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October 12th 20XX

A storm brewed inside Hope’s Peak Academy, slowly but surely enveloping all within the academy’s walls…

No, that wasn’t quite correct. You can’t stop a natural disaster, after all. Hmm… a bomb might be the better analogy?  Yeah, let’s go with that. A time-bomb placed in plain sight for all to see, steadily counting down to the end.

What could be done about it? A number of things, but that depends on the sort of person you are.

I grouped people in two categories. Those with sight and the blind.

Not literally blind, but in the sense that seeing isn't the same as acceptance. Like the old men trying to obscure the bomb under a shroud of rumors. Others wished to ignore it outright and continue their daily lives. The slight differences aside, these fell into the blind group. That isn't to say ignorance was a crime. You wouldn’t serve jail time for it and there are some truths that are better left in the dark. Like, say you’re on a crash course for a disaster with no hope for escape. Wouldn’t everyone prefer peace of mind over worrying about what you couldn’t stop anyway?

What I’m saying...is that I won’t judge. I do admit to thinking differently though, because Ignorance was scary! Following the earlier example; even if survival was 0%, you could still do a whole lot with that info outside of surviving. As for what? That also depends on who you’re asking.

Oh, what would I do in that situation? I’d like to keep that to myself or else you might get the wrong idea about me.

What I can say is that I belong to the first category; those with sight…and well, if you acknowledged a bomb before your eyes, there’s typically three things to do:

Run.

Diffuse it.

Or…

Time's up. I'll save the last option for later.

Now to introduce who you could call one of the major contestants of this game, in a manner of speaking. That forgetful girl running for dear life.

 

---

 

*pants* *pants*

 “Finally got away…” An exhausted, auburn-haired girl leaned back against the wall, scanning the halls and fortunately catching no sign of her pursuer...in addition to ignoring the very odd stares the students who passed by gave her.

Bunch of snobs!

Today started off just fine before he showed up! That might not have meant much from someone with chronic amnesia, but common sense suggested that giant scary men shouldn’t be chasing her! “Too scary, too persistent! what’s that freakshow want from me?”

No no no no, it wouldn’t matter even then. Even if he had business with her, Ryoko didn’t want anything to do with him. She had enough problems with this “Junko Enoshima” broad who was totally on hercase.

Ryoko didn't know when, but Enoshima had sent her a letter, with claims of having reaped all of Ryoko's memories and was holding them hostage. Enoshima then orchestrated a meeting. It turned out to be a very one-sided conversation where the demented woman spouted nonsense about killing.

Beyond that, the amnesiac didn’t know a thing about Enoshima…besides the fact that the illusive woman was off her rocker...but the part about her memories couldn't be ignored. She needed to talk to Matsuda-kun (whoever he was. She’d remember after meeting him!) and figure out a plan of action

But that was increasingly difficult to do thanks to her chaser. Whatever his deal was, it had nothing to do with Ryoko Otonashi. That was her name, and the one of the two things she remembered. The other being Matsuda! Who needed finding, asap.

With that narrow-minded objective in mind, Ryoko bolted down the hallway, lead by the notebook containing her thoughts.

“Matsuda-kuuuun!” Ryoko stormed into what was assuredly the correct room, her attention drawn to its sole occupant prior to her arrival. He’d jumped a bit into the air, eyes widened in surprise. He panicked as the laptop in his possession nearly fell out of his grip.

Not very coordinated overall.

Hmm, she wasn’t getting a fuzzy feeling. He was short, taking his appearance into account. The image of Matsuda in her head wasn’t so…mousey. “Hey, are you really Matsuda-kun?” She asked.

“Mhm” He replied

“Speak up. Which ‘mhm’ is that?”

“Erm…I’m not him?” He said in this half high pitched half husky voice. “Matsuda-senpai is out right now…I think.”

He’s not here!? Where else could she look!?  “He has to be here! You’re not looking hard enough.” She whined gripping the boy by his shoulders.

“Uh, I don’t think searching around here will change anything. It’s not like there’s anywhere to hide…except the closet." He pointed to the closed cabinet. "…Matsuda-senpai doesn’t strike me as the hide and seek type.” He sounded familiar with the place…and he was technically right. “You don’t have to get so down about it. I’m sure he’ll show up in no time.”

He was awfully considerate, with that worried expression of his. “Suspiciously so.” She unintentionally blurted out, letting go of him.

“Suspicious?” He blinked

Might as well roll with it. “Yeah, it’s weird. You’re weird. Why care so much about someone you don’t know…unless.” He was interested in her for other reasons reason. “S-Stay back, pervert!” Ryoko distanced herself from the impure fiend.

“H-huh? You’ve got that wrong. I was just worried.” The boy raised his hands defensively, the chain of events occurring too fast.

Ryoko squinted her eyes. “No ulterior motives?”

He shook his head. “But um…could I ask you something?”

“Spit it out.” Ryoko said harshly. She wasn’t in a hurry since there was nowhere else to look and this was the only place she knew Matsuda would come to. Pressuring this guy was oddly fun. That’s the feeling she got from him.

“Did you, perhaps, forget me?”

....

“Am I supposed to know you?”

“I…think so." What an indecisive person. "There’s a rumor about a student who…has amnesia.”

“That’s me! I’m Ryoko Otonashi.”

“Oh, then, I’m Makoto Naegi. Did that jog your memory a little?” The boy said.

Ryoko skimmed through her notebook in search of his name…and she found it, in bold letters and underneath was a warning: “Danger. Omnivore man. Stay away.”

That meant…he was dangerous after all.

She closed the notebook, gazing at him with immense suspicion. “Okay, Naegi, if that is your real name!”

“It is.” He said with surety.

“Don’t interrupt me!” Ryoko yelled at him. “What are you doing here?”

“I…came to return this to Matsuda-senpai. He dropped it in the halls.” Naegi showed her a black e-handbook.

“What is it?”

“You…don’t have one? It’s the school handbook, our identification’s on here.” He was right. The screen showed Matsuda’s name and talent in full.

That was weirdly nice of him… “Show me your handbook.”

“Eh?” He was reluctant. Suspiciooooous.

“O-Okay, n-no need to glare at me.” He handed her one from his pocket.

Makoto Naegi, Ultimate Lucky Student – is what the book had written down.

“…You’re a luck magnet? What the heck?” Was that a talent?

“T-That’s the usual reaction. I…won a lottery ticket to get in the main course.” His speech pattern was way too timid. He’s a total herbivore!

She read more of the contents in the handbook. Nothing stuck out above the mundane. It was kind of a letdown.

“Your talent’s kind of a rip-off, but you sound like a nice guy, Naegi.” Yup her notebook’s way off. Maybe Enoshima tampered with it at some point. It’s not very reliable now.

 “Hey.” She heard Naegi’s squeamish voice  but didn’t pay it any mind. She had a more pressing dilemma.

“Hey….”

Not now. She was thinking. If she couldn’t trust this notebook then she was in big trouble.

“Hey!”

“What!?” Ryoko snapped…and froze when she was exactly why Naegi had been pestering her. He was presently in a very uncomfortable situation.  Someone else had entered the room during her ruminating. Long black hair, corpse-white skin, a snake-like disposition and unbelievably tall.

All of these traits were familiar to Ryoko. She’d just spent 30 minutes running away from him!

“Eeek”

“Do you know this guy?” Naegi shivered in place, rendered immobile by the giant’s (who stood behind him and leered over ominously) hands planted on his shoulders.

“Nope. Not even his name.” Ryoko said.

“Bastard…you’ve forgotten me already.” Their assailant snarled in this oddly dignified way.

“I forgot.” She admitted, sifting through her notebook “Who are you again?”

“…Isshiki Madarai.” He snarled…and wow, he pulled off that fodder goon aesthetic pretty well. The name struck a chord with the small high-school student who lifted his head to get a better look at his attacker.

“Madarai-san? Aren’t you part of the student council?”

‘What? This guy’s a student!?’

The man chuckled in self-derision. “The student council…I wonder myself. After all, I am still alive.”

Ryoko blinked. “What’s with that phrasing?”

“You should know better than anyone else.” He threw her a murderous gaze.

20 unproductive seconds later

“…Was that s’posed to be a cool line? It doesn’t really work when there’s actually a gap in communication. It just kind of leave things awkward until you explain.”

“Are you mocking me?”

“T-The student council…there’s a rumor that all of them were killed over Summer break. T-The culprit hasn’t been found, if the rumor’s true.” Naegi’s face paled in fear of the older man’s applying any more pressure in his vice-like grip.

Well it can’t be a rumor if Snakey’s trying to kill me! “That’s why? I haven’t killed anyone! And if you’re in the student council, shouldn’t you have seen the culprit?”

“I…was not present. My comrades were lured and slaughtered. Perhaps those criminals did not consider me a genuine member…and merely the bodyguard.” He scoffed. “ I, the Ultimate bodyguard…lost my chance to exercise my talent when it mattered most. Can you even understand the humiliation I feel? You’d better be able to relate!”

Naegi yelped at the intense pain from Madarai’s fingers digging into his flesh. They're both pretty sensitive.

“Hm. Yeah, that kind of sucks. But at least you’re alive?” She said, half-heartedly.

“Yes…and I will use this immortal life of mine to repay this humiliation 100-fold. But first, I must find them.”

Ryoko singled out a word that stuck out. “Immortal?”

Madarai’s eyes narrowed. “Have you forgotten what you did to me earlier?”

That went without saying at this point. Not quick on the uptake, this guy.

“You dumped a shelve on me in the shed out back. Then escaped.” He said.

Ryoko’s eyebrows raised. “H-How are you fine after that?”

“As I said, I’m immortal.”

“Can I interrupt?” The hostage said boldly. “What’s this about revenge?”

“We were attacked, I shall retaliate in kind. What else would act as my motive?” Madarai explained in a voice that made it seem like he was speaking to a dullard. Ryoko shared the sentiment, it was a stupid question, even if it had nothing to do with her.

“…The student council is gone. There’s nothing productive about revenge. Instead, you should be trying to rebuild the council.” Naegi said.

Madarai sighed. “Why are you guys making me repeat myself? I’m a bodyguard, that was the only reason I was chosen to be among the council, and that reason has been smeared by the perpetrator of their deaths.” His grip tightened. “And even if I wasn’t their protector, the council were my comrades and classmates. Why wouldn’t I avenge their suffering?”

“Revenge won’t correct your failure. It’s meaningless.” Naegi said, not backing down from the man who’d scared him to death moments earlier. "And...you could also just call the police. Seriously, does nobody ever think of that option?"

“Materialistically-speaking, you have a point. However, only personal revenge will preserve their dignity; that is the greatest gift the living can offer the dead.”

‘They’re fighting. This is my chance to run.’ Ryoko plotted, already twisting her body to run for the exit.

“Oy, you better not be thinking of escaping again, girl!” Madarai caught her.

Ryoko groaned. “Leave me out of this, I’m just an innocent bystander! The student council, killings, all that junk has nooooothing to do with me!”

“…So it’s come to this.” Madarai said strangely, then looked down at Naegi. “Boy, I don’t think I’ve heard your name.” He said in a friendly tone.

That was a red flag if Ryoko ever saw one.

“Um…I’m Makoto Naegi. A first-year.” Aaaand Naegi tripped it without hesitation.

“Well then, Naegi-kun. For what is about to happen, I am sorry.” Madarai’s snake like arms motioned upwards, shifting from the lucky student’s shoulders to clamping on his head from both sides.

“E-Eh?” Naegi squeaked, his face turning blue.

It was kind of funny, in Ryoko’s opinion. He had so many expressions!

“ Let us just say you have quite bad luck.” Madarai’s threat was obvious. Even a mule would realize that Naegi's head would pop like a balloon if Madarai didn't get what he was after. “Will you talk?” He posed the question to Ryoko.

“It has nothing to do with me.” Ryoko repeated.

“I will absolutely get my revenge, and I will do anything for it. Will you allow me to test my resolve on poor Naegi-kun here?” His voice oozed malice.

“It has nothing to do with me.”

“I-I think he’s serious.” Naegi was utterly terrified….and to be honest, so was she. All the more reason to bail and distance herself from any further involvement

“You…are really going to leave him? When he’s in this mess because of you? How heartless can you be?” Her decision to flee had only hardened Madarai’s negative opinion of her.

“It’s Naegi’s fault for being so unlucky. It has nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with me-…” She recited her mantra as if already mentally distancing herself from the chaos before her body had caught up.

Naegi and Madarai stared at her with bizarre expressions. The latter’s face settling into cold indifference first. “I see. Then witness the extent of my resolve.” He clasped at Naegi’s head, making the boy wince and with all his strength he-

“That’s enough!” A figure ran into the room, dashing towards Madarai. Before the bodyguard could respond, the intruder’s fist was already planted into his face. Madarai staggered back, covering his reddened nose with his hands.

Another blow came in the form of a roundhouse kick to the dome, and before you knew it, the pain in her butt was knocked flat out.

Naturally, this meant Naegi was free.

Meh

“Ikusaba-san.” Naegi beamed.

Ikusaba? Who was this? “Oh it’s a girl.” Ryoko noticed by the skirt. Ikusaba’s short hair, super flat chest and muscular arms made it hard to tell otherwise.

Naegi thanked the girl with fervor one would expect to give their savior. Ikusaba on the other hand returned the gesture with an embarrassed smile.

“I’m Mukuro Ikusaba. The Ultimate Soldier.” The freckled girl, who Ryoko had never met before, said.

“Ryoko Otonashi.” She replied. But soldier huh…you’d think Ikusaba would be a lot less…friendly. Stiffer. Well, not that she’d ever a person in the military to be sure. It’s just a feeling she had.

“What were you doing here, Ikusaba-san?” Naegi asked.

“I was passing by and heard all the noise.” Iksuaba gave a straight and direct answer.

How convenient. Was it Naegi’s luck?

The three engaged in an awkward and disconcerted conversation about what just happened, before another visitor appeared out of nowhere. This time almost literally. A small baby-faced boy, who looked like he belonged in elementary school was suddenly right next to her as if he’d teleported. Turns out his name was Yuuto Kamishiro, a student with no distinctive traits whatsoever; an attribute he weaponized into a talent.

He was The Ultimate Spy.

Apparently, he knew Ryoko from before, but she forgot about him too. He didn’t take it too harshly and was aware of her condition beforehand. With some protests from Naegi, Ryoko absconded with Kamishiro with the promise of reclaiming her normal life and leaving behind the mess with Madarai, which Naegi and Ikusaba would be left with clean-up duty.

All as well. It seemed Matsuda-kun wasn’t coming here anyway. If this guy was a spy, he might be able to lead her to him.

She stared back at Naegi just before leaving. There was something about that guy that seemed…off. Ryoko was predisposed to dissecting and analyzing her environment. Usually, she reminded herself that most of her surroundings were irrelevant and she should stop attending to them. Could it be that she was inquisitive by nature?

If so, it would explain why she was curious about this boy she’d never met before and most importantly, was not Matsuda-kun. Naegi was eerie. Her preconceptions was of an unreliable, meek boy, however, the look in his eyes had blown them away.

For a moment…a moment not even Madarai had noticed when the two argued…but Naegi had stopped being afraid. Instead he challenged Madarai’s ideals with a mysterious strength, a resolve that didn’t waver even when the bodyguard subconsciously applied more force to crush his shoulders.

Maybe he was kind of suspicious, after all.

 

-Makoto Naegi-

 

Naegi and Ikusaba were left to themselves. The latter girl who’d improved in the art of emotional expression staring anxiously in the direction of their new acquaintances.

“You should go after her. I’ll take care of things here.” Makoto said, surprising Ikusaba.

“Why? She looked fine to me.” Ikusaba replied.

“Otonashi-san has amnesia apparently and I’m not too comfortable leaving her with Kamishiro-kun. Um…I guess I’m a little worried.” And she was too.

“What will you do about him?” Ikusaba’s gaze fell on Madarai’s unconscious form.

“I’ll call security and explain. No need to worry about me.” His words that couldn’t be any more inappropriate. A potential victim asking to be left alone with their assailant.

Ikusaba looked like she was having an internal conflict between two equal and opposing decisions. “A-Alright, if you’re sure.” She settled on heeding his advice.

“I am.” He waved and showed Ikusaba a charming smile “Hurry before you lose them.”

Ikusaba (reluctantly) took off, leaving only two in the room.

Makoto’s warm smile thinned, as he placed one hand on his hip.

“Why do I have to be the one to say it if she’s that concerned in the first place?” Makoto chucked affectionately. If Mukuro wanted to protect her sister, she should go for it. He won’t stop her.

He phoned security, telling them about Madarai’s crazed actions. Of course, leaving out details involving Junko- uh Ryoko now, I guess. One would think calling Junko by a different name would take some getting used to, but he was aright with it after a second. It wasn't like  he knew the fashionista all that well to begin with.

“What’s she up to anyway? First, she ditches class and now she’s lost her memory? I don’t get her at all.” Makoto mused to himself.

Yet someone answered anyway “Enoshima’s motivations – illogical they are – all begin and end with despair.”

The monotonous voice sent a shiver down Naegi’s back as he turned around in shock. His surprise quickly dying down upon taking in that absurdly long (and never brushed) hair. A tall male standing behind him with a face that looked like it had never worn a smile in his life. “…H-how’d you get in here?”

“What is the meaning of this?” Izuru Kamukura said in a no-nonsense tone. Makoto could tell he wasn’t referring to Isshiki Madarai. He hadn’t spared a glance at the fallen bodyguard’s way.

“That’s his normal reaction, and I usually take the backseat in conversation so…force of habit?”

“Is that so? I presumed you had more self-control.” Izuru said. "How inconvenient."

“Not really, when you’re one of the only two people in the world who knows about me. He’s better at conversation anyway.” Makoto said fondly, as if praising the younger sibling who surpassed him. A gesture bordering on narcissism if taken in a certain context. Makoto had no brothers, he was referring to the other personality he’d cultivated at a young age. One that had taken on an adorable life of its own, separate and unaware of his.

“You know, when you told me Junko had messed with her own memory, I thought you were pulling my leg. Isn’t she planning something with the 77th class? Giving herself amnesia sounds like a huge self-imposed roadblock.” The baffled Luckster held  the laptop to his chest.

Izuru stared intensely at the pc.

“Enoshima’s actions often lack sense. If life was a chess-game, she takes needless and disadvantageous risks to keep the game going. For this reason, anticipating her next move with logic is next to impossible. It is both her strength and weakness.”

“No idea how sabotaging yourself could prove to be a strength, but I won't complain.” Makoto shook his head.

“...you are fine with letting her run free?” Izuru changed the subject.

“You mean Ryoko? Mukuro went after her, she’s probably safe.”

“Why are you not seizing this opportunity to capture her?”

Makoto stared at his senior with bewildered eyes. What’d Izuru think he was? “I’m not a kidnapper, and Ryoko hasn’t even done anything wrong, technically speaking.”

“I see. So you do not even perceive her as Enoshima.”

 “We talked a bit and she seemed like her own person. A bit goofy but a good person, I say let her have fun.” He nodded, dismissing Ryoko’s predicament like it were no problem of his own.

“A good-natured person that would leave you to your death.” Izuru disagreed.

‘No seriously, when did he get here?’ Makoto thought but chose not to voice. “You saw that huh? Everyone makes mistakes. Self-preservation is hardly a crime.” And with Junko out of the way, he had an easier time bringing the remainder of class 77 to his side.

In turn Izuru chose not to voice Makoto’s hypocrisy.

“That said, if Junko was going to erase her memory in a spur of the moment, I really wish she’d have done it before killing off the student council.” And sending the whole school into a frenzy after uploading a video. Some doubted it was real at first, but well, the council kind of up and vanished when the semester began. Hard to disprove, in his opinion. But the school was damn sure trying their hardest to cover it up...even with all those protests from the reserve course.

What'd they call it again...oh right, the "parades".

He turned to Izuru with a weak glare. “And you shouldn’t have helped her.”

“The student council murdered one another. I killed but a single man, who initiated the confrontation.” Izuru Kamukura made no excuses for himself, and he couldn’t care less for justification. It was merely stating a matter of fact.

“Self-defense huh. Even so, you could at least have disabled him without killing him.” Makoto pouted. “I’m mad.”

Izuru arched an eyebrow.

“I...can try to be mad.” Makoto gave him a toothy smile. “Oh well, it’s all in the past now and you seem to have gotten a cool souvenir from it.” He referred to the very noticeable scratch on Izuru’s cheek. A baiting remark that received no reply. “That was a joke. Please don't hurt me."

“Assuming Enoshima hadn’t interrupted by trying to flee…how would you have responded to Madarai’s resolve?” Izuru replied.

“Oh, you mean that stuff about the student council’s dignity?” Makoto reflected on the humiliated man’s hardened determination to protect the memory of the council and seek retribution against their murderers. Many could call Madarai's fervor to see his friends avenged, an admirable goal…but honestly... “I can’t bring myself to care.”

The dead are dead. No need to tie down the living with their problems.

Satisfied...or unsatisfied (he couldn't tell), Izuru turned around and walked out of the room.

"Wait up!" Makoto tailed him, finding it difficult to keep up with the older boy.

...

 

Incidentally, that bomb analogy I made earlier? Refers to the student council’s killing game.

There were 3 options to choose from when dealing with a bomb. You can either run away. Try to diffuse the bomb or… make use of it. It’s not uncommon to see explosives used productively, like blowing up old buildings with dynamite for reconstruction.

As an opportunist with an aversion to ignorance, I chose the third option and planned on using this bomb for my purposes. Unpleasant right? In my defense though…

I’m hardly alone in that thought.

 

-Isshiki Madarai-

 

Isshiki Madarai recovered 46 seconds into Makoto and Izuru’s conversation but feigned unconsciousness. He’d heard every relevant word before their departure, his assumptions and excessive methods vindicated.

“I must tell…my brothers.” He struggled to stand after the defeat Mukuro Ikusaba handed to him. The information he now possessed was too vital. Ryoko Otonashi and Junko Enoshima were one in the same. Thus, that woman who fought them earlier was a fake. Actually, it was likely Ikusaba herself. The fighting style gave it away, and furthermore, they were sisters.

Izuru Kamukura had killed at least one of their members.

Makoto Naegi was somehow involved.

Such was the information he'd gained. The hit list grew, and he would make sure they would be narrowed to none, when all was said and done. Once he and his brothers recovered, they would avenge the student council, that was their only reason for living. A task not given but set of their own will as the only way to atone.

 

Or so he thought.

Isshiki Madarai limped out of the room, completely unaware that he acted not his will but the machinations of another. An unwitting pawn in a sense, outwitted into believing nobody in the room had seen through his feint.

 

-Izuru Kamukura-

 

The steps of the Ultimate Hope echoed throughout the empty hallway after separating from Makoto Naegi. He had noticed from the very beginning and intentionally directed the discussion with the lucky student, revealing intricate details about the tragedy that befell the council.

Why?

‘Because it would be interesting. Why else do I do anything?’ Izuru, already having mapped out multiple uses for the bodyguard…among other potential pieces. “Time to pay my teacher a visit."  Yasuke Matsuda – The Ultimate Neurologist and the man responsible for rewiring Izuru’s brain – was his target. His little experiment was well underway.

...

Hm…there was also that one member of the council that should have survived – Soshun Murasame. He could be useful as well, supposing he still lived. Even Izuru couldn’t tell what fate would befall the sole survivor of the killing game. Despair was simply that unpredictable.

 

 So a game of musical chairs to determine the whose hands the bomb would land, began.

 

Chapter Text

“Good Morning, Matsuda-kun!” She shouted the first thing after waking. It was far from normal to call out someone else’s name as she did, but she had a feeling he would be there.

Just then, something crawled out from her bed. The slovenly dressed figure rose to his feet, a magazine in hand as he walked over to a nearby chair. He didn’t reply to Ryoko’s greeting, instead fixated on the reading material

“This is the part where you greet back.” She briefly considered getting the wrong guy, but he felt right.

“Why do I have to greet such an ugly person?” He said, eyes still not leaving the manga.

“I’m not ugly! I’m cute. The cutest even!”

“Wrong. You’re so ugly that I felt like throwing up the second I saw your face.”

“You haven’t even looked at me!” She flustered, pointed dramatically at the rude boy. “You could at least put down that dumb book.”

“Manga is more important than you. Besides, my mind’s eye is enough.”

“Woah…”

“Ugly and stupid. That’s quite the grim future you’ve got.”

“Are you the kind of bully who makes girls cry?!”

“Enough…By the way, who are you?” Matsuda asked.

“Eh? I’m…” She stuttered…failing to answer what should ordinarily have been the simplest of questions.

She searched through her notebook, the only item she had with her and found “Ryoko Otonashi…” Did that sound right?

“Oh, it’s you.” Matsuda said in mock surprise. Then that must have been her name.

“…You didn’t even know who you were talking to until right now?!”

“You’re whining but it’s not like you remembered your identity either.”

“I remembered you.” Ryoko glowered…or tried to. It probably came out as a child’s pout.

Matsuda harshly closed his book, making Ryoko stiffen from the noise. “Yes, you did.” He said, softly.

“Maybe my memory’s coming back. Oh oh, praise me!”

“Lie down. I have to check on your condition.” Matsuda slid along his chair to one  the many machines occupying the room.

Ryoko laid back down, holding her notebook on top of her chest. Her gaze wandered to Matsuda, typing on the computer. She had ample time to take in his silky hair, feminine eyebrows, masculine features before he opened his mouth.

“Stop looking at me, ugly.”

She giggled. His sharp tongue was easily his most defining trait. She made sure to write it down in her notebook before she forgot.

“You don’t have to put down everything in that diary.”

“My brain sickness won’t let me remember if I don’t.”

“…Brain sickness? Listen here, it’s a lot more complicated than that.” The neurologist explained the reason for her memory loss. Problems with the hippocampus resulting episodic memory dysfunction. Long-term personal experiences couldn’t be retained, but she did keep structural knowledge. In other words, Ryoko could remember knowing how to do certain tasks but she was unable to recall the context or the period when she learned of it.

“Your explanation’s too long.” Ryoko whined.

“I’ve explained it before. Why don’t you write that down instead of the trivial crap that goes in your head.” Matsuda pinched his forehead in frustration. His feature settling on bewilderment. “You don’t even know if you’ll ever be cured. How are you taking your condition so well like this?”

Ryoko didn’t need to think to answer the question, it came naturally to her. “I can't remember anything from before I lost like memory, so it's not like I have anything to compare it too. That's why I don't see my forgetfulness as a disadvantage...it's just a part of who I am.”

“…There are many disadvantages. You don’t even know if you’ll ever be cured.” He argued.

“Don’t care. Actually, I might not want to be cured. That way, I can stay by you forever!”

“…How about your friends, family and loved ones. You remember me, but what about them?” Matsuda grit his teeth. It was a rhetorical question, because she had already answered it. “Most would panic in your position, but you don’t even give a shit, do you?”

“D-Did I do something wrong?” Ryoko shivered.

“…No. You haven’t done anything at all.” He sighed, then returned to his work.

Ryoko ruminated over any wrong word choices she’d made in the discussion…and couldn’t think of any. There was very little to work off. All Ryoko knew was that Matsuda was a childhood friend.

She didn’t know a whole lot about the world.

To escape the silence, Ryoko reached for a remote, foisting it at the television perched on the wall.  At the click of a button, she was directed to the local news channel. A female reporter, red-hair, short stature. A formal attire and average looks.

Ryoko observed all these trivial details at a glance.

“-salvaged the remains of the aircraft days ago. For those tuning in, the plane was recently discovered near an uninhabited island in the Pacific-Ocean.”

“What’s all the fuss about?” Ryoko murmured.

“Ah. A luxury plane was hi-jacked by terrorists a little while back, but the aircraft’s signal went dark a shortly after the terrorists made their demands. Nobody knows why and the media’s made a big deal about it.”  Matsuda replied.

Accepting the explanation, Ryoko returned to the TV.

“According to air-sea rescue, there was a single survivor, but as a minor, their identity has yet to be disclosed. Our hearts go out to the hundreds of grieving families and loved ones.”

Ryoko winced. What a body count. “I wonder how they felt before the whole world went to shit. Total despair I bet.” Sad…but no matter.

It had nothing to do with her.

Matsuda harshly snatched the remote from her hands and shut the Television off. “Hey, I was watching that!” She rubbed her hand.

“You think you have the time? Incidentally, how do you plan to stay here with your bad grades?”

…Grades? Oh riiight, she goes to school here. “I get bad grades?”

He gave her an incredulous look. “A scatterbrain like you thinks she wouldn’t flop? You never remember lectures so you’re always trailing behind. I did my best to keep you around, but if you don’t pick up on your studies, you’re getting expelled soon.”

…E-E-E-E-XPELLED!? “I can’t get expelled. Do something, Matsuda-kuuuun.” She grabbed his arm.

“Get off me. I already have an idea.”

Sparkles lit in her eyes “Tellmetellmetellme.”

His lips formed a nasty sneer.

“Glad you’re interested, because I promise you’ll hate it.”

 

---

 

Matsuda-kun was super smart, he predicted that she would completely hate his idea, and she did. Very, very much. Because the way to make up for her low grades was to participate in the weird study group that was still on-going.

Ryoko lamented her fate, skipping on one foot; a playful gesture contrasting her displeased features. She took her time on her journey to the library, which she was only able to make thanks to the concise directions laid out by Matsuda.

Naturally, with the neurologist’s personal touch.

“Go to the orange building once the main gates are in your sights… And don’t dawdle…you scatterbrain.” – Ryoko recited his instructions.

The odd girl stopped, landing on one foot while her other was static in the air. Her arms were outstretched to the side to maintain balance. The object of her newfound attention were the main gates, described by Matsuda. Off in the distance, to the other side, was the library.

