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Danganronpa 413: Hopestuck

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The first thing you notice when you wake up is that you are hunched over an unfamiliar desk. It certainly isn’t your recuperacoon, where you should be sleeping if you kept any kind of healthy sleep schedule. How did you even manage to sleep in...wherever this is? Glancing around you seem to be in one of those strange human schoolfeed blocks.

Your name is Karkat Vantas and you have no idea how the fuck you got here. Rows of these shitty desks and chairs take up most of the space, but you seem to be alone. Which is even more bizarre from what you know of these human “schools”, usually they are filled with the noisy aliens. Then again, your memory is so scrambled at the moment that trying to recall anything is causing your thinkpan to ache.

You try not to think about how you have no idea what's going on or how much danger this probably means you're in, because panicking like a pathetic wiggler would ensure an embarrassing death worthy of your joke of a life. Instead you resolve to get up and at least look around this room. As you stand, a clattering of something hitting the floor startles you. You definitely do not let out an undignified squeak that you would vehemently deny if anyone were around to hear.

Recovering quickly, because there are no enemies and you really need to not be so panicky, you notice the cause of the sound. A tablet you had spectacularly failed to notice lies on the floor, it must have been under your arms or wedged in your seat. Gog you aren’t good at this. You need to get out of here and back to the relative safety of your hive. Where the fuck are you?

It takes you a moment of fiddling around before you figure out how to turn the tablet on. You are greeted by a bizarre welcome screen with the words “Student Handbook”. After a short delay a message appears, one that leaves you even more confused about your current predicament.

“Welcome to Hope’s Peak Academy!

Today starts your exciting, heart-pounding, high school career! Here at Hope’s Peak Academy we gather only the most talented of students: The Ultimates. Each and every one of the 20 members of your class are Ultimates, top elites in various subjects, that have been brought here to hone their abilities. You will learn more about the Academy during your time here.

This tablet is your Student Handbook. It will be a vital asset in your time here at Hope’s Peak so don’t lose it! There are already a few special features to help you out and more will be added later. What will they be? You'll have to wait and find out! Can't ruin the surprise~

The opening ceremony will begin shortly in the gym; you should make your way there using the Map feature if you're lost. Be sure to introduce yourself to your classmates on the way. There's no need to rush and this is the perfect opportunity to make new friends~”

You decide that following these instructions would be the most pan numbingly stupid idea you could have and instead look for any other exit besides the door. Finding that it is, in fact, the only exit you contemplate curling into a ball and awaiting whatever end to your life this place has in store. Deciding that that is actually the worst idea you've ever had and past Karkat is a moron for ever thinking it, you resign yourself to discovering whatever steaming pile of hoofbeast shit awaits in this “academy”.

Vulnerable without a weapon, you instinctively hunch into yourself as you open the door. The first thing you notice when you cautiously peer into the hall is how run down the place looks. Dust clings to every surface and every window is covered up by a thick sheet of metal. A million questions buzz through your sponge.

Is this place abandoned? Why were you brought here if it was? Where is the exit? Is there an exit? Could the metal be ripped from the windows? They look heavily reinforced but maybe-

You are interrupted by a loud shriek and then, thankfully before you have the time to make whatever embarrassing noise was about to leave your shouthole, you feel the wind get knocked out of you as your face makes a new friend with the ground. The weight of whatever pan shittingly stupid asshole tackled you sits on your back, effectively pinning you in place.

“Nepeta sits triumphantly atop her purrey. None are safe from this purredator, but this catch looks especially interesting. She studies his nubby little horns and mews out a greeting,” the culprit says. You take a few moments to gape at the astounding stupidity of a life that has led you to be taken down by a roleplayer of all things, before you manage to unleash the beginnings of what will undoubtedly be only the first of many tirades this day.

“Why the actual fuck did you tackle me? I mean besides whatever panshittingly stupid scenario you have concocted that makes pouncing like an overexcited wiggler onto the first moving thing you see a legitimate greeting,” you attempt to squirm free from your assaulter. The struggle only serves to fuel your rage. “You could at least have the fucking decency to get the fuck off me before descending into a detailed description of your every action, as if we were in a chatroom instead of right fucking here where I have two working ganderbulbs perfectly capable of watching this stupidity as it unfolds. I don't need paragraphs of exposition before you get to the fucking point of this miserable social interaction.”

“Nepeta apawlogizes and stands up, letting her adorable shouty purrey free,” she narrates as she releases you. You quickly scramble back to your feet as she continues. “She just wanted to make a fun impurression on her new clawsmate! My name is Nepeta Leijon, she says, and I am the Ultimate Roleplayer!”

