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A Lesson In Order and Despair

Chapter Text

When Kiyotaka Ishimaru first set foot in the well-polished hallways of Hope's Peak Academy, he saw sprawling before him a future of hope and success. Inhaling deeply and letting his sturdy chest puff out with pride, the scent of order and disinfectant filled his lungs with optimism. This was it, he told himself, enthusiastic red eyes scanning every single detail they could latch onto, this was the beginning of great things for the Super-High-School-Level Hall Monitor.

This was, in many ways, a fresh start for Kiyotaka. He came from a family of geniuses, whose success had almost solely relied on their inherited capabilities. With little effort, they bloomed into great people of significant stature, none more so than his grandfather, the late Toranosuke Ishimaru. Former Prime Minister of Japan, the man had run the country into the dirt and embroiled he and his family in several earth-shattering scandals that had haunted Kiyotaka since childhood. The arrogance of the genius had a tendency to cause their own downfall, Kiyotaka noted. Thankfully, he himself was by no means a genius.

He would succeed without failure. He would restore honour to his family name and become the most successful person the Ishimaru clan had ever seen. Not through dumb luck or being a genius. No, he would achieve his goals through hard work. He was intelligent, and he was determined, and with both of those traits powering him onward, he could do anything. Hope's Peak was a starting point for him. A chance to prove himself, and an opportunity to mingle with like-minded others.

Or so he thought.

Several other students, apparently from his class, the 78th Class in the school's illustrious history, were scattered around the lobby of the building, and he observed them carefully. Likewise, they returned the gesture, eyes fixated upon him as he approached. They certainly weren't what he had expected, that was certain. Here he was, adorned in perfectly ironed school attire, eager and ready to learn, only to realise that he stood out like a sore thumb. This had not been his intention.

Where were their uniforms, he wondered? Where was their school spirit on this, the first day of the rest of their lives? What were those two girls (twins, he assumed) whispering about, and why did the girl with the giant glasses keep fidgeting and muttering to herself, eyeing him with extreme caution? These weren't really his classmates, were they? They were too casual. Too relaxed. Totally without any sign of effort!

"Greetings everyone," he said with enthusiasm, back as straight as the twenty-seven rulers neatly stored in his satchel bag of school supplies, "I am Kiyotaka Ishimaru!" He saluted.

Hesitantly, and some feeling just a little bit forced, various faces made their own introductions, declaring their names with varying levels of interest and confidence. Some he found interesting. Like the shy little girl who claimed to be an expert programmer whom called herself Chihiro, the towering figure named Sakura who stated herself to be the strongest human being alive, followed by Asahina, the master of swimming. Others blended together and didn't stand out to him as much, like the overweight artist and the boy with the ahoge. A couple in particular even intimidated him. Seriously, an 'Ultimate Biker' had no place in a respectable learning environment.

"Who are they?" He asked the girl named Asahina quietly, gesturing towards the three girls whom hadn't bothered to introduce themselves. One with purple hair, along with the two sisters. The purple-haired girl paid him and the others no interest, but the other two continued to monitor everyone else with scrutiny.

"I think her name is Kyouko," she replied, pointing over to the purple-haired one. She then turned her focus to the sisters. "That there's Junko Enoshima. Really famous model. The other one, well, that's her sister. I think."

The girl named Junko must have heard them talking about her, Kiyotaka thought, considering how she suddenly looked at them with unbothered eyes, casually blew a sizeable pink bubble with the gum in her mouth, only to turn away once it had popped, returning to her chewing and whispering. The hall monitor didn't care for the girl's attitude, but he was relieved that she wore something that at least barely resembled a uniform. She, along with the twitchy author, the girl idol and the world's strongest woman, seemed to be the only people wearing uniforms apart from him. Pity, he thought.

The group, over this, the day of their induction, began to become better acquainted with each other, and conversations were gradually becoming less awkward. Already, Kiyotaka found himself developing his likes and dislikes. Junko was self-obsessed, he noted. Byakuya saw himself as superior to everyone else. Hagakure had no idea what he was talking about, and Celestia (or, rather, "Celeste", as she insisted on being called) had a penchant for gambling. Still, he noticed, not a single mention of hard work or dedication.

Without a doubt, his worst fears were coming true. He was in a class filled with geniuses; people so good at what they did with considerably minute effort, that they felt no need to input any effort at all. This was exactly the opposite of what he had hoped for.

But he wouldn't despair. These people were his fellow students now. They were his comrades. His family! Their happiness made him happy, and he would dedicate himself to ensuring that their class was as successful as humanly possible. Even if they were divided between the hyper and the moody, the bitter and the manic, they were all in this together!

This was the ideology Kiyotaka Ishimaru clung to for most of his school life. They were family. They were friends. They were, at heart, mostly good people. They had dreams, just as he did, and they wanted to see them come true. He cared for them, and he grew to appreciate their quirks and their imperfections. Hours grew into days, which in turn grew into weeks and then into months, and the time seemed to fly past, until they were fully-fledged students whom knew Hope's Peak like the back of their hands.

It was during this time, however, that Kiyotaka began to develop a severe allergy to one trait the entire group seemed to possess. One awful, terrible trait that he wished would disappear, and that he took steps to actively correct: Disorder.

Hope's Peak was not what he had expected it to be. There were no textbooks. There were no assignments. There were no pop quizzes or tests to be challenged on. Seldom were classes even held. 'Disappointment' was the only word capable of even coming close to summing up the Hall Monitor's feelings towards the situation. His classmates were so obsessed with enjoyment, with splashing in the pool and dashing around the running track, that they seemed to either forget about, or outright reject, the concept of a basic education. They wasted their time hanging out with each other, safe in the knowledge that their inherent skills would guarantee them success regardless of how much effort they put in.

While they played games in the arcade room, Kiyotaka studied. While they lounged around, Kiyotaka exercised. True, he was still close to them, and they treated him like a true friend as they did everyone else, but Kiyotaka couldn't help but feel like an outcast. Was he truly the only one who cared about bettering himself, he wondered? Was he the only one who had any hope or ambition for the future? Was he the only one who gave a damn about the lack of care being shown by their school?

It was a question he didn't need answered. He knew he was. Order and rules mattered little to the 78th Class of Hope's Peak.

Kiyotaka Ishimaru was well-liked by his peers and surrounded by friends, and yet he always felt alone, no matter the circumstance. He watched powerlessly as his friends exchanged ambition for temporary enjoyment, all the while shrugging him off whenever he recommended they start attending classes, or suggested decent reading material. Kiyotaka Ishimaru didn't like an environment without order. He needed rules and a solid routine to survive. When such principles were tossed out the window with a carefree smile, his own future was being impacted, and the world didn't give a damn.

And that?

That wasn't fair.

Chapter Text

 

"Say cheese, everyone!" The Ultimate Clairvoyant said with a grin, eyes illuminated with joy as he prepared to take the picture, a camera from the photography department held firmly in his hands.

Kiyotaka was satisfied. The past few weeks at Hope's Peak hadn't been too awful. Sure, he had experienced a rather rough start, but things were picking up now, despite the occasional blunder. Classes were actually being held (although the lack of attendance bugged him), and the sense of community had grown significantly. Here they all were, gathered together in class, posing for a surprise photo.

The hall monitor had been up on his feet in seconds, saluting with pride, showing off an enthusiastic grin, facing the tall man whose upward-dreadlocks resembled more of a birds' nest rather than an actual head of hair. He had reason to smile. The entire class was wearing uniform for once, with the exceptions of Hifumi, Celeste and Leon, but he brushed that to the back of his mind. It was still progress! Order was prevailing, and education was slowly becoming a bigger priority to the 78th class of Hope's Peak Academy.

With a little 'snap', Hagakure took the picture, and the gang of teens dropped their various poses. Kiyotaka lowered his hand back down to his side, and retook his seat, wondering when the teacher would arrive to start this morning's lesson. He turned his head, glancing at his surroundings. Morning sunlight poured in through the windows of the room, shining hope on a brand new day of learning. Junko and Celeste were engaged in some idle chit-chat, it seemed, with Kiyotaka overhearing the words "Lolita" and "Punk". Most likely discussing fashion, to his total lack of surprise.

"Oh, you're far too kind, Miss Maizono!" Said the drooling voice to his right, and he peered over to watch.

Hifumi Yamada was shoving an already half-finished doughnut into his mouth, which seemed to be from the large box that Maizono had brought in with her. Judging by the fact that Asahina, known for her love of them, had a box of her own, Kiyotaka came to the conclusion that it was her idea to bring them into class in the first place.

A certain baseballer leaned over, swiping one of Asahina's doughnuts straight out the box without even bothering to ask her, balancing it on his finger as he took a bite out of it.

"Leon, no!" She cried, pouting in frustration, eyes filled with the despair a mother would feel upon losing her only child. "The sprinkled ones are my favourites!"

The thief grinned, scratching the back of his head with his doughnut-free hand. "Yo, sorry, I couldn't resist." With that, he took another bite, and hopped up on one of the desks, sitting with his feet on the chair.

"Don't be a jerk, Leon," said Maizono from behind Asahina. Kiyotaka wasn't sure if she was being serious or playful.

"Aww, c'mon, babe," Leon replied with a ladykiller wink, "you know you love a bad boy!"

Kiyotaka rolled his eyes. Typical Leon Kuwata. If it had a well-endowed chest and long hair, it was only a matter of time before the baseballer would make an attempt to flirt with it.

"Want one, Ishimaru?" Said a female voice, prompting the prefect to look in its direction.

Asahina was gesturing down to the box of sugary goods on her desk, her delicate hands hovering over the small feast. Pink icing, honey glazing, jam and sugar all looked up at him, practically begging him to try one. Just one of them. Just one delicious bite, that was all...

"Thank you, but I'm afraid I must decline!" he said, holding up his hand in refusal, but still making sure to show her a smile of gratitude, regardless. His voice was as loud as it always was. A lack of volume control and no concept of an 'indoor voice' was one of his few faults that he was blissfully ignorant of. "It is unacceptable to eat during class hours!"

"Dude," said Leon, who had almost finished his own doughnut ,"we're all eating. Live a little, man. Have one."

Kiyotaka firmly shook his head. "Rules are rules, Mister Kuwata!"

The baseballer rolled his eyes. "Jeez..." he said with a groan, "...such a stiff."

Kiyotaka didn't care what names he was called. All that mattered to him was that he preserved the order of the school. He felt tempted to take the doughnuts away from them and dispose of them. Eating in class was strictly forbidden, after all! However, despite their breaking of the precious rules that he so religiously upheld, he didn't have the heart to upset them when they all seemed so happy. So long as he himself didn't break the rules, then he could bear with it. Without a word in reply, he turned to face the front of the class.

Their teacher strode in a moment later, papers in hand, apologising for being late. Everyone out of their seats quickly made their way back, sitting at their desks, finally falling silent. Ah. There it was. The perfect, silent harmony of a functional school environment.

Being the education-addict that he was, Kiyotaka already had his materials neatly assembled on his desk, pencil placed in a perfectly symmetrical fashion to his ruler in front of him, eager to start the lesson.


 

Less than an hour later, the cracks were beginning to show. Kiyotaka's fantasy, to his frustration, was slowly reverting back to the harshness of reality. Mondo was sound asleep, face firmly pressed against his desk, as it had been since before the teacher walked in. Kiyotaka paid him no mind. His education was his own responsibility, after all. Hifumi's mobile phone began to ring, playing the opening theme to the "Heretic Angel ☆ Mochi Mochi Princess" anime that he was so fond of. Once again, Kiyotaka paid it no mind. Fukawa was whispering into Togami's ear toward the rear of the class, seemingly unaware that everyone could hear what she was saying. Kiyotaka tried to pay it no mind. He would keep his cool, he told himself, and focus on his studies. That was what-

"DAMN is it warm in here!"

Kiyotaka saw him in his peripheral vision. Leon Kuwata (of course), leaning back in his chair, shoes on the desk, a perfect contrast to his earlier position. He was tugging at his collar, staring longingly in the direction of the open windows. Kiyotaka had no problem with the heat, but most of the class had began murmuring in agreement, complaining about how warm it was, and how bored they all were.

The teacher, a stout little man, paused for a moment, rubbing his chin. He, too, looked toward the window, before he slowly nodded. "What do you say we just end class there for today, hm?"

Kiyotaka threw his hand into the air without a second thought. They had more than two hours left! He wasn't going to let it end so soon, when they had only been here for an hour at the most. "Sir, isn't it a bit early to be dismissing us? We've still got so much to cover!" The hall monitor had already written down at least twelve pages of notes throughout the last hour, and his hand was itching to write more.

He felt the collective sighs of the rest of his classmates hit him with considerable force, but he brushed it off. They were in one of the most prestigious schools in the country - a place that some people would literally kill to get into, and they were actively avoiding every opportunity handed to them whenever possible. He wasn't going to let them get away with it, no matter how much respect he had for them.

"Ishimaru, I appreciate the thought," the teacher countered, "but it is, indeed, far too warm to be teaching today. Had we still been in possession of air conditioning, then continuing may have been an option, but that is not the case."

It was no secret that Hope's Peak was underfunded, despite its incredible reputation and the sizeable collective of Reserve Students, whom paid hundreds of thousands to attend the school. It made no sense to the hall monitor. What were they spending the money on? He pitied the Reserve Students. If this was the treatment that people on the Main Course were receiving, then he shuddered to imagine what they were being subjected to. In a way, he believed that the Reserve Students deserved to be here more than his fellow classmates did. They were simply here thanks to their talent, and contained no desire to learn, while the talentless underclass of Hope's Peak could only dream of being in their place.

Class 78 certainly wasn't full of geniuses, but it was packed full of talented people whom were experts without effort, and, to Kiyotaka Ishimaru, that was just as bad, if not worse. He, at least, was here by his own merit.

"You heard him," said Junko suddenly, snapping Kiyotaka from his thoughts, "we're allowed to leave. So let's, like, go or something." She rose from her seat and, snatching the handbag she had been carrying with her all day, she swiftly left, with Mukuro trailing close behind her. The teacher, of course, made no efforts to stop them. In fact, he himself was packing up to leave.

"Anyone feel like headin' down to the track for a run?" Said Mondo Oowada, who had apparently awoken from his sleep within the past five minutes.

"I'll join you!" Asahina chimed in.

"That sounds like an excellent idea," said Sakura.

"Eh, why the hell not," said Leon, followed by many other voices in the class.

It wasn't long before most of the desks were cleared, and the gang were funneling themselves out the door, chattering excitedly, all of them eager to get out into the sun, their teacher not far behind them. Kiyotaka found himself alone now, staring down at his notes, a hurricane of emotion blowing around inside him. Whenever he thought that things were picking up, that the class were maybe coming to their senses and settling down, something like this always happened. They walked out of classes, and they ran in the hallways. They saw Hope's Peak not as a school, but a playground. He sighed. Perhaps he was the odd one here?

"Um, Ishimaru?"

A gentle voice cooed from the hallway, and the exasperated student looked up, trying to hide the tears that had been building up in his eyes. Chihiro, whom had left on the shoulders of Mondo minutes before, was standing in the doorway, her schoolbag held in her delicate hands. She looked as hesitant as ever, as if she were afraid he might snarl at her or bite her or something.

"Are you okay?" She asked.

In truth, he wasn't. He stood up, and turned his back to her, quickly assembling his things and placing them into his bag, hoping he could feign a better emotion by the time he would be forced to turn around again. "I'm fine, Chihiro," he said stiffly, shoving one of his textbooks into the open satchel. "Aren't you supposed to be with the others?"

"I am," she said, "but we were worried about you when we realised you hadn't come with us."

"I didn't realise that the running track was an open invitation," he said, a little more bitterly than he intended to make it.

"Of course it was!" She said, a look of surprise on her face. "We like having you around, Ishimaru. It's not the same without you... you're our friend."

There was something about those last few words that only served to make him more emotional. Were they really friends, he wondered, when they were all so different? When he was always the strict, orderly figure trying to regulate the fun they insisted on having? It was hard to believe, and that was what made it more painful for him.

"Please, Ishimaru... come out to the track with us."

Having now packed his things, Kiyotaka took a deep breath and made his way towards the door. He could barely look at Chihiro; only just able to hold together the semblance of calm. She, however, looked up at him, an expression of sadness on her dainty little face. He didn't say a word as he walked past her, satchel around his shoulder, heading off down the hallway.

Chihiro parted her lips to say something, to call out after him, but she simply bowed her head and, with a disappointed sigh, slowly made her way back out to the track, miserably on her lonesome.

Kiyotaka wasn't going to cry. He had no reason to. Rather, he was angry. He was torn as the main dilemma of his school life made itself increasingly apparent. He had people offering their friendship to him. People who were, for the most part, honest and decent human beings whom he would have loved nothing more than to cooperate with. Yet, those very same people were denying him of the one thing he sought more than anything else, and that was a world-class education. Friendship or education? Fun or order?

He stopped in his tracks, for a moment considering joining the others after all. It would be enjoyable, and despite his initial denial, it was undoubtedly warm. He would have appreciated the fresh air, and he knew that he could spend time with his fellow students, in the hopes of nurturing an even-closer bond between them all as a class.

Red eyes wandered down to the satchel over Kiyotaka's shoulder, and he reminded himself that the only way to succeed in life, to become better than the ruinous figures in his family, was through hard work and dedication. That meant sacrifices, no matter how much they hurt. With a nod, he tossed all notion of fun from his head, and made his way to his dorm, closing and locking the door behind him.

There he stayed for the rest of the day, and all throughout the evening, pouring over fact after fact, note after note, statistic after statistic. This was his world. This was all that mattered.

Fun wasn't necessary within a school environment.

Chapter Text

Aoi Asahina approached the lifeguard tower with pride, smiling with a little swing in her step. Wearing a tight-fitted black swimsuit, hair tied up in her usual style, she climbed the four rungs of the ladder up to her lofty seat, and comfortably placed herself there.

"You're not joining us, Hina?" Hakagure asked from across the pool, to which the brown-haired girl giggled and shook her head, waving her hand dismissively.

"Oh, please," she said, "I swim enough already as it is. Plus I'm the only one here who'd make a decent lifeguard if any of you start drowning!"

"Be careful, Mukuro," said a voice next to Kiyotaka who stood with the rest of the class aside the pool, all in swimming attire. "Wouldn't want you to drown, now would we?" A menacing little giggle followed the girl's words, and he didn't need to look to know that it was Junko Enoshima.

"Well... I suppose it could be rather... enjoyable..." Mukuro replied, and Kiyotaka could only wonder what the hell was wrong with the pair of them. One of them was a sadist, the other was some sort of masochist. It scared him.

Today was swimming practice, and the class had been brought out to the Old Building of Hope's Peak, home to the reserve students, simply to use their pool. It was, they were told, the only building on campus that had a pool. Their stubby little teacher had come with them, of course, camera in hand. Kiyotaka already knew, without doubt, that they would be sitting on the sidelines, most likely texting or snoozing. It was what the teachers did around here, often showing very little to no effort at all. He would be surprised if even a single picture was taken today. The teacher was only here because they had no other choice, and that was a fact.

Kiyotaka, nor any of his fellow students (to his knowledge, at least), had ever come to the Old Building before, and he was glad that they hadn't. From their brief patrol through the corridors on their way to the first-floor pool, he had noticed trash in the hallways that appeared to have been there for some time. There were a couple of broken windows on the ground floor, a coating of dust was present on the occasional surface, and then, of course, there were the reserve students themselves. Never had the white-suited hall monitor ever seen hallways in such blatant disrepair.

The reserve students had stared at them as they walked past, whispering and pointing, faces stern and filled with disgust, like a dissatisfied mob gathering to see much-despised royalty. It had certainly put the class on-edge, with even the teacher himself looking anxious, as if they were passing through a den of starving tigers. Kiyotaka, on the other hand, did not feel fear. He did not feel anxiety. Rather, he experience a sense of pity.

These people, perfectly good students with a desire to learn and achieve their dreams, had been condemned to a fairly worn-down old building and regarded as mere money-making cattle, simply for their lack of 'talent' or 'genius'. It disgusted the Ultimate Moral Compass greatly. He didn't blame the reserve coursers for holding contempt towards his class. In a way, he held a similar anger towards them at times. His class did so enjoy throwing away the opportunities handed to them on a silver platter, after all. Byakuya, for instance, had refused to come swimming today. Swimming, he said, was "beneath him".

When compared to the Old Building, the New Building which Kiyotaka, his classmates and the teachers loved to complain about, with its lack of air-conditioning, was a palace of the highest quality. No air-conditioning was better than what he considered to be academic squalor.

Oh well, at least the swimming pool was clean.

The blow of Asahina's whistle echoed across the room suddenly, as she leaned back her chair, raised her arms and a single leg, and cheered. "The pool is open!"

Despite the teacher being present (albeit sitting on a bench, typing away on their phone, just as Kiyotaka had expected), Asahina had proudly taken the role of commander over this entire operation, and the incredible grin on her face indicated that she was already having a blast.

No one entered the pool immediately. Most of the class clung awkwardly to the sides, looking at each other cautiously to see who would enter first. One of those odd, socially awkward rules that everyone followed and Kiyotaka never understood. He was, without hesitation, the first one into the water, jumping in like some kind of athlete, immediately propelling himself to the other side of the pool's length.

The rest of the world faded out to him, his sole fixation being on reaching the other side of the pool. He wasn't here to splash around and have fun, he was here to exercise and push himself further than anyone thought possible. He would swim so many lengths with such speed and intensity, that even the Ultimate Swimmer herself would be awestruck.

It wasn't long before he had reached the other side, now turning to swim back to the other one, realising now that the others were hopping into the pool along with him. He was leading the way, it seemed. He was proud of that. He swam back, disregarding any of his classmates and their activities, too busy concentrating on his speed and his effort. He had to push himself. He had to improve. He had to be better.


 

Kiyotaka rested for a moment, exhausted. Wiping the water from his eyes, he took a few deep breaths, trying to get his stamina back. He had no idea how many lengths he had swam now, having lost count at fifty-seven. He hated himself for having to take this rest, for having to stop for the sake of oxygen, but he was only human, after all.

Deciding to make every moment of his rest count, he took the time to observe the others as he hugged the pool wall, a single arm slung over it. Celeste and Fukawa stood well away from the pool. Not that such a fact surprised him. Fukawa was muttering to herself, hands in her hair, apparently on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She seemed to have the world's biggest (and creepiest) crush on Byakuya, and regularly fell apart without him in her range of sight.

Leon was splashing everyone that came near him (of course he was). Junko and Mukuro were, for once, a considerable distance from each other. Chihiro stood on her own, her little body balancing well in the water, also partaking in a little bit of casual observation. Naegi had just climbed out of the pool, apparently approaching Kirigiri and Maizono, whom were taking a rest together, talking and nodding at each other's words. Asahina, of course, was spectating the entire event, occasionally blowing her whistle just for the sake of it.

"Ugh..." A grunt came from behind him.

Mondo Oowada, far too close for Kiyotaka's comfort, stared out across the pool, completely bone dry. He seemed to be debating whether or not he should jump in, occasionally fixing his hair with the paranoia of it getting wet. Kiyotaka never understood how he created that monstrosity of hair on his head, and what motivation he had to wear it around daily when it looked like such a disaster.

Hagakure was approaching the pool, about to hop back in, while Hifumi bobbed like a giant balloon on the surface. Wait... where was Sakura?

Just as that thought passed through his well-polished mind, the colossal superhuman burst out from the water, directly under Hifumi. The round boy went flying, screaming as he did so, while Sakura dove into the air, a powerful shower of water falling around her.

Why did she have a fish at the end of her fist?!

Asahina blew her whistle again, the sound bouncing off the walls of the room, just as Leon splashed water into Junko's face. What children they were.

Deciding he had seen enough at finding that his stamina was more than replenished, Kiyotaka set off again, headed to the other side of the pool, his body aching with the exertion it was being subjected to. Not that he minded. In fact, he barely even felt it. The foolishness of his classmates was all the motivation he needed to return to bettering himself and his body.

"Class photo!" He heard the teacher chime, but he didn't dare to stop swimming. That wasn't important. Photos meant nothing to him. He had set himself a task, and he intended on finishing it.

As the teacher snapped the chaotic shot, the hall monitor sped onwards.

He had to be better.
He had to be stronger.
He had to be perfect.

 

Chapter Text

 


 

"Hey man, shut up!"

Kiyotaka found himself patrolling the hallways of the New Building of Hope’s Peak Academy, having had quite the pleasant day so far. There were no classes being held for his class today, meaning he had naturally spent the morning studying and was now marching up and down the linoleum halls like some sort of soldier. What better way to spend his free time than hunting down trouble? Such was the duty of the Ultimate Moral Compass (a role he took far too seriously).

The moment those echoed words and the following laugh reached his ears, his shoulders tensed up. His eyes narrowed. That sounded like trouble.

"Think yer tougher than me, huh?" Another voice called out.

A series of grunts and additional laughter followed the voice, and Kiyotaka was already approaching the source with considerable speed. Even for those not in classes today, there was no reason they should be loitering in hallways shouting at each other!

"D-Dude! When you let me go, I'm gonna kick your ass, y'know!"

His entire understanding of the situation had just been flipped upside down. This sounded like a case of bullying. The Ultimate Moral Compass would not tolerate bullying. His speed-walking just became approximately three miles-per-hour faster.

He turned the corner, seeing two familiar figures wrestling against each other. The taller man had the other male in a firm headlock, which he was struggling to get out of. Despite this, and despite the sounds of strain he could hear from them both, they were chuckling as if all was right with the world. He didn’t understand it. Laughter, during what was clearly some kind of battle of strength? Were they enjoying this? This wasn’t bullying at all.

They were acting as if they were not in violation of a single rule, when, to Kiyotaka’s knowledge, they were breaking at least fourteen. And potentially another if he took the biker’s atrocious haircut into account.

They were acting like all was right in the world. It was not.

"Hold it!" The hall monitor called out, an accusing finger flying forward towards them, crimson eyes fixated on his targets. "Cease your actions immediately!"

The pair turned their heads to look at him, still in their headlock position, and, of course, he found himself staring with contempt at none other than Leon Kuwata and Mondo Owada. The usual suspects. He power-walked towards them (no running in the hallways), already reaching into his breast pocket to prepare a detention slip.

"Aw, shit, dude," said Leon, Mondo's arm still firmly wrapped around his neck, "you're not gonna bust us for a bit of rough-housing, are you?"

Mondo let go of the unnatural redhead and crossed his arms over his chest. Leon dusted himself off, making sure to fix his tussled hair, before straightening himself up a little (yet never reaching a proper posture). Both of them gave the hall monitor a look of annoyance. They clearly couldn't be bothered with the lecture, but Kiyotaka had no intention on sparing them his wrath.

"What is going on here?" He asked, black brows low on his face, wide eyes narrowed judgementally.

The biker grunted, shaking his head. “Ain’t it obvious? We’re having fun. Y’know, that thing that most normal people do?”

Something about those words sparked a little flash of white-hot pain within the prefect. Most normal people have fun? In saying that, was Mondo trying to imply that he wasn’t normal? For a moment that lay in the bottom of his chest, lingering. Pulling at him. He quickly shook it off, however.

If ‘normal people’ wasted their precious time putting each other into pointless headlocks instead of doing something productive, then he was proud to be anything but ‘normal’. He wasn’t some mindless caveman. He was a student. He was a leader. He was here for an education in the best school on the face of the Earth. Nothing more. Nothing less. He had no time for their foolishness.

He pulled out a single detention slip. Both of his victims caught sight of it, and Leon let out what was perhaps the loudest, most drawn-out sigh he’d ever heard in his life. “Oh Jesus, dude, come on! Chill out!"

“Chill out?” The prefect replied, the rectangular sheet of paper, emblazoned with the words ‘DETENTION SLIP’ in bold black, still firmly in his grasp. “You want me to... ‘chill out’?” It felt alien saying those words out loud.

“Yeah man, you know... breathe. Go relax, or something. Go for a run. Hell, even study, if that’s what helps you sleep at night. I don’t know,” the red-haired punk said, looking more concerned than frustrated at this stage.

Kiyotaka paused for a moment, looking over the pair in front of him. Both wore similar expressions, although Mondo seemed much more irritated than Leon did.

“Do you think this is a joke?” He said, suddenly, taking the two of them off guard.

“Think what’s a joke?” Said the biker, voicing he and the baseballer’s evident confusion.

“This school,” Kiyotaka replied rather matter-of-factly. “Your education. Your classes. Your lives. Your futures. The fact that hundreds, no, thousands, no, tens of thousands, would literally kill for a place in this school. The fact that you waste your talents – talents you have never had to WORK for – on screwing around instead of bettering yourselves!”

Tears were welling up in the prefect’s eyes, just as a ball of fire-soaked anger started to combust in his gut. Just as those fists clenched again. Just as, for the first time in his entire attendance of the school, he began showing the true frustration buried underneath the surface.

He hated geniuses. Oh, how he despised them. Their blissful ignorance to the importance of effort outraged him. Their continuous praisings from school staff, despite their total lack of work, made him sick. The fact that, over in the Reserve Course, those students were breaking their backs working hard, trying to make something of themselves, and still being put down for it... it made him see fire.

Leon. Mondo. Neither of them deserved to be the geniuses they were.

“Of course not!” Leon replied, tone a defensive one. “I care about this school just as much as you do, man! I just know how to balance my school life with free time. A-Ain’t that right, Mondo?” He turned to look up at the towering man, who nodded in affirmation.

“Damn straight!”

Of course they didn’t understand. Why would they? They were geniuses, yes, but idiots all the same.

“Detention,” Kiyotaka uttered. “Both of you.” Simple as that. He drew his rage back. Returned to being calm. Precise. Orderly. Perfect.

“Nah,” said Mondo, swatting the air with the back of his hand in obvious dismissal. “Screw this. This guy’s fuckin’ nuts, I swear!” With that, he turned his back on the situation and stormed off. Kiyotaka considered going after him and forcing the damned slip into his hand, or even his hair if it came to it, but refrained. He would catch up with him later. He had to remain calm. His focus came to Leon now.

“Dude–”

Kiyotaka thrust the paper into the red-head's hands before he could even contemplate continuing that sentence. He looked down at the slip, parting his lips to argue back, before closing his mouth and shaking his head. He pocketed it, only to speak a handful of seconds later.

“Dude,” he began again. Did the boy know any other word? Perhaps if he actually studied, Kiyotaka thought, he’d have a decent vocabulary. “Look. I’m gonna be honest here. We’re all worried about you. I get it. You love your, uh, rules and studying and stuff. That’s fine. But you never hang out with us. You sorta… I dunno… isolate yourself a lot.”

“I have more important things to be doing,” the hall monitor replied. “I’m a student, Mister Kuwata, not a socialite!” As if the others actually cared, he thought.

“Bud, we’re all students here! That’s what I’m trying to tell you, man. We all know how to balance it out, ya know? Look, me and some of the others are gonna be hanging out tonight. Come along. Please.” Leon spoke in a way Kiyotaka had never heard from him before. It was a tone that sounded concerned. Practically pleading with him. Was he actually worried? Were the others actually worried, after all? No. Leon was probably just trying to toy with his emotions to get out of detention. Not on his watch! Still, it was odd seeing that look of appeal in his eyes.

Kiyotaka shook his head. “I have studying to do tonight.”

He wasn't sure if Leon's reaction was one of perplexity or irritation. "Dude, come on! Lighten up!" He said, tone hitting a point of mild exasperation. "All work and no play's gonna drive ya crazy!"

Kiyotaka didn't care. "I'm sorry, but my education comes first."

Leon sighed. Again.

“Fine,” he said, shrugging his shoulders, tone and expression both indicating that he could no longer be bothered with this. “Can’t say I didn’t try. Whatever, dude. Catch you later.”

Running a hand through his hair, the baseballer turned his back, just as Mondo had, and walked off without another word. Thankfully, he had his detention slip, so Kiyotaka expected him to turn up to the Principal’s Office presently.

Leon’s words rang in the hall monitor’s head, however. What if, however doubtful, he was being honest? What if the others really did care? What if, maybe, just maybe, Kiyotaka should attend, after all?

No. No! He had to focus on studying. No matter how exhausted he was, he knew that recreation, unless for the sake of bettering himself physically or mentally, was no more than a distraction. He had to be greater, damn it! No matter how strong the temptation to slack off, even for a minute!

Leon was a distraction. Mondo was a distraction. The entire class; they were all walking, breathing distractions, and none of them cared about their education in the way that he did.

He loved them. They were the only family he had in here.

He hated them. They were idiots.

As Leon walked off down the hallway, red eyes watched him leave, once again welling up with silent tears. Those eyes narrowed at the other male, a flicker of that earlier flame burning in the prefect’s chest once again. Although he didn't exactly know why.

If looks could kill, Leon would have been on the floor in that very second. A thought crossed Kiyotaka’s mind, albeit for a second, before vanishing into a puff of mental smoke, and he had almost forgotten all about it. A thought he had never had before. A thought he disregarded entirely.

If looks could kill

In the darkest, most submerged part of his mind, killing was precisely what Kiyotaka Ishimaru wanted.

Not realising this, however, the prefect turned now, too. He wiped away his tears. He straightened his back. He cleared his head of the entire incident.

He returned to patrolling.

All was well.

Chapter Text

The first thing that indicated to Kiyotaka Ishimaru that today would be a good day was the blaring sun, hanging in a rolling blue sky. The trees of the schoolyard blew ever so gently in a golden breeze that was practically non-existent. Cheerful birds (all of which Kiyotaka could identify, thanks to his studies) chirped happily and sang sweetly. Laughter filled the cool summer air. The sounds and sights and colours of nature surrounded the 78 th class with resplendence, and, for the first time in several weeks, the prefect was happy.

Of course, as delightful as nature was, it wasn’t the reason for his happiness. No, today was Hope’s Peak Academy’s annual Sports Day, an event he had been looking forward to for quite some time now. The Reserve Course students, however, were still shut away in that old building of theirs. Their Sports Day activies were being held in their indoor gym, according to what he had overheard two teachers saying during his earlier hallway patrols. A way of keeping them “seperate from the others”, they had said. He pitied the Reserve Coursers more than words could say, but he reminded himself to keep his chin up.

Even if they weren’t happy, he would make sure that, for today at least, he would be.

The entire class was working together as a team. Doing as they were told. Participating in the events offered to them. Genuinely and truly enjoying the competition being offered. It was rare. Usually they scoffed at rules, rolled their eyes at regulations, and sneered at the concept of studying. Yet here they were, building up a strong sense of community and belonging. For once, the hall monitor actually felt like it was a community he could belong to.

So at-ease was the Ultimate Moral Compass that, along with the others, he found himself wearing a casual t-shirt and gym shorts. It was a far cry from his usual attire, but it was the school’s gym uniform, after all. With the exceptions of Celeste and Mukuro (although that hardly surprised him) everyone was wearing roughly the same clothes. Uniformity! He loved it.

“I’m... ah... I’m exhausted!” Cried Hagakure, doubled-over aside the Ultimate Moral Compass. His mess of hair stayed perfectly in place despite the fact he was soaked in sweat, a fact which fascinated Kiyotaka. “That was... gah... crazy...”

“That was only the egg-and-spoon race, you know,” said Makoto Naegi to his right, looking at the Ultimate Clairvoyant like he was insane. “It’s not supposed to be exhausting.”

“Hey!” He replied, looking somewhat offended. “Not all of us can be like Taka, here. He came in first place!”

They were recognising his achievements? Kiyotaka couldn’t hide the smile on his face. He felt happy. Happy felt good. Great, in fact. He puffed up his chest in pride, placing his hands on his hips. He grinned. “It’s all about dedication!” He chimed. “Concentrate. Become one with the egg and the spoon, and you’re sure to win!”

Hagakure seemed taken aback at that. “B-Become one with them, huh? Jeez, dude, you sound more psychic than me.”

“And that’s saying something!” The voice of Sayaka Maizono chimed from behind them, followed by an energetic giggle.

The prefect felt an unexpected slap on his back and tensed up like some sort of frightened cat, his head spinning left to see a grinning Mondo. “Well done on coming first, man,” he said, apparently being entirely honest. “You’re not too bad... for a nutjob.” He chuckled at his own remark, to which Kiyotaka blinked. He wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or an insult. He wasn’t sure how to react.

“Woah, chill,” Mondo continued, eyes wide, clearly surprised at the reaction he had received. He seemed to have noticed the confusion on the hall monitor’s face. “I’m kidding. You did hella good. It’s just good to see you take that stick outta your ass and relax a little for once!”

Relax? Was that what he was doing? His adrenaline was pumping, his heart was racing, and he was covered in sweat from beating the entire class in the last race. Either way, it felt good to be a part of the team for once. They were all on the same wavelength. At their heart, they were good people. Misguided, sure, but good people, all the same.

“T-Thank you!” He replied, allowing himself to grin again. “It’s just great to have everyone working together and getting some exercise... it’s the best thing for building a strong school spirit!”

“Fuck yeah!” The biker roared, bearing those biceps of his, exposed by the fact he was only wearing a tank top. “I’ll drink to that!” With that said, he downed almost all of the bottle of water in his hand. Kiyotaka couldn’t help but laugh.

“Uh, I think we’re starting off the next set of races now,” said Naegi suddenly.

Kiyotaka turned his attention to the track in front of him and, sure enough, a few of the others were lining up to run. He considered jumping in to participate in the first race but knew his stamina wasn’t up to scratch yet. No matter his determination, he knew it would be foolish to run in without the necessary energy. He’d join in for the second one, he told himself, but he was more than happy to watch the others.

A few of the others moved over to join in, switching places and scattering themselves all over the place. Mondo was a stern exception to that rule, remaining next to the prefect, occasionally making attempts at conversation which, for once, Kiyotaka indulged in. Conversation was fun. Who knew? Maybe Mondo wasn’t so bad after all!

Byakuya had come up to stand on his right at some point, but stayed relatively silent. Unsurprising. It was Byakuya, after all.

“I’ll give you guys a fifteen-second head-start,” said Sakura as she lined up. “Makes it fairer.”

“A-Are you sure that’s fair on you?” Naegi replied, clearly shocked.

“Hey dude, shhh! If it means I can win, I’m not complaining!” Leon grinned, stretching out his arms over his shoulders. Hifumi stood aside the redhead, and next to him was Sayaka. Kiyotaka highly doubted Hifumi stood a chance, but he couldn’t fault him for trying, at least!

It wasn’t long until the race began, and Kiyotaka cheered the five of them on with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. Perhaps a little too much enthusiasm, sure, but he was enjoying himself. As expected, Hifumi was lagging behind (although, to his surprise, was managing to keep up), with Sayaka forming a decent lead. For a moment, he had totally forgotten about a certain Ultimate Martial Artist, but was quickly reminded of her when a flurry of dust appeared in the distance on the track.

The finishing line was rapidly approaching and Asahina, having appeared from seemingly nowhere with a camera, ran into sight in front of the racers. “I need to catch this!” She cried out, but Kiyotaka was too busy cheering on the others to take much notice of her.

SNAP!

The picture was taken.

Seconds later, Sakura Oogami, wrapped in a haze of dirt, stormed past the others at speeds which must have broken the sound barrier, leaving her competitors literally eating her dust. There was no contest here. She stormed past the finishing line, and Kiyotaka burst into applause. Now that was skill! Even Junko, who had been too busy talking with Chihiro on the sidelines, turned her head to give a (slightly uncaring) glance over at the scene.

The class surrounded her, beyond impressed at what they had just witnessed, with her rivals not even bothering to finish the race. Hell, even Leon abandoned a potential second-place victory just to congratulate her. Asahina was, of course, the first one up to her, immediately hugging her with a cheer the second she came within her vicinity.

“Sakura!” She yelled, absolutely overjoyed, acting as if she were some sort of pride-filled sister. “That was amazing! Absolutely amazing!”

Now, this? This was the school spirit Kiyotaka so heavily desired to cultivate. Togetherness. A celebration of skill and hard work. This was what Hope’s Peak Academy was all about. It wasn’t long before he was lining up to participate in the second race, determined to prove to himself that he hadn’t wasted those countless hours exercising in preparation for this day. That his studying, both mentally and physically, truly was paying off. That he deserved to be here. That he wasn’t an effortless genius!

 

 


 

Devasted.

That was the only word to sum up Kiyotaka’s current mood, as he stared down at the dusty ground, eyes wide, filled with tears. How had this happened? What had he done to deserve a result as absolutely despairingly awful as this?

In his hand, he gripped onto the flag that bore his result in the race, tightened fists grabbing on with such intensity that his knuckles had turned into a stark, arctic white. His teeth were clenched. Visible fury spread far and wide across the corners of his sweat-covered face.

Fourth place.

He had come in fourth. Touko had come first, with Naegi (who had decided to run again) coming in second, with Chihiro serving as a close third. Potentially the three weakest students in the class... and all of them had beaten him.

He was proud of them, of course. They had overcome their own lack of strength to the extent that they had beaten the Ultimate Moral Compass himself. On the one hand, it was incredible. It was worthy of the celebration that had been showered on them the moment they crossed the finishing line. It was the type of success he wanted them all to aspire to. On the other hand, however, it was downright shameful. It was awful. Inexcusably awful!

How had he lost? Was he not strong enough, Kiyotaka wondered? Fourth place, he had been told by rather confused Naegi, was still pretty good, and in many respects, he wasn’t wrong. It was ‘pretty good’, he had said. But Kiyotaka Ishimaru was not set on being just ‘pretty good’. No. He was determined to be the best. To be perfect!

“Alright, everyone,” said the same portly little teacher that had excused them all from class halfway through a lesson a handful of weeks ago, “smile!” He stood behind a camera, just as everyone took their poses. Asahina sitting firmly on Sakura’s shoulders. Mondo tussling the hair of a certain delighted Ultimate Programmer. Everyone laughing. Smiling.

Except for Kiyotaka.

The picture was taken, and he remained in that same pose. Holding onto his flag, staring at the ground in defeat, stomach tied in a twisted knot of anger and confusion. How had this happened?

Had he not tried hard enough? No, he told himself, he had been committed to winning.

Had he not been in the proper mindset? No, he told himself, he had spent hours researching breathing techniques for a sharp, healthy mind.

Had he not exercised hard enough? No, he told himself, he had worked out to the point of near-collapse in the last month to prepare for this.

Had he not been strict enough? No, he– wait. Wait. That was it. It dawned on him. Today he had allowed himself to engage in idle chatter. He allowed himself to have what the others called ‘fun’. He had been relaxed and open, conversational and excitable, easygoing and upbeat. That mindset, he told himself, was what had led to his downfall.

A single tear fell onto the ground in front of him. Damn it, why did he always have to cry so easily? He had been the cause of his own ruin today. No one else. It was a fact that burned through him. If he was strict, he was looked upon as a ‘stiff’ and a ‘nutjob’. If he was relaxed, he was destined to lose what should be easy challenges. Why did it all have to be so impossible?

It wasn’t fair.

He wanted to be perfect. He needed to be perfect. He demanded to be perfect!

As the others began to scatter and move away from the spot where he remained, sitting in relative solitude, still grasping onto his flag, he raised his head up to look upon the thing he was holding. There it was. The sign of his defeat, flying proudly above him on a burnt-orange background.

4.

Another tear fell from his eyes.

Four.

The number of failure.

 

Chapter Text

 
It had taken Kiyotaka Ishimaru, the perfect prefect of the 78th class of Hope’s Peak Academy, the boy who craved education and loved classes, all the strength in the world to rise out of his bed this typically ordinary summer morning. Had it not been for his sense of duty and obligation, and his determination to succeed regardless of the circumstances, he might have given in to the bitterness and hurt welling up within him and fallen back asleep.

It was not a thought he usually, if ever, entertained.

Alas, he had corridors to patrol and rules to enforce, even if he knew no one cared for his authority, anyway. Not even the teachers. It was rare for even them to turn up to classes now, and when they did they had the habit of calling an early recess. They didn’t want to be there. The others didn’t want to be there. Kiyotaka, of course, did. Did that make him unusual, he wondered, as he finished tying his boot laces? Was there much point in trying to be perfect, he thought, when it was increasingly impossible?

No. No. He had to try. He had to succeed, damn it! The effortless talents of others wouldn’t be the end of him, and that was a promise.

He eyed himself in the mirror of his dorm room as he began to make his way out the door, and he stopped to observe his reflection for a moment. He looked less bright than usual. Less cheerful. His features seemed more sullen and his brows were framed lower on his face. It wasn’t anger that was carved into his pale skin, but rather an increasing amount of hopelessness in his classmates, in this school, and in himself.

He shook his head. He had bigger things to worry about. With that, he was out the door, back straighter than the four spare rulers he kept in one of his drawers (one could never be underprepared to learn, after all), and a typical, uneventful day began.

...Or so he thought, until he heard the sound of the revving motorbike engine on the other side of the building.

What in the–

“FUCK YEAH!”

The unmistakable voice of a certain biker bounced down the well-polished hallways and reached Kiyotaka’s alert ears, and a spark of anger immediately set itself alight. If anyone was the anti-rule mastermind among the class, it was Mondo, without a doubt. His screaming of expletives wasn’t what surprised the Ultimate Moral Compass. Rather, it was the sound of the bike engine that confused him. How did it sound like it was inside the school? He began to speed-walk to his destination, wondering what could possibly be awaiting him.

It wasn’t long before he got his answer.

Turning the corner into the main foyer of the building a moment later, he was almost run over as Mondo Owada, coat fluttering behind him, went speeding past on his bike, racing it down the hallway. He laughed maniacally, letting out an ecstatic cheer as he passed. This wasn’t real. This couldn’t be real. He was riding a bike… in the hallways?! Even for him, this was a new (and unbelievably dangerous) extreme.

Just as that veritable mess of information made an attempt to process itself in the hall monitor’s mind, his eyes came to another sight – one which managed to somehow surprise him even more than the bike had.

Almost all of the class were gathered in the foyer, seemingly trying to launch a revolution with the amount of insanity they were stirring up. Civility had apparently fallen apart. There was Leon, arm flung over Sayaka’s shoulder, laughing wildly, only for her to turn around and slap him across the cheek at some unheard comment he must have made. Across from him sat Asahina in a corner, surrounded by a litter of empty doughnut boxes, apparently having not cared to dispose of them in the trash can less than three feet away from her. Over there was Junko, currently… throwing knives at her sister, apparently. Celeste had just thrown a fresh pot of tea over poor Hifumi’s face, and – w-why was Touko’s tongue now the length of her entire body?!

