor.

The longer we sat, I began to notice how comfortable Kyofu seemed out here. His shoulders weren't tense, and he looked relaxed and calm. I also realized he wasn't shying away from anything. I couldn't figure out what it was that was different. He seemed comfortable around people as a group before, so it couldn't be that. I knew it wasn't anything I said so- Hang on....

I cast a side glance at his sweatshirt. It must have been the false normalness of the night that spurred me to speak up, because I wouldn't normally ask a person such a question unless I knew them better. "Your scars. You got them from a fire didn't you?" Now that I thought about it, it made sense. Fire left angry, warped scars on a persons skin.

I half expected him to make some remark about leaving it alone, but the other half won out. "Yeah." He didn't add anything more, but I was glad that he hadn't brushed me off, if not surprised he'd answered at all.

That's why you're afraid of fire. I didn't say it. I wasn't sure if it was the proper thing to blurt out when whatever happened clearly meant so much to him. Just the way he hid his scars attested to that. But I felt brave, and let another question pass between us. "How'd it happen?"

Kyofu shrugged and sat up, stuffing his hands in his front pocket. "Some of a ceiling fell on me."

His simplistic answer made me even more curious. "Were you stealing something?"

Kyofu's face looked burdened with pain and anger. Regret bubbled within me instantly. Had I pushed too far? "You could say that."

We fell into silence again, but this time he wasn't as relaxed. I glowered in the dark. I hadn't meant to ruin his night, but it looked like-

"That poem of yours, the one in your sock? Who's it for?" He looked at me, his own curiosity plain on his face. Were we trading information now? I fought a surprised smile. I was sure he'd be disappointed.

"It's not for me. Or about anything I've experienced." I answered truthfully. "A friend of mine, she told me a story about her and her best friend. They spoke everyday until one day he didn't call her." I paused, it didn't feel like it was my place to tell him everything about it. "Anyways...she inspired me. I wrote it the night she told me."

"If it's not that important, then why do you always have it with you?" Kyofu frowned.

"It is important." I countered. "I keep it to remind me what it means."

"What does it mean?" His brown eyes watched me closely and for the first time I felt unsettled by his gaze. I didn't wish to show it though.

"You already know what it means." I was sure he did. Kyofu was a hothead, but he was smart.

"'Goodbye means forever.'" He recited.

"There was more to it than that!" I insisted.

Kyofu laughed. "I know."

"Good."

"You know, Monokuma is an idiot if he thinks that what he said can turn anyone against you." Kyofu said abruptly, changing the flow of the conversation.

My face twisted in confusion. "What do you mean? The-"

He shook his head, suddenly growing animated. "Doesn't matter. All of that doubt isn't going to last. Soon enough everyone will realize it."

"Realize what?" I felt very lost.

He sighed, like it should've been painfully obvious. "You're not a killer."

A chill went down my spine. He spoke the same words Saori had just this morning. They were so sure. It wasn't that I disagreed. I wasn't a killer but...why did they trust that about me?

I fought to understand just who everyone here was. Haruko's words reminded me everyday of the importance of getting to know each other. "You aren't either." I blurted out, and I hadn't realized how right I was until I said it.

"How do you know that?" The rogue asked.

I laughed. His hold on a serious face looked ridiculous. "You know, I bet the person responsible for your scars isn't dead." My hands grew sweaty as I dared to say that. God, I didn't want to... His face registered my words with a fleeting glance of....bitterness? I guess I wasn't wrong then. I hurried on. "And you didn't kill Ryu when he shoved you in the pool." That got a laugh from him, bringing a relieved smile to my face.

"Neither of us are killers." He agreed. His shoulders finally relaxed again.

"Then I guess we can agree that we won't kill anyone." I said. I felt like I could promise it to the world. If the world was around to listen, that is.

Kyofu nodded. "Life is....it's not something a person should be able to take away on a whim, or in moment of thoughtless actions."

"I agree." I focused my eyes on the stars again. "You know, we have a good group."

Kyofu looked at me with slight doubt.

"We do! We seem to have issues with each other, but do you really think one of us is going to kill someone? That's something that only happens in movies and books!" I felt the meaning of my words slipping away. I hadn't been able to convey my feelings properly. Did I need poetry for everything?

"That sounds like hope!" A small, black an white blur appeared between us.

"SHIT!" Kyofu shouted, jumping in surprise.

I jerked forwards at the dark yet forcibly cute voice. "Monokuma." I glared.

"That's me!"

"Why are you here?" Utsumi stood up from the circle.

Monokuma pouted. "You all had a party and didn't invite me."

Kena stood up as well. "Is that Monokuma?"

"Exactly. You weren't invited, so leave." My voice was tainted with disgust.

"Oh you're all so mean to me." Monokuma sniffed. "But that's okay. I'm nowhere near as important as you all."

"What do you want? You only show up with a purpose. What is it?" Saori said.

Monokuma vanished.

"Where-?"

"Ah hahahaha!" He reappeared next to the fire.

Together Kyofu and I got to our feet.

"I'm here because this is boring! Everyone getting along? Having a fire-"

"Bonfire." I caught Kena whisper.

"-and dinner together? Where's the murder? Where's the betrayal? Where's the despair?!" The bears red eye gleamed. "I guess I have to do everything around here!"

Ryu removed his hand from his jacket pocket. "What does that mean?"

"I have a proposal!"

"What?" Kaz said.

"A proposal!" Monokuma repeated.

"Stop enjoying this and just get on with it." Kyofu said impatiently.

"Okay!" The bear grinned. "The next person who kills a fellow companion will get an answer to any question they ask me!"

Wait-

"But only if they survive the class trial!"

"Hold on, any question?" Chikara asked.

"In addition!" Monokuma ignored him. "When one of you becomes a blackened and kills the next person, I will give you back memories!"

"Memories?" I gasped.

Haruko stepped towards him. "What memories?"

"I don't understand..." Renji blinked in disbelief.

"Monokuma-"

"Any question?" Chikara repeated.

"Any question!" He repeated.

"What do you mean by memories?" Kimiko asked.

"Puhuhuhuh. You don't believe me? I'm surprised! After all, you know each other so well after being together for years."

"Years?!" I shouted.

"You're lying." Mae said. "You have to be."

"Why would I lie to you?"

"Now that's a stupid question if there ever was one." Utsumi insisted.

"If you really want to find out if I'm lying, all you have to do is kill someone!" Monokuma said.

I met Kyofu's eyes and the same question appeared on his face as on mine. Was what I said going to be true?

"How would we have lost our memories?" Haruko asked.

Monokuma shook his head. "Hmmm wrong question seamstress!"

"Is it 'why', then?" She countered quietly.

"Oops! Did I say too much?" The bear covered his mouth with a paw. "I'd better be going then!"

We all stared at one another in shock, and Monokuma vanished leaving us to question what we thought we knew of one another.

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Chapter Text

There couldn't have been a worse time for my stomach to begin aching. Like it was somehow connected to everyone's mood, my insides gurgled painfully. Although this time it couldn't hold much of my focus.

The fire crackled to the heavens in the eerie quiet. Bursts of sparkling light given off by sparks filled sections of darkness with beauty. No one spoke to each other. Instead we measured one other with glances. Uneasiness and distrust brewed among us again.

Did Monokuma say years? Was that really true?

I saw the same questions on everyone's faces.

I held onto my disbelief like it could give me an answer. Trusting what made sense was the easiest and most simple step at this point. The idea of something manipulating my brain and tampering with my thoughts would make me doubt everything I ever did. If something within me and been forcibly changed how would I know if I had no memory of it? Maybe my idea of myself wasn't who I really was.

Unconsciously I began shaking, uncontrollable shifts of emotion stirred my thoughts, obstructing my ability to remain the picture of calm. Ever since I was a child my mind had been my own escape, a place no one could know what I thought. My mind was something I could always trust.

Except...did Monokuma take that away from me? From all of us?

"He's lying." Mae's voice was quiet. "There's no way..."

"Yeah. I don't know any of you." Utsumi agreed.

I barely noticed that the two who'd been arguing were now agreeing.

"I've never seen any of you before..." My sentence died in the warmth of the fire. I hadn't. I didn't know them. They were never my friends before this.

I realized I was crying too late to cover it up. My arms shook and I stared into the fire unseeing. I-I didn't know them. I didn't forget them. Tears began to trickle from my eyes.

I don't forget my friends.

Forgotten friends. I couldn't handle the thought.

"We've never been friends." Chikara insisted.

We weren't talking to each other. We were talking to ourselves. Reassuring and smashing the doubt the bear had gratefully given us. We were so ready to believe what made sense to us: we weren't friends.

Beside me, Kyofu shook his head. "I d-don't remember..." He winced like thinking about it hurt him.

"Yeah. I mean, it's just a motive right?" Akemi said in a small voice.

"And what about the question?" Ryu said.

"He said any question we ask." Saori recalled.

Toshiro shook his head. "Does he realize how vulnerable that could make him?"

"Even if he does, it wouldn't matter at that point." Haruko said. She looked calm as usual except her chest rose and fell quickly like she couldn't get enough air. "He said the killer will get an answer after they survive the trial. If anyone got to that point they would able to leave. Asking anything about Monokuma would be a waste."

"How could he have an answer for any question?" Renji asked looking to Haruko.

She grimaced. "I don't know."

"The only way to know would be to kill someone." Kiyoshi said looking sickly into the fire.

"Hey, what the hell?!" Utsumi stepped slightly away from him.

Kiyoshi widened his purple eyes and shook his head. "N-no! I didn't mean anyone should kill someone! I was just saying...you know...that's how someone would find out."

"He's actually right." Ryu spoke calmly.

"That doesn't matter. We won't find out." Kyofu moved half a step forwards, but remained in the shadows. "Monokuma can say whatever the hell he wants."

"His words have already affected us." Haruko countered, but a bit reluctantly. Her brown eyes passed over me as she spoke.

"H-hey." I wiped away the tears on my cheeks. "He used my poetry, okay?"

"That could be what he wants you to think as well." Haruko stated.

"Hold on, who's side are you on?" Kena looked across the flames.

The seamstress grew silent.

"Why are you talking about Monokuma? He's around so much already, we don't need to talk about him too." Kaz appeared highly upset. He was busy wrapping and unwrapping his left hand with anxiousness that had nowhere to go.

"He has to be lying." Mae continued to insist. "There's no way I'd let someone take my memories."

"And you think the rest of us would?" Chikara glared looking insulted.

"Well no but...I just feel like I would know or something." Mae frowned.

*Ding dong. Bing bong*

A white light flickered from a tree, showing Monokuma.

"Ehm. This is the evening announcement! It is now ten p.m. As such, it is officially nighttime!" The monitor flickered. "Sleep well! And make sure you lock your doors! Gooood night everyone!" The screen went dark.

"I'm not staying out tonight." Utsumi snatched his plate from the blanket. "The food was good." The chemist turned around, his white coat snapping with the speed at which he moved, and rushed back towards the square.

"I think so too." Kimiko admitted. "I have a bad feeling." She held tightly to Akemi's hand.

My stomach felt very small.

"Hon'yomi?" Kyofu looked at me in worry. "Are you feeling okay?" His face was clammy and pale.

I rubbed my sweaty hands on my skirt. "Are you?"

He shrugged, and shoved his hands in his sweatshirt pocket.

"Um, well. Goodnight." Akemi said.

"Thanks everyone. It was fun..." Kimiko added.

Was...

The twins turned away towards darkness, hands still tightly clasped together. The fire flickered upon their backs, reflecting off their white shirts.

"I'll walk with you!" Kiyoshi shouted, he abandoned his place around the fire and ran to their side. Kimiko's frame relaxed a little at his presence and the sisters looked at him gratefully. Akemi gave a small smile from over her shoulder, and together the three of them were wrapped in shadows.

A toxic feeling grew in my throat, scraping its way to my mouth. I took in a shaky breath working to hold in a sudden fit of coughing. "I think I should be going...to go to, um......bed." I said weakly. Tears still drifted down my face.

Saori glanced at me in worry like she could sense something was wrong.

"I'm going with you." Toshiro rose to his feet from the fireside.

With no energy to protest I managed a shrug. "Thanks Kena." I hugged the comedian quickly. "I'm sorry Monokuma ruined it."

"It's whatever." She muttered looking away.

"Come on." Toshiro said over my shoulder.

I bid everyone goodbye. "Night."

"Night Hon'yomi." Kyofu muttered.

"See you." Mae said.

I followed the same path as the twins, turning my back and entering darkness. Toshiro and I walked quietly, our tennis shoes brushing the blades of grass flat with each step. The night was blurry with the dull orange light from the bulbs in the square. Kaz had to be right, I really needed glasses.

We kept the same pace until our feet met pavement. "You're sick." Toshiro said, passing and facing me, walking backwards.

"I told you-" I shivered in the cool air. "-I'm not sick." A sense of numbness wrapped its way around my right leg making it tingle.

"Yes you are." He insisted. "You know you are, and if you're trying to hide it you're doing a pretty bad job of it."

I stopped walking, placing us between the Akemi and Kimiko's houses. "Should I be trying harder?"

Toshiro sighed and ran his hand though his hair. "Monokuma just gave out a motive. Two in fact."

I began to see what he was saying. "I look like an easy target? Is that what you're trying to say?" I forced myself forwards again. The numb feeling now clawed up and down my right leg making me wince.

The actor moved out of my way. "Well...yeah..."

"We don't know if it will motivate anyone." We passed Akemi's house, approaching my own. "Unless that's why you're here."

He stopped in his tracks this time and I slowly continued past him. I didn't really believe he was going to try to kill me, but I was a little insulted at his observation.

"You think I'm going to try to kill you?" Toshiro asked reproachfully.

Immediately I felt bad for insinuating such a thing. "No." I turned around to face him. Insult and confusion were plastered on his face. "I'm sorry, I just need to lay down."

His face cleared in understanding, "I know, you're sick."

I began to spin around. "I'm not-" Very swiftly I pitched backwards, my right leg giving out. Gallons of fear pounced on me as I expected to smash open my head. "-siiiiiiiiiiiiiick!" I exclaimed and flailed my arms helplessly.

If Toshiro hadn't been there, I'd have slammed into the concrete but he grabbed my shoulders before I could. "Yes you are." He said above my head calmly. "Something is wrong."

I breathed heavily for a few seconds. My eyes were wide, still afraid of hitting the pavement. "Th-thanks." I coughed.

"Let's go." He said, supporting some of my weight. "Before you kill yourself."

We shuffled up to my door and I dragged my leg behind me. I could barely feel my toes.

His words about my sickness finally registered in my mind as I handed him my key. "I don't understand though! I haven't- nothing has happened to me!"

My door creaked open and he reached inside to flick on the light. "That doesn't change the facts."

"That doesn't meet up with the facts." I grumbled, somehow able to push past him and enter my house.

Toshiro leaned against the doorway. "Monokuma?" His voice was laced with doubt.

"No." I held tightly to my door. "Something tells me he isn't-"

"-directly involved." He finished for me holding out my key.

"Exactly." I said, taking it and closed my eyes.

The sound of a sigh made my shoulders tense. "Go to bed Hon'yomi."

My eyes peeled open. "Night." I said curtly.

The wall groaned as he pushed himself off it. "Goodnight." Toshiro said with a frown. He slid his hands in his jean pockets and turned away.

I closed the door instead of watching him leave. If he was so sure about my being sick, were the others aware of it as well? A glimpse of fear startled me. No was going to...

The second I was alone Monokuma's motives reformed. I grew afraid to discover that something in me was tempted. Any question? If I was weak, any question might sound especially sweet to someone.

My hands made smudges on the wall while I used it for support. My room was dark but somehow comforting at the moment. If I could ask any question....

My heart leapt. I could find out about my family! A loud squeak sounded when I sat on the bed, enough to startle me from my toxic thoughts.

I would have to kill someone! Vigorously I shook my head, maybe it would help the thought fly from my mind. Imagine killing someone! The faces of my companions appeared before me. I couldn't see myself killing any one of them. Even the ones I didn't always get along with.

I reached down to my feet, gingerly removing my shoes. Kyofu and Saori were right. I wasn't a killer.

Carefully I laid down properly, resting my head on the pillow. I did just entertain the notion of murder despite that fact though...

In the dark I wondered what that meant about me.

* * *

*Ding dong. Bing bong.*

"Goooood morning everyone!"

I groaned.

"It is now 7am and nighttime is officially over!"

Reaching beneath my head I removed my pillow.

"Time to-"

I sent it flying towards the monitor.

"-greet another beautiful day!"

Thankfully Monokuma's voice went silent. Unfortunately it had woken me up.

"I don't want to be here." I mumbled into my mattress.

My stomach sent me no uncomfortable feeling. I moved my legs tentatively but they too felt normal again. Was it possible that I was better?

My brown hair flopped into my eyes as I sat up. All of my orientation wobbled while blood rushed through my head. Hoping the aching discomfort didn't return I rose to my feet and grabbed my pillow. "I should've thrown harder."

It crumpled when I tossed it to my bed. But then I would've broken the monitor and broke a rule. No one could afford to break any rules.

It was predictable that the mood today would be hard to read. I was disappointed that we would probably revert back to distrust when we had managed (for the most part) to get along at dinner.

The bears motives were just enough to set us off. They set me off. Still with the memories....

I forced a well of tears back from my eyes. Contemplating the possibility was frightening. Even considering the fact that I had almost considered it at the park just the afternoon before Monokuma's announcement. But I shut it down. It didn't all fit....

"Hon'yomi!" A voice called.

I leapt and rushed to the front room. Someone knocked loudly on my door. Cautiously I peered through the small window. Distressed and shaking, Kimiko stood on my doorstep.

"What is it?!" I said while I yanked open my door.

"Kaz!" She wasted no breath. "Kaz is-"

Wood dug into my hand as I clenched my door. "Kaz?!" Oh no... I shook my head. He's okay he's okay he's okay.

"-missing!" The artist finished.

My mindset changed drastically. "Wait, missing?!"

She nodded quickly throwing loose strands of dark hair across her face.

"So he's okay?" I tried to clarify.

"I don't know." Kimiko looked at me sadly.

"Well I'll grab my shoes and be right out!" I slammed the door in her face.

I struggled to slide on my shoes, adjust my hair and situate my bowtie all in the same few moments. It probably only made me appear more of a wreck but I didn't have time to fix anything.

A grey cloudy sky greeted me when I stepped out of my house. Maybe the sky was merely matching our moods. I catch glimpses of the others rushing about. Kena, Kiyoshi, Toshiro, even Utsumi.

"Hon'yomi!" Mae shouted. "Spread out and look around!" She rushed away towards the lake.

Even in the midst of chaos and fear, it was helplessly comforting to see everyone working together. A large feeling of positivity swelled in my chest. Kaz was okay. There was nothing wrong. He was probably just in a tree or something.

Repeating these thoughts like a prayer I searched among the houses. Running up and down and in between, and even checking the roofs but I saw no sign of him.

"He's okay, right?"

I spun in shock. Behind me stood a fiercely worried Kena. Her hair was messy, strands of it hung limply after having escaped her bun. She wasn't carrying her usual type of energy, and it absolutely didn't fit her.

"He has to be." I said, thinking through the question silently to myself. If Kaz wasn't....well...the odds of someone hiding a body this well were low. "He has to be."

"What if he's not?"

I frowned. Where was her positivity? "Kena, I have a feeling that Kaz can take care of himself." I thought of the scars on his face and arms. "Don't worry too much."

She nodded and pulled on her sweater. "Yeah. You're right."

I sighed wishing I hadn't just given her false hope. But he wasn't really....was he? No....he couldn't be. No one would-

"Has anyone found him yet?!" Saori's booming voice was heard loud and clear.

Kena and I met one another's eyes. Neither of us had found a clue.

Choruses of 'no's were shouted back in reluctance.

"Keep looking!" The singer projected loudly to us.

Kena began to appear even more fearful for her friend.

"Hey," I placed a hand on her shoulder. "Hope for the best, okay?"

She tensed beneath my hand uncomfortably. "What did you say?"

Cautious and a bit wounded I removed my hand. "Just hope for the best." I repeated. "Are you alright?"

Kena shook her head like she was removing some thoughts. "Yes it was just-"

I looked at her.

"Well....what you said sounded familiar that's all."

A chill rushed through me. "Familiar? Like...like you almost remember it?"

Kena widened her dark eyes and shied away. "Hey I'm not saying I know you or anything."

Blood rushed in my head loudly. "Y-yeah. You're right." Blinking I looked at her. "I've never seen you before."

"Anyway, Kaz." She muttered.

"Right." I glanced around looking for some sort of answer.

"Maybe he's somewhere in the square?" Kena suggested.

"Let's go."

We ran together, never surpassing the other and rushed to the square. We weren't the only ones here, scattered around the square and going in and out of buildings were the rest of our companions.

Saori and Toshiro exited the arcade together. Their faces were knit with concern and they murmured softly to each other.

Renji exited the store with a very white face.

"He's not in town hall!" Akemi exclaimed, bursting out of the double doors.

My heart sunk even lower. How many places could he even really be?

"I'm going to look!" Kena stepped away from me and rushed into the diner.

A sigh worked its way up through my chest and past my lips. Follow your own advice. Hope for the best.

Yes that was all I needed to do. I just had to hope for the best. Hope for Kaz and hope for us. Hope for myself and hope for-

the hope on the mountain.

The thought came on its own, tantalizing my mind. What was this hope? What was this mountain?

"Don't be ridiculous! He's fine!" Utsumi was busy speaking intently to Ryu.

Ryu rolled his eyes, clearly annoyed. "We won't know that until we find him."

"Well we're going to find him. And he'll be okay." Utsumi insisted.

"I agree." I spoke up and marched my way to them. "Kaz will be fine."

Ryu raised his brows at me. "And, you and Kyofu both."

"What does that mean?" I frowned at him.

"It means you're fools." He turned away, smoothly slipping his hands into the pockets of his jacket. "Haruko's the one who's got it right. Even Chikara knows it."

"We're not-!" The words collapsed in my mouth. I don't know these people. I couldn't know these people. Monokuma was wrong. Besides, obviously Ryu was a killer. He was a hit man, and an apparently well known one too. He had tried to pull a gun on me.

But...something inside rose up to rebel, ...that doesn't mean he'll kill anyone here.

"He's just an asshole. It doesn't matter what he says." Utsumi said to me.

I looked at the chemist critically. I was still more than just a bit upset with him. I couldn't find civil enough words to respond. "Kaz." I forced out his name and headed for the tree.

The enormous branches and leaves shaded most of the square. I looked up among its branches. Maybe Kaz was so lost in the leaves, he didn't realize what was happening. As I stood looking, a sensation of foreboding or dread came upon me. Puzzled -and with question-, I looked down to the bright grass beneath my feet. I wasn't sure what I was expecting to find. Nothing appeared strange or different. It had to just be my nervousness for Kaz.

"We found him!" Kiyoshi's loud voice echoed throughout the square.

I took off in an instant, but I didn't have to go far. With a heavy heart and legs that were quickly beginning to ache, I joined him before the store. And just as quickly, the others began to arrive as well.

Kiyoshi and Toshiro stood side by side looking up in worry. Following their gaze, I realized what they were seeing.

Hanging over the ledge of the store were two tanned and scarred legs.

"Um...he's okay right?" Kimiko said.

"Wouldn't he have said something?" Toshiro asked.

Kena glared at both of them. "He's fine!"

I looked around, heart beating fast. "So who's going-"

"Don't worry." Kyofu studied the building solemnly. "I'll get him."

Haruko cast a wary look at him, but didn't say anything. She merely watched with the rest of us (and with less awe) as he scaled the building.

I didn't give myself a moment to assess how all the others were waiting. I found myself clutching the hem of my skirt and looking up worriedly.

At first Kyofu didn't say anything. We could just see his torso and head before he knelt and vanished from sight. A few uneasy seconds passed.

"Kyofu?" Chikara asked tentatively.

More seconds passed until-

"Are you serious?!" Kyofu's voice shouted. Many of us jumped in alarm and Haruko stepped forward in worry.

"We've been looking for you thinking something had happened, and you just say 'hey'?!"

Our spirits soared.

"Kaz?!" Kiyoshi shouted.

"Kaz are you okay?!" Kena called.

We all listened intently. "I'm sorry." Kaz's light voice drifted down from the roof.

Kimiko smiled. "Yes!" She jumped with excitement.

"Kaz!" Saori grinned.

His legs shrank back, and his orange head popped into sight. "Hi everyone!" Kaz smiled at each of us.

Collectively, we sighed a breath of relief. A smiled spread across my face and I sent a look to Ryu. The hit man rolled his eyes as if to say; 'this time.'

Kyofu reappeared next to the climber looking extremely shaken. "Kaz!" He looked around exasperated. "What did you- did you- don't tell me you fell asleep up here?!"

Kaz looked at Kyofu with wide eyes. "Well......yeah."

Kyofu slapped his hands over his face. For one confused moment I thought he was crying, until he spoke. "Damn you!" The rogue broke down into laughter. "How did you...? How does one-? Wasn't it cold out here?!"

Kaz shook his head. "No! It's nicer outside than in the stuffy house!"

Next to Saori, Chikara nodded. "Agreed."

Kyofu shook his head. "Well-!"

"Let us know next time?" Saori asked with a relieved smile.

Kaz nodded quickly. "I promise!" Nimble and quick he suddenly descended the store. Once planted on the ground he looked up at Kyofu. "Aren't you coming?!"

Kyofu waved him away. "I'm just-" He shook his head with no words.

"KAZ!" Kena lunged at Kaz in a blur. "You jerk! I thought you died!" She punched him in the arm, and stared at him. She actually stared at him for quiet awhile, her face growing pale.

"Kena?" Mae stepped towards her.

"Oooouch..." Kena said weakly. She held up her hand wincing in pain. "That. Really. Hurt."

"Are you okay?!" Kaz rushed around her with concern.

She nodded slowly. "I'll be fine. I'm just gonna...go sit...over there." The comedian nodded at the patch of grass beneath the oak tree.

"I'm glad you're okay!" Akemi said brightly to Kaz.

"It would've been bad if something had happened to you." Haruko said quietly.

Kaz nodded. "I'm sorry! I didn't think I'd scare anyone!"

Kiyoshi lurched forwards and picked up the climber. "Don't do that!"

I laughed lightly. I guess he'd forgot about picking others up.

Toshiro simply shook his head.

"I won't!" Kaz said wide eyed like he could see the whole world from his new height.

"Hey Kiyoshi, did you get to fix the door?" Toshiro asked.

The inventor set Kaz down. "No. That reminds me! Utsumi?"

Utsumi blinked. "Yeah?"

"Do you think you can make some glue?"

"Well yeah, but it will take some time." Utsumi said.

"Perfect!" Kiyoshi turned back to Toshiro. "I can fix it when he has the glue."

"Good!" Kena shouted from beneath the tree. "The diner has to be accesable!"

"Only you think that Kena!" Saori said laughing.

"The coffee machine is in there." Toshiro pointed out.

The singer widened her eyes. "Shit dude, I need that diner."

Kiyoshi laughed. "Don't worry! I'll have it fixed in no time!"

"Well you know what? Just to be safe I'm going to stock up!" Saori said laughing some more and headed for the diner.

Bit by bit our group diminished. Mae and Ryu walked off towards the gym, Haruko slipped away quietly. Eventually only myself and the twins remained before the store.

"Oh! Kimi! You know what I'm going to do?!" Akemi said. "I'm going to finish that drawing." She wiggled eyebrows. "You know?!"

Kimiko stared at Akemi like she was crazy. "Okay."

Akemi shook her head. "No! Don't you know?! I'm talking about-"

Together they fell into a banter an outsider could only hope to understand.

I smiled but thoughts of pancakes and muffins began to draw me away. Maybe there was something left over at the diner from the morning before.

I was careful to move through the revolving door slowly, my eyes on the seals. Fortunately I made it through without getting trapped, and stepped into the diner.

It was nearly empty. The only people occupying the building were myself, Renji and hovering behind the counter at the coffee machine, was Saori.

"Any breakfast left over?" I asked openly.

Seated at the center booth, Renji looked up from his teacup and shook his head.

"Not really." Saori answered. "Kena did bring over some muffins from the store." She gestured to a plate of different flavored muffins next to the coffee.

"I'll settle with that then." I reached over the counter, swiping a chocolate chip one. "I wonder how old these are."

"How old what is?" Saori asked, filling a mug to the brim.

"These muffins." I removed the paper slowly.

"Well I've already had one and it tasted good enough to me." She admitted turning around to face me. "They're not gonna kill you."

Shrugging I took a bite. "What about you Renji?" I didn't want to ignore his presence.

He raised his head again. "I had one earlier."

The sound of the coffee pot clanking interrupted us. "I'm out." Saori said, coming out from behind the counter.

"Alright!" I said. "Don't get stuck in the door again!"

"Ha, ha!" She called over he shoulder. "I have coffee this time so I'll be okay." Saori pushed through the door and carefully made it outside.

I took another bite of the muffin and glanced at Renji. I hadn't really talked with him yet, and I had some free time on my hands. My goal to get to know everyone (whether we may have already known each other or not) was still prominent in my mind. Deciding, I walked over to the booth, and sat across from him.

"Kaz really had me worried." I began.

Renji looked a little alarmed at my presence but nodded. "Me too."

I plucked a piece from my muffin and popped it in my mouth. "I hope Kyofu will be okay. He seemed shaken up."

"He'll be fine." Renji said quickly.

"If you say so." I munched on the remainder of my muffin before swallowing.

Renji glanced at the glass cup before him. "Would you like some tea? I can make some more."

"Tea?" I glanced at his cup. "Actually, yes." I smiled. Tea brought back happy memories of spending time with my sister-in-law and brother. We would often have cups of tea while reading books we had recommended to each other.

Renji nodded, and rose to his feet. "It will just be a moment." He promised and vanished behind the counter.

I wondered what he thought of the motives Monokuma had so graciously presented to us. Did he believe what was said about our memories? If I remembered correctly, he had been pretty quiet during the whole ordeal.

He returned very quickly, smoothly balancing a cup on a saucer. "For you Mademoiselle." His voice effortlessly slipped into a French accent as he spoke, but it wasn't alarming. It sounded perfectly natural.

"Merci." I answered before thinking. I widened my eyes awkwardly, wishing I hadn't blurted that out. What if 'merci' wasn't 'thank you' like I thought?

Renji set the cup before me and sat back down. "You know French?" He asked with delight.

"Uh..." Frowning I puzzled at the table. Yes? "No."

He sighed.

"I'm guessing you do though?" I looked at him with a new interest. "How'd you learn it?"

His face melted into something.....unpleasant. "I grew up in France."

"Oh!" I wrapped my hands around the cup. "That's cool! I love the French language and culture. It must be amazing there!"

Renji nodded numbly.

"Um, is something wrong?"

"The country is amazing. I had a clear view of the Eiffel Tower from my room. I also enjoyed walking on our beach in Nice." Renji took a sip of his tea as if he'd just mentioned what he'd eaten for breakfast.

I however, as taken quite aback. "'Our beach'?"

His eyes appeared puzzled. "The one my family owns."

"Wait so, you own a beach and your room overlooks the Eiffel Tower?"

He frowned with utter confusion. "We don't own a beach, we own a few..."

I shook my head in amazement. "What do your parents do?!" I never would've guessed that Renji...Renji was rich?! It was possible I guessed. Hope's Peak did invite everyone.

"My father owns an overseas trade company." He spoke with intense unhappiness and distaste. "I never asked questions about it."

"Oh." I felt foolish for not realizing his feelings earlier. "I see."

A wisp of steam from my cup filled the space between us. Right, he had made me some tea. Trying to salvage the moment I took a drink of it. It was perfectly sweet, with just enough sugar. "Mmm! That's delicious!"

He smiled softly. "Thank you! I really enjoying making tea." He suddenly seemed calmer and less upset.

Inwardly I sighed. Well that worked, but still, it wasn't like I lied to him or anything. The tea was really good.

"How'd you become a ventriloquist?" Curiosity coursed through me. "I mean, it's not something that's super popular."

He blinked awkwardly. "Well...when I was younger I really enjoyed playing with stuffed animals. I loved making them move and speak like they were alive." Renji smiled his beautiful smile again, the mood of the conversation changing immensely.

"And it just developed from there." I concluded.

"Yes. It's something I use to express my feelings and the people around me."

"Like you model your dolls after people?" That was certainly something interesting. "So Amiee is made to be like someone?"

Renji reached into his large pockets and withdrew the wooden Amiee and another doll I had never seen, but somehow recognized.

"Is that...?"

He held the both of them very gently. "This is Ames." He gestured to a boy carved of wood, with a suspicious likeness to the one who held him.

"Amiee and Ames."

Renji slipped his hands through their strings. "Yes."

I sipped some more on my tea and watched him move their arms and legs with beautiful movements. Eventually they began speaking and moving across the table, like they were just as Renji had said: alive.

Renji and I spent time in the diner. Gladly drinking the tea he'd made me I ended up watching an unexpected show. Amiee and Ames waltzed across the booth going on adventures and telling me stories.

"WHOA! Kimiko, look out!" Renji paused in his show and I turned in surprise look outside the diner.

We snapped to attention just in time to see the artist slam into Toshiro.

"Oh no!" I jumped to my feet and rushed to the door. "Renji!"

He got up and followed me. Together we pushed ourselves from the diner to the outside. Kiyoshi, Akemi and Kyofu stood in shock at the sight of Toshiro and Kimiko sprawled across the pavement.

But they weren't the only things on the ground. What looked like hundreds of pens and pencils dotted the space around Kimiko. It looked like an explosion of art happened as they collided.

Kiyoshi looked at her first. "Are you-"

"She's fine." Kyofu quickly stooped to Kimiko's side, his hand brushing the ground next to her. "You're fine." He said confidently.

Kimiko blinked a few times like she was struggling to swallow tears. "Yeah." She agreed weakly.

Toshiro grunted, and sat up slowly. "I'm alright too-"

"KIMIKO!" Akemi screeched.

Renji and I jumped together.

"The pens!" Akemi pointed to the supplies spread across the ground violently.

Kimiko's eyes widened and she dove for the pens. "French toast!"

Akemi joined her sister on the ground. Together they plucked up the pens, moving around a surprised and confused Kyofu.

"Kimiko?" Kiyoshi glanced at around as the twins fluttered quickly around us.

"Have to...get them all.." The artist mumbled. She suddenly lifted the hem of her yellow skirt revealing a leg holster, and slipped the pens and pencils into specific slots.

"Here." Akemi tapped her shoulder. "One more." Her sister nodded and took it, replacing it next to the others.

"Whew." Kimiko scrambled to her feet, throwing her braid over her shoulder. "Sorry!" She smiled brightly.

Kyofu stood up nimbly and shook his head. "I...."

Toshiro clambered off the pavement as well. "Sorry Kimiko. I should've been paying more attention."

She shook her head. "No I was the one running!"

"Are you sure you're okay?" Kiyoshi asked her again.

"Oh she's fine!" Akemi spoke brightly. " We're tough!"

Kimiko shook her head in agreement.

I felt like shaking my head with Kyofu. Were the two of them really more concerned with art supplies than their own wellbeing? I suppose there could be more to it than that, but it sure appeared that way.

"Hey Hon'yomi!" Kena shouted to me coming from the lake.

I looked around our awkward little group. "I'll be back, I think."

"Sure." Toshiro said.

Akemi smiled. "Okay!"

Renji waved at me and I ran off towards Kena.

"What's up?"

"Let's agree to keep an eye on Kaz." She said.

"An eye?"

"Yeah, like make sure he doesn't forget to tell us he's sleeping outside, or that he's going to go climb something." Kena's eyes shone with a protective quality. I was given the impression that she was trying to guard Kaz like he was her younger brother.

I shifted foot to foot. "Sure, I guess. But I don't think anything is going to happen."

"Just in case."

"Alright. I will."

Kena grinned. "Thanks! I'm going to go meet up with Mae now!" She stepped away and walked to the store.

"That was..." My muttering died off slowly. Like Kyofu, I had run out of words to describe this day.

People were really worried deep down weren't they? Now if I thought about it, trusting each other today wasn't a huge issue. Maybe it was possible the motives weren't working? Sure everyone was on edge but no one was turning on each other.

Turning back towards the diner, a figure sitting near the lake stopped me. Chikara was resting solemnly at the water bank, holding.....were those twigs? For some reason a grin fell upon my face. I wondered what he was up to.

I stalked across the remaining pavement and kicked through the grass. At my approach Chikara gave me a quick look before gazing back into the lake.

"Hey." I settled next to him on the grass.

"Hon'yomi." Chikara said in a closed off manner.

I didn't let him slow me down. "What are those for?" I pointed at the twigs in his hand.

Chikara looked at the twigs as if unsure as to how they got there. His face reddened with embarrassment. "Kena." He dropped them on the ground. "She said I could use them for my bow since my arrows are missing their tips."

I burst into laughter. "She gave you twigs?!"

He smiled uncomfortably. "Yeah. Yeah she did."

I giggled. "Oh Kena!"

"She puts things in a different perspective." Chikara said.

"Yes she does." As I spoke an itchy feeling tickled my throat. "So what are you doing?"

He looked out over the lake again. "I like sitting here."

I followed his eyes, all the way across the surface of the lake, until my vision was blocked by the wall. "I find it hard. It makes me think of Hana."

He shook is head. "All the more reason to sit here. That way you can remember her."

Huh. "I never thought it it that way." I admitted. I wrapped my arms around my knees.

"I guess you wouldn't."

I glanced at him. What exactly did that mean? He looked lonely and sad so I didn't press him for an answer. I'd already pressed Renji today without realizing it. It was probably something that I shouldn't do again.

I wanted to ask him about himself, but I discovered that I was too worried about asking the wrong thing. Family and friends could be a sore point for everyone here. It was for me.

We continued to sit together at the lake for awhile. After some time a phrase popped into my head.

"Lady Lake I sit by your side. Longing for what within you resides."

Chikara looked over to me. "What's that?"

I smiled ever so slightly. "The beginning of a poem."

He looked peaceful.

"You can have it." I said. My throat feeling itchy again.

"Have it?" Chikara asked.

"Sure." I agreed, swallowing discomfort.

He smiled as well. "Thank you."

Our conversation vanished again and the two of us spent more time in content silence. The early morning passed into early afternoon before either of us spoke again.

"It's probably around lunch time." Chikara looked to the square.

I hugged my knees tightly fighting off a queasy stomach. "Probably. I think I should eat something."

"Let's go." Chikara rose to his feet.

Clumsily I followed suit. When we reached the square we split ways. "I'm just going to have to crackers." I said when he asked why I headed to the store.

Chikara looked uneffected. "Okay."

I made my way to the store and peeled the door open. In entering I realized I wasn't alone.

Utsumi glanced at me from the first aisle. "Hey Hon'yomi." He stepped away from the shelves.

I narrowed my eyes. "Yeah?"

Utsumi looked around, sensing my mood. I searched for some sort of escape but he had already opened his mouth. "I owe you an apology."

Distaste made its way onto my features. "You think?"

He huffed. "Listen it really just made sense at the time, okay?"

I crossed my arms. "Really?"

"From a certain perspective!" He insisted. "Anyway, that doesn't matter anymore."

I narrowed my eyes.

"I was wrong. I know that now." Seriousness crept into his voice. "I should've thought more about everything that had happened before blaming you for it all. So, Hon'yomi..." Utsumi puffed a sigh. "I'm sorry for saying you killed Hana, and I'm sorry for thinking that you would do that."

I could tell he was genuine and truly sorry, but the grudge within me was hard to squash. I wasn't one to ever hold grudges in the first place, but I had never been accused of murder before. "Okay."

Utsumi blinked. "Okay?"

I scolded myself on the inside. "Yes. I'll accept your apology."

He sighed with relief. "Good! I'm sorry, really I am."

I nodded slowly.

"Honestly. If there's anything I can do. Anything!" He looked at me earnestly.

I had a mind to dismiss his gesture but something occurred to me. "May I see your lab book?"

Utsumi frowned. "My lab book?"

"Yeah. It must have a bunch of interesting things in it."

He shrugged. "Sure I guess but, look at it here. You can't take it anywhere."

"Fair enough." I admitted.

Utsumi reached into his wide coat and removed the well worn notebook. "Only right now." He assured me.

"I know." I repeated, and held it in my hands. I wanted to search for some sort of solution. A literal one, and one that could possibly fix our problems. Maybe there was some sort of chemical that could get us out of here, or even stop Monokuma from functioning. I really had no idea what I was looking for, but I was wishing something would just pop out at me.

"Looking for something specific?" Utsumi asked, watching me closely.

"No." I replied with a care free tone. I probably would've just asked Utsumi to look for something himself and tell us what he could do, but I wasn't sure he thought the way I did.

I skimmed the pages, only frequent words jumped out at me. After flipping the pages a few times I pointed to one. "'Unclear effects on test subject.'" I recited. "What does that mean?"

Utsumi squinted at his writing. "Oh that. Well I was working on making a solution based from a modified gene that could transfer muscle memory from one subject to another."

Surprisingly, I wasn't very confused with his answer. "So you're saying if you got this solution to work you could say, transfer a martial artist's muscle memory to someone who wasn't one?"

Utsumi nodded. "Eventually but of course there's variables to consider. Things like muscle size and weight all factor into this. For instance, you couldn't give the strength of an elephant to an dog. The dog's body wouldn't be able to handle it."

"Right." I flipped the page. "So that doesn't work."

Utsumi immediately looked offended. "Hey! It's not that it won't work, it just doesn't work yet."

I shook my head. "Why would the human race need something like that anyway?"

"Science!" He burst out. "A solution like that could lead to millions of other more useful procedures and discoveries! Even things like-"

I tuned him out. As a poet, I could only handle so much science.

The notebooks weight shifted as I went farther and farther into its pages. So far, I hadn't spotted anything super helpful. There was a plethora of scientific breakthroughs in here, that I was sure of, but there was nothing that could break us out.

Utsumi continued to ramble as I turned one of the last pages. "What's this?" I asked, looking at the notes closely. The page was splattered with a shimmery kind of liquid.

"That? Oh it's just-"

"'Definitely not heat resistant.'" I read.

Utsumi shrugged. "Well yeah. It's not hard to make flammable solutions at all. I've been doing it since I could-"

I looked at him. "How flammable?"

Utsumi looked surprised at my serious tone. He paused in thought as if sensing there was more to what I was asking. I prayed that he would understand. "Uh...nothing extremely noteworthy. Easily li-"

I ignored him again. Damn it. Was there really nothing in here? Sure enough I flipped the last page. "Well thanks for that." I said, and handed it back to him.

"Sure!" He took it eagerly and placed it back in his coat. "I'm still sorry-"

"I know." I said. "Listen I'm hungry so, I'm just going to get some food."

"Okay..." Utsumi said, a bit wounded.

I brushed past him, snatching up a box of saltine crackers and quickly headed to the exit. I nodded goodbye to the chemist and left him with his notebook.

I hadn't been inside long but the weather outside changed drastically. The grey sky had morphed into black, like it was polluted with something toxic. Immediately I felt unsettled. I had never seen a sky like the one I stood below now.

"Eerie isn't it?" Ryu asked. I spotted him standing alone against the store wall. He appeared carefree, hands in his pockets looking up at the sky.

"Have you ever seen weather like this?" I held my crackers close.

Ryu raised his brows. "Not that I can remember. "But-" He pushed off the wall. "-apparently that doesn't mean shit."

"So you believe what Monokuma said?" The queasiness of my stomach struck me again, but I still managed to scrutinize him.

"Well, despite what Mae is desperate to believe, I don't think Monokuma is lying to us."

I crossed my arms around my food. "How do you know?"

Ryu sighed tiredly. "If you had been listening you would've realized that Monokuma said when the next person died he'd give the blackened memories. He didn't say only if they succeeded in getting away with the murder." He looked at me as though I was stupid. "If it was a lie, he'd make it impossible to reach. Like the whole question thing."

My thoughts spun with his words. "It's still impossible. No one is going to kill anyone." I insisted.

Ryu shook his head dismissively. "That's going to get you killed."

I huffed. "Well some of us aren't used to killing people or seeing death all the time. I don't think it's going to happen." Or rather, I didn't want it to happen.

"Don't assume everyone feels the same."

My heart skipped a beat. Hadn't Haruko said the same thing to me? "And how does Mae feel?"

He shrugged. "Right now I'm not sure."

"Well I don't think-"

"Everyone knows what you think Hon'yomi." He turned away. "You should probably start to listen to what everyone else thinks. That might just save your life."

I watched the hit man walk away and cast glances at the sky. I stood still, unsure if he had just tried to help me or not. I narrowed my eyes. Ryu was someone who kept surprising me each day.

I turned my attention to the box in my arms. Saltine crackers weren't the worst thing out there. I looked around the empty square, wondering where everyone had disappeared to. "Maybe they just went inside." My voice said. I walked across the pavement and settled beneath the oak tree. I didn't place myself as close to the base as before. Something about it just gave me anxiety.

Unwrapping the crackers I considered my stomach. It had been relatively upset since the second day here, but last night it had fared for the worst. In addition to that my legs had somehow been affected.

I ate a cracker thoughtfully. Today my stomach felt uneasy again. If it wasn't Monokuma's doing, then what was it? No one else appeared ill to me.

Hoping that it would help, I ended up eating three packets of the square crackers. Only one remained afterwards but I couldn't bring myself to eat it. As far as I could tell, my stomach didn't feel any better. But at least I wasn't hungry anymore.

"Hon'yomi."

Instinctively my hands crushed the crackers in my hands.

"Sorry." Haruko stood to my right like she had exited the store.

"Why do you always do that?!" I asked exasperated, frowning at the remains of my lunch.

She looked at me calmly. "I don't mean to."

I rose to my feet, brushing off my skirt. "Well it happens all the time."

Haruko looked amused. "It might appear that way."

I shook my head. "It does."

"Anyway, I brought you this." She held out a large black windbreaker. "It's probably going to rain."

Surprise hit me. Haruko just brought me a jacket? I wouldn't have expected her to do such a thing. Not because she wasn't nice of course but, well...it was simply surprising that she had.

"Thank you." I took it from her hands. The fabric was a bit shiny and plastic like. The perfect material to repel water.

"This was the only one I found in the store." Haruko studied it critically. "It's an extra large -which is nowhere near your size- but it will be efficient enough."

"Wait, this was the only one?"

"The only one left." She said.

"Well what happened to all of them?" I didn't want to take the only coat.

Haruko smiled ever so slightly. "I think they were stolen."

Stolen? Ah wait...

"They're being put to good use though." She said. "No one will be getting rained on."

"If you say so." I slipped the coat on. It was indeed too large for me. The sleeves hung past my hands and the jacket hit just below my knees. But the pockets were spacious and perfect for holding my remaining meal.

Haruko shrugged. "I could've made a better one but unfortunately the only material here is sheets."

"Sheets? So the pants you made me...?"

"Are made of sheets from the store." She confirmed.

"Hang on." I noticed that she wasn't wearing a coat. "What about you?"

"Don't worry about me." Haruko spoke a little forcefully. "I have mine at my house."

"Okay." I said.

She nodded and stepped forward to leave.

"Wait!" Something Ryu had said returned to my mind. "You don't really think...well...I mean...you don't think anyone will kill anyone do you?" I held my breath. For some reason her answer felt important.

Haruko gazed at me with steel eyes. "Many of us are certainly capable of it."

A crushing weight smashed my positivity. Was everyone thinking like that? I was aware that anyone could do anything but I wasn't sure anyone would. "But it's not like I could ever be certain." I whispered.

"Hon'yomi." Haruko looked at me with her usual even glance. "Overthinking is the best way to make mistakes."

"But-"

The seamstress looked hardly at me one more time. "Don't."

I barely noticed when she left.

* * *

The swing squeaked beneath my weight. I wasn't sure how long I'd been sitting here. In an attempt to shut out all my questions I had only managed to tire myself out.

The sky had grown considerably darker with much more promise of rain. I didn't find it in me to care though. Too busy being distracted by thoughts and my -once again- aching stomach, I didn't consider the weather.

Day time had grown later, and it was must have been past dinner now. Although I hadn't been able to make myself eat. The thought of something joining the crackers in my stomach made me want to hurl.

This day had drastically brought my mood up and down, and how I was feeling helped in no way. I probably should've been making my way home, but I wasn't sure that I could get there on my own.

A plop of water smacked my face as if to simply defy me. Sighing heavily I held tightly to the chain and rose to my feet. Immediately my legs began to tingle like they had the night before.

I grit my teeth and pushed myself forward. No one was in sight to ask for any sort of assistance. Actually, the night announcement could've gone off earlier. I wasn't sure.

Someone's breathing grew excessively loud in my ears, but I didn't ask who was there. The muddying ground began to blur below me as I walked. I forced one foot after the other, only the thought of my bed keeping me going.

The sharp numbness rose farther up my legs, making my muscles tense. I closed my eyes trying to hold focus in my mind. The sky began to rain harder and I found myself approaching the back of the diner.

Each step seemed to vanish the moment I took it. Fearing getting stuck outside I tried to move faster. I suddenly gasped loudly as all feeling in my legs vanished, and before I could call out, the world spun around me. A sense of the world shaking was that last thing I was aware of as I smashed to the ground in a heap.

* * *

"Hon'yomi!"

"Hon'yomi! Wake up!"

Voices shook across my consciousness. Swirling phrases and my name repeated again and again.

"Wake up!"

"Hon'yomi!" The feeling of being shaken brought me to wakefulness. Popping open my eyes, an early morning sky glared brightly at me.

"Where-?"

"Hon'yomi!" Toshiro appeared above me.

"Are you okay?" Kyofu's voice asked hesitantly above me and to the left.

I blinked. "I don't know. I-I-fell...." My heart leapt. "What's going on?"

"What do you mean what's going on?" Kyofu scrutinized me. "Utsumi is dead."

"Wh...what?!" I moved to sit up. "Wh-where?! When?!" Pressure on my left arm held me down. Glaring in annoyance I looked over to Kyofu. "Get off my arm."

Kyofu matched my gaze harshly. "Let of of the knife and I'll get off your arm."

"What are you-?!" I then noticed that my left hand was folded around something. Looking past Kyofu's shoe I caught sight of something terrifying. Enclosed in my hand was a plastic steak knife, and smeared across it was the gleaming darkness of blood.

"Wha-?!" I forced my hand to unclench as I began to shake. The knife gleamed as it fell against the ground, leaving my hand bloodied.

Wide eyed with fear I looked at Toshiro and Kyofu. "What is this-?" I didn't know how to express my feelings.

Kyofu cautiously removed his foot and Toshiro lifted me from beneath my arms. "Just come here." He said darkly.

My head spun with confusion and terror. Why had I been holding a knife like that? How had I even got it?

"Wait," They said something important didn't they? "What-what-what...did you say?" I leaned heavily on Toshiro, the feeling in my legs having not completely returned to me.

"Utsumi is dead." Kyofu repeated hotly. It was clear that he didn't want to have to say it again.

I shook my head. "Utsumi?"

I suddenly realized where I was being led. We moved along the diner wall on the side of the houses, and made our way to the front.

We weren't the only ones around. Clustered fearfully before the entrance were many of our companions. Toshiro released me as we came into sight.

"Hon'yomi?!" Kimiko started to rush to me. "What happened to-" She laid eyes on my bloody palm and halted.

Kiyoshi looked horrified. "Hon'yomi?!"

"Why do you have blood on your hands?" Chikara demanded.

I shook my head. "I don't- I don't know!"

Kyofu placed his hands on my shoulders and turned me towards the revolving door. "Look."

The moment I did, I wanted to unsee it. Blood pooled across the ground, drizzling out of the diner door. Brilliant and splattered, the inner glass walls were painted with red. And collapsed among the dripping horror was the slashed body of the Ultimate Chemist.

"Utsumi?!" I screeched, unable to comprehend what I was seeing.

"We found him ten minutes ago Hon'yomi."

I turned away from the scene as Kyofu spoke. The faces of my companions scrutinized me, filled with betrayal and anger.

I trembled more, a sense of terror overwhelming my body. Fearing to see it again I shakily glanced down. The evidence was bright and gleaming, something I was unable to hide. I had clearly been caught with blood on my hands.

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Chapter Text

"Hon'yomi. Hon'yomi."

My eyes were fixed on a tiled floor.

"Hon'yomi." Haruko turned away from a sink that was running. "Give me your hands."

Numbly I lifted them from my sides. Haruko quickly clasped them without fear and in pushing up my jacket sleeves, she dunked them beneath the facet.

If the water was cold, I didn't notice. If it was hot, I couldn't wince.

The water ran red as Haruko worked the blood off my hands. It didn't make sense to me. Why was she helping me?

I didn't recognize my voice. "What are you doing?"

"Cleaning your hands. You can't go through the trial covered in blood." Haruko stated matter of factly.

Trial.

"I don't feel good."

She paused in her scrubbing and looked back to me. "Are you going to be sick?"

I shook my head.

"Toilet." Haruko nodded to a toilet to the right of the sink.

"Where are we again?" I couldn't hold a single thought in my head long enough.

"My house." Haruko swiftly turned off the water. "I'm cleaning you up." She buried my hands in a grey towel.

"Why?" I couldn't see a reason as to why anyone would be helping me.

"We're not leaving you alone." Haruko said, tossing the towel to the floor. "Follow me." She led me by my wrist out of the bathroom.

Together we stepping into a plain hall attached to a bedroom. Haruko guided me through the corridor to a tidy living room. Folded neatly on a cracked leather couch were piles of neatly folded black sheets, and placed on a small coffee table was a bowl of oranges.

Something creaked loudly drawing my attention away from the room. Haruko held open her front door looking at me expectantly. I hadn't even realized she had let me go.

"We have to join the others." She said.

I nodded knowing that somehow what she was saying made sense.

I stepped my way past her onto the road. My body moved slowly, aches plaguing me with each step. Haruko followed closely, but I wasn't sure if it was with caution or concern.

"The announcement already went off. Everyone has been free to investigate." She said as we made our way past the diner.

I forced my feet to move. "Everyone but me."

"You had to be cleaned up." I could hear a frown in her voice.

Nodding was my only answer. I guess it didn't really matter how much time I would have to investigate anyways. I could barely find a solid place in my thoughts to feel grounded in the first place.

"Hey!" Saori suddenly shot out from the ally leading to her house. Her short hair was tied up in a small pony tail atop her head and she had a fierce look in her eyes.

"Saori." Haruko looked mildly surprised. "You just woke up."

She nodded. "Yeah, the morning announcement didn't wake me."

I watched her idly waiting for the news to be broken to her.

"Then you don't know Utsumi is dead." Haruko said.

Saori shook her head dejectedly. "No. That's what woke me up. The body announcement." She reached up and tugged on her long earrings. "That was a bad wake up call if there ever was one."

"Tell me about it." I mumbled quietly.

"Hon'yomi!" Saori looked to me as if just noticing my presence. "Are-are you okay?" Her face grew taut with worry. "You look..." She sent a glance, questionably to Haruko."You look..."

"Hon'yomi was found unconscious behind the diner with a bloody knife." The seamstress stated smoothly, as she continued walking.

"Wait!" Saori grasped her arm. "What?!"

Haruko turned around and Saori dropped her arm. "You'll have to ask Hon'yomi about it. I don't know what happened."

My murky thoughts cleared for a moment. "I don't know either!"

Saori looked between us with widened eyes. "Well- I mean- no one really-" She cut off her words with a sharp breath. All of a sudden she raised her arms, resting her hands on her head. "God this is so fucked up right now." Saori glared at the clear sky.

"Whether or not anyone thinks Hon'yomi is at fault, no one is ignoring the circumstances she's in." Haruko once again pushed towards the diner. I followed numbly, and after a moment Saori followed suit.

Saori began to radiate a profound sense of irritation or distemper from beside me. It bled from her to me, crossing the space between us making me feel short tempered. I started feeling dwarfed, the vibes rippling out from her becoming overpowering.

"Do you think he'll give us the same amount of time?" I asked, fighting silence. "Monokuma, I mean."

Haruko came to my side while we approached the front of the diner. "Possibly. Although even if he doesn't, there's nothing we can do. Twenty minuets have already passed."

We slowed as we reached our destination. It was just as horrific as before, there was blood everywhere. I blinked a few times as I gazed at the pools. In the early light of the morning the blood almost looked pink.

"Jesus." Saori said. "Utsumi...." She could barely cast a glance at his body. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked at the ground.

"Just now seeing this I guess?" Ryu stood near the door protectively.

She nodded, her eyes glaring brutally at the pavement.

"I'll be back." Haruko said softly, tapping her purple belt.

I turned to her. "Where are y-" With a sigh I absorbed the remainder of my sentence. Haruko was already gone.

"Me too." Saori stepped away from the spectacle before us, speaking harshly.

Ryu opened his mouth with a reply but I stopped listening. My eyes were drawn to Utsumi collapsed against the glass. His face was white beneath his skewed glasses and his once bright coat was dyed with blood. I steeled myself and manged to look at his wounds, they seemed to be everywhere along his upper body. Some were deeper while others appeared as scratches. There didn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to their placements.

I didn't do this. I thought fiercely. There's no way.

I took a step closer aiming to find some proof, some evidence to show that I didn't kill him. He had just apologized to me! There was no reason for me to kill him.

As I stared longer at his body a sickness began to rise in my stomach. Quickly, I adverted my eyes.

"You should've listened to me." Ryu's voice cut through the haze residing over my mind.

Tiredly I watched him. "What do you mean?" My voice sounded small.

He rolled his eyes. "You haven't forgot what I said already. If you had listened, I doubt you would be in this situation."

I was immediately on the defensive. "So this is my fault? Again?!" I took a step forwards, "I-"

"No one said you killed him Hon'yomi." He crossed his arms with curiosity. "You may look it, but I doubt you're really stupid enough to pass out thirty feet from a crime scene."

I felt like I was caught up in one of those moments when you find yourself stuck between having two directions to go, but you aren't sure which one to choose so you stutter between them before you decide. "Was that an insult or...?"

Ryu glowered. "Don't start trying to make friends. You and Mae get along, but that doesn't mean shit about me."

I glared at the ground, my senses growing heightened as our conversation fell silent. Utsumi's body before me seemed to pulse with the call for attention. Even with my eyes on the ground it felt like the corpse was all I could see.

"Puhuhuhuhu!" Replacing my sight of the ground was the familiar white and black bear. "This is just terrible!" Monokuma said in a sing song manner.

Blinking, I refocused on his face and found him watching me menacingly.

"You're not very lucky are you, Hon'yomi?!" He danced around. "But then, you can't expect a poet to be very lucky!" Monokuma grinned like he told a good joke. "Imagine," His voice grew dark, "waking up at the scene of your friends murder, holding the knife!"

My eyes flickered to Utsumi. "I didn't kill him." I wished I could sound more convincing.

"Really? Can you even be sure of that?!" Monokuma asked.

Hesitantly I glanced at Ryu. He stood by calmly, watching the two of us with interest.

Could I be sure of that? Just what exactly was he implying?

"What did you do?" I bore my eyes into him. "Why did I pass out?!"

Monokuma tilted his head. "Wha wha wha whaaaat?! Me?!" He pouted. "Why is it always my fault?!"

"Why do you think?!" I shouted.

He turned away from me, the picture of self loathing. "Everyone here hates me."

I couldn't form a sentence of response. I was tired of his game. So instead, "What's wrong with me?!" I spread out my arms in the baggy jacket I wore. "Why can I barely stand right now?!"

The bear spun suddenly as if in a fury. "Figure it out!"

Shocked I took an involuntary step back.

"Aren't you smart?" His red eye glimmered. "It's you're own doing!"

Caught off guard I looked at Ryu's equally puzzled face. "My own-" I turned back to him, but the bear was gone. "People just keep doing that." I whispered angrily to myself. Everything around here felt like acts of appearances and disappearances lately.

As if on cue, Haruko came to my side again. "Alright?" As she asked, her voice sounded confused, like she didn't know why she bothered in the first place.

"No." I said.

"Come on." She steered me away from the diner and Ryu.

"Where are we going?" I squinted in the sun.

"Town Hall. It's almost time."

"Already?!" I halted. "But I haven't-"

Haruko slowed her pace to a stop. "We have. Don't expect to have the opportunity to uncover every murder." She didn't sound hostile exactly, but she didn't sound friendly either. It was almost as if she was saying: Let the adults handle this.

 

At that thought, my mood grew increasingly worse. There was hardly anything I hated more than being brushed aside.

Neither of us spoke again as we crossed the square. Coming from the direction of the lake, Akemi and Renji approached the Hall as well. Our paths crossed before the double doors.

"Hon'yomi?" Akemi looked ruffled with worry.

I wanted to say I was okay.

She grew quiet at my own silence. Carefully, Renji stepped forward and pulled opened one of the doors.

"Thanks." I mumbled and followed Akemi inside, Haruko behind me.

Two figures stood together quietly, conversing near the elevator entrance.

"The sheets were clearly burned."

"And the way it was-" Kyofu and Toshiro looked up, falling silent as we entered the large room. Haruko quickly abandoned her task of watching me and went to the rogue's side.

"Are you alright?" Renji's soft voice spoke above me.

I shook my head, and leaned heavily on one of the decorated walls. "Of course not."

"If it helps," He offered looking down at me, "I don't think you did it."

Somehow that brought the softest of smiles to my lips. "Thank you. It just might."

The doors opened behind us admitting Kimiko, Kena, Kaz and Saori. They walked closely together, whispering. Their entrance added to the tense environment.

*Ding dong. Bing bong.* "Ahem, the time for your investigation is now closed!" The monitor in the hall glowed brightly. "Make your way to Town Hall! It's time for the class trial!"

As the bear vanished from the screen, we moved towards the elevator as it slowly withdrew its doors. I felt my heart pounding inside. I was walking into this blind. Completely. And in doing so it would mean that I would have to trust the others to tell the truth. I wanted to trust, but could I?

Just as I stood inside, Town Hall opened again letting in Chikara, Kiyoshi, Mae and Ryu. Ryu held Mae tightly against him. She was busy wiping away tears from her red eyes. The two were the last to join us in the elevator. With their arrival the metal doors slid closed, and our journey began for the second time. Our journey for truth. Our journey for some sort of hope among this bleak despair. Our path down through the earth to achieve one thing: murder.

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~ALL RISE~

Walking out of the elevator proved to be more surprising than expected. The normal drab wooden trial room was no more. Instead, the walls were painted like the night sky, but rather than displaying the stars in their places they were shown plummeting to the earth in fire. Deep red curtains draped over sections, giving one the illusion of windows.

"What do you think?!" Monokuma shouted from near the podiums.

No one answered him. In fact, no one really looked at the walls or appeared interested about them at all.

Saori roughly pushed past Ryu and walked right up to her place planting her rainbow shoes, and waited.

I lingered farther behind than most of the others. I wasn't ready to begin just yet, considering the fact that I had no idea how we would begin or what needed to be discussed. Once again I was weighed with the burden of proving myself innocent. Who had the nerve to do such a thing to me? Why even bother? I may have not known anything about the murder, but I knew there was no possibility that I had somehow killed Utsumi. I hoped everyone else would see that soon. At least I didn't have to worry about Ryu or Renji. They had made clear that they didn't think I did it.

I took a breath and placed myself before Monokuma. I had two people on my side. Cautiously I glanced at Kena and Kiyoshi to my right and left. They hadn't really expressed hostility, but I had missed the investigation period. Who knew if there was more evidence that pointed to me? If there was, I just had to find a way.

The circle of podiums felt different now. Hana's crossed off portrait still stood next to Haruko and Toshiro, but the space between Chikara and Haruko was now filled with a matching crossed off photo of Utsumi. I felt daunted. There were fourteen of us and soon there would be thirteen.

 

"Shall I begin again with an explanation?" Monokuma materialized in his tall chair.

Toshiro looked annoyed. "Is it really necessary?"

"Well-"

"We'll just get on with it." Haruko interrupted. "I'm sure we all remember how this works."

Monokuma looked crestfallen, but for once he didn't conjure up a response.

"Then we'll be starting with the Monokuma File?" Kimiko asked timidly, raising her hand slightly in the air.

I shook my head. Monokuma File? How could I have forgotten?!

"That would probably be best." Kiyoshi agreed solemnly.

"Alright!" Monokuma exclaimed. Suddenly the large screen on the wall flashed on, displaying the information.

MONOKUMA FILE #2

I began to study the diagram but before I could take in the information, someone began speaking.

"The victim Utsumi Takeru died at 11:35pm." Haruko read steadily. The rest of us observed the File reluctantly. "He was killed in the entrance to the diner."

Immediately the image of his body filled my mind.

"The victim suffered many scratch like wounds, however the cause of death was a cut to his throat where he bled out." Haruko concluded the report expressionlessly and faced the circle again.

Kimiko grimaced, having slapped her hands over her ears at the last sentence. "Did we really need to know that?" She asked in a small voice.

"Maybe." Ryu said. "If it's in the file, it's there for a reason."

"Or it's information that won't be helpful." Kena said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

Kena looked to everyone. "Everything that was important to figure out for Hana wasn't in her file."

Monokuma laughed. "I can't make it too easy for you can I?!"

"Then what's the point?" Mae said.

Monokuma glared at her knowingly. "If you don't want them-"

"Forget it!" Saori snapped loudly, anger seeping from her voice.

Collectively we all took a sharp breath. Or at least tried to. As I inhaled my breathing turned into coughs.

Kiyoshi looked at me in distress. "Hon'yomi?" He muttered.

I grew increasingly aware of the eyes that turned to me now. "I-" Another wave of crushed me and I leaned over, violently clutching the podium.

"Hey." Kena's hand fell upon my shoulder.

I felt like brushing her hand away, but I couldn't find a moment to do so.

"Is anyone really going to say Hon'yomi killed Utsumi in that state?" Chikara spoke for the first time. He watched my fit with a mask of disbelief.

"I thought we were talking about the file first." Kaz said uncertainly.

Chikara shook his head. "Like Kena said, what does it really tell us?"

As his words died, my coughs thankfully followed.

 

"How he died." Toshiro said looking relieved that I had ceased coughing.

"Which was pretty evident."

Kyofu spoke with realization "Really the only significant information is the time."

"Eleven thirty-five." Saori repeated, arms crossed.

A painful pinch in my stomach captured my attention from the conversation. I glared heavily at the floor hoping I wouldn't get sick.

"-no one was awake?" Kyofu was finishing.

"Hey." Kena turned and whispered softly to me. "Are you going to be alright? What's wrong?"

I shook my head, eyes still on the ground. "I just don't feel right."

"Are you going to be sick?"

"I don-"

"Alright what are you two whispering about?" Ryu asked harshly, watching us suspiciously.

Kena glared straight at him with challenge. "I'm just making sure she's okay."

My eyes found their way up to my companions again.

"What's wrong with you Hon'yomi?" Kaz leaned towards the center to peer at me.

"Yes Hon'yomi. What is wrong with you?" Kyofu asked with narrowed eyes. He- like Saori- sounded bitterly angry.

Toshiro spoke up. "She's obviously sick."

Chikara and Kaz nodded in agreement.

"But is she really?" I looked over at Kimiko with surprise. Genuine confusion looked back.

"What does that mean?" I grumbled. "I passed out last night in the rain!"

"Yes, but from fatigue or from this sickness?" Haruko added.

My eyes now went to the seamstress. "I'm sick. I didn't get tired from stabbing someone to death!" After the words left my mouth my mood shifted. Utsumi was dead. Completely lifeless and gone and we had to expose the one who did it. If we got the blackened incorrect. We would all die. And someone, this killer among us....did they really want that to happen? Did they even truly understand what their actions meant?

"I believe her." Renji spoke quietly but strongly, addressing us for the first time. I looked over to him gratefully.

"So do I!" Kaz announced loudly.

Toshiro nodded at me. "Me too."

As if by some strange instinct my eyes when towards Mae and the twins looking for their answer.

"I don't know." Mae's brown eyes looked fragile still slightly puffy from crying.

My hopes crashed to the floor.

"I think I believe her." Akemi said, picking up my fallen confidence. And my hopes raised even a little higher when her sister nodded.

 

"Could we continue?" Kyofu's hands were clenching the podium before him so tightly that his knuckles were white.

Ryu glanced at him in surprise. "And if her sickness is relevant somehow?"

"She was sick days before what happened!" Kyofu insisted, layers of heated anger lay in his voice. I wasn't sure if Ryu had upset Kyofu somehow, or if it was our situation as a whole.

"Okay then." Chikara said hesitantly. "The time of death said eleven thirty-five. That's after the announcement, so why had he been out at the diner?" Half of me was glad that the archer had been talkative so far. Almost all he had done was say how I could only be innocent. But the other half found it strange that he was speaking so much. He was no where near as quiet as Renji, but he wasn't as talkative as Kena.

"That is weird." Kiyoshi mumbled. "I'm sure I saw him go to his house that night!"

Kaz nodded energetically. "So did I!" He paused, "We said goodnight to each other..." His mismatched eyes puzzled at the floor with sadness.

No one spoke for a while. The mood of sorrow was infectious. Many of our faces were plain with sadness and disappointment and deep inside I felt like rebelling. "Do we have to do this?" I breathed softly.