“Fan-fucking-tastic,” you say, rolling your eyes. “I'm Karkat Vantas and I have no idea what all that “Ultimate” nonsense is about or what no doubt fucking pan blowing in it’s mediocrity my role is supposed to be.”

“Hmmm Nepeta is unsure what Karkat means. She remembers the handbook telling her but she thinks maybe not evfurryone was told?”

“Of course! If nothing else in this shitty excuse for a universe makes sense it’s that Karkat Vantas is the butt of every fucking joke in life. Come laugh at the saddest sack of organs and excrement that existence has to offer!”

“It’s okay that you don't know, she says with a big smile. Nepeta hopes we can be furrends but she needs to hunt down her moirail befur the opening ceremeowny. With a farewell she stalks away, wishing Karkat luck in meeting all our clawsmates!” She does as she said, leaving you blissfully alone again. At least it’s blissful for the few seconds it takes before your overactive aggravation sponge resumes its nearly forgotten panic.

In a rare moment of forethought you find the map before stomping off in a random direction, ignoring the other icons on the tablet. You have doubts about how “useful” this stupid plastic rectangle is going to be. The other features are no doubt designed to infuriate and confuse you, so you leave investigating them to future Karkat.

Everything in this oversized schoolhive uses human terms, because of course it does, so it takes you longer than you would have liked to figure out what everything is. Thankfully you count enough respiteblocks for each of the sorry assholes that have the wonderful fortune to be trapped wherever the fuck you are. There’s also a large mealblock so you can strike starvation off the long list of likely deaths. Assuming this shithole is actually stocked with food...better leave it as a possibility.

Locating the “gym” on the map isn't difficult. It’s one of the larger blocks. You recall they are some combination of rumpusblock and sports arena, because humans can’t do anything the sensible way with their compulsive need to complicate things.

The last thing you want is to wait for the next insufferable nooksniffer that wants to drag you into new levels of terrible conversation. With that fresh in pan you make your way towards the gym. Unfortunately you aren’t close enough to escape bumping into more assholes along the way.

And assholes seemed the appropriate descriptor for the pair before you. One was a human, wearing douchey sunglasses, the other a pretentious seadweller in a ridiculous cape. The latter looked to be hounding the former and you quickened your pace to avoid getting dragged into whatever was occurring. Or you tried to anyway.

“You’re a troll,” the seadweller started, turning his attention to you. “Tell this human how grateful he should be that one as high on the hemospectrum as I am has taken notice to a pathetic bein’ like him. He should be jumpin’ at the chance to get to know someone as great as Eridan Ampora!”

You groan and bring your prongs to your face.

“I was tryin’ to tell Halibut Potter- Wait, shit, that was bad. Draco Malkoi? Sure. Anyway. I was tryin’ to tell The Prissiest Mermaid that I don't give a rat’s ass about all the troll rainbow blood shit. What do you even want dude? Just feels like some ass backwards flirting, and while I understand the allure of this fine piece of Strider-”

“OH MY FUCKING GOG!” You interrupt the human’s rambling. “I can not- I refuse to be dragged into this pathetic douche off! If you want to become intimate with your own strut pods via your incessant noise holes that’s your own fucking prerogative! But I want nothing to do with whatever idiotic shitmess this is supposed to be.”

“Well if you would just-” Eridan starts.

“No. No no no no no. If you would just unclog your listen sponge and notice that your desperate, narcissistic, attempt to get attention is nothing short of fucking futile you wouldn't need to drag random trolls into your business! As if I have nothing better to do than to get you out of this gaping hole you seem so intent on digging for yourself!”

“Ha ha. Holy shit that was beautiful bro. I am literally crying at the majesty of that shitfit,” the human (Strider?) was not, in fact, actually crying or showing any emotion really. He retained a frustratingly neutral expression. The laugh wasn’t even genuine, more like he just said the word “Ha” twice.

“And you,” You point a claw at him. “I don't even have any words to describe the vapid nonsense that dribbled out of your lips in the most terminal case of word diarrhea known to human and troll alike.”

“Oh man, if that was terminal I'm doomed. That was nothing my dude. Doesn’t even begin to represent a trademarked and copywritten genuine Dave Strider word vomit. Start marking your calendars for the quickly approaching funeral.” It didn't seem like Strider had any ability to shut up.

“Well I can tell when I'm not wanted.” Eridan was sulking now, clutching at his scarf and curling into himself. “That's okay. Plenty a other fish in the sea with better taste that can appreciate nobility.”

You sincerely doubt he could actually tell when he isn’t wanted, but he seems to have gotten the glaringly obvious hint now. He walked off towards the gym, leaving you with two equally shit options: Leave for the gym now and risk more Eridan exposure or stay and continue the torturous process of talking to Dave Strider.

