Mondo is eating dinner in the dining hall when Chihiro approaches him. She gives him a questioning look, one hand on the back of the chair next to him, the other balancing a bowl of food, and Mondo nods without second thought. He watches her as she settles, brushes her hands over her skirt to smooth it out before she starts to eat.
She’s cute, Mondo remembers. It’s hard to not notice, really-- big brown eyes, button nose, clear skin and a tiny frame. He thinks he looks at her for too long, because from across the table his new best bro Ishimaru clears his throat pointedly. Mondo doesn’t blush, not exactly, but he definitely feels the back of his neck heat up as he returns his gaze to his plate.
Meals are usually a quiet event at Hope’s Peak, especially in the aftermath of Sayaka’s murder. Breakfast is sometimes a little noisy, just because it’s the only time everyone is really together (even if Togami avoids it like the plague). But nobody eats as a group for the rest of the day, only alone or in pairs. Mondo’s lucky for his newfound brother, because before he had been one of the loners. But now with the addition of Chihiro next to him, he can’t help but wonder if they’ll form a trio of sorts. He’s not opposed to the idea, and he doesn’t know why that makes him a little nervous.
He guesses he’s never really had a crush on anyone before, not really. He’d done stuff before, sure, but he was usually mildly drunk and didn’t much like whoever he was on top of. He’s not really sure if his feelings about Ishimaru are romantic, but he feels fiercely protective of his friend with a foreign amount of intensity.
With Chihiro, it’s somewhat easier to admit he’s crushing. He thinks most of the boys here are into Chihiro to some degree, which makes him feel both better and worse-- jealousy is another new emotion for him, after all. Regardless, she’s sweet, endearing, and whenever she cries Mondo wants to punch a wall.
He decides he’ll wait for Chihiro to finish her meal, so he sits even after he’s done eating. She doesn’t really say much, instead listening to Mondo and Ishimaru as they talk. After a while, Ishimaru pushes out his chair and goes to wash his plate, announcing (in a voice a tad too loud considering the lack of people in the cafeteria) that he’s going to take a bath. Mondo laughs and gives him a fist bump whenever he leaves, and it’s only when the door closes behind him that he realizes it’s just him and Chihiro.
“So…” His voice trails off, and he tries to think of something to say. “Why’d ya join Taka and I today?”
“Oh.” Chihiro blinks as though she’s startled by the question, then lets her gaze fall down to the table. “I’m just, um, a little tired of eating alone.”
“Well, I’m glad you chose to sit with us.” Mondo grins and lets the tension and nerves leave his body. He’d been tense, everyone had been since Monokuma had announced the motive, but the lump of anxiety in his stomach finally starts to dissolve a little. He slings an arm over the back of Chihiro’s chair and kicks his feet up on the table, only narrowly missing his own plate and making Chihiro squeak in alarm.
“Maybe we should, um, move this?” She pulls the plate towards her so it’s no longer in danger of falling to the floor. Mondo laughs again and notices her face has gone red, and he knows it’s probably from being startled but nonetheless humors himself and imagines it’s because of him.
They’re able to make small talk as Chihiro finishes eating, and Mondo tails her into the kitchen so they can wash their dishes together. He realizes how truly small she is when he catches their reflection in the fridge-- he must be a full foot taller than her, at least. And now that he’s noticed it, he can’t stop -- hell, he can literally see the top of her head from where he’s standing.
“Mondo?” Chihiro starts as she dries her bowl, drawing him out of his thoughts. “Would you mind walking with me?” She peeks up at him, and Mondo uses all of his willpower to not use his still-soapy hand to brush her bangs out of her eyes.
“Sure, just around the school?” Mondo doesn’t even have to think about his response. Chihiro nods and smiles, looking pleased, and Mondo feels something in his chest warm.
They bump into Sakura and Asahina as they leave the dining hall. Strangely, Chihiro seems a little spooked, especially when they invite her to eat with them. Mondo can’t help but feel a little prideful when she stumbles out that she’s already eaten with him, and he debates whether or not that’s sexist as he and Chihiro enter the school walking side by side.
