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Despairingly Perfect

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Kiyotaka, your grandfather was a bad man, you know that right? You must never be like him! You must bring pride back to our name! Do you understand, Kiyotaka?” Shake… shake… “Kiyotaka! You must understand what I am telling you! Prove yourself to those geniuses and those slackers! Your happiness can come later, when it is most deserved and earned!”



Drills… repetitions… books… cramped hands… tears… shoves… hits…



“Hey, nerd!” Slam. “What are you doing here so late, huh? Can you not leave for one goddamn second and let us be?”



Profanity. Ignorance. Selfishness. Slackery. Detention.



“Oh, you’re really asking for it now, aren’t you? It’s after school, we can do whatever the hell we want! Not even the teachers are here now!”



I gaze into the eyes of my tormentors, staring at a group of young boys with partially-opened backpacks slung lazily over one shoulder. The main bully, a brunette, spiky-haired boy named Akihiko Narukami, had my pristine white uniform bunched up into his fist. “I must ask you to let go!” I grasp firmly onto his fist, attempting to force it off of me. No use. Narukami was president of the athletics club, a high honor at the prestigious high school of Kaiseidan, where everything happened to be led by a slacking, conceited genius… even the public morals committee had a president that didn’t care nearly as much as I!



“Why should I?” taunted Narukami, “so you can write us a detention slip?” Dirty, cocky brown eyes traveled to my arm. “Hmm… what about we get rid of that little arm band of yours? Then you couldn’t give us a detention, right?” Horror sunk into my gut, twisting and turning and snapping.



“No!” I cried, “no, don’t do that! You can’t--”



Narukami cut me off, “oh, I can’t?” He shot me a bright-eyed, arrogant smirk with model white teeth that appeared so undeserved on such an insolent child! “Hold him.” He gestured towards his goonies, who immediately grabbed hold of my arms as Narukami made quick work of unclipping my armband from my right arm.



I watched, silently and tearfully, as the gang of boys began ripping up my armband, piece for piece, dirt from nasty fingernails and hardly-swept floors splotching it. After a moment, maybe two, or maybe more, they stopped, letting pieces of red fabric flutter to the ground. I felt a wetness descend upon my cheeks, and when they let go of me, I allowed myself to fall, crawling towards the fabrics laid upon the floor. I bunched it up in my hands. Another one gone… perhaps I can try to sew it--



I heard thumps and pounds upon the wooden floors as the gaggle of high-schoolers ran off. I jump to my feet, prepared to give them a detention, when Narukami’s words caught up with me. Without this armband… am I really fit to be a hall monitor? Without it, what am I worth? How would I manage to make this world a better place, if not for my status? Is hard work really enough?



Your happiness can come later, when it is most deserved and earned!” Ah, yes, now I remember! With resolve, I prepare to run after the boys, only to find myself faced with an empty corridor, soundless walls, and nothing but myself, my backpack, and the remains of my dignity.



A feminine voice whispers in my ear, “don’t you want to make them pay?” I spin around, fully expecting someone of the likes of Hisashi or Gontama or someone visible to be playing a trick on me, only to find empty air.



For a moment, I consider replying to the voice, but I cannot pull myself to. I do want to make them pay… but should I? At what cost?



Your happiness can come later, when it is most deserved and earned!”



Yes! For now I must tolerate them, no matter how much it infuriates me! No matter how much they make me cry and sniffle and moan and ache and agonize and--



No matter what! They will get what’s coming to them when they completely fail at life!



even if they truly do make me want to die…



oOo



My mother laid on the couch, drifting off into a sleep. I gently laid her quilt over her, as routine. “Taka…” she murmured, red eyes flickering open to stare at me, “thank you…” How odd… she was always too tired and frail after work to communicate with me, much less thank me!



Nevertheless, “oh, you are quite welcome, Mother!” She gave a small, barely-there smile, closing her eyes completely and snuggling into the couch cushions.



For now, I had bigger things to worry about… my armband was still completely torn apart inside of my pocket, and I know that Mother is much too tired and busy to fix it for me! Father is also going to return home soon, so perhaps I could attempt to fix it myself before that happened! He would surely be disappointed if he discovered that I had destroyed another armband.



And so I sprang out that old, worn sewing machine that I had watched Mother use time and time again while I was growing up. I put the armband under the moving needle and I worked, trying to recall the times from long ago that would always remain in my memories. After a while, I find myself with a bundle of poorly-sewn red linen lying spooled in my hands, and I feel a teardrop fall from my eyes onto the cloth.



Without noticing, I had sunken to the floor. What happened to those times? Why doesn't Mother knit anymore? Why does she look so lonely? Do I fail as a son because she's so lonely? What do I do? What did I do?



If my brain were to be described as a crystal ball, a sharp crack resonated across its' surface just then.



oOo



"Alright, class! That's it for today!" All at once, the class stood and departed the biology classroom in a hurry. As usual, I was the last one left behind to pack up. I worked to the bell, until my muscles ached and my fingers cramped! Anything less and I'd be sorely disappointed with myself!



One of my fellow classmates – although I can't say who -- had decided to give my desk a little accessory today! A black rose, to be precise! Although much appreciated, it was also unneeded. Perhaps I could try to plant it once more safely outside of school bounds after school ended! Not counting my moral committee duties, I only had an hour left of classes. Hopefully it survived until then!



Without me realizing it, my teacher had walked up to my desk. "Ishimaru-kun."



"Ah!" I jumped. Quickly, I sprang to my feet and bowed. "Tomoe-sensei!" The relatively young teacher gave a hearty chuckle, resonating deep in his slightly-bulging gut and through his twinkling eyes.



"No need to be so formal, Ishimaru. Relax." His words were full of much needed advice and wisdom, but I could not relax! So long as I was still breathing, I would always and forever work myself to the bone! Just as Father had taught me!



I repeated the same mantra to my teacher. After a momentary silence, I felt the overwhelming need to fill in the gap. "Erm..." I began, "is everything alright, Tomoe-sensei? Is there a reason you're talking to me?" Admittedly, I wasn't the best at social situations. Nevertheless, like everything, my social skills would be honed with perseverance and an extra dose of hard work!



Tomoe looked around for a moment. "Listen..." he began, in a much softer tone than before, "you've been getting all perfect marks on your assignments..."



"Really?" I asked ecstatic, a wide grin pulling my face into two, "that's wonderful!"



Tomoe chuckled, "yes, well..." He reached into his coat pocket, a thick wad of yen in his hand when he pulled it out. "I'm sure you're well aware that Kaiseidan only accepts the very best of the best, next to Hope's Peak. Now, how do you think it would reflect on us if an Ishimaru were to be named valedictorian of our school?"



I didn't quite get where he was coming from. "Ah... what?"



"Now, now, I'm not saying to completely cast away your grades. Maybe just tone it back a little... just enough to allow Narukami to come on top, yeah? His parents are a very steady and large contributor to our school, so--"



The dots finally clicked. "Tomoe-sensei!" I gasped, "you're horribly abusing your authority right now!"



Tomoe's lips twisted into a scowl. "Wanna say that again?"



"Yes!" I stood up tall, straightening my back and pointing my finger directly into Tomoe's face. "You are exhibiting horrible misconduct right now! I should write you up for this!" At the thought of that, I considered running to the office to report him, but my thoughts were suddenly cut short by a triumphant crash!



Tomoe stood in front of me, arm outstretched as he panted, his chubby face red and gleaming with sweat. The vase with that single black rose lay shattered on the floor, water trailing across the floor and to my boots. "Shut the fuck up!" At the vile word, I jumped. Oh gods... what did I just do? What happened? "You think anyone will believe you, you idiot? Do you truly believe anyone would believe a dirty little Ishimaru?"



"S-Sensei..."



"You know--" he stares contemplatively at the yen in his fist, "I would've given you enough money to write off your entire family's debt, but you know what--" he ripped the yen apart in front of my eyes, forcing me to watch as it fluttered to the floor and right into the quickly developing puddle of water. "—the deal is off!"



For the first time in my life, I questioned my own resolve. I could've done away with my entire family's debt if I hadn't been so stubborn! What will Father say? He will surely be angry! And Mother will have that sad look in her eyes once more!



I don't want to see that look... but--



I was always told hard work is the way to achieve greatness! Who would I be if I were to succumb to the pressures of money just to get my way?



Trying to keep my face perfectly neutral, I simply stare the man in the eyes. "I didn't want that deal to begin with!"



Tomoe stares at me for a second before bursting into laughter. "Wow, Ishimaru, you sure stick to your morals, huh?" He gave me a hard look. "Perhaps that's why your own classmates want you dead."



I nearly blanch in surprise. "W-What do you mean?" I somehow manage to utter.



He nods at the rose on the floor. It's weeping... it's dying. "I saw how happy you were when you saw that rose. You thought it was a sign of good faith, didn't you?"



"Of course!"


"—but you should know that a black rose symbolizes death. They want you to die." He casts his gaze away from me, stalking towards the door to the hallway. Unmoving, I simply stare after him. They want me dead? I know I'm not the most tolerable of people, but that seems rather extreme!



"That... that's not..."



"I'll give you the first tip for politics, Ishimaru," he says, right as the bell decided to ring. I'm late to my first class. He gestures to the pile of torn-up yen on the floor. "Give the people what they want."


Just as he left, the impact of everything that had just transpired coursed through me. I sank to the ground in that tiny puddle of water, agonizing at the fact that not a single person alive cares about me; at the fact that multiple people want me dead. Maybe it would be easier if I just weren't around... maybe the burden of our family debt wouldn't be so harsh on Mother and Father... maybe Narukami could be the valedictorian after all, maybe everyone would jump in the streets and scream praises because I was dead.



... Death doesn't sound so bad right now.



For the first time in a while, I felt genuine hatred spark in me.



That feminine voice came back, "you want to make them pay, don't you?"



I didn't even realize I was answering back until I heard the words "I do" pass through my lips.


oOo



Life appeared so bleak.

 

I didn't want to live anymore; what was I doing this for? I worked hard each day, with the same regime, same attention to detail, same everything, but it never mattered! Nothing mattered!

 

So when I held that finely printed letter in my hand, I almost cried in a mixture of relief and outrage.

 

To Mr. Kiyotaka Ishimaru,



We have been looking for the perfect students for our academy, and you are one of them! You have fulfilled all of the criteria required for our school, and reading through said criteria, you have been selected to own the title of "Super High School Level Prefect" for the school of Hope's Peak Academy. If you choose to accept this offer, you will be guaranteed a life of success and prosperity. We will be very honored to have you in Hope's Peak Academy should you accept.



Call for more information:

(XXX) XXX-XXXX



Sincerely, Kirigiri Jin

 

"Guaranteed a life of success and prosperity," I recited. That didn't work out for my grandfather...



That's what those geniuses all expect, isn't it? For everything to be handed to them on a silver platter?



That feminine voice came back for the third time, "don't you hate them?"



"Yes..."



"Don't you want to crush them?"



"Yes...



"Would you say you'd even be willing to kill them?"



I pause. Killing is a bit extreme... it goes completely against my morals, and it is absolutely illegal! But... those kids didn't care, did they? When they left that black rose? When they beat me up, left those foul words on my desk, forced me to the edge of a bridge until my legs quivered and my body shook and I nearly tipped over until I backed out finally and then they just shouted after me--



"Better luck next time!"



"YES!" I shout, clutching the letter in my fingers as I descend to the ground. "Yes," I murmur, much softer this time. "I'll kill them."



No matter what... they'll pay. Even if I have to infilitrate the school of geniuses in order to do it.

 

Chapter Text

 

I stood outside the school, awed by the beauty. I must have been holding my mouth open, feeling a string of saliva trail down my chin. As I stood, flabbergasted by my new domain, I decided to actually examine the school instead of staring at one spot amazed. It is best to know your school fully, after all!



There was a wide gate standing tall, preventing any intruders from gaining access into the campus. Four pillars stood in front of the school, giving a nice aesthetic tone to the structure. I was absolutely stunned by the glory of the school. It was definitely more impressive than my house.



Entering the school, I looked at the emboldened invitational letter in my hand stating to meet in the gym by eight-thirty. It seemed that I was running very late, with my clock ticking to seven-forty-two the very moment I laid eyes on it. Picking up my pace, I began navigating my way through the wide, empty halls in search of a map.

 

How on earth is there not a single map in this place? The classrooms passed me by, and I marvelled at the sheer woodwork put into even the doors of the academy.

 

Eventually, I found myself facing a large, metal double-door. Shifting my eyes to the right, they landed upon an emboldened print. Ah, finally. With a spark of courage, I began to nudge open the doors, already having an apology ready for disposal at the tip of my tongue, and--

 

No one. Not a single person was in the gymnasium. So I waited. And waited. I felt dizzy from checking my watch so much, but finally at 8:00 a blue haired girl skipped into the gym with a huge pep to her step. She flashed me an award-winning smile which could undoubtedly turn most legs to jelly. I felt like I should know her, but could not think of a name for the life of me.

 

"Hello!" She said, taking an over-exaggerated bow in front of me. I mimicked the gesture, trying to double check my uniform for inconsistencies as subtly as I possibly could. “My name is Sayaka Maizono, Super High School Level Idol. Nice to meet you! Who are you?" inquired Maizono, leaning forward just a nudge to listen.

 

Ah. An idol. That explains a lot, but I've still never heard of her.

 

"Kiyotaka Ishimaru! Super High School Level Prefect! It is a pleasure to meet you, fellow student! Let us focus on our grades together!" I had to restrain myself from raising my volume too high; I needn’t give off too many red flags right away! Despite that being my only desire at the time, I couldn’t find it in myself to wish to dispose of this bubbly persona, even though I had come to Hope’s Peak to exterminate the prejudice between geniuses and the common folk… as well as exterminate in general, but that thought alone made me mildly uncomfortable, no matter how much I desired for that to happen.

 

"Hm… Ishimaru? I think I've heard that before… oh yeah! Was one of your relatives the former prime minister?" Right away. Right away she compared me to genius scum! I couldn’t help the scowl that appeared on my face and the snarl that tore out of my throat. The idol immediately backed down, her gaze widening as it locked with mine. Shoot.

 

With all the will I could muster, I attempted to shift my expression to one as neutral as I possibly could. "Yes! Please don't compare me to him though!"

 

"Y-yeah, sure, Ishimar- Is that Naegi? Naegi-kun! Do you remember me?-" She ran off to greet another boy with a sharp cowlick atop his head, his hands clenching a map ( what, how did I miss those? ) tightly in his palms. I stared after the girl for a moment, a deep sense of dread settling within my core.

 

After a short moment, I felt a tug on my jacket sleeve and turned around to see a short, cute girl peering up at me.

 

"Um...hello. I was wondering if we could introduce since, um, everyone else is doing it." the girl meekly said. "Unless you don't want to which I um... won't mind because..." she began to ramble. I tried to pay attention to her, really, I did, but I couldn’t help the heat that suddenly emblazoned my cheeks. This girl… she was cute, too cute to be natural.

 

"... so please don't mind me if I am bothering you! I could go if you want me to. You're not responding, so I’ll just -- I'm sorry for bothering you, sir!" she cried, a few tears slipping lose from her eyes. Ah, crap!

 

"Wait, stay please! I am sorry for not responding, you are just very cute! I am Kiyotaka Ishimaru, Super High School Level Prefect! I hope we can be good students together!" I sputtered, still amazed by how stunning her features were. Wait, actually… did I just say --

 

"O-Oh um...Thank you. I-I am Chihiro Fujisaki, Super High School Level Programmer. It's nice to meet you Ishimaru-kun..." She lightened up considerably when she wasn't rejected. Was she used to being rejected?

 

"Programmer? That is most interesting, Fujisaki-kun, please tell me more!"

 

"Ah, uhm… -kun?” she muttered, just quiet enough for me to hear. I debated with questioning her about her words when she continued, “well, it's not very interesting, but I create software for computers and stuff like that. I'm, um, sure you know what software is-" No, I didn't actually. I haven't been able to touch a non-school computer since...ever.

 

"I don't, Fujisaki-kun. Please tell me about software!" I confessed.

 

"Oh, I'm very sorry for assuming you did! Maybe you have never taken a technology class, or your parents can't afford a computer. I shouldn't have been so assuming. I'm, um, very, very sorry, Ishimaru-kun! -" she began rambling about how sorry she was and it was getting ridiculous.

 

"Fujisaki-kun, tell me about softwares!" I felt guilt for raising my voice, and that feeling maximized when those dreaded tears began to take root in her eyes, but she began to finally speak before I could bring myself to apologize.

 

"I'm s-sorry! Software is a program on the computer put on the computer by an input source, like a keyboard..." She went on for a while about software and what she does for a living until more people started entering the gym. She stopped talking and looked at the people.

 

"I-it's been nice talking to you, Ishimaru-kun! I hope we can do this again!" She smiled so cutely that it made me a little light-headed, but I stood my ground and nodded, even though I knew logically that her hope would never come true.

 

The boy with the antenna that Maizono had previously been talking to came up to me with a dopey grin, greatly contrasting the nerve-filled one that he had donned earlier. He walked up to me, held his hand out, and left it there, obviously expecting a handshake.

 

"I'm Makoto Naegi. Super High School Level Good Luck." He smiled up at me, seeing as he was a good half- a- foot shorter than me. I stiffly shook the hand extended to me, taking note of the soft, almost artificial flesh that laid against mine..

 

"Kiyotaka Ishimaru! Super High School Level Prefect. I find it intriguing you possess the skill of good luck, how did you come to receive that title?" I tried to act as kindly as I could, but was secretly boiling inside. Super High School Level Good Luck? Were they even trying? Unless he won the lottery 3 times running, I doubt he would normally be accepted in to Hope's Peak Academy. On the bright side, it was one less genius to worry about.

 

"Oh, you see, it was kind of stupid. I'm a completely average high school student, but I was magically accepted in to Hope's Peak because of a lottery. To be honest, I'm feeling very intimidated with all of you talented people around me. I feel like you're all silently judging me, haha!" He laughed it off, but even I, with as much as people claimed I lacked social cues, was able to detect the fakeness that lied within it. It's no wonder he isn't the Super High School Level Actor. I empathized with him, though. Being trapped in a school with a cast of geniuses isn't appealing in the slightest.

 

Seeing no way to continue the conversation, I left in search of new people to meet. Once I turned away from Naegi, the first person I laid eyes upon was a blond man with his arms crossed, staring at everyone with a curled up lip and through narrowed slits. Although I just knew that I would regret ever even associating myself with this man, I sucked it up and marched over to him. He laid his eyes upon me in an instant, and the first words I ever heard from him were,

 

"What gives you the right to march over here, stare at me with furrowed, abnormally thick brows, and then expect what I'm assuming is conversation?" I hated him. He was going to be the first to die, I've decided. Maybe I won't even wait until the Tragedy happens. I'll slit his throat when he's asleep and blame it on… my eyes landed on a girl with thick braids glaring at me. That girl. She looks like she could be a serial killer, in fact she probably is one! I'd be doing the world a favor!

 

"I was hoping to introduce myself to a fellow classmate! I'm Kiyotaka Ishimaru, Super High School Level Prefect! I hope we can study together sometime!" I barked, a fake smile plastered on to my face.

 

"Tch." Did he just scoff? Maybe I didn't even have to wait until he's asleep, I could kill him right now and the rest of the students would thank me for killing the "Trademark Douchebag of the Cast." … That girl was still glaring at me. … Could she read my thoughts? I turned away from Togami for a second and let my expression slip, staring straight back at the braided high schooler.

 

"Can I help you?" With a squeak she turned away from me, ducking her head towards the ground. No matter how much I desired to, I wasn’t here to make friends. I was here to do my best in school, work hard, and restore the world's order! Finally turning back to the man, I resumed our one-sided conversation.

 

"Hello? What is your talent?" I egged the boy on, taking note of his facial muscles scrunching up.

 

"Are you still talking to me?" he groaned. This guy… I wonder how long it'd take him to fall in to despair.

 

"I asked what your talent was." I accidentally let the annoyance slip in to my tone, but unfortunately fueled the unnamed man's fire.

 

"Isn't it obvious based on who I am?" This son of a bitch.

 

"Then why am I asking?" I shouted in to his face, hoping in the darkest recesses of my heart that I had destroyed his eardrums. After a moment of quiet, the boy just smiled, teeth bared just slightly as one side of his lip curled up.

 

"Byakuya Togami. Remember the name well, I won't say it again for your unworthy ears. Super High School Level Heir. Now scatter and leave me to my thoughts." I felt like a rage was engulfing my very being as I moved over to the next person.

 

The gothic woman merely smiled at my demeanor, the tips of her fingers posed delicately over her painted lips. "I see you have met Togami. He takes a bit of patience."

 

I cleared my throat, trying with all my might to quell the frustration stirring inside of me. "I am very sorry I appeared so rude to you! I wish to pretend that never happened!" She raised a delicate eyebrow very briefly, but then nodded her affirmation.

 

I cleared my throat again. I felt an odd discomfort in her presence, and I couldn’t help but notice the way her eyes raked over my form, carefully analyzing my every move. "I'm Kiyotaka Ishimaru! I’m a Prefect!" I bowed to her, an unexplainable impulse suddenly coming over me.

 

She smiled, but it looked much like the smile my bullies used to give me before they started ridiculing me. "I am Celes. I have the talent of Super High School Level Gambler." Gambler? Now I know the school didn't choose the talents most suited for a school environment.

 

"Well, well, look at the time. We should get moving if we are to meet everyone before 8:30."

"Y-yes! Of course!" I stuttered. Why hadn't I noticed the time? It was already 8:15 and I had barely met half of the people, if even that many. The loss of so much time was probably because of Fujisaki's computer sermon…

 

I walked briskly away, directing myself towards two girls, one, who I was sure even I had seen on magazines at the grocery store, was saying something to the other who looked almost identical to her minus the darker hair, what appeared to be freckles, and muscles I could see even from my distance.

 

"Mukuro! You know that you wouldn't be able to-" The girl who appeared to be just a smidgen taller than the darker haired one stopped talking when she spotted me walking closer to them.

 

"Yes?" The look in the girl's eyes unsettled me. I suppose people might (and have in the past) say the same about me, but I feel like this girl could have a mental breakdown at any given moment. She had an aura of darkness, of analysis, of cold-blooded cruelty and disdain. I could sense it. I could sense that she was different, much in the same way I was.

 

"I would like to properly introduce myself! I am Kiyotaka Ishimaru! Super High School Level Prefect! I hope we could be all be good classmates and students to each other!" I genuinely smiled this time, hoping that my gut was right about the thinner one.

 

She laughed a bit, turning to the girl next to her, and then suddenly her entire persona changed. "Muko-chan! I think this big pervert is hitting on me!" She whined, pointing her long index finger at me. "Wah, big sister, please save me from the scary perverted monster! He has red eyes too! Waah, scary!"

 

...What just happened? The ‘older twin’ stared at me for a moment, a blank, unreadable expression lurking behind her eyelids. After a moment of silence from the other twin, the blonde’s persona suddenly shifted again, her eyes suddenly watering with tears and her form softly shaking with sobs.

 

"Oh...is Mukuro leaving me too? How unfortunate it is that everyone leaves me...but I expect it. Why would anybody want to stay with me? I am-" It once again changed.

 

"JUNKO FUCKING ENOSHIMA! I AM THE SUPER HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL FASHION GIRL SO YOU BETTER FUCKING LISTEN! MY ROBOTIC, NO EMOTION SHOWING SISTER OVER THERE IS MUKURO IKUSABA, SUPER HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL SOLDIER! SHE-" What is wrong with her ? Her personality shifted once more.

"-has killed many, many people single handedly, as fit for a soldier," she was suddenly wearing glasses… what was going on? "but now she listens to only my command, as I have convinced her I am the supreme ruler of the world, as with many people-" You can guess what happened next.

 

"Which is absolutely true! Hahaha, I suppose you wish to join us on our royal parade, but unfortunately the seats have all been filled! By the way, feel free to ridicule Mukuro, we don't mind! We do it all the time, she likes it! Isn't that right, Mukuro?" The older twin -- Ikusaba -- nodded

 

"Yes, Junko." Her tone was flat, unfeeling, and I felt an unsettling wave of distrust settle over me. This doesn’t feel right.

 

This time, Junko's voice turned monotone, and she was cradling her head a bit with one manicured hand. "If you haven't gotten the hint, Mukuro and I are twins. You will call me Enoshima, and I couldn't care less what you call Mukuro."

 

Finally deciding to question why this was happening, I demanded, "Why are you like this?"

 

Saliva trailed down her face this time, and the look on her face was disconcerting. "I'm not like this until I'm around people I know are here for the wrong reason. It's the right reason in my book, though! Despair. To bring despair to all of the follies of the land! Ah, that's why you're here isn't it?" How did she-

 

I was stopped from my internal turmoil when a manicured hand was laid across my chest. "I am too..." She whispered in my ear, a familiar tingle settling over me. She smiled as she pulled back. The look on my face must have been priceless, because she started laughing cruelly. Was this all a joke to her? I couldn't take anymore mental instability, so I walked swiftly away from the duo, right in front of the next person I saw. The girl reminded me a bit of the detectives from movies they showed during school sometimes; from her gloves to her boots.

 

She nodded when she saw me, then went back to staring at the floor in one fixed spot. I cleared my throat, gaining her attention. Her cold, lifeless eyes seemed to stare straight through my mask, seeing the cracks and fissures that laid inside it.

 

"Can I help you?" she asked, her voice monotone and face perfectly expressionless.

 

Trying to clear the nervousness out of my throat, I barked, "yes! Considering we are to be classmates for the next three years, I find it highly appropriate to introduce ourselves! I am Kiyotaka Ishimaru, Super High School Level Prefect! Introduce yourself, classmate!"

 

She looked completely unimpressed. "Kyoko Kirigiri. Super High School Level Detective." Instead of staring at the pristine gym floor this time, she instead stared straight at me. I felt her eyes rake over me, up and down my form. A cold sweat erupted over my skin, falling in trickles down my front. Once it had felt like a good hour of her staring at me, she turned around and continued staring at the floor. After that awkward, silent torture was over, I checked my watch again; I only had five minutes left! I still must meet the rest of my classmates!

 

Turning around, I ran straight into a man who looked much too old for high school. The sight of his afro and laid-back face made for tell-tale stereotypical signs of a drug addict, but I was trying my hardest not to jump to conclusions. For some reason, I felt like this was the only person in this entire room to not be a genius. That wouldn't save him in the long run, since he was probably disrupting society in one way or another, but it was worth a note.

 

"Ah!" he yelled in terror. "It's Bloody Mary coming back to haunt me! And as a guy! I knew I shouldn't have added a ouija board and mirror together! Zeus, Anubis, Holy Mary, please save me!" He held his palms pressed together above his head. … was he crying?

 

"Excuse me, but I am no ghost! I am Kiyotaka Ishimaru, Super High School Level Prefect! Who are you?"

 

"You are still possessed!" He completely ignored my question, instead taking to closely observing my irises. "The red eyes are a tell-tale sign!" At that moment, Celes walked past the two of us.

 

He shouted in horror once again, crouching into a fetal position. Clutching his head in his hands, he rocked back and forth, chanting, "I'm at a demon school. This explains my vision. I am at a demon school, full of x-level demons coming to suck my lungs out..."

 

"Relax! I will not harm you in any way, shape, or form, classmate! Please tell me your name!" He looked up at me, eyes wide and unyielding, but completely relaxed quickly enough. Almost too quickly. Yep, he was a definite disturbance to society.

 

"Well, my name is Yasuhiro Hagakure, Ishimaru-chi! I'm a Fortune Teller, with an accuracy rate of 30%!." He silently slipped me a card with his name on it. "If you need any fortunes told, I will be happy to provide. Only $500 dollars by the hour." $500? What a rip-off! Not to mention that this "fortune-telling business card" (no, really, it says that) could easily be code for marijuana selling. Actually… maybe not. He doesn’t exactly strike me as the sneaky type.

 

After rushing a goodbye with Hagakure, I walked almost straight in to a plump teenager reading a manga

 

"Hello? You are reading your manga right in the pathways of other students, I must ask you to sit down." The teenager stared at his moment for another solid ten seconds before twisting his head to face me at such speed that I nearly found myself suffering from an aneurysm.

 

"This isn't just a manga! This is the queen of all mangas! Heretic Angel Mochi Mochi Princess! My one true love!" Mochi Mochi Princess?

 

"Well, please take your Princess down in a seat!" I received an even worse glare this time.

 

"Heretic Angel Mochi Mochi Princess! Could it be, you have a deep set fascination for Heretic Angel Mochi Mochi Princess as well?"

 

"It seems that trying to persuade you to read in a chair is futile, so I will introduce myself before forcing you too, since it is good to know your fellow students! Especially ones that will be reprimanding you! I am Kiyotaka Ishimaru, Super High School Level Prefect! You are?"

 

He snorted before answering, "Hifumi Yamada, Super High School Level Doujin Artist. Be back, foul beast! I shall slay you with my pet dragon, given to me by the Gods of Azeroth!-" After a moment of deliberation, I began to drag Yamada to the foldable chairs just in front of the stage, wishing that I could shield my ears from his ungodly wails.

 

Releasing a sigh that I've been holding from his foolish blather, I walked over to one of the few classmates I had yet to meet. She was a large-breasted, cute girl who clearly was out of dress code and was talking with a girl (?) who was exactly the opposite.

 

Seeing me walking up to them, the curvaceous girl shifted her gaze to me and spouted a peepy "Hello! I'm Aoi Asahina, Super High School Level Swimmer, and you are?"

 

"Kiyotaka Ishimaru, Super High School Level Prefect."

 

As I was trying very hard to keep my eyes on the girls face, she started chanting my name. I must've looked as confused as I felt, because she giggled and said, "I heard that if you say someone's name enough you'll remember it forever. ...Or was that about the food...? Well, I can't remember." I was still resisting the temptation to reprimand her for her choice of outfit.

The bulky girl (?) introduced herself to me while Asahina was still wondering if her choice of words was correct.

 

"Hello, Ishimaru. I am Sakura Oogami, Super High School Level Fighter. It's nice to meet you." Was she a girl, then? It was still hard to tell, names and uniforms can be deceiving. I was not surprised in the slightest to find out she was a fighter, though.

 

"Ah! No, it was about the names, sorry then! Hehe." Asahina giggled. I couldn't resist the temptation anymore, her display of cleavage was clearly against school policy!

 

"Asahina-kun, I must ask you if you could button up the rest of your shirt! I believe the buttons not being buttoned up all the way is against school regulations!" I criticized.

 

She looked highly offended, as evidenced by, "what is that supposed to mean?" cried Asahina, clearly outraged, despite the fact that I was just doing my job.

 

"I am merely enforcing the rules, Asahina-kun!"

 

"School hasn't started yet!"

 

"Anytime you're in school is when school starts!"

 

"What you just said made no sense!"

 

"Aoi, calm yourself." Oogami jumped in.

 

Asahina sighed, then said, "You're right, Sakura," Already on a first name basis? Wow. "I'm sorry. Let's just forget this happened, okay?" She was back to her giggling self. She still made no attempt to button up the rest of her buttons, but once I was in charge with rule enforcement I was sure I could give her detention slips for breaches of dress code.

 

For now I just nodded my assent. I walked off again, considering I only had a few minutes left.

The braided girl that I had had a glare contest with before was back again.

 

This time she looked a bit frustrated and extremely disgusted with me. I walked right up to her and said, "I'm Kiyotaka Ishimaru. Super High School Level Prefect. Who are you, classmate?"

She looked surprised I had talked to her, and the expression turned to one of disgust.

 

"W-Why do you want to know? So y-you can call me ugly?" Pointing an accusing finger at me, she

 

"No! I find it fitting to know my classmates!" I defended.

 

"W-what?" She started mumbling, "W-well I'm Touko Fukawa, Super High School Literary Girl." She suddenly started becoming defensive again. "There! Are you going to make fun of me, now?" After an argument where I tried to clarify I was not going to make fun of her, I decided to leave to meet the rest of my classmates. I counted the number of students – I had met 14, I heard there would be 16 in my class, so I had 2 left to meet!

 

I walked to the closest person I had not met, a boy who looked like he was trying to be a rock star (who knows, maybe he is).

 

"Hey, dude. I'm Leon Kuwata, Super High School Level Baseball Player." He held his palm up. I looked at it confused, what was he trying to do? "It's called a high-five." After a confused look from me, he put his hand in his hair instead. "Geez..."

 

"I'm Kiyotaka Ishimaru, Super High School Level Prefect! I hope we can study together some time!" He looked at me, a bewildered? -- confused? -- expression crossing his face.

 

"Wait, are you one of those study freaks? No way, man, I'm not doing that." He walked away, leaving me disheartened. I held a silent prayer that he would be one of the ones to die first.

I looked around me for the last student, but I saw no one I hadn't already introduced myself to. Had I misread the letter stating there would be 16 students in Class 78? Right when I thought that, the door opened and in walked a man that looked like he had a corncob for hair. I walked straight up to him and started reprimanding him.

 

"You are-" I looked at my watch – it was already 8:40, where was the principal? "-ten minutes late! Where have you been?"

 

The boy gave out an exasperated sigh and said, "fuck off. I'm here, ain't I?" He attempted to walk around me, but I blocked his path.

 

"If you're going to speak to me like that, at least tell me who you are!"

 

He looked very annoyed by now, but he complied, "Mondo Oowada, Gang Leader. What's your talent, having a stick up your ass?" I scoffed at that.

 

"No! I am Kiyotaka Ishimaru, Super High School Level Prefect, and it is my duty to stop troublemakers like you!"

 

"Whatever." He pushed me out of the way so hard I fell to the ground, and took a seat a few seats away from Yamada. The nerve of that guy!

 

At that moment, the principal of the academy then decided to make his entrance. He swiftly walked out of the shelter of the curtains on stage and made his way to the podium.

 

"Hello, students! Now that everyone is here, why don't the rest of you take a seat?" The remaining students standing up made their ways to the chairs in the middle of the gym. I silently noted how Fujisaki took a seat next to the chair I just sat on, her legs dangling from the chair.

 

"I am Jin Kirigiri." Well, he did look like Kirigiri now that I thought about it. Was she actually a detective, or was this the school's way of favoritism? "--and I will be your principal for the rest of your school lives' at Hope's Peak. Please note that no acts of violence, vandalism, or anything damaging to students or property are allowed. I will be handing duties to make sure nothing of the sort happens to Kiyotaka Ishimaru, which I'm sure he will gladly accept." He looked at me, asking for a response.

 

"Yes, sir!" I grinned. This was already going exactly by my plan.

 

"Good. As I'm sure all of you are aware, you are the Class of 78, and you should be proud of being accepted in to the best school of the country, if not the whole world. By just being here today, you are already receiving a guarantee of success. This school is a boarding school, and you will have dorms, each with your name on it. The map outside this room will show you where they will be located. Now," as he said that, a few teenagers came in to the room and started handing out packets. "My assistants, Akane Owari, Peko Pekoyama, and Nidai Nekomaru are handing out packets of rules and regulations. Please go over these rules fully in your free-time. Also, please note that the reserve building is prohibited during school hours. Well, now that that's done with, welcome to Hope's Peak! We are pleased to have you!" After the abnormally short assembly was over, I stayed in the gym for a while, thinking.

 

This was going to interesting. Very, very interesting. For right now, I needed to get on the good side of that principal. ...Something else was bothering me, though. Those upperclassman… one of them had a look in her eye; a look that I had often seen on myself after receiving my letter from Hope’s Peak.

 

I had an idea.

Chapter Text

It had been 2 months since I have entered Hope's Peak Academy, and I have been contently studying, befriending the teachers, and of course planning my master plan to execute every single one of my horrid classmates. I had succeeded in gaining the trust of the principal (at least I think I have). By submitting to his every beck and call and crushing the future criminals of the school, I had formed an odd friendship with him (if you could call it that). Of course, it was completely one-sided on Mr.Kirigiri's part, but that didn't make me any less excited that I have made my first friend, even if it was faked.

In fact, Mr.Kirigiri had even told me to call him Jin, but I refused. It was completely unprofessional for a student to call a teacher (especially the principal) by his first birth name! In all honesty, I was shocked when he asked me to call him that. The generally strong, strict, and no-lollygagging principal had actually asked me to do something that could be considered intimate by some people. In fact, the headmaster had even spilled a few of his sins and stories. A particular one included my classmate, Kirigiri. I was not surprised in the slightest to learn they were related. From their cold personalities to their looks, they were father-daughter material.

He had said he had abandoned Kirigiri when she was just a child, to escape his detective lineage. He said it was one of the things he regretted most in his life, yet he didn't regret it. It was confusing, to be honest, but I could see where he was coming from. I didn't like where he was coming from.

He said he was shocked to learn his agents had discovered "his little Kyoko" (something that was very out of character for the headmaster to say), and was unbelieveable proud of her. He had asked if my parents were proud of me, and they were, definately, but I felt like they were glad to have me out of the house. It was one less mouth to feed.

Once the headmaster had discovered that the reason Kirigiri came to Hope's Peak was because of him, he had tried to rekindle their bond, but it had seemed broken. It was slowly piecing back together according to him, but from what I had seen of Kirigiri she seemed to be as silent and cold as always. The coldness could just be her natural personality (which it probably was) but that didn't stop me from wondering what was happening to the both of them.

I laid in my bed, still mulling over the headmaster and his daughter. I slowly let a maniacal smile spread across my features, the smile stretching so far it hurt my face, yet I couldn't help it. Despite Jin Kirigiri's best attempts to love his daughter (at least it seems like best attempts) he had somehow ensured her fate. The more I knew about my classmates, the easier it would be to bring the students in to despair, and the easier it would be to kill them. Heck, I might drag them so far in to despair they kill themselves! Wouldn't that make for a plot twist? I'm sure Fukawa would be very pleased with that sort of literary device. ...Actually, does she even do any sort of novels other than romance? I don't think so.

With those thoughts in mind, I swung my feet off the bed and marched towards my desk, which is where I kept the notes for my master plan. Opening the drawer the paper was located at, I was more than surprised at the amount of clutter in the drawer. I know for a fact the drawer the perfectly neat when I left this morning!

With that thought in mind, I started organizing the supplies (pens, pencils, notes for master plans, study guides, a lot of things) when I noticed a very distinct stack of papers missing. Trying to fight the panic in my head from breaking loose, I attempted to sort the mess out, but my mind was just trying to cause the devil to break loose. It took a while to completely sort the mess, and it definitely didn't provide me any relief when I found that yes, in fact, my papers were gone. Then all hell broke lose.

I fought hard against myself to not run around my room and risk further destroying the place (plus running shouldn't be done in a room, especially if that room is in school). I checked under my bed, in the shower, basically anywhere you can imagine, but everywhere but that one drawer was completely spotless. It was like someone knew the papers were there.

Resting my head in my hands, I let out a big sigh, and felt tears trickle down my cheeks. I have failed Mother and Father! I came to this school for one purpose, and I have failed! Despite the hard work I have been putting out every day, I had still fail-

I was knocked out of my thoughts by a knock at the door. Not even bothering to wipe the tears off my face, I opened the door with no doubt puffy eyes to the site of Junko Enoshima with Ikusaba behind her. The thing that caught my attention the most though was the stack of papers in her hand. She looked absolutely gleeful, and holding the paper up to her face she said,

"Hahaha, isn't it absolutely amazing Mukuro somehow managed to steal these papers, being the useless trash she is? She almost deserves praise from us!"

"M-My papers? How did you get these?!" Putting on my assertive mask, I pointed a finger right up to her face. Once I felt a slim finger on my chest, I felt the impulse to suddenly back in to the room, and that's exactly what I did. Looking behind Enoshima's hair, I spotted Mukuro closing and locking the door once she had entered the room also.

Enoshima backed away from me afterwards, and took out glasses (which were probably fake). Putting them on to her face, she said, "Mukuro has been putting her few talents to use by going through the ventilation ducts, and had been spying on you for months. I knew you were like me, so I commanded her to. It seems I was right too." She held the paper up again, and when I grabbed for it she shot the papers out of my reach. "We have a propositon for you. Should you accept, this plan of yours will be far more fleshed out and run more smoothly then it would otherwise." I stayed silent, silently wishing Enoshima and her clone death. "Should you refuse, you will not be missed."

"W-What?" I sputtered. Be missed, what was she talking-

"Mukuro!" In an instant her sister had pulled a combat knife out of her boot and was holding the knife to my neck. I tried desperately not to tremble. Not only would that cut me, but my uniform would be stained!

"You are poor, correct?" How did she- "As evidence by your wardrope full of just uniforms, which Mukuro also checked while I was in here to confirm my suspicions. You have those uniforms not just because you're a school freak, but because you can't afford anything else, correct?" Without waiting for an answer she carried on. "Plus, I do not see any unnecessary accessories anywhere around this room. And if I am correct, what you call "the Tragedy" and these executions would cost money, would they not? The reserve course students would be beneficial for this, seeing as they are all rich, and are not geniuses either like the people you so despise, which you avidly described in here." Sighing, she quickly took off her glasses and her face changed to one of anger.

"God, what a fucking bore! This was supposed to be a plan, not a diary! That is exactly where you need my help, you have no common sense! How do you expect this to happen when you're flat broke? God, what a fucking joke." She gave me an intense glare, and maybe it was the knife pressing steadily harder and harder to my neck or the urge Enoshima gave me to bend to her will, but I snapped out of my facade and decided to stop hiding what she had already figured out.

"What do you want in return?" All at once, her face shifted and drool slip out of her lip to her chin.

"I want to be part of this plan! The despair we could cause together! It would be horrendous! The people killed, the cities burned! That...that would be the worst thing to have ever happened to humanity! I would absolutely hate to witness it! Which is why I want to be a part of this." Confused about whether Enoshima was happy or disgusted by my plan, even with the knife pressing to my vein I had to think about it.

There were pros and cons- there were good and bad...What was I supposed to do? What she was saying could be absolutely beneficial for humanity, but I had a feeling she wanted to cause despair for a different reason than me.

I didn't have long to contemplate my choice, though, because while thinking about the decision, Enoshima and Ikusaba had simutaneously started doing different tasks. While Enoshima layed a hand on my chest, looking me pleadingly in the eyes (and I just had to let her help me after that) Ikusaba started making me bleed, blood cascading down my neck and on to my pristine uniform. Seeing as if Ikusaba kept doing that for just a few more seconds I'd probably have a mortal wound, I immediantly surrendered.

"Oh-Oh, you heard that Muko-chan? Taka is going to let us stay! I'm so excited!" Taka? It seemed me agreeing to let her help had made her think we were good friends (which in all honesty I wouldn't mind, but it was still not true).

One hand then proceeded to cradle her head, and she sighed, "Well, we should probably get that," she gestured to my wound "cleaned up. Mikan won't question it."

Mikan? Wasn't she a second-year- Tsumiki if I remember correctly! How did Enoshima know her, and at that so well to call her by her first name?

After Enoshima had made that suggestion, we proceeded to travel at a fast pace to the medic. The few times I looked down I was horrified by what I saw. My uniform was completely drenched in blood! I could definitely see how Ikusaba was Super High School Level Soldier. I may already have a mortal wound!

Speaking of Ikusaba, she fell close to a step with me, glancing at me a few times with -suspicion? Her eyes were narrowed to slits, and she still had her knife out of her boot. Maybe she wasn't fully in despair like her twin, or maybe she suspected me of a faulty story. It's impossible to tell at the moment. She quickly put the knife back in to her boot though when two silhouettes walked down the corridor.

It was Oowada and Fujisaki, and they looked to be having a fun time talking to each other. I felt a pang of jealousy in my chest for their friendship, but I ignored it and continued walking. They glanced my way and continued talking, but then did a double take.

Fujisaki spoke first, with Oowada standing behind her silently observing.

"I-Ishimaru, are you okay?" Fujisaki looked extremely concerned, in fact even Oowada, my rival, looked worried.

Enoshima spoke on my behalf. I silently thanked her, considering my throat was becoming especially sore.

"Taka is fine, Chihiro. Mukuro got a little slippy with her knife and you saw the result. We're bringing him to Mikan right now." I was a little taken aback by how different Enoshima acted around people other than Ikusaba and I. "Right, Taka?" I silently nodded, as I had something clogging my throat that wouldn't seem to budge.

After a goodbye spoken only by Enoshima, I could feel the duo's eyes on the back of my head as we left. Oowada then mumbled a phrase just loud enough for me to hear.

"Dumbass." It took every bit of my will-power to not turn around and attempt to reprimand him for his choice of language. I would end up a gurgling mess. Besides, I was starting to feel dizziness, and I am fairly certain that is not a good symptom!

Thank God the medic was close to were we encountered the Fujisaki and Oowada. Once I walked in, I took quick note of how blurry the floor and walls were. I could also see a lot of syringes adorning the walls, and what looked like first aid kits everywhere the eye could see, but they were severely blurred like everything else. I am certain vision problems are not supposed to happen!

The teenager at the desk in the front of the room had already stood up at our entrance, and proceeded to walk to Enoshima.

"J-Junko! I-I'm, um, sorry for asking but what's-" She then noticed me. "Ah! Please, please let me fix that for you! I'm sorry!" I was flabberghasted by this girl's need to apologize every other sentence.

I was equally surprised when Junko's personality switched. "Mikan-chan, don't be silly! Of course he needs your help! He's hurt!" She switched her personality, does that mean- I can't see and hear properly. I'm sure I'm imagining that persona change!

"O-Of course Junko! Beat me for being so stupid, if you wish! I'm sorry!"

Everything is doubled...I want to yell at them to attend to me yet the only sound that comes out when I try is a groan.

"Well, there's no point to that Mikan-chan! Unless it causes you despair, of course!" Could they please hurry? Everything was becoming black by now and I was supporting all of my weight on to the desk Tsumiki had been sitting at before. I groaned louder, but they didn't hear me, as they were caught up in Enoshima's fetish with despair that any other time I might've joined in on, but not right now.

"I-It would Junko. It would cause me more despair than you can imagine." It looked like they were hitting on each other now – there is no time for this! Plus, PDA is not welcome on school grounds!

"I fucking despair so, because it's exactly what's going to happen!" I was having auditory and visionary hallucinations by now, I was sure of it. Everything was completely black by now, and I struggled to maintain my balance.

It seemed Tsumiki had finally snapped out of what seemed like a despair themed sexual innuendo contest with Junko right as I started to fall. The cold tile floor was slick with hot blood, with very few peeks of coldness slipping out from under the blood.

"Ah! I-Ishimaru! I'm sorry!" I heard right before I blacked out.

 

When I awoke, I still felt dizzy but to a much less extent than previously. I looked around me as much as I could without straining my neck, and saw a first aid kit right next to my head, with Mikan Tsumiki hovering provocatively above me.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" She kept screeching over and over.

"Kiyotaka is going to be okay, because I specifically told Mukuro to not cut the artery unless it had been 5 minutes since asking. Unless she disobeyed my orders, which would not had been a wise move on her part." All of the voices blurred together to a certain extent, but it seemed I could still decipher what was being said.

"I did not, Junko." A monotonous voice said automatically. It wasn't hard to figure out who that could be.

"I would despair not. It would be truly despairing if my dear sister were to become my dead sister because of me...I would not be able to live with myself..." A sob filled the room, and it seemed Junko's sad personality had come out.

"Ah! Y-You're awake!" It seemed Tsumiki had finally noticed my squinted eyes. "I am very, very, very sorry! I could strip if you would allow me to! I'm sorry!" While tears spilled from her face, she seemed to trip on nothing and landed on me with a thump. "Ow!" I felt absolutely crushed at the moment, but I still couldn't speak, at least I don't think I could.

"I-I'm sorry! I am so clumsy that I fell on my patient! I'm sorry!" She looked me straight in the eyes, and slowly climbed off of me. She continued what she had when I had first woken up, and I had come to my senses enough to realize she had a needle in her hand and was stitching my neck. It seemed she had at least remembered to numb me in case I did wake up.

I tuned out the sound of the still ranting Enoshima and the grunts of the frustrated Tsumiki, instead focusing on how different this day was than I expected it to be. Considering Ikusaba had tried to slit my throat much faster than she should of, I didn't have much time to think about what Enoshima had said.

She did have a good point, though. I was foolish to think I could kill my genius classmates with no money, much less followers! The Tragedy would more likely happen and quicker with followers than with out. The question remained, though, who would be my followers? It couldn't be any of my classmates (other than Enoshima and Ikusaba) as they would be taking part in the killing game...out side sources would be more likely to cause trouble.

My attention turned back to Tsumiki, with her eyes still squinted in concentration. She obviously saw how marvelous despair was, assuming what I saw and heard earlier wasn't a hallucination. I am more aware now, though, and Enoshima was still switching personalities. ...It seemed that I may have found the ones who may follow me.

My own classmates were going to witness despair personified in their own way, but my upperclassmen...what's more despairing to the world than someone who values hard-work ruling the geniuses? What's more despairing than endurance overruling intelligence?

It seemed I have found my followers.

Chapter Text

I tried and desperately failed to hide the maniacal grin itching at my lips. Thank God no one could see me, as it would be very odd for someone showcasing my facade to smile at the severity of the situation. The very same situation that involved me standing behind my brother who was currently hammering steel plates on to the windows. At least, no one besides Junko Enoshima could see my evil grin. Said person stood beside me observing the work of her sister whilst chatting with her a window away from Mondo.

Once she had seen my smile, she stopped her conversation with Mukuro, (which was full of Junko's voice and barely Mukuro's except for a few words of acknowledgment) stepped closer to me, (which was already close) and leaned next to my ear in a barely audible voice.

"You owe me. Do you know how hard it was to get all of this to happen? Even my charm didn't work like a snap on some people." Junko scowled.

"But of course classmate! How could I ever thank you for all you have done?" I replied enthusiastically in a voice a bit louder than I meant it to be. Mondo turned his head behind him to look at us quizzically before most likely dismissing the words as my oddness and turning back to his work.

"Tch-Lower the volume, would ya'? We are on a top secret mission right now!"
Junko looked infuriated. If it weren't for Mondo, I'm sure she would have switched in to her angry personality.

I felt an evil aura coming from behind Junko, and looked past her thick pigtails to see Mukuro glaring daggers at me. Mukuro had still not trusted me after one long year of planning and preparation- not to mention working together for the greater despair. I had even walked in to a conversation between Junko and Mukuro where she had expressed her distrust.

~

"Junko, if you don't mind me saying so, I'm not sure we can fully trust Ishimaru. He is the one who came up with this despair. How do we know he will not betray the both of us?" Frankly, I was shocked. It was very rare of Mukuro to even express her opinion around her sister-and even rarer directly to her (not to mention I coincidentally overheard that line). The one time Mukuro said how unfitting an execution was for Celes, she lived to regret it.

"Oh? Is Mukuro opposing me? Is she leaving me too? How despairful...But I should have expected it. Mukuro is much less great than I, so it's to be expected. I would never forgive myself if I had to kill Mukuro because of this hope of him betraying us inside her heart." Junko had suddenly set mushrooms on her head, and depressed Junko had come out.

"Uh-" Mukuro seemed at a loss of words for a second, before quickly regaining her composture. "Of course not, Junko! I am foolish for thinking I knew better than you!" Junko suddenly had an evil smirk on her face. Picking the mushrooms off, she started berating and insulting her sister. I hastily made my way out of the sauna where I had found them (which was an odd place for them to be, in all honesty), barely picking up a few said words.

"YOU'RE FUCKING RIGHT YOU WERE. A KILLER OPPOSING A SAINT? HOW FUCKING STUPID!..." Junko's voice became dimmer as I left the area.
~

It's to be expected for her to hold distrust for me. She isn't much better though, considering she is blindly obedient to her twin sister- younger twin sister, to be noted.

Junko turned from me to see her sister glaring at me, not even noticing Junko noticed her glare until it was a millisecond too late. Marching over to her sister, Junko scowled and once she arrived at her destination, pinched her sister's ear and started whispering viciously in her ear. Mukuro looked terrified.

My eyes quickly darted to my brother, who seemed oblivious to the ruckus. If this was discovered by him, it could completely ruin our plan! I went to line myself up with Mondo, who looked startled by my appearance. I looked over at the girls trying (and probably failing) to be nonchalant about it. It seemed I could not see it! Junko is smart, after all. Even genius smart, but considering she was helping me it was slightly easier to forgive her. Just slightly.

Mondo still was looking confusingly at me.

"You alright Kiyo?" He voiced his concern. Of course, I gave a vigorous nod in reply and went back to my station, which seemed useless to Mondo but quite the opposite for me.

~

It's true. My followers (which Junko had gathered) had succeeded, completely destroying the world. I'm sure most of those geniuses or lazy people are sitting in a lab or sitting at home respectively. The geniuses are of course trying to find a cure that for once will not work. The lazy people are just waiting for the whole situation to blow over until the moment a bullet is shot through the window and straight through their brain . I knew better than that though.

This school, this country, this world were in complete and utter despair!

 

The geniuses' corpses rot in the streets, and the world was in red! Red! Even redder than the color of my eyes was the Earth now. Hell, even Hagekure could testify! When would it happen though? When would what? The end of everything! These geniuses were still here, weren't they? When would be the right moment to start High School Life of Mutual Killing? When would be the right moment for me to be seated on a throne of the corpses of the demons?

The windows were locked, the doors were shut tight as can be. It was all going according to plan! Everything was! There is just one thing to get rid of- there is one obstacle. Jin Kirigiri. Oh, imagine how despairful Kyouko Kirigiri would be to witness her father's death!

Wait...witness? Hmm...It seems I was struck with an idea even Junko had not thought of! These fiends could witness the death of their headmaster. They could even know that they were next! Oh, how full of despair they would be!

How fitting would it be for the geniuses' hope to be completely crushed- then brought back up, only to be crushed again? It truly is a "genius" move...Is what a normal, brainwashed person would say, without knowing that geniuses are the true criminals. In fact, it may be true that my classmates are already in despair. Well...except for Makoto.

It was strange...how hopeful he was. Perhaps because he is not a genius he doesn't fall in to despair like the others once everything they worked for is gone. Did he have nothing to lose except his family? To the average person though, that would be all he needed to fall in to despair. He was a much trickier person than I thought, it appears.

~

How did I get here? From a normal person to a "genius" of Hope's Peak Academy. From a normal person to a person currently about to press the button to kill his headmaster.

The students locked in the gate with me looked on in fear of what the Monobear they had so famously heard about was about to do to their currently tied up headmaster.

Even Kyouko Kirigiri was losing her cool, trying her best to get to her father. She rattled the fence every so often, trying to still seem as calm as before, but her facade was fading away. She even went so far as attempting to climb the fence, but failed miserably once she got to the barbed wire of the top.

Kyouko sat on the ground, nursing her cut legs from where she had fallen. A few people were trying to help her stand (I couldn't tell who they were though, most likely from excitement) but she shrugged them off.

Just then, I locked eyes with Junko, who winked at me. Taking my cue, I pressed the button hidden behind my back from where I stood (in the back). Jin Kirigiri let out the last sound from his throat, which was a horrified scream. As the door closed, Kyouko finally completely losed her cool, screaming at the top of her lungs for her father.

The "spaceship" he was in went up, up and beyond and right back down to the dirt of the area. The door slid open, revealing the skeleton of the now deceased Jin Kirigiri. Kyouko screamed even more, inconsolable to even the most comforting of people. As she ran for the door leading away from the area, the door "magically" slammed closed by the work of Junko, who's finger was pressed on to a button hidden in her skirt.

As the others were distracted, the Despair Sisters and I made our way away from Kyouko who was currently pounding her fists on the door, crying her heart out. Honestly, I didn't expect her to react this severely.

As the others (namely Sakura) tried to restrain Kyouko from further damaging her already bloody fists, we crossed over to the gate, trying as silently as possible to open the gate door with our jingling keys which were far too noisy.

It seemed Togami had seen us already though, and judging by his expression he had figured everything out, and was mortified and disgusted. He had fallen in to despair from his family's company failing, so it was only natural for him to absolutely detest those who had caused it. It wouldn't matter if he knew in a second though, seeing as everyone was about to find out the truth.

As we made our way towards the skeleton under the persecuting gaze of Togami, more and more people seemed to have noticed our absence. Soon enough, everyone (even Kyouko) had turned around to face us.

Junko grabbed the skeleton from the spaceship and draped it over her shoulders, before putting on her cutesy act and saying,

"If you haven't figured it out yet, we did it! We caused the World's Most Despair Inducing Event! Our upperclassman helped too! Isn't it great what despair-infested teenagers can cause?"

I took a look around at the faces of my classmates. Most of them looked confused and betrayed, but a few had a look of absolute rage on their faces (namely Kyouko). It took a good ten minutes for anyone to speak, all most likely assessing the situation.

"B-But T-Taka, Junko...M-Mukuro! We were all friends, we had so much fun together. W-Why would you do this? We all loved each other...Why would you do this? P-Please tell me that!" Strangely enough, Chihiro was the first to speak, noticably disheartened.

"Kiyo..." I heard a whisper barely audible enough for me to hear coming from Mondo's direction. The look on his face absolutely destroyed me. He looked distraught. He had already lost a brother...I doubt he wanted to lose another. I felt guilt crawl at me, but I swallowed the pain and reminded myself that everyone here deserved this despair. Even him...

Despite this I felt tears cascade down my face, which Junko looked bewildered at. I finally felt it was time for me to speak, and I swallowed my tears and chokingly spoke.

"I came to Hope's Peak with the intention of what has happened. You are all criminals, you are all geniuses that deserve to rot in hell for all eternity! You have hurt everyone that is not a "genius" with your corrupt, impure idea of government and society, and for that every single one of you will die!"

"Kiyo..." Another, more despair-filled whisper came from Mondo. For the second time, I saw tears streaming down Mondo Oowada's face. The first was when he had told me the story of his deceased brother...Did this have such a huge impact on him he...

He suddenly cried out, "Kiyo! Why didn't you tell me? I might not be the best at this, but I could've fucking helped you! Well- not helped you in the sense of helping you do this but I could've set you straight! You're my brother Kiyo!" Lowering his voice to a barely audible whisper he said "Please don't make me lose another brother..." My mind flashed back to when he had told me the story of his brother. It was before we were even "best friends" let alone "friends". He just poured out his sob story to me, probably from holding it in for so long, and bang we were brothers. Of course, he didn't exactly pour out his sob story to me, but it took much less proding then I thought it would (which was still a lot). Which, to be honest, I loved. To think we became brothers because of this mess...

I turned away from Mondo, trying to stop the tears streaming heavier than ever down my face. Shaking and unvoluntarily sobbing I motioned to Mukuro. She quickly ran off to a side gate. Hopefully the Super High School Level Soldier was even better than previously demonstrated.

Before long I heard the grunts of multiple people and the shuffling of struggle. Finally, once all noise had stopped, I turned around to see Mukuro with all 13 students around her, unconscious.

I walked over to the bodies, bending over and inspecting a few of the burlier ones to make sure she had used no bloody methods of causing the students to pass out. Sure enough, she hadn't. She had followed Junko's (I doubt she would've listened if I told her so) orders perfectly. When I just finished inspecting Sakura, Mukuro had somehow managed to begin carrying her body to a classroom in the building, where she was expected to use our new mind-wiping technology Junko had tested out (before murdering her boyfriend, that is).

I saw Junko carrying Chihiro's limp body as well, heading off to another classroom. Turning back to me, she winked and teasingly said,

"Coming?" She seemed far happier than normal. I nodded my response, my eyebrows furrowed. I looked to Mondo's unconscious body, before lifting him up (thank God I had always kept my physical physique in shape). It was better to start with the hardest person, wasn't it?

Nodding in response to my own thoughts, I started carrying Mondo off to a seperate classroom. As I walked, I strangely felt empty. Hollow. Soon enough, I was in the classroom, hooking a machine in to Mondo.

They deserved this... He deserves this.

...Do they?

Chapter Text

I am already in the gymnasium long before the other students arrived. I wonder what Mukuro had made the students fall asleep with if they still aren't here, and I've been finished with my duties before the students got here for at least an hour. Considering it was supposed to be 8 o'clock by now the students are supposed to be here by now. I'll have to converse with Mukuro about this delay later.

 

On the bright side, I have nothing to worry about in regards to what needs to be done before the students wake up. The Monobear is behind the podium, waiting to strike at the perfect moment, the remote to said Monobear is safely tucked in my pocket, and there is no need to fret about the students breaking lose from the school (that was made sure of months ago, though). Every single floor above the first floor and the medic and sauna were locked, which I am planning to unlock as an incentive should the students find the blackened in a murder case.

 

Should the students not kill immediately when they have a chance (which would surprise me considering their criminal nature) they would be offered motives, too. Junko came up with them, of course, because she knows the students much better than I do-with the exception of Mondo- and knew just what would make them crack.

 

She had even told me a few intimate details about the students herself, like Chihiro's biological gender and Touko's split personality. To quote, "Taka-san guess what? I hung out with Chi-san today and it turns out she's a he! Oh the despair they would feel if anyone found out! Can you imagine?" and "HAHAHAHA! I HAVE SPECIAL PROGRESS TO REPORT, FUCKER! TURNS OUT I ACCIDENTALLY AWAKENED TOUKO'S CRAZY-ASS SERIAL KILLER GENOCIDER ALTER EGO! UNLESS YOU AND YOUR IDIOCY FORGOT TO READ 'MY DESPAIR VICTIMS MONTHLY' WRITTEN BY THE GREATEST JUNKO FUCKING ENOSHIMA THEN YOU KNOW HER FULL WELL. HAHAHAHA, THIS IS FUCKING WONDERFUL! IS EVERYONE IN THIS SCHOOL BAT-SHIT CRAZY?"

 

To think that every single one of these students have their own troubles makes me feel oddly sympathetic. To think every single one of these students have their own doubts plaguing their minds about themselves, or just life in general. Then I remember that every single one of these scumbags are destroying society. Every single one of these people are facing true despair for a specific reason – they deserve Junko and I's despair because of their horridness; their detrimental impact on society. Their lawlessness, their evasion of rules and regulations. Everything that happens to them in this place now they deserve- Everything- murder, blood, gore and above all despair, they deserve.

 

I had even dared to think that the students didn't deserve this punishment for their sins once. I wanted Mondo to live. I wanted Chihiro to live. Hell, I even wanted Naegi to live.

 

Junko has shown me the light though. Or the darkness. I saw at the time of when she set despair deep in to me a dim, dim blackness in the ray of all of Naegi's optimism, of all of Kirigiri's intelligence, of Mondo's honor, of everyone's hope.

 

She had confronted me with my issue of not being fully despairful just after she had made me forcibly recruit her in to my plan. She was beyond confused. To be honest, I can't remember anything from that moment, just words. Blurry, hazy words. I remember seeing a new side of Junko, too, but I can't remember who it was and what it was like, only that that was the first and last time she had ever acted...Perhaps...comforting? I felt I could fall in to her embrace and everything would be clear. Everything would be certain. I remember a whisper, too, barely audible even though right next to my ear. Then it was darkness.

 

When I had awoke, I was a completely new person. I hated every single one of my fellow classmates. I felt they deserved the ultimate despair, unexplainable by words itself. This despair would haunt them in their dreams. They would awake completely scarred, completely terrified. Completely despairful. All I had needed was that tiny, hazy push, and then everything was clear. Every one of them is a criminal. Every one of them is horrible. This whole world is full of criminals, really! The select few who aren't can live. That's what has been happening the past two years and will continue to for all eternity. The good live and the bad die. A single crime will grant the bad death, with no mercy afforded to them.

 

Yet...despite this truth...I do not wish the person most obviously a criminal out of my classmates death nor despair. Mondo Oowada; my brother, my friend – my best friend. Perhaps even my only friend. Junko and Mukuro count more as accomplices, and Mondo is and was the only person of the class I could never bring myself to full heartedly hate, besides Junko and Mukuro who had earned my respect and trust. Yet...for some reason unexplainable we became inseparable, and for once I didn't mind it. I like I have him as a friend- a real friend.

 

Every single one of the other classmates I hated, though. This is where Junko and I drift apart in terms of motive. Junko causes despair out of love: she loves her classmates and everyone so much she wants to show everyone true despair, which she loves, and such with proding everyone else will too, according to her. Then I- I cause despair out of hate and vengence, and most of all, justice.

 

I am so caught up in my thoughts I nearly fail to realize some one is tapping my shoulder in an overexcited manner. I turn to the culprit, recognizing the owner of the finger immediantly. Junko Enoshima stood there, clad in her over-revealing outfit, with her stoic sister stood next to her. When did she arrive?

 

She gestured frantically to the stage where the Monobear hid, pointing at an imaginary watch on her wrist. I was confused about why she wanted to already start the assembly, but looking past Junko's pigtails and Mukuro's lean frame, I noticed every single one of the students present. All of them looked a certain degree of confused, looking around the gymnasium for signs of exit other than the entrance they had already come through.

 

Digging in to my pocket, I quickly pressed the button for controlling Monobear, along with starting the pre-recording voice messages for the robot.

 

Monobear jumped on to the podium of the stage with a loud clunking noise, causing the students to jump and look quickly around for the source of the noise. When their eyes landed on the metal bear, mixed emotions were laid on to all of their faces.

 

"Hello-Hello new students! I am your headmaster Monobear."

 

As soon as the voice said those words, the students began to relax, obviously dismissing his words as a joke...Ha. How despairful they will be when they realize it is not so.

 

"At this school, we have certain criteria required to graduate. That is, of course, murder. Upupupupu. How exciting!"My classmates have started to protest, I barely notice, but I block the students out and soon enough, Monobear had disappeared and the students were left stunned.

 

...It appears the High School Life of Mutual Killings has officially begun.

 

 

Chapter Text

I sat at the control panel, tabbing my index finger repetitively against the desk on which the multiple monitors sat. Junko sat next to me tending to her nails, with Mukuro for once absent from her side. Well, that appeared to be one thing good about this situation- I won't have to deal with her constant death glares!

 

I absent-mindedly began to tap my finger more vigorously. Why hadn't there been a murder yet? Everything was set in place; such as the claim of 'kill or be forced to live in this prison forever' – which was one hundred percent true.

 

It seems all of the students believed this game was all a big charade, meant for...hazing purposes perhaps? Which I would never encourage in the slightest, by the way!

 

The dozens of monitors in front of me, all showing different areas of the school, showed the students going along with their daily lives (as if they weren't in a horrid killing game). Hifumi was reading his manga with a little too much enthusiasm. Aoi was plowing in to her mouth multiple donuts, of all different kinds, a minute, chatting with Sakura simultaneously somehow. Naegi was doing...something involving the golden sword in the trophy case along with Sayaka. Kyouko has somehow managed to slip out of my range of cameras.

 

I was caught off guard by the sound of a nail filer being slammed on to the desk, immediantly stopping my scanning. I looked up, seeing Junko with an rage-filled face, obviously about to have a fit.

 

"OH MY GOD! WILL YOU STOP THAT?" Her shout nearly deafened me.

 

"I apologize, Junko! I am just very concerned about the amount of murders not taking place! Why are there none so far?" Junko flashed me an irked expression, before getting up from the spinning chair she was currently seated in. Slamming her feet on to the ground, she stomped over to the corner, and I watched as she rummaged through...something in said corner.

 

"God dammit! Where the fuck is it?" She mumbled just loud enough for me to hear. "Dammit Mukuro!"

 

Finally, she found what she was looking for. She held her hand up in victory, before marching back over to where I sat and slamming a list down.

 

"I figured teenagers wouldn't kill unless provoked to. Of course, you being the idiot you are, figured a need for freedom was a big enough provocation. I figured they needed more incentive to kill. Plus, these losers have been here what- a day? Of course they think it's a joke! They probably will for at least a week longer, too, but Taka seems to not be that patient. What a horrible trait for a mastermind. Anyways, I came up with this." She gestured to the paper. I looked down on to it for the first time, a title labeled "MOTIVES" catching my attention.

 

"What's-" I was cut off by her voice again.

 

"This? It's obviously motives. Can you read? I despair so. I literally put the despair of humanity in to your hands, and it'd be a shame to have that person illterate." Brushing away the insult, I looked down on to the sheet.

 

      1. Videos

      2. Secrets

      3. Greed

      4. ?

      5. ?

      6. ?

      7. ?

      8. ?

      9. ?

      10. ?

 

...

 

I cleared my throat before speaking.

 

"I wish to know why 4 through 10 have a question mark!" Junko shrugged.

 

"I couldn't think of any more. We'll come up with them as the game goes along, right?"

 

"Hmm...yes! This is a very great idea, Junko! What do these motives mean, though?

 

"You'll find out. As for right now, all we need to worry about is the first motive. And..." Junko went over to the same corner and came back with new items. Had I not searched that corner?

 

"These- are-" she dropped a box on to where she previously sat. "Video tapes! Containing such hopeful memories turned completely despairful!" She turned to face me, bearing an insane grin. "Isn't this just wonderful? I really am a genius- no matter how much you hate it!" I scowled up at her from my seat, but she ignored my hostile expression. "Should we look in to the box with the tapes created by the wonderful Junko Enoshima and her followers? I'll even let you choose!"

 

Looking from the pile to her twisted face a few moments, I figured it was better to take her advice instead of back away from it; which, as previous times I didn't take her words seriously offered, was the best option I had.

 

I stood up, then strode over purposefully to the box and tore it open. Inside were 13 video tapes (I counted). They all had a label to the side of the cassette with a specific name, all naming the hopeful students.

 

"To avoid suspicion I figured that us and Mukuro needed tapes too, so I went to the trouble of making tapes for us, too!" She plucked tapes from under her chair, all saying a different name of the missing students from the tapes inside of the box. She handed me the one labeled ' Kiyotaka Ishimaru '.

 

"Make sure not to watch it now though! It's a surprise!" Junko looked beyond excited, so I complied with her words and set my tape in to the box. Junko then followed, setting her and Mukuro's tapes in to the box as well.

 

"You know what the best thing is? These video tapes are one hundred percent accurate! Even if a murderer managed to survive the class trial and traveled outside to see if what they saw was false, they would be disappointed! They would find a despair-filled world, along with dead parents, friends, co-workers, you name it! Isn't that great, Taka!"

 

I nodded affirmation to her words. Did these tapes had something to do with our despairful world then? Only time will tell.

 

Junko whipped out her glasses and began to speak once again.

 

"Do not be foolish, however. If we were to send out a motive barely a day after the announcement, the students may be even more likely to view this whole situation as a joke. There needs to be a span of at least a few days- that way they can think that this whole "joke" has gone on awfully long."

 

"Hmm...Yes, you're right Junko! What should we do in the mean time then?"

 

"Perhaps do not seem so...distant. Hang out with a few of the victims, perhaps?"

 

"Yes! Yes, you are absolutely right Junko! I was foolish to think that they would not suspect me!" Junko smirked and took off her glasses. She then walked to the door, saying,

 

"Night time should be beginning now." I looked at the watch on my wrist, before realizing it was in fact 10 P.M. Clearing my throat, I turned on the microphone, put on my best Monobear voice and relayed the night time announcement.

 

I watched as the students all disappeared in to their respective rooms. Once the hallways were cleared, I followed Junko to the door and we walked back to the first floor together, trying to make as little noise as possible. We closed gate after gate as we went down the stairwells to the first floor. Finally, we arrived at Junko's room. Saying good night to her, I went in to my room on the other side of the hall.

 

As soon as my back hit my bed, I was out like a light.

 

After a dreamless sleep, I was rudely awoken by the sound of my alarm. Realizing I had not even changed my clothes from last night, I quickly did so before heading to the fifth floor once again and repeating the scripted morning announcement.

 

It was much more challenging to get to the first floor now that everyone has roused from their sleep. I had to act fast. I all but ran down the stairways, only bothering to close the first to second floor gate this time.

 

Oddly enough, I still managed to be the first person at breakfast. A few people sluggishly walked in after a few minutes, greeting each other with groggy hellos.

 

The breakfast went by fast, as I couldn't wait to try out Junko's "free-time" strategy. The first person I went to after the meal was automatically Mondo, barely remembering he didn't remember we were brothers. Still, I walked to him, biding him hello.

 

"Fuck do you want?" His hello was a little...rude, but I brushed it aside to instead ask him to spend time with me.

 

"Ugh...what a pain." He grumbled under his breath. He then gave a defeated sigh, throwing his hands in to the air and following where I estatically led him. Which was the laundry room.

 

"Why the hell are we in here?"

 

"Why not is the question br- Oowada-kun!" I was a little sad, I admit, to be unable to call him brother, but I could push that aside for now.

 

"You want me to take responsibility by doing some stupid laundry?"

 

"No! Of course not! I just want to talk to you, of course!"

 

"So you want to yell at me? What the fuck did I do this time?" I forgot how difficult he was.

 

"No! No! I just want to talk normally!" He looked shocked at that.

 

"Oh- really?" He fell silent at that. After a few long moments he looked over to me and asked, "So how's the weather?" I looked at him with a mix of confusion and shock.

 

"WHY THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT FOR? PEOPLE TALK ABOUT STUFF LIKE THAT IN FUCKING SMALL TALK!" I flinched away at his outburst. He sighed and walked towards the door.

 

"I knew this was going to be fucking stupid..." He opened the door, but by that time I unconsiously was already grabbing on to his jacket. He snatched his arm away from me, and looking extremely angry when he turned to look at me.

 

"I apologize if I made you uncomfortable, Oowada-kun! I am sorry for being so stupid about your feelings – feel free to punch me!" I bowed down to him. From the corner of my eye, I could see his expression change from enraged to confused.

 

"Um...Okay?" He punched me across the face half-heartedly, obviously wondering what the hell was going on. "I guess I'll stay then..." He walked back over to the washing machines.

 

I followed behind him like a lost puppy.

 

"So...Ishimaru. Do ya think this whole "killing game" is a joke?" Thinking about this for a moment, I thought over what would make me the least suspicious. I could say 'no'...but then I'd have to explain why. If I said 'yes' I could blend in to my "fellow victims" more easily. I've made my choice.

 

"Yes! Completely, there is no other explaination! I do not agree with this school's attempt at hazing though, seeing as hazing in itself is illegal and therefore not welcome in a school environment!" Mondo just nodded his head, probably not listening nor caring about what I was saying.

 

"Yeah...Yeah. Why do ya think it's hazing though?" ...I guess I do need to explain myself.

 

"Um...Because what else could it be?" That was a satisfactory explaination. Normally I wouldn't settle for satisfactory, but this situation was different.

 

"Uh...yeah."

 

"So b- Oowada-kun, what is your-um- gang like?" He looked at me quizzically.

 

"Why do you wanna know? Aren't you some sort of hardass?"

 

"Oowada-kun!" He facepalmed himself and started walking towards the door.

 

"Look- it doesn't matter, alright? We've been talking too long." With out even saying a good-bye, he went out the door.

 

Looking at my watch, it seems I had enough time to talk to one more person. Obviously Mondo was not in the mood, so I'll leave him for tomorrow. Hmm...maybe Naegi or Sakura. Naegi and Sakura are probably preoccupied with Sayaka and Aoi, respectively, though. I suppose it wo uldn't hurt to check

 

I decided to go to the dining hall to look for the two individuals first, and happened to find Sakura, finally free of Aoi's presence.

 

"Oogami-kun! I wish you to talk to me!" Sakura looked at me calmly, before nodding her assent.

 

Both of us went to sit down at a table, with me sitting across from her.

 

"What is it you wish to speak with me about, Ishimaru?"

 

"I just wish to learn about you!"

 

"Is that so?" She looked at me for a second before speaking again. "I am a martial artist, with training as my number one priority. My family owns a dojo, thus encouraging my talent as a martial artist." I had nothing I could think of to say to that.

 

"Is there anything else?" She looked in thought for a minute, before she looked at me and said,

 

"No."

 

Right at that moment, Aoi came jogging in to the room and sat down next to Sakura in an instant. Aoi greeted me briefly before engaging Sakura in conversation.

Feeling as if I was a "third-wheel", as they call it, I walked to the fifth floor stealthily, deciding to watch the students until nighttime.

 

The next day, it was the same routine up until the end of breakfast. I decided to talk to Mondo once again.

 

"B-Oowada-kun! Would you like to-"

 

"No. Fuck off." Mondo obviously wasn't in the best mood...It kind of hurt, to be honest, to be rejected by my brother. It...just hurt. My eyes started to water, and Mondo obviously noticed seeing as how he snapped in to attention.

 

"Ugh, fine I'll talk to you. Just-stop crying, alright?" Feeling a smile stretch my face, I nodded and wiped my eyes. Seeing as we were in the dining hall, we sat down at a lone table in the corner.

 

"What's the matter, Oowada-kun?" He rolled his eyes and scoffed.

 

"Why would you want to know?" My response I didn't even give a second thought about (which I should of).

 

"Because I care about you, of course!" Mondo widened his eyes and started stuttering.

 

"W-W-WAIT! I've only known you for what-two days? Two days! That's kind of fast! I'm not like that either. Are you? Never mind, I don't want to know. What you do in bed is your concern!" In bed? What was Mondo talking about? I voiced my question out loud.

 

"Not like that? In bed? What do you mean, Oowada-kun?" Mondo scooted away from me.

 

"Are you serious? Ya know, when a um-, usually when a..." He gulped. "Like...what you do like-...what's the word...intimately!" ...Oh. That's what he meant...My face heated up like a volcano, and I quickly changed the topic.

 

"A-Anyways, Oowada-kun! What is the matter?" He sighed and rubbed his face.

 

"Ugh...fine. I'll tell you." He sighed and looked to the right. "When are we going to get out of here? We've been here for...at least two days right? This prank is going on a little long, you know." He was starting to suspect this may be real...that's a good sign.

 

For a few more hours full of awkward silences and manly bonding we talked, before someone put a hand on my shoulder.

 

"Hey, Oowada-kun, mind if I borrow him for the rest of tonight?" That was Junko's voice...what did she desire from me? Soon enough, with out even waiting for a reply from Mondo, I was dragged away from Mondo, who looked vaguely amused.

 

"Hey! We are going up to the fifth floor, now !" She whispered in to my ear once we were a safe distance away from other people. I felt a chill go through my spine. Had something happened?

 

"Why? What's wrong?" Putting on a cutesy voice she replied,

 

"Oh, nothing Taka-chan! I just want to watch the students for the rest of today- I want to make sure that tomorrow is a good time to hand out the tapes!"

 

She dragged me up so noisely to the fifth floor I'm amazed we weren't caught. Once to the control room, we watched the students for the rest of the day, and in Junko's eyes they were ready for the video tapes (which I still have no idea what they are going to be about, but I'll trust Junko).

 

The next day, we all were seated, about to watch said video tapes. Mondo sat next to me, looking oddly perturbed; this was most likely from Naegi's response to the tapes.

 

The video soon loaded, and there was my mother and father in front of our house. They looked so delighted, so happy. This was evidenced by their congratulations on me getting in to Hope's Peak. They looked so thrilled that I even felt myself smile. I had finally brought them pride, after all.

 

The video shifted, and there one of my parents, my mother, layed on the grass, dead. Blood oozed out of her body, and her face was twisted in pain

 

WHO KILLED KIYOTAKA ISHIMARU'S MOTHER, AND WHAT HAPPENED TO HIS FATHER? FIND OUT AFTER GRADUATION!

 

I faintly heard Sayaka and Makoto yelling in the background, but my attention was still on the now black monitor.

 

"You know what the best thing is? These video tapes are one hundred percent accurate!"

 

My ears seemed to be ringing. My parents...my parents didn't deserve this! They were good people- they worked so hard!

 

Junko was commanding exactly who to kill...she said who couldn't be killed. This was no accident either- She knew that my family was murdered.

 

SHE DID THIS ON PURPOSE! THAT BITCH- THAT BITCH! I'LL NEVER FORGIVE HER!

 

I felt a hand land on my shoulder, and looked up to see Mondo looking concerned at me. For once, it was hardly a comfort.

 

I shrugged off his hand and stood up, barely containing my urge to march over to Junko and strangle her to the point of her head flying off her neck.

 

"I'm sure it's fake, Aoi. There is no way they could get away with this." Sakura was consoling Aoi, who was currently in a ball sobbing.

 

"It looked so real though, Sakura! How-how could they do this? They're bad people! They're horrible people!" Aoi began to scream incomprehensibly.

 

Turning my attention to a mantra from somewhere behind me, I saw Chihiro rocking back and forth in their chair, their arms wrapped around themself, mumbling,

 

"It was real- there was no way that could be replicated. I know a fake video when I see it, and that was not fake! It was real! It was real!"

 

Celes, Togami and Kirigiri seemed to be the only ones remotely unaffected. They stoically sat in their chairs, silently observing the grieving ones around them.

 

"Please-PLEASE let this be false. Divine Gods, I'll do anything !" Hagekure was shouting up to the heavens.