The second option was more likely to require less time spent in douche proximity.

“So what's your deal? Is there some kind of ultimate talent for being the best at shouting competitions? Gotta get to know the knight in shining rage that saved my sweetass from the clutches of Fishface McFuckboy,” Dave said, refusing to let a moment go without filling it with meaningless noise. “I'm Dave Strider by the way, I think I said my name already, Ultimate Coolkid. Come here for all the sick beats, rad comics, and ironic jokes you could ever need or want.”

“Ultimate Coolkid?” You asked. “First a roleplayer, then a coolkid. What was that other guy? Ultimate Pretentious Dick? What kind of stupid place is this?”

“I think he said he was the Ultimate Sharpshooter, but I honestly tuned out most of what he was saying. Soon as all the blood racism started I clocked right the fuck out. Can't listen to all that troll shit, gotta get home to the wife and two point five kids, sit down and watch some sports and complain about the news.”

“What the actual fuck are you talking about?”

“Have you never seen a sitcom? Husband works a job he hates and goes home to ignore his wife because marriage is a prison or some shit. Nuclear families and canned laughter. Humans eat that shit up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

“Human media and romance doesn’t make any sense.” You throw up your hands in disgust. “Why act like something is flushed when it so obviously isn’t. At least go all the way into making it a good blackrom!”

“Dude I don't think even humans know why we do what we do. But troll romance foursquare doesn’t make any more sense to me,” he shrugs and then seems to remember his original topic. “But anyway you didn’t tell me your deal dude. At least give me a name or I'm gonna have to invent increasingly humiliating nicknames. I might just do that anyway.”

“No. Do not, under any circumstances, do that. My name is Karkat Vantas, happy?”

“Oh man Karkitty that name’s got so much potential.” He makes you immediately regret not taking your chances with Eridan.

“This is the worst conversation. You are the worst living thing I've interacted with in my miserable life. The screeching of my lusus was like a thousand singing flapbeasts compared to the deadpan drone leaving your windchute. I think for once I'll make the smart decision to save myself further frustration and head to the “gym”.” You do just that, but things couldn't be that easy.

“Aw Kitkat I'm flattered. I should probably get to the gym too. Get pumped on all the sports. Show more peeps the Strider charm.” He was following you. God damn it. “Figure out the mystery plaguing the Scooby gang in this episode. Scooby Doo and the Mystery of the Creepy Hope School.”

He seemed perfectly content to devolve into muttering to himself. It was still annoying, maybe even more so since you could only just barely make out words, but at least you aren't expected to respond to the inane babbling. The walk wasn’t long, the gym having been closer than you thought, and upon arrival Dave immediately fell silent.

“Oh em gee!” A voice pierced the colorful crowd of humans and trolls, followed by its owner bounding toward you. Her short blonde hair bobbed as she walked, her bright pink eyes shining with excitement. “You’re totes the cutest troll I've ever seen! Cute nubby lil’ horns and grumpy scowl. Oh geez I'm just ramblin’ away huh? ‘m Roxy!”

“He’s Katki-”

Karkat,” You cut off Dave before he finishes the nickname.

Roxy peers around you at Dave. “Oh holy shit you look like Di-Stri!”

“Wait wha-” Dave is cut off again, this time by Nepeta bounding through the door. A muscular troll follows behind her, toweling sweat off his face.

“And we’re here nyaow! Nepeta told Equius they wouldn't be late,” she said as she pulled him forward. “Spotting her mew furrend she waves hi to Karkat and informs him she successfully hunted down her moirail.”

“Nepeta it is rude to interrupt even if they are just low ranking rabble,” Equius reprimands her.

“Nah dude s’okay. Was just introducin’ myself. And while I am mad important we gotta hope this show gets on the road cuz I hells a want to learn all about what’s goin’ on,” Roxy said.

“Upupupupu! Well you’re in luck!” Everyone’s attention turned to the stage in the front of the room. A small black and white beast, like a human stuffed bear toy, jumped onto the podium. You assume there’s some kind of hidden door on the stage.

“Hello everyone! Monokuma here to welcome you to Hope’s Peak Academy! Are you all well? Ready to get this opening ceremony on the way?” The bear paused as if waiting for a response. Most of the room sat in confused silence; some quietly murmured to each other.

“Good, good!” Monokuma continued. “Now first I should explain what you’re all doing here…”

“Damn right,” you heard someone call out.

Monokuma ignores that outburst and continues. “You Ultimates are so full of the world’s hope! To protect that hope you will all continue to live out the rest of your lives here, in this academy.”

What?