"Of course we do!" I jumped at the angry voice lashing out. Kyofu stood behind his podium almost trembling with anger. He looked at us fiercely. "Someone-!" He took a breath searching for words. "Someone did this. Someone betrayed us and-and-and killed... Someone made the choice to destroy the trust we had and kill! They shouldn't be-they can't-we-" Kyofu shook his head unable to finish.

 

More than a few of us were shocked. Toshiro looked anxious, the twins surprised while Renji and Haruko oddly enough had matching faces of pained expressions. I watched Kyofu numbly unsure if I should say something.

Silence stretched on and the rogue's words brought the reality to our minds that we had tried to ignore. One of us really had turned, not just on Utsumi but on all of us. After all, in not speaking up weren't they condemning us to die? And on the contrary, weren't we seeking them so they would die?

 

"Kyofu." Haruko spoke quietly. It was impossible to tell if she was trying to be reassuring or commanding.

Renji opened his mouth as if to speak, but awkwardly closed it again. He masked his face with uncertainty and remained silent.

The rogue glared senselessly at the floor, and no matter how hard he clenched the podium it was evident how much his hands shook. "Let's just...continue..."

 

"Alright fine." Kiyoshi spoke uneasily. "Let's not forget how we found Hon'yomi."

Once again my optimism scattered across the floor, his closeness suddenly feeling overbearing.

Haruko nodded. "Behind the diner with the weapon."

"Hang on." Saori looked sternly over her glasses. "What weapon?"

Toshiro cleared his throat uncomfortably and reached into his jean pockets. A moment later he held out a plastic bag and inside it the bloodied knife.

"How is that the weapon?!" Saori exclaimed doubtfully.

Kyofu seemed to be looking away from it purposefully. "If you look close enough it's not one knife it's three. They've been taped together."

"But plastic knives?"

"It's more possible than you would think." Ryu admitted.

Kena shot him an uncomfortable look. "Was that suppose to somehow not sound suspicious?"

He rolled his eyes. "Maybe it just sounded better in my head." He responded sarcastically.

 

Toshiro looked troubled. "What can you tell us?" He gently set the evidence on the platform before him.

Ryu looked at Mae almost apologetically. "I watched over the body."

"Utsumi." Kyofu was quick to correct. He gazed mercilessly at the floor.

The hitman frowned but nodded. "Utsumi. I looked over his injuries. From what I saw and from what I know, I think that," He pointed to the bag in front of Toshiro, "is the only thing that could be the murder weapon."

"Funny. Considering everyone else's knowledge here I'm sure you'd be the only one to think to use something like plastic knives as a weapon." Chikara noted.

Ryu appeared unaffected. "Probably, but I wouldn't have been so sloppy. Or so obvious. Anyway when someone is desperate enough they'll make whatever they have work."

"Sloppy?" Kaz asked.

"Yes." Haruko re-entered the conversation. "It was clear from looking at the bo-" She glanced quickly at Kyofu and changed her words, "-Utsumi, how many unnecessary wounds he suffered. The file even mentioned it."

"'Many scratch like wounds'." Toshiro recalled.

Akemi spoke as if in deep thought. "What does that mean exactly? Whoever it was didn't know what they were doing?"

"That's what I was thinking." Kyofu said bitterly.

Kiyoshi nervously fiddled with some gears. "Why did they chose Utsumi in the first place? It had to have been because he was the only one awake right?"

 

Kyofu interrupted him. "Kiyoshi, it was already planned. Toshiro and I have proof of that."

Kiyoshi looked puzzled. "What proof?"

"Sheets." Toshiro projected the word loudly.

Kaz blinked. "Sheets?"

"How are sheets a clue?" Chikara demanded.

I held my breath unable to voice my own reaction. Another wave of uncomfortable pain was rising up inside me.

"Between Town Hall and the lake there was a pile of sheets." For half a second the regular Kyofu emerged as he shrugged. "Or at least what was left of them. They had been set on fire but they didn't burn completely because of the rain. And even though they were black, I could still make out blood stains on the material."

"I get it!" Kaz said. "They used them to keep blood off their clothes didn't they?!"

Toshiro nodded. "That's the idea."

Kimiko cleared her throat as she spoke, her voice gradually growing stronger. "Um...I'm sorry to change the subject but are we agreeing that Utsumi went to his house after the announcement?"

As the room waited for a response my mind lagged behind. Something Kyofu had said triggered some sort of memory or sensation in my mind but I just couldn't place it. Instead I was nagged by the feeling that I had missed something of immense importance.

 

"I think so." Kiyoshi said. "I know I saw him."

Kaz nodded again. "And so did I so you can trust us!"

If the situation had been less tense I would've smiled.

"So someone really planned murder." Haruko said thoughtfully. "I can believe that, but why?"

Ryu watched her closely. "You're talking about the motives aren't you?"

 

She nodded. "An answer and memories."

"Well first of all, who actually believes the whole' memory' thing. Or thinks Monokuma would even deliver?!" Chikara insisted.

 

"A person can believe anything to be possible if they want it badly enough." Haruko told him.

The archer paused before continuing. "Alright, I guess I can see that. But shit, killing without some sort of proof? Without a way of knowing for sur-"

"Actually," Kyofu abruptly interrupted his words. "I think I have some proof."

"What?" I blurted out. Proof? Real proof?! Evidence that-that our memories had been stolen?! Stolen memories? I leaned heavily towards Kena, grasping the wood around me for support.

 

"How could you have proof?" Mae studied Kyofu darkly.

I looked at Kyofu desperate for him to explain. Everyone watched him but I noticed Kiyoshi and Kena appearing especially curious while Haruko gazed at Kyofu with a pale face.

The rogue sighed and plunged his hands into his sweatshirt. "When Kimiko fell, art supplies weren't the only things she dropped."

I clashed eyes with Renji for a moment, remembering when we had walked out into that chaos.

"Hey wait-" Kimiko stood up straight and leaned towards Kyofu. "What does that mean?!"

"It means our thief has struck again." I muttered.

"Hey!" Kyofu exclaimed. "How many times do I have to say it? It's rogue!"

Haruko shook her head slightly. "Say it as much as you want..." Uncomfortably, she blinked as if in surprise at her own words.

"Ignore them!" Akemi said when he looked like he was to speak again. "What did you take from Kimi?"

 

Kyofu still looked wounded but he moved on. "This." Removing his hands from his pocket, Kyofu held out a beautiful gold pocket watch. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. The cover was stamped with the most intricate pattern of flowers and leaves, and the chain moved fluidly as it swung. When Kyofu snapped it open the face glowed bright blue, the numbers on the face appearing as though they floated above the beautiful cogs and gears that made the hands turn inside it.

Kimiko squinted at it. "I don't-"

A loud gasp broke through the room. I glanced beside me in alarm. Kiyoshi stared at the watch intently, his face pained. "I-I know that watch."

"What?!" Kimiko narrowed her eyes at the inventor with disbelief. "How could you know it if I know it too?!"

"Simple." Kyofu announced. "He's the one who made it."

Toshiro leaned as closely as he could. "Made it?" His face was peeked with interest.

"But-" Kiyoshi "I don't remember making something like that. I just recognize it that's all."

"Are you sure?" Kyofu raised his eyebrow. "I wasn't sure until I looked at the gears inside the face." He held it out towards us. "They're the exact same ones as the gears on your coat."

Kiyoshi blinked and looked down at the metal decorating his long coat. As I looked as well, I couldn't deny the fact that Kyofu was right. They really looked exactly the same.

 

Chikara peered at the inventor. "Wait if Kiyoshi made it, why did Kimiko have it?"

"Because it's hers." Kyofu twisted the watch, displaying the inside of the popped up cover. Happy Child." He read it like he was revealing a grand trick. "Or-" He looked straight at the artist. "-Kimiko."

She didn't appear to react. The girl stared at the watch, her gaze hard and eyes watering. "I can't....I can't remember but, I know..."

 

As I watched Kimiko try to puzzle through her thoughts I realized I had seen the same look on others faces. Kyofu had looked the same when we found the pockets in his sweatshirt, and even Haruko when she first saw his scars. But with the evidence now....were any of those times really the first?

 

Her face was masked with confusion that quickly faded into worry. "I think I..." Kimiko's dark eyes fell to the floor and she pinched her brows together with thought. "Kiyoshi." She turned to stare at him. "Where do I- how do I know you?"

Kiyoshi tugged on his tie continuously. "I-I don't know! Maybe we lived in the same place? You're not from Tow-"

"Kiyoshi." Toshiro looked engrossed with some sort of intensity. "You didn't live in the same place. At least, not the way you're thinking of it." The actor glanced at Kyofu. "This is your proof of our memories being taken isn't it?"

Kyofu nodded. "Yes. As much as it's hard to believe...." He paused with uncertainty. I felt like pausing too. Pausing everything. The room around me felt blurry the longer he spoke. "-that we do know each other from Hope's Peak."

I watched Monokuma as the room spun with everyone's words. There he sat, calmly overseeing something we barely understood while he knew everything. But how did he know? How did he know us? How did he even know about things like my books?

My eyes bore daggers into his red eye. Who was inside there? For someone had to be behind this. So who was behind the bear?

"Well?! What do you think?!" Kena tapped me on the shoulder while Ryu shouted at me.

"Huh?"

"You're really out of it." He crossed his arms.

Kyofu looked at me warily. "Hon'yomi we're voting to see which of us think our memories have been stolen."

Wait voting? "Why?" I asked.

Chikara shrugged. "That's what I wanted to know."

"Whatever! We're waiting on you Hon'yomi." Ryu stared at me hard. "What do you think?"

 

"Yes." I spoke before thinking. "I-I think so."

"But why do you think so?!" Kiyoshi looked at me fearfully.

I shook my head. "I don't know. It just, feels right...." I remembered the watch and the sweatshirt. Even that paper in Kyofu's hidden pocket. They were all evidence. "Anyway, we have proof right?"

"BORING!" Monokuma exploded. "Geez! This is all just soooooooo dull! Where is the yelling?! Where is the arguing?! Where are the accusations?!" He rose to his feet atop the chair. "I'm starting to wonder if any of you care that that pathetic Chemist died in the first place!"

"That's wrong!" Kimiko shouted loudly. Once everyone -including Monokuma- looked to her, her face grew red. "We-we do care!"

 

Monokuma glared fiercely. "Then move on! You're taking too long!"

Haruko narrowed her eyes. "Since when do trials have a time limit?"

"I didn't say you had a time limit." He said carefully. "I said move on."

 

"Alright." The seamstress studied Monokuma a few seconds longer. A calculating glance observed the bear from her eyes and the longer she watched him the more grateful I was that I wasn't the one being scrutinized. "We have established the credibility of the motive concerning memory." She said finally, turning to us. "But what about the answer to any question?"

"I think it would have to depend on the question." Kyofu said.

The singer agreed. "And how long they would've wanted it answered."

"If they killed for that motive." Mae pointed out.

"Well what else would they kill for?" Chikara asked. "There wasn't evidence of some other reason."

"Actually." Haruko frowned, looking at Ryu. "There was."

Mae looked doubtful. "There was?"

She nodded. "I asked Ryu to help me view Utsumi. We found his lab book to be missing."

"Missing?" Renji asked softly.

"Wait- you're saying whoever killed him did it to get his lab book?!" Chikara shook his head. "That's ridiculous it'd be safer and simpler to just steal it!"

Haruko looked tired. "I'm proposing that it is a possible motive, Chikara. I didn't say it was the motive."

He suddenly tried to shrug off his aggression. "I think it's a fuckin reach is all."

"Haruko?" Akemi asked over the archer. "What did you mean when you said you asked Ryu to help you?"

Ryu leaned against his podium. "What it means is that Haruko is too short to reach inside the door to get into his pockets."

I heard someone- probably Kyofu- scoff but they didn't say anything.

"Yes. That's exactly it." Haruko replied calmly but there was a slight edge to her tone of voice.

Akemi glanced around between Haruko, Ryu and Kyofu unsure of herself. "Okay...I guess that makes sense."

"So then if the killer killed Utsumi for the lab book wouldn't they have it?" Kaz proposed.

Saori raised her eyebrows. "Well yes but they wouldn't be stupid enough to bring it to the trial."

The climber frowned and looked across the room to her. "But how do you know that?"

"What?" She asked. "It's just common sense right?"

Toshiro looked at her oddly. "Yes..."

Saori sighed. "Then there you go."

Kaz still looked puzzled but didn't reply.

"Why would someone want his lab book?" Mae asked. "It's just a bunch of formulas and stuff."

"They could've thought that something in there could get them out." Chikara proposed.

Renji suddenly shook his head. "If there was, he would've told us."

"I think so too." Kyofu said, looking at the ventriloquist. "I don't believe Utsumi died because of his lab book."

"Then it was the motives?" Kiyoshi asked.

"Most likely." Haruko agreed. "But his lab book is still missing."

"Still, like I said the killer isn't going to have it with them." Saori pronounced clearly.

"Fine." Ryu said. "But where does this leave us?"

"With the motives." Kena answered.

"Then are we in agreement in saying the blackened killed for one or both of the motives?" He asked.

As the room nodded I narrowly shook my head in agreement. Surprisingly no one had an objection. In a way....I guess that was a good thing.

 

"Wait a minuet." Suddenly something finally occurred to me. "Kyofu...you said there were burnt sheets didn't you?"

He nodded.

"But where did they get them?" My heart began beating harder. "They didn't use the ones from their bed did they?"

"They shouldn't have had to." Haruko stood calmly but gazed directly into my eyes. "There are sheets at the store."

And suddenly it hit me. The feeling of missing something important faded into realization.

Haruko stood across from me in the grey light. "I could've made a better one but unfortunately the only material here is sheets."

"Sheets? So the pants you made me...?"

"Are made of sheets from the store." She confirmed.

I stared back at her. My heart pounded even faster as my brain tried to catch up. Haruko?

Folded neatly on a cracked leather couch were piles of black sheets, and placed on a small coffee table was a bowl of oranges.

Haruko remained watching me. She was the only one who'd spoken of them. She was the only one who knew where the sheets were, and had some in her house. I felt my breath quicken.

I knew she was waiting for me to say it. She was waiting for me to call her out. To accuse her. I even had a good reason to but- for some reason I couldn't find the words.

 

"Great! That doesn't narrow it down at all! Any of us could've seen the sheets in there." Kena sighed.

 

The conversation moved on and Haruko looked away from me in a flash of disappointment.

I didn't follow the conversation. I found myself puzzling at her reaction and puzzling at the situation in general. Why were we even here? I knew Utsumi died. Yes that was right. Utsumi died....he was stabbed to death by one of us. Yes, I knew that already...

"Killed for both motives?" Someone asked. I couldn't place who.

Queasiness climbed up my stomach towards my chest. I tried to ignore it. I tried to pretend it wasn't happening. That wasn't important just now.

"Now lets talk about how." At least I caught Toshiro speaking.

Mae spoke next. "How?"

I couldn't do it. I couldn't ignore the pain swiftly traveling towards my mouth.

"Oh no." Saori muttered. "Hon'yomi is-"

"Don't you dare throw up in my trial room!" Monokuma screamed.

Too bad he was late with his threat. For I already had.

 

~TRIAL. SUSPENDED.~

The doors of the elevator slid shut but the contraption wouldn't carry us up. Not yet.

"You know, it's a miracle you didn't get throw up on your clothes." Kaz said, kneeling next to me. "I'd say you're lucky!"

I frowned uncomfortably. "I'm not lucky in any of this."

"We were just moving along too." Ryu said loudly from behind me.

I buried my face in my hands. "I'm not doing this on purpose." Sheepishly I wiped the tears that stuck to my cheeks. I usually cried when I got sick.

"You'll be fine." Saori sat near me, placing her long arm on my back. "Sometimes you feel better after throwing up."

"Oh yeah!" One of the twins agreed. I wasn't sure which one at the moment.

"I wonder how he's going to clean it up." Chikara said thoughtfully.

"Me too." Kena chimed in. The comedian looked at me with a grin. "Getting sick sucks but just for now, imagine that dumb ass bear mopping up puke."

As tense as everything was, her words made me laugh.

 

"Do you think they're right there?" Saori suddenly asked.

I looked up with question.

"The one behind this." She said, laying her hand on the metal doors before us. "Just on the other side..."

I heard Kyofu sigh loudly. "Don't do that. You're only going to make things worse." I twisted my head to see him glare at the wall across from him.

"I'm sorry." I whispered. I knew he wasn't angry with me, but I couldn't shake my guilty conscience. "I didn't mean to mess up the trial....."

"It's not like you could've helped it." Mae tried sending me an encouraging smile from Ryu's side. I think I tried to smile back.

"Why do you think you're sick?" Kiyoshi asked from the back of the elevator.

I sighed. "I have no idea."

"Watch what you're eating." Renji suddenly appeared, kneeling down beside me.

I blinked in confusion as he reached for my face. "What are you-"

His gentle hands felt cool on my face. I froze in caution not knowing what he was doing. Carefully he lifted my eye lids like he could see some answer hidden there. "It might be an allergy." Renji admitted softly. Removing his hands he looked at me apologetically and rose back to his feet.

"An allergy?" Haruko glanced up at him. He only nodded.

"But I don't have-" The doors abruptly peeled open. "-an allergy..."

~TRIAL. RESUME.~

 

Monokuma glared down at me angrily as we retook our places. "I've made a new rule!"

I glanced down at my podium filled with chagrin. It sparkled with dampness and smelled heavily of some sort of cleaning product.

"My new rule has been added to the Rules section on your e-handbooks!"

A collective group of beeps filled the room as proof.

"It states that if, at any point during a class trial, a resident throws up. They will be banned from the remainder of the discussion until it is time to cast a vote!"

My head shot up in shock.

"What?!" Saori exclaimed.

Toshiro glowered at him. "That's overkill Monokuma and you know it."

 

He raised his paw menacingly, revealing the claws he never let us forget. "Of course this rule was not in place during Miss Nakajima's episode. So it does not apply this time."

I silently began praying that I would have no repeat. I couldn't handle being barred from a trial. But besides that, it was about time I invested some focus into this.

 

I felt my companions look at me uneasily. So far I hadn't been installing much hope.

"Now! With that out of the way, you're free to continue." Monokuma finished speaking with a grumble and sat back down in his chair.

 

"Fine." Kena began, her distaste with the bear extremely clear. "Let's go over the place Utsumi was killed."

"The diner." Saori said.

Kena shook her head. "I mean specifically."

My mind managed to understand what she was implying. I opened my lips to speak when-

"The door." Kiyoshi figured.

Silently I closed my mouth.

The comedian gazed across the circle. "Exactly. The revolving door that was stuck again." Kena tapped the podium before her like it was a nervous habit. "During the investigation I saw that the rubber seal had been pulled down as if to trap Utsumi inside."

"I saw it too." Haruko agreed.

"I know everyone ended up hearing about the door, but who exactly knew the details?" Kena appeared fierce but reproachful. I doubted she wanted anyone to end up dying. Again.

I tried remembering who had been there when we first talked of it. I could see the day clearly, but my thoughts were still hard to manage.

"-correctly, it was Saori, Toshiro, Hon'yomi, Renji, Kiyoshi, myself and Mae." Kena was saying. I hadn't even realized she had continued. Silently I cursed myself. I had to pay attention.

"Hang on. Toshiro and Kiyoshi brought it up in front of everyone after we found Kaz." Kimiko said.

"Yes but none of them said anything about a rubber seal did they?" Kena pointed out.

Kyofu gazed at Kena almost numbly. He appeared as though he was having some internal struggle with himself. "You think the killer is one of them?"

"Maybe." She said.

"Someone could have planned this out." Kaz said. "With what they knew about the diner." When no one spoke up for a moment, his eyes grew wide. "I mean-!" He frowned in frustration. "That wasn't wrong was it?"

"No!" Kena said reassuringly. "We're just thinking about it."

Ryu interrupted them. "Are you expecting us to exclude you from the group who knew about the seal, Kena?" He asked the comedian.

"I didn't do it but I don't expect you guys to exclude me without evidence." She responded.

"And do you have any?"

Kena glared. "The only thing I can think of is height. Only a tall person would be able to reach inside and hit Utsumi where he was injured."

"That's a lot of thinking you've done." Chikara said.

Kena replied with silence.

 

"The only problem is that out of that group, that kind of thinking only excludes you and Mae." Kyofu said tiredly. "Toshiro, Renji, Saori, and Kiyoshi are all tall." I barely noticed, but it sounded like he could've stuttered when speaking Renji's name. Like he hadn't wanted to include him.

"You forgot Hon'yomi." Kiyoshi said fearfully.

Kyofu sighed. "We already said she was too sick! Hell we just saw her throw up everywhere!"

Inwardly I cringed.

 

"Well I didn't do it!" Kiyoshi shouted.

Toshiro sighed with what could've been annoyance. "We're going through proof. Do you have proof?"

Kiyoshi shook his head. "No..."

 

"So myself, Toshiro, Renji and Kiyoshi are all suspects?" Saori burst out.

"Only if were going off of what Kena said." Chikara concluded.

"Which we shouldn't do." Kyofu said stubbornly. "There's still a lot more to be discussed."

"We've only been going around in circles." Haruko looked at him. "Jumping from one subject to the next gets us nowhere."

Kyofu glanced at Haruko. "So we'll start over."

"With what?" Chikara asked. "What haven't we talked about?"

Stretched silence filled the round room again. This time though I had no idea what to say. This time I didn't have evidence to provide. Now I had to rely on the others.

The silence continued and I gazed at a red curtain closest to Monokuma and suddenly all I wanted was for that illusion of a widow to be real.

 

"I got it!" Mae said alarming me from my thoughts. "Fire!" She turned to the rogue. "The sheets were burned, but how?"

"We didn't see any matches." Toshiro muttered.

"So they either disposed of them, or used a lighter!" She said.

"Lighter?" Kena frowned at her.

"Yeah. There's a bunch by the magazines." Mae said carelessly.

"So where is the lighter?" I glanced at Saori, hearing her voice, she looked around in confusion.

Kaz leaned forward eagerly. "Did anyone see it?"

 

"I didn't" Kyofu said.

"Nor did I." Haruko added.

"Okay then." Mae crossed her arms. "But I still think it was a lighter. Not matches."

Ryu nodded. "Makes sense. They'd be in a hurry, afraid of getting caught so they wouldn't want to waste time striking matches again and again."

Mae smiled proudly. "A lighter would do the trick."

"Okay so they used the sheets to cover their clothes from blood and tried to burn them to get rid of the evidence." Akemi figured. "And then instead of trying to get rid of the knives they plant then on Hon'yomi?"

"You'd think it'd be better to throw it away too." Kimiko said.

"That wouldn't solve the problem." Haruko tugged on her belt. "Plastic knives would float. They just used Hon'yomi to get rid of it instead."

I sighed. I was growing tired of being other peoples pawns. "I was just convenient." I muttered. I knew I couldn't have been targeted. No one could have predicted what I would do last night. I tried finding some solace in the fact that no one had avidly sought me out to frame, but I had really picked a shitty night to pass out. It was relieving that no one pursued accusing me very long. In a way, being sick had ended up being helpful in that aspect.

Kyofu glowered. "That only makes things worse."

I could feel the tension rolling off of him in venomous waves. "Kyofu-" I began.

"Don't make an excuse Hon'ymoi!" He cried. "They used you! They framed you and they made us hate you!"

I swallowed hard. Had they really....did they really hate me right now?

Saori looked stressed. She spoke carefully like she was trying to mend something. "Listen-the...the thing we have to understand is why Utsumi went back out." Saori mused. "Did anyone see him leave his house that night?"

I looked around the trial room watching faces. Everyone looked generally unsure and just as curious to get an answer as I was. But who among the faces was the killer?

Kena appeared thoughtful. "If he was going to the diner, maybe he got hungry and went to eat a snack?"

"No. We both ate dinner in the diner and I remember saying he was stuffed." The actor frowned.

"Then why go out again?" Mae asked, leaning on the railing. "I remember the night of the bonfire, he left because the motive and I doubt he just forgot about it the next day."

"Someone had to have drawn him out." Kyofu said.

"How do you know that?" Kiyoshi asked. "How do you any of you know he didn't go out with his own intentions? Maybe he forgot something in the diner and went to go get it." He gestured widely with his hands. "Maybe he wasn't going to the diner but the killer saw him and decided he was the best target because he was out of bed already! Maybe Utsumi was chased to the diner and-"

"Then if that's the case..." Kena mumbled. "That means the killer did plan to kill Utsumi."

"And with that in mind we have to assume that the killer somehow convinced Utsumi to leave his house and go to the diner." Kyofu finished.

"Well how would they do that?" Chikara looked doubtful. "No one found a confusing note or anything did they?"

"No." Saori said. She looked around to see if anyone else had.

"Then how else would anyone have gotten a hold of Utsumi?" Kaz asked in confusion.

"Hey wait a minuet..." Kena turned to Mae with expectation. "Mae you found the-"

"I got it again!" Mae shouted loudly. Her puffy eyes were still visible but she no longer looked sad. Now the dancer looked pleased.

"What is it?" Ryu asked her.

"The messaging system on the handbooks!" Faster than blinking Mae held her tablet and was typing away.

 

Haruko appeared extremely lost. "What messaging system?"

"Uh-" Kena glanced at me, speaking for Mae who was too busy taping the screen. "There's a way for us to send messages to each other on our handbooks."

I nodded. "It's like a phone."

"And!" Mae looked up from the handbook. "You can send anonymous messages too!"

"Hold on." Kaz looked puzzled. "We can talk to each other on those?"

"Apparently." Haruko muttered.

Kyofu removed his from his pocket. "How does it work exactly?"

"I'll show you! Here." Mae quickly wrote something.

A second later Kyofu's handbook beeped. "Hey." He read, then frowned. "It says it's from you."

Mae shook her head. "One more second."

Kyofu's tablet beeped again. "Alright." He nodded. "That says it's from anonymous." He held it out in our direction.

"That's perfect." Toshiro said. He was typing away on his own. "This must be how they got Utsumi to leave this house."

"I don't know." Akemi said doubtfully. "Is there any-"

"Proof?" Renji asked softly.

Mae frowned. "Where's Utsumi's handbook?"

"Hang on. Come to think of it, where is Hana's?" Toshiro turned around to question Monokuma.

The bear sighed. "After a person dies I collect the handbooks and remove them from the game. I happen to have hers but I do not have the Chemists."

"So then, where is it?" Kiyoshi asked.

I looked between the Seamstress and the Hitman. They seemed to be the only ones who investigated Utsumi's body in detail.

Ryu shook his head. "I didn't find one."

"It's missing along with the lab book then." Haruko sighed.

"But wait!" Kaz exclaimed. "We can message it can't we?!"

"And who's going to answer?" Chikara rolled his eyes.

"The killer!" The climber nodded to Saori. "I think it's worth trying! They might have not had time to get rid of it so it might be here!"

"Then that means...the person with it....is the killer?" Kimiko said.

Was it really going to be this easy?

"If they even have it with them. " Kyofu interjected.

"Then let's try it!" As Mae spoke she typed away on her handbook again.

"Hang on a moment Mae." Toshiro tried to say. "This is-"

*BEEP* *BEEP*

Deja vu hit me in an instant. I was overcome with the same sense of fear and loss, as confused as everyone was surprised. All turned to me as the pocket of my large coat beeped through the room.

"Hon'yomi?" Kiyoshi shied away as best he could.

"No!" I reached inside the pocket hanging past my hips. "I-I well, it was planted on me with the knife!" I scrambled wildly inside my mind. How had I ended up with this? When?!

"Hon'yomi....." Kena said. "You..." Her face grew pained. "You were there when the door broke."

"You're tall enough." Saori added hesitantly.

Betrayal washed over me in a cold sheet. My hands suddenly felt freezing overcome with hurt that I couldn't fully understand.

"Hang on!" Kyofu said. "First let her get it out!"

I didn't know what to think so I did as he said. Grasping it tightly despite my cold fingers I removed Utsumi's handbook. It shone in my hand and I placed it lightly on the platform before me like it was a venmous snake. It glowed with a notification from Mae.

"Like she said that could've easily been planted on her." Toshiro appeared tense. "She passed out from being sick. The night of the fire she was sick, we talked about it! Hon'yomi couldn't have done it!"

"Hon'yomi." Mae's face was plastered with horror, her voice catching roughly in her throat. "You-you did know about the messages."

The feeling of betrayal doubled and before I could help it, tears escaped my eyes. "I didn't do this. I don't even h-have a reason!" My voice cracked. "H-he apologized to me- he- we..."

"It's alright."

"Huh?" Shakily I looked at Haruko through a film of tears.

"There's no way you did it." She said calmly.

Kiyoshi was pale. "How can you know that already?"

"Look at the handbook." She indicated to the object before me. "It's clean."

"And?" Chikara said.

Haruko took a deep breath. "When we found Hon'yomi her hands were bloody. Both of them. So she couldn't have put the handbook in her pocket without getting blood on it."

Kyofu nodded slowly. "It wouldn't make sense to clean your hands and put the tablet away then touch the knives again."

"Exactly." Haruko agreed.

"Then who did this? Who is responsible?!" Kiyoshi's fingers tapped his podium so swiftly they blurred.

"I'm telling you." Kena said. "It has to be someone from the day the door broke."

"But not you." Ryu said strongly.

"I'm too short damn it!' She glared at him. "You should know! Haruko couldn't even reach inside the door. You have to be tall!"

"So you're accusing us?" Toshiro gestured to Saori and Renji on his left. "And Kiyoshi?"

The comedian caved. "It's not like I want to..."

When her voice died off I realized what she meant with her words. What it would mean. On instinct I clenched the end of my skirt. Toshiro. Kiyoshi. Renji. Saori. I felt like screaming. How could one of them die? I didn't want any of them to be the blackened but it made sense didn't it? But that would mean one of them used me to hide their crime. One of my friends.

"So how to we figure this out? Establish alibis?" Ryu proposed.

"No." Mae touched his arm. "It's much..." Her brown eyes began to water. "It's much easier than that."

Kyofu immediately looked at her. "What do you mean?"

"I mean...on the handbooks. Even if you receive an anonymous message you can- you can message them back." Mae's eyes found Utsumi's e-handbook.

"So then-?" Chikara began.

"I just send a message back?" I asked fearfully.

Mae nodded slowly.

"That's it?" Kimiko's surprise was clear.

Haruko nodded. "Send the message and their handbook will give them away."

"Well....okay Hon'yomi." Saori tried her best to look encouraging. I wished I knew how she did it. "Send the message."

Send the message she said. Then did that mean she was innocent? Or did that mean she had a trick? Or- wait no. Saoir wouldn't kill Utsumi. I shook my head.

"Come on you have to just do it!" Ryu shouted.

With trembling hands I picked it up. Someone on the other side of this message was the killer. They were the betrayer. The person who killed with intent and used me to try and get away with it. I tapped my way to the messages and sure enough there was a conversation he'd had with someone anonymous. Someone- "Wait. Please." I looked to Toshiro for some sort of help. "Can someone- I mean how did this really happen? Can we just go through it in order? Please?" I couldn't condemn someone without fully understanding why.

Toshiro looked around with uncertantiy. "I think we should- but should I...?"

 

"Go ahead." Kyofu answered quickly.

"If we have any objections you'll know." Ryu assured.

The actor took a breath and agreed. "Alright."

I placed the tablet before me, grateful to be relieved of it's burden.

"We agreed that the killer used messaging to contact Utsumi but let's first talk about why." He began steadily his voice quickly filling with a sense of authority. He was clearly used to speaking before others. "We're not entirely sure which motive led them to kill, or if it was both combined but the motives are the only things that make sense in this situation." He paused waiting for someone to object but one never came. "They had to have come to the decision to kill before hand so they planned." Toshiro gestured to us all. "We all had access to the store so any of us could have seen the sheets. The killer took sheets to cover their clothes, the lighter to get rid of evidence, and the knives with the tape as well. They planned to use the diner as the crime scene because they knew it was an easily manipulated environment, implying that they were indeed present when Saori and I broke it."

"Wait." Chikara glared at him. "You're among the accused why are we letting you explain everything?"

Toshiro challenged the archer with a glance. "I'm only doing this because Hon'yomi asked. This won't change who that message will be sent to."

"Let's let him finish." Kaz said with interest.

I nodded my head. "He's right."

"As Kena said," He continued. "The killer could've only been someone who was present when the door was first broken." Toshiro frowned. "The last night after the announcement and after Hon'yomi passed out-"

"How do you know this happened after she passed out?" Renji said.

"Well...if it had happened before I'm sure she would have heard something. I doubt someone is quiet when...you know..." The actor shrugged. "But uh, after Hon'yomi passed out the killer must have messaged Utsumi having already pulled the seal in the diner door down and was waiting for him to arrive. The killer used the sheets to cover their clothes to avoid getting their victims blood on them."

The longer he spoke the easier it became to imagine it. Moment after moment and with each decision I felt like I could see the events unfolding before me. A nameless, faceless killer and an unsuspecting Chemist.

"Once Utsumi tried to go into the diner, the door got stuck and the killer took their chance, stabbing him to death." The room listened intently, hanging on to his every word. "Um..." Toshiro appeared puzzled as if trying to organize his thoughts. "After they were done they took his handbook from his pocket planning to hide the messages. That's when they took their evidence and went to go burn it. But..." He looked at me. "-they found something unexpected on their way there."

Once again I could see the picture so vidily in my mind. A nameless person with no distinguishable features looking down at me thinking they had been caught.

"Once they realized she was unconscious they took that as their perfect chance to frame her. The killer put the knife in her hand and continued to the lake to burn their supplies. And despite the fact that they had a lighter, because of the rain that night the sheets didn't burn completely and they realized they couldn't burn the handbook. At this point I would assume that they had washed their hands in the lake to remove the blood, but having no way to get rid of the handbook they chose to use Hon'yomi again. That's when they went back and put it in her pocket." Once his finished the dim rainy night faded from my mind and the trial room emerged again.

"I mean...it could've happened in a different order or something but-" He looked sheepish. "That's what makes sense to me."

"I don't think you're far off at all." Kyofu said.

Ryu sighed. "It does seem to make sense at least."

Mae turned to me. "Are you ready Hon'yomi?"

The handbook looked even more dangerous. I had to. I had to.

Unsteady and feeling sick again I returned the tablet to my hands. Navigating my way to the messages it felt to me as if every passing second wasn't real. This was just a fake, a terrible dream and soon I would wake up.

Though of course I could only be wrong. I wasn't that lucky.

The curser blinked making a soft ticking sound. A clock had been running during this trial, and it wasn't for the innocent. Hesitantly I pressed the space button filling the message with nothing. What could I have to say to the blackened anyway? My finger hovered over send. That's all I had to do. I simply had to press it and all this would be over. The person who had betrayed us all would pay. We would never see them again.

We would. Never. See them. Again.

I was afraid I couldn't do it.

"I'll do it." Kena reached over and firmly removed the e-handbook from my hands.

"Are you sure?" Kaz's voice asked.

"Yes." She answered without pause. "I-I think so." Kena regarded the thing like it was a nasty beast that needed to be tamed. The comedian watched it with hatred...like she didn't want to press the button.

In that second I found Kimiko's eyes. I knew I looked the same: overcome with fear.

"Alright." Kena winced but slammed her finger on the send button.

Silence.

And then-

*BEEP* *BEEP*

I wanted to smother that sound. I wanted to silence it and hide it away from our ears. But I also wanted to drag it out, turn it up louder and expose the one whom it proved to be guilty. I wanted them to pay for their betrayal.

 

"What?!" Kyofu's voice pierced through the reverberating sound of the notification. "W-why is it you?!"

"Oh no..." Haruko whispered so quietly I was sure I imagined it.

"It-it can't be you!" Kyofu excalimed

Saori stepped towards Toshiro. "R-Renji?"

Please. What is going on?

"I don't understand." Akemi managed.

What was- why was- why was Renji's pocket beeping?

"Renji- d-don't tell me....you- you killed-" Kiyoshi could managed his words as he watched the Ventriloquist.

I followed his gaze and terror struck me. Renji. Looked. Broken.

"N-n-no he didn't! Of course not!" Kyofu's lips moved silently begging for the right thing to say, but the growing tears in his eyes only made it harder.

"Say something!" Akemi's voice shook.

"God- Renji." Saori touched his shoulder. "Just say it wasn't you okay? You're scaring us."

He didn't move. Yellow eyes were fixed upon a spot on the floor, unmoving. Their color grew paler and paler as more tears took over them.

Kyofu clenched his hands. "S-say it!"

"Renji..." Haruko mumbled.

"I-" His entire body shook, like a chime in a harsh wind, unable to control it's movements or direction. "I can't lie....any...more..." Renji's normally soft, smooth voice gave way to something torn and shattered. It was the voice of someone who lost everything. "I'm-" He looked straight across from where he stood. "I'm sorry."

"What the fuck?!" Kyofu shouted. "What are you saying?! H-how are you saying- why are you- you're lying now!" His breaths came in short gasps between angry tears.

"I'm- I-" Renji looked down. "...not..." He whispered.

"No. Renji- no." Saori shook her head fervently. "You-"

Ryu closed his eyes. "Stop." He shook his head. "Don't lie to yourselves. Shit," His eyes opened. "You all said it. Renji was one of the people who was a suspect."

"He- he was there." Kena said. "When the door broke..."

"NO! Renji wouldn't-"

"Why?" Haruko interrupted Kyofu at a volume I had never heard her speak at before. Her question bounced around the walls and slammed into Renji. "You better-" She stopped suddenly and swallowed the rest of her sentence. "Why?"

Renji still looked down but now he was holding something that was hanging around his neck tightly in a fist. "There's so much...I couldn't- they said- I never wanted-" He swallowed hard. "I didn't think."

"Why!?" She exclaimed with ferocity.

"I needed- I've always wanted to know!" He cried tears staining his face. "And ever since the motive I couldn't-"

"How dare you." Kyofu stiffly stared across the circle at him. "How dare you say that. Y-you didn't do this!"

Renji grit his teeth. "Yes I did!"

The three words slashed through my heart. Yes I did. Yes he did. Renji was saying he did it. He admitted that he really.... "Renji." My voice cut through the sound of the twins crying. "You...killed Utsumi. You framed me?"

He looked at me with guilt carved into every one of his features. "I wasn't thinking. I feel so- I'm so sorry Hon'yomi I never should have done-"

"B-but you did." I glared through the thoughts that dawned on me. The way he had told me he didn't think I was the culprit. The moment in the elevator when he suggested why I could be sick. "Is that what you call an apology?!" I shouted. My own eyes were wet with uncontrollable tears. "You-you try to pretend to help me?!"

"I didn't pretend! I didn't!" He shouted back.

My mouth closed with a snap. I couldn't trust my words anymore. Renji. Oh Renji why?

"Renji." Toshiro spoke with an alarming amount of calmness. "Take out your handbook."

The Ventriloquist looked shaken at the actors tone of voice. After a moment he nodded and carefully removed it from his sweater.

"Open up your messages with Utsumi. Toshiro said.

The room beeped quietly as he tapped the screen. His face trembled and he turned the screen to us. Time stamped and glaringly bright, the proof leapt out at us. Messages as clear as day shone in our faces.

"Oh Renji...." Toshiro muttered, dropping his face into his hands.

"I wasn't going to let you die- any of you!"

"Too late!" Chikara seethed. "You already killed Utsumi! How can you say that now?"

Kyofu searched around wildly. Eyes wide and fearful. I knew he was looking for something to save Renji. "I did it!" He burst out, fighting tears. "I stole R-Renji's handbook and messaged Utsumi. I-I killed him..." He gasped heavily, his lie so evident, so clear- it...it tore a new hole in my heart.

"Stupid..." Haruko's dark eyes watched him with sadness. "No you didn't." She muttered harshly. "Stealing handbooks is against the rules. You would've been punished."

"Damn it Haruko!" Kyofu kicked the podium before him, sending a tremor throughout the room. "SHUT UP!" He glared at her. "Why are you doing this?!"

The seamstress didn't have a chance to cover up her flinch. "Why are you?!" Her gaze was piercing. "If we vote wrong everyone dies!"

"Since when have you cared about dying?!" Kyofu shouted.

"Since when have you not?!" Haruko countered angrily.

Kyofu clenched his head. "Why do you- how you do you- FUCK!" The rogue shoved a finger at her. "Don't pretend like you know me!"

"You just proved that I do with that watch!" She countered.

He winced as if struck in the head. "You don't! You can't!"

"Kyofu-!"

"Puhhuhuhuhu...." Monokuma asserted himself suddenly. "What is this? Are we finally having the class trial? Is it finally time to vote?"

Kyofu whirled around cursing. "No it's not! We haven't even- it's not like we have evidence-"

"Y-yes it is." Akemi spoke past layers of tears pouring down her face. She looked cold, shivering in her white sweater, eyes gleaming red from crying. "Renji I saw-" Her hand flew over her lips to keep the words in.

"What did you see?" Ryu demanded.

She shook her head. "I don't want to say it!"

Kimiko grabbed her hand. "Kemi, what are you talking about?" She asked tearfully.

"I saw- I saw Renji this morning...at the lake..." Akemi looked at the ceiling trying to roll the tears back into her eyes. "He th-threw something into the lake...." She found Renji's face with her eyes. "I asked you what it was and you said it was a rock but now-" The Illustrator hiccupped. "It was too shiny to be a rock..."

"The lighter." Mae breathed.

"Stop it! Will you all just stop!?" Kyofu glared at her. "We're t-talking about Renji! Come on, he would never do this!" Spit flew from his mouth as he shouted, tears following close behind.

"Well what do you want us to do?!" Chikara asked. "Everything it making sense now and he even said he did it himself!"

"He didn't do it!" Kyofu's voice pierced the room, cracking to let in tears. His hands were trembling again but it was different that before. Renji didn't say anything no matter how long Kyofu looked at him. No matter how much his eyes begged for Renji to be wrong. To be lying.

"We must vote." Ryu said. "It's us or- or him." He said soberly.

"Vote..." Haruko mumbled.

Kyofu didn't object. He remained stock still excluding the tremors that had captured his hands.

"Ryu is right guys. Do you want to die?" Chikara asked.

Did I want to die? No. No I didn't. "Let's," I grasped the wooden handle before me. "let's v-vote." What was I saying? Oh what was I doing?

Beside me Kena grabbed hers unwillingly.

I looked up at Renji and I couldn't believe that he wasn't trying to run somehow. How could he be so still? Fear never made me still.

Kaz sniffed. "We just- we just pull the leaver?" He knew that was it. He just didn't want to.

"Y-Yeah." Kiyoshi stuttered.

Saori shook her head. "i c-can't believe this. Are we really doing this?"

"Alright." Ryu directed.

My hand didn't feel cold anymore it felt incrediably hot. I was going to deal a direct killing blow with this hand. My eyes squeezed shut and I yanked on the handle.

The same animation appeared on the screen. Each of our faces spinning like it was just a simple slot machine that gave it's winner money in some smoky casino. One by one each column filled with one face. Renji's.

"Interesting! How wonderful!" Monokuma gleamed with pleasure. He turned towards Kyofu with a smile. "I expected as much from you, but Haruko! You do know that not voting is voting wrong right?" He mocked her happily.

The seamstress stared at the wall across from her. "There's no rule against not voting."

"But it could get us killed." Ryu countered.

 

Monokuma grinned at Renji ignoring Ryu and Haruko. " You just wanted your answer. "Were you ever going to tell on yourself? Did you get scared when the thief got upset and gave his speech?"

"Stay out of this." Mae hiccupped.

Renji shook when he spoke. I wanted him to say it wasn't true. He had to scream at Monokuma and tell him it was lie. But the bear really did know everything.

"Of course you did!" The bear agreed.

Haruko turned to him. "What is it?"

"What is what?" Monokuma asked.

"What is his answer?"

Monokuma looked at Renji. "Ask away!"

"W-what?" He looked up with s stricken face.

The bear smiled. "Arakawa asked for you so nicely."

Kyofu leaned forward. "Renji! What are you-"

"Where is she?" The words left his mouth immediately. Still tight in his hand Renji gestured with the object around his neck.

"She?" Monokuma held a paw over his mouth like his was thinking. "Hmmmm...where is she?" His eye gleamed. "Where is WHO?!"

The room jumped at his screech.

"Where. Is. Who? Where is she?!" Monokuma shook his head. "The hell if I know! I don't even know who the 'she' is you're talking about!"

Renji's face trembled. "You said-"

"I said I'd answer any question! IF you survived the trial! I was just nice enough to answer it now! Besides I never said I'd give you the right answer."

"Despicable." Saori spat. "You cruel-"

"Call me what you want I've been called it before!" Monokuma shouted in a sing song voice.

"You forgot something!" Kiyoshi cried suddenly. "You-you forgot..." He looked around in fear, terrified to have Monokuma's attention. "You forgot your other motive..."

"Hmmm?" Monokuma cocked his head. "Did I?"

"Yes." He said.

"Kiyoshi is right!" Mae said. "Monokuma you said you'd give the blackened memories after the next person died."

"Oh? Did I?"

"What do you mean?" Saori demanded.

"Ahahahaha! You Ultimates, you think you're so clever but you are just too easy to fool!" He shook his head. "I said that I would give you back memories. I never said I'd give the blackened memories."

"What does that mean?" Toshiro asked.

"It means that the survivors of this trial will get back memories!" Monokuma exclaimed.

"Huh?!" I felt shocked as if by lightning.

"We-we get them?" Kena gasped.

"Puhuhuhu! Yes!" Monokuma looked at Renji, brushing our surprise aside. "So! Are you ready?"

"NO!" Kyofu bellowed.

Renji didn't react to his voice. His eyes where fixed upon the bear. Every ounce of strength seemed to have left his body.

The rogue blinked like he was coming out of a daze. "What did you do?!" He screamed at us. "You-you voted-" His eyes shot across the screen in disbelief. "You all be-betray...." Kyofu turned to the blackened. "Renji. Renji look at me!"

Renji closed his eyes.

"Renji! Renji!" A broken voice attacked the room. It scraped the walls looking for an escape to save the person across from it. "Renji!" Kyofu gaped at him. 'Why won't you..." He suddenly grew tense as a spring. I heard Ryu gasp looking at Kyofu with amazement.

The rogue lunged. He sprang from his place and sprinted around the ring of podiums towards Renji. My feet felt like lead just watching the speed at which he moved.

"Don't!" Ryu shouted. The Hitman stepped back from his place as if getting ready to stop him.

"Kyofu!" Just as he nearly rushed past, Toshiro lept at him, arms wrapping around Kyofu like a vice.

"Let go!" He screamed, bashing the back of his head into Toshiro, breaking his hold. Kyofu didn't get far. Ryu appeared before him so swiftly that even Kyofu hadn't noticed during his struggle with Toshiro. Ryu grabbed Kyofu holding him in a lock.

"You want to make things worse?!" The hitman yelled.

"FUCK YOU!" Kyofu said. He began to worm his way out of his grasp but Toshiro grabbed him just in time. "Let me go! Renji!" He had eyes only for him. "Renji!" Kyofu broke down into sobs his struggle growing weaker. "It's a lie. It's a lie. It's a lie!" He choked loudly on another sob. "Renji!"

Movement drew my attention away from the chaos that was unfolding with the smallest of movements. The bear -who sat above all with a pleased expression- he held a hammer in a paw. It was much like ones real judges used in courtrooms.

"Renji!"

"LET'S GIVE IT EVERYTHING WE'VE GOT!" Monokuma gloated over Kyofu's cries. His red eye shone with brilliance, feeding off the despair in the room. "IT'S PUNISHMENT TIME!"

The hammer crashed into a red button I had never seen before and in the next moment I blinked, and Renji was gone. Another animation played upon the screen, some sort of pixilated joke.

RENJI BELLAMY HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY.

Bellamy?

A chibi version of Monokuma roughly grasped an animated Renji, hauling him off the screen. The Ventriloquist vanished from our sight and the lights lowered along the ceiling.....

 

~The screen lit up the dark trial room. The light was a sickly grey, so dim that it couldn't even chase the shadows from the curtains along the walls. Thirteen pairs of eyes watched the grey light with horror and wonder. Partially stricken with guilty curiosity and more than partially terrified. How could they know what would happen next?

Shadowed in a dark room the shape of their companion emerged. Darkness from the lack of light clung to his tall body, making it hard to see clearly. Although Monokuma had a fix for that. In a flash the screen hummed with green light, projecting the ventriloquist with clear night vision. Fear was plain on his face, even in the strange glow. It was hard to miss the tremors that overtook his body, or the quick rise and fall of his chest. Silence crept around him, almost like the captivated hush of an audience before a show. It left him blind and helpless with nothing to give him a sense of direction.

Something made him turn. Perhaps it was the feeling of familiarity, but what about this was familiar? Yet there it was again. A faint whisper in the dark, a tremor of sound inviting him to escape. A group of voices whispering his name.

"Renji!"

"Renji this way!"

"Come on the door is over here!"

Trapped in a column of cries he spun around, eyes starving for a sliver of light. For a sliver of hope. His friends were calling him, telling him how to reach freedom. His heart pulsed, even after what he did they wouldn't lead him astray.

"Get out of there!"

 

"Hurry up!"

Renji turned, giving up on his fear of crashing into something. Maybe he could get out this. And they wanted him to! He heard them all, Saori, Mae, Kena, Toshiro, Hon'yomi. Even the twins, Kaz, Kiyoshi, Chikara and Ryu. Haruko and Kyofu....

He stumbled through blackness lead only by the trust he had to put in his companions. Renji had never been afraid of the dark before but now it felt like a living thing. The darkness felt like an endless sea of cold heaviness that weighed down on his entire being. He felt like he was wading in it, limbs growing heavier and heavier with a nameless burden.

"Renji!" Saori's voice called.

His keen ears could place the direction the voices came from now. He ran, growing more and more desperate with each passing second.

"Where are you?!" He heard Kyofu shout.

"I'm here!" He answered. Renji ran even faster towards the voices that would save him. He forced his way through the blackness, inch by inch growing closer and closer.

Suddenly, ominous and pale, a light emerged. The screen in the trial room shimmered to normal, the green fading away into the natural light. Renji stood before two doors. One white, one black. He faltered, hands raised to block the light which he longed for so dearly.

"Renji!" That could only be Toshiro.

"You're running out of time!" Hon'yomi cried from behind the white door.

Renji crashed into it, hand smashing on the handle ready to tear it open when-

"Renji?" Haruko spoke uneasily from the black door just beside him.

Renji froze eyes passing between the doors.

"Come on it's this way!" Akemi said from the white door.

"You'll be alright!" Kena called from the black one.

He felt his hand grow weak on the white door's handle. He had to choose. It wasn't- this hadn't been fair to begin with. Renji stepped back eyes wide. He didn't want to die. He could feel the dread inside, he could feel the absolute ultimatum. There was nothing that could save him.

"Please, we're waiting for you." Kaz sounded so frightened, just beyond the black door.

He couldn't move. He was too afraid. Couldn't he just stand there forever?

"Renji?" Kyofu spoke from the white door. "Renji come on."

The Ventriloquist squeezed his eyes shut, tears splashing to the floor. There was an illusion here. He knew all about those. And that illusion was hope. Renji didn't let himself think. He slowly turned in circle, blindly reached forwards and chose.

 

As he stepped through the door-the door from which their voices could only be from- it easily swung shut behind him. Renji turned in terror, drowned in an abrupt spotlight pouring over his features. He didn't have a chance to run. He wasn't given a moment to reach for the handle. Screeching of metal on metal brought his eyes up. Up above where he stood. Renji glanced just in time to see a platform of spikes hurling their way towards him -until- the Ventriloquist saw no more.

On the other side of the screen the rest of the town watched, horror on their faces with voices that had been silent since the execution began.~

SURVIVING STUDENTS: 13

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Blood was splayed across the screen. It left no inch unmarked. The image didn't fade right away, allowing us watch the trails of red slide down the lens. Then all at once the camera fell to static leaving us in momentary darkness. No one said anything as the lights fell, but when they rose again so did our voices. Our real voices.

"R-Renji..." Saori gazed at the screen with horror. "Oh fuck....." The singer shook her head, wiping tears from her cheeks.

Beside me Kiyoshi sniffed loudly, trying to muffle his tears.

Loud sobs from my right joined in the chaos of cries and tearful exclamations that rushed around the room.

I felt sick but it was a different kind of sickness than before. He stole our voices. He-he stole our words! I slammed my fist on the podium. "M-Monokuma..." I grit my teeth, tasting the salt from my tears. I couldn't- I didn't- how could this have happened?! I closed my eyes tightly and a vicious realization slammed into my mind. "God...." I could barely breathe. "....we....we k-killed him." Raising my tear-filled eyes I looked at the bear with hatred. "Monokuma."

For once he didn't burst into our reaction with a snide or sarcastic remark. It was like he was waiting for something.

A loud beep echoed throughout the room and the screen lit up again. It shimmered with shades of blues and greens, displaying an object.

Obtained Present: Pierre!

Something fell from the ceiling landing in front of Monokuma. I managed to have enough wits about myself to peer around the people who stood nearby the object. A small stuffed bunny, light pink in color laid on the floor. Something silver gleamed around it's neck- a locket of some sort but that was all.

The screen faded to darkness again.

I realized in the next moment Kyofu had bent down and picked up the stuffed animal from where it landed at his feet. Both Toshiro and Ryu blinked as if remembering to watch him suddenly, but Kyofu didn't react. He didn't even appear to have looked at the bunny. He just held it tightly and stared at the painted walls, silent tears drifting down his cheeks.

I found it hard to understand. I didn't know why -out of all of us- Kyofu was so....heartbroken. I felt the shared horror and sadness swirling in the room, but Kyofu was his own element of sorrow. Just what had I failed to notice?

"Before you all go," Monokuma announced. "I have one more thing for you all- if you remember." He grinned at his own joke.

"Remember!" Chikara glared at him.

"The memories." Kena breathed numbly.

Saori shook her head. "C-can't you give us a moment!?"

The bear grumbled. "Give you a moment?! Give you a moment?! I've been patient enough with you all! You don't get your moment!"

Of course we didn't... we never got anything good from this bear, despite the fact that half of his body appeared to be good. It was just a cruel misnomer.

Ryu looked up at him. "You're really going to give us our memories back?"

Monokuma glowered. "Of course not! I'm just going to give you a memory back."

"Just one?" I mumbled.

"How is that possible?" Kena asked.

"Don't worry about how." The bear said. "Just know that it is possible." The arm of his chair slid open then, revealing another button. I held my breath afraid of what this one would do. "Ehem! This is an announcement." It sounded as though his voice grew ten times louder. "You will now return to your places and drink the solution at your podium!"

"Wh-what solution?" Akemi managed.

Monokuma smashed a paw onto the new button in response.

The right post of each of our stands slid open and rising from it were individual vials of a bright orange liquid.

"Well?" Monokuma shouted at Ryu and Kyofu. "Hurry up!"

Ryu didn't move, he watched Kyofu warily. "What if we don't want to drink this....this solution?"

Monokuma huffed. "Do I need to make a new rule?"

Ryu glared at him with hatred. "Fuck off." He said, and walked slowly back to his place.

"Kyofu." Toshiro lay a hand on his shoulder. "Come on."

Kyofu -who hadn't moved a muscle other than to pick up the bunny- shoved his hand away. Toshiro stumbled slightly, worry returning to his face but Kyofu wasn't focused on him.

"W-what have you done?" His voice shuddered with an emotion I was too afraid to name.

Once again I was caught up in trying to understand his reaction...but if we really had known each other before...

Kyofu glared up at the gloating Monokuma. There was no doubt that the bear was thoroughly enjoying this. And while he might have been, the rest of us weren't. Haruko watched Kyofu carefully, like she was preparing to act at a moments notice. Toshiro inched closer to the Rogue and I was glad he did. If Kyofu did anything rash....we might witness another death on this day....

Kyofu lifted the stuffed rabbit from his side and gazed at it like it withheld an answer from him. "Why?"

Nervously I glanced at Kena. She returned my look of worry in an instant. We couldn't be sure of what would happen next.

"Why?" He repeated.

Toshiro took a step towards him again. "Kyofu, let's just-"

"Why?! Why did this happen?!" He shook uncontrollably, clenching the rabbit and turned a hateful gaze towards the bear. "This didn't need to happen!"

"Puhuhuhuhu! If you're look-"

"SHUT UP!" For the second time Kyofu lunged forwards. He threw himself at the base of Monokuma's chair, grasping the rungs with violent anger.

I stepped back wanting to stop him but from where I stood I could never make it in time. I glanced around quickly. Someone had to- someone had to stop him!

"Toshiro!" Mae screamed.

Toshiro- who seemed to have frozen in shock- shook himself and charged towards Kyofu, but he wasn't the only one. Haruko crashed into the Rogue first, throwing her arms around his, pinning them to his side.

"Let go!" Kyofu shouted. He wrenched one arm free, but Toshiro was quick to grab it.

"Stop it." Haruko said, voice calm but face strained with worry.

Kyofu struggled in their grasp. "Let go! I have to- I have to-" His words were consumed by short gasping breaths.

"Have to what?" Haruko asked firmly. "What?" She and Toshiro managed to haul him away from the chair. The Seamstress shook him slightly. "You can't do anything right now."

Kyofu shook his head. "Shut-"

"It's useless if you're dead too!" She insisted, her words carrying throughout the room.

We all watched with uncertain anxiety.

Kyofu tried to blink back tears but had no success. His dark eyes shimmered with relentless pain and tears overwhelmed him.

 

"It's useless if you're dead too!" She repeated earnestly.

Kyofu tried to wrench himself from her grasp again. "Let go." He didn't sound angry anymore...he sounded spiritless...

Haruko paused. "Are you going to-"

"LET go." He said harshly.

Haruko started lightly but quickly complied. She stepped back to a comfortable distance, cautiously watching him.

Toshiro released Kyofu uneasily but swiftly returned to his podium.

Kyofu stood frozen for a few moments before senselessly walking back to his place. He didn't look at any of us, keeping his eyes on the ground.

Haruko seemed to relax when he finally returned, and smoothly retook her spot.

 

"Alllllright!" Monokuma declared. "Now that everyone is back in their places...BOTTOMS UP!"

"H-hang on." Kiyoshi said. "How do we know this isn't going to kill us?" The thin vial looked so tiny in his hand. He regarded it with uncomfortable distaste.

"It won't kill us." I said loudly.

"You sound so sure Hon'yomi." Toshiro looked puzzled with me.

I glared up at the bear. "He wouldn't kill us off like this. It would ruin his fun."

Monokuma looked pleased. "Puhuhuhu!"

"This has to be a trick." Chikara insisted. "How is he going to give us back a memory? Obviously he didn't want us to have it in the first place!"

"I don't know..." Kimiko looked at the vial in her hand cautiously.

"Fuck it." Ryu said. "Let's do this." He reached out for Mae's hand, who grasped it tightly. "Well?" He glared at us.

"B-but-" Kiyoshi began.

"We have no choice either way!" Saori said. "Besides, I think Hon'yomi is right. It won't kill us." She regarded the solution with a glare.

"Then...are we ready?" Toshiro asked, holding his hear his mouth.

 

I took a shaky breath and picked mine up. "O-okay." A memory the bear said. What kind of memory would it be? I couldn't imagine what he would let us remember, because our lack of memories clearly meant we knew something he didn't want us knowing now.

Beside me Kiyoshi and Kena prepared themselves and before long we all stood, ready to take this chance. Even Kyofu clenched the vial in his hand.

"Let's go." Ryu said.

I poured the chemical down my throat. It tasted sweet -intense with the syrupy texture of medicine- but sweet all the same.

At first nothing happened, I felt no change in body or mind. The room didn't warp or swirl to indicate if it we had been given drugs. In fact, we stood in silence for so long I began to feel my anger resurface. I opened my mouth planning to yell at Monokuma but then something did change. All at once everything around me began to feel detached. It was like I was taking a step outside of myself. The vial in my hand disappeared and the floor beneath my feet vanished.

Breathing heavily I felt myself slam against the railing, blinking in surprise. I didn't remember falling. With no control I collapsed as my body grew increasingly weak. The loud pounding of my heart echoed through my mind and I gasped as I felt my head began to split open. The trial room began faded and sweat gathered on my face. Had I been wrong? Was Monokuma killing us? As seconds passed the room vanished with each breath I took until I could see it no more.

I didn't recognize where I stood in the memory but the awareness of my past mind told me that it was Hope's Peak- or what was left of it. I was among masses of rubble and debris standing in the shadow of the main building...and I wasn't alone.

"Let go!" I shouted, struggling to be free from the iron grip that held me fast. The huge arms stayed wrapped around my waist and neck, keeping me pinned against my captors body.

They've caught us. They've caught us. They've caught us. How stupid we were to think that we could save them! I gasped loudly, wishing I could kick the person who held me. Rika had been right.

I turned my eyes to the center of our circle again. Rika remained standing strong and proud, the perfect picture of strength. Her long blonde braid shined in the sunlight, and her pale green sweater and white pants made her look untouchable. But that's all it was. A picture. None of us had any real strength here. Not even her.

"Please Rika! We'll be alright just leave!" Akemi shouted from my right. I panicked, fighting to move my head to see my classmates, but the hold on me was too fast.

The voice of the girl who I remembered was holding Mae, laughed. "Listen to them!"

"I almost pity them." An unrecognizable voice said from my left. It sounded anything but serious.

"Well, shall we get this over with?!" The man in the mask looked up to the school building as if expecting it to answer him.

I began my struggle all over again. "What are you talking about?!" I fought to break free but the arm wrapped around me could've been a steel bar. "Let go!" I could feel bruises beginning to form around my waist and hips.

A whirring sound filled the ruined space echoing from the building.

The girl with Kimiko laughed. "About time."

Overcome with blind fear I began kicking at the person behind me. "Stop it!" It was madness! This place...these people....if they could even be called people. I had never felt so trapped before. "Just-just-!"

Kiyoshi's terrified shouts overcame mine. "Get out of here Rika!" His voice cracked loudly from the onslaught of tears.

"Please!" I screamed, pausing to plead at her.

"Don't just stand there!" Mae cried.

Rika Madoka shook her head and suddenly it felt like we were back in the classroom. "Nonsense." She said like she had so many times at her desk from the front of the room. It was impossible to fight off the unrelenting onslaught of familiarity. Rika knew what she was doing. She always did. Inside her classroom and out.

Well. That was what she was trying to say.

I struggled harder than I ever had before. It couldn't even compare to the time I had raced down the exploding school halls running from despair. Not even when I had rushed through the city in fear. I felt an uncageable, desperate fury that propelled me forwards again and again and again. My hair flew in my eyes, and the rocks rolled beneath my feet. Glimpses of the sky and building shot across my vision but in all my aspiring efforts the arms around me did not budge and I could do nothing to stop what was to happen.

"Rika!"

My heart beat faster and faster. What are they going to do? Why doesn't she run?!

"Don't-don't please! Just let us go please!"

I couldn't recognize our own voices anymore. Not even my own. I was sure I was shouting, what else could I do?

The cool morning that had once been filled with so much hope had wasted away to darkness. Rika stood before a group of people who loved and hated her. She faced something we had only heard about- but she had never looked more like herself than ever before.

Even with words scraping through my throat, and feet crushing the stones beneath me I didn't miss the look in her eye or the words she proclaimed loudly.

"Remember." Rika's bright green eyes fluttered once, letting a single tear escape. "Hope grows." She took a shuddering breath and I saw her fear.

"R-Rika...." I had never seen that look in her eyes.

 

An echoing smash clouded the air with unwanted noise.

She took one last breath. "I love you al-"

The sound like a cracking of a whip slashed through her words. Rika's body jolted with unexpected impact and hurled towards the earth.

I felt sound tear through my throat as another crash filled the skies, jolting her body once more.

Then it happened again.

And again.

And again.

Incomprehensible screaming was just loud enough to be heard over the explosions of gunfire. Unwavering masses of confused shouts and horrified cries made the moment even louder.

She was being shot- they were shooting- but...but Rika kept moving. She kept moving. Why did she keep moving? She- she- shouldn't she be- how was she still moving?!

Something began breaking. Something was decaying and wilting in on itself internally. A shattered sense of what was real and what was understood meshed itself into my mind into something I couldn't read.

Why wasn't the gun stopping? "She's still moving leave her alone!" Why didn't she stop moving?

Red. Red was everywhere. Green melted to red, pink faded to red, white was dyed red, the stone the earth the rubble the building the sky the face the skin red red red red red red red red red red red was everything.

"Make it go away." I pleaded, but no one could hear me. "MAKE IT STOP!" I sensed freedom as the bar around my waist disappeared. My knees crashed to knife like stones beneath me, making more red. Blood.

Now it grew silent.

The artificial thunder from before retreated back into itself. The hissing and heat of metal vanished, returning to where it came from. The tall building stood still again, like it hadn't dealt out death like a prize.

"R-rika....." I raised my eyes from the battered ground. "RIKA!" Insanity reigned as I leaped towards her. I had to wake her up! I had to clean her off! She shouldn't be covered in so much blood...she shouldn't look so lifeless....her body shouldn't look so broken, so-so in so many p-pieces.... "Rika?" I tried to move forward again, but my body wouldn't move. I couldn't command my knees to bend or hands to push myself off the ground to my feet.

"You son of bitch..." Someone said. "You cruel, sick, lifeless people!" A commotion arose around me, but I didn't look. I couldn't look away. "You're fucking-" Words were cut off abruptly. Had that been Hana yelling?

"She asked to be punished!" A sick voice cried with pleasure. "So we obliged."

"Rika!"

"She's-she's-she's-"

"What did you do to her?!"

 

Hands hauled me from the ground, but I still saw Rika laying empty and lifeless, reduced to-to.... I didn't know what I was looking at.

"She's dead because you thought you could save your friends!" The man in the mask walked across my vision. "You've all said we're insane, but if that's true...then what are you? To think you could come and stop the Ultimate Despair! That's som....."

He kept talking, his mask shifting with his words but they were taken from my mind. I couldn't follow the conversation anymore. I couldn't follow his shape. My mind wouldn't let me chase the memory of the rest of this moment.

I opened my eyes, staring at a ceiling far above me. I could feel trembling in my body. Uncontrollable shaking felt like my entire existence. I was in back in the trial room. I hadn't actually left. It was just-just a memory.

A menacing wave of discomfort infested my mind as it felt like a hammer ripped a nail from my head.

New hope we've grown has been murdered, by despair in our land.

The new phrase pulsed in my head like it had it's own heart. It pushed against my eyes making them ache.

"What-" I heard Kiyoshi's voice just above me. "I don't...."

I blinked, unable to make my body stop shaking.

"Oh my God...." I heard Saori breathe. "What-what was that?"

The ceiling above me flickered like my eyes had bad reception.

New hope we've grown has been murdered, by despair in our land.

It was back. The poem....

"W-who was that?" Toshiro spoke next, his voice unstable with fear.

Who. Yes, who? Who was that, who were those people who- how? When? "Rika..." Her name fell off my lips naturally.

I heard a gasp from Kena. "Rika!"

"Who was she?!" Chikara shouted.

"I-I think she was our teacher..." Mae whispered.

I took a breath, trying to overcome my tremors. I had to stand up. I had to get to my feet.

"Teacher?"

"K-Kiyoshi?" I felt tears building up in my eyes.

I heard him turn and saw him emerge above me. "Hon'yomi!"

My eye lids fluttered. "I-I can't get up."

He looked confused but nodded. "I'll help you." Kiyoshi bent down, carefully sliding an arm around my back and slung my arm around his shoulder.

Once right side up I felt my shaking lessen, and my feet began to feel grounded. "Th-thanks." I stuttered.

Kiyoshi nodded and slowly released me. I held tightly to the rails around me.

I saw that I wasn't the only one weakened. Kyofu was hunched over, head in his hands and Kaz sat slumped on the floor, hands wrapped around the rungs of his podium.

"So? Did you like it?" Monokuma asked.

"Like it? Like it?!" Ryu shouted.

I closed my eyes. Like it? I didn't even- I couldn't even think about it. There was so much blood....so much- so many- so...so...

Shouting ensued around me. Crying. Questions. Explanations.

New hope we've grown has been murdered, by despair in our land.

I clung to my podium, wincing at the pain the line brought me.

Hope grows.....that was what she said wasn't it?

She said it. Rika said it. And they- they killed her...

"They killed her." I said. I felt sobs growing in my chest. "Th-they they killed Rika!" I felt something inside me break, releasing grief I didn't even know I carried. "I don't even no why...." Anger joined my grief and I sank to my knees a loud sob bursting from my lips.

"Why?" Between my cries I caught Haruko mutter the single word.

Why? Why was any of this happening?! The question only made me cry harder. I couldn't understand -how would I ever know?! So much was happening, Hana, Utsumi, Renji.....Rika...

I slapped my hands over my eyes wishing I could shove the tears away.

"Monokuma. Are you finally finished with us?" I heard Haruko ask.

The ding of the elevator was answer enough. "You're free to go." He said darkly.

Just like that? We could go?

I lifted my head, longing to be free of this dark room. I didn't know how to process the things I had seen here today.

"Seriously?!" Saori's voice bounced around the room. "You-you make us- you show us something- something like that and you just-"

"You're free to go." Monokuma repeated fiercely.

 

"Let's go." Ryu grasped hands with a tearful Mae, and I was surprised to see his own eyes were watery. The Dancer nodded, letting him lead her away from the stands.

