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The Limits of Redemption -- Anguish of an Ultimate Chef

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The first thing Teruteru Hanamura felt when he woke up, was the agonizing sensation of being burned alive. Because in his mind, he had just been dropped several hundred feet from a helicopter, into a volcano, after being battered from head to toe.

He was screaming, thrashing, and above all, wishing this didn’t have to happen to him. It hurt so much, why did this have to happen to him? All Teruteru wanted was to go home and see his mother again.

Was that something he really had to die for?

Then why does everything still hurt? It’s not supposed to hurt after death. Unless this is Hell, which would explain the burning. Oh god, don’t tell me I got sent to Hell for what I did…!

When Teruteru’s eyes snapped open, he was neither met with the glowing heat of the lava he was dropped into, nor the fiery landscape of Hell that he was afraid of. It was a dark cramped place with a greenish tint, completely enclosed by glass.

He tried to move his arms, only to find that they had numerous needles sticking out of them, and this action only made the pain worse. He felt the urge to scream, but his voice was barely a whisper. But staying still seemed to lessen the pain somewhat, which became more bearable with each passing minute.

Which was when it started coming back to him.

This… none of this was real. I thought I died… but it all happened inside a simulation. That’s right, the Future Foundation put all of us in a simulation. We all agreed to it. But… why…?

As he was being slowly released from all the needles, the memories began flooding in, one after another. At first, they were pleasant ones; his mother teaching him to cook, being accepted into Hope’s Peak Academy, meeting and spending time with all his classmates…

But as Teruteru was being released from his pod… he began to recall exactly why he was placed there in the first place.

Everything he had done under Junko, as a member of Ultimate Despair… Not only had he taken everything from everyone he came into contact with, but he took everything from himself as well.

Family…

He killed his own mother by burning her to death with cooking oil, despite how much it tortured him to do so. In a way, it made his own death in the simulation even more symbolic.

Sex…

He mutilated himself in the name of Junko Enoshima, ensuring that it would never be the same again. Never even mind the fact that his last act with it was fucking her flattened corpse.

And cooking.

After all the lives he tortured and killed with the tools that once brought warmth and comfort… he knew that he could never go back to it.

The Future Foundation had failed. They had put Teruteru into the simulation to try and rehabilitate him; reintroduce him to a world without despair. But he was still overcome by it. No, not the sick, twisted version of it that Junko had infected him and his friends with. But the kind that ate away at his soul. Reminding him that everything that once made him happy was gone.

Is there anything left…? Anything left for me in this world?

No.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. His friends… the people he spent time with both before the Tragedy and within the simulation.

Teruteru looked around the room he was in, surrounded by both occupied and unoccupied pods. He looked inside each of them, and by process of elimination, deduced who were still in comas, and who must have woken up just as he had.

Mahiru, Peko, Hiyoko, Ibuki, Mikan, Nekomaru, and Gundham… Are they still in the simulation? Or did they die in it, just like me?

On the other hand… Hajime, Sonia, Akane, Kazuichi, Fuyuhiko, Chiaki, and Ryota—I mean Byakuya—I mean the Ultimate Imposter… aren’t in any of these pods.

His heart ached as he remembered.

That’s right… Chiaki, despite appearing in the simulation with us… she’s been dead since before we became Ultimate Despairs, hasn’t she?

On unsteady limbs that hadn’t been used in who knows how long, the Ultimate Cook—no, the Ultimate Chef—pushed himself to his feet and made his way towards the room’s exit.

As he walked down the hallway, Teruteru felt a strange sense of… familiarity. He couldn’t place it, but upon walking down the stairs and reaching the first floor, he knew. This… this was the building where they held the party. This was where, in the simulation, he committed the murder that led to his own death. He couldn’t help but cringe at the memory, the guilt eating away at him even more than it was before.

Regardless, it seemed that while in the simulation, both he and his fellow Despairs were on the real Jabberwock Island. As he stepped outside… sure enough. In front of him was the hotel-restaurant hybrid where they all had met each morning. And to his right, rows and rows of cottages.