The only word to describe the scene before Kiyotaka’s eyes was anarchy. Utter and complete anarchy. Brash. Uncaring. Loud. Oh, all of them so unbelievably loud.

“Oh come on, don’t lie to me pretty boy, I know you’ve seen him somewhere!” Touko cooed, her voice and attitude like that of an entirely different person, currently waving a pair of scissors in the face of a frightened Makoto.

“I-I haven’t! I swear!” The Ultimate Lucky Student replied with a worried grin, to the apparent mixture of amusement and concern of Kirigiri, who stood aside him.

Touko bounced away from him, currently darting around the room, questioning everyone, wild eyes searching for someone. Byakuya, perhaps? Either way, Kiyotaka noted, he wasn’t here. Not that the prefect was really noting anything, of course. He was too busy trying to stave off three different seizures simultaneously.

“You look stressed,” came a gruff voice to Kiyotaka’s right, and he turned to see a perplexed Sakura watching the scene with him, arms folded over her chest.

“I… I’m perfectly fine, thank you,” he replied stiffly, reminding himself where socialising got him in last month’s Sports Day. Fourth place. Failure.

“Need a hand?” She asked, quickly gesturing with her head to the hallway behind them, where a certain idiot had just raced down out of sight. “He’s out of control.”

It took Kiyotaka a moment to fully grasp what she was implying but, surprised at her willingness to help, he swiftly accepted. “Please,” he said. He added nothing more. His exasperated tone spoke more than a thousand words ever could.

The sound of the bike returned, rapidly increasing in volume, accompanied by Mondo’s manic cheers. Kiyotaka spun round, watching as he came into sight again, bolting down the hallway at maximum speed.

“I’M THE KING OF THE FUCKIN’ WORLD! I’M-”

Sakura stepped out in front of the bike, and the sound of screeching brakes broke into the stifling air. What the hell was she doing?!

As if the metal racing machine was nothing more than a leaf, the world’s strongest woman grabbed the still-moving bike, Mondo still attached to it, and, with a colossal CRASH, quite literally tossed it behind her. Mondo flew off the seat, ending up careering into a wall, his precious deathtrap sliding across the floor on its side, front wheel still slightly turning.

T’was but a flesh wound, apparently, considering that the biker was back on his feet ten seconds later, hand pushed firmly against the bulging bump on his head from where he’d cracked against the wall. He looked… dizzy, to say the least. He opened his mouth to speak, but Sakura held out a commanding hand.

“Don’t,” she said with a grunt. “You need to calm yourself.”

Kiyotaka wasn’t sure whether to thank her or scold her. She had stopped Mondo’s reign of diesel-powered terror, but throwing him across the room like he and his bike were ragdolls, not taking the danger of such an act into account? Was this a school or a wrestling ring? She had meant well and she was, without doubt, the most clear-headed person in the room right now apart from Kiyotaka, but… the violence had irked him. It was in violation of a school rule, after all.

As a matter of fact, they were all violating rules in their own ways right now. Feel relief or anger? Calmly plead for calm, or issue everyone with a detention? Laugh or cry? Ishimaru.exe was barely responding.

Just as he had been about to hesitantly thank Sakura for her (unorthodox) dealing with Mondo, and had been about to request her help to get the others under control, a sharp pain crashed against his head.

“Oh crap!” Shouted a voice that wasn’t his own.

He let out a gasp of pain, holding his hand up, watching as a white ball dropped to the floor in front of him, lined with red stitches. The ball that had just smacked him in the face. A baseball.

“Shit, dude, that was an accident! Sorry!”

Slowly, he looked from the ball to the foyer where, of course, Leon Kuwata stood, baseball bat in hand, scratching the back of his head with a nervous grin. “I was trying to show off my skills to Sayaka here, but, uh… I wasn’t looking where I was batting! You know how it is.”

Red eyes locked onto him. One of them twitched with unhideable anger. It was no surprise. There was only so much a human being could take in one sitting before the friendly mask would slip. Kiyotaka was no exception right now.

“No hard feelings though, right?”

Fists clenched. Teeth ground behind a firmly closed pair of lips. Bush-like brows furrowed in fury.

Kiyotaka allowed himself one last survey of the scene before him. Most of the others hadn’t even noticed what had happened, still too busy treating the place like it was a zoo. Junko was pulling on Mukuro’s hair. A rule broken. Touko was spinning a pair of scissors around on her index finger, laughing like a madwoman. Another rule broken. Asahina’s litter still covered a little corner of the floor. Another rule broken. Mondo swore under his breath. Another rule broken.

Turning on his heels, he marched off without a word, leaving those whom had witnessed the scene to exchange confused and concerned glances between each other.

Enough was enough, he thought, feeling like he might be sick with the amount of rage pulsing through his veins, that he might fall unconscious with the deep well of sadness pouring frustration into every corner of his body. He had given them chance after chance, and every one of them had been thrown back in his face (sometimes literally).

What, he wondered, would the principal have to say about this?

Today had promised to be nothing more than ordinary. Today was to be a perfectly typical summer’s day. However, as he headed to the office of Headmaster Jin Kirigiri, neither Kiyotaka nor the world knew that today would go down in history. Today was destined to change the world.

For today, this perfectly normal day, was about to see the birth of despair.

Chapter Text

Kiyotaka found himself in front of the headmaster's office, immediately wrapping his knuckles on the door with no hesitation whatsoever. It wasn't exactly common practice to go and see the principal as it was, but to march up to his door and practically demand an audience with him? That was unusual. Especially for the rule-abiding prefect, who thought about regulations and procedures at least four-hundred times a minute. Today, however, was different. His actions were justified.

He received no reply. Was he even in there, he wondered? He waited a moment later, and, after knocking again and receiving no answer, Kiyotaka pushed his ear to the door to listen for any signs of life. Sure enough, he was able to hear faint traces of near-inaudible conversation from behind it. It was definitely the voice of Jin Kirigiri, without mistake. Kiyotaka wasn't an eavesdropper (intentionally, anyway), but he managed to overhear little fragments of conversation.

"...Genius. Yes, I know. I know."

It sounded as if he was talking to someone, but no other voice followed his words, leading Kiyotaka to conclude that he must have been using a phone. He needed to speak with him urgently, yes, but he didn't have the indecency to barge in and interrupt a phone call. Kiyotaka might have been angry. He might have been desperately seeking a response to the chaos unfolding downstairs. But he wouldn't sacrifice his manners, of all things. He was the Ultimate Moral Compass, after all, no matter what!

"Of course. I'll be meeting with– yes. Exactly. I'll bring it up when I see him."

Kiyotaka hoped this conversation wouldn't last all day. He needed to see the principal immediately – there was no time to waste. With every second that passed, who knew how much of a rampage the carefree others would be creating downstairs? Thankfully, almost as if someone had heard his silent prayers...

"Certainly. I'll speak with you later. Thank you, Tengan. Goodbye."

Now was his chance!

Taking his ear off of the wooden panelling of the door, Kiyotaka wasted no time in knocking again, this time louder and with considerably more force than he had employed a minute ago. Sure enough, a few seconds later, the doors opened, and there stood Jin Kirigiri, headmaster of Hope's Peak Academy.

He gave Kiyotaka a puzzled look.

"Kiyotaka?" He asked, already confused. "What are you doing here? Have you been... crying?"

It was funny that he should ask that, considering that Kiyotaka burst into tears almost on-cue, fists clenched and teeth bared, frustrated at such a display of weakness. His tendency to cry spontaneously was but another one of his many oh-so-hated weaknesses.

"The class... they've lost their minds!" He had to push the words out of his mouth.

Jin's expression turned from confusion to concern, and he stood aside, gesturing into the office. "Come in, Kiyotaka."

The prefect did just that.

Jin closed the doors behind him, and wandered over to his desk, taking a seat. His eyes cast up to the clearly upset (although 'upset' was an understatement) student before him. "Tell me what happened." His voice was unbelievably calm and well-mannered. That gave Kiyotaka some hope.

Standing in front of the desk, his face still a mess of tears, Kiyotaka blurted out a hurried explanation.

"It's horrible! It's crazy! There's no order! Mondo rode a bike through the halls, Touko is threatening people with scissors, and Junko's tossing knives! Litter on the floor... people throwing each other... Leon Kuwata hit me with a baseball! They're out of control!"

"Kiyotaka, please," said Jin, clearly taken aback at the level of emotion pouring out from the hall monitor. "Calm down. Take a seat."

Kiyotaka did not sit. "I'm sorry, Headmaster," he said, "but you have to do something!"

"I understand that you're upset, Kiyotaka, but what do you suggest I do?" He asked, letting out a minor sigh. "You're one of the hall monitors. The best of them. It's your duty to keep them under control, is it not?"

That question did, for just a moment, make Kiyotaka see fire. Yes, indeed, it was his duty to uphold order and ensure that the school's rules were being followed precisely. It was indeed his duty to keep the others under relative control. Did Jin not think he had tried that? That he had tried issuing detention slips, that he had tried explaining to them the importance of hard work and education? The question insulted him. He had tried, damn it. The riot going on wasn't his fault! It was theirs!

"They don't care about control! They don't listen. I've tried everything. They don't care!"

Jin flashed him a look of doubt. "They don't... care? Come, Kiyotaka, I'm sure you don't mean that."

"No, I do!" He retorted, not caring if he was raising his voice. "They hate lessons. They hate education. They just want to loiter around and cause trouble. It's damaging the school and it's damaging their futures!"

"Damaging the school? Their futures?" The principal allowed himself a little chuckle, shaking his head. As if something was amusing about Kiyotaka's frustrations. "I doubt that. You are all immensely talented. Your talents will take you far in life, regardless of the choices you all make. You don't need to worry."

"That's the problem! Their talent makes them ignorant. They don't understand or appreciate hard work. Look at the reserve course students – they would kill for a place in the main course. They work so hard, and they're ignored. My class don't understand effort, and they're rewarded for it! Their talents are the problem here!"

The amusement was wiped off Jin's face in that moment, and he straightened himself in his seat, clasping his hands on the desk in front of him. "Kiyotaka," he said, tone a little deeper, "how can someone as talented as yourself say that?"

Talented? Kiyotaka… talented? The prefect saw fire once more, feeling as if he was about to vomit. Never in his life had he been so insulted. The fact it was meant as a compliment only made him angrier.

"Headmaster, I am not talented," he said, his tears suddenly coming to a halt. The furrowing of Jin's brows and the thinning of his lips indicated shock. "I worked hard to become who I am today. I'm not a genius. I have no talent. I only have effort behind me. That's why I'm here today. That's why I'm the Ultimate Moral Compass, Sir. Because I worked for it."

It wasn't something he ever said out loud (he wouldn't dare), but Kiyotaka despised geniuses. He hated talent. It was too easy. Too perfect. Why should someone on the Reserve Course who broke their back to make something of themselves be trampled on by someone in the Main Course who put in no effort at all, simply because they were talented? It made him sick. He was not talented, and he was proud of it.

A brief silence filled the air after that, during which Kiyotaka bowed his head and stared down at the desk, awaiting his response. He felt partially ashamed to come bursting in, crying and shouting, spilling out his rage and frustrations, but who could blame him? He was at his wit's end. Enough was enough. It wasn't– wait, what was that?

A folder sat on Jin's desk, barely peeking out from under a stack of other papers. Kiyotaka wouldn't have noticed it, had he not looked down. The very top of a single sheet of paper was visible within the folder. The hall monitor made out the words 'Izuru Kamukura Project'. Apparently having seen that he'd noticed it, Jin quickly leant over, grabbed the folder, and tucked it away into a desk drawer out of sight. Was he trying to hide it?

Izuru Kamukura… that was the school's founder. Kiyotaka had read about him in one of the many, many, many books he had on the school's history. A project with his name? An upcoming school event, perhaps?

"This… disorder you speak of," Jin said suddenly, sounding a touch more stressed than he had a moment ago. "Was Kyoko a part of it?"

Kiyotaka's thoughts quickly shifted from the folder and back to the conversation, and he forgot all about it. The matter at hand was far too important to be distracted from.

"No, Sir," he said, not surprised that the principal was concerned for his daughter, "she wasn't. Not everyone was involved."

Jin visibly sighed with relief but maintained a calm, collected, and relatively unbothered appearance. "So it's not the entire class that's the problem, then?" He asked, the early morning sunlight drifting in through the windows behind him showing the tinge of purple in his dark hair. "It's just a few troublemakers? Surely that's something you can deal with."

Something he could deal with? Once he thought that was possible. He now understood that it was unachievable. Authority wasn't a term that existed to his classmates.

"Sir, it's not as simple as that. You have to believe me. They don't attend detentions. They walk out of classes – most of the time the teachers refuse to teach, too!" Kiyotaka's tone was strained, frustrated, almost desperate. Hoping and praying that the headmaster might understand. That he might see reason. Something to give the prefect the hope he needed – the affirmation that he wasn't the only person left on the planet who actually cared for order and decency.

"Kiyotaka, Hope's Peak Academy is no ordinary school, as you know. It is a beacon of progress and hope. A place to cultivate talent and excellence. Lessons are important, yes, but giving the talented main course students time to focus on their own skills is exactly what this school is all about. Surely you know that?"

Kiyotaka almost scoffed at that. "Riding a bike through the halls is focusing on a skill?"

His mood had gone from outraged and devastated to something else. Something new. Quieter. More subtly bitter. One would almost think he had calmed down, but such a thought couldn't be further from the truth. This was simply a different type of anger.

"It's… impractical, Mister Owada is the Ultimate Biker Gang Leader, after all," Jin said. "What can you expect? Look, I understand your concern, and I'm glad you brought it to my attention, but I'm immensely busy here, Kiyotaka."

So that was it, then? The headmaster was just going to get back to whatever pointless work he had to do, and totally ignore the chaos unfolding downstairs? Wasn't he going to do anything at all?

"What do you suggest I do?" Kiyotaka asked, almost afraid of the inevitably awful reply he was about to receive.

"Relax. That's all I can say. Enjoy your time here. Stop obsessing with classes and consider joining in on the fun. You're only young once, after all." The headmaster flashed the concerned student a subtle, warm smile. "Cut yourself and the others a little slack. Live a little."

He was about to object to that reply. Such a solution could never possibly work. He expected the Ultimate Moral Compass to participate in violence and rule-breaking? Disorder and hysteria? Was he even listening to himself? One could never combat disorder with further disorder! He would be giving the others exactly what they wanted! Why was this school, a place that should have upheld order and rules, happily accepting anarchy?

Wait.

Wait a minute.

Maybe, just maybe… the headmaster was right?

The world outside the boundaries of the school was a wild and dangerous place. Crime was common. Corruption was everywhere. Everyone who walked the streets had broken at least one law at some point in their lives. It was a loud, rule-breaking world filled with hustle-and-bustle, chaos and calamity, masquerading as a place of peace and civility. The school itself was no different. Filled with loud, rule-breaking people who craved violence and disorder, all the while pretending to be perfectly peaceful, orderly students who had done no wrong. What was the point in them pretending to be anything other than what they were, Kiyotaka asked himself?

Perhaps… the best solution to disorder was, indeed, further disorder.

If the people of Hope's Peak Academy – the people of the world itself – didn't enjoy lessons, then it would be wise to bring the lessons to them. Better yet, would it not be better to teach them such lessons in the way that they were used to? With chaos and disorder? If the people of the world so desired anarchy, then surely it was only right to give them exactly what they wanted?

"I… I… I think I understand. A little healthy dose of disorder never hurt anyone, right?" He asked. He knew that the epiphany he had just reached wasn't what Jin had meant at all, but Kiyotaka's version made much, much more sense. The gears were turning. Spinning, almost. Everything was coming together all in this wonderful, perfect moment.

"Of course! You know what the Americans say: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Perfect order will drive you insane." Jin laughed again, clearly unaware of the malevolence unfolding inside the perfect student's mind.

Kiyotaka gave a firm nod, and a wide grin spread across his suddenly cheerful face. "Absolutely. Thank you, Sir! I know what I have to do now. Truly. Thank you!"

Jin seemed relieved at that. "I'm glad I could be of help. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to be doing."

Kiyotaka nodded again, still smiling. "Of course, Sir. Have a wonderful day, Headmaster." With a quick bow, he turned, and dismissed himself, leaving the room swiftly.

He had entered the room as a concerned and outraged (if not terrified) Ultimate Moral Compass. He was now leaving the room as an entirely new person. That last part of their talk had lit up something within him. Something he had never experienced before. A sudden logistical understanding of how to deal with every single problem he saw in both the school and the world. One could say something had 'snapped' inside his head, but this was so much more than that. Something hadn't been lost

Something hadn't been lost within him. No, no, no. Something had been conceived.

Something had been conceived.

 


 

 


A matter of hours later, the hall monitor found himself back in his room, perfectly at ease, sitting at his desk. Still smiling from ear to ear.

Piled atop the desk was a pile of books, all of them on the various technicalities and intricacies of programming. He had hunted down Chihiro earlier (who was, unsurprisingly, nowhere near the loud recklessness of the others), having asked her kindly if he could borrow a few of her books. She had, of course, seemed confused but, he had explained, it was for a little 'pet project' of his. Something to keep him busy while he wasn't studying. Something that would be of benefit to both himself and the others.

Such a prospect had delighted her. "I'm excited to know what it is!" She had cooed while rushing into her dorm to bring out a selection of books. She had carried them one-by-one, apparently too weak to carry them all as one gigantic pile. "Whatever you're working on, I hope it cheers you up, Kiyotaka!"

It would, he assured her, do just that. Her books would be invaluable to him. He thanked her and, with that conversation over, had returned to his room to start planning, the stack of books in hand.

Now, a short time later, he sat at his desk, having been scribbling away into a notepad for the past couple of hours. Every so often he would reference the books, reading up on passages involving design and electronics. It was all here. Everything he needed. He was a happy student, indeed!

He leant back, sitting down his pen, his work complete. Cheerful crimson eyes studied the page, scanning over every little curve and line of the sketch.

Kiyotaka had used three colours. Black, White, and Red. The same colours he found on himself. Black boots, white uniform, red eyes. The entire thing had, in many respects, been drawn out in his own image.

He chuckled to himself, not a care in the world.

There, on the page, was a drawing of a teddy bear. One-half black, one-half white, with a single red eye in the shape of the logo of Hope's Peak Academy – a jagged line of sorts. At the bottom of the page, written with perfect precision, was the name he had bestowed upon his new child.

'Monokuma'.

Today was a happy day for Kiyotaka Ishimaru. Finally, at long last, he understood what he needed to do. He understood what his school, and the world, required in order to be educated. Today should have been a typical, unexciting day, but it was so much more than that.

As he stared down at the page, the prefect broke into a wild laughter, one which he had never produced before. Oh, it felt so painful to laugh so hard! Painful felt good!

Today was a special day.

For today was the birthday of despair.

Chapter Text

Well, that was that.

Neon-pink blood dripped down the walls. Corpses lay scattered across the entire floor of the building, littering the hallways, with most of the bodies located in a single room. A room that was the very definition of ‘bloodbath’. Having been filled with panicked, screaming participants only a moment before, all of them fighting each other for survival, it was now eerily silent. A lone man, exceptionally long hair covering most of his face, had been the one to finish off the final survivor, and he looked positively… bored by the scene.

“Congratulations, Mister Kamukura,” came the voice of a recent convert (and personal establisher) of the wondrous ideology of Despair, twisted and filled with delight, currently playing through the PA system. “What a perfect show! I expected nothing less.”

Izuru Kamukura didn’t seem to care.

“You’re free to leave,” the voice continued, before adding, “I hereby declare this meeting of the Hope’s Peak Student Council as adjourned!” The happiest of laughs escaped the sound system before, with a tiny little crackle, the microphone was switched off. Izuru did as expected. Wearing a face of complete and utter boredom, he left the bloody scene. And, oh, what a scene it was!

Leaning back from the monitors displaying the perfectly macabre scene, Kiyotaka Ishimaru let out a laugh. A grin had been carved into his face by the glorious knife of despair – a smile so bright and optimistic that one could almost mistake it for one of hope.

It had been a busy few months of the Ultimate Moral Compass (although, in reality, his proverbial compass had long since broken). He had come to accept the disorder and chaos being happily spread by his classmates, as well as those from other classes (particularly the class above his – Class 77-B, who were a whole new level of reckless). Not once did he think to intervene when he caught others running in the hallways. Not once did he even bat an eyelid as the Ultimates from the other classes inflicted chaos – not even when the foolish ‘Ultimate Team Manager’ managed to tear a bathroom apart to its very foundations.

Allowing disorder had been the first step of his plan. It was funny how quickly the others had noticed.

Hell, even Leon had expressed genuine concern.

“Dude, are you okay?” he had asked. “I’m running in the halls here, aren’t you gonna… do something?” He made a point of sprinting past him repeatedly, desperate to get a reaction.

Ishimaru did not do a thing. It was better to let the insects tear themselves apart with their own lack of regulation. In a way, it was enjoyable seeing rule after pathetic rule shatter into dust. Watching the self-destruction of those who had ever once cared about him. All it took for disorder to reign was his absence.

The Hall Monitor’s curiosity had been piqued ever since seeing that file on the headmaster’s desk, and he had, naturally, set out on his own investigation. He had expected to find nothing, but oh what a secret he found! Inhumane experiments being run on a student in the school, all with the headmaster’s knowledge, using funding from the reserve course students! The goal was, it seemed, to create a student that could be deemed the ‘Ultimate Hope’: a student filled with the talents of every single student on the main course. The entire plot was genius, Kiyotaka had thought, even if he despised the work of geniuses.

Still, it was something he could use to his advantage, and use the abomination he had! The subject’s previous identity had come as a surprise to him – he was certain he had noticed him around campus here and there on one or two occasions. A quiet boy. Polite. Typically associating with the ‘Ultimate Gamer’ from Class 77-B. The transformation the boy had undertaken was disgusting. Twisted. Beyond cruel. An awful fate undeserving of a poor Reserve Course student – the people for whom Kiyotaka held such incredible admiration. The monstrosities they had carried out upon him were brutal. As inhumane as they were inhuman.

For a project designed to cultivate hope, the project had certainly made perfect use of a proverbial fuck-ton of despair. If the long-haired husk wasn’t the very definition of ‘talent’ – if he was still the untalented hard-worker that he had once been – Kiyotaka might have actually felt some pity for him. Sadly, it seemed, all traces of Kamukura’s former personality were no more than a memory, and for what? The continued existence of a rotten old school? A school so obsessed with talent that it disregarded anything it didn’t consider to be so?

What better way to enlighten the poor, unknowing students of the school of this insanity, and to take down the corrupt establishment that ran the place, than by letting them see just what their payments were funding? What better way to let them see it than by allowing the final product of the Izuru Kamukura project to slaughter the entire Student Council? It had taken months of hard work and endless preparation but, at long, long last, and after a plethora of research from his many, many books, Kiyotaka had lined the dominoes perfectly, and oh, had they fallen!

There was only one course of action to take now. The final touch to the start of the master plan he had developed. It began with the touch of a button labelled “END RECORD”. Footage of the entire glorious event had just been saved – in full HD, no less! Directly next to that same button was another. “SEND”, it read, in bold white text.

An entire message had already been typed, planned for hours in meticulous detail for the maximum impact, waiting to be sent along with that file. Begging him to hit that button. Pleading with him. But, alas, now was not the time. Patience was a virtue, after all!

Kiyotaka rose from his seat, stretching his back as he stood. Sitting around all day wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. Exhausting was the best word for it.

With an almost literal skip to his step, and the humming of a merry little tune, the prefect headed towards the door of his dorm room, and went about his daily duties as the Ultimate Moral Compass. His room was a mess of cables and wires, of screens and pieces of metal, of stacks of books and a flurry of notes. Did the untidiness of it all irk him? Oh, absolutely. Alas, he reminded himself it was all for a good cause.

He couldn’t resist an amused chuckle as he headed off down the hallway. The fact that not a single person had noticed his unusually piqued interest on programming and electronics, or, better yet, the transportation of monitors into his room, was too good to be true. The school remained in perfect calmness for now, unaware of the slaughter that had just taken place, and the filth and corruption that had led to it. Everything was going so perfectly to plan that the prefect could hardly believe his luck.

This was too easy!




Kiyotaka hadn’t been surprised at the total lack of awareness of the tragedy that had taken place, even now, three weeks after it had occurred. It was as if the Student Council were still alive and well, continuing the pointless, talented existence they had once led. Not a single student had taken note of anything strange. Not a single media outlet had knowledge of the blood-soaked walls and rotting flesh that now decorated an entire classroom. That did not, of course, mean that the school’s establishment didn’t know.

Of course they knew.

Of course they feared.

And play on that fear, Ishimaru did.

A certain headmaster had, for the past twenty days, been receiving letters in his office, sent and addressed to him directly. Said letters contained the most delicious and poisonous threats, penned in handwriting deliberately changed to disguise the author’s identity. “Reveal the truth”, one said, “or suffer the consequences,” and said nothing more. “I know what you did,” read another. One simply read “IZURU KAMUKURA”.

Wasn’t it funny, Kiyotaka thought, how quickly the moods of the entire administration had changed, and continued to change, with every letter sent? Jin Kirigiri seemed awfully irritable – a despairing shadow of his usual self. Rarely could he be found in his office. Rarely was he seen in the school’s corridors. Even his daughter seemed concerned, telling Makoto that her father’s psychological state was worrying her, totally unaware that Kiyotaka was listening in. The fact that the esteemed Ultimate Detective had taken note of her father’s change, and yet couldn’t figure out what was troubling the poor man? It sent a rush of delighted euphoria down the straightened spine of the eavesdropping prefect.

The seeds of despair had been sown, perfectly cultivated for three weeks now. Kiyotaka could have sent out the video so much sooner, but what would have been the point? Would the impact truly have been as great? Not at all.

Today, however, was the day that changed. Even he only had so much patience and, quite frankly, watching the headmaster dance around like a demented puppet on a tormented string was getting rather boring. Boredom terrified him, and so he decided to eradicate it.

Such was the reason why he found himself in front of that ominous button once more. Shining black plastic, with bold white text that stared up at him longingly. SEND.

SEND, it whined.

SEND, it begged.

SEND, it demanded.

Kiyotaka was used to doing as he was told. He had made a lifestyle out of it, after all! Who was he to change that now? He happily accepted the order the keyboard gave him and hit the tempting button.

SEND.

Uploading... 32%

Uploading... 55%

Uploading... 78%

Uploading… 99%

Uploaded.

Every student in the school would be receiving a video and accompanying message right about now. A delightful (and anonymous) gift from the terribly generous prefect. A wondrous exposé of the dirtiest secret of Hope’s Peak Academy, and of the blood the institution had on its hands. Better yet, the fact that every Reserve Course student, having funded the disastrous project, were quite literally accomplices to murder. They were just as complicit as the headmaster himself had been.

Perfectly innocent students, paying for a world-class education with the money of their honest, hard-working parents, now culpable of one of the worst crimes known to man. It was unfair. It was awful. It was against everything the prefect believed in. It was outrageous. It was unforgivable!

It was positively drenched in despair!

 


 

“Man, are you… seeing this?”

Yes, Kiyotaka was indeed ‘seeing this’. ‘This’ being the spectacle visible from the sparkling glass windows of the ultra-modern Main Course building. Beyond the gates was a mob quite like the prefect had never seen. Hundreds upon hundreds of outraged students had gathered to protest the content they had been subjected to. To cause an outcry at their money being used for murder.

Kiyotaka couldn’t blame them. It was despicable that the faculty had preyed on their hopes. They received an awful education. They were forced to study in the outdated old building (which, really, was only good for its pool). They were subjected to immense pressure and judgement for not being there by their own merit. They were the hardest workers of the entire school, too, and yet they had been ruthlessly exploited. Used. It was no surprise they were angry. Especially when one of their own had been turned into a monster.

“They’ve been out there for hours,” uttered Chihiro, hands clasped in front of her, staring out the windows with the same concern as the rest of the class. “They look really mad.”

“Can you blame them?” Mukuro spoke. “We all saw the video… we all read the message.”

“I wish I hadn’t...” The Ultimate Programmer sighed softly, her voice dripping with heavy sadness and slight revulsion.

All eyes watched as two men clambered up the school gates, about to throw themselves over, only to have the head of the school’s security shove them back. Another man caught him off guard and managed to climb over. He was punched to the ground and knocked unconscious the second he landed, however. The act was as brutal as it was swift. Juzo Sakakura was not the type to be trifled with.

“Jeez, that’s soooo not cool,” Junko commented in that drawn-out, almost nasal tone of hers. “Did you see that? He got, like, totally knocked out.”

“It’s getting worse,” said Asahina quietly. Her voice trembled.

“I heard Class 77’s taking it hard,” said Mondo. “Some chick in there was friends with the monster dude before he snapped. They’re all shaken up by it.”

There was a moment of silence. There had been plenty of moments of silence throughout the morning. The rain had continued to fall the entire time, just as the crowd continued to grow in scale.

“Are you okay, Kiyotaka?” Asked Chihiro, to which the prefect looked down at her with confusion.

“As... okay as I can be,” he replied, trying to maintain his act of shock and horror at the sight before him. Deep down, he was rejoicing, but he had to blend in. He had to keep wearing the mask of his former self. “...Are you?”

As if he actually cared.

The girl parted her lips to respond, but was quickly cut off with a sound of disgust from Byakuya behind them, who apparently showed no care for the ongoing conversation.

“Ugh,” he declared loudly, “I’ve seen enough of this. I’m heading to my room. I advise you all to do the same. There’s little joy in watching Reserve Course simpletons throw mud at each other.” With that, he stormed out of the room. A certain meek authoress shuffled after him not too long after.

Soon Sayaka made her excuses and left, wide-eyed and pale-faced. Leon followed her.

Next it was Asahina’s turn to leave, with Sakura right beside her.

Without a word, Kiyotaka decided it was best to follow suit. In truth, he could have stood and watched the gathering storm outside and the steadily building chaos that threatened to tear everything down, but there was only so long he could last without letting the mask slip. Without letting the talented others realise that he was the one who had orchestrated the entire thing. That he was the one responsible for the campus’ ongoing insanities.

No suspicions had fallen on him yet, and that was precisely how he wished to keep things.

Soon, he was back in his room, door closed, monitors flickering with various news coverage of the event outside. “ACADEMY PROTEST,” read one newsflash. “SCANDAL AT HOPE’S PEAK,” declared another. Reports of violence across campus. Pictures of the gathering crowds. Such disorder, all perfectly blending together into a delightful symphony of despair.

Alas, the prefect had a more important matter to attend to. He was hardly going to sit around and watch television all day. The very idea of something so mundane was terrifying.

No.

He opened his wardrobe doors and reached behind the collection of white uniforms to a little hidden panel at the back. A panel which he pulled down, and retrieved his prize from within, which he set down on the floor and observed with pride.

He wasn’t exactly naturally gifted in programming and design, but the books lent to him by Chihiro not too long ago had proven invaluable in getting the basics down. Soon the basics had faded into the more complex operations, which had quickly transitioned into expert-level craftsmanship. The item he had just retrieved from the depths of the armoire was the pinnacle of his abilities, even if it was a simple crude prototype. Even if it wasn’t yet fully complete.

An eager finger flicked a little switch at the back of the contraption; a surprisingly well-made exoskeleton covered in black and white fur. A previously dormant eye lit up a crimson red, the same as Kiyotaka’s own.

What better day to get to work on his metal child than today when the foundations of the world were already starting to bend and creak and the entire school had been turned upside down? Today, when disorder and chaos reigned and the air was filled with a sickening feeling of disaster and looming sense of unavoidable despair?

“What is your name?” The prefect asked his creation. He had initially considered personally piloting the thing, but with some advanced research and a lot of patience, he had found a way to program in an autopilot mode. An artificial intelligence that rivalled the works of Chihiro herself.

Upupupupu...”

Kiyotaka’s creation shook as it laughed. There was something awfully creepy about the way its shoulders jerked mid-chuckle.

Suddenly, it sprang to its feet, almost taking the prefect by surprise, and little paws were placed on rounded hips.

“I AM MONOKUMA!” The teddy bear cheerfully declared.

AND I WILL BE THE HEADMASTER OF THIS SCHOOL!”

Chapter Text

Hope’s Peak Academy was a very different place than what it had once been.

Corridors once filled with hope were saturated in whispers of revolution. Reserve Students who once lingered quietly in the shadows now stormed around with pride. Main Course students who had previously felt safe were now blanketed in a deep sense of unease and fear. Headmaster Jin Kirigiri rarely left his office in fear of being spotted by the students who so openly bayed for retribution.

Sure, the protests had died down for now. Yet the atmosphere was thick with tension, poisoned with the possibility of another protest-verging-on-riot at any minute.

Amongst it all was the Ultimate Moral Compass himself, acting just as panicked and concerned as his classmates out in the open, then screaming with laughter behind sound-proofed dorm doors. Was it really possible things were going so smoothly? Had it really been so easy to throw the school into chaos? Were the coveted geniuses of the school really so foolish to allow it to happen so quickly?

Wait, thought Kiyotaka, of course they were. They were geniuses, after all. With talent came stupidity.

It was raining today. Kiyotaka had discovered that he rather liked rain. Even when he was sequestered in the furthest corner of the campus, hidden away from prying eyes, preaching to his new followers. The only people who knew of his true identity as the sender of last month’s video. The only people who, despite that knowledge, would never dare betray it.

A crowd of the angriest of Reserve Course students.

They listened to the words of their saviour with eager ears. Just as they did every day now, clinging to the ideology of the prefect who had gained their eternal respect. They trusted him, and why wouldn’t they? He hated the talented. He wished to see Hope’s Peak crumble. He had aided them in exposing the truth with that video last month, ultimately giving them a voice and letting them vent their long-suppressed resentment.

Kiyotaka Ishimaru was loved by the Reserve Course students and he loved them back. For so long he had felt sympathy for them and now, at long last, he knew how to help them.

“When I revealed the truth last month,” he said to the rather sizeable crowd, “it was to help you. To bring down the corruption in this school. To bring hope back to Hope’s Peak Academy. Since then, you’ve shaken the administration. You’ve struck fear into the hearts of the people who used to mock you. You’re taking back the power that you should have always had!”

Several cheers were raised from the wide-eyed listeners, who clung to his every syllable.

“Thank you!” Cheered one of them.

“You’re a hero!” Applauded another.

The prefect let out a heartened laugh. “You’re too kind,” he replied, patting the air to silence them. They couldn’t be too loud. They didn’t want to attract attention, after all. Even if their meeting was being held far from the school building in the furthest corner of the tree-filled campus.

“You’ve done so well,” he said, “but this is only the first step of our plan to restore hope. What good is the fear we’ve created if we’re not able to use it to our advantage? What’s the point in protests if it doesn’t change anything? That’s why it’s time to move onto the next stage.”

Whispers and murmurs from the crowd. Looks of excitement and slight apprehension mixed together.

“You all remember Hajime Hinata, don’t you?” He said. “The poor boy who was taken from you and turned into a monster?”

“Damn right we do!” Came a voice from the back of the crowd.

Kiyotaka nodded. “Have you ever wondered how he was scouted as a candidate for the program? How those twisted scientists decided that he should have been the one to be sacrificed?” He paused for the sake of dramatic effect, making sure he had them all reeled in. “Well let me tell you. There was a spy amongst you.”

Gasps. Shakes of the head. Looks from one comrade to another. The crowd was shocked.

It was, of course, a complete lie. Kiyotaka had resolved to always tell them the truth, and would never have considered misleading them. Yet sometimes white lies were beneficial, he thought, and today was the time to use one. It was a plan he had meticulously devised over the past several weeks. A lie that would prove if his followers truly did believe in changing the world and if they were as loyal to him as they claimed to be.

He had only told them one lie previously: that the other students in his class regularly mocked and berated the lowly Reserve Coursers. That every Main Course class devoted entire time slots of the day to laugh at them. Another white lie. One that had stirred up the hornet’s nest and strengthened their will to change the school. One that had made them warm up to the prefect even quicker. After all, he had explained, he was the only Main Courser who cared for them. The only one who recognised their potential and didn’t take sadistic enjoyment out of kicking them down.

“A... spy?

“Yes,” he said. “A spy. Someone who grew close to Mister Hinata to see if he was a suitable candidate. When this spy decided he was ripe, they stole him away and turned him into a monster.”

“Who is it? Who the hell is it?”

“The girl,” the prefect explained, “is a Main Course student. You may have noticed her chatting with Mister Hinata often.”

“The one with the games?”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “Don’t you think it was strange that she made a point of talking to someone she obviously hated?”

Nods. Murmurs of agreement.

“The girl is a spy for the scientists who took your friend and turned him savage. Who mutilated his humanity and turned it against you. She’s just as guilty as the headmaster is.”

“Well we need to do something about her!” Came another voice.

“And you will!” Said the prefect. “It’s about time you show the school that your words aren’t empty. It’s about time to get justice for poor Hajime Hinata, don’t you think?”

Cheers. Applause. Shouts of passionate agreement.

“I think it’s about time you show Headmaster Jin that the protests last month weren’t for nothing. I think it’s high time you get justice for your classmate! If they take down one of yours, then you should take down one of theirs!”

“Yeah! Revenge! Revenge for Hajime!”

It was funny, he thought. He knew damn well that the boy’s peers had never much cared for him. Yet here they were, crying for justice in his name. It was funny how quickly things changed depending on how well they suited someone’s agenda.

“I think it’s about time,” he said, “that you storm the school and enforce justice on this spy!”

Yeah!”

“It’s time to take down the traitor who killed Hajime Hinata!”

YEAH!”

“The spy, the traitor, the snake in our midst, who must be destroyed for the sake of hope! The twisted killer whose name is Chiaki Nanami!”

 


 

Screams.

Shouting.

Hurrying footsteps and... more screaming.

Kiyotaka adjusted the ruler on the desk in front of him, perfectly aligning it with his textbook and pencil. Class had been going on the past hour and, to his satisfaction, not one of his fellow classmates had considered rebelling or complaining. Everyone had set quietly to work. Even the teacher was doing his job for once. It was funny, he thought, how it had taken the very disorder and chaos his class had so recently craved to scare them into order.

Of course, the screams quickly disturbed that perfect atmosphere.

The sounds were echoing from the corridor outside the classroom, and confusion and panic had already begun to spread in the little room. What was going on out there?

The classroom door slid open. A student from Class 77-A appeared. Kiyotaka didn’t know her name. It was Class 77-B which had attracted his attention. He cared little for the boring shadows of the A Group.

Her face pale, body heaving with breathlessness, and she let out a scream.

“THE RESERVE STUDENTS ARE ATTACKING SOMEONE OUTSIDE!”

So soon? Kiyotaka had to resist smiling. It had only been a few hours since he had rallied his followers to make their next move. They had worked fast. For that he was proud. Of course, he acted just as shocked and horrified as his classmates for the sake of blending in.

“What are you talking about?” Cried the teacher of the class.

“They managed to get past security and into the building! They got to 77-B’s class and dragged one of their classmates out. There were so many of them. They tried to stop them but... but... they just kept coming and...!”

“Calm down,” said the teacher, “are you-”

“LOOK OUTSIDE!” Came the voice of Asahina from the back of the room.

Kiyotaka turned, and there she was, pressed up against the window, staring out with a look of horror. The others soon followed, the prefect included, and the scene outside made itself known.

He knew the figures instantly. Some of them were the very same Reserve Coursers he had preached to not too long ago. Some of them were security, and some of them were the students and the teacher of 77-B, currently being held in place by the non-talented mob.

The Reservers had formed a circle of sorts and were seemingly forcing their captives to watch. In the middle of said circle was a girl. Her backpack was that of a pink kitten, her hair a similarly pale shade of the same colour. She was being pushed around by the mob. She was kicked. She was punched. She was beaten.

Her attackers cheered and laughed and applauded the scene, while the girls’ classmates screamed for it to stop. The Ultimate Team Manager, aside the Ultimate Gymnast, were both trying to break free of the weak little people holding them in place. Had there not been so many of them, they might have succeeded, but they were instead forced to keep watching.

“W-we need to get out there and stop this! This is fuckin’ crazy!” Cried Leon.

“Agreed,” said Sakura, already making her way to the door, despite a protest from Asahina that it was ‘too dangerous’.

“That chick’s gonna get killed at this rate,” said Mondo, “so c'mon! Any dude that stays behind doesn’t have the right to call himself a man!”

“No!” Said Kyoko, just as half the class were mid-dash for the door. “You’re only going to get yourselves killed. There’s too many of them. Even for you, Sakura.”

“Then what are we supposed to do? Just sit here and watch? They’re killing her! One of us could be next!” Said Leon, but it did nothing to convince the Ultimate Detective.

“She’s right,” said Byakuya, trying to maintain his composure despite the look of deep fear he shared with the rest of the room. “It would be suicide to step in.”

Kiyotaka stayed quiet. He was surrounded by entertainment. The scene outside was one of trauma and despair, only furthered by the rain that continued to fall. The scene inside was one of panic and confliction, and the back-and-forth between his classmates was unbelievably enjoyable to watch. Not a single one of them appeared completely calm. Not even Kyoko.

A sharp punch to the Ultimate Gamer’s face spilt the first drops of blood, and Touko went limp, only to completely collapse at the sight of it.

The attack continued, as did the debate or whether or not to interfere, both gaining in intensity as the seconds ticked by. Kiyotaka continued watching both sides, still quiet, acting as if he was too petrified for words.


It wasn’t long before time ran out.

To the harrowing wails and screams of the girls’ classmates, the crowd closed in on her one last time, completely obscuring her from view for a moment. Arms moved. Legs kicked. A tense minute later, the crowd drew back.

The girl lay in a pool of blood. She didn’t move. Nor would she ever move again.

As quickly as they had descended, the Reserve Course students made their escape, setting their captives free, leaving the comrades of their victim to try and rouse her. They shook her. They screamed at her. They wept over her. It was no use. So distraught were they that they didn’t even seem to consider chasing after the gamer’s killers. All that mattered was that she was that she had been taken from them.

All that mattered was that she didn’t move, and that she was coated in neon-pink.

All that mattered was that she was dead.

The screams of Class 77-B lit up the afternoon sky as rain poured down without relent.

Their cries were of agony and confusion.

Their tears were saturated in anger and revulsion.

Their faces were aflood with despair.

Kiyotaka smiled internally.

Mission accomplished!

 


 

If Hope’s Peak Academy hadn’t been depressing before, then it certainly was now.

The funeral of Chiaki Nanami had been held. Her killers had not been apprehended. The administration was far too afraid to touch them. After all, a single annoyance to the Reserve Course students might have provoked something even more disastrous.

Headmaster Jin had not left his office in weeks. His own daughter had barely seen him at all.

Class 77-B had disappeared, leaving only a note in their wake, simply reading ‘Despair’ as the explanation for their leaving.

The school was silent. No one knew what to say. What was there to talk about, when such a tragedy had so freshly unfolded?

Even now, two weeks later during lunch, meals were eaten silently. Some students didn’t bother turning up to eat at all. Some had lost dangerous amounts of weight. None of them had smiled since the incident at all.

Well, none of them apart from Kiyotaka, at least.

The prefect had just sat down to eat in the mostly abandoned cafeteria. Had the walls always looked so grey, he wondered? Had it ever stopped raining in the last two weeks? Had the atmosphere always been so painfully dim and fragile?

He didn’t care. Students were going to class. Teachers were actually teaching lessons. Disorder had died. Authority reigned supreme.

Just how he liked it.

“Ishimaru.”

Kiyotaka blinked. He recognised that voice. It had come from behind him.

“Ishimaru.”

He turned.

Kyoko Kirigiri stood, arms folded, eyes cast down on him in silence.

“Ah, Kirigiri,” he replied. “Can I help you?”

“I saw you.”

The prefect blinked again.

“I’m sorry? I didn’t quite hear that.”

“I saw you,” she said again. “The day the girl from Class 77-B was killed. I saw you talking with Reserve Course students. Some of whom were involved in the incident.”

Oh.

“Are you sure?” He replied, expression one of sincerity and innocence. “I might have given out some detention slips that day but-”

“You were holding daily meetings with them for weeks,” she said suddenly. “I saw you.”

“Were you... following me?” He asked.

“I was testing a theory,” she replied, “but I saw what I saw.”

“You must be mistaken,” the slightly flustered Ultimate Moral Compass retorted, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Honestly, Kirigiri, I have no idea.”

She stared him down in silence, brows slightly lowered. Her eyes narrowed as if she was scanning him.

“If you say so,” she shrugged, her voice monotone. “It must have been my imagination. Enjoy your lunch.”

With that said, she left as quickly and as silently as she had arrived.

Kiyotaka wasn’t hungry anymore.

As a matter of fact, he was filled with concern.

He knew things had been going too smoothly. It was only a matter of time before fate came along and threw a spanner in the works. A spanner named Kyoko Kirigiri.

Damn it!

She was onto him. That much was clear. His entire plan, master-crafted for maximum despair, was now under immediate threat. She was the Ultimate Detective. She was clever. It was only a matter of time before she ruined him.

He had to do something!

But what? Damn it, he had to think!

Perhaps he could...

No.

No, that went against everything he believed in.

Yet what if it was necessary?

The Reserve Course students had been loyal to him. They had quite literally killed in his name and for the sake of the beliefs they shared. Their shared hatred of geniuses had united them. An unbreakable bond. A bond and mutual respect like he had never felt before. Like he had never imagined could be possible.
It was a bond that threatened to destroy him.

They were allies, yes, but with the interference of a certain detective, they had just become a liability he couldn’t afford.

Perhaps, for the sake of order and for the sake of despair, they needed to be taken care of.

Kiyotaka cracked a little smile. The conclusion he had come to pained him. It flooded him with sadness and overwhelmed him with despair. Despair which felt awful in the sweetest way possible.

It had been decided, albeit with immense regret. His mind was made up. For the sake of the ‘hope’ he promised them, they would surely understand.

The Reserve Course had outlived their purpose.

And now it was time to deal with them.

Chapter Text

 

“Big Bro Taka,” chimed the girl, “should Monaca kill all the adults?”