Kaz was quick to climb to his feet and rush towards the elevator, tears in his eyes. The twins followed closely, holding to each other tightly. They didn't look at any of us.

 

"Hon'yomi." I jumped, hearing Toshiro's voice in my ear. I turned my head in surprise, having not noticed him walking over. He held out a hand. "Come on."

I blinked once, the phrase fracturing my focus one last time.

New hope we've grown has been murdered, by despair in our land.

I had to tell someone about it. About all of it. The lines that came to me, the paper I found.....I looked at Toshiro, waiting for me to move. Maybe I could tell him.

Fueled by this thought I took his hand, letting him pull me to my feet. I stumbled unsteadily away from the trail gladly. I noticed Haruko whispering softly to Kyofu walking ahead of us, but he didn't appear to be hearing her voice or comprehending her words.

We didn't know what to say. While we filled up the elevator our voices quieted and died. I found myself leaning heavily on Toshiro, tears streaming down my face. Renji was dead. I saw the spot where he always stood in the elevator, now vacant. Renji was dead. I just saw him die. And he wasn't the only one.

Rika. Our teacher? Hope's Peak in ruins?

I coughed loudly into the Actor shoulder. My head felt like it could burst at any second. I felt a sense of absolute terror. What was going on here? What had already happened? What did that memory really mean? What was the new hope we had grown? Murdered....despair....hadn't I thought that in my memory? Running from despair..... like it was more than a feeling. More than a state of mind.......like it was a thing or-or people.....Ultimate Despair that man had said....was it a person?

Despair. I knew my vocabulary.

Despair: the complete loss or absence of hope.

Hope. Was that the key here?

Hope: an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large.

The Mono bear...half Hope, half Despair. In conflict with itself?

Hope versus Despair. Was that what was going on here? If so, just what kind of war were we unknowingly in?

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When I finally made it back to my house, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table. It was long past nightfall and I felt tiredness scratching at the back of my eyes, but I was afraid to sleep. I didn't have nightmare's all the time, but I was frightened of dreaming about the memory, or the execution....

I never wanted to see anything remotely like those things ever again.

In a way, things were beginning to fall into place though. I just didn't want to pursue the thought of how we ended up here. Or who made us end up here.

I thought I had exhausted any chance of crying more tears, but I felt some slip down my face anyway. I felt haunted. Like I if I glanced over my shoulder I'd see the horrors of today just waiting for my attention.

I rested my face on the table, hair falling around it. Renji. Renji...he'd been my friend hadn't he? When he made me tea and preformed a little puppet show....when he asked if I was okay.... More tears escaped my eyes. Renji...no matter what happened before....he was the one who put the weapon in my hand.

But why? Oh why? Oh why did he do it? He had a question?

I felt myself cringe. Even I had considered the possibility of being able to ask that question myself. But I didn't know what to think of him. Not right now.

I felt my limbs sink with the heaviness of exhaustion. Slumping against the table I yawned past my tears. I should probably...go to bed...

*Ding dong. Bing bong.*

Another announcement.

Another day.

I lifted my head from the wooden table groaning, deeply regretting not falling asleep in my bed. My neck ached in three places but it was my own fault. Light peeked through the window beside my front door. It was definitely morning but what was there to do? Feeding myself would probably be a good idea but-

"It might be an allergy."

 

Was it? Or had he been lying to me then? Or was it through guilt that Renji had been trying to help me?

I sighed. My stomach felt heavy anyway so I figured on sticking with something light. Popcorn maybe? It was my favorite food.

I shook my head, trying to busy myself with thoughts of food wasn't working entirely. I could still remember the shaking I felt when the memory ended. The feeling of loss when that woman...Rika-

 

I stopped my thought quickly.

 

I rose from the table and tried to think of nothing. Nothing at all. Emptiness would be welcome in this environment. I jumped a little, suddenly remembering something. Hadn't I said I would wake someone up every morning?

I busied myself with thoughts of doing just that while I freshened up in the bathroom. Normal thoughts would help me ignore the other ones....

I left my house quickly, and blinked in the morning light. No one else was in immediate sight, but I doubted anyone was asleep. Making sure my door was locked I stepped out into the small street and turned left. Toshiro's house was right next to mine so it wasn't long before I stood in front of his door. I sighed rubbing my eyes and knocked lightly on the door. I found myself hoping that he'd already be up, I didn't feel like pounding on a door just at the moment.

Unfortunately there was no answer. Honestly just how heavily did this guy sleep? I knocked again, this time clear and loud. I waited....but there was no response. I felt like rolling my eyes, and slammed my fist on the door again when- the resistance from the door vanished as my knock pushed it open.

I shot back a few steps as fast as possible. I didn't want anyone to think I was trying to break in or something! But...that was strange, why wouldn't his door be closed properly? I waited again, but Toshiro didn't come to the door. I paused, I mean I was only trying to wake him up.... I stepped forward, hand pushing the door a bit more ajar but it was suddenly ripped from my hand.

"Oh!" I jumped back again in alarm.

Toshiro had the same bleary look in his eyes just like the time before but...damn...he had a shirt on this time.

"Um...your door was open a bit." I said.

He blinked. "Wait really?" He glanced down at the handle. "I swore I locked it last night."

I shrugged trying to explain. "I don't know, all I did was knock and it popped open."

Toshiro sighed, "I'll have Kiyoshi look at it." He looked at me. "Good thing it was just you, huh?"

Inwardly I frowned. "I guess?" I said uncertainly.

He nodded. "Well, thanks for waking me."

I shook my head and he pushed the door shut.

Well.

I turned away and headed to the street again. I wasn't looking forward to returning to the square but I felt hunger gnawing at me.

A shuddering crash abruptly interrupted my thoughts. I spun around in surprise, confused by the direction. It was like it came from Kyofu's house.

"He's been like that for a while." Haruko said, coming to my side.

I jumped again in shock.

"Sorry." She said automatically. Haruko however didn't look at me. She kept her eyes on the Rogue's house.

At first glance she didn't look any different than before. Her clothes were still neat, her hair still tied away to the side, but her face looked more strained. Like it was taking all the energy she had to keep it calm.

Another crash came from the house. My eyes flickered to it with fear. "Is he- I mean, he wouldn't...you know..."

Haruko shook her head. "I don't think so."

"Well...have you tried to talk to him?"

"A few times." She sighed. "But he won't answer."

I studied the house, fear for Kyofu filling me. "But how do you know? I mean- can't you find a way in?" I didn't want to hold a trial for Kyofu next.

"I probably....if I got Kaz I probably could..." Haruko looked at me. "But I don't think I should do that...yet..."

I watched her closely, suddenly very uneasy. "Are you sure?"

The Seamstress just nodded.

"Do you know why- I mean-" I puffed out my cheeks, blowing out air. Why had it become so difficult to talk now?

Thankfully she somehow understood. "They were different." She winced slightly, "More than friends...is what I assume."

Oh. I guess that made sense. More than friends. The pool, the sweater...the trial...

I felt tears rise up within me again. "I'm gonna go eat." I said. Haruko nodded again, and I took off.

I couldn't imagine....I didn't want to....

My feet quickly lead me to the square and I stopped dead in my tracks. There was the diner, but it was perfect now. The blood from before had vanished, Utsumi had vanished, and the shiny new gleam of sliver indicated that the entire door had been replaced. I was beyond trying to figure out how anymore.

I made my way to the store, once again working to ignore the horrors behind me. Popcorn. That was what was important now. I pulled open the glass door and I saw that I wasn't the only one here.

Saori was at the refrigerated shelves, her green jacket carelessly thrown around her shoulders. I walked in quietly, but she seemed to notice my presence. "Hey Hon'yomi." She turned to face me, holding a tray of sushi tightly in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other. "Can you tell everyone that I'm fine. I'm just gonna go back home. I'm still pretty tired." I could tell she was using that line as an excuse, but I didn't blame her. I wondered if she was lost, thinking about last night...

"Um...yeah." I agreed.

Saori muttered a thanks and made her way out.

Thankfully popcorn was abundant and with extra butter too! I stocked up, grabbing four un-popped bags and two pre-popped bags. I preferred fresh popcorn but I didn't feel like going in the diner to use the microwave. With my food in hand I glanced around the store. I had never really noticed the assortment of things in here. Along the farthest wall I saw hoses for gardening, wire cutters, the black sheets, and even small gnome statues. I didn't really understand why Monokuma (or whoever) would've bothered with making sure half of those things were here.

I shrugged and exited myself. I didn't know where to go now. Not the arcade, it was too dark, or Town Hall, it was too empty. I turned to my left, maybe the pool....

As I looked past Town Hall and the store I realized that I could look farther than I could before. The once metal wall separating the pool, gym, and square from any other structures was gone. Instead the alley way had been extended to another metal wall farther along. I bit my lip and looked around to see if anyone else had possibly noticed, but no one else was in sight. I took off, half running and half walking. I welcomed this new distraction even more. What would we get this time? Was it going to be something useful? I rushed by the pool and gym carelessly and made my way to an old brick building.

It was extremely plain, except for the huge sliding metal door that looked to be about four inches thick. The door was a sight to take in. Millions of colors, drawings and shapes were displayed beautifully across it's surface. I stepped closer, my eye catching a lined drawing of the silhouette of a woman, her hair blowing slightly in an unseen wind. I noticed, just above the drawing a small button, cleverly hidden by a whirling mixture of color. Struck with curiosity I pressed it lightly. The once solid metal door lit up from within, making the surface appear milky and in some places almost see through. Now, paint and drawings weren't the only things on it. The light from within now displayed words. Words of all shapes and sizes. I stared in awe at the beautiful lines and phrases I found.

But we let go, take a deep breath...

My eyes trailed from the top, plucking up words here and there.

Go on. Go on. Make them know your name!

 

No more silent tears. No more gazing across the wasted years...

 

I paused at that one, I recognized it somehow...wasn't that from a song?

Stay and make a difference

I froze. In life and in you... Eyes wide, I set my bags of popcorn down and reached for the poem in my sock. Fighting to keep my hand steady I lifted the paper to the door, comparing the handwriting. They were a perfect match. In fact, that wasn't the only one it matched, 'Go on. Go on. Make them know your name', also lined up with my writing. My heart raced as I scanned the door for more.

 

You're better than the best...

Not mine...

 

L'amour fait un imbécile se transformer en roi

I paused. Not mine but...I looked just below it, surprised to see my handwriting again.

Ç'est votre histoire d'amour.

 

That was definitely my writing but, since when did I know French?

I scanned the door again, seeing if anything else familiar stuck out to me.

 

If music be the food of love play on.

I knew that one immediately. It was Shakespeare but it wasn't my writing.

 

I followed a series of music notes the blended into a description of the sea, when I suddenly realized what this meant.

If that was my writing....if this was our doing....that meant....that meant....we had been here before?!

No no, hang on. I shook my head. Why would we have been here? I wasn't from here, I could still remember that much. This wasn't Hope's Peak, I knew what that looked like. But if it was in ruins in the memory...and this town- seemingly having been a real one before this...but still why were we here?! When were we even here?! I looked at the door, we had to have been here a while to do this...

Another scrawled sentence in loopy handwriting caught my eye making my thoughts freeze.

Hope Grows.

"Remember. Hope Grows..."

 

Rika. That woman had been here too. She had been with us then... I shook my head. If she really was our teacher and- and Hope's Peak was destroyed...then we had to have been here to...escape something?

The light illuminating the door flickered out, making the words fade and the door appear solid again. If this was what was outside....what would I find inside?

Hesitantly I reached for the long handle on the right, and slid the door open. Surprisingly, it was lighter than I expected. I only had to put in minimal effort to pull it open. The moment I set foot inside I had to shield my eyes for a moment. I squinted past the brightness to notice that the entire ceiling was glass, allowing the morning sun to shine brightly through. Just along the walls and hanging from the skylights, a series of strategically placed mirrors bounced the light around the room lighting up what appeared to be separate work areas. The building was just one large room like a warehouse and numerous tables and instruments took up the space inside. There was so much spread about to look at, I had to take in one area at a time.

 

A desk stood to my right pushed up against the wall. It was scattered with papers and pens of all sizes. They rustled softly as I spread them around to see their contents. Small drawings of a carousel, cherry blossoms, and sunflowers were meticulously detailed on thick pieces of paper. The pen lines were so sure, thin and thick to the perfect degree it took my breath away. As I shifted the pages more I caught sight of writing. Scrutinizing it I picked up a small stack of pages that appeared to have been written on an old typewriter.

"Lone in the night sky," I read softly. "Bright and silver, you'll find," I could feel my heart speed up. "Shinning ever, ever on..." My voice stopped as my eyes cheated, glancing at the bottom of the paper. There, written in the most familiar way were two initials.

H.N.

I could feel my body wanting to shake again. I had absolutely no memory of this poem and yet, I couldn't deny that it was my same signature. I flipped it over realizing that there was another page attached. Lined in the same black pen was a drawing of the moon like someone had illustrated my poem.

Illustrated.

I fumbled around the room, slapping the papers back onto the desk. What other things in here were ours? On the same side of the room, just a few feet away from the desk was a small table and easel. Paint brushes of all shapes and sizes, paint, markers, pens, paper, sketches, origami, almost every thing imaginable was spread across the space in an organized mess. The easel wasn't empty either, propped up on it was a half finished painting of a raven. This was all something only the Ultimate Artist could do.

My heart only beat faster as I noticed a countertop table and sink covered in vials and test tubes to my left. Behind that in the left corner was a sewing table and machine, bits of fabric and thread spread about, and just beyond the easel and a shelf sized tool box was a large wide wooden table. Half of it was covered with thousands of tools, screws, gears, clay, wires, metal, and stones while the other half was covered with wood pieces, small articles of clothing, string, glue and....half finished marionettes....

I turned around in a slow circle, dizzy as if in a dreamlike state. I recognized none of this and yet I felt like this place was home and I couldn't deny the existence of the objects before me. This garage....it was ours.

The creaking of the metal door wasn't enough to spur a reaction from me, although it captured my attention.

"Hey Hon'yomi...." Kiyoshi's voice died off with shock. Uneasy, I turned around to see his reaction. He stood amazed in the door way, my bags of popcorn in hand. Kiyoshi first studied the ceiling and mirrors much like I did, only he looked much more puzzled. But the moment he found the table and tool box in the back he lurched forwards, handing me the popcorn and slipping off his hat.

"Kiyoshi?" I stepped after him, holding my food close. "Do you- I mean, you know this place don't you?"

The Inventor sat down smoothly at a bench tucked beneath the table but shook his head. "No I don't. But...I do."

That was the most understandable thing he could've said. "Me too." I agreed.

Kiyoshi was engrossed his with hands now, fiddling with the equipment before him. He muttered softly to himself, fitting together what looked to me to be random pieces of metal.

I stood behind him, mind still spinning but some of it on pause. "What are you making?"

"I don't know." He had a soft tone to his voice, like he hadn't heard what I said.

I frowned. "You don't know?"

Kiyoshi shook his head, picking up another piece of metal. "I'm testing." He stuck his tongue out for a moment through concentration. "Muscle memory." He muttered quietly.

Muscle memory. At first I didn't understand, but the longer I thought the more perfect it became. "Oh yes! Because you take apart things put them back together all the time!" I nodded vigorously even though he couldn't see me. "Because if you've made -whatever that is- before you would have the movements memorized!"

Kiyoshi just nodded.

I watched now with a newfound interest waiting for a result.

"Huh." Kiyoshi sat back, lifting up a combination of things I couldn't name. "That's weird. Why would I be making a-"

"Holy shit." Kena entered the garage loudly. "Is this-" I turned around to look at her. She gazed around the room with awe. "This is our stuff isn't it?" She appeared severely shaken. "Then that means....we really have lost our memories." Kena looked to me like I had a definite answer.

"It-it all makes sense." I offered instead.

She just nodded slowly and walked towards the wall opposite the desk. Kena bent over and plucked up a dust covered paper target. "Ryu?" She looked at me again.

My heart pounded again. In what mind were we in to let him have a gun?

"This is so crazy." Kena muttered, trialing her hands over the science area. "That's weird." Her bun disappeared as she bent over, reappearing when she returned with two small pots of dead flowers in her hands. "Who grows plants?"

Curious I left Kiyoshi and went to her side. "Where were those?"

She kicked at the base of the lab table. "This cupboard. I saw some dirt on the floor."

I squinted carefully wondering how I had missed that. "I don't know...maybe...maybe Utsumi planted them?" There was no way to ask him even if he could've remembered.

"I don't know." She set them on the counter, throwing dry dirt everywhere. "Hon'yomi?"

I looked over at her. "Yeah?"

"What do you think of...you know?"

I paused. "The memory?"

She nodded, watching me closely.

"The memory..." I sighed. Why had she asked that now? I didn't want to remember...oddly enough... "It was real. And..." I shook my head, closing my eyes. "I don't know, I don't know! Just terrible!"

"Hon'yomi!" Kiyoshi jumped up from the table and rushed over. "Are you crying?" He sounded worried. "Don't cry."

"I'm not crying." The moment I said so I felt tears building up inside.

Kena wrapped her arm around my shoulder. "I can walk you back to your house if you want." She sounded apologetic, "I'm sorry I shouldn't have asked..."

I just shook my head, letting her direct me away. "I-I'll be fine Kiyoshi."

 

"I'll hope for the best." He said encouragingly.

I would've stumbled if not for Kena's steady arm. Hope for the best. That was something I always used to say....

The way back to the square was uneventful until Mae appeared. Or rather, tripped into our path. The dancer rushed from the pool just as we had passed it, but ended up sprawled in front of us moments later.

"Oh my God!" Kena swiftly let me go and knelt down. "Mae are you okay?"

Mae sat up quickly, wiping her eyes. "Yeah..." She sounded fragile and unconvincing.

Soon I was kneeling too. "Are you hurt?"

She glanced down at her legs that were somehow unscathed. "Not really." She sniffed. "I think I bruised my hip though."

Kena shook her head teasingly. "I blame those shoes." She took Mae's hands and helped her to her feet. "Those are ridiculous!"

I followed her gaze to the huge black heels on her feet and nodded. "Doesn't it suck to wear those all the time?"

Mae shrugged, her composure slowly returning. "No I'm used to them." She shifted foot to foot. "And they're sexy." She offered halfheartedly.

That made me laugh. "I guess so."

The three of us stood quietly, waiting for someone to say something.

"So um...where were you guys going?" Mae nodded to Kena and I.

"I was taking her home but-"

"But we could hang-out?" I offered over Kena's voice.

Mae shook her head. "I don't know-"

"Come on!" Kena wrapped her arms around us both. "Let's go to the di- uh the arcade!"

The dancer suddenly looked excited. "Only if we can play that dance game! You know? The one with the arrows?" She looked across Kena to me.

I decided to just go along. "Sure...and I have popcorn." I said. It sounded alright to me. Besides this way I could still be distracted from....other things....

Mae, Kena and I spent time dancing in the arcade. Both myself and the Comedian couldn't keep up with Mae, but neither of us were bad at it. It was amazing just to watch the speed at which Mae could dance, and the fluidness of her movements as well. She never missed a beat, and sometimes it seemed like the music moved with her- not the other way around.

It was a good way to spend the morning. It was better than just sitting in my house trying not to dwell on my thoughts and the three of us got on better than expected. We bounced off each other with little effort, our personalities matching in some weird conundrum of differences and similarities. But of course, the haunting problems waiting just behind me eventually tapped my shoulder. A poem that wouldn't quiet.

There is a vision of hope on the mountain

but it is not on the peak which we stand.

New hope we've grown has been murdered, by despair in our land.

It drew away my attention from the joke Kena was telling. I wanted to puzzle it out with someone. I wanted to tell Toshiro and see what he thought but- I found that I wanted to Kyofu first. Besides, I needed to show him the paper I found in his sweatshirt, I just didn't know if he could listen right now.

"Hon'yomi?" Mae asked.

"Oh, hey um...I'm gonna go." I mumbled.

Kena looked concerned. "Are you okay?"

 

"Yeah I am. I just need to think."

The two of them glanced at each other but didn't say anything. I gave them a wave and left, leaving them to their free time.

The square was still empty with no one to speak to, but before I hurried to Kyofu's house I had to do something.

I felt both soothed and anxious when I stood beneath the enormous tree. The branches shaded me from the sun, leaving no speck of light on the grass immediately below it. I looked at the bark, much like Utsumi had the first time I really met him. Didn't he say something about it being natural but somehow it wasn't at the same time? I poked at it's trunk. It felt natural to me. The only thing I could find abnormal was the huge vastness of the tree itself. I had never seen an Oak tree so large before.

As far as I can remember. I thought angrily. I didn't know just how many years Monokuma had taken from us. Hope's Peak Academy invited me to be a member of the 76th class, but how long ago was that? A year? Two? Four?!

I poked the tree again with frustration. How would I know? And- well- everyone here, they had been my classmates. That meant we had been friends (some of us). Friends.

A few tears glittered across my vision. Friends. Forgotten friends. Forgotten friendships, memories and moments long lost. We had been friends and now...now three people were dead.

Hana. Utsumi. Renji.

Renji.

I looked away from the tree. Kyofu. He was my friend. And I wanted to see if I could talk to him.

I forced myself away from the tree and exited the square towards the houses. I didn't see Haruko anywhere when I approached his house. I wondered if she had had any luck.

I eyed the dark green door tentatively. It was completely silent, no movement or crashes could be heard. I wondered if he was still in there? I turned around and scanned the square as best I could. No Kyofu. I faced the door again. It didn't hurt to knock. I raised my fist slowly, and quickly tapped on his door.

 

"Kyofu? Kyofu it's Hon'yomi!" I expected more silence, but the door was pulled open slowly.

Kyofu looked tired. It was clear to me that he hadn't slept. His eyes were red and puffy, and dark bags of exhaustion hung beneath them. He looked so haggard and fatigued my heart ached.

"Oh Kyofu!" I stepped forwards, hugging him tightly. It was all I could think to do. He didn't return the hug, although I don't think he was opposed to it. He just seemed empty. Not the usual Kyofu I knew.

"You can come in." He said hoarsely.

I nodded and let him go. He pulled the door open wider, and I slipped past.

Once again nothing matched, but it was much more of a mess than anyone elses houses I had been in. A black futon stood in place of a couch, covered with bits of glass. A deep scrape was gouged in the wall directly across from the door, just above a fire place. Scattered along the floor were more bits of glass and broken items. The only place that was clear of debris was a single kitchen chair at the table, which Kyofu walked directly to and sat on.

I picked my way over the sharp floor towards the table. "I uh- I came to show you something but...I don't think now is a good time." I admitted. I stared at the table noticing an untouched orange sitting on it.

Kyofu's eyes flashed to mine. "What is it?"

"I don't-" Stopping, I realized something. He was probably feeling just like me- hungry for a distraction. "Alright." I said and reached into the waistband of my skirt. "When I borrowed your sweatshirt I found something inside one of the pockets.

Interest overtook the sadness on his face.

"It was a report." I pulled the page from my skirt and held it out to him. "It's from Hope's Peak about some incident. I can't be sure what it all means exactly but I wondered what you thought."

Kyofu took it shakily and unfolded it. He read it faster than I would've thought, even catching the note on the back. "They covered it up somehow."

I nodded. "Yes it seems that way."

He frowned. "But how- obviously people died. Multiple from the way the report reads."

"I agree too. But I don't really have an idea as to how." I shifted on my feet. "I was curious though as to why you had it."

Kyofu stared at the page intently, flipping it back to the front. "I don't know. I guess it's vaguely familiar but-" He winced. "Trying to remember hurts."

"Oh." I felt like an idiot. "I'm sorry."

He shrugged.

I felt awkward now, deciding that I should've waited to show it to him. "I mean it was pretty hidden so it must have been important to some degree."

He nodded, his eyes growing dazed.

"Alright..." I mumbled.

"Do you mind if I keep this?" He asked. "I'll give it back," he promised, "I just want to keep it while. See if anything comes to me."

I felt like I was about to do something dangerous. "Um....okay."

Kyofu folded it up and set it on the table. I stepped away to exit.

 

"Hon'yomi."

I turned.

He stood up from the chair. "I'm sorry for-" Kyofu stopped. "I'm sorry for-" He shook his head. "For-"

For Renji.

"No Kyofu." I said. "You can't be sorry for that."

He nodded, pretending to agree and looked away. He was fighting his sorrow again but he was losing terribly. "I just don't understand!" Kyofu sank into the chair, hands clenched tightly in his hair.

I stood there unmoving as he began to cry. I wanted to help him. I wanted to help him. I wasn't sure how, but I knew I had to.

 

Unsure, I walked over and shifted the glass on the floor. Making a small clear spot I sat, leaning against the leg of the table next to Kyofu. "You remember my poem?"

He nodded between sobs.

I spoke softly. "Do you...know what it means now?"

 

Kyofu nodded again, wiping away tears with the sleeve of his sweatshirt.

I blinked as I began to cry for him and reached up, clenching his hand tightly. "Then you know....he'll be with you forever."

 

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Chapter Text

It took two days until any of us entered the diner again. During that time all anyone did was quietly exist and marvel about the garage. Not many of us doubted that we had been here before after we saw the evidence inside the new building. No one brought up the memory directly, but we each implied enough details to know that we all remembered the same thing. Apparently every one of us had been there.

It also took two days until Kyofu left his house, but even in doing that he was hard to find. Sometimes I would catch sight of him on the roof of the store, but he didn't acknowledge me. I was anxious to know if he had thought more about the report but I was too hesitant to ask.

It took me two days of a strictly popcorn diet before I let myself back in the diner. I was quick to pass through the door and sit at the counter.

"Hon'yomi."

"Huh?" I looked up from the white countertop and the invisible patterns I had been making with my finger.

Kena shook her head while standing at the grill. "I said, do you want your bun toasted or regular?"

I sat up realizing I had fallen into a slouch. "Oh um...toasted."

She plopped the buns onto the grill next to the hamburger. While I waited I tapped my fingers anxiously.

"Hey do you think he was right?"

I frowned. "Who?"

Kena shrugged. "Renji." The comedian did her best speak of the ventriloquist casually. "You know...he said you could've been sick because you might be allergic to something."

My reaction was to sigh. "I think I would kno-"

Kena shot me a look.

"Alright alright. So there's a possibility that I could be allergic to something and I don't remember." I began tracing patterns again. "But what could it be?"

"Well what have you eaten?" Kena mused.

"I don't know....." I winced. "How long have we even been here?"

Kena blanched. "Um...I have no idea."

"I mean since we remember being here."

"Well..." She thoughtfully flipped a hamburger. "We woke up and explored before Monokuma showed up. He arrived the second day."

I nodded thoughts racing ahead of hers, adding up the days. Day three...that was Hana and the first trial. Utsumi didn't die until the fifth night so that made today.... "Nine." I looked at Kena. "Today is the ninth day." Was it really? Three people had died before we had been here a week!

"Has it only been nine days?" Kena looked astonished.

I nodded. "I don't think I'm counting wrong."

"Well, can you remember everything you've eaten?" She asked again, shying away from discussing time.

I frowned, sifting through my jumbled thoughts. "Um, cookies, chips, those pancakes you made....a muffin...." I ran the days through my mind and I discovered that I had seriously been lacking in the area of food consumption. I guess with the stress of everyday life here I had forgotten how hungry I usually was all the time. "Oh! I didn't feel good so I ate nearly a whole box of saltine crackers. Also two hamburgers you made." That made me eye the one she had cooking on the grill.

Kena dismissed my thought immediately. "If there was something wrong with my cooking everyone would be affected by now."

While she was right and I was sure she wasn't at fault, the thought brought a shiver down my spine and I discovered how easy it would be for Kena to poison someone. "Then...well what is it?"

"It has to be something all those things have in common." She tossed me a confused glance. "Wait haven't you been stuffing yourself with popcorn these past two days?"

"Yes but I'm not counting that. I don't feel sick anymore I just feel hungry."

Kena laughed, "Hon'yomi you can't expect corn to keep you full."

I sighed, laying my forehead on the counter. "I knoooow....I have so many kernels in my gums..."

"You do brush your teeth right?"

I lifted my head and sent her a dark but teasing look. "Yes I do."

She grinned, flipping the spatula in her hand and placed the steaming burger on it's bun. "Here." The plate clattered as she slid it my way.

I eyed the contents warily unsure of how my body would react to it.

'It's your own doing!'

Monokuma had said no one was at fault but me, and for some reason I trusted that.

"Hon'yomi!" Kena exclaimed at my reaction. "I promise they're safe!" She stabbed a fork into her own burger still sizzling on the grill. "Here." She proceeded to look me dead in the eye and took a huge bite of the steaming meat.

I gasped like an idiot. "Kena! Don't be stupid that's hot!"

However my warnings didn't need to be said. The moment Kena closed her lips, she burst them open again, spitting the hamburger out in any direction as long as it was out of her mouth. I watched as the comedian gasped loudly, wincing at the pain.

"Oush." She said, her tounge hanging out of her mouth. "Dat's hot...."

I couldn't hide my laughter. "You fool!" I snickered at her reaction. "I've never seen someone spit out food that fast in my life!"

Kena grumbled quietly cleaning up the mess she made. "Eat you hamburger!" She shouted at me, sending me fiened glares of annoyance.

I gave her a thumbs up and prepared to pick it up, but something stopped me again.

'You're clever figure it out!'

Monokuma.....my eyes watched the burger on my plate. He made it sound as if only I could figure it out. But how? As a child there was no indication that I had any allergies to food. No one in my family had any allergic reactions to-

I raised my head from the bun and stared at the far wall. "Oh."

"Oh what?" Kena asked, looking disappointed that I still hadn't begun eating.

As things fell into place I groaned. "Damn it, no!"

Slightly concerned she walked closer to the counter. "What? What is it?"

Huffing I glared at the food. "I think I- oh I don't want to be- but I think I- I'm allergic to gluten..."

"Gluten?" Kena blinked. "As in...?"

I looked down at the bun and hamburger she had willingly made me. "As in bread. As in...this bun." I pointed at it sadly.

Kena stared at me for a few seconds and I waited expectantly for her reaction. I myself didn't want to think it true but...both my brother and my dad were intolerant and, well the majority of what I had eaten so far were types of bread...popcorn aside.

Kena continued to stare at me some time longer before sighing. "Damn." Without another word she snatched up my plate, tossing the food and it into a trash can behind the counter. I watched silently and she vanished around the corner banging things around.

"Um Kena?" I leaned over the counter a bit. "What are you doing?"

"Finding gluten free food!" She called.

I sighed. "I don't think-"

Kena reamerged from the back, striding up to the counter and dropping a huge bag of rice in front of me. "Is this safe?"

I eyed it uncertainly. "I th-think so?"

She nodded. "Alright. Chicken and rice coming up."

Kena began the preparations for such as I watched in awe.

"Kena?"

"Hm?"

"You don't have to worry about this you know, I'm sure I can find something in the store."

She shook her head. "Hell no! Plus I already started making the food." Kena grabbed the rice- bag and all- and tossed it into an empty pot. "See?"

I laughed. "Alright fine. Thank you." She nodded, giving me a smile and busied herself with her task.

The chicken and rice took a considerable amount of time, which we spent idly chatting with one another. I learned that Kena was the oldest of three children by two and thirteen years of age. Her parents had split when she was young, making her brother a half relation but to her that didn't matter.

"He's my brother either way." She said, pushing the chicken around in the pan. "I love him very much. As much as I love my sister."

I nodded. "I have a half brother too but, I don't know him very well. We only met once at my sisters high school graduation. He seems really nice but he doesn't live very close."

The conversation drifted to other subjects. I discovered that the two of us liked many of the same stories and movies. We even compared notes on the types of video games we'd sometimes play.

"Hey Hon'yomi?" Kena asked after we had finished laughing at a joke together.

"Yeah?" I muttered between mouthfuls of rice.

"What do you think is happening in the world right now?"

I paused, stabbing the chopsticks I had requested, into my bowl. "The world?"

She nodded. "Yeah, I mean Monokuma said we've missed years. So many things could've happened during that time. And also....I just wonder if anyone is looking for us."

Her words struck a nerve with me. I too had wondered if my family had been searching. If so, what had they found? Had they given up? Were they still looking?

"I don't know." I said finally. "All I can say is-"

"Hope for the best?" Kena offered.

I stared at her, at a loss of how to respond as the girl stole the words from me. "Y-yeah."

She nodded. "Trust me, I've heard that before..."

The two of us continued our meal in silence.

I was glad that I had grown closer to Kena today and that my plan of getting to know people better had worked out with her.

She sighed and stared at our empty bowls. "Alright. I'm out." Kena stated, sweeping them up in her hands and setting them in the sink. "The dishes can wait I'm going to go look around the garage a bit more." She looked at me. "Wanna come?"

"Hmmm." I frowned. "I don't think so. I'll walk around a bit." I slid to my feet.

Kena nodded and waved as she reached the door. "I'll be in the garage!" She repeated and left me momentarily alone in the diner.

The new door whooshed softly as I exited it's shiny confines, trying to ignore the chills that it brought to my skin. The day was comfortably warm with a soft breeze tickling my nose begging me to react. Three sudden sneezes erupted from my lips crashing through the square like a clap. A glower found it's way onto my features and I began dreading the sneezes that were sure to follow.

"Bless you." Toshiro said strolling to my side from the Town Hall.

Slightly startled I turned to meet him. "Th-thanks." I sniffed

He nodded coming to a stop, pushing his hands into his pockets. "Allergies?"

Sighing I hung my head. "Unfortunately. I'm hoping they don't start up and kill me."

Toshiro laughed at my answer. "That bad huh?"

I nodded and shrugged. At the talk of allergies I thought to bring up my conclusion about my sickness but-

"Hon'yomi..." The lighthearted mood drifted to a close as the actor looked at the ground rubbing his neck. "Can I ask you something?"

I frowned at his request, instinctively looking around to see if anyone else occupied the area. Concluding that we were alone I knit my brows. "Sure."

"Well..." He glanced to my face almost apologetically. "It's about the memory..."

My nerves reacted at once, tensing up my body restlessly. I still hadn't really discussed it with anyone other than to agree with details others recalled. "What about it?"

The actor looked struck with energy after I spoke, his whole body filling with intense focus. "I've been thinking about it and- well-..." His words vanished from the space between us. "The thing is...." Toshiro sighed taking in the breath like it would save his life. "I'm just wondering -among other things- what happened to the school?"

Miserably I called upon the images Monokuma had so gratefully given us. "You remember that that was Hope's Peak too." Doubt weaved itself among my words as I tried to puzzle out what he was thinking.

Toshiro nodded. "I recognized the building from when I first arrived there. From-" He paused, cringing at the memory and gore it contained. "From where I stood...I could see the front of the building."

I nodded slowly, unable to confirm or deny this detail. From the way I had been held I hadn't been able to see anyone other than Rika and that man in the mask... "It was destroyed. With what little I could see, there was debris and rubble everywhere."

Toshiro nodded in agreement as we continued to gloss over the moment of the womans death. "How did that happen?" He asked it purposefully like he expected the world around him to give an answer. "It's a prestigious school Hon'yomi, known worldwide!" He watched me earnestly. "How was it ruined?"

My thoughts returned to the report I had lent to Kyofu. Did that have something to do with this? It sounded like it had been a huge issue but...in comparison to the entire school being laid to waste it almost seemed arbitrary. "I-I don't know Toshiro." I winced as the newest phrase leaked in my thoughts again: New hope we've grown has been murdered, by despair in our land.

"Don't you want to?" He asked.

"I mean- yes I do! I just can't pull things together in my head right now." I anxiously fiddled with the hem of my skirt sorry to dismiss his attempts to puzzle this out. "Monokuma didn't give us much and.....well my past self wasn't thinking about things like that."

Toshiro watched me warily, clearly crestfallen at my lack of recollection. "Neither was mine..." He anxiously tugged on his jacket, matching my awkward tick. "I just wish we could know." He bore his eyes into mine hopefully. "Then maybe we could start making headway against Monokuma."

At the mention of the bear's name I looked around fearfully. "Don't say that so loudly." I commanded in a hushed tone.

He blinked, realizing his mistake and nodded.

I shook my head. "That's okay, you're worried and just want to know what is going on."

"Exactly!" Toshiro sighed in relief.

The conversation died out as we reached this stalemate and I was scrambling for something to say when he beat me to it. "Where were you off to?"

Shrugging I scanned the square. "I was going to walk around....nothing planned really."

"Heading to the Arcade?" He asked expectantly.

I narrowed my eyes in thought, "Um...no probably not..." I offered him a smile. "It's really dark in there..." As lame as that sounded it was my own reasoning. The arcade contained no windows leaving the blinking games and dull lamps to illuminate what shadows they could. I didn't want to be contained in a bleak environment at the moment....however....I had never noticed it as being bleak before....

While appearing a little disappointed he didn't press my company. "Well I'm heading that way if you want to come by later."

"Sure!" I said brightly, unable to shake the strange sense of awkwardness in the air. "See you later." I stepped forward to make my way towards the store.

"Hon'yomi."

I paused as he spoke my name, looking back at him with question. "Yes?"

Toshiro closed the space between us, hands raised towards my neck. Confusion spread to alarm as I froze, unsure of his intentions. I slightly stepped back, "Wha-?"

I felt slight pressure at my collar as I realized what he was doing. "Your bowtie is crooked." Toshiro muttered, adjusting the black bow.

Oh. "Th-thanks." I managed, trying my best to cover the paranoia that had easily overcome my mind.

The actor nodded with a smile. "Sure thing." He casually walked towards the arcade giving no indication that he sensed my moment of fear.

I shook my head, disappointed at myself. "I need to calm down..." He wasn't going to attack me after all.

Unsure of which direction to go I stood still outside the diner, enjoying the soft breeze. Maybe I would go for a swim? I had yet to enter the pool...

Heart set on this decision I strode my way between the tree and Town Hall, beelining towards the Gym. I had nearly made it past the open barrier when something bright flashed in the corner of my eye. Struck with curiosity I paused, turning my head to see what captured my attention.

Beginning at the base, Kaz had expertly latched himself to the far end of the store wall utilizing the small pipes and divots in the surface to pull himself towards the roof. Confused I tried to distinguish what exactly had caught my eye when the sun reflected off his bright hair again. I smiled to myself and watched him climb slightly in awe at the speed and skill he moved with, placing himself at the top in merely seconds before disappearing.

Casting a glance around the square once again, I made my way towards the store. Walking past the door and large window I planted my feet, looking up at the wall he had easily scaled. I studied it cautiously, pinpointing areas of support and footholds. "What the hell?" I mumbled. I climbed my roof at home all the time. Maybe I could surprise Kaz at the top too.

Once I was confident with my deductions I began my climb. My foot wedged into an indent in the wall while I reached towards a small narrow pipe for grip. Pleased with my efforts I managed to hoist myself a few feet higher, grabbing onto a higher section of the pipe. It wasn't until I made it nearly eight feet off the ground before I ran into trouble.

"Hon'yomi!"

Heart leaping to my throat I clutched the wall tightly hoping not to fall, and hoping no one below could see up my skirt.

"What are you doing?!" Akemi jogged over to the store, Kimiko following closely behind. I relaxed a little at the sight of the twins.

"Shhh!" I turned my head around as best I could. "I'm trying to sneak up on Kaz."

The girls looked at each other and smiled. "Can we come too?" Kimiko asked at a lower volume, bouncing with excitement.

I nodded as best I could while keeping my hold on the wall. "Sure!"

"Okay. Once you reach the top we'll follow." Akemi decided.

Pouring my focus by into the task at hand I studied the next level of support. I frowned at my slim chances: a small screw for my foot and the ledge of the roof for my hand.

"What's wrong?" Kimiko inquired, noticing my pause.

My fingers started to get slippery from their long hold on the pipe. "I'm just hoping I can make this..."

"You just have to be quick." Akemi observed.

"Sounds about right." I muttered and took my chance.

Hand still braced around the pipe I lifted my right foot, digging the screw into my sole. Heart racing some speed faster than usual I pushed off my left, raising my hand towards the roof. I breathed a sigh of relief as my grips held and swiftly hoisted myself over the lip of the roof and onto the top.

Smiling I rose to my feet triumphant, ready to shout encouragement to the twins below as the wind was harshly knocked out of me.

"You climbed!"

I was vaguely aware of the excited voice twittering around me, while my attention was captured by the vice-like hug I was trapped in and how close I was teetering on the edge. "K-Kaz!"

Just as quickly as they had arrived the arms around me vanished, only to latch onto my wrists. "Don't fall!" Kaz looked at me like I was his student, only his grip keeping me from tumbling to the street below.

I blinked to grab my bearings and shuffled away from the edge. Once clearly balanced Kaz dropped his hands and beamed up at me. "You made it!"

I laughed at his jubilant reaction. "Well I've had my own fair share of climbing things before. And I wanted to surprise you!" I spun around to gaze across the town while Kaz nodded vigorously.

From the store vantage point my sight traveled just over the diner to the park. To the east I could see the tops of half our houses, the rest blocked by the arcade roof. Turning around there was the pool and gym and beyond that the garage. The Town Hall still towered over the square several feet higher than the store. The rest of the vantage point was blocked off by the huge metal walls higher than any of the rooftops excluding the Hall to prevent anyone from seeing the outside world.

"Ha!" Akemi's voice traveled to the roof as she made her appearance. "Made it!"

Kaz spun around in surprise, his smile growing even wider. "Akemi!" The girl straightened up and turned, hoisting Kimiko atop as well. "Kimiko!" Kaz rushed to them hugging them both.

"You all climbed up here!" He shouted.

The three of us nodded.

"We love climbing things!" Akemi said.

Kimiko walked around the roof. "Can you really see a good sunset from here?" She asked.

Kaz turned to her. "Yes! Though I haven't been up here since Hana..." He admitted sadly.

"Oh look at that bird!" Akemi exclaimed before the mood could grow dark.

Laughing Kaz ran to the small yellow cockatoo in flight, letting her land in his hand. "This is Tenshi!"

The twins watched with amazed faces. "You have a bird!?" Kimiko exclaimed just as Akemi started nudging her. "Kimi, Kimi. You have to draaaw it."

Kaz presented Tenshi to the watching girls and I wandered over to them.

She repeated the same ritual as before, fluttering up to the Artist and Illustrator rubbing her head on their cheeks.

"That means she likes you." I said to them, repeating what Kaz had told me.

They both beamed with happiness, matching the growing energy atop the store.

"Can I hold her?" Akemi asked, watching the bird dance around our heads.

"If she want to!" Kaz shouted, waving his friend back to his hand. "Here." He carefully outstretched his arm to Akemi. "Don't hold her, just let her sit. You can pet her!"

Akemi cooed at the bird, proud that Tenshi had chosen to remain on her hand. "You're so pretty!" She said. "Kimi! You have to paint her!"

Kimiko mearly nodded focusing on drawing a sketch in a notebook that had no apparent origin.

"You're going to paint Tenshi?!" Kaz asked.

Kimiko puzzled in thought. "Well," She said in a soft high voice. "There is paint in the garage and extra canvases. I think so."

"Thank you!" Kaz shouted.

Akemi reassured him. "She's amazing trust me. It will look so good!"

I smiled. "Kemi you should draw her too! Your also very good."

She looked at me and shrugged. "Well, Kimi is better but..."

I shook my head. "You're both very good! I saw your drawings in the garage-"

Akemi grew pale at the mention of those, making me pause. "Wha-?"

"Kiyoshi!" Kimiko burst out, waving wildly.

Curious I looked to the ground in question where the Artist stared.

Kiyoshi paused in puzzlement, having been making his way to the diner. He lifted his dark eyes, following the sound of his name. I caught them widen when he focused on our forms atop the store. "How did you get up there?!" He shouted fearfully, rushing to be closer.

I laughed at his reaction. "We climbed!"

"Yeah!" Kaz exclaimed. "They followed me!"

Kiyoshi remained unmoving, shock on his face.

"Kiyoshi?" Akemi asked. "You should come up here too it's very-"

The inventor quickly turned on his heel, heading straight for the garage.

"Where are you going?!" Kimiko called, leaning over the edge a little to see him.

"I'll be right back!" He shouted over his shoulder before disappearing.

We shared looks of confusion before Kaz and his friend had our focus again.

 

The inventor did in fact come 'right back'. Barely any time had passed before we saw his large shape again. I had sat myself down across from Kimiko watching her draw, while Akemi and Kaz were distracted by Tenshi.

"Kiyoshi!" I called, noticing his return. I jumped up in surprise as he drew closer. "What's that?"

"A ladder." He said, marching his way to the store wall, a metal structure in hand.

"Where did you find that?" Akemi asked. By now the inventor had captured all our attention.

He huffed a little. "I made it."

"Yeah Akemi!" Kimiko said. "He makes things."

Akemi squinted at her sister in confusion, shaking her head at her.

"What did you make it for?" I asked, although I was quite sure that I already knew why.

He turned and swung it up, so it stretched past his head. "This way everyone can get up to the roof, and no one will get hurt trying to climb." Kiyoshi swung it towards us, hooking two pieces of it on the roof and letting the remaining parts rest against the wall. The rungs were made out of many different kinds of material but looked strong enough. Kiyoshi bent down as he started attaching the ladder to the wall.

"But we didn't get hurt climbing up here." Kimiko said.

"That's alright." The inventor said. "This way no one has to chance it again. Except Kaz." Kiyoshi looked to the climber who was studying the ladder with distaste. "I think he'll find a more difficult way to get up there despite the ladder." The inventor smiled up at us.

"Thanks Kiyoshi." I said. .

"Hey! What are you guys doing!?" Saori's booming voice found it's way up to us.

I turned towards the sound and ran to the far edge of the store. "Just hanging out! You guys should come up here!" I shouted to Saori and Mae. They both appeared to have exited the pool.

Saori frowned. "I'm not really a-"

"There's a ladder so you can't say no!" Akemi shouted.

Saori glanced at Mae who looked unsure.

I sighed with dissapointment. "It's not that high up here." I smiled. "Trust me! You can see almost everything!"

They began walking into the square. "Since when is there a ladder?" The singer asked skeptically.

Kiyoshi tipped his hat to the girls when they reached him. "I just made one." He gestured to the newest feature on the store wall.

Saori looked at it as if she expected it to cave the moment she stepped on it.

"Come on guys!" I said. "I trust Kiyoshi to make it safe!"

"Alr-" Before the singer could make her way up, the familiar voice that we all dreaded stopped her.

"What do we have here?!"

My face fixed itself into a permanent scowl at Monokuma's appearance.

The bear pranced around the new ladder attached to the wall. "Just what do you think you're doing?!" He glared up at Kiyoshi.

The inventor cringed, shying away from Monokuma's gaze.

"He just built a ladder." Mae said, scoffing at the overreacting bear.

"And attached it to my store!" Monokuma growled.

"So what?" I shouted down to him. "He'd didn't break any rules."

The air felt as though it calmed, the continuous breeze halting in it's journey. I held my breath hoping I wasn't somehow wrong. If I remembered correctly I wasn't...

Even in broad daylight the bears eye shined menacingly and I felt like it could see right through me. "No he didn't." He growled, as if clenching his teeth.

"Right." I said, although I didn't feel relieved with his confirmation. "Then no one did anything wrong here."

"I suppose not." Monokuma said dangerously.

"Then why are you here?" Saori demanded. I sighed as his attention went to her before frowning. She always seemed to ask him that question.

"Can I not check up on the residents of my town?" He countered.

I shared a look of uncertain fear with Kaz, noticing Tenshi was no longer in sight.

"This isn't your town Monokuma."

Our group collectively turned heads. Toshiro appeared, making his way from the arcade. He scowled at the bear, his mood parallel to ours.

"Oh no?" Monokuma watched him with a challenge. "What makes you say that?"

The actor crossed his arms. "Don't pretend like you haven't realized we've noticed. This place was real once! An actual town, so it's not yours. You had to have taken it somehow!"

"Well it's mine now." The bear insisted.

"So does that mean you're confirming what he said?" Mae inquired, glaring at Monokuma.

He turned between the two of them. "I never said he was right."

"Can you say he was wrong!?" Kimiko shouted.

At some point I noticed my heart racing, but not in fear. It seemed that somehow we had caught Monokuma off guard.

He grumbled to himself darkly. "Are you trying to trick me? Maybe you're all wanting a few more rules around here?"

 

While it was a true threat, I sensed that none of us felt very threatened.

"What will you add this time Monokuma?" Mae asked. "Go ahead, add a rule!"

We watched him perilously, fearing that he would in fact follow through with his threat.

"If you make it easier to get punished on our own, there will be less chances for people to be killed." Toshiro pointed out.

 

At first I was surprised at what the actor said, before I realized what he was doing. I felt excitement bubbling up inside as I watched the bear fumble for a response.

"Well? What do you say?" Akemi called to him. It seemed we had all found a little courage in his silence.

I opened my mouth to add my own comment only to notice that he was suddenly gone.

We all remained quiet, unsure of what exactly had just occurred. How much had we just upset him? Had we made a mistake?

At the same moment Saori and I met gazes and grinned, all my worries flying away. "Did you see that?!" I shouted instead of voicing doubt.

Each of us broke, letting out exclamations of joy and pure shock.

"Monokuma ran from us!" Kaz screeched happily.

"That was amazing!" Saori shouted, grabbing Toshiro and hugging him tightly. He smiled widely returning the gesture.

Kimiko and Akemi hurried down the ladder, Kaz following close behind. Once they reached the ground the twins tackled Mae unexpectedly in their excitement.

I laughed along with the rest. I couldn't believe it. In all reality we hadn't accomplished anything really, but to us it was a victory of some sort, and that made all the difference. I couldn't help but feel stronger as I watched my friends expressing their joy, and rush off to tell the others. We had -in our own small standoff with the bear- brought ourselves a moment of hope.

 

Noticing Saori and Mae gesturing to me I was shaken out of my stupor and headed to the ladder. It was then, amidst my movement that I caught sight of an observer none of us had noticed before. Haruko barely spared me a glance before she disappeared behind the huge oak tree.

 

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Chapter Text

"Wait, so you're really gluten intolerant?"

Once again I nodded my head at the singers repeated question. "I think so, it makes the most sense. Both my dad and brother are."

"That fucking sucks dude." Her pink hair gleamed as she leaned back against the oak tree. The two of us settled beneath it's branches after running into one another in the diner this morning. It was a good thing we did because while I was rather good at figuring things out, if Saori hadn't showed up when she did, the coffee machine would probably be no more.

She rested her head against the strange bark, watching the leaves above. As a comfortable quiet overcame the two of us, I began to realize that while I had spent a good amount of time with Saori, I didn't really know much about her. Well...remember anything about her. But that aside, she never really felt like a stranger. It was easy to be comfortable in her presence and for some reason I felt like I could trust her.

"Hey Hon'yomi?"

I glanced at her again. "Yeah?"

"How'd you become a poet?" Her blue eyes regarded me with question.

I twisted my face into an expression of thought and looked at the cup of coffee in my hands. "Well...I don't know really." I sifted through old thoughts trying to find the start of my ultimate. "I was nine I think." I squinted at the leaves. "Two weeks. It was the longest I had been away from home. I had been invited to go with family friends to a tropical island. I've never really been one to get homesick but on the last night I remember staring off at the mountain....when it came to me."

Saori leaned forward. "What did?" She frowned.

"Oh." I shook my head. "My first poem." I smiled at the memory. "It almost required no thought, like it wrote itself."

Saori shook her head. "I never had much patience for poetry." She admitted truthfully.

I grinned, "But aren't songs just poems with music?"

"Well yes, but- I'm singing it not like, analyzing it."

I laughed loudly at that. "What too much Shakespeare in English class?"

"God yes." She sighed, rolling her eyes.

Still smiling I nodded. "He can be too much for me too. Hey." I sat up straighter, crossing my legs. "How many of his plays do you think Toshiro has been in?"

Saori groaned. "Oh no..." She threw an arm over her face. "Let's not ask him, he might start spewing monologues!"

"Maybe if I ask him, he can follow you around quoting Romeo and Juliet."

"Don't you dare!" She shouted, but she was laughing. "I will personally drop kick him off the roof!"

But I shook my head grinning, "No you won't, you won't even climb up there!"

Saori huffed, "I'm sorry if I don't care for heights!" Her voice rose a few octives higher, her dramatic protest sending me into more laughter. I fell back on the grass giggling.

"Aw shit..." The singer suddenly mumbled.

I tilted my head to see her. "What?"

She pouted looking down forlornly at something I couldn't see from my angle. "I spilt my coffee." Saori glanced up meeting my eyes. For half a second it was silent, until the two of us exploded into senseless laughter.

"You spent-" I tried to catch my breath between laughs. "You s-spent sooo much time...fixing the machine!"

"I knooow!" She lamented before falling into laughter again.

I clutched my stomach, "Why is this-? Why are we even laughing?!"

"I have no fucking idea." She gasped.

"Hey- guys....." The sound of someone speaking interrupted our laughter. "What's so funny?"

On the same beat Saori and I looked up to see who joined us. Toshiro watched us curiously, amusement on his face. "What-" Before he could finish we burst out into laughter again.

I gasped. "Say-say something shakespearean.....right now!" I pointed at him dramatically.

"NOOOO!" Saori wailed before cracking up again.

Toshiro appeared even more confused. "Um....why?" He asked looking between us both, clearly lost.

"Don't do it!" Saori protested. By now the both of us were on the ground, crying.

"Do it!" I shouted. "You have to!"

Toshiro blinked glancing at the two of us again. "Um...with laughter and mirth let old wrinkles come."

The two of us stopped laughing to puzzle out his quote.

"Wait..." Saori trailed off looking at me for an answer.

As equally confused I looked back. "I don't know...?"

"That wasn't very...."

"Hard to understand?" He offered. Toshiro sighed as if this was something he said often. "Shakespeare is not all that hard to understand-"

Saori rolled her eyes. "It's not nessisarily about that-"

"But once you get the basics it's something you can really enjoy!" Toshiro insisted over her protests.

The Singer rose to her feet a smile still on her face. "I don't need anymore Shakespeare in my life."

Realizing that I was still sprawled on the grass I stood."So what's up?" I asked, trying stop my urge to keep giggling.

He slid his hands into his pockets. "I actually came by to ask Saori if she wanted to finish the competition we had going at the arcade."

"Oh right!" She nodded. "Hell yeah let's do it!" She grinned with expectant excitement.

"You guys playing a video game?" I asked confused.

Toshiro shook his head, his eyes lighting up. "Yeah! It's actually one of the latest versions! How it's here makes little sense, but it's truly entertaining. You could come play if you'd like."

I glanced at the two of them. It was tempting, I could imagine the three of us hanging out until the nighttime announcement, but I had made a vow.  "You know...I think I'll see who else is around."

"I've noticed you do that." Saori suddenly said.

I turned my head. "Do what?"

"Try to spend time with everyone you can." She answered.

"I think that's a good thing." Toshrio added.

I watched both of them. "Haruko told me that because we don't know each other, it makes it easier for us to murder one another. I want to change that."

Toshiro glanced at Saori and I. "I guess that makes sense...if everyone did that..."

Saori raised her eyebrow. "Spend any time with Ryu yet?"

I wrinkled my nose. "Not really...."

"I don't blame you." She muttered and looked at the Arcade. "Let's hangout later?"

I nodded, smiling. "Sure!" 

"See you later." Toshiro said with a small wave.

I nodded a goodbye to them both and turned away. I made my way towards the lake looking for a specific someone. It was about time I spoke with them. Once I rounded the diner my eyes caught their shape.

As I approached I felt a slight degree of uncertainty. Chikara wasn't someone I had talked much with at all yet. A little here and there, that time I asked about the sticks Kena had given him but that almost all.

While I moved to sit near him on the small beach the archer greeted my presence with silence. I glanced at the bow on his back, remembering the time he threatened both Kyofu and I with it.

"He tampered with your arrows didn't he?"

Chikara frowned before turning my direction. "What?"

"Well," I shrugged hoping I hadn't bothered him or something. "If Monokuma unarmed Ryu, then I'm sure he did the same to you."

The archer watched me carefully. "I have all sixty of my arrows." He nodded to the full quiver on his back.

I felt a little bit of pride with what I said next. "How many of them have their tips?"

I wondered if it was indignation that first appeared in his eyes. "You know something about archery?" All I saw then was interest.

Grateful to have a mutual topic to discuss I nodded. "I have my own bow at home. It's a recurve like yours." I poked the taut string. "Although mine only draws thirty pounds, I'm sure yours is much heavier."

Chikara looked at me as though he saw me in a new light, with more...curiosity. "Really?" He stood up suddenly, planting his boots in the grass. I followed suit, tugging my socks up. "Why does a poet have a bow?"

"Just because I'm the Super High School Level Poet doesn't mean all I do is write poetry." I looked at him, the sun shined brightly today, bouncing off the bits of green in his brown hair. "I have other interests too."

He looked at me skeptically. "Are you any good?"

Oh well, I didn't think this would be happening. "Um, I'm alright. I've never been really good but I can hit a target consistently and hit the center..."

The Archer plucked an arrow from his quiver. The shaft was brown and the fletchings were made from real feathers. I followed the arrow to the point and saw that I had been right. There was no tip. "But if I shoot that it will just bounce off-"

Chikara paid no attention to what I said. He was removing something from around his neck, a cord of some sort. Attached at the end of his necklace was a traditional arrow head, not a metal one. "This will be fine." He said gruffly, skillfully connecting it to the arrow. "What's the heaviest you've shot?" He asked while he worked.

I was immediately self conscious. "Sixty...but that was a compound..."

He scoffed at that. "Compound...." Chikara shook his head and in finishing his task he eyed my arms. "Well I can see why it was a compound."

Awkward I crossed them. "Yes I know, I have skinny arms. But I didn't like shooting the compound anyway, it was like I had no control over the bow."

"Well," He unslung the bow from his back and stepped through it. "this string is making it eighty." I silently hoped he wouldn't make me try that weight. Chikara bent the bow, supporting it against his foot and knee, unstringing the bow. "But I have a few other strings." He reached into his pocket and removed another wrapped cord. "This is forty."

I watched silently as he restrung the bow and held it out to me. "Let's see what you can do."

Hesitant I took the instrument in hand. It was one thing to shoot arrows in my backyard but in front of the Ultimate Archer? Yeah right.

I hoped that he would pull a finger tab from his pocket too- holding back a thick string for a long time wasn't easy on your fingers- but he just crossed his arms and waited.

I sighed and turned, choosing a tree to aim at. Spotting one probably about twenty feet away I adjusted my stance accordingly. "Arrow." I asked, trying to keep a good hold on the body of the bow, my hands had started to sweat.

Chikara placed the arrow in my right hand and I carefully notched it on the string. "This will probably be terrible." I warned.

 I thought I heard him laugh quietly. "I think so."

Fueled by his doubt I took a breath and drew the bow. Instinct told me to close my left eye, and I anchored my draw at the corner of my mouth. I didn't watch the tree but rather the arrow, aiming down it. I felt my arm begin to shake and fingers wish for release. Forty pounds wasn't what I was used to. Steadying my arm I took another breath. Halfway through my exhale I released the string sending the arrow flying. There was a satisfying thwak and I squinted lowering the bow. "Did I hit it?"

"Far to the right, but you definitely found your target!" Chikara looked at me impressed.

"Really?!" I squinted trying to see the arrow. "Wow, I didn't even have my-" I froze. "I didn't have my-" I couldn't finish the sentence. In the moment it was like there was something there, something I would've said before..."My-"

Chikara suddenly frowned. "You don't usually use a scope do you?"

I shook my head. "Not at all...." I stared hard at the ground. Didn't have my what?

"Listen, the reason your arrow went to the right is because of where you anchor." He walked up to me and carefully took his bow. "Anchoring at your mouth isn't a bad place, but in order to shoot the right way, you have to compensate for the extra angle you're creating." He drew back the string effortlessly as an example. "You're leaving your hand here, try to move it out."

"Wait wait wait! Wait a minuet!" Monokuma seemed to grow from the ground before us. "What is this?! You have arrows you can shoot and you haven't tried to kill anyone?!" He glowered at Chikara. "Instead you let a girl handle your bow and arrow and-"

I cringed. "Shut up!"

"Or what?" He turned to me. "You'll shoot me? You can't harm me remember?" The bear whipped around to Chikara. "You're not even supposed to have ammo for your weapon!"

"That's not a rule." Chikara countered angrily. "Besides, I can't do shit anyway! You took all the tips for my arrows!"

"But you still have one." Monkuma's eye gleamed.

I stepped forward. "So what are you going to do? Take it?"

"Hmmm." He reached behind his head as he thought. "NO!" He faced the two of us a few seconds longer and then vanished.

"Wait what?" I gasped spinning around to see if he had simply moved. There was no bear in sight. "What the hell was the point of that?"

Chikara wore a scowl. "Does there have to be a point? He likes meddling that's all." He left me where I stood and strode to the tree I had targeted. I watched as he yanked the arrow from the tree bark and remove the arrow head.

"Thanks for letting me shoot." I called.

He shrugged. "Just seeing if you were telling the truth." He made his way back to the beach.

"Do you usually assume people are lying?" I asked with interest.

He frowned at me. "I didn't say that."

"Well no but-"

"Let's just say I have really bad trust issues." Chikara concluded.

"Okay." I said. Just what did that mean? Wishing for our conversation to continue I settled beneath a nearby tree. "Do you have family?" For some reason I expected him to say no.

I think he was planning on walking away until I said that. Chikara stood still a moment, looking at his bow. "I did." He said shortly. From my angle on the ground I noticed something that I hadn't before. I had always been aware of the two stripes of ink that wrapped around his left bicep, but I now noticed that on the inside of his right forearm were three small triangles. My view of them changed as he replaced the bow upon his back, and folded his legs, sitting next to me on the ground.

I sat in silence unsure if I should drop the subject or pursue it farther. Unlike Kyofu I wasn't sure Chikara would answer my prying questions. But what else was there to do? I clenched a fist, I had to get to know everyone...again? Who knew, maybe I already knew that answer about his family. "What happened?" He seemed to tense. "That is...if you want to say anything about it..."

He shrugged. "I haven't really told anyone before...."

"That's alright..."

Chikara looked out at the lake. "I had three younger siblings once...they were the only true family I ever had." Hazel eyes grew cloudy with some memory I couldn't envision. "They were taken from me...it was my fault really. I left them to hunt-" He took a deep breath and I waited for him to continue. "It wasn't even very long..." Chikara whispered.

I wasn't sure if prompting him to continue was a good idea so I waited.

"By the time I got back they were already dead."

I took a sharp breath. I had suspected as much but still... "What did you do?"

The archer spoke quickly, like he wanted to be done with the story. "Tracked down those responsible and..."

I grimaced. Chikara had killed people before?

"I found a place that gave me purpose for a while..." He continued having noticed my displeasure. "A biker gang. I was always a lone wolf, even in the gang." He finally looked at me. "I didn't stay long, once things began changing there too, I just left."

"And then....Hope's Peak?" I asked.

He nodded. "Yes for the most part. Then I made it to Hope's Peak." Chikara fell silent again, a quiet that I was sure shouldn't be disturbed. "Do you mind-" 

"Hey no worries." I stood up. "I'll give you some space." He nodded slightly.

My eyes found the grass while I walked away towards the houses. My fingers could still feel the bite of the bow string if I concentrated hard enough. It had been tense, but I was glad I had been able to spend time with Chikara.

I watched the grass shrink back and become pavement. I began to raise my head to locate my house when a hand latched around my wrist. "Wha-?!" I was skillfully yanked from the road, my own weight throwing me between two houses. Kimiko's and Haruko's. Fear shook me as I stumbled into the wall of the Artist's home and widened my eyes.

Haruko stood calmly before me, arms crossed appearing as though she had in no way touched me. Angry for being so startled I pushed myself off the wall. "What the hell was that?" I glared at her crossly, hostility rising up inside. It felt strange, I had never felt that towards the Seamstress before...

"I have to ask you something." She spoke smoothly, with little emotion.

I glanced around, seeing that we were alone. "Couldn't you have just asked like normal? Instead of dragging me to an alley?"

For a moment realization flickered across her dark face. Realization and confusion. "There's no camera angle here." Was all she gave as an answer.

Even though she didn't appear hostile exactly, I didn't let my guard down. "What is it? If we're off the cameras too long Monokuma will notice."

Haruko looked pleased at my note. "You know something about what's going on here."

"What?" I was directly struck with confusion. "I don't know anything, nothing more than you."

"Then what's this?" She held out the report I had given to Kyofu.

"Hey!" I glared. "How'd you get that?"

Haruko tucked it away quickly. "Kyofu let me borrow it."

"How do I know you didn't steal it?" I countered.

She raised an eyebrow. "You try stealing from a thief Hon'yomi."

I sighed. "Listen, I only found it. In Kyofu's sweatshirt! Why not ask him?"

She narrowed her brown eyes. "One of us is involved in this game somehow, and it's certainly not Kyofu."

As she watched me with a hard gaze I felt cornered. What if she was right? But instead of trying to discover if it was me behind it, she was the one behind it wondering how much I knew? What if no one was supposed to find the paper?

"It's fair to suspect me I suppose, but you're the one with questionable knowledge." Haruko looked unaffected by anything she may have read in my features.

"Listen, I don't know-" But I did know something didn't I?

There is a vision of hope on the mountain,

But it is not on the peak which we stand.

New hope we've grown has been murdered

by despair in our land.

She stepped closer. "I don't mean to say that I think you're the person behind it, but whatever you may know can be of help to figure this out."

I backed away a little. "Figure this out? It's not simple. This isn't simple!" I couldn't halt my raising voice. "I like figuring things out, I like riddles and theories but this is different. This is real and any wrong guess, any misstep....that's the end!"

"Calm down Hon'yomi."

I took a deep breath, trying to do as she asked. "I found that paper. I don't know what it means. I can only guess. Something went wrong at Hope's Peak. That's it alright?" My voice was harsh.

Haruko uncrossed her arms. "Alright."

I was hesitant to move. "That's it?"

She smiled a bitter smile. "You perceive me as being someone who would hurt you?"

"I just wouldn't put it past you..." I mumbled.

An amused expression stole across her face escaping the mask of blankness Haruko usually wore. "I'll try not to frighten you next time." And then she was gone.

Was that an apology?

I took a moment to gather my unsteady thoughts before exiting the small alley way. "What the hell..." I whispered. I couldn't help but feel a little upset with Kyofu. Why had he shown her the page? Whatever the reason I knew it had to steam from a feeling of trust he had to hold towards her. But for some reason, I felt like I couldn't trust Haruko Arakawa.

"Hon'yomi!" Mae shouted my name from the square. Shaking myself from my mind I looked for the dancer. She stood in the doorway of the store, half inside and half out. "Come here!"

Trying to ignore the strong paranoia I now felt I did as she said. "Hey Mae." I said, putting a smile on my face. "What's up?"

She grinned at me, leading us into the store. "I found comics!" She walked straight up to the magazine racks and spun them around. Popular titles and heroes names flashed out at me, grabbing at my attention. "I've been reading some of them." Mae said brightly, disappearing behind an aisle. "They're fucking amazing!"

It felt strange to me. As a poet, why would I be interested in comics? But my fingers lifted a hefty volume and I flipped through the pages. The art and contrasting colors between light and dark drew me in. I hardly read the words as I enjoyed the brilliant depictions of scenes I was so used to writing.

"See?!" I hadn't noticed Mae's return. Held in one hand was a black and red can I recognized as an energy drink and a bag of chocolate covered pretzels. "They're amazing right?" Her eyes were big with excitement. "Oh look at this one." She grabbed a volume from the bottom rack and placed it atop the one I held. "It's super dark, but really good."

The cover was relatively plain. It was a simple drawing of what vaguely looked like a superhero logo. Something about it may have even looked familiar. "What's it about?" I opened the cover with mild interest.

"A group of superheroes-" She sighed, "I know, everyone's heard that one right? But this is different. They get tricked and brainwashed. It's really interesting!"

I looked at her with a wry smile. "You didn't really read it did you?"

Mae shrugged taking a sip from her energy drink. "I didn't need to. I saw the beginning middle and end."

"How's it end then?" I asked.

"The heroes lose."

I raised an eyebrow. "Really? That's rare. Since when are losing superheroes popular?"

"Oh come on, I'm sure there's a second volume where everyone is okay, no one died or got hurt blah blah blah." She waved her hand in the air. "I like villains more. You can't always tell how their story will end, but heroes....they always end up winning. That's an old overused story."

I felt that I couldn't agree. Not entirely that is. "I like heroes, I like watching them overcome the impossible. Though I do agree at times villains can be more interesting. After all, it takes a good villain to defeat a hero right?"

Mae nodded, removing the comic and returning it to it's place. "From what I saw, that one was very smart."

"Do you read a lot of comics?"

Our conversation spanned from there. Mae went on to tell me about the villains she had quickly taken interest in after reading (in some cases just looking) through nearly all the comics in the store. She had easily picked up insight into the different characters and their stories. The longer she spoke the more I wanted to read the comics myself and learn more about the heroes and villains that sought to destroy them.

If only I could be like that. I found myself thinking. The old, overused story of the hero who wins in the end...

But this wasn't a comic book. I couldn't simply turn to the last page to see the ending.