Chihiro has her hands clasped around each other as they make their way to the second floor. They don’t pass anyone as they walk, which Mondo is grateful for until Chihiro suddenly grabs his sleeve and pulls him into an empty classroom.
His first two thoughts that come in rapid succession are that he’s either about to die or about to get laid. But Chihiro doesn’t do anything except drop his sleeve to close the door then spin to look at Mondo, wide-eyed as though she were just as shocked by her actions as he was.
“I’m sorry.” She says immediately. “I just… I have to tell you something, and I don’t want anybody to overhear it.”
“I-- Ah--” Mondo stumbles, still recovering from being caught so off-guard. “You could’ve just asked, kid.”
“I was scared I’d chicken out.” Chihiro admits. “I’m sorry.”
Mondo just sighs, letting himself relax a bit and waiting for his heart to stop pounding so fast. “Alright, alright, it’s fine. What do ya wanna tell me?”
Chihiro looks at her feet, nervous. “It’s about our secrets.”
“I’m not sayin’ mine.” Mondo is quick to respond, feeling his mood sour immediately at the thought of it. The slip of paper in his pocket suddenly weighs fifty pounds.
“No, no!” Chihiro waves her hands in front of her, eyes wide again. “No, I’m not asking you to, I promise! I just… You made me a promise, earlier. Or, well, you said you would, and I want you to promise you won’t tell anyone my secret.” She rushes out the last bit, letting her hands fall in front of her to grip at the hem of her skirt. She looks borderline panicked, and Mondo forces himself to calm the sudden fire burning in his chest, to tame the irritation and protectiveness dancing there.
“Okay.” He says after a moment, and is pleased when there’s no heat to the word.
It looks like all the tension leaves Chihiro, and her shoulders slump as she finally steps away from the door to sit on top of a desk. She has to jump a little before she can properly sit on it, and it’s so cute Mondo wants to punch something.
Once she’s sitting she inhales deeply, steeling herself, before she reaches into the pocket of her blazer and pulls out a slip of paper. She looks Mondo in the eyes and holds it out to him. Their fingers brush when he takes it from her-- his are steady, hers are shaking. He breaks eye contact to look down and read her name, lets the pads of his fingers dig into the sharp corners of the cardstock.
“Are you sure you want me to know?” He breaks the silence, glancing up at her. She nods, her face set, but Mondo sees that she’s trembling a little.
He feels nervous himself, and takes a breath before unfolding the paper. He reads it; then he reads it again. He feels his nose scrunch in confusion as he looks up, ready to speak, only for Chihiro to interrupt.
“I’m a boy.”
Mondo can’t help but tip his head to the side, baffled. “But you, you’re… you’re a girl.”
Chihiro shakes her-- his? -- head. “No, no , I’m weak and I’m a boy .” Chihiro sounds like she’s convincing herself more than Mondo, and her voice almost breaks on the last word. “You need to help me get strong.”
Mondo feels like his brain is mush with all the help it’s giving him, and it makes irritation spark hot in his gut. “Look, kid, I can help you get strong, no problem, but I don’t get the other shit you’re sayin’-- you introduced yourself as a chick, you look like a chick, you act like a fuckin’ chick.”
“I know.” Chihiro sounds miserable. “I lied, because I’m weak, and now I have to get strong so I can be a boy, because that’s how I’m meant to be--”
She’s freaking out, words coming out without any breath between them until Mondo steps forward and claps his hands firmly over her shoulders. “Chihiro.”
“I have to be strong.” She sounds like she’s pleading with him, hands flying up to scrabble at Mondo’s.
“You can be strong.” Mondo insists. “You can be a girl and still be strong. Have you seen Sakura?”
Chihiro’s hands still and she looks at Mondo, eyes brimming with tears and whirling with too many emotions for Mondo to pick out. She looks lost.
Mondo’s not smart in any sense of the word-- he can’t do math for shit and doesn’t know the difference between mitosis and meiosis. But he knows Chihiro is struggling, and it makes his chest hurt.
“I’ll help you, alright?” Mondo says quietly, seriously. “I promise.”