Monaca Towa smiled, huge green eyes beaming up at the hall monitor aside her, who, for a moment struggled to respond. Until, after a moment of consideration...

“Of course you should.”


 

Kiyotaka had never considered it possible that any part of his master plan could lead to regret. After all, the entire thing had, so far, gone perfectly well. Hope’s Peak Academy and the establishment which ran it had seen their reputations destroyed and disorder reign supreme. The entirety of Class 77-B had vanished without a trace after dropping out of school, reportedly suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and frightfully pessimistic views on the world after their… experience last month. With the exception of Kyoko’s suspicions and the problem of the Reserve Course’s very existence, Kiyotaka was pleased with his plan so far.

That was, of course, until he decided he needed to upgrade the prototype of the psychotic teddy bear stashed in his bedroom. Knowledge and a mountain of books could only take a man so far. Technology was what he needed to take his little creation to the next level. Thankfully, his Father had always bitterly complained about the technology conglomerate that practically dominated the city in which they had once both lived – a certain organisation known as the Towa Group. A certain group which Kiyotaka might not have known about without the help of his Father’s rantings over the years. A certain group which he had intended to take full advantage of.

Such was the reason why it had been a busy month for the despairing hall monitor. What had begun with an investigation into the youngest child of the Towa Family, a student at Hope’s Peak Elementary, had led to the prevention of a group suicide and, now, frequent meetings with a group of rather concerning young children who proudly called themselves the ‘Warriors of Hope’. Little people with giant aspirations. Almost as big as his own.

They saw him as a friend. As the man who had saved their lives. “Big Bro Taka”, they affectionately called him.

He saw them as a bitter waste of time. At least, he had to begin with. He had only initially been there to seek the cooperation and technology of the green-haired girl in the wheelchair. However, as the days rolled by and the meetings became more and more frequent, he realised they could be a perfect tool for the mayhem he intended to create. Adult-hating children, desperate to flip the balance of power? The temptation to fill their heads with twisted ideas of hunt and slaughter was far too tempting to resist.

“Big Bro Taka!” Came the whining, bitter voice of the girl in question.

Blinking, the prefect was shaken from his thoughts and turned his head to look at the girl. The dim lights of the abandoned warehouse in which they held their meetings cast her in shadow, only bolstering the malevolent air that cloaked her. She was flailing her arms in protest, fists closed as she repeated the nickname she and her friends had assigned him.

“Big. Bro. Taka! Stop. Ignoring. Monaca!” She cried. “Or. Monaca. Will. Be. Very. Upset!”

He responded with a little shaking of his head. “Sorry,” he muttered, “I got lost in my thoughts for a minute. I’m listening now.” He extended her the warmest smile he could muster. Genuine smiles had become difficult to paint on his face ever since he had been wooed by the thought of despair, but if smiling at the brattish girl meant a higher chance of success, he wouldn’t hesitate to oblige.

The shift in mood on the girl’s face was breakneck in its suddenness. “Yay! Monaca is happy again!” She cheered. “Almost as happy as I’ll be when I see the corpses of every adult in the city! I wonder how long it’ll take them to start smelling bad...” A grin crossed her face.

She was the only thing on the face of the Earth that truly scared Kiyotaka.

“Gross!” Came the voice of another child and, sure enough, its pink-haired owner bounced into the conversation with a look of disgust. “I don’t wanna imagine the smell of dead bodies!”

“I do,” a distant voice uttered casually from the rear of the building where the other members of Monaca’s little gang were currently playing.

“Jataro! Don’t be so icky!” Kotoko called back.

“Kotoko, Monaca is trying to talk with Big Bro Taka in private,” Monaca said, her head turning to the other girl. She said no more, but the purpose of her words was apparently understood rather quickly, as Kotoko made her apologies and fled over to the others. “She’s silly, isn’t she?”

“I… suppose so, yes,” Kiyotaka replied stiffly.

“So you hate her then?”

“Wait, what?”

Monaca’s face was cold. Eyes boring into him. Her gaze risked shattering his soul. “So you want to see her die, is that what you’re saying? You want to see her burn and suffer? You want to hear her scream as the life leaves her body?”

“That… That’s not what I’m saying at all!” He couldn’t hide the horror on his face. Just what had happened in this little girl’s life to make her so cruel and twisted? Even by his own recent standards, Kiyotaka couldn’t help but pass heavy judgement. She was the most disturbing individual he had ever encountered… and she was only a child.

Monaca giggled suddenly. “Relax! Monaca is only kidding. I know you love and care for us all, just like a Big Bro should!” Her tone was cheerful, green eyes alight with happiness.

Scratching his cheek, the prefect nodded at that. “Well, of course I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have-”

“But I know you’re just using us.”

The prefect felt his heart stop. “Huh?”

“I know you’ve been manipulating us all the entire time you’ve spent with us, Big Bro Taka!” She said with yet another giggle. “You don’t really care about us at all. You’re just using us as pawns in some game of yours! The others don’t know. They haven’t realised. They can’t even hear us right now. But Monaca noticed. Monaca knows. Am I wrong?” She seemed amused by the prospect, despite how obviously accusing her words were. It was as if the situation was entertaining her.

How did she know? Kiyotaka thought. Did this mean that the entire month’s worth of almost daily effort he had poured into this vital part of his plan had failed? Was this really happening? Had he honestly come this far, only to have the entire thing fail at the whim of a single twisted little girl? How despairing. And not in the way he wanted. His heart began beating faster. He could taste his stomach in his throat. Was this really game over?

“I… You…” However hard he tried to string a coherent sentence together, he failed brutally. Damn it, why couldn’t he think? Why couldn’t he come up why a decent excuse? Why didn’t he-

“Monaca knows what your aim is, Big Bro Taka,” said Monaca. “You want to use the Towa Group’s factories, don’t you? Why? Be honest with Monaca. I want to help you.”

He wasn’t sure if he believed that for a second. Someone like Monaca Towa didn’t exist to help others. Or even herself. She existed only to be an incarnate of darkness itself, dressed up in the visage of a cute young girl. Yet he knew he had no choice but to explain himself. It was the only hope he had left of salvaging this situation. It was the only hope that remained of upholding his dreams of despair.

And so he explained. He told her of his intentions for his school and the world. He told her of his plans for civilization. He told her of his prototype teddy bear, and exactly why he needed her to help complete it. He told her everything.

And she laughed.

She laughed like he had never heard her laugh before. It wasn’t loud. Rather, it was quiet. Yet the menace and malice than poured from every chord she struck were painfully evident. Pure, honest evil leaked from her mouth, and her hands gripped the armrests of her wheelchair so tightly that her knuckles turned white. A moment later, she stopped, and nodded her head, speaking in a quieter tone.

“Monaca always knew Big Bro Taka was a little bit bad deep down, but not this bad! Monaca understands. Monaca likes to manipulate people, too. That day you found us on the rooftop… I wasn’t going to jump at all. Monaca was going to let the others jump to their deaths for Monaca’s own entertainment. It would have been the funniest prank the world has ever seen! They still think Monaca cares. Monaca just likes to laugh at them.” She paused. “We’re not so different after all, Big Bro.”

Those last few words scared him more than anything else. Especially when he realised just how true they were.

“Monaca can help you with your teddy bear,” she continued. “Monaca’s family has really big factories filled with technology. If you need to upgrade your toy, then I can help you, for sure… but on one condition.”

He didn’t like the sound of that.

“Yes?”

“You let Monaca mass-manufacture these bears and use some of them as the soldiers of the Warriors of Hope! They would be great at tearing the heads off the adults. They wouldn’t be able to stop us! And if Monaca can control them, Towa City will be ours in no time at all and our children’s paradise can begin!” She giggled manically. “You can have as many as you like too, of course. Maybe they can teach your classmates a lesson. Killer teddy bears are the best teachers in the world!”

Kiyotaka was inclined to agree with that. Either way, the offer was practically a win-win. If the little girl wanted to use his idea to take over her city, then so be it. It was only another means of causing chaos and despair, all without him having to lift a finger. It was even better than the most optimistic deal he could have hoped for. The girl knew his intentions, and he knew hers, and both of them complimented each other wonderfully.

His Father lived in Towa City, however, and it was a fact he hadn’t once forgotten. The pair never spoke much anymore, but he had raised him single-handedly after the early death of his mother. He had never once understood his Father, yet it was impossible to deny that he at least somewhat cared for him. If these children were allowed to slaughter every adult that they could get their hands on within the city, his father would surely fall victim.

Yet he didn’t care. He didn’t even flinch at the thought of accepting Monaca’s deal. His Father was a necessary sacrifice in the name of despair and global catastrophe.

“Did someone say killer teddy bears?” Kotoko made a sudden reappearance, only to make a loud squeeing sound of delight. “That sounds totes adorbs!”

Before she could part her lips to say another word, Monaca turned to her. “Kotoko! Please be quieter. Make your voice a little more… gentle.”

The smile on the girl’s face shattered. Her happy, bouncing movements ceased in a heartbeat. Cheerful eyes became flooded with remorse and devastation. “G...Gentle?” She whispered, her voice meek and drained. The transformation was unbelievable.

“Yes,” said Monaca. “Gentle. Me and Big Bro Taka are talking right now, so go and be nice and gentle somewhere else for now. Monaca loves you, Kotoko!”

The moment she said ‘gentle’ again, and then again, Kotoko’s eyes were furthered flooded by tears, her body shaking, skin pale, breath trembling. She said nothing. She simply shuffled out of sight in silence, back to the rear of the warehouse. The girl had been reduced to a shaking shadow of her former self.

“What was that about?” Kiyotaka asked, genuinely concerned. He had never watched someone be destroyed quite so quickly before. It was like seeing the results of years of torture, all inflicted in a matter of seconds.

“She’s silly, remember?” Monaca replied with a smirk. “Silly and gentle.”

Kiyotaka didn’t bother questioning it further. He knew he wasn’t going to get a straight answer, and from just how horrified and simultaneously petrified Kotoko had become, he wasn’t sure he wanted one at all.

“So, do we have a deal?” Monaca asked. “Can Monaca use your teddy bears to defend the children of this city?”

Mass-manufactured, technologically-advanced Monokumas in almost infinite supply? Kiyotaka knew he would be an idiot to refuse. And so he leaned forward, shaking the girl’s dainty little hand as if this were a serious business deal. In a way, he supposed, it was. Only it was one that defied every established convention of the rational, civilised world.

“You’re the best, Big Bro Taka!” Monaca chimed.

She terrified him beyond description, and yet Kiyotaka knew that this alliance would be invaluable. His bears would soon be in production, equipped with the technology needed to give them maximum effect. An entire city would soon fall into chaos at the hands of mere children. The world was one step closer to despair.

All it had taken was a deal with the devil herself.

 


 

 

“Jeez, the world’s losing its fucking mind, huh?” Said Junko Enoshima to no-one in particular as the others around her in the school cafeteria discussed current events.

“It’s… really scary,” replied Chihiro, twiddling her thumbs at the end of the table.

“Apparently that princess chick’s lost her mind, too,” said Leon. “Wasn’t she in 77-B?”

“She was,” said Celeste. “And she became the queen, remember. When she returned home, the king died under mysterious circumstances and she immediately rose to power. In her first week, she’s already declared war on three separate countries. They’re saying it’s the start of a new great war in Europe.”

“Jeez. I remember her. Sonia, wasn’t it? She always seemed pretty chill, too.” Mondo added, arms folded.

“That entire class lost their minds,” said Fukawa, “s-so I’m really not surprised.”

“Can you blame them?” Said Leon. “They watched their Class Rep be beaten to death in front of them. I’m still having trouble sleeping over it. And I didn’t even know her.”

“Between the protests and the riots and now the Novoselic Kingdom declaring war on every country it borders, you have to wonder how much worse it can get.” The Ultimate Gambler muttered, brows knitted in concern, hands clasped neatly in front of her as usual.

Yasuhiro Hagakure shook his head with an amused chuckle. “Hey, come on guys,” he said, “lighten up. I predict it’ll all turn out alright in the end.”

Junko clearly took issue with that. Kiyotaka watched her and the others from his end of the table in relative silence, only chiming in when he felt it necessary. “Your predictions are bullshit!” She cried. “They’re always wrong!”

The Ultimate Clairvoyant looked bitterly offended. “H-Hey! My predictions have a thirty-percent accuracy rating!”

“That’s… not good,” added Mukuro.

“Everyone calm down,” Kiyotaka said, patting the air with his hands in an appeal for civility, “if we and the rest of the world stick together, we can overcome anything! That’s what a true school mentality is all about!”

Kiyotaka noticed Kirigiri watching him intently. Her eyes hadn’t left him once all morning. He knew she was suspicious of him. After all, she was the one who outright told him so. She wasn’t even afraid to hide it anymore, it seemed, eyes of violet remaining glued to his every word and movement.

“Oh, here he goes again,” Junko said with a roll of her eyes. “Back at it with the goody-two-shoes crap.”

“Hey, leave Taka alone, Junko,” said Asahina at the end of the table, the doughnuts in front of her completely untouched, to everyone’s surprise. “He’s just trying to make everyone feel better.”

“’Hina’s right,” said Makoto. “Things are a little crazy right now, but we’ll see it through. All we have to do is believe in ourselves. If we believe in ourselves, then-”

The sound of Sayaka’s screams lit up the room, and every eye was on her at once. Makoto stopped mid-sentence. Kiyotaka had to resist smiling. If she was reacting to what he thought, then the event had come right on time.

“O-Outside!” She uttered, clambering over her own words, a shaking finger pointing to the windows of the cafeteria. The sky outside was overcast. The trees swayed in an invisible breeze. “S-Someone just fell past the window! I saw them!”

Expressions of worry and shock and confusion and utter disbelief were exchanged between Class 78, and glances turned to Sayaka and the windows in question. It was in that moment that they began to notice the body lying mangled on the ground, having apparently fallen from the roof above. A pool of neon-pink blood was gathering around them, prompting gasps and screams from everyone in the room. The other classes had taken notice, too, with some running to the windows to get a closer look while a couple others ran out to find a teacher.

Another body came crashing down and it, too, hit the ground. More screams. More gasps. More looks of shock and horror. More people began gathering at the windows, Kiyotaka and his classmates included.

Then came another body. And another. And another. Each one prompting the same reactions. Kiyotaka pretended to be just as scared as those around him. Disgusted. Revolted. Horrified. Heavy tears welled up at his eyes, fists clenched, brows furrowed and face a deep red of clashing emotions.

Suddenly, all at once, more bodies fell. Only, instead of another one or perhaps even two, tens fell to their fate, corpses starting to pile on top of each other. Like morbid rain, the students hit the ground. Fukawa fainted. Sayaka continued to scream. Everyone else watched on in silent horror as more bodies fell. As more people jumped.

“What’s… what’s going on?!” Asahina screamed. “What’s happening?!”

“Wait, I know that guy!” Came the voice of a student from another class. “He’s one of the Reserve Course students!”

“So’s that girl! And that guy, too! Oh my god, I think… I think they’re all Reserve Course students!”

The moment Kirigiri had told Kiyotaka of her suspicions surrounding him and the Reserve Coursers last month, he had known they had to be dealt with. They had become a liability that he could no longer associate himself with. Yet still, to the very end, they followed his every order without question or hesitation, so enamoured by his words and ideals that they were prepared to do anything to assist him.

He had given the final order to his followers only that morning, and the order had been perfectly fulfilled. The Reserve Course had been taken care of, as desired. All without a single trace of evidence implicating him.

From the corner of his eye, he watched a certain purple-haired detective turn her gaze from the window and back to him again. She had always watched him with silent scrutiny, face near-blank, eyes scanning him for anything suspect. Her expression now was radically different, to say the least.

His eyes met hers for just a moment, only for him to break the contact and return to staring out the window, still pretending to care. Yet that moment was charged with delight. Sadistic, victorious delight that was designed to shake her.

She knew what he had done, and he knew that she knew. Yet there was no proof of anything. Any hope she may have had of catching him had been destroyed.

Kirigiri had been suspicious of Kiyotaka’s association with the Reserve Course.

And now the Reserve Course no longer existed.

Chapter Text

The day Hope’s Peak Academy closed its doors was perhaps the most painful day of Kiyotaka’s life. The day when it was official that education and global stability had completely and utterly been destroyed. He had first arrived to the school with hope in his heart and a smile on his face, ready to pursue a future of order and regulation. Yet here he was, watching as the final bolts were applied to the steel plates over the windows. The entire class had been moved to the Old Building formerly occupied by the Reserve Course students. It was sturdier in its design, however ill-equipped it was, meaning it held an increased chance of survival.

The outside world had been shut out, and Hope’s Peak Academy had sealed itself away to defend itself. All to help save the talent that existed within.

Kiyotaka wasn’t sure how long ago it had been since he and his fellow classmates had watched the entire Reserve Course leap to their deaths. All he knew for sure was that the events that had occurred since that day were endless in their number and unfathomable in their despair. A third world war had broken out, ended only by the might of nuclear Armageddon. Coups and revolutions had become commonplace in every nation across the globe. Protests and riots had become frequent. Civilization had been replaced with chaos and disorder; a viral disease of utter despair which had almost entirely ridden the human race of its humanity.

The skies had turned blood-red. The seas were polluted. The air was toxic. The world had come to an end, all at the hands of Ultimate Despair, which the once celebrated school had closed its doors to escape from. What they didn’t know, of course, was that the Ultimate Despair had been sealed in with them, dressed in the form of a white-suited prefect.

Classes had been suspended. The school had become a shelter for Class 78 – the only students that remained. It was funny, Kiyotaka thought, how worried his classmates sounded at the thought of suspended classes. They had always skipped them when they had them, yet here they were, feeling completely lost without them. They never liked class to begin with. They never cared for order. They never cared for rules. All he had done was give them the world they desired, and here they were – hiding themselves away from it. How ironic.

And all perfectly according to plan.

“Do you... think we’re going to be okay?" 

Kiyotaka looked to the voice next to him, where Chihiro stared anxiously at the installation of the plates. Her face perfectly reflected the fear that filled the air. The uncertainty. The quiet panic.

He gave her a little pat on the head. “I’m sure we’re safe," he replied, "for now, at least."

For now, indeed.

 


 

 
With one last stroke of his pencil, Kiyotaka put the final touches to his final sketch. When he had arrived at Hope’s Peak, he hadn’t been much of an artist and, in many respects, he still wasn’t. Regardless, the sketches he had penned in his notebook over the past year were nothing to scoff at. It had been a rather boring year, he thought, but he hadn’t spent it idly twiddling his thumbs. While the others had adjusted to their new school life together – a life of cooperation and harmony – he had been adding the final touches to his plan. A plan which was now painfully close to becoming a reality.

An entire year since they had been shut away from the outside world. An entire year in which he had been given the chance to plot to his heart’s content and now, at long, long last, it was done. He cast his wicked red eyes down at the paper on the desk of his dorm, where a drawing of an enormous mechanical contraption was scrawled across the page of his notebook. He flipped the page to an earlier drawing. One covered in sharp, spiked objects. He flipped the page again. Another drawing of another sinister contraption proudly labelled “THE CAGE OF DEATH”. He flipped the page again, and again, skimming through the wondrous machinations he had devised, knowing that it wouldn’t be long until he would get to see them in action. Each one was as twisted as the last. Each one a machine capable of producing imaginable, undiluted despair.

Aside the notepad sat an open book, currently on the last page. Kiyotaka was rather apt with multi-tasking, he had discovered, sketching when he wasn’t reading and reading when he wasn’t sketching. Now here he was, almost finished with both. After a few minutes of making little edits to his sketches and finishing that last page, he closed the notebook and the heavy tome aside it closed. His eyes scanned title of the thick book he had been reading:

Experimentations on the Retention of Memory” by Professor Kyoju Atama.

It was the final volume of a series he had dedicated himself to reading during his preparations over the past year, detailing different theories on memory and the causes of it and, most importantly, how memories were both formed and lost. Highly scientific and stuffed with complicated jargon, Kiyotaka had navigated the text-stuffed pages with ease. He now knew the subject of memory better than most teachers and academics did, and he was proud of it. Of course, such a dreary topic hadn’t been learned for the simple sake of recreation.

No. The reading had been done for business, not pleasure.

Kiyotaka looked to the clock overhead now. It was almost 10 pm. Almost night. Almost time to shine. Every little bit of dedication and planning he had committed himself to for over a year now… all of the unthinkably hard work he had toiled at… tonight was the night it finally came to fruition. He was fully prepared. Everything was ready.

He leaned down under his desk, where a military-grade gas mask awaited him. It was a long story how he had managed to obtain it, and it was one that exhausted him to even recall, but all that mattered was that he had managed to get it nonetheless. The canister that sat aside it, labelled “USHINAU GAS” in bold black lettering, had an even longer story behind its obtaining, but it wasn’t remotely important.

The gas itself, on the other hand, was of colossal importance. It was the star of tonight’s show. It was the retribution Kiyotaka had dreamed of on the day he fell into despair. It was vindication in a canister, and a little touch of excitement flooded him just looking at it.

Aside both of them, tucked away in the shadows of the desk, was his beloved Monokuma. He had sat gathering dust for the past year. Fully upgraded, fully operational, fully capable of autopilot. Soon he would be active. Soon he would fulfil the purpose he had been created to serve.

The clock struck 10.

Kiyotaka put on his mask.

He grabbed the canister.

He headed out the door.

No one was in the dorm hallway. Most would be relaxing elsewhere or perhaps even asleep, he thought, totally comfortable and entirely adjusted to their school life, unaware of the storm headed their way. Walking through the corridors looking like this was a risk, thought the prefect as he closed his dorm door behind him and began to make his way to the third floor, but it was a risk he was going to have to take.

Nothing would stand in his way. Not now. Not ever again.

To his surprise, each and every corridor was empty. Not a single soul passed him. Silence reigned supreme, save for the sound of heavy footsteps as he carried the canister up the stairs and down the halls. Occasionally, he thought he might have heard something, only to dismiss the thought. Sure enough, he must have been imagining it, considering the complete absence of any of his classmates.

At last, before he knew it, he had reached the Physics Lab. The air purifier stood in front of him, quietly humming as it continued to generate the school’s oxygen supply. It was the very thing keeping them all alive. The very thing that prevented them all from suffocating. In a way, it was the very lifeblood of the school’s hope. The one thing everyone could rely on without fail.

Which was the reason why Kiyotaka found himself approaching it, canister in hand, prepared to change what the grand machine was outputting for the school’s consumption. Ushinau Gas contained oxygen too, of course, but its ‘added ingredients’ led to much more interesting effects.

It wasn’t long before he had emptied the contents of the canister inside the purifier, ready for deployment. All that was left, rather amusingly he thought, was to push the big red button to disperse the stuff throughout the school. With the push of a button, the machine’s purpose would switch from purifying existing air to emitting something else entirely.

His hand hovered over the button. It pleaded with him to be pushed. Just one movement of his wrist was all it took. One quick movement of his hand and he would be unstoppable. Just one little-

“What are you doing?”

Kiyotaka turned, looking towards the door of the lab. Kyoko Kirigiri stood in the doorway, eyes narrowed and focused directly on him. How long had she been there, he wondered? How much did she know? Had she been tracking him this entire time?

He said nothing. He turned again, hand about to slam down and seal the school’s fate, just as the sound of racing footsteps came up behind him. He glanced back one last time to see the purple-haired girl rushing toward the psychotic hall monitor. There was a look of urgency on her face, having apparently only just realised how little time she had to stop him.

“I won’t let you!” She cried, immediately throwing herself onto him. It was totally out of character for her. She was usually calm and collected, and yet here she was, trying to wrestle the prefect away from the button, desperation having overtaken her. It was clear she hadn’t expected this, regardless of her suspicions. Then again, who could have possibly seen this coming in the first place?

“Let… go!” Kiyotaka growled from behind the mask, trying to shake her but failing miserably. She was much stronger than he had anticipated. She was no Sakura Ogami, but certainly tough enough to put up a fight against him.

“Get away from the controls!” She demanded, tugging and pulling at him, only for him to strike her hard across the face. She leapt back up almost immediately, however, a gloved hand pushing directly into the mask as she made an attempt to seize Kiyotaka’s arms. Her fingers made an attempt to remove the mask, but she was quickly taken down with another strike to the head.

The move weakened her, leaving her open for another attack, to which Kiyotaka happily obliged. Breath heavy, he pushed her away from him, sending her crashing down to the floor with a heavy thud. He had no time to lose.

He turned back to the controls.

His hand flew down.

He hit the button.

The gas began to disperse.

“Kiyotaka, whatever you’re doing, stop!” She pleaded, but he didn’t care to listen. “You won’t get away with this!”

The Ultimate Moral Compass almost laughed at that. How awfully cliché. How terribly boring.

“Whatever was in that canister… whatever it does… I’ll stop you,” she said, staring up at him defiantly. “We’ll all stop you… Ultimate Despair!”

Kiyotaka grinned. “Goodnight, Kyoko,” he said simply but sweetly and, before either of them knew it, she was unconscious on the floor.

She had come so close to stopping him. Had she arrived a few moments earlier she might have succeeded. Hope might have won at the last possible second, and an unspeakable tragedy would have been completely prevented. Yet there she was, completely passed out, entirely defeated. She had failed to stop him. Kiyotaka had already won.

The rest of the school would have followed suit by now, headmaster included.

Speaking of which…

“If you’ll excuse me,” he said to the sleeping detective, “I have a meeting with your Father.”

 


 

“Wha… What’s going on?” Jin Kirigiri muttered, stirring back into consciousness. “Where am I?”

The headmaster tried moving his wrists, only to discover them tied behind his back, his body seated on a flimsy wooden chair. Judging from the look on his face, he certainly didn’t remember falling asleep in such a situation. Then again, the chances were that he didn’t remember anything at all. The past two years had been entirely wiped clean from his mind, after all.

“What… what the hell is that thing?” He said, confused and concerned eyes locked onto the black and white teddy bear seated on the floor in front of him.

A figure emerged from the shadows of the dimly-lit room. “That, Mister Kirigiri, is Monokuma. He’s a friend.” An unmasked grin painted the hall monitor’s face with glee. The fantasy he had dreamt about for so long was unfolding right in front of him, and not a single person on Earth could stop him now.

Even the dear viewers at home watching the event through the live-streaming cameras set up all around the school didn’t stand a chance of stopping this. The mounted guns and land mines placed outside, combined with the heavy steel coverings over every window and entrance prevented any interference. They were welcome to try, of course. Such an event would only heighten the despair of it all.

“Mono...kuma…?” Jin repeated. “That teddy bear has a name?”

Kiyotaka scoffed at that, mocking offence to the remark. “That’s not very nice, Mister Kirigiri! Monokuma here has feelings too, you know. He’s not just a teddy bear.”

“Yeah!” The bear replied, and Jin practically lurched back in his seat from shock. “I’m Monokuma, dummy! The brightest, bestest, most handsomest bear you’ve ever set your freakin’ eyes on!”

The confusion on the poor man’s face was delightful.

“Cute, isn’t he?” Said Kiyotaka with a chuckle.

“What… is this? What the hell is going on?!” Jin cried, clearly panicked now.

Kiyotaka sighed at that and sauntered past Monokuma to come face-to-face with the headmaster. “A wise man once told me that ‘perfect order will drive you insane’. He told me that disorder and recklessness was something to be accepted. He believed that the talented were more important than the hard workers. He cultivated laziness and chaos when he should have focused on order and regulation. Do you know who that man was?”

Jin shook his head, brows lowered and eyes narrowed in confusion.

“His name was Jin Kirigiri,” said Kiyotaka, “and he was the man who made me what I am today. If the world craves chaos and disorder, then why not just let it have it, right? Let the world have its cake and eat it. That’s what he taught me. That’s the lesson I learned from my time here at Hope’s Peak: to give people exactly what they ask for. It’s the best way to nurture a happy, healthy school community after all!”

“I… said that?” Jin asked.

“Yes, you did. Though I doubt you remember it. It was such a long time ago, and you’ve been through so much since then. It’s not your fault you forgot. Shit happens.”

Oh, it felt good to swear. Even now, in this state of perfect and victorious despair, the prefect had barely ever thought of a curse word, let alone spoken one aloud. But somehow it felt fitting for the current conversation. It felt amazing to speak freely. Rules no longer existed, after all.

“You… who are you?” Jin asked.

“I’m a student of the 78th class of Hope’s Peak Academy.”

“78th class? They… they haven’t started yet. We’ve only just begun scouting them.”

Kiyotaka shook his head with a sigh. “Wow. You’ve forgotten even more than I expected.”

Jin repeated the previous question. “Who are you?”

Kiyotaka leaned down to look him in the eyes. He had considered blindfolding him earlier, but the temptation to stare down his enemy before ending him was irresistible.

“My name is Kiyotaka Ishimaru. I am the Ultimate Despair.” He grinned wickedly. “...And I fucking run this school.”

With that said, he backed away and Monokuma pushed the big red button in front of him. A steel contraption in the shape of a rocket with the image of Monokuma’s face on top arose from the floor and enveloped itself around the chair. 'The Punishment Rocket', as Kiyotaka liked to call it.

Jin began to scream.

The doors slammed shut.

The thrusters fired up.

The Space Journey began.

The Journey ended with a skeleton left in Jin’s place after the rocket came crashing back to Earth.

Kiyotaka began to chuckle, and that chuckle evolved into a laugh, and that laugh evolved into a cackle, and that cackle evolved into a roar, and that roar evolved into a scream. Monokuma laughed with him in unison, as man and robot harmonised into a symphony of sweet, despairing victory.

Hope’s Peak Academy was now completely at his mercy.

A new administration had dawned.

Chapter Text


When Kiyotaka Ishimaru first set foot in the well-polished hallways of Hope's Peak Academy, he saw sprawling before him a future of hope and success. Inhaling deeply and letting his sturdy chest puff out with pride, the scent of order and disinfectant filled his lungs with optimism. This was it, he told himself, enthusiastic red eyes scanning every single detail they could latch onto, this was the beginning of great things for the Ultimate Moral Compass.

For him, that day had been two years ago. For his classmates, well...

Several other students from his class (the 78th Class in the school's illustrious history) were scattered around the main hall of the building, and he observed them carefully. Likewise, they returned the gesture, eyes fixated upon him as he approached. The imposing steel vault door loomed behind them, and all of them seemed confused as to how it had got there in the first place.

“Oh look, someone else!” Said the girl in the red running jacket, which her folded arms held over the white shirt t-shirt underneath. She gave the hall monitor a look of anxious uncertainty, and clearly didn’t recognise him. Kiyotaka had never seen Asahina look so unnerved before. It was breathtaking to look at. A tinge of worry flickered in her bright eyes as she called out to him. “Um, hello there!”

If there had ever been a time to act, then this was Kiyotaka’s time to win an Oscar. Blending in now was more important than it had ever, ever been. He brought a hand to his head, which he shook with furrowed brows of confusion. Almost as if he had a headache or… “What’s going on?” He asked as he approached her and a handful of the other students. “I...”

“You walked through the doors, fell unconscious and woke up in a classroom?” Said the esteemed Byakuya Togami who, to the prefect’s surprise, look almost entirely unbothered about the situation he had found himself in. “Yes, yes, I’ve had to hear it from everyone else already.”

Kiyotaka blinked. Dumbfounded. “You mean… you all experienced the same thing?”

“This is strange, indeed...” muttered a certain girl dressed up in gothic lolita clothing.

Not many of them had arrived yet. Celeste, Asahina, Byakuya, Hifumi and…

There she was.

Kyoko Kirigiri.

She stood off in a corner to herself, hand brought to her chin and eyes narrowed as she stared at the floor, clearly in deep thought. The confusion on her face was as strong as the others’ combined, and it sent a shudder of delight down the hall monitor’s spine. Having apparently sensed him watching her, her violet eyes shot up at him until he turned away, at which point she did the same.

“Hey, don’t take it personally,” said Asahina, “we tried talking to her, too, but I don’t think she in the mood for conversation.”

Clearly she wasn’t. If the expression on her face was anything to judge by, she didn’t remember a thing either. It was a face that was trying to piece together a complex mental jigsaw with virtually none of the pieces. Watching her struggle, observing the gears and cogs breaking down as they struggled to turn… oh, it was delightful.

The girl who had almost stopped him. The girl who was only a minute too late. It was just yesterday that she had made an attempt to wrestle him away from the dispersal button, and now here she was without a single memory of the event. Kiyotaka had to wrestle with his lips to stop them from carving a smile across his mask of a face.

As the minutes stretched on, more and more of his fellow sixteen students arrived, culminating with the appearance of a similarly confused Makoto Naegi. Questions were asked as they gathered together, and opinions shared. Everyone agreed on the same facts: They had walked through the doors of the school on their first day, only to collapse and wake up in a classroom, confused as to why there were iron plates on the windows and a giant vault door in stead of the school’s usual doors. To them, two years was perhaps an hour ago at the most.

To Kiyotaka, those two years had felt like a lifetime.

Introductions were made, with the prefect acting as if he didn’t know a single one of them. As if he didn’t know the pair of sisters in the corner or the pitiful baseball punk, or any other one of the pond scum that surrounded him. He had to pretend he did not know what vermin they were. He had to act like he did not know their crimes.

Stranger stared at stranger, former best friends eyeing each other with all the suspicion they could muster. Not one of them recognised each other. None of them apart from a certain prefect, at least.

Suddenly, admit the awkward conversations and nervous introductions, came static.

And the silhouette of a bear appeared on the monitors.

“Ahem! Ahem! Testing, testing! Mic check, one two! This is a test of the school broadcast system!”

Glances were exchanged. An uncomfortable silence fell over the room, and the air became thinner. Even Kiyotaka himself felt a tinge of anxiety flood him, despite having been the one to have orchestrated the entire event.

“Am I on? Can everyone hear me? Okay, well then…!”

The voice unmistakably belonged to his creation. To his darling Monokuma: the hyper-intelligent artificial intelligence hardwired into a robotic teddy bear. He wondered how Chihiro would react if she ever got the chance to analyse him. Without a doubt, the work Kiyotaka had poured into the bear’s creation was capable of matching even the skills of the Ultimate Programmer. He didn’t require talent or genius, after all. Just simple hard work and countless hours of study.

That dedication to success was what made him the one in control of this game. It was what it made it so easy to overthrow the old headmaster.

After all, Kiyotaka was nothing more than a perfectly normal individual: the most dangerous thing in all of civilization.

“Ahh, to all incoming students! I would like to begin the entrance ceremony at… right now! Please make your way to the gym at your earliest convenience. That’s all. I’ll be waiting!”

And, with that, the static died. Kiyotaka’s heart was pounding in his ears. It had worked. It had actually worked. Even better than he could have ever possibly expected, too!

“What the hell was that just now?” Spat Junko Enoshima, her militaristic sister glaring at the screen from aside her.

“Well then,” said Byakuya, already turning in the direction of the gym, “if you’ll excuse me...”

Junko scoffed, clearly bewildered at the snob’s sudden exit. “H-Hey! What, you’re gonna take off just like that?!”

There was another period of momentary silence. More glances were exchanged, with many clearly unsure what to make of the situation. Did they follow the Ultimate Affluent Progeny, or did they mill around the lobby in the hopes of… well, whatever entertainment their feeble minds could possibly come up with.

“Oh, yeah, now I get it! The whole thing was just to get us all pumped for the entrance ceremony,” declared the Ultimate Clairvoyant, stroking his chin in consideration of the situation. “Man, thank God it was all a joke. I’d be totally freaked if this was real!” He let out a laugh of confidence and began making his way out.

Oh, how wrong he was, thought Kiyotaka. For a Clairvoyant, his predictions always had the most entertaining ways of going wrong. He had a “Thirty-Percent Accuracy Rating”, Yasuhiro himself proudly called it.

Unfortunately for him, the events still to come were all very much a part of the Seventy-Percent demographic.

Because today was orchestrated to end in despair.

 


 

 

The gym had been abuzz with conversation and chatter for the past several minutes, with many of the class remarking how the room had been set up to look exactly like an entrance ceremony. Chairs sat ready, facing the stage, but no one dared to sit on them, still too uneasy about the situation they had found themselves in. The atmosphere was one of confusion and mystery, but also a slight sense of excitement. A tiny flicker of hope that perhaps all of this was an elaborate joke.

A hope that was dashed moments later, when, having declared his introductions, a certain black-and-white teddy bear bounced onto the speaker’s podium with a grin of twisted malice. Gasps came from the crowd. Sounds of bewilderment. A growing sense of fear and even further confusion. It was exactly how Kiyotaka had pictured it in his dreams for the past several months.

“Huh?” Said a shaken Chihiro. “A… teddy bear?”

“I’m not a teddy bear,” the obvious teddy bear replied, “I… am… Monokuma!

With that, the spectacle began. Monokuma made his introductions, firing off pun after pun, joke after joke, his voice suitably happy and bouncy about the situation at hand. Just how Kiyotaka had programmed him to behave. Although, just to test that the AI’s parameters were programmed properly…

“I refuse to believe it!” The prefect declared, pointing at his creation with an outraged finger and tears in his eyes. “A teddy bear cannot be the headmaster of a school!”

Monokuma glared at him. “Well start believin’ it, bucko! ‘Cause headmaster is exactly what I am!”

It was as if Kiyotaka was just like one of the other students. There were no exceptions shown towards him. Right now, in front of the others, Kiyotaka was just as much of a victim as they were. He let out a gasp of shock and, in many ways, it wasn’t staged. He was stunned at how despairingly masterful Monokuma had been designed.

Blending in had been made infinite times easier.

Almost every student took their turns firing out statements of disbelief at what they were seeing, refusing to acknowledge the two foot tall, black and white truth that stared them dead in the face. It was a truth that, once it had (very) slowly begun to settle in amidst the confusion, was obliterated by the larger one that came crashing in like a wrecking ball moments later.

Monokuma, as cheerful as ever, casually explained that they were to spend the rest of their lives within the walls of the school. The metal plates had been installed to keep them inside, he told them, and escape was utterly impossible. That epiphany caused a furore of anger and panic as the bear laughed about how no one was coming to save them.

The mood in the room shifted and turned with as much variation as the ocean waves the students were told they would never see again. The anger burned like the sun they were never meant to see. The ever-growing fear was as chilling as the evening winds they would never again experience. The room was torn between anger and fear, between disbelief and hesitant acceptance, switching between each state with rapid speed.

As the panic reached its crescendo, with Leon and Mondo demanding Monokuma end what they were still insistent was a “joke”, the bear let out a delighted little giggle.

“I guess I forgot to mention one thing. There is a way for you to leave the school.”

At last, Kiyotaka’s classmates seemed to say with their eyes of alertness, hope! Finally, a way to undo the awfulness and the stress of this situation and put the entire thing to bed. How hard could it really be? After all, it was only a tedd-

The explanation came.

No one could fathom it.

No one dared to.

Kiyotaka had to suppress the chuckle bubbling in his throat as he watched their faces turned from scared to terrified, from panic to trauma, all the while wearing a similar face of his own.

The inevitable objections and refutations came flying at the teddy bear, who merely laughed and shrugged, continuing to insist that his every word was the truth.

“You must kill someone if you want to leave,” he said with that permanent grin. “Simple as that.

Yet more denials. Yet more panic. Yet more and more refusals that this was real, that this was actually happening, that what had supposed to have been a perfectly normal entrance ceremony had become, well… this. Kiyotaka listened to the chaos ensue around him as if it were music, practically mapping out the entire composition in his mind for later enjoyment at his own sadistic leisure. He even threw a couple of his own yells of disbelief at the bear, if only to add to the symphony.

The piece had been playing smoothly, grand and magnificent, until it was interrupted by none other than a certain biker punk with a face full of fury. Of course it was him, thought Kiyotaka as he watched on silently with over-dramatic tear-filled eyes. He never had been the type to learn when to keep his mouth shut.

“Listen up, asshole! This shit’s gone way too far! What the hell kinda joke is this?”

What ensued was a scene which shattered the harmonious melody ringing through the Ultimate Moral Compass’ head.

Arguing. Mondo grabbing Monokuma, followed by a series of loud beeps. Kyoko breaking her long silence to scream at the biker to throw the bear away. The only ringing that remained was the aftermath of the explosion as Monokuma self-destructed in mid-air.

Had the force of the blast not been so troublesome, Kiyotaka might have applauded what was, in his eyes, another successful test run of Monokuma’s functionalities. When a new copy of the bear sprung up at the podium moments later, however, that need for applause almost overtook him before he reigned in it. Perfect. Simply perfect.

As, surprise surprise, more shock and horror spread throughout the hall at the sight of the resurrected bear, the high-tech e-handbooks were handed out to each student. Most importantly, they contained the list of the school’s regulations, all of which had personally been written by Kiyotaka himself, of course. He had begun with a list of four-hundred-and-ten during his first drafts, but had managed to whittle it down to nine:


Rule #1:  Students may reside only within the school. Leaving campus is a punishable offence.
Rule #2: "Night-time" is from 10 pm to 7 am. Some areas are off-limits at night, so please exercise caution.
Rule #3: Sleeping anywhere other than the dormitory will be seen as sleeping in class and punished accordingly.
Rule #4: You are free to explore Hope's Peak Academy at your discretion.
Rule #5: Violence against Headmaster Monokuma is strictly prohibited, as is the destruction of surveillance cameras.
Rule #6: Anyone who kills a fellow student and becomes "blackened" will graduate, unless they are discovered.
Rule #7: Any non-approved attempts to stop the communal school life will be met with maximum punishment.
Rule #8: Moving through the hallways at speeds of over 10mph will be punished severely.
Rule #9: Additional school regulations may be added if necessary.

 

Perhaps it was down to personal taste, but Rule #8 was undoubtedly Kiyotaka’s favourite. Even if he wasn’t entirely sure why.

Once the handbooks were given to their respective owners and their properties explained, the little headmaster said his farewells, hopped off the back of the podium, and vanished.

The scent of gunpowder still lingering in the air and mild ringing still ongoing in the ears of every student, suspicious glances were once again exchanged, just as they had been earlier. Only now, it was under entirely different circumstances. Who was a predator watching prey? Who was a potential killer scoping out potential victims? How many of them, Kiyotaka wondered, were contemplating thoughts of murder already?

For what felt like the first time in his life, they were questions he didn’t have an answer to, and that only made the situation that much more exciting. Who would die first? When would they die? How would they be slaughtered?

Only time would tell.

As the class began to go their separate ways, a sense of foreboding saturated the school, looming over each and every student within it.

The event could not have gone better, thought Kiyotaka, as he eventually left the room and headed back toward his dorm. Everything he had planned had been pulled off with greater success than he had anticipated, and it was all thanks to everyone’s favourite AI teddy bear. Monokuma: a true headmaster.

Certainly a better choice than the skeleton sitting in a box upstairs.

As he passed by his various classmates, he made a point of asking them how they were. Not one of them was remotely okay. Even through their silence, he could smell their fear.

The school of hope, once looked up to as a beacon of order and regulation, had now been dyed with the bright red brilliance of despair.

And Kiyotaka could not have been happier.

 




“You did an excellent job today, my little friend.”

“Aww, geez. Buy a bear a drink first before chattin’ him up, huh?”

Seated in the chair of the school’s control room, Kiyotaka’s eyes flicked between the monitors in front of him and the intelligent bear milling around alongside him. In truth, the prefect hadn’t intended on making him so sarcastic, but it entertained him all the same. The teddy bear truly had his own personality, albeit one that obeyed Kiyotaka’s authority.

“I can assure you that flirtation wasn’t my intention,” he responded with a little smirk, currently watching Makoto and Sayaka chatting shakily in the gym on the screen in front of him.

“Hey, c’mon Mister Law and Order,” said Monokuma, “I know a guy who’s batting for the same team when I see one.”

Kiyotaka let out a muted gasp at that, clearly taken aback. He decided not to dignify the joke with a response, however. It was hardly worthy of his acknowledgement.

“Oh, you’re watching those two, huh?” Asked the bear, his own eyes observing the pair on the screen. “Think they’re gonna get it on?”

“I’d much prefer if they killed each other,” the prefect replied. “That way the real game can begin. I might need to give them a motive if someone doesn’t give in soon.”

“Whatever you say, nutjob… but I know you’re just waiting to see those two get it on.”

With a roll of his eyes, Kiyotaka turned his gaze to another screen, if only to shut the teddy bear up. The very same teddy bear who, face bright red, was currently huffing and puffing and rubbing his chest at his own words. If he wasn’t so loveable, Kiyotaka would have been disgusted.

He watched the figures of each of his classmates scattered across the ground floor of the school, all of them either talking amongst themselves, crying together, or sitting in silence on their own. He watched Kyoko for a moment, who had taken up the task of inspecting every room she came across, albeit with a look of lingering confusion on her face. There she was, just like all the others, trapped in the web he had spun. She wasn’t special. She didn’t have the superior intellect that so many around her used to speak so highly of. No. She was normal. Perfectly average.

And that was why he had beaten her.

As his eyes moved from crying face to crying face, from figures still wandering in disbelief to those in traumatised isolation, Kiyotaka finally took off the mask of confusion and innocence he had been forced to wear around the others.

A grin cracked through his skin.

His fingers, like claws, grasped onto the armrests of his chair.

Heavy brows lifted with unfiltered joy.

A laugh like no other spilt from his lips. Twisted and menacing, overflowing with sadism and despair.

At long last, he had done it. The game he had spent years planning was being played out, right before his very eyes, and it was glorious.

“Y’know,” said a familiar voice suddenly in the midst of the mastermind’s laughter, “if you’re done with the whole look-at-me-I’m-an-evil-genius shtick, I’ve got breaking news for ya!”

Kiyotaka’s hysteria ceased, the moment ruined, his eyes of blood turning to face the wicked little teddy bear once more. “Breaking news?”

Monokuma nodded his head, delighted. “Yup! Real shockin’ stuff. If the internet was still a thing, I’m sure ‘yer phone would be buzzin’ like crazy with notifications right now. Real headline-worthy material!”

“Just get to the point.”

Monokuma grinned, as always.

“Go downstairs.”

“Downstairs?”

“Go check out the bathhouse. I’d tell ya to check the monitors, but there ain’t a camera in there, remember. On account of the steam. You’ll have to go see it with your own eyes!”

Kiyotaka had no idea what he was talking about, but there was something about the delight and the malice and the genuine excitement behind those words that intrigued him.

“What is it?”

“Let’s just say,” said Monokuma, “that things have gotten a whole lot more interesting!”