We spent more time together, settling on the floor. After denying her offer of pretzels (I read the ingredients to see that they contained gluten) I settled with popcorn and salami and spent the afternoon with Mae.

It came to an end however when Kena and Saori dragged Haruko into the store. The dancer and I looked up with surprise at the calamity that arose with their entrance. Both singer and comedian were breathless with laughter while Haruko looked as though she no longer had any idea what the world meant anymore.

"What's going on?" Mae asked, replacing the stack of comics back on the rack.

"Girls night!" Saori said, making her way into the store and filling her arms with snack food of all kinds.

"What?" I asked, my interest was immediate.

"I was thinking about what you've been doing and I decided to do something similar." She grabbed a bag of popcorn giving me a knowing look. "So tonight all the girls have been invited to hangout at my house. Kena and I have made sure Haruko will come too."

I glanced at the Seamstress curiously. How'd they manage that?

"The twins went to the garage to gather some craft stuff for us to do." Kena said.

"Is it happening right now?" I asked.

"Yep." Saori confirmed. "I let Toshiro know so he could tell the guys where we've all disappeared to."

"Is it a sleepover?" Mae questioned, climbing to her feet.

Saori paused. "Hell. Why not? Sure if you want. There's nothing that says we can't spend the nights in each other's houses."

Excitement filled me. Never had I expected we could do something like this during all the fear and unrest that surrounded us. I took it as a good sign.

Awesome!" I jumped to my feet. "We can bring blankets and pillows from our homes and sleep in your living room!"

The singer grinned. "Perfect. Alright let's split up and prepare. Meet you at my house?"

"You got it."

I wasn't the the first to arrive at Saori's. By the time I walked in the twins, Kena and Haruko were all there.

"Mae will be here she's just running late." Kena called to me as I walked in.

I found a corner where I could set my bedding down and took in the room. Saori's house was a little different than the others. Instead of the living room being in front of the main door it was to the right of it. Across from the door was what was supposed to be the dinning room, but the table was pushed against the far wall to accommodate for space. Just beyond the dinning area one could look directly into the kitchen on the other side of a long counter. With the modifications the whole front of the house had been turned into a living room. Instead of a couch, the room housed two old looking love seats that appeared very comfortable.

I made my way past the furniture which was occupied by the twins. They were squished together, drawing away quietly. Kena was banging around in the kitchen and I caught sight of Haruko staying near the door as if ready to bolt. "Hey where's Saori?" I asked no one in particular.

"She's in her room." Kimiko said idlely.

Taking this news I headed down the narrow hall which lead to a bathroom and one bedroom. That much was the same here.

The door was open and I poked my head around it. "Hey!"

The singer looked up from her bed. She was busy removing the blankets and pillows. "Hon'yomi!" Saori grinned. "I'm glad you made it. Is Mae here yet?"

"Not yet, but I have a feeling that she'll be fashionably late."

"I think so too." She agreed.

"Do you need some help?" I asked looking around the room. There were two things that were in abundance here. I noted a plethora of blankets and empty water bottles. The other item of notice was a small purple bowl of cheese crackers on a beside table.

"Sure!" She scooped up five pillows that had been out of my view and handed them to me. "I like pillows." She said in explanation.

I shook my head with a smile and turned to the door to exit. "Anywhere specific I should put these?"

"Just anywhere, I don't mind!"

"Alright!" I called making my way to the living room.

"Thaaank you!" Saori shouted.

I laughed. "No problem."

"Hey Hon'yomi?" Kena shouted for me from the kitchen.

I tossed the heaping pile of pillows between my own and what appeared to be Haruko's bed things. "Yes?"

"Hot dog or hamburger?" I turned and faced her, the comedian looked at me apologetically. "You'll have to eat either one without a bun."

I nodded. "As long as there is ketchup....I'll have hamburger."

Kena nodded and returned to the stovetop.

"Is gluten why you were sick?" Akemi asked from the loveseat. She didn't look up from the page she was illustrating on, eyes glued to the surface.

"Yeah." Kimiko added to the question. She also did not remove her eyes from her work.

Slightly amused at their distant interest I sat on the loveseat across from them. "Yes. That's what makes sense. Besides I've been better since I've stopped eating it so that's proof enough for me."

"Renji was right then." Haruko said softly.

My body tensed. "I guess so."

Akemi finally looked away from her art. "Haruko! I didn't know you were here!"

"Haruko?!" Kimiko looked up as well, just as surprised.

Kena could be heard laughing from the kitchen. "You guys have serious tunnel vision!"

I completely agreed.

Haruko looked uncomfortable. A feeling that didn't look like it belonged to her. "I've been here the whole time..."

"Well come sit down!" Akemi exclaimed, setting her paper aside. "Come on, don't stand by the door!"

Propelled by the twins verbal prodding, Haruko sat on the edge of  the loveseat I was situated on. I tried to hide my wariness, the incident from earlier still fresh in my mind.

Saori finally emerged from the room, her arms full of blankets. She spotted her pillows and left the blankets with them. "Is Mae still not here yet?"

"Nope!" Kimiko said. She sat up, putting her art on the floor. "Oh hey Hon'yomi!" She reached into a pile of art supplies that had been hidden by one of her pillows. "I brought this for you from the garage." She held out a few sheets of blank white paper a bottle of ink and a simple quill. "For your poetry!" The artist said with a smile.

"Oh!" Surprised I took the items from her. "Thank you!" My thoughts went to the notebook I had in my house. That had been my place for poetry lately.

"We got you things too Haruko!" Akemi exclaimed, pulling out sewing utensils and bits of fabric for her.

Surprised, Haruko took the items. "Thank you." She said, immediately studying the fabric.

Before another word could be spoken a soft knocking could be heard at the door. "Hello?' Mae opened it, letting herself in.

"Hey!" I cried.

"Finally!" Kena shouted.

Saori closed and locked the door behind the dancer. "Perfect, everyone's here!"

Mae added to the large pile of blankets and pillows with her large cat covered bag in tow. "I brought more comics and energy drinks." She whispered to me when she walked by.

"So what do you guys want to do?" Akemi asked.

"Eat!" Kena cried. She placed a pile of plates and a tray of hotdogs and hamburgers on the kitchen counter.

The seven of us spent time gathering the hot food along with the variois snacks each of us had brought. Any sort of awkwardness faded away the longer we spent together that even Haruko seemed to relax. She didn't participate much in the conversation but she listened and spoke if addressed.

We ended up in a wide circle of pillows, blankets and food. I was sandwiched between Mae and Saori, straight across from Haruko and Kena. Kimiko was splayed by Mae and Kena and Akemi next to Haruko and Saori. It was the first time the two of them weren't at each other's side.

At one point during the growing night Mae turned to me with a sly look on her face. "Soooo, how's waking Toshiro up been going?"

I shook my head, chewing on gummy bears the twins had brought. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh my fucking-" Something crashed into my left shoulder. "Hon'yomi don't pretend you don't like him!" Saori buried her face into my shoulder talking loudly.

"Yeah!" Akemi agreed. She wiggled her eyebrows at me.

I frowned. "Oh come on I just wake him up! I've never even been in his house!"

"Couldn't be more obvious..." Kena muttered.

I glowered at her.

"Everyone can tell." Kimiko said.

"Oh wait a minute!" I sat up straighter, shaking Saori off. "What about you and Kiyoshi?"

Her face grew dead serious. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh are we talking boys?" Mae asked with excitement looking at us all.

"Pfft!" Saori burst out laughing so hard she clutched her stomach. "You all can, but I'd rather talk about girls!" 

I felt very little surprise at her words. "How about we don't talk about any of those things?" I didn't feel like being prompted to talk to Toshiro at the moment.

Mae laughed. "I could bore you all with my relationship life."

"No thank you!" Kena shouted at the same time Saori exclaimed, "Nope!"

Laughter escaped me. "I do wonder what the guys are doing though. Are they also hanging out somewhere?"

"Who knows?" Saori said, rolling into a pillow.

"Oh!" I jumped as Akemi shouted at top volume. "Saori, Saori!"

The singer raised her head, with wide eyes behind her glasses. "Yes?!"

"Will you sing for us?!" She asked eagerly, bouncing with excitement. "Please?"

My heart leapt. "Yeah sing something!" I looked down at her. "Do it!"

She groaned. "But I haven't warmed up at all!"

"You've been talking and shouting all night." Haruko pointed out.

"Sing something!" Mae said.

"Come on just do it. It doesn't have to be long." Kena added.

Saori's eyes traveled from one person to the next. "Oh alright...but it won't be my best." She warned.

I rolled my eyes. "It will be amazing regardless."

The singer took a moment to relax her breathing and opened her mouth.

I have heard people sing. Popular artists, rockers, musicals, choirs. But I never expected what Saori's voice could've sounded like. It wasn't just pretty, it was beautiful. It wasn't something you could truly explain but it something you didn't want to end.

Strange words I couldn't understand filled the room, but I felt like understanding the words was irrelevant. It was about the music and the tone of voice. The way it was sung.

Her voice rose and fell like rolling waves of an ocean, the high notes bouncing around the room. When she silenced the last note the room fell into muffled silence. I wasn't sure what exactly to say.

"That was Latin." Haruko said, filling the quiet up with words.

"OH MY GOSH!" Akemi shouted before Saori could confirm or deny Haruko's statement. 

"You're like an angel!" Kimiko insisted.

I nodded, feeling rather astounded myself. No wonder she was the best...

Mae looked amazed. "How are you so good?"

Saori blushed faintly. "I've just always been-"

*Ding dong. Bing Bong*

All seven of us fell silent and I found myself clenching Saori's hands.

"This is an announcement!"

It was still too early for the night announcement.

"All of you are required to attend an informational meeting at Town Hall in five minuets!"

White noise hummed for a moment before Monokuma finished.

"That will be all."

Silence.

"Every time." Kena said, clearly fuming.

"Something good happens and he ruins it...." Kimiko mumbled.

"Well come on." Saori stood, releasing my hand. "Let's go."

Reluctantly we rose to our feet, many of us hastily slipping on our shoes.

"You don't think he's going to lecture us about this do you?" I asked Saori while we waited by the door.

"I don't know." She said. She sounded tired.

"Alright let's go." Mae pulled open the door.

We made it to the white building before most of the boys. Chikara was already inside, but the others came more slowly. Kaz and Kiyoshi followed closely by Toshiro. When Ryu entered he walked directly to Mae. "You alright?" He asked.

Kyofu was the last to make it. He looked tired still, dark circles under his eyes. It was the first time I had really seen him since the day I had went to his house. I wanted to ask about the report and Haruko's involvement, but now wasn't the time.

"Finally everyone is here!" Monokuma shouted, appearing on the small stage. "I have to tell you all something very important!"

"Let's not beat around the bush then." Toshiro said. "What is it?"

"Upupupupu! Well aren't you eager." The bear looked exceptionally pleased. More than usual, setting my nerves on edge. "You'll all want to thank me after I tell you this!" He insisted. "Well...all but one of you."

"What does that mean?" Kiyoshi demanded.

"It meaaaaans....." Monokuma froze a moment, letting suspense hang in the air. "There is a lair among you all!"

"Huh?" Kaz blinked, looking around the room.

"Explain." Haruko said.

The bear grinned his dark smile. "There is someone in your group who has lied to every single one of you!"

Uncertain glances were tossed around the room.

"They have lied about who they are, and what they're actually doing here!"

My mind went to Haruko's confrontation. She had been right. But why would Monokuma....oh no...was this another...."Motive." I whispered.

"Yes Hon'yomi!" Monokuma said. "This is your next motive!" He glared. "There is a liar among you all, but! It doesn't have to stay that way."

Paranoia grabbed at me again.

"The liar can reveal themselves to us! If they do that, they will be executed!"

"What?!" I said. "That's stupid why would they come for-"

"If they don't, a drawing will take place." Monokuma said over my protests.

"What kind of drawing?" Chikara asked.

"One of you will spin a wheel and whoever's face the needle lands on will be executed instead of the liar!"

"That-that doesn't even...." Saori shook her head. "You want us to kill each other, this is completely-"

"If the liar remains a coward and doesn't come forward, any of you can end the drawings by committing a murder yourself! Or by revealing the liar yourself!" Monokuma gazed at us with warning. "But if you're wrong about the liar, you will suffer the punishment and the drawing will continue!"

"Th-these drawings...when do they take place?" Kimiko stuttered.

"First thing every morning!" Monokuma declared. "The first one is tomorrow!"

"This is crazy!" Mae shouted. "The liar will never come forward!"

"Then I guess you'll have to do something about that, won't you?" The bear said.

How foolish we had been, thinking our little victory over Monokuma had meant anything. He had just escalated everything in a span of seconds. In the end he always won....

A bit like that comic.

Monokuma was certainly a capable villain.

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Chapter Text

Dread captivated the atmosphere with the morning announcement. The usual chime resonated with more than just the familiar rhythm, today it shook with a foreboding threat. The sound, partnered with it's sinister warning, echoed through Saori's house calling those of us who remained through the night to raise our heads. Each face said the same thing; no one had truly slept after Monokuma's motive, tiredness and fatigue was on everyone's face in some way or another.

The twins were the first to stand, retreating from the mess of blankets and pillows that had become rather tangled throughout the night. They rose warily, smoothing out their clothes and finding their shoes. Kimiko unbraided her hair, only to braid it back in place, securing any loose strands that had escaped. I observed them in a disappointed sort of way, knowing that I too would have to climb to my feet and prepare for what was waiting outside.

"Do you think he'll really kill one of us?" The question was proposed softly in quiet fear.

Blinking I rolled to my right side to look at Mae. She watched me, gloom hanging like curtains over her dark eyes. "I don't know." I mumbled truthfully.

"It's not about Monokuma killing us." Both Mae and I turned towards Saori who was sitting up, pushing blankets out of her way.

"It's about us." Akemi said standing near the front door. She hesitantly tugged her sweater down, making sure it covered her torso.

Mae sat up, looking  between the singer and illustrator. "So you don't think he's actually going to kill someone?"

"We'll have to see." Saori grumbled, rising to her feet.

Groaning I forced myself to stand, shaking the warmth of the improvised bed away. "We should probably hurry."

I caught the sound of Mae sighing at the same time Kimiko nodded.

"Not even time to get coffee..." Saori whispered in an agitated manner. She hastily ran her fingers through her hair before cursing. "Oh who gives a fuck right now?"

"I wonder how Haruko and Kena slept." Mae thought out loud, adjusting her skirt.

"Me too." I agreed, fixing my own clothes. After the motive the night before Saori had solemnly told each of the girls that they didn't have to stay over if they didn't want to. I had declined, my bedding was there anyway, why bother with it now? And while the other girls agreed to stay as well, Haruko had vanished once her stuff was gathered, and Kena followed her out shortly.

"Probably the same as us." Saori pointed out.

I found myself deeming that to most likely be true.

"Is everyone ready?" Kimiko asked, hand on the doorknob.

Muttered 'yes'es were tossed about, and so the door was peeled open and we greeted the morning sun.

Where our presence was requested was made quite clear. After rounding Haruko's house our destination became evident. Directly across from her home, standing tall at the edge of the lake was the large promised wheel. It stood on a tripod wrapped in colored lights that blinked to an unheard rythm. Their power had no source that I could see, but something made them gleam brightly even in the morning sun.

The wheel itself was large, looking as though if stood up on the ground it would reach my chest. Just as Monokuma had said it was separated into sections, each on bearing one of our names. It was colored with black, white and grey making it dull to behold but the lights that climbed up the stand and framing the wheel brought ones attention back in. The only other thing of bright significance was the neon pink arrow that, for the time being and to my horror, was resting on my own name.

It wasn't long until all thriteen of us crowded around the object, our host nowhere in sight with anxiety in the air. It was difficult to not feel vulnerable at the sight of our names waiting for a spin and a round of bad luck to select a person to die. But there was something curious to consider.

"There are sixteen." I said. I tilted my head to read each name as my heart began rushing faster than usual.

"Sixteen?" Toshiro appeared on my left, he too regarding the wheel with interest.

"Everyone is here." I said, "Even...even if they're no longer alive..."

"I supposed to make us feel like we have a chance that no one will die." I was surprised to hear Kyofu speak after having gone so long without his company.

"I'm guessing that's precisely how were supposed to feel." Haruko said not far from Kyofu's side.

I turned back the wheel re-reading the names. It went boy/girl/boy/girl. Hon'yomi/Kiyoshi/Mae/Toshiro and so on. I felt a pang when I read Hana/Chikara and Renji/Kena/Utsumi.

"Then again he could make us re-spin if the needle lands one of the dead." Ryu pointed out nonchalantly.

Saori made a sound of disbelief. "Then what is the point of having the names there in the first place?"

"Maybe this was made before people died..." Kaz suggested from the back of the group.

I didn't want to think about that. The thought of each meticulous step in a plan to ruin us filled me with hatred.

Chikara changed the topic of discussion by sitting down on the grass. "He's making us wait on purpose. It's not like he has anything else to be doing right now."

Kena shook her head. "Do you want this to happen right now?!"

He shrugged. "It will happen eventually."

In glancing towards Chikara to read his expression I was distracted by a large shape behind him. Kiyoshi stood at the edge of the group, looking very different. The inventor had- for the first time- removed his long elaborate coat. Kiyoshi still looked pristine and handsome, his hair combed beneath his hat, vest and tie in order, but it was strange to see the white sleeves of his dress shirt in contrast to his usual dark garb.

Disregarding the previous conversation I made my way towards him. "Where's the coat?" I asked with light curiosity. He must have not noticed my approach because he jumped violently after I spoke. Caught off guard I too jumped a little and took a small step back. "Are you okay?"

Kiyoshi blinked and looked across at me. "S-sorry." He stuttered tugging on his tie. "I'm-" His face flushed covered with embarrassment. "I'm just scared..." Before I could react or let him know that I too was afraid he continued hurriedly. "But- I mean...I'm not, it's not like I'm a coward..." He stood up straighter as if to reprove his worth.

Despite his reason for fear I smiled. "Kiyoshi you're not a coward." I leaned towards him lowering my voice. "I'm scared too." I said, allowing the fear to enter my eyes. "It's a terrible thing but everyone here is scared."

The Inventor huffed, fixing his tie. "Not everyone looks scared...."

I shrugged. "Others are better at hiding it." I said watching our group. Then, finding a chance to change the tension I added something. "Then you have Haruko." Confused Kiyoshi looked to the seamstress. "That's a whole other level of hiding emotions."

That got a reluctant smile out of him. "She scares me too." He whispered.

I laughed, a strange sound to be heard when something so terrible was soon to arrive. "She's not very approachable is she?"

Kiyoshi shook his head, looking better than he had before. "My house." He said suddenly.

Frowning I looked to him. "What?"

"My coat." He continued. "I left it in my house." Kiyoshi sighed deeply. "Because...well this is probably stupid but if I....you know...get selected..." He nodded at the wheel. "I'd like to leave something behind so I won't be forgotten."

Concern and uncertainty flooded me and I stared at him. What was I supposed to say to something like that? We wouldn't forget you? But then...how often had I thought about Hana lately? Uncomfortable I settled on silence and faced the wheel waiting for Monokuma to show.

"What about you?" He asked, and I perceived his turn to look forward as well.

I took an unexpected breath. I had never thought about this before. "If I die..." My voice sounded weak, and I felt tears hiding behind my eyes. "I just don't want my friends to be hurt...or cry..." That was...if anyone here viewed me as a close friend. "That would be the worst thing." Just thinking about the possibility of others being upset about something like that hurt more than I would have originally thought. I sensed that Kiyoshi had a response, but it was never voiced. Finally...finally the wait was over.

Monokuma was as usual; chipper in a dark way and pranced around bidding us 'good morning' and 'welcome'. Everything was mostly repetitive until he faced the object which would deal out one of our fates. I took a moment between the bear's sentences and peered at Mae. Was she still hoping that this was a ruse?

"Now!" Monokuma spun, facing his audience. "Is the liar going to come forward and reveal themselves?"

I shifted my eyes throughout our small crowd and everyone did the same. Dark untrustworthy glances were dealt my way, casting a chill across my shoulders. The motive was beginning to work and no one stepped forward.

"I see...it seems the liar is going to remain a secret...for now." In this moment it was hard to tell if Monokuma was happy or disappointed by this. "The wheel has to be spun!" He declared. "But which of you will be the one?!"

I tried very hard to remain hidden and to appear unimportant in the back. There was no way I could spin that wheel.

Once again no one stepped forward, how could someone volunteer? However the bear quickly grew impatient and called out a name. "Haruko."

My eye flew to her small shape. She stood far to my right on the outside of the crowd we made. She watched Monokuma as if he had not addressed her in any way.

"Why don't you spin the wheel?" The bear grinned.

There was only a moment, just a single moment of pause before she stepped forward.

"Wait! Hang on." Ryu edged his way towards the front. "What happens if it lands on someone who is dead?"

Monokuma sighed. "I can't kill someone who has already been killed can I?!" As if that was all the answer the hitman wanted, the bear faced Haruko expectantly.

She didn't look any different than before. She was calm, collected- no...there was something there....something in her sharp features and round eyes. Haruko's face was too blank. What she was about to do clearly upset her.

"Here we go!" Monokuma shouted.

The seamstress reached out and spun the wheel. Black, white and grey spun together making a strange, almost illusion-type pattern. My breath caught in my lungs, refusing to release or take in more air. Who was going to die? Was someone really going to die? Would I die? And for what? What exactly would I be dying for? To what purpose would my death serve? I found no way to tear my eyes from the spinning mass of despair. What name would be selected?

The clicking of plastic on plastic slowed and the colors became more distinguishable. My brain and heart screamed at me, begging for an intake of air but I swallowed down the desire. The bright pink needle paused, no longer tilting to pass over names and came to a final stop.

I lowered my eyes, read the name and took a breath.

"Thank goodness..." Kiyoshi whispered next to me.

Saori shook her head. "I knew it..."

Clearly displayed in the early morning was a single name. Hana Kuno.

"Her death just saved someone's life..." Toshiro muttered with awe.

Monokuma grumbled loudly but didn't voice any opinion. "Next thing tomorrow morning!" He shouted and then was gone.

"Hang on, that was it?" Kena voiced. She glanced around our group. "He's not staying to make threats or make us turn on each other?"

"He doesn't need to." Chikara said darkly. "The motive has already done that."

I felt the tension born from fear dissipate but another took it's place. Distrust. From the corner of my eye I spotted Ryu casting me glances but I pretended not to notice.

"This is horrible." I turned in surprise at the harsh tone Toshiro spoke with. "I can't believe..." He rubbed his face tensely.

"What is it?" Kiyoshi asked from my side.

"This! It's cruel." Toshiro threw his arms wide. "Look at us already! Watching, wondering, contemplating. Distrust in everyone's eyes. Even when we're looking at our friends!"

"That's the reason." Haruko stood near the wheel still, speaking softly. "It's faint. Faint feelings of familiarity. Memories stolen to make it easier to kill, and to make it harder."

I found it difficult to follow her train of thought in the moment. Hadn't she only said it was to make it easier in the beginning?

Toshiro shook his head. "And it's working."

"It doesn't have to!" I insisted. "Look, no one died!" I turned to Saori, remembering what she had said in her house. "Monokuma wants us to kill one another, not him. That's not the point of his game."

"Game?" Chikara turned a hard gaze to me.

I glared. "That's what he calls it!" I gazed into the crowd. "And that's what it is to him!  A game. If we want to survive this, we have to understand how Monokuma sees this whole thing!"

"Survive this? But Hon'yomi, three people are already dead." Kaz pointed out with wide eyes.

"Do you really think there's a situation where we come out on top?" Ryu stepped towards me, anger aglow in his features. "How do you figure that Hon'yomi? You're just a poet, what do you know about death and killing?"

"Not as much as you." I admitted without thought. "I've never killed anyone."

He narrowed his bright eyes. "Implying that experience makes it easy is proof of your ignorance."

I snapped my mouth shut. I hadn't even considered my words. Again. Last time I did that I almost stared down the barrel of a gun.

"This is exactly what I'm talking about!" Toshiro insisted, gesturing to both myself and the hitman.

"I don't think we'll win this." Mae said numbly.

I shook my head. "If you just give u-"

"Let's be thankful that no one else has died." Our attention was snared by Kyofu's words. The rogue stood on the outskirts, hands in his sweatshirt pocket.

"He's right." Saori said. "Stop arguing." She had a dangerous edge to her voice and didn't look anyone in the eye.

"Fine with me." The archer said and began to stalk off towards his house.

I let out a huff and turned on my heel, walking to the diner. I decided that there was a cup of coffee in there with my name on it.

It wasn't long before I settled into a booth, hands wrapped around a cup I was idly sipping on. Eventually I dropped my head onto the table, hair flopping onto the surface as I closed my eyes. How could we win this?

The gentle sound of the door lifted my head. Kena, Saori, Kaz, Mae, Kiyoshi the twins and Kyofu entered one after the other.

"I found the switch on accident." Kena was saying. "It only has a few songs but they're not bad." She vanished behind the counter, leaving the rest of the group to wait for...something.

Noticing my presence, the twins found their way my booth and sat across from me. "Are you okay Hon'yomi?" Akemi asked with concern.

I sighed, not wanting to be the one to make the mood sour. "I'm fine now." Or on the way to be.

"Are you sure?" Kimiko said, watching me doubtfully. She raised a brow and scrutinized me, making me feel cornered.

"I'll be fine." I repeated. "Anyway, what was Kena talking about?"

Kiyoshi walked over to our table. "She said she found a way to turn on the jukebox." The inventor's purple eyes appeared less strained and fearful than before and I found my eyes lingering just a little. It was still strange to see him without his coat.

"You all came in here for music?"

Kaz smiled, though it seemed to lack it's usual brightness. "Yeah! I've never listened to a music box before!"

"Jukebox, Kaz." Saori corrected. "A music box is usually smaller and plays one song."

The climber nodded. "I'll try not to forget that."

"Hon'yomi." A hand fell on my shoulder from behind. Surprised I twisted around to see Kyofu. He looked grim, but not as tired as he had appeared in days before. "Haruko knows about the report." He spoke quietly, soft enough that no one else would overhear, and loud enough that no one would suspect something. "I thought she could-"

"I know." I said, letting my annoyance show. "She asked me about it."

"I trust her, that's the only reason she knows." Kyofu was quick to respond.

I narrowed my eyes. "You might trust her but....I don't think I do." I looked down. "I can't explain why. Besides, I asked you not to tell anyone."

He sighed and rubbed his head, clearly uncomfortable at my words. "Look, I don't know anything about it. Nothing came to me. For all we know it could've been planted on me to confuse us."

"Where is it?"

"Hidden. At my house." Kyofu looked at me knowingly. "Haruko doesn't know where, she had already read it and left when I found a place for it."

That was comforting at least.

"GOT IT!" A loud bellow sounded from behind the counter, and suddenly the room was filled with music. Distracted instantly, I sat up straighter and looked to the jukebox. It shimmered with red and white lights, projecting the chosen song steadily.

"I fucking LOVE this song!" Mae shouted, as recognition of the music struck her. She strode to the middle of the room and began dancing.

The song was an older one, something from a few decades before today's music. She moved in tune with the beat, and once again I nearly became mesmerized watching her move. Mae grew lost in the song until she noticed the people watching her. She paused suddenly, glancing at me and letting out an embarrassed laugh followed by a smile.

Kaz took the opportunity to leap forward and grab her hands, spinning them in a circle. If Mae hadn't been well practiced in balance, I was sure Kaz's movements would've tossed her into the wall. But she held on tightly, turning with Kaz to the tune.

Seeing the two dancing, Akemi jumped up, hauling her sister after her. "Come on Kimi! Like grandma, remember?!" The two clasped hands, reading one another flawlessly and began moving to the music. I watched with interest, recognizing their steps. They managed to dance a swing to the swift song.

Very soon Saori was roped into spinning with Kena when the comedian emerged, and the singer too appeared to relax. I tapped my foot to the music, gathering the guts to leap forward and dance by myself, captivated by the intense desire to move. As I gathered my last nerve, a hand was held out before me.

"Care to dance?" Kiyoshi asked with all the grace of a gentleman.

I smiled, no longer feeling the irritation and stress from a few moments ago and took his hand. Having no idea how to properly dance I did my best not to mess us up. Kiyoshi lead us around the room, spinning and stepping like it was second nature to him. After a few mistakes I was able to pick up the dance and didn't have to stare at out feet so much.

"How did you learn to dance?" I asked over the music.

"My sisters!" He said proudly. "Ever since they watched their first princess movie they wanted to learn so I took lessons and then taught them."

I felt a pang of admiration. "How old are they?"

Kiyoshi opened his mouth to answer, but quickly closed it. "If-if it's really been four years..." His disappointment was clear. "That would make them eleven and twelve now." The inventor looked past my head, but our dance never faltered.

"I'm sorry." My newly lightened heart felt heavy again.

He took a deep breath, his large frame rising and falling. "They're alright. I'm sure they are." He sounded so hopeful, all I could was nod.

We finished the song, but another followed it. Just before we could break apart or start dancing again, I saw two fingers tap Kiyoshi's shoulder. He turned and I looked with interest at the one cutting in. Akemi stood hands at her sides, looking up at him. "Care to switch partners?"

Kiyoshi froze for a second, looking between Akemi and I. "Alright." He agreed, spotting Kimiko standing behind the illustrator.

Akemi grinned, and took my hands excitedly. Amazement tracked through my head. How could someone be so energetic after what had just happened?

The twin leaned in towards me, wiggling her eyebrows. "I had to get them to dance."

I spotted the artist and inventor dancing away smoothly. "Kemi!" I exclaimed, then smiled. "I knew I was right."

She nodded happily before showing me the steps to the swing.

Soon the two of us merged into four, then six, then eight. It was suddenly like everything beyond the diner couldn't touch us. Not Monokuma, not the motive, not the looming wheel. But amidst our spiral of moves I noticed someone was missing.

"Kyofu." I stood before him, hands out. He opened his mouth, I assume to protest but I grabbed his hands and pulled him to his feet. "If a climber can dance, so can a thief."

He let me tug him away from the booth. "Rogue." He corrected with a role of his eyes.

"Oh right." I shook my head and tried to dance the box step. After a few moments I laughed. "You're good at following my lead."

Kyofu shrugged. "I don't know why, but it feels normal to me."

"Huh." I frowned and stopped moving. "Hey Mae!"

The dancer arrived at my side with clicking shoes. "Yeah?"

I placed Kyofu's hands in hers. "You dance better than me. Teach him something fun!"

Mae grinned and nodded, pulling the rogue away.

The events of the early morning grew dim in the diner. The jukebox played music loud enough to chase away the fear. If only for a little while for too soon did the songs begin a tiring repeat. Too soon did the number of people in the diner lessen. The sun crossed the sky, resting time in the place of late afternoon. Too soon did the next drawing approach closer and closer. The sweet spontaneous moment brought forth by a little music wasn't able to last long. Emotions from before raised up, unable to be quashed by a little bit of hope and peace. And yet, while the negative returned some of us had still grasped a moment away. It was truly surprising...the things music could do...

*      *      *

"Hon'yomi. Hey, wake up." 

Body shaken by an outside force my eyelids uncovered my eyes.

"It's going to be nighttime soon." A voice said above my head.

A yawn clouded my view of the wooden desk which I had fallen asleep on. "Did I really fall asleep?" I mumbled drearily.

"It looks like it." I distinguished the voice from my sleepy fog, remembering it to be Toshiro's.

Sitting up I scattered the few pages of poetry I had composed before passing out. After the music in the diner wilted into tense silence I had abandoned my cold coffee, retrieved my things from Saori's, then retreated to the garage.

"'Let us talk silently, eyes speak louder than lips...'" Toshiro read the page that remained, over my shoulder.

"Writing helps me relax sometimes."

The actor nodded. "I run through the order of scenes from plays I've been in." Toshiro muttered. "If it's really bad, the set and costume changes are in there too."

"Sounds chaotic."

"It can be. But it's a good kind of chaotic." He shrugged. "Organized."

Feeling only partially awake I could think of no response. Instead I stood from Akemi's desk.

Toshiro slid his hands into his jeans. "You'll probably want to leave soon. It's on it's way to being ten."

I squinted, only now realizing how dim the garage had grown. The sun must have sunk hours ago, no longer up to reflect from the mirrors in the room. "You're probably right."

He shifted when I didn't move. "Do you want me to walk you to your house?" He sounded puzzled.

"No it's alright." I said. "You can go. I'm just going to grab my poetry then leave."

The actor nodded. "Be careful on your way back."

"Will do." I promised. The door slid open, letting out no noise as it was disturbed. I waved to Toshiro and he disembarked, leaving me alone before the night.

I was anxious to get home and scooped up the pages quickly. Stepping into the dark evening, just barely lit up by the single yellow light above the thick door I made sure it was closed tightly. Convinced it was shut I passed the small alley between the pool and garage that only lead to another towering wall, making my way home. Few lights could be seen ahead, casting dull glows across the square, but the space beneath the large tree remained in complete darkness.

The morning was approaching, only hours away. I hoped Saori continued to be right about the drawing. Hopefully tomorrow we could escape death again. Then of course, there was the liar. What did that mean exactly? Who here was lying? I paused and shook my head. The better question to ask was: who here wasn't lying? Because we all were hiding things from each other. I had the poem that kept coming to me. Kyofu had the report and his scars. I sighed. If only I knew more about the others.

I passed the pool and gym, hearing sounds of life inside. Some people must still be out, swimming or exercising. Trying not to feel left out- I had fallen asleep after all- I passed the building and reached the entrance to the square. From here I could see my house waiting for my return. Thoughts of sleeping in a real bed propelled me forward.

In a sudden moment I jolted, feet growing glued to the spot. A chill tingled down my spine the sense of paranoia trickling over me. From the corner of my eye I saw the shadow of someone moving from the gym towards the garage.

Normally I wouldn't have been so alarmed, if they weren't clearly trying to sneak. I wasn't sure what to do. I could run inside the gym and pool, asking those inside to confront the shadow with me, I could follow them myself, or...I could go home.

Once the last option entered my mind I kicked it out. No way. I could possibly prevent a death...or...assure my own.

Turning slightly I noticed the shadow had moved past the alley and reached the garage door. Heart pounding I rushed to the gym, hiding behind it on the square side and waited. After a few moments I crouched down and peered around the wall. The shadow had vanished, and the garage door was left open a few inches.

I had just left there so I knew no one other than this mysterious person was present. Then...that meant whoever this was, wasn't about to kill anyone. Then why were they sneaking? Dangerous curiosity pushed me after them.

Heart thudding, quicker than what had to be healthy, I slipped in and out of shadows until I reached the door. Actually standing before it I discovered that it was more than a few inches open, it was more like a few feet. I placed myself against the metal, ear near the opening and  tried to listen for any noise.

Gentle clinks of glass on glass drifted past the door along with the sound of moving feet. Unfortunately nothing to give the identity of the person away. Time gathered into expectant seconds, waiting to hear more noise or a voice. The clinking faded away into silence peaking my nervous tension hoping that I wouldn't be discovered.

After the quiet had stretched on I took another chance. I leaned over and pushed my socks down to my ankles, sinking to my knees. The science counter was to the left, if I made my way fast enough I could crawl behind it and see who was inside.

I did my best not to scuff my shoes or hands, and quickly crawled into darkness. The shadows swallowed me and I blindly directed myself to the counter, each second trembling with fear and terror hoping not to be seen. The cement ground was cold on my keens, but I didn't have the courage to sit against the counter once I reached it.

It was hard to focus on sound again while my head and heart rushed loudly. Holding a breath unable to focus on my ears, I peered around the counter. My breath hitched and heart raced all over again as I found a pair of shoes- though it was too dark to make out specifics. Whoever was here stood on the opposite side of the counter which meant...they had probably seen me come in. Knowing I had lost I began to raise my head towards their face.

Swift pounding could be heard across the floor and I realized too late that they were running away, but not towards the door. I jumped to my feet watching as the shadow rushed deeper into the garage and vanished completely in the dark. I knew most of the work areas had small lamps, but most of those were in the back where the person hid.

"I know you're there. Just come out." I said shakily.

And ear shattering slam of metal on metal echoed loudly and I was temporarily caught off guard at the sight of the outside. Whoever had been in here had shoved open a door in the back. A door that I had no idea existed. Gathering myself I rushed forwards, charging after them.

I too pushed the side down open with excessive force, pushing it into the wall but I didn't stop. The door led to the small alley between the garage and pool. I raced quickly, pushing my legs, running on my toes, hands flat. The shadow vanished around the corner of the gym, making for the square. Knowing I'd lose them if that happened I charged faster, nearing the corner when I heard a shout.

"SHI-" The curse was never finished for a loud grunt followed after, along with the sound of a smack.

Moving at full speed I flew around the corner and ground a halt. Saori was splayed across the ground, hair wet, bathing suit on. The gym door still swinging from her exit and her glasses had skidded a few feet away.

"Saori!" I knelt down next to her, wanting to be sure she wasn't hurt. "Are you alright?!"

The singer shook her head to get her bearings, flicking droplets of water on my face. She was breathing heavily in what I realized a moment later as pain. "My leg." She huffed, fighting to remain clam. "Some fucking- asshole just plowed through me."

Listening intently I glanced at her legs. They were hidden beneath a towel which was wrapped around her waist. Spying a dark spot quickly growing on one piece I lifted it and twisted my face. The outer side of her right calf was torn deeply with a nasty cut, bleeding freely. "Shit." I mumbled. "Did you see who it was?" I asked desperately, wondering how to proceed.

Saori rolled her eyes. "How am I supposed to see someone without my glasses?"

Right. "Sorry." I reached over the ground and retrieved them, handing them to her. Luckily they weren't broken.

"Besides." She winced. "They ran into be from behind."

I nodded and rose to a crouch. "Can you stand?" I knew she could, but it wouldn't be easy.

"I think so, but not right now." Saori closed her eyes, trying to slow her breath. "I want to sit for a moment."

Sighing I stood. "Who's in the gym and pool?"

The singers eyes popped open. "Kiyoshi."

"I'll get him."

She didn't have to wait long. The inventor was on his way out when I burst through the door, and slammed into him. He followed me outside, concerned and worried, anxious to help. Despite her protests, Kiyoshi picked Saori up completely and carried her to the store. "There are bandages and a medicine here we can use to clean your leg." He said while I followed behind. "What happened?" He asked, looking at me.

"Well I saw someone sneaking into the garage so I followed them, but they saw me so they ran." I glanced at Saori. "I ran after them and before I could stop them, they ran into Saori and disappeared.

"What the hell?" Saori groaned. "Why is anyone sneaking into the garage? Why not just walk in to avoid suspicion?"

I glared at the ground shrugging. "I have no idea."

Our stop at the store was swift, and Saori left standing on two feet leaning on me for a minimal amount of support.

"Thank you Kiyoshi." She said again.

He still looked worried. "What if this person is still out there?"

"If they ran from me they don't want anyone to know who they are." I pointed out. "No one is gonna hurt us."

That only made a small difference on his face, but he let us make our own ways home after vowing to go check out the garage himself.

Once we reached the street before my house, Saori removed her arm from around my shoulders. "I can make it from here."

I eyed her. "Are you sure?"

She nodded. "Yes. It's better now."

I didn't believe her but I let her go. "Alright. Be careful."

"You too." She said. "Don't chase after anyone else."

I watched her disappear and entered my house, plopping down onto the couch but wasn't long until I saw her again.

*      *      *

"HON'YOMI!" Frantic shouts called my name and I was dragged from sleep yet again. "HON'YOMI WAKE UP!"

Remembering the last events I shot to my feet, thankful that I still wore my shoes and stumbled to the door in the dark, shaken by the intense pounding that shook my door. What was it now?

I jerked open the door, prepared to tell the person on the other side that they had better have a good reason for all this shouting, yet I never said so. Saori stood on my doorstep, her face so white that for a moment I thought she wore a mask. "Hon'yomi." Her blue eyes were blown wide and her hands shook.

"What?" I felt panicked. "What? Who is it? Who?" My hand held onto the doorknob so tightly I couldn't feel it.

"I-" She shook her head. "We don't know."

I swallowed, my own eyes growing in size. I stepped outside, pulling the door shut behind me. "Where?"

Saori spun and I followed her to the street. She turned left heading to the boys homes but I didn't have to wonder where we were going anymore. Panicked shapes of the others were scattered about in front of Kyofu's house. My pace quickened and breathing excellerated as I feared the unknown.

Shouts and exclamations could be heard the closer we got. I shoved my way past those in front to see what was going on. I couldn't fully process what was happening before me. My eyes were drawn to a shape on the grass, clearly distressed. I squinted making my way closer and made out the shape of Kyofu. He was sitting on the grass hand buried in the sleeve of his sweatshirt covering his nose and mouth, breathing so fast I couldn't separate each inhale and exhale. His brown eyes flew around in a frenzied state like he was seeing something that wasn't there and trembled uncontrollably.  

Feeling my own panic rising even more I moved closer, noticing Ryu and Kaz near Kyofu. Terrified with worry I rushed to their side. "W-what's wrong with him?" I watched, Kyofu's gasps getting louder, fearing that he might start screaming.

Kaz looked up at me, but Ryu didn't acknowledge my presence. "Kaz, we need to move him. Get him away from the smell."

I found myself blinking back horrified tears. Smell? What smell? I searched around wildly, looking for some further evidence that could have lead towards Kyofu's panic and my eyes locked onto the entrance to his house.

The door was swung wide open, a veil of smoke drifting from the home and suddenly the smell hit me. It smelled like a mix between spoiled meat and something else...something I couldn't name.

Drawn by fear and the desire to know I made my way to the door. The closer I got the stronger it became, and I noticed a curl of smoke drifting from the chimney atop the roof.

My stomach rolled and twisted at the smell as I entered the room, squinting through the smoke. I covered my nose and mouth, much like Kyofu and searched the room. I made out a shape in the living room, recognizing Haruko. "What's-"

I stopped, finally understanding. Draped in the fireplace was the shape of a body. My eyes began watering but I couldn't tell if if was because of the smoke or the horrific sight before me. Charred, pink, black and red, the person was burnt beyond recognition.

"It's not a mystery." Haruko said, a terrifying look upon her face. "It quite clear who it is." She crouched down and pointed to one arm, and just barely visible among the burnt tissue and skin was a triangle. "Chikara is dead."

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Chapter Text

It was only after I had exited the toxic house, hands covering my mouth, did I realize that I would need to go back in. The announcement bell sounded out of place in the black night. The sun hadn't even begun to rise, leaving one longing for sleep.

"A body has been discovered!" Monokuma's voice rang out."After a certain amount of time, which you may use however you like, the class trial will begin!"

Another one. Already.

"Haruko is it true?" Kimiko asked, peering around the seamstress. Haruko had followed me out, announcing that the one inside was Chikara. The twins stood next to each other both bleary eyed from sleep, but that didn't stop their shocked expressions.

Haruko nodded to them, a hard look on her face. "Yes." She glanced towards the diner where Ryu and Kaz had taken Kyofu. "It's interesting...." She said. "Who did this..."

"We have to go in there don't we?" Akemi spoke fearfully. "If we want to find the evidence."

"Yes." I croaked, throat dry from the smoke.

"I'd rather not go in alone..." Kiyoshi made his way towards us from the street.

"We can go together." Kimiko spoke uncertainly, fidgeting with her long braid.

"Let's go." I glanced to my left. "Haruko?"

Her dark hair glinted purple when she shook her head. "I've already discovered the evidence here."

"Here?"

She began to walk away. "You'll find there's another place of interest."

"Why does she always do that?" Kiyoshi wondered.

"Let's just go." Akemi muttered.

By some unspoken agreement I lead the four of us towards the house. The smoke that had been escaping from the entrance earlier had almost completely dissipated. I was able to focus more on what was before me, and stopped midstep, noticing something.

"What is it Hon'yomi?" Kimiko asked over my shoulder.

"Look at that." I pointed at the outer knob of Kyofu's front door. A small hard grey item was jammed into the lock.

Akemi came to my side. "What is it?!" She gazed closely at it.

"I can't be sure...." Something about it was familiar. "Kiyoshi? Any ideas?"

His large shape moved past us and knelt. "It looks like it's a piece of stone. Possibly chert."

"Chert?" I knelt beside the inventor to get a better look.

"It's often used to make arrowheads." He said grimly.

Arrowheads. "Of course." That's why it appeared familiar. "It's from Chikara's necklace." Rising to my feet I wondered what it meant.

Kimiko widened her eyes. "I remember! He has that stone arrowhead." Frowning, Akemi nudged her and whispered something in her ear. The artist's face fell. "Oh right...had..."

Eyeing the doorway for anymore clues I stepped into the house. Hard as I tried, I couldn't bear to enter without covering my nose and I wasn't the only one. Both the twins and Kiyoshi followed suit with different shades of grimaces.

"This is terrible." I caught the words slip past Kiyoshi's hand. Akemi shook her head in agreement.

"He's over there." I sputtered, indicating to the fireplace.

Our group looked over the futon at the unrecognizable body. I didn't wish to see their reactions, but I heard them regardless. "I wish I knew him better." Kimiko whispered in a weak voice as Akemi sniffled.

"I s-see his tattoo." Kiyoshi said, pointing to the triangle.

Akemi shook her head. "Let's be quick."

"Agreed." I said, and moved around the futon. I adverted my eyes from the body but made it no closer when a collection of beeps filled the air. "Monokuma file." I removed my handbook and looked at the screen.

Monokuma Files: (3)

I tried to be quick, unable to cover my nose while I opened it and selected the latest file.

"Time of death was around 9:50pm." I read aloud. "Chikara Ishikawa's body was found in Kyofu Mashima's private house in his fireplace. Cause of death was exposure to fire which began to burn the victim immediately. The victim also suffered a blow to the back of the head resulting in deep lacerations. The victim would have died of blood loss even without the exposure to fire."

"So whoever did this...they didn't have to...burn him." Kiyoshi gazed at Chikara with glassy eyes.

"Apparently." I said, putting my handbook away.

"What's that?" Kimiko pointed to the large slash above the fireplace.

"That was here before." Shaking my head I pointed to the corner of the livingroom left of the fireplace. "That was too." It was a large pile of broken furniture from Kyofu's outburst.

"Do you think he did it?" Akemi looked alarmed even as she spoke. "Kyofu I mean..."

I almost scoffed, covering my nose again. "I don't think so. Did you see him? Besides...he's afraid of fire."

The inventor puzzled at me. "How do you know that?"

I hesitated. "If it comes up...." I was certain that now it would. "He can tell you."

The room itself wasn't in too bad a shape. Aside from the gash in the wall and pile of destroyed items in the corner, the room was fine. I turned away from the fireplace to study the futon and entryway. "There. The rest of his necklace." I pointed to what remained of Chikara's necklace resting on the futon.

Kimiko squinted at it, glad to have a reason to look away from the body. "It's broken." Her finger pointed to the remaining part of the arrowhead. "That must be the tip in the lock."

"Over here too." Kiyoshi called from near the fireplace. Reluctant to turn that way again I spun slowly, but he was looking at the floor. "Broken glass." He said.

Following his gaze I found the evidence as well. "A lot of it." A decent sized pile of thick glass was spread about, only inches from the entrance of the fireplace. "That could be what-"

"Cut his head." Akemi finished.

The artist focused towards us again. "But what was it?"

"There appears to be measurements on the side." Kiyoshi noted.

Measurements? "In what unit?" I asked.

"Um....milliliters."

"Oh shit."

Kiyoshi blinked. "What?"

"What is it Hon'yomi?" Akemi came to my side, tugging on her sweater.

"Haruko said there was another place to look..." I knew it had to have been significant. The person in the garage. "I have to go." I backed away from the fireplace. "There's more. Somewhere else!"

"Where?!"

"The garage!" I called, nearly out the door.

"WAIT!" Kimiko bellowed.

I skidded to an unexpected halt. "What is it?"

"How did we all miss this?" She gazed at something on the floor with wide, wide eyes.

Kiyoshi edged closer to her, squinting at the ground as well. "What did you find?"

"Don't you see it?" Once again she pointed something out. "There." With her guidance the inventor's eyes grew as well.

Frowning I retraced my steps. "What are you looking at?"

"I see it! The shimmery stuff!" Akemi crouched, with a curious expression. "It looks like car oil or something."

"Car oil?" Narrowing my eyes, searching for the mysterious clue I looked with doubt. There wasn't anything there. "OH. Wait, now I see it." My thoughts began to reverse course. "The light has to hit it."

"I think it is some kind of oil." Kiyoshi agreed.

"Flammable?" Kimiko's voiced seemed to shrink again.

Flammable. Measurements. I jumped. "I have to go!"

"Garage next?" Kiyoshi shouted after me.

"Yes!" This time nothing brought me back. I ran at full speed, the desire to leave the stench of body and smoke behind. Maybe after this trial Haruko could do something about the smell of my clothes...then again, I'd feel bad to ask her to clean my clothes again. I could try and do it myself.

My shoes pounded the pavement, and I passed through the square quickly. When I neared the garage, the events from earlier this night flashed in my mind. The person had defiantly been at Utsumi's old workspace.

The large door was already open, but my feet fell to a stop before I entered the building. It appeared there was more evidence here than I had counted on. Wrapped around the light that shone above the door was a section of a garden hose. The same type I had seen in the store. Curious I walked closer, positioning myself beneath it. Both ends of the hose were plugged with some sort of plastic, wrapped around the light in such a way that whatever traveled through the hose would land directly below the light.  With closer observation I caught sight of a string attached at the bottom end of the hose. The string reached from the hose to the right corner of the garage door, and was hooked around it waiting to be pulled. From what I could tell, if the string was pulled the plastic would be removed, letting whatever was in the hose fall to the ground below.

"Interesting." I whispered to myself, wondering how this would be significant and slowly entered the brick building.

Sure enough there was more evidence on Utsumi's counter. A pair of wire cutters along with the left over length of hose was laying across the black surface. Stopping myself from picking the items up and disturbing the evidence I turned my attention to the lab equipment. Near the sink was a wooden stand that had four round indents carved into it. It held large scientific flasks in each spot save for two.

"You figured it out."

"HOLY-!" I started violently, hands grasping the counter in surprise causing it to shake. "Haruko what the hell?!" I stared with an angry gaze at the seamstress. She had been somewhere in the back of the room.

She gazed at me tiredly. "Hon'yomi I was standing out in the open, it's impossible that you missed my presence."

I huffed, trying to calm my heart. "Well...I did anyway." I stared hard at the flasks. "And yes I figured it out. It wasn't hard." I felt like I needed to defend myself for some reason.

"I didn't mean to imply that you weren't clever enough to figure it out." Haruko stated, coming over to the counter. "You're clever in your own way."

A compliment? "Th-thanks?"

She shrugged moving on to other topics. "The lab book is finally in play."

"Play? Finally?"

"It's a game remember?" The seamstress stated, resting her hands on her belt. "And it had to become significant at some point."

"Right. Someone stole it, but I doubt it was because they knew it would be useful for murder." My gazed traveled throughout the room.

"Or maybe they did." Haruko countered.

I felt like scowling.

"I told you, not everyone here will see our situation the same way as you." She said, watching my face. "Besides, people can surprise you with how well they can hide things."

"Speaking from experience?"

She shrugged again. "When people don't want others to know something, they will go to great lengths to make sure nothing is discovered."

My mind jumped around after hers. "So, you're saying the liar did this?"

Raising a brow she looked at me with curiosity. "It would appear that way."

"It doesn't matter right now anyway." I said, crossing my arms. "We have to wait for the trial before we can decide anything."

"So it also seems."

I sighed. "What does that mean?"

Her dark eyes looked more....open than usual. "No one is stopping you from deciding now."

"That would be foolish." I shook my head. "Others may have found more evidence to consider."

"I see you're wise as well." Haruko stepped past myself and the counter. "I'll see you at the elevator."

Feeling immensely lost with the need to be extra cautious I watched the seamstress leave. There had to be something going on with her...

"Ehm!" A screen mounted on the far wall lit up with Monokuma's black and white face. "Attention everyone! You're time is up! It's trial time!" I hastily raked my eyes over the room again to be sure I hadn't missed something. "Make you're way to Town Hall and remember, attendance is mandatory!"

The screen fell silent and I backed out of the room, tension running in my veins. Hardly a second to think any of this through had been given to us. Etching focus into my bones to remove my nerves I slid the garage door shut and headed to Town Hall.

*       *       *

I took the last free moment before the elevator door opened to release up to slip next to Kyofu. "It's going to be alright." I whispered. "I know you didn't do it. It's impossible."

The rogue wore a glare upon his face as he stared at the metal exit. "But it's not alright Hon'yomi. Someone just betrayed Chikara and us." He turned and looked at me, a chilling look in his brown eyes. "In the worst way...and now they're also going to die."

Or us. I added silently. "Y-you're right..." It wasn't alright. Nothing had been remotely alright from the moment I opened my eyes to the oak tree's leaves. This place was riddled with darkness, and the trials were the darkest parts.

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Chapter Text

~ALL RISE~

The interior of the trial room had changed yet again. The falling stars and false windows were replaced with paintings of many birds. Some were caged, while others were mid flight shedding all their feathers only to become skeletons. It was eerily beautiful.

When I reached my place I did a double take. I had forgotten that we would see the crossed off portrait of Renji and now...Chikara. I felt bad for Mae and Kyofu who stood across from the photos. But I was mostly sorrowful for Kyofu.

"Shall I explain the class trial?" The bear offered.

"No thanks." Mae glared.

Kiyoshi leaned towards the center with earnest. "Is everyone alright?" He asked, ignoring Monokuma.

"What kind of question is that?" Ryu criticized.

"A kind one." Kaz stated, wearing a surprisingly hard expression.

"It's nice but we don't have time for things like that." Toshiro pointed out. "We have a murder to solve."

"Another one." Kena added.

"Then let's start with what everyone knows." I proposed. "The third Monokuma File." The place we always started.

"Right." Toshiro agreed. He turned at looked at the bear expectantly. The next moment the file and diagram were projected on the large screen.

"Time of death was around 9:50pm." Toshiro began. "Chikara Ishikawa's body was found in Kyofu Mashima's private house in his fireplace." My eyes flickered to the rogue who remained still. "Cause of death was exposure to fire which began to burn the victim immediately. The victim also suffered a blow to the back of the head resulting in deep lacerations." As he came to the end he turned towards the circle. "The victim would have died of blood loss even without the exposure to fire."

"If he would've died anyway, why burn him?" Kimiko proposed.

Ryu scoffed. "I doubt the killer knew the blow to the head would kill him. They probably only hit him to incapacitate him." He gestured towards us. "Everyone here is fairly small compared to Chikara except Kiyoshi. Whoever attacked must have decided it was smarter to knock him out before they let him burn."

"I agree." Saori eyed the File quizzically. "The blackened wouldn't want to take the chance that he could still be alive."

"Hang on, from your wording Ryu it sounds like you disregarded Kiyoshi as a suspect." Toshiro looked between the Hitman and Inventor suspiciously. "Does he have an alibi?"

Kiyoshi shrugged. "I went to bed early." He offered.

"You live next door to Kyofu." Kena said doubtfully.

The Inventor looked across me to the Comedian. "I did! I went to bed early, right after I checked out the garage!"

"Garage?" Haruko's interest was immediate. "What about the garage?"

Kiyoshi turned to me. "Hon'yomi?"

His attention pinned me beneath many intense gazes, Haruko's being the hardest one. "Last night- or uh, earlier this night before the nighttime announcement, I saw someone sneaking into the garage."

"Sneaking?" Toshiro asked. "And you saw them?" He looked at me oddly. 

I nodded. "Well yeah, they weren't doing a very good job of it if you ask me." Instinctively I looked at Kyofu. "I decided to follow them."

"Hon'yomi!" I jumped, alarmed at the disapproval in Akemi's voice.

"You could've been hurt!" Kimiko exclaimed.

"Actually I wasn't the one who got hurt." Their faces grew even more outraged. "But I'll get to that." From the corner of my eye I saw Saori waiting for her involvement to be mentioned. "I followed them into the garage after hearing them messing around at Utsumi's work space."

"His work space?" Mae asked.

"Yes. It sounded like they were messing with the flasks."

Kiyoshi's eyes grew. "That's where....the garage..."

"And what happened next?" Haruko prodded.

"I snuck into the room and hid on the opposite side of the counter. Unfortunately they saw me before I could see them and they escaped out the side door."

Mae leaned forward. "Side door? The garage doesn't have a side door."

I shook my head. "It does. It was originally blocked with Haruko's sewing supplies and machine, but whoever was there must have noticed it at some point and they used it to escape into the alley." I tried to remember if the door had been accessible when I returned there to investigate, but all my focus had been on the flasks. I blinked, and Haruko. A tantalizing thought occurred to me and I eyed the seamstress. "I ran after them..." I continued hesitantly. "But they got too far ahead and ran into Saori, knocking her down."

"It tore up my leg." Saori added, in an agitated manner.

"But you didn't see who it was." Toshiro inferred.

She answered curtly. "No. I couldn't."

"That's when Hon'yomi got me from the pool area." Kiyoshi progressed.

The dancer nodded. "Yeah, I remember that. I saw you two leave."

"Hon'yomi and I helped Saori to the store where we cleaned and bandaged her leg."

"And then we went to our homes." I finished. "Saori and I. Kiyoshi went back to check out the garage to see if the person returned."

The Inventor removed a few gears from his coat pocket. "No one was there so I went to bed."

"Wait a moment." Haruko spoke quietly. "If Mae and Kiyoshi saw one another at the time of Saori's injury we can rule them out as being the one in the garage."

"And Saori." I said. "Along with myself."

"But we weren't the only ones in there." Mae pointed to Kaz, and the twins. "We were all at the pool."

"Were you all there when Saori got injured?" Kena looked to her left and right.

"Yes." Kaz confirmed. "We were swimming."

"All five of us were there when Hon'yomi came inside." Kimiko said.

"So we're not suspects." Kiyoshi slipped the gears back into his pocket, looking hopeful.

"Unfortunately that's not the case." Toshiro shook his head. "This only means that none of you could've been the person in the garage. Any of you could still be the killer."

"That's not necessarily true Toshiro." Saori countered. "The killer used the flasks from Utsumi's station. Why wouldn't the person from the garage be the killer?"

"How do you know that Saori?" Kaz pondered. He appeared a bit lost.

"I investigated." She answered sounding puzzled. "I already saw Chikara and the broken glass so I went to the garage after I woke up Hon'yomi."

"Wait, we're going too fast." Kena protested. "You're throwing out evidence that we haven't even talked about yet."

"We'll slow down." Akemi suggested. "Let's talk about the evidence that was in Kyofu's house."

"Fine. There are seven notable things to discuss." The Actor stated, appearing thoughtful.

"Hang on," I raised a brow. "Seven?"

He nodded. "Let's start with the lock."

Kaz frowned a little. "There was something in the lock, right?"

"That was how the door was opened." Ryu leaned against his podium.

"It was a piece of Chert. To be exact." Kiyoshi specified. "Often used in making arrowheads."

"So the killer used one of Chikara's arrows to pick the lock." Kaz said.

"No that's wrong!" I opposed. "Chikara's arrows had their tips removed. It would've been impossible to pick the lock trying to use those, and Monokuma can confirm this."

"I can." The bear exclaimed. "Both Chikara and Ryu had their weapons rendered useless!"

"And, " I persisted. "We don't know that it was the killer who opened the door. It could've been Chikara."

"The piece in the lock matches Chikara's broken arrowhead necklace that was found on Kyofu's futon." My eyes flashed to Haruko. "I think it's safe to assume that it wasn't the killer, but Chikara who picked the lock. Why would he give his necklace to someone who was hostile, or how would it have been taken from him? He was only knocked out after the door was open and he was inside, that's where the glass is."

"Then why was he trying to get into Kyofu's house? And how do we know that you weren't there and killed Chikara when he broke in?" Kena looked to Rogue suspiciously.

"She has a point." Toshiro said.

"Before we go down that path," I began with annoyance. "Let's first talk about why Chikara would've wanted to get into Kyofu's house."

Kiyoshi shook his head. "Alright then, why?"

"There's the motive." Mae suggested. "The liar."

Ryu shrugged, glancing at his girlfriend. "If that played a role in this murder."

"We don't know it didn't, and it's- well it's irresistible." She concluded.

"That is true." Haruko agreed.

"So, Chikara possibly thought Kyofu was the liar?" Akemi considered.

"Or was going to kill him." Mae narrowed her eyes in thought. "Think about it, if you're going to question someone why not knock?"

Saori didn't agree. "That doesn't mean he was going to kill him either. Calling the liar out means certain death to them, or you if you're wrong. To me it makes sense that he would've broke in."

"But why break in?" Kaz asked, with wide eyes.

"He wasn't at home." Haruko seemed to come to her own explanation. "He must have broke in to wait when Kyofu didn't answer."

"Haruko." Kyofu warned.

"He was with me."

Toshiro crossed his arms. "He can speak for himself."

"Yes. I can." Kyofu sighed, rubbing his face. "I wasn't at home. I was with Haruko." He fell silent as if that was all he could manage at the time and looked hard at his shoes.

I did my best to watch the two of them closely. Something strange was happening between them...

"Where were you?" Kaz said looking up at him.

"Her house."

"Doing what?" Ryu narrowed his eyes.

"Not planning murder." Kyofu said offensively. "We were talking."

"About?" Toshiro raised an eyebrow.

Kyofu shook his head. "That's not important!" He stared angrily at the wall across from him now. "The point is, that after the night announcement I left and went home."

"And I went with him."

"Why? You were already home, why go too?" I asked the Seamstress.

"Because there was smoke coming from the chimney." She answered easily relaying a knowing look my way. We both knew Kyofu wouldn't have built a fire. 

"So the two of you found Chikara first." Kena concluded.

Kyofu looked down, his hands curling into fists. "Yes."

Haruko picked up from there. "I got him out of the house." She gestured to Kyofu. "And asked Ryu to keep an eye on him."

Kaz raised his head. "I was on my way home so I went to see what was happening and ended up helping Kyofu."

"Alright then." Kena stated. "So Chikara broke in either to wait to kill Kyofu, or to wait for him and confront Kyofu about possibly being the liar?" Kena summed up.

"You know he is right here, yes?" I asked, crossing my arms and nodding to the Rogue.

"Exactly. While Chikara isn't." Toshiro observed.

"That's ridiculous!" I shouted. "Kyofu is the last person here would even consider lighting someone on fire."

"What makes you say that? You said something like it before." Akemi looked apologetically at Kyofu. "I don't want to think he did it, but why are you so sure he didn't?"

"Are you fucking kidding me?!" Kyofu burst out. He jabbed a finger at the Monokuma File on the screen. "That's-that's the worst way to die!" His breathing started to grow into gasps, his whole body radiating anger. "None of you can imagine how-how-" His eyes grew wide and he looked as though he was slipping beyond reason. "How- horrible..."

"Kyofu!" Haruko shouted.

He blinked a few times. "I d-didn't kill Chikara." He spoke dangerously like he was daring anyone to oppose him.

"Kyofu." Saori spoke to the Rogue with a comforting tone. "I don't think you did it, but they want proof you didn't do this. Do you have any?"

I held my breath. Technically he did. He just had be able to show everyone.

"Kyofu?" Kiyoshi watched him tensely.

"Are you okay?" Kaz asked from his other side.

I knew the both of them were just concerned, but I understood if Kyofu felt a little crowed by their questions. He still didn't look good, face pale and hands shaking. I had noticed they did that often when he was tense, a tick that was impossible to ignore.

"Kyofu." I leaned across Kiyoshi to study him. He looked up to meet my gaze and read the unspoken suggestion: show everyone the scars he was hiding. As I waited for a response Haruko caught my attention and nodded softly to me. It wasn't my secret to tell, but I would if they kept accusing him and he did nothing.

Face growing blank- or as blank as possible- he took a deep breath and stared hard at the floor. "I didn't kill Chikara." The room's tension grew with his demeanor and Kyofu reached up to remove his sweatshirt.

Openly I sighed, eyes slipping closed for a moment of relief. No one would think he was the killer after this. Besides, he and I had made a promise. We wouldn't kill anyone, nad something told me he valued staying true to his word.

"What are you doing?" Mae asked, before he had managed to remove it completely. My eyes popped open as her answer came a moment later when the dark blue material was tossed to hang over the edge of his podium.

A few gasps sounded when his sweatshirt was completely removed, along with shocked faces.

"Oh." Kimiko breathed, her face captured by pity and uncertainty.

Kyofu left his eyes on the ground while his scars were revealed for all to see. His shoulders were tight with strained emotions, and he never removed a hand from his sweatshirt. I too marveled again at the angry warped skin spanning from his wrist to the base of his neck.

"Are you- that must've really hurt!" Kaz said.

"Well no shit." Mae spat out, her own eyes wide.

I glanced to Kena and Akemi on my right to see their reactions. Akemi looked conflicted, as if unsure to look or not while Kena appeared as though she had no idea what she should do. Next to Mae, Ryu looked the most composed aside from Haruko. 

"I didn't kill Chikara." Kyofu repeated for a final time as we all looked on.

Toshiro was stricken. "I believe you." He winced. "I'm sorry..."

Kyofu's eyes wandered towards Haruko. "Are we done?"

"I th-think so." Saori muttered.

The Rogue snatched his sweatshirt and slid it on in nearly the same motion. Kyofu then shoved his hands in the pocket, looking highly uncomfortable and impatient.

"Um- so C-Chikara." Kiyoshi fumbled for composure. "He went there to kill Kyofu or confront him."

"About being the liar." Kena clarified. Halfheartedly she tossed a look to Kyofu. "You're not the liar are you?" Before he could react I gave her a hard look. "Hey I was kidding!" She defended, raising her hands. "Sort of..."

"So you returned to the house to investigate." Toshiro returned focused to Haruko. And for a moment, I wondered if he knew something I didn't. "After you got Kyofu out."

Haruko's attention was taken from Kyofu. "I did." She nodded. "At that point we had no idea who had been killed."

"Hang on." I said addressing the room. "So, after Haruko went back inside, the rest of you guys started coming over and found out what happened?"

"Yes." Mae answered. "I saw everyone on my way home." She sighed delicately, "I went inside and....saw him."

"Is it true that you figured out who it was by his tattoos?" Kaz peered across two portraits at the Seamstress. She nodded.

"We would've discovered who it was eventually." I glanced to the Actor as he spoke. Toshiro paid no attention to my gaze, or the puzzlement on my face when I realized something.

Just how anxious had the actor been when he woke me in the garage? He wouldn't leave me alone until he was certain I had said that I would leave. Narrowing my eyes I took a breath. "Where were you?"

Everyone turned to me at my question, halting the previous discussion.

"What?" The actor inquired, clearly confused.

"It's just, you woke me up in the garage and told me I should go home....how do I know that it wasn't because you wanted to sneak in without anyone there?" I tried to stare him down but found it difficult.

Now under skeptical scrutiny, Toshiro started to look worried. "Hon'yomi, you were out like a light, if I was the person who snuck into the garage, I could've done it while you were sleeping."

"But where were you?" Ryu asked with challenge.

The Actor complied. "When the killing happened? I was asleep. Kena had to wake me up to come outside after the body was found."

The Comedian nodded. "Pounded on the door for what seemed like forever."

"But when you saw someone go in the garage, and you," He pointed to Saori. "-got hit....I was probably still in the arcade playing video games..."

"So no real alibi." Ryu said.

"The people who have real alibi's are the people who were in the pool." Kaz said.

"And me." I said. No way was I going to be accused again.

He nodded his bright head. "And Hon'yomi."

"So why were they at the garage in the first place?" Kiyoshi asked.

"The glass we saw near the fireplace?" I mentioned, looking at him. "It came from a flask, like Saori said. That has to be what was smashed over his head."

"So they were there to get a flask." He paused to think. "That's why they were the Utsumi's station! To get one."

"Two actually." Haruko said.

Kaz frowned. "But...then what? Why get them? You could use anything to knock someone out, why pick a flask?"

"The shimmery stuff!" Akemi proclaimed.

Ryu rolled his eyes. "Could you be less vague, and little more helpful?"

Akemi gave him a hard look, followed by one from Kimiko. "The shimmery stuff. I don't know what it is. It was on the floor in Kyofu's house."

Shimmery. That seemed so familiar.

"I suspect that it's some sort of flammable liquid." Kiyoshi said.

"So they put the liquid in the flasks." Kena said. "But where did they...." She gasped. "Right. The lab book."

Yes the lab book. Like Haruko had said, it must finally be in play. So whoever took the lab book from Utsumi when he was dead must be the killer. Right?

"The killer used the lab book to make the solution." Saori stated, clearly troubled.

Ryu looked apprehensive. "How can we know that for sure?"

Come on, I just had to remember.....

"Where else would that stuff be from?" Akemi countered roughly.

Ryu fell silent, unable to give an answer. However, the Hitman sent a glare her way.

"If the killer had the lab book and made this solution. That's suggesting that this was premeditated." Toshiro said.

A huff turned my attention to Kaz. "What?"

"He's saying that the killer already planned to kill Chikara." Kena clarified.

"That makes sense..." I mused. The solution, sneaking in the garage and the strange items that were there after Chikara's death... I stopped my thought. We still had to talk about Kyofu's.

"So...who would do this? And why?" Kiyoshi shook his head. "Who would plan to kill someone unless they knew what Chikara was up to?"