 

Unable to take it anymore, I sunk down to my knees and began producing ugly sobs for who knows how long. How else would one take the death of their parent, or maybe even parents?

 

I looked through cloudy eyes at Junko (who seemed to be looking at me) and watched as she winked at me. SHE HAD THE COURAGE TO WINK!

 

It took all of my will-power to not charge at her. She would pay though. She will pay dearly. I'll make sure of that.

 

 

Chapter Text

I silently watched Junko pace back and force in the control room, her pigtails bouncing with each step. I knew she was bound for a freak-out in a second. After all, since the motive was announced we've been doing nothing but watching the security footage, which could easily drive a person insane. Especially considering nothing has happened yet.



We consistently watched the monitors to the point of that being all that we did. I hadn't even had a chance to speak to Mondo since the videos were shown. All day, we were watching the admittedly bland affairs of the super high school levels. Yet none of these affairs seemed to involve nor invoke murder.

 

Not that I was complaining. I had a certain murder plot of myself involving the well deserved execution of Junko Enoshima. The wrath of a thousand blades would await her!

 

For a normal person this punishment would be beyond cruel, yet Junko- the cruel manipulator with a genius-brain- deserved this punishment more than everyone in the world, perhaps!



She manipulated me. She wanted me to snap, to fall straight in to my own death trap. Yet, even if I wasn't a genius like her, I had something much greater that could prevent me from dieing: passion.



This passion was going to allow me to see this through until the very end, until everyone was-



...What? I'm confused. Why...did I feel this...pity? Sadness? ...despair?



Everyone...every genius and sloth-like person deserved death after a lifetime of despair...Right? For some reason...I feel-



I quickly banished that thought. I was being naive and foolish. To even think in the slightest that the majority of humanity deserved a second chance...



I was caught off guard by a piercing scream, followed by a giant slam after an earthquake-like thud.



"NO! NO! NOOOO! WHY THE FUCK IS THIS HAPPENING?! IT WAS SUPPOSED TO WORK GOD DAMMIT! FUUUUUUCK!" Junko screamed at the top of her lungs, dragging certain words out.



After a certain amount of time kicking random objects (or people, in my case) around the room she sat on a cardboard box laying on the ground, pulling on her thick pigtails.



"Takaaaaaa-chan. I want someone to dieeeeeeee." Junko put on her "cutesy" personality, looking at me with pleading eyes.



"Hmm...Yes, it is quite strange one of your great ideas has failed to work." I gave a vigourous nod as an accompaniment to my words.



"I KNOW! I JUST DON'T GET THESE LOSERS! NOT EVEN THE SERIAL KILLER HAS KILLED YET! WHAT A FUCKING JOKE!" She somehow yelled whilst her tongue stuck out.



I turned to the monitors to see if anyone had heard her multiple outbursts. Seeing nothing but indifferent faces, I turned back to the now fuming Junko.



"You are absolutely right, Junko! But...maybe we need an instigator?"Junko stopped moving completely, turning to look me straight in the eyes, her blue orbs practically sparkling.



"Oooooooh Taka-chan, I have a great idea!" She bounded across the room and gripped my hands. Despite my hate toward the woman, I couldn't help but blush scarlet red. Especially once she leaned close to my face, her lips then grazing my ear and whispering. Her warm whisper was..Soothing. Like all of those other times she had done this.

 

I was basing my theory solely on luck with the idea that if I tuned out her command, than her persuasive effect will be lost.



As her warm breath hit my ear, that's when it dawned on me...Junko...She had never betrayed me before, right? Jumping to conclusions could make all of our hard work go to waste!



Wait...No...What am I thinking? Junko manipulates people! She could be doing so to me right now!



But...her whisper keeps me in a trance because she's right. Maybe she is the true despairful ruler?



As my thoughts drifted between loyalty and independence, I failed to realize I had slid out of my chair and on to the ground, on my knees, moaning from the pain resulting from the war inside of my head.



Junko pushed me on to my back with her boot. Sitting on me, she leaned over my face, her tie dangling on my neck.



"Well...?" Junko smiled as if she had already won. That was her fatal mistake. That sadistic smile reminded me all too well of the one she wore previously.



Despite not hearing a word of what she had said in the previous whisper, I decided on my own suggestion. Two of the three people who deserved death most: Junko Enoshima, Mukuro Ikusaba, and Toko Fukawa were not going to survive to tomorrow.



There was absolutely no way, at least I thought so, of Junko killing her sister; a mass murderer in terms of war kills. Junko could kill the other serial killer of this group of teens: Toko Fukawa.



Genocider Sho deserved punishment for the killing of innocents. Not so unfortunately, in order for the not so "redemption" of death to take place to said serial killer, the murder would have to be committed to Toko Fukawa.



Junko Enoshima would kill Toko,thus making her the blackened, thus making her eligible for execution if she were to be found out as the culprit.



My voice came out strained as I attempted to speak from below Junko.



"Junko, I have an even better proposition!" She looked momentarily shocked, but quickly recovered and, with a hard- to- miss tone of bitterness, asked,



"What?"



"You can kill Toko! After all, she is a crime-committing psychopath!"



She lifted her eyebrow, before saying,



"That's dumb. What if I got caught?" She slid off of me, allowing me to sit up.



"Then don't allow yourself to get caught, of course!"



"Wouldn't everyone get executed then? It's just the beginning! That's so boring !" I had to get her to see my point!



"Hmm...pin the blame on to someone else and have Monobear not deny they are the culprit...?" I unfortunately made the statement seem like a question. I hope she didn't pick up on that though.



"That's totally out of character for you. Plus, even if you were serious about this, it would make much more sense for you to commit the murder..." Seeing no response of approval from me, she sighed and went to the corner she seemed to grow fond of putting luggage. She came back to me with a combat knife (probably from Mukuro) and two headsets.



"Seeing as how you won't budge, I suppose I'll do it. If all else fails, the despair of death would be marvelous!" Maybe this suggestion was more of a gift for her than a curse. She handed me a headset and put on one of her own. "You can tell me exactly where she is and how to get to her unnoticed using this headset." I set mine around my ears, too, hearing a static sound. I grimaced from the awful noise, which Junko must have noticed evidenced by her next words.



"It is still off on my end right now. I'll turn it on when I leave." Leaving those words behind her, she went to the door of the control room, opened it, and slammed it with a resounding thud. Junko was never this impulsive. She must either be very confident or very suicidal.

 

I was cut off from my thoughts once the sound of static in my headset went away and was replaced by Junko's soft voice.

 

"I'm on the first floor already. Fast, right? Anyways, where is Toko?" She whispered. I walked purposefully over to my chair and looked at the security camera monitors. I scrolled quickly over the active monitors in search of said serial killer, before catching her out of her room for once in the Gymnasium, interestingly enough. Concidentally, she was alone. Right as I located her, Junko snapped and angrily whispered,

 

"Hey, hurry the fuck up! At this rate, I'm going to be caught and everyone will be wondering why the hell I have a microphone sticking out from inside of my hair. Not to mention a fucking military-grade knife, never mind Mukuro's talent."

 

"She is located inside of the Gymnasium. She is alone!" I heard an irritated sigh come from the other side of the radio.

 

"Yeah, but how the hell am I supposed to get to her?" She obviously was irritated. I navigated my way mentally for a safe way to Toko, with the monitors in front of me as my only aid.

 

"Mondo is just behind the corner. You'll have to sneak past him."

 

"Ugh...is there any other way?"

 

"No."

 

"God, this is so stupid. Why do I have to do this? Taka is a much better candidate for this. At least Ican figure out directions." She was obviously mumbling to herself, but I could hear her perfectly through the headset. She started moving towards the corner.

 

"Um, Junko, I can hear you perfectly fine." She snorted and replied,

 

"I know. Now shut up."

 

I watched as Junko slyly worked her way past Mondo, seemingly free of his presence for now. I saw the next and last obstacle on the monitors right outside of the Gymnasium: Aoi Asahina.

 

"Aoi is further up the hallway. After that you can easily get to Toko."

 

"Aoi? Oh, that's easy!" I then observed her figure make her way around Aoi , my eyes never leaving her person until she arrived at the trophy case right outside of the Gymnasium.

 

"All right. I'm...what the fuck?" I looked up at the monitors to see a figure enter the room Junko was in.

 

"Junko?" She wasn't responding. I looked up again at the monitors to see her...struggling? I quickly turned on the sound for the monitor, resulting in me hearing struggle too! Junko!

 

Before I knew it, I had dashed out of my seat and embarked on my mission to the Gymnasium.

 

Junko...even if she had manipulated me, she didn't deserve such a meaningless death! She, admittingly, worked much too hard to become the queen of despair to die off merely as the first victim!

 

I had already reached the first floor before I knew it, and was bolting past Mondo, who I faintly heard cry out for me.

 

I opened the door to see...

 

Junko. On the floor. Dead. Marks around her neck. Blood on the floor. Blood reaching the cotton of the microphone she had. The lone combat knife she had taken with her coated in red.

 

My world slowed to a halt. I had hated her...I should be glad she is dead. Yet...instead of happiness I feel numb. What...what was happening? She isn't supposed to be dead. Not yet...Maybe she was supposed to live, yet somehow she...

 

I hadn't realized I had let out a scream until I was being shaken by Mondo. I looked up brokeningly to him, and saw oddly sympathetic eyes.

 

I looked past him when the Gymnasium door opened, revealing Toko Fukawa.

 

"S-Shut up, some peo-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" She let out a shrill scream before slumbing to the floor, unconscious.

 

"Ah! Why the hell did you faint?" Mondo let out a rather unmanly yelp before beginning to yell at the unresponsive Toko. Wait...one...two...and three. Three people had discovered the body now. Junko and I had agreed on a certain announcement when that happened.

 

I felt around in my pocket for the correct button, before blindly pressing what I hoped to be the correct button. Sure enough it was.

 

"Bing, bom, booooam. A body has been discovered. After a brief period of investigation, a class trial will take place." The announcement shut off.

 

"W-What the hell? Class...class trial? Is- what?" Mondo was sputtering.

 

"I'll go get the rest of our classmates!" I ran out of the room, sprinting no where specifically. I just told everyone I ran in to about the body of Junko Enoshima. I'm not even sure if I told everyone, but I didn't care. They had probably heard by now anyways. I...I just...didn't want to go back to where she lay. If I hadn't been so foolish she would still be alive! The whole video tape situation was probably one of her pranks, and I was naive enough to believe it!

 

I still didn't even know exactly who killed her. I didn't obtain a clear enough image before I bolted. I'll have to check the security footage.

 

Junko...didn't you hate boredom? So...Whether you manipulated me or otherwise, you shouldn't have had such a mundane death. Such a forgettable one, the only huge factor being that you were the first "victim". Junko...

 

I'm sorry.



 

Chapter Text

My eyes were watching the students as they either stood horrified in the room holding Junko's corpse or went to closer examine Junko Enoshima's dead body. Or, rather, Kyouko went to closer examine Junko Enoshima's dead body. Toko Fukawa still was collapsed on the cold floor.

 

"I can't...I can't believe this..." Aoi was lost for words, ugly sobs making their way through the air from her and a few others.

 

"H-H-How could M-Monobear do this? He-He killed one of our friends!" Chihiro was on their knees, crying their heart out as a result of the fate of Junko Enoshima. I looked pitifully at them. They were one of the few that almost deserved a chance at hope. Almost...Right?

 

"Ragh! Monobear, come out here ya' sick son of a bitch!" Mondo was screaming in desperation by now, wishing for some kind of answer. I'd grant him one.

 

"You called?" The animatronic one of my "minions" (the word used by the late Junko), Souda, I believe, popped out of seemingly no where, with a blush somehow tinting his cheeks. The pre-recorded message held Junko's voice. She had done most of the recordings, myself only doing a few Monobear impersonations, such as the nighttime and morning announcements. She was a useful asset. An asset...and person, that would be missed.

 

"Fuck yeah I did! You did this!" Mondo was letting his anger get the better of him, obviously restraining himself from punching Monobear. It seems he had read the rule about no violence against the headmaster, or in this case Monobear.

"Upupupupupu. Actually, I didn't! One of you brats caused this wonderfully despairful work of art! Isn't is wonderful what teenagers can cause?" Mondo looked enraged by that, going as far as to walk right up to Monobear's metal face.



"You bastard! Let us out of here right now or I will KICK YOUR BEAR ASS! " Monobear's expression merely went dark at that, an expression rigged for this kind of reaction.



"Huh? Has one of my students forgotten the rules?" Mondo got more enraged at this statement.



" FUCK YOUR STUPID RULES!"



"Upupupu, have you already forgotten?" My brother took a step back, most likely from the sinister aura emitting from Monobear by now. "How would Mondo be punished if he disobeyed me? An explosion? A knife? Being melted?"



" W-What the hell does that mean?!?! " Mondo was obviously trying his best to not seem terrified.



"Upupupupu, you'll see." Monobear suddenly disappeared, returning beside Makoto.



"W-What the hell?" Mondo now seemed confused, looking from where Monobear last was to his new location.



"Now that that is over, I present you with the Monobear file!" Monobear handed a black folder to Makoto, who was quite pale. The other students looked confused at the mention of the file.



"What's this 'Monobear file'?" Byakuya spoke up, forcibly snatching the file out of Makoto's hands and beginning to read it himself.



"It covers all of the small details of the victim's death! Cause of death, time of death, things of that stimulating sort. Exciting, right ?" A few students gagged at either his choice of words or just the mention of death in general. I couldn't tell.



"Stimulating?" I looked over to Hifumi next to me, who seemed to be getting sweaty about something.



"Upupupu. I'll see you at the class trial! I'll be waaaaaitinggggg!" Monobear once again seemingly disappeared.



"Class trial?" Leon looked quizzically at the people around him. "What's the hell is that?"



"How do you expect us to know?" Celes calmly replied.



"I expect we will find out soon enough..." Byakuya spoke again once he finished reading through the file. He handed the folder back to Makoto. "Now, instead of waiting for my impending death like a moron, I will be investigating the murder case. I highly suggest you do so as well. Unless you have a death wish, that is."



"I-Investigate? Our friend just died!" Aoi was on the verge of screaming in agony by now.



"The friend we knew for only a few days? It's idiotic to get attached inside this game." Aoi gasped, her hands flying to her mouth and her eyes wide.



"Game?" Byakuya ignored her, instead going towards Junko's body. Once there, he spoke up once again.



"Read the file." Byakuya finally finished speaking it seemed, picking up Mukuro's knife (which my classmates think is Junko's) and examining it.



Makoto complied, clearing his throat and shakily speaking.



"The time of death was approximately 12:00. The cause of death was...strangulation?"



"Aha, that makes perfect sense!" Yasuhiro opened his mouth, saying things that made absolutely no sense to everyone else.



"Hagekure-kun, what about the knife?" Sayaka spoke shakily, yet was somehow maintaining her friendly personality.



"What? It doesn't make sense then!" I looked away from Yasuhiro's show of proving he had absolutely no idea what was going on.



"Hmm...Togami-kun, do you see any strangulation marks?" Makoto was extremely pale still, but he seemed to be regaining color to his face.



"If you imbeciles stopped chattering and investigated, you'd know."



Makoto softly apologized, before going over to Junko's body (not before hesitating, of course) and looked at her corpse. He stayed there for at least a few minutes, before whipping out his Electro ID and typing something on to it. I suddenly heard a ping go off on mine.



>Truth Bullet: Monobear's file

>Truth Bullet: Strangulation marks

>Truth Bullet: Lack of wounds on body

>Truth Bullet: Cause of death



It was then that Kyouko, who had been examining the Monobear file, typed something in to her Electro ID as well.



>Truth Bullet: Time of death



The students, who had all been watching their Electro Ids because of the pings coming from them, turned towards Kyouko, confused for the most part.



"What is strange about the time of death, Kirigiri-san?" Celes spoke politely.



"It's strange." Celes tilted her head at her.



"How so?"



"I can't say more." ...What had Kyouko found strange? Only the trial will tell, I suppose.



Suddenly, there was a gasp coming from Toko's direction again. Sure enough, there she was, petrified by the sight in front of her yet again.



"Fukawa-san! You're awake!" Toko turned her head towards the owner of the voice, Aoi, her eyes blank. She looked pale."Uh oh. Fukawa-san, maybe you should lay down. Do you need help?" Toko once again just stared. "Um...Ishimaru-kun, can you help me take her to her room?"



Although I was wondering why Aoi had chosen me, I agreed whole-heartedly. On the way to Toko's room, we began to converse.



"Ishimaru-kun, do you mind if I told you something?" I turned to her, a curious look on my face. "I saw Enoshima-san go inside of the Gym. I was waiting outside for Sakura, who was in the bathroom. Yet, I didn't see anyone go in after her. What could that mean...?" I stared at her, which she obviously noticed considering the way she shifted under my gaze. "Anyways..." And thus began us awkwardly conversing.



By the time we had dropped Toko off inside her room and headed back to the sight of Junko's corpse, a hour and a half had already passed since the body discovery announcement. I had made sure to add Aoi's account to the Electro ID.



>Truth Bullet: Aoi's Account



I decided to spend the rest of my time until the class trial listening to all of my fellow classmates gathering clues.



"Hmm...Isn't it odd that Enoshima-san has what looks like a headset?" Sakura brought up, eyeing the body.



"Haha, this is just like a murder mystery one would find in a manga! The beautiful, charming princess that was murdered in cold blood was actually a traitor for the other kingdom!" Hifumi put in his input, which seemed to have a big effect on everyone around us.



"Enoshima-san would never betray us!"



"I-It is bad to doubt your friends..."



"WHAT THE HELL? DO YOU WANT ME TO BEAT YOUR ASS?"



Hifumi started making odd sounds from all of the yells directed at him. Byakuya whipped out his Electro ID and typed in to it. There was another ping.



>Truth Bullet: Headset



Makoto was quietly humming to himself, carefully observing the knife in Junko's hand at the request of Kyouko. He looked like he was going to puke.



He cleared his throat, and after that failed to work he had to yell to get everyone's attention. He held up the knife.



"Um, sorry, but has anyone seen a knife like this before? Around here?"



"Huh? Um...no, I don't think so." Aoi shrugged.



"That's a military-grade combat knife. It would be odd to find that in a school, even if the school's purpose was for killing." Byakuya supplied, for once being helpful to the hopeful students. Makoto frowned at that, before typing in to his ID.



>Truth Bullet: Type of knife

>Truth Bullet: Blood-stained knife



The students seemed to have all of the clues they needed. It had been at least three hours by now. Seeing that, I searched my pockets for the button that would begin the class trial.



"The investigation is now over. Please make your way to the elevator." The announcement went off.



"The elevator? Where the-" A ping went off on everyones' ID, along with a waypoint to the elevator.



The students and myself made our way to the elevator, some more reluctantly than others. Once inside heading down to the first class trial room; I noticed how intensely Mukuro was staring at me. She must think I caused her sister's death...And really...I did.



The elevator doors opened, revealing the class trial room.



Would the students figure out the killer? I wish they would... Junko wouldn't have wanted the game to end so quickly...Plus...there was some I wanted to live longer than the others, even just a moment longer...



Junko would have set me straight by now, as she was able to sense when I was giving in to hope. If she was here she would have smacked me alongside the head, and her persuasive voice would keep me in despair for who knows how long. But she wasn't here. And she never would be again. For her sake though...I had to let go of these feelings of hope.



"Let the class trial commence!"

 

Chapter Text

 

"Upupupupu! The first class trial! How titilating!" A few students gagged at Monobear's choice of words. "Who will it be, who will it be? Who is the blackened? Who is the murderer of-" Monobear began to glitch over the words, earning confused looks from the students around him. It appeared Junko hadn't predicted her own death. Celes quickly recovered from the oddness of the bear, beginning the debate.

 

"Shall we begin with discussing the cause of death?" Celes began.

 

"What? That won't help us find out who the killer is!" Leon argued.

 

"I'd have to intercept there, Kuwata-kun. Every clue of this case is worth discussing." Leon looked bewildered at Kyoko's statement, yet deciding to settle on a mere shrug. Kyoko, for whatever reason, looked Makoto straight in the eyes and nodded at him.

 

"Oh, um...me?" Kyoko nodded again. "Uh...well...Junko died from strangulation. At least, according to the Monobear file."

 

"How do we even know that Monobear wasn't lying though? Can we really think that he wouldn't lie about the how Enoshima-san died?" Aoi looked hesitant, as did a lot of the students once she said that.

 

"Are you accusing me of lying?! How could your very trustworthy neighborhood headmaster be capable of lying? Think again!" Monobear scoffed indignantly.

 

"Yeah fucking right! You killed that Enoshima chick because your " game " was getting too boring, yeah?! AGGGGGH, COME OUT YOU BASTARD! FACE YOUR DEATH LIKE A MAN!" Mondo was beginning to run to Monobear, but was barely restrained from the people around him.

 

"How many times do I have to say it? One of you guys killed her!" Monobear somehow made a irritated facial expression on his robotic face, which quickly shifted in to a timid one. "Are you guys trying to get me to spill who the murderer is? I guess I have to stop talking then...The rest is up to yoooou!"

 

"DAMMIT!" Mondo kicked the podium in front of him.

 

"What Asahina-san said before may be true. Even if Monobear did say he did not lie, we can not know for sure. Perhaps it is possible that the knife was the cause of death." Celes smiled pleasantly at the students around her. "Which would mean the culprit would have to be someone who could get their hands on such a knife, yes?"

 

"Get their hands on the knife? Wouldn't that be easy? It's just a knife." Yasuhiro chimed in. Celes shook her head at him.

 

"Oh, but it is not just a knife. It is a "military-grade combat knife" in the words of Togami-kun, yes? He also said it would be hard to find such a knife in a school. Is not that right, Togami-kun?" Byakuya looked at her.

 

"Yes. I did say that. I can see where you're going with this. I'm not naive, Celes. I can't say the same about the rest of these imbeciles, though." A distant "Hey!" was heard from somewhere in the court room.

 

"Oh? I was not implying so, Togami-kun. I was merely asking you to affirm this fact. I was thinking of a certain culprit, however." Celes smiled, turning her gaze to Mukuro. "Her own sister killed her, I believe. Is not that true, Ikusaba-san?" Mukuro looked up calmly at her, shaking her head.

 

"Why should we not believe this, I would like to know." Kyoko answered in Mukuro's place.

 

"Because the cause of death was not stabbing. There are two pieces of evidence on the victim's body to support this claim. Right, Naegi-kun?" Makoto looked up at her, shocked.

 

"Me again?" She kept staring at him. "...Alright. I think I remember seeing...Uh, reddish marks and bruises around her neck. I don't know exactly what strangulation marks look like but...I don't know what else they could've been." Kyoko kept staring at him, as if asking for more evidence. "Um...that's all I know." Kyoko sighed.

 

"Ah, I see. Thank you for clearing that up Master Makoto Naegi. Wait, waa!" Hifumi interjected.

 

"Excuse me for interrupting, but what if whoever the culprit is faked Enoshima-san's cause of death by strangling her after she was already dead?" Sayaka questioned, tilting her head a bit.

 

Kyoko thought for a second, before lifting her head up.

 

"That's impossible. The only cause of death, that is not internal, possible would be strangulation or suicidal hanging, as there was no external wounds other than marks on the neck on the body. A hanging is out of the question as well, since the signs of struggle are completely contradicting that possibility."

 

"Wait, you looked at the body?" Aoi quietly asked.

 

"That does not keep Ikusaba-san out of the question though, correct? She still could have committed the murder." Celes looked at Mukuro again, who by now was beginning to glare at her.

 

"I. Did. Not. Kill. Junko." Mukuro hissed through clenched teeth. Celes smiled a tiny bit.

 

"How do we know you are not lying?" Mukuro glared at her. In a split second, her previous emotions did a one-eighty, and she stoically looked forward and said,

 

"I would never kill my sister. She was my commander." Mukuro was putting on her soldier face obviously, showing absolutely no emotion to even the most empathetic of the classmates.

 

"Commander?" Aoi questioned.

 

"Wait, Ikusaba-san was talking to me while the murder happened. There's no way she could have committed the murder!" Makoto defended Mukuro.

 

"I-I saw them talking around noon...So he's telling the truth..." Chihiro timidly offered.

 

"Hmm, it seems my assumption was wrong. For now, at least." Celes smiled as she looked at the others. "Now, Kirigiri-san, I believe you said there was something odd about the time of death? Do you care to elaborate on that?"

 

"Well, I was actually going to ask Ishimaru-kun about that." I looked at her with a no doubt dumbfounded expression. Had she already discovered my true identity?

 

"Yes?" I asked in a confused tone.

 

"Mondo had told me you had been running towards the Gym right before you discovered the body. Why were you rushing towards the Gym? Why did you happen to discover the body right after the death had occured? I'd like an explanation." Well...I hadn't thought that would come in to the class trial. Deciding, begrudgingly, to part a bit away from my normal morals I sighed, eyebrows furrowed; I told the semi-truth.

 

"Oh, that is simple! I had seen Enoshima-san on her way to the Gymnasium with a knife in hand. I was too stunned to move at first, but eventually I ran off to search for her. I happened to go to the Gymnasium first and when I got there she was...dead." Kyoko raised her eyebrow at me. Leon seemed less than pleased with my answer.

 

" "A knife in hand"? Why didn't you tell us that Enoshima-san had had the knife at first? We could've scratched out Ikusaba-san as the unlikely culprit much sooner then!" Well...This would be hard to not lie about.

 

"I...I...Um, didn't assume it was important!" That was the closest I could get to the truth with out exposing myself. I still felt awful. Leon still seemed unpleased, but I had done all I could.

 

"W-We discussed the cause and time of death then, right? T-Then let's move on to voting! I-I v-vote for that flat-chested detective!" Toko exclaimed.

 

"...What?" Kyoko's words seemed to sum up the entire silence of the room.

 

"Y-You know too much! I-I bet you're j-just waiting for your chance to k-kill us all!"

 

A few students began to glance warily at Kyoko.

 

"...I have an alibi. I was in the dining hall the time of the murder, along with Celes-san and Yamada-kun." Kyoko stared tiredly at her. She was obviously about to die from the stupidity of the situation.

 

"It is true." Celes informed.

 

"O-Oh. You guys are all turning against me because I'm ugly, aren't you?! That's what they all say!"

 

"U-Um...anyways...what other clues do we have?" Aoi inquired.

 

"We don't have alibis for some people yet. For example, I was with Kuwata-kun in my room." Sayaka received raised eyebrows when she said that. Blushing, she quickly backtracked. "Only hanging out of course, hehe!"

 

"W-Well...I was with Ikusaba-san...Kirigiri-san, Celes-san, and Yamada-kun were together...Who else?" Makoto started.

 

"U-Um...I was with Hagekure-kun. I was teaching him about computers...I-I'm sorry I couldn't stop this..." Chihiro sobbed. A tornado of reassurance came crashing through the room.

 

"Fukawa was following me around all day, so unfortunately she can't be punished here today. Fortunately, neither can I." Byakuya exasperatedly said.

 

"W-Wai-" Toko was cut off.

 

"Wait, if I remember correctly Fukawa-san was said to have exited the Gym and then subsequently, after seeing the body, passed out. Were you in the Gym, then?" Kyoko questioned.

 

"Yes. Did I not say she was following me all day or do you have hearing problems?" Byakuya smugly replied.

 

I had remembered Byakuya also being in the Gym, just a safe distance away from Toko. I was planning for Junko to assassinate her quietly, but unfortunately that ended badly for her...

 

"So...that leaves Ishimaru-kun, Oowada-kun, Asahina-san, and Oogami-san?" Makoto counted off using his fingers.

 

Mondo shrugged. "I only saw the chicks pass me. They were coming from the direction of the Gym. The dude only went one way; to the Gym." I silently thanked Mondo. I, of course, returned the favor.

 

I thought for a moment before deciding on how to prove him innocent."Oowada-kun had been too far away from the Gymnasium to so quickly dispose of evidence then get in to his designated spot." I supplied, smiling a bit when Mondo looked at me.

 

"I was waiting outside of the Gym for Sakura-chan, who was in the bathroom. I didn't see anyone besides Enoshima-san enter the Gym though, and the next thing I know Ishimaru starts screaming over her corpse...so I don't know what that means."

 

"...Wait...what?" Yasuhiro sounded lost. "So...WE ARE TOTALLY OUT OF CLUES! PLEASE LET ME OUT OF HERE! I DON'T WANT TO DIE HERE! " He held his hands up in prayer.

 

"Shut up." Byakuya coldly said.

 

"No...we aren't out of clues." Kyoko thought out loud. A whirlwind of heads snapped her way at this, most of them blazing with hope.

 

"We...aren't...?"

 

"No. Remember what Oowada-kun said? In summary, he had said that Asahina-san and Oogami-san had passed by him. Why were they passing by him, though? Do you know, Oowada-kun?"

 

"Uh...I don't know." Mondo dumbly replied.

 

"Another question. How soon before or after Ishimaru-kun ran to the Gym did they walk by you?"

 

"Uh, right before I think. Why?" Kyoko smiled to herself and turned away from Mondo, looking straight in to Aoi's eyes.

 

"You lied, Asahina-san." Aoi's eyes widened at that, before she got in to a defensive stance.

 

"What? How?"

 

"You said Oogami-san was in the bathroom. Yet, she clearly was with you when you were walking by Oowada-kun."

 

"She had been with me by then!" Aoi shouted.

 

"Had she happened to be "with you", or had you happened to fetch her from the bathroom when you saw Enoshima-san enter the Gym?" Aoi's eyes widened to plate size before narrowing. She seemed to be tearing up. Kyoko noticed, which seemed to lead Aoi to realize she had been backed in to a corner.

 

"No! I didn't fetch Sakura." Aoi looked down. "...I didn't fetch anyone."

 

"Aoi..." Sakura started.

 

"I-It's alright Sakura. I deserve whatever punishment I'm going to get...right? Because...I...I killed a friend. I killed a friend because I guessed that just because of her headset, and just because of her knife, she was going to kill someone. I guessed she was working for the mastermind, too. I could've even tried to talk it out with her, tried to get her on to our side and tell us who the mastermind was. If she was even working for whoever they are. I...I don't even know. I do know that I killed someone though. In cold blood. I killed...no, murdered someone, a friend nonetheless, in cold blood. So...vote for me. Please. This is my fault...It was all my fault..." Aoi sobbed.

 

"Show me the mark." Kyoko looked steadily in to Aoi's tear-filled eyes, which now held a glimmer of panic.

 

"...Uh...The mark is...Bandaged. It'd be bad to get it infected...haha..." Aoi laughed hollowly, obviously still panicked.

 

Kyoko stared intensely at her.

 

"Show me the mark." Kyoko was unrelenting. "The culprit is bound to have a mark from where they were stabbed by Enoshima-san. The same mark Oogami-san has bandaged right on her leg." Aoi's eyes went wide.

 

"W-What?"

 

"One of her bandages is all the way up to her thigh today. That's very strange." I looked over to Sakura. Sure enough, her bandage was! Kyoko notices things even a mastermind doesn't! A true detective. And with that, a true genius.

 

"T-That doesn't mean anything!" Aoi was beginning to protest.

 

"Aoi. It is foolish to plead any longer." Sakura interjected.

 

"B-But-"

 

"We knew how this was going to end. Even if she was a pawn for the mastermind, she wasn't the mastermind. It wasn't going to end well for me from the very beginning." Aoi was beginning to sob again, rushing over to Sakura and clinging on to her like a young koala.

 

"S-Sakura! This isn't fair! You were protecting us!" Aoi's voice was barely recognizable through her thick sobs and loud crys.

 

"I'm glad I have fulfilled my duty. I'm glad to have befriended you. I'm glad that everyone is safe now."

 

"Upupupupu, I'm sorry to ruin such a tender moment, but it's voting time! Who will be the blackened? Will you get the answer right or wrong? Whoooo knows?"

 

Everyone began to vote, and an easily predictable vote was almost unanimously placed.

 

Sakura Oogami: Guilty

 

"No!" Aoi cried out. "It was me! I was the one that got her! I was the one who caused Sakura to kill her! Please! Kill me! Kill me! I caused everything!" Aoi was on her knees, her head in her hands. "Please! Please! PLEASE!"

 

"Monobear, before I die, let me know this. Was Junko Enoshima one of your pawns?" Oddly enough, the animatronic seemed to not glitch at the mention of her, and answered back perfectly.

 

"Upupupupupupu. Yes! My second-in-command, in fact! How despairful it must be to lose such an important person! For me, at least! Upupupupu." I was beyond confused. There was no way Junko had pre-recorded that message. So...who had?

 

Everyone had a mixture of reactions. Some were shocked, others were solemn, and others, like Sakura, were pleased.

 

"I'm happy that I saved you." It was unclear exactly who she was talking to, but she was delighted in some way, smiling slightly.


"I...I..." Aoi was at a loss for words.

 

"Upupupu. Are you done talking?" Monobear mocked. Aoi was visibly trembling, and on shaky knees stood up. Tilting her head up to Monobear through distraught eyes, she glared intensely at the robot.

 

"I...I will make sure Sakura doesn't die alone..." If I had not been close to Aoi, I wouldn't of heard this part. I definitely would've been more bewildered at Aoi's next actions as a result.

 

In a move uncharacteristic for Aoi, she lurched and charged straight at Monobear, knocking the bear right off of his royal throne.

 

"Ahhhh! Violence against the Headmaster! Violence against the Headmaster!" In a flash that I definitely did not press a button to activate, Aoi was suspended from the ceiling, metal clamps holding her arms above her.

 

Monobear bounced up from where he had been knocked down, wobbling back on to his throne.

 

"Upupupupupu. Well, it is punishment time. I think it's a good idea that this rule-breaker receives an execution, as well. Yes, what a lovely idea! Upupupupupu! The first class trial with already two very heart-pounding, jaw-dropping executions! I can't wait!"

 

Monobear opened his podium to reveal a red button, equipped with an almost comically large hammer. Lifting the hammer over his head, he shouted the last words any of the students heard before the deaths of their classmates.

 

"IT'S PUNISHMENT TIME!"

 

Two identical chains sprung out from practically no where, clamping around both Aoi and Sakura's necks, dragging them down an omnious hallway. The remaining students unwillingly followed, being practically forced to go down the hallway to witness their classmates' deaths.

 

Execution:

Water Illusion of the Whole Galaxy

 

Aoi was in a tank, Sakura right by her side. The tank seemed to be filled with...a tar-like substance. Or, at least everyone thought it was tar.

 

The "tar" suddenly floated out of the tank, revealing clear water underneath. It was as close to pleasant an execution can get, at least until the "tar" changed in to vicious, tar-like, alien-like creatures. There had to be at least a couple hundred of the identical creatures; each of them equipped with razor sharp tentacles. The alien creatures began to charge right at the duo, their tentacles posed in front of them. They moved at the speed of light, shocking the two victims in to action.

 

The pair attempted to escape, swimming under the water. This was obviously where the water illusion came in to play. Where once the aliens had been above water, they were now below water, appearing right in front of the duo. The hundreds of aliens all moved in synchronization, which led to a very brutal death for the two. Dozens and dozens of spear-like tentacles cut right through their skin and in to their flesh, the once clear water now turning a combination of black and red.

 

Aoi Asahina and Sakura Oogami were dead.

 

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It was silence for a while after the execution. Every single one of the once hopeful students looked to be filled with dread.

 

...Except the more serious half of the Despair Sisters, who would not seem to stop glaring at me.

 

 

Chapter Text

The students, shocked, made their ways back to their room, numb with shock from the death of their classmates. I (while oddly somewhat saddened by Aoi and Sakura's deaths) had other matters that required my immediate attention. Such as whoever was operating the Monobear animatronic.



I watched as each student left the class trial room individually, waiting what seemed like a millennium for every single student to finally be gone from the room. Once they all had finally left, I marched directly towards the android in the middle of the class trial room, bending to the robot's eye level. Clearing my throat, I shouted,



"I demand to know who you are! You will provide me with that knowledge, correct?!" The Monobear merely looked up to me, an award-winning smile on its' face.



"You never could persuade people, could you? I suppose that is why she did all of the work, of course!" What? They knew about Junko...but who could it be? I demanded to know!



"Uh-what?"



"Do you really not know? That's disappointing..." A different voice was coming out of the Monobear this time. While still holding Monobear's child-like voice, it held a different edge to it. A...more feminine voice, perhaps?



"I'm confused! Tell me immediately who you are if you wish to not be punished for your sins!" The Monobear stayed still for a moment, before letting out a shrill laugh, so high Junko Enoshima could hear it.



"Upupupupupupu! Should you be saying that, of all people? Are you that oblivious?" The Monobear somehow had tears from laughter in his artificial eyes. "Oh! Look at the time!" I compiled, looking at my watch. 9:30...What was their point? I looked back up from my watch to see no robots that could talk, no traces of the Monobear in sight.

 

"Hey! I demand you to come out immediantly!" I looked around me, my eyes flickering to every spot in the room visible.

 

There was no response. I sighed, rubbing my forehead. This was going to be a lot harder with out Junko...

 

I heard a cough come from just behind me. Jumping, I spun around to face the intruder. It was merely Mondo.

 

"Uh- sorry for scarin' ya. I was wonderin' what you were still doin' down here." He shuffled awkwardly on his feet. "I was um...waitin' for you, ya know? ...WAIT, SHIT, WE ALL WERE! NOT JUST ME!" I fell to the floor from the sudden intensity of his outburst, blushing heavily from embarrassment when I got up, dusting my pants off.

 

"Uhm, let us be off, then!"

 

Once I stepped in to the elevator, I was met by a tense silence. The only noise in the shaft was Byakuya's "took you long enough."

 

The elevator seemed to move as quick as lightning. (As opposed to how slow it had been on the way down.) The students seemed more than happy to leave the elevator, some practically bouncing out of it and straight to their rooms. The rest of us merely walked out, leaving the memories of the first three victim behind us. None of us were going to look back.

 

Especially me.

 

With this new mindset, I found my usual enthusiasm. I practically bounded to my room, preparing to sleep for the day. That is, until I remember the night time announcements.

 

It was uncertain whether the Monobear imposter would keep those in mind, which would once again practically be stealing my job as mastermind. We will have to have a test of who is truly the better mastermind! I will make sure I win, of course!

 

With this in mind, I moved on from where I had frozen in thought in front of my door. Fumbling a little with the key, I quickly made my way in to the room. Plopping on to my admittingly comfy bed, I felt the cushion sink under my weight.

 

I brought my watch up to my face, staring intensely at the plastic timepiece.

 

9:59

 

Just in time. I dug the button for the night time announcement out of my pocket. (Which I had actually prepared for a situation like this. I figured that otherwise I could simply go to the control work, since that showed more effort!) The almost comically small button was an ant in my hand. I once again checked my watch, watching as the second hand moved to 12.

 

Tick, tock, tick, tock

 

10:00

 

With the speed of a cheetah, I pressed the button. Unfortunately, whoever was controlling the Monobear seemed to have to.

 

This resulted in two overlapping messages, one nearly a second behind the other. I'd like to think the one ahead of the second message is mine.

 

It seemed that the system Kazuichi had installed couldn't handle two of these messages, oddly enough. This resulted in a mixture of static from one invisible Monobear and one visible one, flares coming from multiple lambs and plug-ins in the room, and finally complete darkness.

 

Well, this was just dandy.

 

I suppose this blackout will be resolved in the morning...

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It wasn't. Once I woke up and tried multiple times to attempt to find the light switch, (which was very hard in a pitch black room) then finally managing to find it only to find out the power was still off, I realized that, maybe, the Tragedy had made it so power had to be turned on manually. I doubted it, but it was still possible.

 

I tripped over what felt like my practice sword, a loud RIPPPP going through the room. I felt an uncontrollable rage stir inside of my stomach. My uniform!

 

Thus began my journey, stumbling my way to the dining hall. Even if it was as dark as a black hole it was still a rule to meet in the cafeteria every day!

 

I stumbled through the dark corridors. Not even a snake could see through these halls. There was absolutely no light source!

 

I suppose I was the first one awake, seeing as how I had run in to no one in my suicidal journey. Feeling along the walls, I made my way in the direction I hoped (or despaired, as Junko would say) was the cafeteria.

 

Finally entering what I thought was the dining hall, I felt for a chair. Once I had found one, I flopped on to it, relieved to be away from that torture.

 

By coincidence or not, the lights happened to turn on right at that moment...To reveal Mukuro walking in to the room, clad in night vision goggles. Once the lights had come on, she ditched the goggles. With one hand reaching for her boot and the other throwing the googles behind her, I instantly felt fear.

 

I felt afraid because of the deathly glare she held on her face. The same look that was directed at me, her blue eyes burning holes in to my red ones.

 

That fear tripled once she brought a knife out of her boot. Once again, it tripled when she reached under her skirt and brought out another knife. The same military-grade combat knife that had killed Junko Enoshima, noticable by the visible red blood Mukuro had seemed to not wash off.

 

She charged towards me. Reacting purely on instinct, I jumped out of the chair I sat on and barrel rolled once I reached the ground.

 

I felt a trickle of blood roll down my arm where one of her knives had most likely scrapped me. I found myself not caring though, as all of my instincts and adrenaline was focused on dodging Mukuro's attacks. She recollected from where she had, for the most part, missed me, her eyes narrowing as she zeroed in on her kill. Which was me.

 

I scrambled off of the ground, running at nothing in particular. I just seeked escape. Suddenly, I felt a searing pain, and looked down to see a knife protruding out of my side.

 

A pained howl came out of my mouth, followed by another quick swipe at my legs performed by Mukuro, effectively bringing me to my knees. The knife was quickly taken out of my back. A blinding pain followed after it, but the culprit seemed not to mind. The assaulter turned me around, forcing me to stare in to her freckled face.

 

Her eyes spewed hatred. Her lips curved in to a mean snarl. Overall, her whole face was showing a lust for the murder of me.

 

She threw me on to the ground back first. My wound hissed, but I was given no time to relish in this fact when she began straddling me. She raised her knife over her head, her eyes never leaving mine. I closed my eyes, not yet accepting of my death, and-

 

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" A long, shrill, and not to mention loud scream filled the cafeteria. Both Mukuro and I snapped our heads to the intruder: Sayaka Maizono. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? STOP IT!"

 

These words seemed to have an immediate effect on Mukuro, who leaped off of me and sprinted out of the cafeteria. Sayaka made no attempt to follow her, her mouth open in shock as she sprinted over to me.

 

Leaning over me, Sayaka gasped and covered her mouth in horror as she saw the extent of my injuries.

 

"ISHIMARU-KUN! ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?" I felt my head start to pound as she continued screaming in horror.

 

"Um, yeah. Please...stop screaming, Maizono-kun." She was starting to become blurred by now, her tears landing on my cheeks as she looked down at me.

 

I heard another person gasp, before I heard a loud slam on the floor.

 

I felt a sudden rising in my throat like vomit. Leaning over as far as I can, which happened to be right by Sayaka's face, blood forced it's way out of my mouth. It seemed an awful lot of this blood ended up somewhere near Sayaka, evidenced by her gags and the sound of her retching. It was hard to see though...I was rapidly seeing more and more black spots in my vision.

 

"Ishimaru!" A distinctive male voice shouted.

 

That's when I blacked out.

 

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I awoke to shouting.

 

"So we have another traitor? Ugh...Why do we even have to be here?! We didn't do anything—At least I didn't!" The angsty voice of Leon Kuwata whined. I opened my hazy eyes to see all of the remaining classmates minus Mukuro.

 

"Yeah! Even my ball said so!" Yasuhiro absent-mindingly stroked his chin as he thought. "I got it! She could be behind this all, right? Why don't we just kill her so we can leave? Pretty good, right?"

 

"And if she isn't? Then we'll have an unnecessary death to this little game. That wouldn't be much fun, now would it?" Byakuya stated, looking, as always, rather pleased with himself.

 

"G-Game?" Chihiro stuttered, looking rather shocked.

 

"Yes. Isn't this what this is? Especially to the puppetmaster. We might as-" He was cut off by my brother.

 

"Ugh! Enough of this shit! Traitor or not, she tried to kill Ishi! God dammit, she deserves-"

 

"Death? I believe you would be playing right in to Monobear's paws if you, or someone, were to kill her." Kyoko spoke up. She made her way through the crowd of high schoolers.

 

"Master Kyoko Kirigiri, if I may. It's likely, right?! She is the other traitor's sister!" A few words of agreement were passed between a few students.

 

"I-I am not agreeing with f-fat scum like y-you when I say this, b-but she has to be a t-traitor!" Toko shouted, pointing at a random security camera. "I b-bet she's watching u-us right now!"

 

"Waa? Fat scum..." Hifumi looked crestfallen.

 

"So it is agreed? Mukuro Ikusaba is a traitor?" Celes questioned, tilting her head slightly.

 

"Yeah. God dammit! I'M GOING TO KILL THAT BITCH WHEN I SEE HER." Mondo screamed, putting his fist up for emphasis. 

 

"Then we'll know who killed her when we find her body." Kyoko spoke, her voice trailing off as she left the cafeteria. "I advise you all to check out the new rooms that seem to have opened up. Including the second floor." She left, but not before calling out to Makoto. "Naegi-kun, let's go." Makoto looked around him as if searching for someone else she had called. He pointed to himself.

 

"Me?" Kyoko nodded. Makoto looked confused following her, but did so nonetheless. They left.

 

"Another floor?"

 

"Really?"

 

"Well, unlike questioning whether there is second floor access like some people, I'm going to actually search for one." Byakuya left, with Toko trailing behind him.

 

The others dispersed in duos or trios, until the only person left in the room was Mondo and I. He sat down next to where I sat on the floor, looking anywhere but me.

 

It was only then I noticed my wounds had been bandaged. I felt sleep attempt to grip me, and, after a few moments, I allowed it to.

 

 

Chapter Text

Junko smirked as she watched her servants step over another dead body, being only one among thousands. I stood next to her, watching her every movement intently. Somehow we had managed to sneak a whole collection of cameras (each attached to a different member of Super High School Level Despair) in to a room close to the headmaster's office.

 

The room was decorated top to bottom with different cameras; most of them being in the room before we had even arrived. On one side of the wall held the security camera footage, while the other held the SHSL Despairs' journey to wreck havoc, offering live feed of exactly what they were doing. Junko seemed to love this feature, considering she can directly command her "soldiers" through an earpiece and make sure they were following her orders completely.

 

Oddly enough, the room seemed abandoned, and it probably was. The only reason Junko had chosen this room was because it had been locked for months, which she had so intelligently noticed. Mukuro had picked the lock and BOOM; here's our hide-out.

 

Junko suddenly sat up straight from her chair from where she was watching the SHSL Despair's movements. Gritting her teeth furiously, (that must be horrible for the enamel in her teeth) she marched over to the monitors, slamming her hands down on to the control panel, speaking in to the microphone right in the center of it.

 

"What the HELL is Nagito doing?" The SHSL Despairs jumped at Junko's no doubt booming voice, a few looking around them. "It's Junko, idiots! What-or for that matter, where- the hell is Nagito?" Junko snapped. Gundam spoke up, craddling his hamsters close to his chest.

 

"The Four Darks Gods of Destruction can not sense the lucky one's presence. The journey for him is a fruitless endeavour!" He bellowed, causing the students directly next to him to clasp their ears in pain.

 

"Hmm, is the worthless nut-job causing trouble again? I say we leave him-we can do fine without him!" Hiyoko's cruel laughter filled the speakers, her Monobear mask bouncing as she chuckled. Through Mikan's camera footage (which was attached to her Monobear mask) we saw Mikan go up to her, pushing her to the ground, on top of one of a maimed corpse. (A stream of insults was heard from Hiyoko.) She brought her hands to her chest, with drool slipping out from under her mask. She looked in the relative direction of nothing.

 

"Junko, what ever you need I will listen! You are the cause of all this greatness, hehe! What could I do? What could I do, my love?" Mikan gasped for air, stuttering as she so vividly expressed her attraction to Junko.

 

"Find Nagito, like I have said a thousand times by now! Get your disgusting whore self searching!" We heard Mikan's breath hitch at this, before it was let out in a loud sigh. Her breathing became erratic again, sounding as if she were to start having a panic attack.

 

"Hehe, of course! I will do what you say!" We saw Mikan's camera bounce as she ran, no doubt in search for the white-headed dementia patient.

 

"What a ugly, disgusting whore! Pushing me to the ground, acting like she is high and mighty when she is just useless scum!" Hiyoko growled what sounded as low as her childish voice could go. The obi to her kimono was unfurled from her fall, as well as having a bit of blood on the kimono itself (that wasn't just from falling, though.)

 

Mahiru seemed to notice this, judging by how she went straight to Hiyoko and began tying her obi. Hiyoko immediantly brightened at this, her whole posture changing.

 

"Big Sis! Thank you~!" She practically sang, her voice giving off a melodious ring. Mahiru nodded.

 

"Your welcome."

 

"Byakuya" asked a question no one had thought up. A question at least one person should have thought of. Through his perfect impersonation of the real Byakuya's voice, he asked,

 

"Junko. Wouldn't it make more sense to check Nagito's camera and speak to him through that?" Junko scoffed at that. She began to furiously speak in to her microphone.

 

"Didn't you think I tried that? I'm Junko Enoshima! Tell him, Taka!" Junko handed the microphone to me, her eyes holding a deep...ferocity? I don't know. Unable to and not even attempting to resist the order, I grabbed the microphone and began shouting in to it.

 

"JUNKO IS JUNKO ENOSHIMA!" I yelled excitedly. As I handed the microphone back to Junko, she hit me hard over the side of my head. A numb stinging feeling was left in her hand's wake.

 

"Not that, you fucking idiot! God!" Junko snatched the microphone from my stiff hands, plopping in to her chair from where she had stood up.

 

"I made no mistake! So shut the hell up and get to searching!" Her, or I suppose our, minions scattered, running in different directions like mice. It was amusing, in a way! Junko sat up straight, rubbing the tiredness out of her eyes. I think it was her being tired, at least. It's hard to tell. At the very least, she was extremely frustrated.

 

"Taka~! This is sooooo difficult!" Junko whined, her "cute" personality taking hold of her mind. She pouted, leaning her arm on the armrest of the chair. "It'll be worth it in the end though! I'll be ruler of the world! Hehehe, that'd be a sight! Despair everywhere, you know? Wow..." She sighed dreamily, before collapsing.

 

That's when my...flashback or something...faded to black.

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I woke up with a start. A blinding pain came from the area I was stabbed, reminding me I had to be careful with my wounds. Sitting up as gentle as I could, I squinted through the annoying light filling the room. I looked at my surroundings, not I didn't recognize the room at first, looking frantically between kanji writing on the wall and what looked like...a picnic blanket on a table in the center of the room, trying to at least get a grasp on where I was. Had I hit my head or something?

 

I felt my head, checking for any sorts of wounds or stinging. My head was pounding, a sure sign of an incoming migrane (I needed my morning coffee), but otherwise there was no injury. So who's room...Then I noticed a Crazy Diamond jacket slung over a chair that was postioned under a table. The same picnic table from earlier. Oh...It was Mondo's room.

 

Sure enough, just then a wet Mondo walked out of the bathroom, going straight to his jacket, his long, wet hair going down his back. Wrapping it on to himself and putting a towel on to his head, he just stood there motionless for what seemed like minutes. I watched intently, waiting for his next undetermined move. He finally began to do something, which was pacing and humming a catchy tune under his breath. It wasn't super exciting, but it was my brother; thus making it exciting!

 

This humming suddenly turned in to him singing Bohemian Rhapsody lowly, yet still plenty loud enough for me to hear him.

 

'Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?

 

I squinted as he suddenly began belting out the notes, horribly off key. Not to mention a few added words.

 

Caught in a fucking landscape,

Dammit , no escape from reality.'

 

The next verse was so incredibly out of tune I almost asked him to be quiet.

 

'Open your eyes

Dammit, why won't you look up to the skies and see,

I'm just a poor boy, don't you fucking dare give me sympathy,

Because I'm easy come, easy go,

Little high, little low

Anyway the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, 'cause I'm hardcore.

 

The next verse I HAD to tell him to please shut up. My ears were about to bleed.

 

' Mama, just killed a man,

Put a gun against his head

Pulled the trigger, now he's dead.

MAMMMMMMA, LIFE HAS JUST BBEGU-'

 

"AHHH!" I scrambled off of the bed, horrified by his awful attempt at singing. This, I quickly realized, was a horrible mistake, as I quickly felt...something rip open. Possibly stiches. Mondo jumped a foot in the air, before turning around and jogging to where I lay on the floor.

 

"FUCKING IDIOT, WHAT THE HELL YOU'D DO THAT FOR?" All he received was a blank stare from me. "Don't tell me..." I nodded solemnly in response to his unasked question. My uniform was oddly wet by now. "I'M REALLY THAT BAD?" I nodded again. "THAT'S BECAUSE I'M NOT A SINGER! THAT'S FOR FUCKIN' PANSYS!"

 

"Ugh...Okay, Oowada-kun."

 

"Don't tell anyone about this, you got it?!"

 

"Ummm-y-yes."

 

"Good. Alright, you okay?" He just decided to ask that question? It is proper manners to ask that before anything else when a person looked like they were dying! ...And if their uniform was drenched in blood.

 

"Ugh- No." Mondo sighed, lifting me off of the floor and on to his bed in one fluid motion.

 

"I'll go get Kyoko. She can restitch ya."

 

Mondo went off in a run, leaving me and my pain alone. A few seconds after he had left, the door opened. Chihiro was inside of the room now, their eyes looking pained once they saw my wounds

 

"I-Ishimaru-kun! What happened?" They timidly squeaked, looking up at me through tear-filled eyes. "D-Did I do something wrong? Is that why you're getting punished? I could have stopped this." They suddenly sobbed, tears spilling out of their eyes. I was quick to reassure them.

 

"No, it's okay Fujisaki-kun! There is nothing more you could have done! This was my own fault!" I smiled at them, which they hesitantly reciprocated.

 

"R-Really?"

 

"Of course, Fujisaki-kun!" They sniffled, smiling a blinding smile at me

 

"Is Kirigiri-san coming to fix you?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"O-Oh, then I should get going. I'm sorry..." They looked timid again, bowing their head down as if they were afraid I would yell at them. A knock sounded from the door.

 

"Trust me, it's okay Fujisaki-san! You can go let them in now, please." They nodded, scampering away. Makoto and Kyoko came in a second after they left.

 

Makoto sat on the bed, smiling tiredly at me. Kyoko got out a needle and thread from a first aid kit, wasting no time in lifting up my shirt, turning me around, and finally piercing it in to my back. She left it there, beginning what seemed to be an interrogation

 

"What business does Ikusaba-san have with you? Why did she want to kill you?" She held up her hand at Makoto, who I heard attempting to say something.

 

"I...I don't know. She just came at me." I felt my heart pierce as I lied, directly to her face nonetheless. Or, at least, somewhat to her face. She stuck the needle farther in to my skin, beginning to furiously stitch away.

 

"Well, I'll find out eventually. As I will find out eventually you just lied to me." The duo around me became silent then, silently giving me medical treatment. Kyoko left after that, seemingly forgetting about her lost puppy.

 

"Um, sorry about that. I think she's kinda stressed out." I nodded, staring at the door she had left through as much as I could, expecting her to notice Makoto's absense any second now. Sure enough, she poked her head through the door.

 

"Naegi-kun." She warned.

 

"R-Right! Bye, Ishimaru-kun!"

 

I sighed as they left, turning back around on to my back. Which was a bad idea, seeing as how I felt a searing pain from the thread through my back. I didn't feel a rip though, which was good, to say the least.

 

I looked around for a while, expecting Mondo to come inside his room again any second now. No such luck. My eyes were beginning to drift closed with the combination of both being tired and being bored, which I gladly allowed them to after a few minutes.

 

Chapter Text

I groggily opened my eyes, immediately seeing the blurry outline of the corn-like pompadour of a tense Mondo Oowada... It felt like he was...carrying me. Where to? I had no idea.



Sweat was crawling from his hairline to his brow. His face was scrunched up in what looked like...a mixture of suspense and nervousness. His lips were opened at one side of his mouth; revealing his gritted teeth. All of these traits wrapped together were nerve-wracking. Especially considering that I was inactive; meaning something else had caused his distress.



My stomach suddenly lurched. I felt blood rush to my head as I puked all over Mondo, the phenomenon either arising from my previous injuries or exhaustion. (I don't know why it'd be from exhaustion; my last memory was literally me sleeping.)



A yelp so high I knew Mondo would be embarassed by it (and that I faced second-hand embarrassment from) sounded from his mouth. I didn't have even a moment to contemplate what was happening before I was so rudely dropped on to the floor. I didn't really mind the pain at the moment, though, I was just focusing on not getting any vomit on to my uniform. Also not throwing up too much, I guess.



I felt myself become increasingly thirsty as I vomited all over the halls. I stopped puking for just enough time to grasp the general concept of where I was: the hallway where the dorms are located. I was immediately snapped out of the possibilty of wondering why I was in the location, why Mondo was carrying me, and why he had looked so tense when I felt like puking again.



I distantly heard the sound of Mondo profusely apologizing (which was rather out of character for him, if I may of said so myself) over the obnoxiously loud sound of my retching.



"Shit-Shit, shit, shit, SHIT! Hey, you okay? Sorry, man, just- What the hell? You don't just start puking on someone! Gimme a warning next time or somethin'!" I stopped my vomiting consciously for just enough time to look at him, bemused, when the vomit I had been holding in my mouth burst through my lips and on to the floor.



Mondo spoke up again, from where he had now started awkwardly patting my back.



"Yo-Um, you've been pukin' for a while. It's kinda...gettin' annoying." He backtracked. "Wait-No, I mean-Shit, DAMMIT!"



After a few more minutes of explosive puking, my stomach had finally decided it was done. Now I stood hovering above a brown sludge on the floor, chunks of my last meal stuck to the carpet.



"So...you done?"



I gulped, quaffing in a fresh breath of air as I nodded to my brother. He hefted me up over his shoulders, continuing his journey to...somewhere. I still needed to figuring out where we were going, by the way.



I opened my mouth to speak, yet let out a groan instead. Mondo suddenly stopped walking and turned his head so rapidly his pompadour hit me square in the eye. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to notice and merely left his hair there.



"SH-AH!"



"Huh? Oh, sorry man!" He shifted his head so his hair wasn't so...intrusive to my eyes. My face, too, for that matter. Mondo looked at me from under his ridiculous (and rule-breaking) hair, his narrow purple irises glaring in to my red ones. His apologetic expression was completely gone. He was dead serious.



"You're not gonna throw up on my jacket again, are ya?" As humorous as this sentence could be interpreted, he was completely dour. I was unbelievably frightened!



"U-Um...No?" Why did this have to come out as a question? Why? He was probably going to throw me on the floor again and be disgusted with me and we'd never be brothers and I'd be friendless again and...



Contradicting my thoughts completely, Mondo set me on the ground gently. Hauling me up and wrapping my arm around his shoulder he set forth with me at a lower altitude to previously.



"I'm sure ya can walk on your own..." He mumbled, just barely loud enough for me to make out. Hell, I wasn't even sure that was what he said!



I asked the question that had haunted my mind since I had woken up: where the hell were we going?



"Oowada-kun, I must ask you where we are going! You are to answer me immediately!" Mondo just looked at me; smirking a tad bit.



"Geez. Who put a stick up your ass?" I looked at him, my eyebrows furrowed. Well, according to multiple sources my eyebrows were always furrowed, but nonetheless they were more so.



"Brother!" Mondo stopped walking entirely at that; looking at me with a deathly glare.



"What'd you say?" I had been dreading that moment. The moment where all of my morals would be put to the ultimate test. The test of liars. Which I was just about to become.



"Uh-Nothing." My heart pounded against my ribcage, the guilt of lying taking full effect in my mind. I had lied to my brother. I would be lying to much more, I'm was sure, too. Was that the cost of purifying the world of evil?



There was no turning back.



"Right." Mondo trekked onwards. I heard him mumble under his breath, something that sounded remotely like, "yeah fucking right."



We continued for what seemed like minutes. It was probably in reality barely a minute, but the silence between us made is so much longer. I heard him mumble something else under his breath; for once his overpowering voice wasn't heard by others.



"What? Speak up!" I shouted. It probably did not come out as stern as I wanted it to be, considering the person I was yelling at was supporting me.



"I FUCKING SAID THE GYM!" Mondo stamped on the ground; obviously restraining himself. He submitted to throwing a minor temper tantrum instead. He looked between the ground and I, seeming to contemplate something. Finally, he sighed and recovered from his outburst. He spoke again.



"Yeah, uh, the Gym." I just stared at him as we continued to walk closer to the Gymnasium. That was my brother, all right. Wait...why are we going to the Gymnasium anyways? I voiced my concern.



"Oowada-kun, why are we going to the Gymnasium?" He just looked at me. He didn't respond for a few seconds, merely watching me from the corner of his eyes. Finally, he smugly grinned.



"Geez, stop being so formal, would ya?" I narrowed my eyes at him; what did he mean?



"Formal? What ever do you mean, Oowada-kun?" He locked eyes with me, looking slightly amused.



"Like that! You know you don't have to say the whole fucking name, right?"



"What?"



"Ugh! I MEAN not to say the whole fucking name of Gym. Just call it a Gym! Not so hard! Plus the way to say your sentences! Ticks me off." What? What the hell was that supposed to mean? Even if he was my brother, I wouldn't let anyone criticize proper Japanese!



"Excuse me, but this is merely proper Japanese!"



"See? Excuse me? Really? FUCK EXCUSE ME!"



"I don't see why you refuse to learn our national language, Oowada-kun."



"What? Fuck you!"



"You're resorting to profanity to prove your point!"



"WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM!"



"I am simply responding to your criticism on my speaking by critiquing your speaking habits."



"Yeah? At least I'm not a dick about it!"



"What's that supposed to mean?"



"Pretty damn clear, mister genius!" My heart stopped as I heard that comeback. I was stupid to think that Mondo wouldn't bring up something like that.



"Don't...Don't call me that." I mumbled, looking down at my shoes. I hadn't even noticed we had stopped walking in the heat of our argument. We looked to be right outside of the Gymnasium, coincidentally.



"Huh? What the fuck? Why you so moody all of a sudden?" I twisted my head when he tried to get a glimpse of my face.



"It's nothing..."



"Um...well, Monobear called us here. You know, to answer your previous question. I don't know why, though." I snapped out of my despair, snapping my head to face Mondo, yet only ended up colliding heads with him. With no time for remorse, I shot out my next word.



"Monobear?"



"FUCK-FUCK-FUCK! NOW YOU DECIDE TO NOT BE POLITE? DAMMIT! GAHHH!" Oh. It appeared Mondo was craddling his head in his one free hand. Oops. I wanted an answer to my unasked (yet implied) question though! Once Mondo had recovered, I opted to question him about it.



"Mondo! What does Monobear want?"



"Mondo? What the FUCK makes you think you can call me by my first name?" Crap. I've been making far too many mistakes today for my liking! I need to work harder to avoid making mistakes altogether!



"Uh-Um!"



"Whatever. I'm done with this shit. I don't know why the teddy bear wants us there; and I don't care. I just want to get this over with. If you stop dragging this on, then maybe that will happen!"



With that as his last spoken thought, Mondo dragged me in to the Gymnasium (not that I had much choice; he was the one holding me up.) Immediately we were greeted by the, sight of all 13 of the remaining students-including Mukuro.



"Took you imbeciles long enough. We could have had this over and done with already if you two had hurried." Byakuya snorted, turning his head away from the two of us.



Mondo didn't seem to listen to him. He was too busy staring at Mukuro, who was distancing herself from the others, his eyes rage-filled. Even if I wasn't necessarily good at "human emotions," even I could feel the negative energy spewing off of him. I don't know why, though. Mukuro hadn't done anything to him.



"WHY IS THAT BITCH HERE?" He roughly screamed, directing all of his unfounded hate at Mukuro. I wonder if his throat ever got sore from all of that yelling.



"Monobear called all of us here, yes? That means that even she, a traitor, or even the mastermind, would have to come." Celes pitched in, her hands covering her mouth slightly.



I stopped paying attention as they continued debating Mukuro. I was more interested in her. What was her thought process through all of this? Normally I wouldn't care about anyone's opinion about anything; yet I strangely felt...sorry for her.



She seemed to notice me staring, given by how she started glaring daggers at me. It felt like lightning was moving rapidly between us; all of it directed from her end. I felt myself start to tremble from fear. So much for caring about her.



It seemed Mondo had noticed my trembling. I felt him shift next to me. He let out a low growl; he begun to scream at Mukuro.



"WHAT THE FUCK? STOP STARIN' AT HIM, BITCH! MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS AND LEAVE HIM ALONE!" What? Wasn't he mad at me? Why is he defending me? I didn't understand.

 

"Oowada-kun-" I started.

 

"WHAT?" He looked at me, fire ablaze in his eyes.

 

"Why are you mad at M-Ikusaba-kun? She hasn't done anything to you!" Thank God I caught my mistake that time. The students would be really suspicious of me if I called their so called "mastermind" by her first name.

 

"Huh? CAN I NOT WANT YOU TO DIE?" He started up again. I realized he was my brother, but he really could invest in anger management classes! God knows it would help him.

 

...Wait, what? "Can I not want you to die?" ...Why would he care if I lived or died? He had never said anything like that when he had remembered our friendship (ignoring the fact that we weren't in a life-or-death situation then) so why would he care then?

 

It was impossible to tell.

 

I hadn't even noticed I was staring, blankly, until Mondo waved a hand over my face, snapping his fingers. I looked up, confused, as he looked at me with...concern? What was happening?

 

"I-Is Ishimaru-san okay?" Chihiro questioned, standing on tip-toes to look over Mondo's shoulders.

 

"O-Obviously not! N-None of us are thanks to that murderous s-snake!" Toko pointed her index finger at Mukuro, giving her an accusatory glare.

 

"Ooooh-Hmm,hmm. I've got it! Master Mukuro Ikusaba tried to murder Master Kiyotaka Ishimaru because of her deep love for him! A true yandere!" Everybody stopped moving, every single person glowering at Hifumi. Even Chihiro. Celes coughed, making her way over to Hifumi and smacking him on the back of the head (thankfully the one without her razor claw), his ahoge drooping a bit. She nodded and smiled pleasantly at everyone.

 

"Continue, please." The effect of her words were immediate. Words overlapped each other, and only a few sentences were coherent.

 

"What if she and her bear are going to tell us to stay in here forever, dude? I can't live like this forever!" Leon complained, his jeweled hands running through his hair at rapid speed. Oddly enough, this sentence had instantaneous effect at ceasing all conversation.

 

"F-Forever?" Sayaka seemed especially shaked up. Her hands were held to her chest, her eyes wide with fear. "I-I don't want to...I don't want to!" She fell on the ground, her limps in wild directions. "NO! I DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN HERE FOREVER! I DON'T WANT TO!"

 

The students simply watched as Sayaka had her breakdown, all, I thought, for the most part shocked the pop sensation was having such a nervous breakdown. Naegi moved towards her, his hands held out in front of him, probably as a calming gesture.

 

"Maizono-san, don't freak out--" Sayaka cut him off with a shrill scream. I winced, unable to block my both of my ears since one of my arms was around Mondo.

 

"DON'T FREAK OUT? WHY SHOULDN'T I FREAK OUT! EVERYTHING IS REAL! EVERYTHING THAT IS HAPPENING IS REAL! WE'RE ALL EITHER GOING TO DIE OR ROT HERE; AND I DON'T WANT THAT!"

 

Naegi took a moment, obviously thinking about his next words carefully.

 

"Maizono-san, please, we need to work together to find a way out. We all need to grab on to hope so we can get out of here! Together! We all want you to get out too, so please--" He was cut off with a sob. Followed by another sob. And another.

 

"Y-You don't care! None of you care! The only thing I have left is my group—And they're gone! Even if you say they aren't I-I know they are! I need to get out of here to...to live on in their name! I CAN'T ROT HERE!"


"Maizono-san...please..."

 

"YOU DON'T CARE! YOU NEVER EVEN BOTHER TO TALK TO ME IF I'M NOT LIKE THIS! DON'T YOU DARE ACT LIKE YOU'RE THE GOOD GUY!" Sayaka broke out in a sprint towards the door.

 

"WAIT! MAIZONO-SAN, WE CAN'T LEAVE!" Naegi pleaded with her, stretching out his arm in an effort to stop her. It was no use.

 

She tried to open the door, only to discover it was locked. Pounding her small fists on the door, she begged and begged for someone, anyone, to let her out.

 

"Tch. It's stupid to try; your efforts are useless." Byakuya commented, pushing up his glasses.

 

"I agree. Maizono-san, it is wasteful to use your energy on something as fruitless as this." Sayaka chose to; or rather, didn't hear both of them. She was too focused on breaking down the door and getting out of what she found a hellhole.

 

"You think I'll have you guys stay in here forever? I'm hurt! I'm not that cruel...unless you make me act that cruel by not killing each other, of course!" I was whiplashed as Mondo spun us around quickly to face the new menace. A menace even to me, considering I had no idea who was behind the controls of that Monobear.

 

Kyoko spoke up for the first time, striding to the front of our group. She coughed, quickly gaining the attention of everyone (even Sayaka; but to be fair Monobear had broken her out of her trance.)

 

"Why did you call us here? Do you have a new motive?" Monobear held a metal paw up, grinning somehow more maniacally than his already half-grinning face was.

 

"Oh, Kirigiri-san: always straight to the point! Hold on though! I was getting to that!" He spun around on the podium resting on the stage, one paw so elegantly held up. It was beautiful! "Now...before I was so rudely interrupted, I had something to tell you! I thought it'd spice things up; at least if you didn't already know~!" Monobear chuckled, stopped spinning, and wobbly put his paws up. "Ikusaba-san is a traitor! Yay~!"

 

Yasuhiro chimed in, "well, yeah, we already knew that."

 

Monobear put his paw to his chest, somehow gasping.

 

"Whaaaat?! You guys already figured it out?!" Monobear chuckled. "Or diiid you? Who knows?"

 

"GOD, JUST GET TO THE POINT! IF YOU KEEP DOING THIS I'LL KNOCK YOUR BRAINS IN!" Mondo screamed as friendly as he ever could.

 

"Oh~? Motives? Alright, if you insist..." Monobear hopped down from the podium, shuffling behind it and popping up again with packets. He threw them all to the floor; each labeled with a different name. Mondo laid me against the wall, going to get both mine and his.

 

Whoever was controlling Monobear believed they could send out motives now? This was my hard work and it would continue to be my hard work! At least it would have if they hadn't randomly stolen all of my chores.

 

I was cut off from my internal ranting by Mondo, who handed me the slip with my name on it. Mondo left me on the floor; probably too tired to pick me back up.

 

I unfolded the slip, curiousity overpowering my anger as I wondered what the motive was this time around. Let's just say I couldn't believe my eyes.

 

'Kiyotaka Ishimaru has been the one spreading despair through this world. He is the mastermind.'

 

I stared blankly at it. What? What? This didn't make any sense! Why would I get a motive? Of all people! They obviously knew I was the mastermind so...

 

I heard an intake of breath from beside me. I looked up to see my brother, frozen with shock. His eyes were opened with rage, and his teeth were gritted tightly. I could already guess what was on his paper.

 

I looked around at all of the other faces; all of them frozen with some kind of emotion. From an unempathetic overview, I could only make out the most basic of emotions. They were enough though.

 

Most of the faces were frozen with shock. Some held pain. Very few held indifference. All of them seemed to hold some kind of...fear, though.

 

"Upupupupu. Your darkest secrets, huh? What a shame! Especially a shame, since if a murder isn't committed in 24 hours all of those secrets would be revealed! Embarrassing, huh?" Secrets? That sounded familiar...

 

"I get wanting to keep these secrets hidden, but killing over it?" Naegi turned to the rest of us. "None of you would do that...right?"

 

"Well, I see this is a despairful matter, so I'll just be going! Call me back when you want more despair! Or, you know, when a murder happens! That would be despairful though, wouldn't it..." Monobear trailed off as he slowly sinks in to the ground.

 

"Guys...right?" Naegi continued from his previous comment.

 

"Tch. So naive." Byakuya left through the now unlocked Gymnasium doors, Toko right by his side.

 

"What? ...Guys..."

 

"Togami-kun was referencing how even if the secret is not bad for you, it could be bad for somebody else, I believe. It is no doubt true, too, judging by everyone's faces."

 

"...But..." Naegi trailed off, probably wishing to somehow deny this. I don't know, but what I do know is that many people in this room no doubt had a worse "memory" than Naegi. He was a pretty normal kid.

 

"Yet we will not know until tomorrow, correct? If someone is murdered, then we will know." Celes sweetly ended, walking out the doors.

 

Kyoko suddenly walked up to Naegi, taking him by his wrist and leading him out of the Gymnasium.

 

"Kirigiri-san! Where are we--"

 

"We're going investigating." Kirigiri whispered, coincidentally passing right by me as she said this.

 

Mondo sighed. I looked up at him, right as he was stuffing his slip in his pocket. He held his hand out to me, requesting me to get up. I complied, letting him haul me up and I wrapped my arm around his shoulders.

 

We walked in silence to the dorms. So much was on my mind: the motives, masterminds, who the hell was Monobear, everything pretty much. Mondo broke me out of my dilemma, breaking the silence.

 

"You're staying in my room tonight." That was definitely not the way I imagined him breaking the silence.

 

"W-What? What about my room?"

 

"You're hurt."

 

"I don't see how that would effect anything--"

 

"Oh my God, do I have to fucking spell it out for you? It's murder night, yeah? People will try ta kill you and stuff. People don't want to mess with me. Period." Oh...I hadn't thought of that.

 

Thus began the night before the next killing. A night that would be the turning point for quite a few people.

 

 

Chapter Text

I opened my eyes, hazily seeing a room that did not look at all like my own. It took a moment to get my groggy mindset to realize I was in Mondo's room; he had offered yesterday to allow me to sleep in his room...I thought...Yeah...that's what happened.

Where was Mondo then? I remembered he invited me to stay with him the night. I remembered he helped me in to the bed and immediately I was out like a light. So where was he? He should be sleeping here, too...

"Mo-Oowada-kun?" I called out hoarsely, desperately hoping he hadn't fallen victim to last night's motive. I couldn't help but think of the possibility he was...dead; considering how I really had no control over anything that happened anymore.

Mondo gave no response. I felt dread creep in to my spine.

"O...Oowada-kun?"

Still no response. More desperately, I shouted.

"OOWADA-KUN!" I felt tears sting at my eyes. I...should've expected this would happen eventually. It was bound to. I just wished I could have stopped-

"Ugh..." I immediately stopped my internal ranting when I heard Mondo's groan. The groan was quickly replaced by a yawn, which was rather long, I must say. I saw Mondo sit up from the floor, looking around, his hair wildly untamed and loose from its' gel confines.

I almost leaped with joy. My brother was alive! Of course, he was right when he said nobody wants to mess with him, so I should've expected this!

"Oowada-kun!" Mondo groaned and focused his eyes on mine.

"It's too early for this shit." With that, he slumped back down on to what looked like a makeshift bed.

Wait...what about the breakfast meeting? Surely he couldn't of forgotten about that! We did it every morning! (Even if he was late all the time, it was no excuse to not at least try!)

"Wait! Oowada-kun, what about the meeting?"

"What meeting?" He grumbled, his face still stuffed in to his pillow.

"The one we go to every morning!"

"Ugh..." Was he really too lazy to not get up and go to the meeting? I expected more from my brother!

"Oowada-kun!"

"We don't haveta be exactly on time..."

"Oowada-kun!"

"But..."

"Oowada-kun!"

"Five more minutes!"

"OOWADA-KUN!"

"GODDAMMIT, FINE!" He threw a pillow directly at my face from where I was now leaning over to glower at him. "Just shut the fuck up..."

He sat up, rubbing his hands over his face as he once again yawned. He looked up at me, his temper seeming to flare up once again.

"WHAT THE FUCK YOU LOOKIN' AT?"

"Oowada-kun, please control your volume!"

"WHY SHOULD I?"

"It is not right to use your outside voice inside here!"

"WELL THERE'S NOT EXACTLY AN OUTSIDE NOW, IS THERE?"

"Well-no, but-"

"EXACTLY! SO SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE!" I dejectedly sat face forward on Mondo's bed.

I saw Mondo steadily get up to go straight to his shelf that was lined with hair products. He turned to face me with a few cans of...I don't know, his arm was blocking the label.

Mondo looked between me and the cans, his teeth bared. A sudden tint of red came to his face, and he mumbled something while going into the bathroom. Weird.

Mondo didn't come out for exactly a hour. I checked. By then it was 7 A.M! It is very much not welcome in a school environment to be this late to breakfast!

"'Kay Ishimaru, ready ta go?" Mondo came out of the bathroom, nursing his new pompadour.

"Yes! We are extremely late!" Mondo lifted his eyebrow at this, going to look at the watch on my wrist I was holding out to him.

"..WHAT THE FUCK! YOU GOT ME UP SUPER EARLY AND WE AREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE THERE FOR A HOUR?" I stared blankly at him.

"On time is late!" Mondo looked like he was on the verge of punching me.

"UGH! ...Okay, okay...Listen, we are gonna stay here until 8. Why the fuck should we have to wait for a fuckin' hour until everyone else shows up?" Mondo seemed to think that was the end of our argument. I was not having that!

"But-" he bounded over to me and elbowed me hard in the stomach. I keeled over as I gritted my teeth in pain. Yet I was determined! If he thought I would give up that easily he was dead wrong!

He seemed to expect my impending words, given by how he slapped a hand over my mouth.

"UGH, WILL YOU FUCKIN' LISTEN FOR ONCE? WE'RE NOT GOIN' RIGHT NOW. PERIOD...plus I wanna talk to ya about some things..." Mondo's shouting suddenly turned into as timid a sentence that he could produce...Yet, I was curious. It's not like we were brothers anymore- why did he want to talk to me?

He sat right next to the knees of my still rather pained self. He groaned, reaching up to run a hand through his hair before thinking better of it, leaving his hand limp at his side instead. He shuffled awkwardly, clearing his throat several times before finally deciding to talk.

"So...I remembered that yesterday was a motive, yeah? So, I was thinkin' someone is probably dead." His eyes widened, backtracking immediately. "Wait! That sounded wrong. I meant...someone has ought to be, right? I'm sure they would be more...um, what's the word...quick to kill? You know what I'm saying?" Mondo questioned, his thin eyebrows drawn together in a scowl. I'd have to work carefully around this subject, I suppose.

"Um-Yes! I know what you are saying!" Mondo quickly glanced at me, raising his eyebrow slowly. Letting out a big sigh, he looked to the floor.

"Honestly, I know I shouldn't care whether random people live or die, but it's, ya know...I'm just wonderin' what the hell is going on." I looked at him. He looked far from scared. I thought. He didn't look exactly arrogant either; as far as I could tell.

I must've been staring at him a bit too long, because he shuffled uncomfortably and cleared his throat.

"Yeah, uh, I'm being too emotional, aren't I? God fucking dammit."
...
...
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...
...
...

Mondo and I entered the dining hall. I was infuriated to find most of the students were already there, smiling at us nervously as we entered the cafeteria. I was nearly the last one present! If this had been normal circumstances I would've ashamed my family with my tardiness--- I have to work harder to convince Mondo to come earlier, so I can come earlier.

Oblivious to my silent fuming, Mondo began to speak.

"Yo. So, uh, anything...ya know, happen yet?" Frankly this is what I deserve. To be cast as one of the sequel characters when I don't work to be an original character! To think I had been backed down because of one hard elbowing...

"Well we have a few people missing..." Once again an Ishimaru had disgraced his family name...the shame. The shame of my existence was evident! I'm just like those criminals that deserve to die! I deserved to die!

...
...
...
...
...

Huh? When did I get here?

I remember nothing. I think I just blanked out, or something.

My vision's black, too. Ahahaha, it's just the same, isn't it? The same as that time. I won't be worth anything this time, either. Will I? Of course not! Trash belongs in it's rightful place, after all! The dumpster.

Ah, I wonder what I will be thrown in this time! I wonder what will happen next; but who knows? The torturer would know, I'm guessing! Not whoever I am with now, though! Just God! I hope he's at least amused with my suffering!

Hmm...I suppose I should at least get a sense of where I am before I get my hopes up! Not that I would be worthy of such precious hope in the first place, I'm just a pawn! A pawn first for hope, and now for despair! What tragedy!

I smell the air, grinning a bit as I smell the rotting smell of burnt human flesh. Hmm... I wonder what has happened here! Ah...yet this pyronmaniac must have been glad to exterminate these humans, yes? What hope he must have felt.