 


 

When Kiyotaka Ishimaru arrived at the bathhouse, he was met with a sight he hadn’t expected.

The room was devoid of any other souls, almost exactly as he had left it… minus a few things, anyway. Little bits and pieces of relative interest lay on the floor, all of them surrounding the grand masterpiece that awaited him there – the ‘breaking news’ Monokuma had told him about.

The old Kiyotaka would have been horrified at the sight.

The old moral compass would have screamed and cried and panicked.

Yet the compass had long since broken, and the old Kiyotaka was long, long gone.

It had only been twelve hours since the entrance ceremony. Never in his wildest, most despair-soaked dreams could he have predicted this.

There, on the locker room floor, lay the corpse of Junko Enoshima.

He had to stifle another round of laughter.

His perfect, white-toothed smile returned.



The killing game had begun.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

For Makoto Naegi, his first day of school hadn’t been quite what he had expected. Then again, who exactly expected to pass out at the doors and wake up in a living nightmare from which, according to the psychotic teddy bear headmaster and his army of steel-covered windows, there was no escape? Today had been a whirlwind of mayhem and calamity, beginning with the introductions to his rather unusual classmates, leading to the reveal of said psychotic teddy bear and his nefarious announcements, and ending with... well, something half-decent, actually, in spite of the trauma.

Sure, today had been hell. Sure, the situation seemed grim and the realisation that this wasn’t some giant joke after all was starting to settle in. Sure, all of that was utterly terrifying (and was making him question his title as the Ultimate Lucky Student entirely), but he had been reunited with an old friend of sorts. Someone he may or may not have had the smallest crush on in his younger years. Sayaka Maizono, with who he now found himself chatting in the gym. Both of them shaken to the core, but undoubtedly happy to have found each other’s company. Maybe this situation wasn’t all bad, after all.

Just as Makoto parted his lips to respond to a question the Ultimate Pop Sensation had asked him, music played out across the intercoms, and his heart rate spiked immediately.

Bing-Bong Bong-Bing!

Monokuma flashed up on the screens, and both of them turned their attention to it at once. What was this? What now? What else could possibly happen on a day like this?

A body has been discovered!”

Makoto’s heart sank. His palms began to sweat. His mouth dried up. He felt sick.

...What?

Everyone please gather in the locker room of the bathhouse at once! Attendance is mandatory!”

And, just like that, just as quickly as he had appeared, the screens went dark and Monokuma was gone.

Makoto turned to Sayaka.

Sayaka turned to Makoto.

Silence clung to the air, neither one of them seemingly able to believe what they had just heard. A body had been found? Someone was dead? Did that mean... someone had actually killed someone? One of the people he had met earlier was apparently dead, and another one of them was a murderer. No. No, he refused to believe it!

Without a word between them, the pair quickly made their way for the gym doors.

 


 

The moment Makoto entered the locker room, any hope that Monokuma’s words were a lie were shattered.

His eyes took in each piece of the scene in front of him, lingering on one item of interest and then shooting to the other, his vision like a grainy, unfocused camera guided by a shaking hand. A white tie, removed and stretched out flat aside the figure lying on the floor. Dark purple bruises blotched across the pale white skin of the girl’s throat. Wide-open eyes; her last look of desperation frozen in time forever.

For a moment, all he could hear was static as the horror set in; sounds of screeching and despair filling his head with noise and pollution.

Junko Enoshima was dead.

Everyone was gathered around her body. Silent. Tears welling up in eyes for a girl they hardly knew. The reactions were stiff, with tightened shoulders and held breaths, with no one sure what to say. Well, everyone apart from Mukuro, at least.

She had been on the floor when Makoto had arrived, hunched over the body, sobbing and screaming and refusing to move. Over the last minute, that hadn’t changed. To say she appeared inconsolable would be the understatement of the century. Makoto wasn’t sure he had ever seen such true, honest devastation in the face of another individual before. Such genuine heartbreak. Such utter, utter despair.

“Junko! Junko, wake up dammit! Get up! Come on! GET UP!

Silence. Everyone watched her and the body of her sister, unable to process any of it. Kiyotaka was quietly bawling in the corner. Hifumi looked faint. Asahina’s hands were over her mouth, eyes wide, looking as if she might vomit. Byakuya, arms folded, watched on with barely any expression whatsoever.

“JUNKO! JUNKO!

“Jeez, all this whining is giving me a headache!”

Everyone knew that voice. How could they forget it?

They turned, where a certain black and white teddy bear stood by the entrance, paws over his mouth with that permanent grin locked onto his face, as if he was laughing at the scene before him.

YOU.”

Makoto turned again, witnessing Mukuro rising up to her feet, staring daggers down at the maniac headmaster. “You did this.”

Monokuma pointed at himself. “Me?” He asked, tone oh-so sweet and innocent.

“You killed her!”

“Me? Killed her?”

“YOU MURDERED MY SISTER!”

“Pahahaha! I’d never do anything of the sort!”

Mukuro took a step towards him, her entire body shaking with rage, not daring to take her eyes off him. “You liar.”

“I’m not lying, sis,” said the bear with another chuckle, “I’d never do anything to break any of the school rules! Don’t you remember what I told you yesterday? There’s only one way to graduate from this place, and someone decided to do it! And no, that someone wasn’t me. I won first prize at the International Rule Following Competition, y’know!”

Monokuma gestured over to Kiyotaka, who still hadn’t stopped crying, his fists clenched with obvious frustration. “Second place would’a gone to this schmuck, I’m sure!” With that, he let out another laugh. Mukuro’s rage only heightened. Kiyotaka looked taken aback, and his fists only clenched tighter.

“I’ll kill you,” Mukuro hissed.

“Hey, I ain’t done nothing wrong! The one responsible for the death of the Ultimate Fashionista is one of you guys! Besides, remember what almost happened to mister macho man over there when he tried grabbing me earlier. Touch me and I’ll kill you! Them’s the rules, after all!”

That second part was true, sure, but it was the first portion of the bear’s words that seemed to resonate most with the room. Glances were exchanged. Shoulders stiffened once more. Was that… really true? Was an actual murderer in the room with them right now?

Almost as if Monokuma had read his mind; “I see you all looking at each other. How dramatic! Yes, the truth is that one of you is a murderer, who killed Junko Enoshima in order to graduate! The killer’s just following the rules, of course. Nothing wrong with that!”

“YOU’RE LYING! STOP LYING AND ADMIT THAT YOU KILLED H-”

“I’d like to ask you something, stuffed animal,” said Byakuya suddenly, completely cutting through Mukuro’s scream as if it barely even mattered. To him it probably didn’t. “Let’s assume you’re right and one of us is responsible for this. Does that mean the killer is now allowed to graduate?”

Monokuma laughed.

Monokuma laughed harder.

...No.”

With that, the bear launched into an explanation on what was to happen next. There was to be an investigation of the crime scene, followed by a so-called ‘Class Trial’ to find the killer. If the killer was identified during that trial, he said, they would be denied the right to graduate and painfully executed. If the killer was not identified, then the killer would walk free and everyone else would be executed together.

Panic, of course, quickly ensued. The rules were updated to reflect this development regardless of the shouting and the screaming and the bombardment of protests fired at the bear. Monokuma handed out little books which he called ‘Monokuma Files’, labelled with a giant number 1 on the cover, detailing the need-to-know facts of the case.

There was, of course, no mention of the killer.

After further protest and waves of disbelief, followed by a reminder from the bear that there was a time limit on the investigation, he vanished in a cloud of laughter and celebration, leaving his students stunned into horror.

At first, no one did anything.

No one dared move.

“If what he said is true,” said Mukuro suddenly, head bowed to the floor, eyes closed and voice scarily quiet, “and one of you killed my sister… I will stop at nothing to give you an agonising death the likes of which you cannot begin to imagine. If you’re scared of Monokuma’s execution, then don’t be. Be afraid of me instead. When I’m done with you, you’ll be begging Monokuma to take you.”

Silence.

“Well? What are you all waiting for?” Said Kyoko suddenly. Makoto turned his gaze to the purple haired girl, who had developed a grim look to her face. “We don’t have much time. We need to start investigating.”

“This is… this is all… I can’t… the body and… the… all… all of us dying… I…” With that, Hifumi lightly adjusted the glasses on his face and, with a clearing of his throat, stumbled backwards and collapsed into unconsciousness.

“He… He fainted!” Sayaka gasped.

“There’s a medical room near the gym,” said Sakura suddenly, “I’ll take him there.”

Hifumi was hardly the most lightweight of guys, but the Ultimate Martial Artist showed little strain in picking him up and carrying him out of the room. How she had managed to stay so calm in the face of it all astounded Makoto, but he admired her all the same. They were in need of someone with a level head on their shoulders. Now more than ever.

The room was gripped by severe hesitation and a refusal to accept the situation at hand, but a few minutes later and common sense had apparently prevailed as conversation began and some left the room to go investigate (or cry) elsewhere. Mukuro was eventually convinced by Chihiro and Asahina to back away from her sister’s body. They’d find her killer, they assured her. They just needed to get to work first.

“I… I need to be alone,” she whispered, and quickly made her leave.

Makoto, however shaken he was, decided to tentatively check the so-called Monokuma file in his hand. His mind reeling with thoughts of class trials and execution, and of the deep-seated fear that he and almost everyone else in the building might die tonight, he knew he had no choice here. He and the others had to work together and find out who murdered the girl lying on the floor in front of him, and he would do his best to make sure it happened!

The victim is Junko Enoshima.

The body was discovered in the locker room of the bathhouse on the ground floor of the school.

The cause of death was strangulation.

Apart from severe bruising on the neck, no other injuries a re visible.

Makoto turned his attention from the file and toward the body. He swallowed hard. It was time to get to work.

Investigation Start.

 


 

“I was… the one who discovered the body first.” Kiyotaka sighed.

“What happened?” Asked Makoto, making sure to take in every little detail that he could. Kyoko worked behind him alongside Sayaka, examining whatever evidence the killer had left behind. Not that there was much at all, if any.

Kiyotaka folded his arms, bright red eyes cast down to the floor with obvious upset. “I had headed to the bathhouse to wash myself after the events of today. When I walked in, I… I saw her lying there. Exactly how she is now. At first I thought she was sleeping, and I shook her to wake her up. Tardiness can’t be accepted, after all! But… But she didn’t respond, so I quickly walked over to the dining hall and called the others to come and help. That’s when the body announcement played.”

“Wait, you walked?”

The prefect seemed taken aback by that question. “Of course I walked! Didn’t you read the school regulations? Moving at speeds of over 10 miles-per-hour, otherwise known as ‘running’ is strictly forbidden!”

Oh. That was right. That was Rule #8, according to his e-handbook.

“So you were going to wash and you came across the body?”

“Indeed,” he replied. “A true man must keep himself clean and pristine, like a well-oiled machine!” In saying that, his tears seemed to vanish for a moment, his fist brought up to clench in front of him, as if grasping some sort of imaginary promise to himself. He almost looked happy in saying that – clearly proud of how seriously he took something as simple as bathing. “If you’d ever like to bathe with me sometime and bear ourselves to each other as men, Makoto, don’t hesitate to ask!”

Makoto shook his head with a sheepish grin. “U-Uh, I’m fine! Thanks.” That definitely topped the list of the weirdest invites he had ever received, that was for sure.

Next up was Asahina, who seemed happy to help despite the obvious strain she was under along with everyone else. After a moment of discussion, she paused. “I… I think I saw something earlier. I’m not sure.”

“What did you see? Anything could be important.”

“Well, I was in the dining hall with Sakura. We were talking about everything that’s happened today when Kiyotaka burst in shouting about Junko falling asleep in the locker room. We headed over to help, but… as I was walking, I looked over in the direction of the dorms and I could’ve sworn I saw someone crawling at the very end of the corridor. They turned the corner before I could get a good look at them, though.”

“Someone crawling…? Did you have any idea who it was?”

“All I really saw was their lower half. They were too quick to really make anything out. They were basically just a distant shadow. Maybe it was just in my imagination, but… I’m sure I saw it. After that, Sakura, Kiyotaka and I went into the locker room and saw Junko lying there. The body discovery announcement sounded at that moment and, well… it turns out she wasn’t sleeping after all.”

Asahina sighed, heavy eyes cast over to Junko’s body. “I just don’t get how someone could do something like this. It’s… it’s horrible.”

Makoto didn’t understand it either, and nor did he ever want to.

“Uh… e-excuse me? Makoto?” A little voice came from behind him, and he turned to see Chihiro standing there, hands clasped over her skirt and wearing an anxious look. “Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to interrupt or anything. I’m… I’m so sorry...” Her eyes began filling with tears. Uh-oh.

“No, no! It’s fine! It’s alright, isn’t it Asahina?”

Asahina nodded. “Oh, of course! It’s fine, Chihiro, you weren’t interrupting anything at all. I was done talking, anyway!”

That seemed to cheer the Ultimate Programmer up, if only a little bit.

“Well, um… I was going to say… I think I heard something earlier that might be important.”

“What did you hear?”

“I was walking past the AV Room earlier and I saw Fukawa and Byakuya arguing,” she said. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I overheard Byakuya telling her to leave him alone. I think she’d been following him, or she had tried to talk to him or something and… well… he threatened her.”

Makoto blinked. As troubling as that was, he wasn’t sure it had anything to do with the case. After all, Junko was the victim here, not Fukawa.

“He said that he wouldn’t hesitate to kill her if she didn’t leave him alone. He said that he would ‘do anything’ to get out of here, and that murder would be easy for him. I got out of there as quickly as I could, so I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. About ten minutes later, the body discovery announcement played.” She shook her head with a sigh. “It probably means nothing, but hearing him say he was happy to kill if it meant graduating… I just thought that it might be important.”

That changed things entirely. Suddenly the info had become highly relevant, and Makoto was beyond grateful for it. While there was no other evidence against Byakuya (or against anyone at this stage, really), it was definitely something worthy of remembering. Even if it meant nothing… it was still a potentially important fact that would hopefully bring them closer to the truth.

“Thank you, Chihiro,” he replied. “Everything helps right now, so I’m glad you told me. Hopefully it doesn’t mean anything, but... there’s always that possibility.”

Still… could the Ultimate Affluent Progeny really be a murderer? It was hard to imagine it, from what Makoto knew of him, but then he reminded himself that he knew very little about anyone here. They were all complete strangers. Any one of them had the potential to be a killer, and that included Byakuya.

He made a mental note to ask him and Fukawa about that before the investigation was over. They had both left the room already, however, and Makoto asked those who had stayed behind, instead. Kyoko (who, still investigating the body, barely gave him much of a response other than “I’m busy”), Celeste (who he had barely even noticed had stayed behind) and Hagakure (who had sat himself on a bench and was silently crying in shock) yielded no new information.

With time quickly moving on, Makoto decided it was best to turn his attention to the body. Poor Junko. The look on her face said it all: shock and desperation. He simply hoped it was quick and painless for her. Although strangulation being the cause of death told him otherwise.

“Uh, Kyoko,” he asked, “have you found anything useful?”

“Come and look for yourself,” she replied, brows lightly furrowed as her eyes stayed fixated on Junko’s neck, flitting between that heavily bruised skin and the tie next to her. Her answer was, of course, as cold and distant as ever. Makoto didn’t even know what her Ultimate Talent was. She barely even acknowledged his existence as she examined the body.

Makoto glanced over at Sayaka, who simply shrugged at him in confusion. Clearly she didn’t get her attitude, either.

“Have you found anything, Sayaka?”

“Well… if you look here,” she said, pointing toward the floor in front of the body, “I noticed this.”

There were, on the floor, little pieces of shattered glass no more a half-inch across. Almost unnoticeable, but definitely present. Makoto crouched down and picked a couple of them up and held them in his hand, observing them closely. The glass was ever so slightly curved and completely clear. The pieces were truly miniscule, and he found himself totally stumped at imagining where they might have come from.

“What do you think they are?” Sayaka asked.

“I’m… not sure,” he honestly replied. He felt like he had seen glass in that shape before somewhere. Somewhere rather common, too… but where?

“There’s also the tie, too,” said Sayaka, and he set the glass back where he found it to pick up the thin piece of fabric instead.

It definitely belonged to Junko, of that there was no doubt. She had been wearing it earlier as part of her uniform, and judging by the fact it was clearly missing from her body, it had to have been hers. Completely unfolded, it sat stretched out, and Makoto noticed a couple of small fibres had been ripped toward the centre.

“It looks like some strain’s been put on the middle here,” he said. “Maybe it was pulled so tightly around her neck that it damaged the tie itself.”

Sayaka shuddered. “That’s… awful. So you think the tie is what killed her?”

Makoto looked from the tie to Junko, just as Kyoko had been doing a moment ago. Thick bruises were present around her neck, deep purple and rather splotchy in their appearance. Definitely evidence of strangulation, just as the Monokuma File said. Makoto reached out with his free hand and lightly touched her, however horrible it felt to do so.

“She’s ice cold,” he said sadly. The life had totally faded from her. There was no doubt, as horrific as it was, that Junko Enoshima was dead.

“She was warm not too long ago,” said Kyoko suddenly, almost giving Makoto a fright.

“H-Huh?”

“When everyone gathered here after the body discovery announcement, I felt her body. It was still warm. She hadn’t long been dead. I’d say she was killed about ten minutes before we all arrived. This is a fresh kill.”

“Wh-why did you feel her body?” Asked Sayaka, a look of horror on her face. Makoto had to admit; hearing the calmness in Kyoko’s voice at describing something so off-putting was… sort of creepy.

Kyoko sighed. “I had to. It might have been important.”

So Junko died just before everyone came and found her? Didn’t that throw suspicion onto Kiyotaka, as he was the one who found her so soon? And what about Kyoko? What if she wasn’t telling the truth at all?

Coming back to his original point, Makoto also had to wonder about the tie being the murder weapon.

Why would the killer take off Junko’s tie and use it to kill her when it should have already been around her neck to begin with? Wouldn’t it have been easier to kill her with it while it was still attached?

Sayaka noticed Makoto still holding the tie, and let out a sound of anxiety and revulsion. “P-Put it down, Makoto! If that’s what killed her then you might be cursed if you touch it!”

The fact he was holding the very item that might have robbed Junko of her life was, indeed, beyond creepy. Giving it one last looking over and finding nothing of interest, he sat it back down where he found it, finding a small sense of relief that it was finally out of his hands.

Giving the body one last looking over and, to his frustration, realising there was no more evidence to be seen, Makoto rose to his feet and cleared his throat. His hands felt… weird now that they had touched the tie and her body. He just hoped he wasn’t cursed now, after all.

That pretty much cleared up everything in the locker room, it seemed. All that was left now was to find the others and ask for their side of the story.

Especially Byakuya and Fukawa.

Asking Sayaka to come with him, he began making his way toward the exit and-

Ding Dong, Bing Bong!

The intercom switched on, where Monokuma appeared sitting in a chair, holding a glass of what appeared to be wine. That same smile was plastered across his face, filled with malice and delight.

“I’m getting bored waiting around here. You guys are taking forever! How about we just hurry things along and get started, hmm?”

Makoto felt his stomach drop. Oh no.

“You guessed it! We’re finally here, everyone! It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for!”

No…! He wasn’t finished yet! He needed more time!

Monokuma continued, regardless. There was no stopping him. The inevitable was happening, and Makoto had absolutely no control. He was trapped in this twisted game, just like everyone else… and he still had so much more to investigate. He had barely gathered any evidence at all.

Oh no.

Please no.

Monokuma grinned, as always, and in the happiest, most ecstatic voice he could muster, he proudly announced...

IT’S TRIAL TIME!”

 

Chapter Text

 

The elevator ride down into the courtroom was soaked in suspense. No one said a word. No one dared to breathe too loudly for fear of invoking further chaos in this despair-filled day. Makoto couldn’t blame them. Today didn’t exactly have the best track record in being stable. Something as small as a whisper might create even more mayhem. All he could think about was how little evidence he had gathered. How little he knew. All he had at his disposal were small pieces of glass, a tie and a small handful of testimonies, none of which concretely pointed towards a killer. Was this it? Was this case going to be impossible to solve?

Were they all going to die soon?

The doors opened on a makeshift courtroom, where Monokuma sat on a little throne, still smiling.

Everyone headed to their respective podiums, trying to ignore the empty one inhabited by a signpost with a portrait of Junko attached to it, her face crossed over in neon pink. Black ribbons decorated the top of the frame, indicating what they already knew: she was dead.

Monokuma gave another explanation of the rules of the class trial. If the killer was identified, they would be executed. If the killer was not identified, they would graduate and walk free, with everyone else being executed in their place. Either way, one fact was perfectly clear:

More death was coming their way.

“Now, without further ado…” Monokuma began, voice overflowing with uncontainable joy, “...let the class trial begin!

 


 

The debate began with a declaration from Leon. “I’m just gonna come right out and say it… the killer is obviously Kiyotaka!”

Kiyotaka gasped, eyes wide. “I… What?! How could you say something like that? Lying can have you thrown in detention, you know!” The offence and the outrage in his voice was absolutely clear. Makoto couldn’t blame him. For the first point to be discussed in the case, it was definitely not one he had expected to hear.

“Leon isn’t totally wrong,” said Fukawa, standing at her podium as twitchy as ever. “H-He was the one who discovered the body, right? M-Maybe he killed Junko and then said he found it to make himself look innocent!”

“I hate to say it, but Kyoko said she noticed Junko’s body was still warm,” said Sayaka. “When Kiyotaka found the body she would have only just died. Isn’t that a little suspicious?”

Celeste took the opportunity to chime in, too. “Sakura and Asahina were the ones he told first, weren’t they? Maybe one of them noticed something strange.”

“Well,” said Asahina, “he was definitely in a state of panic, but-”

A-HA!” Hifumi cried. “That proves it! He was panicking because he’d just killed someone and the guilt was kicking in!”

Tears were welling up in the prefect’s eyes now. “I’m telling you, I didn’t do it! I would never hurt any of you!”

“See what I mean?” Said Leon. “It’s gotta be him!”

No, that’s wrong!”

Makoto wasn’t sure from where within him that shout had come from. He only knew that it had apparently come flying from his mouth at full volume, considering the stunned reactions pointed in his direction. He didn’t dare, however. There was something about Kiyotaka’s words and reaction that seemed true, and he wasn’t going to sit by and let the others gang up on him.

“Whaddyamean ‘that’s wrong’?”

“You’re all jumping to conclusions too quickly. Maybe it is Kiyotaka, maybe it isn’t, but we can’t make that judgement just yet!” He turned to Asahina suddenly. “Asahina, didn’t you tell me you saw someone crawling at the end of the dorm hallway earlier, right after the murder took place?”

“Well… I think I did.”

“Kiyotaka was with you at the time, right?”

“Uh, yeah. He was taking us to the locker room, remember.”

There it was. The justification he needed. “See what I mean?” Said Makoto. “Something suspicious happened while Kiyotaka was with Asahina and Sakura. Whoever Asahina saw at the end of the hallway couldn’t have been Kiyotaka. It might have been the real killer getting away from the scene for all we know!”

“Or it could have been something totally unrelated,” said Byakuya with a grunt of disgust. He didn’t look anywhere near as panicked and desperate to solve this thing as the others. If anything, he looked bored by it all.

“You’re right,” said Makoto, “but until we know that for sure, we can’t make any judgements. We have to discuss the evidence first!”

“Makoto’s right,” said Sayaka. “We don’t know anything yet! Leave Kiyotaka alone!”

From the corner of his eye, Makoto could have sworn he saw the prefect breathe a genuine sigh of relief as the abuse came to a halt for the time being. He breathed one of his own, too, amazed that he had managed to turn the situation around. For now, anyway. They were one step closer to finding the truth. It was a tiny step, sure, but a step in the right direction, all the same.

Of course, as one debate ended, another quickly began.

“That’s true,” said Chihiro. “Kiyotaka could be innocent. We don’t even know what killed poor Junko, l-let alone who actually did it.”

Mondo rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on. Did you even look at the crime scene? It’s obvious what was used to kill her.”

With a defeated sigh, Chihiro bowed her head. “I’m… I’m s-sorry. I was just trying to help.”

“Well go on, wise guy,” said Leon, “what did the killer use?”

“Are you for real, man? It was obviously the tie on the floor next to her.”

“Oh… I, uh… I never noticed that.”

“It’s obvious what happened,” Mondo explained, arms folded. “The killer somehow got the tie off her and used it to strangle her!”

Wait… wait, that didn’t make any sense!

No, that’s wrong!”

“Jesus, will you stop with the shouting?!” The Ultimate Biker Gang Leader replied, ironically shouting at twice the volume Makoto had used.

Makoto blinked. “Oh, uh, sorry.” Still, he shook his head. His volume didn’t matter. What mattered was the contradiction in that statement. “You said the killer took her tie off and used it to strangle her, but is that really what happened?”

“Whazzat supposed to mean?”

“Well,” said Makoto, “her tie was already around her neck. If the killer was insistent on using her tie for whatever reason, they wouldn’t need to take it off at all! And yet they did.”

“Maybe that’s because it was easier to use as a weapon if it was removed,” Celeste added. “I imagine it’s possible to kill someone while they’re wearing the tie but it wouldn’t be easy at all.”

“If the tie was already secure around her neck to begin with, it wouldn’t be easy to remove. The killer would have to undo the tie, and that would be near-impossible without Junko’s consent. The only other way is to rip the tie off, and the tie wasn’t torn. Stretched in the middle from what looked like strain, yes, but not torn off!”

“Okay,” said Mukuro quietly, dark circles around her eyes from how hard she had been crying earlier, “so what are you saying?”

“I’m saying that the killer couldn’t have removed Junko’s tie,” said Makoto. Of that he was certain.

“But the tie was removed, you fool,” said Byakuya with another grunt. “Are you really forgetting such a basic fact of this case? If the killer didn’t remove the tie, then why was it removed and lying next to her corpse?”

Makoto still wasn’t certain. Not at all, but… the facts seemed to be pointing in a certain direction, and he had no choice but to follow it. It was impossible for the killer to remove her tie, but the tie had been removed all the same. If only Junko and her killer were at the scene, and the killer didn’t remove it…

“Junko took off her own tie.” There were several sounds of surprise and confusion from the others, as he had expected. “She was the only one who could.”

“Why would she take off her tie?” Asahina asked.

“Maybe she was going to bathe?” Said Kiyotaka. “Perhaps she was about to take off her uniform, and began with removing her tie when she was suddenly attacked from behind with that same tie!”

“How would they have known she was going to the locker room to begin with?” Said Mukuro.

“P-Perhaps they were following her, had it all planned out, and they struck when she was vulnerable!” Kiyotaka replied.

Mukuro shook her head. “No, that’s not possible. She was with me the whole time before the murder. We were standing by the giant steel door in the entrance hall. She told me she was going to the bathroom and told me to wait where I was for her, but she never came back…” It was clear she was fighting off a fresh round of tears. “...the body discovery announcement played soon after. I would have noticed someone following her.”

“Well maybe the killer didn’t have it planned, but followed her in, saw the removed tie, and used it as an opportunity!” The prefect countered.

“No. Junko was insanely analytical. She noticed everything and anything that went on around her, no matter how small. She might have been a Fashionista, but she was so sharp that it sometimes scared me.” She shook her head again. “She would have seen someone following her, and she would have taken them down. No doubt about it.

“Well, then I...” Kiyotaka paused, only to sigh in frustration. “...I don’t know.”

“So then why did she take off the tie if she wasn’t changing?” Said Leon, his expression indicating that he, too, was beyond stumped.

At last, Makoto had the chance to explain the hypothesis he had developed. He didn’t want to say it. He didn’t even fully believe it himself, but…

“Junko took off her own tie because… because she was the one planning on using it as a weapon.”

A further burst of confusion followed straight after, and his eyes turned to Mukuro to see her staring daggers at him.

“She…” The Ultimate Soldier clearly didn’t believe him. “...she what?”

“It’s the only conclusion that makes sense,” said Makoto. “She would have spotted someone following her, so she wasn’t taken by surprise. The killer couldn’t have removed the tie in the heat of the moment, either, because it was impossible to remove without Junko letting them take it off or without tearing it apart. It’s clear what happened: Junko met with someone in the bathhouse, her tie at the ready, because she was planning on killing them. Junko was the true attacker. This was a crime of self-defence!”

Mukuro fell into silence once more, but her eyes remained locked on Makoto like crosshairs. He only prayed she wouldn’t take a shot. It wasn’t a pleasant truth to face, and it might not have been the truth at all, but it was the only thing that made sense right now!

“So... what are you trying to say here?” Hagakure spoke up through the confusion. “The killer grabbed the tie off her and used it in self-defence?”

“That’s a possibility,” said Makoto, “but I don’t think that’s exactly what happened.”

“And how the hell do you know all this?” Said Leon. “What next? Are you going to tell us that the tie wasn’t the murder weapon after all?”

“As a matter of fact,” said Makoto, “that’s exactly what I’m about to say.”

The sarcasm was wiped off the Ultimate Baseballer’s face in a heartbeat, and he was left gasping in shock. “Wh-WHAAAT?!”

“He’s right,” said Kyoko suddenly. It was the first time she had spoken up in the entire trial. Up until now she had been silent. Watching. Waiting, apparently. “Remember the bruising around Junko’s neck. Thick splotches of purple all over. Her tie was far too thin to have caused that sort of damage. If the tie had been used, we would have seen a thin line of bruising but we didn’t. The damage was far too heavy to be consistent with the tie. The tie wasn’t the murder weapon.”

She had completely taken the words out of Makoto’s mouth, and phrased them much more professionally, to boot. The Ultimate Lucky Student almost found himself jealous for a moment, but quickly found himself thankful instead that she had jumped in to help him.

“It’s true,” he said. “A tie wouldn’t have caused damage like that. At least, not that I can imagine.”

“So what killed her?” Asked Asahina.

“The marks were too wide and random to be a specific item like a tie or rope or even a belt,” said Makoto. “If this was a crime of self-defence, that meant the killer was trying to fend her off. The killer wouldn’t have been armed with any sort of weapon, so the only thing they would have...”

“...are their hands,” said Kirigiri, finishing his sentence for him.

“So they strangled her with their bare hands?” Asked Chihiro, a look of horror crossing across her petite face.

“What sorta asshole would do somethin’ like that?” Said Mondo, fist clenched. “I don’t care why he did it – no man should ever hurt a woman, even if it is in fuckin’ defence!”

“Why do you assume the culprit is male?” Asked Byakuya. “That makes you look a little suspicious, wouldn’t you say?”

Mondo blinked. His eyes widened. He had clearly realised his mistake. “Wait… you’re not saying. You don’t think…” He slammed his fist down on his podium. “I’M NOT THE FUCKIN’ KILLER!”

The Ultimate Affluent Progeny let out a chuckle of what sounded like genuine amusement. It was the sound one would expect to hear from a sadistic child after setting his puppets on fire and watching them dance, regardless. A description that Makoto could totally see fitting Byakuya in his younger years, even if he had only known him for a day. He actually appeared to be enjoying this, and that thought terrified him.

“I know you aren’t, so please refrain from acting like an ape. Violence only makes you look like more of a fool, you know. It’s obvious who the real culprit here is,” said Byakuya, with that first part setting off Mondo’s anger. The Affluent Progeny was hit with a tirade of curse words and threats, but he didn’t seem to care at all. He pointed across the circle to none other than… “Mukuro Ikusaba! You were the one who killed Junko Enoshima!”

Makoto hadn’t seen that coming. Not at all. What the hell was he playing at?

“...Excuse me?” The Ultimate Soldier stared at him with a look that threatened to kill without hesitation. The glare of a true battle-hardened soldier on the front-line of war.

“The only evidence we have that Junko wasn’t taken by surprise is your account of being with her and knowing her personally. Yet no one else here can corroborate that. You have no alibi. Only your sister could have given you one, and she’s dead.” Byakuya began his explanation, but those last words seemed to hit a nerve in Mukuro, as tears began welling up in her eyes.

“S-Shut up...”

“I can only assume,” he continued, “that you both trusted each other, so if you were the one who attacked first, her guard would have been down, giving you a prime opportunity. If the truth is as Makoto says and she attacked you, then as the Ultimate Soldier you would have had the combat experience to turn the situation around. Your hands would certainly be strong enough to strangle someone to death, especially with your experience in the military.”

“You…” Mukuro had been rendered speechless, hunched over her stand, inhaling heavy breaths of outrage and despair. “...Shut your mouth… you’re wrong… shut up!

“That’s why you’ve spent the whole time since the body discovery crying about her death. It’s not because she was your sister and you care. That couldn’t be further from the truth! You were crying to make us think you couldn’t possibly be responsible, in an effort to hide your crime! Save us all the time and admit it. You killed her!”

At that moment, Mukuro Ikusaba let out a scream. A wail of agony and devastation. Every chord her yell hit was soaked with greater and greater amounts of agony, and it seemed there was not a single person in the room who couldn’t feel it. Makoto could almost feel tears building himself just watching her, so great was her anguish.

“I would never! I… Junko… She… I… NOOOOOO!

“You might not want to face it,” said Byakuya, “but self-defence or not, you killed her. You’re the one responsible for this atrocity!”

Mukuro had become a shadow of her former self, and that was being generous. Wailing and screaming, crying and hyperventilating. She had been gripped in the midst of a full-blown breakdown, mixed in with what seemed like some sort of panic attack. She could barely speak. She could hardly even breathe. She had been reduced to babbling her words, not making any sense, eyes darting around the room, her entire being overcome with distress. She was trying to speak but every word failed to form. She was entirely defeated.

“I guess… from that reaction, anyway...” Leon began, a look of regret on his face, “...I guess she really did do it.”

“She was your sister, you idiot. How could you do something so cruel?” Fukawa hissed.

“This is a turn of events I never expected!” Hifumi exclaimed.

“Mukuro… why? Why did you do it?” Said Kiyotaka, brows raised in concern, his tone making it clear of just how sorry he felt for her. “Please talk to us and explain yourself!”

Was this… really how it was going to end? Was she really the one responsible?

“Monokuma,” said Byakuya, suddenly clicking his fingers as he issued his command, “let the voting begin. It’s time we end this charade.”

The teddy bear chuckled. “Upupupu! So full of vigour, Byakuya,” he cooed, “I love it! Very well, then. If we’re all agreed, let’s start the voti-”

NO! NOT YET!”

Every eye in the room fell on Makoto for the second time in the trial.

“What do you mean ‘not yet’?” Byakuya glared at him. “We’re all decided, aren’t we? Don’t interrupt justice. I want to get back to my room already. I’ve had enough of this nonsense.”

Makoto shook his head defiantly. “You’re all forgetting one piece of evidence that we haven’t mentioned yet!”

“Oh?” Said Byakuya, his arms folding. “And what’s that?”

“There were little shards of glass found south of her body, remember.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“We don’t know what the glass is from! There’s no reason why it should be there, and yet it is. It doesn’t add up. Neither Junko or Mukuro appear to have had anything on them that contained glass or was made of glass. Think back to when Junko was alive. She didn’t have anything like that. There isn’t naturally glass in the locker room, either, so something with glass in it had to have been brought to the crime scene! If Mukuro strangled Junko like you said, Byakuya, then that glass shouldn’t be there!” Makoto slammed his hands on the podium in front of him. “Until we know why it was there, we can’t vote yet! Mukuro could be entirely innocent!”

The sound of the headmaster’s chuckling reverberated around the room. “I can see you kiddos still have more talking to do. Voting Time is called off for now until you can come to an agreement!”

With that said, the room seemed to spin, and yet another debate kicked off into full swing. Makoto was relieved to have, once again, prevented the room from making another stupid mistake, but Byakuya didn’t appear happy in the slightest. That was the closest they had come to walking into what might have been a trap, and Makoto’s heart was still pounding from that close call.

“S-so where did the glass come from t-then?” Asked Fukawa.

“It’s irrelevant,” Byakuya replied. “It has nothing to do with this case.”

“Is there really anything in this building that could create shattered glass?” Leon asked. “I mean, all the windows are covered up so it can’t be them!”

“This glass doesn’t make any sense!” Hagakure cried, hands in his birds-nest of hair.

“Now that you mention it… the way the glass was shaped… wasn’t there something weird about it?” Sayaka pondered, finger on her chin.

“There was nothing odd about the glass at all. How it got there is entirely irrelevant. It’s just normal glass.”

No, that’s wrong!”

Just as the glass had been shattered, Makoto felt confident in having completely shattered Byakuya’s point. Or, at least, he was about to.

“The glass was curved, Byakuya,” said Makoto. “Only a little bit, sure, but it was curved. Normal glass, like a generic pane, is completely flat. This glass was tiny, and it was curved. That doesn’t seem weird to you?”

“Who cares if the glass is curved,” Byakuya countered. “It makes no difference.”

Kyoko shook her head. “Makoto’s right. If you think about it, it’s clear that the glass could only have come from one thing, and it’s key to solving this case.”

One thing?

What could that be?

“Hey, I remember Hagakure saying he has a glass ball for all his Clairvoyant stuff! It’s a ball, so it’d be curved too!” Said Leon.

Hagakure let out a cry of offence. “It’s not from my ball! It’s safely in my room where it belongs! And hey – it’s not glass, it’s crystal! How many times do I have to tell you?!” He shoved his hands in his pockets, almost pouting with how much the comment had apparently hurt him. “Besides, who takes a crystal ball to a planned murder scene?”

“You might have u-used the ball as a murder weapon! You could have whacked it over her head!” Fukawa declared, pointing at him accusingly. “I wouldn’t p-put it past you… not when you have hair like that…!”

Makoto shook his head. “That’s impossible, Fukawa. The cause of death was strangulation, remember, not blunt force trauma. Plus, these pieces were far too few and too tiny to belong to something like a crystal ball.”

“Then where the hell did it come from? This glass is really starting to piss me off!” Mondo’s fists were clenched, as usual.

Delving deep into the realm of logic, Makoto brought a hand to his chin. Individual letters began forming in his mind, piecing together like a mental game of hangman. “It had something small. Something with a slight curve. Something that would be normal to take with you, even to a murder scene.” Yes. Yes! That was it! He had it! His eyes met Kyoko’s for a moment, and she gave the tiniest of nods in his direction, as if she knew he had worked it out and was now encouraging him to blow the lid off the entire thing. “The glass could only have come from a pair of glasses!

Hifumi let out a yell of surprise. “Wh-Whaaaaat?!

“I believe that Junko knocked the culprit’s glasses off their face as she tried to fight back, sending them to the floor where, in the struggle, they were broken, shattering the glass! The killer tried taking the glass and the frames with them after they’d finished strangling her, but, totally blind without them, they missed several pieces and accidentally left them behind.”

Surprise overtook the room once again, and Makoto cast his gaze over to Kyoko who, to his surprise, wore the tiniest little smile on her face. She almost looked proud of him, but he was sure he was just imagining it.

“Dude,” said Leon, “that’s cool and everything, but look at Byakuya. Look at Fukawa. Look at Hifumi. They’re the only ones who wear glasses and, uh… they all have their glasses.”

Oh.

That was true.

Oh no.

“Hey, when I checked around in my room earlier I had spare copies of my usual gear waiting for me in the wardrobe. Like, the exact same stuff. Like, to a fuckin’ T. If I had the same brand of hairspray in there that I normally use, then who’s to say those guys wouldn’t have spare glasses, too?”

“I have spares of every single one of my accessories,” said Celeste. Coming from her, of all people, that really meant something. Just how much thought and detail had Monokuma put into all of this? “I don’t think it’s beyond the imagination to say there would be spare glasses provided, too.”

Monokuma, at long last, finally piped up. “You are both correctamundo! You all have exact spares of everything you wear and need in your rooms. From the essentials like glasses and underwear, all the way down to the little things like shoelaces and prefect badges! Anyhoo, carry on kids! This is getting exciting!”

“That’s it, then,” said Sayaka, “the killer could have just headed back to their room after the murder and got a new pair!”

“So wait… that means...” Leon turned his attention to the three glasses wearers, clearly stunned. “...that means one of these three is the killer!”

Makoto looked to each of them.

To Fukawa, who had hunched over a little, fingers trembling and fidgeting, a look of severe strain and anxiety on her glasses-wearing face.

To Hifumi, who had half his hand in his mouth, appearing to be biting on his nails, eyes averted, his forehead a pale blue of worry.

To Byakuya, who had his arms folded, an uncaring expression on his face, making a point of staring straight back at Makoto defiantly.

The suspect pool had just narrowed down from fifteen to three.

One of them was the killer.

Working out which one of them it was would be the final puzzle of this case.

And Makoto was about to solve it.

 

Chapter Text

 

"It... it isn’t me! I-I’d never do something l-like that...!”

Fukawa’s fidgeting had picked up in speed, her shoulders hunched higher and her teeth visibly clenched with anxiety.

“It isn’t me either! I could never take the life of an innocent young lady!”

Hifumi had began those words anxious, too, only to turn slightly aggressive toward the end, pointing straight at Makoto with fury.

“What? You think it could be me? Don’t make me laugh.”

Byakuya hadn’t changed his position or expression in the slightest. Arms still folded. Bored expression still hanging on his face, as if the fact he was among the only three people who could have killed Junko was an inconvenience rather than a genuine concern.

“It’s like Leon said!” Sayaka interjected suddenly. “It has to be one of you three!”

“But which one is it? They all look suspicious to me!” Hagakure had joined the conversation now.

“Whichever one of you is responsible, please confess your guilt at once or you risk facing detention!” Kiyotaka shouted.

“Detention? Jesus, dude, they’re facing fuckin’ execution not detention. Do you really expect them to just come out and admit it?” Mondo shouted straight back at the prefect, whose stern expression quickly transformed into a downtrodden one.

“I… I was just trying to help!”

Byakuya tutted. “Look at you all. You don’t know how to handle a basic conversation, let alone a class trial. How can any of you pass judgement when you’re behaving like children? I can guarantee you that I’m not the culprit, but feel free to vote for me and kill us all, regardless. I’m sure the real killer would love that.”

Makoto paused. “Can you really guarantee us that, Byakuya?”

Byakuya glared at him once more. “What are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying that you can’t guarantee us that at all,” the Ultimate Lucky Student replied, giving a glance over to the Ultimate Programmer for a moment. “Chihiro told me something during the investigation earlier. She was walking past the AV Room before the murder when she overheard a conversation between you and Fukawa.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Byakuya replied, swatting the air with his hand.

Fukawa, however, visibly tensed up, eyes widening the moment Makoto had mentioned the conversation.

“Then allow me to tell you what she heard,” said Makoto, determined that he was on the right track here. “Chihiro overheard you threatening Fukawa after she had tried talking to you. You told her that you would kill her if she didn’t stop following you. You told her that you wouldn’t hesitate to kill someone if it meant graduation. Ten minutes later, the body discovery announcement played and Junko was dead.”

With yet another bored roll of his eyes, Byakuya sighed. “You just destroyed your own point. I’m supposed to have threatened Fukawa with murder, but it was Junko who ended up dead. It’s completely irrelevant. Besides, I have no memory of this conversation, namely because it never happened. That little girl is obviously lying to you.”

“Of course it’s relevant!” Cried Asahina. “You said you’d kill someone if it got you out and someone died minutes later!”

“Wasn’t he the one who asked Monokuma if the killer could graduate,” said Hagakure, “right when we all found the body?”

“Yeah, now that you mention it… that’s right!” Said Mondo. “That’s really fuckin’ suspicious if you ask me. Sounds like he was tryin’ to cash in his reward for the killing!”

Byakuya shook his head. “As I said, vote for me if you want, but you’ll only kill us all. I never had any such conversation with Fuk-”

“Y-Yes you did,” said a meek and trembling voice from across the room, belonging to Fukawa herself.

Byakuya’s calmness shattered for a split second, and he fired a death glare at the girl. “...Excuse me?”

“You threatened me when I tried talking to you. I r-remember exactly what you said. You told me that murder meant nothing to you. This was only a game, you said, and you told me you planned on winning in ‘record time’. You said it!”

Every eye on the room switched from Fukawa and back to Byakuya, whose resolve had been visibly shaken. He said nothing, simply clenching his teeth, shoulders broad and stiff, looking as if he might attack at any moment.

“Well?” Said Makoto. “Do you admit it?”

As if he had never been bothered at all, Byakuya returned to looking bored and entirely uninterested a half-second later. “Fine. I did say that, yes. I simply forgot, is all.” That remark spawned protests from the others, but the Ultimate Affluent Progeny didn’t seem to care. “That still doesn’t mean I killed Junko.”

Byakuya turned to Chihiro suddenly, who seemed to shiver at that stare from behind those glasses. “Remind us: When did you overhear this conversation in relation to the body discovery announcement?”

“Um… it was about ten minutes beforehand...”

Byakuya turned to Makoto now. “And what was it Kyoko said she noticed about the body straight after we discovered it? Something about its temperature.”

“She said the body was still warm.”

Byakuya nodded. “Precisely. If the body was warm, then Junko hadn’t been dead for long at all. In fact, it’s fair to say she died minutes before the discovery, correct?” He turned to Kyoko, as if looking for confirmation.

Kyoko nodded.

Byakuya smirked. “If I was caught mid-conversation ten minutes before the body discovery announcement went off, it’s fair to say that’s around the time Junko was being murdered. I was outside the AV Room with Fukawa at the time. She can testify to that fact, as can Chihiro. I was nowhere near the locker room!” He pointed straight at Makoto, obliterating the entire path he’d been going down instantly. “I have a rock-solid alibi! It’s impossible for me to have killed her!”

Damn it!

Fukawa immediately pitched in. “M-Me too! If I was with him, then I couldn’t have done it either! I’m innocent t-too!”

Damn it, damn it!

Wait.

Wait a second.

“Then that only leaves one person...”

If two of the three suspects couldn’t have committed the crime, then only one remained.

Byakuya had been crossed off the list.

Fukawa, too.

Makoto’s eyes wandered over to the last remaining suspect, and his eyes narrowed in shock.

Hifumi…?”

Hifumi barely reacted. “Yes, Mister Naegi?”

Makoto swallowed hard, pushing his nerves to one side. He took a deep breath, stared him down and… “Did you kill Junko?”

The reality of the situation had apparently only just hit him, as Hifumi suddenly let out a scream of panic, beady eyes widening behind those glasses, hands up in front of him as if for defence. He was already sweating buckets. “Wh-Whaaaaaaaaaat?!

