“Rantaro, look out!”
So much for no one interfering with his plans. But perhaps that was a good thing, since he almost got his head caved in by a shot put ball.
As he turned around to see who his savior was, he caught a glimpse of the hidden door closing.
“Rantaro!” As it turned out, his savior was Keebo, the Ultimate Robot. He appeared to be panicking enough for both of them. “A-are you okay!? Are you injured!?”
Rantaro blinked. Did Keebo follow him out of concern for his safety? “Not a scratch on me.” He tried to laugh it off, but of course Keebo failed to find the humor in this situation. “I’m fine, honestly—“
Suddenly, the front doors burst open, and four people rushed into the room: Shuichi Saihara, Kaede Akamatsu, Kaito Momota, and Tenko Chabashira. Judging by the looks on their faces, they came here looking for the mastermind, too. All four pairs of eyes landed on him and Keebo. And then, chaos.
“Th-there’s two masterminds!?”
“Wh-what are you two doing here? Where’s the mastermind?”
“They’re not here.”
“Um, everyone?” Keebo attempted to get the confused students to stop fighting, but his voice was too soft to hear.
“Aren’t you the mastermind?”
“Do you really think I’d admit that if I was?”
“Answer the question, degenerate!”
“Calm down, everyone...” Keebo made another attempt, but he was still ignored.
The conversation, if you could even call it that, continued to go in circles. Keebo kept trying to get everyone to stop fighting, but his polite demeanor didn’t help him much. Finally, he got fed up and shouted.
“HEY! LISTEN!” The robot surprised even himself with the forceful tone he was using, and as everyone turned to look at him, he quickly added, “please?”
“U-umm...” Keebo was at a loss for words. It seemed he wasn’t used to being the center of attention. Either that, or he was embarrassed by his outburst. He found his voice eventually. “W-we have less than an hour before the time limit expires. We shouldn’t be fighting like this.”
The five other students looked at each other.
“He’s right.” Rantaro said. “We should be figuring out what to do now.”
Shuichi, unusually assertive, looked between Rantaro and Keebo. “Did either of you notice anything unusual?”
“I-I just followed Rantaro and saw the shot put ball fall next to him.” Keebo admitted. For some reason, when he mentioned the shot put ball, Kaede’s face paled.
“Shot put ball?”
“We can worry about that later. Time’s running out, so we need to come up with a plan.” Rantaro cut in, steering the conversation in the right direction. “When I turned around after Keebo called out to me, I saw the door behind the bookcase close. Since Keebo was also here, I’m sure you understand what that means.” The detective probably wouldn’t take his word for it, but it was the best he could do for now.
Shuichi decided to check the door for himself. The bookcase concealing it had returned to its original spot, so he had to open it up again. He checked the card reader for something, and then looked back to Rantaro.
“The mastermind was already in there.” Shuichi concluded. “Meaning there has to be another entrance.”
“But... isn’t it possible that this person just got here sooner than Rantaro did?” Keebo inquired.
“No. The card reader still has the dust I placed, which means that no one has used it yet.” Shuichi explained. “Besides, Kaede and I were also keeping watch, and we never saw anyone aside from Kaito’s group... and you, of course. And then these cameras—“
“Ignore the robot; what’s this about another entrance!?” Tenko cut off Shuichi before he went into a long-winded explanation about his and Kaede’s plan. Keebo, on the other hand, muttered an apology before backing away from the group looking quite dejected.
Shuichi gave Keebo an apologetic look and continued. “Now that I think about it, it would be strange to only have one entrance to a secret room for when this happens. Anyone could easily prevent them from entering and leaving by standing... here...” His speech slowed as it became apparent he had an epiphany of sorts. “That’s it!”
“What? What!?” Kaede looked eager to hear what Shuichi had thought of, as did everyone else.
Shuichi turned to Rantaro. “Rantaro, can you and Keebo stay here?” Without waiting for a response, the detective turned to the other three. “I’ve got an idea. I’ll explain it on the way, but we need to get everyone now.”