The dam breaks, and Chihiro lets out a choked sob and surges forward, pulling Mondo in close enough so she can press her face into his chest. Mondo gasps, unprepared, but lets a hand fall from her shoulder and, once his brain has caught up to the present, hesitantly cards his fingers through her hair. Her hands curl into the sides of his jacket, and she cries.
It takes some time for Chihiro to calm down, and even when she isn’t crying anymore she still doesn’t pull away (although her iron grip on his jacket loosens a little bit).
“I don’t want to be a boy.” She whispers into his chest. Her voice is rough.
“You don’t have to be a boy.” Mondo reassures.
“But I still… I still want to be strong.” Chihiro finally ressurfaces, and her eyes are puffy and red and her cheeks are wet and Mondo thinks she’s beautiful and wonders momentarily what that says about him, that he finds a crying girl pretty, but then he realizes Chihiro is waiting for him to say something and snaps out of it.
“I mean, I promised you, yeah?” He looks away for a moment, sheepish and embarrassed at his own thoughts. “We could even start tomorrow, if you wanted.”
“Could we tonight?” Chihiro asks, eager, shy, soft.
“You’re willing to break the night time rule?” Mondo questions, looking back at her.
“Just once.” Chihiro says seriously. “I want to be strong, but I’m scared of seeing anyone in the locker room. This time tomorrow, everyone will know about me… I don’t want them to find out unless they absolutely have to.”
She speaks so earnestly that Mondo can’t stop himself from reaching up to cup her face, to brush his fingers over her cheek. Her skin is soft under the pads of his fingertips, against the rough but faded and healing calluses, and her cheeks grow red as her breath hitches a little.
“Yeah, we can meet tonight.” Mondo’s voice is quieter than he means for it to be. Chihiro gives him a smile, a little watery but entirely genuine, and reaches up to grab Mondo’s wrist. She doesn’t move it, just holds it like she’s grounding herself.
“Okay.” She whispers and presses into Mondo’s touch. “Okay.” She repeats it as though she’s reassuring herself, and Mondo can’t stop himself from smiling a little bit.
They sit there for a long time, until Chihiro has truly calmed down and composed herself. She slides off the desk and winces a little when her thighs stick to the surface, then straightens out her skirt before looking at Mondo. Her cheeks are tinted pink, and she gives him another smile.
“Thank you, Mondo.” She bows her head a little.
“Of course, kid.” He reaches out to ruffle her hair, and she lets out a small cry as she tries to duck away from it. She’s giggling by the time she’s finally able to get away, and lets out a puff of air in mock-anger.
“Hey, it’s a gesture of affection!” Mondo raises his hands in the air, and Chihiro laughs again as she pulls the door to the classroom open. As she does, Mondo pulls out his e-Handbook and checks the time.
“Hey, it’s 9:30 right now. Do you want to meet at 10:15?” He’s sure to keep his voice down, just in case anyone’s wandering the halls, and it’s a good thing he does-- he makes eye contact with Togami right as he’s slipping into the library. Togami raises an eyebrow, and Mondo gives him a mean glare until the door fully closes behind him.
Chihiro turns to look at Mondo and nods, seemingly oblivious. “Alright, I have to find a track suit anyways. They have some in the warehouse, right?”
“Yeah, there’s tons in there.” Mondo waves a hand. “So, I’ll see you in a bit?”
There’s a moment of silence where Chihiro goes to speak, but then she shuts her mouth and flings herself at Mondo in a hug. He stumbles back, startled both by the force of her gesture and the heat he feels rising in his cheeks. He returns the hug as best as he can, the height difference making it awkward but not impossible.
When Chihiro pulls away after a moment, her cheeks are flushed. “Bye.” She gives him a little smile, then turns on her heel and hurries towards the stairs.
Mondo lets himself stand still for a moment, reeling from everything that had just happened. He leans back against the wall to put his face in his hands, and wills his blush to die down before he risks facing anyone.
Mondo gets to the boy’s locker room a few minutes early. His mood had soured considerably over the past half an hour, the note in his pocket burning against his skin the more he had thought about it. He immediately grabs a dumbbell in hopes of a distraction, not even changing clothes as he sits and starts to do some bicep curls.