Makoto asked the question again. “Hifumi… did you kill Junko?” He hated having to say it out loud, let alone just thinking it over in his head. Could Hifumi really have done something like that? Could he really have strangled Junko to death with his own two hands and tried to cover it up? His heart said no, but every piece of logic pointed to the same definitive answer:

Yes.

“N-No! No! NO! Of course I didn’t! I couldn’t! Why would I? How could I? Didn’t you hear me earlier? I could never take the life of an innocent lady! O-Or anyone at all!” If he had been sweating buckets a moment ago, now he was sweating swimming pools, and the fear on his face was like nothing Makoto had ever seen.

“The killer wore glasses, Hifumi, and we know that Byakuya and Fukawa couldn’t have been responsible.” Makoto hesitated. He felt like every word he was saying was a death sentence, and whether it was for Hifumi or everyone else, he knew that was almost certainly the truth. Still, he continued. He didn’t have a choice. “You’re the only one that’s left.”

“Jesus, look at him! He’s freaking out!” Mondo frowned at the Ultimate Fanfic Creator, which only made him panic more. “I knew this piece of shit was suspicious from the start!”

Hifumi shook his head. “No! I’m telling you, I’m innocent! I didn’t kill her! I wouldn’t, I couldn’t!” Every muscle on his face and body tense, he inhaled shaking, rasping breaths. “You have no other evidence! You can’t decide I’m guilty based on that alone!”

He pointed a finger at Makoto and let out a scream. “YOU HAVE NO PROOF OF ANYTHING!”

Sakura nodded, albeit with caution. “Hifumi could be right. Remember how certain everyone was about Mukuro earlier, and then about Byakuya. Do we really have enough evidence to say that it’s Hifumi?”

Leon looked about ready to slam his head onto his podium with frustration. “Are we really about to jump back to square one all over again? Is trial ever gonna end?!”

“Well, we looked over the evidence last time,” said Chihiro, “maybe we could do that again?”

“W-We’ve already b-been through all the evidence,” said Fukawa.

“There’s nothing left to go through! We’ve covered everything, and we’re still not sure who it is!” Leon screamed.

“Hifumi’s the only one it can be!” Mondo declared.

“We don’t know that! This could all be a trap set by the real killer!” Said Hifumi, trying to appeal to the room with desperate, pleading eyes.

Kiyotaka interjected now. “I’ll ask it again; will the killer please just come forward and confess?!”

Mondo snapped without hesitation. “THEY’RE NOT GONNA CONFESS, DUMBASS! IF THEY DO, THEY’LL DIE!”

A mass panic had taken over the room, with shouting across all directions, complete with Hifumi having a complete breakdown and desperately scrambling to defend himself in whichever way he could. There was nothing else to discuss. There was no more evidence to look over. Everything had been covered. Everything had already been talked ab-

Wait.

“Asahina!” Makoto cried, having to shout over the chaos unfolding around him, “tell us again what you saw!”

Asahina narrowed her eyes at him, confused. “What I… saw?”

“When Kiyotaka was taking you and Sakura to the locker room, you said you saw something at the end of the dorm hallway, right?”

Makoto could almost see the lightbulb that went off over her head in that moment. “Oh, you mean that! Well, um… I saw someone crawling around the corner of the dorm hallway. I only saw their legs and they moved so fast I barely got a good look at them…”

Byakuya shook his head. “How is that relevant to the case?”

Finally, at long last, everything was starting to make sense.

Every little piece of evidence was starting to slot together, and as Makoto’s mind raced to connect every dot he could, the full picture was starting to emerge. Hifumi was the killer. He was sure of it. Now it was time to prove it!

“It’s the key to solving the entire thing,” Makoto replied, feeling a burst of energy fire through him. “Let’s look over what we know so far: Junko had planned on killing someone, and attacked them in the locker room. Her planned victim managed to turn the situation around and strangled her in defence, but their glasses were smashed in the process. Tell me, if you were in that situation and suddenly you couldn’t see, what’s the first thing you would do after killing her?”

Sayaka tapped her chin. “...Try and fix my vision?”

Mondo furrowed his brows. “Try and get away from the crime scene?”

“Yes!” Naegi replied. “Both of you are right. The killer had to get away, but they had to be able to see again. They needed replacement glasses. Where would they find them?”

Asahina gasped. “Their dorm room!”

Naegi nodded. “After the crime, the killer made their way out of the locker room and toward the dorm hallway, but they could hardly see. To avoid bumping into or being discovered by anything or anyone that might appear, they took the risk of getting on their hands and knees and crawling along the floor as fast as they could, hoping to head back to their room to get a new pair of glasses. I think that’s what you saw, Asahina!”

Byakuya shook his head again. “That still doesn’t prove anything. We still don’t know who Asahina saw. It could have been anyone. We can’t tie it to Hifumi at all.”

Hifumi piped up instantly. “T-That’s right! You can’t prove anything! You don’t know that it was me in the corridor!”

It was too late. The logic had already fallen into place. The final piece of the puzzle was about to be used to solve it, and there was no turning back now. This trial was almost over. All that was left now was to deliver the final blow.

“Think of the dorm hallways for a second,” said Makoto, “and think about where everyone’s room are. Most of our rooms are placed before you turn the corner. Sayaka and Kyoko are next to me, Mondo is across from me, Sakura’s room is at the end of that hallway... you get the idea. But three of us have rooms that lie around the corner.”

Hifumi looked like he was about to throw up.

“Yeah, I’m one of them,” said Leon.

“I’m next door to you, right?” Hagakure said to Leon, who replied to him with an affirmative. “And on the other side of me is…”

Hagakure gasped, eyes wide, as the realisation hit him. “...it’s Hifumi!”

“We know the killer wore glasses, and that they were broken,” Makoto repeated. “We know that the killer headed back to their dorm to get a spare pair. We know that the killer crawled around the corner of the dorm hallway, and that they did so to get back to their room.”

“B-But that means Leon or Hagakure could be responsible!! It doesn’t mean anything about me!!” Hifumi was desperate now. Makoto truly felt sorry for him.

“No,” Makoto replied, “they couldn’t be. They don’t wear glasses… but you do.”

Hifumi let out another scream, this one longer and louder than his last. True panic had overtaken him, and he was starting to give Mukuro’s earlier breakdown a run for its money. Makoto could see the walls closing in around him. He could see the sickness and the true, honest fear consuming him. It was horrible to watch. He felt ill just listening to him.

“That was why you fainted earlier after we found the body, wasn’t it?” Said Makoto, accusation in his voice fading into genuine pity. “Mukuro’s threats against the culprit, combined with the sight of the body and the stress and the guilt of what you had only just done minutes before… it overtook you, didn’t it? You couldn’t bear it.”

“If Junko strangled him with a tie, then… there should be a mark on his neck, right?” Said Sayaka suddenly.

Hifumi’s shirt was fully buttoned, completely hiding his neck.

“Hifumi,” said Makoto. “Can you please show us?”

He didn’t say anything.

“Hifumi, please.”

Hifumi had fallen silent. He didn’t say a word. He simply whimpered and sobbed quietly to himself, entire body shaking manically.

“It’s okay, Hifumi,” said Sayaka. “We just want to have a look. That’s all.”

After what felt like a full minute of silence and what appeared to be internal deliberation, Hifumi rose his head up high. The light hit his face, revealing just how much he had been crying. His face was soaked. His fingers, trembling, came up to his top button, undoing it. He pulled the collar of his shirt down, just a little, and there it was.

A light purple mark, long and thin, spread out in a ring across his neck. The perfect fit for Junko’s tie.

“I’m sorry,” Hifumi muttered. Utterly defeated. “I’m… sorry.”

Makoto could only feel more and more sympathy the longer he looked at that mark.

It hadn’t been his fault. This was never Hifumi’s intention.

But now it was time to finish this.

“I’m going to go over everything one last time,” said Makoto, making sure to keep his voice calm, “from the beginning.”

Kyoko locked eyes with him. She said nothing. Her face was blank. Yet her eyes told him he was right. This was the truth. All that was left now was to recap and fully uncover it. It was time for one last move. A closing argument.

He began.

“Earlier today, about the time Byakuya and Fukawa were busy talking outside the AV room, the killer and Junko met in the locker room of the bathhouse. Junko most likely invited them in, or maybe even followed them inside, with the intention on attacking them. She took her tie, which she had removed beforehand, and used it to strangle her planned victim from behind, hoping to kill them. But the plan backfired, and the killer managed to overpower her. As an act of self defence, they began to strangle her with their bare hands, during which a mild struggle ensued. Junko, fighting back, knocked the killer’s glasses off their face, which were smashed beneath them in the scuffle, completely blinding them.”

The room was silent as Makoto continued, every eye on him, the class clinging to every word.

“The strangling eventually led to Junko’s death, after which the killer realised they had to act fast. Picking up all the glass they could, along with the frame of their glasses, they left the locker room. Unable to see clearly, they didn’t know they had left pieces of glass behind. The killer tried to walk back to their room, but most likely found themselves unable to see where they were going, leading them to crawl instead as a means of feeling their way back to the room and also avoiding detection. I suspect the killer was originally planning on going the other way to their room, past the bathrooms and the garbage disposal where they wouldn’t be seen, but their blindness most likely confused them into going the other way, leaving them completely exposed.”

Hifumi let out a sniffle. Makoto felt awful.

“While the killer was crawling, Kiyotaka entered the locker room. There he found Junko, and he headed to the dining hall to alert the others, surprisingly not seeing the killer on the other side of the hallway either time. Asahina and Sakura followed Kiyotaka into the main hall, just as the killer was crossing around the corner at the end of the dorm hallway as they headed to their room, but Asahina saw their legs. The killer made it back to their room, where they picked up a spare pair of glasses, just as the body discovery announcement played. Left with no choice, the killer returned to the scene of the crime, acting as an innocent bystander, Junko’s body still warm. Mukuro, devastated at the loss of her sister, openly threatened the killer in the room, which made them panic. Monokuma came along not long after and explained the trial and execution system. Those two facts, combined with the knowledge they had just committed murder and that they now faced certain death… it all became too much, and they collapsed, overcome with guilt!”

Quiet tears rolled down Hifumi’s face.

“With all of these facts in mind, there’s only one person the killer could possibly be!”

Makoto’s finger pointed toward the guilty party.

“The killer, who murdered Junko Enoshima… is you, Hifumi Yamada!

Voting time came a minute later. The vote, of course, was unanimous. The room had decided upon Hifumi Yamada and… they were right.

They were actually right.

The screens around them showed bouquets of flowers and flashing lights and raining confetti, apparently as a means of celebrating their ‘victory’, but it didn’t feel like a win. Not at all. Hifumi stood, head bowed, shoulders shaking as he wept. Monokuma cheered his congratulations at their success, but it was hollow. They didn’t want his praise. They didn’t want his flattery. They didn’t want his evil.

“You… you really did it, Hifumi?” Sayaka asked, but it was clear she didn’t want to.

Hifumi, moving like his head weighed a thousand tons, nodded softly. “Yes,” he replied. “I did it. I… I killed her. It’s just like Mister Naegi said.” There was no pride in his words. Every syllable screamed of self-hatred. Eyes filled with sorrow. He wasn’t screaming anymore. He was simply defeated. Utterly devoid of energy.

With a sigh, he explained. “I was walking through the main hall when Miss Enoshima appeared from the locker room. She told me she’d found something strange in there. Something that could maybe get us out of here. I… I walked in and before I knew it, she was behind me, strangling me with her tie. As I was fighting back, she started talking to me.”

“Talking to you?” Mukuro asked, finally breaking her silence. “What… what did she say?”

“She told me that she’d chosen me because she thought I was the weakest of us all. She mocked me. Said I was nothing. Said I was just a waste. The perfect target to kill to set her free from here. She kept rubbing it in… like it was boosting her ego or… something...” He shook his head, confused. “She said she wanted to be the sole survivor of the game. She wanted to benefit from the publicity it would give her. She said it would boost her career. Make her even richer. Even more… powerful.”

“No,” said Mukuro. “She… she would have told me. She would have told me if she was planning something like that so it wouldn’t go wrong. We always worked together. A-Always!”

“Maybe she thought if you helped her Monokuma would set you free, too? It wouldn’t have worked with the plan she told me,” said Hifumi.

“Nope!” Monokuma chimed. “Only the murderer gets to graduate. Any accomplices aren’t considered blackened. If Mukuro had helped her sister kill you and she got away with it, Mukuro would still have died with everyone else. Only Junko would have graduated!”

“Junko wouldn’t have known that at the time,” said Kyoko. “None of us knew about the trials or the extra rules that came with them before the first murder.”

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Hifumi said. “I didn’t want to kill her. I would never hurt a lady! But in that situation, it was her or me and…”

“You chose yourself,” said Kyoko.

“Y-Yes, but please don’t make it sound so selfish! I didn’t want to kill her! I just wanted to get away, but she wouldn’t let me! It was a fight for survival and… I won...” He looked to Mukuro directly. She didn’t seem angry at him. In fact, she didn’t seem anything. She was without emotion and likewise every emotion simultaneously. “I’m sorry for what happened to your sister,” he said.

Mukuro didn’t answer him. She simply turned her head away without a word.

“I was going to tell you all what I’d done,” he said. “I didn’t want to graduate for doing something so horrible… but then Monokuma came along and announced the trial and said the killer would be executed… and I knew I had to keep it a secret.”

Monokuma laughed at that. “Upupupu! Oopsie!”

Hifumi raised his head again, looking each and every one of his classmates in the eye. “I don’t want to die!” He cried. “Not yet! Not when I’ve still got so much more fanfiction to write and so much more Demon Angel☆Pretty Pudgy Princess to watch!”

He turned to Monokuma.

“Please! It was self-defence! Don’t hurt me! Please! Spare me and I’ll… I’ll live a communal school life! I’ll never h-hurt anyone!”

Monokuma raised a paw to his chin, which he tapped in thought. “Hmmm… lemme think about that for a second… NOPE!”

“Please! Let me live!”

“No can do, mister! I’m getting bored of all this now. How much longer are you gonna stand around crying for? You took a life, and now you have to pay the price!”

“Please no!”

“I think we should get this show on the road!”

“PLEASE!”

“I have an extra special punishment for you, Hifumi! I’m sure you’re going to find it deliciously enjoyable!”

“PLEASE STOP!”

“You know what time it is, folks?”

Makoto felt his stomach drop as the back-and-forth between culprit and teddy bear continued. Please no. This wasn’t it, was it? Surely it wasn’t. Surely he wasn’t going to-

“SOMEONE PLEASE! STOP HIM! PLEASE!”

Iiiiiiiiiiiiit’s… Punishment Time!”

Hifumi began to scream again. Tears flooded his face once more. A red button appeared in front of Monokuma, which he hit with his gavel, that permanent smile seeming brighter than ever.

The monitor on the button and the ones scattered across the room lit up, with a pixellated sprite of the Ultimate Fanfic Creator appearing, before one of Monokuma walked on from the left side of the screen, approaching him. GAME OVER’, the screens read in pixellated white text. Monokuma’s sprite grabbed Hifumi’s, dragging him off to the other side of the screen. ‘HIFUMI HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY. TIME FOR THE PUNISHMENT!’

Hifumi’s screams lit up the room one last time.

Makoto didn’t know where to look. What to think. What to feel. What to do.

And then he realised: There was nothing he could do. Not anymore. All he could do now was sit back and watch.

Hifumi screamed again.

Monokuma chuckled.

Makoto’s stomach twisted with worry.

And then the execution began.


Chapter Text

 

Every eye in the room locked onto Hifumi, and he looked straight back at each and every one of them. His panicked eyes darted between them, his irises trembling, his pupils like pinpricks. As Makoto watched, the stress and disbelief coursing through him made the world seem almost hyper-realistic, and likewise two-dimensional. The situation was perfectly clear and yet impossible to comprehend. Twisted music befitting a nonsensical rave began blasting from the monitors in the courtroom, just as the doors behind the accused flew open.

A chain flew out from the now-open doorway a steel band snapping around Hifumi’s neck instantly. His hands rose up to try and pull it off, but his efforts were completely in vain. Just as that realisation seemed to hit him, the chain was pulled with immense force and, at a ridiculous speed, the Ultimate Fanfic Creator was dragged out of the courtroom and down an impossibly long hallway, screaming all the way.

Makoto wasn’t sure when he and the others had found their way to the scene that had been set up for Hifumi’s demise, but here they were, watching as Hifumi was instantly strapped by chains to a large wooden chair less than 20 feet away from them. The monitors, still blaring their awful music, flashed up with a colourful title card that looked like it belonged in an anime. Its letters, bold and imposing, read clearly:

EXECUTION ☆NEON CANDY DESPAIR!!

For a second, nothing happened. Hifumi remained strapped to the chair. The music seemed to come to a halt. The title card remained on the screens.

And then it began.

Long, thin robotic hands came from seemingly nowhere and held Hifumi’s mouth wide open, while a colourful chute was lined up with his lips. The chute was emblazoned with bright images of a certain anime character. Princess Piggles, of course, from the hit show Demon Angel☆Pretty Pudgy Princess. Hifumi had mentioned it earlier. It seemed to be a favourite of his.

At the end of that chute was Monokuma, smiling as always, a giant glass orb akin to a gumball machine filled with what looked like bubblegum and all sorts of other candy placed next to him. What looked like a remote control, complete with a giant red button, lay in the teddy bear’s paws.

The music began to pick up again, slowly building up note by note. Makoto’s stomach churned once more. The sound induced anxiety within him, as if it were a crescendo leading to something unspeakably awful.

And it was.

The chorus hit, Monokuma hit the button, and the chute’s purpose was revealed. A single piece of candy rolled into Hifumi’s mouth and straight down his throat.

And then came another piece.

And another, until candy after piece of candy was rolled into Hifumi’s mouth, each one as bright and colourful as the last. Bright flashing lights went off around him, like something from one of those magical girl anime, the happy face of Princess Piggles painted onto the chute continuing to happily smile as the candy kept on rolling. More and more and more, without end.

Hifumi’s stomach, already sizeable enough, was beginning to swell.

His body shook, trying to get away from the chute, but he was firmly held in place. He had no choice but to endure it. He wasn’t going anywhere.

More candy fell down his throat, the music blaring loud, the neon lights flashing every colour imaginable. Hifumi’s stomach swelled up more.

And so it continued, rapidly picking up speed as unimaginable amounts began flooding into his mouth now, Monokuma swaying side to side with delight, Makoto and his classmates watching on in astounded horror.

Hifumi’s stomach had swollen up even further, until he looked more like a balloon with a head and limbs attached than a human being at all. And still, it continued. More candy. More lights. More music. More, more, more.

He had swollen to almost cartoonish proportions now. His head seemed tiny compared to his body, which only continued to grow and grow and grow in size, with no end in sight. If he hadn’t already looked like a balloon a minute ago, then he most certainly did now.

More candy came rolling at him. More lights flashed. More music blared, starting to reach another crescendo.

And then, as the last of the candy from the gumball machine fired down his throat, it happened.

The music came to an end.

And Hifumi’s entire body burst like the balloon it had become.

Pieces of him rained down over the spectators forced to watch the event. Paste-like slop from his body, along with the obvious eruption of neon-pink blood soaked the crowd. It landed in hair. It landed on the floor. It covered the walls.

He had quite literally burst.

Hifumi Yamada was dead.

And his body was now splattered all over his classmates.

Asahina let out a scream that practically turned Makoto’s blood to ice.

Mukuro staggered, only to collapse in a heap on the floor.

No one said a word. No one was capable of speaking. Not anymore.

Their eyes, peering out from faces covered in Hifumi’s flesh, could only stare at the scene ahead in shock.

Monokuma shook with silent laughter.

Someone else joined Asahina in her scream.

Makoto vomited.

 


 

Kiyotaka Ishimaru’s day had gone perfectly, and now, as he entered the control room of Hope’s Peak Academy, he couldn’t help but feel gleeful. His hair, still wet from the shower he’d just taken (he was hardly going to walk around covered in the sludge of Hifumi’s body, now was he?) was quickly remedied with the towel in his hand, which he rubbed against his head firmly. A calm smile rested on his lips, and he sighed.

Approaching the monitors, freshly dressed in his usual attire, he took up residence in his usual seat. Comfortable, as always. More comfortable now that he felt so... fresh. His eyes scanned over the same monitors he had viewed earlier, right when he had noticed the body in the locker room. Just like earlier, most of the students were crying or sitting around in silence, but this was different. They had been forced to vote a fellow student guilty, knowing fully well he would die. They had been forced to watch as he was force-fed before bursting over them. They weren’t as calm as they were earlier. Wide, shaken eyes and zombie-like movements indicated that they were now above and beyond frightened. Disturbed and disgusted. Unsure of how to process... well, anything.

They were entirely traumatised.

Thankfully cleaned of the mess that had soaked them earlier, yes, but absolutely scarred all the same.

Kiyotaka let out a chuckle at how ridiculous they looked right now. Even the esteemed Byakuya Togami, sitting in his room and staring off into space, appeared shaken to his very core.

How was it possible that today had gone so despairingly well? Was this really the reality Kiyotaka had created? Was it really this wonderful?

“You really did a number on ‘em today, lemme tell ya,” said a familar voice, and Kiyotaka turned to see a certain black and white bear waddling towards him. “They were passin’ out, throwin’ up, screaming... talk about a party!”

“You were a wonderful judge,” the mastermind replied with an affectionate little pat to the bear’s head, still watching the screens.

“And you were great at acting dumb,” the bear replied. “At least... I think you were acting.

Kiyotaka removed his hand.

“Hey, hey, hey, I’m just messin’ with ya! Geez, don’t get all angry brows on me! Those things are like caterpillars – they scare me!”

It was times like these that Kiyotaka considered reprogramming the bear, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. The machine’s insubordinance was one of his most endearing qualities, and the prefect didn’t have the heart to change it. Besides, the others would notice.

“Look at them all!” Monokuma laughed, eyes turned to the monitors. “You’d think they’ve never seen a guy burst over them before!”

“And to think... that was nothing,” he said, dizzying grin strapped to his face. “Compared to what I’ve got in store, that was only a taste. There’s so much more to come.”

He turned to his creation, looming over the side of his chair, shadow cast directly over the ursine menace.

His smile was as polite as it was inhuman.

Even with that permanent grin etched into his face, there was something about Monokuma that genuinely seemed intimidated.

So much more.”

His eyes turned to the clock.

It was almost 10pm.

Night had come to Hope’s Peak Academy.

Today had been filled with madness. Introductions, explanations, murder and execution... mental scarring, twisted plots and rollercoasting emotions. This was, perhaps, a first day of school that would go down in the history books. Well, if there were any history books left in the abandoned libraries of the world, that was. Two students dead already, and all without the need for a motive!

As footage of crying students filled his eyes, Kiyotaka yawned, arms stretched casually over his head, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

This was fun, but it was time for bed. Still, what a gloriously eventful day this had been!

But tomorrow, he told himself, was a new day.

And it was a day he promised to saturate with misery, for the sake of order and despair.

Chapter Text

The gymnasium had been quiet this morning.

Monokuma had made a speech, as energetic and triumphant as ever, declaring that a new area of the school had been unlocked after the incredible success of the first class trial. It didn’t feel anything like a success, Makoto thought, and he could tell by the haunted eyes of his classmates that he wasn’t alone in thinking that. What was there to feel successful about? Their deductions had led one of their classmates – someone who could very well have become their friend, had he been given the time to live – to his death. Makoto had never seen someone die before. Not in person, anyway.

Not with said someone exploding into fleshy pieces all over him with a shower of neon-pink blood, either.

The past twenty-four hours had been the worst he had ever experienced. Trapped in a high school from hell, forced to participate in twisted trials for his very survival. To think that this time last week his biggest concern had been making sure he had packed enough pencils for starting his first semester at Hopes Peak Academy. A school he had once looked at with admiration, and a place he now dwelled in with fear.

After Monokuma’s speech there had been a series of little exercises led by the psychotic ursine headmaster. No one apart from Kiyotaka, who seemed to be trying his hardest to keep everyone’s hopes alive, took part. No one cared. They ascended the newly accessible stairs in relative silence, still scarred from yesterday, unsure what to say to each other. Was there anything to say at all? Two people were dead. The odds were that more were still to come.

Makoto shook his head.

That wasn’t something worth thinking about.

The day passed with relative ease, albeit with continued quietness. Some found the courage to start speaking again, but volumes were muted. Tones were quieter. Gazes were shiftier than ever. The night came simply enough, too. No deaths. No trials. Simply the voice of Monokuma announcing it was night over the monitors, before everyone made their ways to bed.

 


 

 

Waking up the next day, Makoto felt that a certain burden, however small, had been lifted. A day had gone by without a single death. That was still only a fifty-percent success rate considering how long they’d been here, but it was a small dose of hope that he vowed to hold onto for dear life. Maybe the events of two days ago were simply a one-off incident, he told himself, stepping out of the shower and getting dressed. Maybe seeing a classmate burst like a balloon was enough to quell anyone’s appetite for murder.

Speaking of appetites… his stomach rumbled. Time for breakfast, it seemed.

Making his way down the red-lit dorm hallway, Makoto made his way towards the dining hall, taking care to give a cursory glance over his shoulder as he did so. No one was behind him. Phew.

Although, just as he approached the entrance to the room, from which the scent of fresh toast and cereal wafted out and ensnared his senses, a red-headed figure stumbled out, hand over his mouth. His skin verged on grey, his white-suited figure hunched over, eyes wide and watering.

Leon Kuwata looked like he might faint at any moment.

Makoto blinked. “Leon? Are you-”

The Ultimate Baseballer glared at him, quickly shaking his head as he stormed past, speed-walking to his room. The sound of him gagging and retching was as clear as a bell. For a moment, Makoto wondered why he hadn’t just ran, considering it looked as if he was about to throw up, until a certain school rule surfaced in his mind. Ah. That was right. No running in the hallways.

He kept watching him, eyes glued on the sweat-soaked figure until he disappeared around the corner, seemingly heading to his room. With that, he was gone, and Makoto, still confused, made his way into the dining hall, where a handful of increasingly familiar faces greeted him.

“What’s up with-”

“YOU’RE THREE MINUTES LATE!”

Makoto about had a heart attack on the spot, hand over his chest as he yelped in fright. There was Kiyotaka, brows furrowed over those furious red eyes, an accusing finger pointed right in the Ultimate Lucky Student’s direction.

“Kiyotaka, it’s too early to be shouting so loud,” Asahina whined, currently halfway through a box of donuts. “It’s only three minutes. Besides, he’s one of the first people here! Cut him some slack.”

The hall monitor looked back at her, and then back to Makoto. Straightening himself out, arms folding, he almost seemed at a loss for words until, at last, he sighed. “My apologies. I let myself be carried away.” He shook his head. “Tardiness is still unacceptable, but… I’ll let it pass this once.”

That was a relief.

“Thank you,” Makoto replied, making his way over to the table the others were gathered around and gingerly taking a seat. Chihiro, Asahina and Mukuro were the only others here besides Kiyotaka, who remained standing.

“Morning Makoto!” Asahina chimed.

“Uh… good morning,” he replied. Confident that he could now ask without being interrupted, he waited a moment, before he repeated his earlier question. “What’s up with Leon?”

Asahina shrugged, taking another bite of her donut. Her eyes trailed over to a bowl of cereal sitting abandoned at the other side of the table. Half-eaten, a used spoon sat at its side, the light residue of milk still clinging to it.

“He was fine and then suddenly he wasn’t,” she said matter-of-factly, but her eyes showed her concern. “He said the cereal tasted funny, but he kept eating it anyway. A few minutes later, he turned pale, said he felt sick, and walked out. Did you see him out there?”

Makoto nodded. “Yeah, he passed by me. I think he’s gone back to his room.”

Chihiro looked down at her own bowl, brows indicating her confusion. “My cereal tastes just fine,” she said. “H-How about yours, Mukuro?”

Mukuro, seated at the very end of the table, had a filled bowl in front of her, but it clearly hadn’t been touched. She didn’t look at the girl asking her the question. As a matter of fact, she didn’t look at anything at all. Her eyes, so light blue that they were almost silver, appeared empty as she stared down at the table. Expression blank, shoulders stiff, she barely acknowledged Chihiro’s existence. Or anyone’s, for that matter.

She had collapsed after the execution two days ago, and the effects were clearly still reverberating through her. Her sister was gone, and her killer’s flesh had rained down upon her while a certain teddy bear chucked with hateful glee. To say she was visibly traumatised might have been the understatement of the century.

“I think maybe we should leave Mukuro alone for now,” said Asahina, and Chihiro gave a sad little nod of her head.

“When did she get here?” Makoto asked, whispering.

Asahina shrugged again, also lowering her voice. “I’m not sure. She was the only one in here when we arrived, bowl already in front of her. She went through to the kitchen earlier, but she came out empty-handed. I don’t even think she knows what she’s doing, honestly. It’s like… it’s like she’s lost.” She glanced over at her again. “She hasn’t taken a bite of her cereal. Hasn’t said a word, either.”

As the others arrived, the conversation shifted, but Mukuro remained in permanent silence at the end of the table, like a transparent ghost unsure of her time or her place. Talk of Leon, who didn’t show his face again, dominated the discussion, all the while Kiyotaka continued to yell at the latecomers, none of whom really seemed to care.

The mood certainly uplifted from yesterday, the day went on, with further explorations of the new floor being launched. Not that there was much to see of course, apart from the library and the pool. Despite the new territory to explore, concerns over a certain baseballer continued to spread, until, late afternoon, Makoto found himself being approached by Sayaka.

“Ah, Makoto! I’ve been looking for you!”

“Sayaka! Is everything alright?” He asked, immediately worried, mind starting to race. Oh no. Had another body been found? Was someone else dead? Was Monokuma up to another trick?

To his relief, she nodded, a pleasant-as-always smile on her face. “Of course! Well, I mean… as okay as they could be, considering… you know...” she trailed off. Makoto didn’t need an explanation. He knew exactly what she meant. Their situation. This school. That damned bear. She shook her head, apparently pushing out the thought. “I was wondering if you wanted to come and see Leon with me. I’m worried about him.”

No-one had seen him since he dashed out of the dining hall earlier that morning. Under normal circumstances, it might not have been something to worry about, but in a situation like this… things were different. Very different.

Such was the reason the pair found themselves outside the red-head’s door, having already knocked several times with no answer.

Knock-knock.

They waited.

Nothing.

Knock-knock.

More waiting.

Still nothing.

Knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock.

Yet more waiting.

Yet more nothing.

Concerns increased, Makoto and Sayaka turned, already starting to leave. Leon wasn’t there. Or, if he was, he was apparently in no condition to answer the door. What were they supposed to do? Who were they supposed to inform? Kiyotaka was perhaps the most likely option, being a prefect and all, but-

Click.

The pair of them turned, surprised to see the baseballer’s door slowly open. A pale, trembling figure revealed himself in the doorway, lips parted and coated in saliva while pallid skin glistened with sweat. Leon had looked awful earlier, but he looked beyond terrible now. His breath was heavy, his eyes narrowed.

“Leon!” Makoto exclaimed.

“Sayaka… Makoto…”

“Are you okay?” Sayaka asked. “Everyone’s been worrying about you. Apparently you walked out halfway through break-”

“I think I’ve… I’ve caught something dude,” he uttered. “I felt fine when I woke up this morning, but I’ve spent most of today leanin’ over a damned toilet bowl and… and…”

He brought a hand to his mouth, eyes widening again. He retched, glancing in the direction of the bathroom, before he slammed the door closed, shutting the pair out. It was difficult to tell what went on behind the sound-proofed closed doors of the dorms in the school, thought Makoto, but it didn’t take a Clairvoyant to predict that he was throwing up again.

 


 


Another day came. Another shower was taken. Another set of clothes were hastily thrown on. Makoto yawned, stomach rumbling just like it did yesterday. Just like yesterday, he stepped outside his dorm, and made his way towards the dining hall.

Unlike yesterday, however, there was no baseballer stumbling past him looking like he might drop dead at any moment.

As he entered the dining hall, Makoto noticed that, just like yesterday, not everyone had arrived yet. Chihiro, Sakura and Asahina were all gathered together. Byakuya and Fukawa sat separate from the rest, silent between themselves. Kiyotaka, shoulders as rigid as usual, was currently demolishing a slice of toast with a starved mouth. Mukuro, just like yesterday, sat in the same spot. Heavy bags hung beneath her eyes.

Unlike yesterday, however, she yawned, blinking, clearly struggling to stay awake. It was the first sign of life Makoto had seen from her since the day of the execution. Had she slept at all, he wondered?

As Makoto struck up conversation with Sayaka, who arrived right behind him, the others began to show their faces. Celeste was next, hands neatly clasped in front of her as she walked, with Mondo appearing not long after her. Kyoko was next.


“No sign of Leon?” Makoto asked Asahina, who shook her head, already working her way through today’s batch of donuts.

“Nope,” she replied. “Sakura was here before any of us and she said she didn’t see him, either.”

“Do you think we should be concerned?” Sayaka asked, a cautious hand placed over her mouth.

“You did see him yesterday, right?” Said Asahina. “With how ill he looked, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not feeling up to breakfast. The donuts are sorta stale today, too, so I don’t blame him for skipping it.”

Yet, as Makoto looked around the table, something didn’t feel quite right. There was something missing. A certain something that he couldn’t place. He scanned the table again, from the cross-legged Byakuya to the exhausted-looking Mukuro, eyes narrowing as he tried to figure it out.

“I’m not amused,” said a black-clad figure across the table. Celeste rolled her eyes. “I had been hoping for a chicken-and-vegetable dish for breakfast this morning, but the frozen chicken I saw in the kitchen a couple of days ago is gone. An entire piece of meat has vanished, and now there’s none left. Who took it?

No one seemed to have any idea. No one really seemed to care, either.

“Didn’t Monokuma say that the food supply would always be fully stocked?” Asked Chihiro, her voice as tentative and anxious as always. “Surely there’s more.”

Celeste glared at her, looking like she could snap at any moment, but she managed to keep her calm. “No,” she said. “There is no more. The last chicken vanished. It was there two days ago and it is gone now. So, I’ll ask again… who took it?”

Shrugs all around. Yet again, no one had any idea.

Makoto wondered what part of her expected the chicken to wait for her for an entire two days.

“The dread-head isn’t here yet,” said Celeste. “Perhaps I’ll ask him when he arrives.”

Oh! That was it! That’s what was missing!

Makoto turned to the others. “Has anyone seen Yasuhiro?”

One classmate turned to another, who then turned to another, and then to another. A myriad of shaking heads, of puzzled expressions, and shrugging shoulders. A lack of Leon, as Asahina had said, made sense. Yasuhiro, on the other hand? He had no reason not to be here.

There it was.

That sinking feeling in his gut.

That awful, terrible sensation that something unbelievably bad was on the horizon. Something that none of them, no matter how hard they tried, would be able to avoid.

“You don’t think…?” Mondo trailed off, worry crossing his face.

Celeste shook her head. “I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. I’m sure he’s perfectly fine.”

“How do you know that?” Said Sayaka. “How can we be sure? What if...”

“Don’t say it,” said Asahina, setting down the treat in her hand as the situation seemed to dawn upon her, that same anxious feeling apparently sweeping the room one-by-one. “No. He can’t be.”

“Instead of panicking,” called the smug voice of Byakuya from the rear of the room, “why don’t you all go and check his room? I expect you have brains. Use them.” He rolled his eyes, promptly turning his back to them all. Fukawa did the same.

Glances were exchanged. A handful of figures, Makoto and Sayaka included, rose from their chairs, wasting no time in making a quick exit, heading to the dorm of the Ultimate Clairvoyant.

Moments later, they were knocking on the door.

They received no answer.

So they tried again. No answer.

Again, they tried. And again. And again.

Still no answer.


The sinking feeling in Makoto’s gut was only exacerbated by that lack of response. Yet just when he thought it couldn’t possibly grow any more intense, Mondo was pounding on Leon’s door. He, too, received no reply whatsoever. Sayaka advised the biker to wait, telling him of how long it took the baseballer to answer the door yesterday.

One minute turned to two. Two minutes turned to five. Leon didn’t respond.

With that, Makoto could taste his own heartbeat. It tasted of copper, and it rattled uncontrollably. There was a feeling of powerlessness that swept over him – an awful realisation that there was nothing he could do right now but sit around and wait. Perhaps the pair of them were fine. Perhaps they weren’t. It was that uncertainty – that total lack of knowledge – that scared him the most.

There was every chance that the pair of them could turn the corner right now, perfectly happy and entirely fine. Likewise, there was every chance that they might never turn the corner again.

The only truth that could be ascertained right now was that neither of them were in their dorm rooms. So the question was…

...where were they?

 


 

 

When Makoto woke up that morning, he hadn’t expected the creation of a search party. Yet a search party had indeed been created, established for the sole purpose of finding the two missing classmates. Breakfast had finished a tad earlier than usual, sacrificed for the greater good of recovering the lost pair safe and sound.

It was decided that the class would split into pairs and cover certain sections of the school each. Makoto and Sayaka had been given the duty of checking the second floor hallway and the classrooms on that floor. Byakuya and Fukawa had been given the pool and the changing rooms, Mondo and Kiyotaka had been given the library while Kyoko and Celeste had been given the much more tiring duty of covering the entire first floor of the school, along with Chihiro and Asahina. Sakura, meanwhile, had volunteered to keep watch on Mukuro in the dining hall, considering the Ultimate Soldier’s current state.

Makoto wasn’t sure how long he and Sayaka had been repeatedly walking through the hallway, entering and re-entering classrooms, practically patrolling in circles in the hopes that something might change. Desperately praying that a familiar set of red-hair or a giant bird’s nest of upwards dreads might appear. Of course, they had no such luck, and the tension in the air was only building more and more by the second.

Searching the same classroom for the fourth time, currently chatting to Sayaka about the outside world, and what their plans were for when they escaped this hellish place, Makoto quickly stopped in his tracks. He fell silent, eyes turning to a cabinet in the back of the classroom. The clear sound of movement could be heard inside. Light scratching and rumbling around.

Makoto turned to Sayaka.

Sayaka turned to Makoto.

He moved forward, focused on the steel doors of the cabinet. “Leon? Yasuhiro? Are you in there?”

He received no reply.

“Guys?”

Nothing.

He stretched out his arm, reaching forward, preparing to open the door, when-

RAAAAARRRRRRGGH!

The doors of the cabinet burst open, a growling voice roaring from inside as the figure the voice belonged to bounded out into freedom.

A-AAH!”

Makoto cried out, falling back, his rear hitting the floor as Sayaka let out a wail.

It wasn’t the Ultimate Clairvoyant, and it wasn’t the Ultimate Baseballer. Instead, standing at a mighty two feet tall, was the black-and-white menace himself, paws on his hips, that permanent smile etched into his face.

“Wa-ha-ha-ha-ha! You should see the look on your faces right now! I really got you there, didn’t I? Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

Makoto rose to his feet, frowning at the mechanical incarnation of evil. “Monokuma...”

“The one and only, buster!” He chuckled to himself again, paws in front of his mouth. “Glad to see I didn’t give you folks a heart attack. That would’ve been a really boring way to take you outta the game. Or maybe not! Death-by-heart-attack-by-teddy-bear sounds like a preeeeeetty memorable way to go bye-bye, dont’cha think?”

“What do you want?” Said Sayaka from behind Makoto, voice trembling in the little monstrosity's presence. “Can’t you see that we’re busy?”

The bear gave them a looking over, pausing in what appeared to be some sort of contemplation.

“Busy, huh? What kind of busy? Are we talkin’ savin’ your friends busy? Or are we talking BUSY busy?”

It was obvious what the bear was implying. Makoto refused to justify with a response.

“Jeeeeez, lighten up, will you? I’m only messing with you! If I wanted to see BUSY busy I’d be in the library watching straight-laces and biker boy argue with each other. They’re arguin’ right now, sure, but it’s only a matter of time before they break the tension and get down to the good stuff, if ya know what I mean!” He let out another over-joyed cackle.

Makoto did not, in fact, know what he meant.

And nor did he care to.

“Leave us alone,” he said to the bear.

Monokuma’s hopes and dreams were obliterated in that very moment, it seemed, judging by just how heartbreaking his sigh was. He bowed his head, sheepishly kicking his feet against the ground. “Awwwww… and I was just about to tell you where your friends were, too…”

“Wait,” said Sayaka, “what? You know where they are?”

Monokuma nodded. “Of course I do! What sort of headmaster doesn’t know where his own students are? I was gonna tell you alllllll about where they are and what they’re doing too, but… well… you said you wanted me to leave you alone.” He sighed again. Truly an Oscar-worthy performance.

“No, wait,” said Makoto, “tell us. Where are they?”

“No, no, no, I heard you the first time,” the bear countered, sighing one last time. “You want me to leave you alone… even though I was just trying to help.”

“Wait, don’t go!”

It was too late.

The bear was gone.

Ultimately, the search came to its conclusion. Byakuya swore he had searched every inch of the pool, and every corner of the dressing room. He had gone into the males’ changing room, Fukawa into the females’ (after all, he said, they preferred to avoid the wrath of the gun fixed over the doors). His search had been thorough, and it had uncovered nothing.

Kiyotaka and Mondo reported the same results. Their body language suggested that, just as Monokuma said, they had spent most of their time together butting heads and, most likely, outright arguing with each other.

Asahina and Chihiro found nothing. Kyoko and Celeste were in the same boat. Sakura had kept watch over Mukuro in the dining hall, who hadn’t said a word the entire time.

With that, today’s search was concluded.

Leon and Yasuhiro, it seemed, had vanished from the face of the earth.

With no choice left, Makoto and the others retired to their rooms that night, not a single one of their questions answered.

None of them slept soundly.

 


 



Another day came. Another breakfast endured. Still no sign of Leon, and no sign of Yasuhiro, either. It had been two days now since Leon abandoned his cereal and stumbled to his room. The more time stretched on, the more the uncertainty increased.

The atmosphere in the dining hall that morning was unmistakably grim. The main topic of conversation, of course, was about the whereabouts of the missing classmates, and if there were any other rooms or areas left in the school to be searched.

Had they really checked every nook and every cranny? Had they looked under ever table? In every cabinet? It just wasn’t possible for two students to simply up and vanish into thin air in a school like this, was it? A school with steel plates on every exit and only two floors available to explore. How could anyone get lost in a place like this?

Breakfast, like yesterday, was rushed. Again, the same rooms were issued and the same pairs stuck together (to the vocal disagreement of a certain prefect and a certain biker).

Makoto climbed the stairs to the second floor, Kiyotaka and Mondo not too far behind him, ready for another day of investigating. Sayaka had said she would meet him a little later today, considering she had managed to sleep in and still hadn't found the time for breakfast. For now, it seemed, he was on his own. 

“People like you need to learn respect for authority, and basic respect for order and decency!” Came the voice of Kiyotaka, barking at Mondo down the hallway.

“Do you ever shut up? Jeez, it’s non-stop with you, ain’t it?”

The back-and-forth only continued between them. Makoto, on the other hand, kept climbing the stairs in silence.

Step.

Step.

Step.

The last few steps were ahead of him now. He was almost there. Almost on the second floor at last, and-

Makoto gagged, coughing at a foul scent hit him like a ton of bricks. Hand covering his mouth and his nose, he stopped in his tracks. What was that smell? How could something smell so bad?

Braving the last few steps, he continued onwards, reaching the landing of the second floor. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary minus the suffocating scent drifting down the corridor. Everything seemed fine.

Until he turned and stared down the hallway.

Makoto Naegi had come to Hope’s Peak Academy with, true to the name of the school, a heart filled with hope. When Leon and Yasuhiro had gone missing, in spite of all the worries and fears and anxieties running through his head at speeds that ought to have been illegal, he had tried to remain hopeful. He was certain that the situation, as tense and nerve-wracking at it was, would end with a happy sigh of relief.

The world around him seemed darker now as he looked down the hallway, his vision darting to and fro, from point to twisted point. Scratching sounds and wailing filled his head; a pollution of noise banging and crashing around, ruining his focus from anything else but the despair that lay ahead.

Ghostly skin. Jet black bruises. A little flash of neon-pink. Red hair and a white jacket. Brown dreads and a flowing olive green coat. Both of them lying side by side, face down, right in the middle of the hallway.

Leon Kuwata and Yasuhiro Hagakure, reeking with what could only have been the very beginning stages of decomposition, were dead.

The situation had ended, alright.

But it hadn’t concluded with the happy sigh of relief that Makoto had hoped for.

 

Instead, it had ended with a scream.

Chapter Text

Bing-Bong Bong-Bing!

The face of a certain headmaster flashed across every monitor in the building, his tone as bright and cheerful as the introductory chime which had preceded him. As always, the smile etched into his being was perfectly visible, as was the glass of wine held casually in his paw. Just like last time. It was happening again.

"A body has been discovered!  Everyone, please gather in the second-floor hallway at once! After a certain amount of time, which you may use however you like, the class trial will begin! Attendance is mandatory!”

With that, the screens turned off again, the joyful little voice ceased, and silence reigned once more. A silence that shouldn’t have existed. An artificial quiet of malice and death. For Makoto, his screaming had stopped, lungs having expelled all the breath they had. For Yasuhiro and Leon, they would never breathe again.

It was a reality that horrified him.

Makoto wasn’t really sure exactly what happened next. Two figures came up behind him, both of them expressing similar reactions of horror. A white uniform and crying red eyes, a leather jacket and outraged roaring of dismay. Kiyotaka and Mondo, he told himself, but he barely recognised them anymore. Maybe it was because he didn’t want to.

He didn’t want to recognise anything to do with this place anymore. He had convinced himself that another killing wasn’t possible – not after the events of the last class trial. Yet not even three days later, here they were again.

This was a game he didn’t want to play anymore.

Other figures soon came, but they were just blurs to him. Makoto struggled to take his eyes off the two figures lying side-by-side in the middle of the hallway, not too far from the library doors. The scent of them stayed with him, and it only filled with him more disgust at how their lives had ended up. Neither of them deserved this.

“Makoto.”

This wasn’t a school of hope, he thought. It was a school of despair. A place of-

“Makoto.”

-horrors beyond imagining and-

“Makoto!”

-nothing but fear and-

“MAKOTO!”