Teruteru walked past each one of them, glancing at each of the nameplates in turn. One in particular had caught his eye; the one belonging to the Ultimate Imposter. Naturally, that person didn’t know their own name, which was why they chose to take on the identities of other people. No, what surprised him was that the nameplate did have a name. The words “Ultimate Imposter” were crossed out, and in its place…

“Yuki,” huh? Guess they finally thought up a name to call themselves. I’m happy for them…

The sound of crying caught his attention. Off in the distance, Teruteru could make out two figures clinging onto each other. He recognized the long blonde hair right away, and knew it belonged to Sonia Nevermind. However… the crying voice didn’t sound as familiar as the hair looked. Meaning…

Hajime, it had to have been him. He was the only one of the lot of them that Teruteru did not know particularly well, at least, not as well as his classmates. And from the looks of things, he was being comforted and hugged by Sonia.

Teruteru couldn’t stop himself from smirking. It was surprising, as he was sure that Sonia would end up with Gundham. And of course, there was the obvious possibility that it was just two platonic friends comforting one another. But the Ultimate Chef had seen enough pornos to know that many a sexual encounter often started that way.

Not wanting to disturb them, he followed the nameplates back to when he saw his own name. Upon entering his cottage, the brief moment of pleasure evaporated almost instantly. It was nowhere near comparable to the cozy little cottage Teruteru had briefly known inside the simulation, filled to the brim with assorted cooking ingredients, explicit magazines, and posters of beautiful women adorning its walls. This one was barren and lonely. All that was there was the typical bed, bathroom, and desk.

Although… there is one thing here that wasn’t there before… The Ultimate Cook stared at the addition he didn’t have in the simulation; a small kitchen in the corner. He knew that the sight of it would’ve once made him feel at home, or prompted him to whip up some of his famous dishes. But how could he now?

How could I, knowing what I’ve done in kitchens like this one?

Countless people, including his own mother, were tortured and then killed in various kitchens. All by his hand. Teruteru would never be able to pick up even a mere fork without those horrific memories flooding his brain.

I shouldn’t even be here. Why is it that I’m awake before everyone else? We may have all done deplorable things, but at least they still have things they can live for. Me…? What do I still have?

The little man collapsed onto the bed. His bed, but it didn’t feel like it. This wasn’t his bed, this wasn’t his home. But both of those things were gone.

Gone… Gone… Gone…

They’re never coming back.

Nevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernevernever

Teruteru buried his face in the pillow as the tears began sliding down his cheeks. He didn’t want anyone to hear him crying—hell—he wasn’t ready to let everyone know he was awake yet. Especially now that the seeds that were planted in his mind the minute he woke up were now starting to sprout.

I shouldn’t be here. It should’ve been someone else to wake up instead of me.

I’m far beyond forgiveness, I know this already.

I shouldn’t even be ALIVE.

It was that thought that caused his tears to stop. He curled up into a ball, taking short, panicky gasps as he considered the idea.

No… why did I think that?! I’ve already felt the pain of dying ONCE! After everything I’ve been through, to even ENTERTAIN such an idea is…

Is exactly what Teruteru Hanamura began to do. Once the thought came up, he couldn’t get it out of his head. Because why, typically, do people take their own lives? Because the despair becomes too much for them to handle? Because of a terrible occurrence? The loss of a loved one, overwhelming guilt, or just knowing that there’s nothing to live for?

And yet… all those descriptions described Teruteru completely.

The despair he was consumed by when Chiaki died.

The guilt of all the tragedies he caused and all the people he killed.

The pain of not only losing his mother, but being the cause of her death, when he would have previously died for her in a heartbeat.

“I miss Mama…” Those were the first words the Ultimate Cook uttered upon waking up from his coma.

He knew there was only one way he’d ever be able to see her again. To be hugged by her, apologize for what he’d done to her, and reassure her that she didn’t fail as a parent.

Of course, there was the possibility that he still wouldn’t see her. If Heaven and Hell were real, with all the lives he’d taken, and how sweet and loving of a person she was, there was a good chance that the two of them would be going to two very different places.