Ryoko noticed a commotion near the gates. A large number of grown men in uniform were stationed on the outside, forming a wall, an extra layer in front of the iron bars. At a glance, she easily discerned they were security…which made it all the more confusing to see them opposing an even greater number of students. Unlike Ryoko’s brown school-wear, theirs were a formal black. Ryoko would daresay those students were smarter dressed, but the atmosphere in that area didn’t give off the impression that they were elite.

A guard roughly pushed a boy of similar age to Ryoko, back into the crowd. An unthinkable act for security, to lay a hand on the merchandise they were meant to protect. But with how openly and unabashedly he did so…

“Maybe they aren’t students.” Ryoko pondered.

“They are the reserve course.”

She twirled in a comical fashion to meet the person who’d addressed her inquiry. There she met a fair-skinned (almost corpse like) girl, with lavender hair, dressed exactly like Ryoko. All save her impressively detailed, purple gloves.

Ryoko deduced the gloves had to be custom-made; the leather used to fashion the pair couldn’t have come cheap either.

“You’re staring.” She said, moving her hands out of Ryoko’s vision, likely an attempt to draw attention away.

“Oh, s-sorry.”

“Don’t be, I have the same habit.” She said vaguely. “Are you interested in that lot?”

“Not particularly.” Ryoko answered honestly.

“As expected, little else besides Yasuke Matsuda concerns you.”

Ryoko blinked. Not just at the namedrop, but the implications that they were acquainted. “Who are you?” She blurted out.

The girl’s stoic mask remained unshaken by the question. By that reaction (or lack thereof), Ryoko concluded they weren’t very close.

“ Your memory impairment must be severe, if you’ve forgotten me and what took place in your room a mere 24 hours ago.”

…Ryoko’s jaw dropped as she processed the other girl’s words. “Liar! There’s no way that could have happened between us.”

“Ah, so you do remember. Sorry, but I won’t let you sweep the events of yesterday morning under the rug. You saw as well as I did after you woke. You along with Matsuda-“

Ryoko stopped listening. Me, her and Matsuda-kun. When I woke up!? “No No No No No!” Ryoko screamed.

“…Excuse me?” She narrowed her eyes to slits.

“You m-may be gorgeous, but Matsuda’s the only one for me! There’s no room a third wheel in our relationship!”

“Stop talking.”

“Yes ma’am.” Ryoko stiffened at the malicious aura emanating from the girl.

 “With an answer that stupid, I doubt you actually remember anything, after all.” She sighed. “My name’s Kyoko Kirigiri from Class 78. I’m currently investigating suspicious activities and I believed I could find leads using Matsuda…among other things.”

“I’m Ryoko. How do you know me, Kirigiri-san?”

“We met in the neurology lab, which you occupied and took as your room. I was interrogating you on murders-“

“Woah, stop right there. I thought this was about ‘suspicious activities’.”

“Which precludes the murders that have gone on in the school…particularly those of the committee. I had sneaking suspicions that Matsuda was involved.”

“I don’t know anything about killings. It has nooooothing to do with me!” She closed her ears.

“I’m aware. I already interrogated you, and found you were an unreliable source.” Ryoko had a feeling Kirigiri-san meant to say, “you’re useless.”

“…Do you remember Madarai?” Kirigiri asked

“Who?”

“Check your notebook.”

Ryoko did exactly that. Inside was the name Isshiki Madarai…The Ultimate bodyguard.  It seemed he was after her for the murder of the student council…and he was…immortal? No, there was more. He wasn’t immortal, he merely gave off that misconception, when in fact he was one in a set of octuplets.

“Freaky.” Ryoko muttered. She hoped to never run into them.

“Madarai is convinced of your guilt. You’d best not let them catch you.” Kirigiri warned.

“Thanks for the heads up.” And here’s hoping Ryoko wouldn’t forget again. The amnesiac’s thoughts were interrupted by the loud protests of the ‘reserve course’ (or so Kirigiri called them). “What’s their problem. Shouldn’t they be in class or something?”

“They’re a case similar to Madarai. They’ve been spurned on by the death of the council. Or that’s how the rumors go, supposedly.”

“Then they are students?”

“The reserve course are just that. A preparatory division for the main course. Unlike us, they have yet to display ground-breaking talent, and are kept in wait until they do. Until then, you could say they are ordinary people who’ve paid large sums to attend the academy. Currently, they have a problem with the education system.”

“So they’re a bunch of wannabes with a complex.” Wow, literally background fodder. No wonder they don’t even have faces.

Kirigiri didn’t react to Ryoko’s assessment. “Regardless, they have seen fit to host these ‘parades’ nonstop for days. From what I’ve gathered, their contempt is deeply-rooted and directed at a certain person. The Ultimate Hope, Izuru Kamukura.”

“Who?” Ryoko cocked her head.

Kirigiri studied her with eyes like a hawk. If she’d uttered a single lie, she had no doubt Sherlock Holmes stand-in would have seen through her.

“I see. So you’re useless on that front too.”

“You really said it!” Ryoko responded indignantly.

“Hmm, I’ll check on you later, Otonashi-san. If something happens, call me.” Kirigiri handed her a small sheet of paper with 10 digits written.

Once Ryoko took it from the lavender-haired girl’s hands, the other nodded and walked away. Kirigiri disappeared as abruptly as she arrived.

“That girl sure is demanding.”

What was I supposed to be doing again…oh right, the library!

 

---

 

“Ahem! Everyone, I have announcement to make.” Kiyotaka Ishimaru said. From the extremely short period she’d spent with him, she had enough info to conclude he was an overly loud nutcase with a boner for educational correctness. His boisterous voice boomed the instant they entered, catching the attention of the small group of students, seated in a subsection within the library. “We have a new friend joining us.”

Uwaaah. He was like one of those super-strict and formal teachers.

“Hello…I’m Ryoko Otonashi.” She waved awkwardly at the group of 4 asides herself and Ishimaru.

In the middle of the room was a small boy with darker brown-hair than the school uniform, staring at her with curious eyes. Ryoko had seen him on the way. The boy conversed with two others. A tall burly man with a blue tracksuit with a very loud voice…who looked way too old to be in high school. The other companion was a thin dark-skinned girl, who looked like she was just coming off one severe diet. The two had parted ways with the boy before he’d entered.

Huddled up against him was an even smaller girl, her form barely visible behind a laptop, it was a cute picture.

 On the other side of the boy was the pale, raven-haired guy with an absolutely dumbfounded expression. Doesn’t he know staring is rude?!”

Last was the blue-hair,  distanced from the others and surrounded by a fair number of textbooks. In spite of a charming smile, her eyebrows ticked upwards.

“Otonashi? She looks just like-“ The girl with the pc began

“It’s just a resemblance, probably. Junko-chan and I are twins, we don’t have any other siblings.” The freckled one said. Ryoko was starting to doubt the assessment on their gender based on the feminine voice.

…Sister? Junko? “Hey, don’t say stuff I can’t understand.” Ryoko fumed.

Ishimaru coughed. “I believe introductions are in order. Starting with you, Naegi-kun!”

“Why does he always pick me first?” The spiky one moaned for a split-second before picking himself back up “I’m Makoto Naegi, from class 78. The Ultimate Lucky Student.”

Luck? Sounds like a rip. “How does it work?” Her question was met with brief silence.

“…You forgot huh?” Naegi looked downcast. Does he know me? “We actually met for the first time a few days ago and uh…had quite the talk.”

Not again. “What were we talking about?”

“You were looking for Matsuda-senpai.”

“Yeah, it probably happened then.” She double-checked in her notebook and wouldn’t you know it, there was a Naegi written down…and underneath were contradicting connotations.  ‘Dangerous’ ‘Nice guy, but I don’t want to admit it’ ‘Suspiciously nice’

I don’t get it. Is he a decent person or not?

“Yasuke?” Said the short girl.

“Hey hey hey, who are you and with the first name basis?” Someone this adorable next to Matsuda was unacceptable! Even she wasn’t allowed to call him that!

“I’m Chihiro Fujisaki, same class as Naegi and uh, The Ultimate Programmer. Yasuke’s my friend and colleague, kind of. But he’s hasn’t shown up to the lab in a few days…I’m a little worried.” She frowned.

“Fufufu. Well, I saw him just this morning.” Ryoko puffed her chest, entering a one-sided competition with the programmer.

 “So he’s okay then. That’s good…I was worried something might have happened….” Fujisaki let out a sigh of relief. That’s some needless worry.

“Is Matsuda supposed to be in danger?” Ryoko recalled her earlier conversation with Kirigiri.       

“N-Not really.” Tears welled up in the girl’s eyes

 “There have been some really…terrible rumors going on and sudden disappearances would make anyone worried.” Naegi patted the girl’s head and explained in her stead. “I’m not too bothered though, we’ve got Mukuro to protect us.”

“I’m Mukuro Ikusaba, The Ultimate Soldier. You…met me with Naegi, but you probably don’t remember.” She said, cheeks flushed. Hmm, that was cute too, contrasting her rough talent… Is this what they called moe gap? These girls are trouble!

“Nice to meet you, Ikusaba-san. If there’s ever a threat to my life, I’ll point them your way.” She beamed.

Ikusaba nodded.

“Please be a little more reluctant.” Naegi sweat dropped.

These guys…look kind of fun actually. Save one, the girl isolated from the others. But Ryoko was here to study, so it wasn’t unnatural that she’d sit next to the person who looked like they were working hard.

“Hiya.” Ryoko sat down next to her.

The girl looked up from a sheet of paper immediately, sharply contrasting Matsuda’s earlier cruelty. “Hello. I’m Sayaka Maizono, class 78. I’m the Ultimate Pop Sensation. Nice to meet you, Otonashi-san.” Now there was a winning smile if Ryoko’d ever seen one. I hope Matsuda-kun doesn’t like girls like these. Begs the question…why was she sitting alone?

“Maizono-san’s famous all around the country and she goes on tours. Unfortunately, that means she misses classes a lot.” Naegi said, as if reading her mind. “I’d help her with catching up…but I’m not really all that smart myself and um, I might just be more of a distraction.”

Maizono shook her head “No, I’m mostly done with school work. I’m busy with my other job; my manager says we need ‘fresh’ songs to keep drawing in the crowd.”

Ryoko glanced at the paper and found no more than 3 lines written. Ouch must be a severe case of writer’s (singer’s?) block.

“I need to make up for missed lectures. Let’s help each other out.” Ryoko sparkled with amity.

“You’ve written songs before?” The idol asked

“Nope, but it can’t be that hard.”

If Maizono took offense, she didn’t show it. “That so? Then I’d be glad to have you.” She brought a finger to her chin. “It’s funny though…I’ve never seen you around. What year are you in?”

“First year…probably.” She said uncertain.

“Probably? Does this have to do with your memory?” The bluenette asked, piecing together the bits of info from her introduction and Naegi’s commentary.

“I’m a chronic amnesiac…apparently.”

“That must be inconvenient. Sorry for asking.” Maizono apologized.

“No problem.” Ryoko honestly didn’t care.

“I thought I memorized the names, faces and talents of every student in our year. It’s part of my job description…and I have never seen Otonashi-kun listed. What did you say your talent was?” Ishimaru questioned.

She shook her head. “No idea.”

“Not even your talent?” Fujisaki reeled back in shock.

Talent was a big deal at this school huh?

“Now that’s problematic. If only we could help. Unfortunately, I don’t see how.” Ishimaru crossed his arms.

“We might actually be able to help. Since you remember Yasuke, it’s not like your memories are gone, we might be able to drag them out.” Naegi beamed.  What’s with the first name basis though? Was he Matsuda-kun’s close friend too? Ryoko couldn’t see them getting along at all. “And Chihiro’s an expert on the brain too.” He continued.

 “N-Not in that way.” Fujisaki metaphorically hid from Naegi’s praise.

Ryoko tuned out their back and forth of compliments and self-depreciation.

‘This guy’s super optimistic.’ Was Ryoko’s opinion off Naegi. Infectiously so that it made her want to go along with him. Doesn’t look like everyone shared that opinion. Maizono, who’d remained quiet, seemed like she wasn’t paying attention to the on-going conversation. However, Ryoko caught a change in behavior when Naegi made his declaration. She closed her eyes and shook her head in exasperation.

Was she annoyed?

Ikusaba was also flustered at the proposition, as if wanting to join in or note something of importance. Was she always so awkward?

“Um…I look like your sister?” Ryoko asked Ikusaba. That seemed like a grounded assumption, judging from how Fujisaki confused them.

“Yeah…a little.” Ikusaba answered.

“More like a lot. The resemblance is uncanny, they could be twins.” Said the tiny, angelic girl.

I’m a little curious about her. This was out of character for me.

Ryoko was thinking about a lot of things that weren’t Matsuda-kun…but she has to in order to stay with him.

‘I wonder what Matsuda’s doing now.’ She rested her head on the desk.

 

---

 

Yasuke Matsuda rested on the bed in the neurogenic lab, manga covering his face and arms folded over his head. He was a man who only ever did what was expected of him, no more and no less. Some thought he was a hardass, but a shitty childhood does that to a person. He’d been raised by a single mother. A kind, naïve woman who got duped by the man she loved. That fact took its toll on her mental health and soon she started to forget…everything…even himself.

 The doctors refused to complete the surgery because we didn’t have enough money. They only did as much as they paid for.

He didn’t hate them for it. Meritocracy is what keeps the world going and there was no fairer principle.  The neurologist had no issue being one of the cogs in that machine.

 Yasuke never exerted himself doing more than necessary because he owed nothing to nobody. He would fix his mother’s illness himself. Hope’s Peak Academy became a stepping stone to that objective. The Izuru Kamukura project’s initial success furthered his credibility and gave him clout with the committee. Oh sorry, the late committee; many of whom, Yasuke had personally disposed of - Their bodies anyway.

The neurologist spearheaded the mental development of the Ultimate Hope and his involvement meant he held sway over some important decisions. Keeping Ryoko in the school was trivial. However, he had done nothing the entire day. Not because he didn’t have work to do, but because he’d lost all drive to continue when everything just seemed so pointless.

He only did as expected, never going the extra mile for anyone…

Junko Enoshima was the exception to that narrow focus. His pretty and bitchy childhood friend. Yet it was only mere days ago that he finally realized the extent of her depravity. He always knew she had a few screws loose, especially with how she treated her sister…but he still loved her. He thought there was actually a caring person beneath the playful malice.

Then she murdered the entire student fucking council.

Even disregarding the murder itself, the whole academy could go under if that information was brought to light of day. That means he’d lose his prestige and his resources. He depended too much on the academy and losing it would set him back years from achieving his goal…saving his mother.

And Junko would go to jail.

She knew both of these things…and didn’t even care.

He was left with no choice…and tricked her, using the techniques he’d learned to erase Hajime Hinata, to remove Junko Enoshima’s memories. Ryoko Otonashi was the fake identity born amidst the memory lapse. In a way, she wasn’t all that different from Kamukura. He only hoped she didn’t keep that annoying talent of hers too.

If he could keep Ryoko subdued, everything would work out. At the very least, things needed to blow over first. Keeping track of Ryoko’s memories and applying ‘treatment’ was all he could do…and it seemed to work.

Too bad he underestimated how much of a hopeless bitch Junko really was…

 

-Several hours ago-

 

4 bodies were sprawled on the floor in the old, decrepit school building. Each in differing condition. The first was a small boy, crumpled on the ground and unmoving. If there was one oddity, it would be the position of the boy’s head, 180 degrees from his front. His name was Yuto Kamishiro and his neck had been snapped and spun around.

The second and third were Ryoko Otonashi and Mukuro Ikusaba, still breathing, but unconscious state, courtesy of the sudden intruder still standing.

The last was awake…barely, a hand pressed to his stomach as a thin strand of blood cascaded from his lips.

“Do not waste my time. Among the few directly responsible for my creation, you know better than most how futile further resistance is.” The Ultimate Hope stared down at the neurologist as if he were no more than walking garbage.

 “I wonder about that. No parent is ever ready for how much of a fuck up their kids just might turn out.” Yasuke retorted sarcastically “I can’t understand what the hell is going on in your head.” Yasuke had come to silence Yuto – The unremarkable brat  from his class – who was hanging around the redheaded idiot and looked too deep into the tragedy of Hope’s Peak. Yasuke succeeded in eliminating the diminutive nuisance…and felt like shit about it.

After a small talk with Ryoko, Mukuro showed up dressed like her sister for god knows what reason. And he didn’t get to find out before this pain-in the-ass came from out of nowhere and kicked the shit out of them.

“Children often take after their parents. If you refer to my involvement in the murder of the student council, you should first consider your own.” Izuru said. “Nevertheless, I understand you quite well. Killing, while regrettable, is weightless when balanced on the scales with Junko Enoshima on the other end.”

“Fuck off.” Yasuke spat bitterly. What the hell did he know-…fuck, Yasuke gave him Junko’s talent.

“She would have killed you.”

…Yasuke went silent, his mind reeling from what he’d just heard.

“W-What?” He muttered unintelligibly.

“Her ultimate agenda was to grant herself and you despair through betrayal and your demise.”

“Bullshit!”                                                                                                             

Izuru  pointed at Mukuro, as if there was some clear meaning about the soldier masquerading as Junko. “She’d long seen through your scheme and already drove you to the point of murder. Despite knowing Junko Enoshima since childhood, you doubt she’s capable of such atrocities?”

Yasuke remembered his elementary school days. Junko built a sandcastle – almost literally– of the Sagrada Familia Church. It was such an amazing construct that neighbours marveled over the month-long work. Yet, just before completion, the craft had been destroyed. Yasuke searched everywhere for the culprit in a rage. What kind of monster would destroy a work of art, that a little girl had devoted herself to creating?

 And wouldn’t you know it, right when he’d given up, Junko confessed to having destroyed the sandcastle herself.

She’d used him as a toy.

“You believe you were special as her friend and thus, safe? It is the other way around. Because you are worthwhile, she would go to excessive lengths to bring you despair.” Izuru said.

“What do you want?” Yasuke said in a meek voice that disgusted even him. That’s what happens when the one you love turns out to be a cunt.

“Your cooperation.”

“…If you think I’m going along with some revenge plot, you’re dead wrong.” Yasuke snarled.

“You are free to see it as revenge if you wish, but I do not intend to harm Enoshima. I want her, at least for the mean time, to remain exactly the way she is. You may then monitor her progress.”

Yasuke’s eyes widened in surprise.

“You wish to protect Enoshima, but that is impossible, not as long as she has free will.” The greatest danger to that idiot is, and has always been, herself. Yasuke knew that better than anyone.

”This way you’ll be able to thwart her doomsday agenda and keep her safe…for the meantime. Isn’t that what you’ve been plotting all along anyway? With my assistance, you’ll have a greater chance of success this time around.” Izuru said.

“And if I refuse?”

“A minor inconvenience, for I am also the Ultimate Neurologist. However, if I exercised that talent…what would be the need for both of us?”

The threat was clear.

Yasuke sounded and felt just as he had during that moment in his childhood.

 “You have a deal.”

 He gave up.

Matsuda narrowed his eyes, dark outlines clearly beneath them, he didn’t sleep at all either.

All he could think about…was how ugly Junko Enoshima was. He wasn’t talking about her appearance…but her heart, damaged and repulsive beyond description.

He clicked his tongue getting off the bed. Just thinking of her eviscerated any chance of returning to a good mood. But that’s what a murderer like himself deserves.

There was one more thing… A problem that Matsuda had initially intended to get rid off but vanished at some point in time. He never got to find out how much that pitiful person knew.

The  Student Council president and the sole survivor of the killing game, Soshun Murasame, disappeared days ago. Yasuke planned to kill him but was interrupted. By the time the neurologist returned, the council president had escaped.

Back then, Yasuke actually breathed a sigh of relief. Though Soshun’s disappearance was cause for worry, he was relieved that he didn’t have to kill a peer he’d met in the halls nearly every day.

Sadly, Yasuke wasn’t able to escape that fate regardless. The target had merely switched from Soshun to a classmate.

 “Ha…hahaha. I killed because of a girl who’d intended on killing me…for no fucking reason.” A joke so bad, you just had to laugh. Poor Kamishiro.

Oh well. This entire ordeal only served to reinforce Yasuke’s most dearly held philosophy. No matter who you are, what you’ve done or what you believe in…

Life is suffering, and then you die.

 

Chapter Text

Mukuro Ikusaba was born into a highly dysfunctional family. Her parents were, for the lack of a better term, useless and irresponsible. She couldn’t think of a single instance of feeling genuine gratitude towards them. Besides giving birth to her little sister.

Junko was…perfect. Mukuro acknowledged this fact ever since they were children. She learned to speak fluently in under a year, completed any task assigned to her and even in elementary school, designed  a scarily accurate model of a church using nothing but sand. It wasn't unusual to assume the elder sister would suffer a crippling inferiority complex, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Mukuro adored Junko and her talents more than anything in the world.

However, even she wasn’t deluded enough to think her sister was easily understood by others. She had a unique way of expressing herself. Unfortunately, Junko’s show of affection was dangerous. That’s when Mukuro decided her duty in life was to protect her twin. Rather than despairing over her uselessness, Mukuro wanted to help Junko anyway she could. Unfortunately she wasn’t smart, but she was athletic; talent in that field let to her joining up with Fenrir to rack up experience until when there nothing left to learn from them.

From start to finish, Mukuro's entire life could be summed up as Junko’s protective older sister. Nothing else mattered…until Hope’s Peak Academy.

High school changed everything. Junko found herself in a new environment, filled with talents she could play around with. Just as Mukuro expected, everyone was taken with her. A number of seniors from Class 77-B were enchanted and joined their group in short time.

Of course, it didn’t matter how many loved Junko or were shown love in return. Junko-chan would always love Mukuro most. Nobody understood the fashionista like she did.

That’s why Mukuro was getting anxious. With Junko’s plans in motion, the school became more dangerous and she would need more protection. That was fine. Mukuro honed her skills in war for that very reason.

What she hadn’t trained for was Makoto Naegi. A boy who made her heart flutter in a way only Junko’s did. She didn’t know what made him so attractive…his kindness maybe. His smile was infectious, and he always, always knew just what to say.

Even after Mukuro confessed to killing in the past, he wasn’t afraid of her like everyone else. He forgave and accepted the worst part of herself and it…didn’t have to hurt like Junko’s love did.

She’d saved him from Peko Pekoyama, one of Junko’s former despairs. In doing so, acting against Junko’s will. No matter how much Mukuro wanted to deny it, she betrayed her sister for a boy…and it tore her apart.  Killing the council hadn’t helped one bit to remedy the conflict…and Mukuro hadn’t approved of it. She hated being the one to pull the first shot and murder the vice-president. They were strangers, she couldn’t care less about the girl…but Naegi would.

The killing game resulted in a snow ball effect. The fanfare hadn’t even receded before Junko proposed her craziest scheme yet. - going along with Matsuda’s plan of erasing her own memory. To say Mukuro was shocked would be an understatement. This was still the getaway phase of a crime and Junko decided to leave herself vulnerable? It went against the logic of self-preservation that the soldier indoctrinated herself in to survive the battlefied…but Junko’s words were absolute. No matter how illogical it seemed, Junko couldn’t be wrong.

The mission given was to target Yasuke Matsuda, a man Mukuro wasn’t especially keen on. She was confident Junko loved her most, but Matsuda was someone Junko had been with since childhood…and never thrown away. Until now, when Junko decided on his death. 

Mukuro smiled when she heard.

Those instructions served as affirmation that she was the only one Junko wouldn’t leave behind. Maybe that’s why she went along with the scheme and disguised herself according to her sister’s orders. Everything had gone according to plan, save 2 setbacks. Mukuro showing herself in front of Madarai without a disguise wasn’t part of the plan, but if she hadn’t, the council bodyguard might have killed Naegi. This little interference would hardly affect plan, but it was the principle; Mukuro had gone outside the mission boundaries again…

The next interference had completely derailed the plan. Right at the climax, Izuru Kamukura appeared and dispatched with her. When she woke, Junko and Matsuda were gone.

Mukuro scowled as the images of that time, replayed.

 

“What did you do with her?” Mukuro glowered at the Ultimate Hope, as she woke from the school building. For some reason, he had remained there.

“Enoshima is resting in the neurology laboratory. Matsuda has seen to that. If you wish to see her, you may, soon enough…however, you are not to interfere with the experiment.”

“Experiment?”

“Yes. I’ve decided to make use of Enoshima’s scheme for myself and take it a step further. For that, I need her to remain as Ryoko Otonashi for a little while longer.”

“Junko-chan isn’t your lab rat.” Mukuro’s eyes widened, understanding the implications…and they were unacceptable. Just as she  prepared to attack, Kamukura spoke again

“Every bit the disappointment I’d heard.” He said. “Have you really lost all ability to think for yourself with your sister no longer guiding your every move?”

Mukuro froze in place.

“You have already tried your hand in direct confrontation twice and failed twice. Everything you are, I am and so much more. But if you insist on a third attempt, I will accommodate…to the extreme.” He narrowed his eyes. “In this experiment, the more rogue elements, the better the results so I’m satisfied with you living. However, undermine the purpose of the project and I will eliminate you.”

“I’m not afraid of you.”

“Then fear for your sister. After I’m done with you, I’ll reveal the extent of your crimes to the world.”

“With her memories gone, she will have no means to defend herself. And even if she could, I would make it so that she’d become powerless. There is no future for either of you if you oppose me, understand?”

Mukuro was faced with an ultimatum that only the worst scum would  think up.

 Even more than the neurologist, you need to learn to see the bigger picture. If Enoshima is incapacitated, less suspicion will fall on her. Let her roam free and she will create more chaos, drawing further attention to herself.”

“Don’t try to excuse your betrayal.” She bit back. Even if he was right, he was only trying to manipulate her.

“Interesting.” He murmured. “You speak of betrayal, despite having done so many times already.”

Mukuro let her knife drop to the ground.

 

She had never liked him, that Izuru Kamukura. It was a one-sided conversation with the course and conclusion long decided in his mind.  

Now here she was, completely at a loss of what to do. She knew better than to fight against Kamukura. She wasn’t smart enough to outwit him, and she couldn’t brute force her way through him.

And besides…wasn’t Junko safer this way?

Mukuro’s head lifted from her desk, gazing at the miscreant trio, Naegi, Fujisaki and her amnesiac twin engaged in a heated conversation.

“I don’t believe it! There’s no way you’re a boy! Prove it right now!” ‘Ryoko Otonashi’ screamed at the top of her lungs upon figuring out Fujisaki’s gender…again. This had persisted for over a week. Each day Junko would lose specific, trivial memories and part of the group dynamic would begin anew. ‘Part’ because Junko did retain a substantial amount of knowledge about them, and even the forgotten memories didn’t provoke as strong a reaction upon relearning.

The first time Fujisaki revealed his gender, her reaction had been…much more extreme than this, the second less so…and so on.

“Ahaha.” Naegi laughed.

Mukuro smiled almost reflexively at the melodious sound. Dipping slightly when Fujisaki laughed in tandem.

Junko always said she lacked a shred of femininity, but even she retained a woman’s intuition. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that Fujisaki harbored great affections for Naegi like she did. The programmer was commonly seen by Naegi’s side, attached at the hip, practically.

If Naegi noticed, he hadn’t said anything. Then there was Maizono, who…Mukuro honestly couldn’t pin down. She was Naegi’s friend before they were and not unlike Fujisaki, were often in each other’s company. Maizono had separated recently though, distancing herself somewhat. Perhaps because her social status didn’t permit anything resembling illicit relationships boys. If so, the soldier was grateful for that caveat.

Mukuro frowned. She didn’t like rivals…and dogs were territorial by nature.

‘Not that I am a dog…then again, Junko-chan always called me one.’

Mukuro shook her head, wiping her little sister’s more favored insults away.

More on the topic of potential competition. She was thankful that Kirigiri was a non-issue. To put it out there, Mukuro disliked the detective, for many reasons. One being that she was a threat to Junko’s anonymity, with her sniffing around for evidence. Even now, she was probably looking into the council murders, and avoided their altogether. The second was for the opposite reason that she felt uncomfortable with Fujisaki and Maizono. Kirigiri openly disliked Naegi, ever since the start…and he’d been nothing but nice to her. How could she take his kindness for granted and spit on it like that?

“What a bitch.” Mukuro muttered under her breath.

“Excuse me?”

Mukuro stiffened, turning to face Maizono, who’d sat by her and overheard that little slip. Mukuro had ignored the idol’s presence until now because of how focused the bluenette had been on her work. She’d been in her own world struggling to write down whatever came into her head.

“It was nothing.” The soldier shook her head.

“Alright…but you’ve been staring intensely over there for the past 10 minutes. I thought I’d tell you before they noticed.”

“Thank…you.” Mukuro replied awkwardly. This was another person she couldn’t quite get along with. If the raven-haired girl disliked Kirigiri out of exposure to her attitude, the discomfort with Maizono was fundamental. A dislike for the person completely opposite to yourself.

“Bet I can guess what’s bugging on you…It’s those two right?” With both index fingers, she twirled her fingers at Naegi and Junko. “In some ways, Otonashi-san reminds me of your sister…and I’m not just talking about her appearance. Where is Enoshima by the way?”

“I’m not obligated to answer that.”

“Is she around, at least?” Why was Maizono asking all these questions?

Mukuro ran through a list of reasons.

...Could she be snooping around about Junko? Kirigiri was one thing, and Junko specifically instructed her to leave the detective alone.

Maizono wasn’t part of the equation. If she got too close to the truth, then Mukuro was under no obligation to let her live- “Okay, then forget your sister for a moment.” The idol continued, as if she’d read Mukuro’s mind and glimpsed the danger lurking in her thoughts. “What about Naegi?”

…Huh?

Maizono giggled. “It’s written all over your face. It’s obvious you like him.”

It was?

“W-What about it?” Mukuro blushed. Maizono was the last person she wanted to be discovered by. But if her inquiries ended here, it was a much better alternative to snooping around for Junko. Mukuro didn’t want to get her hands dirty.