A hot flash cracked across his face, and he gasped, suddenly coming back to reality. He turned in the direction of the harsh slap that had hit him, only to see the rest of his classmates gathered behind him. Sayaka, face just as worried as his, yet filled with a steely determination he hadn’t expected, lowered her hand.

“Snap out of it,” she cried, “we need you here!”

Her tone implied fear. As did her face. As did the faces of those around her, too. All except for Byakuya, of course, who simply watched on with his typical look of boredom, arms folded in front of him.

Kyoko quickly stepped from the crowd, also looking unbothered. The mysterious girl he still knew so little about. Although her expression, he noted, was different from Byakuya’s. She actually seemed to care, and she walked with purpose. Movements neat, and gaze only falling on Makoto for a second, she immediately made her way towards the bodies – crossing the invisible line that none had yet dared to move past.

“W-W-What are you doing?” Fukawa uttered from behind grinding teeth, her entire figure trembling. “Those are b-b-bodies, you know…!”

“I’m investigating,” Kyoko replied, not bothering to look back at her. “Didn’t you hear the announcement? It’s just like last time – we have a time limit, and following that will most likely be a class trial. We can’t afford to waste time.”

Before anyone could stop her, she was already crouching down aside both corpses, back to the others.

Ahhhh! I see someone’s finally starting to have some fun with the killing game!”

Every head, Kyoko’s included, turned.

There he was.

Monokuma, black files in paw, marching around cheerfully. “Not wasting any time, hmm? Can’t say I blame you. If you mess this up, all of you are gettin’ the chop!” With that, the bear sent his free paw crashing onto the folders, creating a loud chop sound, as if to indicate his point.

“Why did you do this?” Came the crying voice of Chihiro from the rear of the crowd.

Monokuma turned, always grinning as usual.

Whyyyyy?” He asked, mocking her tone. “I didn’t do anything. If you’re accusing me of being responsible for the two corpses back there, then think again, toots! This was the fault of a student in this room, not me. I ain’t no killer – the blackened is hiding among you as we speak. It’s up to you to make sure they don’t get away with it!”

Before anyone could raise their voice in protest, a waving paw dismissed their concerns. “Anyway, I felt like being nice, so I brought presents for you! Here, have these.” With that, he made his way around them all, offering the black books in his grasp. “Take one. No, really. Take one or I’ll make you regret it!"

Makoto was the last to receive his. Fearful eyes looked down at the cover of the book. ‘MONOKUMA FILE 2’, it read in bold. Just like last time. It was happening again. This truly was real.

“Well, that’s all from me, everybody,” said the bear, his paws now empty. “Have fun, and I’ll see you soon for the wonderfully despairing Class Trial!”

Again, before anyone could speak, he was gone, vanishing almost into thin air. Just like he had yesterday during Makoto’s search with Sayaka.

For a moment, no one said anything.

“Are you all just going to stand around gawking?” Byakuya rolled his eyes, stepping forward from the crowd. “We have an investigation to undertake. Hurry up and get moving.”

With the greatest uncertainty they had felt in days, each and every one of them reliving the horrors of Junko’s murder and Hifumi’s subsequent execution (Mukuro especially, by the looks of things), the most unfortunate class in the world knew they had no time to waste. Hesitant, and clearly shaken with fear, the crowd began to disperse as, one by one, they began the hunt for clues.

Makoto, in spite of his terror, knew they were right. There was only one way to beat these horrors. There was only one way to beat Monokuma, and to stop another incident like this.

And that was to survive.


INVESTIGATION START.


 

Makoto quickly found himself involved in the investigation, feeling like a fire was burning under him, moving him forward at full sail, fuelling his desire for hope.

The hallway was quieter now, with the class having split into smaller groups of three to make the investigation easier. Asahina, Sakura and Chihiro had been given the duty of investigating the pool. Byakuya, Touko and Mukuro had quietly made their way to the library. Kiyotaka, Mondo and Celeste had volunteered to examine the classrooms. Sayaka, Makoto and Kyoko, meanwhile, had the responsibility of handling perhaps the most arduous task of all.

They were focused on the crime scene itself.

Kyoko, as silent as always, remained crouched over the bodies, her new comrades aside her. She leaned over, examining them closely, seeming to not mind the awful smell radiating from them. A gloved hand poked and prodded at Leon’s corpse, only to then do the same to Yasuhiro’s.

“Hmmm.”

“Did you find something?” Said Makoto.

“They’re solid,” Kyoko replied. “Completely stiff. Rigor Mortis has already set in.”

Looking at the bodies, Makoto was suddenly reminded of the black book in his possession which, until now, he had somehow managed to forget about. Quickly opening the aptly labelled Monokuma File 2 while Kyoko worked away and Sayaka leaned over his shoulder, he scanned the text for all the information it would give.

 

 

“The victims are Leon Kuwata and Yasuhiro Hagakure.

The bodies were discovered in the main hallway of the second floor of the school, outside the library.

The cause of death for both victims was strangulation.

Both victims died at 11 pm, during ‘night-time’.

Apart from severe bruising on the neck, no other injuries are visible.”

 

 

Makoto closed the book, brows furrowed. They died at 11 pm? That was strange. Could the pair of them really be solid and producing such a foul scent, when they had only died last night? Had something sped up the decomposition, he wondered?

The Monokuma File didn’t appear to be lying, however. It had named strangulation as the cause of death, and, sure enough, dark purple bruises darkened the necks of the dead pair. So dark that they threatened to transition from a deep purple to a jet black. Their end had been violent. That much was clear.

It was eerie how similar this was to last time, he thought. Junko had died from strangulation. Only, that had been one body, whereas now there were two. Likewise, Junko had been strangled with her tie, but this time, there was no sign of anything nearby that could have been used to strangle either of them. Maybe the killer hadn’t used a weapon at all. Maybe they had killed them with their bare hands.

He shook that thought from his head. Something about it only made their deaths that much more frightening.

As his eyes scanned their bodies, initially finding nothing of interest, he suddenly stopped in his tracks.

Wait.

What was that?

On the lapel of Leon’s jacket, there was a small splotch of neon-pink.He wasn’t sure how he hadn’t noticed it until now. Makoto leaned in closer, narrowing his eyes, trying to get a better look at it.

It made no sense, considering what the Monokuma File had told him, but it was there, all the same. There was no mistaking it.

It was blood.

“Kyoko,” he said, “have you noticed-”

“The blood?” She replied quickly, not giving him the time to finish his sentence. She nodded. “Yes. I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t make sense. There aren’t any wounds on him, and he hasn’t bled from the nose or the mouth, either. Yasuhiro also shows no signs of any blood at all, and it’s only localised on that one part of Leon’s lapel… so how did it get there? Where did it come from?”

She rubbed her lower lip with a gloved finger, staring at the spot. Makoto, on the other hand, was too busy staring at her, genuinely impressed with how quickly she had fired that out. As sharp as always, it seemed, she had read Makoto’s mind.

“I have a question,” said Sayaka from behind him. He turned to face her, whereas Kyoko continued to stare at that splotch of blood in silence. “Why are we only just finding them now? Where have they been all this time? If we had found them during the search yesterday, they would still be alive…”

It was a good point to make, but it was one Makoto could only shrug his shoulders to. “I’m asking myself that same question,” he confessed. Where could they possibly have been that to make them vanish for so long, only to turn up dead like this?

Sayaka’s other point lingered in the back of his head, taunting him.

If they had just found them sooner, maybe the pair of them really would still be alive after all. Maybe all of this could have been prevented. The last time he had seen Leon, he was peering out from behind the safety of his room door, having fallen seriously ill. He couldn’t even remember the last time he saw Yasuhiro, save for the fact his absence at breakfast yesterday had caused a panic, which had led to the search in the first place. And now here they were.

Dead.

He thought about yesterday’s search for a moment, wondering again why no one found anything. He and Sayaka had taken the classrooms and hallway of the second floor. Byakuya and Fukawa had taken the pool. Kiyotaka and Mondo had investigated the library, while Kyoko and Celeste had covered the entire first floor of the school, along with Asahina and Chihiro. Sakura, meanwhile, had kept watch over Mukuro in the dining hall.

There had been eyes all over the school, he thought, so why had no one found anything? There wasn’t the smallest trace of them yesterday, and then they had still managed to turn up dead today. None of this made any sense, and the more he thought about it, the more he confused himself.

Damn it.

“Makoto,” said Kyoko suddenly, snapping him back to reality.

“Huh?”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”

“Uh… ask away, I guess,” he replied, feeling a tad uncomfortable at the intensity of her quiet stare.

“You discovered the bodies, correct?” She asked.

He nodded.

Of course he did.

How could he possibly forget?

“And the Body Discovery Announcement played when you did?”

Again, he nodded. “Yeah. Kiyotaka and Mondo came up behind me a few seconds after it started playing.”

“Wait,” said Sayaka, “that’s strange. Isn’t the announcement only supposed to sound when three people have found the bodies? If you were the first one to find them, and you were the only one there, and then the announcement sounded… then that means...”

Before she could continue however, another voice barged into the conversation from down the hallway.

“Guys,” called out the voice of Asahina, currently peering around the corner in the direction of the pool, “I think we found something!”

The trio gathered around the bodies turned to look at her, Makoto’s expression one of confusion. Asahina was searching the pool, and she found something? What did the pool have to do with this, when both bodies had been found in the hallway, closer to the library doors than anywhere else?

There was, it seemed, nothing more to be found in the hallway, and so the three of them followed the clearly alarmed Ultimate Swimmer around the corner. Asahina, Kyoko and Sayaka marched forward through the door, with Makoto following close behind, until Kyoko whipped around and held out a hand, stopping him in his tracks.

“What are you doing?” She asked, voice grave.

“I’m… following you to the pool,” Makoto replied, wondering what he’d done wrong.

“You were about to walk into the girls' changing room with the rest of us. The boys’ room is over there.” She gestured over to the other door, before turning her glance to the machine gun fixed to the wall overhead. “If I hadn’t stopped you, you would have been blown apart.”

Just a little bit terrified, Makoto could see the gun in his peripheral vision, threatening and nefarious. He remembered the rule that had been explained to them by Monokuma when the second floor had been unlocked, and quickly backed away from the door. Kyoko was right. If he had followed her through, he would have been obliterated by a hail of uncaring bullets. Grinning sheepishly, and rubbing the back of his head with a racing heart, he quickly made his way through the male changing room instead, meeting his companions again in the pool.

“Look!” Asahina exclaimed, clearly wasting no time in getting to the point. She pointed down into the pool, with Makoto and the others gathering around her.

Makoto narrowed his eyes in confusion. What the-?

There, under the water and close to the pool wall, resting on the submerged tiles, was a single screwdriver. How did that get there? Had it always been there?

“You see it, right?” The Ultimate Swimmer asked. “I’m not sure if it’s important or not, but… it’s weird.”

His eyes fixed on the alien object, Makoto thought back to a couple of days earlier – when the new floor had been unlocked. The entire class, Leon and Yasuhiro included, had spent the day exploring it, including checking out the pool. Surely someone would have noticed a screwdriver lying under the water during their exploration, right?

“We’ll need you to retrieve it,” said a sudden voice, belonging to none other than Kyoko, her violet eyes focused on the Ultimate Swimmer.

“Wait, what?” Asahina seemed genuinely confused for a moment. “I… I have clothes on, Kyoko! If I get into the water I’ll end up drenched. There’s no way I’ll dry in time for the trial, and I can’t take part in soaking wet clothes!”

A smaller, meeker voice suddenly chipped up from nearby. There, aside the towering giant of Sakura, was Chihiro. Makoto had been so focused on Asahina and her discovery that he had completely forgotten they were here too. “Um… couldn’t you just go and get changed?”

“But my swimsuit’s in my room downstairs!”

“Asahina,” said Kyoko, arms folded, “please. This could be important. The longer we stand around talking about it, the less time we have to investigate.”

There was obvious hesitation in the Ultimate Swimmer’s eyes. The idea of travelling all the way downstairs just to get changed into a swimsuit, to then come all the way back up and go diving into the pool, simply to grab a screwdriver… it was a little overkill. Yet Kyoko was right. It was necessary.

With folded arms and a defeated sigh, Asahina conceded. “Alright, alright, I’ll do it,” she said, “but only because I don’t want us all getting killed!”

There was no time to waste, especially with Monokuma’s despairing lack of a visible timer. Did they have five minutes left to investigate? Five hours? No-one knew, and it only made the situation that much more tense. It was the reason why Asahina, leaving to go and get changed, added just a touch of extra speed to her step. She didn’t run, of course.

After all, running was against the rules.

“We should look around while we wait,” said Sayaka. “There could be something else lying around… I can sense it.”

“You can sense it?” Makoto blinked, his expression one of bemusement.

She nodded sagely. “I’m sure I’ve already told you,” she said. “I’m psychic.

Makoto parted his lips to reply, only to close them again. No, there was no point getting into that right now. She had already explained it to him (several times, in fact), and he didn’t have the time to hear it again. Not during an investigation. Still, he thought; her intuition was sharp. Maybe she was onto something.

“Well,” he replied, “I guess it couldn’t hurt to look around.”

He glanced over at Kyoko, who had drifted away from the pair and ended up in a quiet conversation with both Chihiro and Sakura in the corner of the room. He and Sayaka were on their own then, it seemed. It was a fact he wasn’t exactly unhappy about.

Still, as they scanned the room, there wasn’t anything of much interest to see. Besides the Hopes Peak Academy logo emblazoned on the wall in solid white, and the clearly empty seating stands on either side of the room, there wasn’t anything to investigate. Nothing else was lying in the water apart from the screwdriver, either.

There was nothing left to look at, it seemed.

Unless…

Well, there was the locker at the back of the room, oddly standing on its own without any other lockers around it. Yet could he really expect to find anything of use in there, he wondered, when the murder scene had been in the hallway?

“You never know,” said Sayaka casually. “It’s worth a shot, right?”

Makoto gasped, eyeing her with slight concern. Was she reading his thoughts?!

“Maybe,” she replied, giggling with the sweetest smile on her face.

The Ultimate Lucky Student scratched the back of his head, deciding maybe it was best not to reply. Maybe it was best not to think of anything, either, if she was indeed able to rake through his thoughts like his mind was some sort of filing cabinet. He hastily made his way over to the locker, knowing that it most likely going to be a pointless search.

He opened it, eyes half-lidded, not expecting anything out of the ordinary.

Until his eyes went wide and his closed lips parted in mild surprise, his blood turning cold.

It was empty, sure, just as it was supposed to be. Yet… at about the height of his chest, there was a tiny neon-pink smear on the inside of the locker. Small – barely noticeable, in fact, there was no denying it. It was-

“Blood!” Sayaka gasped from behind him.

“How can there be blood here?” Makoto asked no-one in particular, eyes narrowing as he leaned in to get a better look at it. It made no sense. Why would there be blood inside the locker at the back of the pool room, when the bodies were found in the hallway outside the library?

The smear was unbelievably small, too. It was barely the width of the nail on his smallest finger. What could have caused this, he wondered? Or, better yet… who?

Suddenly, there came the sound of one of the doors opening, complete with the smug click-clack of footsteps walking in a casual stride.

“Not that I care,” came a loud voice from the back of the room, “but why did the swimmer girl just speed-walk past me muttering to herself about a swimsuit?”

Makoto knew that voice, that tone, that oversaturated self-satisfaction. There was no one else they could belong to.

“Byakuya,” he replied, turning to face him. “What are you doing here?”

Byakuya Togami, having just entered the room, came closer, standing on the spot with arms folded and expression bitter, as per usual. “I could ask you the same question,” he said. “I’m not sure why you’re in here when the bodies are out there. You’re just wasting time, you know.”,

“Asahina found something at the bottom of the pool,” said Sayaka. “A screwdriver. She’s about to dive in and get it out for us.”

She was rewarded with a silent stare from the Ultimate Affluent Progeny, who fixed his glasses, before closing his eyes in momentary thought.

“Do you know anything about it?” Makoto asked. “You and Touko searched in here yesterday when we were all looking for Leon and Yasuhiro. Was the screwdriver here then?”

“It was not,” Byakuya replied, not bothering to open his eyes, “Touko and I searched every inch of this room – we found nothing of the sort.”

Really?

That was strange.

The door to the girls’ changing room suddenly opened, and a much more friendly face made a re-appearance.

“Okay,” called a swim-suited Asahina, “I’m back! Let’s make this quick!”

She wasted no time. Before anyone could react, or let alone say a word to her, the Ultimate Swimmer threw herself into the water, diving down below the surface. Her speed was incredible. Her movements swift and purposeful. She was back on the surface in seconds, quickly hopping out of the pool and resting the screwdriver on the ground.

Everyone quickly gathered around the little object, its bright yellow handle soaking and glistening under the fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling. It looked familiar somehow, thought Makoto. He’d seen it before.

But where…?

“I’ll be right back,” said Asahina hurriedly, already making her way to the changing room. “I need to get changed back into my uniform – there’sno way I’m doing a class trial dressed like this!”

Makoto couldn’t blame her.

He looked away from the Ultimate Swimmer and back to Kyoko, who was crouching down over the tool. Picking it up in her gloved grasp, she rotated it, eyes carefully scanning over every little detail. It was fascinating to watch her work.

“Do you see anything strange?” Asked Chihiro, huddled close to Sakura.

Kyoko quickly set the screwdriver down.

“No,” she replied, standing up again. “It’s just an ordinary screwdriver.”

“Wait,” said Makoto, a sudden flash of realisation hitting him. “I’ve seen that screwdriver before!”

“Oh really?” Byakuya snorted behind him. “That doesn’t sound suspicious at all.”

Kyoko did, indeed, eye him with a certain suspicion.

Waving his hands in front of him, almost in self-defence, he shook his head. “No, no, no, you don’t understand,” he said, “I haven’t seen that exact screwdriver, but I’ve seen one exactly like it. All of us – the boys, I mean – got toolkits in our rooms. A hammer, pliers… and a screwdriver.”

“What are you saying?” Asked Sayaka.

“I’m saying that it’s the exact same type of screwdriver that’s in my toolkit. I’d recognise the handle anywhere.It’s bright yellow, just like mine.”

He could see the cogs turning in Kyoko’s head; her gloved hand lightly rubbing her chin as he stared down at the tool. Contemplation, and then suddenly alarm.

“There’s one last thing we have to test. It could be vital to solving this.” Her tone was urgent, and she looked at the others with that same sense of urgency. “Quick – gather everyone else, and meet me back in the hallway. We don’t have much time. Hurry!”

Sayaka seemed unsure. “But-”

Kyoko didn't let her finish.

“I said hurry!”


 

 

Just like everyone else currently gathered in the hallway, Makoto’s back was turned to the bodies behind him. Leon and Yasuhiro remained exactly where they had been found, the foul smell still radiating from them (but thankfully a little more tolerable now that everyone had gotten used to it).

The past ten minutes had been rather frantic. The others had been rounded up, with Kyoko telling every boy, Makoto included, to quickly head downstairs and grab their toolkits. She had made it clear that she needed to see them. It was, she said, potentially the key to solving the entire case.

Makoto, Byakuya, Mondo and Kiyotaka had, sure enough, all complied with her request. Byakuya had given her his usual smug remarks, of course, but she barely acknowledged them.

Now, ten minutes later, all four of them had returned, toolkits in hand. Wait. Were there really only four boys left alive now?

That was worrying.

“Show me the kits,” said Kyoko, every eye on her as she examined them. “If anyone is missing their screwdriver, you may be an immediate suspect.”

Makoto had never been so relieved to own a screwdriver in his life. It remained in his kit, which itself had remained unopened since his arrival here. Still, there was a deep sense of worry that began to stir in his mind. Whoever was missing their screwdriver might have been linked to the case, just as Kyoko had said.

Yet as she examined each toolkit, with Makoto watching on, he saw the surprise on her face.

“Well?” Sayaka asked.

Kyoko was silent for a moment.

“...They all have their screwdrivers.”

Wait.

What?

Everyone exchanged glances, each student just as confused as the last. How did that make any sense? How could all four of them have their screwdrivers?

“...That can only mean one thing,” said the purple-clad girl, rubbing her chin again, eyes focused on the floor.

Makoto furrowed his brows. “What does it mean?”

She didn’t even acknowledge him.

As he waited for a response, the Ultimate Lucky Student decided to quickly think over everything he had gathered so far, if only to keep himself organised. There was no use standing around muttering to other people. Not when the trial was looming.

Yesterday, everyone had begun searching due to Leon and Yasuhiro’s Disappearance.
Makoto hadn’t seen Leon since two days earlier, as Leon’s Sickness had prevented him from leaving his room.
Everyone split up into separate Search Shifts to find them but failed to uncover anything.
Makoto discovered the bodies, activating the Body Discovery Announcement.
The Monokuma File 2 said both victims died at 11 pm of strangulation.
The State of the Bodies was rigor-mortis, and they had begun to develop a foul scent.
Despite dying of strangulation, there was Blood on Leon’s Jacket.
Asahina and the others found a Screwdriver In The Pool, which belonged to a toolkit, yet all the boys, Makoto included, still had their screwdrivers.
According to Byakuya’s Statement, the screwdriver hadn't been in the pool during his and Fukawa’s search yesterday.
The only other thing of importance found in the pool was the Smeared Blood found on the inside of the locker.


That was everything, right? All he had to do was hear what Kyoko was thinking and-

Ding Dong, Bing Bong!

The screens in the hallway all came to life in an instant. Roaring static quickly gave way to a painfully familiar sight. Monokuma, his permanent grin as visible as always, reclined in his usual chair with his usual glass of wine at hand.

“Shock! Drama! Mystery! Despair!” The voice was as gleeful as always. Makoto could feel his stomach churn. “This killing has it all!”

Oh no.

“Now, then! It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for!”

Oh no.

Not again.

He hadn’t finished investigating yet!

Yet Monokuma, of course, wouldn’t have cared.

His smile manic, his red eye glowing brightly with the excitement of the horrors he was inflicting, the teddy bear’s dreaded words came.

“IT'S TRIAL TIME!”

 

Chapter Text

The elevator was just a little emptier this time around, but just as quiet as last time.

Hifumi had been with them back then, travelling down in this elevator to hell, but he hadn’t returned. He had been found guilty of murder, stuffed full of candy, and then burst like a balloon.

Leon and Hagakure had been here that first time, too. Unlike Hifumi, they had the good fortune of being able to return, but they hadn’t lasted long. Both of them had been strangled to death, and here were the others again – this time to solve their murder, or else die themselves.

Suspicious glances were exchanged, just like last time. Fear filled the eyes of everyone, just like last time, too.

Well, almost everyone.

Byakuya’s expression was neutral. Unbothered, almost. Like he was playing a game, and was finally starting to get bored with it.

As the doors opened on the courtroom, Monokuma grinning and seated on his throne, everyone silently made their way to their podiums. There had only been one left empty last time – that had been Junko’s, the face of her portrait crossed over in neon pink. There were four, now.

Junko. Hifumi. Leon. Hagakure.

Another would soon be joining them.

Faces they had lost.

Soon they would lose another.

They were faces Makoto vowed to avenge.

Monokuma explained the rules again, but no-one seemed to be listening. They all understood them well, as much as they wished they couldn’t. From the trembling shoulders of Chihiro to the empty eyes of Mukuro to the troubled expression of Kiyotaka, no-one wanted to be here.

“Now then,” Monokuma chimed. “Let’s start with… hmmm…”

He tapped his chin, apparently thinking.

Hmmm…

He drew that sound out. Even a fool could tell he was mocking them.

HMMMMMM...

“Can you just fuckin’ decide already?!” Mondo, it seemed, was already done with this.

“Jeez, can’t you give a bear some time to think?” Monokuma sighed, clearly crushed by the aggression. “Very well. Let’s start off with something simple. Let’s talk about… the cause of death!”

 


 

 

“The cause of death was obvious,” Mondo announced, kick-starting the debate. “Seriously, it’d take a dumb-ass not to be capable of figurin’ it out.”

Byakuya peered at him judgementally from behind his glasses. “Is that so? Then why don’t you enlighten us?”

“There was blood on Leon’s jacket,” Mondo continued. “Right?”

“There was a trace of it, yes,” Kyoko replied, arms folded.

“Then that settles it,” said the biker. “Obviously they were stabbed to death or somethin’, which is why the blood was there!”

“No, that’s wrong!”

Makoto was quick to cut through him. They didn’t have time to waste on topics like this – the answers to which were literally right in front of them.

“Look at the Monokuma File,” said Makoto. “It says it right here: ‘The cause of death for both victims was strangulation.’ There weren’t any stab wounds on the body.”

Byakuya was quick to roll his eyes at Mondo, his glare just as judgemental as it had been a moment ago. “Did you even bother to read the Monokuma File?”

“What, the book the teddy bear gave us?” Mondo shook his head. “‘Course not!”

Perfectly on time, Monokuma growled.

“For the last time,” he hissed, “I am not a teddy bear! And I would strongly recommend you read the material I give you! It’s important for your education.”

“See, that,” Mondo continued, pointing a finger at the manic little bear, “is exactly why I didn’t read it. Like hell am I going along and doin’ what that little bastard wants. I didn’t read the file the first time around, and I didn’t read it this time. I ain’t reading it in the future, either.”

Makoto didn’t even bother opening his mouth to respond. As a matter of fact, no-one did. The collective stares of judgement and bewilderment expressed more than words ever could. Mondo had walked into a class trial without even reviewing the evidence. If there was any way to guarantee a disaster, Makoto thought, that was it.

“Um, I have a question,” came a quiet voice out of nowhere. Trembling and shaking, nervous to even breathe, it broke through the silence. Its owner, none other than Chihiro, had raised her dainty hand.

“Go right ahead,” said Kiyotaka, tone filled with reassurance. “We’re all listening!”

“W-Well, if strangulation was the cause of death,” she said, “then why was there blood in the first place? There was blood on Leon’s jacket, right?”

For a moment, there was silence. Perplexed gazes and knitted brows crossed the faces of each student, until-

“I-It obviously came from s-some sort of injury,” said Touko, nervously fidgeting with her thin, pale hands.

“That makes no sense,” said Kiyotaka. “Neither of the victims had wounds apart from the marks around their necks. The blood couldn’t have come from either of them! Wait… then how did it get there at all?”

“That’s it!” Cried Asahina. “If the blood didn’t come from the victims, then it must have come from someone else, right? Like the killer!”

Bingo.

“That’s what I was thinking,” said Makoto. “There was a struggle against the killer, during which the killer was injured. Blood from the killer fell onto Leon’s jacket. It’s the only explanation.”

Nervously, Makoto’s eyes met with Kyoko’s, trying to see her response. As usual, her expression was neutral, but she returned that glance. She nodded ever so slightly in what seemed to be agreement.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Makoto could feel that they were making progress. Unlike last time, there was still a decent amount of evidence to get through, too. It would be easier this time, he thought. They were going to get through this!

“There’s one problem,” said Sakura, snapping Makoto out of his thought. “If someone is fighting back, they’ll most likely go straight for the face. To make someone bleed enough to create a blood droplet that big, you would need to do some real damage, but… I don’t see any faces with any injuries here.”

“She’s right,” said Celeste, pondering the thought. “You wouldn’t even be able to cover a wound like that with makeup, either.”

“Maybe they didn’t hit the face,” said Mondo. “They could’a hit their body somewhere.”

Kyoko shook her head. “It’s difficult to make a body bleed with bare hands alone. You can scratch a face, yes, but a body isn’t anywhere near as easy to damage if it has clothes to cover it. You would need a weapon – something sharp.”

Makoto didn’t fully understand how she knew something like that, and with such confidence in her words, too. He wasn’t sure that he even wanted to know. Kyoko’s Ultimate continued to be a mystery, just like the girl herself. Who was she?

“A weapon? Don’t be a fool,” Byakuya grunted, dismissing the girl with a flick of his wrist. “There isn’t anything in the hallway that could be used as a weapon.”

“They could have brought something in from outside the crime scene,” said Kiyotaka.

“Is that so? Good luck narrowing that down,” the Ultimate Affluent Progeny scoffed. “There are many rooms that connect to that hallway. If they did bring something in, it’s impossible to determine what it was and where it came from. The point isn’t worth discussing.”

Was that really true?

Byakuya was right; there were several rooms that branched off from the hallway. The library. The classrooms. The bathrooms. The stairwell. The changing rooms… the pool…

Wait.

The pool! There had been something out of place there, hadn’t there? Something that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Words began to fly around in the Ultimate Lucky Student’s head, his eyes narrowed in thought, thumb and index finger pushed against his chin. Like an odd game of hangman, he continued to fill in the gaps, knowing that he almost had it. He was close. So close.

S C R E W D R I V E R.

That was it!

“No, that’s wrong!” As Makoto made his outburst, Byakuya eyed him with contempt. Makoto didn’t care. “During the investigation, we found something interesting. At the bottom of the pool, there was a screwdriver, remember? We had no idea how it got there, but we managed to figure out it was from the boy’s toolkits. It hadn’t been there when the pool was first unlocked a few days ago, either. It’s just a hunch – but it might have been involved in the murder!”

“We all had our toolkits with us, though,” said Mondo. “Unopened. Screwdrivers intact.”

“Exactly,” said Makoto, heart starting to race as conclusion after conclusion bombarded him. “Yet we haven’t seen every kit. We didn’t see Leon and Hagakure’s, which are most likely still in their rooms. What if one of them, most likely Leon, suspected someone was trying to kill them? What if he brought along his screwdriver for defence, just in case someone tried to attack him? If he stabbed it hard enough into, say, a shoulder or an arm… it would be more than enough to draw blood. He might have used his screwdriver to injure the killer, causing them to bleed onto him!”

For a moment, there was silence again. Something that, Makoto thought, was usually a sign that things were going well, or that things were about to go very badly wrong.

“Uh… Makoto?” Sayaka’s voice rose up faintly. Uh-oh. “There’s one thing wrong with that. The screwdriver was found at the bottom of the pool. The killings happened in the hallway. The bodies weren’t found anywhere near the pool area. How did the screwdriver get in the pool if it was used in the hallway?”

Oh. How had he not noticed that?

Glancing around the room, Makoto felt like an idiot, as a sea of mostly-confused, occasionally judgemental glares hit him. Had he gotten it wrong? Apparently so. Yet why did he feel like he had been onto something? The embarrassment was strong.

Until, that is, he dared to meet Kyoko’s eyes again. Unlike the others, she didn’t share their look of contempt. On the contrary, there was something about her blank face and stern gaze that suggested the exact opposite. He was onto something.

“Uh… Well… you see… I suppose… hmm…”

He might have been onto something, but he couldn’t think what it was. Why would a weapon used by one of the victims during the murder in the hallway end up at the bottom of the pool?

Had there been anything else about either room to suggest what might have happened? The hallway had been spotless, with the exception of the two bodies lying in it. The pool had the screwdriver and…

“The locker!” He shouted, entirely without meaning to. Another embarrassing moment. Way to go, Makoto.

“W-What are you talking about?” Touko hissed.

“In the pool,” Makoto began, “there was something else that was off besides just the screwdriver.”

“Oh!” Sayaka gasped. “I remember now! There were blood smears, weren’t there? Inside the locker at the back of the room?”

“Exactly,” Makoto replied. “The hallway didn’t have any blood in it at all. There were no signs of a struggle or a fight of any kind. Yet the pool had a weapon and blood smears. I think we’ve been going about this all wrong. We’ve fallen into a trap that the killer has set for us.”

Again, glances were exchanged across the room.

“W-What trap?” Chihiro squeaked.

“The crime scene isn’t where we thought it was,” said Makoto. “I think Leon and Hagakure were killed somewhere else, and then brought into the hallway to distract us. The crime scene wasn’t the hallway – it was in the pool area!”

“Wh-Whaaaat?!” Kiyotaka gasped, his eyes about to fall out of his head if they opened any wider.

Byakuya, however, was unimpressed as always.

“You haven’t answered the pop star’s question yet,” he muttered. “How did the screwdriver end up at the bottom of the pool?”

Oh, right. He’d forgotten about that. Although, he imagined it was pretty self-explanatory.

“There was a struggle,” said Makoto, “between the killer and Leon. Leon managed to wound his attacker, but the screwdriver was knocked into the pool afterwards during the struggle. With his weapon gone, it would have made him easier to kill.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Celeste combated. “You’re deciding all of this based on some blood and a screwdriver? What if this is the killer’s plan? A double-bluff to make us think the crime scene is the pool when, in actual fact, it is the hallway all along? They could have placed the screwdriver there themselves to confuse us.”

“She could be right, y’know,” Mondo added. “If the killin’ happened in the pool, but the killer wanted us to think it was in the hallway… why would they leave the screwdriver behind? Couldn’t they just jump in, grab it, and throw it away or somethin’ to stop us from findin’ out the truth? The fact they left it there must have been intentional, right?”

Makoto shook his head. He had a feeling the question would be brought up, and he was already prepared to refute it.

“No,” he began, “it wasn’t. The killer couldn’t have grabbed the screwdriver once it fell in the pool. If they had jumped in after it, they would have had to swim to the bottom to grab it. They would have been completely soaked. Once they got out, they would have left water trails everywhere, making a clean-up impossible and most likely compromising them. Once the screwdriver hit the water, they were forced to leave it there.”

Shaking her head, Fukawa didn’t seem to agree.

“T-Then what was the point in moving the bodies?” She asked, still fidgeting, teeth clenched and shoulders tensed, clearly beyond nervous. “If the killer couldn’t move the s-screwdriver, then their plan was ruined. If the screwdriver was still at the bottom of the pool, then t-there wasn’t any point in moving them into the h-hall at all, right?”

“That’s the one thing I’m not sure about,” Makoto replied. “I don’t think the killer moved the bodies into the hallway straight away, though… they placed them somewhere else first.”

“Somewhere else?” Sakura asked.

“Yes,” said Makoto. “There were blood smears inside the locker at the back of the pool, remember? The smears were about chest height. I’m not sure why, but after killing them both, I think the murderer must have moved Leon and Hagakure’s bodies into the locker. The blood on Leon’s jacket would still have been wet, considering the fight only just happened. When he was shoved in, the blood rubbed off against the wall of the locker. That’s why it was there, and why it was chest-height.”

“B-But the bodies weren’t found in the locker,” Fukawa screeched, “they were found in the hallway! Are you saying the killer moved them again? Why would they do that?!”

Makoto rubbed the bridge of his nose, staring down at his podium. That was the one question he couldn’t answer. Everything else made sense, he thought, apart from that one thing. Why would the killer hide the bodies in the locker, only to then move them into the hallway? He looked to Kyoko for a moment, praying she might have another silent hint for him, but… she looked just as confused as the rest of the room.

Damn it.

“I…” He sighed. “I don’t know.”

Byakuya folded his arms, the smugness oozing off of him. “If you don’t know, then your entire argument is flawed, and you’ve just wasted precious time.” He shook his head. “Congratulations.”

No. Makoto was sure he was right. It was the only argument that made sense. Leon and Hagakure were killed in the pool room, he was sure of it. Leon defended himself with his screwdriver, wounding his assailant and causing them to bleed onto his jacket. Afterwards, the screwdriver was knocked into the water, and the killer finished them both off, only to hide their bodies in the locker, causing the blood on Leon’s jacket to smear against the inside.

It all made sense.

Apart from the bodies ending up in the hallway.

“There’s another thing I don’t understand,” said Mondo. Great. Another hole in Makoto’s argument. He braced himself for impact. “When we found Junko durin’ the last case, her body was fine. But when we found Leon and Hagakure… they were stiff and the smell was fuckin’ awful. Doesn’t anyone think that’s strange?”

“When we found Junko, she was a fresh kill,” Byakuya interjected. “Leon and Hagakure had been dead all night. That’s more than enough time for them to start to rot, thus the smell. Don’t bring up a case that’s already been solved. Don’t talk about things you clearly don’t understand, either.”

“Wait,” said Asahina, “are you sure, Byakuya? If they were killed at night, and we found them in the morning, they couldn’t have been dead for more than eight or ten hours… I’ve seen TV shows where they go into that sort of thing, and I don’t think that’s enough time for them to start to smell.”

Byakuya stared her down, arms still tightly folded. “Of course it is,” he snapped. “If your primary source of knowledge is television, then I suggest you-”

“She’s right,” Kyoko said suddenly, completely interrupting the bespectacled snob. “Remind me… what was the time of death again?”

“It was 11pm,” Kiyoktaka correctly replied. “It said so in the Monokuma File.”

“Goody-two-shoes here is right,” Monokuma chimed in. “They both bit the dust at 11pm!”

“Exactly,” Byakuya replied. “They died at 11pm. This is a fact. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you think decomposition works. They died, and ten hours later we found them. There is nothing to argue about here.”

Kyoko wasn’t convinced by his argument at all, it seemed. As a matter of fact, she wasn’t even looking at him. Her violet eyes were too busy staring down at the floor, brows lowered, gloved hand folded on her lower lip. Makoto could see the cogs turning, even if he had no idea what she was on to.

“Monokuma,” she said, turning to face the bear, “you just told us that the time of death was 11pm, yes?”

The bear nodded. “That’s right, toots! Heaven got two new angels at 11pm!” He pretended to wipe a tear away from his eye. The display of fake sympathy and heartfelt words only made Makoto hate him more.

Kyoko paused, seemingly satisfied with the answer, until…

“Do you mean 11pm last night?

She had put extra emphasis onto those last two words, and suddenly Makoto understood what she was getting at. Of course. Of course! Why hadn’t he thought of it?

Every eye in the room was fixed on the bear, who said nothing. Instead, a droplet of almost cartoon-like sweat slid down his face, which he quickly dabbed. “H-Heh. What? Sorry. I couldn’t hear ya.” He was nervous. That much was obvious.

“Did Leon and Hagakure die at 11pm last night?” Kyoko asked again.

Monokuma leaned forward. “Sorry, what was that?” He tapped his ear. “The ol’ hearin’ ain’t what it used to be! You’ll need to speak up!”

Suddenly, Mondo slammed his hands onto his podium, voice booming. “SHE ASKED IF THEY DIED AT 11PM LAST NIGHT, JACKASS!”

Monokuma paused again, utterly silent, until he finally spoke up. “Sumimasen, Eigo-ga wakarimasen.”

“Wha…?” Mondo, the rest of the room included, were baffled. “What the hell does that mean?!”

“That’s Japanese,” said Sayaka suddenly. “He just said he doesn’t speak English.”

“He’s dodging the question,” said Asahina, her face lighting up. “Kyoko, I think you’re onto something here!”

Makoto agreed. The bear’s behaviour had betrayed him. It was odd, he thought. All Monokuma had to do was say nothing, or state that he couldn’t answer either way, and it wouldn’t have been so obvious. Had he meant to make it obvious, he wondered?

It didn’t matter.

They were one step closer to the truth.

Kiyotaka seemed concerned, staring at the bear with confusion in his eyes. He quickly turned back to the rest of the room, shaking his head, as if snapping out of some sort of trance. That was strange. What was that about, Makoto wondered.

“U-Uh. I’m confused,” said the prefect. “What are you saying, Kyoko?”

“The bodies showed signs of the beginning stages of decomposition,” Kyoko replied. “While rigidness will usually occur within ten hours of death, it’s rare for bodies to produce a foul odour within that time frame. The Monokuma File only specified that Leon and Hagakure died at 11pm… but it didn’t specify the day they died.”

“The day?” Celeste narrowed her eyes. “Do you mean...”

“Yes,” said Kyoko, “I do. We all assumed that Leon and Hagakure died last night, but I don’t think they did. Two days ago, Leon became ill. Yesterday, neither he or Hagakure turned up to breakfast, prompting us to search for them. We found nothing. It wasn’t until today that we found them both dead, already decomposing. You understand where I’m going with this, don’t you?”

“They weren’t killed last night,” said Makoto. “They were killed the night before that. Two nights ago. The day Leon got sick!”

“Yes,” said Kyoko, having apparently taken Makoto’s role in being the mystery solver here. “That’s exactly it. Both of them died the night before the first search. By the time we began searching, they were already dead.”

The entire room seemed stunned, the collective sound of mental gears whirring verging on becoming outright defeaning.

“Holy shit,” Mondo muttered, “are you serious?”

“Absolutely,” said Kyoko. “I’m sure of it. The killer had the bodies hidden while we searched.”

“Why would they do that?”

“While I’m not entirely sure,” she responded, “I think it was most likely done to throw us off. If we didn’t know the date of death, and just assumed they had died the night before we found them, it would increase the killer’s chances of getting away with it.”

“B-But we searched everywhere,” said Sayaka. “We split up and looked all across the school and we found no sign of them! If they were killed the night before last, then where were the bodies hidden? Why didn’t he find them sooner?”

Suddenly it all made sense. Makoto had to stop himself from gasping, literally gripping onto his podium as the revelation hit him. He had the answer to her question, and he could feel his heart threatening to leap out of his chest at any minute.

“The locker,” he said. “They were hidden in the locker at the back of the pool!”

“Wait, seriously?” Asahina watched him with a puzzled face. “How is that possible? The locker isn’t that big. If you stashed two entire bodies in there, wouldn’t they have fallen out eventually? Even if they hadn’t… someone would have noticed the smell, surely. They would have been found before today!”

A shadow fell across Makoto’s face as each piece of the puzzle began to slot together. Some were still missing, yes. The truth wasn’t fully composed just yet, but they were getting to it. One realisation had dawned on him. One that made him feel sick just thinking about it, but it was the only logical answer at this point. As awful as it might have been.

“Yes, they would have been found before today,” he replied. “As a matter of fact… I think they were.”

“Huh?” It was Sayaka’s turn to be confused again. “I don’t understand.”

“During the search, we all split up, just like you said, Sayaka. We all took on different search shifts, remember? You and I took the classrooms and the hallway. Mondo and Kiyotaka searched the library. Kyoko and Celeste searched the first floor, along with Asahina and Chihiro. Sakura sat with Mukuro in the dining hall, to make sure she was okay after what happened to her sister.”

“Wait,” said Asahina, “who searched the pool?”

There were only two names in the room right now that Makoto hadn’t mentioned. One by one, each classmate thought it through, and one after the other began to realise.

“That’s right,” said Makoto, as he turned to face the pair. “Touko and Byakuya searched the pool.”

He didn’t need to explain what that implied. The bodies had been hidden in the pool in such a way that it was inevitable they would be found. No-one else had searched there between the time of Leon and Hagakure going missing and their bodies being found apart from those two.

“Are you trying to imply that we had something to do with this?” Byakuya scoffed. “We didn’t search the locker. We didn’t smell anything, either. Your accusation is meaningless.”

“Liar,” said Makoto. “You told us during the investigation earlier that you had searched, and I quote, ‘every inch’ of the pool. If you searched every inch, then why didn’t you search the locker?”

“W-We didn’t,” Touko replied. “N-Not at all! We never touched the locker! Never! You’re the liar, Makoto! Liar! Dirty, filthy, mouth-breathing liar! How dare an u-ugly boy like you even attempt to insult someone as perfect as Master?!”

Her reaction only made she and Byakuya’s defence worse.

“Master?” Mondo gasped. “The hell is she talkin’ about?”

Makoto didn’t know. He didn’t care, either.

“Touko, it’s the only answer,” he responded. “If you and Byakuya searched the pool, there’s no way you couldn’t have found the bodies. Why are you lying about it?”

“It’s obvious why,” said Mondo. “They’re lying ‘cause one of them is obviously the killer!”

“B-But,” Chihiro muttered, her petite figure shaking, “w-which one?”

Suddenly, every voice seemed to rise up, giving varied opinions all at once. Fingers were pointed between Byakuya and Fukawa as the accusations continued to fly.

“It must be him! She looks too weak to strangle two guys – but he could do it, easily!”

“Did you hear her response, though? She’s sketchier than he is!”

“Aha! So they’re in on it together!”

“Well obviously they’re in on it together, dumbass! That doesn’t answer who the killer is! We can only vote for one of ‘em!”

“She called him master, right? He must have made her help him. That’s it! He’s the killer, and she’s an accomplice!”

“What if it’s the other way around? We don’t know anything for sure!”

The trial room had descended into chaos. Arguments continued to pile up, voices battling against each other, anger and confusion and panic and stress being unleashed in all directions.

“Everyone,” Makoto cried, “calm down! We can’t discuss this if you’re all shouting!”

Yet no-one seemed to hear him, let alone care about what he had to say anymore. Their minds had been made up. Just like last time, the suspicion had fallen on the exact same pair. Byakuya or Fukawa? One of them, even with so many questions left unanswered, was supposedly the killer, right?

...Right?

As the shouting continued, all hell having broken loose, Makoto looked over at the pair.

Fukawa was fidgeting, grinding her teeth, currently experiencing what looked to be a full-on meltdown.

The Ultimate Affluent Progeny, however, was the precise opposite. He wasn’t panicking at all.

No.

Byakuya Togami was smiling.

Chapter Text

“Which of them is it?”

“I don’t know!”

“It must be Byakuya!”

“It must be Touko!”

“Look at their faces! They know they’re guilty!”

The chaos continued to ensue, and Makoto was beginning to panic. They were wasting precious time here. While there was every chance that either Touko or Byakuya were, indeed, the so-called ‘blackened’ responsible for the murders, there was every chance that they weren’t, either.

“I’ll tell ya what happened,” said Mondo. “The pair of ‘em lured Leon and Hagakure to the pool, where they strangled ‘em to death, and then hid them in the locker. The next day, when we all set out to search, they volunteered to take the pool in order to keep the bodies hidden. That night, they dragged the corpses into the main hallway to be discovered, that way they could start the trial and get their asses set free! There! Solved!”

Mondo might not have been the brightest in the room, but the room seemed to agree with him. In truth, it made sense. Partially. There were definitely elements of truth in there, but was it all really as simple as that?

“Monokuma,” the biker yelled, “can we vote for two people at once?”

Monokuma shook his head. “Nope! There’s only one blackened in this case. If there were two killers, we’d be holding two separate trials. Sorry, folks! You’re gonna have to choose someone!”

“I choose Byakuya,” said Celeste suddenly, tone so calm that it was easy to forget she was sentencing someone to death.

“So do I,” said Mondo. “Byakuya it is. Only he could take both of those guys down. Just look at the smirk on his face – he knows we’re right!”

“I hate to say it,” said Sayaka, “but I think you might be right. Byakuya makes the most sense.”