I'm chained to a chair! A luxury compared to last time! These people are so generous! I guess I won't get too good luck this time. This is too precious to be "rewarded" by!

I feel really grimy. I rub my hands together, feeling dirt roll up together. Wow! So amazing! They knew I needed to look like trash, as well! True people worthy of hope! Of course, they know I need this despair! Such good intelluct!

The snap of strings gets my attention, and I grin widely in the direction of the sound. If I could see, I'm sure the man would look at me like trash! That'd be so amazing...

A gruff voice talks right behind me, saying something my disgusting ears were not fit enough to hear. Multiple people, perhaps? This is truly amazing! Would I get my long-due punishment? Ha...probably not. Oh well, but it would still be amazing to experience pain surely about to overtake me.

Footsteps near me, and my heart pounds in anticipation as they get closer and closer to my homely self. Or could it be fear? Both? Even people like me can experience such an emotion. Amazing! Everything is so amazing today!

The footsteps go behind me, and my heart is beating out of its' chest now! Please do something! Please! You'll feel such great hope torturing scum like myself.

My wish is granted as metal strings wrap themselves around my neck. They tighten, and I writhe from the pain and pleasure of it all! I gasp erratically as tears sting my eyes, willing the pain to keep going on. Please...

...
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...

We ran up the stairs, searching for the missing classmates that I had no idea who they were. To think I had ashamed my family twice in one day was despicable!

Mondo seemed to give up on holding me up and walking, instead deeming that I was fit to run again despite my wounds. He instead held my wrist as we reach the doors to the boys locker room, the last place that was not currently being searched.

We were just pushing open the doors, looking for some kind of semblance of life, when we heard a piercing, slightly boyish scream. Mondo seemed to forget about me, running towards the source of the sound alone. I suppose I'll put Kirigiri's stitching skills to the test...

I was hurting all over and I had to be extra careful not to pop any stitches, of course, but otherwise I made my way to where I see a few people running towards: the library.

...
...
...
...
...

"Oh, the gothic girl? Huh, I thought she would at least survive until the third motive. I think she made that motive specifically for her; now it's gone to waste. Aha, well at least we'll see cockroaches squirm to search for clues again! You know, you might've had a good idea for once. Congratulations, you're useful! For a short while...but then you're killed off!"

...
...
...
...
...
...

Byakuya kneeled on the ground, Toko passed out by his side, as he checked over the dead body of Celes. Celes' head was covered in blood, her pale face even paler than it had been before.

Byakuya turned around, scoffing. He rolled his eyes at Naegi, who was on the floor in fear. Clearing his throat, he spoke in an authorative voice.

"Well? Get to searching. We don't have all day; contrary to what simplistics like you believe. The game starts again."

Chapter Text

'Ding dong, bing bong. A body has been discovered. There will be a brief investigation period before the class trial.' The tension between Byakuya and the remaining students was broken by the body discovery announcement, Monobear's face appearing as soon as it went on the television. Byakuya actually looked slightly confused for once, his mouth open enough to show a bit of his teeth. His eyebrows quirked up a bit. A few other students showed this reaction to the announcement as well, including Kyouko.

She shared a look with Byakuya, nodding dismissively. All the students seemed to catch this; including me. Hifumi let out an obnoxiously loud cough, grinning as if he had just discovered his "OTP," as he would call it, had finally gotten together. Drooling at the mouth, he chuckled,

"As much as the fans would love this development, I believe an instance other than Master Celes' body's discovery would be appropriate. If you were to do this later...and let me watch, I'm sure the fans would be compelled to support your budding romance!" A few groans were let out from various mouths as Hifumi said those words. If only this wasn't about anime or fanbases or anything for once...is what I assumed everyone was thinking.

Leon groaned especially loud, actually having the gall to walk with purpose over to Hifumi just to hit over the side of the head, before striding back to his previous spot next to Sayaka with an expression of pride written all over his face.

Hifumi decided to take comfort in cowering by himself, his beefy arms over his head. Everybody seemed to decide to turn to look away from Hifumi over to Byakuya at the same time, expecting an answer to his and Kyouko's behavior. Byakuya merely smirked his trademark I-know-something-you-don't smirk before turning back to the gothically dressed body on the carpeted floor.

I dismissed his behavior. Considering it's Byakuya, it's either going to come up later or it's just him being irrationally difficult. Or both.

Suddenly a puff of smoke appeared right next to Celes, causing myself and many others in the room to gag from the sudden inhaling of it. The smoke cleared, revealing Monobear with an estatic grin on his face. At least, I think it was a grin. That might just be his normal face.

One of the few not affected by the smoke and therefore not coughing, Byakuya simply cleared his throat before saying,

"Is it really required to make such a grand entrance?" Byakuya pushed up his glasses cooly. Monobear chuckled darkly.

"Well I have to keep things interesting, don't I? What kind of host am I if I don't do
that? A bad host! If I do keep things interesting I'm--"

"--Still a host we don't like." Byakuya earned a few hoarse chuckles at his comment, most noticeably from Mondo and Leon. And me. It's not like I'm controlling Monobear anymore-- If the plagiarist wished to steal my hard work so bad they would have to suffer our ridicule!

"Ouch—That hurts, Togami-kun...I thought we had something. We're both cruel, malicious, and all around sadistic..."

"Perhaps, but that doesn't excuse--"

"Alright, I'm bored." Monobear gave a yawn for emphasis. Byakuya sputtered, infuriated at being cut off, from behind the back of Monobear. Monobear walked over to the still on the ground Makoto, handing him a folder that looked just like the Monobear File from the last time. Makoto looked intensely at the folder, gulping as he plucked it from Monobear's paws and stood on shaky legs.

"Wha—"

"I'm tired of all these questions! Bears need to sleep too! The details of the gothic obsessed girl's death is in there!" Monobear's voice took a childish, malicious edge as he held his claws up at Makoto. The bear waited, as if waiting for someone to challenge him, before he waved goodbye as he walked away from the scene of the murder.

...Wait...I had just realized that I didn't even know who killed Celes! For all I knew, it could've been a suicide or even by the claws of the imposter!

I quickly followed Monobear to outside the library, shoving past my brother. I heard a distant call for my name, but honestly I did not care in the slightest who saw me. I needed to know the truth!

It seems Monobear had been waiting for me. When I had opened the doors to the hallway and turned my head to look for the two-toned bear, I had been met with a sinister smirk and two metal arms crossed.

I merely stared into the bear's red eye for a moment. Red met red, with Monobear staring straight back into my irises.

"Monobear?" Monobear place innocence, tilting his head "cutely" and blushing slightly.

"Yes?"

"How...do I discover who the killer is?" I questioned, still glaring intensely into the robot's eyes.

"That's for you to figure out, isn't it?" Monobear backfired, giggling a little. The red eye of his twinkled with artificial amusement. This is too far-- I already didn't know who was controlling my android, but to even get to the point where my mastermind privileges are taken away! To say the least, I was infuriated by the "new mastermind's" slackery and encouragement of the worst kind of plagiarism--any kind of plagiarism!

I watched in contempt as Monobear attempted to walk away, instead grabbing him by the back of his neck to stop him in his tracks. I was not going to accept his attempt at running away from his crimes! I had been slacking from my prefect duties lately; not again would I make the same mistake!

Monobear squealed from under my hand, his robotic paws going to cup around my hands in struggle. I leaned up to his bear-like face, an angered vibe no doubt spewing off of me. Monobear shrank a bit.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN? WHO ARE YOU? WHAT DO I DO TO DISCOVER THE MURDERER? I DEMAND YOU ANSWER ME AT ONCE!" I couldn't help but vent all of my frustration of the last few days out on the monochrome bear. I was so enraged—I did nothing wrong, yet everything that seems suspiciously like karma seemed to indicate I did! All I did is cleanse the world of both evil and filth, something this world needed more than anything! To think I would be brought down by despicable evil-doers is unthinkable!

"Violence against the headmaster is forbidden!" The bear's red eye began to beat red along with a continuous beeping sound to go along with it. They wouldn't kill me, though! They needed me! My dedication is what was keeping the whole project going!

"ANSWER ME!"

"Violence against the headmaster is forbidden!"

"I DEMAND YOU TO PAY FOR YOUR CRIMES AND CONFESS SO YOU CAN HAVE A SOMEWHAT MERCIFUL--"

"ISHIMARU!" All of a sudden a huge weight slammed into my shoulder, sending me sprawling to the floor. A painful sting went all around my body from the damage of hitting my previous wounds once again.

An ear-splitting blast akin to that of a bomb went off somewhere near us. The horrid scent of dust and smoke filled my nostrils. Heat seared my face and body as I looked up at the devastation.

I screamed in horror as I looked at the apparent dead body of the torn-up Mondo Oowada. The same Mondo who had just saved my life. The same friend of mine who allowed me to call him brother!

Flesh littered the ground around him. A lone arm laid a few feet away from him. Overall...everything was destroyed. My whole life...everything I had worked for seemed not to matter anymore. Mondo Oowada was dead...and it was my fault.

My stupid mouth had earned him death! My brother was never coming back...

I hadn't even realized I was screaming until Makoto put a hand on my shoulder. He leaned over to me and whispered something to me, something I couldn't care less to make out.

I still stared in horror at Mondo. I felt myself crawl over to him dizzily, studying his face for any signs of life. Instead I found none.

None.

He was dead.

My brother was dead...

HE WAS DEAD!

A sob escaped my throat. Soon enough, another sob followed. Another. Another.

I hunched over Mondo's body, begging for SOMETHING to bring him back.

A tear hit his face. Then another.

I knew this was never going to bring him back though...Yet mourning the loss of the one I loved above all is all I could do. The one who had made a small shimmer of hope light up my despair. HE was the one who made me think again about everything I was doing...HE was the one who I wanted to live...

My tears caught in my throat as I stared wide-eyed at the slowly waking up form of Mondo. I felt the need to cry again with the way he stared glassily up at me, though.

"Ishimaru?" Mondo questioned weakly. He looked around, confused.

"O-OOWADA-KUN!" Mondo looked especially confused now.

"Oowada-kun? You haven't called me that for a long time..."

"W-What do you mean?"

"We were brothers, weren't we? Bros?" Mondo was looking at the ceiling now, his eyes blank.

"How—"

"Wait...I saved you...didn't I, bro?" I felt tears well up in my eyes once more. A single tear cascaded down my face as I clutched my brother's sleeve in my hand.

"Yes...You...saved my life." I managed to say through my fast approaching sobs.

"Even though you betrayed us...You were gonna make up for it, weren't you, bro? You were forced into it...They betrayed you, too. You never wanted to hurt anyone, did ya, bro?" Mondo said, still looking up at the ceiling.

"..."

"You don't have to say anythin'. I know you better then you know yourself, and I know you didn't wanna hurt us."

"B-Bro..."

"Finally..."

"Brother?"

"I killed one brother...but I saved another. At the cost of my own life, but..." My heart sank as he mumbled this...No! I wasn't going to let the most important person to me die! It wasn't happening! It wasn't!

"Bro...I'm sorry. Must suck havin' to be alone through this. Better than being dead though, right?" He gave a dry, hollow laugh.

"Please..."

"I thought I would have gone out differently, though...like a badass, ya know? Lotta police men and then about twenty bullets before I finally go down. I know you woulda wanted somethin' more honorable for me...but that's about all the honor I've got. Sorry."

"Bro...please don't leave me!"

"A bomb is kinda cool too, though, right? I mean...it looks like I have a detached arm. That's pretty badass..."

"No...You can have a much more badass death sometime else!"

"Sorry...too late for me. I already can't feel any pain. Fatal sign, ya know? My gang members that were lost in the field always said they couldn't feel any pain."

"You can't leave me!"

"I'll be fine! I'm sure there's a nice place reserved in hell for me. Same for you. We'll see each other again eventually!"

"Brother!"

"You still have some sins to make up. Well...I do too, but both me and you know that'd take a life-time to make up for. I guess the same is true for you, but you can at least try to restore the world!"

"P-PLEASE! I'M BEGGING YOU!"

"I love you, man."

Mondo's eyes finally shut, his entire body suddenly slacking.

"BROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" I screamed, desperate for the only person in my life that mattered to come back to me.

"Ah...Such a wasted death. Oh well! I suppose I won't kill you today—You're too important to be killed anyways. Well, at least right now." A brand new android of Monobear piped in.

I would of immediately tried to virtually kill whoever was in the Monobear suit if not for Kyouko, who seemed to sense my distress.

"Remember that Oowada-kun sacrificed himself because of the same mistake you were about to make again. Do not put his death in vain." I looked up solemnly at her, my vision of her blurred with unshed tears.

I looked at Mondo once more. He looked peaceful in death...in the worst way possible.

I looked back at Kyouko. She looked oddly empathetic to my pain...

I wrapped my arms tightly around her legs, squeezing them as I cried my heart out for the one I love. She patted my head awkwardly, but I didn't care. I just needed support for everything...Everything that was Mondo.

Mondo...Brother...

Please forgive me.

Chapter Text

"This is a complete waste of time. Shouldn't we get back to investigating?" Byakuya spoke over my continued wails. I looked up to see him blurringly being slapped by Sayaka.

 

She immediately looked horrified by her actions. She knelt to the floor and begged for Byakuya's "forgiveness." It was a useless endeavor, though. He deserved everything that Sayaka did to him. Well—all the bad things.

 

He was exactly the type of person I was working to exterminate from this Earth. If only someone else would do it for me before I break my own rules.

 

I knew all of my malicious, yet well-founded, thoughts were a result of my own grief. I was well aware of it. Why should that stop it, though? Even in his final moments, Mondo thought I was doing the right thing! Well, I thought he did. Either way, I had to live on to carry on his legacy!

 

To think even my brother knew the true horror of this world! To think we could've been masterminds together! If only I'd known—I would've try everything in my power to make him a mastermind, too! To think my own cowardice to ask along with the foolish notions of thinking the controller of Monobear wouldn't kill me had gotten my brother killed...

 

Every thought, every action, every little subtle movement had all led to this: Mondo's body on the cold, hard ground. If I hadn't tried to befriend him he wouldn't of protected me! I would've died as a reminder of my failure of protecting both my hard work and goals! It would've made sense; I deserved it.

 

Yet now I was going to reclaim my victory! Mondo had given me a wake-up call. I needed to be less merciful, more proactive, basically everything related to being the perfect mastermind! Even though my brother died in my arms for me to realize that...I can't give up! For both mine and his sake!

 

"Uh—Ishimaru-kun...your hair..." Chihiro pointed out, their single right index finger pointed at me.

 

"Yeah? Fuck's wrong with it?" Chihiro yelped and shuffled behind the nearest person: Leon.

 

"Woah, dude. Take a chill pill. I mean...I get it, your sudden "bro" died but...No reason to get all super saiyan." Leon muttered lowly, scratching his goatee absentmindedly.

 

"YOU TAKE A FUCKING CHILL PILL! I AM CALM!"


"You're not even using that word right, dude."

 

"I SAY WHAT I USE RIGHT!"

 

"Do you?" Hifumi chips in.

 

"YES!"

 

"Most interesting talent..."

 

"WHY ARE WE JUST STANDING HERE? WE NEED TO FIND CELES' KILLER; BRO WOULD'VE WANTED US TO! LET'S GET TO FUCKING INVESTIGATING."

 

"We can fuck investigating? I'm not into that, but..." Leon snickers to himself. How DARE he joke when my brother was just brutally murdered? My brother was the only source of light left for this hopeless group of savages! It was darkness from here on out, and he dared to kid?

 

"ARE YOU USING BRO'S DEATH IN VAIN?"

 

"What? No! We need someone to lighten up the atmosphere, right?"

 

"Not the time, Kuwata-kun..." Sayaka spoke up. Kuwata blubbered for a few moments, before finally falling silent. It is finally time for me to wield Mondo's spirit!

 

First order of business—WHY THE FUCK IS MONOBEAR DRAGGING MY BROTHER'S BODY?

 

I ran up to the dragged limp corpse of my brother, grabbing on to his legs to keep him from being drug away. Monobear, who was dragging Mondo by his sole arm, jumped a foot in the air.

 

"Ah! Wha-What are you doing?!"

 

"Saving my bro! Let go of him, you toy!" Monobear leapt on to Mondo's belly and gave me a hard punch on the top of my head. He dares touch me? HIM? A no-good, crime-committing devil that killed the only person I truly cared about since submitting to despair, and now he wishes to do even a portion of the same to me?

 

"T-Toy? I'm bringing him to the bio lab—ya know, where dead bodies go?!" ...Wait a second.

 

"Bio lab?" Kyoko questioned. She took the words right out of my mouth! She used sorcery! Would my brother tolerate sorcery? I'll ask his spirit later!

"Oops!" Monobear disappeared in a flash. My brother was gone with him. The only thing as a remembrance of him left was his arm, cut from his body from just above the elbow down.

 

I hadn't realized I had picked up that arm until I felt another tap on my shoulder. Looking behind me, I saw Makoto once again. This time he looked much more hesitant than he previously did, scratching behind his head as he looked at me.

 

"Fuck do you want?" Makoto yelped and scrambled for an explanation of his invasion of my obviously private time.

 

"Um, well, you see--"

 

"Get on with it."

 

"R-Right! So, we need to investigate now and we could use all the help we could get...I mean—You don't have to help if--"

 

"Stop your rambling. I'll go."

 

"Wait...what?" I sighed and rubbed my face in exasperation.

 

"Listen to me when I fuckin' speak. I said before bro would want me to solve this case! I will do just that! I WILL LIVE ON IN HIS LEGACY!" Makoto shied away from me for a moment, before finally breaking out into a slight smile.

 

"Thanks, Ishimaru-kun." Ishimaru? No...I am not Ishimaru anymore! I am not even Kiyotaka. I AM KIYONDO ISHIDA!

 

"I AM ISHIDA!"

 

"What—"

 

I pushed past Makoto and burst into the library, where all the participants of the investigation seemed annoyed by my return. I did not care, though! Mondo would not care about how he appeared in public, so neither will I!

 

"Hey, Ishimaru-kun, you alrigh--"

 

"I AM ISHIDA! NOW GET TO INVESTIGATING BEFORE WE ARE ALL KILLED BY YOUR SLACKERY!" I shouted at whoever had showed concern for me. They must know I, Kiyondo, would never be not alright! I would never use a double negative again, either!

 

First things first: the body. The pale form of Celes still laid on the ground, unchanged. Not that I expected change! It seems no one was checking over the corpse, oddly enough. Kyoko was checking over something on the floor. Byakuya was looking on his hands and knees (quite a sight to see such a heir like that) under the library desk.

 

I decided to take the initiative in searching Celes. First came her wound, of course! The top and left side of her head seemed to be where most of the blood was.

 

I crouched down to look at the fallen gambler. She looked almost peaceful in death...yet not as much as my brother. The same brother I had just killed...

 

Dammit. Not the time. I shook the thought out of my head as I looked closer at Celes' now red mop of hair.

 

It took a few moments to notice a few spikes of brown sticking up from her scalp. It looked woodish, like splinters. They must be very severe blisters to cause this kind of devastation!

 

What the hell could've given Celes a head of splinters? A chair?

 

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" WHAT THE HELL? WHO THE FUCK FINDS IT ALRIGHT TO SCREAM BLOODY MURDER DURING A MURDER INVESTIGATION?

 

"Quiet down! Some people are actually trying to find clues here!" Byakuya yelled. I heard the beat of sandles hitting the floor repeatedly, turning around to see Yasuhiro enter the library. He gasped for breath.

"Get the fuck on with it already!" I snapped. Does he not know how to speak and breath at the same time? Seriously. Some "clairvoyants."

 

Yasuhiro, the pansy, screamed again as I yelled at him. Seriously, if he was to be part of a killing game he has to expect some hostility. Especially viciousness rightfully earned! I mean, my brother would've yelled at him.

 

"I found the murder weapon! I think." Now that perked my interest. It obviously did to those around me, as well, because everyone seemed to turn to Yasuhiro at the same time.

 

"Well, why didn't you say that earlier?" Byakuya scowled. Yasuhiro pointed his finger at him.

 

"Why don't you try to find the murder weapon and then run back here only to be yelled at? If anything, I think I deserve a few medals."

 

"Well? What did you find?" Kyoko cut straight to the point, walking over to Yasuhiro in a few strides. Yasuhiro scratched behind his head while smiling slightly. It must've been good!

 

"A chair."

 

A CHAIR? BRO JUST DIED AND NOW HE DARES TO JOKE AROUND? IGNORING THE POINT OF IT BEING CELES' DEATH WE WERE INVESTIGATING!

 

"A CHAIR? DO YOU WANT ME TO SHOVE A CHAIR UP YOUR ASS FOR BEING SO CLUELESS?"

 

"No! I mean—The chair was all--"

 

"Chair-like?" Hifumi interjected. Yasuhiro let out a loud and low sound of annoyance. His face turned beat-red with anger.

 

"The chair was covered in blood!"

 

"Have the "spirits" finally gotten to your head?" Byakuya snarked. Kyoko held her chin in her hands, tenderly stroking it with her gloved thumb.

 

"Bring me to it, Yasuhiro-kun." Yasuhiro's anger quickly faded away and he bore a smile. He curled his fist up to his chest.

 

"Sure thing, Kirigiri-chi!"

 

"Alright. Come on, Naegi-kun." Naegi jumped from where he was investigating the bookshelves. He pointed at himself slowly. Tiredly, he said,

 

"Me?"

 

"Who else?"

 

...

...

...

...

...

 

I keep glancing at Kirigiri-san, who is walking beside me like it is just a normal day. Well, maybe it is. She isn't exactly the most open person for all the time she drags me around with her.

 

Speaking of which, why does she drag me around through all of our investigating? I mean, just yesterday she made me follow Celes with her. Obviously it didn't help prevent her murder.

 

I'm just an ordinary kid. No special talents for me. I mean, she could've chosen someone like Togami-kun. God knows he's more skilled in this stuff than me. Disregarding the fact he isn't exactly the most pleasant person to be around.

 

She looks so determined, too. It's kind of weird. I mean, if I were solving this case on my own I'd be wetting myself every passing second. She basically is solving it on her own, too. I doubt she's wetting herself, either.

 

She turns to look me in the eye. Oops...um, looks like she caught me staring at her. I'll just pretend it was a small glance.

 

I turn to look at Hagekure-kun, who is leading us to his "chair." Just when enough time is passed, I turn to look at Kirigiri-san again, but she is still staring at me. Great. I might as well ask why she keeps inviting me along for the ride.

 

"Um...So, Kirigiri-san, why am I here?" She stares at me for a second more, before smiling slightly.

 

"You have no talent--"

 

"Thanks."

 

"—meaning Monobear will never suspect you." What does that even mean? If only she was less mysterious...

 

"What does that mean?"

 

"I can't really tell you now. If you came to the bath house after the trial I can."

 

"The...bath house?" Damn my male hormones. Now I can't stop inappropriately thinking of Kirigiri-san in a small towel. A really, really small towel. A white, fluffy towel that barely covers her...parts. Hopefully she doesn't notice...a certain change in my lower regions.

 

"Yes. They have no cameras there. We could talk about practically anything." Oh...that makes more sense than what I was thinking. Plus, I doubt Kirigiri-san is that kind of girl...Wait. What does she want to talk about, anyways?

 

"What do you--"

 

"Don't say anymore. We have to focus on this investigation for now."

 

"...Alright." I guess I'll just have to wait...but hopefully we make it through this investigation so I can find out what she means. Well, besides my friends and I dying if we don't figure out who Celes-san's murderer is.

 

"I will say this though..." I look over to Kirigiri-san, who looks deep in thought, her bangs hiding her eyes as she looked down, cradling her chin, "I think I know who the mastermind is." My eyes widen to plate size. Surely she can't be serious. There is nothing that can point to who the mastermind is!

 

I am about to say something else, but I'm cut off by Hagekure-kun.

 

"Ah ha! Here it is!" Sure enough, right on the floor of the entrance way to the boys' locker room is a broken to bits, bloodied chair. If I wasn't told by Hagekure-kun it was a chair, I wouldn't even be able to put my finger on a certain object it could be. Pieces of the former chair litter the ground as small, wooden particles.

 

"Naegi-kun, would you put this evidence into your Electro ID?" Kirigiri-san clearly says, moving to the chair to pick up a piece of chair that was especially covered in blood. I cringed. How can she do that so easily? "Naegi-kun?"

 

"R-Right!" I pick my Electro ID out of my pocket. Typing in the evidence that will probably help fuel everyone else's investigation, I snap a picture of the chair fractures.

 

>Bloodied Chair Fragments

 

"Good." Kirigiri-san nodded. She really has no idea how intimidating she is when she's like this, does she? Probably not. "Put in our testimonies, too."

 

"What?"

 

"We followed the victim last night. We need to say that in the trial room, don't we?" Oh...right. I type on the Electro ID still in my hand.

 

>Naegi's Testimony

 

>Kirigiri's Testimony

 

I look up at Kirigiri-san with a slight smile. She doesn't meet my eye. Hagekure-kun does, though. He doesn't seem to be in the best state of mind right now. His face is beat-red, just as it had been when Togami-kun had provoked him. Uh oh.

 

"Wait! So, you saw the killer last night and you are barely bringing this up?!" Kirigiri-san just barely rolls her eyes. How I noticed I have no idea. God knows she barely shows emotion, including annoyance, and when she does it's hard to spot. From what I've seen of her, at least.

 

"No, we didn't. I very specifically said "we followed the victim," not that the we know who the killer is." Hagekure-kun huffed before smiling again.

 

"Oh, okay, Kirigiri-chi!" Kirigiri-san went back to her previous work at investigating the fragments of a former chair. I am curious about something, though.

 

"So, Hagekure-kun, how did you find these anyways?" I bend and pick up a piece of chair for emphasis, making especially sure to pick up one without blood. Showing it to him, he smiled and pointed at it.

 

"Oh, that's real simple. I figured everyone's going to be looking at the body, so I just searched the second floor. This happened to be the first thing I stumbled upon."

 

"That's actually smart."

 

"Thanks, Naegi-chi!"

 

...

...

...

...

...

...

 

A ping as familiar as the dark side of the moon went off in my jacket. I dug out the source of the ping, my Electro ID, seeing Byakuya, who was crouched next to me in a display of slight humility, do the same. It was just the normal clue status update though...it seemed the fraud had changed the sound effect of the device. Well, on the bright side the murder weapon was found. In small pieces. Found nonetheless. I would have to applaud Yasuhiro for that. I'm sure my brother would've done the same

 

I had moved on from looking at Celes' head wound to instead focus on getting a shiny object Byakuya's crow-like instincts seemed to find very interesting from under the floor boards. Byakuya was anything but pleased by my help, but he'd have to fucking deal with it. I'm not going to sit back and just watch as a fancy heir acted like an imbecile. That would be a crime to allow that kind of humiliation!

 

Besides, I had forgotten Celes' fatal wound was listed in the Monobear file...Speaking of the Monobear file, had anyone bothered to list that as a clue? I guess I'd have to find out myself.

 

I tapped on the touch screen, leaving annoying fingerprint smudges in my wake as I looked for signs of the major detail being added in. Sure enough, it wasn't. I suppose the act of my foolishness and...my brother's rather...anyways, I'm sure it distracted everybody. For once they can't be blamed for the wrongs of this world.

 

>Monobear File

 

There we go. That'll do it. Good thing I'd noticed, too, or else we all might have been dead come the class trial.

 

I'm not sure how much I cared about anyone dying now that the only person I really cared about was gone. My brother, I'm sure, thought I was doing the right thing though, so I can't die right now. I know he would want me to rid this world of evil!

"There we go...What?" Byakuya managed to get the shiny object from before unstuck, but it was a bit away from what I was expecting, to say the least. Byakuya now held a kitchen knife in his hand, as bright as the day it came in the package. Despite being shocked for a second by this no doubt game turning revelation, Byakuya quickly regained his composure.

 

Pushing up his glasses, he held up the knife for closer inspection.

 

"What the fuck are you doing?!" Byakuya held his finger to his lips to signify silence. Well, then. Fuck you too!

 

"Quiet. It might be hard for an imbecile like you to understand, but this is what I like to call "further inspection." The name is self-explanatory." Byakuya nodded and brought the Electro ID that was still in his hand to eye-level with his face. Holding up the knife the same way expect parallel to the ID, Byakuya snapped a picture. The flash from the ID bounced off the knife for a second, before stopping,

 

>Kitchen knife

 

I backed out from under the table, knocking my head on the table as I went out. My work was done. Something was...rather odd though. The table that I had knocked my head on was kind of sticky. The kind of sticky you have when you get glue stuck to your hands, yet wetter. A lot wetter.

 

I saw a flash go off from the corner of my eye to right above my head. I turned around to see Byakuya with his Electro ID in hand, typing something vigorously into the technological device.

 

>Bloodstain on desk

 

...Is that what that was? That's...not the most pleasant thing to bump your head on to. I avoided looking up just as a child that didn't want to be called on in class would.Not that I ever was that kid, of course, but from what I've read a lot of children didn't seem to like that!

 

"Can you be any slower? We could--"

 

"The investigation is now over. Report to the elevator to attend the class trial; which is mandatory." The announcement was definitely different from last time. I guess there's no going around it, though. Guess the mastermind has to actually be on the verge of life-and-death. I'd make my brother proud, though! I would wield his spirit, as spiritual guidance, of course! In fact, I was already wielding it! That's why I was so wise!

 

Here went nothing.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The remaining classmates shuffled far into the edges of the cramped elevator. The elevator was even more cramped as a result of this motion. The purpose of this movement was simple: to get as far away from Mukuro as possible; who was standing in the middle of the elevator with a stone face.

 

Leon shuffled next to me, leaning into Sayaka who let out a squeal. He proceeded to crush me farther into the already-suffocating-me Hifumi, who was hogging about 1/4 of the right side of the elevator.

 

"I mean, I get she's here 'cause she's a student too, but that doesn't mean she has to be so...scary-looking." Leon whispered rather loudly to Sayaka. She subtly nodded her head in agreement. Mukuro turned to look at them, her hollow eyes causing rather obvious discomfot in the duo.

 

Leon turned to me after she looked away. Leaning up to my ear and whispering much lower than he had before, he said,

 

"Hey. So...We should, like, tie her up after this is done, right? I mean—she's dangerous and probably has a ton of information about the mastermind and stuff." I was astonished by Leon's blatant uncaring nature for the wellness and happiness of fellow students! That shit is not welcome in a school environment!

 

"HOW DARE YOU, KUWATA-KUN! TO SO OBVIOUSLY--" Leon reached up and slapped his hand around my mouth, myself blubbering in an attempt to keep scolding him. He deserved a scolding for his disconcern! Yet somehow I'm the one with a red sting around my mouth from his rather calloused hand.

 

"Shush!" He hissed as Mukuro looked our way. He awkwardly waved at her, his rings jingling as he did so. She eventually gave up at trying to decode our whispering after a period of awkward waving, turning to face the elevator doors again. How long has this elevator been going down, anyways?

 

He sighed, rubbing his free hand over his face. He looked up at the infuriated me, his mouth drawn into a scowl.

 

"I thought you were gonna be all cool since you're acting a bit like Oowada-kun, but I guess not. Now you're both a prick and scary." He growled as a last remark, scooting past me to begin whispering to Hifumi. Had he just insulted bro? I'd make sure he gets a lesson for even daring to speak ill of the dead, especially someone as esteemed as Mondo! See, I wouldn't mind if he were just talking about a dead genius, go ahead and scream about how worthless they were all you want. Mondo was most certainly not a genius though!

 

The elevator slammed to a stop, the metal doors creaking open to reveal the new courtroom. Leon better be glad he escaped my wrath—Mondo's wrath! I'd make sure he got payback later, though. Possibly garbage duty.

 

"Um—Is something a bit different here?" Chihiro questioned as the students all stepped off the carpeted elevator platform in to the courtroom. I have no idea what they meant—It was just a class trial courtroom.

 

"Different?" Yasuhiro asked, his hand reaching up to run through his "glorious" mane.

 

"Well—I mean, it looks different than the last courtroom, right?" I still had no idea what they were mumbling about.

 

"I ORDER YOU TO ELABORATE!" Chihiro squeaked as tears leaked out of their eyes. Someone hit me on the back of the head, and I turned around to see Kyoko giving me a disapproving glare.

 

"I-I—It just looks--" Chihiro cried.

 

"She's saying--" Kyoko began, before getting cut off by someone rudely interrupting her.

 

"That the decorations are different," Mukuro began, pushing through the crowd of oblivious students. Including me. To think I had been so foolish! My brother would be so disappointed at me—Especially for yelling at a delicate classmate! "Think to last class trial. The colors and accessorys were kind of monotone—in fact there was never any decorations, even. This is because Junko never anticipated her own death." Mukuro stopped in front of me, looking at me from the corner of her eye for a moment before settling into her class trial seat, in between the portraits of the deceased Junko and Aoi.

 

"Who asked you, you f-flea-covered swine!" Toko yelled, pointing an accusatory finger at the once again completely neutral girl. Mukuro ignored her, staring straight ahead.

 

"Junko?" Yasuhiro questioned, his chin in his hands as if searching his brain for answers to who Junko was.


"Enoshima-san." Sayaka elaborated for him. "She's talking about Enoshima-san."

 

"Oh, I see!" Yasuhiro smiled, walking away from the group of teens and to his class trial post.

 

I took a moment to actually absorb my surroundings. I never bothered to look at the decorations of the last class trial room, but now that I thought about it...it was rather plain. The room I was in was covered to the brim with lolita. Bright red roses lined the walls, a black covering of the walls contrasting the flowers greatly. The floors were a different story. They held a mixture of the colors, a camouflage of both red and black.

 

"Alright~Enough dilly-dallying! Let's start the class trial!" Monobear called from behind us, making me jump. To think I had been frightened by my own creation...Brother would be disappointed.

 

Monobear started the charge by settling down on to his designated chair. The students shuffled to their spots, myself reluctantly taking my spot next to the black and white portrait of Mondo. Naegi gave me a reassuring smile. He really was a nice kid!

 

"We'll solve this case, Kirigiri-san." Never mind. He was talking to Kyoko, who was on the other side of Mondo's portrait.

 

"Let's start with a basic explanation--"

 

"L-Like we would want to hear your s-smoker voice speak nonsense again!" Toko shouted. Monobear stood up aggressively, claws ready for a fight.

 

"Respect your headmaster!" Monobear sat down on his throne once again, looking visibly pissed. "You know what, fine. I'm not the one who's going to die if you get it wrong because you don't know what the hell to do!"

 

"You've explained it enough times; we're not dumb enough to forget the entire process in a matter of a few days." Byakuya supplied, aiding Toko for once. "Well, most of us." He spared a glance at an oblivious Yasuhiro.

 

"Sure, sure. Whatever you say, Captain." Monobear sarcastically retorted, mockingly saluting Byakuya. Whoever was using Monobear at the moment had some trouble letting stuff go! "You know the drill then, huh? Alright, well find out who killed Celes! Hurry up! If you guys take too long I might cut the class trial short. Then you all will die deaths befitting of peasants."

 

"Um...Monobear-san, you're acting--" Chihiro started, before yelping and going silent again as Monobear's lifeless eyes looked at them. "S-So...Should we start with the murder weapon?"

 

"No." Kyoko immediately answered. "I want to start with the time of death this time." Wow...Way to be quick. She could be in the Olympics with this speed! She better fucking follow her dreams of being in the Olympics!

"I didn't r-realize that we had t-to submit to your e-every wish, Kirigiri-san." Toko growled.

 

"Sometimes you need to let go of your stubborness." Toko let out an inhuman noise. "Alright, so the time of death. According to the Monobear file the victim, Celes, died at approximately 7:00 A.M." Kirigiri started the discussion. Leon quickly got into the flow of the debate.

 

"So...Does that mean that she died before breakfast but after night time?" Byakuya groaned from his spot, rubbing his face.

 

"Obviously..."

 

"Hey, I'm just speeding the process along!" Leon defended himself, his hands held up in aggression.

 

"To answer your question, Kuwata-kun, yes. The time of death is really interesting, isn't it?" Is it? Kyoko better fucking answer how soon!

 

"How?" Yasuhiro asked, scratching his stubble, looking extremely confused.

 

"The time of death was at both after night time yet before breakfast, like Kuwata-kun had said." Kyoko explained. She reminded me of a teacher explaining something relatively simple to a relatively simple student. I was definitely not pleased, considering I also didn't understand!

 

"HOW THE FUCK DOES THAT MATTER?" I might as well try to be a good student! Questions are the trademark of a good student.

 

Kyoko looked at me with a hint of annoyance. It is amazing I picked up something so subtle! Brother would be proud!

 

"Wouldn't it be normal for the culprit to attack someone during night time?" Perhaps...

 

"Assuming the victim was lured by the culprit, someone would be much more likely to respond to an invitation by someone in the morning rather than night in a killing game." Byakuya piped in.

 

"That is true, but something seems fishy about this whole set-up." Byakuya raised his plucked eyebrow.

 

"Like what?" Kyoko glanced around the room as if to see if everyone was listening to her. It was hard not to, she had the presence of a overly friendly shark. A more serious version, though. That somehow made her even more terrifying.

 

"This person might've been abiding by night time rules to not seem suspicious when handing out an invitation. They were intelligent enough to know that attempting to kill the person after breakfast would make them more suspicious as well, since they would have no alibi." Kyoko thought out loud, holding her head up with her hand.

 

"That's a pretty big assumption there." Leon cut in, raising his eyebrows in skeptism. A few murmurs of agreement rang through the students.

 

"Y-Yeah! You seem to know too much! You are the culprit! I-I called it! Wait—You know too much all the time! Y-You're the mastermind! A filthy, swine-like mastermind!" Toko sputtered, thinking she had caught on to something.

 

"No, I'm not." Kyoko sighed, rubbing her temples with her gloved hands.

 

"How can we trust you? F-For all we know you are luring us into a trap!" Toko screamed, her hands over her ears.

 

"Why would I help you, then?" Toko pushed up her glasses.

 

"It's a trap! A-A trap, I tell you! You're leading us on this time! T-The first time you helped us was to c-clear suspicion off yourself!" Toko shrieked, her shrill voice deafening to unsuspecting ears.

 

"QUIET THE FUCK DOWN!" I yelled. She had no right to scream bloody murder in a school! It was not allowed, for fuck's sake!

 

"Y-You quiet down, killer eyebrows! Y-You have been screaming more than me!"

 

"It—" I was interrupted rudely by a Toko rant.

 

"We have to v-vote for the culprit! I-It's her! The human trash is o-out to k-kill us!"

 

"Fukawa, shut up." Byakuya commanded over her screaming. She immediately quieted down, submitting to his command.

 

"O-Of course, Togami-kun!" She awed. It was pretty disgusting to see such verbal PDA. The entire class seemed to let out a sigh they had all been holding.

 

"With that out of the way--" Kyoko was interupted again.

 

"WAIT! I got it! Togami-chi is the killer!" Yasuhiro shouted. Kyoko sighed again. "I mean, look at it this way Kirigiri-chi. Togami-chi is smart. Togami-chi hangs out in the library. It works!" Yasuhiro reasoned.

 

"Ya know, Kirigiri-san, he might be on to something. Plus, doesn't Togami-kun think of this all as a game, anyhow? He would kill people without a problem!" Leon inputed. Byakuya pushed up his glasses and scoffed.

 

"Please. If I did this crime it would be much more clean-cut."

 

"How is this one any different than a "clean-cut" murder?" Yasuhiro questioned, putting his fingers up to symbolize quotation marks around "clean-cut." He looked as confused as a baby learning algebra. I suppose this was a regular occurance by then, though.

 

"Look at the crime scene, imbecile. The culprit's best attempts at cleaning up their crime was breaking a chair, which makes no sense what so ever." Byakuya sighed exasperatedly. Yasuhiro looked even more confused though, his eyebrows pushing together enough to give himself a unibrow.

 

"How does it not make sense?"

 

"Think about it. How would breaking a chair into small parts disguise who the culprit is at all?" Yasuhiro scratched his head, the tentacles of hair swaying as he ran his fingers through it.

 

"Um...To have a false trail of evidence?" Byakuya raised his eyebrow, his lips sticking out. It was a clear "yeah-I-doubt-that" face.

 

"No." Byakuya merely stated, looking over to Kyoko. "I have other evidence it wasn't me, too. Fukawa was with me. God knows I couldn't kill anyone with her around." Byakuya hissed, venom lacing his voice. Toko jumped, before looking down dejectedly. Just as quickly as she looked down, she looked up and jumped to defending Byakuya too.

 

"Y-Yeah! Besides, don't listen to that w-wanna be pot-head! His hair must be full of lies!" Toko pointed at Yasuhiro. "D-Don't accuse my Togami-kun ever again!"

 

"I'm not your's." Byakuya cut in. Toko jumped again, once again looking down but not picking up her head again.

 

"Hmm...Seems I was wrong! Oh well!" Yasuhiro flashed his pearly whites. Or pearly yellows. He must invest in better dental hygiene!

 

"C-Can we discuss the murder weapon now, then?" Chihiro asked. Kyoko nodded.

 

"The murder weapon was a broken up chair, which was most likely not broken directly before and after the murder." Kyoko started.

 

"I've never seen the chair that killed Master Celes-dono..." Hifumi mentioned, sweating buckets. Tentatively he asked a question on everyone's mind; including mine. "What's it look like?" Makoto dug out his Electronic ID, connected it to a wire by his podium, and an image of bloody pieces of chair showed up on a television behind Monobear.

 

"What are those meaty parts on the...never mind." Chihiro reacted. The chair pieces had something vaguely resembling brains on them, and Chihiro unfortunately noticed. Their poor mind must be scarred now!

 

"That's—um,that's a chair?" Sayaka questioned. A few murmurs of uncertainty went across the circle. Really, that did not fucking look like a chair! It looked like a bunch of pieces of wood put together; and not chair wood.

 

"Yup!" Yasuhiro cheered. I really wasn't sure...it looked rather odd! It was cut up so much it'd be impossible to piece them together, too! For all we know it could be a small desk.

 

"How do you know?" Questioned Byakuya, looking at the twenty year old skeptically. For once I had to agree with him, unfortunately! Yasuhiro better get his fucking act together alast he wants to feel the anger of Mondo!

 

"YES! I AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT! IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SEE IF IT IS A CHAIR FROM SUCH SMALL PIECES OF WOOD! YOU BETTER FUCKING ANSWER!" I shouted. Around the circle people covered their ears at my authority. They are wusses! Unable to withstand such a simple blow!

 

"Um, calm down, please." Sayaka quietly said. I did so just because she's a girl, I suppose. Mondo would do the same. The students waited a moment to presumably make sure I wasn't going to have another outburst. After a moment much too long, Yasuhiro cleared his throat.

 

"Alright! It's pretty simple really. I saw all the pieces, I immediately thought of a chair, and then I put 'em back together like a jigsaw puzzle. And ta da! It was a chair!" Ah, I see! To think I hadn't thought of something like that! Hifumi made a noise of approval.

 

"So intelligent, Master Yasuhiro Hagekure-dono!" Hifumi complimented.


"Thank you! I don't get that a lot." Yasuhiro admitted. His smile never faded. Hifumi made another noise, but instead this time it rang of disapproval.

 

"That's a shocker!"

 

"I FUCKIN' AGREE! YOU ARE FUCKIN' SMART, HAGEKURE-KUN!" I put in. He was though; to think of something so elaborate! Incredible!

 

"...Alright, can we move on? I'm tired of listening to these imbeciles spouting rubbish." Byakuya tiredly said. "Ishimaru-kun, are you forgetting something?" Byakuya mockingly stated. What the fuck is his problem?

 

"I DON'T RECALL FORGETTING SOMETHING."

 

"Of course you wouldn't—Anyways, my point is that there was something else bloodied then just a stupid chair." Byakuya got out his Electronic ID, and began trying to plug it into a wire by his podium.

 

"What do you mean?" Makoto asked, speaking up for the first time.

 

His question was soon answered by a new picture popping up, causing the old picture of the chair fragments to shrink and slide to the right to allow more room. The new picture was grotesque. Pieces of meat hung off the corner of a desk. Wait—I recalled then! The desk I had avoided looking up on.

 

"It's safe to say she fell on the desk in the library. Specifically the corner. Now the question is if she fell on the desk before or after she was hit." Byakuya immediately started as the picture made itself known.

 

"I'd say after. I mean, it doesn't make sense for her to bash her brains out THEN the culprit hit her with some random chair." Leon began. Murmurs of agreement went across the table.

 

"I think you might be actually right, Kuwata-kun--" Kyoko was interrupted.

 

"Actually?"

 

"Yet it is too early to jump to such a conclusion. We might have to do further digging. For right now, we should leave this argument to rest. I'm sure it'll make sense later." A silence followed her words. It was soon broken by Sayaka.

 

"Um, what about alibis then? None of us really have them except Togami-kun and Fukawa-san."

 

"Good idea. So, first off, does sleeping count as an alibi? 'Cause I'm pretty sure we all were." Leon asked, turning to Kyoko.

 

"No." Kyoko deadpanned. "Now, does anyone have an alibi other than "sleeping" besides Fukawa-san and Togami-kun, along with solid evidence?" She looked around the table. "No one?"

 

"N-No, but we all already know who it is that m-murdered gothic loli girl!" Toko cut in. Kyoko raised her eyebrow.

 

"Do we?"

 

"I-It's obvious! The girl who has b-been sneaking around unseen this w-whole time!" Toko pointed a finger at Mukuro, her silence remaining intact as her eyes looked calmly at the accusatory finger. "The t-traitor! M-Mukuro Ikusaba!"

 

Chapter Text

All of the students froze. Well, almost all of the students. A select few seemed unfazed by the most recent accusation. Most of them seemed to just realize that Mukuro was a very suspicious person, being the traitor and all. Their eyes said it all, them widening in the exact opposite of disbelief. Whatever that opposite is, it caused a startled reaction. I wasn't innocent of the same reaction. I was foolish to think my former comrade was unimpeachable of being not guilty! Especially after trying to kill repeatedly the same person who was the entire reason for her being here.

 

Mukuro's eyes were the complete opposite of the majority of the crowd. Her eyes were cold and calculating. I supposed she was used to exhibiting such a neutral response, being a murderous super soldier and all.

 

Her icy blue eyes cast upon me for a few seconds, before landing on Toko.

 

"I didn't kill her." Mukuro defended, her voice not wavering a single bit, as if waiting for this moment.

 

"H-How are we supposed to believe you? You have been try-trying to kill Ishimaru-kun since y-your slut sister was killed! N-Now you just went a-after Celes-san and got lucky!" Toko snapped. Yasuhiro was quick to back her up.

 

"Yeah! How do we know you're not trying to kill all of us? We can just execute you now!" Monobear coughed obnoxiously and stood up from his chair.


"Excuse me, but you are only allowed to kill two people at once!" Monobear huffed. "If you spent less time smoking drugs and more time reading rules..." Yasuhiro laughed, rubbing his afro.

 

"...He didn't deny it." Hifumi sighed. A few melancholy heads nodded at his words. Such a shame such a young person had to resort to drugs...

 

"Don't you see, then? I couldn't have been trying to kill all of you. I more than anyone would know it'd only turn out bad. Why would I risk getting myself killed if there was no purpose behind it?" A few people hesitated at her words.

 

"The s-snake lies! S-She isn't that c-clever! She's still trying to kill us a-all!" Toko screamed, her voice wavering as her shrill voice pierced the air.

 

"Fukawa-san." Makoto said. "Let her explain herself."

 

"W-What more is there to e-explain? We all know it's that s-skank! Get to the e-execution already! I don't want that h-human trash in my s-sight anymore!" Toko hissed, pulling on her two braids. Her teeth were grinding against eachother from the pure force of how hard she was gritting her teeth. Her dentist would be so disappointed!

 

"No, something seems fishy about this whole--"

 

"I agree with Fukawa-chi! There's no other explaination for this but her being the culprit! Everyone else was asleep!" Yasuhiro yelled.

 

"You've got that wrong!" Makoto shouted, looking straight at Mukuro. Yasuhiro yelled a shout filled to the very brim with frustration.

 

"No I don't! It's obvious, isn't it? Celes was the only person who valued the whole nighttime rule, so Ikusaba-san sent her a letter persuading her to come," Yasuhiro looked around him at the other students. "That's how it happened! That's how Celes-chi died!"

 

"That does make sense..." Leon trailed off.

 

"Yes—Why else would Celes-san come respond to a letter?" Sayaka agreed.

 

"...You guys really are imbeciles..." Byakuya sighed.

 

"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SAYING?" He better speak instead of mumbling like the buffoon he is!

 

"Tsk...You guys are really stupid enough to believe she killed Celes?" Togami smirked. "Now I knew you were stupid, but not that stupid."

 

"Ugh—Enough of these stupid ass mind games! Just say what you mean instead of acting like an arrogant little prick." Leon growled.

 

"I agree with you, Leon-kun, but even if he does say something contradicting her being the killer, we still have plenty of evidence pointing to her anyways, though." Sayaka pointed out. She was right. We had plenty of evidence pointed towards Mukuro being a murderous fiend!

 

"No..." Makoto whispered.

 

"What was that, Naegi-kun?" Sayaka looked at him, her head tilting to the side.

 

"That's wrong!" He shouted, and everyone seemed to turn in synchrony to him. Only a pair seemed to agree with him—Kyoko and Byakuya. Even I found his accusation unbelievable! As much as I hated to believe it, Mukuro had to be the killer!

 

"H-How is it w-wrong?" Toko hissed, her hands' fingers curling into talons. Byakuya answered her, his trademark smirk not faltering one bit.

 

"Because the murder wasn't premeditated."

 

"Premeditated?" Yasuhiro questioned, scratching his head.

 

"Premeditated means planned. This murder was obviously not planned. If everyone had looked at the clues in their Electro ID we would be far past the topic of Mukuro being the killer."

 

"That doesn't mean anything, does it?"

 

"No. It does." Makoto mumbled, his hand wrapped around his chin. He looked up, and saw curious eyes laid upon him. It was inevitable for this reaction. What did he mean? Weirdly enough, I didn't want Mukuro to die, but she had to! Yet on another scale, I wanted her to die. It was confusing...

 

Makoto cleared his throat and spoke clearer than he previously did.

 

"It does matter. There was many pieces of evidence--"

 

"Like what?" Hifumi questioned, interrupting Makoto.

 

"If you would let him talk, maybe he would answer that question." Byakuya snarled. Hifumi yelped at the hatred oozing out of Byakuya. I thought that's what he screamed about, at least.

 

"Um, anyways, as I was saying. There were many pieces of evidence. Such as the kitchen knife that was found under the table next to Celes. Along with the very fact that a chair was used as the murder weapon." Makoto finished. Sayaka began to look hesitant, and Leon was not far behind her.

 

"S-So that proves m-my Togami-kun was r-right!" Toko swooned. Byakuya scoffed and pushed up his glasses.

 

"Stop acting like you knew all of this all along, you ugly swine." Toko froze. The statue of Toko stood still, unmoving, her face frozen in shock.

 

"No! That doesn't prove that Togami-chi was right!" Yasuhiro insisted, face blazing with rage. "That doesn't prove anything!" Makoto held his hands up in surrender.

 

"It—"

 

"No! Stop defending her, Naegi-chi!" He shot a scorching glare in Mukuro's direction. "Who else could it be? No matter what you say, this murder was completely planned!"

 

"It is?" Sayaka pondered. Yasuhiro nodded vigorously, his hair shaking with each swing.

 

"Of course!" Yasuhiro asserted. "She probably set up the whole crime scene! She bonked Celes over the head with the chair in order to make the murder seem accidental, went outside the locker rooms and smashed the chair to unrecognizable bits by slamming it into the wall, and even got a kitchen knife from the kitchen to make it seem accidental!" He claimed, his eyebrows smashing into eachother from pure frustration.

 

"Hagekure-kun, do you truly believe she would've been able to do this all without at least one person seeing her?" Kyoko asked. "Or at least her being cautious of one person seeing her."

 

"W-What would that matter to a Super High School Level Soldier?" He fought back, his mental muscles fighting with Kyoko's superior ones.

 

"She would die." She answered immediately, settling her eyes on Mukuro's still calm face. "I have a feeling she isn't ready to die just yet."

 

"She didn't think that she would die because she didn't worry about being caught!" Yasuhiro persisted.

 

"Save it, Hagekure-kun. We already know who the true culprit is." Kyoko finished, her deadly gaze looking straight at Yasuhiro, the demons possessing the purple irises shooting out of her and straight into Yasuhiro. "Isn't that right, Hagekure-kun?"

 

"What?" Sayaka quietly gasped, the only noise in the silent court room. Yasuhiro was visibly trembling, a vein looking about ready to pop.

 

"He's the culprit?" Leon looked erratically between Yasuhiro and Kyoko. "W-What? Really? Him?"

 

"Of course it's not me!" Yasuhiro growled, a move rather uncharacteristic for himself. I was just as shocked as everyone else, but...looking back on it it makes perfect sense. The clues...How he found out everything so easily made perfect sense.

 

"Don't lie," Byakuya warned. "That'll make everyone hate you even more." Yasuhiro started shaking more, his breathing becoming heavier with every passing second.

 

"Come on, Naegi-chi...Do your little catchphrase thing." Yasuhiro breathed, his voice almost unrecognizable through his loud breathes. Sweat trailed down his face, coming in buckets.

 

Makoto stayed silent, gritting his teeth as he looked down at his podium regretfully. Almost like a father disappointed in his only son, yet a much more grim version. Yasuhiro breaths began to come in large, angry gasps. The vein pounding in his head seemed to pop, signaling a mental breakdown about to occur.

 

"Fine," He growled. "I'll tell them that I DIDN'T DO IT!" He yelled in rage.

 

Chihiro started as a result of Yasuhiro's outburst, crying in pain for their friend and their fear.

 

"Hage—"

 

"I DIDN'T DO IT! SHOW ME YOUR PROOF!"

 

"Well—"

 

"SHOW ME! SHOW ME! SHOW ME! SHOW ME!" He ranted repeatedly, his voice growing louder with each word. Makoto looked up from his pain, putting a stop to Yasuhiro's rant. He shouted above the noise.

 

"DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE LETTER FIRST?" Yasuhiro immediately stopped, his face panic-stricken.

 

"The..."


"Letter." Kyoko finished for him. "The same letter that Celes gave to you the night before her murder."

 

"What letter?" Hifumi questioned. Kyoko pulled out a paper from her jacket pocket. The paper was wrinkled and folded in a few places.

 

"Naegi-kun and I did some investigating last night. We followed Celes-san, since she was no doubt the most suspicious based solely on her words. We were right on the money, because right away Celes-san went into her room for a few minutes and came out with a letter. She proceeded to slide the letter under Hagekure-kun's door, and that was it for the night."

 

"Why did you not put this as evidence on the Electro ID?" Byakuya hissed. Kyoko crossed her arms, putting the supposed letter on her podium.

 

"I wanted to refrain from adding it to evidence so Hagekure-kun couldn't come up with an excuse about the letter and pin the blame on me early in the class trial." Kyoko answered. "He could still accuse me of the murder, but there is multiple evidence stacked against him by now."

 

"Would you care to read the letter, by chance?" Byakuya asked, arms mocking Kyoko's stance.

 

"Alright." She picked up the letter again, putting it in front of her face as her eyes scanned the page. Clearing her throat, she began to read.

 

'Dear Hagekure-kun,

 

You by far know the most about the supernatural, right? Well Oogami-san and I need your help. Big time. You know how we kinda died? Well, we didn't exactly pass on. In fact, we're trapped in absolute hell. We're being chased by Enoshima-san all the time, probably as revenge, and we've found out who the mastermind is. He thankfully hasn't caught on yet, but he should soon. I'm sure he'll either catch it on those stupid security cameras or Enoshima-san will somehow tell him. Either way, you're our only hope. For both passing us on and helping out the others. I know you guys just got a new motive and it's dangerous to go out by now, so come at about 7:00ish tomorrow morning. Seeya then.

 

Sincerely, Aoi Asahina and Sakura Oogami'

 

"You...believed that?" Leon said, bemused. "How exactly did you think a bunch of ghosts got a paper and pen?" Yasuhiro shook his head, tears leaking out of his clenched eyes.

 

"You would expect he would try to dispose of such evidence, but the letter was right there on the ground..." Kyoko sighed, shaking her head as if disappointed.

 

"T-That could have...That could have...been faked..." Yasuhiro blubbered out through his tears.

 

"He's...He's right." Sayaka turned to Kyoko, bowing slightly. "I must ask what else there is."

"Your words." Kyoko clearly said. "Your words make you seem like the culprit too, don't they?"

 

"...Wha—" Yasuhiro opened his eyes to reveal redness.

 

"You said you arranged the chair back together like a "jigsaw puzzle," but how exactly did you know it was a chair, and why did you take this "jigsaw puzzle" apart?"

 

Yasuhiro seemed to decide to become more aggressive. "I didn't! It fell apart--"

 

"Then why were the pieces scattered?"

 

"Um—"


"Alright. I think we have all the evidence we need. Naegi-kun, tell us what happened." Makoto nodded, staring intensely at Yasuhiro.

 

"Here's what I think happened." Makoto started. "After the motive was announced, Celes-san had come up with a master plan to get out of this school once and for all. She headed to her room, ready to commence the plan. What she didn't know was Kirigiri-san and I were following her, and we were doing so still when she headed out of her room barely five minutes afterwards, and slid the fake letter under the culprit's door. They obviously received the letter, and agreed silently to go meet with who they thought were the ghosts of Asahina-san and Oogami-san. Kirigiri-san and I split up for the night, seeing there was no way we could safely spy on Celes-san anymore. The next morning, sometime before 7:00, was when Celes-san prepared. She didn't do much preparation, merely stealing a knife from the kitchen and placing it under the library table. At 7:00, the culprit arrived at the scene, hoping to save the day when they most likely spotted Celes-san. Acting purely on instinct, they grabbed the nearest thing to them, which happened to be a chair, and smashed it on to Celes-san's head. She most likely died on impact, but if she didn't smashing her head on the corner of the desk she was next to certainly did. Next, the culprit got to disposing evidence, not noticing they had in fact dropped the most crucial evidence to pointing to their guilt. They tried to dispose of the chair, in fact the only piece of evidence they tried to dispose of. They began to smash the chair on the walls right outside the locker room, and after satisfaction, left. All of this seems like it may actually be hard to pinpoint the culprit, but if the culprit hadn't dropped the letter that showed his guilt we'd all be dead. Wouldn't we, Hagekure-kun?" Yasuhiro gulped.

 

"Alright, alright! I'm bored of this already, so let's just get to votes!" Monobear squealed. "Who will it be, who will it be? Are you right, or are you wrong? Let's find out!"

 

Yasuhiro froze stiff, his eyes opened to basketball size.

 

"Jesus, Buddha, Zeus—someone--" We all began to cast our votes, and I was sure we all had the same vote. It was horribly obvious who had committed murder by now."

 

"—please help me!"

 

Guilty: Yasuhiro Hagekure

 

Monobear yawned, swiveling in his chair.

 

"What a boring trial this has been! You guys better not disappoint next time!" Monobear sighed. "I suppose I do have to explain what made Miss Celestia Ludenburg do this, don't I? For all of our lovely viewers!"

 

"Viewers..." Chihiro whispered, panic easy to hear in their voice.

 

"Or should I say Miss Taeko Yasuhiro?" Monobear looked around, as if looking for an intense reaction. He groaned. "You guys are boring! No wonder she wanted and he still wants to kill you!" Wait—Me? "I guess they can't all be winners...Anyways, long story short she didn't want anyone to know how despairfully average she was. What people will do to keep such petty secrets..." Monobear grinned. "Well, now that that's over with how about we have a little fun..." Yasuhiro's head snapped up, and he shook his head in disbelief.

 

"No..."

 

"IT'S PUNISHMENT TIME!"

 

"NOOOO!"

 

LIVE WIZARD STONING!

 

Metal clamped around Yasuhiro's throat, dragging him down a hallway as the entire class run to watch his no doubt brutal execution.

 

The flash of cameras surround him, causing him to squint his eyes as each one goes off. The Monobear dressed cameraman behind the cameras balance the screen, before all of them give the thumbs up signal behind them. About 5 men dressed in black ropes come over, their faces remaining unseen, as they all carry a bucket full of unseen objects.

 

We soon discovered what the objects were, when one by one each mysterious man took out a stone, and each took turns throwing one at him. The men started throwing the stones faster and faster, before the only visible thing in our line of sight was stone, and stone, and even more stones.

 

They eventually left. Yet we didn't really focus on that. The only thing we could look at the bloodied, black and blue dead body of Yasuhiro Hagekure.

 

Eventually we left ourselves. Makoto mentioned having to move on and use our friend's deaths to make us stronger, but I couldn't really focus on that. The only thing I could focus on was the strange feeling I was having. The feeling of...absolute despair. Yet I liked it. This must be what Junko always talked about. I had never felt it to this extreme until after my brother died, but for whatever reason now it was clear! Everyone, everyone deserved to die! Everyone were criminals. Except me.

 

We entered the elevator and immediately when the doors slammed shut Leon and Hifumi restrained the passive Mukuro, pinning her hands behind her back.

 

"Alright, we're taking her to my room--"

 

"You'll take advantage of her...How about my room?"

 

"I'm more worried of you taking advantage of her."

 

"I'm only interested in 2-D!"

 

"So? Besides I have rope in my room and I would at least stand a chance against her if she wanted to escape!"

 

"Wait—why do you have rope in your room, Leon-kun?" Sayaka put into the argument.

 

"Uh..."

 

"And why are you restraining Ikusaba-san?" Leon perked up.

 

"Oh—We're going to question her tomorrow!"

 

"Why not today?"

 

"I'm tired..." Leon grinned sheepishly.

 

It was decided that tomorrow would be the day we questioned Mukuro. I can't have her spill the beans yet—I can't!

 

Survivors: 10

 

Chapter Text

"Well?" Byakuya asked the soldier as soon as the remaining ten students, including myself, entered Leon's room. "Who is it?"

 

The soldier stared blankly at him. Her eyes pierced his soul. "Who is who?" Leon huffed and paced next to his bed. Making exaggerated hand motions, he clarified,

 

"The mastermind! We want to know!" Finally he stopped pacing. "I mean you know, don't you?" Mukuro turned her head to nothing, refusing to look at anyone. She tugged on her rope bound wrists.

 

"I don't know what you're talking about." For once I was glad someone was playing dumb! I don't want to be found out this early in the game!

 

"C-Can you p-please answer our questions, Ikusaba-san?" Chihiro pleaded, their hands brought up to their chest. A look of sympathy crossed their desperate face. "I-I understand, it's dangerous, but doesn't the reward outway the cost?" They put on a shaky smile, it as beautiful as a thousand harvest moons put together. Mukuro would be a fool to choose my secret over Chihiro, but also one vice-versa. What a troublesome idea...

 

"..." She gave a long, hard look at Chihiro, the latter squirming under her scrutinzing gaze. After a solid minute she finally turned to face the rest of the group, most of whom were crowded in the middle of Leon's room.

 

"A-Are you finally g-going to speak, y-you useless worm?" Mukuro ignored her, instead directing her gaze at Kyoko. She tilted her head downwards, her hair casting a deathly shadow over her face. I gulped, the nervousness going down my throat and into my entire body. Surely she wasn't going to tell! She'd be a masochist to do so!

 

"I'd be stupid to tell you the whole truth," Mukuro started. So she agreed! "Yet I think I can get away with telling you some of it. The mastermind in the room right now wouldn't break his own rules." A few gasps rang through the room.

 

"The mastermind is in the room with us?" Sayaka trembled, her knees buckling to the floor. "The cause of EVERYTHING is here?"

 

"Wouldn't break his own rules..." Kyoko mumbled. I swore she glanced at me with those accusatory eyes!

 

"Look into my actions." Mukuro asked, her voice never faltering or having any doubt within the monotone. Leon scratched his head.

 

"How are we supposed to do that when you're never here?"

 

"I-I agree! Y-Your useless body is n-never here! How can y-you expect us to "understand" you?" Toko avowed. She trembled, her entire body looking like a vibrating chair.

 

"Look into my actions." Mukuro droned again. Even I didn't understand what she meant! She must've been foolish to think this line would point anyone's suspicions towards me!

 

"Like we said--"

 

"What happened after my sister was killed?" Oh no. My heart beat out of its' chest, my very soul crumbling with despair. She was going too far...

 

"You attacked Ishimaru-kun." Sayaka immediately responded, as if it was the obvious, innocent answer.

 

"Yes." A pin seemed to drop in the room, as all heads turned to me.

 

"...You attacked Ishimaru-kun." Leon hissed. "Ishimaru!" No, no, no...This couldn't of been happening! All my hard work gone to shame! I hadn't realized I had unconciously backed away from the group until my back hit the wall.

 

"That doesn't mean anything, classmates!" I chuckled, blatantly aware of how forced it sounded. "Do you not know my title, "Super High School Level Prefect"? Why would someone like me try to kill the entire world?" I hadn't even noticed I'd said the exact thing that would point to my guilt.

 

"THE ENTIRE WORLD?" Hifumi shouted, sounding truly angry for the first time I could think of.

 

"N-No, you see, I--"

 

"YOU SICK FUCK!" Leon chimed in.

 

"No—I--You have to understand--"

 

"What? How you killed everyone?" Sayaka muttered darkly, a shadow hanging over her face. "HOW YOU KILLED MY ENTIRE GROUP?"

 

"I-I-"

 

"Don't you see now? I was betrayed exactly the same way you have been."

 

"I didn't—Please, believe me!"

 

"W-Why should we, you t-traitourous scum?"

 

"No..." I slide down the wall, my hands tugging at my hair. Tears burned my eyes. My vision distorted and burned out. Only two words burned in my hollow mind:

BAD END

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"Well?" I opened my eyes, blinking rapidly when I saw everyone's eyes weren't on me. What? Nothing made any sort of sense...I didn't even know what was going on. I was supposed to be dead by now, right? I was supposed to be beaten, executed, something! So why the hell was I still there?

 

"Well what?" I heard Mukuro say, causing my head to spin towards her. She was looking a mixture of calm and annoyed. Mukuro was glaring intensely at Kyoko. Playing dumb, I saw. Wait, no, that happened before! She was playing dumb like before, despite already leading everyone to suspect I was the mastermind! Was I in one of those time-wasting movies that involved the protagonist being stuck in a loophole? God, I hoped not (somehow that word sounded foreign to myself. Weird.) Lord knows I can't spend an entire goddamn century in a stupid repetition when there was much work to be done!

 

"Who is it?" Leon growled, hands curled into fists. He held them up to Mukuro as if trying to threaten her. "Tell us! It's pretty obvious you know, dude, so just spill and we might have the mercy to forgive you!"

 

"Like I said before, I have no idea what you're talking about." Mukuro turned her head to the side, chewing subtly on her bottom lip. Oh no, was she going to spill again and then this would happen again? And again? And again?

 

"I-Ikusaba-san, can you p-please tell us?" Chihiro smiled at her. Chihiro with their puppy dogs eyes...It really was happening again! Any second now the blame will turn to me! It was kind of weird though, I don't remember these exact words happening.

 

Mukuro sighed. "Fine. I'll give you a clue; it's not like I really care about the mastermind anyways." Ouch. "After my sister was killed, what did I do?" Here we go...Sayaka will come in any moment with--

 

"You attacked Ishimaru-kun but..." Sayaka paused, eyes widened as she turned to me. "...He couldn't of done that." ...What?

 

"Yeah, he's like the hall monitor guy so..." Leon scratched his goatee. "Kinda out of the question." While I appreciated this turn of events, were they really so stupid to believe that people can't act the part; better yet, that "moral" people can't have different morals than one would expect out of society's "finest."

 

"I concur!" Hifumi interjected. Oh my God...Thank you?

 

"Wait, I get it!" Leon looked up, his eyes tinted dangerously. "That Enoshima bitch is still alive!" What a wonderful conclusion! Not.

 

"Aw, I see!" Hifumi yelled as if finally seeing the light of the situation. "She told Ikusaba-san to kill Ishimaru-kun, promising her that she would be let off free if she did so! Ingenious!"

 

"That does make sense..." Sayaka trailed off. In a way, I'm was kind of disappointed they came to that conclusion. Maybe because it made no sense ! To think the group of "geniuses" I aimed after were all a bunch of idiots...I could've been exterminating the real geniuses of the world right then, yet I aimed after a pack of imbeciles.

 

"...I'm leaving." Kyoko left the room, rubbing her temples as she went. It seemed she at least was also baffled by their idiocy. She didn't leave the room, though. The reason she didn't was because of Mukuro's voice.

 

"Wait." She called out, barely above a whisper. Everyone stopped talking at once, bringing their absolute attention to the girl. "My sister isn't the true mastermind."

 

"...S-She isn't?" Chihiro asked, sounding confused.

 

"No." Mukuro states. "I know you'll figure it out eventually." Mukuro very pointedly looked at Kyoko when she said this. "I also know more people will die." Mukuro stopped talking, as if waiting for protest. There was none. "All you need to know, and that I can tell you for fear of being killed, is that my sister isn't the mastermind. She already had so much hardship in her life--" Mukuro breathes in. "--so don't make her suffer more from beyond the grave. I don't want her to be disturbed from up in Heaven." Mukuro finishes, looking as close to showing emotion as I'd ever seen her.

 

"Heaven?" Leon pointed out. "I'm not sure she'd be in Heaven if she helped make a whole game out of killing people." Sayaka held on to his jacket sleeve, giving him a shake of her head. Leon sighed in obvious exasperation and looked down.

 

"Why should we believe you?" Byakuya asked. Toko chirped in her agreement, along with multiple people around the room.

 

"Why would I lie?" Mukuro was back to her previous face, staring coldly at each face in the room. I swore she stared an extra second at me than everyone else.

 

"W-Why wouldn't y-you?" Toko argued, gritting her teeth in rage, causing me to once again worry about her dental hygiene. "Y-You're a super soldier, right? I-I'm sure you're trained to lie a-about where the c-commander is and stuff, s-so why w-would it be any different now? The o-only difference is you're ly-lying about who the real m-mastermind is, the mastermind t-that is you're whore sister!" Mukuro leaned against the wall, eyes half-lidded as if she was falling asleep. I wouldn't blame her. Disregarding the fact that I'm the actual mastermind and know it's not Junko, it was pretty obviously not Junko.

 

The students began to make a ruckus, all of the students shouting in their own opinions on the matter. It was so loud that my brain started pounding! God, teenagers can be loud! The place was a school, for God's sake! Have some decency to be quiet ! If they insisted on being such drama queens do it in, I don't know, a not cramped area with no door open!

 

The students finally quieted down. Ah, finally. Peace and quiet. Why were they staring at me so funnily, though? Was it common law to stare at their dictator that they didn't quite know was a dictator?

 

"Geez, okay, okay, Ishimaru-kun. We'll quiet down." Leon mumbled. Oh, did I say all of that out loud? Oops. At least it was quiet now, though...wait. Did I say the dictator part out loud, too? Probably not...I despaired not. Oh, now I was using Junko's vocabulary in my head. Simply marvelous!

 

"I-Ikusaba-chan, you're not lying about Junko not being the mastermind, right?" Chihiro asked, the smallest glimmer of hope gleaming in their eyes. Mukuro nodded. "Thank goodness..." Chihiro's eyes suddenly widened, fear evident in their eyes. "Then who is...?"

 

"I don't think we'll find out any more from Mukuro right now." Kyoko said. "It's best if we just leave her be and come back later." She took the lead in leaving Leon's room, holding the door open for everyone.

 

"So very wise, Master Kyoko Kirigiri!" Hifumi awed, going through the open door. Byakuya followed, with Toko trailing behind him. She stopped by Kyoko, giving her a hate-filled glare.

 

"J-Just know the o-only reason I'm listening t-to you is because of T-Togami-kun." With that she left, purposely slapping Kyoko in the face with her pigtails. Kyoko spitted out some hair that was left over in her mouth. I thought it was because of the hair at least. I despair to God she didn't spit for the hell of it! In a school, much less. Absolutely disgusting and disrespectful

 

I followed Toko out the door, giving Kyoko a subtle disgusted look from the corner of my eye. She looked me dead in the eyes with a glare that could kill.

 

"Yes?" It seemed she'd noticed my "subtle" disgusted look from the corner of my eye. I shook my head at her.

 

"It's disrespectful to spit in a school!" Kyoko rolled her eyes and looked to Leon, who was attempting to push past me. I slided to let him pass. He fell to the floor. Just as quickly as he fell, he got back up and attempted to appear nonchalant (which I must say failed miserably.)

 

"Lighten up, man." Leon brushed his hand through his hair. "It's not Kirigiri-san's fault she got a mouthful of the paranoid chick's hair." Leon looked at Kyoko. She nodded, not even looking at him to give validation.

 

"Can you two please get out of the doorway?"

 

"Of course, Kirigiri-kun!"

 

"Uh, sure."

 

As soon as the two of us got out of the entryway, Sayaka strolled on past Kyoko. She fast walked down the hallway, Leon, Kyoko, Makoto, and I just a bit behind her. Her walk soon enough turned into a run.

 

"No running in the hallways!" She didn't listen, instead turning in the hallway to run straight into her room. Leon puffed.

 

"What's her problem?"

 

"She's most likely shocked at the new information we have; we all are."

 

"I guess..."

 

It's was odd. Everyone had been reacting with worry, with being frantic, among other things, but Sayaka was doing all of that at once. It's strange...but I supposed Junko would've been happy that our despair got this result. In a way, I'm happy too. I only had wanted to cleanse the world of utmost evil, but lately a thrill of anticipation had settled in my heart. Junko would've been proud. Something wasn't right, though...

 

I was forgetting something. I felt it in my brain, in my heart, in my very soul yet I couldn't figure out what it was. It was an anchoring feeling. It was sour-tasting. Just like too much salsa, it was lingering on my tongue and I couldn't get rid of it. I so desperately wanted to get rid of it.

 

"Ishimaru-kun!" Leon snapped his fingers in front of my face. The prick! I was doing some researching within my own body!

 

"What?" I hissed. He looked taken aback, jumping before looking straight in front of him.

 

"I was just asking what you were thinking about, no need to get all pissy." ...What I was "thinking about?" That's...odd. That's the first time I recall that someone that wasn't my brother asking me some question that revolved around me.

 

"Um..." I trailed off. Leon put his hands in his pockets.

 

"Is it really that hard to say?" No! Nothing was too hard to say, especially for Kiyotaka Ishimaru!

 

"No! I just...don't know?" Leon rolled his eyes, opening the doors to the dining hall and allowing Kyoko, Makoto, and I to go inside.

 

"It was just a stupid question, you don't actually have to be truthful about it." Leon led the four of us to an empty table in the dining hall. Weirdly enough, no other students seemed to have thought of coming here. Makoto laughed awkwardly.

 

"I'm not sure that's the best advice, Kuwata-kun..." Leon scratched his goatee...I wonder if that goatee gets itchy a lot. He should just shave it off; it'd be less of a bother to both the students and him and it'd be more appropriate for a school!

 

"Well, I mean you don't hear me talking about how everything is just fake and we don't even exist, right?" Leon leaned back in his chair. "I could be thinking it, but I don't make a case about it when a person asks what I'm thinking about. It's just a shitty thing to do."

 

"Language, Kuwata-kun!" I scolded.

 

"Oh please. You're the one that swore up a storm when your bro died. I don't know why all the sudden you're normal, well as normal as you can get, but the point is you're kind of being a hypocrite, aren't you?"

 

"..." My bro...I almost forgot the pain of his death.

 

"You're finally quiet. Thank God." I really did deserve Leon's ridicule, didn't I? To think I had forgotten about bro, of all things! Bro wasn't the thing that was anchoring me down and leaving a sour taste in my mouth, but it still hurt to think about another thing I had forgotten about.

 

A tear slipped from my eye, followed by a quiet sob afterwards. How foolish I was...To forget the things that had once given me hope! I was beyond the point of hope now, but it was still nice while it lasted!

 

"Kuwata-kun!" I heard Kyoko scold. "What did you do?"

"I-I don't know! How was I supposed to know calling him a hypocrite would make him cry or whatever?"

 

"I don't think it was you called him a hypocrite. I'm willing to bet he's been called worse." Makoto pitched in. "It was probably you mentioning Oowada-kun!"

 

"Hey, if anything he's the one that's being stupid about this whole thing!" Leon tried to rationalize. "I mean, he only knew him, for what? A week?" Another sob launched its' way through my throat.

 

"You'd be okay with it if I killed Maizono-san, then?" Kyoko asked. Leon's face went deathly pale.

 

Gulping, he asked a question."Are you?" Kyoko facepalmed, gloved hand trailing down her face as she looked at Leon in dismay.

 

"If I was going to kill someone why would I tell you?" Leon fumed.


"Uh—I don't know, maybe to cover your trail!"

 

"...The point is, theoretically speaking, would you be upset if I killed Maizono-san?" Leon scratched his head, looking to the side.

 

"I don't know, probably, but I wouldn't completely change personalites because of it. Like I said before, we've only known eachother a week!" Kyoko sighed. A sob let it's way out of my soul as it cried once again, and I brought my legs up to my chin and buried my head into them.

 

"That's you, but for Ishimaru-kun it seems isn't the same." Makoto argued. I heard a chair hit the floor from my fetal position.

 

"Hey, I don't know why everyone's ganging up on me! I made a small mistake, big deal! It's not like it's the end of the world, so can we just drop it?" I stood up from my chair, knocking it over in the process (before bending back down to pick it up) and ran out of the room, wiping aggressively at my tears.

 

I ran straight into Byakuya (literally.) For once he was without Toko, and gave his usual knowing smirk as he looked at me. "Well, well, if it isn't the mastermind himself." My eyes widened. "Your reaction proves my theory. You've got to learn poker face—too bad you killed Celes so she can't teach you." I backed away from him, shaking my head in shock. Everything was collasping in on itself!

 

"I didn't—I didn't..." I backed into a wall, sliding down it and beginning to tug at my hair. A hiccup echoed in the room. Byakuya shook his head.

 

"Not directly." Byakuya scowled at me. I looked up at him, panic I'm sure making it's way through my eyes. "Don't look at me like that. I won't tell anyone. That'd ruin this little game." I looked up at the man, my eyes widened to a degree I never thought possible.

 

"Why—" He cut me off, hand held up in silence as he cleared his throat, viciousness taking a new form in his bespeckled eyes.

 

"I hate you; don't think for a second of your pitiful life that I don't. It'd be kind of a waste to tell everyone right now, though. I'm experiencing quite a bit of enjoyment from this game, and I kind of want to see where this goes, and if these imbeciles can solve the mystery to this game.

 

He was walking past me towards the dining hall when, for some reason I still can't figure out, I grabbed on to his coat sleeve and looked up at him. He looked at me in disgust, wretching his sleeve out of my hand. Smoothing it down, he asked, "what?"

 

"I'm still confused...why are you doing this?" I voiced my question. There had to be more to it...even the worst of people won't just sit down and let people die while hating the mastermind behind the killings.

 

Byakuya groaned, looking as if he were to start walking towards the dining room again, but then decided against it. "Since this might be our only time talking mastermind to victim, I'll tell you again. I'm interested in this game, and want to see what these idiots have in store."

 

"That's not it..."

 

"I've told you all I want that I want is entertainment." He wasn't that cruel! Even I, or especially I knew that for a fact!


"I order you to tell me the truth!" Byakuya smirked. He bent down to my level, looking me dead in the eyes.

 

"Or what? You'll kill me?" He was real cocky, wasn't he? Well, I supposed if I'm the mastermind some...rules can be altered to better suit me! It's only fair. Isn't it just the same as altering morals, as well? Which I have free reign to do, because I am the mastermind!

 

"Yes." I lied through my teeth. Or possibly didn't lie. It depended on the circumstances, really. Byakuya looked surprised for a second, before he put his normal face on.

 

"I doubt it." He stood up again. "I don't know who you are in real life, but somehow you strike me as the kind of mastermind that wouldn't break his own rules." Did he want to test that? I wondered...

 

"Are you doubting me?" I chuckled. "I wouldn't really do that to someone that you know has killed a decent half of your classmates. Plus thousands more." That felt refreshing...I felt rejuvenated. I oddly enjoyed the terror on his face as I fed him the news, the terror steming from the fact that the person his worthless eyes were looking at was truly the savior for all that was normal. It was especially amazing to see horror from the eyes of a normally prickish, sinful, and genius-like person.

 

"...Thousands?"

 

"Are you surprised?" I asked, standing up to meet him, chest-to-chest.

 

"Who else wouldn't be? I don't understand what--"

 

"What was on your video, Byakuya?" Screw calling the scum by his last name; he knew the truth now, even if it wasn't all of it. He didn't know about the memories yet.