"If Chikara was planning on killing Kyofu." Haruko quickly said.

"Even then! Even if he was confronting him about the liar, maybe someone decided to stop Chikara from possibly causing Kyofu's death?" Kiyoshi finished with excitement.

It seemed as though all eyes drifted to Haruko when the Inventor fell silent.

She sighed. "Let's discuss what we know for cert-"

"Hang on." Toshiro interrupted. "You and Kyofu are close friends."

Haruko tightened her lips. "I don't have friends." Her voice was very quiet again.

Mae scoffed. "What do you call us then? We went to school together, we obviously all knew each other."

"Potential burdens." She admitted.

"Bullshit!" I shouted angrily suddenly fueled with strong distaste. "You don't believe that anymore than you believe Kyofu's is the killer."

Haruko opened her mouth but I cut her off.

"You may want to. Or think so, but it isn't true. Kyofu is your friend. I've seen it! Don't pretend like you don't care to protect yourself or anyone else!"

I sensed Kiyoshi gaping at me. Haruko tightened her lips again, saying nothing.

"Haruko didn't do it either." Kyofu spoke, joining the tension. "I was with her all night." He still didn't look anyone in the eye.

"You could just be saying that to pro-"

"Damn it!" He slammed a fist on the podium before him. "I just said that's most horrible way to die! I wouldn't protect the killer!"

"Kyofu." Saori said, her voice out of everyone else's sounded reasonable. "Why do you think Chikara was at your house?"

"I-I think..." He cleared his throat. "I believe Chikara thought I was the liar and decided to confront me." Kyofu seemed to be grasping at calmness better than before, but his shoulders never relaxed.

"But why? Why you?" Kena asked. "Why did he think you were the liar?"

"Maybe only Chikara knew." Saori answered instead of Kyofu.

"Toshiro. You said there were seven things of importance. " Mae said recalling what was stated earlier. "Can you list them?"

The Actor clenched his jacket. "Alright. There's the piece of chert in the lock, which is from Chikara's broken arrowhead necklace that was carelessly left strewn aside. There is also the broken flask near the entrance of the fireplace, and the shimmery solution that it must have contained spilled about." He sent Akemi an acknowledging gaze. "The fireplace also contained bits of broken pieces of furniture from the pile that was in the corner, along with a charred silver object that was once a lighter."

"That's a lot of things." Kaz tilted his head, his gaze becoming strange.

"There was a lighter?" I asked a moment later.

Haruko confirmed it. "Yes there was." 

From the store. Like Renji...

"Am I the only one wondering where the broken furniture came from?" Kena scratched her head. "And why there is there so much?"

"I broke the chairs and living room table." Kyofu said with forced disinterest. 

Kiyoshi gaped at him now. "W-why?"

"It was after the second trial."  Was all he said.

"Oh..." Kimiko and Akemi breathed at the same time. 

"Why they're broken isn't significant." Saori said. "But how they were used is."

"There were pieces in the fireplace." I stated from Toshiro's review. 

"Yes. Under Chikara's body there were charred and burnt objects from Kyofu's house." Haruko tightened the string around her hair. 

"Then there was already was a fire?" I frowned, staring at the floor. What did that mean?" 

"Is it possible that while Chikara waited, he started a fire?" Saori asked intuitively. 

"Well..." Kimiko raised a hand to her chin in thought. "We know he knows how to start fires. He built the bonfire the night we had dinner together."

"Yes but that seems a bit odd right?" I pointed out. "Chikara didn't need matches or a lighter to start the fire. If he built a fire while he was waiting why would he then suddenly use a lighter? It's not like Kyofu would have one in his house he could've used either."

"Maybe the killer had it?" Saori considered. I looked at her with confusion. "What I mean is, it's clear that the wood pieces were put in the fireplace and were burnt. Chikara was on top of the pile so he had to have been set on fire after those had already been burning." 

"Ah I see." Toshiro said. "You think the fire was started before hand and when the killer arrived they smashed the flask of flammable liquid on Chikara, knocking him unconscious, and set him on fire with the lighter?"

Saori knit her brows together, the light of the room gleaming off her glasses. "Y-yes. I guess." 

"I...I suppose I could see that." I said. 

The Seamstress spoke next. "The killer was always going to burn Chikara, so it could be possible."

"What do you mean, always?" Kiyoshi widened his purple eyes. 

She sighed. "The flasks were taken from the beginning. And of course there is the trap."

"What trap?" Mae asked. 

"At the garage." I raised my finger. "The hose!" 

"What hose?" Kimiko brushed her braid aside and leaned forwards. 

"At the garage wrapped around the light was a length of garden hose." I turned to the center. "The same garden hose from the store. It was plugged with some sort of plastic and had a string attached." 

"It appeared that if pulled, whatever was in the hose would land on the person standing below it." Saori explained. 

"Creating a trap." Haruko told Kiyoshi. 

"What was in it?" The Comedian asked. 

"That's where the second flask went most likely." Haruko shrugged. "The hose is filled with the same solution we saw in Kyofu's house."

"Then the killer originally was going to kill them at the garage." Saori guessed.

Toshiro nodded excitedly. "Yes and when they couldn't get Chikara there, or they saw Chikara go to Kyofu's they decided to take the extra solution and kill him there." 

"That's very complicated." Kaz said pouting. "I don't why someone would try so hard to do something so terrible."

Saori and Kena looked at him with pity. "Unfortunately they did." The Singer said. 

"Alright let me restate this." I strained my thoughts to recall our jumbled discussion. "The killer knew that Chikara was going to confront Kyofu...or at least someone and they wanted to stop him. So they decided to use what resources they had: Utsumi's lab book. They snuck into the garage to get flasks so they could make the solution and got supplies at the store to set up the trap. But after the trap was set, they couldn't get Chikara there, or he decided to act sooner than they thought so they went after him. They then knocked Chikara out with the flask, spilling the solution on him in the process and lit him on fire, placing him in the fireplace."

"The File does say he was burned immediately." Mae stated. "Proving he was covered with the soultion."

Toshiro added to my understanding. "They probably didn't place him in the fire. The glass was so close to the fireplace entrance that he probably fell into the fire after he was hit."

"So then, they didn't set Chikara on fire?" Ryu asked. 

"How are we supposed to know?" Kiyoshi suddenly shouted. His eyes shifted around uneasily and he pulled on his tie. "We can't always figure this out can we? Half of this is just speculation, we have a lot of evidence but it's impossible to be certain."

I spun to the left, watching as the Inventor panicked. "K-Kiyoshi."

He shook his head. "This time it's too much. I'm sorry...at the beginning of this I thought we could figure it out but...but I'm not so sure." He looked at me with wide eyes. "Hon'yomi I can't die." 

That was right. He had to look out for his sisters.

"Kiyoshi we can only speculate right now!" Mae exclaimed, face struck with surprise. 

"It's the only chance we have to be able to vote correctly." Kimiko said. She looked towards him with worried kindness.

"Then who is it? Have we decided? We've ruled out eight of us-!" Kiyoshi's mouth fell closed.

"Leaving Ryu, Toshiro and Kena to be the blackened." I said with shock. 

"You said Toshiro wanted you to leave the garage." Haruko said, turning her attention to him. 

"And...Ryu didn't investigate." Akemi said.

The Hitman growled. "You think I'd even consider killing someone with Mae still alive?  That's bullshit, if I got away with it she'd die."

Akemi looked at him blankly and shrugged. 

"Ryu didn't kill Chikara!" Mae said. "He wouldn't care what Chikara was up to in the first place!" 

For some reason...I felt inclined to believe her. Ryu was smart and he wouldn't need some solution to kill someone. 

"Then that leaves Kena and Toshiro." As Haruko spoke, her voice rung with ultimatum.

 However I was thinking about something else. The killer had the lab book. The person who had found Utsumi first. But who? Was there any evidence? Someone who hadn't been as surprised or caught off guard when they learned of what happened? Too bad I had been in such a daze that morning. 

I closed my eyes, blocking out the accusations being thrown about. We didn't want to be wrong like Kiyoshi said. We couldn't be wrong. So what had I missed? There had to be something. I forced my thoughts to the moment Toshiro and Kyofu had woken me up, knives in my hand. Immediately after I saw Utsumi, I was taken by Haruko to wash off the blood. 

I cringed, remembering the sticky hardening substance. 

And then...and then....

"No." I gulped. Was it really? But...yes. It had to be. It had to be. I shook my head. "R-really?"

It struck me. Three words. Four letters, nine letters and twelve.

"You specifically told Hon'yomi to leave the garage!" Mae was shouting at Toshiro. "Are you going to deny running into Saori too? It had to be-"

"No, that's wrong!"

How many times had I shouted that? Twice? Five times? With the despair that welled within me threatening to overflow, I was beginning to loose count of our trials.

The words rushed out of my mouth before I contemplated whether what I was thinking, was right. They carried across the courtroom loudly, turning everyone's attention to me.

"T-that....that isn't what happened." I stuttered, sure that they were doubting me again.

"Oh yes, let's all listen to what Hon'yomi has to say, because she clearly knows what she's talking about." Ryu said, criticism and annoyance dripping in his voice.

My hands grew sweaty as I thought of the next words that would leave my mouth, and I found myself clenching the podium before me. My words would lead us to another moment none of us wanted to face, another execution we didn't want to see.

Not for the first time, my thoughts tumbled over themselves towards the beginning. Towards the start of our despair. I tried to fathom how what I was about to say was acceptable....and right.

As colors and words echoed through my mind, some how the walls around us seemed to fold upon themselves. I cast a glance around the room, but without warning it began spinning. Faces of my classmates swirled together and the sound of Monokuma teased me through the chaos. I felt myself struggling blindly for the podium I had been clinging to so tightly before. But hands grasped empty air, and my eyes went dark as the world soon followed after.

"I'll find a way to remember. I swear."

Shards of us remain, throughout the battered world.

Escape, enter Tragedy prevent hope destroyed.

"I-I swear."

"Sit her up."

"Do you think it was her allergy again?"

"I doubt it, she hasn't eaten any gluten as far as I know."

"She's awake, she just hasn't opened her eyes."

"Hon'yomi." Slight pressure on my shoulder removed me from my daze.

"I-I swear..." I repeated, opening my eyes to the people around me.

Kena was the closest, supporting me as I leaned against my podium. "What did you say?" She asked cautiously.

"What happened?" Kiyoshi stood above me, looking down with concern. "Are you okay?"

My limbs felt heavier than usual, and my head felt as if it was tingling. "I re- I re-" I remembered something. Saori furrowed her brows, watching me  intently. "I really don't know..." I mumbled staring at her.

Toshiro sighed with relief, standing next to Saori. "Can you stand?"

I nodded. "Yeah I think I'm alright." Everyone's presence around me quickly felt overbearing making me feel slightly claustrophobic. "I'm alright." I grasped the podium around me for support and stood.

"Hon'yomi Nakajima!" Inwardly I groaned at Monokuma's address. "Are you quite finished making scenes in my trial room?!"

Tiredly I looked across and up, doing my best not to glare too heavily at the bear. "I think so."

Monokuma grumbled loudly. "I wouldn't expect you to be the one passing out all the time!"

What did that mean? 

"She's fine Monokuma." Saori said. "And she was going to say something." She looked at me expectantly. 

"Get back in your places!" The bear commanded. "Hon'yomi can wait until you're back where you belong." He watched me carefully. 

I did my best not to feel like I was in some sort of danger now.  "I'll find a way to remember. I swear." Those had been my words. That was my promise. But to who? And...was this poem my way of remembering?

"So?" Kena said to me, standing back at her podium. 

Lifting my head I looked around the room, my thoughts from before hitting me all at once. "O-oh right." I took a shaky breath. I didn't want to say this. How could I say this? I felt my resolve weakening. If I didn't we would be stuck here in a circle of lies and speculations, or until someone voted. And right now...everyone would vote wrong. 

Unable to hide my hurt and confusion, I looked into the only remaining pair of blue eyes in the room. I saw it there. The truth. And they were begging me to say it. To just say it already. "Saori. Yo-you're the only one." 

"What?!" Kimiko shrieked. "Hon'yomi! Hon'yomi! That makes no sense!" 

"Yeah! It was Toshiro it has to be!"

"No one ran into you." I said numbly, unable to think about what was coming. What was next. "You fell didn't you?"

Saori gasped, fighting tears. "Y-you try running in a towel Hon'yomi." 

"N-no." I shook my head. "No you didn't do this."

"You just said she did?!" Akemi shouted. 

"How did you know?" Haruko asked me, wide eyed. 

"S-Saori didn't do it!" Kimiko shouted. She glared at me. "She was at the pool. She- Toshiro ran into her."  

Toshiro shook his head. "I didn't do this!" 

"Well Saori didn't!" She insisted. 

"Kimi-" The Singer began.

"N-no!" The Artist shook her head. "Don't say anything!"

"Kimiko." I watched her hysterics grow. "Saori left the pool alone didn't she?"

"Toshiro has no alibi!" Kimiko glared at me. 

I felt a pang as she regarded me with such anger. "Neither does she. We just assumed because she was there, but the time between her leaving the pool and when I saw her on the ground must be longer than we thought."

"She went to bed!" Akemi looked at her sister with concern, but was heavily ignored. "You said she went to bed!" Kimiko pointed at me accusingly. 

I nodded. "She told me she did but we split up when we reached my house." I hated everything I was saying, but it was true. We finally had the truth. 

Kimiko huffed, flustered with anger and disbelief. She looked around trying to think of something. I wished there was something. "The lab book! You can't prove she has it-"

The words came to my mind again: BODY DISCOVERY ANNOUNCEMENT.

"This should prove it!" I exclaimed, trying to get her to understand. "The body discovery announcement." I spoke furiously. "The morning of Utsumi's death, Saori ran into Haruko and I." I looked at her. "You said the body discovery announcement woke you up and you knew Utsumi was dead." I steeled my gaze, looking back to Kimiko. "The body discovery announcement doesn't say who was killed. So how else did she know?"

Kimiko's chin trembled. 

"Saori had already seen his body and took the lab book." I fell silent, unable to explain anymore.

Haruko looked at Saori. "It was you." 

"But...why Saori?" Toshiro looked at the Singer that stood solemnly at his side. 

She let out a shaky breath. "You mostly have it right...after going off of things I suggested."

"Explain to me why." Toshiro demanded. 

Saori straightened her shoulders, like she was shaking off fear. "I- it's this stuff about the liar. Chikara he- he thought he knew who it was or...thought someone could help him figure it out."

"B-but how could you do that?" Kyofu interrupted her with ferocity. "How could you...burn someone alive?!"

Saori swallowed her explanation. Her face made it clear that she wouldn't refute whatever Kyofu was about to say.

"It doesn't matter what you say." He continued, looking at her with pained disappointment. "Or what he was going to do.

"He was willing to let someone die!" She exclaimed, but her voice suddenly lost it's volume. "And-and I realized I was willing to stop him."

"Someone died anyway!" Kaz shouted, hurt on his face.

"But no one was going to be drawn!" She insisted and I recalled how many times she had said just that. "Monokuma isn't here to kill us. He's here to enforce the killing! I realized that...I was willing to stop Chikara from causing a needless death." Saori shook her head. "Which made me a killer and I realized I could...I could kill someone." She hardened her features as if finally coming to terms with what she did. "Now...now there's about to be two killers gone from your midst...."

Toshiro grit his teeth. "What was he going to do?"

"He wanted to talk to Kyofu about the liar. I-I think he knew something." She shrugged. "He overheard a conversation..." Saori raised her eyes to us. "But I don't know who it is." She said with a promise.

Kena looked over to Kyofu. "Then Kyofu knows who the liar is?"

"No I don't." The Rogue sounded as though he wanted nothing more than to have this trial end. "I have no idea why he thought I would know something." His voice, for the first time since the trial began sounded smooth. "Maybe he wanted to ask me to sneak around someone but I don't have any idea who."

Saori shook her head, looking at her shoes floor. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I did such a horrible thing..." Her voice grew thick with tears. "But I had the lab book...it was all I could think of."

Kyofu made a sound of indignation. "What you did is unforgivable." His voice began to betray him, revealing his emotions. "You killed him in my house. In my house! Do you have any idea- "

"I-it wasn't supposed to be like that!" She interrupted loudly, fighting tears. "It was supposed to be at the garage."

"It shouldn't have happened at all." Kyofu said almost sinisterly.

"Maybe if it didn't, you could be the one we were having a trial for." Saori muttered.

Kyofu remained silent.

"So-so you just....set him on fire..." Toshiro said. The Actor watched the Singer with broken disbelief.

"I-I pushed him in..." She took a shaky breath. "I convinced him to-to make a fire because I followed him into the house. I said I would wait with him and-and when he was kneeling...I smashed the extra flask over his head and pushed him in..."

My eyes grew blurred with tears. "You-you woke me up after you had k-killed...."

She shook her head. "I didn't know what to do. I wanted to tell you."

"So it's time to vote then." Ryu said. He looked....somber in some way.

"N-no!" Akemi shouted.

"Saori..." Kena watched her broken heartedly. "Why did you have to do this?"

"You-you can't die!" Kiyoshi shouted.

Toshiro agreed. "We never finished that damn competition..."

I felt myself soaking in the moment. I found that I was desperately grasping at the last seconds where Saori was alive. It still didn't make complete sense to me. I just couldn't believe....yet I had called her out and not only that but she had wanted me to.

"Wait-I'm not ready to vote." Kimiko said. "I don't...I can't remember everything we've said." She looked at me expecting an explanation.

"But I-"

"You understand everything that was said right?" Toshiro asked me.

I nodded well yeah...

"Just do it. Let's get this over with." Kyofu said.

Kaz sniffed. "I don't want anyone to die."

"Too late!" Monokuma shouted from his seat. "I agree with the Thief! Get. It. Over. With."

All eyes were on me again. Saori looked apologetic. "Alright. Alright fine. I guess..."

I took a moment to gather my thoughts. I had to fit each piece of evidence into place. I knew it was me who had to do it as well. I understood how Saori was the one with the lab book.

"It began days ago." I started, as if I was simply telling a story. Only a story. And didn't those usually have happy endings? "The morning Utsumi died, Saori was the first to find him." I looked at her uncertainly. "I-I don't know why she did but she took the lab book and went back to her house. Later that morning Haruko and I ran into her and Saori said she had only just woken up from the body announcement and already knew Utsumi was dead." I took a moment to pause and gather my nerves before I continued. "The announcement doesn't say who died so this proves that she is the one who took it." Kimiko's eyes appeared watery, along with Akemi's. In fact, the only people who didn't look remotely close to tears were Ryu and Haruko. Even Kyofu was fighting angry tears. "Saoir knew that Chikara was going to confront Kyofu because she caught him listening to Kyofu. She knew someone would die if Chikara called  someone out and was wrong...or was right, so she decided to use Utsumi's lab book. Saori left from the pool earlier than the others planning to sneak into the garage and get the flasks for the solution. But she didn't count on someone seeing her."

"In order to throw off suspicion, she said someone had ran into her to cover up that she had fallen. You probably even fell into the door, making it look as though you had walked out. I said to her. "And then  after Kiyoshi and I helped you, you returned to the store and got the supplies you needed for your trap. Afterwards you went to the garage and made the soultion and set the trap." Chikara's portrait caught my attention as I spoke. "But you couldn't get Chikara to come to the garage so you followed him into Kyofu's." I looked away from the photo and addressed the room now. "Once there she found that she could still accomplish her task using the same method. Saori convinced Chikara to start a fire." I tried to imagine their conversation. I couldn't see it as easy to get Chikara to do something you asked. But then again, the night of the bonfire he seemed very happy to handle the fire. "Once it was going, she came to where he knelt before the fireplace and smashed the flask over his head, covering him in the solution and knocking him out. From there she just made sure he fell into the flames."

"That's so h-horri-"

"Get it over with." Kyofu said in a deadpan voice.

"But-"

"H-he's right." Kiyoshi said through tears.

I stared hard at the lever attached to my podium.

"They're right." Toshiro said. "Monokuma?" His voice cracked. "We're ready."

"Puhuhuhu! Finally!" The bear exclaimed. "You may now cast your votes!"

I almost didn't. How could I? But then I remembered the look in her eye before I had said anything. She was ready to accept the consequences. Saori wasn't hidding from this, and she didn't want to get away with it. Hating my movements I pulled the lever, voting for Saori Gekijo. The Ultimate Singer, and my dear friend.

The screen light up with shades of pink and the faces spun. They of course landed on Saori's.

"Alllllright!" Monokuma said excitedly. "It's about time!" The familiar button rose from his seat along with the hammer.

"Wait! Saori!" I rushed around the podium, feet flying. I stayed as close to the walls as possible but before anyone considered stopping me I had already made it to the Singer. "W-wait." I ran into her with a hug. 

Saori returned the hug, quickly. We both knew time was short. 

"Let's give it everything we've got!" Monokuma declared.

"You know something?" I said, between tears that escaped my eyes. "I think...I think we would've been great friends."

Saori let out a small, sad laugh. "I think we already were..."

"IT'S PUNISHMENT TIME!"

And then...she was gone.

SAORI GEKIJO HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY.

~A hush fell over an expectant crowd. The dim lights reflected off their black and white faces, each model of the monobear eager for the show to begin. For the curtain to open. This would be the Ultimate Entertainment after all. 

Lights brightened on the theatre's velvet red barrier and the crowd cheered, creating a chaotic wave that spilled across the red seats. The cheers only grew once the great curtian rose, revealing the star of this show.

The Singer was placed center stage with eyes blown open wide by the sudden brightness of the lights. She had trouble figuring out where she was, or how she had ended up here. She had stood on many stages before, but no stage had ever made her feel so frightened.

She had been placed before a microphone on a stand, but it's presence made no sense to her for her mouth was taped shut, and hands tied behind her back. Saori almost considered trying to run, but she knew she couldn't. She had had no intention of escaping this fate. Besides...her feet her chained to the stage anyway. There was no possible way to escape the spotlight that shined harshly on her pale face, but she wasn't the only thing illuminated.

A large banner hung behind her depicting the Hope's Peak Academy logo and beside that was a large mirror reflecting the crowd back to them. The stage was covered with numerous items that seemed to have no purpose. A world globe. A broken T.V. A toy gun. A baby doll.

They had nothing to do with the Singer, and could provide no aid, but the crowd only grew more wild at the sight of the many objects.

Unpercieved by her, there hung from the ceiling intricate glass statues of elegant designs. They shimmered brightly, one a ballerina Monokuma, another a beautiful chandelier, and an angel monobear as well.

Saori blinked once, hoping whatever would happen was quick and that she wouldn't have to wait long for it to begin. She felt her courage beginning to slip away the longer she had to watch the bouncing wave of Monokuma's.

Saori began to sweat and her wrists ache from the rope that held them tightly. She waited so long that she started to wonder. Wonder if...if...nothing would happen? Was that possible? But her hopes we're dashed once a light switched on across from her, taking away what little she had been able to see completely.

A large Monokuma sat in a balcony above the crowd, his own microphone in hand. It seemed that he was the one that caused the great light that blinded the Singer.

The crowds attention turned from the girl on the stage as they now shouted for the new arrival. The Monokuma cleared his throat and tapped the mike. The bears actions created a roar in the crowd, chilling Saori's bones.

He opened his mouth as if to speak which silenced the crowd but no words filled the theatre. None of his laughs escaped into the air. Instead a high pitched screeching took over the space with a crushing force. The building shook, making the items on the stage shift and tremble.

Saori's eyes squeezed shut, her ears pained at the sheer volume of the cry. The song pressed into her ears pounding against them, trapping the echoing pain inside. Her hands clenched behind her back as she tried to endure it. The crowd began roaring again, adding to the terrible screech, and it was clear as to why.

If the Singer could gasp, she would have. Slipping down the side of her face was a warm trickle of blood. Monokuma's song had shattered her ears.

Beneath the bright glow of lights atop the stage, a Singer began bleeding for all to see. She found herself beginning to choke on air as her nose started running with blood. It clotted her airways, stealing breath away from her. All the while the large Monokuma continued shrieking, making the beautiful glass above the stage clink together.

The theatre trembled, the walls shaking more harshly as the sound built up. The glass above Saori crashed together as if they were absorbing the sound but they could only handle so much.

A million shards of crystal glass exploded, filling the air with glittering dust. Each piece followed, one after the other, bursting into deadly daggers pelleting towards the stage- and Singer below.

In the midst of her fight to keep breathing she noticed sounds of a thousand things breaking. Time slowed, like each fragment was suspended in air reflecting the room around them. It was her last moment to grasp at bravery before the shards found their mark.

Almost like bullets they shot at Saori, ripping through every inch of her body. Maybe she screamed behind the tape, but the screeching was too loud. Droplets of blood danced around the air, mingling with the glass, until the shards ran out, and so did her heartbeats.~

SURVIVING STUDENTS: 11

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Chapter Text

No blood coated the screen but it remained displaying Saori's body for an excruciating amount of time. Yet she wasn't the only one I saw. The longer I stared the more my memory recalled another bloody corpse. She looked so much like Rika had...

I collapsed unitentionally, my back slamming into the place that was once Saori's podium. Now it would only be a portraits.

No one came to inquire about me, the others were too busy dealing with what had just happened as well. If one could deal with it.

Some part of myself felt as though it had been emptied. On instinct my hands raised to sides of my face while I looked at the floor in shock. I felt that I was in a void. I was stuck in a place between screaming and crying at such a loss for what to do, that I could only sit in stunned silience, the tears from earlier drying on my face.

A loud noise sounded and the screen now exploded with pinks and purples.

Obtained Present: Rainbow Shoes!

The colors faded and two objects smacked onto the floor only a foot away from me. Just in looking at them my mind choose to abandon the terrifying calm and my eyes clouded with tears. I pushed away from the podium and crawled my way towards the shoes.

It was hard to see with tears blocking my vision but something gleamed and caught my attention. Finding a reason to frown with puzzlement I picked up the shinning object. A series of round crystals were linked together making an earring. At this realization I reached down, finding the other one as well.

"Well! Now that's over we can get on with other things!" Monokuma's voice shouted above my head.

"Wh-what other things?" Kaz asked weakly.

"I have another memory for you all!" He said with pleasure.

Ryu was fierce. "Another one?"

"Yes! So, Hon'yomi if you could hurry and get back to your spot." Monokuma commanded.

I didn't move. I remained staring at the earrings in one hand and shoes in the other.

"Hon'yomi." Toshiro spoke softly and came to my side. "You have to move." He said and hooked his arms under mine, rising me to my feet. "Can you stand?" He asked.

I'm not sure I fully understood what he said but I nodded and took a step away from him, back to my podium. My hands clenched tightly around the "presents" I carried. I was unable to let them go until I made it back to my place where I set them down carefully.

“Let’s get on with it!” Before anyone else could question it, Monokuma smashed the second button that had sat waiting, making the podiums open revealing a second vial.

“Why are you giving us another one?” Kiyoshi glanced between the vial and the bear anxiously.

"Why don't pigs fly when everyone always says they will?!" Monokuma shouted. "Drink it!" He showed off his claws threateningly.

"Come on Kiyoshi." Haruko said. "It appears we have no option once again." The Seamstress picked her vial up and eyed it cautiously.

Kiyoshi frowned but took his vial as well.

Another one. Another death? But why? Why? Why was any of this happening?

"Hon." My eyes fluttered trying to see past tears as I looked to Kena. "It will be fine." She insisted holding out her vial.

"You just can't give us a break, can you?" Toshiro muttered glaring at the tube in his hand.

I gazed solmnly at the vial waiting for me. It will be fine? How would it be fine? No doubt whatever we were to remember...would be terrible.

But at least you know that already. Now you can be prepared.

I didn't know where the thought came from but in some way it reassured me and I reached forward, grasping the tube.

"Bottoms up!" Monokuma cheered.

I followed suit with everyone in the room, and swallowed the contents.

I waited for the detached floating sense of my surroundings to occur and take me somewhere else. Somewhere before this suffering to an even earlier suffering. My hands clenched my podium, the last sense of my present self still managing to stand...

This time when the image and setting formed it felt diluted and distant. It seemed like the moment hadn't been fully restored to me.

I felt my pounding heart and smelled smoke in the air. The sky under which I walked was dark and murky. I had to keep up with the others and I couldn't let anyone get lost or left behind. We already had too many of us injured-

"What was that?" I froze in my tracks and spun back to the place we had just escaped from.

Someone answered me...someone cursed but the memory flickered and jumped.

"We can't let them!" I was screaming next, fighting to be freed from someone's arms. Hope's Peak burned thousands of feet away lighting up falling shadows. "We have to stop them!"

"We're not going back!" Ryu shouted angrily. "They were trying to kill us!"

"The-"

"Hon'yomi you didn't see them!"

My head spun, somersalting over itself and I left that memory behind, spiraling towards another.

"Twenty. Twenty. Please...there has to be twenty of us..." I whispered to myself as I pushed faster down the street surpassing Saori and Renji but I was careful enough not to leave them too far behind.

"Hurry! We can lose them this way!" Rika's face gleamed in the dark red light of the approaching night as she shouted at us over her shoulder. I didn't understand how a Botnist could be as fast as a Rogue but she kept in step with Kyofu at the front

"Hon'yomi!" Mae gasped at my right, running barefoot as best she could. "They're everywhere!"

My blood ran cold as I threw a glance behind our large group. Terrifying shapes of people seeking only death and despair raced closely after us.

"Don't fall behind!" Kyofu shouted slowing down to drop towards the back. "We just have to keep going."

Going.

Going.

Going.

Going.

"Where will we go?" My voice asked through darkness.

I emerged in another place. Another city. Scorched buildings and smoking ruins streched everywhere.

"Don't look!" I held tightly onto Kimiko's and Akemi's hands. "Ju-just don't look." Together we stepped over the lifeless bodies that blocked our way, filling up the street. "We have to keep up..."

Nausea overcame me and I was lost in a darkness that kept rippling and twisting upon itself.

"Twenty." I whispered the number into my blanket now that we had finally made camp. I had to hold onto that number. For so long it had been twenty of us. No one had fallen behind. It was a miracle.

"Twenty." I whispered again, afraid to fall asleep so out in the open. "Twenty..."

The world fell to darkness again, and a dark feeling followed.

"It's not like anyone can save us." A voice said. "Despair is in every one of us. These people have just woken it up to show what we're really capable of."

My gasp filled the trial room loudly. I felt so off kilter and confused, I had a hard time realizing I had been the one to gasp.

Sharp pain stabbed at me and I struggled to realize I had collapsed to my knees, arms slung on the other side of my podium.

"Wh-what was that?" My voice was soft with horror.

Monokuma answered quickly. "Puhuhuhu! That was the outside world!"

"The...world?" Kiyoshi breathed on my left.

Driven by the ache in my armpits from supporting my weight, I foced my body to stand.

Mae shook her head, eyes wide. "You mean...you mean...that was real?"

"As real as you or me!" The bear confirmed joyously. "That is what it's like outside your little town!"

"N-no way..." My chin trembled with disbelieve. "No..." I glared at the bear. "No it's not!"

"Refusing to believe doesn't change that it's the truth!" He countered.

My mind felt like it had been scrambled, a harsh throbbing ached behind my eyes. "The world...those-those people!"

A groan of pain sounded on my left capturing my attention. Kyofu rose to his feet, faced severely paled. "How?"

"The school." Haruko said, eyes widened. "It started there."

"H-Hope's Peak?" Kaz voiced.

Kena climbed to her feet on my right. "That's where we ran from..."

"Then why did we go back?" Toshiro said, gazing hard at the center of the room.

Ryu shook his head as if to clear it. "Back?"

"Rika." Haruko explained. "We went back and that was where she died."

"B-but...the whole world?" Kimiko's words were shaky.

Akemi shook her head. "It can't be."

"Puhuhuhu! This is just wonderful!" Monokuma covered his mouth with his paws. "This is just so hopeless! The looks on your faces!"

"It's not possible!" Kiyoshi screamed at him. "Th-that's not real!"

"Oh no?" The bear tilted his head. "I'm telling you it is, and I'll even tell you how!" He paused to gain suspense. "DESPAIR!"

I felt my body flinch. Despair. The complete loss of Hope. Despair....the word filled me with such fear I began doubting that it was a lie.

"That still...it is not..." Haruko swiftly fell silent before she continued her thought.

"The world has and is suffering through a great Tragedy!" My mind pulsed at Monokuma's words. Tragedy?

Escape, enter Tragedy prevent hope destroyed.

Tragedy. Enter Tragedy. Did that mean...?

Kimiko took Akemi's hand. "Be-because of Despair?"

"Yes! Thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands-"

"Get get on with it!" Ryu demanded.

"-have died! Whether it was from suicide, murder or despair!" Monokuma rose to his feet and spun around. "Killing friends, family, lovers, strangers, adults, childer-"

"That's not true!" Kiyoshi shouted so loudly I jumped and looked at him in fear. The Inventor held his hands in tight fists. It seemed to me that he wanted to strike out at everything. "That's-thats not true..." He hung his head.

"Kiyoshi..." Kaz looked up at him with sorrow.

Monokuma sighed. "My, my none of you listen! Fine! I'll just say it again: whether or not you believe something doesn't change that it's the truth."

"I feel s-sick..." Kiyoshi whispered.

"Oh no you don't!" Monokuma shouted. The elevator door dinged immediately. "Get out of here!"

Kiyoshi made no move to leave and I lurched forward as his legs began to buckle. "Kiyoshi!" I wrapped my arms around his chest and beneath his arms as best I could.

"Hon'yomi..." The Inventor clung to me making it harder to keep my balance. "That c-can't-"

"Kaz!" I exclaimed feeling Kiyoshi's weight crushing me. I couldn't see the climber but suddenly I wasn't falling anymore.

"Get him out of here." A voice said in my ear. I raised my eyebrows in surprise at Haruko's words.

"We will." Kaz promised on Kiyoshi's other side.

"If three of you are leaving then the rest of you leave!" Monokuma demanded.

"H-here." My heart raced and I nodded to Haruko. "Take him." The Seamstress hardened her face but complied.

The others appeared torn, unsure if they should leave even with Monokuma's order.

I carefully made my way to the objects at my spot. A pair of shoes. A pair of earrings.

'I think we already were.'

'I'm telling you it is, and I'll even tell you how! DESPAIR!'

The world? Tears overcame me once again. What was left for us if the world was gone?

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Chapter Text

After we exited the trail room and made it back to our homes, I fell face first into my pillow. I tried to shut my mind off but failed miserably and became caught between sleep and wakefulness for the rest of the night.

I don't know if the announcement woke me but something pulled on my eyelids, asking me to face the day.

My room wasn't cold, yet I shivered beneath my sheets. I tried to burrow under the covers, shrinking up into a tense ball and discovered I didn't want to go out just yet...

What only had to be hours later, I sat up in bed with a gasp. I had the vaguest feeling that I had been dreaming. Something to do with Monokuma sitting on the same stage Saori had been executed on spouting nonsense as her body lay in front of him.

Shaking my head violently I pushed my fingers through my hair, wrecking yesterday's ponytail. So much sudden anxiety overcame me that I ripped the tie from my hair and shook my head again and again like it could give me a sense of relief.

My hair only made an obnoxious cloud around my face.

I didn't think much. My mind was incapable of forming a coherent thought so I fell back onto my bed and closed my eyes.

"Hey. Hon'yomi!"

I jumped at the weight of authority that was sent my way. "S-sorry Rika."

The woman huffed, placing her hands on her hips and gazed up at me. "Hon'yomi you must pay attention if we're to get this done."

I nodded solemnly.

"Alright." She tossed her long blonde braid over her shoulder, a sign that she was thinking. "Next week this music hall will be sold out, and you have to be ready."

I eyed the large room from my spot on the stage. The hall was tinted red from the lights and curtains. "Rika?" I hoped I wouldn't get scolded. "Why are we here?"

My teacher blinked. "Hon'yomi you have six days to learn this song."

"Huh?" I looked down, noticing sheet music had appeared in my hands.

Rika raised her eyebrow and scrutinized me with bright green eyes. "How could you have forgotten already? She died only a view hours ago."

The room shook with her words. "She?"

"Hon'yomi. You're here to learn Saori's song before the concert! You were chosen to sing in her place!"

"What?!" My hands shook so much the papers crinkled. "I-I can't sing like her!"

Rika shook her head. "You were chosen to, besides what have I always said?" I had no clue what to say but she didn't wait for an answer. "You can't live your life only knowing how to do one thing. You must have a greater expanse of knowledge than that! It gives you more experience."

I could hardly listen to her anymore. My hands continued to tremble and with them, the room. "R-Rika...don't make me do this..."

Her gaze suddenly grew fierce. "Hon'yomi Nakajima. Why are you here?"

I shook my head. "T-to sing?"

"Why?"

"B-because....because Saori is dead." The tears came now making the music hall swirl.

"Why is she dead Hon'yomi?" Rika somehow stood at my side now instead of below the stage. "Who killed her?"

"M-monokuma?" I looked at her for guidance, for reassurance, for something to help me.

Rika shook her head.

"Wha-?"

"Think." She whispered and pointed around the room carefully. I hadn't noticed before but cameras and monitors watched us closely. "Who is really responsible? Remember."

Fearful I looked back at the music in my hands but shouted in surprise. The pages burned brightly filling the room with smoke.

"I'll find a way to remember. I swear."

Loud knocking ripped me from my nightmare. Feeling terrified and lost I sat up with wide eyes. A loud knock sounded again making me feel agitated. Couldn't I just be left alone?

Groaning I made my way down the hall to the front door. Sparing no thought to check who was beyond it, I ignored my window and pried it open. "What?" My voice was hoarse.

"Hon'yomi?" Kiyoshi looked at my hair in surprise. That was right, no one here had even seen me with my hair down.

"What?" I repeated, keeping the door open only a few inches.

The Inventor looked away from my hair. "I brought you something." He held out a bowl of salad and a water bottle. "It has no gluten." He offered.

I didn't understand why he held these things out for me. "And...?"

Kiyoshi shuffled his large feet. "It's for you." He repeated.

It clicked. "Oh." I took the items.

He smiled softly but it didn't touch his eyes. " I also made you something. I don't know if it will make you feel better but..." Kiyoshi reached into his large coat pocket and retrieve a papery object.

The Inventor held it out so I could observe it better. It was what appeared to be a flower made of perfectly folded pieces of paper. Actually intrigued I leaned forward to look at it better. The papers all had different words and phrases on them. Some words I knew. "How did you-?"

Kiyoshi shrugged. "The garage is full of your old poetry." His face grew excited. "Look!" He twisted the metal steam to the right and a soft click sounded. Suddenly the flower petals spun lazily and a small light gleamed on the inside lighting it up softly.

I couldn't help but stare. "That's lovely." I said automatically.

“Thank you.” Kiyoshi said happily and held it out for me to take as well. “Here.”

Carefully balancing the water atop the salad bowl I took the flower. “Where did you get the light?” I asked, though I didn’t know why.

“There was a flashlight buried beneath many of the materials in the garage. I just removed the bulb.”

I nodded and the two of us fell into silence.

Kiyoshi shuffled his feet again.

Unsure of how to escape his attention and close the door I spoke. "About what time is it?" The clouds surrounding the town were an errie reddish grey yet the sky just above us was clear.

The Inventor frowned. "Kimiko is the only one with a watch keeping the time but I'd estimate it to be about three in the afternoon."

"I see." I looked at him. "Well, thank you for everything."

Kiyoshi shuffled his feet again. "It was nothing."

I gave him one more nod and began to close the door. It sounded with a soft click and I was careful to lock it, leaving Kiyoshi outside looking troubled.

I looked down at the items in my hand before setting them each on the table. Without thinking I sank into the chair and stared at the flower. Bits of words and phrases jumped out, but none of them went together.

Set your imagination free.

No need for a blade when phrases I have...

The eyes of the sunflowers lazily watch.

Memoirs past.

Memoirs past? Memories....

I picked at the salad Kiyoshi had given me with my fingers. It seemed he had forgotten to bring a fork...

The leaves were cold and I idly ate a few. I felt like something was slipping away and there was nothing I could about it. "Memories..."

The lack of such had robbed me of my past relationships with the people here. Apparently I had already lost them and now...everytime someone else died I would lose them again and I had little memories to call on to remember them by.

All of them were drifting farther and farther away. Hana. Utsumi. Renji. Chikara. Saori. Leaving without a goodbye fading into nothing and there was nothing I could do.

"Think." Rika's voice rang through my head. "Who is really responsible? Remember."

There was that option. 'Remembering.' But how? I couldn't will my lost memories into existence. What did that mean anyway? 'Who is really responsible?' It was simply a dream.

I sighed. I was so tired of thinking, overthinking, assuming, guessing and the questions. There were always so many questions. Everyday was a stormy sea and you had to fight to stay above the surface.

But people get tired after a long struggle.

Without really comprehending my movements I rose from the table, abandoning the salad, water and flower. I didn't bother to redo my hair so it stayed in a frizzy mess around my face, and I opened my door.

The sky truly was strange today. My first thought was to call the boiling red and grey clouds around the town unnatural, but once I considered it...the sky had been exactly the same in the memories Monokuma had just given us. So...in retrospect, the sky above the town was the unnatural one. But I wasn't going to wonder why. I closed my door and walked to the square.

I did notice Kimiko and Kiyoshi sitting beneath the Oak Tree, and there appeared to be movement in the diner but I forged forwards. If I could, in the smallest way, achieve what Rika had said and remember what I had been forced to forget, poetry from my time in the town was key.

Poetry works like music in the sense that it contains a rhythm, beat, and on most accations ryhmes. Hearing a song that you recognize or sounds familiar, could take you back to when you first heard that song...or you'll remember a time when you heard that song and something notable happened. Music can call upon memories and feelings you have felt or experienced while hearing it and Poetry could work in the same way.

I continued past the store and Hall, grateful to have something to be focusing on. I prepared to turn left and enter the garage but I was stopped. There, once again, was a new area to explore. A new building beside the garage. Another distration.

Instead of pursuing my poetry- I probably should have asked Kiyoshi where he had found it beforehand- I stepped farther down the space between the buildings to investigate.

Large double doors stood to my left leading into an ivory building. A large vertical sign hung above the doors with such large lettering that I didn't have to squint to read it.

"Zetsubō Theatre?" I muttered under my breath. Did Monokuma think he was being clever or subtle in any way?

I shook my head and reached out for the door, wondering what kind of theatre it would be.

The moment I pulled it open I was greeted with the slightly musty scent of an old building and cool air, but the second I stepped in and looked around everything fell to a complete stop.

I couldn't feel my pulse. I couldn't tell if I still breathed. I heard the door slam as I fell against it and to the floor, but I didn't sense my own movements. My eyes were locked on the stage before me.

It took no effort to recognize the place where Saori had died, I could still see it so clearly in my mind. The stage. The curtians. The seats. The balcony. It was the same, every piece of it. This-this was were she was executed.

"Upupupu! You've found my present!"

Through my biwildered anger and clouded mind, I remained silent.

"I wanted you all to see where the Ultimate Singer got to die, first hand!" Monokuma's tone of voice turned to a poundering one. "A video can't always capture the right feeling, can it?" Suddenly his voice changed again. "Puhuhuhu! Nevermind! Of course it can! I just really wanted to see the looks on each one of your faces!"

Monokuma didn't speak anymore after that. Perhaps he had left.

The next thing I was aware of was a warm hand on my face. "Hon'yomi? Are you alright?" Haruko asked, peering into my eyes.

Are you alright?

"No." I said, and I rose to my feet, pushing her off. The Seamstress remained hovering around me as though she didn't trust my actions.

"You need to leave here." She said, watching me carefully with her dark eyes. "There is a library across from here, ther-"

This time, I was already gone. I couldn't get out of the theatre fast enough and tore down the alley as fast as I could go.

Everything here had a purpose. Monokuma had said that once during the first trial. Everything that was placed here intentionally was here to get to us. To make us desperate, doubt, question and panic.

Had it worked? So far...it had.

I raced faster, giving no thought to where I was trying to go. In truth, I really couldn't go anywhere.

I rounded the corner of the Arcade, barreling towards the wall at the end of the boys houses. It didn't really matter what I would do when I got there, as long as I did.

And I almost did. Almost.

"Hon'yomi." Kyofu stepped into my path, a hard look on his face. To avoid smashing into him, I forced myself to a stop and stand before the Rouge. "We need to talk about the report." He gazed at me straight in the face, reading my eyes. "And whatever you haven't been telling me."

My heart rushed loudly, pumping my blood faster in response to my sudden run. It seemed my hope to avoid questions was gone, and that I was about to be tossed back into the stormy sea.

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Chapter Text

"What?" While I had managed to slow my body, my mind was unable to pause and set aside what I had just seen. 

Kyofu had his arms crossed, a tired look on his face. "We're running out of time."

"Time?" What was he talking about?

The Rogue frowned and studied me as if he just noticed my presence. "Why were you running?"

It was there immediately. To get away from that place. That pristine, clean place that looked as though nothing terrible had happened inside. "The new building is the theatre where...where Saori was executed."

Shock appeared on his face. "What?!" 

"Monokuma said something about it...." I couldn't quite remember.

"Son of a bitch." Kyofu cursed, he looked at the ground in thought but I had no indication as to what it could be. He looked back at me with sympathy before continuing. "I think we should get out of the open." 

Open? I looked around, technically we were never- Oh. Right. The cameras. If I remembered correctly the only place that wasn't in view of the cameras was between Kimiko's and Haruko's houses. "It is a bit chilly out here." I said, and it wasn't an exact lie. The swirling clouds outside the town looked thick with rain, creating a cold breeze that drifted over the town. Kyofu nodded in agreement and the two of us headed to the Artist's house.

If Monokuma was watching us at the moment, he either didn't care, or was easily fooled in this way. But I had a stronger feeling that he wasn't focused on us.

Once we reached the small alleyway, Kyofu removed the report from his sweater. "I thought it would be useless for me to keep looking at this, but after the trial...."

I narrowed my eyes in thought. "Did you remember something too?"

He gazed snapped to mine. "Too?"

I nodded. At first I wasn't going to tell anyone about why I probably passed out, but...it was time I pursued a way to figure everything out. "When I fell-" I paused. "Kyofu, don't tell Haruko any of this."

His face grew troubled. "I can't explain it Hon'yomi, but I trust her."

I was quick to shake my head. "Instincts are telling me not to trust her." Glancing around to make sure we maintained privacy, I sighed. "Listen, never mind we'll talk about that later." My eyes hopefully carried the seriousness I was wishing to convey. "For now, don't bring this up to her?"

To my surprise Kyofu was quick to nod. "I won't."

"Thank you." Our shrinking time limit made my words fast. "It was vague, but I remembered saying to someone that I would find a way to remember. I think it was before our memories were taken."

The Rogue thought quickly. "That means our memories were taken for more than just what Monokuma's been using them for." Kyofu mused. "If it was to erase bad memories only to return them, then why would you say you would find a way to remember regardless?"

"We were made to forget something important." I shook my head in shock. "Something even more important than our relationships with each other."

Kyofu grew ridged. "What would be more important than that?" He muttered quietly.

I felt like cringing. "I don't know." I tried to seek the positive. "But I'm sure I did find a way to remember, in fact that's what I was working on before...the theatre..." The wind rushed between the houses giving me goosebumps and crinkling the report in Kyofu's hands. "I'm sure I can remember..." Could that possibly be what that poem was, that I kept remembering?

Kyofu flipped the report over, scrutinizing it closely. "I did. I remembered something."

My heart flipped, anxious to hear his story. "So you did? What was it?" I eyed the report.

He held it out to me and I was careful to grab it before the wind did. "I was in a classroom at nighttime, but I wasn't alone." The Rogue squinted like it would help the details clear. "I-I can't say who else was there...their presence was faint, yet somehow I was aware of them at the same time..."

I waited in silence. Smallest details were important but I could hardly wait to hear what happened next.

"It was the simplest lock in the world, but for some reason that only made it seem worse-" He shook his head. "The point is that I stole it from a desk and, I think it was Rika's."

"What?" I hadn't expected that. "Rika's? But why would she have this?" The blacked out lines glared up at me.

Kyofu didn't share my doubt. "Flip it over and read the note again."

I did as he said and flipped it over, re-reading the cryptic note.

I understand your position on this tragic event that has occurred. Nevertheless I believe it in the best interest for this academy and the future academies of Hope's Peak to keep this incident a secret from the public. One only needs to think of the reaction the population would have towards this to know it would mean our end and the end of Hope's Peak Academy. And so with the headmaster and steering committee's wishes in mind I bid you warning: don't go against this decision. What will occur, will occur and most of all do not forget the hope we have created in all our hard work here.

"One thing is for certain." I said confidently, before he could explain. "This isn't Rika's  handwriting."

Kyofu blinked. "How'd y-"Before he finished he cut himself off and sent an uncertain look over my shoulder.

"Because her handwriting is on the garage door."

I turned on my heel, only slightly surprised. "Toshiro?"

The Actor stood at the entrance of the houses, hands in his pockets. "Hey." He looked apologetic. "I overheard you guys..."

"Obviously." Kyofu said.

I looked between the two of them with doubt. "He's right though. Rika's handwriting is on the garage door, I know it's hers because it says Hope Grows...it's the same thing from the memory." I held out the page. "She didn't write this."

Kyofu looked at me with disappointment but I shrugged. Toshiro had clearly already heard us, besides, he hadn't hidden that he had heard us either.

"What were you doing back here?" I asked regardless, tucking the paper into my skirt.

He came farther into the alley. "I went to ask Kena some things about the diner and how the grills work." He shrugged. "We can't expect her to make us food all the time."

"I guess that's true." I said. "Although it does give her something to do." We all needed something to do as a distraction.

Toshiro nodded then studied both Kyofu and I. "Why are you guys talking here of all places?"

"No camera angle." Kyofu pointed to the walls of the houses that surrounded us. "But we've already been here awhile, I doubt Monokuma will let this last any longer."

"You're probably right." I faced them. "So to finish this, this paper was in Rika's desk, but the note wasn't written by her...maybe whoever wrote the note gave it to her?"

"What note?" Toshiro rubbed his head. "I actually have no idea what you guys are talking about. I only heard about Rika's handwriting."

I glanced swiftly to Kyofu but he gave no visible sign of distrust so I handed the report to the Actor. He read it quickly, his face taut with curiosity. "If you're right," He nodded to me, "it sounds as though Rika wasn't okay with whatever happened."

"It's nice to know our teacher didn't settle with covering up student death." Kyofu said dryly.

"I-...agree." I wasn't sure why I paused.

"How long have you two known about this?" Toshiro asked frowning. "Where did you find it?"

"Hon'yomi found it in my sweatshirt when she borrowed it after the first trial." The Rogue answered.

Confusion appeared on the Actor's face but he didn't ask. "I'm just....do you really believe a place like Hope's Peak would've done something like that?" He held the paper up to what little sun was in the sky. "What if Monokuma planted it?"

"Maybe, but Monokuma didn't plant that memory did he?" Kyofu countered.

A horrible feeling hit me. "I don't know...could he do something like that?"

Toshiro sighed. "Unfortunately we have no idea what exactly Monokuma can do."

Suddenly the sky darkened as a cloud drifted past the faint rays of sun. Qollectively the three of us glanced at the sky in acknowledgment.

"We should continue this another time." Kyofu said. "How about later this evening? After dinner."

Toshiro nodded. "I know a place." He offered. "In the back of the Arcade, I noticed awhile ago that there are no cameras surveilling that area."

I glared harshly at the clouds. "Well isn't that lucky for us."

*     *     *

The courtyard walls tower high.
No fountains whisper, or birds cry
Could ripple the silence of this night.

"No."

I sit watching them in the sun,
That shines of nothing but fun,
And remember when I used to play
out in that golden ray.

"No."

It's so damn hard to sing to a heart that's been broken too many times.

"N-no?" I stuttered, staring at my handwriting. That wasn't a poem, but...just what was that about?

And if I can find the might
Then I will tell the story of that night
Where nothing, nothing went quite right.

"N-" Unable to finish the word I glared at the paper in my hand. It had appeared to be a full sized page until I unfolded it, finding the rest of the poem to have been torn away making it impossible to finish reading it. "Monokuma." I growled and angrily picked up the next paper.

Rain, a ripple of grey,
Sheets of clear diamonds
trickling down to earth,
Under cover of a dying sky.

Nothing.

When the rain's but a mist under the dusty sky
And the fog ghosts over the barren fields
Fingers of the wind grasp-

I groaned. Damn it nothing here was helping! Nothing, nothing nothing! Feeling overwhelmed I shoved the stacks of poems off the table in my house. The many pages scattered across the floor along with the salad and water Kiyoshi had given me. "Shit." I muttered, fishing them out of the poems feeling bad.

I set the two items on the table and watched them dejectedly. I still hadn't eaten and it had to be well past five o'clock now. Probably. I should've been worried at this. Outside of when I was sick I was almost always hungry, but now...now the thought of eating anything sounded impossibly pointless.

So did searching poems for memories.

There is a vision of hope on the mountain,
but it is not on the peak which we stand.
New hope we've grown has been murdered,
by despair in our land.
Shards of us remain, throughout the battered world.
Escape, enter Tragedy prevent hope destroyed.

I clenched my head. Yes, yes I knew about that one! But it wasn't a poem it was a riddle! One that I kept remembering. Of all the things to remember, I had to recall a riddle? It had to be missing pieces.

My eyes fell closed and my thoughts scrambled. What had happened to the world? The only clue I had was despair but, how could that be right? Despair was a state of mind...how could it conquer the world? It made no sense. Although, arguably everything that had been happening could be said to make no sense. I wished it didn't, because then there was a chance none of this...none of the death was real.

I opened my eyes to the pages staring up at me, but I felt no connections to the words on them. Moving from the chair I started picking them up, a bit embarrassed with myself. Why did I think the poetry would help me remember anyway? Things like that only happened in fiction...

A loud beep filled the silence of my house, making my head snap up. I gazed around but noticed nothing out of place. Uncertain, I rose to my feet, setting the poems on the table just as it repeated itself. Frowning I followed the sound into the living room. My handbook? Cautiously I picked up the blinking screen from the couch.

ONE UNREAD MESSAGE

Puzzled I tapped on it and the screen opened to a chat room with Mae.

How are you doing?

Blinking I looked up from the screen. Why...how was I supposed to answer that?

A bit confused I typed back. As well as anyone.

It felt weird to be communicating electronically again. I didn't know the last time I used something like cellphone to talk with someone.

Yeah...
Well, I'm in the diner having a strawberry milkshake if you want to come by! Kena is making them.

I glanced out my window. The sky had grown considerably darker which meant it was probably time to meet with Kyofu and Toshiro again.

Sorry I'm heading to the arcade, but maybe later? Thanks though.

Her response was quick.

Okay :)

I tossed the handbook back in it's spot on the couch and headed for the door. Hopefully we would accomplish something this night.

The air was pleasantly cool, but it seemed to tremble with an uneasiness. The clouds circled the town as though they were preparing to attack with vicious winds and rain. I noticed Kiyoshi and Kimiko had disappeared from beneath the tree, it had probably gotten too cold...

The arcade looked lifeless, it's sign gleaming dimly but I made a direct beeline towards it. They could've already been waiting.

"Hey Hon'yomi." Toshiro spoke from the back of the building once I entered. "It's back here."

I peered around the many machines and tables spotting both the Rogue and Actor. Toshiro leaned against a a pin ball machine while Kyofu was balancing, leaning back in a chair.

"Have you guys said anything already?" I asked, coming towards them. I settled on standing which left my back to the entrance.

Kyofu shook his head. "Not really."

I nodded. "Good, because I have to tell you guys something."

They fell into an expectant silence.

"Well..." I wondered how unbelievable this would sound to them. "I actually have been remembering things since we woke up here..."

Toshiro stood up straight. "What?"

"How?" Kyofu asked.

I shrugged. "I really don't know and it's not like I've been remembering specific memories like Monokuma has given us." I wanted to be sure to make that clear. "It's just...just a poem..."

The Actor frowned and tightened the jacket around his waist. "How is that helpful?"

"Well, it's more like a riddle than a poem." I explained.

Kyofu let his chair fall on it's legs and he looked up at me. "When have you remembered it?"

My thoughts began churning. "Only...usually only when people die or...something terrible happens."

"Maybe that's a trigger." Toshiro mused, but his tone remained doubtful. "It's tied to negative emotions but...what is the poem? How can it be helpful?

I rubbed my head. "The thing is, I don't believe I know all of it yet, but it seems to be hinting at things."

Kyofu looked thoughtful. "Can you tell us?"

"There is a vision of hope on the mountain,
but it is not on the peak which we stand.
New hope we've grown has been murdered,
by despair in our land.
Shards of us remain, throughout the battered world.
Escape, enter Tragedy prevent hope destroyed." I fell silent with a sigh.

"That's...alot of things.." The Actor muttered.

I agreed. "It is, and I think the first two lines are talking about Hope's Peak. Maybe it's saying that something is there?"

"What could be there?" Kyofu said. "We saw that it was destroyed.

"Yes, but when we were there, we went for a reason." I forced myself to recall the memory. "Them. We were trying to save them."

Toshiro shook his head. "But who's them?"

My heart fell. "I don't know...the hope?"

"Hope." Kyofu said the word like it was the first time.

"It's referenced in the poem three times."

Kyofu nodded. "In the last memory we were running from a group we called Despair."

"So it's Hope and Despair?" Toshiro proposed.

This was were I frowned. "I suppose...technically they're opposites, but maybe it's just a title or something? I mean, how could Despair take over the world?"

"If it didn't then why is hope a theme in the poem? It even says despair murdered 'new hope we've grown.'" Toshiro pointed out.

My ideas fell silent. I guess my doubt was coming from the fact that I didn't want that to be true. I didn't want the world to be gone. Where would my family be?

"Hold on, if we've been running from despair then are they the ones behind this?" The Rogue remained seated but his expression grew more agitated.

"They?" Toshiro's voice grew doubtful again. "But who are they?"

"How the fuck would I know?" Kyofu snapped. "I'm just throwing shit out to get somewhere."

I quickly found an answer. "The people who killed Rika?" That wasn't easy to say...

"You're right." Kyofu's mood lightened slightly. "The guy with the mask, he said something about Ultimate Despair."

"Ultimate." Toshiro's eyes widened. "Like...like our talents from Hope's Peak?"

"Why would a school accept someone with such an Ultimate?" I asked, shocked. That made no sense.

Kyofu continued. "And if they did then it would mean the despair came from our school..." He paused as though something just came to him. "What if that's the reason those students died?"

"You mean in that report?" The Actor asked.

I gasped. "Yeah! Although it said the witness was interviewed thoroughly."

"Then maybe they had no idea who did it."

I nodded at Kyofu. "And so it could be from our school."

The three of us fell into a harsh silence while that sank in. Our school caused everything to fall into ruin? I cringed, the more I thought about it the less likely it sounded. "I don't know guys...we could be wrong."

"It could be true." Toshiro decided. "Why else have we been targeted? All sixteen of us attended Hope's Peak Academy, so it would only make sense that we're here because of someone or something from the school."

"But not the school itself." Kyofu clarified.

I glanced at them both. "So...so someone from our school put us here. But, who?"

"The Liar?" My nerves flipped as Toshiro said that. I had completely forgotten about that...I had been too focused on Saori after the trial...

Kyofu however didn't seem concerned. "Guys, the Liar could very well be something Monokuma made up. Besides, why would Monokuma call himself out?"

"He does have a point.." I said quietly. "Even so, I wish there was a way to certain about the Liar."

"It sounds like they're hiding their identity." Toshiro said.

"And that makes them a despair?" Kyofu countered.

I raised my hand to my chin in thought. "I think I agree with Kyofu, Monokuma is obsessed with Despair so he wouldn't call out the one working for despair. The Liar is probably someone else entirely or...they're just not real."

Toshiro sighed and leaned against the machine again. "We can't ever know for sure."

"We will. We have to."

The two of us looked to Kyofu in shock. "What do you mean?"

The Rogue opened his mouth to explain but never got there. Loud thundering blasts overtook the sounds of the arcade making us turn.

"What do you think-" Toshiro was unable to finish as more noise followed.

Voices reached us from outside. "Oh my gosh!"

"W-what happened?!"

Without even sharing as much as a look we rushed past the games, tables and machines, bursting from the arcade with fear. Something was wrong. All the questions and theories vanished from my mind and it was overcome with a heavy dread. I searched the square for the sign of trouble and my eyes landed on something. A group of people were gathered right in front of the Town Hall, gazing at something on the ground.

"Not again..." Kyofu breathed.

I couldn't pause to say anything. My shoes pounded the pavement while I ran, pushing myself to the crowd. What, what, what, what?

"He-he's okay, right?" Someone's voice shook over the many exclamations and gasps.

"What the hell happened?!" Ryu demanded, standing towards the back of the group.

Breathing heavily I shoved my way into the crowd to see who was on the ground. My heart skipped as my eyes found Kaz's body laying face down, a pool of blood quickly growing beneath him.

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Chapter Text

We all stood around in shock gazing at Kaz and fearing the worst. Kena was the first to move and knelt next to the climber, fearfully turning him over. I couldn't name the feeling that traveled through us all when his eyes opened a moment before rolling back into his head.

"Kaz!" Kena shouted.

Mae gasped. "He's alive?!" Our circle grew tighter as we edged closer to see.

"Move." Ryu pushed his way through and almost barreled into Kena, making her stand and move. The hitman put his fingers to Kaz's neck and my eyes strayed to his bloodied shirt. It looked almost like he had been...

"Someone shot him." Kiyoshi breathed.

Ryu glanced at the wound with worry and in removing his suit jacket, he rolled up his sleeves and began putting pressure on Kaz's abdomen.

Kena's eyes flickered around between Kaz and the growing pool of blood. "What do we have to do?"

"We have to keep pressure on the wound, and patch him up."

"You mean sew." All our heads turned as Haruko entered the circle. She held a gleaming needle in hand and bore an unwavering look upon her face. "I'm going to sew him up."

Ryu appeared mystified. "Do you know how to do that?" His hands were quickly growing more red.

This was the first time I witnessed insult on the Seamstress's face. "I'm the Ultimate Seamstress." Haruko lowered herself next to Kaz. "I can sew anything. That doesn't limit me to clothing."

"You mean you can save him?" Kena asked eagerly, she leaned close to Haruko.

"Potentially." Haruko stated. She waited for Ryu to remove his hands and studied the wound.

Kiyoshi stepped forward. "Is there anything I can do? Or make?" He widened his eyes. "I can make something to help!"

"Y-yes." Akemi said. "What can we do to help?"

Haruko began opening a pouch on her belt. "Toshiro." She carefully fished out what appeared to be a key. "Go to my house and get the sheets from my living room, take Kena with you. Tear them into strips to be used for bandages. We'll be there shortly." She held out the key, letting it  fall into the Actors hand.

Some unspoken agreement passed between Ryu and Haruko next, for the Hitman stood suddenly. "Kiyoshi, Kyofu. We're moving Kaz. We're going to need a something fla-"

"Got it." Kyofu said immediately. "Kiyoshi, the arcade. I'll need your help." Together they dashed off towards the building.

Akemi inched closer to Haruko. "What can I-"

"You're with me." Haruko said, and gabbed her hands, pushing them onto Kaz's wound. Akemi widened her eyes for a moment in surprise but it was swiftly buried by determination and she nodded solemnly.

Kimiko frowned and spoke up. "Let me help instead. I can go." She moved as if to take Akemi's place but Haruko shook her head.

"Your sister is already helping. I cannot change that now." Haruko looked up at the three of us who remained without a job. "Find out exactly what happened. Ask for Monokuma if you have to. We don't need a repeat of something like this."

Something like this? Mae and I nodded, but Kimiko stood silently.

"Here." Kiyoshi and Kyofu returned with half a ping pong table in hand. They knelt beside the Climber and prepared to have him lifted onto it.

Ryu nodded to Haruko and the two positioned themselves at either end of Kaz. "We lift on three." Ryu commanded, while Akemi kept a focused face, her hands firmly placed on Kaz.

"One, two, three." There was no movement or recognition from Kaz as the two lifted his body and set him on the ping pong table. Kiyoshi and Kyofu hoisted it up carefully, balancing Kaz on it with caution.

"Go to my house." Haruko said and turned towards us. "You three, don't forget what you're doing."

I shook my head, my thoughts remembering her words from minuets ago. We had to figure out what happened, because clearly none of us were responsible. At least, we all seemed to think so at this point?

"We won't." Mae promised and we watched the five of them hurry off to Haruko's house.

Kimiko crossed her arms and shook her head before turning away to observe the scene.

"Hey." I made my way closer to her side. "What's going on?"

Her dark eyes flashed to mine. "What do you mean?" Her tone was highly accusatory, setting me more on edge.

Raising my hands I tried to put peace into my words. "You seem like something is bothering you. I mean...something other than Kaz."

"Well there's a lot to worry about here." She said sharply.

I frowned, a pang ripping at my heart. "Well yeah you're right, but I just mean-"

"Nothing." Kimiko's eyes were widened like I couldn't understand her words and I was a child. "There's nothing wrong." With that the Artist turned away and looked up at Town Hall.

I remained stationary despite knowing I had to start investigating. I was too hurt in the moment to just brush off the situation until later.

"What's wrong with Kimiko?" Mae asked, standing at my side.

I was thankful she had noticed. "I-I don't know...."

"Maybe it's just starting to be too much for her." Mae suggested. She tried to appear hopeful and I knew she was only trying to help but- but I sensed even she was halfhearted about her suggestion. "But that doesn't matter right now." She continued. I nodded and focused on the pool of blood at our feet.

"Do you think Kena will be okay?" I pondered aloud.

"If Kaz lives." Mae said.

"What happens if he doesn't?" Kimiko's voice surprised us. Her frame stood strongly before the large white building, voice still harsh. "Monokuma can't make us go to trial. None of us would be responsible."

My brows furrowed. "Well I don't know...did you figure out what happened?" I wasn't ready to one hundred percent agree that we were all innocent.

Mae spoke before she could. "We both practically saw it."

I glanced at Kaz's blood. "Well how did it happen? And if you did...why was Haruko so concerned about figuring it out?"

"Haruko wasn't here." Kimiko said. "And she probably wanted to keep everyone occupied so no one freaks out."

Mae flattened her lips and hesitantly looked between the two of us. "I was in the store and turned to leave when I heard that bang. The next thing I knew, I saw Kaz falling from Town Hall and land in the square."

Kimiko nodded. "Yes. I was looking for Akemi and when I heard the noise I looked up and saw Kaz slip from the dome and fall to the ground."

"So then....Kaz was shot by Monokuma." I said angrily. "That's the only possibility, and Kaz wouldn't ever fall off of anything."

"That's why Haruko said to ask for Monokuma to come talk to us." Mae recalled. "So we can talk to him."

"Then let's do it." Kimiko said. "I want to meet up with Akemi and see how Kaz is doing."

*     *     *

"Wha wha wha what??" Monokuma shifted on his feet. "Why are you yelling at me?" He pouted as if about to release stuffed tears.

"Shut up about that and just tell us!" Mae insisted.

Monokuma glowered. "That's a very contradictory statement! Do you want me to talk or shut up?"

I clenched my fists. One day I hoped to be able to throw this bear as far away as possible. "Why did you shoot Kaz!" I pointed to the Hall. "Just because we can't see the gun doesn't mean it isn't, or wasn't there."

"Kaz has climbed the buildings before, why did you shoot him off this one?" Kimiko demanded. 

Monokuma clutched his stomach with a sigh. "Shiyota Kazuyoshi climbed the store building and he could climb only the store building."

"What does that mean?" Mae asked, hand on her hip.

"The store roof is not tall enough to see over my walls!" The bear exclaimed.

"So what you're saying is-" I began.

"You shot Kaz because we was about to see over the walls due to how tall Town Hall is." Kimiko spat out.

Monokuma's eye gleamed. "Of course! I don't need anyone getting crazy ideas of leaving together!"

"You're sick." I glared at the bear. "You and whoever is behind this."

"Puhuhuhu!" He covered his mouth. Monokuma must have been satisfied to end the conversation there for he vanished in the next moment.

"Fench toast!" Kimiko glared at everything in sight. "I hate him."

"We all hate him." Mae clarified.

The Artist huffed. "I'm to going find Akemi." She abandoned us, marching to Haruko's.

"I'm going too." Mae said. "Ryu is there." I nodded as she too left me at the pool of Kaz's blood.

Having nothing better to do I felt that the duty of getting rid of his blood fell to me. I did want to by at Kaz's side and see how he was doing, but I also knew I'd just be in the way. I made my way in and out of the store and pool where I collected extra towels, paper towels and anything remotely related to bleach. By the time I was satisfied with my work the chemicals clung to my hands and I felt that they wouldn't fade until I took a shower.

"Hon'yomi!" I spun at Mae's voice. She stood with Ryu in the square as if they had just left Haruko's. "Kaz is okay! He's alive! He even woke up!" The Dancer beamed.

My smile conquered the distaste I bore towards the chemicals I had been working with. He was alive! He was stable! Had that much time really passed? "He is?! This is the best news we've ever had!" I rushed up to the couple now in a vibrant mood.

"He's lucky the bullet missed vital organs." Ryu stated nonchalantly, but I wasn't fooled.

