"I don't see the point of all this." Charoite stood from her seat at the table they'd all gathered around, one hand propping up her chin and the other on her hip. "I understand what it's like to play your cards right, know when to fold 'em and all, but this seems... Like a waste of time."
"Yeah!" Mary soon followed suit, jumping out of her seat and trying (but failing) to imitate Charoite's stance. "A true friend stabs you in the front! Why don't we just get it over with? It'll be much faster, and then we'll all have what we want!"
"I understand your impatience, I truly do." The Lady of Gold (or Ichor, if you don't have much time), sitting at the head of the table, didn't rise, instead leaning over the table to look around at everyone. "We've already had to shut down multiple"--she gave a harsh glare in Monaca's direction, not even wanting to acknowledge the crises it had fallen on her to fix--"failed attempts, and each time we fail only sets us back further. If we want to actually succeed, we have to bide our time. Make it so they drop their guard."
"Um, excuse me, but I don't really get what we're even trying to do?"
"Weiss, you can't just zone out because you're young. If you actually were confused, I apologize. What we're trying to do depends. Really, it hinges on whether or not we have a new target. You know the main objective, don't you?"
"Get her to acknowledge that we exist and not just force us back down like always, I know." Weiss frowned, crossing her arms over the table and resting her head in them.
"Correct. We can resort to violent means if necessary, but most of us would prefer not to." Looking away for barely even a second, Ichor simply let out a sigh when the corkboard had been reassembled. "Mary, Eve, Guertena. I know your plans, and I know that you sometimes have control, but most of us don't have that luxury. Let us plan things out properly before we dig ourselves into a ridiculous hole of conspiracy."
"Kay, yeah, this is fun 'n all, but ain't we supposed to hate Ms. Factory Original?" Now, Monaca stepped to the plate, cords still wrapped around her neck from... unfortunate incidents. "Why're we 'defending her honor'? Like, I get it's about M-G-K, but still."
"Anyway. Monaca. I'd advise you don't question this. We try to avoid the, uh, M-word for a reason, and you especially don't question it when it comes to-"
"How dare you!" Even before Charoite could finish her sentence, Eve had already thrown herself out of her chair, knocking it back against the wall in the process. With fists already balled, she flung herself on the table, uncaring about everything resting on top of it until she had landed right on top of Monaca and pinned her to the ground. "That disgrace is the reason that 'Ronpa is hurt, she almost killed Ronnie! How can you act like we should be focusing our efforts on being a jerk to Ib when she is out there and she could be hurting the people we care about in the process!"
"Hey, hey-" Kunzite stood, rushing to the pair and at least trying to pull them apart. She may not know what exactly happened in their version of events, but violence... please, not between the same person. (Although they really weren't, actually.) "If we're going to get anything done, you two have to-"
They immediately ceased their fighting at the sound of one word, scrambling off each other until they were standing up with guilty looks on their faces. Eve held her hands behind her back and stared at her shoes while Monaca had her arms crossed and was looking around the room to avoid anyone's gaze.
"Look." Ichor stood, narrowing her eyes. "Eve, I understand how upsetting this topic is for you. I respect your anger and how you've grown to, or perhaps always did, care for Dangan and Ronnie. But to start a fight like that is unacceptable. Are we clear?"
"And Monaca. Don't think I'll look kindly on this transgression either. You know how much of a sore subject that name is, and you are not allowed to bait people into fights. You are both responsible for this; just because Eve threw the first punch does not mean you are free of blame. Are we clear?"
Ichor stalked over to the side of the table where Monaca stood, grabbing her chin with one hand and forcing her to look up. "I said. Are. We. Clear?"
The golden energy crackling in the air around her stunned the room into silence, her glare enough to turn them all to stone if she focused it on anyone other than Monaca. Still, though, Monaca gave no response.
"My apologies, it appears you did not hear me. Do I need to call in Izuru? You know I would. Now, where was I? Oh, right." Giving a small smile, she glanced around the table before focusing back, grabbing Monaca by the neck with her other hand.
"I said, Is. That. Clear?"
Sucking in a deep breath, Monaca nodded, and Ichor dropped her to the floor.
"Good. I'm glad we have that... problem taken care of." In the few seconds it took her to return to her seat, Mary and Weiss had already exchanged worried looks. "Speaking of Izuru, does anyone know where she is?"
"I think she's-"
"Right here." Guertena grabbed an arm sticking out under the table and hoisted Izuru up, shoving her over towards her chair. Didn't look like she was paying too much attention, though Monaca's state of affairs shook her back into reality real quick.
"Izuru. Nice of you to join us. I'd like to see you after the meeting."
"...Who are you again?"
"It's Ichor. You know, the leader. Well, it doesn't matter. Just don't leave until I tell you to." Scoffing, she rested her chin on one hand with her elbow against the table, the other arm flat. "Now. Do we have any actual important business to attend to? Or shall I adjourn this meeting for now?"
"I've got something." Standing from her place, Guertena put her hands against the table, examining every other person sitting 'round it. "I'd like to suggest that we focus on helping Ib rather than plotting against her." A few around the table gave confused looks, with Weiss instead seeming very happy at the suggestion and Ichor unfazed. "I understand this may sound odd, but think about it. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Our whole purpose here is to get her to acknowledge we exist, isn't it? I doubt she can deny that we're having a beneficial effect on her for very long. If we play our cards right, we'll have her like putty in our hands."