“I’m wondering why you haven’t made your move yet. You’re clearly worried about the two of them getting together.”

She was way off base…so much for intuition…but “Make my move?”

“Ask him out.”

The soldier’s face grew otter.

“You’re a lot more expressive nowadays, Ikusaba-san. I like it.” Maizono poked Mukuro’s cheek.

“Are you teasing me?” She lightly swiped her finger away, pouting.

“A little.” She extended her arms, locking her fingers together. “I am serious about the asking him out part.”

“I don’t think I can do that.” Mukuro said, dejected. Forget being forthright, she was conflicted just being friends with Naegi.

“…You…Do you have a complex?” Maizono scrunched her face. A complex? Mukuro would agree with that. Self-esteem wasn’t particularly a strong area of hers.

“Junko-chan thinks so.” Among other, more scathing remarks.

“I’ll never get over a soldier lacking initiative; isn’t that fatal in war?”

It was. A moment’s hesitation and you were a corpse. This wasn’t war though and the battlefield was a lot easier than romance, from experience.

“But just goes to show what I know, and it's nothing new to have my expectations be wrong.” Sayaka faced forwards, her chin resting on her hand as she stared at the other three with a blank expression. “I don’t know about your sister’s opinion, but you’re feminine enough from where I’m standing. You’re cute and friends with Naegi already. On the other hand, wait too long and someone might snatch him up.”

An opening at last. “Like you? You like him too, right?” Everything Maizono said about her and more applied the to the bluenette herself.

Maizono thought the question over, humming to herself. “Hmm…to tell you the truth, I’m a little annoyed with him right now.”

It wasn’t a direct answer but enough of one to earn Mukuro’s curiosity. “I didn’t expect that.”

“He can get on your nerves quickly, if you ask me. What do you think of Makoto?” She said, using his first name.

“He’s…really kind.” A basic description, almost childishly so for the matter, but with her limited vocabulary and Naegi’s openness, there was no other way for her to describe him. He was faultless.

Sensing Mukuro’s struggle with articulation, Maizono gave her an understanding smile. “I get you. He leaves that ‘unreal’ impression on people. Not many guys out there are like that.” Her lips curved downwards “But piece of advice, there’s a reason some things are called ‘too good to be true’.” She said, her tone signaling the conversation’s end. Maizono fingers circled her pen, hovering over the mostly blank sheet of paper.

The pop star uncharacteristically heaved a sigh of frustration and stood up, shoving the items on the desk in her bag.

Maizono stopped by the others, saying her goodbyes before leaving.

Mukuro’s attention returned to Naegi, who chatted with Fujisaki and Junko as if they’d been lifelong friends. Although, the latter girl wasn’t quite as receptive; instead she looked eager to get into an argument with him.

That might have a good thing all the same.

‘She’s already getting along with everyone.’ She thought of her sister’s newfound identity. Mukuro found herself grateful that Junko had her eyes locked down on Matsuda (ironically). If she, in her debilitated state, set her eyes on Naegi, Mukuro knew she wouldn’t have a chance.

But…could Mukuro be sure they’d remain that way? Matsuda would already be dead if Junko had her way. Then there was Fujisaki...

Could she wait? And for what? For someone to take Naegi away?

Thoughts of indecision swirled, leaving her dizzy. She clumsily stood up, walking towards the door.

“Ikusaba-san, are you okay?”

She heard Naegi’s voice.

“I um, have to go. See you guys later.” She said, not bothering to turn around as she ran out of the classroom. Maizono hadn’t left that long ago, she didn’t have much trouble catching up…for Maizono was hardly inconspicuous.

“Maizono.” Mukuro called from behind.

The other girl tilted her head backward at the call, stopping place.

“That was fast.” The idol joked, but the soldier wasn’t in the mood for it.

“What if you liked someone and thought…you shouldn’t date them? You had a prior obligation that stopped you from it.”

Maizono furrowed her eyebrows “Is this supposed to be a hypothetical? We’re clearly talking about Naegi here though, right?”

“Oh…yeah.” There wasn’t a need to be subtle…

“I don’t know what circumstances you’ve got so I can’t give a definite answer.” Maizono said “I would weigh the scales. Would you regret not being with that person or is your earlier arrangement more important to you?”

“Which would you pick?”

“…My dream is more important to me than anything else.” She said with a serious expression. After a moment of silence that felt like minutes.

Maizono would forsake her own feelings for her dream. Mukuro could relate with that…however what she wanted to know was “And…you’re happy with that choice?”

Her eyebrows twitched, and eyes darkened. “...Let’s talk again, Ikusaba-san.” Her smile returned a moment later, before she turned around and walked off.

“Is that a no?” Mukuro said to herself in the empty hallway. She reached for her cellphone, the luckster’s number showing on the screen.

She felt, he wouldn’t reject her.

 

---

 

She texted Naegi later that day, with instructions to meet up with her. She’d kept her intentions vague. Largely because of how nervous she was. It’d taken no less than 1 hour just to work up the courage to call him. When he hadn’t responded immediately, she’d even thought about bashing her head against her dorm room wall.

Yeah, she had it bad.

Even now, outside the girls dorms, she fidgeted over Naegi being only a few minutes late. Her brain wracked over the possibilities that she lost sight of her surroundings

Until something poked her shoulder.

“Ikusaba-san, what’s up? You left in a hurry.” Naegi’s voice broke the soldier out of her stupor.

She moved from the wall to face him. “N-Nothing too much. I wanted to ask you-...” Mukuro’s words were caught in her throat as she took in the difference in Naegi’s appearance compared to a few hours ago.

“Did you need to ask me something? Ah, is it homework? Because I’m…probably not the best guy for the job.” He scratched his cheek. His pink-tinted, bruised cheek.

 Looking like it’d been washed.

“Where’d you get those wounds?” Mukuro cut to the heart of the matter

“You wouldn’t believe me if I said I fell down some stairs, would you?”

She glared.

“What would you do if I told you?” He shrugged, dropping the charade.

“I’d make them pay.” His attackers would wish they were dead.

“That’s why I won’t tell you.” He wagged his finger. “Take it from someone who’s gotten beating up by Peko. It’s no big deal.”

True, compared to that time, his wounds were light, and beyond surface bruises, he seemed fine. That said, the memory of that night only soured Mukuro’s mood. She still hadn’t forgiven her upperclassmen for what they did.

“So why’d you call me out here?” He asked.

“Huh?” She froze, her murky thoughts vanished, and her nervousness returned. She shook her head.

‘Come on, Mukuro, you’ve been in battles before, you can handle this.’

 “Naegi um…Do you have anyone you like at the moment?”

He tilted his head, before smiling brightly. “I like everyone.”

…This got off to the wrong start. “I didn’t mean like that. Is there anyone you like…more than normal?”

“No.” Naegi answered. If his reply had been delayed, it would’ve been due to confusion as to the purpose of her questions, rather than the response itself.

Mukuro sighed. Delicacy was never her strong suit anyway “I’m asking if there’s anyone you’re interested in dating.”

Naegi blinked in realization. “Oh…OH!…I haven’t really found anyone like that yet.” He said quickly, rubbing his neck.

Mukuro bit back another sigh (this one of relief), instead resolving herself to take the next step. “Then…what about me?”

Huh?

Mukuro overheated, her  heeks burned, her brain wracking to figure out what next to say “I’m asking if…” She held onto one arm, staring at the floor. “… you’d like to go out with me on the weekend.”

She took the plunge.

“No problem. I’d actually look forward to that.” He laughed.

“R-Really?”

Naegi nodded. “I was actually planning on checking out the new amusement park and thought about asking a friend to come along. You don’t mind if we go there, do you?”

Mukuro shook her head. “It’s perfect.”

 “That’s great! But…Just so we’re clear…is this a date?” He fumbled over his words. “I don’t want to assume, but I can be dense sometimes and I might get the wrong idea-“ He rambled on, with his hands flailing.

His bumbling made Mukuro herself chuckle at how silly her apprehension seemed. With a deep breath, she said the magic words.

“It’s a date.”

 

Chapter Text

Peko Pekoyama was 5 years old when her father once said that silence weighed more than gold. Was it an analogy of peace or did he imply that a tool should shouldn’t speak out of turn? Peko listened and obeyed yet failed to understand. She was silent by nature, often choosing to refrain from speaking unless prompted anyway. But over the past month, she may have found the answer.

The mind wanders when left in silence. Introspection offers the opportunity to learn about oneself…and one’s weaknesses. As the young master’s bodyguard, she could no longer neglect strengthening her mind in favor of the body. Without so much as raising a blade, Junko Enoshima defeated them, using nothing but a few choice words.

Peko needed to be more flexible, more in-tune with others’ emotions, and to predict their actions in advance, even the outliers. She wished to discover the talent Makoto Naegi possessed and made use of at every opportunity.

“Good evening, Pekoyama-san.” Speak of the devil and he shall appear. Naegi entered through the dojo’s sliding door, wearing a carefree expression opposite to the moniker she’d given him.

Peko gave him a sideways glance o recognition, wondering if he’d timed his arrival in conjunction with her thoughts. A ridiculous prospect, yet she couldn’t put it past him. Naegi was dangerous, plain and simple and if she let her guard down, she would find herself once again, becoming a pawn. However, in contradiction to that very sentiment, she believed he was also harmless.

In either case, Peko planned to make full use of him to free all her classmates from despair’s grip, and freely collaborated with the luckster.

“Is there a special occasion, Naegi-kun?” She noticed he was out of uniform and in casual hoodie wear…and a few bruises on his face and bandage wrappings around his forehead, stealthily hidden by his bangs…Interesting.

“I have a date.” He said, bashfully.

“May I ask with whom?”

“Ikusaba-san!”

“…I see.”

He looked almost disappointed at her lack of reaction. “Eh? You’re not surprised? Or even a little worried?”

“If I’m worried about anything, it’s your face. Are you getting into trouble again?”

“Hahaha, that’s a story for another time.” He evaded the question. Very well.

“About Enoshima’s sister? I have nothing against her personally, if that’s what you mean.” And even if she considered Ikusaba a problem, she would be dealt with soon enough.

“Mukuro’s apparently helped Junko with some awful stuff. You’re pretty forgiving, or level-headed…but that’s what I like about you, Peko.”

Peko’s ruminated over one peculiar trait of the Lucky student she’d picked up on. His habit of frivolously alternating between given and surnames.  At first, she detected no rhyme or reason behind the shift, but upon further observation, a pattern surfaced; a distinct shift in tone. When addressing formally, he was meek and unpresumptuous. Other times and he was confident and unreserved towards nearly everyone.

“Thank you for the compliment.” She intended to (secretly) learn whatever she could about him. Speaking of which. “How are you handling the brainwashing video I sent you?” She went through no small pains procuring it from Mitarai.

“I can’t really give any details since I’m out of my league...that's why I'm having Alter ego look into it.” 

"That would be the artificial intelligence Fujisaki entrusted you with?"

He nodded. "He never ceases to surprise me."

“If you say so.” Peko shook her head. “Have you heard any word from Enoshima?”

Naegi shook his head. “Not a thing.”

Junko Enoshima dropped off the face of the Earth. Peko only hoped it stayed that way, but she wasn’t raised to think optimistically. This was the calm before the storm. “I have noticed no further activity from the remainder of Ultimate Despair. Compared to their formerly hyperactive selves, they’ve become subdued.”

“Which?”

“Mikan, Yukizome-sensei, Sonia, and Kazuichi.”

Incidentally, these happened to be the core members of Ultimate Despair, disregarding the young master and the nurse. The other students were lacked the influence to greatly impact Enoshima’s plans.

“What about the others?”

“Nekomaru and Akane are doing well, thanks to your efforts. Akane is eating again.”

Naegi sighed. “That’s good. Can you believe how long it took just to get her accustomed to a healthy diet?”

“3 and a half-week during the summer…and you would never have succeeded without Nekomaru’s aid.” The tall male had been essential to Akane’s recovery. Of course, he first needed to be the one saved.

He nodded “You’re right, I didn’t do too much. Nekomaru was strong to begin with. All I did was lend an ear and bounce back arguments for a little bit.”

“I believe your debate lasted the better half of the entire day, Naegi-kun. Not to mention all the prior research you did on Nekomaru background, his habits, passion…his illness.” All of which he studied, planning out exactly how to approach and manipulate her classmate. “I’m not sure if you’re aware, but you have the capacity of a professional stalker.”

He laughed. “That…was a joke, right?”

She looked away.

“Peko?!”

“Partly.”

Akane followed suit having a strong connection with Nekomaru, like they were a package deal. They were not completely cured of the brainwashing, but they have become more docile and reasonable.

Ibuki, Chiaki, Hiyoko, and Mahiru were never affected in the first place, thankfully.

“I honestly still have a lot of trouble believing what you told me about Junko and Ultimate Despair. I’ve always thought Junko was a little wild, but you make her sound cartoonishly evil.” He chuckled. Despite being informed of Enoshima’s crimes and malicious nature, he found her actions comical, as if she’d pulled mere pranks.

Peko felt the need to remind him of the evil they were dealing with. “She killed the student council.”

“So I’ve heard.” Naegi’s smile barely wavered.

Just then, the door opened again, revealing Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu’s figure. The scowl and animosity he formerly radiated had faded after that night.

“Peko…” He called and stopped after glancing at Naegi. “Yo, Naegi.” He walked over to and smacked the brunet on the back.

“K-Kuzuryu-senpai.” Naegi winced at the friendly gesture.

Peko arched an eyebrow.

“What’re you being formal for?” The blonde chided the other boy amiably. The young master’s favor wasn’t won easily, but Naegi’d left a strong impression on him.

“N-No reason. How are you?”

“Came looking for Peko. Am I interrupting anything?”

“Nothing important…I think.” He sounded uncertain.  “We were talking about a date I have later.”

Fuyuhiko grinned “With Chiaki? Wasn’t that for tomorrow though?”

“No no no, please don’t call it that, we’re just hanging out at the arcade tomorrow…and then lunch, and then maybe the new amusement park. Or the other way around. I dunno. With Nanami-san, the schedule could be all over the place depending on how she feels.”

Peko mimicked a stone statue, holding back a sigh of exasperation. For many reasons, Peko pitied Ikusaba for a fatally poor taste in men.

“Sounds like a date to me, but fuck, I’m not getting involved in that shit. It’ll be on your ass if you get caught. You’ve never felt pain until you piss off a woman for real.” Fuyuhiko crossed his arms, giving Naegi an unimpressed look. “How’d you get booked for the park? Tickets must be expensive as hell.”

“I won a lottery and got a whole bunch.” Naegi said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Damn lucky assholes.”

The spiky-haired boy shrunk back under the blonde’s admonishment while Peko was fine observing the interaction. That arrogant personality of Naegi’s failed to surface in the young master’s presence. Not since what happened in the old music room.

Hardly surprising. Many who knew the young master’s identity normally feared him, and they were right to, in her personal opinion. However, it went without saying there was nothing normal about Naegi. Peko herself had nearly killed him in cold blood, yet he walks into this dojo almost daily, treating her like a friend he’d known since childhood.

That wasn’t the case, of course, they’d been acquaintances for only a few months.

“Chiaki holds a special position in the class.” Peko spoke up, drawing the boys’ attention. There was one important matter she wanted to make clear, regarding Naegi’s sudden favor for the Ultimate Gamer.

“She’s the class rep…right?” Naegi presumed.

“Yes, and she earned that spot through the approval of the entire class. Do you see what I’m getting at?” Peko issued a threatening glare. Though they had an unspoken agreement relating to helping her classmates, Naegi had shown an interest in Chiaki who was among the few unaffiliated with Enoshima. “I don’t know what your intentions are with Chiaki, but I want you to promise me that she will be unharmed.” Peko couldn’t hazard a guess at what went through Naegi’s mind, but what she did know was that he never did anything without purpose.

“…Peko chill. It’s Naegi we’re talking about. He’s not gonna snuff her or something.” Fuyuhiko said, taken aback.

Naegi was similarly shocked, raising his hands defensively. “I- I’d never let Nanami get injured if I could help it. And if that did happen, I’d do anything to make things right.”

She could believe that. Without hesitation, Naegi could dive in front of a bullet, if it meant saving someone else, even his enemies. Or rather, that meant he considered nobody in the world his enemy.

“See. What was that about? You doing a stand in for Chiaki’s old man?” The young master pulled at his collar.

However, he missed the point. Emotional scars run deeper than physical ones.

“Very well.” She relented, calming the room’s atmosphere. Though Fuyuhiko had missed the underlining connotation, he wasn’t wrong in his joking assessment of her behavior.

Peko’s duty was to see to the young master’s security…and only that. To accomplish her objective, she would root out despair from the academy, even if she had to make some sacrifices here and there.

“I almost forgot!” Naegi reached into his hoodie and bubbly pulled out a pair of tickets “These are for you!”

Both herself and the young master traded confused looks. “What for?” The blonde asked.

“I’ve got stacks of these, remember? Use them and go on a date some time? Hey, maybe you and Kuzuryu-kun could join us on a double date!”

“Naegi-kun. It has been some time since we last had a practise session. I would like to thoroughly check your progress.” Peko reached for her sword, feeling a few dozen whacks to the idiot, would provide much needed stress relief.

“U-Um, no. T-That’s fine.” He inched away slowly towards the door.

“The fuck are you trying to pull here, kid?” Fuyuhiko said, all too calmly. He was ordinarily…not quite so adept at controlling his emotions.

Peko thought he would have been outraged by Naegi’s insinuations.

“You…don’t like amusement parks?”

“Not the point…” The yakuza rested a palm on his forehead. “Ah fuck it, I’ll take em’ off your hands.”

Naegi practically glowed when Fuyuhiko accepted the tickets, the skip in the luckster’s step was also evident in his departure.

The room grew awkward.

“Young master…what do you intend to do with those?” She said after faking a cough.

“What do you think? It’d be a waste to not use the damn things.” He flipped the tickets in the air.

Peko immediately grasped his meaning. The young master didn’t wish to be rude in the face of Naegi’s generosity. Despite their underclassman’s nonsense. “You must be very fond of Naegi.”

“He’s got nothing to do with it.”

…She drew a blank. “Then why would you visit the park?” He wasn’t fond off of outings of that nature. As far back as Peko could recall, Fuyuhiko detested “childish” events. Mainly due to insecurities of his stature.

“Peko…are you really going to make me say it?”

That implied she would know why. She didn’t and that unsettled her. As a tool, she should be ready to meet her master’s every expectation.

“Looking like a deer caught in the headlights…” Fuyuhiko shook his head. “I’ve…got a lot to make up for.”

“Pardon me?”

“Stop asking questions! You want to come with me or not?”

“Of course. I would never refuse”

“Alright…when are you free?”

“At any time of your choosing.”

“…That can’t be right. You’ve gotta have other shit to do.”

“Nothing that would warrant a second thought were I to be denied use to you.”

“Godammit, Peko. Quit this tool shit, you’ve got your own life.” Fuyuhiko groaned.

This was not the first time he’d told her that and the gesture never failed to provoke uncertainties in the swordswoman. To have her sole purpose questioned made her feel inadequate. But not long after he met Enoshima, subconsciously, Peko feared she would never hear those words again.

That’s why…just this once, she didn’t argue against the young master’s misconceptions.

“I don’t practice on weekends.”

 

-Ryoko Otonashi-

 

Ryoko never had much to do in her spare time, not according to her diary. It was…a little depressing how little detail was written that didn’t involve Matsuda, who at the moment, was unresponsive towards her. That wide opening in Ryoko’s schedule left her free to do pretty much everything, but that didn’t mean she was gung-ho for anything!

Like – for example – she didn’t want to be tailing Naegi and Ikusaba on their date, and on a Saturday night!

“Why are we following them, Ishimaru?” Ryoko grumbled to her right, facing the mastermind who’d conscripted her for this little outing. He’d gotten tickets to the new amusement park somehow and dragged her along.

Ishimaru was clad in an all too conspicuous brown trench coat (likely believing it would have the opposite effect) and sunglasses. It hurt to look at this fashion apocalypse, and she made sure to keep a 3-meter distance at all times.

“They are still high school students. We have to make sure nothing unsavory occurs.” He explained.

“No, I don’t think we have to do anything. I mean, we’re at a fair, can’t we just have fun?” Ryoko argued “Right, Fujisaki?” She turned to her other partner in crime in desperation. Thankfully, he was dressed normally in casual men’s wear. Although he wouldn’t have looked abnormal in women’s clothing either. It was so unfair.

Fujisaki made no attempt in answer, instead of focusing on the unsuspecting pair in front of them. Currently, Naegi was (pitifully) trying his hand at a shooting game, awkwardly holding a bb gun and failing to hit the target. Ryoko knew he’d never succeed with holding the gun that way. He’d need to place the rifle on an angle; a few inches downwards. Only then, would he hit the target.

Just when it looked like he’d run out of shots…Ikusaba switched places and hit the bulls-eye.

It was impressive, but at the same time, Ryoko wanted to deny it.

“I bet I could get it right in one shot.” She puffed her cheeks.

The owner of the station reluctantly awarded the soldier with a giant stuffed bear…which she promptly handed off to Naegi. The luckster beamed the gesture, holding the stuffed animal close to him.

Ryoko sweat dropped at the scene. “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

“Yes, that is…lame. If you pardon my language.” Ishimaru nodded in agreement.

Fujisaki on the other hand, simply stared with a scowl. An expression she hadn’t seen before and doubted was something the programmer often did.

Ryoko hopped over to the stall once the couple left. “One round please.” She chirped.

“Ha-ha. Give it a go. This one’s on the house.” The old man cheered.

Just before she could grab the gun, Ryoko was pulled away Ishimaru. “No time for games, we’ll lose them.” He said.

“Who cares? I want to play!” She struggled

“I agree with Ishimaru. We should follow them.”  Fujisaki said.

“Now, Otonashi-kun!”

Majority vote won out…democracy blows.

 

---

 

“Worst weekend ever.” Ryoko mumbled as she helped herself to a sandwich at the food court. For her anyway. Naegi and Ikusaba had that cute first date deal going. Ikusaba was stiff and awkward, but Naegi was smoother than she thought,  he practically walked Ikusaba through the night. By the end, the raven-haired girl couldn’t help but smile. Ryoko  couldn’t deny the sense of familiarity whenever she looked at them. Ikusaba, in particular, stirred up emotions she couldn’t pin down. They did, however, bring a smile to the amnesiac’s face, like she could tease the soldier relentlessly if doing so didn’t blow their cover. It totally wasn’t because Ryoko was scared shitless about a chick who’s probably killed a bunch of folks before.

So quiet and unassuming. Who knows what she’s capable of?!

“I wish I was here with Matsuda-kun.” Ryoko whined.

“Don’t be like that. You should be proud of yourself for securing the safety of our friends.” Ishimaru said.

“You’re crazy…and they’re not my friends.” She glared at him, they barely knew each other. What did he take friendship for? Actually, there were a lot of things off with this Ishimaru guy. He over-exaggerated and was way too forceful this evening. And he wasn’t the only strange one.

Fujisaki arguably stood out even more, barely touching his ice cream cone. The boy had a dejected expression the whole time. Ryoko stole a glance at him and found that he hadn’t even touched his fried.

If he didn’t eat in 5 minutes, she would.

“Hey, Fujisaki.” She called. “I’ve been thinking…do you like Naegi?”

All eyes were on her. Fujisaki was practically horrified. Bullseye.

“I-It isn’t like that!” He yelled defiantly, doing his stance more harm than good. He was too defensive.

“Hahaha, your jokes are amusing, Otonashi-kun.” Ishimaru said. “No matter how effeminate Fujisaki-kun may be, he and Naegi are both boys.”

Ryoko tilted her head. “So?”

“I-It would be creepy.” Fujisaki agreed with the prefect. He poorly faked a smile, a shadow looming from his bangs

“Absurdly so.” Ishimaru laughed.

Fujisaki didn’t, evidently.

“I don’t think it’d be that strange. There’s no rule that says Fujisaki can’t like boys.” She murmured. Was it just her, or was Ishimaru teasing Fujisaki a little too much?

“That’s naïve, people’s opinions aren’t swayed by logic during such matters; widespread tolerance towards same-sex relations is still far off.” Ishimaru spoke like a politician.  “After all, it was only recently that Fujisaki-kun revealed he was a boy and there were some nasty rumors for a while.”

“For real!?” Ryoko’s jaw slacked.

Chihiro shivered, his eyes visibly wet. “Um, a few students used to for a little while…but they stopped during the new semester…after a new rumor overtook it.”

“Oh that’s good then.” Ryoko said.

“It was about the student council murders.” Ishimaru clarified.

“Not so good then.”

“So you see. It’s better for Fujisaki if there are no more unnecessary rumors about his sexual orientation.” Ishimaru faced the programmer “I’ve been meaning to say, you should stop spending so much time with Naegi-kun, for both your sakes. You wouldn’t want him to be ostracized just because the other students get the wrong idea.”

Chihiro stood up immediately. “I’m not feeling so well. I’ll be going back to the dorms.”

“Should I call an ambulance?” Ishimaru overexaggerated.

“It’s nothing extreme. I’ll see you on Monday.” He said, distilled.

Ryoko took out a pen and opened her notebook

“What are you writing?”

“Nothing. Just that ice-creams might give Fujisaki stomach aches.”

“That may be the case.” Ishimaru said…only, it didn’t seem like he was paying much attention to her. No, he was focused entirely on Fujisaki’s retreating back. A thin but all too noticeable smile plastered on his face, and his red eyes almost glowed.

Ryoko gazed at Fujisaki a well. She knew that conversation had taken a wrong turn…but ultimately whatever was bothering the programmer had nothing to do with her. She didn’t have any obligation to help the boy.

But still…she felt like she wanted to anyway.

 

-Chihiro Fujisaki-

 

The programmer washed his hands with water in the men’s restroom. His eyes slightly pink from the tears shed moments ago. Ishimaru’s words had struck deep…because everything he’d said was true.

He…shouldn’t like Naegi, nothing good would come out his feelings…and it’s not like Naegi would reciprocate them.

“Keep it together, Chi. Hiding your true self is what you do best.” What he did best, until he came out to everyone. Why’d he do that? It hadn’t ended well at all. The others, the people who didn’t know him, treated him like a freak.

“If we’re playing hide-and-seek, then that makes me the winner.”

Chihiro’s eyes snapped to the exit. Otonashi stood in front, hands on her hips, her expression blank, contrasting her joking tone. “I found you.”

Chihiro froze as he mind raced, trying to figure out what she was doing here. Was he in the boys washroom…or did he revert to his old habit and walk into the girls’ on accident?

His question was promptly answered when a young man, slightly older-looking than them, walked in behind the red-haired girl, frozen and equally as stupefied as Chihiro was.

“Read the mood and scram!” Otonashi commanded, and so he did. This wasn’t something you saw everyday, even he didn’t know how to respond.

“O-Otonashi-san, this is the men’s room!”

“That’s irrelevant.” Otonashi dismissed his concern. Is she serious!?

“You like Naegi.” The forgetful girl said.

The first time was a question. This…it was a statement that left no room for derogation.

“I’m abnormal, aren’t I?” Chihiro’s eyes fell to the floor.

“You look normal to me. What’s wrong with being in love? It’s what makes the world go round.” Otonashi spread her arms wide.

“You heard Ishimaru. Everything he said is right. I’d be called an even bigger freak.”

“By people you don’t know? Why would they even matter?” A woman that self-centered and narrow-minded would not even begin to consider her surroundings.

“What do you mean? How would you feel if everyone started saying all sorts of horrible things behind your back?”

Otonashi merely raised one eyebrow.

It took a second for Chihiro to realize how ridiculous it was to argue public slander with the girl who stood in the center of the boy’s washroom without a care in the world.

Fair enough, then. But that only highlights the sheer difference in confidence between them. It did nothing for his situation

“Do you mind what they think that much?” Otonashi asked.

“Of course I do. I’ve spent my whole life worrying about what people think of me!” He thought about it so much that it nearly drove him insane! “And even if didn’t mind, what about Naegi? He’d get dragged into my problems too!”

“Have you asked him what he thinks about it?”

“I-I can’t do that!” That’d be giving away his feelings for the luckster.

“Then how do you know he’d care about some nobody’s trash talk either?” Otonashi rolled her eyes. “You know the saying; all’s fair in love and war. Not ‘All’s fair unless you’ve got something an elephant trunk tucked between your legs’.”

Chihiro blushed at the crude analogy. “I-It’s not that big.”

Otonashi huffed. “I was just worried. I’m not going to tell you what’s right and I probably am the last person to talk about being self-conscious but…even I know you’re going to have a rough time finding happiness if you let everyone else drag you by the ankles.”

“If only I was stronger.” He frowned. That was the story of his life.

Otonashi brought a finger to her lips, assuming a thoughtful posture “You help me with studies, right?”

Chihiro nodded. He’d observed the amnesiac was something of a fast learner  - perhaps even a genius - when it came to solving problems. Albeit she seldom remembered the trivial details. Only the important steps were memorized.

“Then I’ll repay the favor by taking you in as my apprentice.”

“Apprentice…of what?” That sounded kind of sketchy

The girl placed a hand to her bosom and stretched the other dramatically. “Ryoko-ism! By the time I’m done, a model could run down the street naked and you wouldn’t even blink in her direction!”

“H-How would you even teach that?” Chihiro inquired.

She wagged about fingers. “Leave the deets up to me and I’ll show you a new, carefree way of life.”

…What the hell. He had nothing to lose.

“Okay, let’s give it a shot.” Even before he answered, Otonashi was already writing in her diary. Guess she was serious about this after all.

She giggled and placed the book in her bag, walking closer to him with a satisfied smile. Before he could react, she’d already embraced and spun him around like he was a stuffed animal “A cute new apprentice. This is great.” She froze, then pushed him away. “Ah, but you’re still leagues behind Matsuda-kun, you know. I’m not a loose woman!”

