Chapter 1: NEXUS
A tense atmosphere lingered as six individuals stared each other down. Each person stared each other down at what appeared to be witness stands arranged in a circle. Sixteen people were alive at the beginning, but it whittled down to only six. One of them was the mastermind behind the entire affair.
A young male wearing a black cap pointed his finger across the room. “Don’t let the mastermind fill you with despair! We can do this, right? This is it!”
Next to him was another youthful teenaged male, but with brown hair and an ahoge. “You don’t need to convince me. Let’s end this.”
Three of the other participants also began to nod, ready to finish the game. The last individual was gritting their teeth. A familiar animatronic bear sunk into the chair, looking absolutely deflated. The vote was cast and the mastermind was correctly chosen. Sighing in defeat, the person was visibly dragged by the execution machine. The remaining participants quietly watched as the mastermind was put into what appeared to be a giant Monokuma. With a final “Upupupu~!” it launched high into the night sky. As it started to reach the stratosphere, it exploded as a firework display arranged as a giant smiling Monokuma head in brilliant colors. The wreckage fallen from the sky is shown at the end, dropping a single key among it all.
Black Cap sighed and picked it up. “It’s finally over.”
As if on cue, their vision is cut off. The visors on their heads raise as if they were on an amusement park ride. All sixteen of the participants looked at each other while seated, while official-looking staff observing in the same room started clapping.
Black Cap smiles a bit. He moves a loose black hair from his eyes and looks over at his partner. The young teen with an ahoge is actually an older man in reality.
One of the staffers begins to speak. “I hope you enjoyed the Advanced Virtual Reality machine. This partnership created for the upcoming season of Danganronpa will surely revolutionize gaming – being able to run your own killing games online from the comfort of home, for example.”
Black Cap looks ecstatic. “That sounds amazing!”
The participants file themselves out of the room, mostly talking about how crazy the new technology was. The graphics were cutting edge, movement was not intrusive even in a limited space with others, and built-in surround sound. Virtual Reality really has come a long way.
“Mmm…they seem to only really be talking about the VR Set…” Black cap sighed. “Aren’t these people fans of Danganronpa?”
His older counterpart makes a wry smile. “I’m not really a fan, either.”
“I know… they were looking for a 16th person to fill up the game. Thanks, by the way. You are really good at these.” He gazed on the brown-haired man for a good while. “You know, you kinda…remind me of The Super High School Level Hope from the first game.”
“Yeah, his name’s Makoto Naegi. Supposed to be a plain, boring guy but…I dunno…not a big fan, especially after the anime where he’s all grown up. All that screaming about hope.”
“Huh. Sounds like you find him annoying.”
Black Cap sighs. “Annoying? Hm…he’s really nice, at least. He does have a bit of a following in the fandom. Though not as much the original villain, Junko Enoshima. She’s…uh…colorful.”
“So who’s your favorite, then?”
“That’s easy! Kyoko Kirigiri. SHSL Detective sounds… so cool, you know? I’d… like to be one, too. Hey, if we play a killing game together again…”
“No, no…never mind. I don’t want to… spoil… what I’d do. I’ll see you around, mister.”
Makoto watches as Black Cap walks away high in spirits. He glances over and sees all the Monokuma merchandise. Even the food was themed similarly in some way. Sighing, he buys some themed foods.
This is an official festival to celebrate fifty iterations of the franchise. Makoto wonders how fifty iterations of people stuck in a place where they’re forced to kill each other and find out the mastermind behind the respective games manages to stay entertaining. At the very least during some iterations they began having people of various ages becoming participants. Still, it wasn’t as if the entire world was addicted to it for some unhealthy reason – it was simply a popular series, especially in its home country of Japan.
Freshly baked Monokuma cookies in a bag, he carries it and holds it close to his chest. Nothing strange has occurred yet, though there’s supposed to be a performance by some singers and voice actors later. More than likely they would be playing songs like Monochrome Answer. Looking around, there were a lot of cosplayers around. A lot of them dressing up as the aforementioned fashion girl.
As for himself, Makoto was dressed plainer than his design. A solid green t-shirt and dark blue jeans with red sneakers. His job requires him to be as inconspicuous as possible. Here, he wasn’t exactly on the job…it was just habit formed from adjusting to his life here. Though it was probably for the best – there were a few cosplays (read: female) of him wandering around the festival.
Spending time browsing though some of the fan works being sold and meeting the doujin artists, it eventually comes time for the song performances. There are a few songs he can recognize, though there are many more that he does not – most likely from more recent Danganronpas. The performance was enjoyable from the colorful cast of many voices that graced the stage. It even had a short teaser of the next stage play for the most recent storyline. Everyone seems to be having fun, at least.
Throughout the day, Makoto did not run into anyone he could recognize. People dressed up like them, but not the actual people. In some ways this came as a relief. Maybe they were allowed to forget and live somewhat normal lives? Maybe they weren’t in this strange world? A lot of people he knew did die horribly gory and unfair deaths. Still, it’s lonely. At least he enjoyed himself.
If they did remember, they probably wouldn’t go to a place that essentially celebrated their deaths. Still, it didn’t hurt to try and see if he would run into anyone.
The celebrations peter out into a calm, cool night. DanganFES finally comes to a close.
Makoto’s apartment was within a reasonable distance from the festivities. A short train ride, though tonight he opt to take a slow walk through the city, taking in the sights. Looking at people enjoying their lives without a care in the world.
It was something he took for granted, after all. He never really did get to be a normal kid in the end. Even as an adult, he had to become bigger than life.
Be bold. Be unrelenting. Always have hope.
Those post-Despair days were fresh in his mind, thankfully. Looking around himself in a populated city, for the first time small – this was what all that effort would lead to. Feeling comfortable and content, he continues his walk with the cold mist coming from his mouth. He feels happy enough he might splurge a bit more…maybe have some nice takeout on the way. A smile creeping on his face, he lets out an “Ah-!” as he stretches his arms.
Some people paid him a bit of attention, giving him strange looks. Makoto blushed a bit, but he’s still in a good mood.
“Hey! Déjà vu guy!”
There is something odd about that voice. It makes Makoto’s blood run colder than the outside air. Perhaps he could just ignore it.
“Seriously. Playing hard to get? That’s not attractive, you know!”
Against better judgment, he slowly turns around. He could only hope (with a bitter chuckle mentally at the thought) it is just a very convincing cosplayer. SHSL Cosplayers exist, right? Short skirt. Black cardigan. The boots. The bear pins. The right shade of strawberry blonde. Blue contacts with a wicked smile.
It seems his night was now ruined.
“…can I help you with something…?”
“Cut the bullshit, Naegi-kun!” She flashes her signature grin. “Of course, the second one I find is you.”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Makoto tensed up. Anything involving her probably isn’t good. Or productive. “Enoshima.”
“So distant! We have a special relationship, you know…” A look of faux heartbreak showed up. “How can you be so cruel!?”
People started to definitely stare now. Makoto backs up a bit. She probably wouldn’t do anything physically harmful in front of all these people. Mentally and emotionally, on the other hand…
Of course, there is still the possibility of this Junko being an extremely skilled roleplayer and cosplayer. So Makoto did the best thing available to him at the moment.
He, frankly, stopped caring about what the peanut gallery was thinking at the time. But if she is the real deal, he needs to form a plan in his head while running away from the gyaru. Junko was keeping hot on his tail.
Taking a few twists and turns and running around people, he decides to not run directly home but to a nearby café that is open around this time of night. He sprints between couples, groups of friends, lonely loners – he mentally apologizes to each one as he’s scrambling away.
He finally loses sight of her but keeps running. His legs are carried by the pure adrenaline he feels in every part of his body. After a good number of minutes, he arrives at the building. He smiles. It’s comforting. He frequents this place a lot – it’s called Apricot. He wipes the sweat from his forehead and calmly walks in.
The owner asks if he wants the usual. Makoto ponders as the adrenaline starts to wane.
“…actually, I’ll have a Strawberry Parfait.”
He takes his time, taking about an hour to collect and calm himself with the sugary treat. No sign of Junko. He wasn’t expecting to have to deal with stalkers – whether of the Ultimate Despair or of the really-into-roleplaying variety. Still, the cold treat improved his mood. A western dessert that he never really tried before was quite an experience, especially in the cool weather. It was almost sacrilegious to an average Japanese man like himself.
Thanking the owner for his strange request, Makoto headed home.
Living on the first floor of an apartment complex had its perks. You never have to share the elevator with a crowd of others who are just coming off work. You don’t have to climb up flights of stairs after a long day of earning your pay and drinking as a salaryman. Unfortunately it also leaves you open to things, like annoying visitors and pushy solicitors.
Makoto arrives at his door. He stops there in thought, taking a few beats to mentally prepare himself for whatever’s next. Unlocking the door with his key, he looks to his right. Then his left.
The smile he was fearing was waiting for him at his left.
He forces himself not to yell. Sweat starts to form on his forehead again.
“Actually testing me, Naegi-kun? Now that’s a surprise.” She pouts. “When did you become so shady?”
“So it really is you, Enoshima.”
She stands triumphantly with a smile. “The one and only! No Alter Egos or cosplays here, only pure, unadulterated, heart-pounding, truly exciting des-“
Makoto cut her off. “Right.” He opens his door and walks in quickly, closing the door behind him.
It’s stopped by her boot. She lets herself in.
The apartment is surprisingly spacious. A carpeted one-room with an actual twin-sized bed against the far wall. A desk with a PC against the other wall with a small alcove for the kitchenette. A shoji for what is assumed to be the closet and a door for the bathroom. A low-rise desk in the middle of the room, with a few assorted manga and light novels left on it. A solitary window across the door.
Makoto sat down at the table with a sigh. Junko smiles widely, staring at him from across it.
“Didn’t think I’d see you here for a while, Naegi-kun! So what did you in? Overworking yourself? Murdered by a remnant? Or maybe…hit by a truck?”
Junko’s eyes narrowed. “Oh? In denial?” She starts laughing, probably disturbing the neighbors. “This is rich! It’s amazing!”
“No, I really mean it.” Makoto rubbed his right eye. “I was minding my own business and next thing I know I ended up in a nearby park.”
“A park? That’s actually really lame. Bo-ring! Though a movie theater isn’t much better…”
“So you’ve only ran into Yukizome-san, then? That’s what you meant that I’m ‘the second you’ve found,’ right?”
Junko immediately shows shock. “Hey, how do you know that?!”
Makoto glances over to a Blu-Ray case near the PC. “I have my ways.”
“Oh, gross.” She draws closer. “Fan of my work?”
He pauses for a moment. “You’re not behind any of this, are you?”
She replies with a frown. “Wow, you’re no fun anymore.” Crocodile tears start pouring from her eyes as she wails. “I want the fun-sized Naegi-kun back!!”
“Of course, you used to have such a punchable face, you know? Now you’re all grown up and attractive! Yuck!” She looks at him with some strange sort of fury. “Here I thought you’d be all jaded and bitter from age! You still have those awful, dreary… hopeful eyes. Liar! Cheat! Charlatan! Pervert!”
“I’m not a pervert!”
“Perhaps we should find a Man’s Nut and find out for sure, hm?”
Makoto rubbed his head. It isn’t surprising that talking to Junko is an exercise in controlling tempers and tempering patience.
“Isn’t it time for you to go? I’d like to go to sleep. I have a busy day tomorrow.”
“What a poor host. Come on. We haven’t talked for a while, right? Is that a way to treat an old friend?”
“I don’t know if I was really friends with someone who pretended to be something else most of the time while she was alive.”
“There it is! Bitterness!” She giggles. “Please, if you knew what I really was would you--“
“Yeah. I would try.”
Her emotions disappear, leaving a blank look. This was a face he remembered clearly from the Killing School Life. One that she would only look at him with while he was clinging onto hope during the final showdown.
“I mean…I was younger, then, you know. Maybe it wouldn’t change anything, but I usually don’t pay attention to the odds. The issue is that I never got to try in the first place… that I didn’t notice what was happening around me.”
The only response she gives is one of tense silence.
Junko stands from the table, looking away from Makoto. She exits the apartment. He could only stare at the door for a while before locking it.
He lays down on his bed. All the fatigue he’s felt from the night finally culminates into an easy sleep.
Makoto wakes up with the sun shining on his face. He needs to buy some curtains at some point. The heat irritates him a bit as he quickly walks over and grabs some leftovers from the fridge. Sitting down at his desk, he logs into his computer and immediately checks if a money transfer happened. It did. It was a nice, fat payday.
These days he wasn’t an educator. He is an independent reporter, lauded as someone who not only reports facts but also teaches subtly in his writing. Some days his clients were reputable news agencies looking to cover any high-profile heinous crimes that happened. Other days, some clients were more interested in finding out the hottest gossip about the hottest celebrities. Sometimes he would cover tech, sports, food…you name it.
Some of the stories have happy endings. For most of them there was at least closure.