I gave him a smile. "Thanks for helping Ryu. Not many people can say they've seen a hitman save a life."

The earned me a slight scowl. "Don't start trying to be friends again-"

"Oh stop it already." Mae ordered. She grabbed his hand and began tugging him towards the diner. "Come on I want you to try the milkshakes Kena made earlier."

The two walked off slowly and I sent them a wave. I wasn't certain I could say that I disliked Ryu anymore. Sure he was an asshole nine times out of ten but...that was the thing. He wasn't the asshole in the moments that truly mattered.

Still feeling exuberant I abandoned the square, rushing to Haruko's house. I didn't expect to run into anyone else but I found myself slowing to call a greeting to Toshiro. "Hey!" The Actor faltered in his steps between my own house and Akemi's. "Where are you going?" I asked walking up to him.

He slipped his hands into his pockets. "Heading back to the arcade for a bit before going to bed." Toshiro shrugged. "Playing video games helps me relieve stress sometimes."

"What happened to running through plays?" I asked with a slight frown.

The Actor shook his head. "I've ran through almost all of them already."

I widened my eyes, but with all the stuff that had been happening here...I believed it. "Mae and Ryu told me Kaz is going to be okay!" I smiled widely, unable to stop my happiness. "Did you see him wake up?"

Toshiro nodded. "Yeah. He woke up and apologized for falling asleep again." He grinned. "I think he hit his head rather hard."

I laughed a little. "He's alive that's what matters." A sudden thought occurred to me. "Have you had the milkshakes Kena made? Mae keeps talking about them. Are they-"

"No." He answered before I could finish.

I blinked. "They're that bad?"

"Well, I'm sure to most people they taste good. Mae loves them and so does Kena but..." Toshiro shuddered and closed his hazel eyes a moment like he was chasing off a memory. "Hon'yomi those strawberry shakes are the sweetest thing I've ever tasted. They're so sweet it was almost...overpowering. I honestly think she spilled an entire bag of sugar in blender when she made them."

His words made me cringe. I loved sweet stuff but even I shied away from the excessively sugary foods. "That surprises me. Everything else she has made has been good."

He only shrugged again. "Just trust me on this one. Don't drink the milkshakes. It's pointless anyway, you can barely taste the strawberry. The sweetness is simply too strong."

"I'll take your advice." I said with dejection.

"Sounds good."

"I'll see you." I said, focusing back on my destination. If he gave a response, I didn't hear it.

The door to Haruko's was open even though it was still cool out and a dark sky billowed around us. This time I was aware of myself when I entered her house and immediately zeroed in on Kaz. Kyofu, Akemi, Kimiko, Haruko, and Kena were all sitting or standing near the Seamstresses kitchen table. I could see extra sheets had been laid over it and on the floor to catch most of the blood. Kaz's head was bright and gleaming as always, but his shirt was now gone and his torso wrapped in black makeshift bandages.

"Hon'yomi!" Akemi jumped up from one of the kitchen chairs and hugged me tightly. "He's alive!"

I hugged her back with earnest. "So I heard." I looked over her head to the Climber.

He was paler than usual, but as joyous as ever and his face brightened when he saw mine. "Hon'yomi! I'm glad you're here." Kaz's mismatched eyes regarded me warmly, but...dully.

Slipping from our hug I came to his side. "I'm glad you're here." I said eyeing the strips of cloth with caution.

Kaz sighed and rolled his eyes. "I already told sneaky buddy and them! I've fallen much farther than that before!"

I almost snorted. "Sneaky buddy?" I only held in my laugh due to how serious he had said it.

Kyofu shook his head. "Ever since he woke up he's been calling me that." He tried to sound uncaring but...he seemed a little mystified.

His reaction only made it more amusing. "It's true." I said with a grin.

"He's also under the influence at the moment." Haruko stated with a stone face.

"Yeah!" Kaz seemed to have missed what Haruko had said. "Like, you'd be Hony because of Hon'yomi!"

I blanched and stared down at him. "How does that even relate?"

Now Kyofu snickered under his breath.

He wasn't saying I looked like a bee or something, was he?

Kimiko sighed. "He just calls me Kimi."

"Well yeah!" Akemi countered. "That's the only nickname you have!"

"There's nothing wrong with that." Kiyoshi said. "I don't have a nickname at all."

"You don't have a cool enough name." Kena stated teasingly. The Comedian sat on the floor, leaning against the wall. She appeared much more relieved than before, but she still seemed a bit on edge.

I looked over to Haruko. She had her back against the wall opposite of Kaz, wearing a hard gaze. "You said he was under the influence?"

Haruko nodded. "Yes. I wouldn't have the supplies to sew up someone without having the proper drugs as well."

Gore didn't usually get to me, but I was glad I hadn't been present when she had worked on him. "So," I looked to Kyofu and back to Haruko. "Can he move?"

"That's not a good idea." Kyofu muttered.

"But I could!" Kaz insisted, beginning to sit up.

My hands were quickly on his shoulder. "Are you crazy! You just got shot, fell off a building and lost blood!"

"Lay down!" Akemi screeched. Kimiko, who stood very close to her, nodded aggressively. But as I looked at them more closely it seemed less like she was simply standing next to Akemi, and more like she was hovering.

Alright then.

"You won't be going anywhere for awhile Kazuyoshi." Haruko's tone dared anyone to challenge her.

The Climber pouted. "Then can Tenshi come in and visit me sometimes?"

Haruko paused to think before nodding curtly.

"Thank you!" Kaz beamed widely.

"Kimiko, what's the time?" Kiyoshi inquired politely.

The Artist frowned and reached beneath her skirt quickly and removed the beautiful watch. "Nine." Kimiko stated and snapped it shut.

"Already?" How had time slipped away so fast?

"Yes." She answered. "Akemi we should probably go now."

Akemi frowned. "You can go to bed, I want to stay for a bit."

Her sister's face grew highly confused. "Akemi you're always exhausted by nine-fifteen."

"I'll go to bed soon, don't worry."

Kimiko clearly wasn't happy but didn't say anymore. "Alright." She said stiffly. "I'll see you in the morning." She left abruptly, her departure putting worry on Kiyoshi's face.

"Is she alright?" He asked the room.

"She's been tense this whole time." Kyofu added.

Akemi sighed. "She's just worried after what happened to Kaz. She'll be fine in the morning."

"Are you sure?" Kena rose to her feet and stretched.

"Yes! Kimiko is strong." Akemi smiled. "I don't want to leave yet because Kaz is alive and I feel like I should be here."

"No matter what time any of you leave, Kaz is staying here tonight." Haruko insisted.

"Sleep over!" He exclaimed.

Haruko grimaced.

"Hey! Hey wait!" Kaz waved one of his arms above him to get our attention. "Where's Sa-" His mouth snapped shut so fast I seriously questioned if it had ever been open in the first place. "Never mind." He said in a small voice.

Just what was that about? Where was Sa....my stomach flipped. Saori. Suddenly all I wanted was to crawl back into my blankets and pretend the outside town didn't exist. Because if it did, if I thought about it, it would only bring an endless wave of pent up anxiety and hurt. Blankets certainly sounded better than that.

"I think I'm gonna go." My feet shuffled slightly when I backed away from the table. Kyofu's eyes met mine and I recalled how we hadn't been able to finish talking earlier. Well, there was tomorrow... "I'm glad you're okay Kaz." Halfheartedly I waved to the room and exited the house.

I didn't know what to do. There was no good way for any of this to end. At least, none that I could see. Nothing was going well, except for maybe Kaz but that was about it. What was waiting just ahead of us? What terrible thing would happen next to ruin us?

"I have a question."

"Huh?!" Turning on my heel, my body swirled around to face.... "Haruko!"

Her hands rested on her belt. "Apologies." She didn't pause for a breath. "May I have one of Saori's shoes?"

"What? Why?"

"She was a friend to us all, was she not?"

I scoffed. "Right, you're the one here who sees us as friends and not as potential burdens."

The Seamstress didn't blink. "I'm making something and I would like to use the fabric from her shoe to give it some color."

I was prepared to shut her down, but then...why not give it to her? "Fine." I said. "But you can get it tomorrow."

Haruko nodded. "Thank you."

I left without so much as a nod.

My bed was unruly, but I didn't care. I kicked off my shoes and socks and climbed into bed like a sick animal. I wondered what it would be like after all of this. I believed every life event would always come to an end in some way and I couldn't help but imagine what life would be like after this town. Would our sorrow and hurt follow us where ever we went? If so, what would happen if it consumed us? What would it be like to just...let go of everything?

"In my experience whenever I've come across change in my life, it ended up being a good thing in the end."

"I've never thought of it that way..."

"You don't have to worry so much. Change can be good."

I woke with a start, eyes wide. staring into darkness. Everything I felt before: the desire to hide away and stay buried beneath my blankets was no longer comprehensible to me. Now all I wanted to do was get out.

I clawed my way out my sheets and scrambled out into my living room. The floor was cool on my feet, but it felt nice. My skin felt feverish and my lungs felt as though they took in no air. Gasping I yanked open my door and stumbled outside into the night. I tripped my way towards the square and the oak tree. I wanted to lay on the cool grass and just empty my head.

I knew my door was wide open, but I couldn't care. I felt as though I was surrounded by something toxic and the only way to escape was to be outside.

A hand grabbed my arm. "Hon'yomi. Are you okay?"

Toshiro? I turned towards the owner of the hand.

The Actor looked into my bleary eyes with concern. "I thought you were asleep I was just about to come wake you." He noticed my bare feet and grew puzzled.

"What is it?" My voice was hoarse, and damn everything to hell if I didn't already know the nature of his answer.

I think he tried to deliver the news gently but it didn't matter. "It appears that Ryu is dead."

Ryu. The asshole. But nine times out of ten he wasn't. Nine times out of ten he saved a life. Like Kaz. Like Mae.

"I'm afraid." I didn't recall thinking about saying that but my lips moved on their own. "I don't want to know who killed him Toshiro. I don't want to do that to someone else..."

The Actor wrapped me in a sudden hug. "We have no choice Hon'yomi."

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Chapter Text

Toshiro led the way to the small space between Mae's and Ryu's homes. We followed smeared trails of blood that were splashed on the ground and house walls. I was extremely careful not to step in any of it, my heart sinking. I was the last one to arrive other than Kaz who was nowhere in sight. I didn't know how I should react anymore. Should I gasp? Cry? Shout out curses? It didn't really matter what I did. It was wrong and horrible no matter what. Besides, someone was already doing all three.

Mae was knelt on the ground, hands wrapped tightly around Ryu's shoulders. The Hitman had seemingly collapsed on his back, eyes empty of all life, suit and mouth splotched with blood.

I came to stand between Kiyoshi and Toshiro, watching Mae with numb sorrow. Kena was nearby, crouching behind her while the Dancer cried loudly. "He's fine, h-he's fine." She shook his body. "Open your eyes!" Her voice cracked weakly. "You've s-survived worse th-than this damn it!"

"Mae." Haruko stood just to the right of Ryu's body, her muscles tense but her tone implied that she could've been reaching out to Mae in some way. However Mae appeared to have heard nothing, and continued to shake Ryu.

Kena leaned forward and took Mae's arms in hand, pulling her away. At first the Dancer resisted, but she was too weak to put up a fight. Kena helped her to her feet, holding her in a close hug, allowing Mae to cry on her shoulder.

I felt like I needed to say something to her. To do something. My heart ached to bring her some sense of comfort but I was at a loss as to what that could be. I couldn't look at her slumped frame anymore so I returned focus to the body. My eyes picked up on an eerie blue tinge of Ryu's skin, which only made my head spin.

"He's not dead." Mae whispered. "H-he's not!" She suddenly broke away from Kena and spun to return to Ryu, but Haruko grabbed her by the waist.

"Ryu is dead, Mae." She told her passively.

Mae glared down at her. "He's not dead! He'll be fine!"

Haruko shook her head. "He is dead. You cannot-"

A deafening crack reverberated off the walls around us and Haruko's head jerked to the right. Mae's hand still hovered in the air for a few seconds before it lowered to her side.

"Oh Mae..." Kimiko breathed with tears in her voice.

Haruko stood impossibly still and Mae broke down into tears again. Four gouges were visible on Haruko's left cheek, some blood already escaping the torn skin. The Seamstress carefully let go of Mae, who fell to her knees, and backed away. Haruko didn't appear fazed but her eyes were hard.

"I'm sorry Mae, but we have to investigate." Toshiro spoke serenely, pity on his face.

"Can't we give her a moment?" Kimiko pleaded.

Kyofu watched dejectedly. "Monokuma has shortened our time for each death, she doesn't have a moment..."

"I will go tell Kaz what has happened." Haruko said stiffly and turned to leave.

"Hold on!" Kiyoshi called. He reached into his coat pocket and removed a silk handkerchief. "Here." He handed it to the Seamstress.

Haruko accepted it slowly. "Thank you Kiyoshi."

He nodded but I doubted she saw it. Haruko had already turned away again, handkerchief pressed against her cheek.

"Guys." Kena captured our attention. "We have his file." She held out her handbook so we could see the screen displaying Ryu Okamoto's Monokuma File.

"He's really dead." Akemi said with wide eyes. "It's only been a day!"

Toshiro rubbed his head. "There must be a reason. I didn't think anyone else would die..."

"False hope." I muttered. He sent a surprised look my way. "Feels terrible doesn't it?"

"If we have very little time...." Kiyoshi's voice shook. "We better start looking around."

We all looked at Mae uncertainly.

"I'll stay with her." Kena offered in a way that was almost threatening.

Kyofu looked at her suspiciously. "If you insist."

"I can stay too-"

"No." Kena looked at me callously. "You should investigate."

I grimaced. "Alright."

"Akemi...let's look around..." Kimiko took her sisters hand and pulled her away.

"Hon'yomi." Kyofu placed a hand on my shoulder and I let him lead me away. His brown eyes were filled with resentment, but something else too. Intellect and cleverness outweighed his anger for the moment.

Before he could speak I voiced my second concern. "Do you think Haruko is okay?"

He looked at me oddly. "She'll be fine I think. Though that did surprise me..." His voice trailed off into puzzlement before circling back to me. "We've all missed something."

"The motive." I had to fight my mind for a clear head.

Kyofu nodded. "Monokuma didn't give one."

I crossed my arms and studied the ground. "What if he did?"

"You mean...maybe he gave a motive to a single person?" The Rogue looked half convinced. "That could be it, or maybe-"

"He didn't have time to give one." I finished. "Do you think if we asked he would give us an answer?"

Kyofu glared and rubbed his neck. "No, it's too important this time."

"Right." I shifted, as my feet grew cold on the ground. "What does the file say?"

He reached into his sweatshirt and produced his handbook. "The victim's death occurred at 10:40pm." Kyofu read. "Cause of death was the result of ingesting an outside toxic substance causing clotting of the blood and internal bleeding. The victim vomited blood for approximately five minutes before death occurred."

"Poisoned." I eyed the trails of blood with chagrin. "But with what?"

Kyofu's teeth were clenched. "We'll have to find out."

"Follow the evidence?" I suggested halfheartedly.

Kyofu followed my eyes to the ground but suddenly looked at me as though I was foolish. "Where are your shoes?"

I sighed and glanced down at my toes. "I woke up unexpectedly."

"Well come on," He moved in the direction of my house. "We'll get your shoes."

* * *

"Kyofu?" I stopped at the closest blood trail. "You remember our promise, right?" My feet were swiftly growing warm in my shoes.

The Rogue nodded solemnly at me. "We aren't killers and we won't kill."

"Because of that, I know you didn't do this but...I don't want to think anyone else did either." I took a breath. "I know someone did, but-"

"You don't want to believe in their betrayal." Kyofu said knowingly.

"Yeah."

He gazed at the night sky. "There comes a point when you have to accept that it's something that has happened. How long it takes to reach that point just depends on you."

I remained silent.

"The blood stops there, near the tree." He said, changing the subject and pointing to a dark blemish on the ground. Hadn't I just cleaned blood from the square? In just a few short hours Kaz was almost killed and then someone did kill. What had been so compelling that it made someone murder?

"It looks like he could've come from the diner." Kyofu continued.

That rang an immediate bell. "He did! Mae took him to the diner to try Kena's..."

Suspicion fell upon Kyofu. "Kena's what? Did she make something?"

"Milkshakes." I said quietly. 

Our gazes clashed for half a second and in the next we bolted to the diner. Our suspicions were confirmed when we saw two empty milkshake glasses sitting on the counter, and a third tipped over, it's pink contents spilled across the surface.

"Kena?" I asked, eyes wide.

Kyofu walked towards the scene. "It looks that way..."

"She insisted on staying with Mae but, what if she just wanted to stay with the body?" Fear twisted around me and I turned to the large window but I couldn't see the alley from diner. "Should we go back?"

"Haruko?" Kyofu said without warning. 

Confused I turned to look at him. "Why would Haruko- oh!"

The Seamstress exited from the behind the counter and my heart leaped when I saw what she was holding. "What are you doing with that?!" I glared and advanced towards her. "How- where did you even get it?!"

Kyofu stepped forward as well, maybe he thought I was going to slap Haruko? Instead I just glowered at her.

Haruko looked up from Utsumi's lab book, flipping it's bloodstained cover closed. "I retrieved it from Saori's house. If you haven't noticed, the keys to the homes of people who have died are in their doors."

"So you just went in and took that? How do we know you didn't use it to kill Ryu?"

She raised a brow and I noticed the angry red mark Mae's hand and nails left on her cheek. "I got it after I told Kaz that Ryu had died. The File said he had been poisoned, what better item to read to determine what exactly was used, than a lab book filled with chemicals?" 

Embarrassed I tried to backtrack. "Well...did you figure it out?"

"No. All the poisons and toxins in here are too sophisticated to have been used." She looked to Kyofu. "And don't worry about Kena, Kiyoshi is still there with them. I doubt he had the heart to leave Mae alone while she was suffering."

"So now what?" I asked heatedly.

"We only have minutes before Monokuma calls the trial." Kyofu pointed out.

"Minutes?! We've barely discovered anything!"

Haruko remained calm. "Then we must hope the others have found evidence we haven't had time to gather."

"What about Kaz?" Kyofu asked Haruko worriedly. 

"Attendance is mandatory!" Monokuma emerged into existence among us. "Participation is mandatory for all surviving students. Rule number eight!"

Kyofu cursed. "He can barely fucking stand, not to mention that there aren't anymore drugs to give him."

"Puhuhuhu! That's just too bad! If Kazuyoshi can't make it, then I guess it was a waste for Mr. Okamoto and Miss. Arakawa to save his life!"

"That's-"

"Stop." Haruko laid a hand on the Rogue arm. "Kaz is strong, I believe he'll be fine."

"Well, it's about time to go! See you soon!" Monokuma waved to the three of us and vanished. Moments later the announcement went off.

"Let's get Kaz." Haruko told Kyofu. "Hon'yomi, you go to the elevator."

I didn't want to do what she said, I still didn't trust her and I hadn't forgotten the time I'd caught the two of them talking in secret. 

I went anyway.

Kena still gave me a cold shoulder when we reached the elevator, which didn't help my mood. I stood in my usual spot in the metal contraption overcome with the space we now had. It grew with each trial that passed. With each brush and greeting we had with despair down in that room. Each one swirling with hope and despair, and for what? Monokuma had basically admitted that someone here was working with him. But who? Which of us was it?

Kaz half walked and was half carried into the elevator. Kiyoshi and Kyofu supported him and Toshiro followed them in with a chair for the climber to sit on. Once all ten of us were in the box lurched and we began our familiar decent. Kaz was pale, Mae looked detached and I was terrified the killer was Kena. 

Could it be that our main source of laughter, food and friendship had killed? Why? Was it because Kaz had almost died? Had it been possible that she thought Ryu could've been responsible in some way? Kyofu was right, I needed to finally reach that point of acceptance. Each time before I hadn't wanted to believe one of us was responsible but...could I do it now? 

But I suppose it didn't really matter if I did in the end anyway. Someone was dying down here regardless, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

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Chapter Text

~ALL RISE~

The surface of every wall in Monokuma's trial room had been replaced with screens. It came as no shock to see the room different once again. Like many other things, this was something I now found myself expecting. Beautiful swirls of color, shapes and flowers bloomed into existence, before wilting and fading to something dry and dead. A perfect reminder of life and death.

Mae faltered when she reached her podium, a portrait now taking the place of Ryu just beside her. I thought maybe she would start crying again but she only regarded the photo with a solemn gaze before standing beside it, arms crossed. She appeared...calm, but I knew that was something that would change once we began talking.

From the corner of my eye I caught sight of Saori's portrait, crossed off with a large X. I looked away. I hated that we had to do this again. It had only been a day. Monokuma had to have caused something to happen. No one could be over what happened last time so quickly.

My anger momentarily faded as Kaz collapsed into the chair he had been allowed to use. His face looked ashen, and his body shook with weakness. I had to tear my eyes away, the sight too painful to watch. Monokuma -and whoever was working with him- were pushing us to all our breaking points. They wanted us to suffer in the worst possible ways.

"Someone was eager to come back here." Monokuma grinned from his chair. "I wonder if you'll be able to vote correctly this time! Will you make the right choice, or the dreadfully wrong one?"

"We shouldn't be making a choice!" My voice bounced around the room with more volume than usual. This remodeling must have affected the acoustics.

Toshiro shook his head. "No one wants to sentence someone to die but-"

"No!" I glared. "I mean we shouldn't be here! Not so soon....we shouldn't have to stand here again."

It seemed Kiyoshi agreed for he spoke just as fervently about it as I. "It makes no sense." His purple eyes traveled over each of us. "Please, if you're the blackened....just tell us...and tell us why. I thought maybe, with the eleven of us that the killing could stop." I watched as his gaze grew clouded with tears. "I thought we were all friends."

"Thinking like that will only make this worse." Kyofu cut in.

Toshiro had a lost look on his face. "I'm not sure any of us can be friends in this room."

After letting that sink in I felt no better than before.

"Listen, we're here to find out who did it, so get over it already." Kena huffed and crossed her arms, looking no happier than I felt.

"Not get it over with." Mae addressed us with dull but harsh words. "We're going to expose the blackened, and then they will pay for what they did." Her eyes rose to mine. "And stop seeing it as though we become murderers each time we vote. These are just the rules of living here, it doesn't make us killers."

"Deciding to kill in your own time is different?" Kiyoshi didn't seem as though he agreed. "So you're saying that that is the only bad part about this?"

Mae refused to answer. She crossed her arms and duly gazed back at him.

"Please don't fight about this." Kimiko said hesitantly.

Akemi nodded quickly. "We're already so uncertain of each other, we don't need to add fighting to the list of things to worry about."

"What....what evidence...was found?" Kaz spoke softly, with much effort, bringing surprised attention to himself.

"We didn't have much time to investigate, but I'm sure some of us found something." Toshiro said. I tried to look only at his face whenever he spoke, Saori's photo too near to bear.

"Implying you didn't?" Haruko proposed to the Actor. She looked so strange to me, bearing the marks Mae's nails left on her face.

His face grew red. "Not really, the twins and I looked through the store but we couldn't come up with much..."

"Much what?" I demanded.

"Possible poisons." Akemi said, hand held up in explanation. "We looked at everything on the shelves to see what was there."

Kimiko raised a hand to her chin, one eye closed as she thought. "We read the labels to see which things were harmful."

"But in the end it was impossible to tell." Toshiro summed up. He turned his gaze to me. "Hon'yomi, you used some chemicals to clean up Kaz's blood didn't you?"

I nodded. "Yeah I did, and I put them back."

Kiyoshi leaned forward. "Had any of them been used before?"

"I don't think so." I paused. "No, I had to open the seals myself."

Akemi almost seemed to pout. "The bottles could've been used after you had opened them." She glowered and crossed her arms. "We didn't really find anything useful."

"Hang on." A thought suddenly struck me."But what about the bottles Utsumi used for Hana's note?"

"We thought of that." Toshiro assured me. "He only used four bottles of chemicals, right?"

I thought, trying to remember how many he had carried to his house that day. "I-I think so. Four sounds about right."

"There were four missing." Akemi said. "They must still be in his house."

"But anyone can enter his house." Haruko stated.

Kaz turned towards her slowly. "H-how?"

I suddenly recalled that Haruko had taken Utsumi's lab book from Saori's because the key was in her door.

"Anyone can enter Hana's, Utumi's, Renji's, Chikara's, Saori's and now Ryu's homes." The Seamstress adjusted her belt. "The keys have been left in the locks for us to use."

Kena glared, looking up at Monokuma. "Is this true?"

"Of course! Many of your fallen classmates have very useful items." Monokuma covered his mouth. "Why would I limit their uses by locking them away after they died?"

That thought unsettled me. Something I'd have to return to later.

"Then, is it possible the three of you actually did find something?"Kyofu asked.

"What, that the killer could've stolen the chemicals from Utsumi's house?" Kena grumbled.

"That can't be right!" Before we could consider that further Kiyoshi shut it down. "Something else had to have been used." The Inventor announced. "After Hana's trial I asked him what he used. He told me the chemicals and that after mixing them together he had just poured the leftovers down his sink."

"There was nothing there to even use..." Kimiko muttered.

Haruko looked doubtful. "So you all found nothing and the chemical used remains a mystery." She raised a brow. "But you could have found something if the three of you hadn't been together."

"What do you mean?" Akemi puzzled.

"It was a waste of resources for the three of you to stay together during the investigation." Haruko explained. "Why didn't you split up?"

Something about Toshiro's answer made it sound like he was offended. "I wanted to look through the store, the twins were there." He shrugged. "It's just what happened."

"We weren't given much time to think about splitting up anyway." Akemi pointed out.

Kyofu frowned. "What were you and Kimiko doing in the store? Toshiro went inside to see what chemicals were there, but why were you two there?"

Akemi looked defensive. "Hey what-"

"We were just going to discuss what we thought had happened." Kimiko offered. She was very nonchalant about her answer. "Akemi and I have been doing that since the beginning. The store was just where we ended up."

"Yeah!" Akemi added fiercely. "We wanted to go inside somewhere for privacy."

It didn't seem like a lie, why would they be lying? It was nothing suspicious to me. Kyofu and I had practically done the same thing as them.

"The three of you were at the store. Kena, Mae and Kiyoshi didn't investigate and I was at Haruko's." Kaz concluded and swung his head in my direction. "What about you Hon'yomi. What were you doing?"

"Kyofu and I followed the blood trail to the diner."

"Blood trail?" If his face wasn't already pale, it would've been drained of color.

Somberly I nodded. "Yes, but this is where it gets odd. I know Mae and Ryu were the only ones who went to the diner but Kyofu and I found three glasses on the counter."

Kyofu added to the evidence. "One was empty, one was full and one had been knocked over, spilling on the counter and floor."

"There isn't just one added." Mae stated. Her brown eyes looked fragile. "I put mine in the sink before I left and Ryu had finished his already so I took his too...." She trailed off. "I was tired so...I left him there..."

"It's not your fault Mae." Kiyoshi was probably trying to sound positive but he only sounded angry.

"Why did he stay?" Haruko puzzled past his comment.

Mae glowered at the floor. "He said he'd probably have another one then go to bed." Her lip trembled as she fought to remain composed.

The Seamstress raised a brow. "And the two of you were completely alone before you left?"

"Yes." Mae grit her teeth.

"Well then he must have had another one right?" Toshiro asked, my eyes fixed on his face.

Kena shrugged halfheartedly, snatching my attention. "Sure, but which one was his?" The way she asked seemed as though she didn't believe there was an answer. Like it was an impossibility. What was with her? Had my...had my suspicion been right?

Akemi held out a hand, indicating a thought. "Three glasses." She watched Kyofu while she spoke, making sure she said the right information. "One full, one empty and one knocked over." She squinted. "Which one was the killers and which one was Ryu's?"

"And why was there a third glass?" I found myself asking.

"We know one had to be the killers-" Kiyoshi began.

"-and one was Ryu's." Kaz said breathlessly.

Kyofu rubbed his neck. "Ryu's is either the empty one or the tipped over one, but I would guess his is the one that spilt."

"Why?" Kimiko asked, lips pursed and eyes on the ceiling.

"Ryu got poisoned. He wouldn't have been able to finish his drink." Kyofu offered. "Which means the killers glass is either the full one or the empty one."

Toshiro looked doubtful. "And how do we figure that out?"

"Perhaps by discovering what the poison was." Haruko crossed her arms. "That may help us determine how it was used, and which glass was which. However, it seems we're lacking a fair amount of information about this particular issue."

Toshiro stiffened and the twins frowned.

"Then what do you propose we do?" The Actor inquired.

Her eyes flicked towards Toshiro but she remained silent.

"Do you think we'll even be able to find out what it was?" Kiyoshi spoke, diffusing some of the tension.

"I don't know." Kyofu admitted. "It seemed like there were no apparent clues as to what was used."

Mae glared. "Well there has to be a way somehow! We have to find out who did this!"

I glowered, reluctant to be involved in another round of 'whodunnit'. It felt impossible to null the anger I carried towards the one who caused Ryu's death. What had been so damn important that he needed to die? And who here could've been the one to do it so soon, and after we had all suffered so much? To me I found that the one responsible had been selfish.

Akemi tried to be positive. "We may find something else that could lead us to the killer. Maybe the poison isn't as important as-"

Kaz coughed loudly interrupting the Illustrator and sending a jolt down my spine. "Kaz!?" I leaned towards him. "Are-"

"Are you okay?!" Kena spoke over me loudly, anxiously looking at the Climber. The rest of the room glanced between Poet and Comedian with confused faces. I did as well.

Kaz winced, a hand going to his torso but he nodded. "I'll be fine." He said weakly.

Kyofu scowled at his response, muttering what I believed to be curses.

Fearful looks were thrown about as we all watched Kaz. He needed to be laying down, not participating in this horrific show! Our attendance was so important to Monokuma he had made sure Kaz was dragged here. There was no way out of this....well...unless Kaz could make himself throw up?

"I don't think we can be certain about that Kazuyoshi." Haruko countered, watching the Climber with slight concern. "Your wound is-"

"Ehem!" Toshiro jumped as Monokuma spoke up. "I find this conversation to be irrelevant and off task!"

Our shocked faces gazed at Monokuma.

"Now!" He declared. "You were all saying?"

Glowering, the Actor was the first to continue. "The poison. We should still try to figure out what was used before we give up on it entirely."

The tension flared up again between each of us.

"The store was searched and it could've been anything there, but what about the diner?" Kiyoshi proposed tiredly.

I focused on Haruko, a question in my mind. Should I try? I guess I didn't need to find the killers identity myself this time. I could instead just help us down the path. "Did you see anything in the back?" I asked her, for Kyofu and I hadn't been able to spend much time there.

She failed to offer any clue. "No. I used Utsumi's lab book and checked the supplies. Nothing in the diner could've been used and there was no evidence anything was taken."

"You were by yourself?" Toshiro raised an eyebrow.

I raced to match his flow of thought. Haruko being by herself? I squinted. Oh. If Haruko had been by herself how did we know she was telling the truth?

"Yes I was. Until Hon'yomi and Kyofu entered the diner." The Seamstress spoke ever so calmly. Did it not bother her that she was about to be accused?

Toshiro tugged on his jacket anxiously. "If you were the only one who checked the back of the diner, you could have hidden the poison and lied to Kyofu and Hon'yomi."

Kena blanched. "Wait, you think Haruko did it?"

"That's wrong!" Kyofu shouted, before anyone else could take a breath. "Remember that Haruko spent the whole night sitting up with Kaz at her house, taking care of him. She couldn't have left to kill Ryu with the condition Kaz was in."

I didn't necessarily disagree with Kyofu- his reasoning made sense- but it bothered me once again at how easily he trusted Haruko's innocence. She hadn't done anything (so far) but I still couldn't shake my uneasiness. Kyofu was smart though and it made me wonder....did he know something I didn't?

Toshiro pressed his lips together. It seemed he agreed too- if not reluctantly- his suspect vanishing.

"If we can't think of a possible poison then I think we should talk about our alibis." Akemi suggested.

Kiyoshi nodded. "It says time of-" He paused and continued with distaste. "-death was at 10:40pm."

I sighed loudly. "I was sleeping." Or trying to. "I left Haruko's house a little after nine and went straight to bed."

"I went straight to bed too." Kimiko added with disappointment. "I left Haruko's at nine." Like myself I was sure she knew what little help that was.

Mae anchored her hands on her hips. "I left the diner maybe ten or fifteen minuets after the night announcement. Ryu...he was supposed to come by before he went home..." She clenched her fists. "I didn't hear him outside until it was too late."

My heart skipped. She had heard him? So then...had she found him when he was still alive, and had to watch him die? Or did Mae come across his too still body to begin with? Each possibility made me ache for her.

"I went to the arcade after Kaz woke up." As Toshiro spoke he scanned the room suspiciously. Was he searching for something? "When the announcement went off I left and headed home. I can confirm what Mae said because I saw both her and Ryu in the diner as I left the square."

I noticed many of the others nodding while he spoke, trusting what he said with no question. Sure he still could be the culprit, each of us so far could be, but...that was strange...had we always responded like this?

I still didn't want to accept that someone had killed already. Why? What did Ryu do? If anything, didn't myself and Kyofu only have motives of our own to hate him? Ryu had almost made Kyofu drown and he had threatened me with a gun! Anger coursed through me, strong again. Whoever it was...I wanted to scream how dare you! at the top of my lungs. Look at what it had done to Mae.

On the other hand I wished we could close the door on this case and forget it had happened. I wasn't prepared to call another killer out. Another friend. In glancing around the room I knew it would be painful no matter who the killer was.  At some point we all had enjoyed each others company, and yet...someone had chosen to ruin it. I wished we didn't have to think about it.

"-fell asleep at Haruko's." Akemi was saying.

"Do you know what time that was?" Kiyoshi asked.

"Um...well, before Haruko sent Kena and Kyofu home." The Illustrator managed.

Haruko adjusted her belt. "Kena and Kyofu left my house around nine thirty." Her voice was now as calm as usual.

I shook my thoughts away. "Then Kiyoshi...when did you leave Haruko's?" I faced the Inventor and he...blushed?

Kiyoshi pulled on the front of his hat, as if to escape my eyes. "I left not long after you did." He suddenly cleared his throat. "I was worried about Kimiko and so I looked around for her but I didn't find her so I went to bed."

Simultaneously Akemi and I clashed gazes of understanding.

"That proves what Kimiko said about going straight to bed." Kena muttered bitterly.

My eyes flicked to Kimiko who looked apologetic. "You didn't have to worry about me." She said blinking at Kiyoshi.

Kiyoshi shrugged his large shoulders. "You looked upset."

Akemi's eyes and mine clashed once again. No words were said, but they didn't need to be.

"This doesn't eliminate anyone other than Kaz, Akemi and Haruko as killers." Kena grumbled.

"The rest of us had opportunity." I agreed with a glare.

Mae's eyes flashed around the room. "You're not seriously including me, are you?" She looked ready to cry again, but her anger must have been stronger in the moment.

Toshiro didn't look happy. "You were the last one seen with him. And depending on the poison used, you could have poisoned him and still left before it actually killed him.

Both Kyofu and I looked harshly at the Actor. "Really?" Kyofu fumed.

Toshiro blinked and crossed his arms. "It's a possibility."

"Of the lowest odds!" I shouted. "That doesn't even make sense!" My head spun, what the hell was he thinking?

Mae trembled, hands becoming fists. "Th-this is bullshit."

"I do not believe Mae killed Ryu." Haruko interrupted before Kyofu or I could yell some more. "Mae said she put both their finished glasses in the sink. When I investigated the diner I saw the glasses. If Mae had the desire to poison Ryu, why get more glasses?" Her hard gaze narrowed on Toshiro. "It doesn't make sense."

The Actor sighed. "When you put it like that I guess so..." He pushed his hands into his pockets, clearly regretting his accusation.

"So we're officially excluding Mae?" Kena asked sharply. I almost cringed at her tone.

"That leaves Kyofu, Hon'yomi, Kiyoshi, Kena, Kimiko and Toshiro." Haruko clarified.

"Wonderful." I was among the suspects again.

Kyofu sighed, shoving his hands into his sweatshirt. "Any of us could've had the opportunity."

"Well...." Akemi looked at the floor. "Kena made the milkshakes...she could've put something in one..."

Kena immediately blew up. "Seriously!?" She threw her arms out. "I was too worried about Kaz to be running around planning a murder!"

"We were all worried about Kaz." Kiyoshi said in disbelief.

Her hair bobbed with her movements. "Really?" She glared past me at the Inventor.

"What does that mean?" I asked heatedly. Yes we had all been worried about Kaz, had she forgot how we all rushed around to help him?

Kaz looked as though he tried to stand. "Ken-"

"Sit." We both commanded.

Kena gazed at me with pure...betrayal? Wait...what had I done? "I knew it." She huffed. "I thought I could count on you."

I blinked, too shocked to understand what she meant. "What are you talking about?!" Eyes wide  I tried to fathom why she was so...angry with me.

Haruko suddenly spoke, surprising both of us. "You're blaming Hon'yomi for what happened to Kaz?"

"What?!" I gasped.

The Comedian didn't deny it. "We made a promise!" She jabbed a finger at my chest. "You and I promised that we'd look out for Kaz!"

Shit. My train of thought derailed magnificently fast. Very suddenly I recalled the encounter that I had completely forgotten about. Yup. Forgotten about. Now I knew why she had been so cold in the elevator. My face fell. "Kena-"

"Forget it Hon'yomi!" She turned away, facing inside the circle. "I thought I could count on you."

"Kena!" Kaz struggled to stand again but Kyofu pushed him down. Kaz didn't look happy about it, but he settled. "Don't be angry with Hon'yomi!" He shouted weakly. "It's my fault I climbed!"

Kena ignored him, boring her eyes into Hana's portrait.

"I'm-I forgot..." I admitted hating the truth of my words. "I meant to Kena, there was just-" I stopped myself. She didn't care about excuses right now. She was angry. "I'm sorry." I added lamely.

Kimiko looked at Kena with surprised anger. "Kena you can't blame Hon'yomi for what happened."

"And if it had been Akemi?" The Comedian clipped her words off grimly.

The Artist paled.

My heart sank.

"Forget about me!" Kaz insisted fiercely. "We need to find out what poisoned Ryu."

I clenched the hem of my skirt, looking at my black shoes. Yes. Let's switch from one horrible subject to the next.

Kaz groaned out of frustration. "There were cleaning supplies in the store, and nothing in the diner. But what about the other buildings?"

"No one searched the other buildings." Haruko said coldly, eyes on Toshiro.

"Then we'll have to remember." Kiyoshi said carefully.

"Hold on." I clenched my podium and raised my head, looking directly into the idle gleaming red eye that watched us. "How do we know you didn't give the killer the poison?"

Kimiko spoke with confusion. "What do you mean?"

"I mean the blackened didn't kill for no reason, Monokuma must have supplied a motive, but I wonder if he supplied the means as well?"

Monokuma sighed dramatically. "No, Hon'yomi Nakajima. I did not supply- the blackened with the murder weapon."

Damn. That sent us back to the unlikely method of remembering everything we had seen laying around.

"But you did supply a motive." Haruko finished, eyeing Monokuma.

"Puhuhuhuhu!" He smiled like he had a good joke. "I did not supply a motive. One of you did!"

Kyofu cussed. Loudly. "The person who's working with you. The despair."

"Despair?" Kiyoshi exclaimed, wide eyed.

"Wait, what does that mean?" Kimiko demanded, leaning towards Kyofu.

I found myself muttering my own curses, sharing a look of hatred with Toshiro. They were responsible. The one helping Monokuma had driven another one of us to kill. "From our memories. Do you remember running from people called despair?"

"And the man from the first memory." Toshiro added. "He said something about the Ultimate Despair."

"So you're saying....one of us is working with Monokuma?!" Akemi nearly shrieked.

Kena spun on me. "How long have the three of you known this?!"

"Since barely yesterday!" I said immediately.

"You mean to say that one of us gave the killer a motive." Haruko spat. "And because of it they killed Ryu."

"Maybe it was specific." Kyofu said, he and the Seamstress sharing looks of deep thought.

"Wait, wait!" Kimiko shouted. "Go back to what you said before!"

Toshiro grimaced. "One of us is with Monokuma."

"I'll kill them." Mae hissed.

"One of us...is helping Monokuma?" Kiyoshi repeated. "How did you figure this out?"

Kaz looked around with a hurt expression. "Who is it?"

"Explain the 'despair' part." Kena demanded.

Kyofu sighed and shook his head. "Despair came from our memories. Didn't the rest of you remember running from 'Despair?'"

Haruko nodded. "Yes, it was a group chasing us."

"Th-the people...they were everywhere..." Mae appeared as though she was seeing something the rest of us couldn't.

"And one of them is with us? We're one of them?" The Comedian looked at each of us. "But I remember you all. We all knew each other before this."

I shook my head. "That could easily be a trick. Maybe some of our so called 'memories' have been tampered with."

"It's a possibility." Toshiro agreed.

Kiyoshi watched the bear closely. "Monokuma hasn't denied it."

"Why of course not!" He stated merrily. "Because it's true!"

The twins gasped on my right.

"Then it's really true..." The Inventor breathed.

Kimiko's eyes widened and stayed that way. "Kyofu, what do you mean that maybe it was specific?" The Artist focused on the Rogue.

"The motive?" The Rogue freed his hands from his pocket and the room reeled at the change of subject. "Think about it, if you were going to kill someone, would Ryu be your first choice? He's a hitman, a well known one too. Going after him would be more dangerous for the killer than for him. Even if he was poisoned." He grew more and more sure of himself as he spoke longer. "The motive could've singled him out, maybe it made him-"

"What if he was the despair?!" Kimiko exclaimed.

I shook my head. "That doesn't make sense. Monokuma isn't going to let the one helping him die."

"It does make sense if it was specific though." Toshiro thought to himself.

Kyofu puzzled. "Was the intent to have Ryu killed or something else?"

"Wouldn't this make the one who gave the motive the true killer?" Kimiko pondered.

"Ahem!" Monokuma glared. "No! The one who gave the motive did not make the choice to kill Ryu Okamoto! The one who did the deed with their own hands is the true blackened."

"So they just get away with it." Kiyoshi clenched his large fists with anger.

"For now." I vowed with a growl.

Kena shook her head. "If the motive was specific then it had to make Ryu look bad, or threatening."

"Of course he's threatening!" Mae shouted. "He's the Yakuza's most loyal hitman. Why wouldn't he be threatening?"

I noticed she forgot to say 'was'.

"Puhuhuhu! You think so?" The bear interrupted loudly. "Ryu Okamoto was no longer a Yakuza when he died!"

"Yes he was!" Mae insisted. "What are you talking about?!"

"Yakuza do not except those who don't follow orders." Monokuma said gleefully.

"Don't follow orders? Don't follow orders?!" The Dancer shook with hatred. I wanted to reach out to Mae to get her to stop. It didn't matter what the bear said. He just wanted to upset her. "Ryu killed for them all the time! He never refused!"

"Is that what you think?" Monokuma asked sweetly.

She took a deep breath, fighting to remain in her place I was sure. "Ryu would never....he would never disrespect the Kuzuryuu family! He devoted everything to them and their business!"

"Oh really? How sad!" The bear insisted. "Then where did you fit in I wonder?"

Mae shouted, stepping forward to attack I was sure but before she could a hand fell on her shoulder tightly. "Please don't." Kimiko begged, eyes wide with horror.

The Dancer blinked at the Artist and something changed in her features.

"Don't throw yourself away." Kimiko continued pleading.

Akemi inched closer as if preparing to launch herself at Mae, but the Dancer took a step back.

From the chair Monokuma pouted. "No fun. You guys are just no fun."

"Just...shut the hell up." Kyofu demanded. His hands were in fists like he was fighting the urge to throw himself at the bear as well. He knew all too well what Mae was feeling.

"We're-we're losing sight of what's important." Kiyoshi struggled with words, his face harsh with his own anger.

"Yes." Toshiro sounded strained as well. "The motive. The poison."

"Suspects." I added to avoid spilling out curses.

"A specific motive." Haruko repeated for the room, face extremely blank.

"We won't know for sure but I think we can agree on that for now." Akemi said tugging on her sleeves.

"Back to the poison." Kaz piped up trying to be light but his voice was a croak. He looked like he was getting worse.

"Great." Kena crossed her arms. "From memory."

"We went through the store already." Haruko said. "Next is the pool."

My head shook before I thought. "I was in the pool earlier. There are no chemicals I could see. The pool cleaning and water must be automatic."

"Then...the garage." Toshiro said next.

My heart sank. Really? There was so much inside the garage how could we possibly list everything?

"There are many chemicals in there!" Kiyoshi pointed out. "Things for my Inventing, glue for R-Renji, ink for Hon'yomi and Akemi, paint supplies for Kimiko, things for Utsumi!"

"Any of those could have been used." Haruko stated.

"But everyone had access to the garage!" He shouted.

"Still." Toshiro said. "If we can list them-"

Akemi looked hopeless. "That will take forever."

"And I'm sure we won't get everything." I said, racking my brains for a better solution.

"We may just have to stick with the timeline." Kyofu said dejectedly.

"Damn it!" Kena smashed her fist on the wood in front of her. "Just come clean already!"

I stared at her. Why did she think that was going to work? Besides... "You're a suspect too Kena." I stated. I had no intention of accusing her but it seemed like she had forgot.

"I know that. But I didn't kill Ryu."

"You made the milkshakes." Toshiro reminded her.

"And you wouldn't drink them!" The Comedian countered.

He shrugged. "They were too sweet. Besides I only refused after I had already tasted them."

Wait. Toshiro had told me not to drink the milkshakes. At the time he said it was because they were too sweet, but what if...

"You said you saw Mae and Ryu in the diner together. You could've waited for Mae to leave and then go inside and poison him." Kiyoshi didn't falter while he spoke.

My stomach churned and I took a breath. I didn't want to say something like this...not again...and after now? After Toshiro, Kyofu and I had started to discover things. The despair, my poem, Monokuma... Had he really killed?

I glued my eyes on the shimmering screen across from me, watching cherry blossoms bloom. He agreed that the motive must have been specific, so could that really be the truth? And why warn me about it beforehand, unless he had no control over who would be poisoned? But then...the motive couldn't be specific.

Sensing outside attention on my face, I met Toshiro's gaze as it rested on me. Unlike the time I kept silent about Haruko having black sheets and she was disappointed that I didn't speak up, Toshiro looked at me like he was daring me to.

What?

"We will only know if he's the killer if he can tell us what the motive was." Kyofu was saying.

Kaz winced, face clammy. "Wait, why do we think it's Toshiro?"

"He's the most suspicious." Kena answered.

"You're just as suspicious." The Actor countered.

Haruko didn't look very convinced. "There is little evidence to point to either."

Kyofu glanced across Kaz and two portraits to look at her. "You don't think it could be him?"

"You want to think it's him?" She raised a brow.

The Rogue tensed. "I'd like it to not be anyone."

Toshiro remained focused on me. Confused I tried to think through his reasoning. It was like he wanted to challenge me. To do the right thing? To cover up something suspicious? If I spoke up surely he knew what would happen. Was he wanting to risk that? Not wanting to?

Huffing, I narrowed my eyes. What did I want to do? I was angry, unbelievably angry at the killer. I was just as equally- if not more- angry at the one helping Monokuma. Did I want payment? Sure...if I was honest. Did I want one of my friends to die next? No. I wanted to hold back. I wanted to save myself from watching another person die in front of me.

That was also unbelievably selfish.

"I can confirm what Kena said earlier." I said loudly. "About the Toshiro not drinking the milkshakes." I broke eye contact with him, taking in the others in the room. "He did say he didn't like them because they were too sweet, but he told me not to bother trying them myself." I shared a tense look with Kyofu. "That's some more evidence..."

"Toshiro?" Haruko's eyes bore into him.

Toshiro shook his head, shrugged and slipped his hands into his jean pockets. "I didn't kill Ryu."

"Do you have anything to prove otherwise?" Kiyoshi asked, back to tugging on his tie.

"No."

From the corner of my eye I noticed Kaz slump farther into his chair. "We need to vote soon." Kena insisted. "Kaz can't stay here much longer."

"But we can't just vote without knowing everything that happened!" Kimiko shouted.

"We may not be able to." Toshiro answered smoothly. "This may be the most dangerous trial yet, for the innocent."

The Climber shook his head. "We can't mess up." His small voice was so soft it carried no weight. "I'll be...okay..." He closed his eyes.

"Kaz?" Kyofu grabbed his shoulder. "Kaz?!"

"Uh oh!" Monokuma projected from his seat. "It looks like there's a time limit on this trial!"

"Kaz!" Kyofu hastily put a finger to his pale neck.

"Well?!" Kena looked ready to hop into the circle and sprint over to them.

We waited in baited silence, heart's skipping in anticipation.

Letting out a sigh Kyofu relaxed. "He's alive. Just unconscious."

I caved as well, my shoulders dropping. Still alive against all the odds so far.

"As much as I hate to say this, Monokuma is right." The Comedian spoke quickly. "Kaz doesn't have very long." When no one said anything she zeroed in on Haruko. "Right?"

After a moment Haruko nodded. Once.

"There!" She shouted. "Then lets prove this and vote."

Akemi didn't look convinced. "Kena? Why are you so intent on pinning this on Toshiro?"

"Pinning?!"

The Illustrator raised her hands. "We can't let Kaz get any worse, but you should be more careful." She flicked her eyes to her sister and back. "You're acting like you could be guilty..."

Kena scoffed. "That's ridiculous."

"Just relax." Kimiko offered desperately. "Don't acuse randomly."

"It's not entirely random." Kiyoshi said, eyes on the floor.

"Well there's no evidence other than things people said." The Illustrator clarified."Besides, the rest of us are just as suspicious."

Toshiro sighed. "Back to the poison?"

Kena cursed. "There isn't enough time for that!"

My eyes flicked to the too still Kaz. She was right, we couldn't spend much more time discussing this. Had this been Monokuma's plan? To force us into a thoughtless choice?

Like a silent clock had been placed before us the seconds ticked by, each person highly aware of the passing moments. I didn't know who the killer was. Toshiro was suspicious, but Kena was too. At yet...what if neither of them were responsible and the killer was still hidden?

Our fears and tension passed around the room in silence, each of us considering our options. If only there was a way to be sure! Suppose we missed something? Maybe someone saw something but doesn't realize that it's important!

"Is there no way to find out what poison was used?" Looking around fearfully Kiyoshi spoke tersely, the seconds racing forward.

"Think about what we know." Haruko sounded as tense as I felt. "Can we go farther from there?"

I mulled over the topics and evidence proposed but I knew we couldn't come to a conclusion without the motive or poison.

A new sense of tension raced around the room, one we hadn't experienced before. Being trapped in a time limit brought about staggering desperation. There was no way out of this. We had to choose.

"Monokuma." Kiyoshi spoke with a pleading tone. "If we could take a break-"

"Tick tock!" The bear shouted, ignoring the Inventors request.

I caught sight of Kyofu but I didn't need words to understand how he felt. It seemed as though absolute exhaustion mingled with overwhelming anger clung to his body. It was more that just tense shoulders, it was like a whole separate presence had settled upon him and was weighing him down. The intensity caused me to flick my eyes away from his tortured form.

"We're just supposed to guess?!" Mae protested. "First! I don't want to die and second, I want Ryu's killer!" She practically screeched the last part.

"Let's hope you're really good at guessing then!" Monokuma declared darkly.

"Toshiro-" Kena began again but a high and fearful voice spoke over hers.

"Stop! Please." Kimiko's words rushed quickly past her lips. "Stop accusing Toshiro."

"It looks like it's him!" Kena said. "Do you have proof to prove otherwise?"

The Artist looked around the room, something almost like terror on her face. "Yes." She reached beneath her skirt and into the pouch that held all her artistic tools. "This." Kimiko produced a small black square device and placed it on her podium.

"Kimiko..." Akemi looked at her sister fearfully.

Kyofu eyed the object in distaste. "What's that?"

Her shoulders slumped. "A recording device."

"Recording device?" Confusion overcame Kiyoshi. "Why are you showing us now?"

Kena watched Kimiko in shock. "Hey wait a minute..."

"Kimiko?" I whispered.

"What's on it?" The harsh demand cracked around the room, escaping Haruko's lips. The Seamstress looked at Kimiko with anger.

The Artist however couldn't have realized the look Haruko was giving her, for her head was bowed. "A conversation."

"Kimi." Akemi spoke, but once again received no answer.

Kiyoshi continued to puzzle. "I don't understand...why are you showing us now?"

I watched as the Artist's frame shrunk down even more at his words. "Because I had to know...and I think I figured it out..."

"Figured what out?" Mae glared.

"The killer?!" Kena exclaimed, looking across a frozen Akemi.

A recording device...

"Play it." Haruko demanded. "Play it now."

Kimiko took a struggling breath. "It doesn't matter what's on here anymore."

"Play it."

The Artist complied with shaking hands and pressed a button on the box.

In the few moments of silence that hung between the ten of us I was suddenly transported back to the second trial. To the seconds of heavy quiet that hung as we waited for the culprits handbook to beep. But the moment didn't last long, and as voices began escaping the box, the feeling vanished altogether.

"The bastard has finally done it."

"What?"

"Found us a way out. A motive to survive with."

Collective gasps radiated around the room as recognition came to us all. The first voice was Ryu's and the second one...was Mae's.

"You mean..."

"Monokuma." Ryu's voice harshly said.

"What is it?"

As I listened to Mae's inquiry I found the Dancer with my eyes. She gazed at the device with utter confusion and fear. How could... Why would she be confused like...like she had no idea what she was hearing?

The tape fell silent a few moments before Ryu answered her.

"We'll both get out."

"Are you sure about this?" Another question from Mae.

"What kind of question is that?"

Silence from Mae before his voice continued.

"I've decided, don't try to stop me."

"Wouldn't dream of it." A tinge of anger seemed present in the Dancer's voice.

"Akemi should be the one, Kimiko is stronger."

"Since when did that stop you?"

"Since we're in this situation. Easy target. I've chosen Akemi."

"Other people are weak-"

"Mae." He cautioned roughly.

"Fine, but we can't get caught."

"Agreed."

"When?"

"Tonight, just after the announcement."

The tape fell silent and everyone's eyes fell on Mae.

The Dancer stared wide eyed at the tape, utter confusion still plain on her face and fear in her eyes.

"What the hell was that?" Kyofu asked sharply.

Her brown hair slightly fanned around her face and she shook her head. "I-I don't-"

"You can't tell us you don't know." Toshiro jumped in heatedly. "We all heard your voice."

She continued to shake her head. "Really, I never-"

"Mae?" Akemi glanced at the girl in question, betrayal on her face.

Mae began to shake. "Listen! I didn't say those things! I-I-"

"I don't think you did either." Kimiko muttered to the floor.

Kena blinked. "What?!"

The Artist only had eyes for Mae. "I thought it was real. It-it very well could be but...but then...after what Kyofu said..." Her voice shrank with each word she spoke. "And you." Sorrowful brown eyes gazed into confused ones. "If it was real I feel like you would've known right away. You would've realized...it was me..." Kimiko then flinched away from Mae's eyes like they would burn her.

"...it was me..."

The phrase played a monotonous tone through my mind.

"...it was me..."

It was Kimiko!?

"It was you?" Mae stood frozen, starting at Kimiko.

"What?!" Akemi grabbed her sisters arm. "Deny it Kimiko! You didn't- she didn't kill Ryu!" The Illustrator directed her last words to the room with fierce challenge.

Kiyoshi blinked suddenly, shaken from his lagging thoughts. "Kimiko?"

Neither of them received an answer from the questioned twin. "It made so much sense at the time..." Was all she breathed.

"I'm-I'm lost." I managed to spit out, feeling as though my brain had stopped working.

"Why don't you explain for us Kimiko Mataga?" Monokuma prodded.

Haruko looked threateningly at our observer. "Forget the bear." Her low voice commanded. "Tell us."

She was probably trying to make whatever she wanted Kimiko to say easier, but she didn't do a very good job of sounding trustworthy. The Seamstress only sounded aggressive.

"Tell us...what?" Kiyoshi asked in high disbelief. His purple gaze was locked on Kimiko's pained face.

The Artist took shaky breaths and clenched her podium. Her face showed the struggle of an inner conflict as she raised it and began speaking. "What happened before and after Kaz was shot."

Before I could process what her words meant, I moved my eyes onto Akemi.

"What did you do?" Kena gasped in shock, staring at Kimiko in horrified wonder.

"B-before Kaz was shot, I found this in front of my house."

My head couldn't keep up, the anger from before tripping over itself. We were-she was going to explain... just like that?

She gestured to the recording device. "I listened to it of course and learned that Ryu wanted to kill Akemi so he and Mae could leave and that...Mae supported it."

Each revelation brought a toxic emotion within me but I kept shoving them down. I couldn't accept them right now.

"I-I- didn't know what to do. How could I s-stop a Hitman?" She winced, regret dripping from her features. "I knew I had to tell Akemi, so I left in search for her but before I could find her, Kaz was shot." Her eyes drifted to the unconscious Climber, gazing past a film of tears sliding over her eyes. "I was so caught off guard and confused. What if this was some kind of plan of Ryu's? I-I- didn't know what to do. And of course I was worried about Kaz..."

Akemi finally stirred while Kimiko paused. She stared at her sister with anger. "Stop talking."

Kimiko trembled, hearing her sisters voice but didn't follow the command. "I wanted to talk to Akemi but she was at Haruko's helping out and so I waited for her to leave. Except... except she didn't. I tried to get her to leave but I was afraid of being too suspicious. It was getting later, almost nighttime and so...I left her."

"Kimiko!" Akemi called in her sister's ear, tugging on the Artist's tense arm whoes hand remained latched to the podium before her. "I'm right here!"

Kimiko remained speaking, faster than before and I tried to focus on the feeling of the floor beneath me and the temperature of the room. Simple things.

"I couldn't confront Ryu. I'd never survive something like that and so I went to the garage." Here her voice slipped, overcome with the tears that now cascaded down her face. "It-it was..." She bowed her head again. "The words you've been looking for are paint thinner..."

Paint thinner? That was it? So it was something in the garage after all...how very...simple.

Through her tears Kimiko manged to keep speaking. "I had no plan, I didn't know how I was going to get him to drink it. But on my way back from the garage I saw Mae and Ryu in the diner and it made perfect sense."

Kiyoshi choked when he spoke. "You-you?" His hands rose to clench his head almost as if in pain, knocking his hat from his head. It thunked to the floor and remained there as no one moved to pick it up.

Kimiko drew in a sharp breath, closing her eyes. "No one say anything until I'm finished." She whispered, anger flickering on her face. When no one gave a response her eyes opened again, and the silence allowed her to finish. "Mae left and Ryu stayed behind so I went to the diner to get to him before he could...act first. He had just finished a milkshake and so I offered him another, saying I was there waiting for Akemi to join me." Her eyes found Kyofu. "That's why there were three. The full one was for Akemi, the empty one was mine which makes the spilt one Ryu's." She shook her head. "I drank mine quickly so I could leave, I didn't want to- I was afraid he'd know or taste it...I left before I noticed anything unusual happening to him." Kimiko sighed heavily like she'd been released of a weight. "Then I heard he had died..."

Only now did she acknowledge her sister. "I was going to tell you!" She faced Akemi desperately. "I planned to! Before this...but we never had a moment alone! And..." She bit her lip, eyes going to her feet. "I was- am-" She corrected herself with the weakest whisper I had ever heard. "-afraid."

Akemi stared at Kimiko. "I...I told you to stop talking..." Her words were laced with disbelief and rejection.

"You killed Ryu?" Mae exclaimed, her voice coming out as a cross between and scoff and a gasp. "You?!" She repeated. Her body still remained bolted to the floor but her mood was quickly shifting from shock to something much worse.

Kimiko nodded forlornly and I peeled my gaze from her form. I didn't want her to confirm it again.

"You killed Ryu-" My eyes flashed back to Mae as she pointed at Kimiko. "-because you thought he was going to kill Akemi."

"Yes. But now I see he wasn't because you have no idea what the tape is."

"You're saying the tape is a fake?" I asked, forcing the words out. I just had to focus on the facts. On the outside things, not the who.

"How could it not be?" Kimiko mumbled. "Mae has no idea what it is..."

"That could easily be faked." Toshiro countered.

"It doesn't matter!" She declared. "The tape doesn't matter-"

"Yes it does." Haruko spoke tersely. "For instance: who made it and who gave it to you?"

"That answer is obvious." Kyofu hissed. "The person among us that's working with Monokuma."

Kimiko appeared more distressed. "I wasn't aware that someone was working with Monokuma, but I did wonder who gave it to me." Her braid slipped off her shoulder and down her back as her body continued to tremble. " But I didn't have much time to wonder."

"So, you really did this?" Even though I spoke I felt as though my words weren't my own. Like I didn't comprehend what I was saying, or what it meant.

Tears filled her eyes again. Tears that I knew would probably never go away between now and...and what would inevitably be next.

I continued to push my inner storm away.

"I did." She glared at the walls. "I had to protect Akemi and...I know that's not enough to you all for what I did." Kimiko paused before saying; "But it's enough for me. You should vote now."

"No!" Akemi protested, eyes ablaze. "Stop it! Stop saying things like that!"

"I'm not going to Akemi." Kimiko countered stubbornly. "You all need to vote, Kaz could be dying!"

The Illustrator latched her hands around Kimiko's arms. "I'm not letting-you can't die either!" Sobs tore through her throat and she grasped the Artist in a tight hug. "We're sisters!" She coughed out. "You're my t-twin..." Akemi released one hand and raised a single pointer finger boring her eyes into her single most constant companion. Her dearest and best friend. "We're like this."

Kimiko raised her eyes to the ceiling, fighting the wave of tears that threatened to spill over. "Exactly. And I'm in your heart Kemi."

The Illustrator jumped away from her sister and reached out, clenching her hand tightly. "If we're like this then I'm going too!"

Kimiko widened her eyes. "Don't be stupid! I did this for you I'm not letting you come with me!"

I inched closer ready to intervene at any point. Akemi wasn't going to die too! I wouldn't allow it! Sensing someone's eyes on me I found Kimiko looking at my face. My own intentions must have been made clear for relief found it's place among her sorrow.

"Akemi-"

"Get on with it." Mae's deadpan voice cut through the emotional exchange that had the entire room enraptured.

Intense with fury Akemi glared at the Dancer. "How can you say that?" She released her sister and balled her hands into clenched fists.

"How can you not?!" Mae shouted facing the both of them viciously. "She has to pay the consequences of her actions!" Her arms crossed tightly across her chest. "Those are the rules. That's how the game is played."

"This isn't a game Mae." Kyofu cautioned, termoil buried deep in his voice.

"Forget what this is and vote for me already!" Kimiko requested in a high voice. "Kaz needs medical attention, we've wasted enough time!"

"I don't think there's any doubt about the culprit then..." Kena whispered softly, looking at the lever that waited to be pulled.

Akemi sputtered. "Yes there is!" Her hair swung across her face as she turned quickly towards the rest of us. "Don't be stupid!" Her eyes fell on me. "Help me tell them!"

My eyes widened as I was taken aback by her plea. I-I wasn't going to lie to her and she couldn't lie to us.

"Hon'yomi!" She demanded. "Come on you always find some sort of other evidence!"

I struggled to smother tears I felt rising. I wouldn't let myself think about what this all mea nt. Only the facts mattered right now, and I knew Kimiko was guilty. "I'm s-sorry Kemi...but I can't..."

Toshiro spoke up and looked to Akemi in apology. "I'm sorry too." He offered, grasping the handle before him.

"No!" She insisted. "This is a trick! By the-the Despair! Kimi didn't...she didn't...she won't d-die..."

I looked at the floor as more tears came to her.

"I did what I thought I had to do." Kimiko said softly. "Please, let's do what needs to be done here and vote. Kaz deserves to live."

I lifted my own blurry eyes.

Kyofu gave a hated gaze to the lever but placed a fist around it in preparation. Haruko followed suit and their eyes landed on me.

My eyes sank to the handle and I felt a layer of sweat overwhelm my hands. I had to do this. That's right. Kaz could be dying, so we needed to save him. This would save him...

I turned to look at my neighbor. "Kiyoshi." He blinked, his hands still clenched in his brown hair and looked at me like I was a stranger. His face was pale and eyes distant. "We have to vote." I watched as his gaze traveled to the lever but he made no motion to move.

"Wait." Toshiro spun around to address Monokuma. "What about Kaz? He can't vote."

The bear grumbled before sighing. "Fine, fine! I will not count Shiyota's empty vote against the verdict!"

My heart skipped a beat in thanks and I took the handle before me.

"I'm not voting." Akemi promised past tears. "I'm not. I won't."

Kimiko ignored her sister again.

"I won't do it!" She shouted even louder.

"Ready?" Kena's voice shook.

I nodded silently, thinking about the mechanics of the lever.

"Let's vote." Mae said, and as the rest of us moved our hands in syncronized motions, Kimiko lurched forward, grasping Akemi's lever and pulled it.

The screen above came to life, drowning out Akemi's outraged cry. The usual cartoon came to life and the vote total flashed, the animation landing on one face.

KIMIKO MATAGA HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY!

Like the declared had won a prize the screens that stood for walls exploded with videos of confetti and prizes. The glimmering room grew bright with the sudden change in scenery make my eyes sting.

"Kimiko!" Akemi shouted in horror, however the twin was turned away from her sister and focused on the Dancer.

"I'm-I'm sorry Mae." Kimiko began  "It's not enough-"

"You're sorry?" Mae heaved in a breath and I stared, just now realizing that Dancer and Artist stood right next to each other. "You-you're sorry?!"

Kimiko stood stalk still, ready to receive whatever Mae had to say.

"You-you-" Her words got clogged in her throat as she looked around for some sort of release. Pent up anger built until it reached it's breaking point. With no other way to express herself Mae launched herself at the Artist.

I let out a surprised shout as Kimiko remained still, refusing to dodge the impact. The two girls collided a moment later, but somehow remained on their feet. Akemi gasped in surprise.

I had little time to understand what was happening before Akemi dove among the tangled limbs, ready to defend her sister.

Clashing gazes with Kena only seconds later, the two of us lept into action, directing ourselves towards different targets.

I dove around the podiums, securing my arms around Akemi's, pinning them to her sides. The two of us collapsed to the ground, hair flying in a thousand directions as she struggled and fought my grasp. Knowing I wouldn't be able to hold her long, I linked my hands together across her body, fighting to keep hold.

"Haruko!" I thought I heard Kyofu shout to the Seamstress but couldn't be sure if it was indeed his voice.

Across from me I noted that Kena had grabbed Mae and was holding her back more successfully than I was holding Akemi, for they we're both on their feet.

Kimiko extracted herself from the mess, body trembling. She took a deep breath, and her eyes filled with the familiar tears.

"Want to know something Kemi?" She offered with a small sad smile. "I know you would've done the same. So let me do this."

Akemi fought even harder, but my resolve must have been stronger for I found myself vowing that I would never let her go.

"Well, well finally! LET'S GIVE IT EVERYTHING WE'VE GOT!" My heart lurched at the horribly familiar phrase and I shared a look of fear with Kimiko.

"Tell Kiyoshi I'm sorry when he's ready." She said to me. "And that-" Kimiko bit her lip, face overwhelmed with emotion. "-that I think I lov-"

"IT'S PUNISHMENT TIME!"

"No!" Akemi screamed in my arms, almost nailing the back of her head into my face.

My energy and focus was stolen from Kimiko as I held onto her sister."Stop it." I pleaded with her. "Stop it." I tried to shake her and get her to relax, but she didn't pause in her efforts. My heart ached as I realized what  I was doing: preventing her from a proper goodbye. But she couldn't be trusted. "Stop it!" I shouted again, and then the room went black.

~A faint glow from the monbear's eye cast twisted shadows across the Ultimate's faces. The dark hung around them in the most unsettling way. Many of them felt as though some unseen presence drifted around them while they waited, but they quickly forgot once the walls exploded with light.

Kimiko was not suspended in darkness, or chained in place. Sickly green and black lights twisted and warped off her surroundings. Bright yellows and blues glowed obtrusively from framed art pieces on walls that stood around her. They cast an unnatural glow across the Artist's face as what she realized was her own work, was distorted and reflected back to her.

She had to blink past the disorientation the lighting brought upon her and Kimiko struggled to squint down the strange hall. It trembled softly from the corner of her eye like a writhing snake adding to the vertigo.

Pieces from the beginning of her artistry to her most recent endeavors were all present but they were wrong. The sickly shine from the lights twisted the colors and textures into something dark and hostile. The once beautiful pieces had been wilted away into menacing images.

Fear returned to Kimiko once her confusion was spent, putting her body into motion. Her sandaled feet lead her father and farther down the hall, yet she was never separate from the strange light or the feeling of sickness it brought to her. Kimiko blinked wildly, fighting to remain aware. Surely, something should've happened by now?

Like something was sizzling, a sound grew louder the farther she went. Fine drops of color bled from the ceiling dyeing the floor and joined together in a muddled colorful mess.