What the… Chihiro giggled. She is so all over the place. “Yasuke’s a lucky guy.”

“You tell me about it. Matsuda doesn’t know how good he’s got it to have a world-class cutie like me chasing him.” Otonashi pouted.

“Maybe you should change tactics. Miaya says Yasuke’s a tsun without any of the dere.”

“The heck does that mean?”

“I don’t know either. But we could ask her…” Out of the corner of his eye, Chihiro someone else walk into the room, with a reaction all too similar to the last. “Erm…let’s talk about it outside. I know you said it doesn’t bother you to be seen here…but someone could call security?”

“Good point. I'll tell Ishimaru that I'm leaving.”

Chihiro followed the girl outside, his mood having lifted considerably.  A miracle considering he’d just seen his not-so-secret crush go on a date with somebody else. Maybe there was some hope that his feelings could be reciprocated.

Now that Chihiro remembered, Naegi had called him, his favorite not too long ago.

With that fond memory, he walked home with the bubbly, and wholesomely weird, Otonashi.

 

Chapter Text

“Sure is windy today.”

Chiaki Nanami pulled her dark-green hoodie up overhead. Everyone else was crazy to frolic in this cold when they could be in their warm…soft…comfortable beds…zzz

The Ultimate gamer closed her eyes for a minute in vain, her admirable efforts at sleep thwarted by the cold winds.

“I should have picked a better day to go the amusement park.” Chiaki mumbled. To make matters worse, her friend still hadn’t shown up.

This was the first time she’d been the early arrival to an outing, having slept in a bit too late. Imagine her surprise when Naegi-kun still managed to be even later than she was. If nothing else, this was good ammo to use against anyone who berated Chiaki for being late.

Since sleeping was out of the question, Chiaki occupied herself with her next favorite thing to do in the world and pulled out a portable Gameboy from her purse. It wasn’t that she’d brought the console expecting Naegi’s tardiness, but that it was second nature.

Although… “Multiplayer games are always more fun.” She said out of the blue, remembering her other friend. A charming, but all too nervous, reserve course student.

A boy who vanished off the face of the Earth one day. “Where’d you go, Hinata?”

“Chiaki-senpai!”

Chiaki’s attention flew to the voice of the boy jogging towards her, stopping a few feet short to catch his breath…This would be the one who invited her. “You’re late, Naegi.” She said bluntly.

He wore a sheepish smile. “I…forgot you changed the meeting place and skipped the arcade.”

 “No excuses. I know I called and switched ahead of time.” Naegi was but a student, while Chiaki had mastered the art of make excuses for not arriving on time.

He held his hands up in a prayer-like fashion. “Fair enough. I got held up this morning by Akane. I forgot I made plans to join her and Nekomaru and uh, they didn’t let me bail. I ran back to my dorm to shower once I was done and…here I am.”

“…Sounds busy.” Chiaki felt a tinge of envy towards the lucky student. Makoto Naegi, who showed up in Class 77-B’s homeroom one day and enacted a scene that looked like it was ripped a straight off a one-man-comedy routine. The unlucky boy scurried into their classroom, in the process of delivering a stack of papers to the classroom…only to trip over thin air.

Calling Naegi’s fall ungraceful would have been an understatement. Her junior was so uncoordinated that most of her class went into fits of laughter. Chiaki motioned to help Naegi when it seemed nobody else would but was beat to the punch by an unexpected person.

Fuyuhiko.

Though he grinned like the others, he was the only one who actually stood up to help Naegi with the mess he’d made all over the floor. Naturally, Peko followed suit, never willing to let the gangster undertake menial tasks.

Usually, Mahiru – being the symbol of all that was moral and just in the class – wouldn’t have hesitated, helped Naegi and then given him a stern lecture about carelessness. However, a quick glance showed the photographer staring at the trio with a conflicted and…frightened expression.

Chiaki couldn’t blame Mahiru, given how Fuyuhiko had changed for the worse. Even she worried he might have lashed out at Naegi.

Thankfully, her fears were proven wrong when the gangster helped Naegi.

Ever since Fuyuhiko’s sister died, he’d become a different person. Wounds were supposed to heal with time, but he only got worse. More violent and aggressive…and Chiaki had a sneaking suspicion why. Whenever something went wrong with her classmates, that person was never far away.

That’s why it came as a surprise to see him hanging around with a sheepish underclassman, and smiling, just like he used to.

Chiaki reasoned that Fuyuhiko had a falling out with some of her…altered friends like Akane, Kazuichi and Sonia; going by the dirty looks they shot him. On the other hand, Mikan – the nurse who caused Chiaki no end of worry due to her impressionable and damaged personality – was delighted at the sight of Naegi, Fuyuhiko and Peko together.

The fluctuations didn’t end there. Over the Summer, Nekomaru and Akane were slowly returning to their former selves…and she’d observed positive changes in a number of her other friends too.

Chiaki’s curiosity inevitable won out. She wanted to know who Naegi was and how could have such a positive influence on her classmates. From their first brief conversation, the pinkette could tell he had an attractive personality and sure enough, the two became fast friends. Maybe faster on his end than her own, seeing as he addressed her informally within days of getting acquainted.

Now, they were currently riding a Ferris wheel, and nearing the highest point. “Naegi-kun, you sure know all the best locations.” Chiaki praised the brunet who guided her through the carnival. He seemed intimately familiar with the stalls to attend or tricks to the games. Not that she needed any, to be fair.

Evidenced by how she was currently kicking his butt in multiplayer.

“I came here yesterday with a friend, I know a little.” He said, attention shifting between her and the handheld game, demonstrating considerably more difficulty holding conversation and button mashing, compared the gamer.

“I could have rescheduled and followed you guys. Everything’s more fun in groups.” Chiaki said.

“I wouldn’t say everything…” He corrected her. “But speaking of planning… Peko told me you were the class representative.” The balance of the pinkette’s attention shifted somewhat, focusing more on what the boy had to say. His smile was off. He smiled often, but there was something different this time. “Isn’t that great, your classmates must like you a lot.”

“How’d that conversation come up?”

Naegi shuddered a bit. “I was teasing Peko a little and…let’s just say she might make a very scary mom one day.”

It might be better not to pry further…”I’d like to say Peko’s correct. Maybe if it was, I could help be of use to everyone.” Chiaki played with her hoodie, her gaze downcast.

“You mean your class? Is there something wrong?”

“I can’t really describe it. Ever since the start of this year, my friends started to change and…most of us drifted apart.” She grimaced. “I don’t know much more…because nobody tells me anything.” She was useless.

Not just to her classmates, but to Hinata as well. In the end, she couldn’t do anything for him. What was the point of being the class rep if she couldn’t reach out to anyone?

“I can’t say I relate.” Naegi started. “Setting myself aside, class 78 has very strong personalities and nobody to rally behind. We weren’t very close to start with.”

There was another reason why Chiaki wanted an audience with the luckster. He shared same homeroom as Her. “Hey, you know Junko Enoshima?”

“Mhm, what about her?”

Chiaki bit her lip “I think she’s responsible for the sudden change. Everything began when my friends started hanging around her.” This was her first time confessing these suspicions to anyone. “The first was Mikan.”

“The nurse?” He said with a thoughtful look on his face. “I’m not sure if I can help there. Junko and I don’t really talk much. Maybe you could ask Mukuro.”

That was disappointing. It meant Naegi didn’t quite understand the gravity of the problems plaguing her class if he thought she could just walk up and ask Enoshima’s sister. Ikusaba was like the model’s shadow. She’d be better off confronting Enoshima directly…assuming she could find her. “Never mind.” 

Chiaki looked down to the console…only to see a blinking ‘You Lose’ was written in bold on the screen.

Slowly, her eyes drifted back up to Naegi, who hummed an innocuous tune, while staring at the fair grounds down below.

 “That’s low, Naegi-kun.” Chiaki glowered

“What is, Chiaki-san?”

“I’m going home as soon as we get off.”

“K-Kidding.” Naegi laughed nervously. “B-But I wouldn’t be able to win otherwise. You’re just too good.”

“Slick line, Naegi. It won’t stop me from curb stomping you next time.” She pouted.

 He gulped “I kind of took you for the ‘it’s all fun and games in the end’ type of girl…but you’re really fired up.”

“I live for competition.” Naegi’s about to learn what it means to underestimate gamers.

The two stopped by the shooting platform to sate Chiaki’s lust for revenge.

 “You again?” The owner of the stall grunted at the luckster “But the girl’s different. What about the cute missy from last time?”

“I’m with someone else today.” He chirped.

Chiaki didn’t consider herself the most conscientious person out there, but even she could see Naegi had missed the man’s implications.

 “You’ve got the wrong idea. I don’t think of him that way at all and we’re just friends.” Chiaki interjected.

“S’that right. Sorry, but nobody likes cheaters, kid.”

“I don’t cheat anybody.” He wailed.

“In games, you do.” Chiaki made a biting remark. “But you won’t win again.”

Naegi sighed. “I give up.”

She looked to the prizes on the corner. “What’s the hardest difficulty setting?” Her aim was the grand prize.

“You taking the challenge?”

“Yes. 2 rounds please.” She ordered, rubbing her arms for warmth as the wind picked up.

The owner gave her a pair of custom-made glasses designed to that throw the wearer’s vision into disarray; mimicking inebriation. It was a cool gimmick and turned a relatively simple game into a test of memory and nerves.

Chiaki foisted the barrel of the gun at the blurry and swaying target. The goal was a hanging white cardboard with the basic diagram of a human on it. There was a red marking where the heart would be.

She steadied herself and pulled the trigger.

A steady applause sounded soon after. Chiaki took off the glasses, seeing her shot hit the mark.

“Well, I’ll be. You’re pretty good.” The owner clapped.

“Thanks.” She smirked. “You’re up, Naegi.”

The shorter boy daintily held the rifle in his arms. Chiaki loaned him the spectacles. “You should memorize the target before putting them on.”

“Gotcha.” He said, staring intently at the dartboard. “This is trippy.” He said, wearing the glasses. Chiaki stepped aside for him to get into position.

His form was steady, his breathing silent as he motioned to pull the trigger. A sudden gust of wind blew their way, smothering the sound of the shot.

Chiaki opened her eyes to see the ‘neck’ of the diagram had been pierced.

Naegi took off his glasses, his lips curved downwards at the result. “I lost.”

“Looks that way. It was a good try though, you almost made it.”

“I would have had it if not for the weather.” He complained

“Don’t be a sore loser. Luck’s all part of the game.” Ironic, considering he was meant to be the Ultimate Lucky Student.  On that note… ‘I wonder what Komaeda-kun is up to.’  Chiaki thought. Class 77-B’s Lucky Student had been suspended for his alleged involvement in the school last year. Though the duration of his suspension ended long ago, Komaeda himself was nowhere to be seen and nobody could reach him.

“Senpai, you’re spacing out.” Naegi said.

“Did you need something?”

“The owner’s calling you to get your prize. Hurry so we can get to the next game.” He said, impatiently. For an unassuming guy, he appeared to have a competitive streak as well.

 “Here you go, Missy.” The old man said. The prize was a giant pink rabbit. “Just between you and me, I didn’t think anyone could clear the challenge, but between you and that other girl from yesterday, shows what I know. You kids are something else.”

“I try. It was pretty tough, but I’ve faced worse. Don’t know about Naegi though.” The two gazed see Naegi  stroking a dog’s fur with one hand (how he got permission from the owner was a mystery). However, his eyes were elsewhere, waving to someone else in the distance.

Chiaki couldn’t make it out either way.

“Surprised he did so well after last night.” The owner murmured

“Last night?”

“Yeah. He could barely hit the target on the normal run, but he damn sure came close this time. Was it luck?” He scratched his chin.

 


 

 

 

Chiaki and Naegi carried on their little contest, with her winning more often than not, but there were those games that couldn’t be won with skill alone. In those areas, Naegi had her beat.

Eventually, they ran out of steam and settled in the food court. Both ordered lunch that surprised the other.

“Tempura udon?” Naegi questioned the soup dish Chiaki bought.

“What were you expecting?”

Naegi’s eyes moved up and down, looking her over. “Fluffy, sweet and…hmm, let’s leave it at that.”

“I don’t exercise much so I have to watch calories.” Chiaki blinked. Was he implying something?

“In that case, we could join Nekomaru and Akane during their training.”

“I don’t think that’s happening any time soon.” Chiaki shot down his proposal before it took flight. She couldn’t keep up with those two in a million years.

On the hoodie’s end, he’d picked out a mixed salad and coffee. A simplistic dish.

She couldn’t resist the urge to tease him. “You’ll never grow big and strong if you don’t eat meat.”

“I’ll have you know my dad’s pretty tall…and I drank plenty of milk as a kid. I just…need to wait for the results.” He averted his eyes from Chiaki’s pitying gaze. “Besides…I’m a minimalist.”

Now that was an interesting detail. It might have been the first thing Chiaki learned about the boy since they met. “Naegi-kun. It’s been fun and all, but can I be serious with you for a second?”

He nodded, apprehensively.

“I’m glad you asked me out, but I had personal reasons for meeting with you today…and a few questions to ask.”

“I’ll do what I can…but can we dial the mood back down a bit. I’m not good with tension.”

“Me neither. Sorry.” Chiaki sighed. It was tiring going out of character.

“I know you said we should be serious…but maybe we can make a game out of it.” Naegi came up with yet another sudden proposal. “I’ll answer whatever…but in turn, you have to answer the same number of questions from me.”

 “…You need to ask me something?”

“Yeah, there’s a thought that’s been on my mind and I’d be happy for you to clear it up.”

That sounds fair…and worked in her favor. She wouldn’t need to beat around the bush now. “Okay, then I’ll start: How’d you and Fuyuhiko meet?”

“Where’s this coming from?”

“Is that your question?” Chiaki asked the tricky luckster.

“Can’t pull a fast one on you.” Naegi scratched his hair. “…I met him through Mahiru-senpai. The two of them were having a tiny disagreement and I helped mediate. That’s it.”

“You…mediated?” Chiaki couldn’t hide the bewilderment on her face. What Naegi had just described went against much of what she knew of Fuyuhiko, who – even at his best – was stubborn as an Ox.  It was surprise to nobody that the photographer and Yakuza couldn’t get along, even before Enoshima came into the picture. Chiaki made many attempts to get the two to reconcile, but with little success. “I’m not trying to speak badly of Fuyuhiko but…he’s got anger issues, and those skyrocketed to 11 after his sister passed away.” Holding conversation with the baby-faced gangster without him going off in a fit of rage was much too difficult. Without Peko around, he might have even attacked some of the others.

“Mahiru warned me about his personality too. So?” Why Naegi spoke so intimately about the photographer was another issue, but one that took a backseat to what she needed to get out in the open.

“…Knowing that… you just talked to him?

“Mhm.” Naegi nodded. “I’m not much of a fighter and I’m not very dependable either. We just had a conversation.”

“What did you say?” It must have been quite the cheat code to sway with Fuyuhiko with words.

“I cleared up the misunderstanding he had. We were cool after that…I think. To be honest, he still scares me a bit.” He laughed weakly.

“That’s all?” She asked again. Naegi-kun wouldn’t have a reason to lie…but that was tough to swallow when she’d attempted the same and achieved no success.

“What else would there be? Kuzuryu-senpai wouldn’t back down from threats and I wouldn’t make any. I just did all I could.”

“And that would be…”

“Trying to make everyone happy.” He showed off a goofy grin in spite of that vague response.

Chiaki felt the tension drain from her shoulders. After being given such a simplistic and silly answer, what else could be expected? “Maybe I’m overthinking things.” She sighed. But if so…what did she do wrong?

“Just so we’re clear, you asked a whole bunch of questions.” Naegi said.

“That was the deal. It’s your turn.”

Naegi twirled his fork on one finger. “Ever thought about what Mario and Princess Peach’s relationship is like?”

……

“You really love throwing curveballs, don’t you Naegi-kun?” Chiaki said after a period of stupefaction.

“It’s not that weird.” Debatable. “I’m curious and you’re the Ultimate Gamer, I’d like to hear your opinion.”

If…that’s what he wanted, it’s not like she wasn’t equipped to answer. “What part about their relationship, specifically?” She articulated.

“You know how Mario always has to overcome Bowser to save Peach in every game? Don’t you think that’s such a bother?”

“…You want me to self-insert into Mario?”

He nodded.

“I…guess it would be bothersome having Peach captured all the time.”

“That’s what I think too. Quite the wonder why he’s still at it to this very day?” Naegi folded his arms.

‘Because the game developers designed it that way and you’re not supposed to think twice about it?’ Chiaki thought, but knew that wasn’t the answer Naegi was looking for. “I can only think of 3 reasons. Obligation, a sense of adventure or…love.”

Naegi ruminated over her answer, his finger steady on his chin. “What’s the most likely reason…among those three?”

“Obligation doesn’t carry well for over 30 years. Adventure’s also out when the ‘adventure’ itself has become routine. Love’s the only reason that would persist for so long…and you know how that’s overplayed in fiction.”

“You think so? I’ve never been in love, so I can’t say either way.” Naegi murmured. "What you’re saying is that If you were Mario, you would – for 30 years – risk your life to save Peach?”

“No question.” Chiaki said plainly.

“So fast…”

“If it was someone I treasured that much, I don’t even need to think about it.”

“…Even if the script writers are forcing you to act that way?”

Now the game designers are relevant? What a strange guy.   “It wouldn’t change anything. My feelings would be real to me, and that’s the important thing.” She replied.

Naegi stared wordlessly, his eyes flickered with an indiscernible emotion. “I…think you’d make a great protagonist, senpai.” His praise came from the heart. “I hope you rescue that troublesome heroine of yours someday.”

“Thanks.” Chiaki replied, not entirely sure what he was getting at. “I think you’d make a fine hero yourself.”

“I appreciate the thought…but I don’t have what it takes.” He waved his hand dismissively.

Was he being modest? “After what you’ve done for Fuyuhiko, I don’t know how you can say that.”

“That’s kind of the reason, Fuyuhiko helped himself, I just supported him.” He rubbed his chin “…If I were in a story, I would play the support role. The friend who’s around to make the protagonist shine brighter. Although if I did get a major role, it would probably be…” He trailed off. “Never mind. The bottom line is that I’m just not cut out for heroics. I can only help others act for themselves, I can’t do anything by myself.”

 “That way of putting yourself down reminds me of Hinata-kun.” She blurted out, projecting the reserve course’s image over Naegi.

 “…Who’s Hinata? Is he a friend of yours?”

“He’s my best friend…was my best friend. Hinata always talked about how he wasn’t good enough, even though talent wasn’t everything.” He was special regardless…to her at least. “But he was obsessed, and he wouldn’t listen to me. Nobody does.” Chiaki gripped her skirt. That’s what it came down to in the end. “I’m powerless to help anyone and it wasn’t like they couldn’t be helped.” Naegi had proven that face right to Chiaki’s face. “I don’t know what words you used to persuade Fuyuhiko, but you were clearly far more effective than me.”

“I get it Chiaki-san, I get it! Nobody likes to listen, even when you’re only looking out for them and offer better, more productive alternatives!” Naegi replied to her plight a little too enthusiastically.

“They’re selfish…but I suppose that’s just how things are.” Just as her friends had good qualities, they also had negatives…and Chiaki had no intention those aspects of her classmates out of personal convenience.

What she should get angry at, is the one who exploited those negative traits.

“I agree, that’s just how things are. Everyone always thinks they’re right…and that’s especially bad in Hope’s Peak. Remember what I said earlier about my classmates having strong personalities? That goes for most in the main course. If they’re adamant about something, talking might not be enough.”

Preaching to the choir here, Naegi. Chiaki understood that better than anyone.

“…then what.” Naegi asked.

“…Come again?”

“You couldn’t talk things out normally…so what did you do about it?” Naegi tilted his head.

“…Nothing.” Chiaki said. When her words fell on deaf ears, she turned to the teacher. Yukizome-sensei listened to the pinkette’s worries, but otherwise persuaded her that everyone was just going through a phase. Such lax advice was so odd to hear from the maid. Yukizome-sensei was instrumental in bringing everyone together. Even Chiaki hadn’t been able to escape the maid’s diligence and supervision.

No…it was because that respected Yukizome said it, that Chiaki believed the problem would resolve itself. Thus she only watched, keeping to herself.

“I didn’t do anything.” She repeated.

“That doesn’t sound right. You already figured out that Junko was the cause of the disruption, you must have at least done some research of your own.”

“I just paid attention to my surroundings.”

“You’d be surprised how few can be bothered to do even that.” Naegi said, his lips thinned. “It’s not that you did nothing…you just didn’t do enough to get your desired result. If you suspected Junko, you should have brought your worries to the teachers.”

“I did.”

“The headmaster then…and if he couldn’t help, you should have gone to the students. Rather than talking to me, I think Kirigiri-san would have been much more helpful to your cause.” Kirigiri was the detective from the class below. Chiaki had never spoken the girl, but even she’d heard the rumors surrounding the lavender-haired girl. Thus she couldn’t refute those words. Quite the opposite; she felt that way all along. That’s what brought her here - To learn what she could have done better.

“What’s your secret, Naegi?” If her attempts were only platitudes, then he must have gone farther to succeed where she failed.

“A secret huh…I guess I can tell you, since we’ve been in similar positions.” He folded his arms. “Back them into a corner using the resources you’ve got. How you go about that is up to you but give them no other option but to listen.”

Chiaki arched an eyebrow. “I’m not sure I could be that ruthless.”

“I-I’m not either.” He said, defensively. She must have gotten the wrong impression. “Aggression isn’t the same as violence; be persistent and smart about getting what you want. It’s like making a sales pitch.” He said with a pointed finger.

… “And that’s how you…helped Fuyuhiko.” For a lack of a better word.

“Yes. No bribes. No coercion. No blackmail. I showed him that he couldn’t run from the truth…in my own way.”

“…What way was that?” Chiaki asked.

“It wouldn’t help you…and you don’t need it either because you’ve got something I don’t: Their approval as the class rep.” Naegi rested his chin on his palm. His expression dazed, as if his consciousness was elsewhere. “There are three ways to earn that position. Either you’re liked by your peers, you were handed it because nobody else was qualified…or there could be an overlap. Which were you?”

Was she liked? Did they drop that position on her because only she could do it?

If it were about qualifications, there were others much better suited.

Chiaki remembered their first year. “I-I think it was because they liked me.” She said, sounding self-conscious.

Like I thought, you’re the third type.” Naegi continued. “Peko spoke really highly of you, and take it from whose still trying, that girl’s approval can’t be won without merit. If she likes you that much and you’re not Kuzuryu, then you must be exceptional to warrant it.”

“What did Peko say?”

Naegi gave her a cheesy grin as an idea must have popped into his head. He coughed, crossed his arms and with the most neutral expression he could muster…“Chiaki holds a special place in the class and she earned it with our approval.” Said all that in one of the worst attempts at mimicry the gamer had ever witnessed.

Chiaki partly blushed “That was awful.” Second-hand embarrassment aside, his statement…or Peko’s made her heart flutter. Chiaki wished she could have been there to hear it.

 “I might have missed the implicit bits about stabbing me all over if I made you cry, but you get the point. I think more about how much that means before you write yourself off, otherwise you’re doing for friends a disservice.” He reverted to his normal voice.

“I will.” Chiaki giggled.

“Aha, I got a real laugh this time. Mission accomplished!” Naegi cheered, childishly. Chiaki noted how the gesture made him look much younger than he was.

“Mission?”

 “Yeah, I’ve been trying to get a smile out of you all day. That’s one of the reasons I invited you.”

“Huh?”

“I’ve noticed you were a little down and it’s not good to bottle up your emotions.  I’d been thinking about what I could do help. Then I heard about the amusement park and figured I could bring you here, to lighten your mood. I even had Mukuro steak out the place with as a trial run. She was a great help.” He folded his arms, looking deep in thought. “Huh…did I tell Mukuro about that caveat or did I forget?”

Chiaki didn’t bat an eye to the mention of Enoshima’s sister. Instead her attention was gripped by the general insinuation Naegi made. “You…saw me?”

He responded with moderate surprise. “Why wouldn’t I have? I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I take a liking to others easily. Although the reverse isn’t always the case” Understatement, but sure, she saw that clearly. Where was he going with this though?

“The first time I walked into your class with Kuzuryu-kun. You were sitting in the back, all by yourself and looked a little lonely. There were others like Mioda-senpai, but…you stood out.”

Chiaki’s eyes widened. Her mouth moved “In what way?”

“You smiled the least, and I decided to change that.”

…That black, heavy emotion she’d felt for too long. Like the people she cared about were leaving her one by one, abducted by Enoshima. When everyone else had all but forgotten her…someone noticed?

 “Hmm. My eyes are kinda watery.” Chiaki said, wiping the tears she didn’t even know were kept in.

“Didn’t get enough sleep?” He offered her his handkerchief.

“I slept plenty. I think…I’m happy, right now.” She rubbed her eyes. Crying wasn’t something she did often, and she didn’t like it. Eager to shift the subject away from that embarrassment, she pressed on. “What was the other reason?”

Naegi blinked. “Oh…that was me helping out my junior.”

“Huh? I thought you were in the 78th class?” Chiaki furrowed her eyebrows. This might have been the most head-turning comment yet. “Or are you a Naegi imposter?”

“Remember when I said we were in the same position? I was a class rep too, back when I was a kid. I don’t think I looked the part then either…but what are you gonna do?”

Chiaki stared in awe, sensing a kindred spirit in the lucky student. If Naegi’d been helping others all the way back then, it explained a bit. So Chiaki posed the question. The one he’d thrown at her earlier. “Which type were you?”

“Do I look popular? They forced the job on me.”

 


 

“You’ve been acting weird. What’s got you so riled up?” Yasuke Matsuda was off his game, for reasons that simply needed no explanation at this point. Tired and out of his wits, he simply allowed himself to get walked over by Kamukura.

And now Ryoko. Because why the fuck else would he have foregone his research and let the suppressed psycho bitch drag him to the fair?

“Look, look look!” She said, pointing in the distance. A few minutes ago, she ran off on her own (because that always ends well) and now she’s acting like a total creep…more so than usual.

Yasuke followed the trail of her finger to a ruckus around a young girl, carrying a large stuffed animal. From the item and small applause, Yasuke assumed she’d won quite the prize. As expected, of Chiaki Nanami, who he discerned at a glance. Very few had such unique hairstyles.

“Not too surprising to see Nanami in a place like this.” The park wasn’t far from school either.

“Not her. Him!” She wagged her finger like a child in a candy store. “Wait, you know her, who’s this Nanami?” She probed.

He ignored her, instead focusing on another not far off. It was a boy leaning down to ruffle a dog’s fur. Not an uncommon sight – is what Yasuke would have liked to say, but the person was a different story. “Makoto Naegi? Why are you interested in him?”

“I asked first!”

“Answer.” He growled. Nothing good could come from getting involved with the lucky student. Especially in her case-…why does he even bother?

If Junko wants something, she’ll get it and he'll dance to her tune, no matter what.

“N-Naegi’s the guy Chihiro likes.”

“Fujisaki?” A puzzled look formed on his features. It wasn’t a stunning revelation or anything. What he wanted to know was why she cared.

“Yeah, and Ikusaba-san too. She and Naegi were out on a date, last night. Now he’s here with a new girl!” She sounded like one of those bitches reading about the latest scandal.

“Good for him.” Yasuke shrugged.

“Don’t you get it, Yasuke? Naegi’s a cheat! A philanderer! I knew he was waaay too nice!”

“I don’t think you have the right to talk shit about him leading on other people on. That’s your specialty.” 

“…W-Why would you say those mean things about me?!”

He clicked his tongue at the idiot, his gaze returned to Naegi,

Matsuda felt a shiver down his spine.

Naegi was looking at him, waving.

Yasuke remembered the tests he’d run on the brunet, and the results.

He was just like them.

Junko had brought him to the brink of insanity.

Izuru pushed him off the edge yet kept him from falling by stranded using a tether so small that it could snap at any moment, sending him plummeting.

Yasuke knew those two, perhaps not as much as he’d like to, but he knew enough. Naegi, on the other hand, was a complete enigma. One that Yasuke knew had stolen his files on Izuru. Nobody else could have done it.

"To hell with this." Yasuke turned around, ignoring Ryoko as he walked in the other direction, not daring to look the younger male one more second in the eye.

Hope’s Peak was already powder keg with those two monsters alone, and he was stuck in the middle of them.

If Yasuke got involved with a third…then that would really be game over.

 

Chapter Text

October 31st 20XX

 

“What’s with the weather lately?” I complained, not really caring about the grey skies or thunder. I said that to vent out the tedium of driving alone.

But those are the breaks of working as a cab-driver.

Was it a terrible job? Some might say so, but not me. I was what you’d call a social butterfly. I’m only bored right now because my shift just started, and I hadn’t gotten to the sweet spot; A taxi was a vehicle in more ways than one. It was also an excuse to meet people and in my honest opinion, the best part about this job was the people. I’m a stranger, so they didn’t think twice about chatting up a guy who’d never have an impact on their precious lives, save taking them where they needed to go. It didn’t matter if they were good-looking, smug assholes, or depressed. The thing is, everybody’s got a story to tell and the customers un-winded when they entered the car, especially if they were drunk.

If the job didn’t pay enough, their anecdotes made the difference. So if someone were to ask me if I loved working here? How could I answer no?

But, even I’ve got preferences, dos and don’ts. Unlike some drivers who avoided the eccentrics, I welcomed them. The wilder they are, the better the memory…and right now, nobody on the airport block could begin to compete with the kid hailing for a cab.

Just one look and I knew I’d hit the jackpot. His ghostly white hair clashed with his tanned skin. If I was a betting man, I’d say he wasn’t born with that skin tone and picked it up overseas.

How could I tell? The clothes - A pink, floral-themed Aloha shirt, white shorts and sandals. Overall, the attire mixed poorly with the surroundings and he stuck out.