Understanding the urgency, they nodded in unison, and the four of them left the library.
Rantaro had a feeling he knew what Shuichi’s plan was. Perhaps he should have been more trusting after all, considering how he almost got killed working by himself. He let out a frustrated sigh. Some good that Survivor’s Perk was. He was probably being played from the start.
“Is something the matter, Rantaro?” Suddenly, Keebo was standing next to him with a concerned look on his face.
He was just trying to look out for him, most likely, but Keebo’s inability to read the air only served to make Rantaro more frustrated right now. “Well, I almost died, for one thing.” That was a lie. While he did almost get killed, he was feeling oddly apathetic about it, almost as though it was a normal occurrence. Well, being the target of assassinations was pretty normal for him, so that might explain it.
The blunt response surprised Keebo. “R-right, that would be something to be bothered about. I just thought I detected an emotion that I thought wouldn’t normally be present in a scenario like this...” He pressed his fingers together, face turning slightly red. “It appears I was mistaken. My apologies, that was a pointless line of questioning.”
So he could hear the frustration in Rantaro’s sigh? That was rather impressive for a robot. “No, no, I should be the one apologizing. You saved my life, after all.”
Keebo blinked. “I did?”
“Well, yeah. Whoever was hiding behind that bookshelf couldn’t come out because then you’d be a witness.” Rantaro smiles warmly. “I should be thanking you. So... thanks, Keebo.”
The robot stared blankly for a moment, probably not realizing it for himself. Then, as if a switch had been flipped, Keebo suddenly took a proud stance, placing his hands on his hips. “You are most welcome, Rantaro! I’m glad I could be of some use! And I didn’t even need to use my talent!” He was grinning from ear to ear (or whatever those things were), so Rantaro couldn’t help but feel a bit happy himself. “Please don’t hesitate to call on me again if you ever need my assistance!”
Rantaro chuckled. “Haha, sure thing.”
He could never help but feel sorry for the poor guy. Keebo hadn’t been treated very well from the start due to his rather lackluster functions. This sudden display of pride was probably to boost his own self-esteem.
How did Rantaro know? Well, he wasn’t unfamiliar with the tactic. His younger siblings would do something similar all the time for various reasons. They would act as though they did something on purpose so they would look more reliable or smart or the like.
He wondered if he’d ever see them again.
...No, he would. He would never give up. Never. That was why he had to get out of this forsaken academy.
That was why he couldn’t just wait for time to run out. But...
“Umm... Rantaro?” Keebo’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts. “Is there... umm...” However, the robot’s voice trailed off. Judging by his now timid disposition (he sure did have a lot of mood swings for a robot), Rantaro had to guess he had another question, most likely about the face he was making right now.
Another sigh from Rantaro. Working alone didn’t seem to do him any good, so maybe it would be okay to confide in someone else. But, still...
Tell this only to people you can trust.
He barely knew anyone here. How could he possibly trust them, especially when one of them tried to kill him? He couldn’t even trust “himself!” How irritating...
They were humans, though. Maybe he couldn’t trust a human, but a robot...
Rantaro looked at Keebo, who was still anxiously awaiting a response. “Hey, Keebo. Are you familiar with the Laws of Robotics?” It was probably better to phrase the question that way so he wouldn’t offend the robot for being presumptuous.
Said robot perked up, seemingly glad that Rantaro decided to confide in him. “Yes, of course! They are essential for all robots to know, after all!” He smiled... until he realized the subtext behind that question. “Are you... worried that I might try to harm you? I assure you, I would never break such important laws! My AI is programmed to abide by them!”
“Good to know.” Yes, Keebo was probably the most trustworthy student out of all of them. Oh, but... “How good are you at keeping secrets?”