No, while that was the thought that made him consider the thought of suicide, it wasn’t what made him certain that it’d be the route he’d take. Teruteru wasn’t a pessimist by nature. He knew that there could be good things waiting just around the corner; that he could find something that meant just as much to him as family, sex, and cooking. But he was tired. He couldn’t wait that long, with every passing second reminding him how empty he felt inside. He wanted everything to stop, to fall asleep and never wake up. Living through the rest of his life as a comatose vegetable was starting to look pretty appealing in comparison. But that was out of the question, his friends would just find a way to wake him up again.

Teruteru knew that it wouldn’t matter whether his friends forgave him for his actions or not. The question was: would he be able to forgive himself? No… no he couldn’t. What he’d done would continue to haunt him for the rest of his life.

With that in mind, dying was starting to seem like a better alternative to living.

Of course, there remained the issue of Hajime and his classmates. They would most certainly try to stop him if they found out before he could go through with it. They would be crushed, and blame themselves for not being able to do something. Knowing that made the guilt worse; after everything they went through to get out of the simulation… wouldn’t killing himself send them all spiraling back into despair? Teruteru couldn’t bear the thought of it; he’d never forgive himself if that happened.

But they were strong, so much stronger than he could’ve ever been. Not only did they not cave in to murder within the simulation, but just from seeing Hajime and Sonia together, they were trying to make their lives better by being there for one another. He realized that he was probably just pulling excuses out of his ass at this point, but… deep down, Teruteru knew that this was what he really wanted.

They still wouldn’t understand. How could they? The reason why would be incomprehensible, as there wouldn’t be any way he could explain it to them if he was dead. His history… his horrific life story would die with him if he chose to go through with his plan.

No. I don’t want them to be burdened with the knowledge of what atrocities I’ve committed. But I also know that they would want to. And if knowing just how horrible I am would help them understand, or even cause them to hate me enough to let me go, then it’s the least I can do.

Without a second thought, the chef sat up and got out of bed, a determined, steadfast look in his eyes. He made his way to the desk, looking through the drawers until he found what he needed; a pen and notepad. He took a seat at the desk, and the next few hours consisted of Teruteru Hanamura writing out his legacy; specifically his life as an Ultimate Despair.

It was complete and utter hell to do so, because it entailed that he dig back through those god-awful memories and revisit his most painful experiences. Of course, what he wrote was toned down significantly compared his actual memories, but he was sure that whoever read it would get the gist of what was going on. His stomach ached at the recollections he was having, and he couldn’t stop the tears from falling down his face, but Teruteru kept writing. Until all his frustrations, regret, guilt, and emotions were etched permanently onto the numerous pages before him. And by the time it was over, it felt as if a great weight was lifted from his shoulders.

But it wasn’t enough. Teruteru knew that they would still blame themselves, thinking that they failed him as friends. And after an entire lifetime of causing people pain, he wanted to make his departure as painless for them as possible.

It wasn’t your traditional suicide note, not really. He had already written out his life, guilt and sins from nearly beginning to end, and he didn’t have time to write messages to everyone individually. It wasn’t as dark outside as it was before, and it wouldn’t be long until someone realized that he had woken up from his coma.

So he tried to keep things brief. Insisting that this note was meant for their eyes only; he didn’t want the Future Foundation to see any of this. Reassuring them that this wasn’t their fault. Thanking them for trying so hard to save him. And above all, apologizing profusely for all that he did, and what he was about to do.

Without another word, he folded up that lone paper and stuck it somewhere in the middle of the stack detailing his life story. Not obvious enough to be seen at first glance, but not completely hidden so that whoever took the time to read what he had to say would most definitely come across it. With that, he gently placed the papers atop the desk and exited his cottage, with one major question in mind.

How shall I die?


 

It didn’t take long to find the answer to that question. Teruteru had already experienced the pain of dying once, and it was a long and agonizing death. He wanted his final one to be as quick and painless as possible. Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was getting stabbed. He killed so many people this way… including Ultimate Imposter Yuki… but he had already promised himself that he’d never hold a kitchen tool again. Not only that, but it was doubtful that the Future Foundation would let any of them within a meter from any kind of weapon.