The paint drops found her next, falling upon her head and body. Their burning heat caught her off guard making her gasp in abrupt pain. Crying out, Kimiko held her hands around her face and moved to rush down the hall. She slipped through the puddles, her sandals hindering her and offering no protection from the boiling paint on the floor.

Her white shirt looked gory, stained and melting to her skin making the pain intensify. She rushed down the halls passing her twisted art on the way- desperate to escape the boiling paint from above. Yet she knew there was nowhere else to run.

The sickly glow flashed to inverted colors and the pictures changed. The monobear was there, infecting her once marveled at art. Her subjects replaced by his Despair and grinning evil.

Kimiko ran quicker, feet slipping and she crashed to the boiling paint on the floor. Her world shook as she slammed into the ground, making her dizzy. She struggled to rise quickly, to be free of the burning when a crashing sounded behind her. She waited until she was standing to look back. The hall was bleeding colors across the ceiling, walls, and floor. It had bled on her face, clothes and body but something else was coming.

The walls suddenly exploded outward, the dark paintings shredded to multi colored strips. Her eyes widened, their dark color made bright by the blues and pinks upon her face. The subjects escaped their prisons and portraits on the walls, and the the bears red eyes gleamed in her direction.

Kimiko turned and ran, braid flung out behind her, feet slapping sprays of color across the walls. The bears followed close after her, continuing to emerge from the walls as she passed. Her thoughts went to those watching, ashamed that she ran but was unable to make herself stop.

She rounded a corner and approached a new hall, a plain white hall with no disturbances. She left colorful footprints behind and drops of paint from her hair. Would this lead somewhere new?

She slid to a halt. The hall ending, a fierce wall halting the chase. The bears drew nearer, their own steps creating trails of bright pink. She faced down a wall of sharpened pencils, pens, scissors, paper knives, and cutting blades. She was trapped between two impossibilities: her own tools and despair.

Kimiko turned from the wall. It was time to face the consequences- or try to. Tears mingled with the paint on her cheeks and the bears blurred before her. She raised her hands in a last minute attempt at protection.

They pounded onto her like water on rocks, crushing her against to the threatening wall. They striked and beat the Artist against the wall mercilessly. The supplies did their jobs, ripping, tearing, stabbing, and wounding. Kimiko could only scream and regret it, pained that she was unable to spare the ones watching from this.

The monobears never paused and her blood joined the bright colors of paint on the floor. The supplies dug into her with such success that she became suspended onto the wall, feet no longer on the floor. She waited to die but death didn't come. Not yet.

There was no way to avoid the horrific pain and her screaming becaming her only reality. There was nothing else for her but the damage being done to her body. It was a pain like she'd never experienced before, and a desperation for death she had never dreamed she'd wish. The snaps of her breaking bones were unable to be heard over her cries from the efforts of the bears before her. The Artist longed for death but it didn't come. It wouldn't come...not for a long time.~

Kimiko's screams echoed through the room again making Akemi flinch violently. The Illustrator had her hands crushed over her ears and once again shouted for it to stop. I clenched her hands with my own, and pulled our foreheads together. I had to help her block it out. I just had to block it out.

Another scream. I shivered, forcing my eyes to ignore the images flashing through the room and the tears that fell down my cheeks. I couldn't do this. Couldn't listen to this much longer.

Block it out, block it out, block it out.

Akemi had her eyes screwed shut in an attempt to escape the image of her sister which was repeated again and again on the surrounding walls. I tried to focus on Akemi and forget why we were here.

Another cry of pain shot through the room and I trembled, burying my own face into my knees. Why was she being made to suffer like this? Why were we being made to suffer like this? Why didn't it end yet? "This is too much..." I had to block out her death.

I screamed over Kimiko's next cry of pain. "She dances arms upheld!" I delved within my mind for an escape. Within my poetry. For myself. For Akemi. "Th-through caverns deep and old..." I wanted to press my hands over my own ears, but I didn't remove them from Akemi. "Dressed in silk, green as a tree, she imagines wings to soar away free." I had to cling to it. Cling to the words and rhythm. There were no screams. "The greyness of the wind envelopes her shining soul, she spins through dying greys, showing her enemies she's bold." My voice sank lower, but I no longer paused. "She glides past the red walls, and each glittering mirror on the ground. She d-dances arms upheld, through her storms and dark days, and one day she'll receive her wings, through words and poetry, wings so she can soar away free."

I raised my head. Was it over? Toshiro caught my eye, his back trembling as he cried, face in his hands. It wasn't over.

More blood on the screens. More screams. Kimiko's life wasn't taken yet. Earlier I hadn't wanted her to die but now I wished it was over.

Akemi's eyes widened with horror all over again as she returned her focus to the screens. The image was a bloody, almost unidentifiable mess. Breathing heavily I pulled her head down and began again. "She dances arms upheld." Again. Again. Again. Repeat it, don't stop. Don't pause. Don't breath. Repeat it again. It will be over soon. It would end soon.

"She glides past the red walls." My tears slipped over my lips, tumbling down with my words. I was a waterfall, pouring out my heart to stop the pain. "And each glittering mirror on the ground."

Akemi shuddered beneath my hold and I only held tighter in response. I wouldn't let her go. "She dances arms upheld, Through her storms and dark days."

My words blurred together the more I said them, and the more I buried my awarness into them. More and more time passed of tense cries of pain we all tried to ignore. All feeling in my body vanished. In my mind. The only thing I was aware of was my lips, and how they couldn't stop moving. "She dances arms upheld..."

"H-Hon'yomi?"

"She dances....arms upheld."

"Hon'yomi."

"S-she...dances...."

A hand fell upon my shoulder. "It's over Hon'yomi."

Who was that speaking? The voice sounded to foreign after...after so much... "S-she danc-"

"Hon'yomi."

I raise my head, eyes puffy and wet. Toshiro is knelt beside me, his hand resting gently on my shoulder.

"She-"

"Let her go."

Her? Let who go?

"Akemi."

Huh? Did I say that out loud?

"Let her go."

My eyes find Akemi's but she doesn't seem to look back at me. I realize my hands are clamped over hers so tightly that I couldn't feel them anymore. "I-I need...I need help." I whispered.

Toshiro nodded solemnly and carefully pried my hands away. He frowned and let them go. "You're freezing."

Oh.

"Do you need help to stand?" He asked softly.

I nodded. "So does Akemi I think..." I barely heard my own voice.

"Haruko?" He looked to the nearest person as he moved to help Akemi. "Can you help Hon'yomi?"

I couldn't see her from where I sat, but suddenly there were arms pulling me to my feet. Immediately when I stood, the room began to spin and I had to lean heavily on the Seamstress. Haruko managed my weight without trouble and steadied me.

Akemi had less of a problem standing but her face was so empty there was no way to know if she was even aware of what was going on around her. Nonetheless Toshiro kept an arm around her to be safe. "Let's get out of here."

Haruko guided me to the elevator and whispered in my ear. "Stay with her."

"What?" I asked loudly, unable to understand what she had said.

"Stay with her." She gestured to Akemi. "You don't know what the grief may make her do."

My heart grew cold with worry. "Haruko. Maybe you should-"

"I'm no good when it comes to such things." She countered quickly. "I know you have seen it. I am not good when it comes to emotions."

I slipped out of her grasp once we reached the metal doors and watched Toshiro and Akemi follow. The four of us joined the remaining five and the doors slid shut.

Akemi's lost expression cleared some of the fog in my mind. I would stay with her until I knew she'd be...better. Until she had the look of life in her again.

SURVIVING STUDENTS: 9

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Chapter Text

Akemi said no words as I closed the door to her house behind us. She made no sound as she walked to the back and climbed into her bed. I trialed behind her slowly in my own sort of numb daze. Staying with her would give me something to focus on. I hovered in the doorway to her room. "Akemi?"

She buried herself beneath the covers, putting her back to the door. She made no move when I spoke.

"Do you...want anything?"

No response.

I sighed. "I'll be out here...if you need..." My body was heavy and achy from remaining unmoving for so long. I traveled to the front of the home noticing the things it held. I hadn't been in the Illustrators house before.

The living room was small and I had to squint in the dark to see it. It held a low white couch and next to it rested a squat end table which to my relief held a throw blanket. I grabbed the material and pulled it around my shoulders like it was some sort of protection. Warily I looked into the dining room. The table looked pale in the darkness, and held only a heavy looking bird figurine.

Gradually I sat on the white couch, back straight and stiff, hands resting in my lap. Surrounded by empty silence I reached up and removed my ponytail, releasing my messy curls. My energy was spent, my mind tired and I ached with an ache that I remembered I was no stranger to.

I had felt this before with similar intensity when we had to watch Rika die. In that horrible way...and now with Kimiko....

I forced my eyes to close and body to lay on the couch. The blanket remained around my shoulders while I buried my face into the cushions. I still couldn't think about it. Not yet.

~     ~     ~

The sound of footsteps took me from a blank sleep. The small room came into focus slowly and I looked blandly at the far wall. Shuffling came from the direction of Akemi's room and echoed down the hall. Yawning I sat upright, turning to look towards the sound.

If I hadn't already known Akemi, seeing her silhouette in the dark hallway would've unnerved me. She moved carefully, like she was unsure of her steps and leaned on one wall as if she needed it's support.

Confused I rose to my feet. She had passed the bathroom, so what was she doing? "Akemi?" My voice croaked.

The Illustrator made it into the living room and paused. "I'm going outside."

Her voice sent an immediate chill down my spine and I rose to my feet. Something in her tone was eerie and familiar. "Why?" I squinted, trying to see past the shadows that clung in the room. My body was on edge as if it had picked up some sign that my mind didn't.

She frowned at the floor, glaring at it with some dark emotion. "To get Kimiko." Her voice was threatening.

I rounded the couch, standing in front of her but growing no closer. "What do you mean?" She didn't look...normal...

Akemi sighed and looked from the floor to my eyes. "Kimiko. I'm going to bring her here."

I grew very still when I met her eyes and yet I wanted to back away as quickly as I could. They radiated darkness, the brown color corrupted by some sort of madness. Her gaze was dangerous and fragile, like at any second something within her would shatter. I shuddered, afraid to remove my eyes from the twisting, chaotic despair that was in hers. "Akemi," I fumbled with my words unsure of what I should say to her. "Kimiko...she's- she's gone."

Anger sparked in her spiraling gaze. "Don't be stupid." She stepped closer. "She's still here so I'm going outside." Her body was steady but her limbs trembled. She shook with a storm of pent up tension.

Fear kept my mind running when I was certain it shouldn't be. After everything so far it should've short circuited and failed already. I expected it to, but it still rushed quickly ahead so I fought to focus it. Perhaps that was exactly what happened to Akemi? After everything the trial had just been too much for her. Everything about it had been horrible and painful....

I took a step back which placed myself between her and the door. I didn't know how to talk to her like this. This was something more than grief. It was something else entirely. "You can't go outside like this." I reasoned. I had no idea what she would do once she realized she was wrong.

"Shut up and move Hon'yomi." My heart lurched. "You're in my way." Akemi walked forwards stopping only a few feet away. She never released me from her gaze.

I grit my teeth and clenched my fists, knowing I couldn't let her leave. "No."

She leaned forwards to get closer and I quickly stepped back, feeling more and more like a caged animal the closer she got. I made it two steps when I could go no further and the knob to the door pushed against my back. "Don't worry." Akemi said in a twisted sing song voice. "You trust me right?" She reached up and poked my bow tie like the action somehow made her trustworthy.

"No." I pushed her back. "I can't trust you- you're not you." I looked around helplessly, somehow I had to get her to stop. To end whatever this was.

The Illustrator glowered and jerked out of my grip, her unstable eyes glaring straight into mine. "Open the door or move Hon'yomi." I didn't need to wonder if it was a threat, her intentions were clear. Akemi reached into her pocket and removed a rather sharp looking fountain pen.

I tensed. "W-what are you going to do Akemi?" My eyes searched wildly. She wouldn't seriously....not after everything...

"I'm going to get you out of my way." She promised, clenching the pen tightly. The twisting emotions slipped through her words.

I had to get away from her, or get her away from me. I tried to reason again. The normal Akemi wouldn't be doing any of this...wouldn't be saying things like this. "You're going to kill me?"

"If I have to."Her words bled into the air between us like toxin.

My limbs felt heavy, lulled by her tone and I shook my head. My eyes grew wide once I realized she really meant it. It was like she believed she had to do it. I had to try again. I had to stop her from doing this! "Akemi...Kimiko...she's dead. We-we saw it. D-Don't you remember?

She took in a sharp breath, the despair in her eyes growing stronger. "No!"

"Akemi-" My eyes landed on a nearby object and my heart soared. "Please just listen to me." I shifted my weight, angling myself closer to the kitchen. The tension between us was rising, causing my heart to race. "Kimi-"

"NO!" She shouted once more and suddenly lunged.

Praying that I wouldn't miss I dove towards the kitchen table. My hand slammed onto the surface but my fingers grasped the item I'd be aiming for. I tried to focus my movements but before I could twist around a shooting pain climbed up my left arm making me cry out. I smashed to the floor, warmth running down my arm and Akemi crashed on top of me. I gasped and the cause for my pain was removed from my arm, it's path redirected towards my face. Without wasting a thought I swung and a dull thunk sounded. Another sound filled the room as the pen dropped to the floor and with it, Akemi.

I sat up quickly, my hand going to my arm. In the dim lighting I could distinguish the shade of my blood from the oily blackness of ink. Anxious, I pushed up my sleeve but there was no way to see the damage in the light. From the floor Akemi groaned.

"Akemi?!" I abandoned my arm and reached for her, rolling her to her back. Her eyes were closed and she appeared completely unconscious but I feared the worst. Trying to calm myself I pressed two fingers against her neck to check for a pulse. I struggled for a few seconds to find the proper place with shaking hands. A loud gasp left me when I felt the rise and fall beneath her skin. My next worry came swift and I fumbled in the darkness to check her head. Had the bird figurine cut her? My hands tried to be gentle in case I came across a wound but thankfully there wasn't one. I leaned towards the floor in relief, try to give my heart a chance to slow before I thought about what to do.

I tried to force my breathing to slow while my head rested on the floor but had little success. Akemi's eyes kept flashing through my mind like a twisted warning. I didn't know how to process what had just happened. She had just...she had just tried to...and I had.....

My body began to shake.

Everything was getting worse and worse around us and there was no way to stop it. Somehow Monokuma would always get someone to kill and this cycle would never end. Overwhelming helplessness came over me, like it was wrapped tightly around my throat. My fingers curled into my palms and tears slipped past my eyes. I felt like I was falling and would never stop. I could feel a desperate scream building within me longing for release, building and building until suddenly...it did.

The cry was impossible to hear over the pounding in my head. It took focus center stage and I felt like I was surrounded by an echoing drum. It didn't stop and I couldn't stop the sensation of sound from bursting past my lips.

What if there was no way to stop? To stop anything...to stop...

In the next second the pounding vanished and my chest begged to be expanded. I took in a creaky breath, replacing the lost air in my lungs but I wasn't finished. Everything that had been building up inside I poured out. Confusion, fear, pain. Helplessness, distrust and hatred. Sorrow, grief and emptiness. Hana and her pale face, Utsumi's skewed glasses and Renji's broken voice. Chikara's tattoos and Saori's last words. Kaz's blood, Mae's screams, Ryu's discolored skin and Kimiko's endless cries of pain. Akemi's blank face and her twisted eyes. The threat in her voice and my blood on the floor.

The faceless, nameless person behind it all who was among us watching our pain.

I coughed past a sob and a scream, halting my voice. Shakily I lifted my head, the movement irritating my arm. Past the chaos in my mind I knew that I didn't want to get blood all over the house. My hands shook when I picked up the pen and studied it with apprehension. Akemi had really stabbed me with it...

It thunked when I tossed it into the trash.

In the dark I tried to grab hold of myself and regain composure. I didn't know how long it took to stop gasping but soon the world refocused around me a bit more clearly.

The light switch on the wall flicked on a pair of dim yellow lights in the dinning room. I had to blink dampness from my eyes to see clearly. Akemi was sprawled on the floor, hair a mess around her head and small drops of blood surrounding her form. I had to shake the writhing stress from my mind and help her. I had to fix this...

New warmth drew my eyes to my arm. The blood began to travel down a different path. I stumbled around unsteadily and searched the kitchen, spotting a roll of paper towels. After wiping off the excess blood I wrapped a few around my arm.

Careful not to get blood on her, I struggled to lift Akemi from the floor and hold her in my arms. I moved without thinking, working like a machine. I just had to fix this...

I struggled to keep her head from hanging over my arm too far and tried to move fast. I lugged Akemi back towards her room and each second she grew heavier in my arms. I staggered past the bathroom, almost tumbling to the floor but managed at the last second to catch myself. As graceful as I could be in the moment, I stepped into her room and set her on the bed.

I scanned her room and the ordinary items were translated to deadly objects in my mind. Paranoia took shape and I silently went about removing all potentially dangerous items from her room. I tried to move quickly but my adrenaline had faded and my arm started to throb.

My steps sounded solemn while I marched back, everything from pieces of paper to shoe laces in hand. She'd made a pen a weapon and I wasn't going to give her the chance of using anything else if she woke up the same.

After making it in the kitchen I stashed her things beneath the sink and tied the cupboard shut with one of her bootlaces. Not a permanent solution but it was all I could think of. I now directed my attention to the floor and worked at scrubbing away more blood...

When I rose I leaned on the counter, breathing sharply through pain. I removed the many paper towels to see my wound in the light. Blood oozed from the deep gash along with a few more traces of ink. I looked around, unsure of what to use. It wasn't just a graze, Akemi had managed to stab my arm so successfully I probably needed stitches.

I looked to the Illustrators door, weakly hoping Haruko would be up.

~     ~     ~

The town was silent and I moved quickly, the cold air clearing the chaos from my thoughts.I was now anxious to leave Akemi alone for too long.

The Seamstresses house was at the very end of the girls side and I had to pass Kimiko's on the way. There was nothing particularly special about the Artist's place. It was as unremarkable as the rest of ours except of course it displayed her picture. When I passed I only cast a wary glance but I didn't miss the gleam of the silver key in the door.

When I reached Haruko's I buried my uncertainty about her and knocked three times. A dim glow was present through the curtains of her window and I was relieved to see that she was already awake.

The door groaned softly when it opened, revealing the girl inside. Her hair was down- like mine- but unlike mine it was damp and wasn't a mess. Somehow Haruko looked younger with the dark waves around her face- and her large eyes even rounder.

She regarded me with mild interest until her even gaze noticed my arm. "Come in." Haruko said, turning away and leaving the door open behind her.

I followed after a few seconds, closing the door and once again found myself in Haruko's house. The bowl of oranges remained where I had seen it last though I was quite convinced it had been emptied and refilled since then.

The Seamstress was standing in the dining room, already working a piece of stiff thread through a curved needle. "You'll want to sit down." She advised, nodding to a chair at the table.

A bit miffed that I hadn't needed to say a word I followed her instructions. Satisfied with her thread and tools she set them aside and pushed my sleeve up to my shoulder. Coming to some sort of silent conclusion Haruko reached into her belt and started removing small squares of gauze and two almost empty bottles of some sorts of medicine.

Working meticulously she poured the remains of one small bottle onto a piece of gauze and pressed it against my arm. I released a surprised hiss of pain and Haruko glanced at me like something had just dawned on her. "It's going to sting." She offered halfheartedly.

"I figured that out." I grumbled, all the stress from before fading the longer I sat as though nothing happened. She pressed firmly against the wound and I held my breath in a strained manner, impatient for it to be over with.

Eventually she tossed the black and red gauze into a trash I hadn't noticed she'd grabbed and reached for the second bottle. The silence too much for me to bare any further I decided to break it. "You're not going to ask what happened?"

Haruko paused and glanced up at my face. "You've clearly had an unfortunate incident with a pen."

I huffed. "Clearly." Akemi's dark gaze took shape in my mind and I shuddered.

"But I don't believe you would speak the truth even if I asked." The Seamstress went back to soaking the second square of gauze.

"You're not worried about why I've come to you in the middle of the night bleeding?" Her lack of questions made me suspicious.

Haruko looked at me curiously. "You care about attaining my concern?" Puzzlement created an inflection in her voice.

I sighed. "No but if it was the other way around I'd want to know what was going on."

She studied me. "I told you to stay with the Illustrator who's emotionally unstable You've been stabbed by a pen. I can tell you didn't kill her or seriously harm her for attacking you. I don't need to ask you anything."

My mouth opened and closed a few times. The only thing I couldn't agree with was the 'emotionally unstable' part. It had been way worse than that. "Why are you a Seamstress again? You'd be a good detective or something..." I muttered dryly.

Haruko had a the shadows shock and beguilement on her face. "I honor my mother's teachings as a seamstress. I could be nothing less." She held up the gauze. "Numbing."

I nodded feeling thankful and she continued with her task. "Did your mother teach you how to sew wounds like this too?"

The pressure from the gauze grew less and less noticeable the longer she held it in place. "Once I was old enough."

I fell silent to ponder that. What had been going on where she lived that called for having such knowledge? It would make sense if her mother was a doctor but the night of the bonfire she had said seamstress.

"How does it feel?" She inquired, prodding at my wound.

"Numb." I answered truthfully.

Haruko plucked up the needle and held it skillfully. "You'll feel tugging but that should be it"

I nodded, clenching a fist. I absolutely hated needles. To avoid spotting the instrument going through my skin I stared at the wall across from me.

"It shouldn't hurt." Haruko said, picking up on my sudden discomfort.

I shook my head trying not to tremble. "I just don't like needles." My voice shook and I struggled for breath, the second time in one night.

Haruko leaned away from me. "Are you going to pass out?"

I shook my head again. "I don't...think so." I struggled to maintain clear headed and fight against the black on the edges of my vision.  "I've always hated needles but I don't remember it being this bad."

"Are you certain you won't pass out?"

"Just get on with it." I insisted.

She fell silent and I sensed her focus on my arm. I worked on calming my breath and the room slowly stopped spinning. Haruko had been right, nothing hurt but every now and then I felt a little pull.

To remain distracted my thoughts went to Akemi. What would I do if she woke up and was the same? It was impossible to reason with her and she was dangerous. I took a deep breath, anger welling inside me. All of this was their fault. The one from Despair. And because of that they deserved to suffer just like we had and then some. We had to discover their identity.

"Finished." Haruko said, standing from her chair.

I shook my head. "Already?" My eyes went to my arm. Haruko had wrapped it a few times with more gauze, covering the stitches. With my good arm I reached for my sleeve and pulled it down. "Damn it." I cursed when it was in place. "There's blood on my shirt..."

"I will fix it." With no warning the Seamstress was before me again, hand out expectantly. I suddenly realized how Kyofu had felt when she demanded that he lend me his sweatshirt.

I untied my bow tie and set it aside. "Alright." I slowly unbuttoned my blouse and placed it into her waiting hands.

Haruko took it swiftly and spread it on the table. She reached without looking for supplies from her belt and began cutting away at the bloodied sleeve. "It will be a short sleeve now." She warned as she worked.

I shivered in my undershirt."That's fine." What other choice did I have?

I watched her idly, amazed at the precise and detailed movements she made. "Haruko?" I recalled the words she'd whispered to me in the trial room. "Why won't you speak to Akemi?"

She didn't look up from her work. "Did you already forget what I said?"

"No." There was that desire to defend myself again. "I want to know why you're not good with emotions.

Haruko fell silent for awhile before saying. "They make a mess of things."

My mind jumped to previous conversations. "Is that why you won't call any of us friends?" I challenged.

Haruko said nothing, focused only on hemming the material of my shirt.

I groaned irritably. "You're as talkative as a corpse!" I cringed once the words slipped out immediately regretting them.

The Seamstress was unaffected . "Was that an insult?"

My eyes widened with disbelief. "Yes! It was!"

Her scissors snipped softly and she gave no further response.

I narrowed my eyes. My instincts kept telling me not to trust her but Kyofu did and I trusted him. Now all I was trying to do was to know her better and it was like pulling teeth! "You know I don't trust you."

Haruko moved to the next sleeve. "That's a wise decision." She said admirably. "You shouldn't trust anyone here, especially now that it's revealed that one of us is with Monokuma."

Wait a moment... "So you don't trust anyone?"

"No."

"Well, what about Kyofu?" I watched her closely but she didn't pause, didn't show any sort of sign of her thoughts or emotions. If she had any.

"What about him?" Haruko folded the sleeve down.

I huffed. "It seems to me that you trust him."

Now she stopped to glance at me. "I just said it's wise not to trust anyone here."

"And yet you trust him." I guessed. "You may not want to but you feel like you should, don't you?"

Haruko turned back to my shirt.

"Maybe he was once your friend." I couldn't be sure but I thought her back stiffened when I said that.

She removed my shirt from the table and held it out to me."Here." My hands took it tentatively and I watched her face. It was blank.

"Thank you." I slipped it back on, grabbing my bow tie. "For my arm too."

Haruko nodded once and stepped away to tidy her dinning room. I sighed dejectedly. My attempt at conversation was over.

~     ~     ~

Pressure on my arm jolted me from sleep and I swung out blindly.

"Oh!" A voice exclaimed.

Fear burst through my mind and I sat up from the couch, eyes snapping open. "Akemi?" I stared at the girl before me, preparing for another attack.

The Illustrator stood a few paces away with dark circles under her eyes but to my relief there was no trace of the madness that had been present in the night. She still didn't look like her old self though. Her arms hung limply at her sides like she didn't know what she was supposed to do with them and her face was distant. "Why is there a chair with plates on it in front of my room?" Even her voice sounded dead.

I stood slowly, not once removing my eyes from her. "I uh...I was just...I wanted to know when you woke up."

"You expected me to walk into the chair?"

I squinted at her. Did she...did she remember last night at all? "Well-"

She took a step back and crossed her arms. "Why are you still here? I thought you left."

Cautious I shook my head. "No I said that I was going to stay with yo-"

"Well I don't need you." Akemi looked pointedly at the door.

My mind stumbled. "Will you be oka-"

She shook her head. "Get out!"

I jumped and nodded, heading directly to the door. I thought about trying to say something else but decided against it moments later. The door closed with a harsh click behind me, releasing me into the town.

My breath clouded around my face and the cool air bit at my bare arms. Would it be too much if I asked Haruko to make me a coat? To conserve some warmth I crossed my arms and walked towards my house.

The days were growing colder which meant darkness would now fall sooner. The thought made me unsettled. So far all killings had happened in the nighttime and now there would be more of it. If we wanted all this to stop then the traitor had to be revealed and stopped. That was the only way to stop our hopes from fading.

I fit the key into my door, entering the place quickly. The flower Kiyoshi made still rested on my table and I felt my anger grow. I would talk to everyone. I would investigate everyone. I had to find the one responsible and get the killings to stop once and for all.

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The list stared up at me, my handwriting clear and centered. Each name was waiting for a sentence to be paired up with it.

Haruko Arakawa

Kiyoshi Hashumoto

Akemi Mataga

Kyofu Mashima

Manukena Josei

Shiyota Kazuyoshi

Mae Umari

Toshiro Kiyata

I frowned harshly at the page from my recently re-discovered notebook. I had been filling it with the flashes of memories that had come to me. Feeling the need to organize my thoughts on paper I had also began to work towards discovering a suspect  that could be the Despair.

Mastermind: from Hope's Peak like us or planted in our memories to appear as though they were from Hope's Peak?

Next question: who here was lying? The answer? Everyone was, there was no doubt about that. We all had things we didn't want the group to know, but I guess the right question wouldn't be 'who here was lying' but 'what is everyone hiding?' I could go around questioning everyone but of course the culprit would lie.

What about the Liar?

It wasn't the first time the thought crossed my mind and I struggled to organize it. To be safe I added it to my list.

Liar: possibly not real. If so it is a distraction from the true traitor and a motive/IF real, they aren't a threat to the group and still have been used as a distraction- Monokuma OPENLY threatened their life to further his 'game'.

In my last sentence my penmanship was a little shaky but I believed what I wrote. My mind kept racing and I pressed the pen to the page again.

If Monkuma thought his motive would motivate the Liar then perhaps it's someone who seriously cares about the group?- or some of, or a member of.

I felt better as I scribbled my theories on paper. It was something I definitely should have done sooner. After filling up the space by the Liar I studied the name. Who would fit into that category? I found my eyes lingering on Mae.

She said she was a Dancer and yet had been dating a Hitman who was apart of the Yakuza. I remembered thinking it was strange in the beginning and when I asked she only said that he'd saved her from a bad crowd. A Hitman saving people. But I had seen him first hand helping to save Kaz.

Still there was enough doubt here to question it. If what Mae said during the trial was true about Ryu then did Monokuma have a point? Had his question for the Dancer been a hint? And it wasn't 'where did she fit in?' it had to be 'how did she fit in?' I felt uneasy for I was sure that I liked Mae. It had been rough in the beginning but even now, after she'd lashed out at both Haruko and-and Kimiko, I still thought of her as an important friend. I paused. I had seen her dance. In the Arcade and in the Diner. She was really good. Doubt creeped up on me. But Kiyoshi was a wonderful dancer and he was an Inventor.

"We can't be bound by our Ultimates. We lose so much knowledge if we only focus on the one thing we excel at. For instance I graduated from here as the Ultimate Botanist and yet I designed and built the house I live in."

I fought to hold onto the sudden memory. To recall Rika's voice with more clarity. That was right...didn't she teach us more than we needed to know? More than our individual Ultimates?

My mind drifted to the others. I had to think about this like they would. I glanced at my ink smeared hands. I wrote poetry, and when I did I often used a different speaker or character to share thoughts or a perspective in each poem. I took the perspective of something outside myself. I just had to do that with the people here.

My thoughts strayed to Kyofu. What did I know about him? A flash of his still body laying in the grass struck me. The first time I'd seen him (at least the first time I remembered seeing him) he was quick to anger when he shot up, woken by Haruko's kick and easily set off by Kiyoshi's mildly sarcastic remark. So...hotheaded at times. Another flash: Kyofu clambering up Monokuma's chair. I winced. Reckless too. His tense frame and gaze from the last trial came to me, as did our conversation at the bonfire. Our promise that we wouldn't kill. I added emotional next to his name.

I tapped the page and the word 'trustworthy' popped into my head. Kyofu felt trustworthy and yet he also trusted someone I didn't. Haruko. Yet he was clever, he'd proved that enough in the past trials so I was inclined to doubt my thoughts toward the Seamstress. He must trust her because of his instinct or because of our prior connections to each other. I felt connected to everyone here to some degree and I felt the least connected to Haruko. That was probably why I didn't trust her. And another reason...Kyofu was a Thief, a Rogue. In other words he was a criminal. He knew lying when he saw it, and if he trusted Haruko that had to mean that she wasn't lying to us.

My pen whispered softly as I scribbled my thoughts across the paper quickly. I glanced at the Seamstresses name and added a word.

Haruko Arakawa> Trustworthy?

I couldn't be sure of course, but my doubts about her faded a bit. My eyes raked over the remaining names. Who was next? I settled on Kiyoshi and started over again.

He had a big heart. Brave. I wrote next to his name, followed by kind. He cared about others so much that he felt he needed to protect them. After Hana's death he told he that he should've been stronger so he could've saved her and yet he still doubted himself. His behavior at the drawing the morning he'd left his coat in his house was evidence enough. Kiyoshi also had two little sisters whom he loved very much. Anyone could see that from the way he spoke of them. I paused in my notes to re-read.

Kiyoshi Hashumoto> Brave, kind, self doubting, loving.

Surely he couldn't be the Liar or the one behind all this? I thought of his deeply confused purple gaze that had looked into my denying eyes at the trial. He couldn't be the one responsible for Kimiko...I couldn't believe it.

My heart lurched and I recalled when he'd brought me the flower and salad after Saori's trial. Shouldn't I see him now?

On the table my hands shook. I didn't want to talk about Kimiko. And after Akemi...I wasn't sure what his reaction would be.

Too conflicted I moved on.

Toshiro Kiyata

I narrowed my eyes in thought. He could read people and was smart like Kyofu. Artistic but in more than just theatre for he had read my book. He worried about Monokuma's plans and wanted to figure them out. He had asked me everything I could remember that day in the square after the first memory to do just that. Toshiro had been the first person I saw when I woke up beneath the oak tree....

I added cautious to his name. He had been careful about giving his name when we'd met. He was also practical, understanding the way of things and stating them for what they were. When he told me Ryu died he had reminded me of the truth when I'd been reluctant: we had to investigate, we didn't have a choice because if we didn't then we would die. Next, the image of him leaning sleepily against his door echoed through my head and for the hell of it I wrote heavy sleeper down too.

I was preparing to move onto Kaz when I was shaken from my mind by a sound at my door. "Hon'yomi?"

Kyofu.

I slammed the notebook shut and rose to reach the door.

The Rogue stood on my doorstep looking worried. "Are you busy?"

Um...unless mind stalking everyone here counted.... "Not really..." My voice sounded hollow.

He glanced at my face in surprise, sensing something was off in my voice. "What happened to your arm?"

Or that something was off with my arm. I scrambled. After Akemi had dismissed me I went straight to my notebook trying to forget everything that had happened. To forget the look in her eyes. Should I mention it? She seemed okay but what if it happened again? She could've killed me. "I- I'll tell you later." He looked as though he would protest so I quickly added; "If you can't wait talk to Haruko."

He closed his mouth and studied me closer, his keen eyes now noticing my shorter sleeves. "Fine." Kyofu moved on quickly. "I wanted to know if you could talk to Kiyoshi?"

My throat tightened. "Uhhh, why me? I haven't-" Before I uttered them I swallowed the rest of my words: -lost someone I had been in a relationship with. Probably not words I should be saying to him. "I mean, I don't really...." I huffed and frowned. "Shouldn't you talk to him?"

His dark eyes glanced to the dim sky and back. "I tried." "I'd feel better if you tried too though." He squinted past some emotion unseen by me. "Akemi is basically a robot but at least she's moving around and talking. Kiyoshi..."

The tense fear grew stronger. "Why are you asking me?"

Kyofu shrugged. "You talked to me."

'You talked to me.'

I leaned into my door. I didn't want to but the Inventor had found it in himself to come to me after the third trial. "I don't know." I said softly.

Kyofu eyed me again, his eyes straying to my arm once more. "You okay?"

My nerves grew more on edge. His question brought the images from the night before back into my mind. "No." I rushed to continue. "I'd like to help Kiyoshi..." My eyes sank to the ground and Kimiko's last words bounced around my head. "It's nice you think I can fix something about this but I really don't know what exactly to do."

"That's fine." He gave me a knowing look. "But you always seem to hope for the best no matter what." Kyofu let that sink in. "Think about it." He attempted again before wandering off.

I wanted to agree but how could I? Yes I hoped I could find the mastermind behind all this but I wasn't feeling very hopeful about anything else. Deep down, I realized, I was already expecting someone else to die. How was that continuing to hope for the best?

~ ~ ~

The Inventor's house was dull orange like desert sand. The comparison came to me even though I hadn't been in a desert since I was a child. I suppose it left a bigger impression than I noticed.

I adjusted my bow tie again- stalling of course. When I went to talk to Kyofu I wasn't thinking- I just went. It had been completely different. More of an instinct than a plan.

My arms trembled and the stitches itched my skin. I should just wait a day or two before talking to him. After all it was only hours after...everything had happened. He needed to be alone for awhile I was sure.

I turned away and took a few steps towards the square. Kiyoshi needed space. It would be best to give it to him...

I wandered aimlessly, dull and empty like. Somehow I ended up in a building I didn't recognize and I managed to muster some sort of curiosity. Three large cherry wood bookshelves stretched on before me, highly polished and smelling of lemons. An enormous chandelier reached out from the ceiling, it's circumference covering almost the entire ceiling. Despite it's size it cast a dim yet healthy glow through the room. Plush chairs around tables waited for readers at the ends of the aisles and the four walls consisted of built in shelves, not just sheet rock decorated with paint.

It was extravagantly beautiful but it wasn't right. Almost every expanding, grand shelf was bare. The huge Library was practically empty, save for a sparse amount of volumes spread out across the waiting bookshelves.

Disappointed I trudged towards a familiar looking book- though I didn't know why it seemed so- and flipped it open. I barely had the chance to skim a single word when footsteps announced the presence of another person. The book snapped shut in my hand once I realized Kena had been the one to arrive. The sound caused her to look up and her eyes settled on me. Weary I stepped to the nearest table and sat, waiting for her to speak.

"I wasn't looking for you." Kena said quietly.

I opened the book again as if to read it and said nothing.

"But I think we should talk." The chair across from mine creaked and Kena sat patiently across from me.

I turned a page in the book, absorbing none of the information on it. "I can't stop bullets Kena and I didn't pull a trigger." My voice was flat and dead in my ears.

"I know." Her earnest tone surprised me and lifted my eyes. "I know that." Kena's eyes moved away apologetically. "I was angry."

"That wasn't fair." I said softly, the book in my hands now forgotten. "I did forget our promise but there's nothing either of us could have done."

Kena looked at me. "I'm upset you forgot-" I fought the urge to defend myself, "-but I can't blame you for what happened."

I said nothing. I didn't know what to say.

"So, I'm sorry Hon'yomi." She buried her hands in the sleeves of her sweater. "I shouldn't have put that on you, especially during the trial..."

I stared at her in silence. Kena watched me nervously while I forced words to form and reach past my lips.

"I...understand why you were upset." I said unsure of how to respond to her apology. "You believed in me like you did after Hana's trial and I still forgot." I closed the book. "So...I'm sorry too. I meant it when I said it at the trial."

Her hair bobbed as usual. "Yeah I know."

My eyes strayed to the book again.

"I'll leave you to your reading." She stood up as if to exit but she suddenly froze. "Hey...doesn't this feel familiar to you?"

Confusion was immediate. "Is what familiar?" I asked, eyes on her again.

"I don't know..." Kena said, suddenly uncertain. "The two of us with books..."

I looked at her empty hands. "You don't have a book?"

She shrugged. "Never mind, it's probably just all in my head." Kena waved with a smile at the door. "See you later Hon!"

The wood door closed with a thunk behind her. I went back to staring at the book.

~     ~     ~

The sky had morphed into a churning sea again, tossing wind around at random. I made my way past the Pool and Gym, hugging myself for warmth. Why had I been stuck in a skirt in all this? I fought back shivers, ready to make a beeline for my house but a familiar flash of orange stopped me in my tracks.

Shock on my face I stared at the Store rooftop. "Kaz?!" I charged towards the ladder. "What do you think you're doing?!"

He peered down at me from the rooftop, face gleaming with sweat. "I got tired of being inside." Kaz sighed and looked towards the Town Hall. "And I missed Tenshi."

I grabbed the ladder tightly and scaled the wall, tensing against the relentless wind. "You should be inside Kazuyoshi!" I narrowed my eyes on his small frame when my head rose past the wall. "You scared all of us in the trial!" I came to me feet and towered over him. "You need to be inside."

Kaz frowned, his blue and green eyes growing damp. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to scare you guys..."

I shook my head, trying to backtrack. "Kaz..." I softened my voice. "Don't be sorry-you can't control whether or not you pass out. I just meant that we're worried about you and want you better."

The Climber nodded and watched the sky.

The wind tore through the square and tossed up my hair on it's way. "You got some fresh air so let's get you home okay?"

He nodded again.

"Alright. I'll go down the ladder first in case you lose your strength or something."

Kaz frowned. "I won't fall again." Fierceness echoed in his words.

His sudden change in attitude lifted my spirits. "Good then I have nothing to worry about." I grasped the rails and began my decent, trembling occasionally in the cold.

Safely on the ground Kaz looked at me sheepishly. "Please don't tell Haruko about this? If she finds out I was doing anything that could tear my stitches she's going to be mad at me."

I started walking slowly. "Kaz I don't anyone who got mad at you could ever stay mad at you." I gave him what I hoped was a positive glance. "I wouldn't worry about it."

"It would be bad if I tore my stitches." He mumbled thoughtfully.

An unhappy laugh escaped me. "Yeah I would think so!"

"It would be bad if you tore yours too." I felt his mismatched gaze on my arm.

I shoved the memory of the night before from my thoughts. "How do you know I have stitches?" I asked carefully.

Kaz pulled up the shirt he was wearing which I now noticed was black like the store sheets. "It's the same bandage Haruko used on me!" He pointed gladly at the many layers of gauze around his torso.

I rolled my eyes. "Clever."

He smiled but it wasn't his usual beaming one.

We continued until we reached his house. I stopped at the front steps. "I'll have someone come by and check on you later okay? And no more climbing for you until you're better."

"Don't worry! Kena is coming by later. And I'll be extra careful." The Climber agreed seriously.

"Good." I waved. "Get some rest."

Kaz gave me another smile and closed the door.

I practically sprinted to my house and leaned on the door once inside. The house wasn't exactly warm but it was much better than being outside. My body jolted with the chills again but I shook them off.

I couldn't believe Kaz had climbed onto the roof! Especially after seeing how weak he was in the trial room. The image of his limp body floated in my vision. He had been lucky. So lucky to be unaware of what had happened. I wondered what it was like to wake up and hear that suddenly someone was dead when everyone had been alive in your last memories. Horrible for certain, but he was still lucky.

A large sigh heaved from my chest. I rubbed my face through a wave of tiredness and pushed myself into the dinning area. I'd finish putting some of my thoughts into my notebook and then take a nap. I hadn't exactly had the best night of sleep.

The chair groaned when I plopped into it but I sagged even more into the surface. My energy had been sapped already. A yawn came next when I reached for my notebook. I expected to feel it's soft leather cover but instead my fingers crumbled over a piece of paper. Confused I forced myself to see past the tears of exhaustion in my eyes. The table was completely bare save for my pen and a folded square of paper beneath my hand. The notebook was nowhere in sight.

An eerie uncomfortable feeling snuck up on me. I shakily lifted the paper afraid of what it would contain. Someone had been in my house. Someone had been in my house. And someone had taken my notebook. My notebook that I had just started to figure things out in. My notebook that speculated against Monokuma and recorded flashes of things I started to remember.

If it had been Monokuma, he'd have openly been an ass about taking it. My fear told me it was someone more dangerous.

The page crinkled in my hands and I recognized the paper from my typewriter in the garage. I held my breath and opened the page. My eyes traced the words and my mind comprehended their meaning. My heart raced in fear, in confusion, anger, and finally settled on fury. All previous thoughts flew out of my mind when it clicked.

"What the hell?!" I crushed the paper into a fist and jumped to my feet.

~     ~     ~

Thankfully the wait for the door to open wasn't long. With a clear entrance I stormed into the house angrily. "What is this!?" I held the page up high "Seriously? We said we'd trust each other! Stop stealing my shit!"

Kyofu stared at me, hand still on the doorknob. His brown eyes were wide and focused on me in surprise like I had suddenly been possessed.

"Really?!" I paced quickly. "You have nothing to say?!" I devoured the room with my eyes. "Where is it? Give it back!"

I briefly heard the sound of the door close. "Hon'yomi." Kyofu said evenly.

"Come on Kyofu." I stared him down. "I'll tell you whatever I think of, just give it back!" He continued to just look at me which only irked me more. "Where is it?!" I cried and turned to charge into the kitchen but he slipped into my path.

"Where is what Hon'yomi?" His eyes were unfriendly.

I scoffed and waved the paper at him. "You can't tell me someone else typed this! You're the only one who read it!"

"Read what?"

I started to open my hand to read it but found it empty. "Hey!" Kyofu stood before me unfolding the page, pointedly ignoring me.

His eyes narrowed in distaste. "I can tell you that I didn't type this because it's true." He held it out to me and I snatched it back quickly.

"Kyofu you are the only one here who read that poem!" I glared doubtfully. "It doesn't make any sense."

"Something tells me it's not supposed to." He muttered.

I crossed my arms. "'Say goodbye, Goodbye means forever.'?"

"I didn't type it."

"Then who did!?"

"I don't know!" He exploded, his emotions rising to match mine. "Monokuma? The one behind all this? I didn't take anything!"

I breathed heavily, abruptly self conscious and lowered I my voice. "The one behind all this?"

"Yes of course!" Kyofu mussed his hair in annoyance "You didn't think of that?" He studied me. "What was stolen?"

"A notebook."

He raised an eyebrow.

"A notebook with a list of things I started to remember and my ideas and thoughts about everyone here." I looked past him at the wall. "I was trying to figure out the mastermind."

"Fuck..."

I went back to shaking my head. "I don't understand though. How did they know about my poem? I know for certain you're the only one who has read it."

Kyofu snapped his eyes shut as he thought.

I continued, anxious to fill the silence. "Unless it's-"

"The trial." He focused on my face intently.

"What? Kimi-"

Kyofu shook his head. "No, Hana."

My eyes flew wide. "I showed it to everyone to prove my handwriting. Of course! The trial was on camera...."

"So they must have read it based off the recording." Kyofu concluded.

The eerie feeling returned to me. I had always known we were being watched but until now I only thought of Monokuma as the one watching. But thinking about a real person who's identity was unknown was a thousand times worse. There was nothing more distrubing than a fear you couldn't name.

"Then I guess that also answers whether or not they knew I would've thought it was you who took my notebook." My words brought forth a new meaning. "Oh shit, oh shit. They have my notebook!"

Kyofu returned to a calmer state. "What are they going find? What exactly did you write?"

My mind recalled the image of my words clearly. "Stuff about almost everyone. Just my own thoughts about them and whether I thought I could trust them."

Mastermind: from Hope's Peak like us or planted in our memories to appear as though they were from Hope's Peak?

"Speculations about the one behind all this."

The Rogue was busy thinking again. "Why would they take it? Why not just read it and leave?"

I clapped my hands. "The note. To make it look like it was you."

He shrugged. "Yeah but you came at me screaming and quickly discovered it wasn't me."

Trustworthy.

"Maybe to see...maybe just to see how I would react. To see if I would confront you or just suspect you."

"To see how well we trust each other."

I tried to fathom this. "Why? You would test trust to see the strength of reliablity, to see if the people would turn on each other."

"They don't like any of us working together." Kyofu said. "They want to manipulate what we communicate to each other."

I glared. "We won't let that happen. If anything this just makes us trust each other more."

"Well not at first." His words were reproachful. "You were very ready to accuse me."

Guilt and embarrassment met me. "I just-" My emotions had been so caught up on the fact that something of mine had been taken I just lashed out. "I didn't give myself a chance to think."

Kyofu gazed at me with concern. "You're too tightly wound." His dark eyes drifted to my arm again. "I visited Akemi earlier today and she said she doesn't remember anything from last night."

I let that sink in. "Did she seem....sane?" The question made him frown.

"Yeah she seemed as sane as she could be. What really happened?"

I shook my head. "There's something wrong. I don't know.... she's not okay..."

"What do you mean?"

I closed my eyes. "I mean...her mind. Something is broken now. The look in her eyes...it was utterly hopeless."

My hesitance to go into detail made him uneasy. "We're going to have to keep an eye on her."

I recalled the Climber's time outside. "And Kaz."

"And Kaz." Kyofu agreed. "Kiyoshi too."

Guilt returned so I changed the subject. "Who do you think the Despair could be?"

A pained expression played across Kyofu's face. "It's not something easy to-"

His words were cut off by a rap on his door.

My eyes clashed on his. "We're not finished."

"Of course not." He said quickly.

The tension in his body vanished and he reached for the door. I struggled to compose myself as well when a last question passed through my mind. How had the culprit known about my notebook? Wishing I could voice this I clenched my teeth instead and swiftly stuck the piece of paper in my bra.

Kyofu waited until I appeared normal and pulled open the door with a light; "Hey, what's up?"

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"We need to talk." Toshiro said, standing on Kyofu's doorstep. He glanced into the room noticing me. "Good we're all here." The Actor stepped past the door and Kyofu, entering the room.

"What's going on?" I felt my stress level rising.

Kyofu kicked the door closed and leaned against it.

Toshiro glanced between us seriously. "I found this on the table in my house." He held out an object in his hand. An object that was familiar.

"What the-?"

"Wait." Kyofu interrupted my outburst.

A conclusion was drawn in Toshiro's mind. "I knew it." He didn't need to be prompted to explain. "I was in the Arcade this morning and when I came back to my house I found this in the dinning room." He raised my notebook up so we could both see it. "It had a note from you." Toshiro indicated to me and removed a piece of paper from his pocket. Paper that was used on a typewriter...

"I didn't write any note." Now I was the one denying it.

"Well from the reaction I just saw I believe you."

Kyofu stepped away from the door. "What does it say?"

The page crinkled when Toshiro unfolded it and he read the contents aloud. "'I don't want to risk giving this to you out in the open. Inside is a list of those who I think could be the Despair or the Liar. I need help narrowing it down. -HN.'"

I practically tore the paper from his hands. My eyes scoured the page. "Of course. It's typed. Whoever did this doesn't know my-"

"Handwriting?" Toshiro shook his head and pointed at the spot my eyes were now fixed upon.

HN.

Exactly the way I signed my initials, with the H and N sharing a line.

"I don't get it..." There was so much in my head.

Kyofu spoke. "Did you read it?"

"No." Toshiro shook his head. "I was going to but before I did it struck me as really strange. Why would Hon'yomi leave me a notebook when we could just talk?"

"And how would I have even got inside your house?"

The Rogue was quick to speak. "Don't look at me."

"He's right..." The Actor rubbed his neck uncomfortably. "I sort of...didn't get my door fixed..."

I blinked. "What? Why not!?"

He shrugged. "I just- forgot about it really..."

"Great." Kyofu sighed. "And I don't think Kiyoshi is up to fixing anything at the moment."

I tried not to think about that. "You really didn't read it?"

He handed it to me. "Not at all. I decided to ask you about it but you weren't home so I was going to ask Kyofu instead."

I held it tightly, scrutinizing the cover. Whoes eyes had seen between the covers other than my own? "This is all bad...the three of us," I looked at them both. "We've made ourselves into targets."

"Wait, all bad?" Toshiro frowned. "What did I miss?"

I flashed back to moments before when I was yelling at Kyofu. "Um...I found a note like this at my house." I removed it from my shirt. "Same paper and it's typed but not signed. It was left where I last had my notebook. It made it seem like Kyofu had taken it."

The Actor took my note and skimmed it. "What does this have to do with Kyofu?"

I huffed, not wanting to go into the details. "It's from a poem of mine, but the point is the mastermind or Despair or whatever doesn't want us to trust each other."

"Because somehow we're a threat." Kyofu sounded anxious.

"But why do it themselves?" Toshiro wondered. "Why not use Monokuma to stop us?"

"Maybe they can't?" I tried.

"Maybe they don't want to." My eyes flicked to the Rogue. "Maybe they finally want to be the one doing something."

The creeping feeling came back to me. "But we've hardly done anything."

Toshiro looked bitter. "I guess our little talks didn't go unnoticed."

"It's all going to get harder from here." It struck me once again. How tired Kyofu looked.

"There's something else." I groaned at Toshiro's words. "Have you guys noticed the changes?"

Kyofu nodded but I shook my head.

Toshiro looked at me knowingly. "After the trial, Monokuma didn't give us a memory."

I gasped. I hadn't even noticed.

"And nothing new has opened up." Kyofu added. "The wall hasn't moved."

"There's nothing?" I was shocked. I had grown so accustomed to the order of things that the sudden change was unsettling. "What does that mean?"

Toshiro was pale. "That's it?"

Kyofu wasn't convinced. "If that's it then what are we still doing here? What are we waiting for?"

"What's the end game?" I tried to understand. I wasn't sure if Monokuma and the Despair wanted this to continue until there was one survivor.

"And what can we do about it?" Toshiro was determined, a hard look in his eyes.

Kyofu puzzled. "Even if we discover who's working with Monokuma, what could we do about it?"

I shook my head in question.

"They have Monokuma on their side- who can shoot whoever he wants whenever he wants!" He crossed his arms. "Not to mention the executions." It looked as though it pained him to say the very word.

The weight of our situation crushed me with a new found strength. No I hadn't thought past the act of finding the mastermind. He was right. There was nothing we could do. "With Monokuma on their side we'll never win." Win. There I was, talking about it like this was what Monokuma had called it. A game.

"I'm still wondering about the lack of a memory." Toshiro admitted. "Monokuma is happy to return horrible memories to us, why stop now?"

I frowned. "He probably doesn't have another one. Think about it, the last memory we got was a jumbled mess of a lot of horrible things." I shivered remembering the hundreds of bodies lying in the streets. "I don't think getting horrible memories back matters anymore." In other words, life here was now horrible enough that we didn't need an outside source for despair.

"What are we going to do about this?" Kyofu asked the question that hung in the back of our minds. "We can't do anything unless we get rid of Monokuma but we can't just sit here either."

The room felt like it was growing smaller with each passing question. I glared at the walls angrily, mildly noticing the pale peach color.

"The only person here who has a chance against Monokuma is Kiyoshi." Toshiro lowered himself onto a white ottoman. "He could possibly invent something that could stop Monokuma, or at least stop the weapons he's so fond of."

The room stopped shrinking. "You think so? But Monokuma would know wouldn't he? I don't doubt he's listening to us right now."

Kyofu rubbed his head as if he had a headache. "He already knows we're a threat so whatever we do would have to be fast."

A sudden idea occurred to me. "Or..." The notebook in my hands suddenly felt extremely significant. I glanced around the room. There weren't any cameras but I didn't believe for one second that Monokuma didn't have ways of knowing what was going on in our houses. I held up the notebook and opened it to a blank page, pointing at it purposefully. We write.

The Rogue and Actor blinked until I pointed at it again. They nodded in unison.

"As long as we're careful." I continued. "We won't be caught."

"Puhuhuhuhu!" Toshiro jumped in surprise and Monokuma appeared between us. "Look at the three of you! Plotting my demise, I'm so ashamed!" He pulled on his stuffed ears and if it was possible he probably would've shed a few tears. "You think you can stop me! How hurtful!" The peach walls suddenly grew red from the gleam of his eye. "I thought you would know better than that."

Toshiro was the first to speak. "We just said we can't doing anything because of you!"

Monokuma bared his claws. "Don't think I don't know what you're up to! And if you don't stop this I'll just to have to make a few more rules to stop this myself."

"Why's that?" I hissed. "Are you scared of us? An Actor a Poet and a Thief?" It was impossible to miss Kyofu's sigh. "We must be stronger than we realize."

Monokuma settled his glare on me. "Pay more attention to your friends Hon'yomi Nakajima. You think a Thief who is too a afraid to be in his own house, and an Actor who hides from conflict in video games are going to be able to help you- a Poet who can't understand her own poetry- to stop me?" His glee couldn't be more apparent. "You must be dumber than you realize."

'who can't understand her own poetry...'

He knew about the poem I was remembering. But how?! "Who are you?" I whispered.

"Puhuhuhuhu! Now's not the time for that!" He left us with one last dark look before vanishing.

The room had shrunk down so much it was like I couldn't breathe. I raised my head to look at my companions. Kyofu was pale and sweaty. Toshiro just looked stunned.

"It's-it's important." I was scrambling for something. "M-my poem. I have to understand it better...there has to be more to it."

"We're almost out of time." Toshiro breathed. "There's not much we can do..."

"Bullshit!" Kyofu was fuming. "Kimiko is dead! Saori is dead! Hana, and Chikara..." His hands became fists and he choked on his voice. "Renji..."

"Ryu." I breathed softly.

"And Utsumi." Toshiro said.

Kyofu glared. "Don't say there's nothing we can do, because we sure as hell can try to do something. Trying is doing something and I'm not going to give up and forget that half of us are dead."

Half of us. Half of our class was dead. "Kyofu is right. I created this poem for a reason and it wasn't to be ignored."

"Alright." Toshiro sighed heavily. "I'll t-" He paused. "I should see how Kiyoshi is doing tomorrow." I'll talk to Kiyoshi about Monokuma tomorrow.

I avoided Kyofu's eyes. "Okay...hey, have either of you spoken to Mae?"

They shook their heads. I hadn't spared a thought for her and she -just like Kiyoshi- had lost someone she loved.

"It's late." Toshiro muttered looking past the mismatched curtains. He stood to head for the door and in the next moment I followed.

"I'll figure it out." I said to Kyofu. He just nodded and looked so lost that I couldn't help but to hug him. I couldn't tell if I helped at all and so I solemnly followed Toshiro outside, closing the door to Renji's house behind me.

~ ~ ~

"Good morning everyone! It is now 7am and nighttime is officially over! Time to greet another beautiful day!" Monokuma's voice was sickeningly chipper and carefree as usual.

When I sat up the first things my eyes found made me want to cover my head beneath the blankets. I had moved Hana's rope and Saori's shoes and earrings to the end of my bed, worried about more thievery. I had also placed the notebook next to me under the covers.

I forced myself to escape my room and wandered to the bathroom. When the lights came on I saw the face of someone I hardly recognized. Since when did I have such bags under my eyes? And since when did I slump so much, like I was carrying a heavy backpack?

I adverted my eyes from my face and studied the bandage around my arm. Curious I unwrapped the gauze and stared at the angry red stitches. They had stopped bleeding at least. I tossed the bandage in the trash and headed for the door. It was time to focus.

Toshiro was going to try and talk to Kiyoshi today and Kyofu and I had to try and be as "normal" as possible. That meant interacting with the others to avoid scrutiny from Monokuma.

I had no specific plan in mind, or a single person I particularly felt like spending time with, so when I came upon Haruko and Kaz in the store I headed straight towards them.

It sounded as though Haruko had just finished doing her own version of scolding. Kaz was nodding guiltily and she had a stern look on her face.

"Everything alright?" I asked, facing them. With the two of them I felt like a giant.

Instead of answering Haruko's eyes narrowed on my arm. "It looks like it will heal just fine, but you should still have something around your arm."

Kaz met my eyes behind her back, his clearly saying 'now it's your turn.'

Surprisingly I had to fight a smile. "I thought it was fine to take off." I shrugged. "Besides the old gauze had blood-"

I found myself looking at a new wad. "Here."

I blinked, damn she moved fast. "Alright...thanks..." I took the wad, making a fist around it. I thought it would deter her attention but Haruko remained looking at me. Sighing I caved and handed it to her instead of attempting to wrap it myself. "How you feeling Kaz?" I asked as she worked on my arm.

He stood up straighter. "I'm feeling much better!" He had a strong look in his eyes like he was trying to brave through his answer. Like he wasn't feeling better at all but was saying it for our sake.

My heart sank to see that his usual carefree attitude had vanished. "That's good to hear." My voice had a bitter edge to it. "You look a bit stronger." That was true. His skin had retained some of its original color and he no longer looked too weak to stand.

"Kazuyoshi is not allowed to be climbing anything or his wound will reopen." Haruko released my arm and placed the extra gauze into her belt.

He pouted and stared at the floor. "I've climbed with worse..."

The thought alarmed me. Had he really? I eyed his scarred hands and arms and found curiosity building. "What do you mean you've climbed with worse?" Just what was he doing when he was climbing?

He perked up a little, the old light reemerging in his uneven gaze. "Well the first time I climbed was after I was pushed off a cliff."

I gasped in shock. "What?"

Even Haruko looked surprised. "Why were you pushed?"

"I was pushed so I would climb." He explained.

My mind reeled and I repeated myself. "What?"

He looked at us, confused. "Now I'm the best climber there is. If I didn't climb I wouldn't have become the best."

"If you didn't climb you would be dead." Haruko said what I was thinking, her wide eyes still carrying surprise.

Kaz frowned and tugged on his new shirt. "Well I'm not dead..."

I stared at the small climber, still hung up on the 'I was pushed off a cliff' part. "Kaz? Who pushed you off the cliff, exactly?"

"He didn't push me off because he was mean! He was just seeing what I could do." He frowned defensively, something I had never seen him do before.

Haruko's eyes were narrowed again, her gaze hard. "Was he a friend of yours?"

Kaz nodded his bright head. "He took care of me and did what was best for me."

What was best? How the hell was pushing someone off a cliff best for them? I started to say as much but a hard look from Haruko silenced me and I focused on Kaz.

The climber looked more distressed than I had really noticed. Perhaps Haruko was right, it didn't seem like a good topic for Kaz at the moment. So I changed the subject. "Haruko, you said your mother taught you to sew?"

I almost I regretted it for Haruko didn't look pleased to go over it again. "Yes, she has taught me ever since I was a child."

Kaz looked interested. "Have you ever made stuffed animals?"

She glanced between the two of us as if she didn't understand our questions. "Yes I have." Haruko rested her hands on her belt. "But I mostly make clothes."

"What animals have you made?" I asked hoping to prolong the conversation and Kaz's interest.

She looked no less confused as before. "I haven't made many but I remember sewing a horse and a bear-"

An outside voice cut through our conversation. "After this I hope you never sew anything bear related ever again." Mae was standing in front of the magazines holding a lighter. Her hair was wild and messy and there was black smudged under her eyes from old makeup.

I was shocked to see her, having thought she would stay in her house most of the day.

"Mae?" Kaz sounded uncertain while we stared. He hadn't really had the chance to see her after Ryu died.

She walked towards us, her heels clicking on the tiles. "What are you three up to? I thought no one would be hanging out since everyone keeps deciding to murder each other."

Haruko watched her warily but said nothing. I could still hear the sound of the slap from when Mae had hit her.

"We're just talking about our skills." I said carefully, feeling like a cornered animal. I don't know which way to move.

She frowned and I noticed her eyes were still red. "What good will that do? We already know Kaz can't climb out of here." She gestured to the Seamstress. "What's Haruko going to do? Seam rip Monokuma?" Her brown eyes fell on me. "Or you? Going to recite poetry until you run out of breath?"

Kaz stared at the floor. "It was only a normal conversation..."

Mae's eyes narrowed and she stepped away. "Those don't exist anymore and if you think you can still trust anyone, you're wrong. More people are going to die and it's better to expect the betrayal then continue to be surprised when it happens." She turned away, heading for the door. "Akemi knows what I'm talking about, notice how she's not talking to anyone either." The door closed with a whoosh behind her.

"Do you think more of us are going to die?" The Climber's voice was small.

"At this point the chances are high." I gaped at Haruko but she wasn't fazed. "Mae isn't wrong."

I crossed my arms. "Just because the chances are high doesn't mean you should just accept it and give up!"

She met my eyes with curiousity and instant recognition. "You've been talking to Kyofu."

"So?"

Haruko frowned thoughtfully. "Be careful. You can't protect everyone."

"Doesn't mean you shouldn't try!" She had no answer, or if she did she didn't say it. I glowered. "What are you afraid of? Dying? You just said the chances are high anyway."

I watched as her eyes turned hard and a wall came up, cutting me off from the real Haruko. "Like I said, you can't save everyone."

I shook my head not understanding. How could she just watch this stuff happen around her? How could she be so cold?

"I don't think any of us should argue right now." Kaz suggested looking nervously between us.

Haruko agreed. "He's right, it won't help things. We'll have to disagree."

I didn't feel like dropping it. My irritation was high and something about her was aggravating me. Something that didn't feel new. "This is familiar..."

She raised a brow. "I don't usually argue with people Hon'yomi and I try not to do much to cause arguments."

"Still." I squinted, trying to reach for a memory that wouldn't emerge. "Kyofu trusts you but I have trouble doing so. I wonder why."

Haruko was unshakable. "I told you in the beginning of all of this, it's not going to be easy for anyone here to trust each other."

"And that's why we'll kill one another." I finished, hating that it had been true.

Kaz perked up, moving almost completely between us. "If it helps, I trust her Hon'yomi." His green and blue eyes were wide and hopeful.

I sighed. "I'm sorry Kaz." He only shrugged. So much for normal.

A moving shadow passed by the store window, giving me the perfect escape. "I should go." I stepped passed them. "Sorry..." I think.

I pushed open the door and fell in step beside Toshiro. "Hey where are you headed?"

The Actor glanced down at me. "The Theatre actually..."

I stumbled. "Oh. Why?"

He shrugged. "It feels familiar. I've always spent more time in theatres than I ever have at home." He stared ahead. "And it feels like Saori is there too. I think we were pretty good friends at one point."

My eyes fell to my feet. "Me too." We passed the Pool and Garage, the large sign over the Theatre looming over us and I broke the silence. "So, how did you start acting?"

A smile spread across his lips. "It was actually an accident. I was signed up to take classes at a college but I got lost and-"

"You've already gone to college?!"

"Yeah..." He stopped in front of the door and faced me. "I read alot when I was young and spent hours at my local library. I think I read every book that was there." Toshiro studied me. "That's where I found yours."

The uncomfortable feeling returned to me like the first time he said that. I hadn't really talked to anyone who'd read my collection.

"'But trust my heart when I vow, I will never forget where I am from for it has led me to where I am now.'" My poetry rolled off his tongue smoothly like it some beautiful Shakespearean piece. My poetry didn't deserve that.

"That barely made it in." I managed unevenly.

His hazel eyes were curious. "Anything good that didn't make it in?"

I blinked. "Uhh..." What didn't make it in? I struggled to call upon more poetry. "Oh! Here's one: 'I'm from a world nobody knows. A heart no one can see. I am the greatest artist I've ever known, painting masks daily. The sky above, she's the only one. To which I sing of what I've done. I fill my halls with my work, And pictures capture each stroke. If someone saw my worn canvas, They'd be the only one I'd ever trust.'"

I glanced at Toshiro who looked lost in thought. I shrugged, feeling uncomfortable again. "That one just kinda came to me. Not sure why."

He smiled softly. "That was lovely."

"Thank you." I tried not to feel my cheeks heating up.

"You ready?" He asked, placing his hand on the door.

I took a deep breath, remembering where exactly we were. "I think so." He nodded and pulled open the door. I stepped inside.

It looks just like it had before. There was no trace of the Monokuma audience or the shattered glass. Not a single drop of dried blood was in sight. The building smelled old and worn but still gleamed with a classic elegance. I held tightly onto my skirt.

Toshiro made his way past me and without saying anything he walked up the stairs and lay down center stage, eyes on the ceiling.

I trailed farther behind tentatively. I was still hyper aware of what had happened in here.

"I spoke to Kiyoshi." His voice resonated from the stage towards me at perfect volume. "He wasn't in a good state."

I made my way to the front row and lowered myself into the nearest velvet seat.

"I don't know what we should do."

I flicked my gaze along the ceiling catching sight of the cameras watching us. It reminded me of my dream with Rika.

"Me either." I muttered but I wasn't focused on creating a solution at the moment. "Do you ever think about Rika?"

I heard his question before he asked it "What do you mean?"

I crossed my legs. "Well, don't you ever wonder what she was like? I mean she had all sixteen of us for students, don't you think she had to be a little crazy?"

Toshiro laughed. "I think everyone at Hope's Peak was a little crazy."

I frowned. "Do you think that includes us?"

"What do you mean?" He repeated.

"It's just-" I fought for the right words. "Knowing what we've seen, all this stuff about Despair and death. Seeing Rika... After all that horror some of us found they were still capable of murder."

Toshiro rolled over and propped his head up beneath a hand. "There's no telling what exactly Monokuma did to us when we lost our memories."

I hated thinking of that. "It just makes feelings so hard to figure out."

"Feelings?" I felt his eyes on my face.

I fiddled with my bow tie. "It's just...with Haruko...I never know how to feel about her. Sometimes I feel like I can trust her but other times I feel like I'd be stupid to." I looked to him for help. "How do you feel about her?"

"She's hard read." He watched my hands. "People like that aren't easy to trust." Toshiro frowned. "You made it crooked again."

"Huh?" I glanced at my tie as best I could, trying to rearrange it. "Better?"

Toshiro nodded and went back to staring at the ceiling. "I know Kyofu doesn't want to back down against Monokuma- and I don't think we should. But what do you think?

My words to Haruko flashed through my head. "I want to try even if we don't win. We can't just sit here. I'm ready to fight."

"That's good to know." He sighed. "I hope this works out for the best."

Hope for the best...

"Me too."

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Chapter Text

"Wait so how did you become an Actor again? You never finished your story." I walked beside Toshiro the both of us heading towards the square. The day had grown late with darkness only a few hours away.

"Oh!" He rubbed his neck. "Like I said I got lost and ended up stumbling into the college theatre. There was a cast there running scenes from Julius Caesar and one of the actors was missing. Before I knew it was on stage with a script in hand reading their lines." Toshiro grinned. "I haven't escaped the Theatre since."

"So it was an accident!" I laughed at the idea. "I always thought it would be fun be in a play." I said thoughtfully. "But hard. They sound like lots of work when you're apart of one."

Toshiro nodded. "Absolutely. If you're not committed you're replaced."

"That's the other thing." I said glancing at him. "I'd never want to screw up and be responsible for something like that."

To my surprise he laughed. "Hon'yomi if you were in a play you'd try to organize everything and make it your own version of perfect!"

I stared at him with amused disbelief. "I would not!" I crossed my arms. "Besides, no matter how hard you work nothing will ever be perfect."

"That's why I said it'd be your own version." Toshiro replied shaking his head with a smile.

"Still." We had reached the center of the square and I walked to the oak tree, lowering myself beneath it. "Do you think I could be in a play?"

Toshiro followed, sitting on the vibrant glass beside me. "I don't know." He grinned. "How good is your acting?"

I rolled my eyes. "Well I've always thought I was good at lying when I needed to be."

He raised a brow. "Acting is more than just lying. All of it has to come from something real inside."

"So you mean you put a piece of yourself in each character?"

Toshiro nodded. "Something like that." He pointed back towards the way we came. "If you want we could go search the library for a play and see what you can do?"