Keebo tensed up, his confidence fading. “S-secrets? Well, umm...” Judging by his hesitation, he wanted to say yes so he could potentially be relied on. “I suppose I could partition information that is meant to be kept private. If I label them properly, then I will know that they should not be shared so freely. I would feel bad about omitting, since that is technically a form of lying, but if that is how I can earn your trust...”
Hmm... That was probably the best answer he was going to get out of Keebo. He was reluctant, but still willing. That was actually pretty admirable. Rantaro felt bad for putting the robot in such an uncomfortable position for his own sake.
He sighed. “Alright. I guess I can try trusting you... if we survive.” He said, casually reminding Keebo that they were going to die in about thirty minutes.
“I suppose that is fair.” Keebo conceded. “But what should we do in the meantime? We were instructed to wait here.”
“That’s true...” He looked around the room. Now that he knew Shuichi and Kaede had something set up in this room, it was probably worth checking everything out. “Why don’t we try investigating?”
Keebo looked confused for a second before understanding what Rantaro was getting at. “Oh, I see! Someone had set up a trap for you, so maybe we can figure out who this mastermind is if we investigate!”
The mastermind, huh? “Are you sure we can assume that the mastermind is the person who set up this trap?”
“Huh? Who else would try to kill you?” Keebo was surprisingly naive, wasn’t he? How to explain this...
“You gotta try thinking outside the box, Keebo. Here, look.” Rantaro walked over to the bookcase with the camera. “This camera was obviously placed here to take pictures in secret... but the flash setting is on. Don’t you find that strange?”
“Hmm... yes, now that you mention it... Ah!” Keebo looked at the shot put ball, and then at the top of the bookcase. “Perhaps... whoever set it up was trying to use the flash to lure you into the shot put ball’s path!
“Well, it’s certainly possible that the one who set up the camera and the one who tried to kill me are the same person.” Rantaro nodded. “They would have to know about the camera in the first place. And if I’m right, those two...” He trailed off. Shuichi and Kaede probably set them up. Just shortly after the camera went off, those two appeared with Kaito and Tenko. Of the four, those two seemed to know more about what was going on. That, and Rantaro doubted Kaito and Tenko would’ve been able to set something like this up. No offense to them, of course.
“‘Those two?’” Keebo parroted, tilting his head.
“Kaede and Shuichi.”
The robot recoiled. “K-Kaede and Shuichi!? Are you suggesting one of them tried to kill you!?” He looked ready to deny it, but apparently thought better of it. “...Though it is difficult to believe they would do something like this, especially when Kaede’s been trying so hard to keep us together, it would make sense. They never told anyone what they were planning. They just said they were going to find a way to end this. Logically, they could still be capable of pulling it off.
“Not only that, but I believe Shuichi said something about a sensor earlier. If I may be so presumptuous, it might be related to the camera. Perhaps when the sensor went off, one of them... oh.” Keebo frowned. “Where was the shot put ball? It would have to be moving with enough momentum to fatally wound you from the top of the bookcase.”
“That’s also a good point.” Rantaro folded his arms. It fell from the top of the bookcase, so...
Rantaro took a few steps back to get a better look and noticed something odd. It wasn’t just that bookcase, but all the other ones along the wall had a bunch of books stacked on top as well. They seemed to form a ramp leading from one end to the other. Or, more specifically, from that vent to where Rantaro was standing before.
“So that’s how it is...” He muttered to himself, though with the music blaring, he could barely hear himself.
But, ultimately, the trap failed. The shot put ball fell next to him. Considering the timing, Keebo didn’t have anything to do with the shot put ball missing him. But at the very least, his presence prevented anyone else from killing Rantaro.
Maybe he should let the culprit know their trap wouldn’t have killed him. They were probably aiming for the mastermind, after all. Rantaro just got in the way.
...If he hadn’t gone to the library, would the mastermind have done so? Could the killing game have been ended if he didn’t try to do anything? Was that the purpose of the Survivor’s Perk? If so, the mastermind was truly a crafty bastard.