However, being some twenty-something sleazy reporter wasn’t exactly his end goal. He pulls up a picture of Hope’s Peak Academy on his monitor. It exists in this world as well and he feels that some questions can be answered there.
Someone or something willed this strange world into existence to supplant the one he lived in, where his experiences were all fiction. He still had his memories and so did others from what he’s found out. Junko was a suspect, naturally, with a few caveats. This sort of place isn’t exactly something she’d find ideal in any way. Still, as Kyoko would say, might as well dispel all doubt. At least there was some value gained from that stressful night.
HPA is still an exclusive boarding school. Getting access inside wouldn’t be easy. Not without a contact, at least. He’s to finally meet this mysterious person that he’s been in contact with for the past couple of days online via e-mail. It’s fishy of course, but he’ll take any chance he can get.
With a nice influx of money into his account, he figures he’s in good shape. Coming face-to-face with Ultimate Despair and coming out relatively okay from the exchange is also a good reason to think that as well. Putting away his leftovers and dressing into a collared shirt and tie to at least look somewhat presentable, he was ready to take on the day.
A loud knock.
Looks like it’ll be a long day.
This is my first time writing fanfiction. I have a bit of roleplaying experience from the past, but it's been a long time since then. I've done quite a bit of research (along with playing/watching all the entries) to try and write down my interpretations of the characters as well as craft the world that this takes place in.
Essentially, I took concepts from so many pieces of fiction and slammed them together with a Justice Hammer.
In terms of the localization, I decided to go with an Atlus-like approach – English names with honorifics (which required research as well). For example, Makoto and Kyoko refer to Junko as only "Enoshima" post-DR1 for obvious reasons. A lot of character quirks are found in the honorifics which I couldn't really ignore.
Author notes will also be…a bit different going forward. You can assume this will be the only "normal" one you'll ever read in this work.
Cheers and please enjoy.
Chapter 2: aLIEz
The quiet, yet ferocious hum of Makoto’s car is the only sound between him and his unwanted passenger. He shifts into the next gear, glancing over at her.
Junko isn’t wearing her usual getup. She’s dressed street style, a bright red longcoat over a black dress with long black boots, large sunglasses over her eyes. With a curious expression, she opens his glove compartment.
“Seriously? No gun?”
“Why would I have a gun? That’s illegal.”
“Aren’t you some streetwise hard-boiled reporter or something, Naegi-kun?”
He sighs. “I’m pretty sure my bullets would just bounce back at me or something.”
There’s a small snicker coming from her. “Bold of you to assume you’d be using the gun here.”
Shaking off the thinly-veiled threat for now, he focuses back on the road.
Hope’s Peak Academy is as he remembered it before The Tragedy: shining like a diamond right in the middle of a city. The drive took around an hour – he realized that when everything became rubble, things like city limits didn’t exist anymore. It put things into perspective how widespread the damage was from the ground level.
Stopping before the main pathway, he parks the car. He takes a good look at the gated school. He could only stare at it before he’s brought back to reality from Junko slamming the door.
“Hey, be careful!”
Only a grin in response from her. “Seriously, Naegi-kun. A sports car? Midlife crisis much?”
“Could you say it’s a midlife crisis when I ended up being one of the oldest people I know?”
Locking the matte black car, he makes his way to the gate. There’s a feeling of uneasiness. After all, he’s approached the place several times in the past. The first time was to times of joy, memories that were taken from him. The second time it led to a killing game. He looked at his phone to make sure the time was correct. He was to meet whoever was contacting him at exactly 3:00 PM. The plan was to be let into the campus and exit after two hours of snooping.
Nothing ever exactly goes as planned for the former Lucky Student.
“So, you are the troublemaker.”
A cool, feminine voice. He is happy for a second, before he realizes the words have a hostile presence behind them. Turning to it, he sees that Kyoko Kirigiri is also an adult like he is, wearing the outfit he remembers her wearing during their time as HPA Staff. Her stance is neutral at the moment.
He’s probably in trouble. It doesn’t help that Junko is there to complicate things.
“Kirigiri-san, it’s…been a while.” Makoto glances at Junko and she seems to have a smug look on her face.
Kyoko raises one of her gloved hands, pointing a gun at Junko. Makoto doesn’t move in response.
“Hey, Naegi-kun? Gonna call her off or what?!”
Makoto waits a few beats. “Kirigiri-san won’t fire unless she has to.”
A small smile crept on Kyoko’s face. “So she hasn’t brainwashed you. Or you’ve developed into a fine actor. It’s good to see you, Naegi-kun. More than I can say for the demon that seems to be creeping behind you.”
“Aw, did you miss me, Kirigiri?”
“As much as I miss contracting a terrible disease.” She lowers the gun, placing it in the holster on her hip. She turns to Makoto. “Your contact was dealt with a few days ago. I was hired to find the source of some recent leaks of HPA dealings.”
He rubs the back of his neck. “So we were talking to each other, then?”
“Indeed. How long has it been since we last saw each other?”
“A few months, I think? It’s good to see you. So uh…” Makoto starts sweating. “Am I…going to jail?”
Kyoko ponders. After a few moments, she gives her trademark closed-lipped smile. “That depends. Will you cooperate? After all, you haven’t trespassed on school grounds yet.”
Makoto gives a nervous smile. “There isn’t really a choice, is there? Sure. This nosy reporter will cooperate, detective.”
“And nothing we find will make the news?”
“You have my word.”
After a few moments of silence, both Makoto and Kyoko laugh softly. She walks over to the gate. Pulling out a familiar skeleton key, she unlocks it. Pushing the gate open slightly, she motions to follow her. Makoto glances over at Junko as she just walks over. Kyoko shuts the gate behind them.
Passing through the area with the Reserve Course students, they make their way to the main campus. The security guards bow to Kyoko as they pass by.
“Still the princess, Kiri-chan~?”
Kyoko ignored the fashion girl’s quip.
Makoto tilt his head. “Is your dad still the headmaster?”
“Yes. As obsessed with talent as ever.”
He frowned in response. The single-minded pursuit and attention to talent was partly why The Tragedy occurred in the first place. Becoming headmaster himself and gaining access to prior confidential information showed the deep-rooted corruption behind the scenes at the academy. The fact that a single high school girl took down an entire academy and then eventually the world spoke volumes on how foolish everyone was about their obsession with it. Makoto was partly guilty as well – before attending the academy himself he shared the world’s admiration for people who attended HPA and their supernatural talents. Even during his time as a student he always felt inadequate.
It was a madness and sickness that afflicted the world. A warped hope that everyone had, quickly twisted into despair.
Snapping out of his thoughts, he looks over at Junko grinning. Makoto narrowed his eyes at her.
“It’s so easy to make the world snap. Maybe you’d like to give it a try? You’d make a good mastermind, Naegi-kun.”
“The only thing I’m going to mastermind is the perfect nap.”
The fashion girl just crossed her arms in a huff.
Kyoko leads them to the new school building. Makoto bites his lip, as if anticipating something horrible.
“You might find some of my findings interesting, Naegi-kun. Are you prepared?”
“It’s uh…not what I think it is, is it?”
“You have good intuition as always.”
Junko looked ecstatic, fixating on Makoto’s face.
She leads them to a familiar looking door, looking over to him. Makoto nods slowly. She slides the door open to a familiar classroom. The students inside stare back at the trio immediately causing the brown-haired adult to inadvertently step back with pupils dilated a bit and his mouth agape.
“Hey,” a gruff voice sounded. “That guy alright?”
Kyoko coughs slightly. Makoto shakes his head and regains his composure.
“Oh, um. Sorry. Just a little star struck is all.”
Leon. Sayaka. Chihiro. Mondo. Kiyotaka. Hifumi. Celeste. Sakura.
It seems to be a very small class this year. Makoto looks a bit confused with one student unaccounted for. But the ones he can see now are uninjured and full of life, being able to do normal teenager things. Like hanging out with each other. Laughing. Making memories. Though the fact that they’re all hanging around after classes have ended is a bit strange; not unheard of, however, as the class was originally that close-knit during the second year.
Makoto stops himself from reminiscing. Seeing his old classmates alive is a relief, but the memories are painful.
These were people he should have grown alongside with.
Sayaka almost jumped out of her seat. “Is…is that Ryoko Enoshima?”
Makoto made a wry smile at Junko. He whispers to her, “Seriously?”
“Hey, I only had a little bit of time to work here, Naegi-kun! Besides, the despair of being homeless lost its charm two days in. I gotta keep all my outfits somewhere, you know.”
Chihiro blushes and looks meekly. “She’s a fashion icon…and so pretty…”
Leon only wolf whistles, garnering a look from Sakura and Sayaka. “What? She’s hot. Sorry, not sorry.”
“Yeah, I know.” Junko winks while striking a sultry pose showing off her assets, making a good number of the guys blush. “And you’re… Maizono-san, right?”
“Mmhm. It’s nice to meet you, Enoshima-san. Are you here to attend Hope’s Peak?”
“I’m just a guest today! But I’d totes hang out with you guys. You guys seem pretty awesome. Unlike the two party poopers here.”
Makoto sighs in response, while Kyoko ignores her again.
Kiyotaka suddenly stands from his desk, facing Makoto with full attention. “Excuse me! Are you a new teacher?”
“Huh?!” Makoto immediately flinches. “No I’m not. Sorry to disappoint you, Ishimaru-san.”
Teaching your former classmates would be really awkward.
A quizzical look comes from the SHSL Public Morals Committee Member. “Have we met before…?”
Makoto weakly waves it off. “Oh, no. I’m a…reporter. It’s my job to know about you.”
Leon scowls. “They let a journo in? Dude, they’re not allowed on campus!”
Kyoko steps forward. “This is a special circumstance, Kuwata-san. He’s not here to interview the students or spread gossip about any celebrities here.”
Mondo spat. “Kirigiri, I can’t trust ‘em as far as I can throw ‘em. Who the hell are you anyway?”
“Oh, I’m Makoto Naegi. Nice to meet you. I won’t be here long, I can promise you that.”
Sayaka suddenly speaks up, “Mmm… actually, I think I know you.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! You know a paparazzo, Sayaka-chan?!” Leon’s eyes shot open. “Does he has some kind of crazy dirt on you—“
“Kuwata-kun.” Sayaka smiles with a tinge of venom, stopping Leon in his tracks. “My manager actually warned me about him – he apparently has ‘the devil’s luck’ where he stumbles into insane stories that no one else could. Who knows what he could find about you?”
Celeste looked over at Makoto. “Devil’s luck? Intriguing.”
“Mmhm. I browse through news pieces and tabloids to research…trends. His work’s shown up a few times. And they’re always so different from the others. Sometimes it’s about funny or heartwarming things, like a town making a cat a mayor or a celebrity organizing a charitable event. Sometimes there are articles about a horrible crime, but there’s always something else – like how the culprit was caught or what great things the victim did in life. It’s not like the writing’s phenomenal or anything, but I always feel less stressed after reading them.”
Makoto couldn’t hide the shock on his face. He had no idea people singled him out for his work, much less say positive things about them. Reporters who refuse to do video correspondence don’t become famous. Perhaps infamous. After all, being a nosy reporter is an occupational hazard and having a relatively “average” look has shielded him from any potential problems along with his luck.
The students only quietly assess him for a few moments, while Sayaka smiles at him.
Chihiro meekly replied, “He does have a…calming aura. Is that a SHSL talent?”
Hifumi laughs. “Ah! Makoto Naegi-dono feels like some sort of old sage. Perhaps he can impart some teachings for my development into the SHSL Protagonist!”
“I’m not old…”
Sakura suddenly speaks up. “Your eyes look as if you have seen countless battles and suffered much, but have such an intensity of spirit that cannot be quelled. You are interesting, Naegi-san.”
“I don’t know about that, but thank you.”
Kyoko interrupts. “We should not take too much more of their time.”
“Y-Yes of course, Kirigiri-san.” Makoto bows and leaves, with Junko and Kyoko following close. Makoto takes a glance back and sees the class peering out the door watching them leave. Sayaka seems to have a curious look on her face, her eyes staring right at him.
After getting far enough away, Makoto exhales loudly. “That was…tough. So they don’t remember anything?”
Kyoko nods. “I’ve asked a few questions here and there and observed them. It’s as if they’ve been reset to before the killing game. Father also doesn’t recall anything. If anything, memories were changed to accommodate for our older selves.”
Makoto turns to Junko. “Enoshima, you don’t attend Hope’s Peak?”
“Pfft. Are you saying that I should do everything the same way, Naegi-kun? I don’t have to be here you know!”
Kyoko looks unimpressed. “Speaking of which, where is Ikusaba?”
“How should I know? I haven’t run into that disappointing sister of mine.”
Makoto holds his chin. “Really? Well…she did die before you did.”
“Mmm…” Kyoko stops and the other two stop as well. “But, Enoshima is a popular fashion icon now…albeit with a slightly different name. She’d be able find her easily. Perhaps something is preventing her from being around.”