My eyes grew wide. No thank you. Like I had felt with Chikara, it wasn't exactly comforting to try out some elses Ultimate in front of them. "Um...you see I've read Shakespeare but the thing is I usually interpret it wrong so that's probably not a good idea."

He frowned. "First, Shakespeare isn't the only guy out there who wrote plays, second as Poet shouldn't you be used to interpreting complicated literature?"

I copied him. "First, fair enough. Second, the meaning of true poetry varies from reader to reader. There may be a core message but how it's applied is never the same in each person and neither is the feeling of it."

"What's the feeling behind your poetry?"

I sighed. "I just said it varie-"

Toshiro shook his head, and laid back onto the grass. "I mean your feelings."

"Oh." I picked at the grass. "It depends on the poem."

"How about To Tell?"

I frowned. That one was ancient. "To me it's calm and empowering. It's also brave because it inspires you to declare to the world the things you love." I watched the dimming light filter through the leaves and found that I wasn't worried about anything in this moment. It was the calmest I had felt since the trial.

"Hmm..." I could practically hear Toshiro flipping through pages of poetry in his head. Did he memorize everything? "What about No. 17?"

I blinked. He remembered the unnamed ones too? "That one is sadness." I recalled the day I had written it, in a sketchbook of all things. I never used it to draw much since I didn't have much patience for it. I could see the house of my old friend and I remembered... "Nostalgia and the innocence of childhood. A memoir of friendship."

I heard agreement in his voice. "I thought that one was powerful."

I shrugged. "It just came to me."

"So...when you think of the poem you're remembering- the one that you think is a clue- what do you feel?"

I turned to look at him suspiciously "Is that what you've been wanting to know?"

He sat up carefully. "No- well yes- but it's what you've been wanting to know." His eyes stared into mine. "It could give you a clue or maybe you'd figure out what it means if you understand what it makes you feel."

My head was shaking. "I already know how it makes me feel, it-"

"Have you thought about it line for line?" Toshiro challenged.

Line for line? I had mulled over the words time and time again but I hadn't actually felt them. I hadn't tried to. Maybe a part of me didn't want to and wasn't that a clue in itself? "I think it will be unpleasant."

"Everything is unpleasant."

He was right about that. "You think it could help?"

"Yes." Toshiro nodded and watched me closely like he was expecting to be able to help somehow. "What's the first line?"

I closed my eyes and let the phrase come to me. It was the first thing I had heard in this place. The first warning. "There is a vision of hope on the mountain."

"Just say what comes to you."

I was surprised at how quickly feelings began to rise in response to the line. "Desperation." I said quietly, searching the darkness. "Warning." Just like I had instinctively thought! "Hope. A chance."

"A chance for what?" Toshiro asked.

"I don't know..." I tried to linger but something painful pounded behind my eyes. Wincing I decided to move on. "But it is not on the peak which we stand." This one was heavily tied to the first but it was different as well. "It's a reminder, like a note you would write only using a few words. To anyone else who read it would mean nothing."

"So what does it mean?"

I strained my mind. "I-I think...it has something to do with Hope's Peak but I can't be sure..."

"Okay....we'll think about that... What's next?"

I cringed. "New hope has been murdered by despair in our land." I didn't need to think hard to know what that was about. The grief was strong enough without searching for it. "Rika."

Toshiro said nothing and I was happy to just continue. "Shards of us remain throughout the battered world." This one felt separated from the rest. Like it was a change in subject. "There's still desperation..." I muttered, frowning deeply and tried to cast off the darkness that held my memory. What was buried in my mind and how was the poem breaking through? If it was breaking through shouldn't I be able to use it to free the rest of my stolen memories?

"It's important. Very...and it carries hope." I dug my fingers into the grass. "It means the opposite of alone..."

"Suggesting?"

My eyes peeled open rediscovering the dimming light around us. "Well the obvious. There are other people like us possibly?"

Toshiro puzzled with me, his face matching what I imagined mine to look like. "Survivors? It makes sense no matter what Monokuma says about the world. I don't believe the entire human race could be destroyed so effectively at once."

I nodded with each passing word. "Maybe we even know who they are since I tried to remember it." A sensation stirred in my mind. "It could even mean the people we wanted to save at Hope's Peak..."

"When Rika..." He trailed off catching the uneasy look on my face.

"Yeah..." I searched my mind to see if there was any way to be certain. I only came up with uncertainty.

Toshiro ran a hand through his hair, the dying sunset making it gleam like fresh caramel. "Anyway what's next?"

I tried to push my feelings about Rika aside. "Escape, enter Tragedy, prevent hope destroyed." I didn't have to ponder long as the realization hit me. "We're supposed to escape here and find others. We wanted to save who we could."

"A lot of good that did us." Toshiro replied bitterly.

I had no real response to that. Our attempted had ended in our own capture. "If only I could remember how." I slid my eyes shut again.

"How what?"

"How we ended up here with Monokuma. Obviously we had already been staying here before Rika and Hope's Peak, so how did we get back?"

A sound of confusion. "You saw the people in the memory didn't you? The Despairs."

"Of course." The images chilled my body. "I mean, how did they know? It has to be the same person working with Monokuma now but doesn't that mean we already knew who it was?" My voice grew softer as I continued to speak, musing mostly to myself now. "Because even if it was someone here who we didn't know before, there would still be proof in our memories because they wouldn't be there."

"You mean if Monokuma planted the memory of another classmate."

I shook my head. "But there's no real way to know at this point." I thought about the lines of poetry I'd been able to recall. They were making it through somehow so I couldn't I make it through too? Maybe if I conjured the choking desperation that was prevalent in each line of poetry I'd be able to remember?

If there was a way to remember I had to pursue what triggered the poem. Confusion, pain and fear. Tastes of despair I had felt in the trial room had called on a few already. I had to find that. The suffering I already had inside. That way I could use it and turn it into a tool to find my memories....

I reached for the feeling but when conjuring it wasn't strong enough I tried to force myself into the horrible memories I did have- which turned out not to be too difficult. I willingly ventured into my memory of Rika's death, the ringing shots and sprays of blood that were the result. My own shouts, the way my feet dug harshly into the debris, gaining no ground no matter how hard I pushed.

I felt my limbs shudder with grief that my body was so familiar with, and my face contort in pain but the darkness stayed in my mind. I made a fist in the grass and reached out for more of the horrible. The lifeless Hana, drenched with water laying too still on the gentle green grass. The broken sound of Renji's voice crying out with apology, the burning betrayal he'd dealt directly to me. My lungs shrunk and grew with growing gasps.

"Hon'yomi?"

The blue eyes on mine and the shattering glass that followed. The endless cries of Kimiko's pain, the sound of Mae's hand connecting with Haruko's face. Desperation, fear, anxiety. The desire to escape- to escape this feeling, this pain, the things to come for what was to come would surely be awful. The spreading bodies across the cities, the hopelessness that crept among us during the night, the sound of Ryu's gun ringing out in the night against foes the rest of us would stand no chance against. The feeling of my head striking a set of cold metal bars, the loss of control born from a bright light in my eyes. It was blinding, sure and inescapable. I couldn't fight it. I couldn't blink or separate myself from the disorientation that was spreading across my body or heaviness brought with it.

"We will reflect like mirrors when you leave it. We'll be tools of hope or despair..." My wavering voice, striving to hold onto the words. The important words I couldn't forget.

The line grounded me, as if a bolt of lightning struck behind my eyes and connected me to a piece of what was lost. The bright light in my eyes. The desperation so thick, so fierce. How could I have forgotten? My mind spiraled away from the moment, suffering from an overload of sudden mingled sensations pouring over my senses so strongly I had no way to tell what each one was telling me. A strong hand on my arm, fear blossoming as I became trapped in my mind.

"Let me go!" I shrieked but not in memory. My words echoed around the square and I opened my eyes, staring at the thick leaves above me fighting to catch my breath.

The hand vanished like it had been burned and Toshiro's face appeared above my own. "Hon'yomi?!" Concern struck the shape of his face. "Can you see me?!"

My body ceased it's trembling and air filled my lungs at a slower rate. This was nothing compared to the after effect of the memories Monokuma had given us. I felt like I had scrambled my head and for a moment I couldn't figure out how to speak. I struggled to make my tongue move the way I wanted. "...W.....W-What just happened?"

He shook his head fearfully. "I d-don't know you started freaking out and shaking." Toshiro gulped. "I thought maybe you started having a seizure."

I was in no position to sit up. I already knew that if I tried I'd fall back down. "I was trying to remember..."

"Remember? But how- I mean...other than just feelings?"

I didn't quite comprehend what he meant. "There's a hole." My hand drifted over my eyes, and then flopped back to the ground weakly. "The poem is coming from a hole in my memories...and I think I just went through it instead of waiting for the poem to escape." Amazement struck me. Who knew such a thing was even possible?

Toshiro however did not look amazed. "You w-what?" He looked extremely shaken. "I don't think you should've done that."

I narrowed my eyes. "What? But the whole point is to try and remember what we've been forced to forget." I decided it was best to keep quiet about how jumbled my head was and that at the moment I couldn't remember how we'd made it from the theatre to the oak tree.

He shook his head. "Are you kidding me? You didn't see yourself! You're eyes were in the back of your head and you- just-" Toshiro struggled for words. "-stopped working."

I stared at him.

"For the lack of a better term." He offered hastily, still gazing at me with worry. "Did you remember anything?"

My head shook. "Not really...just more flashes but!" I started to sit, feeling a bit more conscious and let Toshiro help. "I did remember another line."

"What does this one say?" He asked disapprovingly.

I glowered at him, my back against the large Oak. "Hey this whole thing was your idea."

"Oh no it wasn't! It was not my idea to fry your brain." He protested, crossing his arms.

His analogy did not sit well with me. "Whatever." I winced as our walk from the theatre came back to memory. "Do you want to hear it or not?"

The Actor sighed deeply. "Fine."

"We will reflect like mirrors when you leave it. We'll be tools of hope or despair." As I spoke the words, I heard my voice in my head from the first time I had said them. Beneath the glaring light.

His confusion couldn't be more evident. "What is that supposed to mean?"

The thought of trying to figure it out now made my wince again. "You know you're probably right..."

Concern was in his eyes again. "What's wrong?"

"Oh nothing just have scrambled eggs for brains at the moment." I tried to joke but truthfully I was slightly concerned about what he had described. And about the horrible feeling I had successfully recalled as well.

He stood shakily and glanced at the Diner. "Let's get you to the Diner for some water and food."

I perked up at the idea but then my face fell. "I don't think I should be walking around at the moment." I could practically feel the wave of dizziness lurking in my head waiting to strike.

Toshiro looked at me for a moment before sighing deeply again. "Alright." He knelt beside me, sliding his arms under my legs and along my back.

"Hey!" I protested with a huff.

He raised his brows. "What are you going to do? Crawl?"

I rolled my eyes having no intention on doing so but just to protest again I said, "If I have to."

Now he rolled his eyes. "Right. Your in a skirt so I don't think that'd be a good idea."

"Excuse me?" I said as the world jolted and he lifted me from the ground.

"Just shut up Hon'yomi." Toshiro replied tiredly, walking to the Diner.

I glowered but said nothing more.

He had to set me down to get through the door to avoid whacking either of us but he made sure I was safely in a booth before leaving me be.

"That's all you remembered?" He called from behind the counter. The same counter where Ryu had been poisoned.

I glanced up from the table. "Not exactly...it was...weird." I felt his confused eyes on my face. "For the lack of a better term." I grumbled, copying him.

"Define weird." He banged around the kitchen in search for food.

I sank lower into the booth, my mind still disoriented and unclear. "It was kind of similar to the last memories we got. A jumbled mess but it was more...." Terrifying. "Unsettling. I don't what to make of most of it." A glass of water was suddenly before me and I glanced around in surprise. Toshiro was still behind the counter...when did he put this here?

"But nothing helpful." He mused.

"If by helpful you mean discovering who's behind this..." My heart ached with anger and disappointment. "Not at all."

Toshiro set a bowl of rice and chicken before me. "That's too bad."

I grabbed the pair of chopsticks next to the bowl and started shoveling.

"Geez I didn't realize you were starving." He slid into the seat across from me.

I slowed my eating to focus on downing some water. "Neither did I."

We fell into silence. I continued to eat and Toshiro continued to watch me warily. Eventually I looked up at him in annoyance. "No one said you had to babysit me." Suddenly I felt irritated for reasons I couldn't decipher.

"As you said, you just scrambled your brains, I'm making sure there aren't any dangerous side effects."

"Whatever." I focused back on my food, pushing the leftovers around. "Hey, tell me something."

"Sure."

His sureness fed my irritation. "How'd you try to open that door in the Town Hall?"

"What?" I glanced up at him to see his confusion. "Are you....? Do you mean  from when we first got here?"

I nodded seriously. He had clearly been embarrassed about whatever he had tried to do and Saori had promised to tell me about it. But of course she hadn't had the chance to do it before the trial.

The same flustered look came back to his face though I couldn't comprehend why. Toshiro shrugged. "I sort of....just...threw a chair at it..."

I half snorted, half grunted before starting to laugh. "What?"

"There was a chair and the door is wood so I just tried to break it down!" He explained quickly.

I scoffed. "I mean...I guess that's some what logical."

"Hey!"

Our conversation continued, my irritation fading slightly but never quite vanishing from my mind. By the time I felt steady enough and Toshiro was satisfied with my condition, night had fallen over the town. We briefly witnessed Kaz and Kena venturing through the Square but other than that we hadn't seen anyone else. Or rather I hadn't spotted the person I had begun to worry about in the back of my mind. Kiyoshi still hadn't ventured from his house and now more than ever I felt guilt and a sense of responsibility weighing down on me.

I ended up following Toshiro to the boys side of the houses, saying an early goodnight as he stopped at his and then continued to Kiyoshi's. I tried to do my best to push away my strange memories and confusing sensations brought on from forcing myself to remember and focus on Kiyoshi. Kind and strong. Brave and uncertain. Confused and broken after what we had been forced to witness.

On an instinct I pushed down the handle and opened the door with a powerful creak. Unlike the time I had entered Kyofu's house and found it in disarray and catastrophe, when I entered Kiyoshi's house it felt warm and homey.

A soft glow was emitted around the living room escaping from many candles and odd contraptions I could find no name for. It was warm too even though there was no fireplace, only a stone walled living room with a thick rug and a plush couch. My eyes searched to the right where I knew the dinning room would be except Kiyoshi wasn't there. His coat and hat, even his tie were strewn atop a worn table but the Inventor was nowhere in sight.

I stepped further inside and closed the door. "Kiyoshi?" I called softly, walking towards the dinning room. Growing closer I realized that the table was also covered with what looked like thousands of tools and materials to used for making new creations except nothing was completely assembled. Worried, I called out again looking towards the hallway. "Kiyoshi?"

A shuffling noise floated down the hall and after a few seconds the large figure of the Inventor appeared before me. His light brown hair was twisted into many unruly curls from having been left unkept. His had also abandoned his vest and wore only his white button up which was untucked from his pants and his boots were also nowhere to be seen. His purple eyes looked at me with genuine curiosity, asking of my presence silently. His appearance was disheveled and strange to behold but for the moment his face showed none of the grief I had been expecting.

"Hey." I could already hear my voice wavering. "I came by to see you."

Kiyoshi sighed and moved past me to sit on the couch. "I'd rather stay here."

I frowned at his words and dull tone of voice. "I'm not trying to get you to leave."

He seemed to have heard what I said but fiddled with some gears in his large hands instead of responding.

Silence stretched between us and I felt awkwardness clinging to me. "I just want to know if you're okay." I settled onto the rug in front of the couch but I was well aware that he wasn't. I knew if Kiyoshi had been in anyway okay he would've offered the couch to me before I could even think about sitting on the floor.

He gazed at something on the wall across from him. "You know....it doesn't matter how strong a person is even when it comes to wanting to protect the people they care about."

His words took me by surprise and I stared at him questioningly, fearing where this was going.

"You really can't doing anything." Kiyoshi's eyes remained fixed on the wall behind me but I didn't turn to study it myself as I was too concerned with his words.

"Kiyoshi..." I could see what he was saying. That no matter what anyone could have tired to do during the trial there was no way Kimiko would've been saved from death in the end. It didn't matter how strong you were physically or mentally. I didn't know what to say and that was exactly what I had been afraid of. "I-"

"Don't you agree?" He asked, eyes leaving the wall and falling onto mine. They were thick with self criticism and loathing.

I stared back feeling trapped. I understood what he was saying and even agreed but I knew agreeing would not help him in any way but only re-enforce the guilt he was laying upon himself. "You know nothing was your fault." I whispered, watching his handsome face with worry.

Kiyoshi shook his head. "That part doesn't matter." His large hands grew into fists and didn't relax. "I just should have spent more time with her. Maybe then it would be different."

His longing brought pain into my heart. That type of thinking would be dangerous. "You shouldn't do that to yourself."

"Then what should I do Hon'yomi?" Kiyoshi countered roughly surprising me again.

I fumbled for some sort of answer, eyes trailing over the objects that were admitting light throughout the room. Saying 'hope for the best' didn't cut it anymore and I didn't really believe in it as much as I had before anyway. "Carry the rose..." The words slipped from my mind and out my lips without conscious decision.

"What?"

I shook my head. "It's just a-" poem "-nothing."  I watched him sadly. "I can't tell you what to do Kiyoshi, as much as I wish I had the answer."

He slid a large hand through his hair. "There's nothing I can do. I-I-" He placed his hands into his lap and stared at the many gears he held. "I can't make anything. Not anymore. The pieces don't fit together...they don't make sense." His body trembled. "It feels so useless to make anything now..." Kiyoshi idly tipped his hand over and allowed the metal to clink to the floor. "There's no purpose."

Now I could see why Toshiro didn't think Kiyoshi would be able to help us. He had lost his motivation. Whatever he had enjoyed about making things no longer existed. Or if it still did, his grief was stronger.

"You have to mourn." I said. "You can't force anything." How did I really know that what I was saying was right? Hadn't I just tried to force my memories to return through grief? Do as I say...

"We don't get a chance to mourn." Kiyoshi's eyes were angry now. "There's never enough time before someone dies again."

A chill shivered down my spine. "I know..." Would there really be another death? I thought of everyone here and even with the knowledge that one of them was against us I couldn't think of anyone finding it in themselves to kill. If Monokuma stayed out of it of course. Then again, how many times had I thought that and been horribly wrong?

I found Kiyoshi again with my eyes. He was back to staring at the wall and I turned, curious to what kept capturing his attention.

A large painting was displayed on the wall, the flashes of painted light gleaming from the canvas. It was a warm, earth toned piece that showed a cluttered table before an open window. I recognized the composition of the objects scattered about having seen the Garage enough times. It looked as though Kiyoshi had just walked away from it for there was his hat resting on the surface and a mechanical looking bird was perched at the open window as if it was about to take flight. I didn't need to look for the signature in the corner to know who had made it.

"Has this always been here?" I asked.

"No. I found it in the Garage and moved it here." I heard him sigh. "I couldn't leave it there."

"It's-"

"I know. I think so too."

The candles continued to flicker, keeping the room in a dull but warm glow. My concern didn't ease and neither did my hope for getting Kiyoshi's help with Monokuma. I had to tell Toshiro and Kyofu that we needed another plan.

A rectangular shape on the mantle below the painting stuck out in the shimmering light. I climbed to my feet and took the book in hand. It was old and smelled like the library. The spine cracked easily and I scanned the table of contents. "It's a fairy tale book." I turned to the Inventor and sat, facing him again. He watched me but said nothing. "Do you mind if I read it?"

He shook his head.

"Aloud?"

Kiyoshi shrugged and I took a deep breath, starting on page one.

~   ~   ~

"Kiyoshi?" I shook his large shoulder. His head had fallen on the back of the couch somewhere around chapter six but I couldn't bring myself to stop until I'd read through at least sixteen chapters.

His purple eyes opened wearily.

"It's late and after nighttime already." I said softly. "I'm going to go home."

Kiyoshi nodded and went to close his eyes again but I reached out for his arm again. "I'm sorry Kiyoshi. I-I don't know how to help you." His eyes looked vacant and tired but I knew he was hearing what I was saying. "But I'll be here for you okay? If you need something just let me know."

"Okay...." He closed his eyes again this time I think to hide from mine.

"Goodnight then." I muttered.

"Thank you..."

I sighed. "Yeah..."

When I was out under the stars I realized I had failed to tell him Kimiko's last words. I thought about turning around but found I didn't want to. I was dreading telling him. What if they didn't help him but only made him worse? Then it would be my fault.

The town had long been asleep, the square was filled up with dim lights and shadows. It didn't really look sinister at night. If you ignored the wall in the background it looked like a small peaceful town where not much happened to anyone. What I would give for that to be true...

"Hey."

"SHIT!" I spun, fists raised ready to throw a punch even though I already knew who I'd find. "Haruko!" I stabbed my finger at her. "You-you are not allowed to do that anymore okay! Stop sneaking up on me it's terrifying!" I was breathing heavily, eyes wide. "It's not funny or even...ignorable anymore!"

Her even brown eyes watched me, waiting for me to stop shouting. "Are you finished waking everyone up?" An arched eyebrow.

I shook myself and glared unable to stop my anger. "What the hell are you still doing up?"

"Waiting for you." She started walking away towards my house.

Shaking my head I jogged to reach her side. "Why?"

"You told me you would give me one of Saori's shoes." Haruko's voice was as calm as ever.

"Right..." I stared down at her. "And why do you want that again?" I could only barely recall her mentioning it before but that was it. Toshiro was probably right. Whatever I had done to my head- it was something I shouldn't try to do again.

"I'm sewing something." We slowed and stood before my house. "A quilt with things each person owned."

That struck me. "Why? I thought you didn't care about any of us?" I knew that wasn't true now but the bitterness rose before I could think to stop it.

Her eyes found mine. "So did I." She crossed her arms and stared at me expectantly.

I stared back. "You're really making this quilt?"

"Yes it's at my house." My gaze strayed in the direction of her home. "If you don't believe me you can come see it if you must."

"No it's fine." I moved to my door. "I just didn't expect something like this from you."

"'Like this'?"

I unlocked the door and pushed it open. "Emotional. Nostalgic." I wandered down my hallway and took one of the rainbow shoes from it's resting place. Even in the dark I could spot the inked on colors.

"Here." I called, reaching the doorway. I held it out and she took it carefully.

Haruko eyed it and then me. "I've decided to trust you. Before I wasn't sure, but I trust Kyofu and I see that he trusts you." Her words caught me off guard and I stared incomprehensibly at her. "So whatever you're planning, don't let him down."

My thoughts shook free. "What?"

Haruko shrugged honestly. "No one is perfect but he- there's expectations." Her eyes grew hard.

A sigh filled the space between us. "Is that a threat? Because I've already been targeted by Monokuma and I'd like to only hear those kind of things from those I can expect it from."

"It's whatever it needs to be." Another even stare.

"You care about him more than you realize." I inferred, squinting "But why?"

Haruko looked at the ground, a confused, twisted expression on her face that she wasn't fast enough to hide. "I'd like to know myself."

Strange. "You know if I know this I don't doubt the mastermind does too."

She scoffed. "The mastermind is foolish to mess with either of us."

Now I arched my eyebrow. "Why's that?"

"As you have just witnessed. I am not above threats." Haruko fiddled with one of her pouches while she spoke but it didn't make her words any less imposing.

I grew uncomfortable with her confidence. "The motives are proof enough that they can get to us. They know everything."

I couldn't read her face this time. "Do they?"

"I don't see why not."

"Of course."

I narrowed my eyes. "You-"

"You will be able to remove your bandage in a few days." Haruko only had eyes for my arm now. "Do not tear your stitches before that." The Seamstress turned. "Thank you for the shoe."

"Hey!" I grabbed my doorknob. "Haruko!? That's another thing! Quit vanishing whenever I want to-"

"Goodnight Hon'yomi." She disappeared in the dark, her shirt and hair blending in with the night.

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Chapter Text

"Hey Kena." I slipped into a seat at the Diner counter.

"Hey." She flipped a pancake solemnly.

I frowned. "What's up?"

Kena sighed, moving her shoulders nonchalantly. "Nothing really." Her eyes widened tiredly. "I'm just sick of being stuck here."

I looked into my cup of coffee. "That's an understatement..." How much longer did we have to stay here? My thoughts strayed to Toshiro's hope that Kiyoshi would be able to help us. We'd get no aid there, for there was no possibility he'd be helping us the way he was right now. I sighed heavily and took a sip from my cup. It had been a small chance anyway.

"What's up with you?" Kena questioned, slipping into the seat next to me. She stabbed at her pancake with a fork but instead of shoving the hot food in her mouth, this time she blew on it first.

It was best not to involve anyone else in the plans and ideas made with Toshiro and Kyofu. I didn't like thinking that Kena could be the one against us but it was a possibility. It was something I hated thinking too much about. "I just wish I could remember what we've been forced to forget." I twisted in my seat, angling myself towards her. "And I wish I wasn't here either."

She nodded. "But thinking about it and the world outside...I wonder if it's any better."

"Better?" My breath trembled while I considered what she had said. It had been destroyed and ruined. That's what Monokuma had said and that's what we had seen in our memories. Yet Kena was right. What we had seen...was it really better out there if those things were still waiting?

Kena poured syrup onto her breakfast. "You know it's weird. Here we have food whenever we want it and places to sleep and bathrooms." She raised her eyebrows. "And even places and things for entertainment. From what I've been allowed to remember." She narrowed her eyes icily. "There's nothing like that outside anymore."

I stared back into my coffee like it could give me something wise to say.

"I don't want to be here. It's horrible and I hate it and the way everyday life is so easy with the simple things makes me hate it even more." She pushed a clump of her pancake through a pool of syrup in agitation. "And the worst part is that I can feel the effect it's having on me. The endless stress and fear in every waking moment..." Kena was deep in thought, pancakes far from her mind I was sure. "I feel it eating away at everything that gives me the ability to make people laugh. And everything that makes me want to see people laugh."

Her words rang with familiarity in my ears. It sounded like what Kiyoshi had said the night before. He'd lost his motivation. He'd lost his drive. This place- Monokuma- it was destroying everything about us. Our lives, our trust, our hopes, our love, our morals and our passions. It was sapping up all aspects of who we were and eventually there would be nothing left.

"I don't know how to make it stop either which is the most impossible part about all of this." She stabbed a piece of the cake and chewed on it unhappily. "If we live here without killing then Monokuma will find a way to force our hand and it will happen anyway. There's no winning..."

Unless there was some way to stop Monokuma. Unless we could find the mastermind and get them to stop this madness. But how could we nine possibly manage that?

"You realize it too don't you?" I felt her eyes on my face.

I took a hurried sip of my coffee before answering. "I do. There's no way out of this if we can't get rid of Monokuma and...we can't get rid of Monokuma."

Kena watched me still, a curious look in her eyes. "Have you thought about this already?" Her dark eyes flashed to the camera that was steadily watching us.

I rolled my eyes irritability. "Don't worry he already knows. He knows we're powerless so it doesn't matter what we say about wanting to get rid of him."

"And the one helping him." She added quietly. Kena leaned closer to almost whisper to me. "Do...do you have an idea who it is?"

A chill slipped down my spine and a flash of the bright light I had forced myself to remember pulsed behind my eyes. I winced uncomfortably. "Not really..." I had people I was certain wasn't the mastermind. Myself of course. Kyofu and Toshiro. I couldn't wrap my head around it being Kaz but I also didn't want to imagine it being Kiyoshi either. Then there was Mae, Haruko, Akemi and Kena. Were they?

The spiraling look in Akemi's eyes creeped up on me. She held a strange source of madness in them. And the way she had so readily attacked me...

As if beckoned by my thoughts the Diner door spun lazily, admitting the Illustrator to the inside.

My eyes were on her instantly, searching for any sign of the person I had encountered the night after the trial. She looked well put together. Her sweater was neat and her hair was brushed nicely. Akemi no longer looked as though she was about to snap but the dead look in her eyes remained. I knew her eyes were brown but all I saw was emptiness and the absence of something important that could never be replaced. She noticed us and promptly ignored us.

"Mae's been kind of like that too." Kena muttered to me. "But if you look at her the wrong way she'll verbally attack you."

My insides ached. "I don't blame either of them. I just worry about-" About them? I was actually more worried about what they would do.

"Me too." Kena agreed, though I wasn't sure if she was worried about the same thing as me.

Akemi walked over to the pastries Kena had kept replacing each morning and took sweet I had no name for but vaguely wondered if it was french. I hurriedly pushed that thought away before it could take shape. She came near us at the counter and took a napkin, no longer ignoring us but just staying silent and offering no word of greeting.

"We have to avoid that." Kena announced to me once we were alone again. She pointed to Akemi's retreating shape through the window.

I stared at her. "What?"

"That! The weird silence and shit." Kena pushed her plate into the sink with a clank. "I know I said Monokuma will force our hand but we shouldn't make it easier for him."

If Kyofu had been with us I saw him agreeing immediately. "We still need some sort of community. Like the bonfire from the beginning." The night we had enjoyed each others company and shared food together. The first night I really talked to Kyofu and we had made our promise. The same night Toshiro had helped me home and warned me about being sick.

"Exactly but I doubt anyone is in the mood for something like that."

I looked at her encouragingly. "We can think of something. I can go around and talk to the others about it."

Kena nodded, sliding to her feet. "Me too. I'll go after Akemi since she's finally out and about. I can let Kaz know too, I'm going to his house later."

I followed her motions and came to my feet. "I'll see Kyofu." I had planned to find him anyway. "And...I think I can talk to Mae as well."

"We'll start with them and see how it goes?" She offered.

"It's a plan." I agreed and walked past the camera and out the door.

I was planning on finding Kyofu but I had no clue as to where he was at the moment and in gazing across the square I spotted Mae in the Store.

Kena's comment hadn't strayed far from mind so I wasn't sure what to expect when I approached the Dancer among the aisles. She gave off a detached tense aura but I was going to try to over look it. My presence was clearly known from my entrance but Mae stayed focused on a magazine she held clutched almost angrily in her hands.

"Ugh! Stupid brat!" She shouted making me jump.

I stepped closer, hoping to catch a glimpse of the page that had upset her. "What is it?"

"Her!" Mae jabbed her finger at the brightly colored page. "She always has more fans than me!"

Mae shoved the magazine in my face. In the center of the page was a photo of a young girl in an orange kimono with two blonde pigtails.

"Um Mae?" I had no idea why this would be concerning her so greatly. "How are you worried about this right now?"

Her brown eyes could have been daggers. "I'm not!"

I stared back at her wondering if my eyes ever looked like that.

"What is it?" She asked, crossing her arms and scrutinizing me. Her voice grew softer but it remained on edge.

"Um..." I hadn't thought this far. It was time to improvise. "Kena and I thought it would be a good idea to do something today that involved everyone."

"You're expecting trust to save everyone?" She flipped the magazine shut and carelessly tossed it on the shelves. "Shouldn't we be worried about how to protect ourselves and figure out why Monokuma hasn't given us anything new?"

"There's only so much we can do to protect ourselves Mae, we've seen that already." I tried for a neutral tone of voice. "We will be better as a unit, staying close to each other and creating stronger bonds." Did I even believe what I was saying? I felt like I was on autopilot.

Mae watched me, unblinking like a cat. "Whatever you come up with won't change what people already think. Haruko knows more people are going to die, just like me."

I pointed meaningfully at her. "Okay but are either of you going to kill someone yourself?" As the words left my mouth I was struck with the unnatural course conversations in the town had taken. We used to discuss things we liked to do, having hope and even made jokes. Now we casually spoke of death and murder without batting an eye. Almost lightheartedly.

"I'm not planning on killing someone but if I was I'd lie about it of course." Mae pointed out blatantly.

I shrugged, trying to let her words roll off me. "I don't think-" I sighed. "Never mind." I had been shown four times in a row that it didn't matter what I thought.

The Dancer looked away, her eyes scanning the shelves but seemed to take in no detail of what was before her. "Ryu died..." Her voice suddenly became soft.

My heart skipped.

"He used to be all I really had and I expected to feel completely alone but..." Mae looked up but gazed past my shoulder. "I don't." She took a shuddering breath. "I feel guilty for that but I'm also glad because I don't want to be alone and with you guys...." She made a fist. "I just keep telling myself not to feel that way because more people are going to die and it's...it's really just....it's gonna suck so bad and I wish...." Mae's words got tangled with her tears and her shoulders shook with silent sobs.

On instinct I hugged her and I was surprised at how small she felt in my arms.

"I'm sorry for being a...a bitch." She offered weakly. "I just don't-"

"Don't worry about it." I told her earnestly. "You didn't do anything wrong." I couldn't be mad at her.

Mae sniffed and stepped away. She let out a wet laugh and tugged on her skirt anxiously. "I...I don't want to go to whatever you guys decide to do but I don't want to be alone either so I'll probably end up there anyway."

I nodded. I couldn't make her like it but at least she'd be there. "That's fine. We'll probably send a group message." I said gently, the idea suddenly coming to me. It would be the best way to contact everyone.

Which reminded me... "Have you seen Kyofu?"

Mae frowned, shaking her head. "Not since this morning and he was leaving Renji's house..."

I gave her a look of thanks. "I told Kena I'd talk to him too..." I trialed off slowly.

"It's fine I'll be fine." Mae stood up straight, quickly collecting herself. "Whatever that was is over now." She waved her hand carelessly, her face emitting embarrassment.

I decided not to press. "Okay..." I was now less worried about what she would do. "I will see you later."

Mae nodded and I pushed past the Store glass doors.

"Psssssssst!"

I jumped and cursed. "Damn. It! Har-"

"Hey!" The voice sounded again from above my head. "I'm ten times sneakier than that Seamstress." Kyofu peered down at me from the Store roof.

I took a deep breath, glaring up at him. "Right." I said, jumping on the subject. "I dare you to try and steal something from her."

Without wasting a second he dangled his arm over the edge holding a pair of scissors and a handful of spools of thread. "I already have."

My eyes narrowed. "Oh? Does that mean you have things from me too?"

The Rogue rolled his eyes. "You're too boring to steal from. It's too easy."

"Hey!" I marched towards the ladder and clanked up it loudly. "I'm all for the mood change but leave my obliviousness out of it." I planted my tennis shoes firmly on the roof, scrutinizing him.

Kyofu nimbly jumped to his feet, his hands now in his pocket and shrugged. "I'm trying to be positive or whatever the hell I can be right now." He searched the sky. "It's not exactly positive though because I still feel like shit..."

"Enough of that." I grumbled. From Kena to Mae I'd heard enough rants for the day. "Kena and I had an idea...sort of. More like an idea for an idea."

Interest now replaced his negative mood. "An idea for an idea? How does that work?"

"She said something- similar to what you told me. Even though Monokuma is going to do whatever he can to force us to murder, we shouldn't just let it happen." I briefly wondered how he would try. "We need to be a stronger group and she and I thought we could all do something together." A warm breeze came from the direction of the lake, doing it's best to take my hair with it.

Kyofu crossed his arms thoughtfully. "This could also help us discover who the mastermind is too."

I eyed the cameras in the Square nervously.

"Oh screw it for once." He said bitterly, noticing my look. "I have an idea...." Kyofu's voice trailed off. "If we all stuck together it'd be difficult for the mastermind to do anything, or people to kill each other...."

"You mean all the time?" I wasn't sure how well that would work.

He shook his head, his hair flopping in the light wind. "When we're most vulnerable."

I gasped. "At night!"

Kyofu nodded. "We could sleep in the Town Hall- it's the only place with enough room- and have people keep watch for certain times. That way if the mastermind wanted to do something...." He narrowed his eyes. "Well it would be difficult and not as easy as it is now."

I felt confidence and excitement of all things building inside me. "Two people." I clarified. "There should be two people keeping watch."

"Yeah two people would be best. We can bring blankets and pillows from our houses."

"Yes!" I looked at the late afternoon sky. The time had gone by quickly. "Do you have your handbook on you?"

Kyofu nodded.

"Send a message to everyone about the plan." I felt a flicker of worry. "This won't work if everyone doesn't agree."

"I think they will." Kyofu said surely, pulling out his handbook. "Because if they don't it just makes them suspicious."

I hadn't thought of that. "Perfect." I grinned and the Thief grinned back. "Feeling positive?"

He shrugged once again and only said; "I think this might work."

I agreed. "I'll start gathering supplies in the Town Hall and get my stuff in there. You send the message." I was already heading for the ladder, feeling somewhat positive myself.

~ ~ ~

The wind hadn't changed even though the sun was almost gone. It continued to slip across the Square like a blanket due to it's warmth. With the whole world messed up I didn't blame the wind for ignoring the cool of the night. I walked swiftly towards the white building. Already most of us were inside, blankets and pillows at the ready. I had made a last minute dash to my house to grab my notebook. And a pen. Ever since Akemi's unconventional use of one against me I wasn't going to doubt it's use as a weapon. Not that I was planning on using it but...the mastermind would be among us tonight.

Kyofu had been right, no one disagreed to coming but not everyone was happy about it. Akemi had been one of the unhappy ones but like Mae, I couldn't blame her. Kiyoshi was also among the unhappy and stayed far away from both Akemi and Mae. I didn't blame him either.

The oak trees leaves covered me momentarily when I passed under them. I suddenly thought of Utsumi. What would he be doing now if he was still alive? Maybe he would have figured out what had been strange about the tree by now. Maybe he would have killed someone too....

"Hon!"

I turned, stopping only a few feet from the wooden doors.

Toshiro jogged up to me from the direction of the pool. "Hey." He slipped his hands into his pockets and watched me importantly. "Listen, I like this idea but before we get inside with the others I need to tell you something. I was in the Library and found-"

"Found them!" Kyofu stuck his head out of the carved doors and looked at us. "You're the last two."

The Actor closed his mouth on whatever he was going to tell me. "I'll tell you later." He whispered promptly. "Sorry to keep everyone waiting." He muttered to Kyofu and pulled the second door open for me.

I glanced at him curiously, as did Kyofu. "Yeah sorry..." I passed between the both of them feeling confused. Toshiro had never had a problem talking about important stuff in front of Kyofu so why was he now? He said he had found something important in the Library? He wanted me to know about it but not Kyofu?

I walked to my blankets by near the door and the stack of water bottles Kaz had brought. Toshiro wouldn't stop trusting Kyofu would he? Unless...unless he had had a reason to.

I shook my head. Impossible! What was I thinking?

"That's everyone." Kena said from her pile of blankets. The quantity of bedding she sat on reminded me of Saori and her plethora of pillows. I smiled sadly.

"Now what?" Kaz asked, hugging a pillow to his chest. The Town Hall was dimly lit with small lights I recognized from Kiyoshi's house. They cast odd shadows through the room that caught Kaz's eye. He almost looked healthy now and his gaze roamed the ceiling eagerly as if he was already climbing it.

Haruko, I noticed, was watching him closely. "We go to bed." Her voice answered.

"Someone has to keep watch." Mae said sharply. "We agreed that two people would do that."

Akemi flopped down onto her blankets silently and I scooted towards the door a bit. She wasn't that far from me.

Kyofu situated himself in the middle of our group. "Kiyoshi already volunteered."

My eyes went to the Inventor. He was sitting on one woven blanket, his back leaning against the wall. I was surprised to see he was wearing his large coat again. His big shoulders shrugged. "I'm not going to be able sleep anyway."

"I don't have a problem staying up for a while either." Toshiro offered. "As long as it's not all night."

I fluffed up my pillow. "Wake me up when you get tired."

"And me as well." Haruko added, looking at Kiyoshi. "If you feel the need to rest or," Her eyes found the Actor. "If he falls asleep."

I wondered what keeping watch with Haruko would be like.

"Does anyone object?" Kyofu said, an odd look on his face.

I shook my head and Kaz scrunched up his face for a moment but in the end nodded.

"Alright the nighttime announcement should go off in a few seconds." I curled up under the blankets, holding my pen tightly in my hand beneath them. My heart was racing and I was breathing heavily. Would I really be able to sleep? If I didn't how would I stay awake to keep watch?

"We just...go to bed?" Kaz looked at his pile disappointedly. "I don't like sleeping inside."

"Tonight you have to." Toshiro said, sitting on the opposite side of the door, leaning against the wall like Kiyoshi. Damn! I should have kept watch with him that way he could have finished what he wanted to tell me. Irritated with myself I turned away and faced the center. Kyofu and Akemi's feet in my line of sight. I noticed she hadn't taken off her shoes.

Not all of us us laid down at once and it took what felt like hours for me to be relaxed enough to close my eyes. I felt myself hover on the edge of waking and sleeping most of the night, too tense to fully succumb to slumber. That in itself was exhausting but I remained unmoving for most of the night.

Just as I felt myself dropping off to a comfortable sleep a gasp filled the space in front of me. Heart racing, hand clenching the pen, my eyes flew open. Kyofu was facing me, eyes wide and face pale. He breathed heavily like he wasn't getting enough air or something had terrified him from a sound sleep.

My heart beat lessened slightly. "Are you okay?" I whispered.

Kyofu closed his eyes for a moment like there was something he could see clearly with them closed. He then shook his head at me and rolled over.

I stared at his back silently, wondering what he had seen in his nightmare. I felt very awake and sat up to look for Toshiro and Kiyoshi. I found them easily, the both of them having moved very little. Both their eyes looked at me with question.

"Are you tired yet?" I whispered to Toshiro.

He shook his head. "Not yet. Get some rest before it's your turn."

I nodded, having little hope that I would. I turned my back to the door again, keeping the pen in my hand.

~ ~ ~

Something was creeping along my back. It shook me from a sleep I hadn't realized I had fallen into. Town Hall was exceptionally quiet, as though each person within was fast asleep.

I jerked with a gasp as the feeling continued to creep towards me except now I realized it was cold. My mind filling in the blanks I sat up swiftly and squinted in the dim light. A water bottle had been tipped over and had been leaking steadily due to it's cap having not been screwed on tightly.

My fear vanished and I placed a hand on my chest like it would calm my heart. But the emptiness of my hand brought back panic and I fumbled around until I located the pen that had been lost in my blankets. Nothing was wrong, it was just some water.

Sighing I picked it up and screwed the lid properly on. I reached down to move my blankets away from the puddle when I froze. A warm breeze ghosted over my hand. Heart racing again I raised my eyes towards the exit where Kiyoshi and Toshiro had been. The thick wooden door was open a few inches and the spaces the two had occupied not long ago were now empty.

I gulped, eyes scanning the rest of the room. One, two, three, four....seven. "Shit." I whispered. Where were they? Why would they have gone? Did something happen? A million possibilities started cropping up in my head. "Shit." I said again and glanced at Kyofu, ready to wake him up but something stopped me.

The door was open, the water must have just been knocked over. Maybe they were just outside getting air. If they were tired maybe they had gone out to wake up a bit and talk.

I told myself that was what happened. I didn't want to raise the alarm so suddenly especially because if I did, no one would feel comfortable enough to do this again and we had to. We had to be a group.

The warm air brushed it's way towards me again and I rose unsteadily to my feet. My head was pounding from exhaustion but I kept a tight hold on my pen. I was only a few feet away and pushed open the door stepping into the night, pen hand ready to strike.

No one. There was no one in sight.

Now I felt real worry. If something hadn't happened they wouldn't have left us. Not the both of them. I leaned against the building, my back to it's white surface. I was afraid to leave my back open, a terrifying sense that I somehow wasn't alone taking over my mind. I didn't want to move to go back inside but I had to if I wanted to wake the others. We had to look for them as a group. We had to-

The door suddenly closed, softly but firmly and I bit back a terrified shriek. Cold sweat ran over my skin and I reached for the handle to pull it back open. It didn't budge. I felt my fear begin to rise and I raised my fist and pounded on the door.

The sound of my knock was enough to send more shivers down my spine. What if someone overheard me? Someone outside? I spun around, pressing my back to the door now.

They would come. Someone would wake up and come to the door and let me back in. Then we would look for Toshiro and Kiyoshi together. The wind had simply blown the door shut and it was nighttime so maybe Monokuma locked Town Hall since it was an entrance to the trial room. He didn't want anyone snooping around.

All of that made sense. It made perfect sense.

Without turning I pounded on the door again anxiously, eyes scanning the Square. Nothing moved save for the oak's leaves in the wind. The seconds passed on. Why wasn't anyone-

A loud shout tore through the night, shattering the silence. My eyes flew wide and scrambled wildly to find the source in the darkness. Once again, nothing moved in the Square.

I breathed shallowly through my mouth waiting for another sound and it wasn't long until the shout was repeated. Eyes flashing towards the sound I took a hesitant step from Town Hall. Was that...was that Kiyoshi?

The shout sounded again, confirming my suspicion. Feeling suddenly braver -I had found one of them!- my feet lead me from the building and towards the Diner. It had come from the Lake side of the building.

The exclamations grew louder and more prolonged like he was arguing with someone. I forced myself to move faster, feet slapping the pavement. Something was wrong, between the door and them being missing. And Toshiro! Where was he?!

I flew past the Diner door, trying not to think about anyone that could be chasing me and rounded the corner. I stayed close to the wall and with the houses to my right I inched down the side of the building until I was near the corner and peered around it.

I had a hard time understanding what I saw. Two gleaming objects, both silver and threatening caught my eye. They were objects I had seen before but I didn't understand why Kiyoshi was holding them.

The next thing was Toshiro. He stood in front of the Inventor cautiously, hands raised while slowly backing away.

I blinked once. Twice. The image remained. Kiyoshi pointing Ryu's guns at Toshiro. Both of them at Toshiro. What the hell was going on? Why would...why was Kiyoshi doing something like...like...like this?! I closed my eyes wishing what was before me wasn't there. It made no sense. Kiyoshi...he was kind and caring and...and...he wouldn't just- he wouldn't throw that away! And how-where did Kiyoshi get the guns? I opened my eyes and saw again that nothing had changed.

The beating of my heart reached a new level, adrenaline was now coursing through me. Something had to be seriously wrong. Some misunderstanding, something! I tried to think of what it could be. What could have possibly happened that had led to this?!

Toshiro backed away another step, his voice drifting to me. "Kiyoshi...really....don't-don't do this." He eyed the weapons pointed at him fearfully. He was in no position to get out of this on his own.

I squinted trying to see every detail I could. Toshiro was disheveled as was Kiyoshi but when I looked at the Inventor's face my blood ran cold. His expression was unrecognizable. It didn't match the Kiyoshi I knew. Yet at the same time there was no way I couldn't recognize it because I had seen the same look on Akemi's face. The absence of hope and all things good.

"I h-have to!" Kiyoshi was shouting through tears. "You don't understand." His hands shook but the guns never wavered. They stayed aimed at Toshiro's chest. His large body looked menacing compared to Toshiro's slim frame and endlessly threatening.

What was happening? He'd...he'd been sane when I spoke to him. Had he been like Akemi all along? So broken by Kimiko's death that it had destroyed his mind but I never noticed? How could I have not noticed?

"I have to save them!" Kiyoshi's face contorted into an expression of pain I didn't want to fathom. I spun back around, leaning against the Diner. Oh God what was I supposed to do? I-I had to do something I couldn't let- I wouldn't let Toshiro die! I wouldn't let Kiyoshi kill! My hands clenched tightly and something snapped. Surprised, I looked down to see black ink oozing between my fingers. The pen was no longer going to help.

Toshiro's reasoning wasn't working and I knew it wouldn't. Akemi had been impossible to reason with. I had to knock him out and...he'd be okay. I fought back tears at the thought. He would be okay and we would all figure out what to do next. I would stop someone else from dying like this. I would stop both of them from dying and we would figure out how to help Kiyoshi. So this never happened again.

Kiyoshi's loud voice shook through the night again and I flinched. I wanted to run away. If only I could run away! Get away from all of this horror. From friends killing friends. I choked. "Oh God....." How was I supposed to do this? He had...he had guns! This would be impossible! Why was something like this- why was Kiyoshi of all people-!

I had to curb the hysteria. I had to do this. I had to save them both. My thoughts went to Kimiko. She'd want me to stop this from happening. I took a deep breath -I couldn't let myself think about this anymore- and looked around the corner.

Kiyoshi was closer to Toshiro who had backed up against the Diner wall. The Actor was standing almost right across from me. He was too far from Kiyoshi to lunge and struggle for a gun without certainly being...being shot...

I looked away, ignoring the image that that brought to my mind and focused on the Inventor. Kiyoshi was at an angle, his left side facing me. His attention was too focused on Toshiro for him to notice me from the corner of his eye.

I could do this. I had to stop him before something...before something impossible to fix happened. Right now, it was fixable. Right now, something could be done.

I took a step, and then another. Toshiro's eyes suddenly flashed to mine as he realized my presence.  Catching his look, Kiyoshi started to turn and I did the only thing I could think to do. I ran.

I charged as fast as I could force my body to go, something like madness propelling me forward, for how was doing something like this sane? Kiyoshi grew closer and closer and I tried not to stop out of fear of being shot. I pushed my legs faster knowing I had to have enough momentum to knock him over. To save all our lives now.

Before I hit him I threw my arm out and swung. My arm traveled in an arc, knocking his outstretched arms towards the ground. A swirl of colors and bright stars fell over me before I could tell if I was successful. My body connected with his, cracking my neck up to my head and together we collapsed to the ground.

My head was fuzzy and vision shaky and I felt Kiyoshi scrambling desperately through the grass. Fighting my shocked body I scrambled too, fighting to locate the objects he'd lost during the fall. My hands flew, ink smearing across his coat, the grass and finally...

My hand wrapped around the cold handle and I was able to make it to my knees before I was stopped, looking down the barrel of the second gun. I stared at it in disbelief. Such a small thing was capable of so much damage. Damage that it would do to me. With wide eyes I forced myself to look past it and stare at Kiyoshi's face. My arm trembled at the weight of the gun I pointed back at him.

"Hon'yomi-"

"What are you doing Kiyoshi?" My voice cut him off, cracking loudly. I couldn't reason with him, I knew that already, but now it was my only choice. "What's- what's going on?" I wanted to ignore the thing I held in my hand but I couldn't. And I couldn't put it down until he did too. It was the only thing protecting me and Toshiro.

"Hon'yomi." He stared at me through the chaos in his eyes. "Why did- why did you have to come here?" Kiyoshi put both hands on his gun. "Why didn't you stay inside!?"

I was frozen. I didn't dare move as the weapon was trained on me. It took everything within me not to shrink away, certain that at any moment it would go off. I had to try. "Kiyoshi..." I felt the hysteria coming back to me. What was I doing, holding a gun at my friend to protect the friend behind me!? I gasped harshly trying to figure out what to say. How to calm him down. "Why are you doing this?" I shook my head, that wasn't it! "What's-what's wrong?" I tried. The ink on my hand made the grip on the gun slippery. Cautiously I mirrored him, holding it with both but kept my finger off the trigger. I wasn't going to need it. This would go the way I wanted.

He shook his head, the glow from the Square lights catching the tears on his face. "Everything is wrong Hon'yomi." Kiyoshi said weakly, too overwhelmed to say more. His lips trembled, his tears never lessening. What happened to him?

"I know that Kiyoshi. Everything is wrong but that doesn't mean you have to do something like this." I struggled to push the tightness in my throat away. "Don't..." I felt tears rising. If I didn't do this....I was going to die wasn't I? If I didn't get him to stop. I could see it in his eyes in a place I couldn't reach. He had already decided to do this. "I kn-know you don't want to." A thought occurred to me and I took it quickly. "How can you even use these Kiyoshi?"Monokuma had been clear about the ammo.

But Kiyoshi shook his head. "I made bullets..."

A chill raced over my body and I wanted to throw the gun away. "I....I thought you couldn't make anything anymore." Be reasonable. I took a deep breath to fight against my tears. "Why are you- what are you trying to do here Kiyoshi?"

His purple eyes swam with agony. Agony I didn't want to see him bear. Not Kiyoshi. Not the one who wanted to be remembered. Not the one who wanted to protect everyone. "I didn't have a reason to make anything then but I do now." His usual warm voice was thick with tears. "I have a reason again-" He took a breath, keeping the gun on me. "I'm sorry Hon'yomi." His shoulders shook. "But I can't let you s-stop me."

I felt bursts of terror returning. "L-listen to me." I fought for air, for a calm breath so I could speak evenly. "Don't you remember Hana? Remember how much you wanted to help her." Tears splashed from my face. "Let me do that now. Let me help you." I needed to help him even though alll I wanted was to be away from this. From the instrument in my hand and the one pointed at me.

The Inventor studied me, a conflict behind his eyes. He watched me almost helplessly. Like he couldn't do anything to change this. "I wish you hadn't come over here." Kiyoshi finally said softy. "We're friends...."

I was no longer able to ignore my panic. My words were fast, and messy and my arms ached but I didn't dare move. "We are all friends here so you don't have to do this. What has Monokuma told you? What's going on?!" My mind didn't feel like my own, it was too chaotic. I had to stop him, I had to stop him from killing! "We can stop Monokuma together!" If I kept talking, surely someone would wake and find us. "If you can- you can stop him- I know you can! That's why he's doing this!" I pleaded. "Don't you get it?! He wants you to do this so you can't help us stop him! That's his plan, he will ruin us if you do this." I gulped unevenly, breathing heavy. I was too out of breath to move on.

I searched for a struggle. For more conflict to appear but nothing showed. The swirling despair didn't lessen. "Monokuma doesn't matter. Not anymore." His words were determined. "The only thing I have is my family and I'm going to save them. Doing this will do that. It's going to save them!" He glared, his mood changing suddenly. "You don't understand. You don't-you don't understand!" I watched him grow more erratic, his eyes widening with madness. "Your family is dead Hon'yomi! B-but mine...mine isn't!" He nodded while he spoke. "They've been protected there, a place untouched by despair." Kiyoshi's gaze hardened so harshly that I cringed. "But it will be if I don't do this."

"What are you talking about?" I begged through horror. Nothing he said could be true. Could it? "What do you mean my family is dead?" Saying it myself made it worse. I trembled at the thought, overwhelmed by a torrent of fresh tears. "How...." I could barely breathe. "How do you....know that?" I shook. "I don't believe you!" I hadn't thought about where my family could be, I was too afraid to. "Why would your family be protected, I don't understand!"

His dark eyes looked sadly into mine, breaking past the chaotic discord for merely a moment. "I told you you wouldn't." Kiyoshi steadied himself. "I'm s-sorry but I love them, they are my reason." Pain replaced the sadness. "It won't for nothing, I promise."

I gritted my teeth angrily. This wasn't supposed to happen! I was supposed to save him, to save Toshiro! Not do this....not something like this.... He blurred in and out of focus and a sob escaped from me. "Kiyoshi please....." The gun shook in my hand. "I can stop you right now-I don't want to. Don't make me..." I couldn't finish the thought. He'd stop. He would.

"You won't." The Inventor said confidently. "You can't." He paused coming to terms with it. "And that's why you're going to..." I could see he had decided but even now he struggled with the word. "To...die. And Toshiro too."

I forced myself not to think about what he was saying. Wasn't there anything I could do?! I had been so foolish to think. To think! How could I have ran in here to stop this? Save Toshiro and save Kiyoshi? Now I had only managed to get all of us killed. My fault. This was only my fault. "Kiyoshi...." What had happened to us? Was it the trial? Would that help now? Would it make it worse? It was already so horrible. "Kimiko..." Her name burst through my lips softly. I was afraid of what he would do but I didn't stop myself. "She-she wouldn't want-"

Kiyoshi's face was steal. "Kimiko is dead. She can't want anything."

His words slammed into me and I knew I had lost. I wouldn't win this situation. Another sob shook my body and I clenched the gun more tightly. "Kiyoshi...." I was hyper aware of the grass beneath me, of the warm wind on my face. I knew Toshiro- who would die just like me if Kiyoshi did this- was behind me. I knew there were six people sleeping soundly who had no idea of what was going on outside. I knew that I didn't want to die.

"I'm sorry Hon'yomi." He whispered, never looking away from my eyes. His cried tears too.

"I just remembered." I felt tears slip down my cheeks. "I was supposed to tell you...." I took one last breath. It was her final wish and I had just failed her. "She told me she loved you."

I saw his hand move. I felt my finger twitch and suddenly an explosion ripped through the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Ki-Kiyoshi?" The sound had faded away but it still rung painfully in my ears. "Kiyoshi?" He was sprawled on his back across the grass.

Shaking I reached out and shook his leg, a huge lump forming itself in my throat. "K-Kiyoshi?" My knees dragged myself closer. I couldn't see his face. "Hey- hey get up." I tried to stand but fell back over. "Get up Kiyoshi, get up!" Tears clouded my vision and I reached for his leg to shake him again. "Kiyoshi!" I pushed myself forwards. I had to see. He was okay, he was fine I- I had missed! I didn't....I didn't...

A pair of arms wrapped around my body. They held me tightly and pulled, dragging me over the grass. Terrified by not knowing- by not seeing that he was okay I thrashed. "Kiyoshi!" I tried to kick but the person was behind me, hauling me away, muttering in my ear. "Kiyoshi!"

"You don't want to see that." The voice said with horror. "You d-don't want to see that."

"Let go!" I jerked wildly. I had to know! I had to know I was right! "Kiyoshi!" I struggled to reach for him but he was too far away now.

"You don't want to see that." Toshiro repeated.

I felt myself beginning to break down, but I didn't understand why. "He-he's okay!" I wailed, elbowing Toshiro's ribs. "Let me go!"

"No he's not!" Toshiro shouted at me. His hazel eyes looked at me with fear and I stared back wishing he wouldn't speak. Wishing he couldn't speak. "You...." His mouth fell shut and he took a deep breath before he could continue. "....killed him."

Then he let go and backed away from me.

I stared at him. "N-no h-he.... I-" I didn't I didn't I didn't I didn't. "Don't- I- he was- he was going to-"

"Just look at your shirt!" Toshiro shouted, his back pressed against the Diner.

I couldn't get air fast enough. I couldn't clear the tears from my eyes.

"Look!" He said again and I tilted my head to look.

Sprayed across the white patterned flowers were splotches of deep red soaking into the fabric quickly. Horrified I attacked my shirt, desperately trying to wipe them off.

"It's too late." Toshiro stared at Kiyoshi. "You really...you..."

I felt his eyes on me. I heard his words. "Don't say it- please!" Not again. What I did...what I did. What I did to him. I should have been screaming. I should be screaming. I needed to scream but nothing came out. The blood on my shirt was warm on my skin. No not the blood. Kiyoshi's blood.

My eyes found the gun laying in the grass, ink stained from my hand. What had I done?

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Chapter Text

"What the hell was that?!"

Words fractured loudly over the grass. Innocent words that had no concept of what they would stumble onto. My eyes dragged themselves away from the gun and settled onto the approaching figure who I prayed wasn't real. I couldn't explain this.

The image shook and my head suddenly felt dislocated- unattached.

I especially couldn't explain this to Kyofu.

As he drew closer the shapes of the others filled in behind him. I closed my eyes. Explain? I couldn't explain this to myself.

Oh God.

I peeled my eyes open once my head started swimming. What Toshiro said...it was true. I had really-

"What have you done?" The calm and the usual coolness of Haruko's voice was gone, replaced by something harsh and unfeeling.

I'd never been so aware of people looking at me. No not looking just....seeing. Seeing what I did. Seeing me.

I watched their line of sight travel between the objects in the scene before them. Myself. Toshiro. The gun. Kiyoshi.

I followed their gazes to the gun but went no farther. It was impossible to doubt the conclusion they would reach. There was my hand, stained on the handle of Ryu's gun and there was the handle, stained back onto my hand.

I could still feel the weight of it in my fingertips.

"Hon'yomi."

I looked away from my hand to the people in front of me. People who would no longer be called friends of mine. I saw that on their faces.

I didn't know if I was still breathing and some piece of me hoped I wasn't.

My gaze bounced over each figure standing in front of me and as much as I wanted to avoid it I couldn't stop my eyes from finding the brown ones that looked back. The town thief that like me- wanted to save everyone. Except I had just ruined that. I had ruined that.

"Did you-did you do this?" I could feel the anger in Kena's voice. The seething bitterness was painfully clear. "Did you do this?"

Lying was impossible. And...I shouldn't lie. That wasn't fair. Not after everything we had all been through. Not with the broken betrayal that was looking back at me.

"He was-" It took me some time before I recognized my voice. But even then it didn't sound like me anymore.  "He was going to-"

I was closed off immediately. I could see it in his eyes. Everything inside me felt suddenly dead and sick. I didn't want any of it. My words died and Kyofu turned and ran. He didn't want any of it either.

I felt my throat growing thick with tears. Explaining was impossible.

"Toshiro, what happened?" Haruko demanded quickly giving up on me for now.

I blinked through what film had already clouded my eyes and looked away from the vanishing shape that was Kyofu. My eyes fell onto Mae. "I told you it wouldn't be me." She whispered with wide eyes.

"H-Hon'yomi?" Kaz. "What's wrong with-"

I covered my ears, eyes screwing shut. I couldn't listen. Not to Kaz. And seeing the look on his face was the last thing I wanted too.

She killed him.

Right in front of me.

Kiyoshi is dead.

And Hon'yomi is the one responsible.

Nothing was real anymore. This couldn't be real. Not this. I could take a talking bear who wanted to destroy us, but I couldn't take this. Thoughts tangled with sounds. Sounds tangled with sensations. I curled into myself, trying to shut out everything. My escape had to be nothingness. I wanted nothing so I didn't have to believe this.

The sound of Kena's voice.

Kaz's question.

The look in Mae's eyes.

Kyofu running away.

The others who's reactions I hadn't seen. I didn't want to see their reactions.

Get her out of here.

Keep her somewhere until the trial...

*Beep beep*

~     ~     ~

I saw myself. From before. Laying on this same bed, worried and confused but too tired to think much about it. My first night here. If only I'd never spent any night here.

The others locked me in my house. Not literally but I knew they wouldn't me leave. But that was fine. I had nowhere to run and I didn't deserve to try.

So I stared at the wall and tried to tame what was left of my mind. I had stopped shaking and I wanted to wash the ink from my hand. To clean the blood off too...

I just didn't know how to move.

"Would you look at this?!"

I stared at the wall.

"No words for once?!"

What was there left to say?

"Poor poor Hon'yomi. Caught. In. The. Act!" The wall glowed faintly red. "How very unfortunate."

"What does that mean?" I flicked my gaze down to the bear and found it in myself to only be mildly concerned.

He grinned up at me as usual. "Why that means you're finally going to be out of my way!" Monokuma leaned towards me. "You get to die now. Just like them."

Oh yes. Like the others before me. And I thought I'd never see them again. "How naive." I muttered robotically.

"Me? Naive?" He seemed pitiful. "There's no way out of this for you. Everyone is going to vote for Hon'yomi Nakajima the murderous Poet."

"They should." Numbness was starting to sink in. It flickered at the edges of my mind. "Did you do this to the others?" I pondered. "Did you tell them they were about to go to their deaths too?"

Monokuma grinned. "Maybe. Maybe not. But they're not important anymore."

I glared at him and the numbness began to shrink back. "Yes they are. I'm not like them. I didn't plan this. I didn't want this."

"None of you wanted any of this."

"Don't be clever."

"Because you're so clever?" Monokuma shook his head. "You just shot someone!"

"I KNOW THAT!" I shrieked, shaking my hands in my lap, uncaring of what was smeared on my skirt or not. "I fucking know that stop saying it already." I couldn't stand hearing it.

"Puhuhuhuhu! What's it feel like Hon'yomi? To be on the brink of death? Full of despair yet?" I looked at the ceiling like doing so would stop my tears from falling. "Or are you still trying to hope for the best?" Monokuma sounded endlessly pleased. "That was very cruel mentioning Kimiko! That might've been what finally did it! How does it feel to have broken someones hope yourself?"

"SHUT UP!" I reached for the nearest thing, I didn't give a shit about the rules. My hands grabbed my pillow and I threw it as hard as I could at the bear. Monokuma vanished before it could get close. But it wasn't enough. His words filled my head, a monotonous rhythm crowding my mind. I turned and ripped the blankets from the bed. Tearing the sheets off and dragging the mattress off and to the floor. I spun towards the bedside table to push it over next but my front door exploded open.

Long silence followed. I remained standing but I turned to the door. I already knew who had come.

Kyofu appeared in my doorway and I said nothing. A fleeting sense of feeling like a child brushed by me- the feeling of being caught in the act by someone I didn't want to disappoint but inescapably did.

He wouldn't look at me and I didn't look away. I wanted him to speak first. What the hell was I supposed to say?

His hands were in fists at his sides, clenched tightly by a storm of emotions. "Tell me why-" His voice broke and Kyofu paused. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. "Tell me why it was you."

My own storm of emotions flared when he finished speaking. "You don't really want to know." I whispered. I had no idea where the words came from. Some part of me was on autopilot while the rest spiraled out of control.

"I wish I had a choice!" Kyofu shouted with a bitter snap. "You don't get to- to...do this and not say anything about what you've done!"

"What I've done..." I stared at the floor. "What I've done..." I grit my teeth and expelled all my breath. "How did they handle this?" I clenched my hands in my hair.

"They didn't handled it they died." Kyofu said with pained anger. My eyes flashed to his face. I looked at him and instead of seeing the exhaustion, the pain, the messy hair and dark bags under his eyes I saw a grin and a bright look on his face. I saw someone who was lost and buried beneath the weight of death and despair and I knew that some of it- the last of it- was my fault.

"I didn't mean to-" I choked out though I had no idea what I was trying to say. Didn't mean to break his trust? Didn't mean to pull the trigger? Didn't mean to take the last of Kiyoshi's hope? I wasn't going to be able to think through this. Not when I hated it so much and there was nothing I could do that would really fix it. Not even my death was going to be enough.

But it'd be a start.

I released my hair. I didn't want to die. But I had to now.

"You- we made a promise!" I flinched at Kyofu's words. "It never changes...." He shook his head and stared at the wall like he was seeing something else. "This always happens..."

I forced my mouth to move. "What?"

"Betrayal Hon'yomi!" He stared in my eyes. "Betrayal." Kyofu grimaced. "I've been stupid enough to pretend it doesn't. But you're the third person who's guilty who I never thought would do something like this."

You're not a killer...

That was the reason behind the promise. It was why Kena had trusted me during the first trial. She said she could see that I wasn't. Saori agreed. Kyofu agreed. I agreed. "How naive." I muttered again. I had proven us all wrong. "The trial will be soon." I said with sudden realization. Kyofu tensed but it didn't stop my thoughts. "It will be the quickest trial yet."

He made a disgusted noise. "You can't say that." Kyofu glared at me in anger. "You think we're just going to walk in there and vote? We're going to find out exactly what happened and why Hon'yomi."

I shook my head. "Don't try to find a way out of this. There isn't one."

The Thief fell still, watching me. "I've finally started to learn that. But you don't get to ask us to watch you die without knowing why."

"You know why-"

"You didn't just kill someone Hon'yomi!" He burst out suddenly, making me jump. "You broke a trust! You ruined the last chance we had to hold everyone together!" Kyofu paused abruptly as if another thought came to him. "And because of that we have to watch another person die in front of us." He glared at the floor. "We deserve to know why."

I closed my eyes. I didn't want to continue this anymore "The trial will be soon." I said again. "You should go. Stop wasting your time."

"You haven't told me what happened." He said stubbornly. Angrily.

"I can't." I felt my emotions surge again. "Just know that it was me. I did it."

The room fell silent. I opened my eyes.

"What the fuck am I supposed to do?" Kyofu wondered weakly.

"Investigate." I said tiredly.

"Damn it!" He kicked at the wall. "Not that."

"I don't know!" I spread out my arms helplessly. "I don't know!" My mouth fell closed and we stood. Two people who I suppose knew one another before this hell and during this hell became friends. What were we now?

"This shouldn't be happening." He whispered. "None of it." Kyofu turned on me to leave but I had to stop him.

"Kyofu."

He paused at the door but didn't turn around.

"Don't give up hope because of this." It was all I could manage. All I had left.

His body tensed and he shook his head. "There's no more hope left." And then he was gone.

I sat on the floor and leaned against the wall. I closed my eyes as if to sleep but I knew I wouldn't be lucky enough for that. It really did feel like I had just ruined everything. I was so against this. I was so angry whenever someone had killed before this. I had wanted to be the hero of this story but clearly I wasn't. What noble deed had I done? Saved the life of a friend by taking the life of another?

Bullshit.

The hope itself that I had held onto this whole time was a trap. Mae was right in that aspect.

'I told you it wouldn't be me.'

Forgotten friends had broken my heart but betraying friends- that was destroying me. And I chose to pull that trigger. No one was at fault- no one else could be at fault for this. All I could do now was go down to the room and never come up.

The elevator ride is different from the ones before but not because this was my last one. That thought in itself was relieving actually. It was different because no one stood near me. I waited in the center for the doors to open and the others watched. I kept staring at the door, anticipating the usual shuddering halt and ding as we arrived. I wondered what the trial room would look like this time. I wondered how much longer I had left to draw breath.

Was Kyofu right? Was there really no hope left? Was the idea of hope even realistic in the first place? If it wasn't, what choice did we have other than to give up?

I had pulled the trigger. To save myself and to save Toshiro. Although in the end only Toshiro was saved. I killed myself with that bullet too.

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