“Where to boss?” I stopped by him. Normally I’d open the trunk for customers to place their luggage, but this guy only had a guitar case strapped to his back. “Baggage goes in the backseat.” I offered

“Thanks.” The white-haired teen replied curtly. After setting his luggage, he sat up front. “Hope’s Peak Academy, please.” He replied, eyes hidden beneath sunglasses.

The car moved, and I whistled at his opening. There wasn’t a Japanese man alive who hadn’t heard the name ‘Hope’s Peak’, but I’d never been anywhere near the area. Knowing about HPA and going there was the difference between day and night; only the real special folks got to. “You go to school there?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’re one of those Ultimates?”

He took off his sunglasses, revealing his dull gray eyes. “Not really, I wouldn’t compare myself to them, but I do attend school there. If only because I got lucky.”

“That’s some fine luck, pass it onto my kids why don’t ya? They’re just in elementary and Ultimates are all they talk about.” I laughed.

He smiled for the first time. “They’ve got good sense. This world runs on talent, if they understand that much, they’re already ahead of the curve at their age.”

“You’ve got a point there. If I had a shred of talent, I wouldn’t be working here.”

“Of course.”

This guy wasn’t one for conversation. That just means I have to try a little harder.

“You play guitar?”

He gave me a strange look, then the shift in his expression indicated something clicked. “No chance of that, I’d probably break the strings with one touch. What I’ve got back there is a souvenir I brought back with me from my trip.”

“Where from? Somewhere nice like Hawaii?”

“Yes and no. I did stay there, and it was one of my stops but…ah, it’s a long, complicated and mostly unpleasant story.”

“That’s the best kind!” I chuckled. “We’ve got a while before get to Hope’s Peak, so why not entertain me?”

He shook his head. “I usually don’t bother with your types, but the weather’s gloomy enough. No reason I have to be.” He looked deep in thought “To begin, do you believe in luck?”

I ignored the insult. “Who doesn’t?” There was some impossibilities and coincidences in the world you couldn’t explain with anything but luck.

“Good, that’ll make explaining easy. I’m Nagito Komaeda, The Ultimate Lucky Student.” He introduced himself. “I’ve been on a year-round trip.”

“Sounds nice…and expensive. Coming to this weather must be a downer.”

“I don’t mind that much.” He leaned back into the seat, drowsiness overcoming him “And I didn’t pay a cent. My talent is luck and I happened to win a lottery.”

Spread some of that luck over here.

“Still, pretty late in the year to time your arrival, don’t you think?” The school year should have been more than half-way over.

“I couldn’t help it…there were…roadblocks.” He said, vaguely  “Not like I could have returned earlier. I’ve been on suspension.”

“For?”

“Blowing up the school gym.”

My body tensed at the nonchalant answer and I’d accidentally run a red light.

The incident Komaeda alluded to had been on the news, but the culprits were named and promptly expelled…and this guy said he’d just been slapped with a suspension.

It wouldn’t be the first time a customer lied, it was kind of a downer. Stories were only interesting when they were real.

“So, what roadblocks did you meet on the trip?”

“It was near the end of my trip but…Ah. I’m not too sure what the outside knows, so I’ll need to ask. Does an airplane hijacking a little while ago ring any bells?”

“You kidding? It was the buzz for weeks. All those dead, how awful.”

“Thanks for your condolences.”

I winced at the implication. “Did you have family or friends there?”

“No.”

“It was tedious. The terrorists kept yelling out orders, but I’m sure almost nobody on the plane actually understood the language. You’d think they’d have the courtesy of bringing a translator or someone fluent in that regard…but what more could you expect from the talentless masses?” He said in an exasperated voice.

My hands were gripped to the wheel, and I missed the oncoming turn, my body moved on auto-pilot as the rest of my faculties were converted to processing Komaeda’s dreaded words. “You were there?”

“That should have been implicit.”

“B-But, everyone died!” And he was so bloody calm about it.

“Not everyone. I was the sole survivor. Wouldn’t be the first time this had happened. Honestly, it was a lot more tolerable the second time around.”

Is he bullshitting me? “In that case, what happened to the aircraft?”

“If you must know….”

 


 

 “Ah that’s right. Just carry over the 4 and you’ll get 28. Problem solved.” Nagito muttered to himself, his pencil moving in accordance with his fingers.

His headphones barely blocked out the crack of lightning. The blue tint of mother nature’s deadly cries illuminated the view; he suddenly regretted choosing to sit by the window. With his chin resting on his arm, Nagito faced the freak weather storm. Lightning strikes were frightening to be caught in, even when on land.

On air, it was positively nerve-wracking…for most people, he assumed. But Nagito had one-of-a-kind gift.

He was lucky, of the Ultimate pedigree.

For the past year and a half, Nagito had experienced some terrible strings of bad luck.  All originating with the death of Natsumi Kuzuryu, the sister of the Ultimate in Nagito’s class. Fuyuhiko had a legendary temper on the best of days, and it multiplied 10-fold with his sister’s murder.

Nagito had half-a-mind to tell the yakuza to forget his talentless sister and face the future…just kidding, he wasn’t an idiot. Kuzuryu-kun wouldn’t let him escape with just a few fingers if he’d said that. But something had to be done about the classroom atmosphere. That’s when Nagito decided to take matters into his own hands at the day of the practice exams. His friends simply weren’t ready to perform, and he wished to postpone the exam. Complications aside, Nagito succeeded. Now if only he could have pulled it off without getting caught in the act.

But this was all part of the deal. In exchange for his achievements, he received an extraordinary stroke of misfortune. That meant he was in for some good luck any time now.

In sum: His luck was a natural cycle; thus, he had no reason to fear or bother with nature.

However…however…humans, on the other hand, were a different story.

“W-What are you doing?” A portly man next to him whispered, harshly.

Komaeda frowned and turned to face him. “Homework. I’ve been away from school too long. I’ll be in trouble if I don’t try to keep up with my studies.” Nagito said.

“A-At a time like this? Aren’t you afraid?” Annoyed more like. The man had been fidgeting the whole time, much to Nagito discontent. He looked like he’d burst out of his seat at any moment.

Nagito sighed. It wasn’t quite so easy to shut out noisy people. “Scared of them?” He finally chose to recognize his situation. The other passengers were strapped to their seats, fingers clutching the arm rests. Many were also holding-hands. Others saying prayers.

A whole lot of nonsense, but what united them was fear.

Fear of the 2-armed men occupying the aisle like guards. They were the opposite; terrorists, whose goals were unknown. Or more like unheard. At least Nagito didn’t have a single clue what they were saying. Even he’d bothered to learn English.

Whatever. They were also irrelevant, as far as Nagito was concerned.

“There’s no need to be worried.”

“How do you know?” The man looked at him, signs of relief evident, but largely buried under anxiety.

“I just do.”

“Hmpf. Damn Japanese. I wonder if you even understand what I’m saying.” It appeared he didn’t approve of the albino’s optimism.

Nagito looked in front. Near the door to the other classes was the flight attendant, her face a stone mask, even as a masked man aimed at her with a rifle.

The luckster was impressed. She served as a reminder that not all talentless people were worthless. Some had potential as stepping stones for hope. “Why don’t you be more like her? She’s still got her composure.”

Komaeda genuinely said this for the man’s own good. Fear was many things. A defense mechanism and a powerful motivator.

Fear also made people behave in certain ways, based on his experience: You could a) shiver in terror b) retaliate in a terrifying manner

And the last, which Nagito found was most prevalent…cause people to do very stupid things. Nagito had a sneaking suspicion this man was of the third caliber.

“They’re going to kill us.”

“You don’t know that.” Although they would at least try. The survival rates of hijackings were pretty low, to memory.

“I do. I used to be a marine.” The man said.

Komaeda shrugged.

Minutes passed, and the situation remained unchanged. It probably wouldn’t until they landed. That was plenty of time.

One of the men spoke in whatever native language that was supposed to be. Next, he went through the door, closing it behind him.

Komaeda felt the sudden increase in space. He glanced at the man who formerly sat down, now in the process of standing, his eyes trained on the lone guard.

If Nagito was a good person, he would probably try harder talking sense into him. But if the fluffy-haired teen was morally inclined…he wouldn’t be here.

Nagito weighed his options. The man had decent odds, and if he could turn things around here, that would surely be hopeful.

The next second decided fate. The so-called ex-marine jumped out of his seat and charged. Nagito eyebrow rose. He was fast enough, despite his size. Before their captor could prepare himself, he had already grabbed the gun, engaging in a struggle.

Nagito winced as they yelled profanities at each othe-

Just then, he felt his hand weighed slightly less. His pencil had fallen to the floor. Nagito leaned over, his back folding to pick up the item.

*bang*

He heard the gunshots and smelled smoke.

Nagito lifted his head up to see the passenger who’d sat besides him on the floor, a pink liquid forming around his body.

His killer poking his corpse with a rifle.

Pity

The terrorist made eye contact with Nagito, his gun now pointed at the luckster as he spoke incomprehensibly.

Well, not like Nagito couldn’t understand without words. His assailant sat right by Nagito. Of course, the first thing he’d do in the other man’s position was search there for more trouble.

What irritating bad luck.

Nagito took off his headphones. They weren’t much use anymore.

“Sir, I implore you restrain yourself. He’s just a child.” Said the flight assistant.

How kind of her. Not that their captor thought much of it, as he practically spat in her face.

Now that provoked an irritated reaction in the white-haired boy. As a self-styled feminist, he couldn't overlook violence towards women.

Just as Nagito motioned to speak, lightning struck.

Literally.

The room went white and an explosion could be heard from the back. For a moment, nobody spoke. Even the gunman lowered his weapon.

Everyone looked between each other and they heard it again.

*Boom*

The terrorist spoke to the very woman he’d just spat on. His tone, distinctly meek.

“What was that?” He asked.

Confusion spread across Nagito’s features as the man spoke crude, but understandable English. “What the hell?”

“Remain calm, this is not uncommon when passing through a storm, but just in case…”

Light shone once more. This time, it wasn’t lightning. It was an orange tint. Nagito turned to look outside the window. There he saw it

The fire.

“Hmm.” He turned to the attendant, her eyes squarely on him. “I’m pretty sure the engine blew up.” He informed them. “I’m not Souda-kun, or anything resembling an expert but…can planes fly with one gone?”

He received no response, just looks of horror directed his way. Talk about rude.

The aircraft itself must have agreed, for it promptly answered in their stead…by banking in his direction. The passengers screamed and all leaned to the left involuntarily. The ones standing, just barely held onto the rails.

The corpse hit the window and fell to the ground, right in front of him. Leaving a pink trail from the glass onto the floor.

“Ladies and gentlemen, sit down and fasten your seatbelts. Open your pamphlets and read how to prepare for emergencies.” The flight attendant expertly evaded the word “crash” , never once confirming they were on a collision course for the sea below.

The fear of the terrorists had all but vanished from the minds of everyone. Arguably the invader himself, as he looked for the nearest seat.

There was only one open. The passenger seat of the very man he killed. Shamelessly he ran and sat on it, right next to Nagito.

The gunman chattered in his language and took off his mask, revealing short blond hair and unremarkable face, save his chapping lips and frightened eyes.

There was some kind of irony to be found in the act. How his expression exuded the very same terror Nagito had seen in the ex-marine.

The plane shook, tipped, and then speared downwards.

“Shitshitshit!” He heard.

“This is all your fault!” A middle-aged woman from behind screamed at the terrorist

"Murderer!"

“You bastard.” A pair of hands clutched the blonde man’s neck. Nagito turned his head to see an elderly man leaned over, his face crazed and teeth grit as he performed the deed.

“Sir return to your seat! You’re a danger to the passengers.” The attendant said professionally, cleverly and reasonable hinting that the terrorist was in fact, not a passenger, but the old man was still a hazard. To Nagito himself.

“Stop.” Nagito wasn’t a good person, but he didn’t care to see people die in front of him. Not unless it was for hope. But nothing like that would be found here.

That’s why he pried the old man’s hands off.

“All of you. There’s no need to be worried.” Nagito repeated the very words he’d spoken earlier, properly resting on his seat, arms folded behind his head, as if he were relaxing at the beach. The calmness he exuded made him an oasis in a desert. Everyone could only stare.

“How do you know?” The terrorist coughed.

Komaeda closed his eyes, choosing to elaborate this time. An indiscernible and exhausted emotion seeped into his words, as he remembered the day he lost everything. “Because this is entirely out of your hands. If you survive, you’re lucky. If you don’t, then you were either unlucky or ordinary. Do yourselves a favor and at least think happy thoughts. I promise. it’ll be a better use of your time.”

He put his headphones back on and turned the volume up to maximum

 “Brace for collision!” said the captain, his voice emanating from the intercom.

First came the sobs,

then the prayers once again

then the words of consolation

then contact

and then water.

 


 

 

 “It was a miracle I survived, but that was the worst of it. It was my good luck that the island I was stranded on, was inhabitable. From there, I just had to wait to be rescued.” Komaeda finished.

No words were spoken. Silence permeated too long for an on-going conversation.

“…Ha..hahaha. D-Don’t you think this is in bad taste? It’s not funny to joke about a tragedy.” I laughed. My hair standing up. At some point, I’d started sweating all over.

A puzzled look crossed his features.

What I was about to ask went against the spirit of the driver-customer code. Or really, any customer service occupation. An employee wasn’t to ever discourage or belittle the customer, no matter what they do. That’s why I made a point to just listen on the occasion the customer lied. But even I couldn’t keep quiet after such an absurd tale of an incident that fresh “You got any proof, Komaeda-san?”

“You don’t believe me?”

“It’s not like that.” I lied “However, that’s a wild story. After such an adventure, I thought you’d have something to show for it.”

“Oh that’s what you meant.” He pointed to the backseat. “In the case. There’s a souvenir I got for my classmates.” He beamed.

Whoever these guys were, he seemed to like them a lot.

“Souvenir? From the trip. How’s that prove anything?’

“Oh no. It’s a souvenir from the terrorists. Well, the parts that washed up on the island to be precise. I thought it’d be a waste to leave ‘it’ there.”

I looked back at the guitar case. Sweat fell down my brow. The container was…awfully large – enough to make any attentive viewer question if it really did hold an instrument.

“What’s in there?” I asked. I shouldn’t have.

“I’d rather not spoil the surprise. See for yourself…or maybe you shouldn’t? In retrospect, this might make it look like I was one of the terrorists. Even if you made that sort of accusation, I don’t think I could disprove it, driver-san.”

It couldn’t be…”You’re lying right? You couldn’t have brought something like that after a rescue operation and through the airport. The scanners would have caught you on-site.”

Komaeda gave me a hard look. A stone-cold expression that could only belong to a man who had no qualms ending another’s life.

Come to think of it…didn’t he say he blew up the school gymnasium, with people inside?

W-Who the hell did I let in my car?!

“…Obviously. None of that actually happened.”

“…WHAT?!” I screamed.

Komaeda broke out into half-hearted laughter. “You should have seen the look on your face. How could you believe such an outrageous story?”

I gaped. As my adrenaline slowed down, I felt the urge to laugh along with him. I felt it, but I couldn’t act on it.

“Take this little prank of mine as a lesson. Don't play around on the job.” He rested his head back on the seat and said nothing more.

Neither did I.

 


 

 

I dropped Komaeda off at his destination early in the morning. It seemed he hadn’t been lying about being a student there, at least.

“I can’t believe I let him psyche me out like that.” As proof, I was still drawn to his guitar case even as he left. As if there were something else I was missing.

Any pointless thoughts about the white-haired boy was drowned out as I  got a call to return to the airport. Unusually, I wasn’t up for another ride. The last one had been more than enough excitement for one day; I  was already drained.

But that’s work. You got to do it, even when you feel like shit.

I picked up the next customer, opening the trunk for a portly, middle aged man to place…his…luggage.

I shook my head to ward off a frightening train of thought “Where to?” This one was typical, much more ordinary…and I didn’t mind one bit.

“Shinjuku.” The man said in a gruff, irritated tone.

And with that, I took off on another long trip.

“You’re not one for talking huh?” The man said.

“No no. I’m just a bit disgruntled is all. It’s been a strange morning.”

“Ha! That’s an understatement!”

I squinted “Did something happen?”

“The airport held all the passengers back, and now I’m late for my appointment!” He bellowed. That must have been some meeting he’s tardy for.

“What happened?” I let my curiosity get the better of me once again.

That was another mistake. 

“The airport scanners suddenly malfunctioned! Nobody could get through thanks to security. I had to pay to get my luggage checked manually.”

His luggage. He had never been able to get a strange thought out of his mind once it settled in. Komaeda said he’d come back from a round trip vacation for over a year.

I don’t think he lied about that, his tan and clothing proved his claim. But…if he’d left for that long, where was his luggage?

All he’d brought with him was that case, and no matter the size, it couldn’t hold the necessities for a trip that long. And to begin with, why not settle for a more conventional travel bag instead of lugging that guitar case around?

Unless, he didn’t have any at all, but how…

The older man rambled all on his own “Under normal circumstances, I’d consider suing for delaying my arrival, but…it is a dangerous time. With the scanners offline, just about anything could be brought in and out. I can understand why the airport would apprehensive about security. Especially after that hijacking.”

That cold sweat returned.

“A-About the terrorist hostage situation. I heard everyone on board died.”

“A sad tale, but I don’t believe that’s quite right. Apparently, a school boy survived. How lucky he must be.”

“Lucky…yeah. You might be right.”

I dared not say anymore…yet even that silence proved meager, because Nagito Komaeda wasn’t finished with him yet.

Later that evening, after returning home, the kids were chained to the television…and watching the news. It became clear why, after reading the headline. It told of another tragedy, one not unrelated to the strange boy I’d met earlier.

Breaking News: Hope's Peak Academy's biggest, most awful event

 


 

 

Nagito walked through HPA’s main gates with a shining grin on his face, like everything was finally right with the world. Except the rain, but what was that compared to standing on the hallowed grounds of the greatest harvest of talent in the world!

“It’s probably presumptuous of me to say, but I should go tell everyone I’m back.” He briefly wondered if they’d missed him. What a silly thought! As if anyone would take notice of walking garbage. Still, he’d at least be thrilled to see them again.

Turns out he didn’t have to with that long didn’t have to travel long before a certain nurse caught his eye in the distance. “Tsumiki?” She was the only person he knew who had messy tendril-like hair. But what was she doing walking around this early in the morning. Day hadn’t even broken yet.

Just as he was about to wave and call out to the bandaged-clad girl, she turned around the corner.

Nagito picked up his pace, following after his classmate. But, what he found was just the Izuru Kamukura statue in the clearing. “Where’d she go?” The ashen-haired Ultimate muttered. Seeing no sign of the nurse.

He looked around and there was nowhere she could have gone too so quickly.

“It must be jetlag.” He stifled a yawn, dismissing Tsumiki’s appearance as a figment of his imagination. His fluffy-white hair caught droplets of rain.

“Oh darn it.”

The lucky student didn’t waste another moment dawdling. The dorms were still quite a distance away and getting caught under the rain was just asking for trouble with his health.

Unfortunately, he didn’t make it very far when the downpour worsened. Nagito was forced to take temporary shelter inside  the old building. He’d put down his belongings in front of the door, while he slumped down against the wall. The only accessible light was the thunder outside.

“What bad luck.” He spoke softly, his tone dancing with joy. For luck was a cycle, for misfortune he was experiencing, he would be repaid with even greater fortune later on.

Everything balances out.

 

Chapter Text

“Soshun Murasame has been expelled.” The headmaster announced. 

And with that, the day got off to a fantastic start for Kyoko Kirigiri.

"Isshiki Madarai as well."

“On what grounds? And when my investigation is still running at that?” She asked

“It was the committee’s decision.”

“The steering committee have all been killed.” She saw one die right before her eyes. A pile of desks and equipment fell on top of him right before Kyoko could begin her questioning. When she searched for the culprit, the body had been taken away.

Kyoko felt the calm before the storm. Something was happening in this school, and she wasn’t just referring to the parades. No, what she was currently investigating was as malicious as it was subtle.

“The new board. Isn’t it convenient?” He grit his teeth, as displeased with the outcome as she was.

“What about Izuru Kamukura?” The actual reason she began her investigation was to search for them. A person who shared the same name as the Academy’s founder. Unfortunately for her client, all evidence pointed to him as the culprit behind the worst tragedy to befall Hope’s Peak.

“The Izuru Kamukura case is also closed. You’ve done enough.”

“I’ve done nothing. I don’t even know their gender.”

“You misunderstand. I’m saying there is nothing left to find. If I’m allowed to be clear; you could say this was all a wild-goose chase from the start.”

Kyoko narrowed her eyes. “It seems there’s nothing I can say. Do what you want.”

Jin furrowed his eyebrows. “You’re dropping the case…just like that?”

“Did you want me to resist?” Kyoko arched an eyebrow, already having her fill of this ‘wonderful’ father-daughter talk. “You were the one who dragged me out of another investigation. I’d gladly go back to that.”

“Oh? You never did give me details. I didn’t hear about you getting any other clients either.”

Why would he know about her clients? – She wanted to ask but kept it to herself. There were more important things that needed to be said.  “You…have no idea where they are, do you?”

“Excuse me?”

“The expelled students. I’ve been unable to contact Madarai after he got away from me, and Murasame was kept on lockdown. The story was that he needed medical attention. But in reality, the council president was a key witness, if not the possible culprit himself.  He knows far too much to be given leave.” What she was getting at should have been clear at this point. “The only reason you’re telling me about their expulsion, is they are no longer in your reach…and I would find out anyway.”

“Well now…that’s quite the theory.” Jin crossed his fingers.

Of course it was. “Piece of advice. Don’t be surprised when the dam bursts, headmaster Kirigiri.” Kyoko closed the door behind her, leaving Jin to himself.

…The headmaster crossed his fingers and with a bright smile... “That’s my little girl.” He laughed, admiring his daughter’s talent and how she had discovered so much with so little to go on.

Kyoko was his daughter. It was his obligation, nay his right to be proud.

Outside the door, the lavender haired girl hadn’t quite left. Her ears peeled to the door to see if she could learn anything once her father believed she was gone.

Waste of time.

“What an idiot.” Kyoko sighed…then straightened herself, moving away from the door as campus security approached, a student in formal black being dragged by the arm.

“Keep struggling and I’ll beat the crap out of you again.” Juzo Sakakura threatened the squirming reserve course student.

The restrained boy seethed, even moreso when his eyes locked onto Kyoko. “Don’t think you can lord it over us forever.”

For some reason, he chose to direct that thinly veiled threat towards her.

“That is supposed to mean?” Kyoko recognized determination when she saw it, and generally, that sort of confidence had some backing.

“Forget about this idiot. I caught him hopping over the fence. He’ll be out of this school before the day is done.” Sakakura said.

Now why is it that those words did nothing to comfort her?

 


 

Out from the frying pan and into the fire, one might say.

It was 6 in the evening and the sun was setting. Kyoko passed by the halls, deep in thought. With her search of Izuru Kamukura suspended indefinitely, she was free to focus on a problem closer to home. Namely Makoto Naegi. At the moment, he wasn’t a pressing concern…but potentially, he may become a threat to this not-so-quiet daily school life as of late.

“Kirigiri-san!” A friendly call from an all-too-friendly individual. Kyoko locked eyes with Naegi jogging up to her.

What awful timing.

“Good evening, Naegi-kun.” She greeted him…and then kept walking without a second glance his way.

Naegi failed to take the hint, or just didn’t care.

 “Cold as ever…” He laughed, walking by her side.

“And this amuses you?” Kyoko cocked an eyebrow. There were boys who preferred the sadistic treatment (Yamada came to mind whenever Celes was involved), but she didn’t peg Naegi for one.

“Yeah.” He shamelessly admits “Cold is definitely your default, and that means everything’s normal on your end. I hadn’t seen you since your birthday.”

 “You don’t have to be. I was working on a case.” And she didn’t feel the need to continue engaging in their clique.

“What kind of case?”

“I’m not under any obligation to discuss that with you.” Kyoko sped up, but he kept pace nonetheless. She sighed and stopped in place. “You’re full of energy. Have you gotten over your cold already?”

“Yup. A while back.” He beamed. “Oh. Wait a sec.” He reached into his bag and foisted a notebook. “Here. These notes should cover what you missed in class. My handwriting isn’t the best, sorry.”

Kyoko paused. While it was true that she was falling behind in her studies, she thought it best to refuse. “Thanks for the offer, but it’s unnecessary. I don’t need the help.”

He actually looked hurt by her rejection. However much of that she could believe. She knew from prior experience that he was skilled at feigning and manipulating emotion.

 “You don’t need the help…or you don’t want my help?” He drooped.

“Think whatever you want.” She shrugged.

“…That’s not right.” He shook his head. “I take it back, you’re being unusually cold…Did something happen?”

Kyoko motioned to answer but stopped prematurely. Their path was being blocked. A very tall man with pale white skin and lizard-like features stood meters in front of them. Despite his slender form, the detective felt his guard encompassed both sides of the hallway.

They weren’t getting passed him.

“Isshiki Madarai.” Kyoko stated, bluntly revealing the man’s identity was no secret to her. They’d met before, after all.

“Hmpf. Kyoko Kirigiri. Allow me to pose a question. Were you involved with the murder of the student council?”

Ah, here we go. His motive is as clear as day.

“No and you won’t find anything tying me to the crime.” She answered plainly.

“Correct. Not a shred of evidence points to you, but I felt I should ask regardless. You may pass.”

Kyoko narrowed her eyes at that oddly specific phrasing. ‘I may pass?’ That implies she was free to leave…but Madarai would still be standing guard. But against whom and for what purpose?

“We meet again, Naegi.”

“Huh? We’ve met before?” Naegi replied. As confused as Kyoko was.

“Did you take up Otonashi’s habits?”

“You guys are still after her. She didn’t kill the student council.” Naegi replied. How he spoke assuredly about an incident that should have been buried under rumors and exaggerations, provoked a cautious reaction from Kyoko.

“I know.” Madarai said, yet his enmity didn’t let up one bit. “However, she was involved all the same, whether she knows it or not.”

“Haven’t you learned your lesson already? Otonashi evaded you many times before, and from the looks of it, even during our previous meeting in the neurology lab.” Kyoko’s eyes narrowed to slits when she recalled their earlier skirmish. “Thanks for the good time, by the way.”

“So you met my brothers.” Madarai stiffened, his attention rerouted back to the detective. “Where are they?”

“You…weren’t among the five I met, were you?” Kyoko surmised. The pains of dealing with twins is that you could never tell them apart without close familiarity.

“Only 5?  Misshiki, Yoshiki, Goshiki, Rosshiki, Shichishiki and Yasshiki…left after Otonashi while we recuperated from our wounds. None of them returned…and from the sounds of it, you know their whereabouts.” His tone was belayed an accusation.

“One, Rosshiki I believe, attacked me while the other four chased after Otonashi. I managed to get away from him, and that was the end of it.” Kyoko replied, never having met the third brother. “I hate to break it to you, but you may want to consider the worst-case scenario.”

“Any good reason?”

“Precedence. You should know better than I that many connected to that incident, have found themselves in unfavorably circumstances. And nobody’s jumping into the fire quite like you brothers.”

“Fair enough. So it’s possible that my siblings are dead…in that case, we shall avenge them as well.”

“This again…” She heard Naegi groan in displeasure “Aren’t both of you jumping the gun? And why are you writing off your own brothers when they could still be alive?” Naegi pointed at Madarai.

Madarai cocked his head. “And what would you suppose happened?”

“I dunno. They could have been captured and held somewhere.” Possible, but Kyoko wouldn’t bet on it. Madarai has no value as a hostage, however she may have missed something and Naegi was- “Or maybe they’re passed out somewhere, having a good time. It IS a Friday night.”

Or Naegi was an idiot. How could he joke at a time like this?

To her surprise, Madarai laughed regardless. “I’ll take you up on that optimistic chance. And who better to trust for information than one of the perpetrators.”

“Eh?”

“Yes, please elaborate.” Kyoko pressed. Subtly distancing herself from the luckster.

Madarai chuckled. “Pretending won’t do any good, Naegi. My brother overheard your conversation with Izuru Kamukura…you knew everything about the death of our comrades, and that Enoshima was the culprit.”

The lavender haired girl couldn’t maintain her stoic mask at that reveal. She stared at Naegi with shock. Her mind switched into full gear. Kyoko long theorized that Izuru Kamukura and the council murder were connected; that he was the culprit…but Enoshima?

At most, Kyoko believed the timing for the sudden memory loss and emergence of Ryoko Otonashi was odd, but this went too far. It was a reveal that overshadowed Naegi’s supposed involvement.

Kyoko hated not being in the know, which is exactly why she’d get to the bottom of what the hell was going on here.

 “Ah…I thought Izuru was being a little talkative. Here I believed he was finally warming up to me.” Naegi wore a wry grin, not bothering to deny Madarai’s claim.

Kyoko had a million and one questions to ask but chose to voice any. Not yet. The more raw, unfiltered testimonies she heard, the better before a thorough interrogation.

 “You’re finally being honest. I like you more than Otonashi already.” Madarai sneered.

“Uh, thanks…so what do you want from me?”

“To make you divulge every last bit of information on Enoshima and Kamukura.” Madarai’s lips  twitched upwards into a malicious grin “That is, after I’m finished breaking every bone in your body.”

And that is where she drew the line. “I’m afraid that isn’t going to be happening.”

“You’ll get in my way?”

“Had you only intended to question Naegi, I might have looked the other way – after I was through with him."

"Kirigiri-san, I don't think that's how that line works." Naegi interjected

She ignored him.

"But, you’ve made it clear that you’re more interested in torturing him than the answers he would give.” Kyoko replied. “You’re not getting away with that, on my watch.”

“He is involved and told nobody. That is enough to face judgement.”

“On whose authority? As far as I know, your jurisdiction only extended to defending the student council, not issuing vendettas to outside parties.” Kyoko flicked a strand of hair. “Or rather, it did.”