“I agree,” said Asahina. “It must be Byakuya.”

“So do I,” said Mukuro. Her voice took Makoto by surprise, as he suddenly realised it was the first time she had spoken in the entire trial. “Let’s just get this over with.”

“You hear that?” Said Mondo. “We’re ready to vote, Monokuma. Get Voting Time started so we can get the hell outta here!”

No.

No!

It couldn’t end like this! This was a gamble too great to take!

“No! Wait!” Makoto cried out, waving his hands in panic. “Monokuma, don’t go into Voting Time yet!”

“What are you talking about?” Celeste hissed. “We’ve already decided that Byakuya is the culprit. Stop interfering.”

“We don’t know that for sure,” Makoto replied, tone practically pleading with the Ultimate Gambler. “We’re going forward based purely on speculation and nothing else. There are still some things that we haven’t explained yet that we need to cover!”

Kyoko nodded in agreement. “He’s right,” she said. “If we vote now, we risk killing ourselves in the process. The vote can’t be held until we’re certain.”

Makoto was relieved to see that someone had some common sense here. While Byakuya continued to smirk and Touko carried on tearing her hair out in clumps, the rest of the room deliberated, muttering and murmuring amongst themselves.

“Alright,” said Mondo, who had apparently become the leader of the pro-Voting Time movement, “we’ll hold off. What else do we need to talk about?”

Mondo was standing down. There was still some hope for sanity after all.

“Well, first off, the logic doesn’t add up,” Makoto began. “You said that Byakuya and Fukawa teamed up to kill Leon and Hagakure, hid their bodies, kept them hidden throughout the search by volunteering to take the pool, and then dragging them out for us to find this morning… I think you’re almost right, but don’t you see the problem there?”

The biker shrugged. He didn’t.

Makoto wasn’t surprised.

“By taking the pool – the room they knew the bodies were stored in – they were only placing suspicion on themselves,” he explained. “If they were the culprits, and they knew the bodies were there, wouldn’t it make more sense to let someone else take that room instead? That way the bodies would be found by someone else, and the suspicion wouldn’t be on them.”

“Now you’re the one that isn’t making sense,” said Celeste. “They hid the bodies to confuse us. You said so yourself. They wanted to hide the true date of death. They took that room to keep them hidden, just like Mondo said. It was all part of the plan.”

“No,” Makoto countered. “That doesn’t add up. If they wanted to keep the bodies hidden to obscure the date of death, wouldn’t they have kept them hidden for longer? Why drag them out after only one night had passed? By taking the pool, and then dragging the bodies out so soon, they were only putting guilt on themselves and ruining their own plan. That doesn’t make sense.”

Asahina scratched her head. “So what do you think happened, then? They had to have been involved somehow – you said so yourself.”

“I think,” said Makoto, “that neither one of them is the killer.”
“Wh-what?” Sayaka looked stunned.

“Neither of them are the blackened,” said Makoto. “I can prove it, too.”

Was that a faint smile on Kyoko’s face?

That was all the assurance he needed.

“Monokuma,” said Makoto, turning to the teddy bear. “Remind me – how many people does it take to trigger a body discovery announcement?”

“Three!” The bear chimed. “Once three innocents discover a body, the announcement is made. The blackened doesn’t count toward that total, though.”

“Just as I thought,” said Makoto. “I was, as far as we knew, the first to discover the bodies when I walked into the hallway earlier. Yet the moment I found them, the body discovery announcement was triggered. If I was the first, it shouldn’t have gone off.”

“Weren’t Mondo and Kiyotaka right behind you when you found the bodies, though?” Sayaka was clearly still confused. “They would have made up the other two, right?.”

“We were behind him, yes,” said Kiyotaka, “but we were quite a distance away. We were barely halfway up the stairwell when Makoto started screaming from upstairs and the announcement went off. We didn’t see the bodies until after the announcement.”

Mondo nodded his head, voicing his agreement to that.

For a moment, Makoto had worried he had miscalculated everyone’s movements, but hearing the biker and the prefect agree gave him some hope. He was definitely on the right track. He had thought it through correctly.

“See? They didn’t count towards the total,” he said. “Yet if I, the first, triggered the announcement...”

“That means that two people discovered the bodies before you,” said Sakura.

“Exactly. I was the first one upstairs, so no-one else that morning could have found them before me. There were only two other people who had the opportunity to find them, and we already know who they are. If they counted towards the total, then it’s impossible for either of them to be the culprit. Byakuya and Fukawa are innocent!”

Silence fell over the room.

No one said a word.

The easy way out of the trial had just been shattered in front of them. Byakuya and Fukawa might have been easy scapegoats, and their role in the killing might still have been a mystery, but they weren’t killers.

Of that Makoto was certain.

Clap.

Clap.

Clap.

Byakuya had unfolded his arms, and had given the Ultimate Lucky Student a sarcastic round of slow applause.

“Congratulations,” he said. “You’re correct.”

Touko, on the other hand, still looked beyond stressed. Though, Makoto supposed, didn’t she always?

“Touko and I found the bodies during the search yesterday,” Byakuya confessed, “but we had no role in the killings.”

“You found the bodies,” said Mondo, “and you didn’t tell us? You didn’t fuckin’ tell us?!”

“That is the layman’s way of saying it, yes,” said Byakuya.

“W-Why?” Chihiro murmured. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Why?” Byakuya scoffed. “I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to. But if you insist on the truth, then I’ll give you it. It’s of no use to me now. It’s become boring to hold onto. Yes, Touko and I found the bodies. Touko saw blood and fainted, revealing some… interesting traits about her personality, but I digress. I told her to keep quiet about it, and we both decided to keep the bodies hidden. Last night, I returned to the pool and brought the bodies out into the hallway to be discovered today.”

“Why would you do something like that?” Sakura asked.

Byakuya sighed. “Yet another ‘why’. If I hear the word again, I think I’ll faint from the boredom. I did it because it made things much more fun,” he said, spoken so casually that it turned Makoto’s stomach. “Had I made a scene and reported the bodies the moment I found them, what entertainment would that have brought me? What value would that have added to the game? By moving the bodies and manipulating things as I saw fit, it confused both the killers and the participants. The game was better as a result.”

His monologue finally came to an end, but Makoto hadn’t bothered to listen to much of it. His disgust was too strong to bear the explanation; a sentiment the rest of the room seemed to share.

“A game?” Mondo stared him down. “You call this a fuckin’ game? Two people are dead, and that’s entertainment to you, you sick bas-”

“Judge me however you wish,” Byakuya replied, not allowing Mondo to finish his sentence, “but I am not the guilty party here. Neither is Fukawa. The longer we discuss this, the more time we’re wasting, and the more you bore me.”

“Bore you?” Mondo’s patience had snapped. “How about I bore into your goddamn skull the moment we get outta this trial, huh?”

“I won’t let you touch him!” Touko screeched.
Monokuma was quick to laugh.

“Wa-hahahaha! That’s the spirit! You could all learn a thing or two from Mondo here! An exemplary student indeed!”

Mondo opened his mouth to respond, just as Touko opened hers, only for Kyoko to speak first.

“Stop this,” she said, voice quiet and yet so incredibly commanding. “We don’t have time for this. Sort this out later. For now, we need to get back to solving this.”

“I agree,” said Sayaka. “If neither of them are guilty, then we have to figure out who else it could be… even if that puts us back at square one.”

Were they really at square one, Makoto wondered?

No. That wasn’t true.

They were more close to solving this than they had been so far. There was still something else to discuss, after all.

“We can start figuring it out,” he began, “by thinking back to what happened to Leon on the morning he died.”

“Oh,” said Asahina, “that’s right. He fell ill at breakfast after eating the cereal he made and ran out of the room. That was the last time I saw him alive… do you think that has something to do with this?”

Makoto nodded. “I think it could be the key to solving the case.”

“I don’t understand,” said Chihiro. “How can someone get so ill from eating something as simple as cereal? I had some from the same box and I was fine.”

“Someone might have poisoned his bowl,” said Kyoko, seemingly reading Makoto’s mind. “If they only poisoned his specific bowl, only he would have fallen ill, since he was the only one who ate from it.”

“Exactly,” said Makoto. “If his bowl was poisoned, it had to have been poisoned that morning, too. Meaning whoever did it must have been someone who was in the room either just before him or at the same time that he was there.”

Glances were exchanged between a few of the other students.

“I was the first to show up to breakfast,” said Asahina.” “N-Not that I had anything to do with it! Mukuro and Chihiro came in after me. Leon showed up just after that. He ran out of the room to throw up just as you arrived, Makoto.”

“That means that one of those three did it, right?” Said Sayaka, who glanced over at all three of them with immense suspicion. There was no guarantee of it, but Makoto was sure she was right. “Wait… what was the point in poisoning Leon if they were only going to strangle him later that night?”

“I’m not sure,” Makoto replied. “That’s what I don’t understand.”

“What could they have used?” Celeste asked. “There aren’t any poisons accessible anywhere in the school – I’ve looked. There’s nothing anyone could have used.”

She looked? That was strange, thought Makoto, but he pushed it from his head. Although… wait.

He blinked.

He suddenly remembered something, and he turned to the Ultimate Gambler again.

“Celeste,” he said, “you mentioned something yesterday morning at breakfast. Just before we all realised Hagakure was missing and launched our search. You said you wanted a chicken dish for breakfast, didn’t you?”

She seemed confused by the question.

“Yes, I did,” she replied, “but there wasn’t any chicken available. There had been a frozen one waiting a couple of days before, but it was gone yesterday morning. What does that have to do with – Ah!

It looked like she understood.

“There weren’t any poisons available,” said Makoto, “so our killer had to improvise. Before Leon arrived, they most likely took the raw chicken and used its juices to taint one of the cereal bowls. After that, they disposed of it to erase any evidence. I’m not even sure if Leon – or anyone in particular – was the intended target. He just choose the wrong bowl, ate from it, and got ill as a result.”

It was all starting to make sense.

“Now that you mention it,” said Asahina, “I’m pretty sure he mentioned something about it tasting weird. I thought it was strange, since Chihiro said hers tasted fine.”

Chihiro nodded her head in agreement. “That’s right. Mine tasted really nice, actually, but Leon said his was giving him a sore stomach. He kept on eating, though… even though I suggested he should stop.”

That proved it, then. Leon was definitely poisoned, and the chicken might well have been the cause of it.

“That still doesn’t explain why he was poisoned,” said Kiyotaka. “They had no reason to poison him if they were just going to strangle him later. That still doesn’t make sense.”

“Actually, it does,” said Kyoko. “You just have to think outside the box.”

Wait, really?

Makoto watched her with surprise, currently just as confused as the rest of the room.

“The killer was trying to delay the bodies being found,” she said, to the frustration of the room.

“We’ve already been over that,” said Mondo. “That’s obvious!”

“I wasn’t finished,” Kyoko replied swiftly. “The killer poisoned Leon to give his disappearance an explanation. Think about it. If he didn’t turn up the next day, everyone would have assumed he was likely to still be in his room, suffering from the affects of his sickness. If so, no one would have thought to look for him. The fact the killer made use of food poisoning – which is usually non-lethal – only makes it that much clearer.”

Suddenly Makoto understood. Of course.

Of course!

“If no one looked for him and they assumed he was alive in his room instead of dead and hidden in the locker,” said Makoto, “then it would have made it easier for the killer to confuse the date of the death, right?”

“Exactly,” Kyoko replied. “By giving a reason for his disappearance, the killer would have bought themselves more time before the body was discovered. When Leon would eventually be found, everyone would assume he had died the night before – just as we did earlier – when he might have been dead for days. That confusion would have made it impossible to figure out who the killer was.”

It was the only explanation that made any sense. For a moment, Makoto was chilled by the cleverness and callousness of the killer. Until, of course, his thought was interrupted.

“Why,” asked Sakura, “wasn’t Hagakure poisoned, then? He was fine all through breakfast.”

“Hagakure wasn’t the intended target,” said Makoto. “Leon was poisoned because he ate from the poisoned bowl, which was done in order to set the killer’s trap. Leon had the killer’s blood on him because he brought his screwdriver, fearing an attack, and used it in self-defence. Neither of those criteria fit Hagakure. I think Hagakure walked in on the killing, and was killed as a result. His murder wasn’t planned.”

“So what you’re saying is,” said Chihiro, “Hagakure wasn’t meant to die?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” said Makoto. “The killer took down Leon, and then killed Hagakure to stop him from raising the alarm. They were stuck with trying to hide two bodies instead of the originally planned one. They shoved both of them into the locker, hoping they wouldn’t be found, but their plan had already been ruined by his appearance. At that point, they most likely left the scene.”

It was all coming together now. Piece by piece, he was getting closer to solving this.

“Why did the killer hide them in the locker?” Mondo asked. “If this happened during the night, no one would be around. They could’ve just hid them somewhere else.”

Makoto shook his head. “No, they couldn’t have. First off, Hagakure had already walked in. If they dragged two bodies into another room, there was a risk of being caught. It would have taken too much time. Besides, where else on the second floor could you hide two bodies? The locker was the closest, and most logical place.”

“There’s something else, too,” said Kyoko. “We’ve already decided that the killer had to be at breakfast early that morning, leaving us with three girls. Adding to that, both victims were male. Would it really be possible for a girl to take male bodies out of the pool?”

Sakura didn’t look too pleased about that. “Are you trying to say that girls aren’t strong enough to carry males?”

Kyoko shook her head. “No, not at all. I’m saying that they might not have thought it was possible. Something may have limited them… like the changing rooms. Don’t forget, the male and female changing rooms separate the pool from the hallway. We know that males cannot enter the female changing room and vice-versa. Perhaps the killer was afraid of carrying male bodies into the female changing room, worrying it might break a rule. Likewise, they didn’t want to risk going through the male changing room, either, since it would also break a rule.”

“So what are you saying?”

“I’m saying that only a male could have carried the bodies through the changing rooms without breaking a rule and being shot at by the gun fixed on the wall. A female wouldn’t have taken the risk – she couldn’t. The bodies were left in the pool, which means that the killer might have been limited in where they could move them. Which can only mean that the killer was definitely female,” Kyoko concluded. “This helps to prove it.”

While Makoto wasn’t sure that the killer had any need to move the bodies from the pool at all, the theory made sense. Adding to that the fact that the only people in the dining room before Leon had arrived had been girls, and the answer was clear.

The killer was definitely a girl.

“So who was it, then?” Said Sayaka. “Who did this?”

“It had to be someone capable of overpowering Leon and Hagakure in relatively short time,” said Kyoko. “They had to have the strength to strangle them with their bare hands, which might require significant combat skill. It had to be a girl. It also had to be someone who was present in the dining hall when Leon was poisoned, too.”

Wait.

She was right.

Chihiro, Asahina and Mukuro had all been in the dining room at the time of Leon’s poisoning.

Chihiro was far too dainty to be capable of all of that, thought Makoto.

Asahina was stronger, yes, but he couldn’t imagine her being capable of doing it, either. She was a swimmer, not a soldier.

A soldier.

But that meant…

“You know who it is,” said Kyoko, staring him down, “don’t you, Makoto?”

He did.

It was insane, but he did.

He could barely believe it.

Yet it was the only conclusion left.

Makoto turned to the culprit.

“Mukuro,” he said. “It was you, wasn’t it?”

The pallid face of Mukuro Ikusaba, the Ultimate Soldier, was tired. Still drained from the death of her sister. The life simply faded from her eyes. It was painful to have to do this to her, especially after she had experienced such a tragedy only a few days before… but he had to deliver the truth.

“No,” she replied, expression remaining bland at first. Until, gradually, it began to grow in horror and offense as her barriers flew up to defend her. “No! Not at all! I would never! I couldn’t!”

“Are you serious, Makoto?” Said Asahina, stunned. “She couldn’t have! Right?”

Kiyotaka watched on, pain evident in his eyes. “Makoto… are you sure about this? She just lost her sister. She doesn’t need-”

“Think about it,” said Makoto, knowing that if he didn’t stop the questions now that he would quickly lose control again, just as he had earlier. “Think back to the morning after the murder, when we were all at breakfast. Mukuro was falling asleep at the table, remember? She was exhausted. I thought it was down to her grief, but was that really the case?”

“What are you saying?” The prefect asked.

“I’m saying that if she had been attacked by Leon’s screwdriver the night before, she wouldn’t have been able to wash her wound. The showers are turned off at night, remember? She couldn’t have used the pool either, or else she would have been soaked. She had to return to her room, still wounded and bleeding, and wait for morning to shower. When morning came, the shower came back on, and she cleaned the wound. She knew that, despite being up all night, people would have been suspicious if she didn’t turn up to breakfast. So she appeared, despite almost falling asleep at the table because she hadn’t slept at all!”

Mondo shook his head. “This is fuckin’ crazy!”

Makoto hit back without hesitation. “It’s the only thing that makes sense, Mondo! Mukuro could easily strangle someone – she’s a soldier. Mukuro was one of the only people who had the means to poison Leon. Mukuro was the only one exhausted the morning after the murder – everyone else was wide awake, when we know that the killer would have stayed up all night. Mukuro is a girl, just like we know the killer is. The killer can only be one person, and that’s Mukuro!”

The accused didn’t react at first. She was silent, eyes bulging, face pale, hinging on every word that left Makoto’s mouth.

“Wrong,” she whispered.

Makoto didn’t reply. He continued to watch her. He had nothing more to say. He already knew he was right.

“Wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG!”
She repeated the word over and over again, practically turning it into a mantra, before she finally broke free from it.

Everyone watched her in shock. She had spent the last few days in perfect silence, still reeling from Junko’s death, overcome with the agony and the despair of her grief. The contrast between the defeated girl they had known a few days ago and the increasingly angry, increasingly desperate beast they saw now… it was mind-blowing.

“Wrong! There’s no proof that I did it. You’ve jumped to conclusions. There’s nothing concrete against me! If you vote for me, we’ll all die! We’ll all die! WE’LL ALL DIE!”

“You’re right,” said Makoto. “There isn’t anything concrete against you, but that was exactly your plan. There wasn’t supposed to be any proof. That was why you poisoned Leon and planned on hiding the body – to confuse everyone and make it impossible to trace it back to you. Logic is all we’ve had to work with here, and logic was what led us to this conclusion. Admit it, Mukuro! It couldn’t have been anyone else!”

“Wrong,” she said again. “Wrong! WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!!”

“Makoto,” said Kyoko. “I think it’s time to end this.”

Makoto nodded.

The rest of the room, apart from the wheezing, manic figure of Mukuro, seemed to agree.

It was time for one last argument.

A closing argument.

 


CLOSING ARGUMENT


 

“Two days ago, just before breakfast, the culprit decided to begin their plan. Using a raw frozen chicken they found in the kitchen, the culprit squeezed some of the juices into one of the available cereal bowls in order to poison whoever ate from it, before disposing of the chicken afterwards. The poisoning was to make sure that, when the victim disappeared, it would take longer for anyone to think it was strange, thereby making it easier to hide the date of the killing and get away with the crime.

Later, Leon arrived, with only he, Chihiro, Asahina and the culprit in the room. Leon took the bowl, not knowing it had been poisoned, and ate from it. Quickly, he fell ill with food poisoning, causing him to run out of the hall and back to his room, passing by me in the process. He didn’t leave his room for the rest of the day.

Later that night, Leon was summoned to the pool by the culprit. This was most likely because the pool, unlike any other rooms, didn’t have a way for him to defend himself, but still had many ways to kill him, such as drowning, should strangulation have failed. However, Leon suspected that it might have been a trap, and so he brought the screwdriver from his toolkit with him as a backup, just in case he had to defend himself. Once he arrived at the pool, the culprit attacked, attempting to strangle him. A struggle ensued, during which Leon stabbed his assailant with the screwdriver, causing them to bleed. Some of their blood fell onto the lapel of Leon’s jacket. The struggle intensified, during which the screwdriver was knocked out of his grasp, ultimately landing in the water, where it sank to the bottom of the pool. Defenceless and weakened from the food poisoning, the culprit easily finished him off.

However, just as they killed Leon and were preparing to hide his body in the locker at the back of the room, Hagakure, most likely having been out in the halls and having noticed that something strange was happening, entered the room. He saw the killing, but the culprit was quick to strangle and kill him before he could escape and raise the alarm. The culprit stashed both bodies into the locker to hide them, during which blood from Leon’s lapel rubbed against the inside.

Still bleeding from their injury, the culprit left the scene of the crime and returned to their room, forced to leave the screwdriver at the bottom of the pool. However, they realised that they had to clean their wound. Due to the fact that the showers don’t work at night, the culprit was forced to stay awake, waiting for it to turn on. Once morning came, they cleaned their wound, washing off the blood and cleaning themselves up. As a result of getting no sleep, the culprit turned up to breakfast exhausted. Despite almost falling asleep at the table, they knew that not turning up would have only been more suspicious.

While no-one thought it was strange that Leon hadn’t appeared at breakfast because he had been ill the day before, Hagakure’s absence caused us to worry, considering he had been perfectly healthy.

The culprit had planned on no-one worrying that Leon was missing, but Hagakure, having also been killed the night before, was missing now, too. As a result, we all took notice and launched a search to find them – completely undermining the culprit’s plan in the process. The culprit stayed in the dining hall with Sakura while the search took place.

During the search, Byakuya and Fukawa volunteered to search the pool, where they discovered the bodies in the locker. They decided not to tell anyone in order to make things more interesting. Byakuya returned to the pool later that night, dragging the bodies out into the hallway so that they would be discovered the next day. The next morning, as we launched another search, I came across the bodies in the hallway, triggering the body discovery announcement.

Had it not been for Hagakure walking in and ending up a victim, we wouldn’t have looked for Leon so early. Had it not been for Byakuya and Fukawa meddling in the culprit’s plan, we might not have found the bodies so early, either. Had it not been for Leon’s screwdriver, we might never have known the true location of the crime scene. All of these came together to ruin a plan that, had it been perfectly executed, would have made the date of the killing impossible to determine, and therefore the crime impossible to solve.”

The argument had ended. The explanation delivered. The room was left stunned.

“With all of these facts in mind,” said Makoto, “there’s only one person the killer could possibly be!”

He pointed at the guilty party, as the obscure figure of ‘the culprit’ became clearer.

“The killer,” he said, “who murdered Leon Kuwata and Yasuhiro Hagakure… is you, Mukuro Ikusaba!

 


COMPLETE!


 

Voting time came quickly.

Every vote was cast for Mukuro.

Sure enough, they were right.

Mukuro had been the killer, after all.

The screens around them showed bouquets and flashing lights, complete with pouring confetti, just like last time. A means of celebrating a victory that none of them felt good about.

“Why?” Said Asahina. “Why did you do it, Mukuro?”

“Why did I plan on killing someone, you mean?” Mukuro replied, now scarily calm compared to how she had been a moment ago. She seemed to have accepted her defeat. There was no more use in fighting. “Why did I plan on creating a murder that no-one could solve? Isn’t it obvious?”

“You wanted to graduate, didn’t you?” Said Byakuya, arms folded as usual, watching her with what appeared to be some twisted sense of admiration. As if he was proud at how close she had come to succeeding.

“Graduate? No,” she replied, taking half the room by surprise. “No, I didn’t want to get out of here. My life isn’t worth living without Junko. I did because... I wanted all of you to die.

Makoto felt his stomach and heart sink in unison. She had said it so casually. It sent a chill down his spine.

“Wh-Whaaaaat?!” Kiyoktaka screamed, alongside several others. “What do you mean?!”

“I wanted you all to lose the trial,” she replied. “The rules are that if the blackened succeeds in getting away with the crime that everyone but the blackened dies, correct? I planned on having everyone be executed apart from me. Yet before I could graduate… I planned on killing myself, too.”

None of this made any sense. She spoke of such bloodshed; all of it just as pointless as the rest. Makoto didn’t understand. From the looks of every other face in the room, he wasn’t alone in that, either.

“Then what was the point in winning?” Byakuya asked.

“If everyone but me died, only for me to then kill myself afterwards, it would take every player out of the game,” she said. “The one responsible for this game – the Mastermind behind all of this… they want this game to continue. The game is what gives them their sick thrill. Whenever someone suffers, Monokuma laughs, and he laughs because he enjoys it. If I was to take every player out of the game, myself included… then the game would end. The Mastermind’s enjoyment would be ruined, and all of us would be free from this suffering.”

Stunned expressions only grew wider in their shock. From Mondo to Chihiro, from Sakura to Asahina, from Sayaka to Kiyotaka (who, in particular, appeared a mix of outraged and horrified), no one could believe what they were hearing. Only Byakuya and Kyoko seemed to be keeping their calm, albeit for entirely different reasons.

“That’s…” Kiyotaka had to pause, having almost forgotten how to breathe. “That’s insane. H-How could you think of something so… so horrible?! We don’t even know if there is a mastermind! For all we know, that bear is in control of everything on his own!”

“No,” said Mukuro, “that’s wrong. Someone had to have made the bear, right? Someone has to be in control of him. Someone has to be responsible for all of this. That someone is the Mastermind. I wanted to rob them of their fun and set us all free. I wanted to end this game – the game that took my sister from me. The game that’s giving the real killer of Junko and Hifumi so much twisted satisfaction! I was willing to do whatever it takes to stop the game... I’m just sorry that I failed.”

A tear slid down the culprit’s face, silent.

Monokuma was suddenly up on his feet, standing on top of his chair and glaring down at her.

“You nasty girl!” He hissed. “You awful, devious, cunning, wonderful, incredible, despairing girl! Upupupupu! You planned on turning my own game against me! And to think… you came so close to succeeding… but not close enough, toots! Wa-hahahahaha!”

Makoto hated that bear more than words could say.

“B-But,” Chihiro stuttered, “all you had to do was wait. No-one had to die. S-Someone will be coming to rescue us. If we all just stayed calm and-”

“NO ONE IS COMING TO HELP US,” Mukuro screamed, that single tear turning into a flood, voice cracking as she roared. Chihiro flinched in fear, but the Ultimate Soldier didn’t care. “Don’t you understand?! Someone would have come by now!”

“Stop saying that,” said Mondo. “It’s only been a few days that we’ve been stuck here! Chihiro’s right. All we have to do is wait and-”

“Yes, it’s only been a few days,” said Mukuro, “but we haven’t seen a single sign that anyone is coming. Someone would have noticed that something strange was happening by now. They would have found a way to get through the steel plating on the windows… but they haven’t. They’re not coming!”

Sayaka shook her head as tears of her own began to fall.

“N-No!” She screamed. “That’s not true! Someone is coming! You just have to be… patient… and wait… and we’ll be out of here in no time at all!”

Makoto could hear the fear in her voice. The reality was beginning to dawn.

No-one was coming, were they?

“Let’s assume they do come,” said Mukuro. “Let’s assume someone does break in to rescue us. Do you really think the bear and the Mastermind would let us walk out alive? They thrive on despair. They’d sooner kill us all in front of our rescuers’ eyes than let us walk free. We either play this game or we die – which was why I decided to flip the tables and beat him at his own game!”

“That’s sick,” said Kiyotaka, his face pale, hands almost shaking. “That’s sick! You’re sick! This whole thing is sick!”

“Y’know what else is sick?” Monokuma yawned. “This trial, and not in the good way. I’m gettin’ bored over here! Can you wrap your little speech up already, missy? I’ll be asleep by the time the punishment rolls around if this lasts any longer.”

Mukuro’s eyes met those of each of her classmates. For a moment, she observed them in silence, looking between them, one by one.

“All of you. I’m sorry that I failed. I’m sorry that my mission didn’t succeed...” As she spoke, another tear made its way down her face. “Yet I need you all to know something. Please, listen. It’s the most important thing you’re ever going to hear.”

What?

What was this about?

“I said there was a mastermind,” she continued. “I’m sure I’m right. Someone is controlling this game. I don’t know who it is, and I’m not sure I ever will now, but… I know one thing: The mastermind is someone in this room.”

Makoto’s blood ran cold.

What? Was that really true? No. It was impossible. Surely that made no sense. Was anyone here even remotely capable of planning out a game so twisted? No. Not even Byakuya seemed to be cruel enough for that.

Yet the room erupted into gasps and glances of suspicion, regardless.

“What?!” Mondo gasped. “You can’t be serious!”

“I am perfectly serious. Someone in this room is the Mastermind.” Mukuro began to look between them all again, speaking to address whichever one of them it might have been. “Whoever you are, Mastermind, I want you to know this: You won’t win. You won’t beat us. Kill me if you want, but you won’t kill what I stood for. You can kill me, but you won’t manage to kill us all! One of the people here will beat you; I’m sure of it. When they beat you, they’ll find you. When they find you… I hope they kill you!

In response, Monokuma simply laughed. It kept going, on and on, for what felt like forever, while Mukuro stared him down with tears in her eyes. The rest of the room, some of them joining her in crying, looked like they were about to shatter from the truth she had just delivered.

Just as quickly as it started, however, Monokuma’s laughing ceased and he yawned again.

“Alright, alright, time’s up,” he said. “It’s game over for you, princess. Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?”

“N-No! Not again!” Sayaka screamed. “I can’t watch this again! Someone stop this!”

“Don’t let him beat you,” said Mukuro, turning to her classmates. “No matter what the bear does to you, or the Mastermind controlling him, don’t let it break you. Never give up. Keep on fighting. I know you can win.”

“You can’t do this to her,” said Mondo. “This is sick. Fuckin’ sick! Don’t execute her!”

“It’s okay,” said Mukuro. “I accept this.”

A smile, faint and distant, spread across her face. It was one mired in sorrow. Yet one filled with a silent optimism – a hope that they would avenge her.

“I’m ready Monokuma,” she said, head held high as she turned back to the bear. “Let’s get this over with.”

This appeared to be the best news Monokuma had heard all week.

“Alright then! Here we go, folks! The moment you’ve all been waiting for! Iiiiiiiit’s… Punishment Time!

The same red button from last time appeared in front of Monokuma, which he hit with his gavel again, almost shaking in gleeful delight. The monitors in the room lit up with a pixellated sprite of the Ultimate Soldier being dragged off by the bear.

‘GAME OVER’, the screens read, just like last time, MUKURO HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY. TIME FOR THE PUNISHMENT!'

As the rest of the class cried and panicked, unable to witness the horrors they knew would come, Mukuro continued to be brave.

She stepped forward towards her execution, shoulders rising and falling with each and every deep breath she took.

Makoto’s stomach twisted, just as it had last time.

The trial had ended.

The truth had been uncovered.

A new punishment was about to begin.

Chapter Text

Just like last time, the class had found their way to the scene that had been set up for the punishment. From behind a glass window, they could look into the scene. A massive room stretched before them. Artificial hills had been constructed. Smoke filled the air. Trenches and blockades dotted the landscape.

With that same sinking feeling he was starting to become to painfully used to, Makoto realised what this was.

It was an entire battlefield.

For now, there was no sign of Mukuro.

The monitors around them, playing a slight variation of the twisted music from last time, lit up. Bold letters carved from solid steel were imposed on the title card showing on the screens. Smoke blew over it, while fires burned around it.

‘EXECUTION: TANKS FOR EVERYTHING!’

Tanks?

Mukuro appeared out of nowhere, running up from behind one of the hills. A gun was in her hands, and she looked exhausted. Had Monokuma given her a weapon?

For a moment, he wondered why, until cardboard cut-outs of Monokuma popped up from the ground. To his horror and surprise, they began shooting real bullets at her.

Yet Mukuro, running through the battlefield, succeeded in dodging every one of them, firing back, destroying the cutouts in the process. As more popped up, more were shot down, the Ultimate Soldier remaining completely unharmed.

She was amazing.

She was surviving!

“Come on, Mukuro!” Asahina screamed through the glass. “You can do this! Survive!”

“Go on! Do it!” Mondo cheered.

Whether or not Mukuro could hear them was another matter entirely.

Cardboard planes appeared overhead, flying over her. They began dropping barrels down onto her location, but she moved fast, running out of the way, just as the barrels hit the ground and exploded behind her. Again, she remained unharmed.

More smoke filled the air now.

“You can do it!” Sayaka cheered. “We believe in you! Come on!”

Soon, the entire class had joined in, cheering her on, holding their collective breaths as wave after wave of enemies tried to take her down. More pop-ups were shot down. More planes and their explosive barrels were avoided. Still, not a scratch appeared on her.

It seemed like killing her was impossible.

She stopped for a moment to take a breath, and the music stopped.

However, a second later, the music began again. Just like it had last time. Slowly, it built up note by note by note by note, reaching a crescendo, until…

A tank came roaring over the hill behind Mukuro. Massive, it was moving quickly, speeding towards her with the obvious intent of crushing her. Monokuma sat inside, his head currently popped out of the hatch, staring the Ultimate Soldier down as he came rolling towards her.

She noticed it instantly, and set off running.

“Go!” Sayaka screamed. “Run!”

“Don’t stop! Keep going! Keep going!”

“Come on, you can do this! Keep going!”

The music kept blaring out. ‘Wa-wa-wa-wa, wa-wa-woooooh...'

Sure enough, Mukuro continued to run, dashing across the battlefield. More pop-ups appeared, and she took them down yet again, still running. Planes flew overhead, and again, she dodged their barrels. All the while, the tank continued to chase her, getting closer and closer and closer, until…

Mukuro found herself in a clearing. A flat area without barricades or trenches. She stopped, turning, realising the tank wasn’t following her anymore.

No one understood why.

Until, that was, the ground at her feet began to flash.

‘Wa-wa-wa-wa, wa-wa-woooooh...'

She looked down, and her eyes went wide. Through the smoke and the panic of the tank, she had ran straight into a minefield without realising. She was so deep into it that there was no way of getting out.

No!

No, she had come so close!

She had to find a way out.

‘Wa-wa-wa-wa, wa-wa-wo, oh... woooooh...'

The music was reaching its end.

Oh no.

The flashing grew brighter.

Mukuro looked up from the mines at her feet. She didn’t move. She accepted this.

“No,” Makoto cried. “NO!

His words didn’t matter.

As the music hit its peak, the mines exploded under and around her into a massive ball of fire.

Makoto had to shield his eyes from the brightness of the flash, yet his ears were still pounded by the strength of the blast.

By the time he found the courage to look back at the scene, the smoke and the rubble had began to clear. He hoped to see Mukuro standing victorious, having survived the execution…

...but there she was, lying in a burnt and broken heap on the ground. She wasn’t moving.

Her limbs were missing.

The music had stopped.

The screens went dark.

Despite how awful her means were, she had tried to end the game. She had tried to free them from this insanity. In a cunning move, she had tried to turn Monokuma’s own game against him. She was proud until the very end.

As a result, she had paid the ultimate price.

Mukuro Ikusaba was dead.

The hope of her classmates, just like the battlefield she lay on, was obliterated.

 


 

 

Dark eyes focused on the monitors in front of them.

Just like last time, the hallways were quieter than they had been a few hours earlier. A school that had been alive with frantic chatter and hurried investigation was now sombre in tone. While Asahina lay crying on her bed, Byakuya sat cross-legged in the library reading a book, bored expression on his face. As Sayaka sat huddled into the corner of her room, head bowed and hands over her eyes, Makoto was taking a nap.

Such fear.

Such pain.

Such delightful despair.

Kiyotaka Ishimaru took another sip of his coffee. It wasn’t a drink he ever thought he would care for. As a matter of fact, two years ago he might have said it was a bad influence.

Yet the Kiyotaka of two years ago was a different person to the one he was now. The new and improved Ultimate Moral Compass (oh, the sweet irony of that name) loved the stuff.

Yeesh,” came a sudden voice behind him, “that was one hell of a clean-up operation!”

The mastermind spun around in his chair, low brows watching the exhausted little bear, who huffed and puffed and sighed and wheezed. “Monokuma,” he said, greeting him.

“Do you have any idea how long it takes to clean up an entire frickin’ battlefield? It’s a while, I’ll tell ya! That’s not to mention trying to stitch Soldier girl back together, either. It was like a jigsaw tryin’ to get it done.”

“Is her body disposed of?” Kiyotaka asked.

“Sure is,” Monokuma nodded. “She’s in the freezers with the rest of ‘em. Y’know, I suppose I shouldn’t complain about piecin’ her back together. At least it was possible with her. That weeaboo fella, on the other hand? He’s still just a bag of sludge!”

Kiyotaka chuckled. That he was.

“The morgue is filling up fast,” said the prefect. “Faster than I expected. We’re not even one week into starting the game, and we’ve already seen two trials and five dead.”

“Yup!” Monokuma chimed. “Ain’t it great? It’s more than ya ever dreamed of!”

Was it?

In truth, Kiyotaka hadn’t anticipated the game getting so violent so fast. Sure, this wasn’t exactly on the scale of the student council killing game, but it was passing by faster than he would have liked. What was the point of despair if he didn’t have the time to appreciate it?

“We haven’t even had to hand out motives yet. I had several lined up, too. It’ll be impossible to use them all now,” said Kiyotaka, clearly disappointed. There had been so many good ideas, too. “Hopefully we can hold off another killing for the time being. That way we actually have time to drop in a motive, and when we do it’ll actually be interesting.”

Monokuma’s shoulders rose, his head lowered, and he sighed in a particularly over-dramatic fashion. “Hold off on the killing? Seriously? C’mon, don’t leave a bear waitin’ for the good stuff! What’s the point in a killing game without the killing?”

“Constant killing is boring,” he replied, suddenly thinking of how much he might have sounded like a certain someone during today’s trial in saying that. Wait. That reminded him. Today’s trial had been interesting, and not in a good way. “Especially when those killings threaten the entire killing game itself.”

Mukuro had come scarily close to getting away with her crime. Had, like Makoto said, it not been for the tiniest things messing up her plan, the odds were that she would have been successful. Had she been successful, the entire class would have been executed.

Had the class been executed, she would have killed herself.

Had she killed herself… the entire game would have been ruined.

She had come close to completely destroying a plan that had spent years in the making.

“Before she died,” said Kiyotaka, “Mukuro said something quite interesting, didn’t she?”

Monokuma cocked his head, paw coming to his chin, the little bear clearly confused. Kiyotaka grunted.

“She told everyone that there was a Mastermind behind the game,” he continued. “Not only that… she said it was someone within the class.”

The teddy bear was quick to laugh. “Oh, yeah! That! You should’a seen the look on your face. I think it was the first time I’ve seen you show an emotion in front of the others that wasn’t completely fake. You were sweatin’ buckets!”

Kiyotaka failed to see the humour. “I’m not sure how she figured it out – she’s dead now anyway, so it doesn’t matter – but… what about the others? Makoto is quick to figure things out. We’ve seen the evidence of that during both trials. It’s the same with Kyoko, too. She almost stopped me from making any of this happen in the first place… and I’m afraid she might do it again.”

He thought back to that day. Only a week ago now, but it felt like an eternity ago. The day that he had filled the school with the Ushinau memory gas – erasing his classmates’ recollections of the past two years. Kyoko had almost stopped him. Had she been just a few seconds earlier, she may have prevented the entire game from starting.

She and Makoto were proving to be quite the team during the trials. The most impossible challenges seemed like nothing to them. If Kyoko had managed to figure out his identity as the Ultimate Despair last time, then what was to say that Mukuro’s hint wouldn’t be the catalyst in helping her figure it out again? What was to say that she and Makoto wouldn’t start piecing things together?

If anyone could take him down, he thought, it was going to be those two.

“I may just have to deal with them,” he muttered, “before it’s too late.”

He had no ideas in mind, but he was sure he could think of something. If they got too close for comfort, he wouldn’t hesitate in biting back.

“By the way,” he said, turning to the bear, “what was wrong with you today?”

Monokuma seemed confused. “Wrong?”

“You were giving them hints during the trial.”

“...No, I wasn’t.”

“Yes, you were. You made it obvious that Kyoko was right about the date trick. If your reaction had been more subtle, they wouldn’t have been able to figure it out.”

Monokuma shrugged, hopping up on a nearby chair, spinning around and around and around. “Hey,” he said mid-spin, “you didn’t know about the trick either. You told me you wanted to go into this case blind so it’d be more entertainin’. What does it matter to you? They were gonna solve it, anyway, and they did. All I did was speed things up a little!”

“Which you shouldn’t have done.”

“Relax,” said the bear. “You got one helluva trial and a mess of an execution out of it, so I’d say it was worth it.”

Kiyotaka’s brows were lowered at the bear, the mastermind’s arms folded, expression one of complete and utter disapproval.

Monokuma dismissed him with a wave of his paw. “Jeez! Chill, buster,” he said. “Don’t go bursting a blood vessel on me!”

With a sigh, Kiyotaka relaxed the muscles on his face and decided to drop the question. Sometimes he regretted fitting that damn bear with an artificial intelligence that was, indeed, so intelligent.

“I just hope things stay calm for the time being,” said the prefect, “that way we can lure them into a false sense of security. Just when they think things are calm… you can drop the motive and sow fresh havoc all over again.”

Finishing the last sip of his coffee, Kiyotaka rose from his seat and began to head for the door, walking in an almost military fashion.

“I’d best get going,” he continued, before stopping in his tracks. “It’s time I go and cry with the others.”

His back to the bear, Kiyotaka suddenly turned to face him, his eyes streaming with tears, his figure shaking, nose dripping, his entire being completely and utterly devastated. “H-How does this look?” He asked the little headmaster. “Does it… does it look like I care enough? Do I look like I miss my f-friend Mukuro?” His every word ached of agony. The sorrow was immeasurable.

It was difficult to tell that the entire thing was a lie.

Despite the fact that Monokuma wasn’t capable of changing his expression, Kiyotaka could sense the shock from him. Wordless, the bear nodded his head.

In an instant, the tears were gone. The sniffling and the stuttering had dissipated. It was almost as if Kiyotaka hadn’t been crying in the first place. “Excellent,” he said, chuckling, his snake-like grin wide and charming.

“You’re a real psycho, ya know that?”

“That’s a compliment coming from you. Goodnight, Monokuma.”

Still chuckling softly to himself, Kiyotaka continued to head for the door. Monokuma sat silently behind him, watching his every step as the former hall monitor spoke one last time, still smiling brightly as he left.

“Here’s to a peaceful few days.”

Chapter Text

Makoto Naegi had barely slept at all. Wandering into the cafeteria, face pale, movements slow and unsteady, twisted visions of yesterday flooded his mind. The discovery of Leon and Yasuhiro’s decomposing bodies. The mind-bending class trial and the exposing of that most uncomfortable truth. Mukuro’s speech… and her inevitable execution.

Sixteen students had entered Hope’s Peak Academy.

Five of them were already dead.

Had Mukuro’s plan succeeded, the number of survivors, currently eleven, would have been reduced to zero.

Would that have been better, he wondered, leading himself to his usual seat? Would it have been better if all of them had just been executed in one fell swoop? The game would have ended. The fear of the next murder, the next trial, the next maniacal execution… all of it would be over.

Mukuro was trying to save them, in her own horrifying way.

At some point, almost without realising as he dwelled in his own pool of thoughts, Makoto had found himself in the kitchen. His stomach rumbled. Apparently he was hungry.

Oh, yeah. Breakfast was a thing, wasn’t it?

His eyes met with a cereal box on the counter.

He thought of Leon.

Makoto decided to skip the cereal today.

 


 

It wasn’t long before Monokuma was gleefully announcing that the next floor of the school was unlocked. It wasn’t long until the exhausted class, somehow finding the strength to quietly chatter among themselves, began their exploration of the uncharted rooms.

Makoto felt adrift, even as Sayaka struck up chatter with him. He replied, of course, wandering the strange new hallways, scouring the various rooms on offer. Celeste had taken a particular liking to the games within the Recreation Room (no surprises, thought Makoto, considering she was the Ultimate Gambler), all the while the Ultimate Moral Compass declared his delight that there were more classrooms on the floor.

“If only there were still classes to be taught,” Kiyotaka had muttered with a sigh, sad eyes wandering the desktops, as if imagining all the pencils and pop quizzes that could have been.

“He’s a strange one,” said Sayaka as she and Makoto left the prefect to his own devices, “isn’t he?”

“He’s different, sure,” Makoto replied, making his way to the next set of rooms, “but he seems to just want the best for us, I think.”

“I suppose having classes would be better than… well.”

She didn’t say it, but Makoto knew exactly what she meant. The killing game. Lessons and lectures and homework and detention would all be better than the situation they were stuck in now. It was the way Hope’s Peak should have been. He had come here to prosper, not suffer.

How had it all gone so wrong?

The conversation quickly shifted to another topic.

Good.

The art room, and the adjoined storage room at the rear of it, proved uneventful. The rooms were filled with exactly what Makoto would expect. Had it not been for the camera hanging from the ceiling, always and forever watching, it was easy to forget about the killing game in here. There were no visible shutters. No shocked, traumatised faces. No blood or weapons. No bodies.

Just simple, innocent art...

...and a marble statue of Monokuma, of course. Just to ruin the atmosphere with the usual insufferable bout of despair.

“It’s horrible, isn’t it?”

Sayaka gripped Makoto’s arm as the pair spun around, gasping in unison at the voice that had arisen unexpectedly from behind them. There, now in front of them, stood Kyoko, arms folded and eyes wandering elsewhere as usual. Quiet. Collected. Not seeming to realise (or care) that she had just scared two of her fellow classmates to near-death.

“K-Kyoko! Where did you come from?!”

“I’ve been here the entire time,” she replied to the Ultimate Lucky Student, tone as sharp and cool as always. “You just weren’t paying attention. Which, given the circumstances, is quite the risk.”

She wasn’t wrong. Makoto was glad it was only her, and not some murderous lunatic ready for round three of the class trials.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he said. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you since… since yesterday.”

“What about yesterday? It happened. It’s over. It’s not worth dwelling on. We have to keep moving forward.”

“No,” said Makoto, “I mean I have to ask you something.”

Kyoko didn’t say a word in reply, but her gaze quickly met his, brows lightly furrowing, the fold of her arms tightening by a fraction. Clearly, she was listening. Sayaka stood quietly aside Makoto, watching on in interested silence.

“You were a huge help in the trial yesterday, Kyoko,” said Makoto. “Without your knowledge, I’m not sure we could have solved it. You picked up on the things that we wouldn’t have. How do you know so much about all of this? About dead bodies and investigations and everything, I mean?”

For a moment, nothing happened. Kyoko kept up the eye contact, her shoulders tense, lips pursed. Makoto stared back at her, awaiting his response, eager to clear up the questions running through his head. Yet his answer didn’t come.