Makoto raises an eyebrow. “Like…what exactly? I don’t think a lot of things could stop a SHSL Soldier.”
He thinks for a few moments, while the two women just look at him expectantly. “It might have something to do with the world phenomenon, wouldn’t it?”
Junko sighs. “Well, at least you aren’t a total dumbass. Took you long enough.”
Kyoko stayed silent. She most likely figured it out beforehand as well.
“Hey, I’m new to the supernatural.”
Junko mockingly smiles with a childish face. “It’s logic, Makoto-chan! Aren’t you supposed to be the teacher?!”
Kyoko pinches Junko by the ear, a long string of expletives pouring out of the fashionista’s mouth.
Makoto crosses his arms. “Kirigiri-san, have you checked the Old School Building? It should still be standing, right?”
“Not yet. Shall we?”
He nods. The two investigators begin walking to the abandoned building with Junko being dragged by the ear.
Staring at the long emptied building gave Makoto the chills. Unsurprising, considering several tragedies occurred right in its walls. The rotten fruit of the Hope Cultivation Project, Izuru Kamakura, was held in a room below ground and found by the Ultimate Despair. The SHSL Neurologist Yasuke Matsuda met his end at the hands of someone he cared for, an amnesiac fake identity of the Ultimate Analyst. The students of Class 78 barricaded themselves in here in a misguided attempt to preserve hope, only for it to be commandeered by the Ultimate Fashionista in her final attempt at sealing the world in despair.
It all came back to Junko, didn’t it?
Being back here with his greatest ally and greatest enemy was probably one of the strangest occurrences he’s ever had. And this is coming from a man that lived through the apocalypse.
Junko seems to be enjoying the pain. She grins at Makoto. “Doesn’t it bring back great memories, Naegi-kun? You gave me such a great gift, remember?”
He didn’t entertain her with a response. Kyoko finally releases Junko’s ear, staring daggers at the strawberry blonde.
“Hey, Kirigiri-san. About the Kamakura Project…”
“The test subject ended up dying from the operation. Hinata-san was a stroke of luck for them.”
“So Hinata-san isn’t…”
“As far as I know, no. He’s not Izuru Kamakura in this world. Though considering how we are right now, he most likely still has those talents still surgically inside him.”
“Mmm. Maybe. We’ll see when we run into him.”
Junko rolls her eyes. “Done stalling? Are we going or not?”
Makoto exhales. Kyoko unlocks the front door with her skeleton key, swinging the doors open. The doors shut behind them as they enter – it looks fairly normal for a creepy abandoned building. The sun still shines through the windows. Dust is gathered around the floor, walls and doors.
Makoto scans the area. “No one’s been down on this floor for such a long time.”
“Supposedly a rumor goes around campus says that a strange ghost lives in this building. I wasn’t able to see if it was something the Steering Committee made up to keep students away – but it’s something I think should be mentioned.”
“If only Komaru was here.” He chuckles. “Still, this is a pretty big building. It’d take way too long to examine it. Even if we did the dumb idea of splitting up.”
The reporter sees that an old metal broom was left against a wall. Makoto heads over and picks it up. “Definitely need this. There’s so much to clean.”
The trio hear small footsteps coming toward them. Junko looks delighted as the short figure approaches. A familiar, homicidal bear presents itself before them with its trademark grin.
Makoto immediately stops it from getting closer by shoving the bristles against the Monokuma.
“Upupupu~!” It blushes, emoting sweat on its head. Makoto frowns, immediately pushing the bear into the wall.
“Hey!! What did Kuma-chan ever do to you?!”
“Crimes against humanity for starters…”
He slams the broom into the bear several times, turning it into scrap. He backs away, waiting and watching. There’s no explosion. Or Spears of Gungnir.
Junko looks upset, but then she hugs herself. “Ohh! Seeing Kuma-chan break into pieces. Now that’s a nice taste of despair! Thanks, Naegi-kun! You’re always so sweet to me…”
“Can you not?”
More little footsteps start walking toward them. A small group starts approaching them.
“Now what kind of feelings will I have when I start breaking them myself…?” Junko pulls out a large wrench from her coat.
Makoto grumbles. “Hey, isn’t that from my car?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll give it back. Maaaaybe. Time to cut a little loose!” She laughs as she runs into the group, swinging the wrench with little to no regard for her precious Kuma. The bears crumple from the calculated impacts her swings make, making short work of them. She continues on, absolutely thrilled at being able to go all out.
“Seriously, does everyone in our class but me have some sort of super strength?!”
Kyoko smirks. “Don’t be so gloomy. Come on, before we lose her.”
The two adults run after the despair girl. Passing through some more wreckage in the hallway, she tosses a mangled Monokuma at them. Kyoko grabs the broom from Makoto and swings it – knocking the bear past Junko and into an oncoming group. It explodes as it nears them, with the fashion girl crossing her arms in triumph with the explosion behind her.
The detective narrows her eyes at the analyst. “Tch. I played into her hands.”
Makoto sighs. He examines the blast zone – there’s Monokuma wreckage but the building itself isn’t damaged. “That’s…pretty strange, isn’t it? Shouldn’t there be at least some scorch marks?”
Kyoko places her fingers on her chin. “Considering the demented bears started showing up out of nowhere, there may be a connection.”
Junko looked dissatisfied. “Some sort of dimensional disturbance, obviously. Keep up! Expand your minds a little. Maybe you’ll even learn to accept the beauties of despair?”
The detective ignored her last comment. “If so, then I assume Ikusaba is involved.”
Makoto thought for a moment. A mass of Monokumas attempting to block their path to advance. It sounds suspiciously familiar, especially when thinking about Mukuro. IF only he could remember.
After a short while, he remembers.
He snaps back to reality. “Either way, we can’t fight through five floors of this.”
Junko looks at her nails, bored out of her mind. “Yeah, it’s getting really uncool now. Check out this wall though!”
Makoto and Kyoko glance at the wall for a while, until they hit a realization: this is where the elevator for the class trials was. However, all they can see now is a nondescript wall with a keyhole in it. In the Zero novel, as Makoto recalls, this was the elevator that led to Kamakura’s hideout. It seems it is one and the same with the elevator they used during the killing game.
“Hm. I see.” Kyoko pulls out the skeleton key and turns it, opening up the elevator. The trio enter, with Junko immediately pushing a button on the floor console. It most likely was removed during the time they were barricaded in the building in preparation for Class 78’s game.
“What a worthless sister of mine. No skill in controlling Kuma-chan. It’s so disappointing. Just like I told you both all those years ago.”
Makoto stares at her tiredly. “What makes you think Ikusaba-san is the one controlling them?”
Junko gives him her blank stare. “Hm?”
“Weren’t you the one that just told us to ‘expand our minds’? I think the Monokumas are the ones keeping her here for some reason.”
Junko’s eyes widen a bit, while Kyoko only smiles at him.
The elevator opens up once it hits the fourth floor. There aren’t any signs of any Monokumas from what they can see.
Kyoko glances over at Makoto. “Look. The windows are covered in metal plates.”
The lighting is also reminiscent of the killing game, with different and strange solid colors separating each part of the floor. Another physical impossibility, from what the reporter can tell.
He nods. “Then let’s check the Monokuma control room.”
The short walk over is quiet enough, no small toy bears approaching them from any direction. As they approached the final corner, there was a loud mechanical whirr. Turning the final corner, a strange non-bearlike mechanoid is in their way. It appears to be a large insect, almost like a mix between a centipede and praying mantis. The only thing tying it to Monokuma was its top shell, a white and black horror.
Makoto screamed his lungs out. “What the hell?!”
Kyoko passes the broom off to him as she draws her gun.
Junko’s eyes light up. “I’ll call you…Monokumasect! Yeah, that’s awesome… a despair-inducing name for a despair-inducing robot!” She grins and grips the wrench. “Now I’m pissed! Someone made this and it wasn’t me.”
“I-I’m going to need a bigger broom…”
The Monokumasect swings a femur at Makoto, but he runs around it. Junko swings her wrench at its underbelly and barely makes a dent. “Oooh…thick carapace…good idea…”
Kyoko fires a shot at its red eye, the bullet gets lodged but unable to penetrate fully. “Not the right spot for this one. It’s not a Towa-speced machine.”
“Hey! Over here!” Makoto yells at the giant insect and it swings its other leg at him. The lucky student ducks and it misses Makoto, hitting a door and loosening it from its frame. “Wait, this is the Data Processing Center…”
Kyoko fires another shot at its opposite eye. “Naegi-kun, go!”
He looks hesitant, but then nods. He slams his shoulder into the loosened door and busts into the room.
“Confident are you, Kirigiri?” Junko jumps over another femur sweep.
The detective’s eyes narrow. “We don’t have all day, Enoshima.” She jumps back and dodges a slam from the opposite leg.
“Yeah, yeah…whatever…” She runs up the back of the Monokumasect and jumps onto its head, slamming the wrench into where its mouth should be. It starts cracking as she continually swings into it. If it could roar, it would, and it starts shaking its head violently to throw the fashion girl off. She gives one last calculated swing and jumps off.
Grinning, she lands next to the detective. “Too easy.”
Kyoko fires several shots at where Junko weakened the thick shell of the robot. The last shot she fires makes the robot jerk forward, falling over. The entire Monokumasect ceases to function, only leaving its metal corpse as a reminder of its existence.
“Maan, having to actually work at this kinda sucks! Big sis, for all of her faults, would’ve scrapped this thing in a quarter of the time.”
“Perhaps working an honest living is something you should be considering. Though I doubt you deserve that much.”
Junko sticks her tongue out. “Ugh! That sort of life makes my skin crawl. You wanna punish me that badly?!” She sighs. “I can’t believe how you, with how talented you are, want such a boring life. It’s kinda despairing…”
“There’s more to life than talent and hedonism, Enoshima.”
“Gross, you sound more like him day after day. Gee, aren’t you gonna fight me or something, or did puppy boy make you all soft like a marshmallow? I know how much you haaaaaaate me, Kiri-chan~.”
“Indeed. I would have preferred if you stayed a ghost of our past. However, that is not the reality of the situation. As to why I don’t deal with you myself… he has faith that I won't do anything drastic. I intend to keep his trust in me.”
“Lame lame lame lame lame lame lame…seriously, how can you be so predictable? It’s like rebranding a designer label and passing it off as your own…yuck!”
Kyoko crosses her arms. “And what fuels your curiosity with Naegi-kun, then? Is he not as predictable?”
Her face becomes emotionless as she thinks. The detective’s face remains stony, not showing any of her own emotion in return.
“You will not change the subject on me, by the way.”
After a while she shows a threatening grin. Kyoko is visibly unmoved by it.
Junko finally answers. “Well, I mean…you’re singing the tune of hope now, but what happens if Hope guy dies, eh? And what about if you kick the bucket instead? He’d just keep going. Maybe even remember you once in a while...”
“So that’s your answer.”
“Playing it cool still, huh? Not bad. You’re a little less boring now.”
Makoto dusts the loose gravel off his shirt. The Data Processing Center is just as he remembers it. He can also see the Monokuma control room door on the other end. He rushes over to the futuristic door and tries to open it with his hands. It refuses to budge. Walking quickly back to retrieve the broom, he begins to use the handle as a surrogate crowbar, forcing the door open. Digging in his heels, he makes slow progress until he has an opening big enough for him. He jumps forward into the room, landing on his shoulder. Stifling the pain, he uses the broom to help himself up. The room is dark with the only light coming from the surveillance monitors.
She’s murmuring to herself:
Don’t throw me away
I can do this, I can give you despair
You never did anything wrong, right?
I’m the only one who understands you
I love you.
Why did you…this wasn’t supposed…to happen…”
Makoto’s eyes widen as he listens to her words. He looks over at the chair, and a figure he hasn’t seen in a long time is facing away from him. The reporter stands straight, looking at the girl. He takes a step and Mukuro turns the chair around. In a flash she leaps, a knife swing stopped barely by his quick movement with the broom, blocking and absorbing the blow.
His arms strain against the force and the broom bends. The handle snaps in two from the unstoppable force of the SHSL Soldier. Luckily for him, one of the two halves hits her hand on impact, causing her to drop the knife from the hit.
Makoto stumbles backward, but before he can regain his footing a punch straight for his gut connects. He reflexively holds his stomach and a right jab into his head, slamming him into a wall. She holds him up against it by the neck and raises her fist.
Mukuro’s irises dilate. “Naegi-kun…?”
The freckled girl starts shaking. “I…hurt…Naegi-kun…?”
Her choking grip loosens, leaving Makoto slumped on the floor, dull from the pain.
“Haa…I…I…” She holds her head. “Why…?”
Makoto coughs as he stands slowly. “Hey…I’m not… that fragile these days. Though it’s gonna be…really sore.” He grits his teeth and stands to face her. The pain is immeasurable.
The soldier just looks at him, her eyes starting to return to normalcy.
“Can…we go now?” He extends his hand to her, with his other arm clutching his stomach.