“Excuse me”

 “You didn’t get the memo? As of earlier this morning, you’ve been filed under expulsion.”

Madarai gave a look of pure outrage "So that’s how it is.” He placed a hand on his forehead, sneering contemptuously at all that environed him. “Not just the students, but the corruption extends to the board itself? No matter. All this means is that I don’t have to hold back in fear of regulations.”

“You won’t quit?” Kyoko frowned. A confrontation was steadily becoming unavoidable.

“Not until we have our revenge.”

“…We?” Madarai’s inclusion of plurality took a very literal meaning, as an arm latched onto the back of her lapel. She couldn’t brace herself in time to be flung and sent crashing into the lockers.

Kyoko grunted from the impact to the back of her skull. It hadn’t been a casual throw; the collision was enough to dent the metal plate. The searing pain in her head was stripping her of  consciousness. With her remaining strength, Kyoko lifted her head to see multiple Madarais surrounding Naegi. It wouldn’t have been unlikely to presume it was a symptom of deliriousness, if not for the fact that they were identical siblings.  

“Stay out of this.” Madarai(s) gave their final warning in stereo.

 


Kyoko woke up to a lethargic sensation. Her body felt warm and unusually light, like she were moving on air. Contradicting that discovery was the pressure she felt on her head, impairing the detective from coherent thought, for the moment.

She started small, working her way up from what she could remember last. She was attacked by…Isshiki Madarai…and…there was someone else.

Creases formed on her forehead as Kyoko squeezed her eyes closed and swayed her head, struggling to recall the bits of memory she was missing,

“Q-Quit it. That tickles.”

…What?

That no quite feminine giggle, the frustrating tonality.

Kyoko’s eyes snapped open, pulling her head back to discern exactly where she was. The reason for the lightness of body, was because she was being carried on somebody’s back.

Her arms were draped over his front and she had (formerly) been nestling on his neck. Now she could only see the unkempt and wild brown hair.

“O-oh, you’re awake.” Naegi chirped.

Put. Me. Down.” The urgency in her voice was far too weak for her liking. Her normal reaction would have been to snap, but the searing pain in her head overpowered the indignation.

“D-Don’t squirm, you might hurt yourself.” He groaned, and she hated that he was right.

Damn it.

“Where’d Madarai go?”

“I evaded them.”

“You’re lying.”

“How can you tell?” He asked.

“I’m not an idiot for one. We’re in the same PE class so I know your physique is sub-standard. You could never outrun Madarai, and you couldn’t hide from three of them tailing you.” That he was carrying her was the icing on the cake. How did he get away?

“I-I could have outrun them…if I wanted to. I was the star of my elementary school’s track team, you know.”

“And how long ago was that?” Kyoko raised her eyebrow, skeptical of even that statement.

“…I talked to Madarai and got him to leave before he did any more damage.”

 “That’s an even more incredulous lie than the last.”

“How else would I get them to leave? And why does nobody ever believe the peaceful solution works?” Naegi’s voice rose.

“Because people aren’t built to have their convictions swayed in moments by sweet-talk. Especially those hell-bent on revenge.”

“It worked with Kuzuryu-kun.”

“If I recall correctly – and I do – that skirmish left you with multiple severe injuries-“ Kyoko trailed off. “…Naegi, put me down.” She hit his shoulder.

“J-Just wait a bit, we’re almost at the infirmary.”

“Now!”

“No! You might have a concussion, I’m not putting you down even if you yell at me.”

Kyoko grit her teeth. She really hated to admit it, but he was right. Her thoughts weren’t as jumbled now, but she still felt nausea and dizziness. “I won’t let you get away with this.”

“Please don’t spite me even more. You’re heavy enough as it is, surprisingly. I can guess why.”

Kyoko’s gloved fingers slowly, menacingly curved around his neck.

“…Care to repeat that?” She said slowly. With all the sudden, unexplained murders going on, it wouldn’t be too shocking for Naegi to be found strangled to death in the morning. She could even pin the kill on Madarai.

“I-I-I said I want 5 kids!” He said in a high-pitched voice.

“…Pardon me?” Kyoko asked, after a period of silence, sporting a rare dumbfounded expression. Of all the...

“Later, when I’m older…haha.”  He did not sound the least bit convincing, but she wasn’t about to argue…or continue this conversation at all.

Idiot.

 


 

“Tsumiki senpai’s not here.” Naegi stated the obvious as they entered the infirmary. Despite her protests, he was adamant on carrying her all the way there. If that wasn’t enough, he’d made her sit down and took it upon himself to wrap bandages across her forehead.

What a persistent guy.

Looking up at Naegi from while he went about his imposed duty, she could see he wasn’t too beaten up. A torn white shirt. A thin cut on his lips were thin pink residue fell…and a blow to the head seemed likely, judging from the bruise in that area. Comparatively speaking, Pekoyama and Kuzuryu inflicted much worse injuries.

“Tsumiki should be on duty.” Kyoko murmured. Just their luck that Tsumiki would be absent at a time like this.

‘Here’s a thought.’ Kyoko looked the luckster square in the face.

“As an alternative, we should go see Gekkogahara instead.”

He dropped the white tape, leaving it to roll on the ground.

Well…there was an interesting reaction.

“Gekko…gahara-san?” His words nearly a whisper. "We probably shouldn't."

“Why? It doesn't seem like a bad idea with no other options.” Kyoko feigned ignorance.

“Even I can do first aid.” Naegi assured her.

Kyoko scanned the boy for further signs of apprehension, but to no avail. So she pressed him. “I have little experience in that field, and even assuming you did, I doubt you’re in the right state to apply it. We need a professional to make a proper diagnosis.”

“My injuries look a lot worse than they are. They didn’t hurt me that badly.”

“Really? From what I remember, Madarai threatened to break every bone in your body.”

“Lucky me then.” He nervously scratched his cheek…

“Lucky you, but I may not be. You’re the one who insisted on carrying me because it was too dangerous for me to walk.” She glared.

"Fair enough." Naegi's lips slanted into a faint, almost unnoticeable smile. "Should we go now?."

"You're sure?" Kyoko arched an eyebrow.

"It's no problem at all. I"ll even carry you again."

Kyoko closed her eyes in disappointment. It was clear from what she knew (but he didn't) and his outburst that meeting Gekkogahara was the last thing he wanted, and he's lying right to her face.

When didn't he?

Could he be honest with anyone? “Really, you are the worst.”

Naegi twitched. For a moment, Kyoko was positive he’d glare at her. But it was only momentary. His expression morphed back into his usual non-aggression. “What is it about me you hate so much?” He spoke with a fond curiosity. 

Nevertheless, Kyoko didn’t miss the edge in his speech.

His question was sudden, but one she could easily answer. “I don’t recall mentioning I hated you.” Though so many were under that presumption.

“Actions speak louder than words.”

“And just like words, actions can be deceiving and do not always carry intent.”

“You’re dodging the question.”

You are insincere.” Kyoko stated.

Naegi blinked  and tilted his head. “I..insincere? You can’t be serious.”

Was she? In light of Naegi going out of his way to carry her to the infirmary to treat her wounds (despite his own), could she call him insincere?

Absolutely. Because she had an inkling that there was something much more sinister beneath the smiles. “I’m not keen on jokes, and I understand your frivolous personality well enough by now.”

He shrugged. “Okay, I won’t argue with the detective, but what’s your reasoning?”

Kyoko’s lips thinned. “What do you see in Fujisaki?”

“Chihiro? He’s a good friend.” So he said, but to be that surprised at the mention of the programmer, it’d be little wonder if Fujisaki was someone Naegi hadn’t thought about in years.

As for his textbook answer…well, that itself was another problem.

Just a good friend, hmm? I see…so Fujisaki would not even qualify as your closest companion, much less a subject of romantic interest?”

“Romantic?” He giggled. "That's a joke right?"

That reaction said it all.

“He’s obsessed with you, you can’t seriously pretend to haven’t noticed.” Kyoko shot him an unimpressed look. “But even if you haven’t, that only proves my point. Even though you were the one to break through Fujisaki’s shell…you haven’t given any serious thought to his feelings.”

She pitied Fujisaki, for his blatantly obvious display of affections hadn’t even broken through the uppermost layer of Naegi’s surface.

“The problem also works in reverse. Just like with Pekoyama and Kuzuryu, you intentionally put yourself in harm’s way for reasons that I still can’t understand.”

“I was just trying to help. If Kuzuryu kept allowing himself to be haunted by his sister, he’d keep doing horrible things.” He argued. Objectively, she couldn’t disagree.

She also couldn’t argue with the results he achieved that night. There’d been a remarkably positive change in gangster. Though Kyoko doubted she could see eye-to-eye with the criminal.

Nevertheless, the ends don’t justify the means and not everything ran on logic.

“Regardless of what you tell me, you should consider what I’m about to tell you and then decide if you agree with my assertion.” Kyoko countered. “Your family or even friends…did you once consider how they would feel to know about the extremes risks you put yourself through? Did you even tell them?”

The confounded look on his face said it all. ‘Family. Why are they relevant?’ Kyoko understood the sentiment well, having pronounced familial disputes herself.

“If yes, then there’s no need to pay attention to a shred of what I’ve told you. However, if you didn’t think about your loved ones at all…then you’re a hypocrite.”

Their conversation progressed no further. The door flung open, revealing a huffing Tsumiki who looked like she’d just ran a marathon.

“Naegi-san? You’re injured again?!”  The nurse screamed

 


 

 

Kyoko returned to the dorm room, after Tsumiki’s assessment. Neither she nor Naegi had spoken another word to each other for the rest of the evening and she hadn't been able to interrogate him further about the Madarai confrontation. The nurse advised that she go back for checkups, in case of abrupt complications.

Kyoko insisted her injuries were nothing serious…for her anyway. You couldn’t be a detective without braving mortal danger—

The lavender haired girl stopped just short of opening her room door.

Light poured out and Kyoko’s instincts shifted into overdrive. Madarai’s assault hadn’t crippled Kyoko’s mental faculties, she still clearly remembered turning the lights off when she departed in the morning, and nobody was allowed in her room.

“Breaking and entering.” The detective whispered. What could she do? Run and signal security? Or assess the threat herself?

Kyoko only took a moment to decide. She was done being helped by others for one evening, and the problem with asking others for help, is that you’re compelled to share the ‘rewards’ with them. Take for example, if she enlisted the police’s aid to catch a suspect, they would butt in on her interrogation. It happened too many times for her liking.

Hope’s Peak was even more secretive and corrupt from what she’d seen. In times of turmoil like this, Kyoko needed to take risks if she wanted rewards.

That…and the fact that the lights being left on, meant one of two things: If the intruder was an idiot, then they turned on the lights unintentionally. That meant they were careless (and trapped) fools she could probably deal with.

But, if the lights were left for her to see, then the intruder is confident and wanted her to know the room was compromised.

She’d see which was the case after entering. Not bothering to feign silence, she opened the door. It was a mere dorm room, so they whole space was available to her at a glance, barring the bathroom…which after a quick check, was also empty.

…Was this a prank?

It was an elaborate one to pull, given the consequences for breaking in. Next, the detective searched for a possible motive. The most obvious being theft, but Kyoko was a minimalist. The objects in her room worthy of value were practically none.

Normally, they should have gone through Maizono or Nevermind’s room if they wanted valuables.

Amidst this strange night, Kyoko did find something. On her bed, was a file. Not hers…nor was it here when she left. Kyoko opened it, seeing two photos in the dossier. One being a picture of a man she had never seen before, but whose name she could recognize at a glance.

The other was a girl, both whose name and appearance Kyoko recognized instantly.

“Izuru Kamukura and Junko Enoshima.” And a profile beneath their photographs. Measurements, names (obviously), ages, affiliations etc.

Kyoko scanned the paper, stopping at one peculiar phrase that caught her eye. An alien moniker left her mouth.

“Ultimate…Despair.”

Chapter Text

13 Students occupied a single the classroom in the old school building. An ordinary sight one would see anywhere, but nothing short of unnatural findings were present in the face of several key details. First, they were Ultimates of Hope's Peak Academy, that fact alone made them extraordinary. Second, it was the first night of the new semester...indeed, it was night, at 9 pm to be exact. Students would not be permitted to lounge in classrooms. Yet, the classroom itself formed the third oddity; a place meant for fostering the growth of youth looked like it'd been hit by a miniature storm. That wouldn't have been an inaccurate description of the disaster that occurred within those walls. However, nothing was more out of place than the students themselves. None spoke or recognized each other, they sat, slept, stood, or gazed out the windows.

They were an unproductive bunch, unfit for their position as Hope's Peak Academy's Student Council, and why they should they be anything but indolent? They had nothing left. not so much as a shadow, nor would their reflections appear on the broken mirrors in the room. Their existence itself would be seen as unnatural by anyone else...if they could be seen by anyone else.

The dead couldn't interact with the living.  A fact that had driven the council to mass hysteria when they first learned of their deaths. Now, they were despondent, having resigned themselves to their fate. Worse still, is that not one of them could seek solace in their peers. Not after they had betrayed and murdered one another out of fear, envy and hatred.

Even confronting each other was meaningless.

Everything was meaningless. 

They earnestly believed they would remain this way forever...until...a miracle appeared.

The door crudely slid open, and in walked a figure they'd never seen before; their curious gaze scanning the room

Half the council were drawn to the new arrival. Others didn't care, expecting nothing but disappointment like all the others who happened upon the abandoned room by chance.

"Are you...the student council?" Their most notable trait was a strand of hair shaped like a bent antenna.

The 14th person had become most unnatural of all, to be able to see them and address them.

After what felt like minutes of shock and silence, the vice-president, Kotomi Ikuta did her acted out her role for the first time in months. She aptly represented and conveyed the council's mixture of emotions in both speech and voice. "Who are you?" Those three words had never held so much weight for the 13. It went beyond a request for an introduction, but what this person would, could do for them.

The abnormal one brimmed with fierce determination as they answered.

 "Call me Naegi."

 


 

 September 9th 20XX

 

Wow, he looks just like me.” Makoto awed at the computer screen.

“Right? I designed him that way.” Chihiro chirped, exuding pride for the  A.I modeled after Naegi’s features.

 Makoto and the boy – who he formerly recognized as of the opposite sex – were having lunch in the classroom.

“What can he do?” Makoto asked

“As long as I’ve got access to a system, I can perform all sorts administrative functions.” The floating head responded in Chihiro’s stead.

“This is a little weird.” Makoto laughed nervously. Hearing those words in his voice? Would take some getting used to. “Just don’t hack into any dangerous places wearing my face, okay?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” The A.I said.

Wouldn’t, huh? Then he hypothetically could?

“I’m still working out the bugs with him. It’ll be a while before he’s ready for the Turing test.” Chihiro interjected, he’d once described the exam as an evaluation of Alter Ego’s ability to fluently read human thought processes and emotions.

“Alter Ego needs improvement when it comes to human interaction…which is why I wanted to ask if you could…babysit him for a bit.”

The luckster hummed in thought. “You couldn’t do it yourself?”

“I programmed him with your personality in mind, so it’d be easier for him to learn directly from you.”

 “He’s really…happy.” Makoto mused. The face on the laptop screen glowed with mirth. It was the kind of smile that people would playfully say could bring world peace.

“At least I got that part down right.” Chihiro said closing the pc.

 “So what do I need to do here, exactly?”

“Just talk to him or leave the PC on and let him observe you. If I didn’t screw up royally in his coding, he’ll learn like regular humans do.”

What the heck… “Amazing. Technology’s really something…or you are.” He sneakily hugged the shorter boy from behind and spun him around. “Ahaha.”

S-Stop it.” Chihiro pleaded, embarrassed. He wobbled when Makoto let him down, steadying himself on the desk.

“I’m serious. You’re my favorite, Chi.” Makoto stepped to the computer, his fingers drifting on the cover’s surface.

“…R-Really?”

“You don’t believe me?” He joked.

“…Even more than Ikusaba-san?”

 Makoto gave the other boy a confused look, failing to see the reason behind the sudden comparison “What about her?”

 “…Never mind.”

“Hm?” Ignoring Chihiro for a bit, the echoes of outrage grew loud enough to be heard in the room, they were cries that would immediately bring sour the mood of all who heard them. Makoto peered outside the classroom window to see the reserve course protesting outside the main gates.

 “The parades again.” Chihiro observed their cries with fear. “We’re safe here, right?” He looked to Makoto for confirmation.

“Probably.” The luckster said.

 


 

 

October 13th 20XX

 

“Alter-ego, you there?” Makoto sat facing the desk in his dorm room.

“Yeah, Makoto?” That’ll never not be weird…to hear a doppelganger reply back with his name and in his voice no less! But it might be strangely fitting considering there were so many ways Alter ego could be of use.

For example, with a certain brainwashing video. A footage of arbitrary events that had been tampered with and layered with techniques to control the mind. Courtesy of The Ultimate Animator.

Makoto wondered if Chihiro loaning his digital clone was a sign; the timing had been so perfect. Peko had lived up to her promise of providing him with a footage of the brainwashing clip that Kuzuryu was in possession of.

 Junko Enoshima used the brainwashing video to break the last vestiges of Class 77’s sanity and make them fanatical with despair – is what he’d learned from Mahiru and Peko. The former of whom was currently not on speaking terms with him…and made sure to keep her distance whenever he walked by.

Makoto sighed. Though he couldn’t fathom the logistics behind seeking out pain, he decided to believe the swordswoman, seeing as she had no reason to lie.

Unfortunately, Makoto himself did not know the very first thing about cinematics…and could do nothing with the video…until now.

“What’s the progress on the brainwashing video?” He asked.

“I’ve decoded it and…haha, it’s not really brainwashing.” The A.I replied.

“That’s not what I heard.” Makoto said, Puzzled.

“In layman terms, it’s similar to how teachers ‘brainwash’ students with education. At the core, it’s not really mind control or anything that strong. The techniques stimulate the brain, nudging the viewer’s thoughts and emotions in a certain direction. Like how putting on fitting designer clothing raises the wearer’s attractiveness.”

…I see. Less brainwashing and more suggestion.

“Could you play it for me?” He asked.

“The video? It’s very graphic so I’ll put on filters.”

“Ah, don’t bother yourself with the small stuff. Just give me the original version. I want to confirm something.” If Alter Ego was correct, the brainwashing shouldn’t be strong enough to affect him.

“I don’t advise this.” The program shut him down.

Chihiro asked him to educate Alter Ego, so why not give the A.I a lesson?

“I get you’re being obstinate for my sake, but…uh, you like learning don’t you?”

“Umu! It’s been a pleasure having you as my teacher, Naegi.”

“Ditto. But I can only teach you because there are things I know that you don’t…and that’s very little already.” Alter ego was magnitudes more intelligent than himself. It’d be a waste if the A.I hindered its potential. “The information you’re hiding from me could be useful in the future and being ignorant of it might have even worse consequences.”

If Makoto allowed himself to be scared off trivialities like corpses, he’d never get anything done. He only got this far because he took risks to learn everything he could about his surroundings. “I guess, the general principle is that you’ll have firewalls in your way at one point or another…but if there’s something you really want, you’ve got to take heart and break them down. You’ll lose, otherwise.”

The humanlike program gave him a confused look. “I’ll lose? Is there a competition?”

Makoto laughed “Okay, first thing you’ve got to remember, even if you forget everything else. There’s always competition. If you want something, you might have it swiped from under you if you’re not proactive.” Even now, Makoto was in a competition of sorts with his fellow students. One he needed to win.

 “Competition is…good then!” Alter ego said in awe.

Makoto blinked. What’s with the abrupt rise in excitement? “What gave you that idea? Competition means adversity. It’s a bad thing, other me.”

“Then…why are you smiling?”

Makoto let out a surprised noise… “Hey, I smile a lot. Your dad even said so.”

“That’s true…but we’ve been acquainted for 34 days and I’ve been watching you. Your lips were more…relaxed than usual.”

Relaxed…spin those words around and “Are you saying I’ve been forcing myself?”

“I…didn’t mean it like that.” Alter ego panicked, assuming he’d insulted his caretaker.

“You don’t need to hold back for my sake. I don’t mind at all.” Makoto smiled. “In fact you should always speak your mind. You won’t be heard otherwise, and you might say something others need to hear.”

“I…see. I’ll take that into consideration, Naegi-san.”

“Good. Now…about the video.”

 “Okay, I’ll play the video now, but…are you sure?” Alter ego asked slowly.

Makoto nodded.

With his permission, the disembodied head was replaced by a replay device that showed footage of…quite a gruesome incident. Fresh too.

It was the student council killing game. A horrific display that lasted only 15 minutes. It began with Mukuro shooting the assertive vice-president (Makoto frowned at this)…after that, all hell broke loose, and friends quickly turned on each other.

Oh, there was Izuru…right on camera. “He’d fit right in a Friday the 13th movie if he emoted a bit more.” Makoto giggled. Just then, one of the students approached the Ultimate Hope was a chainsaw.

It did not end well.

“Huh…so it was self-defense.” Makoto frowned as the student’s face developed an intimate relationship with the deadly weapon.

“How do you feel?” Alter ego came back online.

“Bummed out.” Makoto’s expression was a mix of pity, disgust and disappointment. That tragedy was completely avoidable. The council president made the right call by telling everyone to remain calm and work together. Points deducted because he wasn’t assertive enough in his role.

But even disregarding the overreaction from the others, Makoto struggled to discern the point of all of that bloodshed.

What did Junko gain from it?

“Is…that all?” Alter Ego asked

“Yeah, should there be more?”

“N-No, I wanted to test my analysis and I was correct. This ‘brainwashing’ is more like strong subliminal advertising.”

“That’s…weak.” And confusing. It meant that Junko didn’t brainwash his upperclassmen and call it a day. They first needed to like despair, of their own will.

“I…think you’re the incredible one, Naegi.”

“In what way?”

“The brainwashing is strong if you’re inclined to the content; you would already need to be in a dangerous state of mind for it to have major results. On the flip side, if you were averse to the material, you’d experience considerable revulsion and disorientation thanks to the dissonance between your emotions and what the brainwashing is trying to make you feel.”

“I think I'm following but...what are you getting at? Should I be sick or something?”

“Well…it’s just that the content of the video itself also affects the severity of the hypnosis. I um…thought you might experience some powerful negative reactions from watching the k-k-killing unfiltered.”

Makoto gave the ego’s words a bit of thought. Junko had shown him the brainwashing video -  a different one – in the past and, it wasn’t nearly this gruesome. The council murders were being used to elicit a stronger effect.

If that’s the case…why didn’t he feel anything?

He pondered that inquiry for a moment…and stopped when he got bored. Introspection never got him anywhere.

“Alter ego, you can reverse the brainwashing by now, right?” He inquired.

“Yes. I can negate its effects immediately. You need to prepare a neutral video and use it on someone under the brainwashing and I can return them to normal.”

To normal. “No…make it stronger than that.” He said. “If this video makes people go crazy with despair, couldn’t we polarize it in the opposite direction and make people feel….hope?”

“Yes, in theory, but…your request will take a few days.”

“That’s fine. Just tell me when you’re ready…Oh one more thing. If Chihiro ever asks for a debriefing of what we’ve been up to…don’t mention anything about the brainwashing video. Lie if you have to.”

“Alright.”

Makoto showed him a cheesy smile,  shut the laptop and placed it into his bag, pleased with the report. He’d give Junko a hug if he didn’t think she’d poke his eyes out with nails.

 


 

 

October 26th 20XX

 

“I’m beat!” Makoto whined as the sun set. He roamed the halls after an intense study session, combined with playing around with Chihiro and Ryoko. He was exhausted…but at least he wouldn’t have to worry about the upcoming practical exams thanks to Chihiro’s tutelage.

“I’ve got great friends.”

Who was he referring to? Nobody in particular. He considered every single living person on the planet his friend, whether they reciprocated or not.

And nobody failed to reciprocate quite like the lavender-haired girl that just crossed his sights.

With a big grin, he jogged over to “Kirigiri-san!”

At this point in the school year, Makoto was sure the detective hated his guts, no clue why, but he didn’t mind either. It was preferable to be liked but having at least one person around who hated him offered additional perspective.

Simply put, Kirigiri’s brutal candor made her refreshing to be around. However, the ice queen had been MIA from classes for an extended period. That’s why he bothered her with his presence whenever they met to make up for lost time! And as he hadn’t seen Kirigiri since her birthday, he was going to do exactly that.

Sadly, it didn’t last too long before they were…violently interrupted. As Kirigiri found out when Isshiki Madarai(s)’ rendered her unconscious. The Ultimate Bodyguard was in fact a set of octuplets, each with nigh identical features and voices. Makoto was faced with 2 of 6 brothers, the others ‘apparently’ killed.

There was no proof yet, so there was still a chance the other brothers were alive. He made a mental note to investigate that detail. If they needed rescuing, Makoto had to do something.

Neither Makoto, Kirigiri or the present Madarais could have known the other siblings had been eliminated and disposed of by Mukuro, according to Junko’s instructions.

“Talk.” Isshiki said after roughing him up a bit.

“About? It sounds like you already know everything.” Makoto let out a nervous laugh. He’d been shoved him to the ground. His skull met concrete when he fell to the floor.

The pain on the backburner of his mind, Makoto let his head fall on the side, gesturing towards his stoic friend. How hard was she hit for her to lose consciousness?

He knew little about medicine, but even he could tell she’d need to be looked at by a nurse. “Kirigiri-san’s hurt. We need to take her to the infirmary.”

One of the brothers tapped their foot onto the back of his head, pressing down painfully slowly. “What is this Samaritan act? We won’t be suckered in by one of the villains behind the tragedy.”

“I’ve been trying to tell you that you’ve got the wrong guy. I just know about the murders because Izuru told me.” His speech was greatly hampered thanks to his face practically kissing the floor. Said Ultimate Hope was also responsible for his current predicament, most likely.

‘Is Izuru trying to kill me?’ He genuinely questioned the possibility and his estimates were about 50/50.

“And how is it that you know of him? We have done extensive research and the name Izuru Kamukura does not exist inside the school. Why would an ordinary student like yourself be in contact with him.” The other continued. They were doing this act where they pick off each other’s lines, like they all shared one brain.

It was a little…cool.

“Oh. There’s actually a good explanation. See, long story short-“ He was cut off by the pain of Madarai pressing more weight onto his skull

“Now now, let’s not say too much, too fast. We need to savor the moment.”

Bullying. This is bullying!

 “Go on…” He let up, giving Makoto room to breathe

“Are you…going to hurt me if I keep talking?” The luckster winced, feeling strong déjà vu vibes.

“Who knows? I definitely will hurt you if you don’t.”

Very unreasonable. “Izuru is the school’s secret experiment. They took a reserve course student and poured all their talent research data into his body. They’ve lost control of him though.”

“The school? They’re responsible?”

“Every talent? That…would explain why we haven’t been able to find him despite constant searching.”

“Or maybe it was fortunate we haven’t encountered him.”

“What about Junko Enoshima?”

They chatted amongst each other, disturbed by the new piece of information. The man finally got off Makoto. The spiky-haired boy took the hint and scrambled onto his feet.

“She’s my classmate and…that’s pretty much it. We’ve talked a few times, but I never learned enough to tell what she was like. Ignoring the mindgames she plays with me, anyway.” He scratched his cheek.

 “Spit out everything you know, including their weaknesses.”

“We’re aware that Junko Enoshima is suffering…memory loss. Conveniently timed for us…but we cannot touch her so long as Mukuro Ikusaba is on constant watch.”

“What do you want me to do about it?” Makoto muttered. “Scratch that. What makes you think I’d even know their weaknesses?”

“You’re at the center of it all.” The one who’d decided to use his body as a  footstool remarked.   “Kamukura, Ikusaba and Enoshima. Even if these three were not linked through each other, they all associate with you.”

Huh…when he put it that way, I’m a very suspicious guy.

 “Don’t you know I’m the Ultimate Lucky Student? Coincidences happen to me all the time.” Makoto said in his defense.

He was knocked back to the floor from a blow to the face. The force was enough to cause bleeding…but his teeth were fine, thankfully.

How did he get himself into these messes? “You can hit me as much as you want – and don’t take that as an invitation! – but do you really think an average guy like me knows how to take down walking talent and someone who orchestrated a massacre right under the school’s nose?”

“How did you come to learn of Kamukura?”

Makoto frowned “Didn’t I just explain that?”

“Only that you knew he was an experiment…not how? If you are as ordinary as you claim, how did you happen upon that secret?”

“Isshiki-san, you’re more intelligent than I thought.” Makoto said, instilling confusing the man “With that kind of insight, your numbers and talent…I wonder why Nisshiki said you couldn’t remake the council by yourself.”

….The brothers were left in a momentary state of surprise.

“How did you know the Madarai you met in the laboratory was me?” The second squinted his eyes.

Disregarding the 6 brothers Isshiki mentioned by name…“That punch you just threw should have hurt a lot more seeing from how you tossed Kirigiri earlier. You even recoiled just before you finished. You’re still injured there aren’t you?” He thought it was a bit unlikely for him to recover so easily from the severe beatdown the soldier gave him. Then that would make the first brother in front of him… “I’m guessing Isshiki’s the one Ryoko dropped the shelf on.” It would explain why he decided not to join in on the beating, despite how bloodthirsty these guys are. He must still be recovering.

Not like he had any right to talk when he was hurting all over. The brothers had become slightly withdrawn, not even attacking him for the sudden assertiveness. Might as well take this wind before they recover and start beating on him again.

“Fine, I admit it. They do have weaknesses, but I’m not telling you.” He was working on them. “Instead…I want to make a deal with you.”

The unison between the brothers finally showed a crack. Before, they coordinated their movement and speeches as if rehearsed prematurely, but now, they were actively looking towards each other for confirmation on what to do.

“…That depends on what you have to say.”