No longer feeling any desire to investigate, Rantaro sat down in one of the chairs. The wrong way, of course, resting his head on his arms, which were resting on the back of the chair. Keebo looked very confused by this action. He probably didn’t understand why someone would sit like that. Surprisingly enough, he didn’t question it. Instead, he sat in another chair. The right way, of course.
“I just convinced Ryoma not to sacrifice himself, and then this happens.” Rantaro chuckled bitterly. What a cruel joke. The mastermind probably had this planned all along.
“Umm... is that directed at me, or are you talking to yourself?” Keebo asked. Rantaro couldn’t see his face, but he assumed Keebo looked like he wanted to encourage him.
Deciding not to answer the robot’s question, he continued. “If we want to be sure that we’ll survive, someone has to be murdered. I thought I’d be able to find another way, but that turned out to be a bust. And there’s not enough time to search for that second entrance.” He turned to Keebo with a melancholic smile. “I’m pretty useless, aren’t I?”
“No!” Keebo shouted, surprising both of them. “You were at least trying to help! And since you’re a human, your options were limited.” Rantaro decided not to take that as an insult. “But... I could be doing something. I could have done something from the start...
“If I let myself be modified, I could go get help, or even get everyone out of here myself. But if I do something like that, I will feel even less like a human.” He paused briefly. “That’s pretty selfish, though, isn’t it?”
Rantaro was starting to really feel sorry for this guy. It seems Kokichi had been putting pressure on him for kicks. Keebo just wanted to be seen as an equal, right? That wasn’t too much to ask for, was it? Keebo was a pretty sensitive robot, so he must have been taking the insults especially hard. And here he was, still trying to encourage Rantaro.
Rantaro mentally kicked himself. Even a robot like Keebo was a better person than he was... even if that personhood was debatable due to his artificial nature.
He nodded at Keebo’s question. “Yeah. Pretty selfish.” Keebo winced. “But even if you let yourself be modified, you’d have to deal with Monokuma and the Exisals.”
“Oh, that’s right. My body isn’t that strong, so I don’t think I would even be able to withstand many attacks.” Keebo shuddered.
“You don’t have to change yourself if you don’t want to.” Rantaro said. “You know Kokichi just says that stuff to irritate you, right?”
“I am aware of that, but still... if I don’t stick up for robots, things will never change!”
“Maybe you should just focus on surviving while we’re in here. There’s only sixteen of us, after all.”
“I suppose you are correct.” Keebo sighed. “I’m a little jealous of you, Rantaro.”
Rantaro’s eyes widened and he shook his head. “There’s no reason to be jealous of me.”
“That’s not true!” Once again, Keebo was being more assertive than he usually was. “You’re always so calm and levelheaded, and you never seem to be bothered by people like Kokichi. I find that admirable. It’s important to keep a clear head in times like these.” He gave Rantaro a small smile. “I feel like I could learn a lot from you. I wouldn’t mind having you as a teacher.”
Aw, how sweet. Rantaro felt his cheeks heat up a little. There was no way he could shoot down a compliment like that. “I’m flattered that you think that, Keebo.” Actually, now that he mentioned it... “You know, maybe I could teach you a couple things when it comes to humans. Then people won’t be able to make fun of you for not being able to read the air.” If he had to be honest, they would probably make fun of him for other reasons... but Rantaro wasn’t going to mention that.
All of a sudden, Rantaro’s personal space was being severely invaded by a starry-eyed Keebo. “Really!? You’d really do that for me, Rantaro!?” He didn’t even let Rantaro open his mouth before continuing. “Thank you! Thank you so much! How can I ever repay you!?”
Ahaha... looks like there’s no turning back now. If he declined now, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle a heartbroken robot.
Still, this wasn’t so bad. It was like Rantaro gained a new little brother. And it might do them both some good to distract themselves from the dire circumstances they were currently in.
Wait, that’s right! He nearly forgot about the time limit! They might not even live long enough to...
The music had already stopped.