He wishes he could shut his brain off entirely-- he can’t stop thinking about Chihiro, about her secret, about his secret, about Daiya. Should he have told her? A sticky green coats his insides as he thinks of Chihiro handing him her slip of paper. He feels stupid, weak, and goes at his workout with a new gusto, trying to focus on his biceps burning rather than his own idiotic emotions.
The door opens suddenly with a soft click, and Mondo looks up to see Chihiro walk in. She has a bag slung over one shoulder and a shy smile on her face, and she looks almost surprised to see Mondo there. The thought makes irritation spark in his gut, mixing with the anxiety settled there like a fucked-up Molotov cocktail.
“You’re here.” Chihiro comments, dropping her bag on the floor. She turns away as she drops to her knees to rummage through it, pulling out a blue tracksuit.
“Did ya think I’d be late?” Mondo grunts out as his muscles burn.
“I, um.” Chihiro stands, hugging the clothes to her chest, and flushes as she averts her gaze. “I thought I’d have more time to plan out what I want to say.”
That makes Mondo stop, resting the dumbbell on the bench next to him but still holding it. “What do you mean?” He asks with a frown.
“I just… this is a big deal for me, y’know?” Chihiro takes a step forward, towards him, and stares towards Mondo’s feet. “I’ve never been able to even have the chance to grow stronger, let alone with someone as strong as you. There hasn’t ever been anybody to trust until now. So...” She takes a deep breath, and it only trembles a little, then finally looks Mondo in the eyes. “Thank you for offering your help, and thank you for your trust.”
Mondo thinks his brain is short-circuiting. Logically, he knows she’s being kind, being genuine, but his logic has always been shit. All he can focus on is the sudden rage that just explodes within him-- strong? Trustworthy ? He hasn’t said a word about his own secret, and Chihiro is just standing there , waiting expectantly for a response, and before he knows it he’s on his feet heading towards Chihiro.
“Are you fucking with me?” He snarls, loud, loud, so loud-- something is roaring in his head. He’s up in her space, looming over her, but before where their height difference made him feel fond or protective, now he feels powerful-- he feels strong.
Chihiro drops her clothes as she stumbles back, wide-eyed and immediately on the brink of tears, and Mondo feels his annoyance with her grow.
“I-I- No, Mondo, I’m sorry--” She manages to get out, voice trembling, thick with tears, hands braced in front of her, and Mondo laughs at her, laughs at the thought that this frail, meek little girl who had the gall to taunt him, to mock him, could really protect herself.
“I’m strong! ” He points a thumb at himself. “You hear that, Chihiro? I’m strong,” he takes one step, another step towards her, and Chihiro’s back hits the wall with a thud, “I’m stronger than Daiya,” he raises a hand up, up, up, tired muscles straining against the weight of the dumbbell, “I’m stronger than you!”
He swings down with all of his strength and only sees red.
It takes a long time for Mondo to settle back into his body.
He’s kneeling, the floor harsh against his knees even through the carpet. He’s holding something in his right hand, something round and made of metal, slick with something, sweat, maybe. A dumbbell, his brain substitutes. There’s a strong smell, something metallic, and his cheeks are wet. His body hurts , the muscles in his right arm and side screaming at him, a gaping hole in his chest like a bomb exploded where his heart should be.
He opens his eyes and an image flashes before him-- Daiya, bloody and dying and Mondo crying and still clinging to the handle of his motorcycle-- but then he sees reality.
He’s never wanted to watch Daiya die again so badly in his life.
His entire body is buzzing, the roar in his head now a faint, low hum. He realizes he’s still holding the dumbbell and finally lets go of it, drawing his hand to his chest and ignoring how it stains his tank top pink.
He stares at the wall for a while, trying to build up the courage to look at Chihiro again. He wants to curl up into himself, wants to leave and go back to his dorm, or even better, leave this school entirely, never step foot here again.
He looks at Chihiro and has to close his eyes again.
“Fuck.” He whispers to himself. He opens his eyes. “ Fuck .”
He’s disgusted. He’s never wished so hard that he was the one killed in the wreck. He looks down at his hands. They’re somehow steady. Mondo uses them to wipe away his tears.