Drowning was, of course, another possibility. The hotel pool and nearby ocean would certainly do the trick, and using the ocean in particular had the added benefit of not requiring anyone to dispose of his body. But if nobody even found him, then they would probably try their damndest to cling to the vague hope that he’d still be alive. They’d be wasting so much time and effort on trying to find him rather than taking care of each other and waking up the others from their comas… Teruteru didn’t want that. As much as he knew it would pain them to have to deal with yet another corpse on their hands, it would be better than them never knowing what truly happened to him.

At least… that’s how he was choosing to look at it. All Teruteru knew was that if he was in their position, he would take the truth over the ambiguity in a heartbeat. He knew it was selfish of him, but what he was intending on doing was selfish, regardless of which route he went about doing it.

Not to mention that drowning is one of the longer ways to die. I don’t wanna go out that way… not if there’s a quicker alternative.

As everything outside slowly became brighter, Teruteru once again found himself looking at the old building where the party was… as well as where he both entered and exited the simulation. Now that morning was approaching, he could finally get a good look at it, and was honestly surprised to see how different it was. Gone was the old, decrepit wooden shack that housed the murder he committed; in its place was a sleek, metal, sturdy building. Not only that, but it was noticeably… taller than its digital counterpart.

“Hmm… Falling from that high up… Would that work?” the chef wondered aloud.

Knowing that there weren’t any better options on hand, Teruteru went back into the building that he exited from just hours before. Recalling where the stairs for each floor were, he quickly raced up each flight until he reached the pod room’s level. Before heading up the next set of stairs, he couldn’t help stopping outside the room housing his comatose friends.

Teruteru stared at the glowing occupied pods. He smiled forlornly, thinking back to those times they shared before Junko Enoshima came into their lives.

Getting tied up and pulled around by both Miss Yukizome and Nekomaru—so invigorating…

Akane and Nekomaru brawling for fun, and giving her the boost she needed to be on even ground…

Hiyoko slipping aphrodisiacs into the lunch I made, resulting in some “super-sexy-soup-time~”

Nagito giving me a photo album filled to the brim of alluring pictures of Sayaka Maizono…

And of course… when we all came together to welcome Miss Yukizome back from teaching the Reserve Course…

“Thanks for everything, you guys. I know y’didn’t like me very much, probably just saw me as an annoying perv an’ all… but I enjoyed th’ time we spent together regardless.” Damn, my accent’s starting to slip in… “I hope you succeed where I failed… an’ find somethin’ to live for. See ya around… hopefully not anytime soon.”

He wasn’t an idiot. He knew full well that none of them could hear him. But seeing as how he didn’t address any of them in the notes he left behind, this was the closest he’d be able to get to saying goodbye to them.

The chef shook his head, knowing that if he started focusing too much on any regrets he still had, he’d never be able to go through with this. Having so little time left before the others would realize what he was up to, Teruteru began his trek up the last few flights of stairs, until finally… he arrived at his destination.

The roof of the research building. Where he’d be able to end it all.

Any nervousness he might have felt previously was replaced by calm acceptance. Knowing that all the despair and suffering he’d been through would be over soon was a soothing thought, if a rather morbid one. As he began approaching the edge of the roof, Teruteru was able to get a good look at the island for the first time. Despite the renovations done by the Future Foundation, it didn’t taint the environment’s beauty. The majestic palm trees… white sandy beaches… and the glistening ocean off in the distance that was gradually changing color to herald the coming sunrise.

Come to think of it… I’ve never actually seen a sunrise proper, have I? I was intending to die as soon as I got up here, but… I suppose I’ve got nothin’ to lose by putting off the end for a little while.

The Ultimate Chef hoisted himself over the railing near the building’s edge, sitting comfortably on top with his legs dangling over the side. His hair fluttered in the cool morning breeze, but it didn’t get in the way of his vision. He looked off to the horizon, ready to witness the first, and last, sunrise he’d ever see.