“What I have to say depends on what you want. Is it avenging the council, or are you just looking for self-satisfaction? If it’s the latter, then I understand perfectly. Your end goal doesn’t matter if you enjoy yourself in the process. That explains why you’ve been happily assaulting me.” Makoto beamed. “If that IS what you want, then go right ahead and vent your frustration out on me. It’s not like I’ll die or anything.”

The Madarais remained silent, questioning the words that had come out of the boy’s mouth. “Nisshiki, I told you to hold back. He’s no good if you’ve given him brain damage.”

“I restrained myself appropriately.” The more violent brother replied.

“I have all my mental faculties working, thanks.” Makoto pouted at the rudeness. “Glad to know I was on the money. You don’t have what it takes to kill me.”

“Are you mocking us?”

“I’m not, because your conviction isn’t about murder right? I kind of figured it out back in the lab.” Makoto pointed to Nisshiki “Your hands were shaking when you threatened Ryoko.” Despite his boasts, Madarai wasn’t a killer, not yet. “But you know what I think, the council itself is about…40% of the reason you’re doing all this.”

The only reason Makoto didn’t have a face full of fist right now was only due to Madarai’s anger being offset by unease.

“You can’t remake the council, you’re a bodyguard. Not only that, but you kept going on about being disgraced and having your talent trampled on.” The luckster shook his head. “Hey, is it just me, or are you a little too bothered about not participating in that killing game?” Makoto crossed his arms. “I get it, I really do. Talent is everything to some people, even more important than their own lives.” Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, their talent is their life. “You’re capable guys and I’m sure you’ve trained a lot to get this far.  Which is why it’s too painful that you never got to put that effort into practice, right?” Judging from their reaction, he hit a bullseye.

“The Ultimate Bodyguard. That’s the only reason we were selected for the council and Junko Enoshima denied that existence. We will not forgive her.” Nisshiki said.

If that’s how they really felt…“Then help me. I’ll give you satisfaction you’ve been looking for. You’ve assumed I’m allied with Junko and Izuru, and that’s plain not true. Actually, it might good we met like this, because you see, those two are seriously problematic. They’re not helping themselves with all the trouble they’ve been getting into.” He smiled. “Ah, and if you help me I’ll have your expulsion rescinded, then I’ll re-instate the student council. We both win.”

“You expect us to believe a mere ‘average’ student like yourself can accomplish this?” Isshiki said mockingly.

Oh, so now I’m average. These guys… “Just hang around me for a little while, and you’re bound to see for yourselves. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

If they could still think rationally, they wouldn’t reject his offer. Makoto wouldn’t tell them what they wanted to know. If he told the Madarais about Junko and Izuru’s vulnerabilities, they would definitely make a mess of things and get in the way of his plan.

No, it was better if everything was solved cleanly and peacefully. An outcome where nobody gets hurt was his ideal.

“An interesting proposition.” Madarai only had to gain from a partnership….which is why their decision was all the more baffling.

”“ I refuse!””

The 2 brothers said in unison. Their self-assured tones told him there was a reason, but…

“…What?” Makoto tilted his head. “Don’t you believe me?”

“Belief is not even a factor.”

“Not giving me a reason here.” Makoto said.

 “Self-satisfaction was it? I’ll admit to that, but we aren’t so twisted to dictate every aspect of our life by following our desires.” Said Madarai #1

“The first rule in our profession, is to remain loyal to one client. What kind of bodyguard wags their tails for another boss while still mourning the ones we failed to protect? That’s inhumane.” Followed by #2.

“If you knew the meaning of the word respect, you would have phrased your terms in a different way.”

“In sum, what we mean to say, is that you lack any semblance of pride or respect. We’ll not ally with a villain like you.”

Makoto twitched.

“Pride?” This again? Why does any of that matter when they could get results? “No deal?” Makoto asked cautiously.

“No deal.” They flashed malicious grins, but before any could make a move on him, they were frozen in place by the ring of his cellphone. Makoto procured the smartphone from his pockets, his attention never fully leaving the brothers.

He faced the screen towards them. The caller ID revealed Mukuro’s name.

“Do not answer it.” One ordered.

 “Sure. I’ll just shut it off.” He pressed down on one of the side buttons, and suddenly, a blinding flash of light emanated from the screen.

“So I think we got off on the wrong foot a little here, so let’s try again.” Makoto said  as the Madarais stared intently at the phone, their eyes glazing over with pure white. “I didn’t lay a finger on the council and I am not working with Junko or Izuru. I’m just a guy trying to lend a helping hand to everyone I meet. Just making daily life brighter for everyone, is enough…but I can’t do it alone. That’s why I need the help of my friends, and that includes you two. So…you’ll protect me and my friends, won’t you?” He asked, sweetly. A request that was no less an order they couldn’t disobey.

“Of course.” The Ultimate Bodyguard answered without hesitation.

“Thanks.” Makoto’s arms slumped. If he was tired before…then he was on his last legs at this point. “I’ll have to take Kirigiri-san to the nurse. You can go now.”

They dispersed almost immediately…the only trace of their presence were his injuries.

Speaking of which…

“80% complete and the hope video is that effective?” Makoto said to himself, walking over towards Kirigiri. He brushed a strand of her over her face and felt her stir uncomfortably.

She was cute when not glaring at him.

The luckster carried the detective onto his back. A troublesome task given the injuries he’d sustained. But it could have been much worse. With a huff, he traveled down the hallway.

For the most part, he could have called that skirmish a victory. Only a few bruises here and there, but on the flipside, he’d acquired a strong ally…and more importantly, tested out the video and it worked well enough.

But he wasn’t happy. He can’t remember the last time he ever felt happy. Alter Ego was right implying that.

 This time however, was directly related to the way the Madarai brothers admonished him. They made him feel lesser, like he was missing something fundamental as a person.

Makoto shook his head. ‘Nope. None of that junk matters.’

The important part was that the brainwashing worked. Although he’d feel a lot better not resorting to it. Seeing how easily Madarai broke down to it, coupled with how Alter Ego explained the brainwashing’s mechanics…meant the bodyguard was a good person at the core. The hope video wouldn’t have worked otherwise.

Which made it all the more disappointing that he couldn’t convince the duo with words

“I wonder what Mukuro wanted.” He reached for his cellphone, pushing back the pessimistic thoughts that plagued him.

Brainwashing was efficient…but is it truly happiness when you’re forced to feel that way against your will?

No, the video was a tool at best. His ideal necessitate permanence and natural solution.

 


 

After a tiresome night, Makoto was fully ready to let his other self handle the rest, but Kirigiri inadvertently had other plans

As an alternative, we should go see Gekkogahara instead.”

That single sentence forced him to the surface. He was overcome with an odd sensation, just like he had when Yasuke Matsuda had abruptly brought up the therapist months ago. Was it because Gekkogahara  served as a reminder of the most horrifying period of his life? He didn’t know, but Kirigiri was adamant they pay the green-haired senior a visit.

Combined with the detective’s injuries, he really couldn’t refuse. If that’s what Kirigiri wanted, he’d go along for the ride.

Yet even that, wasn’t enough to satisfy his classmate, who returned his compromise with scorn. Even for Kirigiri-san, she was being unusually cruel and unaccommodating.

“What is it about me you hate?” He’d asked.

She called him insincere, a hypocrite who never considered the feelings of those he environed. Not even his family’s.

It wasn’t the first instance he heard that criticism; Izuru practically made 'hypocrite' his favorite word when Makoto was involved. Even Sayaka said it from time to time. But Makoto didn’t understand. Why did sincerity matter?

Don’t get him wrong. Makoto valued honesty and it came easy to him, but the truth didn’t always make people happy. All too often, people rejected the truth out of convenience. Makoto knew that truth better than anyone. His insistence on being genuine about his curse had nearly driven him insane.

As far as Makoto was concerned, it was just as important to know when to lie, as it was to tell the truth. And fortunately for the luckster, lying was just as easy.

“Your family or even friends…did you once consider how they would feel to know about the extremes you put yourself through?"

Indeed, he hadn’t given his family one thought in months.

He reached on his phone, contemplating calling his little sister. And like the world itself wanted to warn him about what a bad idea that was, his phone’s batteries looked to have died sometime earlier.

“Lucky me.” He whispered, at least grateful that he’d texted Mukuro earlier about a rendezvous.

On a more relevant point. He’d rarely spoken to Komaru since the start of the school year…and he made a habit of ignoring her calls. He overlooked his family whenever he could and put up a mask in front of them when he couldn't.

Makoto had never quite forgiven them for sending him to the asylum. I mean…what parents do that?

“W-Why are you shaking? D-Did I hurt you somewhere?” Mikan Tsumiki squealed, catering to his wounds. According to Peko…this was one of Junko’s Ultimate Despair members. He’d never have guessed with how nice she was. He’d love to talk with her, but he could barely keep himself awake.

“…Sorry.” He mumbled. Thinking back, Kirigiri’d heard Madarai call him one of the instigators behind the council murders and he hadn’t strongly denied that assumption. It’s not surprising she’d be pissed off and snap at him.

And the mention of Gekkogahara was probably an accident. It’s not like Kirigiri would know about his relationship with the therapist.

“Alright. I’ll wait for her to calm down, then smooth things out with a nice, long chat.” He planned.

“Naegi-san…y-you’re talking to yourself.” Mikan said, wide-eyed.

“…Sorry. I’ll keep quiet.” He blushed, hoping the nurse didn’t think he’d suffered brain trauma like Madarai had.

In short, Kirigiri’s criticism had not reached him.

As he thought, introspection was a waste of time.

 


 

After thanking Mikan, he’d left the infirmary to meet Mukuro. The soldier was a big help, all but volunteering to help him scope out the amusement park for his outing with Chiaki. That good bit of news was a silver lining to an altogether bad day that was thankfully over.

By some miracle, Naegi managed to return to his dorm-room. He charged his phone, setting it at the top of his desk. His eyes drifted to the medicine next to the device. Insomnia, a highly addictive narcotic, but ultimately necessary. He wouldn’t sleep otherwise and would probably already have been crippled from sleep deprivation. The drug was supposedly meant to cause dysfunction in the brain over prolonged use…but he had never suffered any abnormalities in several years.

Thankfully, Makoto may even be outgrowing the need for the medicine. Recently, (much like right now), Makoto had nights where he reached the point of exhaustion even without the need for his medication; likely due to all the running around he was doing and the many new additions to his social life.

It was tiring managing them all at once.

Naegi plopped onto his bed and pulled his covers up. His fading thoughts trailed off at a single, insignificant comment he’d made when speaking with Kirigiri. Before Madarai’s interruption.

“I-I could have outrun them…if I wanted to. I was the star of my elementary school’s track team, you know.”

There were a number of lies he could have told to escape Kirigiri’s inquiries, but he’d chosen that insignificant truth. Why would Kirigiri care about what happened that far back? Why would he care?

“Competition…huh?” He recalled Alter Ego’s words.

…Then closed his eyes.

 

Chapter Text

Hajime Hinata was 8 years old when he learned that talent was everything. In this regard - much like all others – he was hardly exceptional. Talent was worshiped by the nation, his parents included. Even if he wasn’t born with talent, perhaps he could still acquire it.

The reserve course was a newly instated department in the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy. Even normal people could get into the school for a large sum. It was the opportunity of a life-time. Being surrounded by the nation’s best and acclaimed researchers of talent could only work in his favor.

Hajime carried that hope in his heart when he applied to HPA, using his parents’ hard-earned money. He received no shortage of criticism from his peers for that choice, but who cared for the jealousy f talentless fodder who never even attempted to scale the mountain of mediocrity.

That choice came with setbacks. Who was he to know that the reserve course was segregated from the main course? There was an unspoken rule that it was a waste of time for the two groups to interact. Reserve course students waited for openings in the main course to be granted entrance, while the latter category saw them as parasites. The teachers were no exception, scorn and dissatisfaction were rarely removed from their disposition. The classroom atmosphere was stifling.

But there was a silver lining at the end of that dark tunnel. Hajime had been scouted for an operation called the Hope cultivation program. They could artificially give him talent. It was like a dream come true, and after having his hopes dashed once, he was skeptical. Cynical even. What made him special enough to become a candidate? Did he have some hidden talent nobody knew about?

“If you had a shred of potential, you’d be worthless.” A gruff, sharp-tongued man said. He was in the same grade as Hajime, but from his disposition, was far more accomplished. “It’s the other way around. You’re so devoid of standout characteristics that you’re perfect for the role. Congratulations, guinea-pig.”

“Guinea pig?” Hajime gawked at the backhanded comment.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what ‘they’ see you as. You should probably give this a lot more thought before you accept. It might not end up as you expect.” He gave Hajime a knowing look, before shrugging. “But what do I know? I’m just the Ultimate Neurologist.”

It was odd. Despite being given this chance of a lifetime, he had a feeling that others averse to him taking it – none of which were his parents, ironically - though they never directly stated so.

Take for example, the former headmaster of the academy who subtly conveyed to Hajime that there was nothing improper about being normal.

Or from Chiaki Nanami, who had been his only friend in the whole school at the time. The Ultimate gamer was like a culmination of everything nice and fluffy in the world, all kept in one stacked body. He never understood why Chiaki paid him the slightest bit of attention.

“You’re fun to be around with. Isn’t that enough?” is what she said.  Even after explaining, it still hadn’t made sense. The only thing remotely interesting about him was his richboy status, and she didn’t even know about that. He’d given her the hints, that there was a way for him to gain talent, but she maintained her stance, saying she liked him just the way he was

He was satisfied by that strange, unnatural acceptance.

That is, until Natsumi Kuzuryu’s murder. The crass but excitable student who joined later in the term, parading around the school with the open intention of stealing a spot in the main course. She was found dead nearby the music room. Hajime had interacted with Natsumi enough to feel the impact of her passing, but it seemed few others shared that sentiment.

And it wasn’t just that Natsumi was hated, but the students and teachers simply didn’t speak of her at all. Usually when murders occurred nearby, it becomes central gossip, but he heard nothing like that. As if the girl’s very existence in the school was being systematically erased. There weren’t even updates on the killer’s status!

He ran to the main course to discover exactly what the hell happened.

He didn’t even make it past the main gates. Juzo Sakakura, the head of campus security, made sure of that and – in all his benevolence – gave Hajime a very hands-on lesson.

That confrontation smacked the reserve courser right back into reality.

Talent was everything. If you didn’t have talent, you were nobody.

He wanted to become somebody.

He chose to become Izuru Kamukura.

 


 

Izuru Kamukura was .04 seconds old when he learned talent was boring. As was essentially everything else, but the fixation on talent was especially noxious. His teachers devoted all their efforts to cultivating him, simply because they could not reach the plateau he now stood otherwise. They said their actions were to benefit humanity. But he did not care one bit about humanity, much less feeling a desire to lift a finger for them. Does that not make me the very crystallization of their failure?

No matter, they would learn of their folly either way when all was said and done. Izuru stalked the familiar halls of the reserve course building, pulling a large cart in front. It was time for a major play, courtesy of both Enoshima’s aid and absence. Izuru shifted at the memory, when the opportunity first presented itself.

“Izzy-baby, nice to see you finally leaving your room!”

“What business do you have with me, Enoshima?”

“Could at least play along.” The manipulative woman hung by his shoulder, filling his nostrils with toxic perfume. Izuru hadn’t seen Enoshima in weeks. He wished it had remained that way. “But that directness is cute too. I’m going to be MIA for the next little while.”

Now this was unexpected. “Have you given up on your takeover of the school?” Right after orchestrating the killing game…he doubted it. However, this girl’s nature was fickle like none other.

“Nope. Just working on a little kink with my boyfriend, you know him don’t ya?”

He didn’t dignify that with a response.

“He’s going to erase my memory!” She spoke like a child experiencing their first Christmas. “It’ll be like we’re meeting again for the first time, isn’t that romantic?”

It was foolish to ask, but he did anyway. “Why place yourself in that vulnerable position?”

“Just planning ahead. Memory loss would be great for the next killing game I have in mind. No better way to test its success than on myself.”

Was that all?

He didn’t normally question himself like this, there was never reason too. Except whenever Enoshima and Naegi entered the equation. He needed to prod for more information using sources he did understand. “You do not believe Matsuda might betray you?”

“Honey, I know he will.”

“…I see, you anticipate exactly that. Meaning this is yet another gambit borne of despair.”

“Busted! Yasuke’s been so good to me, but I’ve gotten a little tired of buttering him up soooo…time to cash in on the juicy despair I’ve been fattening up for the past 13 years!”

She was insane. Yasuke Matsuda was an invaluable ally, not solely for his exceptional talent – which the school feared to part with – but for his fixation on Enoshima herself.

Destroying him for the sake of a temporary high was counter intuitive. And that was the end goal, the process of erasing her own memory to do so, was even more foolish.

Regardless, this could work in his favor. It was abundantly clear that Enoshima had been granted too strong a hand early-on in this game, that is why she could make careless decisions time and again. The scales needed to be tipped in the other direction, to match her budding rival, Naegi.

Izuru made it a light hobby to compare the two deviants in his mind, having so little else to do. Enoshima conveyed a fatalistic amount of care in the detail of her plans. She once said that despair cannot be exist without hope. Therefore, to attain the height of despair, she was paradoxically forced to cultivate hope. Her relationship with Yasuke Matsuda had been the prime example. The affection she gave the neurologist for over a decade had been no more than a means to an end.

On the other side of the scale was Naegi, who did not care one single bit about the methods, so long as it did not oppose his stance against violence. He would lie, cheat and manipulate others, thinking only of the end result. Despite that directness, he was no easier to predict than Enoshima. The reason? His luck. Recurring, unpredictable happenstances that Izuru couldn’t predict. To make matters worse, they provided Naegi with opportunity. Odds that may be non-existent to others would present itself in front of Naegi…and he would grab that chance without hesitation every single time. Combine the Ultimate Luck with Naegi’s ruthlessness, one could say that as long as the boy’s will went unbroken, he was altogether invincible.

If Enoshima was Despair, would Naegi be hope? Izuru didn't know-

Error - Lapse in information. Must rectify.

Even if Naegi wasn't hope, he was an incomprehensible extreme on the other side of the spectrum. Thus, he was close enough.

Izuru wished to compare luck and despair and have them war against one another, on terms he saw fit. He would drive them to the extremes to squeeze out every ounce of their potential for him to assimilate. To nobody’s surprise, Enoshima had done a fine job of backing herself into a corner with barely any ‘assistance’ on his part. He had merely interrupted her scheme and had Matsuda spared. His motivation? To observe how Ryoko Otonashi would act outside of the closed circuit Enoshima had prepared using her analysis. Even if Enoshima were to return the very next second, her foothold has crumbled. Most of her Ultimate Despair had either been converted or been rendered impotent without her benefaction.

Dealing with Naegi required much more interference. Izuru both tested his progress by manipulating Isshiki Madarai into hunting him and his companions down. Providing that the bodyguard failed to be enough of a challenge, Izuru had a contingency to shake things up more.

And he would begin here.

The Ultimate Hope opened the passage into a ‘secret society’. Or at least that is what these lowly dregs called themselves. They were reserve course students who were dissatisfied with the academy’s discrimination towards the mundane. It went without saying that Izuru found them boring and stupid. “I am the one who scheduled this meeting.” Izuru took his place in front of a room large enough to hold several dozens worth of students. Behind the Ultimate Hope, was a large projector, one of the reasons he'd sought out this particular location.

The crowd quieted down in confusion upon noticing his form. “You lot have been seen frequently protesting at the gates and have been even more violent than the norm.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is unimportant, but I can tell you who I used to be. None of you but I remember some of your faces well. Even if it was only for a few months, we were classmates.”

One of them appeared to recognize him “That voice…are you Hinata?”

“I was Hajime Hinata, yes.” The meaning was completely lost on them, but now he had their complete attention. By affiliating himself with one of ‘their comrades’, his words now held more sway.

“Dude, what the hell happened to you?”

“I was offered a way to gain talent by the school board.”

“H-How?” An inquiry…but what he truly meant was ‘how can I attain it as well?’. This is why he hated fools. Instead of responding to the question, Izuru hand slid up his scalp, folding the lock of hair backward.

Horrified gasps filled the room and soon reduced it to silence.

“I strongly dissuade any notions of following the path Hinata took, for this is the end result.” Izuru let his hair fall down, his eyes shifting between the frightened boys “To clarify, I am not Hajime Hinata. For talent to be stored in this body, they needed to reset the body’s personality to zero. He was promised talent but was used as an experiment by the academy and eliminated. That was the caveat the academy failed to mention. To put in another word, you would die.”

"So i-it's true. The school really did spend our money on human experiments!"

Izuru was faintly surprised to learn rumors of his origins had spread this far. Courtesy of Enoshima, no doubt. 

“What the fuck!?” Their shock quickly turned to anger. Not for Hajime, of course not. Why care about a stranger? Someone that worthless?

No, their spurn was inherently selfish. They projected themselves as a hivemind. Hurt one, hurt them all. Despite not particularly caring about the one who’d been accosted. The irony was too mind-numbing for words. If Izuru had his way, stupidity like this would be quarantined and euthanized.

“I called this meeting to ask…why have you done nothing after all the indignation you’ve suffered at the hands of the academy?”

“Are you been living under a rock? We march down there every single day.”

“And do nothing. There are only a handful of security…but you lack the will to take that extra step and seize retribution.” Izuru set the laptop on the desk and flipped it open facing them.

“I am here to remove those inhibitions.” Said a digital copy of Izuru’s face appeared on the screen and the projector. It was his Alter Ego. Every single student was then subject to a vivid red light as the student council’s killing game played. By the time the clip finished, the reserve coursers were like drones - their irises replaced by red swirls.

The light died moments later, and the laptop promptly switched off.

Now, let us begin the show.

Izuru had no more reason to speak. Alter ego did the talking for him. “Tomorrow at the end of the school bell, you will break down the main gates and siege the main course. Feel free to take your revenge on whoever crosses your sights...however, your main targets are…” The projector showed multiple rows containing the images of Ryoko Otonashi, Makoto Naegi, Yasuke Matsuda, Kyoko Kirigiri, Chihiro Fujisaki, Sayaka Maizono, Mukuro Ikusaba, Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu, Peko Pekoyama and Kiyotaka Ishimaru. “Torture or maim them slowly if you wish, but these targets are the only ones deserving of your full anger, and they must die. Make use of these helmets to hide your identities.”

The cart lodged Monokuma designed head gear. An artistic flare Enoshima was taken with, for reasons he could not begin to understand. Still, it would set the atmosphere for the upset to come.

“Tis the season.”

The reserve coursers moved one by one, putting on the helmets.

Enoshima would have taken great pleasure in the irony of her own devices being used against her.

His work finished. Izuru took the laptop and left without further fanfare. His plan was already set in motion. He didn’t care for most of the ones on that list barring the effects their deaths would leave on the two subjects of interest.

Although, it’s entirely possible that Naegi and Enoshima may be killed in the process. Izuru didn’t mind that outcome, it would just mean that was as far as the Ultimate Despair and Lucky Student could go. He needn't expend any more effort and time.

…He looked to tomorrow with rare anticipation.

Chapter Text

December 24th 20XX.

11:50 PM

 

“So bothersome.” One Byakuya Togami remarked, after expending much of his energy this day. Even his leg was heavier than usual. Having finally escaped the crowd but even on one of his top floors of the academy, he could still hear the noise, especially that loud singing.

Byakuya quietly lamented the weeks wasted on preparations for the Christmas gala and ordering his slaves classmates around. He was exhausted and wanted a break, so he migrated to the place most fitting for an heir to relax.

The headmaster’s office, for Kirigiri was elsewhere and there was no other room that exuded the same atmosphere of authority in the academy. It was a mildly rare opportunity the blonde wasn’t ready to pass up.

With a smirk he opened the door and not a second later, his hopes plummeted but not quite as far down as the drop he wished Asahina, Kuwata and…the other Asahina would fall…right out the window.

He counted three, THREE cockroaches that should have been anywhere but here! And just like those disgusting cretins, he worried there were more around the corner.

With a glare, the heir spoke “Why are you here?”

“Same reason as you, I guess. I’m beat and wanted to scope out this place.” Kuwata replied, sitting in the headmaster’s chair, which Byakuya fully intended on commandeering, at least for the next hour or so. The athlete was currently writing on a baseball, held by…the younger Asahina whose name currently escaped him. Regardless, the boy was getting an autograph signed.

“I don’t like that tone, Kuwata. It sounds like you brainless lot had the good sense to snoop around here before I thought of it…and that just can’t be.” Byakuya seethed.

“Nice to see you too, Byakuya.” The swimmer said, lacking the proper manners to look his way. Her attention largely directed at…

“Are those dominoes?” Byakuya said, eyes squinting behind his glasses. Of all the unfathomable hobbies….she could have picked worse, honestly. This was Asahina after all.

“Yup, I’ve been at this for the last 2 hours. I found them in the game room, isn’t it neat.”

‘Then play with them there!’

With a huff, the affluent progeny scanned the room. Indeed, most of the area had been occupied by domino blocks, each lined immaculately across the floor in a pattern that could only be revealed after the pieces were toppled.

‘Impressive. It’d be a shame if someone tipped them over prematurely.’

Just as Byakuya motioned to take one foot, he caught something in the swimmer’s words that shouldn’t have been present. “…2 hours? Do you mean to tell me, you ditched your stall early on?”

“Hehehe.” She laughed nervously, her body still crouched in an alluring position as she tiled on the domino pieces.

“Leave my sister alone. She’s been working harder than I’ve ever seen her. Normally Aoi’d have ditched after a quarter way through.” The younger Asahina interjected.

“If I wasn’t scared of spilling these dominoes over, I’d pound you, Yuta.” Asahina glared and gave Togami a name to the face.

“It wasn’t just us either. The senpai from the above class disappeared. Even Kyoko and Mukuro bailed on us.” Kuwata said.

“That many?” Byakuya’s eyes widened a fraction. He almost pitied Naegi, but that’s what happens when a commoner with no experience tries to manage an event.

On that note, he hadn’t seen Naegi in some time either. The slackers…

“Yea…” The baseball twit finally looked his way…only stumble in his sentence. Was speaking Japanese too much for the braindead buffoon? “Du…dude. What is that on your leg?

Kuwata’s bewildered tone spurned Asahina to do the same, and just like him, her eyes practically shot out of her head.

Byakuya followed the trail of the tanned girl’s finger to his right leg, where a pair of tiny arms were wrapped around it.

With a contemptuous sneer, he returned his gaze to the befuddled trio. “I wholly understand and pity your lack of intelligence, but surely even you lot have seen children before.“

A little girl, no older than 9, strapped herself to the heir’s leg, her large beady eyes blinking at the television screen hanging on the side of the room.

“I-Is she your sister?” Yuta asked.

“Perish the thought. I have no idea where she came from. She’s just been following me the whole time.”

“I-I…Did you look for her parents? They must be worried sick!”

“Why would I do something so tedious?”

Everyone stared at him, appalled.

“Don’t look at me like I’m some fictitious demon. I entirely planned on calling security…but since you’re here, I’ll pay ten thousand American dollars if you detach this creature from my person.”

“Unbelievable.” Asahina got off her knees and carefully stepped over the dominoes until she reached the heir. There she crouched to meet the girl.

“Um…hello, I’m Aoi. What’re you doing here?”

The girl wasn’t quick to answer, deliberating over whether she should talk to strangers, and ignoring that she had followed one, having no other choice between the Togami heir or solitude in a dimly lit and haunted halls of the academy. Deciding that Aoi didn’t seem like a bad person…“I-I got lost in the school.” She whimpered.

“Aw, don’t worry. I’ll help you look for them.” Aoi offered her hand…but the girl shook her head, peering past the swimmer and shifting between the television and the maze of dominoes. Eventually, she settled on the TV.

On the screen was a live recording of the concert going on outside.

“I’m surprised you two aren’t at Maizono’s performance. What good friends you are.” Byakuya snickered.

“Can it, dude.” Kuwata barked.

“There wasn’t even a place to stand, we might as well have been watching by the gates with that huge turnout.” Yuta frowned, kicking at the air.

“It’s all because we had to work while everyone else got the seats. It’s not fair,” Asahina crossed her arms. Her lips formed a pout.

“Sayaka!” The girl raised her hands happily, poorly mimicking the idol's dance.

Leon, ever being the ladies man, reached for the remote and increased the volume, much to Byakuya’s displeasure. The office was immediately filled with a melodious voice.

While Byakuya couldn’t berate the singer’s talent, the genre however, was utterly repulsive to him. There goes his quiet. On the other hand, the child had the complete opposite reaction and was practically bouncing.

“Hey, hey, you’ll tip over the dominoes!” Asahina warned, as she reached for the girl and carried her. Slowly, Asahina returned to her former position, right at the end of the string of tiles.

“I presume you made that pattern to commemorate the occasion.”

“Yup. Oh, what’s the time?”

Togami checked his golden watch “11:58.” He said, succinctly.

“Sheesh, talk about cutting it close!” Yuta sweatdropped, joining his sister. Kuwata did as well.

…Giving Byakuya the opening to maneuver around them and take his rightful seat in the office. Maybe this evening wasn’t so bad after all.

“Big sis, what are you playing?” asked the girl.

“Right before midnight, we’re going to push these dominoes down.” Hina explained. Byakuya held back the vital information that countdowns to midnight were saved for New Years Eve.

It wouldn’t surprise him if Asahina mixed the date up with Christmas Eve.

“Why knock them down after setting them all up” The child cocked her head. Byakuya watched over the hundreds of tiles strewn across the room. He didn’t really have an answer himself, so he waited on the swimmer.

“That’s a tough one.” Beaming brightly with cheer and innocence to match, Asahina’s mouth moved.

“█████”

Everyone seemed to accept the energetic teen’s explanation, but Byakuya alone scoffed.

Leon and Yuta crouched besides the two girls, wide, excited grins on their faces as Aoi grabbed their diminutive guests fingers and  pressed lightly against the dominoes.