Her face twists in pain, but she looks at his face. He smiles through his own. She grabs his hand and everything goes dark for her.
Makoto walks out of the room with an unconscious Mukuro slung over his shoulder.
“We could hear it from out here, Naegi-kun. Reckless as always.”
“Ah, well, mission accomplished right?” He does a thumbs up but immediately winces from his pain. “Ow, owow…”
Junko stays silent. Makoto eyes her for a few moments, but starts moving.
“This is what I meant, you know.” Kyoko takes Mukuro over her own shoulders. “You are in no condition to be assisting someone. I have a first aid kit in my car.” She drags him along, Junko walking behind them.
The building slowly becomes normal again on the fourth floor with the metal sheets on windows dissipating behind them revealing the open windows. The lighting is returning to normal and they can only see an orange tint -- the sun is starting to set as it pours into the building.
The walk back is a blur for Makoto as Kyoko leads everyone to a parking structure on campus. He regains proper vision as they stop at the detective’s vehicle. Kyoko places Mukuro in her backseat.
“Heh…a luxury European sedan?”
Kyoko reaches for her glovebox. “Of course. I take it you opt for a domestic model?”
“Of…of course. I’m pretty adamant on buying Japanese.”
“Hmph. Perhaps we can fix those tastes of yours. Sit.” She does a quick once-over on his injuries. “Looks like it is only swelling and bruising. Good thing she isn’t the SHSL Fighter. Though a few more hits and you could have lost your life.” She places a cold compress on his face first.
“Mm. Hey, where are you living right now? I’m in Yokohama.”
Kyoko glances over at the silent Junko. “I’m not too far from you, actually.”
“That’s…good. Until you get another overseas job?”
“It’s my permanent residence. Though I don’t take many of those cases these days. Now I have even less reason to.”
Makoto takes the cold press from her hands. “I can handle this.” He places it on his own stomach. “Mind giving us a lift to my car? I’m near the front of the campus.”
The detective raises an eyebrow. “Are you in any shape to drive?”
“I should be. I mean, only way I’d stop driving is if I can’t use my arms or legs anymore. And that’s a big maybe.” He flashes a grin.
“Stubborn. Fine. I take it you’ll be dropping off Enoshima at her residence?”
“Good. It’s best I know where it is too.”
BlackCapPI: So, Kirigiri-san is amazing.
BlackCapPI: In the various novels she’s in, she’s shown to be able to dodge furniture and oncoming cars.
BlackCapPI: Mentally she’s able to figure out cases so fast, it’s like she has her own version of being the Ultimate Analyst.
Shirokuma: but enoshima-sama’s still the best, you know?
Shirokuma: i mean she’s basically the face of danganronpa. and people cosplay her all the time even though they don’t exactly know who she is.
BlackCapPI: She’s…colorful, sure. But she’s an awful person… I mean, she killed her twin sister just like that. And everything we’ve seen after the first game doesn’t really help her case.
Shirokuma: i know she’s an awful person, but dangit, i can’t help but like her guts. and kirigiri is really boring imo
BlackCapPI: What? The cool, silent type that is really sweet to people she’s close to? It’s an amazing archetype.
Shirokuma: i guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Chapter 3: Melancholia
Junko is unnaturally quiet the entire drive back, only responding to questions on the direction of where she lives. She doesn’t even make a single threatening movement toward Makoto. In a way, the complete lack of action from her was somehow more stressful than the alternative. He glances at his rearview mirror, Kyoko’s car staying directly behind him the entire time. Pulling up to a penthouse in the hills overlooking the city of Yokohama, the first thing he can notice right away is the paintjob. They step out of the car while Kyoko waits in hers, the window rolled down.
“Yeah, I was thinking of changing it to a solid deep green tomorrow.”
Makoto’s eyes widen in shock. “Do you do it by yourself?!”
“I mean, I did at first but now I just hire people. Stupid!” Junko snaps back to life as he looks at her. “So, wanna come inside? Maybe have some hot coffee?”
“I… don’t think there’s a coffee in the world that will get me to willingly go in there.”
“No, I don’t want to distract you while you’re mulling over whatever it is in your head.”
She grins. “You sure that’s a good idea?”
Makoto sighs. “About your sister…”
“I misjudged her. She says she understands me, but she totally doesn’t! It’s kinda…well, you know.” He only quietly listens. “I mean seriously?! She didn’t even enjoy it?! What kind of Despair Sister wouldn’t appreciate the feeling of the worst despair I could ever give her?” She bites her lip. “Thinking about it makes me so angry. I’m not even satisfied.”
Makoto’s own fist was balling up as he glares at her. “Is it really that hard to understand that she wouldn’t enjoy it like you?!”
All she can do is grin at his anger, “Anyway, enough about her. Cheer me up, Naegi-kun~?”
He only keeps glaring at her.
“Fine. Rain check. Also you can do whatever with her.” She looks straight into his face with a chilling stare and smile. She waves as she walks into her penthouse by herself. Makoto only watches as he forces himself to calm down. When Junko’s finally inside, he walks over to Kyoko’s car.
“Whatever you have planned, it’s most likely not going to work Naegi-kun.” She taps the steering wheel. Mukuro is still silent in the backseat, looking at Makoto.
“I’m really not planning anything. Besides, if I did I think Enoshima would see it coming right away.”
“Fair enough. I’ll make sure to do a thorough investigation of her activities for the past few months the next chance I can.”
Makoto looks over at the soldier. “How are you?”
Her voice is hollow and ragged. “Tired.”
His face softens up. “Do you two want to get some food? My treat.”
As if in response, Mukuro’s stomach growls. She blushes.
Kyoko smiles at him. “It would be a good change of scenery.”
“There’s a place near my apartment. It’s pretty good.”
After some goading and grinning from the owner of Apricot for bringing in two ladies to sit with him, the group has their food brought out to them. Kyoko sits next to Makoto while Mukuro is across from them. They both eye Makoto’s food with interest.
Aside from a simple sandwich, there’s a beautifully crafted dessert. It’s a sweet potato tart, but the way its presented looks like a mysterious purple flower. It almost looks too good to eat. He taps it a bit with his spoon and it keeps its shape, a testament to the chef’s skill. He finally scoops a piece of it with his spoon to eat it. It’s creamy and not too sweet.
For his drink, there’s a “shot” of coffee. It looks small, plain and unimpressive, but the smell it has makes you instantly tell its powerful caffeine. Supposedly the coffee comes from the Middle East. He takes a small sip and it’s syrupy and somehow layered. His eyes widen – the power of the coffee is somehow even more powerful than its smell.
“You’ve gotten some interesting tastes since the last I’ve seen you.”
“W-Well, trying new foods every once in a while is a normal thing to do, isn’t it?”
“I suppose. We never did have this luxury during our time in the Future Foundation. I’m glad to see you’re taking full advantage of it.”
Makoto looks somber. “…yeah.”
Mukuro looks away from him, her head slightly lowered. The trio finish their food in silence. Kyoko finally looks at the half of the SHSL Despair sitting across from her. “I’d like to hear what you can remember from that experience of yours.”
The former lucky student looked a bit worried for the girl, considering her state. But he holds back his objections for the time being.
After a few moments to process the request, Mukuro nods. “Okay.”
“It’s mostly a blur to me. I… died and then…nothing. Next thing I knew, I was in the Monokuma control room and there was no sign of my sister.
You guys say it has been…a few months, but it only felt like a few days for me. The monitors only showed the moment of my death. It was the only thing I could see. I could walk away but I wasn’t able to get out. The door refused to respond to any of the console’s commands. The console didn’t even work at all to be honest.
Next thing I can remember, Naegi-kun opened the door. He…” She moves her eyes to him. “He looks different now and it was dark, so…so I thought he was the one who locked me in there. So I attacked him. I realized too late and…combined with hunger, stress and the lack of sleep…I passed out when I reached out for him.”
Kyoko taps the table. “Interesting. I suspected as much, given the state of the old school building. No one was in there for months, but Ikusaba…san…is alive despite the lack of food and inability to leave the control room.”
Makoto tilts his head at her. “What did you suspect?”
“It looks to be a form of time dilation: a phenomenon where time moves far more slowly than normal. Whether or not it was weaponized to torture her is a wholly different question.”
“Yes, I imagine if Enoshima were to somehow utilize it…well…there is definitely a target she has in mind. I certainly don’t need to spell it out for you, do I?”
“That’s just assuming it can be used that way.” Makoto pinches the bridge of his nose. “All we can say is that whatever was there reacted to Ikusaba-san.”
“Also, recall how we needed to fight Monokumas to get there and how the fourth floor looked like it was right out of our killing game. There’s shades of multiverse theory in action. The old school building had no traces of becoming a shelter at all in this world, but we definitely did do that in ours. I assume the various Monocreatures we ran into may come from another parallel universe. I’d say this is likely, considering we’re completely out of place: we’re young adults while everyone else we’ve met from our class appear to be still teenagers.”
He furrows his brows, “So let’s assume someone or something is messing with time and space. And… because of whatever is happening, it’s causing weird things to happen here. Like… having parallel universes leak into this one.”
“As insane as this whole thing sounds… yes.” She glances over at her gloved hand. “Another thing we can assume is that the perpetrator is tied to Hope’s Peak Academy in some way.”
“There’s gotta be more to this, I think.”
“Regardless, that’s all I can conclude from the information we have right now.”
“Okay.” As if he just remembered something, Makoto places his cell phone on the table. “Oh right, I’m… going to need your number again.” He laughs nervously, rubbing his neck. “There’s no multiverse-friendly SIM card…”
“How bold of you, Naegi-kun.” Kyoko smirks as he blushes. She inputs her number into his phone. She calls it and her phone rings once, immediately silencing the call. “I’ll make sure to contact you with any developments.”
Mukuro frowns slightly at the exchange.
Kyoko looks over at the SHSL Soldier. “What will you do now?”
“I…” She looks conflicted.
Makoto interjects. “You can stay with me for a while. Or with Kirigiri-san if she doesn’t mind.”
The detective keeps her emotions underneath her stony mask. She eyes Mukuro wearily.
“Look, I know you were homeless when you were younger but you don’t have to live like that. If it’s alright with you--”
Mukuro immediately responds. “I…okay. I can stay… with you… if you don’t mind, Naegi-kun.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Kyoko crossed her arms. “I’m assuming that Enoshima knows where you live.”
He holds his head. “At this point I’m pretty sure she knows where I am at all times.”
She only sighs. “You have a bad habit of harboring dangerous criminals, Naegi-kun. But I suppose it is part of what makes you the true SHSL Hope.”
“Hey, I’m just some nosy reporter.”
“You certainly don’t help my blood pressure.”
The full moon’s glow shines through the open window as the three sit around Makoto’s table. The bachelor is busy tidying up the light novels and manga strewn on it. Kyoko glances over at the two volumes of Danganronpa/Zero he hasn’t put away yet.
Makoto notices. “Have you heard of the Danganronpa series?”
“I’ve heard bits and pieces about it. It’s a niche yet popular series of murder mystery video games that turned into a long-running series, if I recall. Sometimes they’re video games, sometimes they end up being an animated series. Though… I believe I’ve seen this woman before.”
Mukuro’s face twists into a look of confusion.
“The earliest entries are a pretty accurate re-telling of our lives during the apocalypse.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. And these are supposed to be the prequels to our killing game. It’s really rare to find these light novels but I came across them by chance. It was really expensive, being a collector’s item and all. The ink’s pretty faded since the books are decades old.”
Kyoko immediately skims through both novels and sees the illustrations of people she can clearly remember from her past. “This is…I believe I recall them.”
“I bet. It uh…filled in some blanks for me. You can borrow them, if you want.”
Kyoko closes the book. “Tempting. However, I don’t think the knowledge here would help in our current situation. Does it mention anything about time travel or any dimensional disturbances?”
Makoto shakes his head.
“I see. Then I’ll decline the offer. I’ll leave it to you to fill in the blanks as needed.”
Mukuro’s face darkens. Many of her own crimes were most likely documented in the series, if what Makoto said was true. Despite that, he still invited her to stay at his house so that she wouldn’t be on the street. It confused her.
The detective continued. “Are you a fan of the series?”
“No way.” He chuckles. “I’ve only really looked through the entries about us, to be honest. The light novels and some really old Let’s Plays I found while searching the web. I figure it was a good way to see an outside perspective on things.”
Mukuro broke her silence as if snapping out of a trance. “Does…it not bother you?”
“Huh? That they’re games and anime? I dunno…it might be fiction to the people of this world, but I see it based on history personally. Not like that sort of stuff hasn’t been done before.”
She goes silent. It seems he didn’t answer her question, or his answer was sufficient enough. Her face was as unreadable as ever. Kyoko gives her a look for a few seconds, then turns back to Makoto.
“By the way, I understand that you want to investigate how we’ve somehow come to this world…what exactly are you after? Are you trying to return us to our world?”