There was nothing to do now but wait. Wait for the radiant flares of orange that would announce both the beginning of the day and the end of his life. There was no rush and nowhere to be; this was the time to let everything go. His mind was cleared of all doubt, and he silently marveled at the simple sensation of being alive right before the end. The natural rhythm of his breathing, the rapid pulsing of his heart, and the feeling of the cool wind against his skin… These were things that most people took for granted, so he was thankful that he was taking the time to appreciate them.

For the first time in forever… Teruteru Hanamura felt truly at peace.

Something off in the distance caught his attention. No, nothing to do with the ocean horizon he was staring at. He could hear a faint noise… something was happening behind him. His heart sank as he recognized the faint sound of footsteps. The guilt resurfaced, as now it was apparent that someone was going to try to stop him. He didn’t want anybody to witness his death firsthand, he knew that it would only cause them more pain… especially when they inevitably try and fail to stop it from happening.

The door creaked slightly as it opened. Teruteru took a deep breath and tried to steady his resolve. Regardless of who had come to see him, he couldn’t afford to falter. Not now, not with the end so close in sight…!

Keeping a tight grip on the railing he was sitting on, the Ultimate Chef looked behind him. Upon seeing who it was, he couldn’t help but smile gently at them.

“Why, hello there.”

Hajime Hinata. How fitting… The one who uncovered my murder and ensured my demise in the simulation… is now trying to save me from dying. This world is not without its fair share of irony, I’ll admit.

He was expecting Hajime to immediately attempt to stop him, so he was pleasantly surprised when he accepted Teruteru’s offer to watch the sunrise with him. As they sat there, just the two of them, with Hajime leaning against the railing and Teruteru perched on top of it… the guilt that began to raise its ugly head had returned in full. Even though he had come to terms with his impending demise… seeing his friend here… His death was going to cause Hajime so much pain. Not only that, but the sheer fact that someone he had only known for about three days clearly cared enough to try and talk him down…

Well, he could no longer suppress the tears in his eyes. And a quick glance at Hajime told him that he wasn’t the only one.

Teruteru’s smile didn’t falter, though. Well, not at first. He kept up the same expression of acceptance throughout Hajime’s begging, despite how much it was hurting him to do so. But he couldn’t help being taken aback upon finding out that his plan of jumping off the research building’s roof wasn’t exactly an original one on this island. Hajime had considered it, which was why he knew where to look.

“Why don’t you?” he asked, wanting to know the reason why he didn’t go through with it. What caused Hajime to triumph over this despair and stop himself from ending his own life? If Hajime’s will to live was truly that much stronger than his own, would it be possible for him to get past Teruteru’s death and support everyone else?

Everyone else. Of course. If he thought about it, it should’ve been obvious. It wasn’t up to Hajime, he needed to stay alive for everyone else. Especially Sonia, Teruteru thought to himself, recalling the two of them hugging each other for comfort.

As soon as Hajime gave him his answer, Teruteru caught movement out of the corner of his eye. There, gathered in front of the building looking up at him, were the reasons why Hajime was sticking around. Akane, Fuyuhiko, Sonia, Kazuichi, and Yuki… All five of them were here, pleading for Teruteru to change his mind. He cringed, things were bad enough already with Hajime here, but now? The last thing he wanted was having his fellow classmates here to witness his death. He knew it would crush them, he knew there was no excuse for how selfish he was being, he knew—

“I've forgiven you, Teruteru! I know you meant no harm! Come down this instant!”

No… It can’t be, there’s no way that Yuki actually just said that…

Teruteru’s eyes slowly widened as he looked down at his classmates, but focusing especially on Yuki. The one who, despite being stabbed over and over with an iron skewer, somehow found it in themselves to forgive him. Not just Yuki, but everyone here seemed closer than they ever were before.

Yuki… Everyone…

In that one instant, Teruteru could see how strong their hope was. How far they were going to go to support one another, and if Yuki’s forgiveness was any indication, that he wasn’t as beyond the point of redemption as he thought he was. Even if he thought he was the scum of the earth and didn’t deserve to live, everyone else clearly thought otherwise. In all likelihood, it was the same for each of them as well. Needless to say, their selfless devotion touched Teruteru. And it was beginning to reignite some lost hopes in him as well.