‘For a reason like that.’ Byakuya mused over Asahina's answer.

“What a farce.” He said, as the dominoes fell one by one.

 


  

October 31st 20XX

 

“What’re you doing with that cat?” Chihiro asked Ryoko. The amnesiac had invited him outside, saying it was for training. Currently, the auburn-haired girl was standing next to a kitten, who has highly distracted by a bowl of milk that Ryoko had gotten for it.

The animal probably wouldn’t stay long. Chihiro’s looked to the skies. The dark grey clouds heralded a shower of rain soon enough. Whatever they were doing here, better be quick.

“I’ll kick it while you watch.” Ryoko said with a smile.

…What!?

“Don’t do that!” Chihiro wailed.

“Why?”

“Because it’s innocent!”

“Tch tch tch.” Ryoko wagged her fingers. “Remember your training, Chi. If it has nothing to do with you, then screw its circumstances. Now stay put and watch!”

Before any further protests from the teary-eyed Chihiro, Ryoko motioned to kick the unsuspecting feline. But right before contact, she stumbled onto one vital and fatal flaw in her planning.

Ryoko liked cats.

That sudden realization led to her stopping mid-kick, the awkward pause resulting in lost balance as she fell on her back.

“A-Are you okay?” Chihiro wasn’t even granted time to check the forgetful girl’s condition before she crawled over and embraced the shocked kitten.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I should’ve gotten an ugly dog to kick insteaaaaaad.” Ryoko sobbed and rubbed her cheeks against the furry animals, rolling with it on the floor.

Chihiro’s worry quickly turned to befuddlement, and finally, amusement. “Y-You’re so weird.” He laughed. “N-Not in a bad way, I mean.”

“Why would I be offended? Matsuda calls me worse things all the time.” She said with a bright smile.

“Hm…that’s probably true.” Chihiro wouldn’t doubt the neurologist’s tendency to curse at everything with a pulse . “I think I’ll pay him a visit later. It’s been way too long.”

“Good luck with that. He’s been down in the dumps for days.” She puffed her cheeks. “Forget him, we’re moving onto plan B. This one turned out pretty bad.”

“I’ve been thinking. Why are you helping me?”

“You’re my friend.” She said simply.

“T-Thanks for that, really. But I meant why? I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t think you care about others easily.” Again, Ryoko wondered why the boy felt she’d be offended by a simple truth.  Isn’t the whole point of this montage of theirs about how she doesn’t care about irrelevant others?

“What you getting at, Chi?”

“What traits do I have that made you like me?”

“You’re cute.”

He spluttered, turning beet red. “Don’t tease me. I’m serious.”

“Boo.” Ryoko stuck out her tongue. “I’m serious too. You’re cute, so I thought you were a threat to my chances with Matsuda-kun. Oh, this was back when I thought you were a girl.”

“Me…and Yasuke? That’s terrifying!” He gave her a horrified look.

“Not as terrifying as I would be if that turned out to be case.” She deadpanned.

“…You’re joking, right?” Chihiro gulped

“…”

“Y-You don’t have to worry on that front. I only like Naegi.” He waved his hands back and forth, defensively.

Ryoko rested her chin on her palm, sporting an impassive expression. “Would I be wrong in saying that your question pertained to what traits that would make Naegi like you?”

After a moment, Chihiro nodded.

“What do you see in that guy?”

The smaller boy’s head snapped open, staring at her like she’d grown a second head. “What’s not to see in him?”

Ah, love is dangerous. He’d go on and on about the lucky student if she didn’t stop him. “He’s creepy, Chi.”

“In what way?”

“Have you ever listened to him?”

“…I don’t follow.” Chihiro said, non-plussed.

“I haven’t known him long, but he bugs me. He's a bit too…good to be true.”

“I know right?” Chihiro beamed, completely and painfully missing the point.

“Not what I meant, Chi.” Ryoko rolled her eyes. She’d listened to and analyzed Naegi’s conversations with Ikusaba and the others. Sometimes, Naegi was a bit too...perfect. Not only nice, but He knew exactly what to say and at what time. Despite Naegi’s pretenses, he was calculating.

“I think he’s fake.” Ryoko concluded. “Guys that suspiciously nice always have hidden motives. Like just looking to score. Naegi’s a massive flirt, you know.”

“That’s not true!” Chihiro rebutted “It might be for others, but Naegi’s different. He’s always nice to me and never asked for anything in return.”

Jeez, she didn’t want to make him cry or anything. She should stop before. “Did you know Naegi went out on a date with Nanami senpai on Saturday?”

Only the looming thunder could be heard as the two went silent. Not just from Chihiro but Ryoko as well, who looked equally as shocked as the programmer.

Ryoko had planned to at least delve more into that little detail before passing judgement or telling Chihiro.

She definitely had no intention of revealing that information at the worst possible time…quite like right now.

So…‘Why did I say that?’

“T-That can’t be right.” Chihiro said, almost breathless. She couldn’t blame him. Naegi went on a date with Ikusaba just the previous day, after all. This would just pour oil into the wildfire.

“I might have been seeing things or maybe they were just having fun…as friends!” She made sure to clarify.

“Y-Yeah, that’s probably the reason. Both Naegi-kun and Nanami-san are very friendly after all.” He sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than anything else.

‘Come on Ryoko, fix your mess!’

The red-haired girl slapped her cheeks. “I’m sorry! I’m an idiot, a ditz, useless, ugly-“ She recited words heard so very often from Matsuda.

“Otonashi-san, calm down! You’re none of those things.” Chihiro retorted, so overwhelmed by the sudden self-deprecative commentary that he’d temporarily forgotten his own sadness.

“No! I have to do something about this.” She clasped Chihiro’s hands. “You’re a great guy, Chi and anyone would be lucky to have you as their boy friend.” With that, she sprinted off.

Ryoko processed the situation, thinking clearly of what action to take next.  Chihiro was a sweet guy, dedicated, passionate…and easily hurt. If Naegi turned out to be the wrong guy for him, then she wouldn’t just stand by and let the programmer be hung up on a scumbag.

Of course, she couldn’t ask Naegi himself…because that’d be giving away that Chihiro likes him. She couldn’t go for Ikusaba either…because frankly, that girl scared the shit out of her! Ultimate Soldier? Ryoko pictured she’d get a bullet in between her eyes for pissing Ikusaba off.

That left one easy choice. She’d find the truth out from Chiaki Nanami.

Chihiro couldn’t keep up with the change in gears.

“W-Where are you going!?” He called out but she was already gone. “That erratic personality…she really reminds me of Enoshima-san.” The Ultimate Fashionista who disappeared. Nobody could find her. But Ryoko said she lost her memory…and her appearance wasn’t too far off. “Could it be…”

His musing was caught off by a stroke of thunder, followed by the drizzling rain. “We should get out of here.” ‘We’ referring to both himself and the adorably friendly feline, who didn’t even mind as he picked it up into his small arms.

“Looks like it’ll be a stormy day.”

 


 

 

“Young master. Does something concern you?” Peko said, placing her hand on Fuyuhiko’s shoulder, who, for the past half-hour had stared outside the dojo’s window, with a puzzled look on his face.

“Holy sh-” Fuyuhiko spasmed, creating distance between them and roughly pulling on his tie. “Goddamn, Peko. Warn a guy before you get in close.”

‘Contact never bothered you before’ Nevertheless, the young master had been uncomfortable with her for some time…ever since their outing at the amusement park.

Peko took a step closer. Fuyuhiko took one back.

“…have I done anything unseemly?”

“Huh? It’s got nothing to do with you?” He said, not looking her in the eye.

“Then why were you unresponsive?”

“You trying to be Sherlock Holmes 3.0?”

Peko could only assume 2.0 referred to Kirigiri from the class down below. “No, I am merely inquiring.”

Fuyuhiko turned, pointing out the window. “Where are they?” Fuyuhiko asked. His question wasn’t directed at Peko, because she doubtfully had an answer. It was merely a reflection of his confusion.

“Who do you mean?”

“Those reserve course students and their parade. Where are they?” He repeated.

The swordswoman took notice as well. The main gates were empty, save security. “It is raining heavily, perhaps that deterred them?”

“…You think so?” Fuyuhiko remained unconvinced, for good fucking reason in his mind. “Those no-life losers have been marching out there like they owned the damn place for weeks. It rained before and windy as shit but they just kept coming. I was starting to think the school would need to bring the army in just to shut those bastards up once and for all.” And more violent each time, and nobody knew violence for more than the Ultimate Yakuza “Why’d they take a break today?”

“Yes…it is strange.” Peko agreed. Not out of obligation to heed her master’s whims, but a genuine understanding of the situation. She was first and foremost a bodyguard. She’d honed her instincts to detect oncoming threats…and right now, she felt…concerned.

She also briefly ruminated over whether her skills had dulled for her to be late in recognizing…or the young master’s had improved.

Fuyuhiko’s face contorted with displeasure and uncertainty. He had been on edge for a long time, ever since Natsumi’s death. While he was dicking around with his friends, his sister had been running for her life and killed in cold-blood.

His indolence scarred him to this day. Ever since then, he kept an eye out for everything in his surroundings…and right now, he was getting a bad fucking feeling.

“Peko…do me a favor.”

 “Of course.”

 


 

“What do you want?” Yasuke Matsuda said to Kyoko Kirigiri. The detective had given him a very…tempting invitation to meet him in front of the old building. “Couldn’t you have picked a better place? This rain is killer.” He complained, despite not a drop getting on either of them thanks to their respective umbrella.

Kyoko handed him a yellow folder.

Yasuke opened it and found…some incriminating evidence of Junko (as well himself) exploits, in scary detail. They even added the part where he’d erased her memory.

Oh hell, even Kamukura’s information was here.

“I’ll tell you now there’s no point destroying that, I’ve already made plenty of copies.” Kyoko said.

“Don’t you worry, I don’t even give a shit.” He showed her a defeated, rueful grin. “Still…I gotta know where you got these?”

“You think I’ll reveal my sources?” Kyoko lied. The sender of the file was unknown. They’d manage to break into her room and left no trace of their presence.

“I just said I don’t give a shit. I’m asking this for your sake. If you dug up this info on your own, then pat yourself on the back and walk away while you’ve got the chance. But…if this was handed to you, then know you’re in a shitload of trouble.”

Kyoko arched an eyebrow

Her apparent confusion was almost enough to make him laugh. “Getting involved in this mess is more trouble than its worth, girl. You’ve been collared and somebody’s yanking your chain.”  Ah, what the hell, he laughed anyway. This comedy’s bad enough for even the most cynical bastard on the planet to enjoy. “Just like that bitch yanked mine…for 13 fucking years.” His voice rang hollow, like he doubted the meaning for his own existence.

“You’re referring to Enoshima.” Kyoko stated, matter-of-factly. Naturally, she hadn’t taken the information in the file at face value. She did her own research, most of which corroborated the information she’d received. “I’m hardly a stranger to betrayal, so I can sympathize with you to an extent.”

“That right?”

“Yes. That’s why I know your emotions right now will only lead you on a path to destruction. You may feel empty now, but you’ll eventually fill that gaping hole in your heart with spite and hatred…assuming you haven’t already.”

Wow, she did know her stuff.

“I won’t let you kill Enoshima but help me and we can bring her to justice.”

Yasuke staggered. Kill…Junko? He…couldn’t.

No…he could. That girl he’d sworn to protect from the world…and from herself. Right now, he could strangle her to death with his own hands. He’d almost done it to Ryoko, regretfully. But now, he wondered if he’d feel a thing. But one part of that sentence was laughable. “Justice? You think a court…a prison can hold Junko?” He mocked.

“If we expose the truth, I don’t see why not.”

Fucking hell, she is so out of her league. “You want to know what happens if you put that psycho in jail? The first thing she’ll do is fuck her cellmate and make slaves out of them, from there she’ll work her way onto the rest of the inmates, then not even the guards’ll be spared being wrapped around her finger. By the end of the month? The entire penitentiary will either be one giant orgy or will be killing each other in her name… probably both, simultaneously, and nobody will have any goddamn clue why or how the fuck this happened. Meanwhile Junko slips out under the radar after having one hell of a vacation. Then she’ll go and pay you back for the good time by putting a bullet in your head. That’s the kind of monster you’re going up against here.” Yasuke wished he was exaggerating, but he wasn’t.

“I see. Truthfully, the information said exposing Enoshima would be terribly unwise.” Kyoko took on a thoughtful pose, neither doubting nor perturbed by Matsuda’s outburst.

 “Hold on…” Yasuke narrowed his eyes. Something’s not adding up here. “Why haven’t you leaked this to the police? Why come for me?”

“Because this is more than Junko…and we need your help.” A familiar voice answered his query. Out from the doors was a green haired girl in a wheelchair, staring at him with disappointment and worry.

“Miaya? What are you doing here?” Yasuke’s jaw dropped.

“We need your neurological expertise.” Miaya said.

“With…Junko?”

“No. With Makoto Naegi.”

 


 

Chiaki’s day had been mostly normal…It was in the afternoon, and she sat by the bench in the middle of the school grounds. A routine she followed every school day, in small hopes that Hinata would return here.

It was a normal day…until now, when an unfamiliar girl ran up a storm towards her…and Chiaki wasn’t referring to the actual weather. The girl kicked up water as she sped over to Chiaki’s location, and unlike the gamer who was dry thanks to the roof overhead, she looked like she’d been by a tsunami.

The stranger’s hands were planted on her bent knees as she recovered her breath.

“You’re…Chiaki…Nanami…?” She wheezed.

“Yup and you’re…seriously out of breath.” Chiaki remarked. “Were you out for a jog?”

“No!  Who the hell would jog in this weather!? Do I look crazy to you!?” Ryoko screamed. She was tired and soaking wet! What’d she do to deserve this?

“Why not just bring an umbrella?”

“W-Well why couldn’t you have played video games inside? I ran all over the school looking for you!”

“Really? You’re incredible, I’d never pull off lapping the school.” Way too tedious.

“Mhm, I am pretty great.~” The girl puffed her sizable chest out in pride. “Uwah! I almost got sucked in by you!” Doesn’t she mean ‘suckered in’? “I want answers!”

“To?” Chiaki said, already itching to get back to her game. But before any of that. “Want a towel?” Chiaki held out a white towel she’d brought out of her bag.

Ryoko seeing the dry cloth, slowly inched closer, eyes shifting between Chiaki and the towel, like a cautious animal deliberating over biting the bait.

Once Ryoko got within arms distance and brought her head down, Chiaki rubbed the other girl’s hair and face gently with the cloth.

“Thanks.” Ryoko smiled brightly afterwards, removing her soaked blazer. “Much better. I’m Ryoko Otonashi. Nice to meet you!”

“Likewise, and you already know my name, somehow. What can I do for you?”

“Hm?” Ryoko tilted her head, forgetting the reason she came here until her senior proc’d  her memory. “I got sucked in after all!” She said, dramatically jumping away from the gamer. “What is this comfy field around you!?”

Chiaki smiled. “You’re a funny person, Otonashi-san.”

“I give up.” Ryoko raised her arms in the air and sat besides the pinkette, a small distance separating them. “What’re you doing here by yourself?”

“Is that what you wanted to ask me?” Chiaki blinked. That was a whole lot of wasted effort if so.

“You really think I’m an idiot huh?” Ryoko folded her arms, looking away while pouting. “So insensitive. I’m making small talk right now since I’ve lost the initiative. You could at least play along.”

“Oh, you should have just said so.”

“No normal person would ever come out and say that without making things awkward. You’d look like an idiot!”

“But…you just did…”

“You’re picking a fight with me, right!?”

“No, just trying to figure you out.” Chiaki responded honestly. “But if you want a fight, we can settle it the good old patrician way.” Chiaki held out a game.

Ryoko held the gaming platform gingerly in her fingertips.

“Ever played Steel Fist?”

Ryoko shook her head.

“I hope you’re a fast learner then, because I don’t hold back, even against beginners.”

 


 

“Makoto, I need to talk to you.” Sayaka said, her head peeking out from the classroom’s door and looking outside.

“Hm, sure. What’s up, Maizono?” Naegi replied, standing across Ikusaba.

“Alone.” The bluenette stressed, stepping outside.

Mukuro reacted negatively, glaring at the idol. “I don’t see why there’s a problem with me being here.” She said.

Sayaka’s lips twitched upwards. Cute. It was like a dog marking its territory – she thought.

Just then, Leon strode out of the classroom, standing behind the pop sensation. “Yo, Ikusaba. I saw your sister with Chihiro out the window holding hands. Didn’t know Chi was her type.”

“You saw Junko-chan?” Mukuro’s eyes widened in surprise. To be perfectly honest, Mukuro had lost all control of the situation regarding her sister, including whether or if she could regain her memory. All she could do was watch over ‘Ryoko’…which…she currently was not doing!

‘Shit’ The soldier swore under her breath.

“Like I’d ever mistake a babe with a body like that.” Leon whistled.

Mukuro kept a mental note to punch him when she got back.

She sent Sayaka a knowing look, before running off.

“Oh man.” Leon said after a time slapping his forehead “I totally forgot there’s that new redhead with a killer figure like Enoshima’s. Even the best mess up once in a while.” Leon laughed.

“She’ll kill you.” Sayaka smiled.

“Taking one for the team. You two talk it out.” The athlete shrugged and returned to the classroom. The loud voices could be heard from where Sayaka and Naegi stood.

“What’s this all about, Maizono-san?” The boy asked.

“Why are you calling me by my surname? There’s nobody else here.” Sayaka mused.

“Don’t I always call you that way?” Naegi cocked his head.

What the… oh.

Sayaka flicked him on the head.

“Ow, I hate it when you do that.” He whined. Sudden shocks to the head usually worked.

“Why were you so slow to answer?” Sayaka asked

"My bad." He apologized.

…“Okay, forget that. What happened at the amusement park?” The idol inquired.

“…On Saturday or Sunday?”

Sayaka stared blankly.

“Kidding!" Makoto chirped. "Mukuro and I went to the amusement park and…well, I let the other me handle everything.”

“And…you know everything he does, right?” Including anything that would make the soldier that possessive?

“…Yeah, it’s like auto-pilot. Even if someone else is driving, you still know where you’re going. It’s kind of like that.”

“About that. Ever since I returned, you’ve been acting strangely and aggressive, then there’s those injuries you had.” Not long ago, he looked like he’d been mauled by a bear. He’d given her a half-assed excuse that she just knew was a lie. She decided not to press but then he was injured again on the weekend.

“Oh I get it. You’re worried about me.” Makoto smiled. Water is wet. When it rains, it pours. Tune in for more news at 11.

“Of course I am, you blockhead. I’m your friend.” She gave him a stupefied look. “Tell me that you’re not involved in anything dangerous.”

“You don't need to be concerned, Sayaka. Everything always works out in the end.”

The bluenette ticked her eyebrow upward “That’s…not an answer-“

“You guys, we got trouble!” Leon stormed out of the class, panic stricken as he pointed to his phone.

“What’s wrong?” Makoto asked.

“The reserve course has gone fucking nuts!”

 


 

“I won.” Chiaki whispered, unable to believe what occurred. At first, Ryoko was a pushover like any noob, but she was doubtlessly a fast learner. Early on, Chiaki spared a glance at the red-haired girl and saw caught her focused on the game. By the end, she didn’t have that opportunity. There hadn’t even been a winner in their last game, Ryoko timed her moves perfectly with Chiaki’s and the timer ran out while the latter had a smidgen more life left than her opponent.

…Who looked like she was about to cry. “I was close…”

“Been a while since I’ve been challenged like that. You’re pretty hood.” Chiaki said.

“Mhm. You’re right.” She recovered.

Chiaki had already picked up on one of Ryoko’s quirks. This girl was weak to praise.

“Nanami-senpai. Are you going out with Naegi?” Ryoko asked out of the blue.

“No.” Chiaki remarked. She didn’t know what brought that on though… “Why?”

“Just someone I know is really into him, and I wondered if you were already a couple.”

“Naegi’s nice and all, but I don’t think about him that way.”

“He’s nice? Like fake nice or actually nice.”

“Actually nice. He puts in way too much effort to be anything else, and it’s not like he made a move on me.” Chiaki pointed out. “The whole time at the carnival, he did everything I asked and helped me out a lot. I couldn’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself that much…but…” Chiaki held her hoodie tightly. “I wonder if I was the only one who felt that way.”

“You mean you might have bored him?” Ryoko said.

“I have no idea, because he made the day about me.”

Ryoko shifted in her seat. Wasn’t that a good thing? For someone to pay attention to you?

“I only noticed it after I got back to my dorm…but…Naegi-kun directed the entire afternoon.” Chiaki frowned. She’d drowned in her own problems that she hadn’t thought about his feelings at all. “All I can say is that Naegi looks like a really happy guy.” He never stopped smiling, for one.

Chiaki’s words made something click in Ryoko’s mind, as if she was awarded a missing piece of the puzzle. “He’s nice.” She repeated after the gamer. That compliment…was all she ever heard when Naegi was described. Chihiro, for how much he adored the luckster, could only use the term incessantly and it wasn’t because the kid had a small vocabulary.

It might have been a strange thing to say coming from a girl whose life experience dated back weeks at most, but Ryoko was starting to think she knew more about Naegi than his supposed friends.

That is to say, she was aware that she knew nothing at all and Naegi was kind of creepy.

The amnesiac opened her notebook to the page with the lucky student’s name, and below read the notice that survived even her own memory. ‘Makoto Naegi was dangerous’ it said, calling him an omnivore; an animal that eats anything and everything.

Could Ryoko say…that this had nothing to do with her?

“Otonashi-san, you know these guys?” Chiaki’s voice broke her out of a stupor. Ryoko’s attention was turned to a group of students in jet black uniform, standing in the rain. But above all, were the imaginative helmets they wore. The sides were white and black, with the latter half conveying a sinister outlook. A squad that would not look out of place on Halloween.

“These are those reserve students, right? I don’t know em at all…their costumes are kinda cheap though.” Ryoko stated. Even with their eyes masqueraded, the eccentric could tell they were staring at the girls intensely.

“What do you guys want?” Chiaki asked

The pinkette, disturbed by the silent reception and unaware of their dark intentions…Ryoko, on the other hand, had opened her notebook earlier.

The amnesiac, unaware of her talent as the Ultimate Analyst couldn’t have grasped what stroke of good fortune it was. It was only thanks to that coincidence that her mind reverted back to its perfect state. The mindset she had while outmaneuvering Madarai.

The reserve course students were seldom allowed on these premises, yet no less than 8 appeared before them.

Their oddity of their presence here was magnified by the increasing tension between them and campus security.

There had been no protests today.

Their muscles were tense, and their faces blank and finally, the question they would pose next

All pointed towards an unfavorable outcome.

Threat assessment: Extremely dangerous

 You’re Ryoko Otonashi.” One said.

Verdict: Flee.

Before the gamer could seal their fate, her right arm was strung along and dragged into the air by Ryoko. The Ultimate analyst sprinted off with dexterity and acceleration that surpassed earlier. Like the unruly student Ryoko was, she’d begun sprinting before the signal.

“Kill them!”

Not even the beating rain drowned out the concert of footsteps behind her

The race for dear life commenced.

 


 

“I just got a message from one of my buddies that got cut mid text. They’re storming the school and attacking anyone they see!” Leon roared.

Sayaka gasped.

Makoto gazed outside the window to verify the athlete’s claims. There he saw the chaos, dozens of black-suited teenagers running amock.

'Why were they wearing masks'

He doesn’t have time to be surprised. “Is everyone still in class?” Makoto asked Leon.

“Wasn’t lying when I saw Chihiro walk off together with that redhead. No fucking clue if Ikusaba found them. Kirgiri never showed up, remember?” Leon clawed his hair, trying to think of whoever he’d missed. “Shit, I think Ishimaru’s doing patrol.”

Makoto took off.

“Where are you going!?” Sayaka screamed

“Go back to class with Leon!” Makoto yelled and waste not a moment later. Stopping the insurgence was a priority, but he also needed to make sure the others were safe. Without a doubt, Ryoko would be a magnet for trouble, he at least had to go there personally, but as for the rest?

Well…good thing he had a backup plan.

“Is he crazy?” Leon gaped at Makoto’s retreating form. The baseball’s star’s intention had been to rally everyone and hide behind Sakura or something, not run right into the danger!

Sayaka straightened up, a cold expression on her face. “Let’s take cover inside.”

Leon gaped. “Fuck that, we’ve got to stop him.”

“You heard what he said. Makoto’s not a child. He can take care of himself.” She wasn’t giving the baseball star any room for argument. In fact, she didn’t wait for his answer, instead walking into class. “If you’re not coming, I’ll lock the door.”

“Have both of you lost it!?” Leon screamed. After a moment of deliberation and a worried look to the direction, the ahoge escaped in…he joined the idol.

 


 

Ryoko managed to buy time running, but there was only so much she could have done while also dragging Nanami along.  The older girl, despite her figure, had not been one for exercise, and tired too quickly.

The chase only lasted 10 minutes before they were trapped. All directions were sealed by dozens of reserve coursers.

“What do they want from us?” Chiaki asked. In spite of her situation, the gamer retained her composure.

“I don’t know why, but I think it’s me they want, but I seriously doubt they’d let you go either at this point.” Ryoko replied calmly. On the run, they’d seen other main course students like themselves, piled and mauled. Pink blood spewing out from their bodies.

She couldn’t confirm whether there were deaths per se, but the sight was gruesome enough to tell these guys meant business.

Ryoko considered the possibilities of breaking the encirclement. She came up with nothing. “Hm…this is kinda bad huh.”

“Nowhere to run.” Their attackers said.

“Then they just need to fight their way out.”

…!

A figure fell from the sky (Well, more like dropped from the third-floor window of a building if her calculations were accurate)

“Who are you?” Ryoko asked the pale-skinned man

“Isshiki Madarai. Your shamelessness knows no bounds to have forgotten me already..” The revulsion in his tone was evident…and yet. “I have been tasked with your protection.”

“By who?” Ryoko asked.

“A rule in this profession is to never reveal our client’s identity.”

Huh…someone was looking out for them.

How nice…but Ryoko hoped it would be enough against the miniature army of unjustifiably angry second stringers.

 


 

“G-Get away.”  Chihiro’s back hit the wall of the school building as he was entrapped on all sides by a gang of freakshows.

The cat he’d brought with him jumped from out of his arms and hissed at his would-be assailants

“Stop right there!” came a voice. Due to Chihiro’s small size and the crowd, he couldn’t see who was on the other side, but the loudness in his voice was recognizably ”Ishimaru!”

The reserve students took their attention away from the programmer and focused on the prefect who stood behind them, a wooden sword in hand as his bright red eyes glared. “Cowards. Ganging up on the weak, let’s see you take on someone your own size!”

“A protector of justice. I see. I think we could get along.”

The mob whose focus was stolen by the proud Kiyotaka had lost sight of their original target, who – not of his own volition – had been quietly stolen and freed from the ambush by a tall man. So large, that the way he’d hid is presence was miraculous.

“You are…Isshiki Madarai!” Kiyotaka marveled at the other newcomer. It was only natural he’d know the identities of the student council. “What are you doing here?”

“Not quite, but no matter. I’m abiding a contract…and on your side here, so let’s make nice.” Madarai said, dropping both Fujisaki and the cat.

‘The more allies, the better.’ Kiyotaka supposed.

Though Kiyotaka would like to say the man got one thing wrong. There was no justice in Kiyotaka’s motive. Under normal circumstances, the limits of his jurisdiction would cap at mere discipline. He was meant to guide, not beat others into submission…and that’s why the prefect would enjoy this little diversion greatly.

Even as the mob of crazed students charged at them, the broken moral compass was overcome with gratitude, for whoever it was that provided him an excuse to let break his code again!

 


 

“You called these guys in?” Yasuke said as he, Kyoko and Miaya suddenly found themselves surrounding by reserve coursers with some stupid looking gear, walking about in the rain like they owned the place. “Don’t these idiots know that’s how you get sick?”

“Was that a joke, or didn’t you happen to notice that they’re armed?” Kyoko narrowed her eyes at the students blocking the front of the building, each one carrying some makeshift weapon like pipes or pick-axes.

‘So it’s come to this, after all huh?’ If they were to run, they could only go inside behind them.

 “Kyoko Kirigiri and Yasuke Matsuda.” Their names were called out.

“Judging by that tone, I presume we’ve made someone’s list.” Kyoko surmised, already calculating the optimal strategies to get out of this mess.

 


  

The instigator of the afternoon’s chaos was perched on the roof of the tallest building in the academy. Izuru gazed down from an overlooking view. With vision as potent as a hawk’s, he could observe every detail of his insidious scheme with the uttermost clarity. But why strain his eyes when he had technology? By his side was a laptop. The alter ego had hacked into the cameras around the school.

He briefly considered if this is what his teachers felt when performing their experiments. Already, Izuru was met with factors that exceeded his calculations, albeit slightly.

But that was enough. As long as he witnessed the unforeseen, the experiment was succeeding.

The collateral damage involved may be considered morally questionable…but what about his inception wasn’t? Izuru merely continued to the research his teachers started. He was born out of the hopes of a single human acquiring everything in the world.

Yet Izuru was incomplete, he could admit that now. Hope, despair, and perhaps more. These were concepts he had insufficient knowledge of. That he cared to understand them, meant he was not perfect. Thus, his duty should be to attain those qualities, through any means necessary.

Saying that, the fatalities were likely to be kept to a minimum, as per the indirect consequence of his orders. Only the identities given to the reserve course were to be killed, the uninvolved parties would just be superficial casualties. However, Izuru didn’t organize this ‘parade’ in that fashion out of kindness or lenience. He was merely being efficient. If the reserve course went fully berserk, murdering whatever laid in their path, they would lose sight of his true goal. Giving them priorities, targets for them to exert the full extent of their anger was much more effective.

Once again, Izuru felt his blood boil and knew what he felt in his breast was excitation.