He leans back. “That’s possibly the same line of thinking that whoever is behind this has. That things aren’t fair or right and they should be changed. All I want is for this to not happen again. And I also want to know…
Why? What was worth doing all this?”
Kyoko gives him a good, long look before smiling. “It’s tempting, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Being able to mess with time somehow…it’s basically the ability to potentially prevent The Tragedy from ever happening. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to do it. But look at what’s happened. Everything’s all sorts of messed up. Even if you were someone like Hinata-san with all his talent, dimension hopping and time travel would probably get really messy.”
Makoto looks toward the moon. “Honestly? I wouldn’t try it. In the end I couldn’t save everyone, so I’m not conceited enough to think I can change the world on my own if I could.”
His mind flashed to the final killing game and his final confrontation with Munakata.
“I’d become a hypocrite if I fell into that temptation. All I can do is keep going and moving forward; no matter the world, no matter what happens.”
He smiles awkwardly, rubbing the tip of his index finger on his face. “I’m rambling again. That coffee was pretty strong.”
Kyoko glances over at the window. “It’s getting late. I’ll take my leave for the night. If anything happens, I’ll only be a phone call or text away.” She glances over at Mukuro for a second before standing up. “Good night, Naegi-kun.” She lets herself out, leaving only the reporter and the former mercenary.
“Ah, right. I should have a futon.” He stands, moving to his closet. “This alright with you?”
“You…don’t need to do so much for me, Naegi-kun.”
He looked at her as if she said something completely strange. “Eh? You’re a guest here. Don’t worry about it.” He pulls it out and lays it next to the window, grabbing a spare pillow and blanket next.
She still looks unsure. “But…”
“We were friends, weren’t we? Though we never did know each other that well. So, maybe, this could be a good chance to do so, right?”
Her eyes light up. “Friend? Even after…?” She looks away. “Did my sister say anything?”
Makoto doesn’t respond immediately. “I…I don’t want to repeat what she said.”
The silence was choking with its oppressive aura. All he could do was watch for her reaction. He swallowed nervously.
Her face was emotionless as ever, but there were most likely turbulent emotions behind it. Not wanting to pry further, he lays the beddings for her to take at any time.
“You should probably rest up. You’ve…been through a lot.”
She nods slowly. Wrapping herself in the guest futon, she lays on her side facing the wall. Makoto spends half an hour checking e-mails and browsing potential leads before laying on his own bed.
The shining sun with its intrusive heat wakes Makoto up again. He was so tired that he slept in the clothes he was wearing all of yesterday. Minus the tie, of course. Thankfully he now is only sore where he was injured rather than in actual pain. Sitting up, he looks toward Mukuro who suddenly moves her eyes down at the floor. She’s in a sitting position obviously facing toward Makoto’s bed.
He rubs his eyes. “Good morning. Did you sleep at all?”
She looks back at him. After a few moments she slowly shakes her head.
“Were you just…sitting there the whole time?”
A slow nod.
“O-Oh. Um.” He stands from his bed, trying to steer away from the awkwardness. “Anyway…” He walks over to his kitchenette, checking his fridge and cupboards. “There’s still a bit of food here. You’re free to take some, you know. You don’t have to wait for my permission or anything.”
He looks over.
“…what happened between you and my sister?”
His eyes glance at the floor. “The killing game, right? I-I mean I could pull up a video--”
“I want to hear it from you.”
Makoto takes a deep breath. “Okay.” He sits down at the table facing her.
He makes eye contact with her. His voice sounds distant as he summarizes the events. “After you died the killing game continued. A lot of our class died. We found out Kuwata-kun was the one who killed Maizono-san. Owata-kun lost his temper and killed Fujisaki-san. Yasu--Celeste-san used Yamada-kun to kill Ishimaru-kun. Then she killed him. And then Enoshima revealed that Ogami-san was a mole in our group and she…ended her own life…so that the killings would stop. It was almost in vain since the suicide note was tampered with.”
Makoto looks down at the floor for a second, then resumes eye contact with her. “So then your corpse was used to try and frame Kirigiri-san for your death but I almost ended up dying instead. I was saved by Alter Ego before I could be executed. And we were able to out Enoshima as the mastermind.” He frowns. “We almost fell into despair, but… we didn’t.”
“It was because of you, wasn’t it? Kirigiri-san called you the SHSL Hope.”
He sighs in response. “She was the one who gave me that title in the first place. But, well, I tried to live up to expectations. So since we refused to despair, she decided to end her own life for…despair. She executed herself.”
Mukuro responds with a distant gaze.
“Afterward, we left the school building and were picked up by the Future Foundation in order to combat the remnants of despair she left on the world.” He shakes his head. “Going from surviving a killing game straight into an ideological war. She really didn’t pull any punches.”
“You…fought in a war?”
“Not a lot of people were alive so everyone needed to do their part. I would’ve liked not being shot at though. Um, so, did that answer your question?”
“It did. But, now I’m even more confused…” She places her tattooed hand on her knee. “Don’t you hate us for what we did?”
He takes a few moments. “About what you two did? Before I ended up in this world I had a lot of feelings about it. Hate was never one of them. I never wanted you two dead. My feelings probably inspired my boneheaded actions in attempting to undo Class 77-B’s brainwashing. They were guilty and on the Future Foundations kill list, but I still went against orders and did what I could.”
She only stares at him for a good while. Finally, she replies, “You really are hope.”
“Not you too.” Makoto groans while a small smile shows on his face. “Any more questions?”
She shakes her head. “Thank you. Really.”
Despite the somber story of Makoto’s past, she seems to have some newfound vigor. She stands and actually goes to grab some food.
“Anyway, I should take a shower then go do some grocery shopping. I should be back pretty quick. You can just make yourself at home.”
“I’d like to come with you.”
“Eh? It’s not going to be very interesting.”
A small smile forms on Mukuro’s face. “That’s fine.”
BlackCapPI: I’d like to have met the original creator of Danganronpa. But he’s pretty old now, isn’t he? Doubt he entertains visitors these days. He was an alumni from HPA wasn’t he?
Shirokuma: yeah. they actually funded the first game and allowed him use of HPA as a setting. must’ve helped propel their popularity a bit since it was a lot smaller back then, though i bet all the questions about killing games got old. but wait, i thought you were old. aside from enoshima-sama not a lot of people discuss the HPA saga these days. they are pretty old games.
BlackCapPI: Huh? No, I’m in high school actually. It’s funny how most fans of DR usually remember the super popular ones like the 30th entry where they called it Triple-X. Or that weird one where it became a twist on a harem anime. It’s cool that there’s been so many different writers but I don’t think the quality is consistent.
Shirokuma: im a high schooler too! seriously, it’s actually really rare to meet someone who’s a fan of the HPA saga and not like… an old person.
BlackCapPI: Must be like how some younger fans of Gundam feel, when their favorites are the really old ones.
Shirokuma: well it’s okay! we can be weirdos together! 50 more years of danganronpa!
BlackCapPI: Mmm…but the popularity’s been starting to wane, I think. Do you think they’ll do something special for the 51st entry?
Shirokuma: ummm well… you know, i have hope for them. they’ll always have something to spice it up, even now.
BlackCapPI: Hm, I wonder…
Chapter 4: Watersky
The city of Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan. Aside from being a bustling metropolis, it is also a beautiful port city where one could relax and view the calm waters at leisure. It also contains some strange tourist attractions like it having both ramen and cup noodle museums. One could say that the city made Makoto feel right at home in some ways.
Sometimes a good deal on some groceries also helps.
“Finally! My luck’s turned around.” Makoto smiles while carrying plastic grocery bags in both hands. Mukuro walks next to him carrying another bag. They’ve just exited the store with the cool breeze blowing through them. The sidewalks and surrounding areas are filled with people in their daily lives. It’s noisy with all the people walking and traffic moving along at a steady pace.
“You’re still hurt, aren’t you? I can carry those bags for you as well.”
“It’s alright. I’m not…that hurt.” He wrinkles his nose. “But you do hit pretty hard, Ikusaba-san.”
The compliment failed in its intentions as she looks away.
“O-Oh. I was just making a joke. Sorry.”
The walk remained silent for a while, passing by crowds of others along the way. Makoto takes a deep breath as he tries to find another venue of conversation. Mukuro looks uneasy as she keeps her eyes darting around for any potential threats. They eventually find themselves in a covered parking structure walking to Makoto’s car. It’s much warmer inside with the parking spaces filled with various vehicles. He pops open the fastback and both of them place the bags in the cargo.
Makoto chuckles. “Man, having a car’s great. I had a couple of times where I would trip on a soup can or something similar on the way home…oof.”
Mukuro’s face remains stoic. “You seem to take pride in your vehicle.”
“Ah, yeah. It’s nice to just drive and kinda forget your worries for a while. Though with all the traffic around I have to drive way out to do that sorta thing. You ever do anything like that, Ikusaba-san?”
She takes a few seconds to respond. “I… like to read mystery novels.”
“Novels can really take you into a whole different world, can’t they?”
“If I remember correctly…you used to write for military magazines. You could always be a writer yourself.”
She shakes her head.
Makoto smiles. “It’s just something to think about.” He closes the trunk of the car and shifts his eyes to the left of him. He spots a beat up dirty white van with its doors wide open. He sees two legs covered by rolled up pant leggings with familiar-looking sandals sticking out. Makoto walks over to check, with Mukuro following close behind.
A familiar adult face with dreadlocks, round glasses and stubble on his face looks over with eyes widened.
“Yo! Naegi-chi. Long time no see, dude!”
Makoto smiles while Mukuro narrows her eyes on him. He stands up and pats the reporter on the shoulder.
“You seem to be doing alright. How have you been for the past few months?”
Hiro crosses his arms. “Geez. It’s been hard! Why didn’t you tell me that you didn’t need my help anymore? The guards at the academy said I didn’t work there!” He sighs. “C’mon dude, are you still mad that I tried to sell off your organs?”
Makoto rubs his neck. “I, uh, haven’t really thought of that for a while. Thanks for reminding me.”
The SHSL Soldier frowns.
“Wait, seriously?! Then why’d I get fired? I didn’t do anything!!”
“You…” Makoto sighs. “You haven’t noticed?”
“That this isn’t our world.”
The former SHSL Fortune-Teller raised one of his eyebrows. “What? Last I checked this was totally Earth, dude. Though it is a lot cleaner than it’s been in years…”
“And that didn’t weird you out or anything?”
“I mean we got rid of the red sky and everything. I thought we were just being awesome at rebuilding society! I mean HPA was rebuilt in a few months and all. And you were our boss!”
Mukuro looks over at Makoto.
“I haven’t been the Headmaster of HPA for a few months, Hiro-kun. It’s a little impossible when someone’s already Headmaster.”
“Someone stole your job? Yikes! Ice cold. Was it Togami-chi? Well don’t worry! I can totally get you a job where I work, man!”
“Uh…thanks, but I’m self-employed right now.”
“Whoa seriously?” Hiro is taken aback. “Didn’t take you for the self-starting type, Naegi-chi! Raking in the big bucks? I can always give you some tips.”
Makoto pinches the bridge of his nose. “We’re going off-topic. How long have things looked like this for you?”
“All clean and normal-like? Uhhh…a few months, maybe?”
“Hm. Just like Kirigiri-san and me. Maybe we all ended up here around the same time, but separated.”
“A-Anyway what the hell do you mean by a different world, Naegi-chi? Like…this isn’t where we’re supposed to be…?”
“Yeah. That’s the short of it.”
Hiro placed his hand on his chin then shouts as he comes to a realization. “W-We’re aliens?!”
Makoto holds his head. “I guess that’s a way to describe us.”
“We…we gotta go home then! I was wondering where all my stuff was. My mom was looking at me as if I had a stroke or something, too!”
The former headmaster sighs. “Look, I don’t think we can easily go home. Or even if it’s possible.”
“What?! NOOO!! Brahman save me!!” Hiro screams.
“Quiet down, Hiro-kun!” He waits as the clairvoyant stops screaming. “You mentioned your mom…”
“Yeah! She said she didn’t remember anything about The Tragedy or how she was stuck in Towa City for a year. I thought it was just because she was getting old. Erm…don’t tell her I said that.”
“I assumed that everyone alive from our side would all have their memories still. Maybe only certain people do?”
“How the hell did we end up here anyway?! Not that it’s a bad place or anything. I just want my stuff.”
“I have no idea. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.”
Hiro grins and gives a thumbs up. “Well, between you and Kirigiri-chi, you two’ll have this case solved in no time! Gives me some time to do some shopping.” He looks over at the freckled girl. “Uh…you got an assistant or something? Nice to meet ya! I’m Yasuhiro Hagakure. You can call me Hiro! And for a small fee I can—“
“Hiro-kun. She’s one of our classmates.”
“Wait, what?” He narrows his eyes at her. “Uhhh…don’t tell me…hmmm…”
She curtly responds, “Mukuro Ikusaba.”
“Still not ringing any bells. You sure, Naegi-chi? She does look a little younger than we do.”
Makoto responds, “She posed as Enoshima during the killing game. Her sister.”