Not hopes that he would get past this. He already knew that he wasn’t strong enough, and outside of sparing his friends the pain of grief, he didn’t have any motivation to live. But hopes that perhaps… they could. Five out of six of them had made it through the simulation together, and all of them were working together to combat their despair on top of Junko’s influence.

When Hajime confirmed this newfound hope, that they’d all be able to push forward no matter what despair they faced, a massive weight was removed from Teruteru’s shoulders. His death would hurt them, but it wouldn’t break them as he feared.

Of course, getting his own hopes reignited came at the price of extinguishing everyone elses’. Namely the hope of convincing Teruteru into choosing life. While it was nice knowing that they didn’t hate him, the fact still remained that the three things he loved most in the world were either gone forever, no longer possible, or tainted forever by his time as Ultimate Despair. But still, in the end, he was grateful to have this last moment with everyone. A proper goodbye, so to speak.

Teruteru lowered his body down until his feet were leaning over the edge of the roof, his hands clenched tightly on the railing to keep himself from falling right away. Hajime managed to wrap an arm around the chef’s waist, making it that much harder for Teruteru’s plan to succeed in the long run. Not that he minded; this one bit of human contact was comforting, at the very least.

This was not how I envisioned being in Hajime’s loving embrace... I do wish it could’ve been in better circumstances, but… it’s more of a pleasant surprise that it happened at all.

Hajime was now in tears, quietly repeating his pleas in the vain hope that it would get Teruteru to stop. Turning around to face him directly, he could feel Hajime’s body tense, obviously bracing himself for the inevitable moment when Teruteru would jump. But that wasn’t his intention. At least… not immediately.

Reaching out through the gaps in the steel railing, Teruteru stretched his arms around Hajime as far as they could go in order to hug him goodbye. For a brief moment… he felt safe and warm. The last and only other person he’d hugged before had been his mom, and it was almost like being back in her arms again.

He wished him luck in overcoming Junko’s despair alongside the rest of his classmates, as well as getting together with Sonia.

He told him just how touched he was by his determination to save him… even if it was futile in the end.

He apologized one last time, both for what was already done, and what he was about to do.

For the moment that Hajime had grabbed hold of him, Teruteru had already come up with a means of escape. The railing’s bars were clearly wide enough for his arms to go through; meaning that the same could be said for his legs. Taking one last deep breath in, he stepped through the iron bars with one foot, and with every ounce of strength he had… landed a critical blow between Hajime’s legs.

How fitting… one of the last things I think about before I die is Hajime’s dick. Ha ha. I do feel bad about this, especially with what happened to my own and all. But it’s the only surefire way to get him to let me go.

Hajime couldn’t help but clutch himself protectively, allowing Teruteru the opportunity to wrench himself from his grasp. Having already mentally prepared himself beforehand, there was no need to hesitate. As soon as he was free…

He let himself fall.

As he was hurtling towards the ground, he kept his eyes trained on Hajime’s horrified face, offering a sad smile in response.

I suppose… my one regret is that you never did get to try my cooking. But it’s fine. I’m certain that Sonia will satisfy you more than any of my dishes ever could.

With a loud thud, Teruteru could feel his spine snap as he hit the ground. The unbearable pain… Falling wasn’t enough to kill him instantly like he thought. He gagged at the metallic taste in his mouth, choking on his own blood. He couldn’t move any of his shattered limbs, and his vision was fading fast.

As agonizing as it was… he was grateful that he didn’t die right away.

Because during those last few seconds of his life… the steady glow that had been building up over the horizon was now here in full force. The sky lit up with bright oranges and yellows, and even with his fading vision, Teruteru was able to see it all. The sunrise… the one he had waited for, and the first and last one he’d ever witness. He smiled at this, unable to stop one last tear from sliding down his cheek.

It’s… just as beautiful… as I thought it would be…

With that, he allowed his eyes to close… and gave his final breath.