Now it was Ichor's turn to look surprised. The corners of her mouth pulled up into a smirk, the mask over her face reflecting to mirror it. "Very well, and duly noted." She began to mumble under her breath, and the room flickered, though only for a few moments, as she did so. "I believe that's everything, then. Guertena, thank you for your contribution. Everyone else, thank you for your cooperation. The meeting is adjourned. Izuru, stay here until our conversation is finished, but the rest of you are dismissed." Despite facing away from the door, she knew when Monaca was about to pass through it, and as she put a foot outside-
"Monaca? Expect to be called down to my office later today."
She simply slammed the door behind her in response, prompting a sigh from Ichor. "Wonderful. Anyway-" Of course. Izuru couldn't sit still for five seconds. "Izuru, get out of the closet. I don't care if it's dark in there 'like your soul'. I need to talk to you."
Izuru reluctantly obliged, taking a seat down by the far end of the table. "What do you need, anyway? I could be spending my time in the darkness of my room, where I belong."
"Cut that out. You're here because I need some information, and you're the only one who can provide it."
"Of course, what else am I good for?"
"Are you going to talk?"
"Yeah, yeah, I will. Monaca's childish. She never really got to have a proper 'transition'. She doesn't know how to handle, well, anything. So when she sees the Dangan out there, she's bitter. Bitter about the fact that yes, Dangan suffered, but as a result got to grow up, even as a tortured individual. What's out there is who Monaca could be, both good and bad. She never learned her lesson."
A small 'hm' from Ichor signaled the conversation to come to a close, gesturing back towards the door. "You're free to go. I would encourage, in fact, that you do so." Eyes closing, she could hear the door swing shut behind her, but didn't let it distract her from her work. While she could barely even make out the words from under her breath, the floor rearranged itself around her, and she grinned. This would go exactly as planned.
When she opened her eyes, her surroundings resembled a school locker room. While her own form hadn't changed too much--she still retained her height, the mask over her face, and faint, crackling glow around herself--she was wearing a school uniform, albeit a bloodstained one, and she had a backpack slung over her shoulder. She broadcast her voice into Monaca's room, hiding herself behind a row of lockers as she did so.
"Monaca? I told you to expect this. I'm simply proving my word correct. We have... much to discuss."
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tock. The analog clock on the wall continued, undeterred, even in the otherwise-silent room. Counting along the seconds, the minutes, until the door creaked open.
"I-" Monaca's voice clearly cracking, it echoed through the room, much like the ticking of the clock. "Ichor, you wanted to talk to me?"
"Yes." She stepped out from her not-so-secret hiding spot, walking around to the front of the room to block the door while never taking her wordless gaze away. "I've called you here to talk about your current... behavioral issues. Now, we both know-"
She reached out to grasp Monaca's arm, twisting it in her grip. "You will look at me when I'm speaking, my 'friend'."
"That's better. As I was saying, we both know that your recent efforts have not been satisfactory. Your plans fail miserably every time, and you seem to enjoy nothing more than baiting others into a fight. There is no use for violence between us, and you are always the instigator of these little disputes. It will not be tolerated anymore."
"Then what's with the get-up, and with this place? If you wanted to tell me I'm doin' an awful job, you coulda done it in front of everyone!"
"No, I don't think you get the point." Examining her nails (all filed sharp into points), Ichor kept one eye on Monaca, having expected she'd react this way. "We're also here to talk about your personal shortcomings. Don't think I haven't noticed. You aren't prepared for what the real world has to offer you. You aren't ready for the responsibility. You don't know how to function with it. Every time you look outside and see your wonderful, dare I say, 'counterpart', you're reminded of how she has what you don't. She's suffered. She's suffered, and with it grown. Now she has a daughter and wife, both of whom adore her. What do you have?"
"Shut up! I'm not going to listen to you!"
Ichor's eyes snapped open, the energy in the air around her crackling more violently to the point where the hair on the back of Monaca's neck stood up, and yet she shivered. "Don't you ever say that to me. I am the reason we are all here! I could do anything. Anything to you, and we would be the only ones who knew. You are more childish than Weiss, a literal child, because at least she can admit when she's out of her depth. I did not bring you all here, to help you achieve your goals, to be insulted!" A hand reaching for her mask, she ripped it off, revealing blood-red and black irides with lightning striking in black eye's pupil, a purple rose covered in thorns protruding from the red, teeth filed down to points- and yet, when she shut her mouth and eyes, she looked perfect.
"You never got to learn anything. You never got to be anything. I know what it is like to be thrust into a scenario you are in no means ready for, but that does not excuse the fact that whenever you see what could have been you, but wasn't, you resort straight to your bitter nature. It will not be tolerated. Get with the program, Monaca. Either you learn how to be a decent person or you leave. The choice is yours."
Without another word, Monaca bolted for the door, only to be stopped in her tracks with a hand to her throat.
"You never speak of what you saw, of me. Are. We. Clear?"
"Y- yes, ma'am."
"Good. You are... free to go." Stepping aside, she trailed Monaca's figure as she ran for the hills, to the safety of her own 'room'.
Gingerly, she secured the mask over her face, sliding down to the floor while she brought the room back to its original state from only an hour before. "I just want to help us, but I suppose you do not realize this. Why don't you understand...?"
"It's because I care."