A few quiet moments pass.
“Wait! Wasn’t her body blown up?! How’s she in one piece? Is…” Hiro’s face goes pale. “A GHOST!!”
Makoto sighs. “While that’s actually not a wrong reaction, I’m not going through this again.” He just grabs Mukuro’s arm. “See? Alive.”
The soldier tenses for a moment and then breaks out into a full-blown blush as Makoto moves the arm in front of him. Hiro screams again. “A ZOMBIE!!”
Makoto lets go of her arm as he loses what’s left of his patience. “No! She’s alive.”
Hiro’s scream peters out. “O-Oh. Okay. I trust you. But if she starts wanting my brains all bets are off.”
Mukuro’s eyes narrow. “I don’t think your brain would be appealing.”
“Yikes!! Don’t be so mean, Not-Junko! Anyway, why’s she so young compared to us then?”
“I’m barely in my twenties…” Makoto frowns then changes the topic for his own sanity. “Anyway. Do you have your phone on you?”
“Yeah, dude! Check it out. It’s a brand spanking new model from Korea!” He shows off his new smartphone. “I mean, I bought the previous model a few months ago but this thing is way better. Gotta stay on top of the trends right?”
“Let’s exchange numbers, Hiro-kun. And…you’re not in debt, are you?”
“What? No way! I’m a reformed salaryman, Naegi-chi! Though uh…if you could lend me ¥50,000 I wouldn’t be against it…”
Makoto rolls his eyes. “Sorry. I can’t spare that much.”
“Aw, c’mon! We’ve been friends for a long time haven’t we?”
“That’s why I can’t spare it.”
“Ouch! You’re messing with my chi, dude!”
Makoto puts his phone away after they exchange numbers. “Call me if you find any of the others. I’ll keep in touch, alright?”
“Sure, dude!” Hiro closes the back of his van and walks over to the driver’s side. “If you find yourself in Minami, just hit me up. I still owe you a couple of drinks.”
“I might actually take you up on that.” Makoto smiles. “See you.”
Makoto lays two bowls of ramen on the table. He sits across from Mukuro. “I’m not used to cooking for others so I hope it’s not too bad.”
She stares at it for a short while then helps herself. “It’s good.”
He lights up and gives a thumbs up. “Alright! Guess I’ve got some skill.” He starts eating his own bowl loudly. “Man, I never get tired of this stuff. It’s a simple dish but you can always do something a little different to it each time. This time I used a different stock.”
His companion seems to eye him as finishes off his own soup, eating hers at a relatively slower pace.
“No, I—“ Mukuro seems to be choosing her words carefully. “You always seem so laid back.”
He chuckles to himself. “I have an appreciation for enjoying life, I guess. Considering everything that’s happened…”
Makoto stops himself. He looks over at her.
“I involved you in something horrible, Naegi-kun. You could have died. And you…you just continue to show me kindness and I…” She looks down. “I don’t deserve this from you.”
“Hey, I’m not doing this to guilt-trip you. You’ve saved my life a few times in the past, you know. You might not believe it yourself but I see potential for good in you.”
“…good? In me…?”
“It sounds foolish, but I can’t help seeing it in everyone I meet.”
“I’m a mass murderer, Naegi-kun.”
She just looks at him. The normally stoic face of the SHSL Soldier couldn’t stop cracking from the bewilderment that she was feeling. Whatever she’s trying to say refuses to come out as she can only mouth the words.
“By the way, you shouldn’t be saying ‘I’m sorry’ in this situation.”
She stops and her eyes widen.
“You should be saying, ‘thank you.” Makoto smiles.
A few tears fall from her eyes. “Thank you.” She wipes her eyes quickly with a smile on her face.
She finishes her bowl of ramen. Makoto picks up both bowls and walks over to the sink. “My place isn’t exactly a great place for visitors. So would you like to go to Yamashita Park with me? Haven’t been there myself yet, but I heard it’s a pretty good sightseeing spot.”
She jumps up with a beet red blush on her face. “Y-Yes! I’d love to.”
The sunset reflects its orange hue against the waters of the port. There are many people, mostly tourists, roaming the parks and enjoying the view of the waters. Numerous ships line the docks and the pier. Many of the ships were converted into actual property such as shops, restaurants and museums. They both walk out of a women’s clothing store with Mukuro holding a decently-sized bag.
Makoto rubs his neck. “You really did need more sets of clothes but uh…they all look kind of similar to each other.”
“It’s fine. I’m not fashionable like my sister is.”
“Okay.” He drops the subject. “Anyway there’s a—“
The sounds of rushing footsteps come from behind Makoto. Mukuro drops the bag and reaches for a knife hidden on her leg. Before she can finish drawing it, Makoto is being lifted up by a familiar female athlete, wearing similar clothes to what she was wearing back during their high school days.
“Naegi!!” The adult ex-SHSL Swimmer hugs Makoto tightly. “You’re okay!”
“I’m…ugh…okay! Can…can you let me go…still sore…”
“Oh, oh, sorry!” She puts him down with a sheepish smile. Mukuro sheathes the dagger back in its hiding place.
“Hina-san…it’s been a while.”
“That’s all you can say after all this time, Naegi?! I was worried sick about you and the others!”
“Sorry…I was trying to find you too. I’m glad you’re alright.”
Hina notices the girl standing next to Makoto. “Um…wait…” She thinks for a few moments.
“Wait, SHSL Despair is alive?” Her eyes become determined and gaze at Mukuro, with the SHSL Soldier returning it in its intensity.
Makoto steps in between them. “Hey, hold on. It’s fine.”
Hina softens her look and eyes Mukuro for a while. “Okay. If Naegi can trust you, I guess I can too.”
Makoto breathes in relief.
“Anyway, where have you been? I ran into Kyoko-chan a while back and you’re the second one I’ve found!”
“I live in this city, actually. What have you been up to, Hina-san?”
“It’s been rough. But…my family’s all okay! I was so happy to see them, especially Yuta-kun. Though, apparently, I’ve never gone to HPA.” She pouts. “But it’s…gonna be okay. I can finally aim for the gold, right?”
Hina sighs. “It’s not fair, you know? It was like a whole chapter of our lives was erased. And I guess our class doesn’t even know about us either. I mean, it’s nice that people didn’t die but…I feel so out of place, you know?”
Makoto places a hand on her shoulder. “No, that’s a totally normal reaction to have. I bet the others have been trying to cope with it too.”
“Aw, that’s not fair Naegi. Even in a situation like this you stay so cool.”
“Really? I think I’m just weird.”
“I-I mean…it’s always been like that, you know? Even during the first killing game you just took it in stride. All those horrible things happened and you just kept going.” She smiles. “But it helped us all out in the end, right? We won over despair.” She makes a glance at Mukuro for a second then goes back to look at Makoto. “Anyway, have you seen your family?”
Makoto freezes. “Oh, uh…no. I haven’t. I’ve been on my own for the past few months.”
“Wait, what?! You haven’t even seen Komaru-chan?”
“If I had to make a guess, she’s either here in Yokohama or in Towa City, but searching such a big area for one or two people is pretty hard.”
“Okay, that makes sense. But what about your parents?”
“Uh, well…” Makoto seems to be carefully crafting his response. “I guess I’m too prideful you know? They’d probably be super worried if I showed up homeless.” He laughs nervously.
Hina doesn’t buy the excuse. “Mmm. Well, when you want to talk about it, I’m all ears.”
“Geez, Hina-san. You’ve gotten sharp.”
She blushes and smiles at the compliment. “You and Kyoko-chan are my best friends after all. If I couldn’t tell if something was bothering you then, well, I’d be a bad friend wouldn’t I?”
Makoto laughs. “I wouldn’t go that far, but thank you.”
Mukuro frowns as she picks up her shopping bag.
“So, um, does that mean Enoshima-chan is alive too?”
Hina frowns and crosses her arms. “Are you okay?”
“Mostly. She was actually the first person I ran into.”
“Yikes! There’s that legendary bad luck of yours. Erm, no offense, Ikusaba-chan.”
Mukuro stays silent and looks away from her.
“Well, don’t worry Naegi! You know I’m always around to help you out. Let’s exchange numbers?”
“Of course.” He pulls out his phone as she does. “Alright. The only people I haven’t run into is Togami-san, Fukawa-san and Komaru.”
“Wouldn’t Fukawa-chan be with Komaru-chan? They’re roommates right?”
“She’ll be with either her or Togami-san if I had to guess.”
Hina sighs. “Yeah. You’re right.”
“But hey, we’ll have the team all together soon enough. Then we can actually discuss what’s been going on.”
Hina’s eyes light up. “Mm-hm! Then we can celebrate with lots of donuts! Oh…I haven’t really been doing any digging on that. But I can tell you what happened to me.
I was just doing my rounds after class ended one day and I somehow ended up around here. I usually come by here hoping to find one of you guys. In fact, I was in the middle of my daily workout! Shall we, workout partner?”
“Oh-erm-I’d love to.” Makoto visibly sweats. “But I’m currently here with Ikusaba-san sightseeing.”
“Aw. Well, it is a pretty sight. Maybe you should take Kyoko-chan one of these days, too.”
The implication was not lost on Mukuro.
Makoto chuckles. “Haha. Maybe. Her life’s pretty hectic from what I can tell, though.”
“You know she’d make time for you.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to abuse that. She’s got her own life after all.”
“Hehe! That’s why I like you, Naegi. A real gentleman. But you really ought to spend time with her.”
“You’re right. Anyway, before you go back on your run, want to hang out for a bit?”
“Sure! Uh…if I’m not being a bother or anything.”
Mukuro just nods, disappointed.
The trio walk toward the waterfront as people pass them by. Others are watching the calm waters of the port as well. An all-white yacht appears to be leaving the docks. Makoto stares at it for a while. Normally he would see some rich adolescents partying on the deck but there only seems to be two figures. It sails into the middle of the bay until it’s engulfed by flames from a flashy explosion.
“Oh my…!” Hina gasps.
Makoto’s eyes widen, then he pulls out his phone. He zooms in and starts taking pictures.
“Wh-what are you doing, Naegi?”
“I’m on the clock.” They can hear the sound of emergency sirens blaring toward the area. Many of the people in the area start running while a few others are in shock from the scene. He looks at the pictures on his phone. “Wait…you can see this, right?”
Mukuro takes a look herself. “That’s the emblem for Hope’s Peak Academy.”
“Right. I have a bad feeling.” He sends a text to Kyoko with the pictures attached. After a few minutes, he gets a reply. A police boat as well as some firefighting teams gather across the bay to do their own work.
Thank you for showing me this, Naegi-kun. From my own investigations, it looks like the leaks from HPA are probably connected. More than likely the victims were members of the Steering Committee. I’ll keep you updated on anything I can uncover here.
Hina sweats. “U-Um…isn’t this world supposed to be perfectly peaceful?”
“I don’t think such a perfect world exists. A-Anyway, I need to get to work. Do you need a ride to your place, Hina-san?”
“No, I’ll be fine. Thanks. I’ll…see you later.” The athlete walks away with low energy, visibly shaken by the sudden events.
“Sorry about cutting this short, Ikusaba-san. But I’ve got to do my job.”
Makoto starts walking toward the dock before the authorities can close it off. He logs onto To➜Witter to post the breaking news on his account.
“Since I’m not a detective, I can’t go and physically examine the charred remains of the boat but there’s another option.”
“Witness testimony. The lifeblood of all reporting!”
There were a few witnesses around the docks that Makoto could get to. Apparently earlier in the day, a suspicious-looking teenager was seen hanging around the area a few hours before the explosion happened. Only two elderly men boarded the yacht along with its crew. No individuals abandoned ship during the short cruise into the bay it had, possibly signifying no survivors. The fire was eventually put out, only leaving a charred husk. The duo could see body bags being shipped out of there by emergency services.
“Mm. Hey, Ikusaba-san.”
“The explosives used… do you have an idea on what they were?”
“Judging by the strength and intensity of the blast, it could have been several payloads of C-4. Most likely imported from somewhere like the Middle East.”
“So whoever’s behind this isn’t messing around. Could be some sort of terrorist group, but I have a feeling it might be a group at HPA.”
“You don’t think my sister’s involved in it, do you?”
Makoto stares at the wreckage deep in thought. “She doesn’t go to Hope’s Peak. I’m not saying that she couldn’t have masterminded this, but…
This feels more like a declaration of war.”
Shirokuma: am i the only one who actually likes yasuhiro?
BlackCapPI: Um. Probably. He’s totally useless and not funny. He even has a decent talent, but he’s too stupid to even utilize it.
Shirokuma: but then he’d become overpowered. we have enough of those types of characters in danganronpa already
BlackCapPI: Sure, I guess. But all he really gets is his own light novel and even then it was kinda…weird. I mean Asahina-san got the third entry to shine a bit and it was kinda lackluster. Still more than Yasuhiro, I guess.