“All will be provided for you and you'll live in peace and harmony as long as you abide by school rules. Wouldn't want to cause trouble~” Monokuma winked. This whole situation was getting weirder and more unsettling by the second. He was way too cheery. Why were they being told to stay here?

“Um...Why, uh, why do we have to...stay here?” A timid voice calls out, followed by several other shouts of protest.

“Do you really want to leave? What could be better than a life spent not worrying about things like money and jobs? Just a life spent with friends, honing your talents, and being peaceful?”

“You can’t actually be serious about keeping us here. What of our old lives? We cannot be asked to give up family, friends, everything we’ve ever known to stay in some school we know nothing about.” You catch sight of this human. She looks a lot like Roxy.

“Upupupu,” Monokuma laughs. “You don’t have a choice anyway. There’s no way out and no contact going outside of the school.”

Your bloodpusher plummets into your digestive sac. The tension in the room skyrockets as everyone processes the new information. Evidence had pointed to how trapped you were, but hearing it confirmed was difficult.

“Oh but don't look so unbearably glum! As your wonderful headmaster I've created a special way for you to graduate!”

“Oh really? Well hurry the fuck up and teeeeeeeell us!” Someone else calls out.

“It’s quite delightfully simple~ All you have to do is murder one of your classmates and you get to leave!”

The tension reaches previously untold levels as the crowd shifts further apart. Silence falls as everyone processes this new revelation. You knew it. You're going to die here.

“Wh-what? That can’t be true! Ha ha ha good joke! But really how do we actually graduate?” You register the voice as human but you aren’t even looking at the group anymore. Your vision feels unfocused and the voices are mixing into a dull buzz.

“Awww you don't trust your adorable headmaster? Upupu. Why would I lie? Doesn't it sound so exciting? Stabbing, flaying, crushing, burning, choking, so many ways to kill! It doesn’t matter how you do it you just gotta do it!”

You feel sick. There are so many trolls here and you’re just a weak mutant, a perfect target. Fuck fuck fuck. You need to get out, but where would you even go?

“So what, you just expecting us to kick off some Battle Royale killing spree? Don't we get supplies and weapons or are we supposed to punch each other an’ shit?” Someone was speaking. Who was it? Processing the words was hard enough, let alone figuring out who it came from.

“You're all Ultimates, creativity shouldn't be a problem~ But we can't just have you descend into chaos and all slaughter each other. A bloodbath could be exciting but a reward like graduation requires you to use your brain!”

“Quit being so fucking cryptic and tell us what we need to know before I make you the first victim!” Oh god whoever that is she doesn't sound scared, far too willing.

“Ahhh! No! Don't attack your headmaster! You wouldn't want to break the rules~ Then you’d have to be punished~ Besides destroying this body wouldn’t do any good. I have loads of back ups.”

How does this keep managing to get worse? You can't breathe. Are you still breathing?

“But I suppose I should explain some of the rules. You can’t just simply kill willy nilly, you have to avoid getting caught too. After a murder there will be a class trial and if the culprit is found out they get punished! But if they aren’t found out they get to go free while everyone else is punished instead!”

“Does punishment mean what I think it means?” Another new voice. There are too many, you can’t even begin to tell where it came from right now.

“Upupupupu!” Monokuma is laughing again. You hate this sound. “The only punishment is execution of course!”

And there it is. Even if you're not the one murdered you're still going to die.

“Well I think that’s all for opening ceremonies! Your Student Handbooks have been helpfully updated with all the school rules, all in easy access so no complaints if you break any~ Enjoy your heart pounding school life!” He disappeared as quickly as he'd appeared, leaving an unsettled silence hanging in the gym.

“Well that was horseshit,” one of the voices broke through. You think he had spoken earlier too.

“Indeed. We should discuss a strategy to investigate our options. See if there really is no exit or if the bear lied.” That was...the Roxy lookalike. The knowledge that some of the others in the room aren’t immediately filled with homicidal urges calms you just enough to get your regular breathing back. Thankfully no one noticed you panicking, or are at least ignoring it and saving you from humiliation.

“We should split into groups so no one gets caught alone,” a troll wearing bright red glasses speaks up.

“I agree. Groups of at least three, so no one gets singled out or left without witnesses. We should reconvene in the cafeteria afterwards, share what we’ve found in our investigations.”

While you recover the human, who you learn is named Rose, and the troll, Terezi, split up the groups and divide up the locations on the map for each to search. There was some arguing about who didn’t want to go with who, and a troll in an eyepatch attempting to take control, but it otherwise went smoothly.

You end up assigned to stay and investigate the gym alongside Rose, Dave, and a troll named Kanaya. Rose seems sensible and Kanaya is strangely nice for a troll. That just leaves Dave as the only obnoxious element, so you suppose it could've been worse.