 

"You already know--" Actually I didn't.

 

"Tell me!" Byakuya tried his best to put on his normal look, obviously trying as hard as he could.

 

"It was my company dead...wait...are you telling me that worthless garbage such as yourself killed my family?" His eyes were showing utmost despair, the blackness curling into his irises. I'm getting good at this. "My family...My entire fortune and worth--"

"Is dead." I finished for him. He widened his eyes even further somehow. Weakling...Of course a genius would crumble when their entire fortune is gone. I'm willing to bet this is the first time in his life he has suffered this much pain, loss, and regret among other complex emotions.

 

"You..." Byakuya started, teeth grit in rage as he held his fists up above him. I took a step away from Byakuya, running into the wall before I slide away from the wall completely. Byakuya takes a step forward, but I stop him with simple words.

 

"Violence against the headmaster is prohibited." I revel in the discouraged expression on Byakuya's face. "I trust that you remember, Byakuya."

 

"What gives you the right to address me like we're close friends?" He settled on saying. He just now noticed I'd been addressing him differently?

 

"You'll soon learn, Byakuya." I turned away from him, going to my destination: no where.

 

"Stop speaking like you're having a different conversation entirely." He said. He was just begging to be punished, wasn't he?

 

"If you paid attention to context clues you'd realize my words make perfect sense." I made clear. I started to walk off again, hearing Byakuya groan in exasperation in the distance.

 

"I will win this game!" Byakuya yelled, a bit too loud for my liking. "And I will kill you, and find out why you're doing this ludicrious deed unbefitting of a commoner!" He was bluffing. I could already feel it; his despair clawing at the edges of his mind; damaging his mental sanity. He was already a puppet to despair, even if he didn't realize it.

 

 

"Where are we going again, Kirigiri-san?" Naegi asks as he and Kirigiri tread the halls much too fast for his liking. He slows down, waiting for an answer. Kirigiri doesn't even slow her pace, looking at him out of the corner of her eye.

 

"Hurry up!" She yells over her shoulder. Naegi takes the memo, running up to her side and matching her pace once again. "We're going to question Ikusaba-san again." As she says this, Naegi stops completely, grabbing on to Kirigiri's wrist.

 

She stares, obviously irritated, at his hand. "Let go of me, Naegi-kun." She demands, looking him square in the eye. Naegi doesn't relent, grabbing on her shoulders instead when she wretches her wrist out of his hand.

 

"You need to get ahold of yourself, Kirigiri-san!" Kirigiri continues to struggle against him. Eventually, through a lot of struggling, she manages to release herself and run ahead of Naegi, straight towards Kuwata's room: the place where Mukuro is being held captive.

 

"Kirigiri-san!" Naegi yells after her. He sprints after her, yet even minus the head start Kirigiri took advantage of she is still an awful lot faster than Naegi is. "Wait!"

 

Kirigiri wretches the door to Kuwata's room open, silently thanking Kuwata for not having the door locked. A deep worry settles in her heart about what this could mean, though. Either Kuwata was a savior or an idiot in the end. Possibly both.

 

Naegi happens to catch up to her the second she lays her eyes inside the room. He grabs her by the wrist again, suspecting her to run again. Thankfully, to him, she doesn't. He begins trying to persuade her about all the reasons why she shouldn't wear herself out, dangers, etc, etc.

 

"—I'm telling you Kirigiri-san! It's a danger to yourself and even us! I mean—What if being so stressed out got to your head and messed up your brain and you tried to kill us and--"

 

"It doesn't matter." Kirigiri states. Makoto stares confusedly at her. He lets go of her wrist and steps away from her.

 

"...What? Of course it matters, Kirigiri-san! If you were to kill--" Kirigiri latches on to Naegi's shoulders and spins him toward the entrance to Leon's room.

 

"Ikusaba-san's gone." She walked daintly into the room. "So you don't have to worry about me experiencing a ton of stress and stuff." Makoto followed her into the room, looking at the cut-up ropes on the floor.

 

"How did she even..." He picks up a piece of rope, rubbing his thumb across the broken material. Knife marks.

 

Kirigiri bends down next to him, picking up a piece of rope and running it through her gloved fingertips.

 

"I didn't see Kuwata-kun lock the door." Kirigiri says. "Ikusaba-san probably saw her chance and took it." She throws the rope down on to the floor and stands up again. "Who knows where she is now." Naegi frowns at this—It's pretty bad to have such negative thinking around this place. With that in mind, he stands up, a lightbulb blinking rapidly in his mind.

 

"We can just search for her!" Kirigiri raises her eyebrow at him. "Where would be the first place that comes to mind that absolutely no one would search?"

 

"The trash shoot?" Naegi nods at her.

 

"Yes! The trash shoot. We can--"

 

"No." Kyoko immediately shoots him down.

 

"...You haven't even heard what I'm going to say yet."

 

"You were going to suggest going to search for Ikusaba-san in the trash shoot. Despite no knowledge of if the trash shoot even has a way up." Naegi sat down on the floor again.

 

"We have to try something!" He argues. "Do you really want to give up so soon?" Kirigiri went to sit on the bed in the room.

 

"I never said that." Kirigiri stated. "It's stupid to do something that we might not even have a chance of survival in, though."

 

"But—"

 

"What if there isn't even an exit out of the trash shoot, like I said before? Ikusaba-san wouldn't even be there, and we'd be left to rot. The only reason we should ever even try something that risky is if it's for a literal life-or-death situation." Naegi opens his mouth, but is quickly cut off by Kirigiri once again. "This isn't really life or death."

 

"Are you sure?" Naegi sits down hesitantly next to Kirigiri. She nods. "Fine...I'll—I'll trust you." Kirigiri looks deep in thought, her head resting on her palm.

 

"You trust me?" Kirigiri asks, not even bothering to look at Naegi. Naegi nods before he realizes Kirigiri isn't looking at him.

 

"Um, yeah." Kirigiri seems to take his affirmination as a last thought, nodding her head in a silent agreement. She turns towards Naegi, eyebrows crossed. Naegi starts to feel uncomfortable, shifting in his seat on the mattress.

 

"Um, yes, Kirigiri-san?"

 

"I've decided." Naegi looks around them, unconsciously leaning away Kirigiri.

 

"Uh—Decided what?"

 

"I trust you too." Naegi points to himself. Kirigiri nods.

 

"Great! Well, I mean, that's pretty cool that you're being so nice to me and trusting me!" Kirigiri smiles, the obvious turning of her lips soon leaving her face as her features shift to her normally stoic face.

 

"I trust you...So I'm going to tell you who I think the mastermind is." Naegi jumps. He definitely wasn't expecting her to already have a conclusion.

 

"Y-You do? Who?"

 

"First off, let me explain." Naegi nodded for her to continue. "I've been suspecting this for a while now, ever since the first class trial. Today my theory was confirmed through Ikusaba-san's interrogation. The theory that Ishimaru-kun is the mastermind."

 

"..."

 

"If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. How Ishimaru-kun just so happened to run exactly in the direction of Enoshima-san and find her body. How Ikusaba-san attacked him of all people. She said, "what did I do after my sister was killed?" She attacked Ishimaru-kun." Naegi stares at her, shock evident in his face. His grey eyes are widened, his stance completely open and frozen.

 

"...Ishimaru-kun? Of all people?"

 

"Yes."

 

"What about Oowada-kun, then? There was no way that could've been faked..."

 

"Some people are good actors. Or, better yet, he actually did feel attached to Oowada-kun." Naegi shifted in his seat.

 

"I'm...not sure I can believe you." Kirigiri stands up, dusting her skirt off as she crosses the room to the door.

 

"That's fine. Try not to lie next time about you trusting me, though." With that she opens the door and is outside of it in one swift motion.

 

"Kirigiri-san!" Naegi yells in desperation, but she is already gone.

 

He lays down on the bed, his hands covering his face. A mantra repeats itself in his head,

 

'What did I do? It can't be Ishimaru-kun...it just can't...God, what did I do?'

 

He falls asleep after a while, only waking up because of a confused Kuwata wondering why the hell Naegi is sleeping in his bed.

 

Chapter Text

I tapped my foot on the dining hall floor repeatedly, waiting for Kyoko to begin the meeting. I didn't have many details about what would entail in the meeting, but apparently it had something to do with Mukuro among other things. It wasn't hard to guess what had happened. It was foolish to leave such a disloyal subject alone in a room where she could easily escape; especially with the door locked. She had obviously been done giving all of the information she wished to give.

 

Not that I had any complaints about their actions, other than the usual slackery. They had saved me another reign of despair.

 

Byakuya caught my eye. He was sitting as usual, legs crossed as daintly as he could muster. He was a good actor, I'll give him that. He showed barely any signs of despair other than the occasional glance in my direction. Even that wasn't despair worthy.

 

What truly was a sign of despair was his eyes. Like I had said before, I was absolutely horrible at telling other people's emotions. I never knew the right thing to say, leading to taunting from my peers. Yet something had made me suddenly susceptible to their emotions. I knew exactly what to say to bring someone to their knees, and I knew when a person was affected by the awful disease.

 

Even from my angle and location, which was at least 5 seats away from him, I could see it. Madness swirling in his eyes. Confusion even more so. All the symptoms of evil, despair, and so forth. Junko was right. Despair was fun.

 

I don't know why I had this sudden change of heart. The hope had been swooped out of me and carried away to Makoto or something, who lately had been even more hopeful than normal, oddly enough. The hope was replaced by pure, uncut despair. It's weird, too, because I remember clear as day I used to be like this.

 

Barely two years ago I was at this exact state of mind.

 

It never felt this good though. At first I even self-diagnosed myself as having Depression. That day I got that letter to Hope's Peak Academy though...

 

Everything changed.

 

Everything changed because I could finally do something with my despair. Some time after the event of planning, everything shifted again though. I didn't want to kill anyone. I didn't want to cause tragedy, especially to my own classmates.

 

I was emotional. That day the headmaster was killed, it pained me to see those looks of betrayal in their eyes. They trusted me, of all people! Someone that couldn't even keep their damn mouth shut. When that someone managed to, he still sent a disapproving glare. Yet they still managed to trust me. Even if they hated me, they trusted me.

 

Why was I like that again, though? I hated every single one of my classmates again. I wanted to kill them slowly, torture them, for all of their "smarts" and slackery.

 

They were once again the scum of the world.

 

Kyoko begun to speak, her coat clear voice echoing heavily against the tension in the air. "As you all know, I have organized a meeting. First order of business is about Ikusaba-san. As I'm sure all of you have heard by now, she escaped sometime yesterday afternoon."



"That-That slutty skeeve d-dared to run away?" Toko grumbled.



"Unfortunately, yes." Kyoko says. "Next order of business. It appears the third floor is open." The effect of her words was immediate. A few whoops went through the air, namingly from Hifumi.



"So we have to explore again?" Leon asked. Kyoko nodded in response.


"Um, can I go with you and Naegi-kun?" Sayaka asked. Kyoko looked at her, for once displaying confusion.



"What makes you think Naegi-kun and I are going to explore together?" Kyoko asked. Sayaka steps back in shock.



"You aren't ?"



"Why is that such a surprise?" Kyoko asked, confused. Sayaka straightened herself, bowing down in apology.



"I'm sorry, Kirigiri-san." Sayaka stopped bowing to look at her. "I overreacted. It surprises me though because you and Naegi-kun are always together. You're always dragging him around, you see." Sayaka giggled. "It's actually kind of cute."


"
C-Cute ?" Makoto butted in. Sayaka nodded.



"Yeah, cute!" Sayaka suddenly shifted her entire demeanor, putting on a scared one. Her fist was brought up to her face. "I just wanted to go with the people that probably aren't the mastermind and have been helping us this whole time..."



"W-Well, I mean, we can go with you if you really want us to, Maizono-san." Makoto said. Kyoko walked over to him, whispering something in his ear. He whispered something back. The scene soon turned into a whispering match.



Finally, Kyoko conceded. She turned to Sayaka. "Fine, we will go with you." Sayaka smiled brightly.



"Thank you, Kirigiri-san!"



"Wait, so who am I going with, then?" Leon asked. "Can I just tag along with you guys or something?"



"No." Kyoko immediately answered as she walked away from Makoto to the center of the room again. "That would mean there would be a group of two."



"And?"



"That's not very logical. If someone in that group of two were the mastermind then the other person would be unsafe."



"But if someone was killed then we would know who was the mastermind." Leon retorted as he scratched his goatee again . "It's a win-win situation."



"I do not think you know the meaning of a win-win situation, Kuwata-kun!" I said.



"For the last time, no." Kyoko asserted. She was clearly done with the topic. "So Maizono-san, Naegi-kun, and I are one group. Now we have to figure out the rest."



"I-I'm going with Togami-kun!" Toko exclaimed, latching on to Byakuya's arm. Byakuya sighed, looking like he wanted nothing more than to kill Toko.



"Well, we got that." Leon said. "Who else is going with you?"



"How about you go with them, Kuwata-kun?" Kyoko "asked." I put quotation marks around "asked" because of how she more like demanded him to go with Toko and Byakuya.



"What? Why--" All Leon needed to agree was one glare from Kyoko. "Whatever. Fine."



"S-So, Yamada-kun, Ishimaru-kun, and I are the last group?" Chihiro asked. I turned toward them at the sound of my name. Chihiro was fidgeting.



"Yes." Kyoko nodded. "Does everyone know what to do?" Murmurs slightly resembling "yes", "yeah", and "yeah, we got it" passed around the table. "Okay then. Let's go."



 

Chapter Text

Hifumi was a bit more excited than expected about the art room (which honestly should have been expected.) He was observing all of the statues for...figurines I thought he said. He was racing around the room, almost knocking over statues several times. Thankfully, he decided not to cause complete and utter havoc in a school and was much more careful with the statues after the fourth time almost knocking something over.

 

"U-Uh, Yamada-kun, shouldn't we move on?" Chihiro squeaked. We had at least been observing Hifumi for a good twenty minutes.

 

Hifumi coughed, turned around, and heartily declined Chihiro's request to go. He immediately turned back around, preoccupied with some weird looking easle thing that was definitely modeled after Monobear. Junko put it there sometime in the past, I guessed.

 

I was never too fond of the art room. I found the artistic hobbies themselves a waste of time and precious energy that could be saved for studying! (Hifumi would kill me if he heard me say that.)

 

All of the sudden Hifumi stiffened. Chihiro seemed to notice it too, because they walked nervously over to Hifumi, who seemed to be hunched over something.

 

"Y-Yamada-kun, a-are y-you a-all r-r-right?" Chihiro sputtered. It was a completely failed attempt at the Japanese language, but nevertheless that could be ignored. Maybe later I'd invest in some speech therapy classes for Chihiro...

 

"Yamada-kun, maybe you should--" I started, but didn't finish.

 

I was cut off by a long, piercing scream. It split my eardrums right in half."AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Chihiro screamed. I rushed over to Chihiro and Hifumi, immediately noticing a pale, shaking Chihiro on the ground and a grinning Hifumi.

 

"Fujisaki-san, you musn't yell in a school!" I scolded.

 

"I-I'm sorry, it's just—it's just--"

 

"What did you do to her, Yamada-kun?" I settle my eyes on to Hifumi, who oddly enough shrinks back from my gaze. Odd. I know I have a rather strong presence (something I had come to accept with time) but it's not that strong.

 

"Nothing at all, Master Kiyotaka Ishimaru! I was merely showing her the Mochi Mochi Princess figurine I have found! The title character herself!" Hifumi shoves the figurine in my face. When I attempt to grab the item for further inspection and possible confiscation, Hifumi snatches the figurine and holds it protectively to his chest. I'd find the figurine later, anyhow.

 

I turned to Chihiro, who by now had gotten up. "Why'd you scream then, Fujisaki-san?"

 

"Uh, I-I didn't know he was just showing me a figurine...I thought he was attacking me." Chihiro looked down. "...I'm sorry."

 

My heartstrings were tugged a little.

 

"It's fine, Fujisaki-san, just don't do it again, understand?"

 

"Y-Yes, sir! I'll try my best!" They held their fists up. It was like they were pumping themselves up...it was kind of cute.

 

"WHAT WAS THAT?" A breathless Makoto ran into the room, followed by Kyoko and Sayaka.

 

Chihiro feebly raised up their hand. "That was me...I'm sorry."

 

Makoto immediately sobered, coming to Chihiro's aid with their confession. "Not that there's anything wrong about screaming in here, but it's kind of a bad idea with the murders and—you know what, should we just go?"

 

"That would be most wise Master Makoto Naegi." Hifumi said "wisely," still holding his figurine close to his chest.

 

"Yes, what was the purpose of spliting off into groups in the first place if you just stay here?" I inputed.

 

"Uh, right, right!" Makoto heads out the door, noticably reaching to grab Kyoko's wrist to pull her along before retracting his hand like it was acid. Hmm. It was most odd that they were not getting along as per usual! Classmates should stay united in these circumstances. If they didn't I had no qualms against it, but it was irritating how they lacked common sense!

 

The three of the other group left, and Hifumi, Fujisaki, and I were left to ourselves.

 

"Uh, Ishimaru-kun, Yamada-kun?" Chihiro tugged on mine and Hifumi's jackets.

 

"Yes?" I asked back.

 

"Um, how about we check out that room over there?" Chihiro pointed at a room in the very back of the room we were in.

 

"Of course, Master Chihiro Fujisaki!" Hifumi agreed.

 

For the rest of the time we spent investigating, we only looked around the art room and its storage room. Hifumi refused to leave the place.

 

When we had returned to the dining hall, though, where veryone had silently and unofficially agreed to meet up again, we were disturbed to see dead silence. Not a single person was looking at anyone, a wave of distrust evident among the students.

 

It was like everyone was finally realizing that someone was going to die again, and someone was the mastermind.

 

Chapter Text

It was tense and quiet as usual. I couldn't be surprised, though. It was always tense and quiet.



It's like everyone had finally come to realize the horror of the situation. They were probably still coping with the whole idea of kill or be killed, but they were apparently all late bloomers. While I wouldn't fuss, I kind of wished their realization had come sooner.

 

We were having plain old cereal for breakfast, yet no one was eating it. It's not like its a food you can't like, because of all the different flavors and milks. Plus, from the two years I had spent with them I knew they were not the kind of people that didn't like cereal, or breakfast in general.


Everyone dished themselves up today. It explained why it was such a simple meal, but not anything else.


Hifumi had offered to cook, being our unofficial chef and all, but none of the students were taking that. First Byakuya had got up, then Toko, then Sayaka, and so on. They must have all thought he'd have the gall to poison their food. It would be a change of pace, that's for sure, and no one wanted to risk that. While I once again wouldn't complain everyone else probably would. They just do not appreciate the sixth sense, unfortunately: despair.

 

I stabbed a spoon of oats into my mouth.



I had to admit, though, that I myself was getting mighty bored inside these walls. I was itching to just pick up a pencil and do some hardcore note taking from off a projector. While I appreciated the luck and opportunity I'd had of clearing the world of scum, I wished the process would speed up. And while patience is a virtue and I tried to keep that saying in my mind, it was hard when none of these scoundrels weren't at least doing something productive. They were all just sitting there in self-pity instead. It was infuriating. Like they deserved pity, even from themselves.



I plucked another spoonful of oats into my mouth, silently taking note of everyone watching me as I did so. Some of them, namingly Sayaka and Leon, were watching me in horror.



"How can you eat at a time like this..." Leon muttered right next to me, picking at his own cinnamon toast crunch. I hastily swallowed my mouthful, taking in a deep breath to give Leon a lecture about the importance of food when he sighed and turned to me, saying, "don't answer that."



I bit my tongue. Literally. The words along the lines of, "breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and if it is not eaten it is impossible to be a beneficial member of society," just wished to flood out.



While I normally wouldn't hesitate to act on my desires, I'd admit lately I had been slacking, and frankly didn't have time to lecture a boy that obviously wouldn't listen to me.



I gorged myself with oats as I observed my classmates. They were all picking at their food. All of them. It was infuriating. I clamped my mouth shut as it unconsciously opened, instead coming up with an aggressive "HMM" sound. It caused even more awkwardness, to say the least.



Well, obviously observing my classmates wasn't doing me any favors. Instead, I settled on burning holes into my cereal as I clobbered it down, until the very last sip of milk was gone. Thank God for that, I was on the brink of screaming in rage.



I speed walked into the kitchen, hurriedly washed my bowl (doesn't mean the bowl was cleaned to perfection) and walked towards my room, ready to start rereading 'Japanese History: The Journey of Prime Ministers.' That way I could tell what all the prime ministers before me had done wrong, plus at least then I'd be doing something productive.



I would had been doing something productive, at least, if not for the sudden knocking on my door just when I had settled myself onto my chair, hunched over my book and ready to start on page one once again.



I puffed, rubbing my temples as I stood up and made my way towards the door. Wrenching it open, I was surprised to see a nervous Chihiro, who then quickly turned into a scared Chihiro.



"D-Did I come at a bad time?" They asked, backing away a bit from the door as they played with the hem of their shirt.



I shook my head vigorously, putting on the most genuine smile I could manage. All that seemed to do was make Chihiro even more scared though.



"Um, are you sure?"



"Yes, yes, of course, Fujisaki-kun!" I gestured for them to come in. "Come in, come in."



Chihiro blushed a violent red. "U-Um, a-actually I can't talk a-about it in there."



I crossed my arms. "Why not?" I demanded.



"Um, it's just—It's—I can't explain--" they stumbled over their words.



"Fujisaki-kun! If you have something to say to me, say it!"



Chihiro squeaked. Taking a few deep breaths, they calmed themselves. Glancing warily across the hallway and inside my room, they gestured for me to bend down. I obliged. Leaning towards my ear, they whispered, "do you want to see Oowada-kun?"



My heart leapt into my throat. For the first time in forever, hope surged through my veins. Mondo was alive! He was alive!



"MONDO'S ALIVE!" I shouted, joy making its way through my voice. Pure joy. I felt everything was falling into place. He was never dead, no, of course not! Mondo is too strong to die so easily! To think I thought any less of my brother!



"Ishimaru-kun..." Chihiro softly spoke. I stopped mid celebration, my arms held over my head and joyous tears shining in my eyes. "He's not alive...I'm so sorry."



I dropped my arms next to my sides. "R-Right." I mumbled. "Of course not..."



"But you can see him!" Chihiro carried on. "I created...Wait, no, follow me. Please. If you want to. I don't mean to trouble you."



I turned my head away from Chihiro, weighing the pros and cons in my head. Of course, I did want to see Mondo again. This could also be a trap though...they're trying to get rid of me.



I began to shut the door on Chihiro. "I'm sorry Fujisaki-san, but I can't."



"Please, Ishimaru-kun, listen to me!" Chihiro pleaded.



I stopped the door midway, peeking through the cracks to at least try to judge the sincerity of Chihiro's face. It was undetermined. They looked like they were telling the truth. I wanted to believe they were—I hated distrusting people. They were giving me puppy dog eyes, their hands held up to their chest.



Suddenly, Chihiro's entire demeanor seemed to shift to that of a scared one. "W-Was that too blunt? I'm sorry."



That's it. Chihiro has to be genuinely trying to help me. Besides, why would whoever is trying to trap me send Chihiro of all people?



"No. No, it's fine." I reassured them. "I'll go with you."



Chihiro gave an angelic smile. "Really?"



I couldn't help but smile back. "Yes. Where to?"



Suddenly, Chihiro was blushing beat red again. "Um, don't take this the wrong way, but the uh..." They trailed off.



"The..." I pushed.



"...Sauna." They put their head in their hands. Just as quickly, they shot their head back up with widened eyes. "B-But the locker room part of the sauna!"



"Why would I take that the wrong way?" I questioned. I was genuinely confused. Maybe I would think of something like...hmm...



"U-Um!"



"Fujisaki-san?



"...We should go. If you're ready." They completely avoided the question. Oh well.



"I'm ready!" So we headed to the sauna, not that far away from where we were.



When we arrived, Chihiro was fidgeting as they headed towards a locker, grabbing a key from a pocket in their jacket. Nervously, they twisted the key through a keyhole in one locker identical to the dozens around it.



A laptop stood inside. I think it was the nonfunctional laptop from the library. Why did Chihiro wish to show me this though? I do not see Mondo in this locker.



The laptop suddenly fizzed to life. I jumped back at the crackling, broken sound of the laptop, suddenly fearing Chihiro's technological potentional. As to be expected of the Super High School Level Programmer; pure genius.



Chihiro clicked around on the laptop, going through a few programs, before they found what they were looking for. They gave a soft, almost inaudible 'ah ha' and clicked on the program.



Bright letters came to the front of the screen, brightly shouting, 'ALTER EGO.'



A face identical to Chihiro's came up. Chihiro typed something small into the laptop, which I squated down to see.



>Hello, Alter Ego!



"Hello, Master!" The program, Alter Ego, chirped back just as enthusiastically as Chihiro.



Chihiro was beginning to type again, before I intercepted them and began to talk to the machine myself.



>Are you Brother?



"Um..."



Chihiro carefully scooted in next to me, taking my place at the keyboard.



>I'm sorry—that was my friend Ishimaru-kun, and I promised him he could see Oowada-kun



"Oh! I can do--"



"ALL STUDENTS REPORT TO THE GYM IMMEDIATELY!" Monobear's voice echoed through the room, stopping all motion. Even Alter Ego, who looked confused.



"Master, I felt a signal pass through the school. Should I further investigate this signal?"



Chihiro looked at me, their eyes sparkling. "If Alter Ego investigated...we could find where the mastermind is, right?" Chihiro smiled. Without waiting for a reply from me, they typed into the computer.



>Yes. We are going now. Goodbye, Alter Ego!



"Goodbye, Master!" Alter Ego said before shutting off automatically.



Chihiro closed the laptop, smiling, before they seemed to realize something. "You weren't able to see Oowada-kun..."



I frowned, looking to the side, before meeting their eyes again and attempting (key word attempting) to smile. "You can just show me later, after we go to the Gymnasium."



"Y-Yeah, I can just do that." Shakingly, Chihiro got to their feet, waiting for me to join them. I did just that, and we both headed out the locker room and towards the Gymnasium.



Chihiro was shaking the whole journey to the Gymnasium, becoming completely quiet, and just before we entered the Gymnasium doors they clutched onto the hem of my coat.



"Can you promise me something? If it's not too much of a hassle..." Chihiro was looking up at me, showing me pleading eyes.



"Yes?" I urged.



"Can you please help me convince them they're friends?" They held on tighter to my coat. I looked into their eyes, their brown orbs gazing into my own.



"What do you mean?"



"W-Well...It's been a few days since the last execution so that means that...a new motive might..." They began to tear up. "I-I don't want it to be like last time! I don't want everyone to fight and kill eachother! Please...help me."



I gulped. Either I lie and say I will help, and I've been doing an awful amount of lying lately, or I say no and blow my cover. It...doesn't really matter too much if you lie for your own safety. Right?



"Of course I'll help, Fujisaki-kun!" I replied, putting on my brightest smile.



Chihiro sniffled, wiping the tears out of their eyes. "Thank you..."



We opened the doors to the Gymnasium, where all the students plus Monobear had been waiting for us. As soon as the doors opened, they turned to face us, annoyance clear on their faces.



"Took you long enough." Byakuya grumbled.



"Seriously...Monobear won't shut up about his weird fetish with despair. It's gross." Leon agreed.



"Hey!" Monobear fumed. "I make up the rules here, so I'd shut your traps!"



"W-What'd you call us here for anyways, you o-overgrown fungus?" Toko asked in the nicest way she could muster.



"That hurts!"


"Please tell us what we need to know, Monobear." Sayaka smiled. It was probably fake, but if it was she could pull a wicked fake smile. Well, she
was an idol, I supposed.



Monobear huffed. "Since one of you has enough manners to ask politely, I'll tell you." Monobear grinned sinisterly. "Guess what time it is? Time for a new motive!"


The room was dead silent.



"Aww, no cries of mercy, no 'please Monobear don't do this'?" Monobear looked around. "Nothing? You guys are boring."



"What--What's the motive?" Makoto spoke up.



"It's a little game I like to call 'Mania.'"



"'Mania'?" Kyoko prodded.



Monobear nodded and grinned. "'Mania'! It's a simple game, all you gotta do is kill someone within 24 hours, or a trap is released."



"A trap?" Chihiro whispered next to me.



"And if no one kills for 12 hours after the first trap is released, then another trap is released. And if no one kills for 6 hours after that—Well, you get the gist of it. If it gets to the point that all the traps are released then—I can't tell you that."



"What do you mean?" Hifumi asked.



"What don't you get about it? I think I explained it clearly enough! Traps, traps, traps! Traps! That's it! Murder someone before you find out what those traps are!" Monobear sunk into the floor. "Who knows what will happen if you don't?" He called out, until he was completely gone.

 

Chapter Text

"I-It's my fault, isn't it? I-I killed everyone. Why did I have to vote? Why c-couldn't I have stopped any of these murders?" Chihiro cried. I was sobbing next to her, my arms grasping their frail body tightly.

 

"No! It's my fault that it happened! I should've been stronger!"

 

"D-Don't say that, Ishimaru-kun!" Chihiro dove into my chest, crying their little eyes out.

 

"I have to get out!" We both looked up in synchrony up to Sayaka, who was banging her fists one after another on the metal frame of the window. She was crying out in pain as she did so, yet only hit harder each time.

 

"Damn it! You're really pissing me off!" Leon walked up to her from the kitchen, taking big bites out of a ham and cheese sandwich.

 

Sayaka cried out in a rage and stamped her foot across the ground, proceeding to beat her fists even harder against the metal as her blue mane jumped around her. She screamed as this yielded no results, deciding to kick the metal and smash her elbow against it. She sunk to the ground, holding her head in her hands and strangled screams ripped through the air.

 

"SHUT UP!" Leon yelled out in a drawn out manner, his sandwich now gone from his hands.

 

"W-What's going on?" Chihiro whispered next to me.

 

"YOU DON'T GET IT!" Sayaka screamed back at him, lifting her head to reveal mascara falling down her face in fitful streams.

 

"WHAT DON'T I GET?" Leon asked in rage, looking like he wanted to hit something more than anything.

 

"YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH I WANT TO GET OUT! THEY NEED ME! I NEED THEM!"

 

"YEAH RIGHT!"

 

"Guys!" Makoto butted in. All of the heads in the room moved away from their argument to him, himself standing in the middle of the dining room.

 

"WHAT?" Leon growled. Makoto jumped, throwing his arms out to his sides.

 

"Why are you all acting like this?" Makoto pointed to Chihiro and I."Ishimaru-kun and Chihiro-san won't stop acting like everything is their fault!" I loosened my collar a bit. Makoto pointed his finger to Sayaka. "Maizono-san won't stop going on about how much you need to get out of here, Kuwata-kun is getting angry at everything , Kirigiri-san won't talk to me, Fukawa-san is extra clingy to Togami-kun today and he won't stop calling her something like a 'homocidal maniac,' and Yamada-kun is just sitting in the corner!" Makoto pointed to all of the named people respectively. "Even I'm feeling kind of weird! What's going on?"

 

"W-What do you mean 'extra clingy,' you scum on the bottom of m-my shoe?" Toko put her braid in her mouth as she held on tight to Byakuya, who's trying to get out of her grasp.


"I didn't mean to offend you, Fukawa-san." Makoto held his palms up in surrender. "But something weird is happening. Something really weird."

 

A low laugh came from Hifumi, who was sitting back to us all against the wall. "I'm lucky to have you, Princess-sama. So beautiful and charming. So funny."

 

"Uh, Yamada-kun?" Makoto treaded. "Are you okay?" He edged towards him.

 

"Princess-sama...You make me blush. You're the only one who understands me."

 

"He's talking to himself." Byakuya spoke. "Expected from someone of his level of mental stability." He pushed up his glasses, trying once again to get away from Toko. "Gross." He said to her.


"Byakuya-sama!" Toko awed. "You're getting mad at me! You know just how to pleasure a girl—as expected!" She breathed erratically.

 

"Don't call me by my first name, scum."

 

"...Talking to myself?" Hifumi finally spoke up. Even despite him having a late reply. "How horrible for you to speak like Princess-sama is invisible!" Hifumi stumbled up from the ground, running into the kitchen suddenly.

 

"Um...I have a bad feeling, Ishimaru-kun." Chihiro said to me.

 

"You're just being silly, Fujisaki-kun! He won't do anything bad!" I comforted them. For some reason, I felt a guilty feeling take hold of me, and my heart sunk. Tears suddenly filled up my eyes, and I saw the same happen to Chihiro. "Nothing...bad...He can't do nearly the same amount of damage that..."

Chihiro began to sniffle. They opened their mouth to say something, but was unable to because of Hifumi loudly bursting out of the kitchen, knife in hand.

 

"She will have your head!" Hifumi shouted as he ran towards Byakuya at a speed I once thought unimaginable for him.

 

"Yamada-kun!" Makoto shouted. Hifumi didn't stop, though. If anything, he ran faster, his knife clashing viciously with Toko's scissors.

 

Wait.

 

Scissors?

 

"Shame. I never thought it'd come out like this! Kinda boring death for you though, right?" Toko mocked. "Kyehahaha! Just kiddin'!"

 

"...Fukawa-san?" Makoto breathed out.

 

"A-A demon like you must be extinguished to get to the true devil!" Hifumi gulped, trying to swing in for a stab to the gut before Toko stopped him.

 

"Going in for the sneak kill, huh?" Toko shot the knife out of Hifumi's hands, which barely missed Kyoko by an inch. For once, Kyoko looked terrified.

 

"You will not--" Hifumi didn't get to finish, because two pairs of scissors were suddenly pressed to his throat in a cross formation.

 

"Too bad you don't turn me on." Toko groaned. "I've been itching for a kill. Being locked inside gloomy for so long has made me soft." Toko removed the scissors from Hifumi's throat.

 

"...Fukawa-san?" Makoto asked again.

 

Toko turned to him, groaning. "Did you not get the message the first time? You're calling the wrong person!"

 

"What do you, uh...What do you mean?"

 

Toko sighed. "'Fukawa-san,' or whatever you people call her, is gloomy. I am Genocider Sho!"

 

 

Chapter Text

 

"Genocider...Syo?" Chihiro asked, digging their fists into my jacket.

 

Genocider Syo turned to them, swinging her scissors in circles absentmindedly around her pointer fingers. Chihiro screamed next to me, covering their head. I did the same; for the purpose of safety.

 

"I RECOMMEND YOU NOT DO THAT FUKAWA-SAN--"

 

"Genocider Syo!"

 

"—YOU MAY HURT YOURSELF!" I finished.

 

Genocider Syo snorted, then fell into full blown laughter. "KYEHAHAHAHAHAHA" I didn't know whether I should've be offended or overjoyed someone was laughing at my words. I definitely wasn't laughing so...Yep, I should've definitely felt offended. To laugh at your authority—so disrespectful! "I-I-KYEHAHAHA!" Genocider Syo wiped tears from her eyes.

 

"You-You'll get detention for this!" I reach into my pants pocket, pulling out a stack of pink slips, and begin writing one addressed to the one and only "Genocider Syo."

 

"You carry those around?" Leon dumbly asked. Obviously I carry them around with me at all times! So, instead of responding to Leon's dumb question, I ignore him.

 

"Ishimaru-kun, we don't have detention," Sayaka piped in. I chose to ignore her too.

 

"Back to more important issues." Kyoko said for the first time, standing up from her chair and meeting us all in the middle of the room where we had gathered. "That name sounds familiar: Genocider Syo."

 

"You might've heard of me, might've not. Either way, there are tons of little myths about me. They make me want to gut someone—They're so juicy!" My fellow students took a step away from Genocider Syo. I did after a moment, too, but not before handing Genocider Syo a detention slip.

 

"Myths?" Kyoko pressed.

 

"Let me just skip over the details, since they definitely shouldn't be heard by innocent ears ! Long story short, some people think I'm a thirty-year-old gay man, if you'd believe it! The rest believe that I'm just a young schoolgirl with a murderous alter ego." Genocider Syo laughed. "That's not too far off the mark! I don't just do it because I'm 'murderous' or anything like that though. I do it because of my female hormones! You understand the feeling, don't you, Kirigiri-san ?"

 

Kyoko stays silent and clears her throat. She looked like she wanted to say something, before she thought better of it and closed her mouth once again.

 

"So Fukawa-san has a different personality?" Makoto asked, scratching his head as if he doesn't really understand the concept too well.

 

"You're mentioning Gloomy again, despite the far more interesting person in front of you? Bo ring . But yeah. She does. Me! The more energetic, bubbly, daring one!"

 

"Bubbly. Right." Leon rolled his eyes.

 

Genocider Syo let out a bellowing sneeze. She looked up again, demeanor noticeably different, and once she got one look at the items in her hands she screamed and scrambled to put them away.

 

So it's Toko then.

 

"Is that you, Fukawa-san?" Makoto asked.

 

Toko looked up at him, her bespectacled eyes holding an unidentifiable look in them. "Y-yes. Why? Are you going to e-execute me now?" Toko's eyes suddenly widened tenfold and she cradled her head in her hands. "That sk-skeeve! I'm going to die ugly and without Togami-sama because of her! That damn b-bitch!" She screamed, her volume escalating while her fingers tangled in her hair. She tugged viciously at it.

 

"We're not going to kill you!" Makoto hurriedly told her.

 

"The-The bear is! W-Who did I kill?" Toko looked around her until she spotted Hifumi laying on the ground. "Th-The otaku? I killed him ?” Toko sputtered.

 

“I’m not dead…” Hifumi gasped from the floor. “I’m merely in shock from your exceptional abilities!” Hifumi got up from the floor after a few moments of struggle. “...And while through the power of my princess I am unable to feel any sort of cowardice, I’m as scared as I can be.”

 

“S-So, I’m not going to d-die?” Toko asked.

 

“No. You didn’t kill anyone but...If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to you?” Makoto asked, hands held in front of him as if he were afraid of aggravating Genocider Syo once again.

 

“It’s n-none of your business, w-worm,” Toko growled, fingers turned into claws.

 

Makoto took a deep sigh and took a step forward towards Toko. “Please, Fukawa-san. We can help you. Just tell us what happened.”

 

“N-No! Y-You can’t k-know the t-truth!” Toko tugged at her hair. “W-Why do you care anyways?” Toko’s eyes widened. “You’re just u-using me a-aren’t you? I knew it!”

 

“Fukawa-san!” Makoto pleaded.

 

“Y-You're manipulating m-me! Scum like you a-always try to get a-ahead that way! Talentless scum!" Toko screamed viciously.

 

Makoto looked genuinely hurt for a second, before he quickly recovered and said, "please, Fukawa-san, what happened?"

 

"You can't--"

 

"We already know about your alternate identity, Fukawa-san," Kyoko interrupted Toko's denial. "We know the truth already. She told us. If you could tell us yourself, it'd be beneficial for our own survival here. Including yours." Kyoko persuaded.

 

Toko stood completely still, not a muscle moving, her hands in the middle of tugging on her braids. "She...told you?"

 

"Yes. It'd make more sense coming from the main identity. Besides, you could tell us fully in detail what is happening. If you don't tell us, and as a result we don't know what is happening, things unimaginable may happen. Things that could have been avoided." I...didn't understand what she was trying to do. The strange actions of women, I supposed.

 

"Y-You're lying! N-Nothing bad will happen if I d-don't tell you, you ma-manipulative bitch!" Toko snapped out of her daze and moved her hands to the top of her head, digging her nails into her scalp.

 

"It's impossible to tell." Kyoko crossed her arms.

 

"I-I won't b-believe a wannabe detective!" Toko walked over to Byakuya, who was only a couple feet from her, and looped their elbows together, squeezing into his side.

 

"Get away from me, peasant," Byakuya snarled. He adjusted his glasses, attempting to push away Toko, and looked Kyoko dead in the eye. "I see what you're trying to do," he smirked. "And I agree. Bad things may happen."

 

Toko stopped trying to resist Byakuya's efforts, allowing herself to be pushed away. She stared open mouthed at Byakuya. "...Togami...-sama?"

 

"Tell them, Fukawa," Byakuya said so confidently I couldn't help but get a little unnerved. For thinking everyone was using her, Toko didn't have a good eye for who actually was.

 

"I-I-" Toko gulped. "Okay..." Toko breathed in deeply, tugging on her hair once again before proceeding to flatten her skirt. "G-Genocider Syo is my...a-alternate p-persona. For a-all you uneducated t-twats that means my o-other personality. She...She..." Toko looked so uncomfortable I almost felt bad for her.

 

"Go on," Byakuya pushed.

 

"But—Togami-sama y-you already--" Toko tried to reason. I tried to piece together her argument which was, long story short, impossible.

 

"Go. On."

 

"I-I! She--" Toko yelled out in frustration. "—K-Kills people that she f-finds s-s-s-sexually a-a-appealing."

 

"...I'm confused." Sayaka said.

 

"O-Of course you are, you d-ditz!" Toko mumbled aggressively.


" How does she kill them, Fukawa?" Togami grinned all-knowingly. Did he know about this? Was he just prolonging her suffering?

"She...She c-cruxifies them w-with scissors." Toko grumbled dejectedly.

 

"Is that all?"

 

"Y-Yes!"

 

"Really?"

 

Toko started to bite vigorously at her nails. "S-She writes on the wall..."

 

"And what exactly does she write?"

 

"S-She writes...she um...she w-writes 'blood lust'."

 

"Blood lust? What's that mean?" Leon questioned. Toko glared daggers at him. Leon scowls. "Never mind."

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

The next day, we all did what we normally did. At least the standards for normality set by the previous day. Even then it was a bit...different, though.

 

Sayaka was screaming bloody murder in the middle of the dining hall, Leon was kicking tables and chairs over, Kyoko was staring at a wall, Hifumi was talking to the air, Makoto was giving himself a lecture about the importance of hope, Byakuya was pushing Toko away with a little more force than necessary while she was literally on top of him, Chihiro was crying by themself in the corner of the room, and finally I was completely normal!

 

I was kind of amazed by the fact that I was the very last person to arrive to breakfast, though. And not in the good way. It's completely my fault I was slacking, but the time I spent in my room did not go to waste! I was planning my complete takeover of the world!

 

Chihiro apparently had noticed me enter the room, because all of the sudden they were running towards me. When they finally stopped running and were in front of me, they paused to catch their breath and grossly sobbed, "it's all my fault!"

 

"What?" I questioned.

 

"It's my fault! I was trying to tell them it'll be okay because we're all friends and we can't murder each other, but then this happened!" Chihiro gestured widely around them. "I-I was just trying to help!" Chihiro wiped their eyes and sobbed. "Please! Help me!"

 

For whatever reason, I felt a ferocious anger burn my heart. "Why should I?" I growled.

 

"...Huh?" Chihiro looked shocked out of their right mind.

 

I laughed, suddenly a light-hearted feeling going through my veins. "You're all going to fall eventually. It'll be meaningless to slow down the process. A waste of time that could be spent on better things." I bent down, patting Chihiro's head. "Don't you agree?"

 

"Ishimaru...-kun?" Chihiro backed away from me.

 

I felt a smile stretch across my face, sickening me to my own stomach. "Why are you scared, Chihiro-kun? Is there something on my face?" I rubbed my face and then looked at my hand. "Nope. Is there something disturbing about me then, Chihiro-kun?"

 

"I don't...Ishimaru-kun, I don't understand," Chihiro sobbed.

 

"You didn't answer my question," I said.

 

"I don't want to..." Chihiro cried. "Please don't make me."

 

I looked around us, seeing everyone preoccupied with themselves. I walked over to Chihiro in a few steps, and stopped them from fleeing by grabbing their wrist. They gasped and allowed a few more tears to leak out of their eyes. "Now tell me."

Looking away, Chihiro gulped. "You-You're acting differently."

 

I felt my eyebrows crease even more than usual. "Really?" I licked my lips, looking away from Chihiro. "I think I'm the only one acting normal."

 

"I'm sorry—I'm sorry--" Chihiro chanted.

 

I moved my hands to their shoulders, keeping them from even attempting to struggle. I looked deep into their frightened eyes. "How am I acting different?"

 

"I-I shouldn't--" I gave one look to Chihiro and they began to fess up immediately. "The way you're speaking...and...and acting." Chihiro began to tear up. "I'm so sorry."

 

"No, no." I felt myself begin to calm down somewhat, despite the anger and despair still held in my heart. "You were honest. A true role model."

 

Chihiro gave me a tiny smile, but was still crying heavily. I let go of their shoulders. "Thank you," they breathed. They turned on their heels, sobbing all the while, and headed to the corner they were previously in.

 

They left me with a question in my mind though: was I acting differently? Sure, I may be even more blunt than usual, but I always say what's on my mind; it's only right! Maybe because I don't typically talk about the despair of this world? Possibly.

 

I was shaken out of my thoughts by the hoarse sound of projectile vomiting. I jump at the sound and turn to see Makoto pushing a bowl of soup he must've gotten away from him as a black liquid spewed out of him.

 

"AAH!" Sayaka screamed.

 

Makoto slumped to the floor, his face shining with sweat.

 

"What—What just happened?" Leon growled.

 

"Is he..." Hifumi gulped. "...Dead?"

 

"A body announcement hasn't gone off." Kyoko walked away from her spot near the wall. "He must be alive." She went over to Makoto's body, taking his pulse. After a moment, she sighed, sounding kind of relieved, and said, "He is."

 

"Shame." Byakuya sighed, finally away from Toko's smothering.

 

"Alright, what the hell is your problem?" Leon spit at Byakuya.

 

"Maybe you acting out of character."

 

"Listen here you little sack of--"

 

"Can you two drop it?" Kyoko asked. "We have more important matters to attend to, which includes why everyone is acting differently."

 

"It's obviously part of the motive that was announced," Togami said. "That's not hard to figure out."

 

"But Monobear mentioned traps," Sayaka inputed. "Could making us act differently really count as a trap? It could just be stress getting to us, right?"

 

"Doubtful. It seems oddly convenient that right after a motive is announced this happens."

 

"Kuwata-kun, Ishimaru-kun, can you two bring Naegi-kun to his room?" I swore Kyoko looked a second longer at me than necessary while she asked this.

 

"Fine," Leon agreed.

 

"Of course I'll help my fellow students!" I complied.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The next day was nerve-wracking to walk into. A fourth trap should've already been released, and if Byakuya was right we already had experienced the first trap but hadn't the second, third, nor fourth. I had my suspicions about Makoto's problems being involved with one of the traps, though.

 

I was the first in the dining hall, feeling no need to hole up in my room and plan this morning. Slowly most of the students piled in, but something was severely wrong. Something was wrong in the best way possible.

 

They were all acting normal.

 

"Hey dudes," Leon yawned as he walked into the dining hall. "What's up?" He stretched out his muscles as he went into the kitchen.

 

"Kuwata-kun!" Chihiro yelled after him as they ran on pencil legs to where he was.

 

"How's Naegi-kun?" I asked Kyoko as she sat down on the chair to the left of me.

 

She glared at me coldly, before brushing her purple hair out of her face and looking pointedly away from me. "How would I know?"

 

"I just expected--"

 

"Don't expect." Kyoko gritted out through clenched teeth. "Okay?"

 

"Um...Okay, Kirigiri-san!" I cleared my throat, looking for a topic of conversation. Oh! How everyone was acting! Of course! "So...everyone is acting rather well today, don't you think?"

 

"Yes." Kyoko lied her head face down on her arms.

 

I tried to peek at her face to no avail. "Are you alright, Kirigiri-san?"

 

Kyoko grumbled back something inaudible.

 

"I cannot hear you! Speak up, please!"

 

Kyoko gave no response this time. I let out a large sigh.

 

"I'm telling you, a poptart won't do anything to me!" Leon yelled. I looked up to see him walking out of the kitchen, Chihiro hot on his trail.

 

"Please, I don't want you to get hurt like Naegi-kun!" Chihiro pleaded.

 

Leon sat down on the opposite side of me, rolling his eyes and opening the wrapper of the poptart. He took a large bite out of it. "See?" He spoke offhandedly to Chihiro, who was planted next to him by now.

 

Chihiro looked away from Leon, only to yelp when they caught my eye and began to stare into their lap.

 

"You okay?" Leon swallowed and put down the remaining poptart that was making its way to his mouth.

 

"Um...yeah. I'm sorry for worrying you." Chihiro looked up, glancing around the room. "Is someone missing?" They asked, worry evident on their face.

 

"Yeah. Naegi," Leon said, beginning to work on his second poptart.

 

"No, somebody else."

 

"Naegi-kun!" Sayaka ran up to Makoto, who had just entered the room. He didn't look like he was sick in the slightest. Really, if anything he just looked tired. That's probably from just waking up, too.

 

Kyoko picked up her head and sat straighter in her chair, looking over at Makoto. Makoto sighed, coming over to the long table we were at, Sayaka right behind him. As he passed Kyoko, Kyoko asked, "what are you doing here?"

 

He jumped, pointing at himself. She nodded. Makoto sat on the other side of me, Sayaka sitting right next to him, and smiling brightly he said, "I was feeling pretty good when I woke up. It was probably just something I ate that caused me to get that sick."

 

"That's some weird stuff you must've ate then. I've never vomited black," Leon said.

 

Makoto laughed awkwardly, "I'd rather not think about it."

 

"Oh, I got it!" Chihiro suddenly stood up, fist in their palm. They blushed a scarlet red and sat back down. "Sorry, but I think...I think I know who's missing."

 

Makoto stood up, suddenly looking serious. "Who?"

 

"Well, um, Fukawa-san and Togami-kun are over at their own table." Chihiro pointed at a table a few feet away from our own. "And the rest of us are here except..." Chihiro fidgeted. "...Except Yamada-kun."

 

Byakuya and Toko stood up, striding over to our table. "Yamada-kun is missing?" Byakuya pushed up his glasses. "Unsurprising. I figured someone had died by now, since 'Mania' seemed to be over."

"We never said he was dead," Makoto said, hands flat on the table. "And he isn't dead. He probably just overslept."

 

"I'll go check!" Sayaka bounced up from her seat and ran away from the table.

 

A few minutes later she came back, breathing heavily.

 

"Maizono—"

 

"He's not responding!" Sayaka said with a tone of urgency.

 

"What?" Kyoko stood up.

 

"He's not answering his door!"

 

"Maybe he's just on the third floor!" Chihiro assured. "I didn't mean to make everyone so worried. I'm sorry," she apologized. "But Yamada-kun really loved the art room! He might just be there!"

 

I found myself standing up. "Fujisaki-kun is right!" I agreed. "We mustn't make ourselves worry! Let us commence our search for Yamada-kun!"

 

We all parted ways, going to search different parts of the third floor.

 

I was heading towards the art room, despite everyone else walking that way, when I heard a high-pitched scream coming right out of the art room.

 

A few people stood petrified in front of the open door, and I had to push through them to see what lay inside. Inside was something I should be used to by now, that I should've been used to even before the life of mutual killings, but I couldn't help but gag at the sight. Even though somewhere, not so deep inside, I had really been expecting something like this, ever since it was discovered Hifumi was missing.

 

"Bing, bom, boooom! A body has been discovered! After a brief period of investigation a class trial will take place."

 

"Why...Why does this keep happening?" I heard Chihiro's voice sob, and I looked down to see them crying in front of the body. Were they the one who had screamed? "We're supposed to be friends."

 

I walk slowly to Hifumi's body, staring comprehensively at the sculpture that had replaced his head. It had defined facial parts, but despite the beauty of the chiseled man it had not even come close to outshining the horror that took place in the room.

 

Chapter Text



"Upupupupu, another death, huh?" I jumped at the sound of Monobear's hollow voice and looked up to see him standing on Hifumi's plump body.



Makoto walked into the room on trembling legs, face appearing an odd mix of fearful and angry. "Why are you doing this, Monobear?" Makoto shakily asked. "What have we done so bad that you have to do this to us?"



"Who knows?" Monobear shrugged. Monobear hopped off of Hifumi's body and wobbled over to Makoto, unveiling a folder in the process. He handed the folder to him, whistling like it was just another day. In a way it was.



"The Monobear file..." Makoto trailed off. He covered his mouth and coughed, and with a trembling hand flipped open the file. "Time of death..." He gasped. "What?"



"What's it say?" Leon asked, peeking over Makoto's shoulder to see the file held in his hand.



"3:00 P.M." Makoto trembled. "It says he was killed at approximately 3:00 P.M yesterday afternoon." Makoto turned to Kyoko, who happened to be right beside him. "You know what that means, right?"



"Yes." Kyoko took the file from Makoto's hands. "He's been dead for almost a full day." Her purple irises flickered across the papers within the folder. She apparently found nothing else in the file of value, because she didn't say anything more after closing the file and tucking it in between her arm and body.



She dug out her Electro ID from her jacket pocket and proceeded to tap her fingers against it. A familiar ping went off in my pocket, and I dug out my own ID and looked at it



>Monobear File #3



>Time of Death



Kyoko made her way over to Hifumi's body, kneeling down next to the corpse, and began moving the sculpture off of his head. Or rather where his head used to be. She was struggling a little; I could see sweat forming on her face. Without turning to address the group, she merely said, "I suggest you all investigate. We don't have long until the class trial."



Oh. Right. Investigating. I had to do that too; if I wanted to live.



The classmates started going to different areas of the room, some just moving out of the room completely (probably to search other areas of the school for clues; at least I was hoping).



I knelt down next to Kyoko and began helping her push the sculpture off of Hifumi. Apparently the help greatly speeded up the endeavor, because the sculpture rolled away from Hifumi. A sickening juicy sound no doubt caused by something to do with brains followed.



"That is disgusting ," I coughed, covering my nose. Indeed it was disgusting. A foul mixture of blood, tissues, and brains littered the ground. A few cracked pieces of Hifumi's glasses stuck out of the ground as well.



I felt bile rise up my throat, and I unfortunately had to swallow it back down. The taste didn't help the situation at all.



Kyoko poked a piece of the bloodied glass before picking it up and bringing it to eye level. The sight continued to worsen the situation.



"That is extremely unsanitary, Kirigiri-kun!" I scolded. She didn't care, though. I didn't expect her to. "I recommend you thoroughly wash your hands after this investigation! With extra soap!"



Kyoko dropped the glass and carefully stepped over Hifumi's body. She knelt down next to the sculpture and began moving it around, probably to get a closer look. "I'm wearing gloves," she said in a rather late response to my words. "What are you doing here, anyways?"



"What?"



"I don't need help. I recommend you investigate somewhere else." I had to admit that those words really did hurt a bit. Like a sharp knife cutting through my exterior and going straight to bone.



"...Right, Kirigiri-kun." Dang it. I sounded way more disappointed than I meant to. I was just going to appear even more like a loser.



I stood up and began to make my way to a different part of the room when something caught my eye. In Hifumi's closed fist, something bright was shining directly into my eye. I squinted and edged towards him, dropping down to begin to unwind his hand.



It was difficult, to say the least. Probably an effect of rigor mortis, which, now that I think about it, must still of been happening to Hifumi's corpse. I never did back down from a challenge, though!


I clasped on to Hifumi's fingers and gave them a firm tug. No use. If Hifumi somehow managed to be alive, he'd be in deep trouble with me for resisting. What were the odds of that, though?



I clenched my teeth together as I tried to unwind his fingers one by one. Wow, rigor mortis was much more powerful than I ever gave it credit for!



I grinned as I finally unwinded his thumb. I heard a distant ping and a vibration go off in my pocket. It's probably another clue. That could wait! I unwinded the rest of his fingers after even more difficulty than I was used to.



I looked down at the reward lying in his palm, eyes surely gleaming as they did after every victory. That shine quickly went away. It was merely the figurine Hifumi had grown to love. Something that was the princess of something. For once I could of used Hifumi's vast knowledge of manga and anime to solve this question.



"What's that?" I heard Makoto ask as he crouched next to me.



I furrowed my brows and picked the figurine out of Hifumi's hand, dangling it in front of my eyes. "Hifumi's figurine." I turned to Makoto. "The one he's been talking to."



Makoto reached into his pocket and pulled out his Electro ID. He began to tap it. "Can I see that?" He reached towards the figurine and waited for me to place it into his open palm. I lowered it from my eyes into his hand. "Thanks." Makoto placed the figurine down on the floor and placed his Electro ID above it, taking a picture of it. He began typing into the ID again and a ping went off through the room.



Oh, yeah! The other clue!


I dug my out my own ID again and unlocked it.



>Murder Weapon


>Yamada's Figurine



Oh. No new clues, then.



"Wait—" Makoto mumbled. He peered closer at Hifumi's hands. He hesistated, and after a moment crawled up to Hifumi and dug under his fingernails and took something out of them. That's disgusting. He showed it to me, rubbing it inbetween his thumb and finger.



"That is very unsanitary, Naegi-kun," I scolded as I leaned away from him.



"Huh?" He tilted his head. Suddenly it dawned on him. "Oh! No, no it's wood!"



I begrudgingly turned my eyes downwards to actually look at the item in between his fingers. Sure enough, it was wood. Gross wood covered with some sort of dirt substance, but nonetheless wood. Well, more like a chip of wood.



"Why was there wood under his nails?" I asked as I dared to lean closer to him and the disgusting fragments in his hands.



"I don't know..." he trailed off. He dropped the fragment on to the ground and took his Electro ID out, hovering over Hifumi's hands and snapping a picture of them. He began to type into it, and a ping went off in my pocket. I dug my own out.



>Wood Under Fingernails



"Do you suppose that'll be important?" I asked him as I lowered the Electro ID from my face.



Makoto opened his mouth to respond to me when a creaking of the door caught both of our pairs of ears. We both turned to look at it, only to see Mukuro Ikusaba in the doorway to the room we were in.



Byakuya strode up to her, a disgusted glare on his face. "What are you doing here?" he spat at her.



Mukuro looked unfazed. She tried to step around him, but he stepped right back in front of her. She sighed, turning her blue eyes upwards to stare at him. "A body was found."



"I'm aware." Byakuya crossed his arms. "And?"



Mukuro mirrored his stance. "We're supposed to investigate."



"You've never bothered to before."



"I am now," Mukuro said. "Now move out of the way."



"As if I'll let a murderer in here," Byakuya growled. "Go away."



"No." Mukuro apparently decided she had had enough of waiting for Byakuya to let her in, because she tried to step around him again. When he reached out to grab her arm to stop her from entering the room, she caught his arm and twisted it, going behind him to hold his arm against his back.



"Let go of me!" Byakuya shouted as he keeled over.


"Let me stay, then."



"As if."



Mukuro lifted his arm up further up his back. Byakuya let out a grunt, and kicked blindly behind him. Mukuro jumped over his invading leg and pushed him to the floor, her hand never leaving his arm.



"Togami-sama!" Toko happened to get up from the floor she had passed out on at that exact moment. "Y-You bitch!" She began to run towards Mukuro, but right before she was going to tackle her, Mukuro pulled a knife out of her boot with her spare hand and aimed it in Toko's direction.



Toko froze, looking like she was deciding whether to risk her life for Byakuya or to back down, leaning significantly towards the former.



Kyoko stopped her from having to choose, though, stepping away from Hifumi's body and walking in a calm manner towards Mukuro. "I recommend you don't do that, Ikusaba-san," she said. "There are plenty of people here, all of whom would be witnesses to your act."



Mukuro gave Kyoko a steady glare, slowly lowering her weapon, yet not lifting Byakuya off of the floor.



Toko was about to try to tackle Mukuro again, but Kyoko's voice stopped her before she could, "I don't think you want to attack her either, Fukawa-san."



Although Toko was stopped by her, she still retorted, "O-Of course I d-do, you s-slut!"



"Let me rephrase that then: you shouldn't attack her."



Toko was about to speak again, but she had no need to. Mukuro got off of Byakuya, walking away from him as she began to walk towards Makoto and I. Oh no. If she were to make a scene...



Mukuro glanced at me, her icy blue eyes startling to look at, and pulled her Electro ID out from under her skirt. Without looking up from it, she asked, "he has wood under his fingernails?"



"Uh...yeah," Makoto said, a slight tremor held in his voice. I felt him--I think that's what people said when they understood someone.



"Did you find out where the wood was from?" she asked. Makoto shook his head. Mukuro put her Electro ID back where it came from (by the way, what on earth was holding it in place under her skirt) and turned around to face the table Hifumi happened to be right next to. She began tracing a pattern on the wood with her pointer finger, crouching down slightly to better observe the table.



She once again brought out her Electro ID and positioned herself and it over the table, taking a picture of it.



A ping went off. I dug out my Electro ID. I was kind of curious to see what she had found in two seconds that we couldn't in two hours.



>Scratch Marks on Table

>Toppled Over Stool



Huh? I looked up from the device, seeing a fallen wooden stool literally right next to me. How had she managed to catch that and I hadn't? I really had been slacking. Despicable.



The scratch marks make sense though. It wouldn't take much to put two and two together and figure out what had happened there.



I got up, deciding to see them for myself. I scooted in next to Mukuro, who gave me a scathing glare, and peered over the desk. I suppose she hadn't been lying when she said scratch marks. Not that I expected her to.



Long lines lined the table, a jagged feeling to them once I laid my hand upon them. The brown spilled to the end of the table, where I supposed Hifumi had fallen and been killed.



I got up from the crouch I had put myself in, deciding to investigate something else then the body, when a familiar voice filled the area, "the investigation period is now over. Please report to the elevator to go to the class trial room."

 

Chapter Text

 

Let’s start by going over the murder weapon,” Kyoko began.



I don’t think there’s that much to go over,” Leon said. “It was just a little sculpture, right?” Leon scratched his head. “Well, not little , but--”



You can’t be too bothered by superficial appearances,” Kyoko retorted. “Just because the sculpture is in fact the murder weapon doesn’t mean that there isn’t something more sinister beyond just the sculpture itself. The sculpture could be symbolic for something. The question is what.”



Wow, Kirigiri-san!  Amazing!” Makoto gaped. He looked down, holding his chin in a detective-like manner. “Maybe the killer had some sort of connection to the sculpture or…” Makoto looked up, slamming his fist into his palm. “Maybe Yamada-kun himself had a special connection to the sculpture!”



He was an artist…” Chihiro trailed off. “But we wouldn’t really find out anything from that alone. I...don’t think we would, at least.” Chihiro started tearing up. “I’m sorry…”



It’s quite alright, Fujisaki-kun!” I calmed them.. I hoped I did, at least. I looked around the room and gestured towards Chihiro. “She has a point, though! It’d be edging on impossible to find the killer if only Yamada-kun himself had a connection to the sculpture!”



Not really. We could just find someone who knew Hifumi well enough to use the sculpture against him,” Makoto reasoned.



No one really knew him,” Sayaka said. “All I really know about him is that he is, or was I suppose, an otaku and that he only favored 2D girls.” Sayaka frowned ever so slightly. “And since everyone knows that, I suppose that isn’t that much of a help either.”



Wouldn’t the sculpture count as 3D, too?” Leon asked. “I mean, it was in real life and actually had dimensions that weren’t on a screen.” Leon scratched his head. “Seems pretty sketchy if you ask me.”



Perhaps for the sake of irony?” I shouted out.



Wouldn’t that be kind of...sadistic?” Sayaka asked. “No one in here is really like that...I think.”



A cough echoed through the room, followed by a garbled mess of syllables after no one paid attention to it. I looked straight across the courtroom, seeing a pair of red eyes staring straight back into my own.



Ah!” I fell on to my rear. It was, to say the least, kind of embarrassing.



What the hell?” Leon jumped. “When did you get there?”



Genocider Syo ignored him. “What was that, sweet cheeks? I’m not sadistic enough to ease you of the worrying thought that someone in here isn’t that sadistic?” Genocider Syo took out her scissors. “That hurts!”



Genocider Syo-san what are you...doing with those?” Sayaka asked, backing just noticeably away from her podium



Genocider Syo glanced at the identical scissors swinging around her fingers. “With these bad boys?” Genocider Syo grinned, a gleam of amusement showing in her red eye. “We're deciding how to cook you up. First we need to make the cut, sleek and nice--”



Y-You wouldn’t do that, right, Genocider Syo-san?” Sayaka gave a strained smile. I swore I saw her eyebrow twitching.



Let’s not get crazy--” Makoto put in.



Genocider Syo snorted a bit, before blasting into full blown laughter, “KYEHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Genocider Syo wiped a tear from her eye. “You-You guys are so gullible-KYEHAHAHAHAHA!”



Haha. What a funny joke,” Leon deadpanned. “So, you’re the killer right?” he asked.



Huh? What are you saying? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of your pure stupidity,” Genocider Syo grinned. “That’s a good one! I’ve gotta tell Gloomy to write that down!”



Leon’s face became increasingly redder. “Just tell us already, witch.”


I’m hurt,” Genocider Syo said. I think she was being sarcastic… “Do you honestly think that guy--what was his name?”



Yamada-kun,” Kyoko said.



Alright, so do you honestly think Yamada-kun was--wait, Yamada-kun? So all we have now for comic relief is Ishimaru? Ugh, boring ,” Genocider Syo yawned.



"Comic relief?" I questioned. Perhaps... something relating to comics? It makes perfect sense! "I think you are sadly mistaken, Genocider Syo-kun. I am most certainly not a character from a comic, nor relate to one I know of."



"Never mind, he's good enough!" Genocider Syo laughed.



"Genocider Syo-san, could you please tell us why you couldn't of killed Yamada-kun?" Sayaka asked, smiling prettily at Genocider Syo. "I think it's better to get it out of the way now."



"Huh?" Genocider Syo placed her dangerous hands on her hips and turned her red eyes to Sayaka. Sayaka's plastered smile fell ever so slightly. "Oh, yeah, the oof!" Genocider Syo grinned and wiggled her tongue. "I'm a refined lady. I don't murder big lumps of meat like that idiot! They've got to have the ability to get my lady parts all wet at bare minimum!" She flicked her tongue. "Like Byakuya-sama!"



"Wait--" Leon held his palm up. I swear I could feel the disgustedness radiate off of him. "So you're telling me you only murder guys that get you hot and bothered? Is that like a weird kink you have?" Leon bounced a step away from Genocider Syo. "That's pretty weird, dude. Like really weird.



"Nothing's better than hearing hot guys scream your name!" Genocider Syo blushed and put her hands on both sides of her cheeks.



"I think they scream your name because they're scared."



"Exactly!"



"Um... Genocider Syo-san, if you didn't k-ki -- do anything to Yamada-kun, do you have any idea who did?" Chihiro squeaked. Once they caught Genocider Syo's gaze, they added, "if you know and if you don't I'm really sorry for asking and--"



Genocider Syo shook her head. "How'd I know? Gloomy's the main host, so it's kind of impossible to get past her stormy exterior and take a peek. I haven't even had time to stretch my legs since that little incident the other day. Obviously Gloomy didn't do it either because of the whole wussy blood phobia."



"...No, that's not right," Makoto mumbled.



"Oh? Is lover boy saying something? Please do continue, I want to hear the secret sexual innuendo your words possess!" Genocider Syo smiled cruelly.



Makoto blushed a faint pink, but carried on with his point, "the time of death was almost a full day before his body was discovered. With that logic, even with Fukawa-san's phobia she could've killed Yamada-kun and gotten out of the room long before Yamada-kun's corpse was discovered."



"Not as perverted as I had hoped. Grr...I expected better of you Naegi-kun!" Genocider Syo bit her thumb.



"Uh..." Makoto gulped nervously.



"I'm admittedly impressed, Naegi-kun," Byakuya praised. "It goes to show even common folk can be helpful." Byakuya pushed up his glasses. "Don't take that to heart. Very rarely are your kind useful."



"Thanks?" Makoto shook his head and he was focused again. "But, Genocider Syo-san, please correct me if I'm wrong, but is it possible Fukawa-san killed Yamada-kun?" Makoto asked.



"Nope!" Genocider Syo dismissed Makoto's claim rather quickly

 

"Huh?" Makoto widened his eyes.

 

"How couldn't she of killed him?" Sayaka asked.

 

"Believe it or not, Gloomy doesn't necessarily want to be like me. I just can't figure out why it's so bad to kill hot guys!" Genocider Syo tugged on her braids. "Gah – she frustrates me!"

 

"That doesn't necessarily prove her innocence," Kyoko responded. She gripped the podium she stood at with her gloved hands. "But what Naegi-kun said doesn't exactly prove her as guilty, either."

 

"So...we're back to square one," Leon groaned. "Great."

 

"Not necessarily. We know that anyone could've killed Yamada-kun, not just Fukawa-san or Genocider Syo-san," Kyoko clarified. "Which brings us to what we should discuss next: alibis."

 

"For 3:00 P.M.?" Sayaka looked deep in thought. She snapped her fingers, her face muscles relaxed in relief. "Ah, I remember! I was with Naegi-kun!"

 

"I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but we were in the art room the entire time looking at the sculptures. I can't remember exactly what time we were talking, but it would've had to of been before Yamada-kun's demise," Makoto said. He scratched his head. "With that logic I don't exactly have an alibi, either."

 

"Wait – in the art room?" Byakuya straightened his posture. He pushed his glasses further up his nose. "Are you meaning to tell me barely before Yamada died you two happened to be in the place he died?" he smirked. "Way to go incriminating yourself, Naegi."

 

"Wait!" Makoto held his palms up. "I just said I don't remember what time Maizono-san and I were talking. It could've been well before Yamada-kun's death."

 

"Was it after or before lunch?" Byakuya asked.

 

"After, but that doesn't--" Makoto's eyes widened. He seemed to realize the situation he had gotten himself into.

 

"We had lunch late yesterday, if I recall correctly. Around 2:00 P.M., barely an hour before Yamada-kun was murdered." Byakuya crossed his arms. "That seems pretty suspicious."

 

"No – no, listen, neither Sayaka-san nor I murdered Yamada-kun!" Makoto began sweating profusely. "I'm sure of it!"

"You seem pretty nervous for someone who supposedly didn't murder Yamada-kun," Byakuya said.

 

"Because you're accusing me of something I didn't do!" Makoto shouted. "Guys – listen to me!"

 

"You freaking out is only furthering our suspicions," Kyoko intervened.


"You--" Makoto took a few deep breaths, and attempted to speak calmly, staring straight into Kyoko's eyes in what I assumed was desperation. "You don't believe me either?"

 

"You're not giving me any reason to trust you," Kyoko said. "But what Togami-kun says lacks justification," she added.

 

"Kirigiri-san..." Makoto gratefully smiled. It was almost depressing to look at the pure gratitude in his eyes.

 

"Don't think you're off the hook yet." Kyoko glanced at Sayaka. "You and Sayaka-san are the most suspicious among us at the moment."

 

"That's -- that's enough for me!" Makoto reassured. I didn't know who exactly he was reassuring – possibly himself. "As long as it's possible to prove that neither I nor Sayaka-san are the culprit, it's fine!" Makoto clenched his fist. "There's at least hope to find the true culprit!"

 

Byakuya rolled his eyes and asked, "if you're done with your little monologue, can I give my alibi?"

 

"G-Go ahead." Makoto motioned the universal "carry on" signal with his hand.

 

"I wasn't actually asking for your permission." Why ask, then? "Mine is simple. I was with her." Byakuya pointed at Genocider Syo.

 

"You were?" Genocider Syo grabbed her face. "Ooooh~ did we have some hardcore action going on, if you know what I mean?"

 

"Gross." Byakuya's face crinkled in disgust. "No, I was just reading peacefully and your counterpart found pleasure in watching me do so."

 

Genocider Syo huffed, "boring." She perked up and stared at Byakuya passionately. It was unnerving. Those eyes definitely do not belong in a school! "Do you need me to get her, Togami-sama?"

 

"Unfortunately, yes." Byakuya waved his hand. "Go on."

 

Genocider Syo's confident posture changed to a nervous one in an instant. Ah, Toko was back! She whipped her head from side to side, looking at all of the attendents in the room.

 

"W-Why is everyone l-looking at me?" Toko shrank back, gripping her shoulders. "I-Is it because I-I'm ugly?" Toko gripped her head and rocked it around. "Y-You pieces of--"

 

"Fukawa," Byakuya interrupted her. "Tell them exactly what you and I both were doing at 3:00 P.M. yesterday."

 

Toko's face went pale. "W-We were--" Toko's eyes went wide and began moving around her skull. "No! No!"

 

"I already know what you were doing that entire time. There's no need to hide it," Byakuya sneered.

 

"But – but..."

 

"Fukawa."

 

Toko gulped, straightening up to the highest height I've ever seen her as and proudly declared, "f-from after lunch to n-night time I was w-watching T-Togami-sama!" Toko's burst of confidence was short lived. "Y-You pieces of t-trash have no right to j-judge me!"

 

"What exactly were you watching Togami-kun do?" Kyoko asked.

 

Toko's lips curled into a frown. "W-Why do you want to know, you w-witch?"

 

"Tell her, Fukawa," Byakuya said. "She'll stop asking that way."

 

Toko turned to look at Byakuya with desperation, and after a moment took a deep breath. "Read a book."

 

"What was the name of the book?" Kyoko continued asking. She was asking for a death sentence, at this rate.

 

"W-Why are you i-interrogating me?" Toko fumed. Toko gritted her teeth. "It was 'Hamlet'."

 

Leon snorted, "you like 'Hamlet'?"

 

"Not all of us are uneducated idiots," Byakuya retorted. "At least I do more than throw around a ball all day."

 

"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" Leon shouted, slamming his podium.

 

"What do you think?" Byakuya smirked. "You can't even do a little inferencing?"

 

"G-Guys, calm down," Makoto reasoned.

 

Leon clicked his tongue and turned away from Byakuya, visibly shaking. Probably from anger. Byakuya was more than a little irritating at times.

 

"Now that that's done, I suggest we move on to you, Leon," Kyoko said.

 

Leon jumped and pointed to himself. Kyoko nodded. "Uh...Hmm..." Leon stared at the wood in front of him, eyebrows furrowed. "At 3:00 P.M. I was..." Leon began sweating. "I was..." Leon twisted the ring on his finger around. "In the dining hall but I don't know if anyone else was...Wait you were, right, Kirigiri-san? Now that I think about it, everyone but the obvious and Maizono-san and Naegi-kun were."

 

"Yes," Kyoko nodded. "I believe I remember that as well..." Kyoko trailed off. She shook her head. "So the suspicions are still on Maizono-san and Naegi-kun."

 

Makoto frantically waved his hands. "Wait a minute – I can prove it was neither of us."

 

"How?" Kyoko asked.

 

Makoto's face went pale and he fell silent, craddling his chin in his fingers. "I can't yet but...If we go through all of the mysteries left in Yamada-kun's murder we can discover the true culprit!" Makoto's eyes lit up in determination. It was quite a sight to look at; so much so that I felt my stomach churn from the pure hope. "Like the crime scene, for example. There's something odd about it, but I can't really place my finger on what."

 

"H-How so?" Chihiro asked.

 

"I don't know." Makoto took his hand away from his chin and placed it on his podium, leaning his weight on to it. "Let's just start with what we know about the crime scene. A sculpture was on Yamada-kun's head. There were scratch marks on the table that we can only assume he was sitting at, based on the fallen stool. There was wood under his fingernails, which once again we can only assume is from the table."

 

"I have something to add about the sculpture!" I yelled. "The sculpture was moderately heavy. It'd take a lot of force to be able to crush Yamada-kun's head with it!"

 

"'...A lot of force...' Wait, so that means that whoever crushed Yamada-kun's head with the sculpture would've had to of had a lot of strength, right?" Makoto leaned forward. "So it would've been impossible for Maizono-san or I to of killed Yamada-kun!"

 

"Not necessarily," Kyoko said. "Looks can be deceiving. Or, you both could've teamed up and killed Yamada-kun."

 

"Kirigiri-san..." Makoto pleaded. He shook his head and placed a hand against his chest. "Why would we team up? We'd have nothing to gain from it!"

 

"Perhaps if you both killed him at the same time, you believed you both could escape from this place," she said. "But that's just speculation. Because there really wasn't an accomplice or a team on this case, right, Monobear?"

 

Monobear looked up from the tin of honey he was devouring. "Right!" He froze. "Wait, what? Did I reveal too much?"

 

"In fact, there wasn't anybody that killed Yamada-kun, was there?" Kyoko placed her gloved hands on her podium. "Yamada-kun's death wasn't a murder. It was an accident."

 

"An accident?" Makoto squeezed his eyebrows together. "That – that actually makes sense."

 

"Wait – I got a little lost. How exactly did we decide that Yamada-kun's death was an accident?" Leon asked.

"Think about it," Kyoko said. "The scene of death is all a little too odd for it to be a simple murder. The crime scene ultimately leads to the conclusion that Yamada-kun fell, based on how he was scratching at the table and there was a fallen stool. The sculpture was too heavy for any person to swiftly kill Yamada-kun without him managing to leave behind more evidence by attempting to run away from the murderer."

 

"Now that I think about it, he was holding his figurine in his hand as well!" I added. "Plus the fact that he's was excited over the art room in the first place. He probably went there with his figurine, only to accidentally die!"

 

"Well, it sounds like you guys are all ready for the vote!" Monobear jumped up from his chair. "Who will it be? Who is the black--"

 

"Wait!" Makoto outstretched his hands in panic. "How about we go over this case one more time, just to be sure?"

 

Monobear huffed, "fine," and sat down again. He didn't look at all pleased with this turn of events.

 

"So, from all that we've gathered, Yamada-kun was immediately smitten with the art room when he saw it when we were investigating the third floor and happened to find a figurine of his favorite manga on the ground. Already obsessed with it, this feeling intensified tenfold when the third motive came into play and everyone began to act out on their extreme emotions. For Yamada-kun, this meant talking and protecting his figurine, which spawned a fight with Genocider Syo. The next day, a time at which I had been bedbound because of food sickness until noon, probably because of the motive as well, he went to the art room at around 3:00 P.M.. He was probably talking to his figurine as he had been before, until he unfortunately fell, holding on to the table for dear life, only to knock down a sculpture in the process, which lead to his ultimate demise." Makoto took a deep breath. "Is that about right?"

 

"It's the only logical explanation," Sayaka sighed. "Yamada-kun died because of his obsession."

 

"Alright, are you all done now?" Monobear held up his claws.

 

"I think so," Makoto said. "Are there any objections?" He looked around the room.

 

Everyone was silent.

 

"Alright." Monobear swayed on his throne with enthusiasm. "Who will it be? Who will be the blackened? Let's find out!"

 

Guilty: Hifumi Yamada

 

Hifumi's face lit up on the voting mechanism. The entire room was silent, waiting for the inevitable punishment that none of them knew what on Earth it was going to be.

 

"Unfortunately, because Yamada-kun decided to go up and die by an accident instead of by murder, there will be no execution today."

 

I felt a tremendous weight sink on to my body. On the other hand, I'm sure everyone else felt the exact opposite.

 

We all moved away from our individual podiums, heading towards the elevator. I was stopped by a voice calling out to me.

 

Monobear stared at me, unmoving, eyes hollow. While the rest of the student left us be (not without giving us a curious look, however) he slowly became more aware.

 

Once everyone was gone and on to the elevator, no doubt waiting for me, he said, "Taka." There was a jump in his voice; kind of a static twist in it. "Be careful."

 

9 LEFT

 

 

Chapter Text

"Taka, be careful."

 

What did he mean by that? I sunk further into my bed, my fingers curled into my hair. It felt kind of greasy. Had I been neglecting my personal hygiene? Unexceptable.

 

All of this worrying lately had been eating away at me. I'm sure that's what got Brother killed, too. The same mistake was going to happen again at this rate: I was going to jump Monobear and demand who he was, except this time nobody would be there to save me.

 

Then there was the whole mess regarding Monobear suddenly worrying about me. Now that really didn't make sense. Perhaps if I did try to investigate the person behind Monobear now they wouldn't – no, that's a ludicrous idea! I shook my head to knock the thoughts right out of my head.

 

"Taka, be careful."

 

I dug my fingers into my scalp in frustration. It didn't make any sense! I turned around on to my stomach, throwing my face into the primped pillow.

 

Why, why, WHY was this whole affair happening to me? It could've – should've run smoothly! This whole goddamn game! First my second-in-command has to ironically be the first to die, then her sister comes to hate me thus resulting in the attempted murder of myself, and finally the last person that gave me hope in humanity died in the most horrific way imaginable! I hate it – I hate all of this!

 

I knocked against my head with my whitened fist repeatedly. You failed, you failed! I just accepted the self-beating. It wasn't much different when you were the culprit of the beating, if you truly believed you deserved it.

 

And I did.

 

I ran out of energy eventually, the last sap of rage draining out via beating. I let my now limp hand fall on to my stomach. Hot tears sting my eyes, which I don't have the energy to wipe off. They travel down my face, falling on to the white sheets below me. They won't stain; I have no reason to worry.