Shirokuma: i mean does everyone have to be useful? sometimes you can like a character if they make you laugh or have a good personality
BlackCapPI: I would at least like to have other students to be at least competent. Or antagonistic. Give me a challenge.
Shirokuma: you’re the type to solve cases before the trial, huh
Chapter 5: Akashic Record
The sun was barely up as Makoto was searching through the internet and a few pictures of old articles from the library he took with his phone. Leaks delivered from Kyoko’s text messages allowed him to try and look up the two major victims of the yacht bombing yesterday. Information was scarce. All he could dig up was that they were researchers employed many years ago at Hope’s Peak. Obviously any information pinning the exclusive group as the actual power behind HPA administration was not public. Somehow along the way their influence and reach was dug deep into the school that when Jin Kirigiri was appointed Headmaster, he was already subservient to them. The apartment was quiet despite the fact that there were now two people living there.
He stretches and yawns at his computer. He looks over and sees Mukuro sitting at the table behind him sipping on some freshly brewed green tea.
“There’s really not a lot to say about these guys.” Makoto sighs. “They definitely fit the role of a shadow administration…”
“Does it really matter what they have to say? They’re dead.”
“Mm. I suppose that’s true.” He stands from the table, rubbing his neck. “But just saying that two people from HPA died is pretty impersonal, I think. Everyone’s got a story to tell.”
Mukuro put down the small cup. “Is that why you became a reporter?”
“Er, well, I mean at first crazy stuff would happen around me like usual. Sometimes it was kinda my fault, but people got really interested in what I would say about them. I got paid sometimes for information, too. I figured I could take a crack at it myself since I don’t exactly have something else to fall back on.”
Makoto laughs nervously. “I might’ve ended up working at MgRonalds or something. But as I kept doing it, sometimes I’d run into times where people died for no good reason. Not everyone is lucky to afford a eulogy in the papers or on the news sites. I figured I could also be their voice for when it happens.”
She stared at him for a few moments.
She thought about her own death and how it was similar. She concluded that no one among the survivors knew her story at the end – and how could they? The only people who knew were either dead or Izuru Kamakura. She had remained distant from the rest of her class due to her personality and to protect her sister’s machinations. All those precious memories she had with Class 78 would’ve faded away along with her.
It was a truly cruel fate… to be ultimately forgotten.
That world did still fade away from her. The Makoto she remembers was a naïve, quirky teen with a heart of gold. The young adult in front of her eyes, aside from the obvious growth from age, still had that same heart but cooled and tempered by the sadistic teacher of experience – something similar she’d have seen other mercenaries at Fenrir go through if they survived their missions. And all of it was from her sister’s desire for despair.
Makoto yawns as he sits across the table from her.
“How are you? Everything alright? You look like you’re focusing hard on something.”
“It’s nothing, Naegi-kun.”
“Um…” Mukuro looks away.
“Well, whenever you want to talk about it I’ll be here. Okay?”
“You really are perceptive.”
He laughs nervously with a shy smile. “What kind of educator would I’ve been if I didn’t even learn from my friends, right?”
She continues to mull over her current situation while Makoto slides something over to her. Her eyes peer over and it looks to be a key.
“It’s one of my spares, Ikusaba-san. I mean, I’d imagine you’d like to go outside and stuff on your own, right? You’re not a prisoner or anything.”
Her face turns bright red. Being given a key, in her mind, seemed to be not only a sign of trust but also of intimacy. This is officially saying that she lives with Makoto Naegi. Her imagination starts to run wild, while the actual Makoto is just looking at her with a confused expression.
“You aren’t coming down with a fever, are you?”
She snaps out of it. “Oh…no. I’m fine. I hardly get sick.”
“Guess that’s part of being the SHSL Soldier. But don’t push yourself too hard.”
“Alright. I’ll be careful.” She gives him a small smile, with him responding in kind.
Makoto’s phone emits a small funky tune and he looks over. “Anyway, I’ve got a meeting with Kirigiri-san. I’ll be back soon.” He stands and moves to the door. “It’s just a short walk from here, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
He leaves the apartment with Mukuro waiting a few minutes. Eventually, she makes her way to the door and walks out – locking it from the outside with her new key. Despite the crowd, she can spot Makoto’s ahoge and starts to trail him.
Old habits die hard.
Kishine Park wasn’t as grand as the portside Yamashita Park, but it had a tons of space and tons of trees. Sometimes you could find people setting up tents to enjoy the day here. There’s a pond situated near the middle of it. The air is still cool with the colored trees adorning the sights. Kyoko is sitting on a bench at the side of aforementioned pond. Makoto makes his way over. The lilac-haired detective looks over and he smiles as he takes a seat next to her.
“Good morning, Kirigiri-san. Has everything been alright over at HPA?”
Kyoko sighs. “It’s been chaotic. Father lost contact with the remaining two members of the Steering Committee and it isn’t as if he’s going to be left untouched by those responsible for the bombing from last night.”
“How about the students?”
“Day-to-day operations are the same. But I can only imagine that things will get worse – if Enoshima’s antics were any historical implication.”
Makoto pauses for a moment. “I don’t think she’s behind this.”
“I actually agree with you. The bombing would terrify the general population, but it wouldn’t exactly spread despair. The Steering Committee is unknown outside of HPA’s topmost administration.” Kyoko looks over at the pond. “People will talk about it for a short while and then return to their own lives.”
“Any clues on your end? Or suspects?”
“Several suspects. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say that they may be working together.”
Kyoko looks back at him. “The Student Council.”
“Wait, what? Why would they go against the Steering Committee?”
“I’m unsure. But considering they have elevated access to school funds and basically unlimited access of the school and its administration, I can’t discount them as suspects yet. They could either be the masterminds behind the incident or just accomplices.”
Makoto sighs. “This sounds like it’ll become violent.”
“You’ve been involved in something like that before, if that Danganronpa light novel’s pictures are to be believed.”
“It’s just my luck as usual.” Makoto chuckles. “I shouldn’t…be as useless as back then, though.”
Kyoko stared at him for a while. “You shouldn’t involve yourself in this.”
“Sorry. No can do. We’re supposed to be partners, right?”
“Naegi-kun, you shouldn’t take your life so lightly.”
Makoto returns her stare with a gentle one. “Shouldn’t I be saying that to you, Kirigiri-san?”
She’s speechless. He gives her a sad smile. “If it wasn’t for Kimura-san and Tsumiki-san, you would have…”
Kyoko recomposes herself. “If I had mentioned my NG Code, you—“
“I know! I know.” He looks away. “Still, it was painful. Between what happened to you and Hina-san, I was close to losing more of my family.”
The detective pauses for a moment. “I’m sorry. Though after hearing what you did with the Suicide Video...”
“I’ll keep apologizing for it. But we’ve been through so much. Don’t think something like this will scare me away.”
She sighs in defeat. “Alright. I’ll be counting on you again.”
“You can count on me. Always.”
Kyoko smiles at him. After a few moments, something catches her attention at the corner of her eye.
Makoto looks over. It’s a young brunette with red square glasses lacking a top rim. She’s dressed in a green coat with short brown shorts and black leggings and brown boots. He doesn’t recognize the young woman but Kyoko’s eyes are uncharacteristically wide open in shock.
“Someone you know?”
The woman continues walking, adjusting her backpack as she walks on her way.
“Yui Samidare. She…was a detective I worked with when I was younger.”
Makoto gives Kyoko an understanding look. “Do you want to talk to her?”
Kyoko looks at her gloves. She clenches her fists and looks at Yui, who walks farther and farther away from them. “No, she...” She looks over at Makoto now. “I’d never be able to catch up to you if I gave in.”
“Catch up to me?”
“People always talk about how you instill hope in others, but I also admire you for another reason.” She unclenches her fists. “You always move forward understanding the truth. That it’s oftentimes painful and perilous. You don’t take the easy way out or fall into temptations of lies.”
“You taught that to me. Hey, you know, you’ve become a bit of a poet.”
Kyoko smirks. “You taught that to me.”
Makoto blushes in response.
“Naegi-kun, I saw it. When you were talking to Class 78. When you were talking to Maizono-san. You didn’t treat them like old friends, even though they essentially are the same as the classmates we lost.”
“I-- we lost those friends. I’d feel like I’d betray those precious memories if I tried to turn those kids into them. They may not even be the same. They’ve gone through relatively peaceful lives without a trace of The Tragedy. As far as I’m concerned they’re different people.”
Kyoko nods. “Exactly. We all saw, heard and experienced those deaths firsthand.” She sighs and takes one last look at Yui before she disappeared from clear sight. “It’s painful, but the scars on my hands are reminders of what happened. That is the truth.”
“Kirigiri-san.” He smiles sweetly. “Thank you for sharing that with me. Those must’ve been some painful memories.”
“They were. But just as I taught you how to think more critically, you taught me the importance of expressing myself. So, I should be thanking you.” She takes a deep breath. “I wouldn’t have gotten past this without you.”
Flashes of the final showdown between the six survivors of Class 78 and Junko Enoshima played in Kyoko’s mind. She looked straight at Makoto and saw the same fire in his eyes he had all those years ago, telling her to not lose hope and to move forward with him. Logically at the time, sacrificing Makoto and staying in the school building converted into a bunker would have been the right choice. But, she learned to stop thinking things completely logically as everything they experienced together allowed her to hope again.
Given what they learned about Junko, it turned out to be the right choice in her mind.
Makoto kept quiet as he just looked at her.
He perked up, shocked by the change of address. “Kirigiri-san?”
She doesn’t respond.
He then thinks for a moment. “Kyoko-c…c…-san. Kyoko-san?”
She couldn’t help but laugh softly. “That’s fine, Makoto-kun.”
Makoto sighs in response.
“I should be going.” The detective stands up from the bench. “I’ll let you know if anything new develops.”
“Okay. Be careful.”
She gives him a look before walking off. Makoto picks up a pebble from the floor and throws it, with three skips the stone skates across the pond. He stands and hears a few rustles from a nearby bush. He looks at it for a few moments before walking off himself.
Mukuro’s head eventually pops out of the bush. She frowns, finding herself in a similar situation when they were both students at the academy. She quickly moves back to the apartment while assessing her options. She knew she would have to ask him a few things, but she didn’t want to alert his suspicions. After all, he’s shrewder these days. Climbing atop a nearby building, she leaps across others in order to beat Makoto back to the apartment.
Makoto looks up among the crowd, seeing an electronic billboard advertisement for “Danganronpa V1 – The Ultimate [Virtual] Reality Killing Game.” He shakes his head. Most of the people take a glance and ignore it like many other advertisements, but he could see a blonde high-school aged girl with an ahoge giving it a long look. He tries to walk toward her but the crowd is thick – by the time he makes it over there, the girl has moved on herself and is nowhere to be found. He sighs and continues back to his apartment.
The reporter returns back to his apartment and sees Mukuro sitting at the table.
“Took a walk outside?”
“Yes. I needed some fresh air.”
“I’d imagine you’d like to stay pretty active.”
She nods, keeping her face neutral as to not betray her intentions.
“How was your date with Kirigiri-san?”
Makoto stopped in his tracks. “D-Date?!” He turns completely red. “Wait, hold on… we… we aren’t dating.”
The soldier examines his face. It seems different than when he would talk about Sayaka all those years ago – it wasn’t the same puppy love crush that he had when he was speaking. She wasn’t sure what to make of it. But she knew that it was stronger than what he had with the idol.
“I mean, even if we were…we barely had time to even rest during our times in the Future Foundation considering how widespread despair was. Things were starting to settle down after reopening Hope’s Peak and then this happened.”
Mukuro kept looking at him, trying to probe for more information from his expressions and body language. He was still an open book when it came to relationships and he was being straightforward. Whether it was a stroke of (bad) luck that prevented the relationship from developing further was at the back of her mind, but she seemed content with what she found out so far.
“Sheesh…I didn’t take you for a gossip, Ikusaba-san.”
Her face turns red. “Ah, erm, wait—“
“Why’s everyone so interested in my love life?” Makoto grumbles.
She dared not answer.
Makoto walks over to the kitchenette. “How do you feel about eggs?”
“They’re nutritious. Good source of protein.”
“So I guess that’s a yes? Something simple, like omelet rice.” Makoto brings out some eggs while setting up his rice cooker. “Sorry, it’s probably not as luxurious as what you would eat with your sister, huh?”
She shakes her head. “No, but I like this. It’s closer to rations.”
“I…I’m going to try to take that as a compliment.”
“I-I meant it to be! Honest, Naegi-kun.”
“Speaking of which, it’ll be a late night tonight for me.”
“More research on your article?”
Makoto shakes his head. “I’m going to go see Enoshima.”
If looks could shatter glass, Mukuro’s was intense enough to do so. Even after all that’s happened, she couldn’t bring herself to hate her sister. She wanted to reconcile if at all possible. Or at least bring her the despair she wanted through the happiness of Makoto and the others. But she knew full well that what he was saying right now was comparable to walking into a den of starving lions covered in gazelle blood.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“No. It’s a very dumb and stupid idea. But ignoring her isn’t exactly the right choice either. She might not be behind what’s going on at Hope’s Peak, but she’s probably come up with something. I can’t have Kiri—Kyoko-san do all the work while she’s swamped with the HPA investigation herself.”