He can’t hide what happened here-- even in his current state he knows that. He looks down at Chihiro, then around the locker room, then back at Chihiro, finally processing where they are, what this means: the secrets are safe.
For a moment he’s almost relieved, almost able to forget what he’s done as he reaches into his pocket and feels the note there. But his gaze is inevitably drawn back to Chihiro, and he thinks back to only this afternoon, only this evening , and Chihiro’s words: “This time tomorrow, everyone will know about me… I don’t want them to find out unless they absolutely have to.”
Any sense of relief is immediately washed away, a quiet despair filling the gap in his chest instead.
Mondo is going to die. The thought is oddly comforting, once he gets past the brutality of it.
He’s filled with a strange determination as he stands up. He sways on his feet, but bites the inside of his cheeks until he tastes blood, then feels steadier. Still shitty, but steadier. He can’t help from gazing at the body on the floor, there solely because of him.
“I’m sorry, kid.” Mondo says, faint, a little choked up, to Chihiro’s corpse. “So fucking sorry.”
He feels the weight of the e-Handbooks in his pocket. He’s been carrying Leon’s since his own broke in the sauna, but he had gone back to the main hall to grab one of the girls’ to give to Chihiro. He crouches to kneel by her, whispers another apology as he feels along her blazer until he comes across the bump of her handbook. He slips it out of her pocket and puts it in his own, and hesitates as his hand stills over her. He reaches back into the pocket and takes her note, the same one she had handed to Mondo only hours ago. He tucks it deep in his jacket, and it feels just as heavy as his own had, the corners sharp like the thorns of a rose.
He swears to himself that Chihiro’s note will never see the light of day. That nobody will find out her secret, no matter what the consequences of that decision are.
Then, he braces himself to slip one arm under her knees, the other around her shoulders.
She’s so light, so tiny, and Mondo finds that he can’t stop crying as he carries her from the boy’s locker room to the girl’s. The tears openly stream down his face, warm and salty as they trace his jawline and fall onto Chihiro’s chest, as though they could bring back the warmth she had irreversibly lost. He deposits her on the ground, careful, gentle, like she was asleep and the cold, concrete floor of the locker room was her bed.
He starts to move methodically from locker room to locker room, switching the carpets, switching the posters, carefully wiping down the machines and floor of the boy’s locker room. When he’s finally finished, he returns to Chihiro.
He picks her up once again, and is careful, oh so careful, as he lays her on the carpet. He hadn’t known he could be so delicate. The tears which had stopped as he lost himself in cleaning return in full force as he kneels next to her.
“Fuck.” The word comes out strangled, weak. Mondo hiccups as he tries to choke back a sob, and his composure finally cracks, splits clean down the center. He buries his face in his hands and just fucking cries, mourns what he’s taken from Chihiro and can never give back to her. It hurts, it hurts so fucking bad Mondo never wants to move again, never wants to see or breath or live ever again.
He doesn’t know how long he spends crying into his hands, but by the time his sobs die down, his head is throbbing and his body is stiff from being curled up for so long. He finds it a small price to pay, a precursor to the punishment sure to come later that day.
He allows himself one last look, one last touch. He reaches out with a hand and cups Chihiro’s face, swipes a thumb over her cheekbone. Her skin, though soft, is cold, and he has to wrench his hand away, overwhelmed by a surge of grief stronger than anything’s he felt since Daiya.
“I’m sorry, Chihiro.” He barely manages to get the words out. “I’m so fucking sorry.”
He pulls away and feels his whole body tremble as he gets to his feet. He has to use the wall for support in order to get to the exit, and once he gets there he forces himself to keep looking ahead.
“Goodbye, kid.” He whispers to the door, before letting it swing shut behind him. Eyes ahead, he tells himself, hoping that if he chants it long enough, loud enough, he can drown out any thoughts of what he’s done and keep moving, keep reminding himself of his promise to Chihiro.
He swore that nobody would find out Chihiro’s secret. The e-Handbook is a heavy reminder-- he still has evidence to dispose of.
We could have made it in a different world with different eyes
Nominate each other not to carry on with the lies
We could have made it but we didn't have the stamina
We both lost out in the end