 

I cast my eyes downwards to my barely visible watch: about 8:30.

 

Was it really that early? Well, not early. All of the respectful little boys and girl should be going to sleep right now. But I wouldn't be going to bed for about an hour and a half. Yet, for whatever reason, I was wide awake. I wonder if crying yourself to sleep works. No, that can't be healthy.

 

Maybe I could get a visit from the past. I could patrol the halls. Goodness knows these delinquents need a little authority in their lives. One of them could be stealing food, for all I know! I see no reason to, but it's more than possible.

 

I turn around on to my back and bring my sleeve up to my eyes, wiping the tears off on to it. I freeze. Was that a good idea? Defiling the uniform?

 

I curl my fists and dig my nails into my palm. I'm fine – I'm fine. I breathe in deeply; in and out, in and out. I'll attempt; key word: attempt, to ignore my delinquent behavior.

 

I stand up from my bed, striding over to the door and throw it open, and am immediately met with a pounding sound. Already? These people really do need more authority in their lives!

 

I walked briskly through the halls towards the source of the noise. I thought I heard it coming from the cafeteria, but I may of been mistaken.

 

I trusted my ears, though, and I followed them, taking quicker steps by the minutes as I become aware of the sounds of multiple objects hitting the floors. I couldn't run, though. That'd just lead to more disaster.

 

I see the opened doors to the cafeteria, looking around me to see if anyone else was investigating this strange occurence. Nobody was, it seemed.

 

I furrowed my eyebrows, stepping into the open cafeteria doors, only to immediately have to duck from an assault by a teacup. Celes would not have been happy with that. But she was dead, so that kind of thinking was worthless to dwell on.

 

I look behind me at the shattered remains of the teacup, the individual pieces twinkling under the light. It was surely dangerous for it to be lying on the floor like that.

 

I jump up from my crouch and run into the cafeteria, my boots pounding on the tile. I immediately froze when I saw the pure chaos in the room. Tables were broken in half, glasses and plates were shattered, and right in the middle of all of this destruction was Sayaka Maizono.

 

She was stabbing a roasted chicken. The pure insanity on her face was horrifying, to say the least. I could see her eyeballs literally bulging out. No, that's the wrong use of the word literally! I could see her eyeballs metaphorically bulging out.

 

She glanced up when she heard me enter the room, went back to stabbing her chicken, and then did a double take. The knife in her hand clattered to the floor, the noise of the metal hitting the tile the only sound in the room. She took in a sharp intake of breath, her wide, blue eyes staring directly at my piercing, hopefully disapproving, red gaze.

 

"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS, MAIZONO-KUN?" I shouted. I rushed over to her. "WHY HAVE YOU CAUSED THIS DESTRUCTION?" I crouched down next to her on the floor, wrapping my palms around her shoulders and proceeded to shake her back and forth in a futile search for answers.

 

Sayaka batted my hands off of her shoulders, picking up the knife and standing up and backing away from me. She held the butt of the knife against her stomach, the point held out in my direction. Her eyes never left me, and she carefully stepped away from me, using the tip of her foot to see exactly where to put the remainder of it amongst the clutter.

 

Once she got a good ten feet away from me, she turned and bolted. She didn't spare a glance behind her, instead running straight into the kitchen. I followed her, jumping over the destruction as I ran after her.

 

I tried to open the now closed kitchen door, but when it didn't work in the conventional way I proceeded to slam my body against the metal. She would not get away with this havoc! I'd make sure of it.

 

After a few more tries, the door gave way, a few hastily stacked boxes of fruit toppling to the ground. Sayaka screamed, jumping on to the counter with a clack of her flat heels and proceeded to climb on to the fridge, obviously not caring for modesty as her skirt rose up. I turned my eyes away from the sight, my face feeling strangely hot.

 

"MAIZONO-KUN!" I shouted. I wished with all of my heart I could look at her as I lectured her. "COME AND RECEIVE YOUR PUNISHMENT!"

 

"No!" She screamed down at me.

 

"WHY?" I spared a glance at her. Oh, good, she was decent and on top of the fridge now.

 

"Because you're going to make me do something outrageous!" She shook her head rapidly. "Or, better yet, kill me!"

 

I was genuinely hurt. "W-WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT OF ME, MAIZONO-KUN?"

 

"You're the Super High School Level Prefect and I just destroyed part of your sacred area!" Sayaka clutched her knife even closer to her body, the point thankfully no longer pointed at me. "Of course you're going to be mad!"

 

"YOU'RE MERELY GOING TO RECEIVE PUNISHMENT!"

 

"What's that, though?" Sayaka's voice took on a softer, less hysteric edge. Good, she was calming down.

 

"YOU'RE GOING TO CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!" I thought for a moment of the destruction. "OR AT LEAST THE PARTS THAT CAN BE!"

 

Sayaka was quiet for a moment, clearly thinking over whether I could be trusted. After a moment she nodded her head. "Okay, that's fair," she said as she climbed down off of the fridge and counter to the ground.

 

Sayaka stared at the knife still held to her chest. She sighed and placed it on the counter, chicken juice trailing off of the knife and on to the stark white counter.

 

She looked at me, a weird mist clouding her eyes. She smiled faintly, painfully even, and began to walk past me.

 

As her dejected frame was passing me, I found myself reaching out, grasping her wrist. I needed answers. Sayaka froze midstep. I lowered my voice from the former authoritative volume, "what was that all about anyways, Maizono-kun?"

 

She jumped, before sighing in defeat. She turned to face me, and I realized the mist covering her eyes before were tears.

 

"It is okay to tell me, Maizono-kun! I am very trustworthy!" I urged her on in an attempt to comfort her. I wondered if it worked.

 

Sayaka smiled sadly. Did she smile no matter what emotion she was feeling? She tore her hand out of my wrist with a force I wouldn't of expected out of her small frame, and tucked some of her blue hair behind her ear. She wiped the tears out of her eyes and carefully sat on the ground, back against the oven.

 

I followed suit, sitting right next to her.

 

"Ishimaru-kun, who do you think the mastermind is?" Sayaka smiled at him, her previous sadness completely gone. It was almost eerie in a sense.

 

"Um..." Who could I say? I obviously couldn't say myself. "I suppose Ikusaba-kun!"

 

"Ikusaba-san huh..." Sayaka giggled. "Well, I should've expected that! If she tried to kill me I would suspect her, too!"

 

"Yeah." I knitted my eyebrows together. "But you never answered my question."

 

"Question?" Sayaka held a finger up to her chin. "Oh, right! Well, um..." Sayaka brought her knees up to her chest. "I guess it's because I'm afraid that they're really dead, you know? My idol group."

 

"That motive was a long time ago, though."

 

"And you think that changes anything?" Sayaka gave me a dirty look, before widening her eyes and bowing her head. "I'm sorry for bursting out at you like that. But...they're really the only people who were really my friends, you know? Before everyone would pretend to be my friend because I was pretty, or had a nice voice, and once I became famous it was obviously because I was an idol. They never cared about any of that. They were going through the same problems, if anything. My own family was even less understanding than them," she talked about her idol group fondly. "And if I could find out they were alive it would make my life worth living again." Sayaka tilted her head at me. "So, as for your question...I guess I was just mad. This whole situation is completely psychopathic, right? Whoever put us in this place is absolutely nuts. I wanted to prove a point, I guess. That if they don't grant me, or us, freedom, then I'm going to tear this place apart. But then again, that'd be a lie. Like I said, I was just mad."

 

"That is no reason to destroy a school facility!" I scolded.

 

"I know that now! Like I said, I was upset." Sayaka pulled her knees even closer to her chest. "What about you? Whatever was in your video had to of upset you, too, right?" Sayaka asked. "Your friends, family, whoever you loved? They appeared as dead, too, didn't they?"

 

I felt a burning in my heart. I had very nearly forgotten about that. Or at least put it to the back of my mind. "My mother did. My father didn't. Apparently he had disappeared, at least according to the message," I said. "My only friend I know is already dead, so that takes them out of the question." A wave of tears suddenly filled my eyes.

 

"Your only friend?" Sayaka urged.

 

"Mondo," I choked out his name against the quickly invading sobs. Like a watergate, I suddenly broke loose.

 

"Ah! I-Ishimaru-kun – it's okay!" Sayaka circled her arms around me and pulled me closer to her. She stroked my head.

 

I grossly sobbed into her bosom. We stayed in that position for a few moments until I was all drained out. It was unprofessional for me to break down like that in the first place. Despite that, for whatever reason, those emotional whirlpools happen frequently.

 

I stood up, wiping my face dry, and held my hand out to Sayaka. "I'll watch you to make sure you thorougly clean up your mess, Maizono-kun!"

 

She used my hand as leverage to get it, brushing her skirt and socks off. She smiled. "Alright. I guess that needs to be done, huh?"

 

Chapter Text

Komaeda's POV

 

I look up at the ceiling from atop my bed. Cracks line it; making it look like it could fall and the little bits from it could crush me any moment. Wouldn't that be something? What a boring death. Of course, someone of my kind should be expected to have a death that lacking in magnificence.

 

I turn my head away from the ceiling, looking at my fellow prisoners. They are all lacking in fat. That's to be expected, though. The guards only give us about ten trays of food a day – it's expected to feed all of us. All fifty of us, give or take a few people. Because of that, the weak die. It's surprising I'm still alive, really.

 

To be honest, though, when I think about it, it's not surprising in the slightest that I'm still alive. I'm just too lucky to die. Somehow, I end up getting fed somewhat every day. I don't know how it happens, but food ends up in my hands. Not good quality food, the exact opposite, but for people like us, we really shouldn't have good quality food. Especially me. We're traitors, after all. They made that much clear when I first arrived.

 

A severely malnourished boy's blue eyes meet my own. Daisuke Yukimura, I think his name is. His shoulder length hair, that was brown when Yukimura first came to the facility a few weeks ago, is turning a scary shade of white. Maybe from stress, maybe from malnourishment. Probably both. He's going to die soon.

 

I turn my eyes away from him, occupying my time by playing with the end of my uniform. Everyone here was eventually going to die in this place. Even I was. Just like how trash like us should die: in misery.

 

Just last week, the leader of one of the gangs here, Aito Yu, was stabbed to death. By one of his own gang members, too! How ironic is that? In the middle of the night, to wake up to your most trust colleague holding a knife above his head and preparing to bring it down into your neck. In his last moments, he died in despair, just like how trash like him was supposed to. But, from that despair, a hope sparked up that maybe, just maybe, all of us could eventually be killed! Wouldn't that be just great?

 

I wonder how that man got his hands on a knife, anyways? It'd be interesting to find out.

 

My thoughts are stopped by a creaking on my bed. That boy, Yukimura, is sitting on it, staring at me thoughtfully. I stare back. I wonder what got him labeled as a traitor. He certainly doesn't look threatening. Looks can be deceiving, though.

 

"What is it?" I hiss at him. I stare at him through slitted eyes, hoping he gets the message that trash shouldn't communicate.

 

Yukimura jumps, turning his head around as his face becomes a cherry. "Nothing, I was just – I was just curious," he says.

 

I sit up, leaning against the wall so it can support my weight. "About what?" I ask. Something was strange. Nobody ever came to talk to me. They feared me. For whatever reason, it's considered strange to rant about how we deserve this treatment. Oh! I get it. Yukimura is new. He'll eventually leave, too.

 

"Well, I've heard about you," he says. "About how you're a former member of Super High School Level Despair. The other prisoners hate you for that, you know." Yukimura seems to realize his mistake and waves his hands around rapidly. "Sorry! Shouldn't of said that."

 

"It's true, isn't it?" I ask. "How everyone hates me? Really, I'm the worst of the worst; the scum of this world. There's no need to apologize for that."

 

"Oh. Um, is that so?" Yukimura scratches his head. "Well, um, I'm Daisuke Yukimura." He stretches his hand out. "You can just call me Daisuke, though. Everyone does."

 

I eye his hand. This is strange. He's only shortening his life span, at this rate. I grip his hand and shake it. "Komaeda."

 

"I know." Daisuke coughs. A little speck of red appears on his hand. Oh, so he is dying. Daisuke wipes the red on his gray prison outfit.

 

"You're dying," I point out. "As expected. You're weak and trash. That's not a good combination." I blow my hair out of my face. "Of course, I'm the same. But at least I'm lucky."

 

Daisuke freezes, and his hands move to cover his face. He brings his knees up to his chest. "I never did anything wrong."

 

"You're here. Of course you did something wrong."

 

"I was framed," he says. "My friend – he...he took part in a terrorist attack on the prime minister's house. When I found out, I wanted nothing to do with him. I told him that. I guess he got mad, or something, because when he was questioned about it by the guys in charge of this place he must've told them it was me that helped in the terrorist plan. Not him. When they captured me, they told me that I was wanted on suspicion of terrorism. They didn't even listen to my defense. And now I'm dying because of something that bastard did."

 

I shift my eyes away from him. He does seem a little too innocent to be a terrorist. Then again, he could just be an exceptional liar. It wouldn't be that hard to believe.

 

"Inmate 220!" a deep voice calls out through an open door. Two hundred and twenty-two is my number...Oh! Is it finally time for my execution?

 

I grin and look towards the big, tan man who called out my name. He's pointing a machine gun at the other prisoners, daring anyone to try to escape.

 

I bounce off of the bed, waving goodbye to Daichi, and head towards the man, a spring in my step. The man raises an eyebrow at me, before glancing at my number tag and motioning for me to come with him. I grin even wider than before. This was it! Finally!

 

I follow him out the door, and he gestures to a couple men I hadn't noticed before to handcuff me. The cold metal clinks around my wrists, and it's tightened to a suffocating tightness.

 

The two men latch their arms around my elbows, their nails digging through my jacket and into my skin. They really do not trust me. It's understandable, though. I'm a terrorist, right? Who would trust a terrorist?

 

I speed up my step a little, eagerly following the man leading us. The two men's grip on my elbows tighten ever more. Ah, right. It's not a very good idea to do things of my own accord, now is it?

 

I clear my throat and ask cheerfully, "am I finally going to be executed?"

 

I hear the man laugh in front of me. "I wouldn't exactly say it with that certainty, but it's possible you might get executed."

 

"Might?"

 

"I can't say too much. I only know some details. Besides, the boss probably wants to spoil your day himself," he laughs. "But with how crazy you are, you will probably be happy with the news you're about to receive."

 

I'll be happy? Ah! I get it! They're going to send me into the High School Life of Mutual Killings! But...wait, isn't that already finished? Are they going to have a new one? But he did say I might be executed. Perhaps they're holding one between the inmates on death's row?

 

The man stops in front of a door and gets out his keys, putting one into the key hole and opening the door. The two men beside me guide me in front of the awaiting door, before pushing me in. I fall on to my knees. I stand up, seeing a dim lamp light barely lighting up the room.

 

A man with rough features sits at a metal table, tapping his finger ever so impatiently against the silver. Best not to keep him waiting!

 

I stand up, walking my way over to the table, and sit on the chair parallel him.

 

"We've met before," he says, rubbing his chin roughly.

 

"Have we?" I ask. "Sorry, I'm not the best at remembering faces."

 

"You didn't see my face," the man waves his hand to dismiss the topic. "Ah, whatever. Do you know why you are here?"

 

I shake my head. "Nope. Care to enlighten me?" I shrug. "If you're generous enough to tell someone like me, of course!"

 

"Well," the man begins, "we have a little proposition for you." He opened his trench coat, bringing out a vanilla folder from inside. He slide it across the table to me. I struggle to open it up, but when I do I'm surprised to see what's inside.

 

Pictures of all of the Super High School Level Despairs litter the inside, all of them trapped in a machine of some sort. A picture of a beach is in the center of all of the pictures, each member of despair having a red line from them to the beach.

 

"What's this?"

 

"A plan," the man grins. "The Future Foundation has managed to catch all of the members of despair and are placing them in rehabilation. As a former member of despair, we hope you could aid in their recovery."

 

This opportunity is too good to be true. If I could help bring hope to the Super High School Despairs again it would be a miracle. And, with my luck, that miracle may just be possible. But, there's also the fact that I'm just worthless trash. I'm not even close to worthy of doing something that remarkable.

 

"Surely you wouldn't want someone like me!" I hold up my handcuffed hands. "I'm just worthless trash, right?" I put them down again. "I'm not even close to worthy of that feat!"

 

"Komaeda-kun." The man places his palm flat on the table. "This is not a choice."

 

"Not a choice?" I question. "Oh! So you're making me?"

 

"Basically."

 

There goes that plan of me convincing them I'll just screw everything up. They'll learn that on their own, I suppose. "Alright, alright. Calm down." I wave my hands in surrender. "So what do I need to know?"

 

"There are two major things: first off, there will be an AI named Chiaki Nanami aiding you. Second off, you are not exactly, er, approved by the Future Foundation."

 

"Approved?" I ask. "So, I'll be sneaking in?"

"Yeah. At first we tried to reason with the Future Foundation, but I suppose because of our style of running things we were denied. But, we think it'd be better if all of the main members of Super High School Level Despair, current and former, were in the simulation. There will be a few drawbacks of you sneaking in, but you can figure out what those are on your own."

 

"Why don't you just place me in rehabilation too instead of wanting me to help bring hope back to the despairs?"

 

"That was the original plan before we got denied by the Future Foundation, but now we're just going to settle on you bringing hope to the despairs. You're obsessed with that stuff, anyways. Plus, your despair levels are going down at a substantial rate." I glance down at the bracelet on my wrist, telling me my hope and despair levels. "And your hope levels are rising. So I don't think that much harm is going to come of that."

 

I nod. "Okay. Anything else I need to know."

 

"Yeah. Listen, Komaeda-kun, you do a few things that probably wouldn't benefit the students in any way, shape, or form, so we're going to place some limitations on you, alright?"

 

"Limitations?"

 

"Yep."

 

"May I know what those are?"

 

"Sure!" The man opens his trench coat again and takes out a notepad. He clears his throat and begins speaking, "first off, and this one is a given: no talking about the outside world or about Super High School Level Despair. Second: keep your hope speechs to a minimum. It might seem kinda counterintutive, but you've got to gain the trust of the others, you know? People are going to keep away from you if you rant about hope all the time. Same for the self-deprecating. Okay, last but definitely not least: try not to murder anyone. There's apparently a glitch in the system that allows Monobear to come back to life. The simulation starts automatically in one week so they're trying to fix up, but there's still a chance Monobear will end up coming back to life and the killings will start again. Of course, it'll all be a simulation so no one would really die, but if anyone dies in the simulation apparently they could permanently be in a coma. It's not completely certain if it'd be a temporary or permanent one yet. Either way, they're trying to fix that too. Fingers crossed. Anyways, that's all you need to know. The guards will escort you out."

 

I look up at the opening door and walk towards it. I glance behind me at the man I just spoke to, wondering what just happened. Either this will turn out very good for me or very bad. I'm not sure yet.

 

I reach my cell again and am nudged inside, but I'm shaken out of my thoughts by a scream. Daisuke's on the ground, bleeding profusely, under a much larger man who had just stabbed him apparently, based on the knife in his hand.

 

It's happening again, huh?

 

I step slowly into the cell, but I'm pushed to the side as the guards grab the burly man off of Daisuke. It's too late for Daisuke, though. I can already tell he's dead by the color of his skin, by his lidded, hollow eyes.

 

I knew he was going to die soon. He just shortened his death sentence by talking to me, even when fate was telling him not to.

 

Chapter Text

 

"What the hell happened here?" I heard. Slowly, achingly, I turned around -- glass shards in my hand, cutting into the flesh – expecting the worst. Sure enough, there was Byakuya, tapping his dress shoe deligently against the floor, brows furrowed. What is he doing up already? He's usually asleep at this time. Or in the library.

 

"Togami-kun!" I furrowed my brows. "What are you doing up at this time?" Glancing at my watch, I checked the time: 6:00 A.M.

 

Byakuya scoffed, turning his head to the side, pushing up his glasses with a slender finger. "I couldn't sleep," he simply says. "I came here to get tea to calm my nerves, yet obviously that was a bad idea." Looking back into my eyes, sharply said, "I never got an answer to my question."

 

"Um..." I turned away from him, peeking further into the cafeteria to see where Sayaka was. Unsurprisingly, she was frozen, on the other side of the room. She was staring, mortified, at Byakuya. I suppose she doesn't want to ruin her reputation further. Should I lie for her? I don't want to do so when it is unnecessary. "It was like this when we got here. So we decided to clean it up." And yet, I still lied.

 

Byakuya looks at me, raising a singular eyebrow. I can't tell whether he believes me or not. "The two of you? Together?" He smirked, stepping past me, going towards the kitchen. "That's an odd pairing."

 

I shook my head, rapidly. "No it isn't, Togami-kun, actually! We've discovered we have much in common with eachother recently!" I said, trying my best to sound convincing. What did we have in common with eachother?

 

Byakuya shuffled into the kitchen, and in what seems like a second, comes out with a boiling cup of tea, tipping the tea bag in and out of the water tenderly. "Like what?" he asked, snidely. He's testing me.

 

I narrowed my eyes, thinking. Ah! I got it! "For example, we've both lost someone dear to us!" I said. "Through that, despite our differences, we can bond!"

 

He looked at me, looking unwilling to believe. Has he caught on? "Doubtful." Byakuya looked around the room once more, a thoughtful look crossing his face. He took a sip of his steaming tea, glasses fogging up. "Even if your story is true, we should be expecting to find someone dead soon, shouldn't we?"

 

I gulped, hot liquid traveling down my throat. "W-What do you mean, Togami-kun?" I chuckled, obviously faking. "It's just a simple mess!"

 

Byakuya narrowed his eyes, gripping the tea cup with more intensity as he strides over to me. "A mess that someone would have to of caused." He walked past me, stopping in front of the entrance; a few feet away from me. He lowered his voice, saying, "you're falling short of your duty. Though for someone of your class, that's not a big surprise. What is a surprise is the fact that you've even managed to make it this far."

 

I hear his shoes click along the floor as he leaves, the cafeteria door slamming behind him. My heart pounds, the red bursting out of the organ. How is he going against me still? He knows! He should be fearful!

 

The next few hours passed by in a flash, yet Sayaka and I did manage to somehow clean the former reminant of a cafeteria to looking acceptable. Minus the destroyed tables, of course.

 

The lack of sleep, however, wore on me. Bags are sure to now appear under my eyes, my skin sickly pale, a state that I would absolutely never appear as in public! However, I have to. I couldn't get off of my sleep schedule, plus I couldn't lock myself into my room and study the rest of the day, either! Unfortunately. I'll have to just bear with it for the rest of the day, I suppose! And, after the day is over, I can finally sleep once more!

I was strolling, with Sayaka, after our cleaning escapade, back to our dorms. She's chatting with me, her eyes glowing, her lips curled up in a smile. Yet, there was something in those eyes. Something false. Something edging to just escape from her.

 

We stopped in front of her room door, her nameplate smiling at me, as everything relating to Sayaka does. She turned around, away from her door, keys in hand. For once, a frown was playing on her lips. It was an unsettling sight.

 

She looked me in the eyes, eyes sunken. Her eyes shined. She reached a hand up to her hair, pawing it, threading her fingers through the material. Finally, she settled on simply tucking a bit of the sea behind her ear. Her hands curled into fists, falling to rest at her side.

 

She opened her mouth, and said: "...Ishimaru-kun, I'm sorry." She casted her eyes away from me, downwards, looking more than a little mournful. She held her sleeves up to her eyes, gently patting the round, blue orbs. Is she crying?

 

"It's quite alright, Maizono-kun!" I reassured, panickly, throwing a firm hand on her shoulder. She jumped, looking at the attachment, eyes sparkling. "It's my duty to help a fellow student in need!"

 

Sayaka bit her lip, brows furrowed. She shook her head, blue hair waving. "You shouldn't have to, though! It's all because of me that..." she stopped, her voice choking up. "That you had to stay up to help me. And if Monobear chooses to kill me because of this, he might kill you, too!" I doubt that.

 

"He won't try to kill you," I said, voice firm, "Trust me."

 

Sayaka froze, eyes turning, slowly, to stare into my own. "How can you tell?" she asked, "that he won't kill me. Or you."

 

I knitted my brows. How can I word this? "Trust me. I just know."

 

Chapter Text

I...don't understand.

 

When I walked into the cafeteria, I expected what I saw when I had left: broken tables, missing furniture, scratches along the floor and wall. I definitely didn't expect a completely clean, furnished, decorated, even, room. It's exactly how it was before Sayaka had destroyed the room. Was last night a dream? It couldn't of been!

 

Backing away, slowly, from the surprising horrificness of a neat room, I feel my breath quicken, coming faster and faster until it's on the verge of a full blown panic attack. He's playing with us; Monobear. Whoever is controlling him is playing with me: the mastermind. Eventually, he's going to lure me in, and finally sink his claws into my awaiting flesh.

 

Turning away from the cafeteria, I felt my legs begin to quicken with each step I took; almost on the verge of running. I didn't know where I was going, I didn't care, just as long as I could find out what the man behind the mask was up to. How I intended to do that I had no idea, yet first things first: make sure that last night was not a dream. And there was only one way to complete that mission.

 

Knocking on Sayaka's door, I waited, patiently, foot tapping against the ground. I heard shuffling from inside, a distinct, soft, "ow" sounding throughout the room. Footsteps paddle their way towards the door, and in a moment's time, Sayaka opens the door.

 

She looks different. Her hair in a messy ponytail, large bags appeared under her eyes, spots of acne sported along her face, a definite difference from her daytime appearance. She was wearing a long, blue, nightgown, stretching down to her mid-calf, loosely.

 

"Ishimaru-kun?" she asked, not even attempting to fake a smile. She must be too tired. She yawns, a hand coming over her mouth. "What is it?" She leans, heavily, against the open door.

 

I lurched forward, hands planted on her shoulders, in desperation. She jumped, blue eyes widening almost comically, if not for the fact that she looked genuinely scared for her life. "Do you remember?" I asked. "Do you remember last night? And what happened – about your..." I trail off, eyes darting around cautiously, lowering my voice. "Your outburst."

 

Sayaka's brows scrunched together, lips parted. She peeled my hands off of her shoulders, lowering them back down to my side, cautiously. "Yes. W-Why? What happened?" she asked, holding her hands up to her chest, against her beating heart.

 

I stood, rigid. So I'm not crazy. "The cafeteria it's – it's neat. Everything was replaced, clean, even the scratches along the walls and floors were gone." I looked once more around me, observing, making sure no one was listening to our conversation. Yet... they still may be. This all might be a part of their game. "They're playing with us."

 

Staring, Sayaka backed away, ever so slightly. A hollow look, mixed with the ever so silent mixtures of fear, took hold of her eyes. Curling her arms around herself, she spoke, her voice trembling, "a-are you s-sure?"

 

I nodded, looking away from her; at the floor. "More than ever. I can escort you to the cafeteria and show you myself, if you wish."

 

She was silent for a moment, merely staring at the floor, eyes wide, fearful, so much so that I felt a string of pity pull at my heart. Looking back to me, she nodded, quietly saying, "that would be appreciated. Just give me a few minutes to get dressed, please."

 

I nodded back, rigidly. "Of course, Maizono-kun," I said, "I will be waiting right outside your door. Please be as quick as possible."

 

Sayaka nodded, closing the door without another word. Sighing, I leaned against the wall, my shoulder bumping against the wood harshly. Turning so my back instead took the brunt of the force, I slid down the wall, slowly.

 

Tapping my finger against my leg, I wait there, legs spread out before me. I waited ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, waiting for the teenage idol, yet see no sign of her. How long does she think 'as quickly as possible' is?

 

"Ishimaru-kun?" I heard, Makoto's shoes entering my line of vision, his red converse stinking up the hallway. "What are you doing outside--" there's was a pause, "—Maizono-san's door?" he asked, his normal feminine voice taking hold of his form.

 

I smiled, fakely, lifting my head up to meet his brown, questioning gaze. His antennae twitched, as if reflecting his emotions. "Nothing, Naegi-kun! I am simply waiting to escort Maizono-kun to the cafeteria!"

 

Makoto nodded, eyebrows still furrowed in confusion. "Why is that? If you don't mind me asking, of course! It's just--" he trailed off, fingers, clasped around his chin, "--you two never have really interacted. At least, as far as I'm aware of."

 

I smiled, wider than my previous one, waving him off, "it is for no reason whatsoever, Naegi-kun! We simply had a chat yesterday that led us to the discovery that we have much more in common with eachother like we once thought!"

 

Makoto frowned, eyeing me. Has he caught on, too? After a moment, a smile breaks out on his face, all previous hesistation disappearing like a switch. "Oh, okay, then. Um..." His eyes traveled to Sayaka's door nameplate. "How long have you been waiting here?" he asked.

 

I lifted up my watch, taking a look at it. It's already been that long? "Exactly thirty-two minutes! She said she would be done in a few minutes, yet that was thirty-two --" I glanced at my watch again. "Thirty-three minutes ago when she had said that."

 

Makoto laughed, a nervous sound ringing out, scratching the back of his head. "That's idols for you," he says, "they have to make sure they look perfect." His hand dropped back to his side once more. "I wouldn't worry too much about it, though. I got up relatively early today, so you will still be one of the first ones in the cafeteria."

 

Right as Makoto uttered these words, the door cracks open, Sayaka poking her head out. "Oh! Naegi-kun!" With this, she opened the door all of the way, dressed in her normal attire, hair perfect, makeup perfect, everything perfect. She steps out of the room, closing the door behind her, quickly locking it. "I thought I heard someone else out here! What are you doing here?" she asks, tilting her head at him.

 

A blush lights up Makoto's face, and he proceeded to, once again, scratch the back of his head. "M-Maizono-san! I was just, um," he stuttered, his eyes darting to me. "Keeping Ishimaru-kun company! Since you were getting dressed."

 

She smiled at him, lighting up a million solar systems with just the thought of a smile such as hers. "That's sweet of you." Her eyes darted to me, for barely a brief second, before lifting back up to Makoto once more. "Do you wish to accompany us on our way to the cafeteria?" she asks. What is she doing?

 

"Sure!" he said, eager. He caught himself, his face lighting up even farther. "I-If you would have me, of course!"

 

Sayaka giggled, a melodic sound. "Of course! Why else would I of invited you, silly?" she asks, rhteroically, I thought. She nodded her head down the hallway. "Should we get going?"

 

Makoto nodded, looking away from her, a small smile planted on his face. "Good idea!" He walked over towards me. I peek my head up at him, confused. He smiled at me, his hand held out. What is he doing? "I'll help you up," he affirmed. Help me...this is foreign. Cautiously, I reached my hand, clasping onto his own. With strength I would never expect from someone like Makoto, he hauled me up. Yet, as a reflection of his weakness, he stumbled while doing so, falling backwards, straight onto his back.

 

"Makoto!" gasps Sayaka, rushing towards his fallen form. "Are you okay?" she asks, peering over him. She crouches down, her skirt flat against the floor.

 

Makoto nodded, face lit like a lantern once again. He sits up, rubbing his head. "Y-Yeah. I'm fine, Maizono-san." He lifted himself up, giving out a little grunt as he did so. "O-Okay! To the cafeteria," he sputtered, looking at Sayaka.

 

I observed Sayaka and Makoto's rather animated conversation as we walked to the cafeteria; observing their; or at least Makoto's, pure happiness as he discussed shallow topics with Sayaka, as if he could never be happier in his life. Ever since coming here I've seen that expression on Makoto's face a number of times, as if each moment is greater than the last. And in his world, maybe that's true. It's odd. How can someone be that happy; that hopeful?

 

We arrived at the doors to the cafeteria, seeing no one except, surprisingly, Byakuya inside, sipping his tea, reading a book. Why is he here? I felt the air tense next to me, contrary to the happiness on the other side of Sayaka. I heard a small gasp next to me.

 

Lowering my eyes, cautiously, to Sayaka, I saw her, eyes widened to an extent unimaginable by many. Her eyes bounce along the walls; the room itself, all taking in the fact that, despite its former state of ruin, it was perfect now. Simply perfect. As if nothing had ever made it imperfect.

 

"...Maizono-san?" asked Makoto, catching on to the mood rather quickly. "Are you okay?" he continues, reaching out a slim hand towards her, slowly, cautiously, placing it on her shoulder.

 

Sayaka jumped, whipping her head around to face him, her hair flying. "Huh?" she asked. She shakes her head, putting a slender hand on her forehead. "Yes, I'm fine, it's just...I'm a little feverish."

 

Makoto leaned forward, attempting to place a hand on her forehead, yet Sayaka leaned away from his hand, turning her head away from him. "Are you sure you're fine? Do you need to go to the medic?" he asked, concern lighting up his eyes.

 

Sayaka shook her head, smiling. "No, no. I'm fine, trust me," she said, stepping a cautious foot into the cafeteria, forcing Makoto and I to follow in after her.

 

Byakuya followed us with his eyes, the bespectacled pupils suspicious. He opened his mouth, replaying the most obnoxious piece of vital material he ever could of produced: "it's odd that the cafeteria is this neat after taking such a beating last night. Don't you agree Ishimaru, Maizono?" he asks, smirking.

 

Makoto stopped walking, turning to look at him. "What do you mean by that?" he asked. "Last time I checked the cafeteria was exactly like this."

 

"Yes, and when exactly was the last time you checked?" he asked, setting his book down. "Last time I did, these two scumbags were cleaning up a disaster they caused, and lying about the cause of it."

 

Makoto's eyes turned to Sayaka and I, brows furrowed. After a second, they turn back to Byakuya. "That doesn't make sense. If they really created a disaster, like you said, then Monobear would've killed them," he says, "and they are still, thankfully, alive with us right now."

 

Byakuya's cold, steel eyes turn to me, a scowl spreading on his face. "That's what I thought, as well. Yet apparently I was wrong."

 

 

"Woah, they have poisons in here!" said Leon, shuffling through the chemical lab's cabinets, exploring as much of the vital parts of the fourth floor as he possibly can within this one room. "If anyone else wants to kill a person, then this would be the way to go!" He closes the cabinet.

 

"Shouldn't we dump out all of the poison, then? Just in case?" asked Sayaka, looking through a few drawers, closing each one as none of them provide her any useful information.

 

Leon shook his head, playing with a ring around his finger. "Nah. Monobear would just restock them," he said.

 

"Psst," I heard, a low voice whispering to me, right outside of the door, where I happened to be shuffling through cabinets; chemicals in every visible spot within. "Ishimaru-kun!" They're calling for...me?

 

 

"What do you mean you were wrong?" asked Makoto, a bead of sweat running down his face.

 

Byakuya looked at me again, a coy grin on his face, twisting his eyes back to Makoto. "The fact that you are dumb enough to not understand by now is proof enough that you will never be able to grasp the concept on which my telling you would provide," he said. What? Why isn't he just...telling him?

 

 

There stood Monobear, simply waiting, peering up at me as soon as I turned the corner. "Monobear?" I tensed my jaw, pointing an accusatory finger towards him. "What are you doing here, feign?"

 

Monobear shook his head, rapidly, lifting up his paw, placing it in front of his mouth. Is he shushing me? How dare he! "Please be quiet, Mastermind-chan. I don't have much time," he says. What is he talking about?

"What do you mean by that?" asked Makoto, once more, simply not giving up.

 

Byakuya simply sighed, lifting up his hand to push up his spectacles. "My point proven exactly." He stood up, his book tucked under his arm whilst he held his tea in his other hand. "It's unfortunate that you came with these two. I wished to speak to them alone," he says, sighing, "nothing can be done, though." With that, he leaves, walking away from the cafeteria, deciding he has had the last word.

 

 

Monobear continues, voice low, "everything will soon fall into place, you will soon see the light: hope! Isn't that exciting?" He lets out a shaking breath. "Yet, you will also find out that...well, you're not exactly alone here. At least, all of that should happen, if my plan goes correctly. You're just the last piece of the puzzle. But, you seem to be becoming more hopeful by the day. Less trash-worthy."

 

Those words, that voice...I'd recognize the combination anywhere. "Nagito?"

 

Chapter Text

I stood absently in the middle of the dining hall. My mind floated away from me as I took in the others words, finding no certain meaning behind them. Curiously, my gaze floated around the cafeteria, looking at the remarkable display that had been replaced in less than two hours from the time it had been destroyed.

What had that been about? I wondered. And Byakuya… My gaze drifted over to the aforementioned heir, turned away from the wreckage that was situated directly in the middle of all of them. Ah, yes, the Monobear…

 

My mind drifted again. Byakuya had avoided telling Makoto… I wondered about his hidden agenda behind it. Obviously he wasn’t going to gain anything from it. In fact, he might’ve actually gained more if he had just told Makoto the truth. Despite being pulled around on a string by Kyoko (at least I had assumed, but even I could pick up on the odd dynamic between the two of them recently) , he was easily one of the most influential members of their class. If he were to gain a negative perspective of me, who as far as Byakuya is concerned is the mastermind, then he could of easily persuaded the rest of the class to turn against me.

 

Perhaps it was for the sake of a game? Did he want all of the glory for himself when he won? … No, even he wasn’t that sadistic. At least, I didn’t think so… but who was I to say? Even before the worst event in all of mankind, I had never been very close with him compared to the rest of our classmates. In fact, he had never even given me permission to call him by his first name! Of course, he didn’t need to know what I referred to him as in my head…

 

So… what was it then? Gah, this frustrated me! If it were up to me, I would hand him a detention slip right now for all of this confusion! He wasn’t exactly an easy individual to understand. Granted, that’s coming from me and according to Mondo I wasn’t exactly the best at reading people. Or understanding social situations. Or caring for furry creatures, but that’s besides the point!

 

… Hmm, had he fallen to despair and given up completely? Remarkably, it seemed the most plausible of all of the other options but… why wasn’t that idea appealing to me as much as it used to? Was this the effect of being away from Junko for so long; or at least not having her negativity surrounding me… perhaps a talk with my DVD would make me feel better… but that’s for later.

 

I put the topic to rest in my mind, deciding to visit it at a later date. Instead, I focused on the others’ conversation--

 

“And--and it just exploded ? Do all of them do that?” asked Leon, clenching his fists excitedly. “Why don’t we just blow up all of them?”

 

“You moron -- did you completely forget how Oowada died?” quipped Byakuya, finally turning to examine the wreckage with the rest of their classmates. A blackened Monobear (burst open in the explosion) laid in the middle of the floor, its inside and protruding wires being closely examined by Chihiro. They looked rather focused on their current task, a trail of sweat falling from their forehead to their chin.

 

“Listen here--”

 

Makoto stepped forward, inadvertently distracting Leon from continuing the argument. “How does it look, Fujisaki-san?” he asked, bending down to meet Chihiro’s crouched position on the ground.

 

“Y-Y-You act like he-he’s dying,” stammers Toko, glaring at the broken animatronic on the floor. “We-we should j-just get rid of it w-while we can! H-He might consider this vi-violence against the h-h-h-headmaster!”

 

Kyoko ignored her, bending down next to Chihiro, careful to make sure she didn’t flash anyone as she sat down. “Is there anything we can use in future investigations? Or even to get out of here?”

 

Makoto brightened up considerably. “Kirigiri-san!” Kyoko flat out ignored the boy. He visibly deflated.

 

Chihiro shook their head sadly. “N-No… I’m sorry… the wiring is too damaged to possibly extract anything… but I haven’t done a thorough inspection yet, I’ll keep looking… keep talking.”

 

I grimaced, looking at the destroyed robot. I clearly remembered how it ended up that way, and Sayaka and Leon as well as anyone else on the fourth floor must’ve clearly heard the explosion.

 

 oOo

 

“Nagito?” I asked in shock. Monobear visibly glitched. It stumbled, as if it were going to fall over from exhaustion.

 

“Ah! Ah!” he gasped out sharply, “Mastermind-chan, you wish to speak to someone like--” the robot glitched again, his voice cutting off for a brief second, before returning, “--e?”

 

I flinched as Monobear (Nagito?) began to smoke. “Er… are you okay?” Monobear jumped, as if not expecting the question, twirling around in a complete circle a couple of times.

 

“Yes! Yes! Absolutely perfect, Mastermind-chan!” he gasped out. I vaguely wondered how Souda had managed to program the animatronics to sweat . “It -- it is merely that the regular operators of this system are trying to hack their way back in! I of course cannot hold them off very long! My luck shut them out of the system for a brief amount of time, but it is not like my good luck does not come without its share of bad!”

 

“What -- what regular operators? Are you telling me that you are not the main operator? And… and what were you talking about when you say that… the pieces will come together?”

 

“Ah! Ah! Damn, why now--” he let out a slew of curses. “No, of course I’m not the main operator, Mastermind-chan! It insults me that you think that I am capable of pulling off such a miraculous deed! No -- no, that’s--” the voice glitched again, “--possible! Just im-- to -- such a tal--”

 

I blinked in confusion. “Um… I’m sorry?” I say. “But… but what you said earlier--”

 

“Ah! Yes! That!” Monobear holds his chest as if it’s in pain, a metallic burning sound lingering in the air. “I can’t -- you need -- feel -- hope -- hope -- hope--”

 

“Hope?”

 

“--despair -- hope --” he let out a guttural groaning sound. “It is in the plan!”

 

I blinked slowly. “All I hear from you is despair and hope . What are you trying to say?” The smoke began to rise higher, and all of the sudden I had a very strong urge to vomit. I slap a hand over my nose, breathing through my mouth instead. “Nagito, I feel as though you are about to explode--”

 

“Yes! I--” A very visible fire began to grow on his outer shell. Monobear spun around in a circle a couple of times, before flopping face down on the ground and stilling completely.

 

“Nagito! Nagito!” I called out desperately, falling backwards onto the floor in shock. I stared at him from in between the space in my legs. “Are you still there? Nagito! You never answered my question!” Monobear merely continued crackling, showing no sign of having heard me. “What the heck…”

 

I darted my head up in remembrance. Leon! Sayaka! “Hey, hey, do you smell something?” Leon. Uh oh…

 

“Yeah… smells kinda rubbery,” said Sayaka in response. Oh Lord. If they came out here this would look very suspicious… What do I--

 

“Wanna go check it out?” asked Leon, dumbly if I might add. No, no, no, no, crap! Say no, Sayaka, say no! Just say no! Always say no!

 

“Sure!” I was beginning to lose the little faith in humanity that I had. “Looks like Ishimaru-kun went on ahead of us!” No, that isn’t what happened! No, stay in there!

 

He could practically hear the scowl in Leon’s voice. “Oh, yeah, great. Forgot about hardass.” I heard a heavy sigh. “Best not to keep that bitch waitin’.” Hey, wait, what was that supposed to mean? “He’ll give us a detention slip for tardiness.”

 

Monobear began to beep. I pushed that information to the back of my mind, instead focusing on eavesdropping on the conversation that was quickly becoming about myself.

 

“Leon!” scolded Sayaka. Wait… had she just called him Leon? Since when were they on a first name basis with each other? Oh Lord, had I just secretly discovered a relationship? That is most scandalous! “Do not speak about Ishimaru-kun in that manner! He is nice once you get to know him!” There you go, Sayaka! Wait… they sounded closer to the door… almost like--

 

The beeping began to get louder, and suddenly my attention was forced to it. Wait, wait, oh crap! I jumped up from the ground in a blink, racing towards the entrance to the chemistry lab.


“Wait, do you hear beeping? What’s -- oh look there’s Ishi -- oof!” I slammed into the duo, cutting off Sayaka’s sentence, as I propelled us into the room. Right as we hit the floor, an explosion sounded behind the three of us, effectively deafening the three of us for a few seconds.

 

Afterwards, I breathed a sigh of relief, laying my head on the softest thing I came into contact with.

 

“Aaah!”

 

“Dude, what the hell!”

 

oOo

 

That… wasn’t a pleasant experience. My… private area still ached a little. Now I can’t even look at Sayaka without blushing profusely and stammering out an awkward apology nor look at Leon without, as Leon had so eloquently put it, “getting the shit kicked out of him”. He would make sure to offer another proper apology later on, when everything wasn’t so terse and frustrating.

 

Kyoko stood up from her position on the floor, leaving Chihiro to work more in depth in their lonesome (at least as lonesome as they could be, considering that Makoto was still hovering over their shoulder). “Very well. Then shall we proceed onto our results from the investigation?”

 

“Oh yeah, I completely forgot about that part,” said Leon, scratching the back of his head. “Monobear blowing up kind of does that to you.”

 

Kyoko ignored him. “Does anyone have any useful knowledge that doesn’t involve useless banter?” Or… at least kind of ignored him.

 

“Poison!” I yelled out, pointing determined at Kyoko. She was silent, looking a bit frustrated… or was that gratitude? Looking around, I noticed everybody else staring blankly at me as well. Suddenly feeling a little exposed, I put down my hand, straightening my posture and coughing awkwardly into my hand. “There’s poison in the chemistry lab!” I clarified.

 

“Ah,” she mused. “I would suggest banning access to the chemistry room, but there wouldn’t be any use to that considering past circumstances. But poison may be a problem…”

 

“Wouldn’t it be hard to poison someone? How would someone be able to get to the point?” asked Sayaka, finger delicately placed on the tip of her chin.


“Persuasion,” she stated simply. “It’s awfully easy to accept a drink from someone you trust. Someone you wouldn’t expect to kill you.”

 

“Is that so?” contemplated Sayaka, looking deep in thought. “Then couldn’t we just make it a rule to not accept drinks from others?”

 

“Easier said than done,” breathed Kyoko, “honestly, it should just be common sense.”

 

“Well on the off chance that someone does die…” starts Leon, “which is very possible, then all we have to do to find the killer is just look at who offered who a drink. Problem solved!”

 

Byakuya scowled. “Is it just me, or have you been becoming more dumb ever since Hagakure died? Are you trying to replace his spot as the imbecile of our group?”

 

Leon’s face turned red. “ First of all,” he started, “Hagakure died a pretty long time ago, so it can’t be just now that I’m replacing his spot. Second of all, fuck you!”

 

“Language,” I muttered low under my breath. Miraculously, Leon still heard me.

 

“Oh? What is that? You wanna get pummeled, hardass?” he began walking towards me with purpose. I stumbled, feeling a bit of shame as I nonchalantly stepped behind Chihiro’s form to hide.

 

“No, no! I do not condone violence!” I grimaced. Lies.

 

“Oh, but you condone sexual assault?”

 

“That was an accident! I swear!”

 

“Yeah, just like --”

 

“Guys, guys!” Makoto jumped to his feet, coming between the two of us. He held an open palm in both of our directions. “Calm down! I’m sure it was just a simple misunderstanding!”

 

Leon glared at me, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. I held my hands in front of me in surrender. He tsked, looking away from me adamantly and crossing his arms. “Fine. But it’s only because I like the Eggs.”

 

“Eggs?” murmured Makoto in confusion. “Uhm, anyways! During my investigation with Chihiro we discovered what appears to be the headmaster’s office. Unfortunately, it appears to be locked.”

 

Kyoko nodded her assent. “Same with the data processing room. Obviously there’s something in there that he doesn’t want us to see.”

 

Toko stammered, “s-so? We-we can ju-just break in ourselves.”

 

Kyoko shook her head. “No.”

 

“Wh-what? And why not?”

 

“Against the school rules,” she merely muttered, gloved hands cradling her chin as she thought.

 

“Well--”

 

“Ah!” Chihiro cried out in distress. I knelt next to them in an instant.

 

“Fujisaki-kun! What’s wrong?” I asked in concern. They looked at me, tears prickling the corners of their eyes. They cradled their bare hand, holding it to their cardigan in pain. Hesitantly, I made them unravel their good hand from their other hand, grimacing as I looked at the burnt flesh that lied there. Monobear was smoking again.

 

“I-I-It…” Chihiro cried, and I felt the urge to wipe away their tears. “There’s no way…”

 

Despite them not clearly stating it, we all knew what they meant. The majority of us lowered our heads to the ground, the rest looking at Monobear in anger.

 

“So… there’s really no…” started Sayaka, clutching her skirt.

 

Chihiro shook their head. “I’m sorry, Maizono-san…” They cried bitterly; I didn’t know if it was because of pain or frustration. Possibly both.

 

We all knew that most of us had been excited at dissecting Monobear; excited to possibly find a way out. Even Makoto looked disheartened, as he whispered just loud enough for all of us to hear “that’s that, then…”

 

It was silent for a second, before Chihiro made a soft “ah!” again. All eyes snapped to them. Chihiro tried to stand up, which I helped them with. “I had almost forgotten, with everything going on!”

 

Byakuya narrowed his eyes, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Forgotten what , exactly?”

 

Chihiro clenched their good hand into a fist determinedly, a soft smile gracing their face and their eyes lighting up in excitement. “Everyone…” they shakily walked around and past Monobear, my hand guiding them from the small of their back. “It’s time for you to meet Alter Ego!”

Chapter Text

 

“Ouch!” squeaked Chihiro, flinching as I continued to bandage their burnt hand. They were obviously quite nervous; their undamaged hand constantly flattening their puffy skirt (as if they were afraid that I’d take advantage of my knelt position to catch a glimpse up there -- of course, that couldn’t be the problem; after all, I’m a perfectly respectable young man!) . They kept shifting about from their position on the lone, white mattress of the clinic, their little feet kicking the air absentmindedly. They closely watched me, scrutinizing me, and I found myself shrinking under their unrelenting gaze. What is their problem?

 

I swallowed my nerve, peering at Chihiro through lazy eyelids, catching their stare. They flinched. “You have to stop moving, Fujisaki-kun! Otherwise, I cannot bandage you to utmost perfection! We cannot leave the others waiting too much longer, either!”

 

Chihiro’s eyes widened for a brief second, before they closed them altogether. “Y-You’re right. I’m sorry!” At once, Chihiro’s movements ceased. Although they seemed to have some trouble keeping completely still (judging by the sharp and sudden trembles in their pencil-like legs), the situation was much easier to deal with.

 

“What is the pain on a scale of one to ten?”

 

Jumping, Chihiro stuttered, “h-huh?”

 

“The pain. On a scale of one to ten, what is it?” I reiterated myself. Hopefully, my point would be made clear to them! Though, I was a little worried at the state of their being -- they seemed even more jumpy than usual; as if they were frightened. Were they sick, perhaps?

 

Finally, I looked up from my task, making eye contact with Chihiro’s bright, hazel eyes. They quickly averted their eyes, their cheeks flushed. Hm… this further goes to prove my previous point! “Um… a three. The pain’s mostly died down. That pain medication you gave me really helped a lot…”

 

I sighed in relief, looking at their bandaged knuckle again. I noticed that my work was nearly complete almost immediately, and I quickly began to tie the last of it around their hand. “That’s a relief,” I exhaled.

 

Chihiro hummed.

 

“There!” I cried out, quite proud of my handiwork. “You’re all finished!” Patting their knuckle once for good measure, I stood up. Noticing that they had no intention of doing the same anytime soon, I quickly rework my plan, sitting down next to their own body on the mattress.

 

Chihiro stared at their bandaged knuckle, almost sadly. I cleared my throat. They jumped, swiveling around in their seat, staring at me with wide eyes. I raise my eyebrow in anticipation. Quickly realizing their rudeness, Chihiro averts their eyes, turning around in their seat once more to resume staring at their lap. “O-Oh. Right. Thank you very much!” Bowing their head, Chihiro sighed, standing up. “We should go catch up with the others!” They seemed in a hurry to get out of the room, nearly rushing towards the exit, but… I’m not sure I was content with all of the tension left up in the air.

 

I took a deep breath, steeling my nerves. “Fujisaki-kun!”

 

The aforementioned character froze, hands clasped into tiny little fists at their sides. Slowly, painfully slowly, they turn around to meet me, eyes boring holes into the floor. “Y-Yes?” they asked, “what -- what’s wrong?”

 

“You seem rather flushed. Plus, you seem a bit absent minded…” I trailed off, not knowing what to say next. After a moment, I continue, coughing, “are you feeling sick?”

 

Chihiro shook their head, brunette hair flopped over their face as they did so. “N-No. I’m feeling perfectly fine.” Finally, they lifted up their head, brown eyes boring into my own crimson ones. A flash of electricity struck me. They shuffled, backing towards the door a little; like a cornered animal. “Was that all, then? S-Should we go me-meet the others?”

 

I shake my head, staring intensely into their soul. Chihiro visibly deflated. “Is it something I did? Do I make you uncomfortable?” It wouldn’t be the first time. I think back, trying to recall when Chihiro started acting so distant towards me… hm… around the time when the fourth floor was opened, correct? Or was it before then?

 

The brunette jumped at the sheer mention of this, eyes widening substantially. “ Wha-what? No, no, of course not!” They gave me a tight smile -- obviously forced. Their being swells up in what seemed to be an attempt at cheering me up, before their entire form deflated once more. They were caught in a lie before we even began the interrogation. “Okay… I’m not good at lying… It-It is slightly because of you -- but -- but, don’t be mad, p-please!” They hold out their hands in defense, still clenching shut their injured one.

 

I smiled a crooked smile -- strained and painful -- a burning in my orbs. Of course that was the reason for their behavior! You have been told on multiple occasions -- occasionally even by your own father -- that you’re imposing and scary! You expected any different? Oblivious to my internal struggle, Chihiro sits next to me on the mattress again (a safe foot of distance between the two of us), it shifting nearly unnoticably under their weight. “What did I do?”

 

Chihiro shifts under my intense gaze, fiddling with the ends of their petticoat. Slowly, they lift their head, turn it, and force themselves to maintain eye contact with me. “It’s not what you did… it’s more like…” they contemplate their words for a brief moment, “do you remember what happened during the third motive?”

 

My mouth opens automatically, only to slam closed a moment later. Do I? I remember… hazy memories… crying? Puking? I definitely remember that… we acted differently than we normally do, I know that for sure! After all, that’s what led to Hifumi’s ultimate demise. He began talking to an inanimate object… I think. Is that the truth? Or… am I reaching?

 

Chihiro sits there, patiently, waiting for my response. Chihiro… what were they like? They definitely were emotional. But… more importantly, what did I do? I was obviously the reason for their distress; I must’ve acted rather odd during the motive -- but they couldn’t have expected too much, could they? We were acting out on our repressed emotions, right? So, what would I…

 

Oh.

 

Finally, I nodded. A second later, I realized what I just had done, but decided it was too late to turn back. Sighing, I leaned back, resigned to my ultimate fate. “I acted weird, didn’t I?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

Shocked, I sat up, turned to be facing Chihiro once again. Chihiro had a determined look on their face; like they were trying exceptionally hard to recall something, but they were failing at such a simple action. “Er… what did you just say?”

 

Chihiro didn’t hear me.

 

“Chihiro?” I pestered, waving a hand in front of their face. Chihiro was still for a few more moments, eyes barren of all emotion, eyelids lowered slightly -- like they were about to doze off. I clicked my tongue, annoyed. Adjusting my body appropriately, I grabbed hold of their shoulder and shook them a little, leaned closer to them, and whisper-shouted “Fujisaki-kun!”

 

Knocked back to the present, Chihiro whirled around, looking around at their surroundings. After a moment they relaxed, seeing the familiar, matching barren white walls and floor alike of the clinic. Wide-eyed, they blinked. “H-Huh? What happened?”

 

I knitted my eyebrows at them, not removing my hand from their shoulder. “You blanked out.” I gave them a once over. They did look awfully pale… “Are you completely sure you’re not sick? You can always introduce us to this… Alter Ego... tomorro--”

 

“No!” Suddenly, Chihiro was at full alert, interrupting me. For once they didn’t apologize, their eyes frantic -- like they were foreseeing something. “It’ll be too late then! You -- you have to see it now !” They trembled, getting off the mattress in a fit, pacing up and down the length of it once on their feet. “It’ll be too late by then!” They stopped walking, palms clasped over their fragile face. They collapsed to their knees and bowed to their head, like they were in pain. Tears spilled from the crevices in between their fingertips, flooding the floor.

 

At once, I was at their side, hands hovering uselessly in the air. “Chihiro!” I cried, “what’s wrong?” I looked skeptically at her bandaging, noticing the dampness that now contained it. “Er… you’re ruining your bandages!” I shout, only to quickly retreat in on myself. “... was that bad timing?” I mumble uselessly.

 

They ignored me. “I’m going to die, I’m going to die… they’re going to kill me--”

 

“Fujisaki-kun?” I cry out in shock. “What -- what --”

 

“I’m going to… I’m going to…” They seemed completely oblivious to any form of outside stimuli. “Once they find Alter Ego… they will…” For a solid minute, they repeated this mantra with very little, if any, variation. Their tears were never ending, and my knees were officially soaked, but I couldn’t find myself caring as I contemplated the state of the tiny brunette.

 

Has Chihiro finally lost their mind? Everyone else seems to be falling into despair… have they? My heart ached. It was so painful, that all of the sudden I felt like I was dying; like a thousand suns were burning holes into me -- like I was falling into a deep, dark abyss, and I kept hitting the edges of the cliff from which I fell, yet none of those sharp, jagged rocks were merciful enough to kill me.

 

Guilt? I thought. Why am I -- what is… what is happening to me?

 

Tears clogged my eyes.

 

What is… what is…

 

They cascaded down my face.

 

I don’t… understand…

 

A pitiful wail tore out of my throat. My hands wrapped themselves around Chihiro’s thin frame, pulling them closer to me, and closer, and closer, and the little fragments of sanity inside of myself broke -- shattered, like glass. The pieces fell around me, cutting my skin, and I pulled Chihiro even closer in a fruitless attempt to prevent them from getting hit by them.

 

“...I-Ishimaru-kun…”

 

“I’m -- I’m sorry!” I shouted, eyes clenched tightly. Tears kept falling, however, and I made no attempt to wipe them away. I knew that I must’ve looked like a shameless slob, but for once in my life I found myself not caring, merely crying out my frustrations out on Chihiro’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

 

A feminine (yet callused) hand winds itself into my hair, massaging my scalp in an attempt to calm me down. It worked, yet hardly. Though their own voice was coated with thick tears and phlegm, they asked, “what for? You can’t prevent it… It’s not your fault…”

 

I shook my head again, hugging Chihiro even tighter. Their words stabbed me right in the gut; because it was my fault, and all of the previous guilt that I refused to harbor was at a forefront right now -- perhaps even moreso now than when Bro died! This entire situation was my own making… and I had abused, killed, no, murdered my closest friends.

 

The others… they were geniuses. They deserved to die -- it was for the sake of humanity’s survival… right? For the first time in my life, however… I really doubted those words. Chihiro, while definitely a genius, was as sweet and gentle as a newly bloomed flower. They never caused harm to anyone, they weren’t corrupt in the slightest, they didn’t deserve the hell that I had willingly put all of my fellow classmates through. They… didn’t deserve this. They didn’t deserve the despair. They… deserved… hope .

 

With a firm resolve, I lifted my head, opened my eyes, and stared into Chihiro’s own glossy ones. “I will!” I nodded my head to my words. “I swear it! I will!”

 

Chihiro quirked her head in curiosity. “You will… what?”

 

“Protect you!” I raised my voice, only lowering it slightly after Chihiro shrunk away from the volume. “I swear it! I will not let anyone harm you, unless I wish a needle to pierce my eye!” I paused, mulling over my words, “...is that the right phrase?”

 

Chihiro stared at me, clearly dumbfounded, before a smile quickly grew and very nearly split their face in half. They giggled, their eyes lighting up in amusement, hand retracting from my hair ( it had still been there? ) and reaching up to their mouth, covering their pink lips as they continued to chuckle -- their laugh quickly losing the feminine timbre it had to it prior. After a moment, they keeled over, arms splayed out over their gut.

 

I watched their little spectacle, unamused. To be more specific, I was rather embarrassed! “... I’m guessing that’s a no?”

 

“Ah… ah… ah…” they gasped, coming down from the high of their little ordeal.

 

“That was overdramatic.”

 

Chihiro mockingly gasped, eyes lit up in joy. Aw. “Ishimaru-kun! Was that… sarcasm?” They feigned panic, as if they had just seen a ghost. “We all know that such a feat is impossible for you!”

 

I narrowed my eyes. “I am offended.” Crossing my arms, I looked away pointedly, smirking a bit from the corner of my lip. “I’m regretting my previous words.”

 

Tensing, Chihiro paused, a contemplative look crossing their features. In a single instance, their body language became much more closed off from what it was previously, and they put a bit of distance between the two of us; scooting along the floor. Stretching out their thin legs from their position to lie directly in front of them, Chihiro hunches in on themself.

 

Suddenly panicked, I held a hand out to them; not quite knowing what to do with it. Did I offend them already? And we were having such a good time before… for the most part. Did I say something wrong? Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why can’t you do anything right? This is why nobody liked you in--

 

“About that,” started Chihiro, quite shyly, “did you really mean that?” Chihiro gripped tight, bound fists close to their chest, fiddling a little with the cloth there. “That you would…” a blush coats their face “...protect me?”

 

My mental tirade ceases. My eyes soften as they look upon their delicate frame. An odd, consistent pounding begins in my chest; right where my heart should be. Huh? Am I ill? “Of course,” I semi-whispered, “I wouldn’t promise something like that without meaning it.”

 

Chihiro sighed, a tiny smile gracing their lips. They wiped tiny beads of liquid from their eyes.  “Thank goodness…” Chihiro looked into space for a second, pleasantly, before a twisted, conflicted look took hold and they began abruptly frowning in dismay. “Wait!”

 

“Er, what is it?”

 

“I don’t want to be a burden!” they complained, shaking their head furiously. They turned to me, dependently balanced on their right hand as they twisted and contorted their body to face mine. “If you protect me , then who will protect you ?” they wondered, “I don’t want to be responsible for your death! Furthermore, I couldn’t stand the thought of holding everyone back because of my own weakness!”

 

My mouth opened a little in surprise. This is new. Quickly, I erased any trace of the emotion from my face: adopting a confident persona instead. I merely smiled at Chihiro, pointing to myself in mock-pride. “Trust me! I’m strong enough to deflect any attackers!”

 

Chihiro looked even more disturbed by my words, if anything. I internally cringed at my failed attempt. “But…” they seemed to be in a debate with their inner conscience. After a moment or two of various facial expressions crossing their face in rapid succession -- ranging from sadness to outright disgust -- they finally nodded; resolve coursing through them. “I want to be strong, too! So that I can protect myself, and the people that can’t defend themselves! I don’t want to rely on someone to do it for me!” they declare.

 

I gaze at Chihiro in admiration. To think… such a fiery, hard working spirit would be locked in such a small, insecure body.

 

Chihiro continued, completely oblivious to my new rush of feelings. What… was I feeling? This is odd. “To be completely honest with you… the reason I brought up the third motive was because I know that you said something odd during it. Furthermore, I know for a fact that I was a complete and utter crybaby during it,” they speak with such disgust while referring to themself to the point that I find myself empathizing with them. “I distrusted you because of words that I didn’t know if you even felt… but because of what you have just said, I know that you’re completely trustworthy now. You care for your classmates, so there would never be a reason for you to try to kill them, right?” Chihiro finally turns to me after a prolonged period of talking to thin air, silently asking for confirmation.

 

Ouch. Their words stabbed me like a knife straight in the gut. They blinked once, twice, eyelashes pretty against pale skin; the actual shade of their eyes even prettier in all their innocent glory. The knife twisted. I couldn’t say “no” to those doe-like eyes! “R-Right.”

 

All of the remaining tension vanished from Chihiro’s body immediately; their shoulders deflating like a balloon. Did they really suspect that strongly that I was the mastermind? Well, to be fair -- but that’s besides the point! Boy, I am really bad at my job!

 

Chihiro gave me the tiniest of smiles. After a moment, they turned away from me once more; the smile on their face very quickly shifting into the slightest of frowns. “On the other hand, I was pathetic. I don’t remember how I was, or what I did or said, but I know for a fact that I was!” Chihiro knocked their tiny fists gently on to their respective temples, like they were trying desperately to remember something. “And it frustrates me, because I don’t even remember my own weakness, yet I want to change it!”

 

“You’re not--”

 

“Don’t lie to me,” sighs Chihiro, lowering their fists gently to the ground. “Ever since I was younger, I was always weaker than people…” they pause, “... my age are supposed to be.” They widely gesture to themself. “That’s why I’m the way I am today.”

 

I bit my lip, thinking desperately for a solution. “Then…” this catches Chihiro’s attention, “I’ll… help you get stronger!” I decide out loud. Nodding to better enunciate my point, I point my right index finger straight at Chihiro. “I’ll help you get stronger, so that we can protect each other!”

 

Chihiro gasped, clasping their hands together tightly. “You… you would? ” They drew their legs up to fold underneath their lap, scooting closer to me. “But… but, wouldn’t it inconvenience you?” In an instant, their timid nature is back. “I-I don’t want to be an inconvenience! You don’t have to if you don’t want--”

 

I shook my head, determined. In a fit of blind courage, I grasp onto Chihiro’s clasped hands; drawing them closer to me as a result. Chihiro gave a muffled squeak, lips drawn tight and pupils blown wild. “No! You aren’t an inconvenience in the slightest, Fujisaki-kun!”

 

“I-Ishimaru-kun?” they stuttered; cheeks crimson and puffy.

 

“I swear, I swear…” I chant -- whether it’s for my own sake or Chihiro’s I can’t quite tell. “I’ll help you get stronger, that way you don’t have to… that way you don’t…” I couldn’t bring myself to utter the fatal word, but Chihiro seemed to understand the message I was trying to convey. Chihiro nodded, giving me a tight-lipped smile.

 

Chihiro scooted closer to me, and before I knew it, I found myself drawn into a tight yet gentle hug. For the second time of the day -- more like life -- I was in such an intimate position with someone; that someone being the ever adorable Chihiro. Their tiny fists clenched the back of my jacket, and I felt a sudden wetness on my chest -- where Chihiro’s head happened to be buried. “Thank you… thank you!”

 

I internally panicked. “C-Chihiro?” I cry out in surprise, “why are you crying?”

 

“Because… because…” Chihiro pulled away from me, lifted their head, and looked at me through tear-filled, brown eyes. They close their eyes after a moment, and a jerky, closed-lip smile overcomes their doll-like face. “I’m so happy!”

 

Suddenly, a blistering heat lit up my face. What… what is this? “Chihiro…” I muttered.

 

“Because Ishimaru-kun is my friend --” I felt a sudden pang in my chest. Ouch. “-- and he cares about me enough to try to help me become stronger!”

 

I chuckled nervously, using a hand to rub the back of my neck (a habit I happened to pick up from Mondo during our school life together). “Y-Yeah… because we’re friends .” I muttered, a slightly detestable tinge to my voice.

 

“And… because we’re friends…” Chihiro finally opened their eyes, quickly averting them from my intent gaze. They scooted farther away from me, their hands fiddling in their lap. Nervous habit? I gulped, immediately attentive. Could this be…

 

“I have to tell you something about…” they mumbled, quieter than usual. “... myself. Because I trust you.”

 

I nodded, spurring them on.

 

They took a deep breath, steeled their nerves, clenched their fists, and knitted their eyebrows. A sudden, determined look overtook their eyes. “I’m not a gi--”

 

“Fujisaki-san!” The voice of the one and only Naegi Makoto drifted into the rather quiet clinic, accompanied by Makoto practically slamming the door open and off its hinges. He seemed tense, but he relaxed a mere moment after seeing the both of us. “Oh, thank goodness,” he sighed, “you’re alright.” After a moment, his eyebrows rose. “Wait, why are you two on the floor?”

 

Chihiro appeared mortified. Slowly and tensely, they turned their head to stare at Makoto, an utterly fake smile plastered onto their face. “N-N-Naegi-kun!” they shouted, obviously trying to sound enthusiastic. “Why are you here?”

 

Makoto looked between the two of us, obviously in shock, not relaxing once more for a few moments. “We were, um… how do I say this?” he sighed, “worried. For…” his gaze lingered on Chihiro, “both of you!”

 

“Worried?” I spoke up, “why would that be?”

 

Makoto gave me a carefully concealed look. “Because of…” he struggled for an answer, “you both were… taking so long. We were afraid that the… mastermind…” he stared at the surveillance camera in the corner of the room. “... maybe hurt you guys?”

 

“Is that so?” I said, “well, don’t fret, the both of us are perfectly, absolutely fine!” I spared Chihiro a glance. The poor fellow still looked absolutely terrified! “Isn’t that right, Fujisaki-kun?”

 

Chihiro jumped, sneaking me an utterly betrayed glance from the corner of their eye. Despite that, they played along, nodding delightfully. “Yeah!”

 

Makoto gave the both of us rather suspicious looks. It looked like he didn’t believe us. “Well, that’s glad to hear!” He paused, staring at Chihiro’s single bandaged hand. “It looks like you’re ready to get moving.”

 

Taking a sharp intake of breath, Chihiro nodded. They got up from the floor dejectedly, patting down their skirt in an attempt to get rid of any dirt particles. I followed suit, coughing, practically absorbing the tension in the room.

 

As Chihiro began to move towards Makoto, I laid a hand on their shoulder. They turned around, giving me a curious look. Smiling as hard as I could, I say, “you can tell me what you wanted to say later, right?”

 

All of the remaining doubt Chihiro had vanished in that instant. Their eyes widened for a brief instant, and they nodded enthusiastically. Their reaction was rather genuine, I think. Is that right? Were they that nervous? Around Makoto, of all people? That’s… odd. Even before the mutual killings, he was easily the most liked person in their class. Even I had considered him a friend, to a certain extent. Though he had seemed to get a little nervous whenever I approached him… but that’s besides the point .

 

With those final, parting words, Chihiro fled out of the door, Makoto following suit. Cautiously, I took a step forward, then another, then another and, finally, I was out of the suffocating clinic.

 

Now… who is this Alter Ego character?

 

oOo

 

“You’ve kept a fully functioning A.I. hidden from Monobear for a week? ” exclaimed Makoto, hands outstretched in disbelief, “ how? Is this really what a Super High School Level is capable of?”

 

Byakuya scoffed, pushing up his glasses pompously. “Of course it is. We are here for a reason: because we are talented at what we do… though I suppose a commoner like you wouldn’t have the capacity to understand…” The heir looked at Makoto, amused, obviously waiting for a response. I watched the exchange closely. Well… he sure is acting like his normal self.

 

Thankfully, Makoto didn’t submit to the heir by offering him an angered response. Nervously, Makoto itched his cheek, a half-smile on his face. “You really have a way with words, don’t you?”

 

Byakuya stuck his nose in the air, a single hand diligently pushing up his glasses for him once again. “Of course I do, I’m Byakuya Togami.”

 

“That was sarcasm, dude,” interrupted Leon; surely saving us all from an entire session of self-worship. He grinned, likely seeing the relieved, if slightly baffled, faces of the rest of us -- minus Chihiro, who still was diligently typing away on a laptop after having told us the brief summary of the tool they were meant to show us.

 

Byakuya snorted. “Right. As if Naegi is capable of sarcasm.” He spared a pitiful glance in Makoto’s direction. “The offense is meant.”

 

Makoto dropped his eyes to the floor, deflating slightly. After a moment, he inflated once more. Determined, he knitted his eyebrows, staring into Byakuya’s soul. “Are you alright, Togami-kun?”

 

Raising his eyebrow, Byakuya leaned away; baffled. “What? What gives you the right to act so intimately with me?”

 

“I-Intimately?” stuttered Genocider Syo, cheeks lit up in a crimson blaze. She stumbled towards Byakuya, latching onto his arm in the process. Byakuya tried desperately to shake her off, but she persisted. “ Oh, is Byakuya-sama experimenting?” She took out her favored scissors, swinging them around her first 3 fingers in a rhythm. “While I don’t mind some boy-on-boy action, you must let me watch! Otherwise, I won’t be able to cut you both into little bits afterwards! Kyahahaha!”

Paling considerably, Byakuya gulped; but hastily covered up his mishap by covering his lips with his hand. “To answer your question, Naegi, a crazed fan is stalking me -- of course I’m a bit on edge.”

 

Fan? ” whispered Sayaka from her position next to me, audible to only Leon and I’s ears. “Does he mean Genocider Syo?

 

Leon shrugged, vaguely annoyed. “Who knows? He’ll turn anything into a gloating experience, that’s for sure.” he spoke considerably louder than Sayaka, obviously not concerned about the heir hearing their conversation. Sayaka shushed him hectically, but the damage had already been done.

 

Huh? ” growled Syo, shooting Leon a scathing glare. “And who are you? Oh, oh, are you the tsundere type? Well, back off ! Byakuya-sama only has eyes for yanderes and the boys I find most appealing for him!”

 

Leon balked, quickly assuming an aggressive stance, “what’dya mean ‘ and who are you? ’ I’ve met you before! Multiple times!” After a moment, he considered the rest of her words. “ Also , I don’t have a thing for Togami! That’s gay as hell!”

 

Syo waved him off absentmindedly, looping her elbow around Byakuya’s own. He seemed to have finally given up on warding her off, reluctantly resigning to his fate.

 

Kyoko strutted over to Chihiro’s figure, rooted to their spot on the red bench. Their fingers drifted rapidly over the keyboard; clicking the mouse in time to the beat. Kyoko peered over their shoulder. Chihiro doesn’t seem to even notice her, too absorbed in their current task to even begin to consider doing so.

 

After a moment or more, Chihiro lets out a small sigh; face glistening a little with sweat. “Done!” they muttered, a tiny smile played out on their lips. They looked up, finally noticing the majority of the room’s stares. “W-What?” they asked, suddenly terrified, “did I do something wrong?”

 

Kyoko ignored their question, bending down further to look at the screen. Her eyes moved rapidly along the screen, widening a little in disbelief. Her chin is fitted snugly into her gloved right hand.

 

Chihiro felt her presence, suddenly sat up ramrod straight. “K-Kirigiri-san?” they exclaimed, “what’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing, nothing,” she assured, “though, I am a little surprised. How did you manage to create a fully-functioning A.I. in just a few days? Even for the most skilled of people, that’s a feat unimaginable to most.”

 

“Oh!” Chihiro blushed a little. Cute. Wait-- “Well… it’s not that impressive. I already have formatted this kind of technology before. I just recreated the most basic A.I. form that I knew how to. With proper patience and a lot of red bull, it’s not too difficult.”

“Humble…” muttered Kyoko, “I like that.” She stood up straight, then proceeded to sit down besides Chihiro on the bench. She crossed her legs tightly, hand dancing across her thigh. “With that said, are we ready to meet Alter Ego?”

 

“Sure thing!” smiled the programmer, “I just finished up the last few adjustments right now! They should be all ready to interact with each and every one of you!”

 

They? ” questioned Leon, frowning, “what are they, a person?”

 

“Basically!” chirped Chihiro. They gestured for us all to come closer, hand poised in preparation over the keyboard and mouse alike. They must have been waiting on all of us to hurry up and get to their side.

 

The seven of us obliged to their silent command, walking forward in synchrony to crowd around Kyoko, Chihiro, and the laptop of our fate. Hesitantly, I paused in front of Chihiro. Chihiro quickly noticed the pair of legs in front of her, eyes drifting upwards until they met my own crimson gaze. Frowning, they opened their mouth. Should I?

 

Looking at them in all of their small, adorable cuteness, I found it impossible to resist the captivating angel. My impulse overruled all rational thought in my brain. Making up my mind, I cut off their next question with a sharp jerk of my legs. I crouched down on the right side of the confused Chihiro.

 

After a moment of heavy contemplation, they turned away from me; shaking off my actions and comparing them to my usual oddness, surely. I’ve done far, far more awkward things in my time of knowing Chihiro -- both in and outside of despair.

 

Seeing everyone gathered around them, Chihiro nodded in determination. Their hand landed on the mousepad, freezing very briefly as they glanced over the multiple icons adorning the screen. Are all of these from Chihiro’s use alone? Multiple upon multiple files covered the bland, green wallpaper, ranging from “DATA FILES” to “PACMAN”.

 

Pacman?

 

This abnormality wasn’t what stood out to me the most, however. Smack in the middle of the screen laid a miniature face; what looked to be a childish, pixelated form of Chihiro. Underneath the icon stood crude, box-shaped letters, saying the words “ALTER EGO” in bright, bold white. Chihiro really put an abnormal amount of effort into the overall visual effect of this.

 

Chihiro ghosted the cursor of the mouse over the boxed arrow in the left-hand corner of the icon. Quickly, they double tapped it. For a moment, all was silent. No one moved, for fear of waking the dead and missing the grand reveal. In the next, gasps were heard all around the huddled semi-circle as green light illuminated Chihiro’s face -- fading into Chihiro themself after a moment’s thought.

 

“Master!” it cried, full of joy -- does it actually feel emotion? , I wondered. “Oh, look, you brought friends! What could I do for you all?” it frowned for a moment, thinking -- or would the correct word be processing? “Unless you all just want to talk to me?” Alter Ego’s eyes flitted to each of the individual members of the room. When its eyes got to me, it paused, “ah! Ishimaru-kun! You’re back!” it smiled, “we didn’t get to properly finish our discussion last time!”

 

Leon looked at me in apparent disbelief. “Dude, you talked to this thing before?” he asked, bewildered. “And speaking of talking, can we just pause for a moment and consider the fact that this thing friggin’ talks ? Like, with a human voice? How does it even do that?”

 

“Alter Ego has the same voice as me,” started Chihiro, “all I did was take simple voice clips of myself saying various words, phrases, or sounds, and all of that comes together in the way Alter Ego talks.”

 

“Woah…” he breathed, dumbfounded.

 

Chihiro flexed their fingers. “Have you heard of Vocaloid?” Huh? That was random. “Um, you know, because… it’s sorta like this… except with singing robots.” They blushed scarlet red, bangs shadowing their eyes as they spoke. Aw, they’re embarrassed.

 

“Uh… no,” said Leon quite dumbly. Chihiro froze in sheer embarrassment for a second; yet that second was long enough for Sayaka to effectively notice. She glowered at Leon, lightly smacking him upside the head for his poor choice of, or lack thereof, words. Despite the smack sounding weak to even the most cowardly of people, Leon let out a yelp that sounded like that of a baby chihuahua. “Ow!” he hissed, grasping the back of his head. He glared at Sayaka. “What was that for?”

 

“You know what,” snapped Sayaka, pissed. In a split second, her facade reemerged, and she ruffled Chihiro’s hair affectionately. “Don’t worry, Fujisaki-san! I know all about that group!” She gave an idol-esque wink, despite Chihiro facing the opposite direction from her. “If you want someone to talk to about them sometime, I’m right here!”

 

Chihiro blushed harder, bowing their head. “Y-Yeah,” they muttered, easily distracted. Shyly, they straightened the hair that Sayaka had made fall out of place.

 

“Uh, Master?” asked Alter Ego. The A.I. appeared concerned. “Are you still there? Do you need me to leave?” Chihiro jumped from the sudden questioning, remembering the reasons they had gone to the dressing room in the first place. Their fingers flexed over the keyboard, as they most likely have been doing this all of their life.

 

>No.

 

Alter Ego smiled earnestly. “That’s a relief! I didn’t want to bother you too much!” It… kind of reminds me a bit of Chihiro, too. “So, what did you need, Master?” It blinked innocently. Wow… Chihiro even added in that detail.

 

>What were the results on the signal scans?

 

Kyoko snapped to attention. “Signal scans? What does that mean?” she questioned. “Does that mean…” she inhaled a gasp, “you don’t mean… the signals of the controller to Monokuma?”

 

Chihiro ignored her question, or possibly didn’t even hear her in the first place. They were too busy watching Alter Ego, eagerly awaiting a response. Their muscles were tense, and they were unconsciously moving closer to the screen.

 

“Ah! That!” it exclaimed, smile plastered permanently on. “I got effective results, but they may be a little… confusing,” it stated, frowning a bit in mock confusion. “It appears that there are five signals that have the capacity to control the Monokumas, four of which are active and semi-occasional.”

 

At this, time seemed to freeze. Not a breath was shed, not a word was said; we all ate the information. Five? I mulled over. I went through the information that I had acquired so far. The inactive signal is most likely Junko’s. She had mentioned disabling the technology to a respective person if that person’s heart stopped.

 

Meanwhile, I know for sure that I am the owner of one of the signals. Furthermore, Mukuro isn’t an option, as Junko refused to ever give her that kind of authority. Nagito is the owner of another signal… then… that’s three. That would make two more active signals…

 

What the hell?

 

What does this mean? Best case scenario, both of those signals are external signals. Worst case scenario, they are both internal signals -- or signals that originate inside the walls of the school itself. But… what are the chances of one of my classmates achieving this ability? None of them have retained their memories, so they would have absolutely no idea how to do such a thing.

 

“Even more abnormally is that… three of these signals, including the broken signal, are active inside of the school, while two are active outside of it. What a big cause for concern is that, according to my scans and research, it is highly unlikely anyone has stepped inside or outside of this school since this killing game has begun; and that… it seems most likely that the sixteen students that have been here since the beginning of the game are the only ones that have been alive in this building.”