Kyoko turned her back, and made her way to the door.

“Kyoko,” Sayaka cried, “come back!”

“I’m heading to the last room,” Kyoko replied without looking back at them. “Feel free to join me.”

The pop-star and the luckster exchanged glances. It looked as if they had no choice. Within seconds, they were walking alongside her as she entered the hall, making her way toward the final room on the floor. The one that was oddly distant from the others.

“Can you answer my question?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I have my reasons.”

“What are your reasons?”

With a near-silent sigh, Kyoko stopped in her tracks. “Why are you so interested in me?”

“You’re not like the others,” said Makoto. “You’re capable with crime scenes in a way that we aren’t. You can handle trials like they’re easy. It’s useful, but it doesn’t make sense. You’re the one mystery that I haven’t solved yet. Kyoko… what’s your Ultimate?”

The question clearly made her uncomfortable.

“There’s no pressure,” said Sayaka, “we’re just curious, is all!”

“I don’t know,” she replied suddenly, before breaking back into her previous pace. Makoto and Sayaka scurried after her.

“Wait,” said Sayaka, “you don’t know?

“No.”

“How can you not know?”

“I don’t know,” said Kyoko, tone definitely more defensive now as they approached the doors to that final room, “because I can’t remember. I’ve lost my memories. I can’t remember anything before… before all of this.”

“You can’t be serious. Come on,” Sayaka continued, “just tell us the truth! I promise we’ll keep it a secret. You don’t have to lie.”

Was she really lying? She looked defensive, without a doubt, and her face was even paler than usual, but… there was something about her words that didn’t strike Makoto as false. Maybe Sayaka could pick up on something he couldn’t (she did have fantastic intuition, after all), but… no. Kyoko seemed to be telling the truth.

“Believe it or don’t,” said Kyoko. “It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve told you the truth. Now stop asking.”

Sayaka parted her lips to speak again, but Makoto put a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him, and he shook his head. This wasn’t an argument she was going to win. She quickly closed her mouth.

Kyoko pushed open the door to the room labelled ‘PHYSICS LAB’, and the pestering pair followed her close behind.

The room they entered was like something out of the future. Highly scientific in its appearance, with bits and pieces of technical equipment that Makoto knew he would never understand. In the middle of the room was what appeared to be some sort of giant air purifier of sorts.

Kyoko froze as her wide, violet eyes set themselves upon it. She wore a face Makoto had never seen her with before. She brought a gloved hand to her forehead, staring up at the contraption before her eyes squeezed shut. With a grunt, her head bowed forward, teeth visibly clenching.

“Kyoko! Are you okay?”

At first, she didn’t reply to him, still appearing to be suffering from some sort of agonising migraine. Yet, as it settled, she raised her head again, breath heavier than it had been a moment ago, a light drop of sweat on her brow. Shakily, she looked from the purifier to Makoto.

“I think I’ve seen this room before,” she said suddenly. “I feel like I’ve been here in the past. I… I remember it. The purifier, the floor… it’s familiar.”

What was she talking about? It was impossible for her to have seen it. She had entered the school along with the rest of the class – on the day they were all forced into the killing game. There was no way she had ever set foot in here before! Yet, just like her claims of amnesia a moment ago, there was something about her words that rang true. Makoto couldn’t place it, but he was certain she wasn’t lying. That much was clear.

“You couldn’t have been,” said Sayaka, practically (or was it literally?) reading Makoto’s mind. “How can you remember a place you’ve never been to before?”

Kyoko didn’t reply again, falling into another bout of her trademark silence.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Sayaka concluded, looking to Makoto for reassurance. “…Right?”

“I’ll be going now,” said Kyoko, turning and making her way for the door again. “I need to think. Don’t follow me.”

With that, she left.

Sayaka kept staring up at Makoto, confused.

Makoto was just as lost as she was.

With each passing trial and each new floor, it seemed that Hope’s Peak Academy just kept getting stranger and stranger.

 


 

“So, the piece of shit finally shows his face.”

Of all the reactions Makoto had expected to Byakuya entering the cafeteria that morning, it hadn’t been that.

Yesterday, when everyone had explored the new floor, Byakuya and Touko had been nowhere to be seen. Mondo, grumbling for the length of the day, had made it clear that he wanted to see him for, he said, a ‘man-to-man talk’. Yet night had come, sleep had followed, and Byakuya had maintained his distance.

It was only this morning, two days after the trial that had revealed his utterly callous nature, that he finally showed his face, wandering in as if all was well. He held his head high as usual.

“Mondo! Language!” Kiyotaka snapped.

“I’m here for breakfast, not a confrontation,” Byakuya replied to the biker without expression, making his way toward a seat. “Take your grievances elsewhere. Preferably as far away from me as possible.”

The eyes of the room, fully packed with the remaining eleven students, watched the scene as it began to unfold.

“Guys, come on,” said Asahina, “don’t do this.”

“Y’know, you really have some fuckin’ nerve to show your face here, jackass,” said Mondo.

Byakuya, one leg crossed over the other, didn’t even look at him.

Mondo responded by rising from his seat. Eyes fixed on the Ultimate Affluent Progeny, he began to made strides toward him, long coat swaying behind him with every step.

Uh-oh.

“Creepy little bastards who play with corpses for fun aren’t the kind of people we want around here, you got that?”

Now it was Touko’s turn to rise from her chair, pointing an accusing finger at the taller figure in front of her. “L-Leave M-Master alone!

“Oh,” said Byakuya, finally turning his attention to the biker, “were you saying something? I didn’t hear you. I don’t often pay attention to the shrieks of creatures as utterly microscopic as you.”

“You arrogant little jackass,” said Mondo, breathing so hard that his shoulders rose and fell with visible anger. “You fuck with the bodies of two of our friends for your own satisfaction, and you still think you have the right to speak? You still think you have the right to even breathe while they’re dead?”

Byakuya’s eyes narrowed.

“Is that a threat?”

Mondo slammed his fist into the table aside him. “YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT IT’S A FUCKIN’ THREAT!”

“Enough,” said Sakura suddenly. “Both of you. Stop it!”

Neither seemed to hear her.

“If you plan on killing me, then I invite you to try,” said Byakuya. “In fact, I welcome it. Though I strongly doubt that you possess the basic cognitive functions required to do it in the first place. Feel free to make a fool of yourself, brute.”

Mondo punched the table again.

“Shut your mouth before I shut it for you!”

Within seconds, a white-suited figure was rushing to fill the space between them, pushing Mondo away from the trust-fund maniac still seated smugly on his chair. “Mondo, stop! Violence isn’t the answer!”

Mondo’s anger quickly turned from Byakuya to the prefect.

“Get the fuck offa’ me,” he grunted, pushing the slimmer figure away. “Don’t try and stand in the way of justice, you goody-goody little bitch. This bastard crossed a line, and he has to pay for it. Try and stop me, and you’re just as bad as he is!”

Makoto looked around the room.

He was the only guy who wasn’t involved in this now, he realised. He stayed seated next to Sayaka, watching on quietly, hoping that it wouldn’t escalate further.

Yet Kiyotaka’s expression of outrage quickly shattered that hope.

“Don’t you dare say that! I’m nothing like him,” said Kiyotaka, “or Touko! I uphold the rules and the morals of this school, but those morals apply to you, too! Stop it or I’ll have to take action against you!”

Oh, boy.

“Action against me?” Mondo looked like he was about to burst into laughter. “What fuckin’ action? If you haven’t noticed yet, school’s out. We don’t have classes or detentions. We have murder and class trials and killer fuckin’ teddy bears, and we’re all stuck with it! Be a man, wake the hell up already and get off my goddamned back!”

“I’m more of a man than you could ever be! Real men don’t punch tables like animals and threaten to kill others! You’re nothing more than a coward!”

“A coward? A coward?! You’re really think you’re more of a man than me, huh tough guy?” Mondo leaned in to the prefect’s face, pupils like pinpricks, teeth bared. “Then why don’t you fuckin’ prove it?”

This definitely wasn’t going to end well. If it wasn’t already obvious, now it was inevitable.

“I don’t need to prove what’s already obvious!”

“Damn right you do! There’s a sauna across the way. If you really think you’re so tough – if you really think you’re in the right to defend pieces of shit like Richie Rich and his creepy little groupie here – then let’s prove it! Me and you, man versus man, tonight at the sauna, heat on full blast!”

Kiyotaka’s expression turned from frustration to one of surprise.

“You… propose an endurance contest?” He barely took the time to breathe before roaring out his answer. “Challenge accepted! We’ll settle this tonight and you’ll see how wrong you are!”

Mondo began to back away from Byakuya and Touko, seeming to have completely forgotten about them, his gaze now exclusively reserved for Kiyotaka. “Fuckin’ bring it on!”

“Prepare to lose!”

The pair of them continued their shouting match in front of their stunned classmates, exchanging fighting talk and personal jabs. As quickly as they had begun to argue, they both made their way out of the cafeteria, heading their separate ways in order to “train for victory,” as Kiyotaka had put it.

Makoto had been able to crack quite a few mysteries during the class trials so far. Yet the mystery of how an argument between Mondo and Byakuya had somehow turned into a sauna showdown between Kiyotaka and Mondo would be one he knew he would never get to the bottom of.

The cafeteria was quiet.

Disbelief reigned strong.

This was going to be interesting.

 


 

 

Knock knock knock.

Huh?

Someone was at Makoto’s door. He had only just woken up, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes, exhausted after the battle last night. Somehow, he had found himself roped in to be the ‘witness’ of the sauna showdown, only to end up feeling too tired as the minutes turned into hours and he retired to bed. Mondo and Kiyotaka had still been in the oven-like room the last he had seen them, still holding out, neither accepting defeat.

He hoped they had survived it.

Makoto wondered who the victor had been, too, certain he would be finding out in the next few minutes in the cafeteria. It was painful to admit, but he was just a little excited (aside his grave concern) to hear of the outcome.

None of that mattered now, though. His focus was on the door as he opened it, quickly being greeted by the typically serious face of Kyoko Kirigiri.

“Oh, Kyoko,” he said. “Can I… help you?”

“Bathhouse. Now.”

“Huh?”

“Bathhouse,” she repeated, voice a low whisper, “now. Act casual. Don’t draw attention to yourself.”

She gestured to a nearby camera with her eyes, bringing Makoto’s attention to it. Her message, suddenly, was clear. Monokuma was watching.

Still, the request worried him. Why the bathhouse? That connected to the sauna, didn’t it? Oh no.

Oh, no.

He prayed that something hadn’t happened as he quickly dashed back inside, throwing on his shoes, before making his way down the hallway behind Kyoko.

Had one of them been unable to withstand the heat, he wondered? Had their pride taken them to the point of no return, ultimately bringing about their end?

No.

No, surely not. They would be fine, right?

 

Right?

The taste of anxiety fresh and uncomfortable on his tongue, Makoto made his way into the little room. The same room where Junko’s body had been found last week. The room where Hifumi had killed her.

He shook his head.

It wasn’t worth thinking about.

To his surprise, the room was busy with his fellow classmates. Everyone was present. Everyone was alive.

He breathed a sigh of relief.

There, in the corner, were Kiyotaka and Mondo. To his surprise, their arms were around each other’s shoulders, their faces bearing the widest grins he had ever seen. Kiyotaka caught sight of the Ultimate Lucky Student – the last of the lot to arrive – and beamed.

“Makoto! Welcome!”

He wasn’t accusing him of being late. That was unusual. Yet still not as unusual as the suddenly overly-happy dynamic that had suddenly blossomed between the pair who, this time yesterday, had been engaging in rage-stoked fighting talk.

“Taka,” said Asahina, “keep it down! We don’t want Monokuma to appear!”

“Hey, don’t listen to her bro,” said Mondo, patting the prefect on the back, “I think your volume was perfect.”

“Thanks bro!”

“Quiet, the pair of you,” said Byakuya, arms folded as usual. He, with the others, stood gathered around a sight that Makoto could barely make out past their respective figures. They encircled the lockers at the side of the room, one of which appeared to be open.

Sayaka was quick to hurry over to him, taking his arm and pulling him closer.

“What’s gotten into those two?”

“No-one knows,” Sayaka replied, whispering. “They’ve been like this all morning. They won’t tell us who won the sauna battle last night, either. They keep saying it doesn’t matter. They’ve been permanently cheerful and they keep calling each other ‘Bro’. They’ve gone from enemies to best friends overnight… it’s weird.”

Just when Makoto thought Hope’s Peak Academy and its residents couldn’t confuse him any further, there he was; finding himself utter speechless.

Maybe it was best not to question it.

“C-can we just get down to business already?” Fukawa fidgeted impatiently, eyes darting from the locker to the approaching Makoto. “I j-just want to get this over with and have breakfast already.”

As Makoto came closer to the lockers, he expressed disbelief.

There was a laptop in there, currently under the control of Chihiro, whose dainty hands typed away at its keys. She typed in command after command, executable after executable, clearly busy on her task.

“That’s a laptop,” said Makoto. “Where did that come from? Does it work? Can we contact the outside world?!”

“I found it,” said Chihiro, stopping her work for just a moment to look back at him. She seemed a tad more confident right now than she usually did. Maybe it was because of just how strongly in her element she was; carrying out the very task that her Ultimate was named after. “It was in the library when we first arrived on the second floor a few days ago. I was the first one in there, and I… well, I hid it. I thought maybe Monokuma had left it there by mistake, so I grabbed it before anyone could make a scene and bring it to his attention, and I stashed it in my locker.”

“Which I still don’t agree with,” said Byakuya. No one bothered responding to him.

“Won’t the cameras pick this up?” Makoto looked around, only to realise the error of what he had just said.

“There aren’t any,” said Kyoko. “The steam fogs up the lens – it would be pointless to have it in here. The simple truth is that this room might be the only dark spot in the entire building. It’s the only place we have that’s outside of Monokuma’s surveillance network.”

“What’s to stop him from just walking in?"

“Nothing,” she replied. “That’s why we’re keeping as quiet as possible.”

Another few seconds of typing and tapping passed until, suddenly, Chihiro backed away from her locker with a smile on her face. The laptop screen lit up a solid green.


“I’ve been working on this in secret since the day I found the laptop,” she said, sounding proud of herself for once.

Suddenly, a face emerged onto the green. A face that looked… exactly like Chihiro’s own. It blinked, looking around, almost as if it was a real person. A chorus of gasps and “oohs” and “ahhs” filled the room.

“Everyone,” said Chihiro, “meet Alter-Ego!”

The face on the screen blinked again.

Chihiro turned to the keyboard, typing in what she said aloud. “Hello, Alter-Ego.

The face smiled. “Hello, Master!

“Wait, wait, wait,” said Mondo, “it’s callin’ you Master? Why not Mistress?

Chihiro tensed up at that.

“O-Oh! Well, um… I… it’s just a bug, that’s all. I’ve been meaning to patch it out, but I haven’t had the time. J-Just ignore that!”

“What exactly is it?” Kiyotaka leaned in close for a particularly detailed view, Mondo’s arm still firmly around his shoulder.

“It’s an artificial intelligence,” Chihiro replied.

“Wait, you can make intelligence that’s artificial?!” The prefect’s shock was so immense that Makoto wouldn’t have been surprised if he had fainted.

“Y-yes, you can,” Chihiro chuckled softly, turning back to the device. “Alter-Ego is designed to be able to think like and act like you and me, but with the added bonus of having the mind and the capabilities of a computer. The laptop had no data on it at all when I got it – it was completely reduced to the factory settings, and it doesn’t seem capable of connecting to the internet, either. But with Alter-Ego, we don’t need any of that.”

“What do you mean?” Mondo seemed just as curious as his prefect compatriot did.

“Alter-Ego can do quite a lot. She can speak to you. Answer questions. Solve puzzles… and also hack networks. If we hook this laptop up to the school network – and we do it without Monokuma noticing – then we might be able to get some information from it. We might be able to find out what’s really going on here. We could find the identity of the Mastermind – maybe even a way out!”

Was that really true?

Was it really possible that Chihiro was onto something here? Sure, she was the Ultimate Programmer, so Makoto hardly doubted her skills, but… it all seemed too perfect. Too easy. Was there seriously a chance that this ‘Alter-Ego’ thing could help them?

He hoped so.

Whether it was true or not.

“We could use Alter-Ego to try and contact the outside world,” Chihiro continued, “and ask for help to co-ordinate an escape!”

“Wait,” said Kiyotaka, “isn’t that against the rules? Rule #1 says ‘Leaving campus is a punishable offence.’ If we try and escape, and Monokuma catches us...”

“It’s a risk we’ll have to take,” said Kyoko. “We don’t have any other choice. If we stick to Monokuma’s rules, we’re only trapping ourselves further in his game. This might be our best shot to get out of here. We just have to be careful.”

Chihiro turned back to Alter-Ego.

Alter-Ego,” she typed, “can you help us escape?

I’ll try my hardest, Master! I’ll do whatever it takes,” the AI replied. “I promise, I won’t let any of you down!

Makoto struggled to wrap his head around the idea of the technology. Maybe it was best not to question it.

“Finally,” said Sayaka gleefully, “something to feel hopeful about!”

She wasn’t wrong. Makoto could feel it, too. Like the first dandelions in spring, signally the end of the long, cold winter, hope was starting to blossom in his heart again. There was a chance of their escape. It ran with a risk, yes, but what didn’t in this school? It was this or nothing.

They were going to get out of here, and they were going to do it together!

I promise,” said Alter-Ego, “I’ll get you all out of here if it’s the last thing I do!

Expressions of delight were shared across the room. Sighs of still-tense relief.

Makoto watched as Mondo pulled Kiyotaka closer.

“The mastermind’s days are numbered,” said the prefect with overflowing enthusiasm, receiving enthusiastic nods of agreement and muted cheers of celebration from his classmates in return.

Kiyotaka, bright red eyes fixated on the laptop, smiled brightly.

Chapter Text

 

It was almost hard to believe that it had been a week since the last Class Trial. Makoto made his way to the bathhouse, stomach satisfying full of toast from breakfast, just as he had done for the past few days. Ever since Chihiro revealed her ‘Alter-Ego’ creation, the traffic in and out of the bathhouse had drastically increased, with many asking the AI questions or simply popping up to see how the hacking progress was going.

The fact that Monokuma hadn’t noticed something was going on yet was as amazing as it was alarming.

That, and the fact that Mukuro’s words still hung over the class like a dark cloud. There was a mastermind, she had said – someone controlling the game and responsible for Monokuma. The mastermind, she told them, was among them. One of them. The mastermind was a fellow student.

Every student in the class was now well aware of Alter-Ego’s existence. If Mukuro’s words were true – and surely they weren’t – then that meant the mastermind was aware of the laptop. The mastermind was aware of Chihiro and Alter-Ego’s attempts to thwart their plans.

That would be a disaster.

There was even a chance that Chihiro herself was the mastermind, but… no. That was crazy talk.

Makoto had mentioned it all to Kyoko a couple of days ago.

She had already considered every option, she said.

She said nothing more about it.

For now, all Makoto could do was hope and pray that Mukuro’s calculation was wrong. There was every chance that it was, of course. The mastermind? One of them? Impossible!

Right?

“Oh, Makoto!”

“Hello, Chihiro,” the Ultimate Lucky Student replied as he entered the bathhouse.

A few others were assembled in the room. In the corner stood Kiyotaka and Mondo, practically joined at the hip, just as they had been ever since that night in the sauna. They chatted quietly to each other, the happiest grins on their faces, their words inaudible save for the occasional ‘bro’. Celeste, completely silent, was also present and watched Chihiro eagerly. The Ultimate Gambler had been caught last night asking Alter-Ego if the laptop had Solitaire installed. Indeed, it did. Alas, she hadn’t been given permission to play it.

There she stood, still watching, almost as if waiting for her moment to strike and load up the program. She was the Ultimate Gambler, yes, but right now, Makoto thought, she was acting more like the Ultimate Gambling Addict.

“Making progress?”

With a sigh, Chihiro turned to look at Makoto directly. “S-Sadly not,” she said sadly. “Alter-Ego’s trying his best, but he’s having trouble breaking through the school network’s firewalls. They’re some of the strongest I’ve ever seen. It’ll take a while to crack it, I think… only a genius could build something this hard to break.”

No!

Makoto, Chihiro and Celeste turned to the back of the room to the source of the sudden outburst, finding it belonged to none other than Kiyotaka.

The prefect cleared his throat. “I mean. No. The Mastermind isn’t a genius. He’s evil, and… and it’s as simple as that! Don’t compliment him like that.”

“Yeah, my Bro’s right,” said Mondo. “Don’t flatter a piece of shit like that! But… who’s to say that the Mastermind is a ‘he’, Bro? There’s every chance it could be a chick, right?”

Kiyotaka gasped. “Oh! You’re right, Bro! I never thought of that! The Mastermind could be a girl, after all!”

“Look at us go,” said Mondo with a chuckle. “We don’t need no fancy computer programs. We’ll get to the bottom of this mess with just our wits alone.”

“Of course we will! True Bros can do anything they set their minds to!”

“Damn straight they can!”

The pair laughed together, apparently missing the genuine seriousness of the situation at hand. It was interesting to see how much the pair of them had relaxed ever since that night in the sauna. Where Mondo had been aggressively confrontational, he was now much more affectionate. Where Kiyotaka had been obsessively punctual, he now seemed to be learning how to actually have fun.

How could one night in an over-heated room bring about such massive changes so quickly?

Makoto realised he would never understand.

As Mondo and Kiyotaka continued their back-and-forth, Makoto paid attention to Chihiro and Alter-Ego again, spending a while talking about all the technical details of the task at hand (none of which he really understood).

Upon leaving the bathhouse in a bid to try and find Sayaka, Makoto took note of the pair of bros, who were leaving at the same as him. Kiyotaka quickly made his apologies, saying he had to use the bathroom and insisting that he go alone, before leaving without his (already lonely) biker bro.

Aha!

This gave Makoto the perfect opportunity to ask what was on his mind.

“Mondo.”

“Huh? Oh. Hey, Makoto,” he replied, seeming to snap out of some sort of self-induced trance.

“I’ve gotta know – who won in the endurance contest? It’s been bugging me all week.”

The biker glanced down at him like he was some sort of alien, and as if he had just asked the question in a completely different language.

“The contest? Shit. Man, I don’t even remember now. Does it even matter? We both proved our worth, and that’s all I care about.”

Damn it. He had been hoping for a definitive answer.

“Ah, I see,” said Makoto. “I was just curious. You and Taka have gotten pretty close, huh?”

Mondo chuckled at that, gingerly rubbing the back of his neck. “Oh. Uh. Yeah. Yeah, he’s great, ain’t he? A bit uptight at times, sure, but his heart’s in the right place. Feels like I’ve known him for years.”

“It’s funny how quickly you’ve both changed,” said Makoto. “You’ve gone from almost fighting each other to becoming best friends overnight!”

“We ain’t best friends,” said Mondo, rolling his eyes. “We’re more than that. We have a friendship that only true men could ever understand. We’re not friends or buddies – we’re bros. He… he means a lot to me. I can’t believe we ever fought in the first place. He’s a great guy. He really is.”

Makoto wasn’t sure how to reply to that. Even for ‘bros’, that was quite the affectionate description to give a guy he had almost come to blows with less than a week earlier.

The biker stared off into space, apparently deep in thought, before he blinked, clearing his throat to break the silence that had descended onto them. “Uh. A-Anyway. I should get going. See you around, Makoto.”

With that said, Mondo made his way down the hallway, turned the corner, and vanished from Makoto’s view.

Well.

That was interesting.

 


 

If there was one thing that Makoto was quickly coming to learn about Hope’s Peak Academy, it was that whenever Monokuma summoned the class to the gymnasium, things weren’t bound to end well. Such was the current situation; each member of the class standing spread-out in the polished hall, waiting on their so-called headmaster to make an appearance.

It wasn’t long until he bounced up from behind the podium, perching himself on top of it as he surveyed his students.

“Good morning, everybody! I hope you’re all well-rested and wide awake, because I’ve got breaking news for you! Real headline-grabbing stuff!”

Makoto and Sayaka exchanged glances.

The glee in Monokuma’s voice didn’t bode well for them.

“It’s been so long since someone died,” the bear whined. “The first killing was fantastic – ol’ Hifumi wasted no time in killing his victim to secure his escape! The first day wasn’t even over yet and he’d already strangled someone!”

That was a gross oversimplification, Makoto thought, telling himself that it wasn’t worth getting angry over. Anger and bitterness and despair were all what Monokuma wanted, anyway. He wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of reacting.

“The second murder happened pretty soon after the first, too, and even had two victims! Genius! True, artistic mastery of the murdering craft.” Monokuma sounded borderline nostalgic talking about the events he described, in spite of them being fresh enough in the minds of the class that they still hurt to think about. “It was all going well… until now. We’ve had a depressing slowdown. Everyone’s alive and well and I’m getting bored! You folks just don’t wanna kill each other anymore, huh?”

“Of course we don’t!” Asahina exclaimed. “We just want to go home!”

“If you want to go home,” said Monokuma, “then you know what to do! Kill a fellow student and graduate. Otherwise, buckle up and accept your new life of communal living, sister. The choice is yours!”

“I-I’ll never do that!”

“Your (wrong) choice, then!” The bear chuckled. “Aaaanywho, I should get straight to the point. It’s been so long since someone dropped that I’m getting bored. I need some action! Drama! Passion and horror and plot twists aplenty! Which is why… I’m giving you a motive!”

Celeste blinked. “A motive?”

“Yeah, Morticia Addams, a motive! You ain’t killin’ each other anymore, so I thought it’d be best to give you a little nudge in the right direction. I’ve spent so long choosing juuuust the right one, but I think I’ve got it at last!”

Byakuya grunted to himself. “Well? Out with it. We don’t have all day.”

“What?!” Kiyotaka was quick to raise his voice. “D-Don’t encourage him!”

Monokuma sighed, paws forming a heart-shape over his chest, only for them to split apart. The perfect way of expressing his heartbreak at being rushed by Byakuya and rejected by Kiyotaka.

It was hard to feel pity for him.

“You know, I almost don’t wanna reveal it now that you’ve treated me like this…” The little bear sighed again, shaking his head. “Still, I’ve got a job to do, so here goes nothing I guess...”

He made it sound so casual. Like he was about to announce something harmless and simple. Almost as if announcing it wasn’t worth his time. Yet he was about to announce something that he believed would convince the class to all to start killing each other. Makoto refused to believe it. After the hell the last trial had put them all through, there was no way the killing would start again.

They were all too scarred to even consider another killing!

...Right?

“From tonight until the day someone dies,” the headmaster declared, “you’ll all be getting nightmares!”

“What?”

“Huh?”

“Wait,” said Touko, joining her peers in their chorus of confusion, “t-that’s not p-possible, you idiot! You can’t… you can’t control our dreams!”

 

Touko (and Byakuya alongside her) may not have been the most popular person in the room ever since the last trial, but for once the rest of the class seemed to agree with her. Their shock quickly turned to confusion, which then swiftly turned to doubt.

“Oh, I can,” Monokuma replied with that permanent smile. “I can promise you that! These won’t just be normal nightmares, either. We’re talkin’ real horror movie stuff right here! The type that leave you shaking for days after. Only they’ll happen every night. Night after night after night after night, until one of you finally snaps and kills someone!”

“How?!”

“No! That’s impossible!”

“E-Even if it were possible,” said Kiyotaka, “it would just be the power of suggestion! A placebo effect! So long as we refuse to believe it, he can't do anything to our dreams!”

Monokuma snickered at that, positively delighted at the onslaught of refusal he was currently receiving. “Keep telling yourself that, buster, but you’re wrong! In this school, I am the headmaster. I see everything. I control everything. So long as you’re here, not even your dreams are safe from despair.”

The bear’s words had their usual malevolent delight woven throughout each and every syllable, but there was something else to them. Something terrible. Something filled with malice. Something that made Makoto feel dizzy just listening to it. Monokuma controlled everything. Even their dreams.

How was that possible?

“Anyway,” said the bear, “I’m already bored of this. Believe me, or don’t. It doesn’t matter. Either way, you’re all about to have the worst night’s sleep of your life. Even worse than the nights Makoto used to have when he wet the bed!”

Makoto couldn’t control the gasp that burst from his mouth. How did he know? How did Monokuma know something like that?!

“H-Hey! I never wet the bed! Never! Not even once! Of course I didn’t, I-”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said the headmaster, batting the air with the back of his paw nonchalantly, “we get it. You’re gonna deny it till you turn blue. Doesn’t change the truth!”

Makoto could feel the eyes of the room burning into him. Or maybe the source of the heat was the redness of embarrassment currently coating his face.

Damn it.

Damn it!

Damn this school!

Damn that horrible, terrible demon of a bear!

“That’ll be all, kiddos! Don’t forget to enjoy the rest of your day, ‘cause you definitely won’t enjoy what awaits you in your dreams tonight!” Monokuma laughed aloud to himself. The class watched on. Silent. Helpless. Already terrified. “Goodnight! Sleep tight! Don’t let the bed-bears bite!”

With that, Monokuma vanished into thin air, just as quickly as he had appeared.

The gym was plunged into silence.

Makoto was as anxious as he was humiliated.

Something told him that tonight wasn't going to be fun.

 


 

Makoto had been lying wide awake in bed for quite some time now.

The thought of earlier, when his secret was exposed to the class – to Sayaka – was enough to make his stomach churn. Monokuma had done it so casually. So randomly. He hadn’t shown a single flicker of hesitation or mercy. Then again, when did he?

All of that paled in comparison, thought the Ultimate Lucky Student as he put his head on his pillow, compared to the threat of the motive that their headmaster had given them. He struggled to believe it. Maybe Kiyotaka was right. It was all just the power of suggestion. It had to be. It simply wasn’t possible to control dreams.

Not possible…

Not possible…

Not possible…

They were the last two words in Makoto’s mind before, finally giving in, he drifted off into slumber.

 


 

 

The transition from reality to dream was near-seamless. One moment he had been lying in bed, struggling to fall over, and now he was standing alone in the darkness. Nothing existed around him, no matter where he turned his head…

...apart from the light switch placed right beside him.

His dreaming hand flipped it, turning it on, bringing light flooding into the room. He re-examined his surroundings again, now visible, realising instantly that he recognised them.

He was home.

In his living room, to be exact.

It looked exactly like he had left it. Warm and welcoming. Cosy and comfortable. His spirits were raised, a smile coming to his face. He had done it. He had escaped Hope’s Peak Academy, and now here he was, right back where he belonged.

Makoto?

The voice behind him was just as familiar as the room. As he turned his head to see its source, his smile grew wider.

“Komaru!”

His sister. Smiling. She looked as healthy as she did happy. What a relief. What a fantastic, wonderful relief!

“It’s been so long, Makoto,” she cried, running to him and embracing him in a hug. “I’m so glad you’re safe! We were all worried sick. We thought you would never get out of that horrible, horrible place.”

“Me neither,” he confessed, holding her tight, the warmth of blissful reassurance washing over him. He was safe here. He was with family. He was home. “I don’t know how I got out in one piece.”

That was a good question, actually.

How did he get out of Hope’s Peak?

“I know it must have been tough,” said Komaru, “but you did what was right. No-one ever has to know what you did. Killing someone couldn’t have been easy – but you didn’t have a choice!”

Killing someone?

Makoto backed away from the hug.

“What do you mean ‘killing someone’?”

Komaru seemed confused. She cocked her head, eyes narrowing. “You… don’t remember?”

Makoto shook his head.

Komaru’s puzzled, slightly concerned expression suddenly developed into one of amusement. A light, happy giggle escaped her. “Makoto, how could you forget? You killed someone and got away with it! You’re the winner of the game! You embraced despair and now you’re home! Isn’t it fantastic?”

No.

No, that wasn’t right, was it? Did he really do that? Did he really kill someone? Why couldn’t he remember? Surely he would remember something as awful as that!

“I would never embrace despair,” he replied quickly – the only fact that he knew. Despair was Monokuma’s thing. It would never, ever be his.

Komaru looked confused again.

“No. No, you did. You had to, Makoto, it was the only way!”

“There’s another way, Komaru. There’s always another way. I… I could never kill someone!”

“It sounds like you’ve forgotten how good it feels.”

“How good what feels?”

“Despair, Makoto. How good it feels to relish in the sweetness and the agony of despair.”

Komaru took a step toward him.

Makoto backed away.

He suddenly didn’t feel safe anymore, and it seemed she could sense it. Her smile grew wider – wider than was biologically possible – growing and growing until it took up most of her face, her jagged teeth on show. Almost like a certain teddy bear.

“Embrace despair, Makoto.”

Makoto backed away from her again.

“Get away from me, Komaru.”

“Embrace it, brother.”

“I said get away!”

“Embrace it.”

The lights in the room began to flicker and fade until, all at once, they burst into darkness once again. Makoto was stranded in the same void he had first appeared in, and the only thing that still existed was Komaru. She kept coming closer, stalking him step-by-step like a predator.

Makoto kept walking backwards, heart starting to race, panic setting in.

Komaru giggled once more, just as she brought her hand to her grinning face.

“Despair is wonderful, Makoto.” she said, before digging into her flesh with her fingernails. She tore off a chunk of her flesh, removing it as swiftly as a band-aid, before placing it in her mouth. She chewed on it, swallowing it down like it was candy, just as her freshly-made wound started to bleed. “Despair tastes delicious, too.”

Makoto couldn’t retreat any further. His back was pushed up against an invisible wall, all the while his bleeding, self-cannibalising sister came closer and closer and closer.

“S-Stay back! Stay back!”

“You should taste some too.”

“I’m warning you, Komaru!”

She reached for her shoulder, tearing off another strip of flesh, finally closing in on him. Her bloody hand brought it up to his mouth, which he instinctively closed.

“Try it.”

He refused.

“Try it!”

He wouldn’t.

He suddenly realised that Komaru smelled awful. Almost like burning garbage. Almost like the scent that had clung to Yashuhiro and Leon when everyone had found them. The smell of rotting flesh.

She brought her face to his, eyes bulging out of her head, features borderline skeletal. She parted her smile, jagged and pointed teeth proudly on display.

TASTE THE DESPAIR, MAKOTO.

Without warning, Komaru sunk her teeth into her brother’s face.

She quickly began her feast.

 


 

 

Makoto finally snapped awake, hands clutching his bedsheets, eyes wide, forehead and neck coated in sweat.


He was screaming at the top of his lungs.

 

Chapter Text

It was only after a class trial that one could expect the hallways of the school to be so quiet. Yet a class trial hadn’t been held in over a week. The cafeteria, usually abuzz with conversation (or, whenever Byakuya or Touko showed their faces, arguments), was eerily silent. Breakfast was skipped by mostly every member of the class. Instead, they sat on their chairs, staring at the surface of the table, barely saying a word to each other spare the occasional whisper.

Despite having Sayaka sitting aside him, she and Makoto had barely spoke in the last two days. Two nights ago, the nightmares had begun. Every night, they had come, each as twisted as the last, sparing absolutely no-one.

Even Kyoko, arms folded over her chest, looked disturbed.

Dark circles were visible around the eyes of everyone in the room. Sleepless nights had become common. Yawns had grown more typical, as quiet as they were.

Makoto’s attention turned to a pair sitting at the end of the table together. Side-by-side, shoulders perfectly square, they both huddled closely together, black coat and white uniform huddling together for security. Kiyotaka and Mondo looked just as horrified as each other, skin a ghostly pale. Since the nightmares began, they were together every minute of the day. The joy and enthusiasm had been sucked out of them by the terrors of their dreams, but it had only brought them closer.

Occasionally, Kiyotaka would whisper something to the biker, tears in his eyes, and Mondo would respond with a pat on his back, pulling him in closer. It seemed that their support for each other was the only thing holding their sanity together.

The situation was bad.

Awful.

It verged on unbearable.

Yet as bad as everything was, no-one had died yet. No-one had caved in to the pressure and snapped. Everyone was still alive. And that was good!

...Right?

If someone died, the nightmares would stop. The onslaught of horrors at night would finally cease. They would all finally be able to sleep again. Yet a good night’s sleep was not worth another death and another high-stakes class trial. Even if it meant they never slept again, thought Makoto, they had to resist Monokuma’s plans.

Murder was what he wanted.

It was their job to deny him of it.

“I’m… I’m so tired,” Chihiro muttered to herself, breaking the silence in the room. “I just want to sleep.”

“Don’t sleep,” said Sakura. “Stay awake.”

“Sleeping would be like drinking salt water when you’re dehydrated,” Asahina added. “It’s tempting, but it’ll only make it worse. It’s a vicious cycle.”

All of their voices lacked their usual spark and enthusiasm. They sounded lacklustre. Drained. Utterly exhausted. Exactly how Makoto felt.

Standing up from her seat, Chihiro made her way out of the room. “I need a bath,” she said quietly, hands clasped in front of her as she walked.

Makoto knew what that meant.

She was going to check up on her pet project.

The phrase she uttered had practically become a secret code of sorts at this point – a way of avoiding the scrutiny of the cameras and Monokuma’s ever-watching eye.

It wasn’t long before Asahina and Sakura got up and left too, most likely heading to the same location. Celeste followed close behind the pair. Kyoko went shortly after her until, one by one, the inhabitants of the dining hall made their way to the bathhouse.

Makoto had once read that staring at screens kept you awake for longer. As he made his way into the bathhouse, he hoped that same rule applied to looking at Alter-Ego. In spite of how heavy his eyes were, he had no intentions on sleeping any time soon.

Chihiro wasted no time in booting up Alter-Ego, not hesitating in typing into the keyboard while the others watched on, reading her words aloud as she typed.

Hello, Alter-Ego.

Hello, Master!

Have you made any progress on the network’s firewalls?”

I haven’t made much – it’s really, really difficult to crack. It’s almost too advanced for me to be able to solve, but I think I might just be able to do it. It’s taking a while, I know. I’m sorry! It’s only a matter of time until we break through it!

Makoto had been hoping for something a little more hopeful than that. While Alter-Ego had said it with as much enthusiasm and optimism as possible, it had been a week since the first attempts to breach the firewall had been initiated. With so little progress made, was it really possible that it would ever be broken?

No. That was just the exhaustion talking. Alter-Ego was right. They would break it eventually. It was only a matter of time.

Time that they didn’t have.

Did you find anything else?”

Actually,” Alter-Ego replied, “I have! Master, you told me yesterday that Monokuma has given you all nightmares. I did some digging around in the little pockets of data I’ve been able to access, and I found something that I think could be important!”

What did you find?”

I found out how Monokuma has been giving you all nightmares. When everyone is asleep, a substance called Akumu gas is being pumped into your rooms. It’s impossible to see or smell, but it can alter cognitive functions. It messes with the part of the brain responsible for dreaming, which in turn gives you all nightmares!”

Mondo shook his head at the computer’s response.

“Wait, wait, wait,” he said, “that doesn’t make sense. There isn’t any way to get it into the room. I didn’t see no vents anywhere.”

He was right. Makoto had already searched his room extensively and hadn’t noticed anything like that. There wasn’t even a gap under the door to pump gas through, either.

How is the gas dispersed?” Chihiro typed again, continuing to read her questions aloud to the rest of the room.

From the data, it seems that the gas is dispersed from the screens in your rooms. The little televisions fixed onto the wall, I mean. The speakers function as emitters for the gas. Monokuma simply pushes a button, and the gas sprays out of the TV while you’re asleep.

Despite their collective exhaustion, the class still had enough energy left to voice their shock. Makoto joined them in their surprise.

The same TV that Monokuma appeared on every morning, telling them to ‘rise and shine’… it was also a method for driving them to madness, too? Where did Monokuma and the puppetmaster controlling him get their ideas?

Better yet, he wondered – how did they go about stopping them?

If you cover up the speakers with something,” Alter-Ego continued, “you might be able to stop the gas from being dispersed. At the very least, it’ll minimise the amount that comes out, which should help reduce the intensity of your nightmares!

In truth, Makoto just wanted his nightmares to completely stop, but a reduction was better than a continuation of them in their current form. He needed a reprieve from it all. Anything that could help, he would do it.

“If we stop the gas,” said Kyoko, “it would render Monokuma’s motive useless.”

“Meaning no-one has to die,” Sakura added.

“Exactly.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Mondo, arm around Kiyotaka (and practically dragging him with him), made his way for the doors. “Let’s go get ‘em covered!”

I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help,” Alter-Ego sighed, “but I hope that information can be of some use!

Thank you Alter-Ego. You’re doing great,” Chihiro typed. “You might have just saved us.

 


 

 

Okay, so it wasn’t perfect, but who cared? Makoto, standing alone in his room, was too tired to be a perfectionist right now.

Having grabbed some of the spare outfits from his wardrobe, he had taken a couple of his hoodies and shoved them over his TV. It wasn’t ideal, and there was every chance that small traces of gas could still seep through the fabric, but there were no other options right now. Less gas was better than more gas. For the time being, it would have to do.

He turned his attention to the camera hanging from the ceiling. It was watching him. He looked straight back at it. Monokuma would definitely have seen his method of gas prevention. In fact, he was just waiting for him to pop up any second now, scolding him and demanding that he uncover the speakers. If it interfered with the motive, something told him Monokuma wouldn’t be happy about it.

Yet there was no sign of the teddy bear at all.
That was strange.

Makoto waited for another few minutes.

Yet still, the headmaster didn’t come.

Maybe he hadn’t seen it yet. Somehow. As little sense as that made.

Maybe he would see it later and freak out, and try and punish him for it.

Either way, later was later and now was now. He would cross that bridge when he came to it.

Makoto yawned.

It wasn’t night-time. In fact, it was far from it. Less than an hour ago, everyone had been in the cafeteria for breakfast. Each and every one of them, from Byakuya to Chihiro to Kyoko appeared exhausted. Makoto was no exception.

There weren’t exactly any classes today. Or tomorrow. Or the day after that. Classes didn’t exist in Hope’s Peak Academy (and he had to wonder how much a certain hall monitor must have resented that fact). His schedule, therefore, was free.

He yawned again.

Screw it.

It was time for a nap.

Knock-knock-knock.

Makoto grumbled.

Knock-knock-knock.

“No, Mom… I don’t wanna wake up yet...”

Knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock.

Bitterly, Makoto pulled himself out of his slumber. Considering that he wasn’t screaming and sweating and crying and shaking right now, he was confident that his sleep had been nightmare-free.

Alter-Ego was right.

Without the gas, the nightmares were gone.

The motive had been rendered useless.

Take that, Monokuma!

Knock-knock-knock-knock.

Oh, right. The door. That’s what had woken him up in the first place.

Dragging himself toward his door as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, Makoto’s hand met the handle. He pulled it open, instantly hit with a barricade of sound the moment his guest came into view.

“M-Makoto! Please! Please help! It’s the art room, it’s… it’s terrible! It’s horrible! I don’t know what to do!”

Sayaka stood before him, tears cascading like waterfalls down her tired face, her hands fidgeting, shoulders stiff, feet and eyes permanently in a state of unrest.

“Sayaka? What’s wrong?”

“The art room! Please! Please, come with me! You have to hurry, Makoto! We need to do something otherwise… I… it… p-please, let’s just go!”

“Sayaka, breathe! Calm down! What’s going on?”

She replied with no more than gibberish and babbling, shaking her head with disbelief as she continued to insist that he come with her. Before he could offer her an answer, she was already seizing his hand, rushing off down the hallway with him being pulled alongside her.

Chihiro appeared ahead, leaving the bathhouse. She turned, apparently surprised to see them both. Especially considering the state that Sayaka had gotten herself into.

“Sayaka? Makoto? W-What’s wrong? Are you both okay?”

Sayaka wasted no time. “Chihiro! Please! You have to come with us! We’re heading to the art room – it’s an emergency. An emergency!

The appeal clearly took her by surprise, just as it had done with Makoto a few seconds ago. Just like him, she decided to tag along, following close behind the blue-haired pop idol.

“Sayaka, what’s going on? Y-You’re scaring me a little. M-Makoto looks worried, too. Please, talk to us!”

“The art room,” Sayaka repeated. “I just walked in and… oh, it’s horrible. It’s horrible! We need to hurry!”

The way she was talking, combined with her manic breathing and tiny pupils made it clear that she was having some sort of panic attack. What could have caused it?

Well. There was one thing that Makoto could think of.

Surely not, though.

It couldn’t be.

No. It wouldn’t be. Everything was fine! It was probably just much ado about nothing! He was just on-edge, that was all. Just like Sayaka was right now as she practically dragged the Lucky Student and the Programmer up the stairs behind her.

The trio continued their journey up to the third floor, which they eventually arrived. More attempts were made to get through to Sayaka, but none of them had proved to be successful. She was lost in her own world; utterly and unquestionably traumatised.

At long last, they made it to the third floor.

They made their way down the hall. They turned the corner. Makoto could see the sign for the Art Room up ahead. Why did those two words suddenly make him feel sick? Why was he being flooded with dread?

Why did he have such a bad feeling about this?

They came to the doors.

Sayaka – her hand shaking so much that she could barely take hold of the handle – managed to find the courage to open them.

Makoto looked to Chihiro.

Chihiro looked to Makoto.

Both of them stared forward as the door slid open and the interior of the Art Room came into view.

When Alter-Ego had earlier declared that the motive – Monokuma’s way of encouraging another murder – could effectively be diffused, the feeling of hope had been incredible. When Makoto had been able to wake up nightmare-free, thus proving the theory, he was delighted. He was convinced they had overcome Monokuma’s attempts to divide them once again. With a motive, no one else was going to die. Without a motive, they wouldn’t lose anyone else.

Oh, how wrong he had been.

The world grew darker. Makoto’s eyes scanned the gruesome scene in front of him. A series of banging, crashing, wailing sounds of despairing pollution, all of which existed only in his head, drowned his ears in madness.

It had happened again.

Makoto felt the urge to vomit. Sayaka continued to wail next to him. Chihiro looked ready to collapse.

Neon-pink blood was splattered all over the floor. It was more blood than Makoto had ever seen. A body lay on the floor amidst the miniature ocean.

Its head was missing.

Usually, Makoto thought, it might have been difficult to identify a decapitated corpse.

Only, he knew the body’s clothes too well to have any doubts.

He would have recognised the white uniform anywhere.

 

There, on the blood-soaked floor in front of him, was the body of Kiyotaka Ishimaru.