 

Dead silence. All at once, actions spoke louder than words, as the majority of my classmates took steps away from each other -- Leon even going as far as to back into the opposing wall until he hit the lockers adorning it. All of us were spread out, Kyoko taking part in the festivities to a degree by sitting up from the bench and cautiously looking around at the vast majority of our terrified faces. Chihiro tensed next to me, teeth grit and bared, giving me a sidelong glance. From that look alone, I could tell that Chihiro still trusted me and believed in me, but distrust still threatened to cloud over judgement. Even the most naive can fall victim.

 

“Ah… huh? ” sputtered Makoto, alarmed. He shifted around to look at all of us individually; being one of the few who still had yet to move. “Are you guys serious?” he questioned, obviously upset, “you are still distrustful of each other? After all the time we've spent together, and learnt about one another?” In a fit of desperation, he softly spoke the words “does that mean nothing to you?”

 

Genocider Syo -- no, Toko -- pointed an accusatory finger at him. “Y-Y-You’re just delusional! There's n-no way we can trust strangers in a s-situation like this!” She gave Byakuya a longing look from her position next to him. “Except for Master ,” she sighed dreamily. Byakuya snarled at her, leaning away from the suffocating brunette.

 

Makoto considered her words for a moment. A couple of fingers gently cradled his chin as he thought. “Yes… we might be strangers, technically, but... we're classmates too.” I sat straighter, a rush of emotion suddenly flowing through me. I felt strange; stranger than strange. “Think about it. If this situation never would’ve happened, all of us would be graduating together in a couple of years. No, not would be, we will be!” He shot Byakuya a scathing look, “and not through murder, either.”

 

He continued, “so many of us bonded so quickly, and acted and bonded with each other like we had known each other for a lifetime. Take Asahina-san and Oogami-san for an example. Not only them, but Ishimaru-kun and Oowada-kun, Celes and Yamada-kun, and Kuwata-kun and Maizono-san also bonded incredibly quickly. That can't be a coincidence.” He stressed his point with a wide variety of wild arm motions, his right hand pressed firmly to his chest, right over his heart. He truly cared about each and everyone of his friends, and didn't want any of them maimed or killed. He was hopeful for the future; he didn't want to see more death, or more life lost. He wanted all of us to operate in kinship… making his inevitable demise all the more tragic.

 

“So… please,” he begged, “even if one of us is the mastermind, believe in your friends! Giving into this despair is exactly what Monokuma wants! He wants to divide us, so…” He flashed a sincere, sorrowful smile. His eyes crinkled delightfully; his lips twitched from the strain of holding that single expression, but he didn't falter. He smiled, and smiled, and smiled, even as overbearing expressions peered into Makoto’s own. “Let's show him that hope always overcomes despair! Let's show him that, no matter what he throws at us, nothing can divide us!”

 

The rest of us paused, contemplating his words. Despite the distrustful stares still given to each and every one of us, the vast majority of us relaxed. All except for two people. Sayaka… and --

 

“Pathetic,” sneered Byakuya. “Do you truly believe your own words? Do you really believe that hope will prevail over despair in this situation, that no one will kill again?” Byakuya straightened, shoving off Toko’s grip on his upper bicep with a flick of his wrist. He stalked towards Makoto, the shorter and slimmer boy not backing down from the intimidation. “You must be a fool.”

 

For once, Makoto looked sure. No longer was he passive, and no longer was anyone able to so easily sway his opinion on the matter. A fierce, strong, admirable determination and hope sparkled in his eyes. It should of disgusted me, but I found myself drawn to it. A similar feeling sparked in my heart, reverberated through my spine, and settled at the base of my brain. No words were spoken; he only stared fiercely into Byakuya’s judging eyes.

 

After a moment of intense eye contact, Byakuya finally shied away, clicking his tongue in a fit of guarded pride. “Very well. Though no one has a right to get upset or angry if you are the next one of us to die in this game,” he warned, though it sounded slightly like a threat if nothing else. My heart hammered against my ribcage in rapid succession; surely out of anticipation at the bounded upcoming confrontation.

 

Makoto finally let up his mask; revealing an expression of utmost hurt and uncertainty, and he stared at the floor. His fists were glued to his thighs, clenched hard enough that his fingertips went red and the rest of his palm went white. “I realize that I’m only putting myself at further risk by speaking out. I realize that I’m one of the weaker people here, and that I could easily be overpowered and murdered if someone decided to target me. I realize that just because we trust in one another that it doesn’t ensure that one of us isn’t the mastermind, or that another person isn’t planning to murder another person in this room at any given opportunity. I realize all of this… but…” he trailed off, lifted his head, and a gentle, innocent smile graced his face. “Being optimistic is the only thing I’m good at. I can’t just sit back and watch as all of my friends are accusing one another.”

 

Leon, Sayaka, and Toko finally relaxed for the most part, coming closer to the rest of our group. Sayaka and Leon shared a simple smile; and heat crawled up both of their faces. Toko still looked unsure, and rather inclined to lash out at any given moment; but she didn’t appear to particularly feel a need to. Rather, she stared at Byakuya in adoration, fingers twiddling with themselves clumsily in front of her skirt.

 

Sayaka broke her eye contact with Leon, question at the tip of her tongue. “I know what you’re saying, Naegi-kun, I really do, but… there are only nine of us still alive in this school. And, according to Alter Ego, three of those people are traitors and masterminds. How can we trust everyone when the majority of the time the people we’re talking to could easily be a mastermind?”

 

Makoto paused, thinking for a moment. He looked downright confused, before a sudden realization sparked in his mind. “You’ve got that wrong!” he called.

 

“I-I do?” questioned Sayaka, index finger gently poking her chin in thought. “What did I get wrong? There were three signals. One was broken, and two were still active. That means that the broken one might be just a traitor, and the other two could be the masterminds, right?”

 

Leon shrugged. “It makes sense to me.”

 

Kyoko finally decided to join the conversation. “Naegi-kun is right…” she agreed, nodding along to his words, “the broken signal, first and foremost, is most likely the one of Junko Enoshima, not that of a traitor. We all know that she indeed did have access to controlling Monokuma, but, perhaps, once her heartbeat stopped, so did her control over him.”

 

“That’s what I was thinking,” affirmed Makoto, “plus, one of the signals most likely belongs to Mukuro Ikusaba as well.” Wrong, I thought, but I neglected to call him out on that crucial fact. One of the signals is mine, as well, meaning that there is one other person -- a person in the very room I’m standing in -- that has access to controlling Monokuma. “Meaning that there is only one other mastermind in this situation rather than three.”

 

“Okay, okay, I get your point, but that means there is still one person that we have to distrust here,” states Leon, peeved, “so, all of your hope mumbo-jumbo is virtually useless to us now, right? What was the point of this entire conversation if we’re just back to square one?”

 

Makoto shrinked back. “I know that what I’m saying is contradicting itself, but, maybe, if we can figure out who the final mastermind is, we can all trust each other again!” I noticed Kyoko freezing from the corner of my eye, turning to give him a leveled stare. “So… what if, we just all trust each other for right now, but we still try to figure it out as a group, instead of doing it blindly and individually? We can investigate the suspicious activity of some of our peers, right? Yet do it logically, instead of suspecting everyone of being the mastermind!”

 

“How do you expect us to do that without distrusting each other?”

 

“Well, I--”

 

“W-What you’re saying makes no sense!”

 

“If you would listen--”

 

WHAT ARE YOU EVEN SAYING?

 

“Enough!” shouted Kyoko. Her eyebrows narrowed, she glared at each and everyone of the offending speakers who had chosen to yell at Makoto. I whipped my head around fast enough to  give me whip-lash, absolutely puzzled by the unfamiliar tone and volume she had chosen to use on us all. “Naegi-kun has made a good point! Accusing each other mindlessly will do nothing to help our current situation! In fact, it will only make it worse!”

 

Leon, Sayaka, and Toko hung their heads guiltily, avoiding eye contact with Kyoko.

 

“Now, Naegi-kun, if you would?”

 

Makoto stared at Kyoko for a moment in amazement. He clearly didn’t expect her to stand up for him, much less raise her voice while doing so. It was rather out of character for the detective to so much as change her facial expression; changing her voice tone, and so dramatically at that, belonged to an entirely new spectrum.

 

After a moment, he snapped out of it, looking much more confident than he did previously. “Right!” he nodded. A huge, dopey grin split his face; quickly being replaced by a much more somber expression, although it looked like he was forcing himself to convey such an emotion. “I’m not telling you all to trust each other entirely. That would be suicide. What I am saying, however, is that while you can investigate into other people’s actions, don’t be too distrustful of them, and especially don’t bring that kind of negativity into a normal class discussion! We can’t afford such a mindset here, or else we’ll be doing exactly what Monokuma wants of us!”

 

“He… does have a point,” mumbled Leon begrudgingly; still blushing from embarrassment.

 

“I suppose he does!” I chimed in, if only to participate at least somewhat in the conversation!

 

“Then, now that that is all sorted out,” started Chihiro, “may I continue asking Alter Ego a few more questions?” Their fingers were already posed mid-air above the keyboard, ready to start typing at a moment’s notice.

 

“Oh, right! Of course, we didn’t mean to hold you back!” apologized Makoto, laughing sheepishly, hand scratching the back of his head nervously.

 

Chihiro didn’t say anything to him in response, only nodded. Their fingers fluttered beautifully over the keyboard, and they easily typed out their next question.

 

>Did you find any more data or useful information?

 

Alter Ego grinned childishly, nodding. “Yes, actually! While I was in the system, I discovered a series of networks that seemed to cover the entire school. It was fairly hard to hack into it, but due to the updates you’ve recently given me, Master, I was easily able to do it! Here is a sample of one of the video files!”

 

Video files? I nearly voiced my question, but I stopped as soon as the first syllable left my mouth. It appeared many of the others in the room shared my sentiments, given by their shared confused expressions. I mulled over Alter Ego’s words in my head. Video files? Out of all the files that Junko would’ve stored in the school’s post-despair database, what would of been video clips? The first motives? The interviews with the headmaster? Or… could it be the--

 

“... cameras,” I whispered. Oh my god. Replacing the head of Alter Ego, multiple, four-by-four boxes of the cameras throughout the school overtook the small screen. They shifted every couple seconds to instead show the footage of different cameras. The bedrooms, the hallways of each of the opened floors, the gymnasium, the dining hall, kitchen… every single camera that had been watching our every move now had their footage up for display for all of us to see. “No way…”

 

Alter Ego’s girlish face came back to replace the footage in the next instant; a simple smile stretching their lips. It quirked its head, “see? Was I useful?” it asked.

 

Chihiro mutely nodded their head, mouth agape to stare at the screen in absolute amazement. Even Chihiro was shocked by the amazing progress of their newest invention. Now that said something about their own skills. “I-I can’t believe it…” they muttered.

 

“W-Wait… hold up… does this mean…” started Leon. Despite him not completing the question, everyone instantly knew what he had meant. Sayaka shed a few tears, wiping at her eyes idly with her sleeve. Chihiro shed some tears themself, but felt no shame in letting them be seen. I felt empathy strike a loose chord in my heart. They must be feeling so much hope.


“No more murders,” grinned Makoto. He gestured to Alter Ego, a wide grin splitting his face in two. “If someone is contemplating murder right now, then just know that you won’t get away with it! Alter Ego will have the footage of the entire thing, and we’ll easily take you down in the class trial!”

 

“Woah…” trailed off Leon, “so… we beat the mastermind at his own game?” A grin split his face into two. “Ha! Hahaha!”

 

Byakuya scoffed, turning away from the lot of us. “Are you an imbecile? What if the mastermind is sitting right here? Then what?” he asked; although, he did sound kind of disappointed himself. “Then he’ll easily destroy Alter Ego, and we’ll be right back at square one.” He turned back to Makoto, a smug grin on his face; like he expected no worthy refutes to ever sprout from Makoto’s mouth. “How’s that for your hope, Naegi?”

 

Makoto shook his head, smile never faltering. “No, no we won’t. We’ll still have the abundance of information that we just acquired in relevance to our situation in our brains. We know a little more about the mastermind than he had been expecting.” he frowned a bit, “although, perhaps we should take some precautions to prevent the mastermind from accessing or destroying Alter Ego.”

 

“Fujisaki-kun,” Kyoko started, “tell Alter Ego to scream if anyone other than yourself approaches it.”

 

“Huh? O-Okay…” Chihiro did as asked, looking downright confused all the while. Their lip curled. “But… Kirigiri-san, how will Alter Ego screaming help us if we are all asleep? Our bedrooms are completely soundproof.”

 

“That is true,” agreed Kyoko, “and that’s why I’ll keep my bedroom door open at night.”

 

“W-What?” I sputtered, “that’s suicide! Are you out of your mind?”

 

Kyoko shook her head, giving Makoto a sweet smile and a glance from the corner of her eye. “It’s just as Naegi-kun said. No one in their right mind would murder someone when we have all of the evidence of such a heinous crime right at our fingertips.”

 

Toko pointed at Kyoko, albeit far more hesitantly and more worried. “But… what’s preventing anyone from killing you and t-then destroying Al-Alter Ego?” she shook her head, “i-it’s impossible! The mastermind will kill you!”

 

“Nothing is stopping them,” stated Kyoko all-knowingly, “nothing except their own rules.”

 

“Huh?” gasped Chihiro.

 

That’s right… I thought, Junko had never wanted to actively participate in the killings until I practically forced her into it, all the while saying how we would falsely pin the crime on someone else. However, I for one would not be able to lie like that and break my own rules! Assuming the other mastermind has my own ideologies, as demonstrated by their strict following of Junko’s rules and regulations, they would never be able to confidently murder someone so easily and then straight out lie in the class trial about who the true culprit was!

 

“That’s right,” agreed Makoto, “the mastermind doesn’t seem to be someone who likes to break the rules. They’re willing to even kill someone for doing so.” Makoto closed his eyes, softly smiling. “You’re a genius, Kirigiri-san.” The complete love and adoration in his tone made me question if his memories of the time they had spent together had come back. I clearly remembered their oblivious flirting, their bouncing around each other, until the year of post-despair where they had served as a coping tool for one another and realized that the feelings they had for each other were mutual.

 

Kyoko smiled, “I wouldn’t go that far. It’s common sense, I would say.”

 

Byakuya turned away in disgust. “If you two are done with your incessant flirtations--”

 

“F-Flirtations?” sputtered Makoto.

 

“Don’t interrupt. As I was saying, if you two are quite done we best be leaving. Monokuma would get rather suspicious at all of us disappearing for an extended amount of time.”

 

Leon nodded, “as much as I hate to agree with Douchebag, he’s right--”

 

I beg your pardon?

 

“--Monokuma will figure out what we’re doing even faster if we all come in here all the time for however long,” he finished, giving Sayaka a sly wink. “Can’t have us all getting in trouble, right?”

 

“Right!” she agreed, looking a little confused however at Leon’s insinuations -- or more like lack thereof. “Then, should we be off?”

 

Chihiro nodded, “yes, let me just log off from Alter Ego.” Their fingers flew rapidly, and for a second I swore I could see Alter Ego’s artificial, virtual eyes following their movements. It must’ve been just my imagination, I assured myself. After informing Alter Ego of the recent consensus they had come to, Chihiro types:

 

>We must be going now! Goodbye, Alter Ego! Keep searching the databases, okay?

 

“Yes, Master! Goodbye!” With that in mind, Alter Ego automatically closed its program. I found myself wondering if Alter Ego automatically started if it detected danger or people within the vicinity. That must be the case, right? Otherwise it wouldn’t be able to scream if someone other than Chihiro was approaching.

 

As if reading my thoughts, Chihiro reassured me, “don’t worry, Ishimaru-kun. Unless it's closed, Alter Ego will clearly be able to see whoever is approaching it through its’ webcam.” They got up, taking the laptop with them, and moved over to a nearby locker, stuffing the device inside. “With that in mind, I’ll lock Alter Ego up right here. No one besides me will be able to open this locker either way, so Alter Ego screaming really just functions as more of a backup plan.” With a click of the lock, Alter Ego was locked inside the cubicle. Chihiro held the key gingerly in their hand, placing it neatly inside the pocket of their skirt.

 

“This is really it, isn’t it?” breathed Makoto, “the beginning of the end! Hope will triumph against despair!” Inhaling deeply, all the way into his diaphragm, Makoto gave each and every one of the remainder of us all equal, leveled stares. “I know it!”

 

On that fateful day, hope bloomed in my chest for the first time in God knows how long. Perhaps it had been a long time coming, and I had just never realized it until that very moment. On the other hand, maybe the absence of Junko in my current life had set me on a more hopeful, optimistic path. Either way, despite common sense, I didn’t dislike the feeling -- in fact, I even enjoyed it. Despite everything, despite being the mastermind all of these teenagers wished so hard to smother, I couldn’t help but wonder why ? Why did I so desperately want to lavish in despair when hope looked to be so much more beautiful?

 

oOo

 

“What am I doing?” mumbled Naegi to himself. He vaguely wondered how he would look to outsiders: whether he’d look crazy or downright hypocritical by following a classmate. He stifled a laugh, turning his attention to stare at Ishimaru’s retreating figure. The prefect had looked rather perturbed after the meeting had been adjourned. Mastermind or not, he didn’t want the boy to do anything that he would end up regretting in the long run.

 

“Naegi-kun?” he suddenly heard. Jumping, he turned to find Kirigiri staring at him in pure bemusement. “May I ask what you think you’re doing?” Kirigiri followed my previous line of sight. “Or, more like, may I ask why you’re stalking Ishimaru-kun?”

 

Naegi flushed. He tried to stifle the warmth in his cheeks, but it kept rising. He knew why he kept blushing, but that simple fact alone didn’t mean he had to accept it and live with it. Besides, Kirigiri hated him, didn’t she? Though… if that was the case… why was she talking to him?

 

“Could it be that you’re considering what I said that night? About him being the…” One quick glance at the cameras told him everything else she intended to say about the subject at hand. In fear of persecution, most likely, she neglected to lay out the blunt truth. Seeing his panicked expression, she continued, “if that isn’t the case, then I don’t mind. I realize that I’ve misjudged you.”

 

Dumbly, Naegi stuttered, “h-huh? What do you --”

 

“I trust you. And you trust me. That doesn’t mean that we have to believe everything the other says, though. There’s room for evaluation, and, depending on circumstance, you can both support the other yet not take everything they say as truth. That’s the point of friendship, is it not?” she rhetorically asked. The simple smile gracing her otherwise stern features made his heart skip a few palpitations. It was rare to see that smile, yet somehow it seemed familiar to him.

 

Frowning, Naegi turned to staring at the floor; current mission forgotten for the most part. He was a hypocrite, wasn’t he? Telling everyone to trust one another, and yet here he is stalking a classmate and not even taking another’s theory into consideration, despite the aforementioned classmate no doubt being the most clever in their class along with her having multiple concrete facts and sources to back up her claim.

 

“I know what you’re thinking,” Kirigiri started. Naegi looked up in surprise. She didn’t seem to be joking… was everyone psychic around here? “I’m not psychic… or whatever you’re thinking of. You’re extremely easy to read.”

 

“Gee, thanks,” muttered Naegi sarcastically.

 

Kirigiri continued, “trust doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be naive. Ishimaru-kun is one of the more suspicious people among us, and you investigating the matter after he left looking distressed doesn’t mean that you distrust your classmate. It simply means that you’re worried, and hoping to find out for yourself that they aren’t the mastermind, even though it isn’t a guarantee. You choose to think that way, and you choose to hope for the best. In its own way, that is a new special category of trust.”

 

Naegi frowned at her rather convoluted explanation. Is that what trust is? he wondered, I’m not too sure. It just seems like an excuse for my sorry behavior. But it does make me feel better.

 

“Don’t think too hard about it. It wasn’t until just now that I came to that realization myself,” stated Kirigiri. She looked oddly enlightened -- like she had just reached the beginning stages of Nirvana. What did she mean?

 

Naegi steeled his quivering nerves and tried not to pay attention to the dashing, Bambi-esque form of Fujisaki. “How?” he asked. He wanted to elaborate, but, for once, he was out of words. All at once, all of his thoughts, feelings, and ideals were shoved into one simple, often overlooked word.

 

“You,” she continued the trend, smiling contently, “the Super High School Level Hope.”

 

What? His world shattered into a million, sparkling pieces of glass. “W-What are you talking about? I’m not a super high school level! I’m not even lucky, and really the only thing I’m good at is being optimistic!”

 

“Exactly my point,” she simply stated. She turned her attention to something behind him, dismissing any further discussion on the topic. She seemed completely serious, too… surely she was only joking, right? And… just so happened to be a good actor along with that… so... so… His mind in turmoil, he nearly missed the next words that came out of her mouth. “Come on. Something tells me we don’t want to miss this.”

 

“Miss wh -- huh? ” Naegi suddenly found himself being hauled off behind Kirigiri. Her gloved hand latched onto his wrist. Despite the cold nature of the leather, Naegi flinched away like her hand was boiling. After a moment, however, he grinned, a lovely, dopey grin plastered onto his lips. “Where are we going, Kirigiri-san?”

 

“Fujisaki-san and Ishimaru-kun seem to be talking outside of his door. Something tells me this is going to be important in the future…” she mumbled, stopping behind a wall and peeking around to better listen to the private conversation. She still failed to let go of his wrist. He briefly wondered if she thought he was a flight risk.

 

“Wait, what?” Naegi snapped his wrist away from her hand. She frowned a bit deeper, but Naegi blamed that small detail on his imagination. “You want to eavesdrop on them? That’s low, Kirigiri-san! I can’t do that with a good conscience!” he complained, “what is this something that tells you that this is a good idea?”

 

Kyoko placed a finger in front of her lips. “Shush! And… it’s… intuition.” she seemed rather embarrassed to admit it out loud, but Naegi didn’t dare mention that to the girl. They had just become friends again, after all.

 

“Intuition?” mumbled Naegi, skeptical. He pondered over the thought, recalling Kirigiri’s words to him just a short minute ago. Trust… her definition of it was rather unique, but not entirely wrong, nor entirely right. After another moment or two, Naegi nodded, settling himself next to Kirigiri along the wall. “Okay.”

 

Kirigiri stared at him a moment. “Okay?” she questioned.

 

“I trust you, don’t I, Kirigiri-san? So, I have to at least consider your ideas or theories, right?” Naegi felt embarrassed the moment the words slipped out of his mouth, but he chalked that up to hormones and his weird feelings.

 

Kirigiri appeared to brighten up a little at his words for a brief second before her cool demeanour took precedence. “Okay. Then listen care--” before she had even finished uttering her final sentence, Fujisaki’s nervous tone carried over to their awaiting ears.

 

“I-I’m sorry to stop you like this--”


“Oh no, it’s quite alright, Fujisaki-kun!”

 

“You can call me Chihiro, if you’d like…” Naegi and Kirigiri shared a brief, wide-eyed glance at this. That’s fast , they both thought, but neither felt the particular need to convey that out loud.

 

Ishimaru’s perplexed expression could practically be seen through the tone of his voice. “Ah… okay, Chi-Chihiro-kun. What is it you needed to talk to me about?”

 

“Ah! Right…”

 

“... huh?”

 

“Okay, I’m just gonna come right out and say it!” Naegi listened extra closely. Although he felt guilty, he couldn’t help but admit he was a little more than curious to hear Fujisaki’s next words. “I’m not a girl!”

 

A heartbeat. Then two. Then three. The rule of three came very clearly into account when determining how long it took for Naegi to process the words, to make sense of them, and finally to think: and this is why I don’t eavesdrop!

 

Kirigiri, frozen and rooted to her spot, exhaled a tiny little breath before wavering slightly. She clearly wanted to say something, but held it back for fear of being caught.

 

Ishimaru was completely silent for a few moments, before uttering out in a hurry, “o-oh! I didn’t see that coming! That’s a shocker!” That’s a rather weird reaction… thought Naegi, could he have already known somehow? Unlikely…

 

Chihiro didn’t seem to pick up on this. “I’m sorry!” she -- he? -- cried. “I didn’t mean to lie to all of you! It’s just a long story, and I will definitely fill you in on it when we’re not in such an open area! I definitely am a guy, though, I’m not transgender or anything!” she -- crap -- he seemed to be on the verge of tears when relaying all of this information. “After knowing all of this, will you still help me get stronger?” Huh?

 

“Of course, Chihiro-kun! Your gender doesn’t change anything about that! If you want to get stronger I will definitely help you get stronger!”

 

“But… how can you even begin to help someone as weak as me?”

 

“Everyone starts off as weak. We just have to train ourselves to get stronger.”

 

“But--”

 

“Listen, Chihiro, it’s getting rather late! We need to be fully slept before we can begin training in the morning, right? So, after breakfast, how about we meet up upstairs in the exercise area? I’ll make sure no one’s around so that your secret doesn’t get exposed.”

 

“Ishimaru-kun! You… you really are a nice person, aren’t you?” Fujisaki giggled, “aye aye Captain! Your wish is my command!” With that, Fujisaki scampered off. A door slammed closed a little bit away from Naegi’s current position.

 

Ishimaru’s voice washed over them again. He sounded contemplative, and Naegi wasn’t even sure he meant to speak out loud. “A nice person, huh?” he spoke with such a forlorn tone that even Naegi felt something pierce his heart, “I wonder…” With that, Ishimaru’s door was also opened then closed.

 

With a breath neither of the two realized they had been holding, they bounce off the wall. After a tense few seconds, they turn to face each other, clearly not knowing what to say or how to properly react to the influx of information.

 

Naegi took a deep breath, deciding to break the ice in a fit of blind courage. “Well…” he started, “something tells me we really weren’t supposed to hear that.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Leon , that is not what you use to toast bread!”

 

Why not? It seems pretty useful to me!”

 

“You just -- you don’t put bread in the microwave!”

 

“What do you know? You’re an idol!”

 

“At least I know how to toast bread! We have a toaster for a reason!”

 

While I strolled past the kitchen area in the dining hall, my ears suddenly perked to attention, hearing two unmistakable voices: Sayaka Maizono and Leon Kuwata. Usually the pair was busy with their incessant flirtations and making sure the others’ clothing was rather unruly, but, for the first time since the memorable third motive, they sounded genuinely upset with eachother. What is the problem now? I thought, did Leon fail to toast his bread correctly?

 

After the discovery of the poison in the chemistry lab, everyone had been tasked with making their own meals (much to the frustration of Byakuya, who had deemed it beneath his status). Usually most of us had been making our own meals to begin with since Hifumi’s untimely death, but Leon had seemed to consistently rely on Chihiro’s good nature since then to properly nourish himself. Now it was becoming a bad call to even trust the most innocent of faces, so that practically stomped on the theory that Chihiro couldn’t hurt a fly if he tried (though I truly doubt that he could).

 

Speaking of which, I saw Chihiro slowly glide up to my table from my peripheral, much more confident in himself than he had seemed even yesterday. Thinking on it long and hard, I couldn’t quite place why it had seemed so odd for him to just suddenly admit his long-kept secret to me. He had seemed so willing… so… trusting . Although I tried to convince myself otherwise, I’m not exactly the most trustworthy of folks. For God’s sake, even Chihiro had seemed to suspect somewhere in his being that I was the mastermind!

 

“Hello,” the male’s timid voice spoke up from right behind me, “c-can I sit here?” It appears he hasn’t completely changed. Turning around, I gave Chihiro a once-over. The same face, body, clothing, eyes, hair, lips … absolutely nothing had changed about the boy. Considering the fact that I had (although secretly) known about Chihiro’s secret for over a year now, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see him so similar to the Chihiro he was just yesterday, minus a sudden more confident disposition. “I-Is there something on my face?”

 

He didn’t walk with the confidence of someone of the esteem of Byakuya or Leon, but he was different. His spine was straight, his shoulders broadened and sharp. His jaw was set in a hard line, not pressing or disapproving, just more masculine.

 

I frantically gestured away his inquires, “no, no, nothing at all! Come, sit beside me!” With nothing short of trust, Chihiro flopped in the seat next to me, smoothing out his skirt. Looking at him more closely, I began to see just how masculine he really was. He sat with his legs spread a little open, especially compared to the normal women of Hope’s Peak. As he gulped, I could see a small, barely there Adam’s apple, but still an Adam’s apple nonetheless. Realizing I had been staring too long, I force my eyes away from his petite form, absentmindedly fiddling with the cap of a just-opened water bottle.

 

“We’re still on for exercising after breakfast today, right?” pipes up Chihiro, “you don’t want to back out?”

 

I vigorously shake my head, willing the heat in my cheeks to go away. Why am I acting like this? Am I becoming ill? Glancing back at Chihiro, taking note of his pressing, yet curious, gaze, I stiffen. A bead of sweat trailed down my nape. Mondo had described something like this before. The blushing, the sweating … Against my better judgement, a knot twists in my gut, traveling down to my groin--

I merely smile at him, pushing the rather disturbing thoughts out of my head. “Of course not, Chihiro-kun! A promise is a promise, haha! It’s a promise between men, as Bro would say!” As soon as the words leave my mouth, I immediately regret them. Chihiro’s eyes suddenly well up with tears, and a sob escapes his lips. “Chihiro-kun!” I cry, “what’s wrong?”

 

Trembling, Chihiro lays his hands across his face, crying into them. After a moment of this, he seems to calm down for the most part, stuttering through trembling hands, “n-nothing is wrong, Ishimaru-kun!” Finally, he lowers his palms, and I see him. His face. His smile. “Y-You’re the first person to accept me!” He wipes his tears away. “My dad and my brother treat me well enough, they’re okay with me, but everyone else… they’ve always hurt me! Physically or verbally, it doesn’t matter -- before I became this person, I was too weak, and afterwards I was accepted as simply a weak person, but it fit me because I had the image of a person who was supposed to be weak!” He shudders, his nails clawing at the cardigan he dons. “But at what cost? Now everyone accepts me as I am, but I can’t! How can I accept someone who never existed in the first place?”

 

Near the end of his rant, I was shocked silent. To think that such a small and pleasant person had been hiding so much anger, so much grief… it was unimaginable. Chihiro, despite all the expectations society had placed upon him, and despite all the expectations he had placed upon himself, he was still striving to improve himself. To most simple geniuses, they would’ve given up at the first mention of effort.

 

Chihiro was different. He longed to improve himself, to build himself up, despite how many people may keep knocking him down and forcing him back to square one. It was a pain I very easily could empathize with. Above all else, above all the sympathy and approval that had conjured itself up inside my mind, one rather peculiar emotion had made its arrival once more --

 

Hope.

 

I was unused and unaccustomed to the sensation. I had been feeling it rather frequently as of the past couple of days, but it was still such an unexpected flicker of brilliance within my heart. It spiraled within my organs, brought them to life, left them beating and pounding with vigor. It was new, unnatural, disgusting yet invigorating at the same time.

 

Feeling tears rush to the forefront of my tear sockets, I quickly place my hands firmly on Chihiro’s shoulders. “I promise!”

 

He looks bewildered. “P-Promise what?”

 

“I promise that I’ll help you to never feel that way again! You can be yourself and be strong!” Though he might be more strong than I ever was. “All those people, they didn’t know you! They didn’t know who you really are!” I shake my head, once, twice. “But, right here in front of me, I see the real Chihiro! And I know that you have great potential! You have the potential to be stronger than all those people who ever doubted you!”

 

He seemed to be on the verge of tears once more. “I-Ishimaru-kun…”

 

Without further ado, I bring him into my arms, firmly into my chest. “Please,” I begin, “call me Taka.”

 

oOo

 

After splitting ways with Chihiro, I rush into the kitchen, intent on cleaning up my dishes and following him up to the locker rooms. However, it appears that fate has other plans--

 

“For the last time, trying to make toast using a microwave is so incredibly stupid that it is actually making me think Togami-kun might’ve had a point when he said that you were acting like the new Hagakure!”

 

“Oh, come on! You’re agreeing with that douche?”

 

“It’s called a toaster for a reason!”

 

“You’re a toaster!”

 

“Oh, did we just revert back to being eight now?”

 

I slowly edged my way around the arguing couple, determined to not get in any way involved with the two of them. I was on a time limit, and based on how they’ve been arguing about toast for an hour straight, I’m willing to bet my getting involved would only serve to complicate the matter.

 

Despite that--

 

“Oh, Ishimaru-kun!” I hear Sayaka’s high-pitched squeak of surprise, and her frantic attempts to wave off Leon’s next insult. “How much did you hear?”

 

Leon, being the genius he is, decides to butt in: “enough to know that you’re way more of a bitch than you let on!”

 

If Leon lives to see his future children, I will be thoroughly surprised.

 

Finally deciding to direct my gaze at the two of them, I turn, slack-jawed at the fiasco that is just waiting to happen. Sayaka’s idol-esque smile cracks, twitches and finally ceases to function. With a dark aura enveloping her entire being, she turns towards Leon, a piece of bread gripped tightly within her right palm.

 

What did you just call me?” asks Sayaka, a sickly sweet voice flowing from her.

 

Leon seems to not be quite as socially rude as I had once thought, as he quickly backtracks from his previous statement. “Ah, no, you uh… what I meant to say was--”

 

“Oh, no, I heard you Leon- kun .” Stalking slowly towards him, Sayaka clacks her flat heels on the floor, adding extra emphasis to just how imposing she was attempting to be. “Do you know what a bitch is?” I couldn’t help but startle a little in surprise as I heard the vile word escape Sayaka’s lips. I wouldn’t of expected her of all people to even condone swearing, much less swear herself. Perhaps the memory wipe hadn’t had its full effect, and the effects of a year and a half of dating Leon had led to him rubbing off on her, even subconsciously.

 

Leon gulps, looking away from Sayaka. “It’s a --”

 

“Look at me when you’re talking to me!”

 

Leon smirks a little bit, “what’re you now, my mom?” As he once again makes eye contact with Sayaka, his previous confidence falters. “U-Um, what I meant to say was, a bitch is a female dog. Um, it’s not the worst thing!”

 

Sayaka pauses right in front of Leon, sadistically grinning up at the poor lout. “Ah, and do I look like a dog to you, Leon?”

 

“O-Of course not!”

 

“Then what could’ve ever sparked you to call me one?”

 

“It was a spur of the moment--”

 

“Murderers don’t get away with murder, Leon, even if it’s spur of the moment. Are you a murderer, Leon?”

 

“Of course not! What does that have to do with anything?”

 

“Well,” Sayaka gazes at the boy through her eyelashes. I must say, I feel incredibly uncomfortable! “You wouldn’t want me to become one, would you, Leon?” At this, I’m sure both Leon’s and my blood runs cold. Given the recent despair unleashed upon all of the students, I’m surprised Sayaka would even jest about such a thing, threat or not.

 

Leon backs away from Sayaka. “U-Um… I don’t--”

 

Finally, Sayaka’s facade snaps, and she bursts into a fit of giggles. “Hahaha! I’m just kidding! Lighten up, Leon!”

Leon’s face suddenly turned red in anger, and I’m fairly certain I saw a vein protruding from his forehead. “H-Hey! Don’t joke like that!”

 

I shook my head in disapproval, stalking forward to the sink. Hmm… perhaps I could just leave them here and the person controlling Monobear currently could just clean it up for me? I’m sure that’s what the other students do… ah , but nonetheless, I am not like the other students! I am no slacker!

 

With that, I begin to fill the sink tub up with a mixture of water and soap, dumping Chihiro and I’s dishes in to soak for a good couple minutes. Curiously (although I am not eavesdropping, I swear!), I tune back into Sayaka and Leon’s rather foolish discussion, which very quickly has begun to turn into the appropriate kinds of condiments to put on a slice of toast!

 

“Leon! That’s disgusting! Don’t put ketchup on it!” scolds Sayaka.

 

Oh, will you let me do anything my way? First I can’t microwave it, then I can’t put ketchup and salt on it… what’s next, will you even allow me to eat it?”

 

What? You were intending on putting salt on it too? What’s wrong with your tastebuds?”

 

I absentmindedly pat my pockets. Drat! I must’ve forgotten my earbuds in the data room! I sigh heavily, looking through heavy eyelids at the arguing couple. Sayaka had a bright, angry blush enlightening her cheeks, leaning forward on one knee while a hand was carelessly placed on her hip. Ah… these two were frustrating.

 

Carefully, I clear my throat. After the two continue arguing, oblivious to my restless state, I cough a little louder. After they still fail to pay me proper mind, finally, I shout, “classmates! Perhaps we could reach a safe in between?”

 

Leon rolled his eyes, clicking his tongue in the idol’s face. “I don’t know why I have to make a sacrifice. It’s my toast, I can do whatever the hell I want to it!” He continues spreading mustard on the rather damp piece of bread lying in front of  him. Mustard? Is he perhaps under the false assumption that he will be consuming a hotdog?

 

Sayaka takes the words out of my mouth. “Leon! This is toast , not a hotdog!”

 

The baseball star merely gave her a side glance, sighing irritatedly. “I don’t see the big deal! I’m not hurting anyone!”

“You’re hurting my appetite!”

 

“Who the fuck cares about that shit? You don’t have to stand here nagging at me!”

 

Oh god, it was starting again… Quickly, I head over to the pair of them, putting a consoling hand on both of their shoulders, ready to diffuse the situation, before they both shouted--

 

“Get off!” At once, both of my hands were shoved off of their respective shoulders. Ah, they were getting me so frustrated! I wish I could just -- I wish I could just shout out to the world how annoyed I was! That would be considered rude though, wouldn’t it?

 

“How about you just don’t eat toast, Kuwata-kun?” I begin, “how about some cereal?”

 

“I’m lactose.”

 

I give him a rather confused stare. “Uhm, Kuwata-kun, with all due respect, I do not believe that humans are made of lactose.” I carefully caress my chin and look down towards the floor in thought. Perhaps I was wrong? Is this a new phenomena that I had not known about?

 

He shakes his head rather aggressively, cracking his ketchup and mustard-covered knuckles. Geez, he was messy… “No, dumbass! Lactose intolerant!” He laughs to the side, “and here I thought you were supposed to be the genius--”

 

“Do not call me a genius!” A flare of anger had ignited within me, threatening to melt my insides. Gah , this is what I had come to hate about Leon over our time spent together -- he was always so careless and unsympathetic! How had someone as respectable as Sayaka come to fall for him?

 

Leon gave me a brief bewildered stare, before simply huffing and running his hand through his red mane. “Whatever.” Before I could retort back with a rather heated insult, he continues, “I don’t care about this shit anyways. Sayaka, you make me some food. You probably won’t poison it,” he says, heading off into the dining hall with a strut in his walk.

 

Sayaka seemed to be fuming with poorly concealed rage, hands curled into tiny fists and her cheeks and neck blossoming with ruby red stains. Ah, she felt disrespected, didn’t she?

 

Without quite thinking about my words, I blurt out, “why are you dating him?”

 

All at once, her features change. What had once been an expression of rage suddenly turned into an expression of utmost panick. Oh, shoot… she wasn’t dating him yet, was she? Oh no, thinking about it, they hadn’t even started dating until about halfway through our first year together as classmates! Well, this was embarrassing! “D-Dating?” she stampers, “I can’t even date! I’m an idol! What are you talking about?” Briefly, I contemplated whether or not this conversation in particular was being recorded and broadcast to the outside world, or whether a far more interesting confrontation was happening elsewhere.

 

“A-Ah! I mean -- I had just assumed--” Quickly, Sayaka darts forward. She wasn’t quite in my face, but she was pretty darn close. I blush in embarrassment, gulping.

 

Sayaka didn’t seem to quite like what I had to say. Her eyes narrowed into slits, and a menacing aura suddenly encompassed her. Is this how I die? I wonder, ah, darn my stupid mouth! “Assumed?” she questioned, “why would you assume? Did Leon tell you something that he really, really shouldn’t of?”

 

“N-No, it wasn’t Leon, I swear! You just both seemed to get along so well -- I just assumed--”

 

Suddenly, a very idol-esque smile stretches her face, and she takes two very small steps away from my petrified form. “Oh, is that is? Haha, you should’ve just told me!” she giggles, “now, do you want to help me make Leon’s breakfast?”

 

I shake my head. “No! Then he would simply begin to start believing that he can get away with just ordering people to do things for him!” Firmly, I crossed my arms and closed my eyes. “I simply couldn’t live with myself if I allowed him to be so lazy! Aren’t you upset at all?”

 

Sayaka holds a fist up to her lips pleasantly. “Well, of course! I just believe in karma!”

 

“Karma?” I question.

 

“You know, ‘what comes around goes around’? Haha, let’s just say… he’ll get what’s coming to him!” The absolute innocence in her voice as those words passed her lips terrified me. What was that Junko had said? ‘The most innocent-looking are the ones who will be the most easy to drive into despair’ ? Something like that… did that mean that Sayaka would kill someone given the chance? Ah, doubtful… she was much too kind for such a heinous act.

 

Sayaka snapped two porcelain fingers in front of my face, bringing me out of my daze. “Ishimaru-kun?” she asked, a concerned expression fixed onto her face. “Are you alright? You seem kind of out of it.”

 

I force a smile onto my face. With my right hand, I give a hearty salute to the idol. “I’m perfectly alright, Maizono-kun! Thank you for your inquiry!” Alright, that should throw suspicion off of my previous thoughts--”

 

“Oh, Ishimaru-kun. You’re the same as always I see.” My blood ran cold. What did that mean? “Throughout our entire time spent in this situation, you’ve always been so honest and polite, no matter what! It’s so adorable!” Ah, so that was what she had meant. Perhaps I was over-analyzing things. But, wait a minute, did she just call me--

 

“Adorable?” I question, “isn’t that compliment more suitable for a furry creature?” That’s what Bro had said… he always considered being called ‘adorable’ to be the ultimate friendzone. I don’t particularly care for Sayaka in that way, so I couldn’t find it in myself to be appropriately disheartened. As an afterthought, I added, “or Chihiro-kun?”

 

Sayaka giggles. “Haha, you might be right!” She pauses for a second, before smiling slyly, “ Chihiro -kun, huh? You two are on a first-name basis now?”

 

I couldn’t help the rapid blush that spread to my cheeks. “Y-Yes, but only as friends! We simply deeply trust each other, is all!”

 

Sayaka’s voice takes on a deeper edge, “oh, but is that what you want? You know, in the past I’ve been said to be a very good matchmaker!” I almost laugh at the irony of her words. Oh, she had definitely tried to be Hope’s Peak’s resident matchmaker in the past, but she had decided to try to match up Yasuhiro and Aoi, of all people! And, lo and behold, it had ended up with a three-way crying fest over sexuality and morality issues. Even now, I wasn’t quite sure what had happened -- I had just heard Junko’s loose explanation about Sayaka, Aoi, and Yasuhiro all having a heart-to-heart with each other. Although, it did seem to forge a better friendship between the three, so perhaps it had been a good thing in the end…

 

Nevertheless, “I-I would prefer not, Maizono-kun! It would not be my intention to cause Chihiro-kun any sort of discomfort with, uhm, unwanted sexual advances.”

 

Sayaka visibly deflated. Perhaps she wishes for the two of us to date? That would be rather odd… “Oh, alright… hmm, are you sure you don’t want to help me with Leon’s soup now? I’m thinking about sprinkling some hot chili peppers in it.” She winks conspiratorially. “Karma, right?”

 

I firmly shake my head once more. “I do not think that to be a wise plan, Maizono-kun! What if he were to choke?” Suddenly, my inner being felt much more on board with the idea, but I neglected to suddenly revise my statement.

 

Quietly, Sayaka leans in, “you know, once Leon had told me that he really likes spicy things. So, you know, let’s see if he likes it when it’s ghost peppers.”

 

True to my morals, I still refuse, albeit full of temptation. I ignored that Junko-invoked side of myself, and hurriedly wash Chihiro and I’s plates finally, rushing towards the second floor locker rooms. Hopefully Chihiro hadn’t left by now…

 

oOo

 

Ah, great, he hadn’t left! As I walked into the boy’s changing room on the second floor, I was surprised to see Chihiro already changed, attempting to do push-ups on the floor. He didn’t seem to be having the easiest time…

 

True to my thoughts, just as I entered Chihiro, already drenched with sweat, began to fall to the ground. Panicked, I launch forward, catching him around the chest in just the nick of time. “Chihiro-kun!” I cry, “are you alright?”

 

Chihiro weakly nods, standing up. “Y-Yeah,” he breathes, “I think so. That might be enough push-ups for right now.”

 

I go into a locker and reach for a gym uniform. “How long have you been waiting?”

 

From where I stand, back facing Chihiro, I can practically inhale the nervousness coming from him. “Maybe fifteen minutes…” he seems to hesitate briefly, “I was beginning to worry that you wouldn’t be coming after all.”

 

I shake my head vigorously, though I’m sure Chihiro can’t see me. “My apologies! I simply got caught up in that argument Maizono-kun and Kuwata-kun were having!” Without thinking about it, I begin changing into the gym uniform.

 

Chihiro hums politely, “oh, the one they were having for an hour? How did it end?”

 

“Uh…” I think back, “I don’t think it ever did. Le -- I mean Kuwata-kun, left the room before it was ever resolved.”

 

Now changed, I turn around to face Chihiro. Chihiro, as I expected, was facing forward on the gym bench, swinging his feet lightly. I sit next to him, and immediately notice the quite intense expression on his face. His eyebrows are narrowed in thought, and he seemed to be chewing on his bottom lip. Oh no , I thought, this can’t be good.

 

“Ah, Chihiro-kun?” I ask, “is everything alright?”

 

Chihiro jumps in surprise, before coughing slightly and subconsciously flattening his shorts; almost like he expected a skirt to be there. “Y-Yeah. I just have a question. Do you use -kun with everyone? ” I flinch. I’m quite surprised no one had mentioned it before now; it wasn’t the most common of habits.

 

“Ah, haha, yes! Except my parents and elders, of course!”

 

“Why?”

 

I look away nervously, resting my hands on my knees. “I-I don’t have a particular reason! I suppose it is just a habit I’ve had since a kid! To treat everyone the exact same, I suppose!” I stand up, beginning my regular stretching regime. “It isn’t meant to cause offense, of course!”

 

“Oh, no, I wasn’t offended! I’ve just noticed it recently and I was curious!” I hear the soft paddle of Chihiro’s sneakers on the ground. “I’m sorry for asking!”

 

“Oh, is that so? It’s alright, haha!” After I utter those words, an awkward silence fills the room. Oh, god, I had never been the best at socializing. Back in our Hope’s Peak days, Chihiro and I had been significantly closer than now, but even then I still struggled on occasion… I cough, “d-did you, uh, stretch before I came?”

 

I glance towards Chihiro, immediately noticing him stretching right besides me. Ah! Of course he didn’t, you dingus… “No,” he replies, “to be honest, I’m only copying what you’re doing...”

 

At that, I stand straight up and point an accusatory finger at Chihiro. “Chihiro-kun!” Chihiro bolts right up, staring at me with doe-like eyes. Ah, shoot… “Do you not know that it is a vital part of the exercise process to stretch? If you do not, you could easily tear a ligament or stretch a muscle! In this school environment, it is very important to be as physically powerful as possible!”

 

Chihiro begins to tear up. … dang it. Immediately, however, Chihiro sucks his tears back in, giving me an immediate salute. “Yes, sensei!”

 

“A-Ah, sensei? That’s a bit…”

 

“O-Oh, do you not like being called sensei? You just seem like the teacher type… I’m sorry…”

 

Oh gee. “N-No, it’s quite alright, Chihiro-kun! I could be your sensei anyday!”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“... Taka… um…”

 

“What is it?”

 

“That’s um… I don’t know how to put it, but that sounds a bit um…”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I don’t think you realize it yourself, but that seems kind of… um… nevermind!

 

I give Chihiro a cold, long stare, only looking away when I feel my cheeks begin to light up. “Anyways, we shall begin with some stretches! Let us commence, pupil!”

 

oOo

 

“T-Taka…” panted Chihiro, facedown on the floor. Is he alright? “I-Is it over yet?”

 

“Over?” I shout, “of course not, silly Chihiro-kun! We have merely begun!” Chihiro groans, sitting up to rest on his knees. “Do you need water, perhaps?” I bring out my spare water bottle. “It is rather vital in an exercise routine to drink plenty of water!”

 

Chihiro nods absently. I swiftly hand him the water bottle, which the boy quickly begins to chug down. He drank the water as if he were a dying doe… In one final gulp, Chihiro closes the water bottle. “H-How long h-have we been here?” he pants.

 

I look at my watch. “Fifteen minutes!”

 

At that, Chihiro looks my way, eyes threatening to bulge out of their sockets. “Fifteen minutes?” he screeches in a tone that I had never once heard from him, “it has not been fifteen minutes! It’s been at least forty-five!”

 

I show him my watch. “Fifteen,” I repeat. “Do not think of this as an impossible mission, Chihiro-kun! Think of this as a venture! We have forty-five minutes left to train!” My words do not seem to inspire Chihiro to action. On the contrary, he looks defeatedly at the ground, absentmindedly drinking more water.

 

“I can’t even stand…” he begins, “am I really cut out for this, Taka? What if I am doomed to be weak? What if me trying to be strong is just a useless journey?”

 

I shake my head at the boy, “no one is strong right from the get go, Chihiro-kun! It takes extensive training and perseverance! I know you have the potential in you to be as strong as you want to be!”

 

Chihiro’s eyes light up, and he slowly turns his head towards me, tears threatening to spill over. “Y-You think so?” he asks, “you really think so?” He shifts, his lips stretched into a giant grin. Adorable.

 

“I do not just think so, Chihiro-kun! I know!” I stand up, reaching my hand out for him to take. Chihiro grasps onto my hand, and I immediately bring him to his feet. He wobbles at first, but quickly steadies himself. His knees shake, his form is lacking, and he doesn’t have much muscle definition… but I know he can be strong! “See?” I laugh, “you can stand!”

“Taka…” breathes Chihiro, “thank you!”

 

“Of course, Chihiro-kun! Anything for a classmate.” With that, I turn away from Chihiro, marching further into the locker room. “Alright! Now, it is time for your self-defense training! You’ll need it!”

 

oOo

 

The two of us, finally changed into our normal clothes, exited the boys’ locker room. Chihiro looked to be an absolute mess. His skin was glistening and shiny, his clothes looked to be a bit damp, and his bangs stuck to his forehead. “Ah, that was a great workout!” I yell, “how did you feel about it, Chihiro-kun?”

“T-Taka, not so loud,” he mumbles, “I don’t want anyone to overhear.”

 

“Ah, so you’re going to keep your identity as a male a secret then?” I question. Chihiro nervously shuffles, nodding.

 

He begins, “I feel like I would be safer behind my current persona right now. I’m already seen as the weakest person here, and if someone were to add prejudice on top of that, I would be dead as soon as the next motive comes out.”

 

I frowned. I knew from first-hand experience that our former classmates were some of the most open-minded people I had ever met. Nevertheless, if I said that, Chihiro would be sure to take my words at face value; after all, how would I know for a fact? “Are you sure that you’re comfortable not being yourself?”

 

Chihiro chews on his bottom lip. “Of course I’m not comfortable. But I’ve got to do what I must to survive right now. Even if it means disguising my gender. I’ve done it for years, anyways… it’s nothing new.” I felt like crying for the boy. He had been through so much trauma, and he had recently come to the strong decision to become who he really is! Truly, I respected him greatly. I was so entranced with Chihiro’s words that I almost missed his next set. “What about you, Taka?”

 

Me? Why does he want to know about me? For whatever reason, my heartbeat picks up. Is this happiness? Or something else? “A-Ah, me? What about me?”

 

“I feel like I’ve been the one just telling you secret after secret, and you’ve been the one harboring them all. Maybe I could harbor one of yours.” Chihiro smiled the most innocent and naive of smiles I had ever witnessed in my entire life. I wish I had seen that smile more often.

 

I have plenty of secrets. I’m technically the mastermind. I am the one who organized the High School Life of Mutual Killings in the first place. I participated in the Tragedy. I actively helped Junko murder civilians -- something that I am not proud of in the slightest, but simply justified with the logic that most human beings are evil by nature. I helped with the murder of Chiaki Nanami, and I assisted Junko in her brainwashing of the 77th class. That must’ve been the worst one. Chiaki Nanami was a truly good human being, and she was murdered. For nothing except Junko’s fetish with despair. For the first time, I wonder whether or not this despair could’ve been prevented. I feel cracks in my subconscious, threatening to break free; hazy memories of what might’ve been in another timeline about to resurface. I was… happy . I did not come to Hope’s Peak with the intention of despair, but rather hope. Kiyotaka Ishimaru. What happened to him?

 

As Chihiro’s doe-like hazel eyes pierce my own, I simply smile. “I don’t have secrets.”

 

Right as Chihiro seems about ready to say more, Sayaka comes into our line of sight. What? I hadn’t heard the door open… how long has she been in here?

 

“Maizono-kun!” squeaks Chihiro, “h-how much did you hear?”

 

Sayaka merely waves her hand nonchalantly. “Oh, nothing at all! I had just come in through the door to find you two staring at eachother. Haha, you guys were so off in your own worlds that you didn’t even notice me come in!” giggles Sayaka. She is quite the idol.

 

Chihiro merely sighs in relief, “oh, is that so?” he asks, “thank goodness…”

 

“Why?” Sayaka suddenly looks frightened, a tender hand covering her slightly agape mouth and her pupils blown wide. That seems like an overreaction… possibly. “Am I interrupting something private?”

 

“Uhm--”

 

Sayaka waves her hands frantically. “Oh, no, no, don’t mind me! I’m just going to go for a dip! See you both later!” Sayaka practically runs into the girls’ locker room (frantically taking out her Electro ID in an attempt to open it as quickly as possible. As she darts in, I swear on my life that I see her flash me a wink… what does that mean?

 

“That was… strange,” I start.

 

“Sure was,” mumbles Chihiro. “Hey, do you want to go get a post-workout snack? I always saw Asahina-san and Oogami-san do that after jogging around the school.”

 

“I would love to, Chihiro-kun!” I yell, eliciting a wince from Chihiro. He smiles nonetheless, and puts on the brightest smile imaginable. How is he so perfect? I think, but then stop myself. Something doesn’t seem quite right about that statement… what is it?

 

oOo

 

Mukuro had always been a bit of a wild card. She was incredibly predictable when it came to anything concerning Junko, but once anyone else came into the picture, it was always unknown what her next course of action would be. Such is the case for right now.

 

As Chihiro and I walk into the dining hall, calmly discussing anything other than the High School Life of Mutual Killings, we both stop dead in our tracks. There, sat plain for all to see at a lone table near the center of the room sat Mukuro Ikusaba, eating cereal as if nothing was wrong. As soon as the door closes behind the two of us, she gives no indication that she had even heard us enter in the first place other than a very slight hesitation while she shoveled another spoonful of Lucky Charms into her mouth.

 

“Ah…” I breath. I look to Chihiro for support, but he seems just as taken aback as I do. For all we know, Mukuro could’ve been hiding in the trash chute , and now she just suddenly decides to make her appearance? It was quite odd!

 

Hesitantly, I walk towards the soldier. Chihiro frantically tries to wave me back to stand next to him, but I simply ignore his signals. Even if Mukuro had tried to kill me in the past, she had every right to! After all, I had inadvertently killed her beloved sister, and for all she knew I was still the one controlling the game. She must hate me.

 

I pull up a chair from one of the other tables and drag it over to hers. I plop myself down, unsure of my actions, but still determined all the while. “Muk -- Ikusaba-san,” I start, “what, uhm,” I clear my throat rather loudly, perhaps hoping that she would lift up her eyes to meet mine. My mission was a failure. “--what made you decide to join us?”

 

All is quiet for a good few minutes; Mukuro silently eating her Lucky Charms while I fiddle my thumbs in my lap while Chihiro does a little nervous dance from my peripheral.

 

Finally, right when I was thinking about giving up and exiting the conversation, Mukuro finished off her bowl of Lucky Charms. She stares into the pool of milk for a moment, before finally lifting her head to make eye contact with me. “How long are you intending on sitting there?” she asks, “I’m not doing anything wrong.”

 

I almost jump in shock once I hear her voice. It has a slight hoarse edge, possibly from disuse, or possibly even from an illness. Honestly speaking, Mukuro had always sounded like a mechanical robot whenever she spoke, but now… she just sounds dead inside. Like everything in her life was taken for her. It was… I think, the only person she truly loved is dead.

 

“Ikusaba-kun,” I start, “I’m sorry.”

 

Mukuro’s eyes widen slightly; she had never expected me to utter those words, I bet. But even if we all had been driven to despair, she was a friend. Sure, we were only friends due to Junko’s mutual friendship in our lives ( if it could even be considered that… ), but a friend nonetheless. Mukuro’s facial features soften fairly quickly, and a bored expression once again takes hold of her. “For what?” she queries.

 

I give Chihiro a curious glance. He doesn’t seem to be paying attention; in fact, he seems to be on her way to the kitchen. Perfect! “For Junko’s death,” I sigh, “it was my fault. I had been the one to persuade her to try to kill Toko, and when I did… ugh…” flashes of Junko’s grisly murder scene popped into my mind. The strangulation marks, the blood, the horrified look in her eyes… “I’m sorry!” I stood up from my chair and bowed. “I’m sure you could never forgive me, but please accept my sincerest apologies! I’m so sorry!”

 

Mukuro was dead silent for a while. When I glanced up from my bow to get a good look at her face, she looked pissed. Shoot , I think, what did I just do? She wasn’t even going to mention Junko’s death! Sweat begins pouring down my face and onto the floor. She’s going to kill me, isn’t she? Gah, not again!

 

“Alright,” says Mukuro. What? What the -- “You can stop bowing. It won’t change anything.” With a sure ruby blush on my face, I stand up, swiftly taking a seat once more in the chair across from her.

 

“You… forgive me?” I ask. Mukuro had looked so angry before, what on Earth gave her a change of heart? I sure as hell wasn’t worth forgiving… so why?

 

“I never said that,” snaps Mukuro. I flinch back. Alright, now she seems more like herself. “All I said was alright , don’t get so ahead of yourself.” I vigorously nod in response to her words. Now this makes more sense. “I don’t think I can ever forgive you. In Junko’s world though, she must feel so despairful that she is dead.”

 

What?

 

Mukuro looks away from me pointedly. “She must be so distraught because of all the despair her death has caused. She must’ve hated when I attacked you… she didn’t want her two closest subordinates to try to kill each other in hatred as a result of her death. She must’ve been so devastated… I wanted to bring her that despair.”

 

I raise my eyebrow. “Wait, Mukuro, are you saying that you had attacked me in order to, uhm, cause her despair?” Mukuro finally looks my direction, and when I look into her eyes I can see bits of what looks to be arousal. Oh god , like sister like sister, I guess. “Uhm, Mukuro, are you still planning on killing me?”

 

Mukuro shakes her head, a tiny smile gracing her lips. It must be the most I’d seen her smile outside of Junko’s presence in a solid year. “I don’t think so. Maybe I should leave you to be mutilated in the worst way possible when you are executed.” Executed? All signs of Mukuro’s previous emotion drain from her face when she stands, picking up her bowl of Lucky Charms. “I won’t tell anyone,” she says, monotone, “but you’re a really bad actor.”

 

With that last cutting remark, Mukuro exits the room. I’m stuck in such a state of shock that I fail to even notice Chihiro sit down next to me. “Is everything all right, Taka?” he asks curiously, chewing on a banana. “What happened with Ikusaba-san?”

 

I glance towards the door. “Ah… nothing. Nothing at all.”

 

oOo

 

The next day, I continued with the regular routine I had begun to cook up. Eat breakfast, train Chihiro, eat a snack with him, continue.

 

Such is that I’m doing right now. Chihiro and I sat next to each other on a small, circular table, both of us eating a granola bar. Through a mouthful, Chihiro speaks up, “I can’t believe it Taka!” he starts, “in just two days, I already feel much healthier and stronger!”

 

I nod enthusiastically. “That’s magnificent, Chihiro-kun! Do you consider yourself strong now?”

 

Chihiro gives a small laugh, shaking his head rapidly. “Of course not, haha! Like you said, it takes persistence and time in order to become strong.” With that, Chihiro quickly leaves to go throw away the wrapper of her bar. Once he comes back, he dons an apologetic look. What is he sorry for? I wonder. “Alright, Taka, I think I need to take off! Maizono-san said she wanted to talk to me about something.” I feel a dread begin to bury itself in my heart. Oh, god, is Sayaka going to actually try to matchmake us? “So I best be going!”

 

I nervously laugh, “haha… are you sure Maizono-kun’s a safe person to be around?”

 

Chihiro tilts his head at me curiously, like a lost little puppy. Why is he so adorable? “Why wouldn’t she be? We’re all friends, right? She seems trustworthy. I don’t think she could ever hurt me.”

 

I internally sigh. Oh, Chihiro… “haha, I guess so! I shouldn’t keep you!”

 

“Alright! Bye, Taka!” With that, Chihiro exits the dining hall, and I hear the sweet melodic flow of his voice once more. “Oh, Naegi-kun? What’re you doing out here? Do you want to go inside?”

 

The aforementioned boy’s voice makes itself known. “Aha, sure! I was um, just… you know, waiting out here just in case an attacker came!”

 

“An attacker? We don’t even have a motive yet…”

 

“Oh, I suppose, haha…”  With that, Makoto enters the dining hall, nervously scratching the back of his head. What the… I start, why had he been out there? Had he possibly been listening to us? I stare at the boy’s prominent ahoge and innocent eyes, haha! That’s impossible! Makoto could never hurt a fly! “A-Ah! Hi, Ishimaru-kun!”

 

I give my trademark winning smile. “And hello to you, Naegi-kun!”

“What’re you--” he begins, gulping for whatever reason, “what’re you doing here?”

 

I gesture to my granola bar for emphasis, “eating,” I state.

 

“R-Right…” Makoto gazes to the side, seemingly at a loss for what to say. Makoto? Not knowing what to say? Am I really that hard to talk to? “Anyways, um, has anything strange been happening to you lately?”

 

“Strange?” Makoto nods. “Uhm, nothing in particular! I don’t know quite what your definition of strange is!”

 

Makoto grasps for words, “like, ya know, uh…” I gesture for him to continue with a wave of my hand. Makoto jumps nervously, his eyes bouncing like ping pong balls. What is wrong with him? “You know, um, has anything made you angry lately?”

 

I think back. “Nothing in particular.”

 

“Has anything elicited any strong emotions in you?”

 

“I think so!” I shout, “after all, anyone would experience very intense emotions when put into such a dangerous situation!”

 

“That is true…” he mumbles, “alright, um, maybe… do you have a guess for who the mastermind could be?” My heart leaps. Why is everyone asking me that? I had half a mind to say Mukuro again, but she had just promised not to rat me out yesterday… perhaps she had wanted the same respect she had given me? It seems awfully possible…

 

“I don’t quite know!” I give a faux laugh, “we don’t have much clues to go off of, right?”

 

“I suppose that’s true…” mumbles Makoto, “but, uhm, do you think it’s possible that it’s someone in our class after all?”

 

I found myself very frightened by the sudden onslaught of questions. Is he trying to crack me? I wonder. “I wouldn’t know, Naegi-kun! For right now, all I wish to do is just have faith in our classmates!”

Makoto nods. “But, um… would you think I was crazy if…”

 

“If?” I push.

 

“--if I thought that you… if I asked you if you were the master--”

 

Suddenly, Monobear’s high-pitched voice comes over the speakers and his face pops up on a nearby TV. “All students report to the gymnasium immediately!” With that, the TV shuts off, leaving Makoto and I in a silent daze. He was about to ask me if I was the mastermind… My heart rate picks up, and I put a soothing hand over it. He thinks I’m the mastermind.

 

Makoto seems to have other worries. “H-Huh? It must be a new motive…” Makoto looks at me, confused. “You didn’t do anything, right?”

 

I feign innocence. “What are you talking about, Naegi-kun?”

 

Makoto turns away from me, despondent. “Nevermind…” he mumbles, “it’s fine, nevermind.”

 

oOo

 

As Makoto and I enter the gymnasium, I can’t help but notice how somber everyone looks. Chihiro looks as if he’s about to burst into tears, Sayaka looks as though she would love nothing more than to be out of the school, and Leon has his fists curled by his sides; most likely out of anger.

 

A monochrome animatronic bear took center stage above us, a blush on his face. Oh god, what now? “Upupupu! Guess what time it is?”

 

“T-Time for y-you to s-shut your w-whore mouth?” hisses Toko. Byakuya looks oddly proud of her for a second, but quickly clears his expression to one of mild annoyance.

 

“Yes, it is quite the inconvenience for you to interrupt our busy lives with a new motive. So, how about instead of lollygagging and stalling, you get straight to the point? What will motivate us to kill this time?” asks Byakuya, a wry smirk on his face and one hand on the bridge of his glasses.

 

Monobear fumes, “h-how rude! And to think I was going to let you all leave the school, no harm done! Maybe I will announce a new motive after all if you all so badly want one!”

 

Kyoko heavily sighs, “get to the point. The sooner we find out what we’ll be killing for this time, the sooner we can get it over with.”

 

Makoto shyly laughs next to my side. “I’m not sure that’s something you really want to get over with, Kirigiri-san,” he mumbles, but not loud enough for Kyoko to hear. He speaks up, “what is it then, Monobear? Whatever it is, we won’t submit to it!”

 

Monobear’s single red eye flashes dangerously. “Oh, oh? Getting a bit cocky there, aren’t we, Naegi-kun?” Monobear’s dialect suddenly changes. “Oh, but no worries! This motive is so despair-inducingly despairful that I’m sure one of you greedy little bastards will gobble it right up~!” He chuckles, “upupupu, UPUPUPUPU! What is it, what is it? Well, it’s simple…”

 

“Get to it already!” yells Leon, face red with fury. “You’re making me pissed off!”

 

“P-Perhaps he doesn’t even ha-have a motive to g-give us, and t-that’s making him stall!” accuses Toko, finger pointed at the evil bear. “W-We’ve caught o-onto your tricks!”

 

Monobear’s eye flashes once more, “oh, have you now? Well get this! The new motive is simple. There is one lurking mastermind in this school who’s a male. Your job is to kill this mastermind, alone and without any help, within forty-eight hours, and if you kill the right person, then all of you can leave the school! But if you don’t, our regular class trial proceedings will take place! Ba da bang, ba da boom!”

 

My heart stops.

 

No way… he was asking everyone to kill me, wasn’t he? And so many people suspected me… Byakuya knew I was the mastermind, Naegi had a suspicion, Kirigiri definitely knew something was up… I’m dead meat. Unless I kill someone before they kill me, I’ll be dead!

 

Is this it, then? Am I going to have to kill someone? I don’t… honestly, I really don’t want to. I want to be there to protect Chihiro. I want to find out who the new masterminds are. I want to find out the truth.

 

“H-How do we k-know you’re telling the t-truth?” asks Toko, tugging at her twin-braids. “Y-You could just be l-l-lying to make u-us all turn against each other!”

 

Byakuya nods. “For once you’ve said something semi-intelligent,” begins Byakuya. At that moment, Toko looks like she could’ve died and she would still be elated. “But Monobear has not lied to us so far. I don’t know why he would start now.”

 

Monobear stands on one foot, spinning. “That’s right! A bear never lies!” Monobear jumps off the podium, walking towards us all. “Alright, alright! That’s the new motive! Kill the mastermind, without any assistance from each other, and you all get off scot-free! Good luck~!”

 

With that, Monobear sinks through a hole in the floor. I still have no idea how Kazuchi managed to set up all these secret tunnels.

 

My classmates and I stood stock-still for a few minutes, processing the offer going through all of our heads. I have to kill someone, don’t I? It’s the only way to make sure that I don’t die… but, knowing Kirigiri and Naegi, I’ll likely be dead before I even get away with my crime. Besides, I don’t quite want Chihiro to die if I were to succeed.

 

My eyes trail over to Byakuya. Very subtly, I notice him begin to stare back. We both know what’s going to happen. We’re going to have to try to kill each other. Byakuya nods, and begins to walk out the door, closely pursued by Toko.

 

Tomorrow is going to be a very bloody day

 

~

 

After the rest of his fellow students leave the near-empty gym, Naegi begins to softly step towards Kirigiri. The girl had been standing in the same position for ten minutes, biting her lip and cradling her chin.

 

“Kirigiri-san?” begins Naegi, “is everything alright?”

 

Ignoring his question, Kirigiri turns to face the boy. “You know what this is, don’t you, Naegi-kun?” Kirigiri walks towards Naegi, stopping to stand directly in front of him. “It’s going to be a bloodbath. Tensions were already high, and now there is an actual incentive for just going ahead and killing who you think is the mastermind.”

 

Naegi scratches his head. “Yeah, it is tempting, but I’m sure nobody would actually do it!” Naegi gives the most hopeful smile he can muster “... right?”

 

Kirigiri shakes her head. “You’re more naive than I thought, Naegi-kun. You’re going to be in danger tomorrow, I hope you realize. As one of the four remaining males, save Fujisaki-kun, everyone will…”

 

Naegi dutifully shakes his head and holds his hand, determined, over his heart. “I’ll be fine, Kirigiri-san! No matter what… no matter what, I will not leave you alone here! We’ll both get out of here together! All of us will get out of here together!”

 

Softly smiling, Kirigiri feels a slight blush light up her cheeks but, as usual, she turns away from Naegi in order to hide it. “That hope of yours is going to kill you one day, you know.”

 

Naegi smiles back at the girl. “I know… and I’m okay with that.”

 

Shaking her head once again, Kirigiri saunters past Naegi, lavender hair trailing behind her in a stream of light. Right as she passes him, she whispers into his right ear: “no matter what, stay safe and locked inside your room for the next day. Tomorrow is everyone for themself. It’ll be a battle royale.”

 

 






Chapter Text

 

 

My hands shook, teardrops escaped from my waterline and down onto the parchment resting beneath trembling fingers. Oh god, what had I gotten myself into? I didn’t want to kill someone! I never wanted to kill someone! Even if the person who had decided to duel me was Byakuya Togami, the formerly esteemed heir of Togami Corporations, I couldn’t -- I - I-

 

It truly was quite ironic how scared I was of murder, considering the quite heinous deeds I had done in the past. Most of everything I had done was at Junko’s bidding, but I was -- no, I am my own person! So I cannot blame my previous sins on Junko Enoshima, when my foolish actions had been the ones that led to her death in the first place! Were I more complacent, less suspicious, perhaps I would’ve been the first victim… but it’s useless to think about that now.

 

Truthfully, Byakuya had not officially requested to be my dueling partner for the fourth motive quite yet. However, the short stares we had thrust at each other were more than enough to confirm each other's thoughts!

 

He was the only one who knew that I was the mastermind fully and completely -- the only one that had heard such a thing from my mouth itself. Because of the fourth motive’s enticing reward of class-wide graduation in exchange for my death, it was only natural that Byakuya would feel a longing to kill me. He has been swearing that he would kill the mastermind with his own two hands since day one.

 

Because he was so determined to kill me, because he had his mind set to murder me the next time we interacted, I knew that I would have to retaliate. Quite honestly, I truly don’t want to. I don’t want to kill anymore. I don’t want despair anymore. Hope is so much more nurturing and forgiving -- it makes me feel so much lighter inside, it makes me actually want to embrace the world, to protect those I care about… however, because I care about someone as physically weak as Chihiro, as his sworn protector I might have to break my own inherent moral code in order to keep him safe.

 

… That’s what Mondo would’ve done, I think.

 

Usually, I would think the need to protect someone would be condescending, at best! But now as I have begun to get to know Chihiro once again, the rumbles in my stomach and the rapid beatings of my heart beg to differ. Perhaps I had wished to protect him because he was my friend? Ah, yes, that must be it! Friends are supposed to wish to protect friends! … probably.

 

Nevertheless, I don’t quite know what my plan for after I kill Byakuya is… The reason I’m choosing to even kill him now is so Chihiro isn’t alone again, but once the class trial comes… it’s all over for me. What am I doing this for? What is my goal? Not despair… retribution? Companionship? I don’t know.

 

I hate not having the answer. Normally, I would be able to prod textbooks for hours and hours in search for answers to formulas and, god forbid, once in awhile resort to the infamous Google, but that is what I despise about my own mind! It is hard enough to read others, much less communicate with them, but now my own mind is not making sense of itself! It simply did not make any logical sense!

 

Ah… but I should really focus on my current task, shouldn’t I?

 

Currently, I am in the middle of writing a proposal , per say, to the one and only Byakuya Togami! Usually it takes me quite a while to concisely and eloquently perfect the calligraphy and structure of a proposal, but I had wrote it in a hurry. To be precise, four hours! Yes, I was slacking, but I mustn't spend too much time on it… I had already messed up the penmanship of the letter enough with smudged tears and hasty attempts to correct them with white-out and towelettes.

 

Deciding to end the letter, I carefully seal it into a crisp, white envelope, hurrying outside my room and to Byakuya’s, casually slipping it underneath the door. Thankfully, no one had seen me. It was near curfew, thank god, so if anyone were to see me they’d quickly have to scurry off to bed soon enough! ( Although, thinking on it, that wouldn’t quite prove my innocence if Byakuya were to turn up dead… )

 

Ah, now that that was over, I could finally relax and hurry off to my own bedroom! It had been strangely quiet ever since the fourth motive was announced earlier today, so perhaps I could take the edge off with a nice, quick, cold shower! (According to scientific studies, it was healthier for you as opposed to hot ones!)

 

Right as I am preparing to strip out of my blazer, I hear an incessant knocking at the door. Oh, gods, what is it now? I think, furrowing my brows into a deep frown. Perhaps it is Byakuya? Oh no, I hope he didn’t think I meant that I wished to have a duel with him now !

 

Trepidly, I stand in front of my bedroom door, gauging my options. I could answer the door and possibly die, or I could stand inside like a coward and be completely rude to my possible guest! Hmm… it truly was a tough decision! What would be the wiser one? Moreover, what would be the socially appropriate one? Answering a door is very socially appropriate, I would think! But in a killing game, perhaps the etiquette is a bit different… Ah drat, I should’ve studied for this kind of scenario!

 

*Ding, dong*

 

Erg…

 

*Ding, dong*

 

I suppose answering it wouldn’t be too bad, considering how hectic they seem to be to have me answer their calls. Perhaps it is an emergency!

 

*Ding, dong* *Ding, dong* *Ding, dong*

 

I throw open the door, only to come face-to-face with the glowering scowl of Byakuya Togami. His arm is paused mid-motion, his pointer finger hovering over the doorbell.

 

“Can I help you, Byakuya?” I inquire, leaning on the door frame. “Did you have such a problem with my request that you thought to blast my doorbell?” I cross my arms. “I thought I made my point very clear within the letter!”

Byakuya frowns harder. “Of course I had a problem with it! What makes you believe that I would attempt to dirty my hands by murdering you?” He pushes up his glasses, staring away from me. “Not only that, but this parchment is clearly damp! If you were to suggest such a thing to the one and only Byakuya Togami, then you could’ve made more of an effort!”

 

Byakuya unrolls the letter from his clenched fist, shoving it harshly into my face. I cough slightly into my fist, deciding to give Byakuya enough respect to make sure that I possibly hadn’t of offended him somehow in the letter.

 

Dear Byakuya Togami,

 

It is I, the mastermind! I realized how out of sorts you must be given the new motive, and I am here to inform you that it is quite alright! I have decided that for this motive I must try to murder someone as well in order to protect my name, so I have a proposition for you!

 

What if we were to try and murder each other? As in, we clashed swords completely honorably, and both of us stood a fighting chance? It would be quite the event, I think! So, tomorrow night right after curfew it shall begin! Good luck!

 

Sincerely,

 

The mastermind.

 

The ink was smudged and blurred over each other, but it was still decently legible. I was still able to make out each individual letter, so it definitely wasn’t very difficult to read! Hmm… Byakuya does wear glasses, perhaps he had a hard time deciphering the text? He does ring me as the type to be too embarrassed to admit that…

 

“Ah,” I begin, “did you have trouble reading it? I could read it for you!”

 

Byakuya looks nothing if not offended. “ Excuse me? Just who do you think you are?”

 

“Kiyotaka Ishimaru!”

“No, you idiot!” two fingers rub each of Byakuya’s temples. “God, how is someone who organized a killing game such an imbecile? Unless that is an act…” he contemplates.

 

“Erm… what do you mean?”

 

Byakuya waves me off, flipping over the letter and reading it once more. He appears deep in thought, as if considering what I was saying in the letter. Is he? I wonder. I do really need him to be! Murdering someone again is bad enough, but in cold blood and without any warning… now that’s just cowardly! Surely Byakuya would understand!

 

“Tell me, Ishimaru,” begins Byakuya, lifting his glasses up the bridge of his nose. He peers at me with an indecipherable expression. His lips purse, his brows furrow, and his body posture is as straight as always, but I can see the muscles in his neck tense. “Why is it that a mastermind cares about honor?”

 

I freeze. I don’t know… why do I? It didn’t make sense… had Bro’s constant teachings of it made me suddenly have a huge fascination with honor? It is certainly not what Junko wished to manifest within me. “Perhaps…” I start, subconsciously licking my lips. They feel dry and chapped. “Perhaps… I view it as cowardly to attack you without your knowledge!”

 

Perhaps? ” questions Byakuya. His lips twist into a condescending smirk, and he starts chuckling to himself. Erg… this man! “Are you unsure?”

 

“No!” I shout out, “I am sure! I am as sure about this as I am about everything else in my life! Everything I do is done with complete certainty!”

 

Byakuya raises his eyebrows. “Hm… then perhaps I will indulge your request. To be quite honest, I do want to see you fall by my own hands, and I may be one of the only ones capable of doing it.” Byakuya scowls once more, “although I would’ve preferred to kill you easily and quickly without your knowledge. Things such as honor are useless to me.”

 

I pry my mind for my file of information on Byakuya. Anything to fully convince him… ah! “Well, Byakuya, you do like games, do you not?”

 

Byakuya frowns slightly. “It depends what kind.”

 

“Think of this battle as a game… the winner lives, the loser dies. It’s a game with just the right amount of stakes. You enjoy that, I would think!”

 

Chuckling to himself once more, Byakuya turns away again. “I already said I would indulge your silly, childish notion of honor. You have no need to attempt to further convince me.” Byakuya glances at me over his right shoulder, his blue eyes piercing into my own red ones; sharply contrasting each other and both spewing their own version of electricity. “After Monobear announces curfew tomorrow, it is everyone for themselves. Do not expect me to go easy on you.”

 

With that, Byakuya exits the room, closing the door behind him. I heavily sigh, only then noticing a letter on the floor. It appears to be the one I had written him… he just left it here. I wonder why that is…

 

Monobear’s face flickers onto the television above me. “It is now nighttime. The cafeteria and other…”

 

Ah, it appears I won’t be getting that shower after all.

 

oOo

 

I had been holing up in my room for far longer than I should have. Already, it had to have been a few hours since the morning was announced by Monobear, but I still sat quivering in my boots atop my bed. Last night I hadn’t been able to sleep a wink either… I was simply too scared! I did not want to kill someone!

 

I have killed others before, yes, but it had always been inadvertently. I had never plunged a knife into someone and watched the life drain from their eyes. Junko has, Mukuro obviously has, all of the remnants have… and me, I was always sat in the back observing the chaos that the despair sisters and I had helped to create. I felt so guilty -- it hadn’t been until I had been faced with all of my classmate’s despair that I truly realized the gravity of my actions. I had attempted to create a perfect world where the common man should prosper and the geniuses of the world should burn, but in the end I had only managed to help Junko create her world. How was that fair?

 

Byakuya, despite being a rich, elitist snob, did not deserve to die by my hand. For the first time, I could not find it in myself to wish to kill him -- I could not find a solid reason for why he should die. Despite his words, even in our regular high school days he was all bark and no bite. Quite honestly, if I hadn’t proposed the idea to him I wouldn’t be surprised if he got through the High School Life of Mutual Killing without killing someone. He may say that his plan is murder, but he did care about other people, even subconsciously. Though I had quite a hard time seeing that side of himself sometimes.

 

I vowed to protect Chihiro, yes, but from what? Other murderers, perhaps, but I sat holed in my room, contemplating my next actions wryly. Contemplating how to murder someone. In a way, I wished to prevent Chihiro from the knowledge that he had been betrayed by his current closest friend. However, I would have to reveal myself as the killer in the class trial should I prosper against Byakuya in order to fully protect Chihiro. And knowing Monobear, I’m sure he will reveal me as the mastermind that everyone had been trying to kill in the first place.

 

Ah… the incessant thoughts that had unleashed the floodgates of my inner mind were useless! I had wasted another thirty minutes just thinking…

 

Perhaps I should chance it and go get some food…

 

With that in mind, I depart, heading straight to the dining hall. Upon entering, I am not surprised to see it nearly desolate, save for Sayaka and oddly enough Mukuro . Sayaka waves to me as I enter, a perfect idol smile on her face. She must’ve practiced that , I think.

 

“Ishimaru-kun!” she calls, “over here!” she waves me over to the table that she is currently occupying -- just a simple two-seater near the center of the room. Thinking on it, I think that is where Mukuro and I sat yesterday.

 

Mukuro shoots me a look from her table in the corner of the room, hunching in further on herself as she stares at the two of us. She must’ve noticed me staring, because she straightens up the tiniest bit and continues to read a rather thick book that she has sprawled on her lap. I attempt to peer at the cover, but I can not detect anything. It is most likely is a military book of some kind.

 

“Ah!” yelps Sayaka. When I turn to look at her, her eyes are bulging out, transfixed on Mukuro’s slouching form. “I didn’t even realize she was in here!” she attempts to peer at Mukuro’s book as well. “Ikusaba-chan!” she calls, “what’re you reading?” Well… she has more guts than I do. Mukuro appears to think the same, because as she looks up from her book to face Sayaka, she smiles slightly. It is an incredibly tiny, barely-there smile, but it is still planted on her face nevertheless!

 

“The Art of War,” she replied blankly. She stares at Sayaka for a good few seconds before turning all of her attention back to her book.

 

Sayaka shakily smiles. Even I can feel the nervousness spewing from her; almost like she is afraid that Mukuro will just come jump at her with a knife wielded in her hand in the blink of an eye. It’s certainly possible, but that’s besides the point completely! She gasps in a breath full of air and attempts to continue the conversation, “oh! Really? That’s nice! What is it about?” she asks, her idol-esque smile planted on her face once more.

 

Mukuro doesn’t answer her. She simply continues reading, oblivious to all else.

 

“Ikusaba-chan?” questioned Sayaka, “is everything alright?”

 

Mukuro fails to answer.

 

“Ikusaba-chan?”

 

Slamming her book shut, Mukuro stands up and struts towards the two of us. She scowls, glaring at Sayaka in particular. “Can I help you?” she spat, “or are you going to keep attempting to make conversation with me?”

 

Sayaka freezes, her perfected smile slipping ever slightly. “O-Of course not, if you don’t want, Ikusaba-chan!” she answers, giggling slightly to herself, a lone fist planted in front of her lips. “I was merely trying to talk to you! We haven’t really had a chance to talk!”

 

“For good reason,” replied Mukuro, “it was your boyfriend’s idea to tie me up inside of his room for all of you to question, was it not?”

 

Sayaka flushes a deep, crimson red. “He’s not my boyfriend! Don’t say that -- it could ruin my career!” Sayaka takes a few deep breaths, calming herself, and turns to Mukuro once again. “I apologize if that might’ve hurt your feelings--”

 

“--it didn’t hurt--”

 

“--but you must realize where we are coming from!” continues Sayaka, “you had just attacked Ishimaru-kun, one of our precious classmates! Of course we would be a little suspicious of you! Plus your sister was confirmed by Monobear to be one of the masterminds… odds are that you were as well!”

 

“You’re right,” answered Mukuro, “I was one of the masterminds. But I did not, and still do not to this day, have control over Monobear. I did help create the killing game, but that was all I did as far as you know.”

 

“As far as I know?”

 

“Yes, as far as you know,” Mukuro sighs, locking her book under her elbow and against her ribcage. “Now, are we finished here? This book was interesting me, and I do not care for trivial things like small talk,” her voice suddenly becomes significantly quieter, “I am no good at it.”

 

Sayaka nods, her hair curtaining her face as she stares downward. Mukuro exits the dining hall, purpose in her shoulders and back; she looked as if she were going on a life-changing mission.

 

I stare after her for a few moments. Silently, I turn back to stare at Sayaka. “Are you okay, Maizono-kun?” I inquire.

 

Sayaka nods, but I do not fail to see a single teardrop fall from her eye to her skirt. Oh no… “Maizono-kun!” I shout, “you are crying!”

 

Sayaka jumps, lifting her head. She puts a delicate finger to her left eye, then swipes it away. “Huh…” she mumbles, “I am…” She takes a napkin from the table, dabbing herself gently. When she pulls it away, I see the faintest of mascara stains on it.

 

“What’s the matter?” I ask, leaning in slightly. “Did Ikusaba-kun hurt your feelings?”

 

Shaking her head, Sayaka buries her head into her hands. “No! No, she didn’t… but I feel like I just… forgot something. Like, something in my mind is telling that it isn’t right… I feel so nostalgic…” I frown. It must be an effect of the memory loss. “What’s happening? Why are we all hurting each other?”

 

I stay silent. After all, what can I say to that? Sayaka’s memories must be coming back, even subconsciously… Otherwise, she wouldn’t be crying right now…

 

“Ishimaru-kun…” Sayaka is now staring at me, mouth agape and eyes red. Her makeup is splotched over her eyelids, and small streams of eyeliner and mascara trail down her reddened cheeks. “I know that you most likely didn’t come in here with the intention of talking, seeing as you would be in danger out in the open… the last motive wasn’t too kind on you guys…” Sayaka takes a deep breath, as if steeling herself. What is -- “so please let me accompany you to your room!”

 

I freeze. “What?”

 

“Oh, that was a bit direct , wasn’t it?” Sayaka dabs away the mascara lines on her face with the napkin she had previously been using. Her cheeks are lit up in a scarlet red fire, and her lips are curled up into the tiniest of smiles. “What I meant to say was… perhaps we could talk in private… I have something that I would like to talk to you about.”

 

I’m not wholly sure that I trust Sayaka Maizono. She had always been a bit of a wild card -- in or out of school. She wasn’t insane or irrational surely, but she always had that spark of madness to her. I do believe her to be a genuinely kind-hearted person, but I couldn’t quite say that I believed her to be one who believed that cheaters would never prosper.

 

She had cheated the world of normality several years ago; she had simply started out as a normal school girl in a world where everyone wished to be an idol. That wasn’t the odd part. The odd part was how she had succeeded. While I do not like to doubt my classmates, Junko had told me before that she suspected there was more to Sayaka’s persona than just frilly dresses and innocent smiles!

 

Now Junko is not quite the most reliant of people, but she had always had a point when it came to basic social interpretations and interactions. She could read people; she knew exactly what made them tick, and exactly how to trigger such an emotional response from a person. I did not. I do not know how to tell whether or not Sayaka is leading me into a trap, or whether she is simply just a classmate looking for comfort.

 

Sayaka still stared up and into my eyes, pleading with a trembling smile and an oceanic, entrancing gaze. “Ishimaru-kun?” she murmurs, “please, I know how it must sound, but I have no weapons on me!” She lifts up her arms for me to see and true to her word I see nothing. She could possibly be hiding something under her sailor girl uniform, but what were the chances? She wouldn’t have been able to plan that far ahead! “And if I do happen to try and attack you…” she paused, “you could easily overpower me, right?”

 

She was right ! I am physically stronger than her, so I did not have any reason whatsoever to be so scared of my classmate! I am simply overreacting -- I have been told that I over think, after all! That must be the case now!

 

“I-If you insist,” I stuttered, a warmth spreading to my cheeks. “B-But I am not sure how appropriate it is for a man and a woman to be in the same dormitory!”

 

Sayaka waves me off, giggling slightly to herself. “Oh, it is completely appropriate! As long as you have no intention of doing anything scandalous, we’ll be fine!”

 

Anything scandalous ? Just what is she implying? I frown, my eyebrows hunching in on themselves. “It would never be my intention to cause any sort of discomfort to any of my fellow classmates!” My scowl deepens, “d-do I give off that impression?” I cringe at how timid my words sound even to my own ears. Gah, why must I react that way? I’m sure she meant no harm! I’m sure now she’ll think I’m a pathetic loser and tell me to get a life and--

 

“Oh, of course not, Ishimaru-kun!” gasped Sayaka, as if appalled by my statements. Oh no, now I had offended her… “I had no intention of making it come across that way! My apologies!” From her seat, she leans into a deep bow -- as deep as she can manage without smacking her head on the table, at least…

 

“No, I was the one who had overreacted!” I hurriedly shout, waving my hands frantically. “Do not fret! It is my own fault!” I cough exaggeratedly, hoping to steer the conversation in a separate direction. “A-Anyways, let me just get some food to eat, and then we will trek back to my room! How does that sound?”

 

Sayaka giggles once more. She sure giggles a lot, doesn’t she? “Like a plan!” I furrow my brows in confusion. Of course it sounds like a plan, it is a plan!

 

oOo

 

Sayaka sat on my bed, looking around the room with a pleasant smile on her face. Her eyes pause over the many graphs and charts scattered along the walls, assumedly deciphering them! “So this is your room? It looks very educational!” I swell up at her compliment. She understands! The first time I had shown Mondo my room, he had shown nothing short of mockery!

 

“I consider our education to be of the most vital importance to us as students! We must be prepared at all times to sit down and study, and I hope to reflect that in the decor of my room!” I nod once to further convey my point then proceed to sit across from her on the floor in criss-cross position. She is oddly quiet for a moment, then two, then three…

 

“Are you alright just sitting on the floor?” she asked, “I could sit on the floor if you would feel more comfortable--”

 

“No, no, it is quite alright, Maizono-kun!” I cut her off, continuing to dutifully munch on my ham and cheese sandwich. “It is my duty as host to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible!”

 

Sayaka argues, “well, then you should sit on the bed with me!”

 

If my cheeks were already red, then now they must’ve been a blazing inferno. “I-I-I could not POSSIBLY sit with a FEMALE on a BED, Maizono-kun!” For the first time since the start of our conversation, I finally decide to look at the idol. She sits daintily on the bed, one leg crossed over the other. She peers down at me, her lips pulled down in a firm frown.

 

“Ishimaru-kun!” she complained, “you’re being immature!”

 

I gasp. How dare she? “ Me? I’m immature?” I have to clench my fists in order to prevent them from launching up in anger. “That is very rude, Maizono-kun!”

 

Sayaka raises her eyebrows. “My bad.” Agh! And now she is being snarky!

 

I very pointedly look away from her. “Nevertheless… what did you wish to talk about?” As soon as the words leave my mouth I want to take them back. Now I had made it seem like I didn’t believe she belonged here unless she had a valid reason to be here! Gah!

 

Sayaka doesn’t appear too perturbed… “oh, right! To be quite honest… I’m afraid.”

 

I lift my eyebrows. “Of what?” I push.

 

“Of Leon.” As soon as the words leave her mouth, I sit ramrod straight, a very tense feeling filling my nerves. She seems to notice my predicament, as she frantically begins to wave her hands. “Oh no, I’m not afraid of what he’ll do to me! ” she cried.

 

I let out a deep, heavy sigh of relief. I had truly begun to worry for her for a second… but… wait… “Are you implying that he’s going to do something to someone else?” I gulped out of habit; a familiar nervous tic. Was Leon on to me as well? Of all people?

 

Sayaka sadly nods. Her lips twist into a small frown. “He’s been acting… strange …”

 

“Strange?” I repeated, fearing I had heard her wrong, “how so?”

 

Sayaka slouches ever slightly atop my bed; getting comfortable, I suppose. I suspected that I was in for quite the long conversation. “He has been getting increasingly tense throughout the entire time we’ve been here. I’m sure all of us have. But I fear that yesterday was the final straw for him. He’s been holed up in his room all of yesterday and today. I’ve been knocking constantly but he never opens the door! And on the rare instance that I do see him, he avoids me completely, like he’s afraid of me or something! Why would he feel any need to be afraid?

 

I purse my lips in concentration. Hmm… Leon is a male… he’s most likely feeling as threatened as all of the other male participants of the killing game. It was inevitable. The only reason Junko had decided to structure the game the way she had was in order to sink everyone into despair. She wanted everyone to be paranoid of each other!

 

A small part of me wonders whether or not she had designed this motive as well…

 

“He is most likely just afraid!” I replied back after a minute’s hesitation, “we all are!”

 

“Well, of course he’s afraid!” snapped Sayaka, shooting me a sharp glare. I flinch back from the shock of it. Since when had she become so aggressive? Sayaka quickly catches herself, stumbling over her words, “u-um, I mean -- that is a fairly -- I’m sorry, Ishimaru-kun, he most likely is! Thank you for the input!”

 

I bow my head. “It is no problem, Maizono-kun!” I shoot her my best politician smile. After hearing no words from Sayaka, I open my eyes slightly, only to see her staring off into the distance, eyes glazed over. Huh. “Maizono-kun!” I shouted. Sayaka jumped in her seat, spinning around to face me. “Is something else bothering you?”

 

Sayaka slowly nods. “I feel like he is going to kill someone.”

 

My blood ran cold. On one hand, I felt a quite detestable sense of relief: if Leon were to kill the wrong person, I wouldn’t have to kill Byakuya and reveal myself as the mastermind. However, if he were to suspect and attempt to murder me... then we were going to have a problem. Despite how much I wished to argue otherwise, logically speaking I would stand no chance against a professional baseball player! Perhaps in the future if I trained hard enough, but currently my body was simply not at the needed fitness level to defeat him! After a long pause, I utter, “who?”

 

“I don’t know. That’s what scares me the most.”

 

I frown. “He never shared his suspicions of the mastermind with you?”

 

Sayaka shakes her head. “No, he said that he couldn’t trust me. He said that he couldn’t trust anyone. He… he never used to say that when we first began to talk to each other! What changed?”

 

I ignore her final question. I didn’t quite have the answer to it. Nevertheless, “what makes you think he is going to murder someone?” I stare at her intently. She seems to retract in on herself. “Do you have any evidence?”

 

“None yet…” she mumbled, “but, if someone does turn up dead, we might have to begin suspecting him as the killer… as much as it pains me…” A single tear slides down Sayaka’s face, falling on to her upturned palm. “Oh,” she yelped, “I’m crying again…” she giggles, but her laughter soon begins to turn into desperate gasps of air as she frantically rubs at her eyes. “Why do I keep crying?” she asked. I’m not quite sure if it’s rhetorical or not. “I haven’t even known him that long… I shouldn’t be crying…” she genuinely looks to be at a loss. Her subconscious memories must be acting up again… We may have erased all of our classmates’ memories, but it is impossible to erase their emotions. Sayaka must remember how much she enjoyed Leon’s company, how much she adored him, and if my suspicions were correct, how much she loved him.

 

Sayaka still desperately patted at her eyes with a loose tissue paper. “I don’t get it!” she snapped, “why am I feeling this way?”

 

I desperately felt the need to get up and hug her, to pull her into my arms and spew out the truth; why she felt the way she did, why the killing game was happening in the first place, how much of a despicable person I truly am -- everything! However, I know how foolish those actions would be, so instead I just settle for a: “it’s okay to cry, Maizono-kun! It shows a willingness to be open with people!”

 

Sniffling, Sayaka sets the damp tissues next to her. Her tears appear to have stopped for the most part. Her eyebrows and lips are twisted into a low scowl, and her blue eyes appear tight and constricted. “Well, that’d be all well and good if I knew what I was even crying about!” she yelled. This time she didn’t bother to backtrack.

 

I avert my gaze from her’s. “... right,” I mumbled, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

 

Sayaka huffs in a fit of annoyance, crossing her arms over her chest. “I hate this! I absolutely hate that stupid mastermind that decided to put us in here in the first place!” I shudder. “If I knew who he was, I wouldn’t hesitate to end his life!”

 

“Maizono-kun?” I gasped, “are you certain that is a good idea?”

 

Sayaka lowers her gaze to the ground. “I said if I knew who he was…” she sighed, “but I don’t. I won’t kill someone innocent just because of our newest motive.”

 

Something inside my gut told me that Sayaka Maizono was truly a dangerous woman, and I wondered how true her words really were.

 

oOo

 

Chihiro Fujisaki wasn’t ready to die. Like he had told Taka before, he knew that he was a prime target for the newest motive. He was weak, effeminate, insufferable, pathetic…

 

He pretended to be a girl , for Christ’s sake! Just to hide how truly pathetic and pitiful he was! However, it appears that his secret may actually work to his advantage this time around… no one except Taka knew of him as a man! Maybe, just maybe, he could continue to become stronger, so when the next motive came around no one would dare to mess with him!

 

… alright, that was a long shot and probably wishful thinking. Taka had said himself that it takes time to become strong. He even had said that he used to be weak! If someone like Taka had once been weak, what was stopping Chihiro from following in his footsteps and becoming strong?

 

The answer: the fact that he is Chihiro Fujisaki, a short, thin, fourteen year old boy who crossdresses as a girl to hide his own weakness. From the little time that he had known Taka, he had already caught onto how often he exaggerates. Despite what he says, Taka had never been weak. Taka had always been strong.

 

As Chihiro slung a duffel bag full of gym clothes across his chest, he felt a swell of admiration for the man. To be quite honest, Chihiro had originally been planning to ask Mondo for help with becoming stronger after the second motive was announced. But all too soon, Celes was dead and Mondo was next. At first Taka had been understandably devastated, but quite honestly Chihiro was simply amazed at how quickly he had learned to adapt and cherish Mondo’s memories in a positive way!

 

That was Chihiro’s dream. He wished to become strong enough to do that one day.

 

But for right now he was trying. He stood outside Taka’s door, ready to knock on it to ask him to work out with him, when a sudden thought popped into his head. Taka is in more danger than him right now, isn’t he? Everyone was always accusing Taka when he left the room, even though he was such a good friend to him! Despite the fact that Taka was quite possibly the highest valued target in the school currently, Chihiro had no doubt in his mind that as soon as he asked for Taka’s assistance he would give it. Even if he was quivering in his boots, the boy would find some way to justify to himself why he should help Chihiro!

 

Because of that, Chihiro let his hand fall back by his side and began walking straight towards the second floor landing. Taka should rest today. Chihiro would be fine on his own.

 

oOo

 

Naegi had heeded Kirigiri’s advice against his best wishes. Of course, no one was going to kill each other over as silly a motive as the one they had been given, but no one in the school had the same mentality as him… except for Fujisaki and Maizono, maybe.

 

But it was currently nearing eight o’clock, and he was beginning to get awfully hungry. Ever since the motive’s announcement he had been holed up in his room praying that no one would knock on his door. As expected, no one had.

 

Naegi’s stomach growls again… hm, it wouldn’t hurt too much if he decided to go get food, right? No one really suspected him as the mastermind, and everyone seemed a bit afraid of each other anyways, so what are the chances of someone waiting to kill him were just around the corner?

 

Nodding, Naegi looks back at the clock. Nine o’clock. It’s now or never.

 

Naegi exits the room hastily, quickly looking both ways down the corridor as he does. No one. Smiling, Naegi speed-walks to the cafeteria. What should he get? He had been craving soup a lot lately… hm… maybe mushroom soup? That sounded good!

 

After getting to the cafeteria, Naegi quickly serves himself some soup and begins to bring it to a lone table. Alright, now that that’s out of the way, he’ll just --

 

* CRASH*

 

In one fluid motion, his bowl lay on the floor, shattered into a million pieces with yellow broth seeping from it. Shakily, Naegi turns to look at the offender, praying to god it had just been a simple accident on his part. Immediately, Naegi’s breath stills. Leon Kuwata stood just behind him, bat outstretched and at the ready.

 

Oh no!

 

Naegi hurriedly jumps out of the way, nearly tripping on his own two feet as he scatters. “K-Kuwata-kun!” he called, hands outstretched in front of him on the floor. Kuwata ignores him, wordlessly lifting up the bloodied bat that he wields once more to strike it down upon Naegi’s head. Naegi rolls out of the way quickly, but before he can so much as blink, Kuwata’s bat hits him on the side.

 

Letting out a harsh gasp, Naegi begins to crawl away. “Kuwata-kun!” he rasped, tears burning the edges of his vision. “Please! Why are you doing this?”

 

If Kuwata wished to make another move, he stops now. “Why am I doing this?” he repeated mockingly, “because I’m onto your tricks, mastermind.” Kuwata leans down next to Naegi’s head, gripping the ahoge at the top of his head roughly. Kuwata pulls Naegi to be level to his eyes. A pained moan erupts from him.

 

“M-Mastermind?” stuttered Naegi,”what are you talking about? I’m not the mastermind!” Naegi felt a tear slip down his cheek. He was going to die, wasn’t he? “I’m telling you! If you kill me then Kirigiri will figure you out when the class trial comes!”

 

Kuwata lets out a harsh, barking laugh. “See! You’re doing your mind tricks again!” He glares at Naegi, lips pulled into a low frown. “Monobear came into my room with this, you know--” he gestures at the bat clenched within his fist. “He gave me a bit of a hint regarding the mastermind.”

 

At that, Naegi’s eyes widen. “A hint?”

 

“Yes, a hint!” snapped Kuwata irritably, “he said the mastermind would be the person least expected… and so it made me think… who is the one who has always been solving our mysteries from the get go? Who is the one who always seemed to know a little too much? I came to one conclusion: Makoto Naegi.”

 

Naegi shakes his head frantically. “No, Kuwata-kun, it isn’t me, I swear! Usually Kirigiri-san was the one figuring everything out, I was just her sidekick! You have to believe--”

 

“--believe you?” asked Kuwata, bewildered, “why should I believe a talentless loser whose only self-proclaimed use is being optimistic? Ya know, I’m not even sure I quite believe that whole Super High School Lucky Student thing, either!” He growls from the pits of his throat. “Why would an esteemed school like Hope’s Peak accept someone so useless?”

 

At that, Naegi’s heart sinks. He is useless, isn’t he…? He had no reason to be accepted to Hope’s Peak in the first place… Kuwata was right about that. But he could not let one of his friends die because they falsely believed him to be the mastermind! Kirigiri would figure Kuwata out right away, and then Kuwata would be executed! Naegi did not want that to happen no matter what!

 

“K-Kuwata-kun,” gasped Naegi, the pain in his ribs suddenly intensifying, “please, I beg of you, don’t do this! You’ll die too!”

Kuwata stares blankly at Naegi. “Die?” he repeated, “I won’t die.” He said the words with such confidence that Naegi felt a pang of pity for the boy. Monobear had truly driven him into despair… as his friend, no, as a human , Naegi felt it was his duty to let him see the light of hope once more!

 

As Naegi sees Leon stand up, the bat ready to be swung down atop his head, Naegi acts purely on instinct. With a quick flourish, he brings his right foot up, kicking out Leon’s feet from under him. Leon topples to the ground with a curse, but Naegi does not care to look behind him. He sprints out of the cafeteria, intent on going back to his room and bolting the door closed, when a sharp, hot pain ignites within his back.

 

Leon stands tall over him, a furious expression on his features. “Where the hell do you think you’re going, Naegi?”

 

oOo

 

I stare hollowly at the box cutter lying in front of me. I had taken it from the storage room after deciding to find a weapon for the killing game Byakuya and I were undergoing tonight, but now I was quite curious as to whether or not it would be an effective weapon… Byakuya was sure to grab something obvious, such as a knife or something. Byakuya didn’t have the most muscle strength, so he was most likely going for something easy to wield, something that wasn’t too hard to kill with…

 

Now the most difficult part was how to make sure Kyoko’s door was closed for the killing game. It would be unfortunate if she were to hear the two of them trying to kill each other… I’d have to close it right after midnight, but she would be sure to wake up to the sound of her door closing, unless she kept it open with an eraser or something along those lines, but the entire point of that would be lost seeing as everyone knew she slept with her door open now.

 

There was the chance Kirigiri did decide to forgo her previous statements in favor of safety tonight seeing as there was a new motive, but considering the fact that Kirigiri is a girl the chances are unlikely.

 

*Ding, dong*

 

My head snaps towards my door. Who is deciding to visit at this hour? I shuffle over to the door, timidly reaching out my hand to open it. Hm… maybe I shouldn’t… there was the chance the person behind there might be coming here to kill me.

 

*Ding, dong*

 

On the other hand… truthfully I did not want to wait around and listen to a doorbell go off excessively. With that, I swing open the door, my first sight being the perky face of Sayaka Maizono.

 

“Hello, Ishimaru-kun!” she greeted, waving her hand.

 

“Oh…” I murmured, “come on it!” I gesture for her to enter. She bows her head, doing so gratefully.

 

“What are you doing?” she asked, eyes immediately drawn to the box cutter on the center of my desk. How had she caught onto that so quickly?

 

“Ah!” I yelp, “I-I am, uhm… cutting boxes?” I cringe at how awkward and forced I sound. Shoot… she isn’t going to believe me, is she? Hesitantly, I add, “it’s for self-defense!”

 

Sayaka shoots me a doubtful smile. “Yeah… um, anyways, I was just coming in here to get my keys.”

 

“Your keys?” I repeat. Her eyes drift towards my bed. I follow her eyes, spotting a shiny pair of keys resting on top of it. “Oh!” I yelled, “yeah, go ahead!”

 

Sayaka nods, going towards it. Silently, I return to sit at my desk, resting my face in my palm contemplatively. Now, back to Kyoko… how should I --

 

I spot Sayaka approaching from my peripheral. Apprehensively, I turn towards her, spotting her worried expression. She leans slightly on the desk in front of me, her palm just next to where I had put my own keys. “Ishimaru-kun,” she whispered, “you’re not hoping to murder someone, are you?”

 

I jump, gulping. “W-What do you mean?” I inquired, already cringing at how obvious my nerves were. I attempt to cool my head, taking a couple deep breaths. “I mean… I’m not!”

 

Sayaka stares at me. As much as I try to decipher her thoughts, I can not -- she doesn’t appear to be anywhere near unfeeling, but try as I might, I can not read her. “Are you sure?” she finally asked.

 

“Yes!” I shouted, a smile stretched upon my lips. She looks at me, concern finally etched onto her face. “Do not fret, Maizono-kun! All will be fine!”

 

She sighs, nodding. “I should probably get going in that case then…” She walks towards the door, almost hurriedly. She opens it, and right before she passes through it, she turns to look at me over her shoulder. “Don’t do anything drastic, Ishimaru-kun.”

 

Before I can even think to respond, she is gone. I sigh heavily, resting my head in my palms once again.

 

What to do?

 

oOo

 

Kuwata struck Naegi on the leg as he attempted to run away once again. Naegi let out a bellowing screech as he felt something snap on his leg, tears springing to his eyes and running down his face. Kuwata let out a sneer, lifting his bat to rain it down on Naegi once again. Naegi, without really thinking about it, hops onto his good leg, racing forward to avoid Kuwata’s next strike.

 

Kuwata races after him. Of course, he is much, much faster than Naegi, and he has the strength to go along with it. Naegi knew his time was limited. There is absolutely no way he was going to manage to survive this if Kuwata doesn’t screw his head on straight!

 

Kuwata tackles Naegi to the ground, straddling the poor boy’s body as Kuwata lifts the bat far above his head, ready to strike it down upon Naegi’s skull. Kuwata takes a deep breath, thrusting the bat forward.

 

Naegi begins to see his life flash before his eyes. Memories of his sister, his family, his friends, his school, his life … he remembers the good times and the bad times. He remembers going to his grandpa’s funeral, but he also remembers his first kiss with a girl -- despite how hazy the memory is. He wanted to live more! He wanted to see more! He wanted to be alive!

 

With a strength Naegi never knew lied dormant within him, he grabs Kuwata’s wrist, using the boy’s own momentum to strike it hard into the ground. A sickening crack is heard, and various fragments of wood suddenly litter the air and scatter the ground. There, right next to Naegi’s head, lay a baseball bat split into two completely separate parts. Naegi would’ve hated to have been hit with that!

 

Kuwata looks stunned for a good few seconds, but he quickly rights himself. “Tch! Doesn’t matter anyways! I don’t need that stupid thing to kill you!” Kuwata reigns back his fist, punching Naegi square in the nose. Immediately, Naegi hears his bone break and feels blood begin to gush out of it.

 

If he somehow did manage to survive this, he was going to be very injured.

 

Kuwata lays punch after punch on him, mostly aiming for his chest and face. Naegi feels himself begin to slip into delirium -- a dark, void blackness fills the edges of his vision, and Kuwata’s fist soon becomes a distant nudge.

 

Naegi whimpers slightly, “K-Kuwata-kun… please… you’re going to die if you keep this up…” Kuwata doesn’t pause to contemplate his words in the slightest; he keeps punching Naegi, neverending. Naegi felt death begin to creep up on him. Tears gush out of his eyes and down his cheeks -- he didn’t know whether it was from the pain or from the sorrow that death would bring him.

 

He still had so much to do. He needed to end this killing game.

 

In his moment of delirium, Naegi swears that he sees Kirigiri suddenly appear behind Kuwata, a white cloth in her hands. The Kirigiri-hallucination grasps onto Kuwata’s head, putting the white cloth up against his nose and mouth. It almost feels as if Kuwata is actually being forced off of him, but -- wait a second.

 

“Kirigiri-san?” asked Naegi, blearily looking at the lavender-haired girl. Kirigiri doesn’t pay him any mind, too focused on smothering Kuwata. After a couple more seconds, Kuwata’s eyes roll into the back of his skull and he slumps to the floor, motionless and on top of Naegi.

 

Kirigiri pushes the baseball player off of him with her boot, looking towards Naegi contemplatively. “You didn’t listen to my advice.”

 

Naegi ignores Kirigiri’s snark, instead focusing on the still unmoving form of Kuwata. “Is he…” he trailed off, not quite having the right words to say. He looked almost… dead . His eyes were partially open, but Naegi was only able to make out the white of his eyes and the veins within them. Had Kirigiri killed him?

 

“He’s only unconscious,” said Kirigiri, as if reading Naegi’s mind. “He’ll be unconscious for a good few hours. I used chloroform, so it should take him a while to recover. Whatever the case may be, I sincerely hope he won’t choose to go after you again, nor anyone else.” She stares at Kuwata’s unconscious form. “... perhaps we should tie him up.”

 

The sharp pain in his leg and nose still pulsing and throbbing, Naegi attempts to sit up, but only falls back down to the ground with a screech. Nevertheless, “w-why do y-you have chloroform?” he stutters between ragged breaths, “where did you even get that?”

 

Kirigiri spares him a tight-lipped smile. “I figured you wouldn’t heed my advice from yesterday. So I figured it might be a good precaution to make some, just in case.” Kirigiri sighs deeply, tucking her lavender hair behind her ear. “It appears I was correct… but I might’ve come too late.”

 

At that, Naegi sat straight up, ignoring the hissing reluctance in his leg. “T-Too late?” he rasped, “are you saying that I might die?” No… he couldn’t be saved last minute just to die of injuries later… he can’t!

 

Kirigiri shakes her head quickly. “No! But you do seem to be very injured… I don’t have the widest array of first aid knowledge, so I might not be able to help you too much.”

 

Naegi frowns, staring at the ground intently. He actually did have some knowledge of first aid, but obviously he couldn’t apply it to himself. Perhaps… “it’s okay, Kirigiri-san! I know a bit of first aid myself, so perhaps I could just direct you on what to do!”

 

Looking away, a pink tint came to Kirigiri’s cheeks. Uncertainly, she asks, “are you sure you trust me to do that?”

 

“Of course!” smiled Naegi, blood spilling from his split lip and the corners of his mouth straining against his bruised skin, “we’re friends, right? What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t trust you?”

 

Kirigiri looks blankly at Naegi. “Friends, huh?” she softly smiles, “I like that…” She walks over to Naegi, bending down besides his fallen form. With hardly a margin of effort, she wraps her arms around his petite body and lifts him up in her arms.

 

“K-Kirigiri-san?” questioned Naegi, frantically wrapping his arms around her neck. “What’re you doing?” A crimson blush tinted his cheeks and ears. He truly felt like he could die of embarrassment! “I can walk on my own!”

 

Kirigiri lifts her eyebrow inquisitively. “It makes more sense like this, doesn’t it? That way you don’t have to put any unnecessary strain on your leg. It looks broken.” she nods at his left leg. Naegi, not having looked at it before, nearly faints at the sight of it -- the bone isn’t protruding from the skin, but it looks damn near close to it. From the middle of his calf down, it looks to be bent sharply to the left and crushed. Kuwata had done that much damage with just a baseball bat…

 

“He is the super high school level baseball player,” stated Kirigiri matter-of-factly, “he must’ve been hitting as hard as what you would see on TV.” She turns to stare pointedly at the broken bat on the ground. “... if that is any indication.”

 

Naegi gulps. If that had hit his face…

 

“Do you still have any complaints about me carrying you, Naegi-kun?” she asked, “or are you going to hold onto the frail amount of masculinity you still have left?”

 

Naegi didn’t know whether or not to be offended by her statement, so he merely shook his head. “N-No… I’m good.”

 

oOo

 

I gently close my bedroom door behind me as I exit, box cutter in hand. It was five minutes past curfew… everyone should hopefully be in their beds by now. I actually did feel slightly guilty for breaking curfew, but what must be done must be done!

 

Right as I fished my keys out of my pocket to lock the door, I hear, “you took an awfully long time,” the pompous voice of Byakuya Togami drills from behind me, “did you have a problem deciding whether or not you would physically able to kill me?” I turned around, deciding to face Byakuya’s criticism. A wry smirk plays on his face, “it wasn’t too long ago that Mukuro injured you. If worse came to worst, the wrong move from me and all of your stitches might come flying open.”

 

I furrow my eyebrows. “You are severely doubting my physical abilities, Byakuya! I could take you with one eye closed!”

 

Byakuya yawns into his palm, pointedly looking away from me. “Are you attempting to incite anger in me with useless boasting? I will have you know that you are truly outmatched in that department.” Did he just admit to participating in useless boasting?

 

I firmly shake my head. “It is quite futile to attempt to anger you with words! We will show who is the better man in the way of the sword!” I look to his hand, spotting a kitchen knife peeking out of his sleeve. “... or in the way of the knife and box cutter!”

 

Byakuya scowls, looking away from me. “Kirigiri’s door is closed, by the way.” He gestures to Kyoko’s bedroom door. Sure enough, it is completely closed -- “it was already that way when I checked. It seems that Kirigiri is slacking.”

 

That doesn’t sound quite right! But nevertheless -- “let us commence, then!” Without further ado, I thrust up my box cutter. Byakuya looks up just in time to see it rushing towards him, to which he quickly leaps out of the way with a small yelp. “Never turn your back to an opponent! It is quite disrespectful!”

 

Byakuya merely clicks his tongue. “So we’re starting this already?” he grumbled, quickly sliding his knife into his palm. With a flash, he aims towards my throat. I quickly dodge, running full speed towards the landing of the second floor.

 

“Ishimaru!” he bellows, “get back here!” I heed him no mind -- I have a plan! I am going to survive this!

 

Rushing up to the fourth floor, I barrel into the chemistry room, hiding behind a lone table near the corner. Byakuya comes in shortly thereafter, fuming and sweating. “Ishimaru!” he snapped, “I know you are in here! I saw you enter!”

 

I wait for him to go further into the lab, just past my table… but he doesn’t. Instead, he comes straight for me. He doesn’t seem to see me yet, but he seems to have the faintest idea that I am hiding! Oh no… With a leap of faith, I jump towards Byakuya, box cutter aiming towards his throat.

 

Byakuya flinches, barely managing to evade the cutter. Instead, it manages to graze his cheek with a sharp nick. He stumbles, clutching his cheek in one hand and his knife in the other. With that, he charges forward, knife at the ready.

 

It is then that I realize I’ve made a terrible mistake.

 

In my pursuit of Byakuya, I hadn’t left any room for me dodge an attack. All of my energy was forced into my hit. Currently, my body was racing towards the floor, and I couldn’t move fast enough to stop myself from hitting the floor.

 

He was going to kill me!

 

oOo

 

Naegi winced harshly as Kirigiri dabbed at his swollen lip with a cotton ball. “This is why I told you to stay in your room, Naegi-kun…” droned Kirigiri, a passive expression planted onto her features. Naegi had the inkling of a feeling that her emotionless persona was hiding something much more passion-filled. She must be fuming!

 

Cringing, Naegi bowed his head slightly, “sorry, Kirigiri-san… I was getting a bit hungry…” Kirigiri grip on his chin tightens, and she forces him to stare up at her as she continues disinfecting his lip.

 

“Then you should’ve told me something. I would’ve brought you food.” Kirigiri frowns, “I just didn’t want you to get hurt… this all could’ve been avoided.”

 

Naegi shakes his head. “I didn’t even know Kuwata-kun thought I was the mastermind! I haven’t really done much to support that, I don’t think… unless I’m just unaware of it.”

 

“Kuwata-kun was most likely under the effect of Monobear’s despair. You mentioned that Monobear had said something to him, yes?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Then he was likely goading himself into being paranoid of everyone around him. It’s nothing you did specifically. It is more like what he forced himself to believe, if that makes sense.”

 

After a pause of contemplation, Naegi sighs,  “it doesn’t… I must be more beat up than I thought. I probably have a concussion too.”

 

Kirigiri nods, “I suspected as much. For the Super High School Level Lucky Student, you aren’t quite that lucky, Naegi-kun.”

 

Naegi chuckles, “you’re telling me.” After a moment of contemplation, he wonders, “should we have left Kuwata-kun out there by himself?” After a moment, his eyes open in a panic. “Wait! He’s technically sleeping out there, isn’t he? Isn’t that against school rules?”

 

“Don’t worry,” said Kirigiri, “he’s just unconscious, not sleeping. It’s a loophole. We discovered it when Ishimaru-kun was attacked, remember?” Naegi furrows his eyebrows. He felt like he should remember something like that, but everything in the distant past seemed so… hazy. Kirigiri must’ve noticed his silence, because she suddenly heavily sighs. “Yup. Definitely a concussion.”

 

oOo

 

I huddled in on myself, a sticky substance oozing from the gaping hole in my stomach. I cough, blood pouring from my mouth. Shoot… internal bleeding…

 

Byakuya bends down next to me, a blood-splattered knife resting lazily in his palm. “See, mastermind? It looks like I did reign supreme over you…” he stands up, chuckling to himself. His back faces me. “I have to admit, I am sorely disappointed at how easy of an enemy you ended up being. What an anticlimactic ending to this game.”

 

The box cutter still gripped tightly in my palm, I quietly stand up from the floor, edging towards Byakuya’s still turned back.

 

“Hmm, not only that, but you were a rather bad actor as well,” he sighs, “near the end of it all, nearly no one believed that you were truly just an innocent victim in this entire mess…”

 

I steel my nerves. I have one shot. One shot, and then it’s all over.

 

“Oh, but you already knew that, didn’t you? Say, when were you planning to reveal yourself as the mastermind? Were you ever going to? Or did you want us to just kill each other one by one?”

 

With a charge, I dash forwards, a bellowing yell launching from my throat, Byakuya turns to me, shock and terror filling his eyes. Just one more step… then… Byakuya backs away slightly. With a quick step, I spin around to be behind Byakuya, holding the box cutter to his throat, and then I slash!

 

Blood follows my blade as I slit the man’s throat. Byakuya falls to the ground, motionless. I stare blankly down at the blond heir. I succeeded, but I didn’t feel any sort of joy or triumph from my defeat of Byakuya. Instead, I felt like a monster .

 

Until…

 

“Tch…” Against all possible odds, Byakuya manages to scoff at me, his voice hoarse and thick. “I-Is that all you have to offer? You didn’t even cut deep enough to puncture my artery.” My blood stills. I must’ve not pushed hard enough on the blade… I was too uncertain!

 

My own predicament catches up with me, and I slump to the floor behind Byakuya, groaning softly as I put pressure on my own wound. We were both going to bleed out here, weren’t we?

 

That is until I notice a flash of silver from my peripheral. Quickly glancing to my left at the incoming blade, I find Byakuya, slit throat and all, glowering at me. He raises his blade higher, aiming straight for my skull.

 

No.

 

As the blade comes crashing down on me, I roll out of the way, crying tears of pain. That’s right! I couldn’t die yet! I still had to protect Chihiro!

 

I leap up from the floor, racing out of the chemistry room and down towards the dorms. What am I doing here? I wonder, I still have to help him become stronger! I have to live on in Mondo’s name! I have to redeem myself!

 

Despite the pain deep within my gut, I smile. I smile as tears of agony and sadness creep down my face. I smile as Byakuya chases me, a hand holding his own throat. As the world crashes around me and burns, as I feel as though I am fading into nothingness, I smile .

 

I remember now. I remember my friends. I remember how much I had cared for them. I remember Mondo and Chihiro. They were my best friends! I know now that I can’t leave Chihiro in the world to fend for himself!

 

As I race towards my door, I throw it open with gusto, preparing myself to immediately lock the door behind me. But… something stops me.

 

The aura inside was rancid, and the energy levels made me feel like the room may just cave in on itself. I choose to ignore this, taking a cautious step inside, then another, and then --

 

I stop.

 

I stop and fall down to my knees, reaching a single arm out towards the area directly in front of me. I begin to weep hysterically, and in my head I hear voices shouting: “ not again! Not again!

 

Because, spread out in the very center of my room, laid the mutilated corpse of Chihiro Fujisaki.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

I didn’t bother to notice as the distant, blurry forms of Kyoko and Makoto rushed in -- was Makoto on crutches? --, or when I felt the underarms of my limbs lifted and dragged through a hallway. I think I heard someone yelling at me to get up -- was that me? Or someone else? I think I adhered to them. Whoever it was.

 

I didn’t notice when my side was stitched up, or that my other stitches that had been given to me after Mukuro’s attack had popped off in all the rush. Much less, I didn’t notice that Mukuro was now the one stitching up my wounds and bandaging them -- or that Monobear had decided to join in on helping us and began to tend to Byakuya’s wounds (“it’d be awfully boring to have a trial where we all already knew who the culprit was! … Upupupu …!”) .

 

The only thing that I paid attention to was the sheer calmness in Kyoko’s voice as Makoto was handed the Monobear File. -- “we have to find the killer of Fujisaki-san” --

 

I gasp, memories flooding back to me. Chihiro’s body -- I had found his body, hadn’t I? I had been the one who had discovered it in the first place. A knife penetrating Chihiro’s central thorax -- oh god -- I had been witness to that! I cradle my head in my palms, whimpers of pain murmuring through.

 

Mukuro must’ve still been working on my wounds, because she was suddenly pushing me back, a feminine hand with a Fenrir tattoo firmly planted on my shoulder. “Be still,” she muttered, eyes firmly planted on my side.

 

“Muk-Ikusaba-kun?” I mumbled, willing my nerves to stay calm. At the sight of her, I felt the rate of my heartbeat start increasing. It hadn’t been until I had actually begun to pay attention to my surroundings, but I realize with a sudden fright that Mukuro Ikusaba was holding a sharp utensil near my vital organs. “W-What are you doing?”

 

Instead of the malicious intent I had predicted, Mukuro instead turned a sharp-eyed gaze towards me. With her head out of the way, I see with closer clarity the task that she had assigned herself with: a needle lay in her palm; a thin, black thread latching closed half of my newest wound. “Out of everyone here, I am the one most trained in first aid.” In a sentence quite out of character from her, she muttered, “... it is the least I can do.” What? Since when did she --

 

Ignoring the twinge of uncertainty in my gut, I turn my eyes towards the rest of the lot standing around me. Makoto, Kyoko, Byakuya, Sayaka -- is that Leon unconscious on the floor? -- nearly everyone is here! Makoto stares at the two of us, raising his hand awkwardly, “I was the one who took care of you last time, but I pale in comparison to Ikusaba-san’s actual training, so I just had to accept her offer to tend to your wounds instead! Besides… I’m kinda…” he gestures awkwardly to his current condition, “really, Ikusaba-san is truly a lifesaver, right, Ishimaru-kun?”

 

I stare down at Mukuro, who appears to be attentively tending to my wounds once more. She works with utmost certainty, her hair pinned back with an array of bobby pins and clips. A pale, barely-there blush stains her cheeks. I lift my eyebrows in wonder. There seriously must be an illness going around! First me, now Mukuro… thinking about it, even Chihiro had--

 

Ah, right.

 

“Chihiro-kun is really dead, then?” I asked, downcast and downtrodden. “D-Did you all confirm it? Are we really sure that --”

 

Kyoko cuts me off, “we’re sure.”

 

I lower my gaze. “Right…” I muttered. Another one gone… is this my karma? Sayaka had mentioned that before… maybe this is what I get for being such an evil person for so long… If only Chihiro hadn’t--! If I had been a better person, then maybe--!

 

Sayaka suddenly pipes up, “when I saw Fujisaki-san earlier today, she had seemed so frantic -- I never would’ve thought --” Slowly she shook her head, blue tendrils shielding her face. “I should’ve followed her! I knew that something was wrong!” She suddenly stares right at me, blue eyes overflowing with barely-contained tears. “I’m sorry, Ishimaru-kun! I know how much you cared for her! If only -- if only I had been more proactive, then maybe this wouldn’t of--”

 

Kyoko glides up to the panicked idol, laying a hand gently on her shoulder. Sayaka jumps, looking into the detective’s eyes desperately. “K-Kirigiri-san?”

 

“This isn’t your fault,” stated Kyoko, “no one could've predicted the calamity that has befallen Fujisaki-san. It’s useless to reflect on what could’ve been. For right now, we must focus on what to do now .” Sayaka’s entire demeanor shifts; she dries up her tears with her sleeves, perfectly managing to not smudge her makeup. She gives Kyoko a shaky smile and opens her mouth, but before she can say anything -- “you mentioned that you had seen Fujisaki-san earlier?”

 

Sayaka’s eyes widen the tiniest bit. “O-Oh, yes! Uh… what about it?”

 

Kyoko suddenly pulls out her Electro ID, tapping away with gloved fingertips. “You must realize how vital every detail in this case is to us. If you would give us your account, that would be much appreciated.”

 

Nodding, Sayaka delicately taps her chin. “Well… maybe five to ten minutes before noon -- or was it after? -- Fujisaki-san came running past me as I exited Ishimaru’s room after a chat with him. She really seemed like she was in a rush; or maybe she was just scared? Either way, she was out of breath and looked as though she was running from something… maybe that’s why--”

 

Kyoko nods sharply, tapping away into the Electro ID. After a moment, seven identical pings ring throughout the entire room. As if on cue, the not-unconscious members of our class reach into their pockets and dig out their Electro IDs. Hesitating only the slightest bit, I do the same.

 

> Maizono’s Account

 

“That should be enough,” stated Kyoko, putting away her Electro ID after a moment, “we’ll see if your account adds up during the class trial.”

 

“A-Adds up?” stuttered Sayaka, “are you--”

 

Kyoko shook her head, raising one single gloved palm, “don’t misunderstand. I do not doubt you. I don’t have evidence to.” She shifts her eyes coolly to me, searching my face.

 

“U-Um…” I inquired, “may I help you, Kirigiri-kun?”

 

Kyoko stalked towards me, a hand placed loosely on her hip. Her eyes were narrowed and her lips were pursed -- what did that mean? Was she angry? -- “Now, Ishimaru-kun,” she spoke just as evenly as before, if not with a slight edge, “let me ask one question.” She pauses for a moment.

 

After she doesn’t speak further, I swiftly nod my head. “G-Go ahead, Kirigiri-kun!” I laugh, the noise feeling fake and false in wake of the recent tragedy that had befallen us, “speak your mind freely! It is one of our basic rights, is it not?”

 

Kyoko nods once, “right. So, let me ask: why exactly was Fujisaki-san’s body found in your room?”

I feel my blood still and my muscles tense. Only once Mukuro pinches my thigh do I allow myself to relax the slightest bit. Chihiro had been found in my room, hadn’t he? I must look incredibly suspicious to them right now… “Y-You’re wrong!” I straighten my spine, ignoring a stabbing pain in my gut and Mukuro’s pinch of disapproval. “It wasn’t me! I swear! I could never kill Chihiro!”

 

Looking innocently away from me she responds, “I never suggested it was you, Ishimaru-kun. Unless you have something to feel guilty about?”

 

“Of course not!” I snapped, “I am a prefect! My duty to the law is more important than my desire to leave this school!” The words had left my mouth as if on instinct. I truly did respect the law somewhere in my being, perhaps in a past life -- but in my current life, I had broken it numerous times within the past two years. So what innate being within me had forced me to utter such vile lies? I had become a detestable, gross example of an authority figure! How dare I act in such cowardice, resorting to--

 

“Oh, is that so?” murmured Kyoko, “then I wonder what led to Togami-kun’s wounds?”

 

… She caught me.

 

Byakuya, throat now stitched, snickered, “well, of course we all know the answer to that one, don’t we, Ishimaru-kun?”

 

All at once, the room’s atmosphere starts to shift. Accusatory glances were shot my way -- despite Sayaka’s earlier trust in me, she suddenly began to retreat in on herself, as if disbelieving in my actions. She didn’t -- surely!

 

Kyoko once again spoke up, “of course, it all seems a bit too obvious.”

 

At a loss for words, I merely stamper, “w-what?”

 

Sighing, she cradled her chin in her fingers. “It’s oddly convenient that the body was discovered in your room, despite there being no blood even though it was quite a violent and bloody crime. From the little I saw of Chihiro’s body before we left, her wounds were stuffed with paper towels, as if soaking up the blood. Most likely in an attempt to transport the body without any blood trails -- also to avoid leaving footprints, I would assume. In fact, I have cause to believe Chihiro was never even killed in your room to begin with. Isn’t that right, Naegi-kun?”

 

Makoto nods, “yup. She was killed in her room at noon today.”

 

Taking out her Electro ID, she began to tap into it once more.

 

> Monobear File #4

 

“Of course, going even further, there is the odd chance that this may all be a ruse in order to disguise your own trail. Perhaps you made it appear as though you were framed, when in actuality it was you all along.”

 

Frantically, I shake my head, “n-no! I --!”



She merely continues on, “after all, how could someone as organized and responsible as yourself somehow forget to lock your door before exiting it? I was under the assumption that you are very keen on that sort of thing.”

 

She’s right… I can’t argue against her… “You are correct…” I solemnly admit, head hung and eyebrows knitted. However -- “But you are not correct in the assumption that I am Chihiro-kun’s killer!” With the familiar aura and presence of determination burning anew in my lungs, I gasp in, pointing a finger straight at Kyoko. “I could never bring myself to actually murder a precious classmate! I admit --” at this, I turn to face Byakuya, gaze unwavering, “-- I was at a moment of uncertainty and cowardice when I tried to end your life, Togami-kun! I… I…” I bow, silently noting that Mukuro had finished her stitching, “I’m sorry!” I clasp my hands in front of me. “I know that I can not be forgiven for such heinous acts! I know that I can not ever redeem myself to you, but I will try with all my might to possibly help you recover the slightest bit!”

 

I wasn’t lying.

 

Togami merely stares at me for a long moment, breathing in my words, surely! After a long moment, he looks away from me, scoffing, “tch. How pathetic.”

 

In a flash of light, I picture Chihiro’s bright, smiling face; his dimpled cheeks, his glowing eyes, his flawless complexion and his golden presence.

 

Thank you, Chihiro… I mumbled in my mind’s eye, it is thanks to you that I remember… I haven’t fully realized exactly what my brain is missing, but I can feel it starting to come together! I know… I know that it’ll all make sense soon!

 

So, instead of scowling the usual scowl I normally would’ve, I smiled at the heir; Chihiro’s own words of wisdom from a time long ago flashing through my mind ( “you have a nice smile… it’d be nice if you used it more…” )

 

With that resolve in mind, I turn to face Kirigiri, pointing firmly at her passive form. “I promise! I’ll help you find Chihiro-kun’s killer!” I nod once, then twice, to further affirm my words. “Chihiro… she was one of my closest friends… I want to serve her justice!”

 

Kirigiri stares at me, a single lavender eyebrow lifted. “Very well…” she turns to face the nurse’s door, the heels to her boots clacking on the ground as she makes her departure. “Perhaps you may prove me wrong. Let’s find out, shall we?”

 

oOo

 

I nearly vomited at the sight of Chihiro’s corpse. It lay limb, with barely fresh, crimson blood staining the paper towels that appeared forcefully stuffed into his wounds. An old, single line of blood ran from the corner of his mouth to his chin, and a similarly old and crusted blotch of blood stained a limp left hand.  “C-Chihiro-kun…” I murmured.

 

Kirigiri walks past me, kneeling in front of Chihiro’s long deceased body. She casts a stare over her shoulder, directed at me. “You wanted to help, right Ishimaru-kun?” I nodded. “Then help me investigate her body.”

 

Gulping, I kneel next to Kirigiri, hands hovering in the air, unsure of how to proceed. “U-Um… what exactly… should I do?”

 

Kirigiri gives a rather harsh sigh, pointing at one of Chihiro’s various stab wounds. “Maybe you should take the towels out. I’m sure there is more to her wounds than what meets the eye.”

 

I tentatively look at Kirigiri, mentally trying to telepathically ask her, do I have to? Nevertheless, Kirigiri absently stares at me, and so, with an iron will, I steel my nerves. All at once, I begin tearing the paper towels out of Chihiro’s body, ripping it off like I would a bandage.

 

Suddenly, a gloved hand latches onto my wrist as I near tearing out the fourth towel. “Ishimaru-kun!” Kirigiri grips my wrist harder. It quite hurt, to be completely honest! “You are being rash!”

 

I stare down at my soiled hands. Ah… that might’ve been a bit much…

 

Silently, Kirigiri lets go of my wrist, leaning forward to hover over Chihiro’s corpse. She began to carefully extract the paper from Chihiro’s wounds, laying them neatly next to where I had began to tear them out. “This may be a crime scene,” she stated, “but we must still treat the dead with some sense of respect.”

 

I retreat in on myself. I felt like I was being reprimanded, like a child

 

“There,” she said, “that should be enough.” After a moment, I will myself to look at the newly-exposed wounds of Chihiro Fujisaki. They begin to leak out blood, staining the floor. At this, Kirigiri hums, “hmm… interesting…” she leans forward to closer investigate Chihiro’s face. “I didn’t mishear when Naegi-kun said that her time of death was noon, correct?”

 

“Er…” I start, unsure of her point, “I do not believe so, unless I misheard as well!” At this, I give a weak laugh.

 

> Stuffed Wounds

 

> Wounds on Corpse

 

I look down at my Electro ID, raising an eyebrow in question. Kirigiri merely shrugs, standing up to move to the other side of Chihiro’s body. “Something tells me her stab wounds may be used as evidence when it comes down to it.” I nodded absently… what did she mean?

 

She delicately begins smoothing out Chihiro’s cardigan, as if looking for something. Frowning, she inspects closer. “There’s heel marks on her.”

 

I snap to attention. “What!” I leaned forward. “How is that possible? That would leave--”

 

“--footprints. Yes, I know. Chihiro would’ve had to have been beaten heavily prior to being stabbed multiple times. As if they wanted her to suffer.”

 

I frowned. The new motive had been enticing, but… “Chihiro-kun was a girl,” I lied, “the motive called for the extermination of a male mastermind. So--”

 

Kirigiri frowned, biting her lip. As I spot her uneasiness, I stop. “Ah, are you okay, Kirigiri-kun? You appear to be a bit unwell--”

 

“I’m fine,” she replied, as cool as always. “But…” she paused. After a moment, she starts to inspect Chihiro’s lower half.

 

“Ah, wait, Kirigiri-kun!” I grasp Kirigiri’s shoulder in a fit of panic, trying to pull her away. “You just mentioned respecting the dead, perhaps you shouldn’t--”

 

Kirigiri slaps my hand off her shoulder, continuing her investigation. After a moment, she pulls her hand away, satisfied. “As I suspected,” she began, “Chihiro Fujisaki was male after all… that must mean the culprit must have known she was a he .”

 

“You suspected Chihiro-kun was a male? How did you--”

Kirigiri simply smiled, “you don’t seem surprised to hear that Fujisaki-kun was indeed a male. Is it possible you knew?”

 

I froze, mouth still in mid-motion. Shoot, she’s right, I shouldn’t of known… that’ll make me even more suspicious!

 

Still, Kirigiri had done something too -- something I don’t know if she had an excuse for --

 

“You just said Fujisaki-kun,” I started, brows furrowed, “normally people don’t switch that easily between honorifics after just finding out something. It wouldn’t make sense… you don’t seem surprised either.”

 

Kirigiri lifted her eyebrow, a small smile tugging at her lips. “Ah… you’re more observant than I had pegged you for --” that must be the only time I had received that compliment! “-- yes, to confirm your suspicions, I have known Fujisaki-kun was a male for a few days now. As have you. Naegi-kun and I overheard your conversation, but that is about all the information that you’ll be getting out of me right now.”

 

I sighed contently. Well, now that that was out of the way…! -- wait --

 

“And no,” Kirigiri lifted her hand, halting my next words, “neither Naegi-kun nor I were the killer. First of all,” she gestures to the footprints on the corpse, redirecting my attention. “The heels shown on these footprints are wide and flat . The upper part of the shoe isn’t visible, so it isn’t quite possible to determine the shoe-owner who committed the murder. However, it is clearly still a heel mark, due to the slight dirt marks over the bruising, plus the oddly defined shape of the bruises in the first place. I don’t know about you, but I can not think of a single thing that would’ve made such a distinct shape.” She gestures at Chihiro’s legs, drawing my attention to the bruises once more. “Naegi-kun doesn’t have heels, and my heels are pointed and small,” she pauses, peering at my face. “Does that answer all of your questions?” she asks after a moment’s silence.

 

I nod once, eyes wide.

 

“Good,” with that, Kirigiri stands up, typing on her Electro ID once again. “Now, clearly as you can see your room was not the scene of the crime. It is completely spotless.”

 

I look around, eyeing the decorations adorning the walls. They look as new as the day I created them, not stained with blood in the slightest. The floor, other than the spots now stained with Chihiro’s blood, was completely dry and stainless.

 

> Heel Marks on Corpse

 

> Spotless at Location of Corpse’s Discovery

 

Kirigiri bends down once more. “Now, of course, we can’t forget this…” she gently touches the knife embedded into Chihiro. She gives it a slight tug, before cautiously beginning to take the knife out of his body.

 

“Ah, Kirigiri-kun, I’m not quite sure…” Kirigiri holds her free palm up, a single finger raised as if to silence me. I quietly mumble, as low as I can go, “i-is that really necessary?”

 

Apparently my words are still loud enough to be heard by Kirigiri. She snaps her head to me, irritation lining her facial muscles. “Of course it’s necessary!” she growled, “what, do you think I’m just doing this for fun?”

 

“Ah no, sorry!”

 

Kirigiri takes a deep breath, slowly letting her nerves relax. “Very well,” she stated, indifferent and cool in a second flat. The knife finally finds itself completely extracted from Chihiro. Kirigiri holds it out in front of her, observing its’ design.

 

“As I thought…” she began. After a moment, she looks up at me, holding the knife out. “What does this look like to you?”

 

I gulp, suddenly feeling put on the spot! Carefully, I take the knife from her hands, holding it up to my eyes. What does it look like… ah! The curvature, the metal, the handle; it had the telltale signs of--

 

“A kitchen knife!” I shout out, quite pleased with my findings!

 

Kirigiri nods approvingly. “Exactly. If my suspicions are correct, if we were to travel to the kitchen then I’m sure we would discover a knife missing from the knife block.”

 

I vigorously nod along with her, a smile splitting my face into two parts. Ah, I felt so productive right now! “Great intuition, Kirigiri-kun!”

 

Kirigiri doesn’t respond, standing up and dusting off her skirt. “Now, we should get going.” She gestures for me to follow her to which I obey, wordlessly standing and striding to her position by the door. She looks over her shoulder at Naegi, who is laid on the floor next to Chihiro’s body, crutches laid flat next to him, prodding at the boy’s corpse. “Naegi-kun,” she calls, just loud enough for Naegi and I to hear.

 

The luckster snaps his head up, eyes losing their usual shine. “Yes, Kirigiri-san?”

 

“After you’re done looking over the corpse, I suggest you head to the kitchen. You may end up finding something there that interests you.” Naegi nods, turning his attention back to Chihiro’s body once more.

 

Kirigiri stops outside of my bedroom door, throwing a weary glance towards the lock. “Ishimaru-kun…” she trailed off, perhaps contemplating her next words, “try to lock your door.”

 

“Uhm, I’m not really sure that is necessary, Kirigiri-kun! After all, people are still--”

 

She turns sharply to me, pointing a finger straight at the door knob. “Try to lock the door. If you do not adhere to such a simple task, I don’t know how you expect for me to even think about starting to trust you.”

 

I pause, contemplating -- I am not a trustworthy person! But perhaps I could begin to try to be… “Very well!” I agreed, closing my door and digging my key out of my pocket. “But I don’t understand exactly what you hope to accomplish by doing this…” I feel the familiar jingle of the keys as they exit my pocket… I try to turn it into the lock, only for it to suddenly get stuck in it. I furrow my eyebrows. “What?” I take the keys out, reinsert them, then find myself stuck with the same problem. “I… I don’t quite understand!”

 

Kirigiri puts a hand on my shoulder, edging me away from the door. I back away, bemused at the entire situation. She opens the door slightly, darts in, then disappears for a long moment. After a few more seconds, she exits once more, sighing slightly. “As I thought…”

 

I inquire, “as you thought?”

 

Cradling her chin in her hands, she walks towards Chihiro’s room. “Fujisaki-kun’s keys are missing from his person.”

 

Oh no… I look suspicious again , don’t I? “I-It wasn’t me!” I pushed, “I didn’t murder him!”

Kirigiri nods, “save your argument for when the class trial comes. Only then will we determine who the true culprit is.”

 

oOo

 

Chihiro’s room was an absolute and horrific mess. After walking inside, Kirigiri stops to stare curiously at the door; odd considering the fact that everything else was so much more obscene and disturbing! She chose the most basic thing to be fascinated over… I suppose I should expect nothing else of quite a famed detective! After a few moments, she merely murmurs, “the door is unlocked.”

 

Not knowing quite what to stay, I vouch for silence.

 

Kirigiri turns to look at me after a moment, her arms crossed and face rigid. “Doesn’t that seem a bit odd to you?”

 

“Is it supposed to?” I questioned, “after all, my door was unlocked! Perhaps Chihiro-kun simply forgot to lock the door after they left, much like how I forgot to lock my door!”

 

Pointing a gloved finger at the door she demands, “try to lock this door!”

 

I back away, suddenly feeling fear for whatever strange reason. “W-Why? That is completely unnecessary! Surely you don’t--”

 

She doesn’t relent, “try to lock the door, Ishimaru!” I scramble with the keys resting absently in my pocket, nodding frantically. After exiting the room, Kirigiri right behind me, I slam the door, try to slide the key into the lock, and--

 

It works.

 

I gasp for breath, eyes blown wide and gaze unrelenting. No way… I really do look like the suspect now! How had -- I’m not --

 

“You’re really making it hard for me to start to trust you, Ishimaru-kun,” sighed Kirigiri. From where I stand, I can practically feel her imposing energy -- unwavering and resilient.

 

I can’t find it in myself to attempt to turn around and save face. Instead, I clench my knuckles white and suck in a deep breath. “T-This is all a misunderstanding! I don’t know how this even came to be! I swear on my life, I did not kill Chihiro!”

 

Kirigiri comes to stand beside me. I feel her presence and aura, but I can not find the will in myself to resolutely come to face her. The normal anxiety I felt was hard enough, to face it as a suspect accused of murder was nearly unfathomable!

 

I settle with, “you misunderstand, Kirigiri-kun! I did not kill him! I did not -- I could never kill him!”

 

Kirigiri lets out a heavy sigh. “This all does seem a bit too convenient…”

 

Still, I cannot find the resolve in myself to face her. I stupidly utter, “ huh? ”, only to mentally slap myself for my idiocy and cursed lack of eloquence!

 

“There is a very good chance that you may end up being the killer of Fujisaki-kun after all… but my gut says that there is something more to this case than what we currently see…” at this, Kirigiri sighs once more, heading into Chihiro’s room alone. I stare after her, mouth gaped and eyebrows lifted. After a moment, I snap back to the rigid expression that I often so carefully fixed upon myself! I must look foolish otherwise…

 

When I enter after Kirigiri, I stop to notice her knelt on the floor next to a pile of metal. She seems to be tapping into her Electro ID--

 

> Swapped Keys

 

> Fragments of Alter Ego

 

I freeze, staring at the screen in front of me… Alter Ego… Chihiro’s last creation… had been destroyed? Sure enough, as Kirigiri shifted through the metal fragments next to a mysterious puddle of still-wet blood, I could barely make out the fragments of a laptop. I felt an unruly amount of anger rise within my veins, and a certain heat began to overtake my face. “Why would they…” -- wait -- “did you know that Alter Ego would be destroyed?”

 

Kirigiri was silent for a moment, carefully navigating through the pieces scattered on the floor. After another minute, she finally speaks up, “I had the inkling of a suspicion,” she stated, “a while before Maizono-san stated that she had spoken to Fujisaki-kun, I had also met with him. Contrary to what Maizono-san said, he didn’t seem frightened in the slightest. He was carrying a relatively large backpack, and he spoke about being in a hurry to meet with someone…” If I had not been staring pointedly at the broken remains of Alter Ego, I would not have noticed Kirigiri’s fist tightening around a chip of metal. “Once Fujisaki-kun’s body had been discovered, I had a very strong gut feeling that it had been Alter Ego that had been in Fujisaki-kun’s backpack.”

 

I nod my head. “And that’s why we didn’t immediately go over to check in with Alter Ego about who the culprit was.”

 

“That, and--” pausing for a moment, Kirigiri stands up and looks at me, “--it would be awfully suspicious to suddenly disappear into the sauna during a murder investigation, wouldn’t you think?”

 

“I suppose so…”

 

Kirigiri brings out her Electro ID once more, typing away into it.

 

> Kirigiri’s Account

 

She looks around the room, her eyebrows narrowing substantially. After her rather perturbed expression, I also look around the room. Everything seemed spotless. Other than a neat pile of blood lying on the floor, there were practically no signs of struggle in the room.

 

“If Chihiro-kun was murdered here, he didn’t put up much of a fight…” I offered dryly. Honestly, I felt disappointment rise within me. Chihiro still hadn’t become physically strong by any means or in any which way, but somewhere in me I had truly hoped that Chihiro would’ve fought for his life…

 

Kirigiri hummed, “for such a grotesque murder scenario, I’m surprised… there isn’t even a blood trail that indicates that Fujisaki-kun may have tried to run away.” As those words leave her lips, I feel my resolve slowly begin to disintegrate… Chihiro…

 

“But,” she added, “that isn’t to say that Fujisaki-kun was too weak to stand up for himself.” Shocked, I look up to peer at her. How had she known to say that… was I that obvious? Kirigiri faces rather pointedly away from me. After a moment, she brings out her Electro ID, tapping into it once more.

 

> Lack of Signs of Struggle

 

> Single Blood Puddle

 

“Nevertheless,” she casts another glance around the room. “I don’t think there is anything left for us to examine here…” for a second, her eyes drift and land on a single blood stain staining the wall.

 

“... what? ” she questions, moving towards it. She reaches up to touch it, gently dabbing it. She pulls back, staring at her glove for a hard minute, then back to the stain. “... it’s old. Much older than that puddle of blood.”

 

oOo

 

Naegi had to admit, crutches were awfully hard to move around on. He hadn’t ever used crutches in his life, much less broken a bone, so that might’ve been part of the problem.

 

Nevertheless, as per Kirigiri’s request, he hobbled his way towards the kitchen, passing just in time to spot a disgruntled Leon Kuwata exiting the nurse’s office.

 

Mentally, Naegi screamed for mercy. Physically, Naegi simply gave a tight-lipped smile to the young baseball player. He was under Monobear’s despair , justified Naegi, he didn’t have much control over his own actions… that’s why…

 

Kuwata stumbled out into the open space, gripping his head tightly all the while. After a moment he stops, blinks, then proceeds to stare straight at Naegi with the force of a thousand ever burning suns.

 

To be frank, Naegi was scared shitless.

 

“K-Kuwata-kun!” laughs Naegi, a buildup of sweat erupting under his pits, “are you feeling any better? You’ve been out a while!”

 

Kuwata narrows his eyes. “Naegi?” he questioned, “why are you on crutches? … and more importantly, why did I wake up to find myself drooling in the nurse’s office?”

 

Naegi couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. He didn’t remember… thank god . “I just had a little… accident! ” Kuwata merely stares at him.

 

“You’re bad at being lucky.”

 

Naegi squeaks the tiniest bit. It was true, but Kuwata was a bit… blunt. “Yeah, hahaha… anyways… do you know what’s going on?”

 

Kuwata squints. “No?”

 

Ah, shoot… that meant he had to deliver the bad news… he had already seen the result of Kuwata’s anger earlier, who's to say it won’t be unleashed now? After a moment of harsh deliberation, he takes a deep breath and in one fluid statement says, “Fujisaki-san is dead.”

 

Kuwata simply stares at Naegi. His mouth opens and closes like a fish out of water, completely and utterly shocked in every sense of the word. Naegi could easily sympathize. They had already lost so many friends already, and for Fujisaki of all people to fall victim…

 

“T-That chick? What happened?”

 

Naegi once again takes a breath, considering whether or not to give Kuwata the full rundown of everything they had discovered or leave it to him to figure out for himself. Of course, Naegi knew that the former option was much less… jerk ish of him, so he deliberately explained everything that had occurred over the past couple hours to Kuwata, bar the part where Kuwata had actively tried to murder Naegi.

 

“Woah…” he murmured, obviously shaken at the knowledge. “The class trial’s gonna start soon, right? I guess that means I should go see if they need help with anythin’... maybe Sayaka does…” without even a goodbye, Kuwata turns and proceeds to head directly for the dormitories. Naegi sadly stares after him… everyone was taking the recent death to heart it appears. Fujisaki was such a kind soul… and he had helped with so much, too!

 

After a quiet moment of mourning, Naegi heads straight for the kitchen. It had been an awfully long time since the investigation started; they were sure to start the class trial soon!

 

Immediately, Naegi swings towards the knife block. Like he thought… two knives are missing. It was already a known fact by this point that Ishimaru and Togami had tried to kill each other. That means that one of them had more than likely used a knife. So the other one must be the one embedded in Chihiro…

 

> Missing Knife

 

Turning around, Naegi takes a quick look around the kitchen once more. Everything else seemed in order… Kirigiri had mentioned that he may find something in the kitchen area rather interesting… what could…?

 

As he passes a small wastebasket near the corner of the kitchen, Naegi chances a curious glance inside… only to stop dead in his tracks.

 

Lying inside the wastebasket laid a perfectly porcelain white tea cup, stained only with blood and the remnants of coffee. Curiously, Naegi digs into the basket, bringing the tea cup into his palm. He takes a sniff of it, only to immediately wince away. It definitely smelt like coffee… but also of blood. Metallic, foul-smelling blood.

 

Now only one question lingered: why would a teacup be stained with blood? Given the recent events, it was likely Fujisaki’s blood… but what could--

 

Poison!

 

Of course! The coffee would definitely disguise the smell of poison! That old, faded line of blood dripping from Fujisaki’s mouth had seemed so out of place; so old in comparison to all of the other injuries that he had! Fujisaki had been poisoned first! That means that all the other injuries he donned would’ve had to have occurred postmortem!

 

He quickly dug his Electro ID out of his bag, ready to lock the evidence into the clues category of case #4, when the screen of his Electro ID went completely black. He furrowed his eyebrows, sporadically tapping on the screen, when a metallic, unforgettable voice echoed over the loudspeakers.

 

“The investigation period is now over! Please head over to the elevator on the first floor to begin the class trial!”


 

Chapter Text

The elevator was solemn, quiet and empty. Someone was missing. Chihiro was a given, but even more so… there was someone still alive who I hadn’t seen for quite a while--

 

“Ya-whoo! It’s Syo here!”

 

Ah, right…

 

My eyes meet Syo’s in a hurry, a frown etched onto my face. Genocider Syo appears after Fukawa witnesses blood… but then again, given the state of Chihiro’s body, it would be awfully hard for Fukawa to kill someone so brutally without immediately passing out. It is also possible that Fukawa just sneezed, but why would Syo wait so long to make an appearance? Even Fukawa dilly-dallying and avoiding the crime scene would make a lot more sense. I am confused!

 

Togami snorted, lifting his glasses up the bridge of his nose, eyes closed and unseeing. “You took an awfully long time to appear, didn’t you?” He peered at Syo, dare I say curiously, “do you have something to hide?”

 

Syo shook her head ecstatically, her tongue hanging upside down out of her mouth flaccid while her cheeks took on a red tinge. “Nothing at all, Master! You know I wouldn’t hide anything from you!” She stalks forward into the elevator. Almost subconsciously, I back away from her approaching form. She gives me a sly wink, grinning, before turning to Byakuya once more. That is odd… “Soooo? Who died this time?” She glanced around once more, “oh? That little minx?”

 

Unable to take anymore of the tension, I blurt, “enough of this! All I want to do is find Chihiro-kun’s killer! And what I want to know, fellow classmate--” I point at her, “--is why you decided to keep us all waiting!” How rude!

 

Syo absentmindedly twirls scissors around her two forefront fingers, a wide smile stretching her face. “I don’t know! All I know is that it is so refreshing to be away from Gloomy for a little while! She’s so stuffy!”

 

It takes all the willpower within me not to give her the nastiest glare I can conquer up. Despite her so clearly disrespecting Chihiro’s memory with her lollygagging and insolence, I cannot bare to be rude to a fellow classmate! I am better than that!

 

Before I can say the first thing that comes to mind, Kirigiri jumps in, “to be away from her?” she questioned. I give her a curious glance. Is that important? “Aren’t you two still the same person?”

 

Syo points her scissors at Kirigiri. Acting almost purely on instinct, I march forward to tug the scissors out of her hands, but Naegi quickly puts his hand on my shoulder, stopping me in my tracks. “Don’t compare me to her! She’s so boring and ugly and gloomy! I’m so much better than her!” She turns to Togami, foaming at the mouth (how unsanitary!), “isn’t that right, Byakuya-sama?”

 

Togami tsks, “both of you are equally annoying to me.”

 

“Byakuya-sama!”

 

Kirigiri sighs, rolling her eyes. “I suppose your current situation will be a point of interest in the approaching class trial. We shouldn’t keep Monobear waiting.”

 

oOo

 

“Blah blah blah, class trial, whodunnit, the blackened, capisce?” drilled Monobear, waving his free hand (paw?) absentmindedly as his other one was driven deep into a vat of honey.

 

“Wait, Monobear-san, aren’t we going to find out if Fujisaki-san was the mastermind?” questioned Maizono, a finger tapping delicately on her chin, obviously perplexed with the whole proceedings of the trial.

 

Togami gave a deep sigh. When I turned to look at him, I found him to be replicating his typical pose; one slender finger pushing up his glasses while his free arm curved around his body. “Obviously she wasn’t. Fujisaki-san was a female , remember?”

 

Maizono frowned. “Well yes, I remember that, but why would anyone murder her if she wasn’t even a male to begin with? Perhaps it is because of Monobear’s tricks?”

 

Monobear stood atop his throne, claws out and teeth bared. “Excuse you! I’m an honest bear!” Suddenly calm, he sits back down. “And no, Fujisaki was not the mastermind! Now, class trial time, commence!”

 

Kuwata decides to speak up, “well obviously it was Ishimaru, right?”

 

I freeze. Oh gods, not again! “I’m not the killer of Chihiro-kun! I… I could never--

 

“Awful coincidence then that Fujisaki was found in your room, huh? I think--”

 

“Enough!” demanded Kirigiri. In less than a second, Kuwata’s next words die in his throat, possibly due to the absolute menacing, violet glare Kirigiri sent his way. “We should begin with the state of the corpse.”

 

Apparently obtaining his second wind, Kuwata says, “why is it always you who decides what we do next? I think it’s pretty obvious who the culprit is!”

 

“Kuwata-kun,” began Naegi, “I realize you weren’t conscious when we discussed why Ishimaru-kun couldn’t be the culprit, but--”

 

“It’s not that he couldn’t be the culprit,” interrupted Kirigiri, calmly tucking her hair behind her ear. “It’s that it would be odd for him to make himself that suspicious, but then again--” at this, she gave me an icy stare, “--it could all be a ruse.”

 

“Kirigiri-san,” started Naegi, “you believe he’s the culprit too?”

 

Kirgiri frowned. “I don’t know. I have two culprits in mind currently, but I must narrow them down. You understand, right Naegi-kun?”

 

Naegi nodded. “Well… onto the body. It appeared that Fujisaki-san was stabbed brutally multiple times and finished off with a stab to the chest.”

 

Maizono coughed softly. “Isn’t that a bit of overkill? Why didn’t they finish her off soon and put her out of her misery? Especially since it would’ve been impossible for her to be the mastermind.”

 

Kirigiri simply stared at Maizono, an empty gaze. I felt as though she wished to tell her the truth, but might’ve been wary. For what reason, I couldn’t exactly pinpoint. Nevertheless, if I must--

 

“Chihiro-kun wasn’t a female!”

 

… Silence. At my classmates’ wide gazes, I realize how badly I may have just messed up. One: I may have just further incriminated myself, and two: I’m sure that Chihiro wouldn’t of wanted to have been outed as a male like this!

 

“Um…” I pause, peering at my classmates’ faces. Some have their eyebrows drawn low, while some have their lips pulled back. What does that mean? “Uh… j-just kidding!”

 

“Bull,” spat Leon, fists gripping the podium in front of him with a rather intense ferocity,“how do you know that Fujisaki wasn’t a chick?”

 

“I retract from my statement! I wasn’t thinking!” For possibly the first time in my life, I genuinely regret wearing my school uniform. It is rather thick, and I’m sure the whiteness of the fabric makes my sweat appear through it easily. They’ll think I’m nervous… “Um, but another thing about the state of the corpse--!”

 

“Stop changing the topic.” Togami. “You’re clearly avoiding the subject. You have something to hide, don’t you?”

 

“N-No, I--!”

 

“Stop bullshitting us!” Kuwata.

 

“I swear I’m not--!”

 

“Oo, is Eyebrows the killer now? And the killer of a crossdresser? How juicy!” Syo.

 

“W-What?”

 

“Stop!” Maizono… “Ishimaru-kun has been one of the only people to have full trust in all of us from the start! And… and you all…” from what I can observe from my position, I swear that I see a tear roll down her face, “you guys are doing exactly what the mastermind wants!”

 

“Perhaps your friendship with him is causing you to be naive,” mused Togami, “to be expected from a pop idol.”

 

Maizono shakes her head, arms wrapped tightly around her skinny body. “There’s no way Ishimaru-kun would’ve done something like this! I know how close Fujisaki-san and him were! He would’ve never been able to kill her… him.”

 

“What if that was just an act?” lamented Togami, “it is possible for people to act a certain way, I hope you realize.”

 

“Yes, I know that, but…” finally, Maizono sighed, giving the idol-esque smile that I had grown so familiar and fond of. “We’re talking about Ishimaru -kun.” Is that an insult or a compliment? It’s just my name… unless she is referring to the shame of the Ishimaru family?

 

“You do have a point…” agreed Leon.

 

“Erhm, excuse me for interrupting, classmates, but I am afraid to admit that I do not quite understand! What does my name have to do with anything? I’m quite sure my grandfather has nothing to do with this!”

 

“... what?”

 

“--anyways! Now that I am in the clear, I believe we should continue discussing the case!”

 

“We never agreed that you weren’t the killer!” snapped Togami, “but in order to further explore this trial, I suppose that would be best.”

 

Kuwata snickers, “yeah, we all know how it’s going to end up anyways, right, Ishimaru?” At a look from Maizono, he holds up his hands palms outwards in defense. “Sorry, Sayaka, but I don’t think we can just go off of gut feeling. You understand, right? I mean, no one can be as perfect as Ishimaru is supposed to be, right?”

 

In order to quell any further arguments, I give a rather large, slightly hoarse cough. “--Chihiro-kun’s stab wounds were also stuffed with paper towels, like he was being transferred somewhere immediately after being killed!”

 

Naegi nodded. “He was most likely stabbed in his room and then immediately transported to Ishimaru-kun’s room.” Naegi scratches his chin. His mouth opens and closes -- like he might want to say more -- but right afterwards he holds his head in his hands, eyes squinted and nose scrunched up. “Sorry… I’m still a bit concussed.”

 

“It’s alright, Naegi-kun! You’re trying your best!”

 

“Thanks Maizono-san…”

 

Kirigiri clears her throat, effectively drawing our attention to her lavender eyes. “It is also noteworthy to mention that the killer would’ve had to have known that Ishimaru-kun and Togami-kun were meeting up, by that logic. That, or…” Kirigiri stares straight at me, “perhaps the killer had had Fujisaki in Ishimaru’s room from the get-go.”

 

“So… what you’re suggesting is that Ishimaru locked Chihiro-kun in his room and just acted surprised when he found the body?”

 

Kirigiri held up her hand, silencing Kuwata. “I’m not suggesting anything like that. In fact, it is a theory without basis, considering the fact that the blood in Fujisaki’s room was recent, meaning that the killer would’ve had to have stabbed and transported Fujisaki at around the time the body was found, meaning it would’ve been near impossible for Ishimaru-kun to transport Fujisaki-kun’s body unless he managed to do it right before Togami-kun arrived at his door for their duel .”

 

“So Ishimaru isn’t the culprit?”

 

Kirigiri pinched the gap between her eyebrows, takes a big gulp of air, and proceeds to straight up ignore Leon’s inquiry. That’s mighty rude… “No, I’m not saying that.” Oh. “What I’m saying is that someone transported and stabbed the body at curfew. That also means that he was likely to have been murdered by another mean other than stabbing. In fact--” at this, she taps into her Electro ID, bringing up an image on the TV screens littering the courtroom ( more screens than the normal amount, actually…) . The picture contains Chihiro’s dead body, but it appeared zoomed in on the heel marks littering the upper half of Chihiro’s frame.

 

Kirigiri continues, “from this, it can be concluded that Fujisaki-kun was beaten heavily prior to being stabbed. Perhaps that is what killed him.”

 

“Er… actually…” the timid voice of Naegi Makoto suddenly speaks up, distant and quiet, yet as he continues speaking, he begins to sound strangely firm and resolute. How can a human being have all of those features at once? “I don’t think that Fujisaki-kun was killed through that.”

 

Togami scoffs, “oh, what, you think you have something better? Please, do tell!”

 

“Yes, please do tell!” copied Syo, a bright red blush lighting up her features. “I love hearing the juicy facts about this case! It’s getting me so excited.”

 

Naegi merely stared at the serial killer for a long moment. “... erm, right. Anyways! As you can see here…” from his own Electro ID, he manually controls the image appearing on the screen, choosing to instead focus on the dried blood stain running down Chihiro’s chin. “All of the blood on the rest of Fujisaki-kun’s body is new and fresh, as it was inflicted post-mortem. However, the blood on Fujisaki-kun’s chin is dried, indicating that, for whatever reason, he most likely coughed out blood from a different sort of trauma.”

 

Maizono hums, “that’s a big conclusion to jump to. Do you have any other evidence? As far as I’m aware, as long as there is internal bleeding then it’s possible for blood to trail up the throat and be coughed out.”

 

“Well, yes,” agreed Naegi, scratching his cheek, “but I have evidence!”

 

Togami scoffs, raising his eyebrows and pointing at Naegi, “do you now? Show us then.”

 

“Erm… thing is… I don’t have it with me… or on the Electro ID, for that matter...”

 

… “what?” I asked, rather dumbly if I might add! “Why did you not store the evidence in the Electro ID, Naegi-kun? Surely it was vital to the case!”

 

“Y-Yes, but I have a valid excuse!” Seeing that he has received our undivided attention, he fidgets for a second before continuing, “as soon as I found the evidence, the class trial started! Any access to Electro IDs was terminated and there’s no way I would’ve been able to fit a teacup anywhere on me!”

 

“A teacup?” mused Syo, “oh! Oh! Did they smash it over his head? Or perhaps did they make him choke on its’ shards?”

 

Ignoring Syo, Naegi continues, “it wasn’t a huge one in particular, but still far too big to stuff in my pocket. It had some little remnants of coffee in it, but also of blood. It had been filled with poison!”

 

“Isn’t it kind of convenient that the class trial just so happened to begin right as you found ‘evidence’ that may turn this entire case around?” began Leon, “I’m startin’ to think you might be the culprit now!”

 

“--that’s impossible,” cuts in Kirigiri. “Naegi-kun may be onto something when he suggests poison was the ultimate killer. After all, Fujisaki-kun’s corpse gave no indication of choking on his own blood.”

 

I furrow my brows. What? “What does that have to do with anything?”

 

She turns to me, a frown on her lips and a crease in her brow. “If he was indeed being beaten to death, it would be safe to assume that he would’ve been laying down. However, if that were the case, then as soon as the internal bleeding began he would’ve immediately began to choke and drown in his own blood. Of course he possibly could’ve been lying on his side, but given the fact that most of the heel marks on him seem to be direct impact and straight, then it is safe to assume that that wasn’t the case. Besides…” she continued, “that would explain the lack of struggle in his room.”

 

“That is true,” mused Maizono, “but it was warned against to take food or drinks from others when we first discovered the poison in the chemistry lab. Why would Fujisaki-kun go against that?”

 

Naegi decided to pick up where Kirigiri left off, “the killer was probably someone who Fujisaki-kun trusted to not hurt him. It is also likely that Fujisaki-kun didn’t even suspect he could be killed, because no one except Ishimaru, as far as he knew, knew that he was a boy.”

 

“So you’re saying that the killer is someone who Fujisaki-kun didn’t know knew that he was a guy?” inquired Kuwata, “isn’t it just easier to pin the blame on Ishimaru? He seems like the most likely culprit.” The nerve of this guy!

 

Before I could get out a word, Togami beat me to it,“not when our lives are on the line, you insolent idiot!” he spat, gripping his podium, “if we’re going to play this game, at least play it right!”

 

“Don’t call this a game!” cried Maizono, “it’s wrong! Fujisaki-kun wasn’t a pawn in Monobear’s sick game--!”

 

“--hey!--”

 

Quickly, Kirigiri began to intervene, “okay, back to the case. It is also worthy to note that Alter Ego was broken in Fujisaki-kun’s room. I have reason to believe that Fujisaki was the one who brought the laptop in there with him, further signifying that Fujisaki must’ve had an extensive amount of faith and trust in his killer.”

 

At this, Naegi jumps, “w-what? What are you talking about? Are you saying that Fujisaki-kun agreed to meet up with someone and bring Alter Ego with?”

 

Kirigiri nods. “Shortly before Maizono-san’s account, I had an encounter of my own with Fujisaki-kun. He was wearing a backpack, and seemed to be in a hurry to be somewhere. Alter Ego must’ve been in the bag.”

 

“W-Well I’m sure the killer could’ve just gone to the sauna to get it, right?” asked Leon, hands outstretched, “come on! We all know who the killer is!”

 

For the first time, Mukuro decides to speak up, “I was close to the sauna all day. The only person I ever saw go inside of it was Fujisaki himself.” She spares Kirigiri a glance. “With a backpack.”

 

Kirigiri stares at Mukuro for a long moment. “What color was it?”

 

“White.”

 

Kirigiri hums, “that solves it, then…”

 

Togami intervenes, “solves what exactly?”

 

“Fujisaki-kun must’ve had a huge amount of faith in the killer. The question is, why on earth would Fujisaki-kun agree to bring Alter Ego when meeting with someone?”

 

“I actually have a question about that!” exclaimed Maizono, “if Alter Ego was such a reliable resource to us, and if Fujisaki-kun was the one who has been helping us all this time with him, why would they ever decide to destroy Alter Ego and kill Fujisaki?”

 

Naegi answers, “I’m sure that they didn’t want to risk being found out if it turns out they were wrong in their accusations of Fujisaki-kun. And as for why they killed him…” he leans on his crutches, back slumped down. “... they must’ve somehow figured out that he was a male after all. And they might’ve thought it would’ve been in Monobear’s bag of tricks to say a male was the mastermind when the male looked like a female . At least…” he pauses, “that’s how I would’ve thought of it.

 

“I suppose that makes sense…”

 

Kirigiri speaks up once more, “now that it is clear that Fujisaki trusted the killer, I believe we should continue by attempting to narrow down who the culprit was.” She pauses, staring evenly at every face in the courtroom. I swear the she looks at me just a fraction of a second longer than everyone else. “I don’t believe any of us had an alibi at noon today.”

 

“No… unfortunately I don’t,” sighed Maizono. “I don’t believe anyone did at curfew, either.”

 

Kirigiri nods. “That means that anyone could’ve committed the crime. And as for who mutilated the body… it would have to be either Maizono-san, Fukawa-san, or Ishimaru-kun.” She paused, evaluating our reactions. She was right to.

 

“H-Hold on!” yelled Kuwata, face turned red and veins protruding from his skull, “Sayaka? Are you fucking shitting me, dude?”

 

Togami takes a much calmer approach. “You mentioned the person who committed the crime and the person who mutilated the body as though they were separate people. Do you honestly believe that?”

 

Kirigiri averts her gaze. “It is possible.”

 

I clear my throat, aghast at her ignorance. “But Kirigiri-kun, the motive clearly stated that only one person could kill the supposed mastermind, with no outside help! Only one person would’ve been able to commit the murder!”

“Yes, only one person would’ve been able to commit it. The motive said that we couldn’t help eachother kill a person, but it never said that we couldn’t help eachother cover it up.” For a moment, all was quiet; surely everyone must’ve been processing her words! And as I mulled them around in my head, they began to make more and more sense. Flashes of the past day pass through my head, and suddenly all is clear.

 

“Maizono-kun took my room keys…” I muttered.

 

Maizono simply stares at me. “W-What? Ishimaru-kun, why would I ever switch your and Fujisaki-kun’s keys? Don’t be ridiculous!”

 

I stare right back at her. I feel the sick pang of betrayal course through my veins. She was trying to pin the blame on me all this time, wasn’t she? “Turn out your pockets. My keys will be in there.” Even to myself, I sound absolutely dead inside.

 

“My skirt doesn’t have--”

 

“Yes it does,” cut in Kirigiri, “if you have nothing to hide, why are you lying?”

 

“W-What about the actual serial killer here? She’s still suspicious; why aren’t we questioning her? ” Maizono points directly at Syo, who gives a sly little grin, “she’s has a lot more of a history with murder than I do! I’m a good person!” She pauses for a moment, looking grim, “besides! I didn’t even know Fujisaki-kun was a man!”

 

I close my eyes. I recall that day… “You did… you walked in on a conversation with Chihiro-kun and I and didn’t announce your presence. So it was easy for you to play it off like you didn’t hear anything, wasn’t it?” I feel the familiar feeling of tears begin to clog and burn my eyes. “You framed me.”

 

“Ishimaru-kun…” Maizono paused for a moment, “I-I didn’t…”

 

Kirigiri quietly speaks up a bit farther down the aisle. “Your actions speak louder than your words, Maizono-san… and as for Syo, it would’ve been impossible for her to commit the murder.”

Kuwata, for the first time since the start of the whole exchange, speaks up. He sounds strangely quiet as compared to his usual loud and ignorant nature. “H-Huh? Why’s that?”

 

“While it is true that the interval between the death and finding of the body plus the nearly bloodless murder would’ve made it possible for Fukawa to kill Fujisaki-kun, Genocider Syo would’ve awoken after Fukawa passed out, and seeing as they cannot speak to eachother, would’ve been unaware of Fukawa’s plan of killing Fujisaki-kun. For all she knew, Fukawa might’ve just passed out at the sight of a dead body. Because of that, she would’ve had no motive to mutilate the body. And before the collaboration theory is brought up, Fukawa would’ve never collaborated with anyone for fear of being turned against last minute.”

 

I clenched my teeth. Just as I thought. In a final desperate plea, I ask, “w-what if Genocider Syo would’ve been the one to commit the murder? Why would she not have been able to?”

 

Instead of Kirigiri’s voice, I jump in surprise at hearing Syo answer instead. “Oh, I wish I had! Crossdressers get me all hot and bothered! But unfortunately I had no idea Fujisaki was a man… if I had, errgh, I would’ve gotten a piece of that!”

 

Naegi turns to her. “H-How do we know you’re telling the truth?”

Togami answers on Syo’s behalf. “She only murders with her scissors. Besides, she’s sick enough that’d she take pride in murdering someone,” he pauses, “it’s the only thing I can find in myself to appreciate about her.”

 

“Master!”

 

“Gross.”

 

I turn the facts over in my mind. Ergh… perhaps I could harness my inner Kirigiri!

 

Kirigiri speaks up, “Syo, you mentioned that Fukawa was unconscious?”

 

“Yeah, and?”

 

“How does that work?”

 

“I dunno… Gloomy prolly hit her head or something. Whenever she faints she sometimes becomes unconscious for longer than usual, and then I’m in control finally! It’s such a relief! She is such a bore!”

“Perhaps she saw the culprit moving the body, then?” Naegi.

 

Kirigiri had mentioned there could’ve been someone who was trying to help cover it up… perhaps Maizono was helping with a cover up? Think, think, think… Who has been acting suspicious this whole time? Maizono during the day of the murder and investigation had been way too obvious and suspicious to actually be the culprit! For Christ’s sake, she’s an idol! She can act! She swapped the keys, she saw my box cutter -- she knew that I was going to be out at night because of that! Furthermore, she was the only one who could’ve known Chihiro’s true gender! But -- someone else has been acting weird! Who, who?

 

“I still think it’s Ishimaru, guys! We never exactly figured out why it wasn’t him!” … Leon Kuwata.

 

He’s the one who attacked Naegi, isn’t he? Yet he claims he doesn’t remember anything that happened before he was chloroformed… is he lying? Gah, I wish I was better at reading people! But I’m not a genius, I’m not someone with social skills, I’m not very good at anything and I’m a bad person!

 

… but Chihiro wanted to live on. No one else has noticed yet, no one else has caught onto the fact that the case was far too elaborate and coincidence-oriented to be done alone! I must avenge him! But… am I capable of doing that?

 

I search Maizono’s face. Tears stream down her face, smearing her makeup and causing her lips to tremble and her nose to drip. I gaze into her eyes -- she hasn’t noticed me. Her gaze seems empty, lost, but… it rings with determination!

 

“M-Maizono-kun…” I gasped, “you’re not the killer, are you?”

 

Maizono slowly shakes her head. “No… it’s alright, I’ve been backed right into a hole and I know it. It’s the least I can do to honor his memory, live up to my mistakes. I-I’m sorry, Ishimaru-kun!”

 

No…

 

No!

 

That’s a lie!

 

“I should’ve known… you’re far too innocent. It was just an act, wasn’t it?”

 

You’re falling for it!

 

“Maizono-san… really?”

 

It’s not her!

 

“Kyahahaha! Good job, sweet cheeks!”

 

Stop being so ignorant!

 

Monobear hops onto his feet, spinning around excitedly. “Alright, alright! Voting time! Whodunnit, who is the blackened, let’s fiiiind --”

 

“No!” The words come from my mouth before I can snatch them back. “We’re not ready! Maizono-kun isn’t the killer! We need to revisit this again, classmates!”

 

I looked to my left, only to find a lavender pair of eyes already on me. She nodded, took a deep breath, and -- “the bat that Kuwata-kun used was splattered with blood, Naegi-kun.” Kirigiri.

 

It wasn’t the most definitive evidence, but...

 

The entire courtroom was silent for a good moment. After another, both Maizono and Kuwata simultaneously yelled--

 

“It wasn’t him!” -- “it wasn’t me!”

 

Kuwata leaned forward, teeth bared and eyebrows drawn low. “Like you know shit! The bat only became splattered with blood when I kept hitting Naegi, you dumb bitch! I didn’t kill that dude, so shut the fuck up!”

 

“I thought you said you couldn’t remember what happened before you were chloroformed.”

 

All is quiet for a moment. Kuwata’s face suddenly begins to slacken, drawing into a low, open-mouthed scowl. “I-I-”

 

“He just remembers now!” insisted Maizono, “he didn’t kill Fujisaki-kun! I did! I’m telling you, I did it!”

“... why do you want to die, Maizono-kun?” I find myself asking, “why… why do you want to take us all down with you?”

 

She’s silent.

 

“Maizono-kun?” Her face twists and turns, and eventually she turns to face Leon, a deep, resentful frown situated on her face.

 

“He’s might have a point… why am I defending you?”

 

Kuwata bolts up straight, wide eyes staring at her. “W-What do you mean? Sayaka! We… we agreed on this, we decided this was for the best!” Silence. “S-Sayaka…” Tears begin to  stream from Kuwata’s eyes. “Please… please, I don’t want to die!”

 

Maizono, dead-eyed, stares at him. “I don’t think I want to either.” She clutches at her chest. “I don’t know what I was thinking… I wanted to see my bandmates so bad that I risked dying for a stupid boy…” she gasps, “is this what despair feels like? God, I want to die so badly, but… I-I can’t! I can’t die yet, Leon! They might still be out there!”

 

Kuwata sinks down to his knees. “Sayaka… this wasn’t the plan! We were supposed to get out together, why did you mess it up? You… you fucking bitch ! I’m dying because of this! Because of your stupid fucking plan! ” Maizono simply stares at him, eyes dry and mouth firm. “I fucking hate your guts you useless whore! You’ll burn in hell a lot longer than I will!”

 

She murmurs, “sorry.”

 

“Sorry doesn’t cut it! I’ll… I’ll kill you! I’ll escape from this, and I’ll fucking kill you!”

 

After a moment of deliberation, Maizono turns to the rest of us. “Let me start it from the beginning.

 

It all started out normal. I was going on my way to swim to keep in shape, and when I opened the door, I came in just in time to see Ishimaru-kun and Fujisaki-kun making their way out of the boys’ locker room, and of course at first I was shocked. I didn’t want Fujisaki-kun to know that I knew his secret, so I stayed put, and I heard the entire conversation -- I heard how scared he felt, how they were training together and, of course, I heard that Fujisaki-kun was a boy, which only confirmed my suspicions.

 

At first I brushed it off, because I felt like it wouldn’t really affect my normal life that much. But then… the motive came. Of course, my mind immediately jumped to the worst possible conclusion, and I figured that Fujisaki -kun was the one responsible for everything, because I felt as though it would be the person least expected. And so… I planned to kill him. What I didn’t account for was Leon coming to my room, to see me practically having a mental breakdown and full of murderous intent. I told him everything. From Fujisaki-kun being a boy to planning to frame Ishimaru.

 

Once I explained my reasoning, he was immediately encaptured by the idea of killing them both. He believed that one of them would have to be the mastermind. So that gave me an idea… I suggested to him that we try to kill all the boys in the school, in one way or another, in order to escape together. And he fell for it.

 

So we had a plan. We planned to ask Fujisaki-kun to come over at noon with Alter Ego, saying that we had an idea for some advancements on it. And he believed us and trusted us. So at noon sharp we arrived at his door, a cup of coffee in Leon’s hands. Normally it would’ve been a red flag to be offered a cup of coffee when neither of us had one, but I suppose Fujisaki-kun never thought about the possibility of two people attempting to kill him at once, seeing as it was against the rules.

 

However, we knew that since only Leon would be giving him the coffee, it would only count as him murdering Fujisaki-kun, so we weren’t technically going against any rules. So Fujisaki-kun sat down, opened up his laptop, took a drink of his coffee , and then immediately started choking on the poison. He faced the wall, and suddenly spat out a mouthful of blood, before falling to the ground dead. That was phase one. At this point, I had already left my keys in Ishimaru-kun’s room, so all we had to do was have Leon kill Naegi-kun and I could kill Togami-kun and then we would end up framing Ishimaru-kun for Fujisaki-kun’s death.

 

I went back to Ishimaru-kun’s room a bit later in the evening and swapped his and Fujisaki-kun’s keys, but that’s when I noticed how uneasy he looked, and I clearly saw the box cutter on his desk. See, I have a good intuition, and I had a really good feeling that Ishimaru-kun was going to try to kill someone. Of course Naegi-kun seemed like a bad choice, so I logically thought Togami-kun. So, without telling Leon, I decided on my own that I was going to wait until after Ishimaru-kun’s attempt to kill Togami-kun to strike. If Togami-kun turned up dead, then my job is done, but if he turned up alive then I would kill him. That was my plan.

 

So at about nine-thirty I proceed to try to mutilate Fujisaki-kun’s body. The purpose of this, as well as a lot of things we did, was to attempt to create confusion. After mutilating and stomping on the body, Leon comes with his bat and rolls it in the blood, once more to attempt to create mass confusion. It did incriminate him, yes, but seeing as he didn’t have any evidence traced back to him regarding the mutilation of Fujisaki-kun’s corpse, we thought that he would be in the clear.

 

During this period, Leon leaves to attempt to find and kill Naegi-kun. While he’s doing this, I stuff the wounds with paper towels in order to attempt to stop the blood, and soon after destroy Alter Ego to prevent any incriminating evidence from getting out. I proceed to try to bring Fujisaki-kun to Ishimaru-kun’s room, but unfortunately Fukawa-san happened to see me on the way, resulting in her passing out. So after depositing Fujisaki-kun in Ishimaru-kun’s room, I also drag Fukawa-kun into hers, before finally retreating to my own room to wait for further action.”

 

She stares evenly at all of us. After a moment, one in which I expect her to give her trademark smile, she breathes, “and that’s how it happened.”

 

Kuwata stares at the girl, fists clenching the podium in front of him. “Y-You asshole! Betrayer! Whore! Bitch! Cunt! You’ll burn in hell for this!”

 

Sayaka stares back at him, level. “As will you.”

 

Kuwata looks for a moment like he is about to charge forward, but after a long moment he simply slumps forward, clutching the podium like his life depended on it. His shoulders shake, and gross sobs suddenly fill the classroom. “I-I don’t wanna die! I wanted to be a musician, I wanted to --”

 

“Blah, blah, blah, we get it! You have a sob story!” chuckled Monobear, “now! Before I was so rudely interrupted! It’s voting time! Punch in your votes now !”

 

Kuwata stands up, lurching forward towards Monobear. “Hey! Hey, wait, I’m not finished yet!”

“Oh boooooo-hooo! Cry me a river, baseball!”

 

“H-Hey!”

 

As an array of choices appear before me, I look at Leon Kuwata’s. It stands on the top row, close to the far right. As I press it, I contemplate whether or not this means I’m killing someone as well.

 

Guilty: Leon Kuwata

 

Togami mutters, “well, we all knew that.”

Kuwata bares his fists towards him, “the fuck did you just say to me?” After a moment, he relents, staring at everyone situated around the courtroom. Silently, he stares at his podium. “Fuck…” he whispers, voice caught halfway in between a sob and a hiccup. After a moment, he holds his head up to the sky, screaming with all of his might, “FUUUUCK!”

 

Monobear swiveled in his chair, laughing a frightening and terrifying high-pitched squeaky chuckle. “Well, what can I say next? Upupupu, I know! IT’S PUNISHMENT TIME!


“No…” whispered Kuwata, “I can’t… Sayaka!” He turns to look at the idol, only to lay his eyes upon the sight of her looking away from him, hair covering her face and a single visible eye utterly lifeless.

 

“Bye, Leon…” she mumbled.

 

BATTER-UP, BATTER-UP!

 

Kuwata found himself stranded in the middle of a grassy, baseball-like field. His body was stuffed in a metal, circular object -- shaped like a baseball, obviously, but very cramped nonetheless. Four Monobear clones found themselves at each base, and one particularly hefty one stood in the center, towering over Kuwata.

 

After a long, agonizing moment, the pitcher suddenly lifted the Kuwata-ball and threw it full-force at first base. With a sickening crunch, the batter hit the ball with a metal bat and it shot at lightning-speed towards second base, then third, then homeroom, then back to first…

 

Suddenly, the ball appeared almost invisible -- it was hard to hear Kuwata’s screams over the sound of metal hitting metal and bone, over and over, over and over, over and over, over and over, until…

 

The metal ball suddenly dropped to the ground, rolling for all to see the horrific mess that lay inside. Horribly misshapen arms and legs and fingers and ribs rolled to a stop, revealing the bloodied mess that was once the Super High School Level Baseball Star.

 

I don’t think I’ll ever get that image out of my mind.

 

Silence.

 

Once again, everything was silent.

 

oOo

 

As soon as the elevator opened back to the main floor, Naegi realized just how deathly tired he was. He hadn’t slept at all today, and it must’ve been way past two in the morning by now. Plus, add that to the stress of almost being killed… it wasn’t very pretty.

 

Everyone dispatched the elevator, a particularly heavy tension surrounding everyone. Another one of their friends has fallen victim to Monobear’s game… what will come next? More death and despair? Despite Naegi’s best attempts to remain as hopeful as always, he couldn’t help the overwhelming sensation of imminent defeat.

 

Tears clogged his eyes and began to run down his cheeks.

 

Feeling a sudden gaze on the back of his neck, he turned around to find Kirigiri still waiting outside of the elevator. “H-Hi, Kirigiri-san!” he hastily wiped at his eyes, “w-why are you still here?”

 

Kirigiri stayed silent. She marched forward, and instead of leaving like Naegi fully expected her to, she launched her hand forward and took hold of his own. It didn’t feel particularly nice. Her leather glove was rather scratchy, and his hand was already starting to become sweaty. Despite that, Naegi welcomed the feeling, smiling earnestly at his friend.

 

“Kirigiri-san…” he whispered, “thank you for saving me.”

 

Kirigiri nodded, letting go of his hand finally. He felt himself deflate a bit for some odd reason unimaginable to him. “You’re welcome,” she finally said, “I just wanted to let you know…” At this, she leans in closer to his ear, “this game is about to come to an end.”

 

Naegi leaned in closer. “ What?

 

Backing away, Kirigiri spins on her heels and marches forward. She turns her head just enough towards Naegi so that only her lips are visible behind her lavender heel. “Monobear is running out of people, isn’t he?” At this, she turns her gaze sharply to him, staring up at a video camera right above his head. “Something tells me he won’t be able to do much after the next murder. And he won’t do anything.”

 

Naegi tries to take a step forward, but thinks better of it. “Are you saying that the next trial we have will be the last one?”

 

Kirigiri pauses for a moment, as if mulling the question over. Finally, she faces forward once more. “I don’t know.”

 

oOo

 

I lay in my bed, staring at my ceiling blankly. The world seems so much bleaker now. However, that’s unimportant…

 

I caused Maizono to go into despair, didn’t I?

 

It’s my fault, isn’t it?

 

I should just come out and say I’m the last mastermind already, shouldn’t I?

 

… wait.

 

I should do that! That’s it! That’s the magical remedy I seek; what will make everything and everyone better! I’ll die, but… that’s a small price to pay! I can’t allow myself to wreck havoc on this world anymore! At the next possible moment, I will--

 

* DING, DONG*

 

Sighing, I sit up. I suppose checking who it is wouldn’t hurt…

 

… Sayaka Maizono.

 

“Maizono-kun.”

 

“Ishimaru-kun.”

 

My eyes travel her face. Her eyes are just as lifeless as before. But what seemed the most strange was--

 

“You’re not smiling.”

 

Maizono nodded. She didn’t attempt to smile, but her eyes lit up the tiniest bit, and before I knew it tears were sliding down her face. “I-Ishimaru-kun! I’m so sorry… I didn’t want to…!”

 

“Who are you?”

 

Maizono freezes, a distraught expression plastered on her face. “W-What do you--”

 

I can’t help the tremble in my voice as I speak, lacking of the usual confidence I tried to exude. “You’re faking this, aren’t you? Tell me, Maizono-kun, are your tears real or fake?” I knew just how desperate I sounded. But… I needed something!

 

“... I don’t know.”

 

Frowning, I turn away from the idol. “Then please feel free to show yourself out.”

 

As she leaves, the turmoil of today catches up with me. Trembling and crying, I sink to the floor and scream at the top of my lungs, praying the walls were truly soundproof enough to block my yells and cries.

 

I need to tell them.

 

7 LEFT



 

Chapter Text

 

I lean back, gazing at the monitors laid before me.

 

Ah... this was just my luck, wasn't it?

 

Someone comes behind me. I feel the air on my back, and a rough, brutish pair of hands holding my face forward, lest I see my kidnapper's identity. I don't hear anything for a good while; he doesn't bother to take out my earplugs this time. I just feel his caresses and strokes, and I grin despite yourself.

 

"Oh, you're feeling great today, aren't you?" I ask. I can't hear myself, but a slightly-rough shove towards the computers makes it sure that I've gotten my point across. I want to look behind me desperately, to know the face of the man who took me months ago, but I quell that curiousity. Surely I am not deserving; a mere stepping stool is no match for someone capable of holding onto me for months! In most cases, my kidnappers would already be dead by some freak accident hours after retrieving me! Perhaps his luck is equal to or even outmatches my own? That'd be a miracle!

 

The man tugs the earplugs out of my ears. "How is the mastermind acting so far?" He speaks in a faux accent; a typical Japanese man putting on the disguised voice of an American tourist, maybe? Either way, I saw right through it.

 

I grin. "Oh, he is reacting quite impressively! I can't believe that someone like me has had the pleasure to see the birth of such a magnificent hope!" I sniffle. An impending cold? Oh, I suppose that is just the natural order of things!

 

"... you're fucked."

 

I furrow my brows. Is it wrong of me to embrace hope? Does he not? Hiding my thoughts, I put on a carefully planned, slight smile. "Hahaha! You must be right! Magnificent!"

 

After a moment, I hear the stomping of boots and the shuffling of files. If I so decided, I could easily turn behind me and see the face of him. Now is my chance. I wonder, what would be the consequence of so much good luck in one sitting? Who would die?

 

He speaks up, "Kiyotaka Ishimaru?"

 

"Yup!"

 

"How did he get involved with despair?"

 

I tap my chin. "Well... I don't know," I admitted, "he was suddenly in Enoshima-san's former duo one day. Ah, I'm sorry, I didn't pay too much attention! Trash like me was undeserving!" No more attention than a few odd glares, a sudden urge to discover the truth and maintain hope, observation of the rising despair levels that the three omitted, a desperation to protect Nanami and the rest of my classmates, even if it required blowing up my school a second time...

 

"Is that so?" I recognized his voice well. He was threatening me, wasn't he? "Are you sure about that?" I hear the click of a switch and the flicker of electricity. I tremble with anticipation. "Tell me how."

 

"I can't say." Pain. The sparks of the tazer courses through my veins and to the top of my fingertips then back. After a few seconds, the electricity is gone, and the harsh smell of a tobacco chewer's breath is on my neck.

 

"Are you sure?" A tear slips from my eye. Oh, that's strange. "You don't want to get the treatment again, do you?"

 

I stay put. "Ah, sorry, it looks like I still don't have an answer." I grin and gasp, "oh, what will you do to me now? What do I deserve now that I've gone and disobeyed you a second time?" The tendrils of darkness began to creep their way into my mind, twisting and turning the existing nerve endings into stakes and thorns and stabbed my brain until it bled no more. I didn't quite realize I had fallen onto the floor until I felt a kick in my side and a slap to my head.

 

"You're crazy." The man left after a moment's deliberation. I curl in on myself on top of the metal floor. Crazy is such a strong word. It might be true, but truly all I wished was to be a stepping stone for hope! Such despair will surely lead to a greater hope, so...!

 

I suppose aiding our little mastermind is a great despair-inducer! And lately he's been awfully hopeful, so obviously my strategy is true!

 

"Komaeda?" A crackle sounds from the speakers of the computers. Oh, he must've forgotten to put in my ear plugs! "Komaeda, I know you can hear me." Hm... ah! It must be one of the other aids!

 

I shuffle up onto my chair, press the call button, and slip on a stray headset. "Yes, Izuru-kun?" The security footage littering the monitors flickers out of existence, and the super high school despairs suddenly face the screen. Looking up, I notice the webcam on one of the monitors light up. "Ah, nice work, Souda-kun! How long have you been working on this?"

 

"I don't know... ten minutes?"

 

"Marvelous!"

 

"Let's get to it, dirtbag," spat Saionji. Her tall-ish strature struts towards the screen, "just what do you think you're doing?"

 

I tilt my head. "What do you mean?"

"Don't 'what do you mean?' me!" her eyes fill the screen. "You're messing with Junko's experiment! Just what is your aim?"

"My only aim is to bring hope out of despair, Saionji-san," I smile, "surely you understand?"

 

Izuru's red eyes fill the screen. I gasp in excitement, "Izuru-kun! How are you today?" He simply stares at me. I lean forward, staring desperately into his eyes. "Izuru-kun?"

 

He leans back, frowning. "Hm. How boring." Ah! He talked about me! How undeserving am I to be granted such a thing!

 

"How beautiful..."

 

Saionji butts in again, "point is, we want you to stop with Ishimaru! He's getting so annoying and whiny!" She points at me. "That's your fault, if you haven't guessed by now!"

I clutch at my chest. "That's so kind of you, Saionji-san!"

 

"You're so disgusting, you sicko!"

 

"K-Komaeda-san!" Mikan hobbles on screen, "please don't be so rash! I-I-Ishimaru-san isn't supposed to g-give into hope, remember?"

 

I scowl at her. "I truly detest you, Mikan-san." With a click, I end the call. As if on cue, he comes back into the room, picks up my ear plugs, and right as he is about to pluck them back into my ears – "no, don't burden yourself! Let me!" -- I pluck them in myself. After clicking on my handcuffs, he leaves finally, and it is back to silence.

The quiet is neverending, but much appreciated. I recline in my chair again, observing the security footage before me. Izuru seemed quite lively today, didn't he? Hm, hm... I wonder if he's feeling at all like Hajime Hinata anymore? ... no, that can't be right. Hajime Hinata was a talentless loser, not at all like the ultimate hope I know now!

 

I stare at the screens in front of me. It must be night time; all of them are sleeping. I wonder how they're feeling? Surely they must be filled with a great hope in face of this great despair!

 

I look at the clock in the corner of the room. Eleven.

 

Sighing, I lean my face onto the desk, staring up at the screen.

 

It's an eventful life being a stepping stone for hope, isn't it?

 

OoO

 

"Do you know what this feeling is?"

 

"Despair."

 

"No, no, what is this feeling? How does it speak to you?"

 

"It tells me to grasp it."

 

"It should tell you to caress it."

 

"I don't like to feel pain."

 

"But what else to life is there?"

 

I wake up with a gasp, my fingers curled into my ivory hair. What was that? Who did that voice belong to? I remember those words, those touches, that venom latching onto my veins and sucking out all reason...

 

... why can't I remember who said it to begin with? Why can't I remember what life was before despair? Why can't I remember how it even infiltrated and controlled my life?

 

"Ishimaru-kun!" Junko. She stood next to Mukuro, waving a slender hand with an army of soldiers awaiting behind her. "You're late!"

 

"Late for what?"

 

"The final day before it all ends!"

 

What was supposed to end? The world?

 

Hope?

 

... or maybe even despair?

 

*Ding, dong! *

 

Stumbling off of my bed, I hobble up to open the door. "Naegi-kun?" I question. I rub my eyes, hoping to clear my vision. Nope, he's still there! "Why are you--" I yawn, "my apologies! Why are you here?"

 

Naegi points his thumb behind him. "Well, uh... I think we need to have a class meeting. No one has come to the cafeteria today."

I squint at him. Did I hear that right? "... meeting?" That doesn't make any sense; I'm supposed to be the one behind organizing meetings! After all, it is my duty as prefect!

 

"Uh... yeah?" He shrugs, "you know, you and I and the others have always been saying to just meet up in the morning to make sure that no one has died yet, but I don't think that'll cut it anymore! We've begun distancing ourselves from eachother! And--" His mouth moves, but I don't hear any words come out. For whatever reason, the world begins to grow dark and dazed around me.

 

I haven't organized any class meetings during our time together, have I?

 

--I'm a disgrace--

 

What have I been doing with my time? Nothing? Meaningless social endeavors? I haven't been productive in the slightest!

 

"Point is..." continued Naegi, "no one has been feeling the best ever since the last class trial." He averted eye contact with me once I tried to initiate it, lowering his head to face the ground and tapping his crutch absentmindedly on top of it. His tone darkened and his lip pulled back, and he said in a voice just loud enough for me to hear, "I know I sure haven't."

 

I turn away from the boy, turning my bottom lip between my teeth as I thought. How long has it been since that last trial? A day? Maybe two? Three? I'm not sure... the entire time I've been holed up in my room, gathering courage to face up to my sins whilst contemplating the last couple days in a desperate attempt to make sense of it; to perhaps come to terms with the fact that anyone that I might've thought was a friend was gone. Mondo died over two weeks ago, and Chihiro was murdered by someone in a brutal plot conceived by someone who I had come to see as a friend: a plot that ended with me being issued as the killer of my best friend.

 

She was truly a monster...

 

...but who am I to talk?

 

"Ishimaru-kun," started Naegi. When I cast my gaze to him once more, I couldn't find it in myself to be surprised at his knowing gaze. Naegi is the exact opposite of me. He understands, he relates, and most of all, he's hope while I'm trapped as despair. "Maizono-kun fell to despair because of Monobear's twisted game. She isn't at fault! Yes, she had this awful plot that a lot of people wouldn't be able to forgive her for in your position, but..." at this, Naegi smiled; a smile brighter and more hopeful than anything I had ever seen in my eighteen years of living, "you're not the super high school level moral compass for nothing, right?"

 

A piece of my heart shattered. Right here, right now... I could tell him. But what good would that do other than causing more strife and hardship? Everyone is so broken and confused right now, if anything the truth that one of their fellow classmates was the cause of their misfortune would hurt them even more! But Naegi... he was always so hopeful, so trusting, so naive yet observant at the same time!

 

He already suspected I was the mastermind, didn't he? Why does he torture me like this? Does he hope insinuating that me having the title of moral compass would make me incapable of resentment or evil? He certainly wasn't wrong!

 

Finally, I crack. I try to stall my words, but they come speeding out of my mouth at a speed that I cannot restrain. "Can you keep a secret?"

 

Naegi doesn't move. He doesn't give any signs of possible anticipation or nervousness or emotion other than a single stutter in his words, "o-of course." That stutter is the only thing I need to know that he's lying... or he could simply have a bit of a speech impediment, or he might've had to clear his throat, or--

 

"You're so naive, Taka! You can't read social cues at all!"

 

I try desperately not to let my emotions show, but knowing my past instances I'm not sure if I succeed or not. "Nevermind," I say, "forget what I said, please!"

 

Naegi furrowed his brows, slid his lips back, and nodded stiffly. "Right." He coughed, "a-anyways, I've talked nearly everyone into a meeting. We're all meeting up in the cafeteria right now. You should join them."

 

Truthfully, I felt no desire to meet up with everyone. No one trusted me at this point (rightfully so), and I'm not sure my heart could take seeing Maizono at this point. I half thought of saying just a straight up "no", but what would that solve? Besides, even if I am hardly worthy of my title, it is still my duty to be as active as possible in the politics of our small community!

 

"I'll be there."

 

"Great," the luckster said. And like that, he was gone, off to inform the next person of our planned arrangement.

 

I could've told him right now, I thought, I could've told him everything, just to get it off my chest. However, despite how foolish Junko had labeled me in the past, I was no idiot. I know for a fact that Naegi would've scampered off to Kirigiri the first chance he got and boasted about how he had finally made the mastermind admit his true identity – what a foolish mastermind he was!, he would say... or something like that.

 

I looked at the clock. Eleven... ah, time to get this over with, I suppose.

 

oOo

 

The cafeteria was empty by the time I arrived, save for Kirigiri and most surprisingly Togami. Despite how much I desired to, I exchanged no pleasantries with the duo. Both of them were incredibly intimidating and derisive (more so for Togami rather than Kirigiri), plus they both saw right through me like a thin veil of ice.

 

After a good five minutes, I found myself so tense and disturbed by the silence that I couldn't help but blurt, "Naegi-kun said that he convinced everyone to attend, didn't he?"

 

Kirigiri didn't spare me a single glance. "He said nearly everyone." After a moment of quiet contemplation, she continued, "I wonder if he said that he convinced nearly everyone to come with everyone."

 

At this, Togami chimed in with: "not the worst of marketing strategies. Odd, coming from Naegi."

 

Kirigiri frowned. After a while, she replied, "yes..."

 

Gods this was awkward! How do Kirigiri and Togami cope with this? It's insufferable! I'm not the most extroverted of people, but even simple small talk is better than--

 

"You're fidgeting," observed Kirigiri. How did she – she didn't even look at me! "You just made a noise of surprise. I was correct, then?" She turned to me, a small smile gracing her lips. "You're very easy to read. Even if I'm blindfolded."

 

"Ah... thank you?"

 

Togami snorted, "it's not a compliment, idiot."

 

"Oh! My apologies!"

 

"Don't apologize. It only makes you appear more pathetic."

 

"Ah! Sorry – I mean, not sorry?"

 

"Togami-kun!" Naegi enters the cafeteria, a bounce in his step and a wide smile on his face. Fukawa and Mukuro trail in behind him, albeit far more calmly (in Mukuro's case, at least. Fukawa seems to be quite restless!) "Kirigiri-san! Ishimaru-kun! You all made it!"

 

"Of course!" I cheered. Let's see, Naegi, Togami, Mukuro, Fukawa, Kirigiri, and I.... we're missing someone. "Where's Maizono-kun?"

 

Naegi's expression suddenly becomes a lot less jovial. "Oh... she, uh..." he pauses, "she said she'd think about it... I don't think she's coming. She looked miserable."

 

"Ha! Good!" Togami let out a derisive chuckle, "she was caught in a lie and she's too pathetic to even own up to it! Now that's what I'd call a coward!"

 

"Togami-kun!" My blood boiled; for what reason I couldn't quite place. Maizono betrayed me! Why should I feel any sympathy towards her? ... is what I probably should've thought, but my heart and my soul both told me that it was my fault that she had been driven to such an extreme end; she thought of no other way out other than the one that shouldn't have been driven. "Be respectful of your classmate!"

 

Togami flashed me a look. His eyes darkened and his lips curled into a nasty snarl, he spat, "oh, you would know, wouldn't you?" His complexion brightened the tiniest bit, of which he spent turning his head up to face the ceiling, although very slightly. "Shouldn't respect only be given to those who earn it?"

 

Not necessarily! Images of passing years spent with questionable teacher morality and burly jocks flashed through my head. Although I had never voiced the response out loud, I repeated, "not necessarily..."

 

"Despite his blunt way of putting it, Togami does have a point," admitted Kirigiri, stalking forwards towards Naegi. She spoke as if addressing all of us, but she only had eyes for the rather stylish boy. With a mind of its own, I noticed as his ahoge twitched the tiniest bit. How interesting! "Maizono-san has already fallen to Monobear's despair. How far will your hope take us now, Naegi-kun?"

 

Naegi pointed at Mukuro, a twinge of desperation in his words, "Ikusaba-san has been said to be a mole for Monobear! However, ever since the reveal of that she's been doing nothing but minding her own business or in some cases even helping us! Like today, she came without question or complaint when I asked her to head to a class meeting with us!" He took a moment to catch his breath, a need after the sheer amount of words that had passed through his mouth. "If that doesn't show recovery, then I don't know what does. That proves that the exact same thing could happen with Maizono-kun! We shouldn't hastily judge and outcast her based on some horrible mistake!"

 

I couldn't stop the words from coming out, "she killed my best friend and tried to frame me for it. I think that's a bit more than just some mistake."

 

After I utter the words, all is quiet for a moment. Right as I attempt to take back what I said, Togami beats me to it: "she tried to kill you and I, too, Naegi. Or did you already forget?"

 

"W-Whose to say K-Kuwata wasn't p-p-part of her master plan, too?" Fukawa chimed in. "She wasn't obligated to tell us a-about that part of t-the story!"

 

Shoot, why did I say that? Now everyone's even more against Maizono! I was trying to defend her, not attack her! Perhaps if I admitted that I was the mastermind, that would stop their accusations of her! Yes... yes, that's it! "I have something to--!"

 

"What a pathetic little girl. Like an idol could've taken me down!"

 

"Classmates! I have an--!"

 

"She's f-far too much of a b-bimbo t-to kill B-Byakuya-sama!"

 

"Hey! Please cease the--!"

 

"I don't hate her, Naegi-kun. However, in this pivotal of a moment in our survival, should we even begin to trust her?"

 

"Yes! I'm telling you, she isn't the enemy! A lapse of judgement driven by despair-induced psychosis is Monobear's fault, not Maizono's!"

 

"Could've told me twice!"

 

The chattering was endless, incessant, loud, my eardrums felt like they were about to burst and I had a splitting headache already. My fellow classmates yelled over eachother, most of them insulting to Maizono's person save for Naegi.

 

I cupped my hands over my mouth, intent on telling the entire cafeteria to quiet down when my eyes caught the aghast form of a silhoutte near the entrance. Upon further inspection, I immediately detected Maizono as the figure, but it was already far too late. She had heard everything.

 

No one else had noticed her save for Kirigiri, who exchanged eye contact with me and stared at the idol. No one really noticed our sudden quietness, too intense in their arguing and debating with eachother to notice the shattered resolve and strength of a lone girl who had decided not to don her mask for once.

 

After a moment, the noise began to descalate as more and more people followed our gaze and took note of our current situation. Finally, only Fukawa was the last one ranting, but she quieted down after a moment as well. Now we stood at a stand-off with the blue-haired mistress, six against one. Her eyes held nothing, her face told nothing, and her voice said nothing. After a moment longer, she finally cracked and said, "I'm sorry...", taking off into the much-lonelier hallways of Hope's Peak Academy with a short clack of heels and a nearly-missed sniffle.

 

And despite how much I hated myself for thinking it, I briefly wondered, was that real or fake?

 

Immediately, Naegi tried to take off after her, but he found himself stopped by a vice-like grip on his wrist given by the one and only Kyoko Kirigiri. "Let her go," she said, "she probably wants to be left alone."

 

With a force I hadn't expected from Naegi, he tears his wrist out of Kirigiri's hold and turns around to give her a hard, seething glare. After a second, he turns away from her to give all of us an equal share of his hate. I had never seen such a look from Naegi, and I found myself glad that I hadn't had an opportunity to in the past. His face steamed beet red, and his rather small hands were curled into blunt objects of mass destruction. "What is wrong with you people?" he shouted, voice unrelenting in its' rage, "is this what we've become? Bullies who prey on anyone who gets even a centimeter too close to what we don't condone, even if it isn't their fault to begin with?"

 

"—she tried to kill four of us at one time--!"

 

"—and we've killed three of our own classmates!" Although his rage quickly began to dissipitate, it was replaced by something far more hurtful. Disappointment. I couldn't quite tell if that emotion radiated from me or Naegi; or if perhaps it came from both of us – or even better, all of us? Were we all disappointed with ourselves, or is that an optimistic thought? "Who were the people that pressed the buttons to execute Oogami, Hagakure, and Kuwata? WE were! We might've not been the one to perform the execution, but we were the ones who ordered it to begin with!"

 

"—that's hardly comparable!" shot back Togami, just as intently, "we didn't murder in cold blood."

"And what if you had managed to kill Ishimaru-kun during your duel?" asked Naegi, not even flinching at the hard, cold stare Togami gave him, "would you be saying the same thing now?" Togami remained silent. "No matter which way you swing it, we are all victims of Monobear's, and no matter what we have to remain hopeful and stick together! This is exactly what he wants!"

 

Nobody made a sound.

 

"I'm going to go talk to Maizono-san, because no matter what may have happened before, she needs a friend now!" And like the wind he took off before anyone could even be bothered to blink.

 

I wanted to depart after him, to try to comfort Maizono myself as well, but am I even qualified to? I'm not the most empathetic of people, and in all honesty my presence and words may make everything even worse for her well-being. Besides, how am I in the right to undertake such a task? Like Naegi had just said, her attempt at murder was due to Monobear's despair. I'm the cause of her despair.

 

For a moment, I contemplated turning around and spilling the truth once more, but as soon as I gathered the courage to turn around and shout out – "I'm the mastermind!" -- I was talking to empty air. The others had already dispersed. Except for one.

 

"You're not doing a very good job of hiding your secret." Mukuro.

 

I don't dare turn around to face her. "I'm not trying to."

 

"Would you really consider yourself the mastermind anymore? You haven't controlled the show for a long time."

"How do you know that?"

 

Mukuro comes to stand next to me. "He sounds different," she remarks, "as if the recorded messages suddenly kept changing personality or tone in a poor attempt to emulate Junko's depiction of Monobear. I know Junko didn't like to stick with the same personality for very long, but she always had a specific personality in mind for Monobear."

 

"So who do you think is the real mastermind then, if not me?"

 

Mukuro looked away from me, although I'm not sure if she was ever truly looking at me in the first place. She merely stared as if I was a passing leaf through the wind, ready for the fall raking and tossing. "I don't know," she simply stated, "but there is one thing I know for sure: there's more than just one."

 

oOo

 

A lone figure sat in a desk chair four levels above the conversation between Ishimaru and Ikusaba, watching dozens of security monitors intently as they downed perhaps the fifth bottle of soda within the hour. There wasn't much else to do these days besides watch and observe, and hardly anything was entertaining enough to keep them awake past noon.

 

A call from Komaeda flashed across the screen, and they debated just waiting for it to pass to avoid talking to the lunatic, but they knew from experience that he wasn't one to back down from a fight. He always got his way, and they wondered if as much of it was luck as he let on. "Come in," they said, slipping on a spare headset as Komaeda's blistering smile appeared on the screen.

 

"Oowada-kun!" he all but shouted, "are you doing alright? Are the residents treating you well?" Oowada spared a glance at a single Monobear animatronic in the corner of the room. It was out of order, but it still gave Oowada the willies – almost dying from one of those things changes a man.

 

He took another swig of his soda, and not for the first time he really wished that it was beer instead of some cheap caffeinated drink. "Doin' fine," he mumbled, neglecting to mention that he'd be a lot better if he was down there with his best friend instead of locked in a room with a quickly deplenishing life-time supply of chips and soda.

 

"I've cracked the code!"

 

"Did'ya now?"

 

Komaeda nodded excitedly, "yes! I have!" He leaned in closer to the screen, as if sharing a precious secret that needn't be shared with anyone else, "there's only one case left, and then it is all over! Finally!"

 

Despite not wanting to hear the answer, Oowada asked, "and how is it supposed to end?"

 

Without blinking, he said, "with the mastermind's execution," as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

 

"Like hell it is!" gripped Oowada, leaning in closer to the webcam on the screen, "you better find another ending, because I sure as hell am not letting Taka die on a technicality!" He gestures to his mechanical right arm, still not fully operational but a good replacement for the actual one nonetheless. "I literally went out on a limb for the guy!"

 

Komaeda holds up his palms, giving his trademark carefree smile. "Please be calm, Oowada-kun! I said that is the ending that is supposed to happen, not the one that will!" He lowers his lids and gives a sly smirk, "right side, lowest cabinet. 11037."

 

Oowada drifts his eyes to his right side, immediately spotting a filing cabinet. Reaching down to the lowest cabinet, he spins the numbers into the padlock. Opening it, he sees nothing but a single key with a Monobear symbol on the top lying inside.

 

He shows it to the webcam. "The hell is this?"

 

Komaeda smiles, "it's a master key," he states.

 

"Yeah, and? What am I supposed ta do with it?"

 

"Hold onto it," the insufferable boy merely comments, "and keep an eye on the security feed, from dawn until a bit after curfew."

 

"Why?" That seemed like such a waste of time... then again, not like there's much else he can do.

 

Komaeda smiles that obnoxious smile once more. If Oowada were there, personally speaking he would've already beaten the shit out of him at this point. "I found it by chance when traveling the school as Monobear, just after reviving you," he laughs, "would you believe my luck?"

 

To any other person, Oowada would've laughed in their face and told them to stop bullshitting him. But he's seen Komaeda's luck in action, and it either was impossibly good or impossibly bad (though Komaeda preferred to only think of it as good). So he simply said, "yeah."

 

As if not hearing him, Komaeda continued, "and I figured that it would come in use sometime in the future! And now seems like the pivotal turning point of the high school life of mutual killings, doesn't it?"

 

His logic was so out of touch and without basis, but Oowada couldn't find it in himself to doubt his sensability. After all, he's never been wrong before.

 

So instead of voicing any complaints, Oowada merely nods. "Got it," he says, and after a hasty goodbye from Komaeda ("he's coming back! Sorry!"), he returns to sipping a sixth bottle of soda, staring at the multiple images of security cam footage adorning the screen. He spots Naegi sitting patiently outside of Maizono's room (he saw them all at a stand-off earlier, were they angry with eachother?). He sees Togami on his way to the library with Fukawa for once not behind him. Kirigiri sits alone in her room, silent and staring at nothing. Lastly, Ishimaru and Ikusaba stand in the middle of the cafeteria, not looking at eachother yet not looking away either. Ikusaba eventually leaves, but Oowada's eyes don't leave Ishimaru's still form. He feels sorrowful, angry, hurt and confused yet at the same time joyful to spot him still alive and well.

 

After all, what else is one supposed to feel when the love of his life forgot such a love even existed in the first place?

Chapter Text

 

 

I wasn’t too sure what Naegi expected to happen after the chaos of the previous day. Despite the sadistic master plan carried out by Maizono a few days prior, he was under the impression that now the lot of us would begin to trust each other more .

 

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

“We just have to wait… a bit longer…” murmured Naegi, face resting carelessly on the palm of his left hand as he gazed intently at the ajar cafeteria door. Although his gaze implied his absolute focus on the situation, the bags under his eyes betrayed his true mindset. His eyes nearly closed every few seconds, only to snap right back open as if he had suddenly been dosed in cold water.

 

“Naegi-kun…”

Mukuro stalked forward, plopping down next to Naegi in the chair just beside him. She scooted her chair very slightly to the right, angling herself just right as to face Naegi. The action was virtually unremarkable in itself, but nothing Mukuro did was without purpose; every word she said, every action she took she carefully thought over. It might’ve been a stretch, but I had the suspicion she overthought just as much as myself. Or perhaps it was the opposite, perhaps Mukuro was simply quick-witted and analytical, just like Junko. “Are you sure? It’s well over an hour past our meeting time.”

 

“I told everyone that we were going to be meeting for breakfast today and we were gonna go check out the fifth floor afterwards. This is important , they would have no reason to go against it!”

 

“And yet here we are.” Mukuro spared no degree of sass, drumming her fingers rhythmically on the table. “We should just go. It’s their loss.”

 

For a few moments, Naegi was completely silent. He glanced at Mukuro, then back to the door, then back once more. “What if somebody comes, huh? What if--”

 

“If they were going to, they would’ve done so by now.” Mukuro shrugged, peering at her nails. For the second time today, Mukuro reminded me strikingly of Junko. I suppose twins do have similar habits. “Like I said, their loss.”

 

“It’s not that simple!”

 

“Look.” Mukuro turned to fully face Naegi, staring deeply into his unwavering gaze. Her nails forgotten, she only had eyes for the optimistic boy. “So far, only Ishimaru and I have decided to drop by. If you want to keep us, let’s get moving before we get bored of this. Sound good?” Without giving Naegi a single moment to comprehend her words, she sprang out of her chair and marched out of the cafeteria, the only sound left in the near-empty room being the ghost of her footfall.

 

I was dumbfounded. Mukuro wasn’t like that. Mukuro was a soldier first and foremost. She never had a word to say against anything. She was tough and brassy, but only when need be. Right now, she just seemed… snappy? Is that the right word?

 

Perhaps this was a delayed side effect of Junko’s passing. Junko had always kept Mukuro restrained, contained within an imaginary cage that only she held the key for. She had always been passive and submissive, only obeying the words of her younger sister. Whether it be brainwashing others or willingly brainwashing herself, Mukuro would always submit… she hadn’t known what a world without Junko looked like.

 

Now she knew all too well what that world held for her… maybe that’s why…

 

The sounds of clacking crutches and the frantic callings of Mukuro’s surname shocked me back to reality. Naegi had left. Without a second thought, I chased after the two, easily passing Naegi in his crippled state and matching the pace of the girl who I must not have known as well as I thought.

 

Weirdly enough, that notion alone was comforting. Ha, to think I would’ve been comforted by the thought of not knowing someone as well as I thought I did. Yet somewhere in my bleak, darkened heart, I had the wildest thought: maybe this revelation could mean that we could become friends after all!

 

… once again, just a passing notion.

 

oOo

 

The biology lab doubled as a morgue. It was the only place kept cold enough in the entirety of Hope’s Peak that could possibly house dead bodies without risk of decomposition or rotting. It had been my idea. I was friendly enough with the biology lab to know quite well the exact temperature that it was (and how cold it could get ) and fortunate enough to have it in my vast supply of knowledge how cold a normal morgue was kept.

 

Of course, Naegi had no idea of that little tidbit. And so when he attempted to pull open one of the many, green lit vaults, I couldn’t find it in myself to protest.

 

Naegi had selected a random one, pulling experimentally on the handle before yanking with all his might, only to fall backwards onto one of the spread-out, metallic tables a moment after. “Ugh…” he groaned, “why is that so hard to budge…?”

 

Mukuro, without a single word passing her lips, walked over to the vault that Naegi had had such a hard time opening and forces it open with a single arm. “It seems easy to me.”

 

“Ah… w-well I guess I shouldn’t of expected different from the Super High School Level soldier…”

 

Mukuro leans over, peering inside the vault. “You probably don’t wanna see this, by the way.”

 

Those words only peaked Naegi’s curiosity more. “What? What’s in there?”

 

“If you’re so curious, you could come see for yourself…” Mukuro, already expecting Naegi’s next actions, darted out of the way as he came rushing in past her. Anticipative of Naegi’s inevitable shriek, she murmurs, “but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

 

Naegi let out an ungodly wail. I pressed my palms flat over my ears, waiting for the moment to pass. Once the boy had regained his breath, I peered over to Naegi, taking note of his ashen mien. “I-It’s-- oh god, I’m gonna be sick!”

 

“Ishimaru-kun, you’re not going to come see what all the fuss is about?”

 

“I-I’m good…”

 

Naegi carefully closed the vault, notably shaking. “It was Kuwata-kun’s body… it was so… urgh…” After a few more moments, he sighs, “I guess this answers the question of where everyone’s bodies go after investigations… the lights must indicate whether a vault is being used or not.”

 

“Yeah… probably,” I agreed. Of course, I knew this already. Eight of the lights were lit, indicating the eight deceased classmates that… we… wait--

 

“Um… something’s not right,” began Naegi, “the lights are one short.”

 

“That’s -- um, I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for that!”

 

Naegi shook his head. “I don’t think so... I wouldn’t put it past Monobear to have been lying all this time about the death of one of our classmates. I don’t know why he would though.”

 

Mukuro shot me a glance. “Maybe one of the deceased is the actual mastermind and they just faked their death.” Mukuro shrugged, “or maybe one of them just survived, and it was too embarrassing for Monobear to call off a class trial.”

 

Naegi tapped his chin, gaze focused securely on the floor, “no, I don’t think that’s it. Why would we have a class trial to execute someone that hadn’t even done the deed? I mean… Yamada-kun and Oowada-kun didn’t have culprits executed for their deaths, so maybe…”

 

Mondo… that’s… that’s impossible!

 

“No…” I murmured.

 

“Huh? Ishimaru-kun?”

 

I locked eyes with Naegi’s, trying to convey all the emotion I could into that one gaze. He shrank back, uncomfortable, but I fought to push onwards. My throat constricted and clogged and with unanticipated bitterness I spat out, “I saw him die, Naegi-kun! He died in my arms!

 

“Well… we never actually saw Yamada-kun’s face after his death, so maybe that could’ve been a double?”

 

The topic carried on after that. I was grateful for the change, yes, but my mind stayed preoccupied on that one idea: Mondo could be alive! It was delusional, impossible, downright moronic, but the sweet sensation of hope lit up my insides.

 

And now that I think about it… I never did feel his heart stop, and Monobear came to take him away awfully fast--

 

No! I can’t think like that! I’m just deluding myself!

 

But what if?

 

oOo

 

The day drifted on. Naegi was marveled by the greenhouse ( “Huh? Oowada-kun’s pickaxe? What is this doing here?” ) and the dojo, but there wasn’t much else to be found. Well, except for--

 

“What the -- what the hell? ” Ah right, that. In all the chaos lately, it hadn’t occurred to me that everyone would eventually find room 5-C. The room of the first killing game. “Everything is -- people were murdered here, weren’t they?” Desperately, he turned to Mukuro, grasping her shoulder. Mukuro didn’t spare him even a side glance, opting to stare straight ahead into the disarray. “Ikusaba! Please, tell us something! Are you on our side now or aren’t you? You know about this!”

 

She more than knew about this little fiasco. She’d partaken in the murder. I wasn’t too keen on bringing that bit up.

 

After a moment of dead silence, Mukuro answered, “I don’t know what happened here.” She still stood stock-still, gaze unwavering and expression apathetic. Carelessly, she shrugged off his hand and mumbled, “sorry.”

 

“... sorry? ” Naegi backed away from the girl, mouth hanging open as he gaped at the room. “This… this isn’t right , Ikusaba-san! People were killed here! Do you understand that?”

 

“Of course I do.”

 

“Then why aren’t you saying anything?” Finally, Naegi stopped backing away, fists clenched as he stared at Mukuro. “Ikusaba-san! … please. I know that you were a mole for Monobear, so… why aren’t you… saying anything?”

 

Mukuro abided by silence, avoiding Naegi’s accusations and instead venturing further into the room, casting a glance upon the blood splattered floors and walls. “I don’t think there’s anything left to look at here. It’s just a murder scene.”

 

Despite my stare being transfixed upon Mukuro, from my peripheral I saw Naegi visibly slouch, backing out of the room. Is he running away? “I’m gonna just… step outside.” And with that, he left.

 

All was silent for a long moment. The pressing quietness burned into me, and the terrifying realization that oh my god this is so awkward sank into my being. It was too silent, some kind of noise needed to fill it --“u-um… so… Mukuro--”

 

What? Oh shoot, she sounds mad!

 

“A-Ah, nothing!”

 

Once again, silence.

 

oOo

 

Mukuro didn’t come to the morning meeting.

 

“Ugh… I really messed up, didn’t I? And after I got mad at you all for Maizono-san…” Naegi stuffed his face into his hands, his body shaking at the shoulders. “ God, I’m such an idiot…” he turned to stare at me, eyes rimmed red around the edges, “this really is all hopeless, isn’t it? Everyone’s left now. Only you and me are left.”

 

I didn’t have a response to that. How was I supposed to respond? Naegi had always been the hopeful one; the one that believed that no goal was impossible. He was supposed to stand up, shout to the heavens, and march to his destination in his pursuit for hope. He wasn’t supposed to feel sorrow. He wasn’t supposed to feel pain. He wasn’t supposed to feel despair.

 

“Ha…” bitterly, Naegi barked out a laugh, “I’m really pathetic, huh? And to think Kirigiri-san had once thought to call me the Super High School Level Hope… if only she could see me now. If I can’t even rally you guys together during times of trouble, then how good is that title?” The boy stared at his palms. His hands visibly shook, as though having a war of their own. “And look… now I’m throwing myself a pity party. I can’t…”

 

“Naegi-kun.”

 

Naegi stopped his ranting, peering up at me through those red-rimmed eyes. “Huh?”

 

I gave pause. I didn’t know what to say. What can I say? It’s my fault that he’s even feeling this way in the first place. Despite that -- “honestly, I’ve never been one to hold onto hope too much. All my life, everything has always been work and repetition. I can’t quite say that I’ve ever even known what hope truly was. And I’ve never been the best at emotions, so I don’t know if you should take my words seriously but…” Anxiety creeped its way into my heart, twisting and turning in tandem. I don’t know what to say. Why did I even start speaking? I’m only going to make things worse -- words spilled from my heart and onto the floor, “I don’t think that hope means that you can’t feel hopelessness. I don’t know if this makes sense, but without despair, who are we to judge what is and isn’t hope?” I don’t know where my passion came from, but all of a sudden my voice was raised and my shoulders were back. All of a sudden, I believed with absolute certainty my words. I shouldn’t of. I really shouldn’t of, but I couldn’t help the blossoming feeling in my heart and utter relaxation that overtook me.  “I think hope is being able to rise above it all. To push past the despair and let it breed hope from that.”

 

Naegi was silent for a good moment. Then two. Then three. Cautiously, I turned my head to face him, battling the heavy blush that threatened to explode onto my face. Why did I say all of that? I’m sure I look foolish! What do I know about hope? His face was completely blank. Maybe it was my lack of social skills, but I couldn’t discern in the slightest what he was feeling nor thinking. Finally he said, “huh.”

 

Oh god, that was too intense, wasn’t it? “O-Oh, uh, that was a bit forward, wasn’t it? S-Sorry, I don’t even know what I’m talking about -- don’t take my words seriously, please!

 

“N-No, Ishimaru-kun, you’re fine!” he gave off a chuckle, rubbing the back of his neck, “I’m just… I was surprised, that’s all. Ya know, for your so-called lack of ‘social skills’, you really hit the nail on the head just then.”

 

… what? “I-I did?

 

Naegi nodded, humming pleasantly. “Yeah! I think you’re a lot more capable of this stuff than you give yourself credit for.”

 

“Oh… is that so?” He’s so kind… if he knew--

 

“Aha, Ishimaru-kun, can I tell you a secret? It’s kinda funny, actually.”

 

“Uhm…” A secret? How odd! “Go on!”

 

“Well, uh…” His face pulled a sheepish expression, a blush crawling up his neck and to his ears. “For a long time there… I really thought you were the mastermind, you know?”

 

Oh.

 

“But, uh, with what you just said right now, I know that that couldn’t possibly be true! Just now, you spoke a lot more fondly of hope than you ever could despair. And it got me thinking--”

 

Oh no.

 

“--there’s no way someone like you could be the mastermind! Right, Ishimaru-kun?”

 

My mind shut down. This was it. The moment I’ve been waiting for. Naegi wasn’t leaving, no one was coming to interrupt us… I could finally let all the guilt off my chest and allow Naegi to do as he will to me, whether that involve maiming me or otherwise.

 

The killing game could end.

 

“Ishimaru-kun?”

 

That was it. In a broken voice that I couldn’t possibly possess, I repeated Naegi’s renowned catchphrase, a bitter smile twisting my lips into a defeated ghost of a smile. “You’ve got that wrong.”

 

And like that, the dam was broken. Everything began to spill out, from the very beginning. I told him everything. I told him about the memory wipes, the brainwashing of the remnants, the despair-filled world outside. I told him about how I had sent Junko Enoshima to her death after her betrayal of me, and how until recently Mukuro had made it her mission to kill me no matter what. I told him about how I had lost control of Monobear after the first trial, and how unnamed people now were the main people controlling the killing game.

 

“... and that’s it,” I breath, a feeling of warmth spreading through my chest. I was going to die, but I felt happy. The moment I stepped into Hope’s Peak, I was betraying my title. Maybe I could finally atone. Maybe in these last few moments of my life, I could make things right and finally act as a Super High School Level Prefect was supposed to.

 

Naegi was silent.

 

“Naegi-kun, you have every right to hate me. I am a despicable human being. I’ve betrayed you all, and no amount of my own self-deprecation or your hatred could ever make up for that. You are more than free to kill me, maim me, and torture me however you like. But in these last hours before I die, I cannot allow the state of our classmates to continue as they are!”

 

Naegi’s face was completely, indecipherably blank. He stared down at his lap, palms clenched on top of his knees. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I hate you. I don’t know if I can trust you when you say that you want to bring our classmates back together or not. And honestly, I don’t know if I can even find it in myself to blame you for absolutely everything that has happened this entire game.”

 

“Naegi--”

 

“You were her puppet, weren’t you? Even despite you claiming that a lot of this killing game was your idea, something doesn’t add up. I don’t know what it is yet, but something is off.”

 

… her puppet?

 

“And I saw your interactions with Oowada when he was dying. He remembered, didn’t he? In his last moments, he remembered everything that happened, and he looked at you and said that he knew that you weren’t evil. And when he died, you mourned so much that you turned into a completely different person,” his shoulders began to shake again, and a certain sharp edge overtook his voice, “tell me, was that just a lie?”

 

No. Absolutely not. I loved Mondo--

 

… loved?

 

Yes, I loved Mondo!

 

“Naegi, I--” a sharp pang resounded through my skull. What the--? A flash of another time, another place played in my mind’s eye. I couldn’t identify what that memory exactly was, but I saw myself and Mondo. I saw him, and we were leaning into each other. This me wasn’t orchestrating a killing game. In fact, if it wasn’t for a certain blonde someone, the killing game never would’ve occurred, because I had never planned it!

 

The memory (?) died out, leaving a trail of confusion in its’ wake. Was that actually me? Or was that just a forlorn fantasy?

 

Before I could question it further, another pang fired, and another memory flashed before my eyes.


oOo

 

“Hm, hm…” When I awoke, restraints were binding me. I gave them a light tug, testing the strength of the chains. They weren’t letting up. A woman hummed pleasantly in front of me, her skirt short and revealing and her pigtails tight and constricting.

 

“... Enoshima-kun?” My classmate. “W-What’s--” I groaned, my head pounding. A concussion? “What’s going on? Where am I?”

 

“Hehe… wouldn’t you like to know?” Enoshima peered over her shoulder, her cute facade disappearing as soon as it had come. “Mukuro!” Another one of my classmates? Is this a weird practical joke? I had dealt with delinquents who had decided to seek vengeance on me through pranks before, but never to this extent! Besides, save for the snarky side comment from Enoshima from time to time, both her and Ikusaba were model students!

 

I didn’t hear the footsteps. Next thing I know, a pair of calloused hands are peeling my eyes open with metal clamps, clipping my eyelids to my eyebrows and cheek fat. It hurt. It hurt so bad . “Agh! Ikusaba-kun, what are you doing? Y-You’re both going to get detention for this!” Enoshima snickered in front of me, a monochrome bear plushie clasped to her chest.

 

“Don’t worry ‘bout it, Taka! We just have a special video for you that we’re just itching to try out, so just sit back and enjoy the show! We don’t want you missing a single thing, so Mukuro has taken the honors of helping you out!”

 

Oh… well that’s a rather odd way of trying to help me, and a rather brash way of trying to get me to watch a silly video! I mean, kidnapping! They kidnapped me just to watch one video!

 

“Enoshima-kun, I assure you, I would’ve come if you had just asked! It would be my duty as class rep to! And I promise you that I will not miss anything in the video, so please take these things off of my eyes!” Oh gods, they were really burning now. Liquid began to fill my view and a couple stray, thin tears streamed down my face.

 

“Oh, well we don’t want to take that chance, do we?”

 

“Enoshima-kun! Please!”

 

“Hm, hm… just sit back and enjoy, Ishimaru! I promise you will!” With that, Enoshima disappeared out of my line of sight and a television took her place. A video loaded up, buffered, and for a moment, all was quiet. The next moment--

 

“Agh! No, NO, WHAT ARE YOU MAKING ME WATCH?”

 

“Mukuro~! You know what to do!”

 

Twin stabbing sensations lit up my head and scraped against my brain, and I screamed so loud that my voice went hoarse. “PLEASE! ENOSHIMA, IKUSABA, LET ME OUT OF HERE!”

 

“Nuh-uh! You promised to watch the video, right?”

 

Blood. Guts. Gore. Slaughter. Murder. Suicide.

 

Despair.

 

Despair.

 

D E S P A I R.

 

“I’M BEGGING YOU! LET ME OUT!”

 

“Mukuro, you’re not doing it hard enough! More!”

 

“AGGGGGH! PLEASE, I’LL DO ANYTHING!”

 

Despair.

 

Despair.

 

Despair.

 

“ANYTHING!”

 

Kill. Murder. Hurt. Anguish. Pain. Hopelessness.

 

“I…”

 

Despair.

 

“I can’t…”

 

Despair.

 

“Pl...e...ase.”

 

Ikusaba shifted, and with her my brain did as well. A light switch turned on, and a bubbling laugh tore out of my throat. I didn’t know why, but everything suddenly made sense. All of the agony that my parents had suffered through, all of the hate and angered words that people had thrown my way. Yes. Yes, I understand now!


“Ah… yes, that’s right--!”

 

oOo

 

Without realizing it, I had fallen out of my chair. An agonizing pain settled over me, burning and twisting my insides into dirt. Distantly I heard Naegi call for help, but I couldn’t find it in me to care about that.

 

I was brainwashed.

 

Junko Enoshima and Mukuro Ikusaba had brainwashed me, just as they had the remnants.

 

So what does that make me? A remnant of despair as well?

 

Or am I something else entirely? A forlorn instrument tossed away as soon as its’ use was dried up? That would explain the sudden loss of control of Monobear. That would explain my memories. That would explain everything , really.

 

God, I missed him.

 

I remember now.

 

I remember everything.

 

And if I thought the pain of losing him was bad before, it was nothing compared to the complete misery I feel now..

 

I couldn’t move my body. Naegi shook me and yelled at me, but I couldn’t hear anything he was saying. He looked panicked… speaking of which, had Naegi always looked like that? Or am I not remembering something else now?

 

I’m so tired…

 

So... ti

 

oOo

 

When I came to, I was in the nurse’s office. Naegi was sat besides me, dark bags under his eyes and his mouth set in a thin, straight line. When he noticed I was awake he hopped up from his post immediately, placing a lukewarm towel atop my forehead and sticking a thermometer straight into my open mouth.

 

“Naegi-kun?” It came out garbled and scratchy, but the name still tore from my throat, a lingering question laced with it. Naegi simply stared at me, his brows furrowed and his cheeks a bit sunken. Ah, right… he was still injured, wasn’t he? “Um, are you sure you should be looking over me in your condition?”

 

“No one came to help when I called… so I’ve been monitoring you.”

 

“Uhm… for how long?”

 

“I don’t know… fourteen hours?”

 

At that I sat straight up, ignoring Naegi’s yelp of protest as I clutched my head, a sharp pang suddenly pounding through my skull. Nevertheless, “f-fourteen hours? Isn’t it well past nighttime, then? Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

 

“Well,” he scratched his cheek, his ears and neck suddenly blazing hot, “I didn’t wanna leave you all alone. If you woke up then immediately went back to sleep it would count as sleeping outside the dorms.” After a moment’s hesitation, he elaborated, “since you passed out, it was a loophole to that rule.”

 

I nodded, even though I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying through the muddled fog of my mind. However -- “I already told you, I’m the mastermind. Why should you care what happens to me?”

 

“Ah… you were brainwashed, weren’t you?”

 

“Brainwashed?”

 

“Yeah, um,” sighing, Naegi turned around, head hung low, “I heard you say as much just before you passed out.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

For a moment, silence stretched. I must’ve been speaking aloud after that flashback… god, how embarrassing! By that logic, he also would’ve heard about Mondo and--

 

“It’s not embarrassing, you know.”

 

… What? Did I speak out loud again?

 

“And no, you didn’t speak out loud. I’m just pretty good with people, I think. It’s about the only thing I am good at, haha… besides being optimistic, I suppose.”

 

I didn’t know what to say, so I opted for silence, studying the way that the small boy’s shoulders tensed and untensed, as if having a fierce debate with themselves.

 

“Hey, Ishimaru…”

 

“... yeah?”

 

“You said you wanted to help unite our classmates again, didn’t you?”

 

I nodded despite him not being able to see me. After a moment, I murmured in affirmation.

 

“Then we have the same goal in mind, don’t we? What’s stopping us from working together?” Logically, I knew the answer already. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I wasn’t the mastermind (apparently), I wished to unite our enemies against a common foe, and I did deeply care for our classmates, the same exact way that Naegi did. However, the fact of the matter was that no one would possibly trust me once I revealed my position as the former mastermind of this killing game. No one would have a reason to trust me.

 

I was beginning to believe that Naegi had a secret talent that he had neglected to inform the rest of us about when the next words out of his mouth were: “I won’t tell anyone about what you’ve told me. And I suggest you do the same. If we’re going to end this killing game, we need everyone on the same page, right?”

 

“Right. You’re right, Naegi-kun.”

 

“Heh… you didn’t have to say it twice, ya know.”

 

A smile split my face. This. This was friendship… well, maybe not, but it sure felt like it, and before I knew it--

 

“hey, Naegi-kun… are we friends?”

 

“Hm?” Naegi spun around, and I saw his face for the first time in this whole exchange. His gaze was unrelenting, unyielding and I found myself both mystified and terrified by it. After a moment, his stare broke away from mine and turned to instead burn a hole through the sheets next to me. “Ah, well--”

 

Shoot! “N-Nevermind, Naegi-kun! Haha, I was just being foolish, there’s no way that… that…” Ugh, why were my eyes burning? This is stupid; I’m stupid, of course he doesn't think of me as a friend! Look at what I just told him earlier!

 

“Oh, no, Ishimaru-kun!” He held up his hands in protest, waving them around frantically. “I was just surprised, that’s all! I didn’t think you were the type to care about that kind of stuff!” There’s a lot he didn’t know about me before today, huh?

 

“You don’t have to feel obligated to answer.”

 

“I don’t feel obligated to do anything. ” Naegi gave me a soft smile, and just the sight of it made my eyes fill up with tears, just on the verge of leaking out. “Of course we’re friends. Do you really think I would plan to end the killing game with just anyone?”

 

“Well… it’s just because I know the most out of anyone here, save for maybe Mukuro… so you…”

 

“No, Ishimaru-kun,” I refused to look at the boy in front of me, but I could just sense the boy’s gaze, and that unrelenting feeling increased tenfold once I felt a delicate hand rest on my shoulder. “Maybe that’s part of it, but I would never agree to do this with you if I didn’t trust you. And trust is a big part of friendships, you know.”

 

Naegi…

 

A few tears leaked out of my eyes, then a few more, and before I knew it an entire stream was falling freely down my face.

 

“Ah! Ishimaru-kun!”

 

“Sorry, Naegi-kun… I’m just…” Happy. So happy. I have a friend! “Tired.”

 

“No, don’t fall asleep here! C’mon, let me try to get you back to the dorms! … though I may be more of a burden than anything…”

 

oOo

 

The next day, Kirigiri joined us for our morning meeting.

 

Immediately, I suspected the worst. With a sharp turn and loud huff I turned towards Naegi, an accusatory question just on the tip of my tongue, and a sudden realization came to me.

 

Naegi looked so happy. I can’t take that away from him. That’s not what friends do.

 

“Kirigiri-san… you’re here.”

 

The detective nodded, a pretty smile upon her lips. She nodded towards me, gaze unwavering but unsuspecting (at least… I don’t think so). With a cool stride and a flip of her long, lavender hair, she plopped down right across from Naegi, her gloved fingertips caressing her chin.

 

“We should have our meeting in the bathhouse today.”

 

oOo

 

Kirigiri leaned against the lockers, one leg crossed over the other as she gazed towards the floor. Her face squinted in concentration, and I could only begin to imagine the kinds of thoughts running through her mind. The plan was a longshot. I knew that. Naegi knew that. Kirigiri? She was nothing if not realistic.

 

Perhaps that was why her next couple words paralyzed me. “Alright. Let’s do it.”

 

Naegi seemed to be of similar opinion, only gaping at Kirigiri in dumb shock. His mouth hung open slightly and a wiry smile slowly graced his lips; a dopey, childlike innocence taking hold of him. “R-Really? For real?”

 

Kirigiri merely raised a singular eyebrow, and if not for the slight inclination of the corners of her mouth I would’ve colored her as annoyed. “Yeah.”

 

Naegi closed the distance between them, arms spread wide open, but stopped just short of the girl, as if asking for permission. Kirigiri nodded, hugging the boy back with far less vigor as he nearly tackled her into a hug. A red tint lit her cheeks, marred slightly by lavender locks and the corner of Naegi’s shoulder.

 

If I didn’t know better, I would dare say they looked like a couple.

 

“However, I’m sure you’re aware of how optimistic this all sounds. I doubt the mastermind would take all of us defying the killing game so kindly.”

 

Naegi, now back to his usual position, nods. “Of course. But we have to try. Until now, we’ve just been going along with motive after motive, and each time someone dies. I’m sick of my friends dying.”

 

“But outright ignoring them? The mastermind will start taking drastic measures.”

 

“I know. And that’s the plan. If we ever plan on stopping the mastermind of this killing game, we have to back them into a corner.”

 

“Hm… very astute, Naegi-kun,” Kirigiri turned her gaze to me, and I could’ve sworn that the glimmer in her eyes suddenly turned ten-times more piercing. She still suspected me. Something told me that she wouldn’t be near as understanding regarding the whole mastermind incident as Naegi. “And you, Ishimaru-kun? What’s your motive?”

 

“Well, uh…” My motive? That’s obvious, isn’t it? When I closed my eyes, I could see them. Mondo and Chihiro. They looked at me, a twinkle in their eyes and a bounce in their step. I was holding Mondo’s hand. Chihiro was telling us about the latest game he bought. We were happy. We were like a family.

 

Now…

 

… both of them are dead.

 

With a conviction I didn’t think possible, I spoke, “I can’t allow anymore of my friends to die. This… this game has taken too many lives. I can’t let you guys die too.”

 

The answer seemed to satisfy Kirigiri. Naegi and Kirigiri carried on with their discussions, but I tuned them out completely, watching overhead as the three students planned the future.

 

I was one of them.

 

I was going to end this killing game. And when we broke out of here, I would bury Mondo and Chihiro.

 

Mondo, Chihiro… I know I’ve let you down in the past, and I know that I can’t really make up for most of it. But I promise that I’ll end this killing game. Not just for your sake, but for mine too.

 

No matter what.