“I’m coming with you.”
He gives her a look. “…okay. But I’m going inside by myself.”
“Well, I imagine things won’t really end well right now between you two. I also can’t have her distracting herself, you know?”
Mukuro mulled over what he just said for a few moments. It was out of concern for herself and also out of something she didn’t think of. In a way, Makoto was correct – Junko would use her as a way to avoid answering any questions by directing the conversation elsewhere. Probably to complain about her stink, which was totally a lie by the way. Her eyes widen as she looked at him prepping the rice to cook.
He really was reckless.
Dinner as well as the drive up to Junko’s penthouse was both quiet and tense. After getting stuck in traffic for an hour, the cold night covered the hills overlooking the city. As they pulled into the street, they saw another car parked there. A dejected-looking woman got in as they arrived and the car speeds off – leaving some tire skid marks where it was parked. Makoto and Mukuro looked at each other with a confusing look for a moment.
The former lucky student gives a quick look at the property. No signs of crazy rockets, killer robots, property damage or even an ill-kept courtyard could be found. It looked relatively normal for a rich person’s home.
“Alright. Ikusaba-san. If I’m not out in an hour…you can do as you please.”
Makoto sighs. “Alright. 30 minutes.”
He opens his side of the car and steps out. Taking a deep breath, he walks through the courtyard by himself. No attack dogs was a good sign, he supposes. He manages to make it to the front door. The house looks like a new paintjob was starting to be applied to it, the polka dots starting to be covered by a white in order to apply a brand new coat of paint on it. There was a note left on the door that was ripped off recently. He tries to find it, but he can’t really see any signs of it.
He then rings the doorbell.
He tries again and again. There’s no sounds of anything. No movement. No crazy laugh. Just the sound of the cool wind blowing through the street. He tries to go around the house and manages to find a ground-floor window unblocked by curtains. He peeks and the house inside is furnished but devoid of human life.
Junko Enoshima definitely lived here. Makoto even verified it with paparazzi that he knew from his work. But there was no crazy party going on, no strange sounds nor even a sign that the fashion girl even lived here. The furniture looked somewhat gaudy, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
Makoto started sweating. He decided to take a look at real estate websites and searched for the address.
It was listed for sale.
He’d lost their only way of checking on Junko.
He hurried back to his car with the raven-haired girl surprised that he came back as quickly as he did.
“She’s moved out. Damn it. She basically abandoned her house.”
Mukuro hid her sigh of relief, but looked sympathetic to Makoto. “She might’ve gotten bored of living here. Just like she probably got bored of that girl who was here earlier.”
“Yeah. Probably. Still, where would she go?”
“I wouldn’t know. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. It’s just frustrating.”
Makoto finished his article after they returned to the apartment. With a defeated expression, he submitted it to the agency that hired him then slunk to bed. Waking up to the heat from the window once again, he checked his phone. There was a notification for breaking news.
He opened it and saw a live updating article with words that struck fear into his heart.
“Mass Student Protest at Hope’s Peak Academy” along with a livestream of what appeared to be Reserve Course Students marching toward the main course area with signs and posters with rebellious slogans.
“Damn it!” He jumped out of bed with Mukuro woken up from being startled.
“I-I’ve got to go to HPA. It’s the parade.”
She rubbed her eyes and processed what he just said. “Why go there? We’re not part of Hope’s Peak.”
“I can’t abandon Kyoko-san. Not this time.”
He sifts through his contacts and chooses one. “Hey, Hiro-kun? Can you bring your van over? Yeah. Yeah, Kyoko-san needs our help at HPA. I’ll text you my address. Mmhm. See you later.”
Mukuro stands up as Makoto texts both Hiro and Hina. “I’m coming with you.”
He looks over at her. “…I thought you didn’t want to go?”
“I won’t abandon you. Not this time.”
Shirokuma: did u see the announcement for V1?? thats such a cool idea!
BlackCapPI: Involving the fans to a livestreamed version of a killing game? I’m intrigued but…I can only question the legality of it.
Shirokuma: please. it’ll basically be like playing mafia. no harm no foul, right?
BlackCapPI: I suppose so. Though some of the tension might not transfer over well since people’s lives aren’t at stake. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Shirokuma: oh by the way, since we’re like friends now. you’re a naegiri shipper right?
BlackCapPI: Well, I mean it is the canon ship. I may not be a big fan of Naegi-san, but they really do bring the best out of each other. How about you?
Shirokuma: um well i ship a lot of things! tokomaru, ishimondo, komahina, despaircest, naegiri, naekusaba, naeshima…
BlackCapPI: You ship Enoshima-san with people? That feels wrong.
Shirokuma: she may be insane as all hell but she can love! and hurt.
BlackCapPI: Right, right. Any unusual ones or crackships then?
Shirokuma: oh oh i really like Mondo-san and Tsumiki-san. i think they’d be pretty good together, you know? he’s all about protecting and respecting women and she could tend to his wounds from fights he gets in. and you?
BlackCapPI: Actually, I do have a weird one. Hear me out. Komaru Naegi-san and Maizono-san.
Shirokuma: i have never ever seen that one before.
BlackCapPI: Yes, but Komaru-san has got the normal girl thing going on, she’s also a Sayaker and a positive influence. Like if Tokomaru doesn’t happen.
Shirokuma: actually that’s not bad. not the worst i’ve heard.
Chapter 6: The Returner
Thankfully the weather at Hope’s Peak Academy was clear with a cool temperature. When the convoy of two vehicles arrived at the front gate, they saw that it was smashed in with debris from the brick walling and the gate littering the ground. Pulling both vehicles onto the school grounds, all four of them exited their vehicles – Hina, Mukuro and Makoto exiting the car while Hiro exited his own van.
Hina did some stretches. “Ugh, I know there are two seats in the back but…they’re not really seats. It was really uncomfortable back there.”
Hiro rubbed his neck. “Hey, c’mon, is my van that bad?”
“It has a weird smell, Hiro! I don’t think I could take it for an hour.”
“Hey, I’m totally clean! Honest!”
The ex-SHSL swimmer places her hands on her hips. “Eh? I think that smell might actually be your B.O.!”
“Ouch! C’mon Hina-chi!”
Makoto chuckled while Mukuro looked on in disinterest.
“So, Naegi-chi, I brought some things that we might need.” He proudly opens the back of his van. “Got some canned food, bottled water…weapons…”
His eyes light up momentarily. “Actually, I wonder if the guys here need this stuff too. Maybe add in a little bit of a markup and…”
“Focus, Hiro-kun.” Makoto sighs. “Let’s see…”
The back was loaded with both food and water as he mentioned, though there were a few oddities as well as nonlethal-style weapons. It seems to be mostly bamboo swords and wooden staffs – stuff that you might see in a high school kendo and/or martial arts club.
“Oh! Oh! This looks kinda awesome!” Hina braves the smell as she reaches for what appears to be a red bō staff. “Okay! Nothing’s gonna get past me, I swear it!”
Hiro reaches for a bamboo sword. The way he’s holding it behind his back would probably get a massive scolding from Peko Pekoyama, but considering he’s not exactly trained in using it makes it not a total surprise.
“See anything you like?”
Makoto just glances at the weapons and then back at the food. “I don’t think we need this much food and water. Were you coming here already planning to sell it?”
“S-Sell?! Whoa, hey I’m not heartless. Just gonna distribute extras to whoever needs them…depending on donations of course…”
Makoto rolls his eyes. He finds a pair of brown leather gloves and puts them on.
Mukuro glances over at him. “Not going to take a weapon?”
“I’d really like to avoid fighting. And I don’t think me swinging around something much longer than I am is gonna be a good idea.” He sighs, frowning at his own shortness.
Mukuro takes out her combat knife. “As for myself, I won’t need any.”
The ex-SHSL Lucky Student panics at the sight. “Wh-whoa, wait, Ikusaba-san. Don’t kill them!”
She looks at him with a piercing glare. “They will try to hurt you.”
He stands his ground. “Look, I don’t think these guys are part of Ultimate Despair. They can be reasoned with. I think people are just angry.”
The SHSL Soldier looks away for a moment and then sheathes her knife. “Very well.”
Hina relaxes slightly as Hiro scratches the back of his head.
Makoto sighs. He looks at all three of them. “Look, I…you know I don’t want to drag you all into this mess. It’s dangerous, but I can’t do this alone. I just wanted to thank you guys. Really.”
Hina smiles in response. “Don’t worry about it, Naegi. You know I’m always ready to help you. Anytime. Besides, you were never really the fighting type, so I’m ready to protect you and Kyoko-chan with all I’ve got!”
Hiro smiles and gives a thumbs up. “We’re gonna be fine. I already did a scrying. And…30% is always a pretty good chance as it is, right?”
Mukuro stares with distrust in her eyes, but notices that Makoto and Hina were both nodding at the ex-SHSL Shaman’s confidence.
“Hiro-kun, I’d like for you to stay here. If it’s worse than I think it is in there, we can make this a home base of sorts. But I think we’ll be back before you miss us. You can count on it.” Makoto smiles.
“Course. We’ve been through so much that I know you guys’ll make it out. Find Kirigiri-chi and save the school! Not too hard, right?”
Hina gives a thumbs up. “Hehe. Yep! We’ll get through it all and then have a big celebration!”
The damage to the main campus was not catastrophic, but still extremely noticeable. The delicate landscaping was damaged to the large amount of foot traffic from the protesting reserve course student body. Shattered glass and loose debris lined the walkways of the East Quarter where all the classrooms and other facilities were located. Mukuro stops the other two as they approach the administration building – they can see reserve course students setting up their protest around the statue of Izuru Kamakura while the security detail is separating them from the building itself. The students are attempting to pull down and deface the statue while the private security force can only watch on.
From what the trio can hear, they are protesting about unfair treatment and the death of a student.
Hina frowns. “A student died?”
Makoto recalls what Kyoko mentioned during his last visit. “The only student I know of who died was the student involved the Izuru Kamakura project.”
“W-Wait, Hinata is dead?”
“It wasn’t him.” Makoto places a finger on his chin. “In fact, I don’t know where Hajime Hinata is.”
Mukuro continues staring at the protest. “You were right, Naegi-kun. They don’t look like they’ve been brainwashed. They haven’t started massacring the main course at least.”
Makoto starts walking toward the class buildings. “I still have a bad feeling.”
Hina walks over briskly next to him. “You don’t think Kyoko-chan is in the administration building?”
“Don’t think so. All the security guards are concentrated in one area because of all the students protesting… which means everywhere else isn’t being watched. We got in so easily after all.”
Mukuro catches up. “It could be a distraction.”
Makoto nods. “Yeah, I think so too. But for what?”
The building containing the homerooms was slightly damaged as well, most likely by stray protestors, but nothing on a catastrophic level. Some windows were broken but there was no sign of any massive brawls or even any casualties. The area is extremely quiet. Hina steps in front of them as she opens the door to the building with no trouble. There hasn’t been any attempt to barricade themselves. Inside was as quiet as the outside, as most of the classrooms looked empty. The hallway on the ground floor was a mess – looks like many of the SHSLs ran out quickly to who-knows-where after the protest passed by the building.
Makoto nods at both of them as he leads the two ladies to the homeroom of Class 78.
“Do you think that they’re still in here, Naegi?” Hina whispers.
“Maybe. Kyoko-san was keeping an eye on them last I remember.”
As they arrive close to the classroom, Mukuro stops them both from continuing with her arm in front of them as she takes the lead. Her eyes narrow as she sees seven large men attempting to break down a door. The seven look over with their snake-like eyes and wild hair. One even has his tongue out, extending out in a strange alien-like manner.
Hina looked panicked. “W-Was Hiro right? They look like aliens!”
Makoto gripped his fist and stared them down. “No, these are the Madarai Brothers. Together they’re the SHSL Bodyguard. They protect the Student Council.”
“But there’s seven of them!”
Mukuro stepped forward. “That’s the gimmick.” She looks a bit annoyed as she instinctively reaches for her knife but stops herself.
One of the brothers speaks. “I do not know how you came across that information, outsiders, but you won’t live with that knowledge.”
Another speaks. “They don’t appear to be students, nor alumni. We must finish this quickly so we can get to that Kirigiri woman.”
“Look, there’s no need to fight.” Makoto attempts to reason with them. “Just let Kyoko-san go.”
The second one replies. “So you are her associates. More reason to get rid of you.”
Four of the snake-like brothers lunge toward Mukuro. As if an engine began to start, their movement began to slow to a crawl. She leaps in response, with and catches two of the brothers’ heads, slamming them into one another. The other two land past her. Two of the brothers left behind make a charge straight for the SHSL Soldier, while the last one dashes toward the other two to focus on Makoto and Hina.
Mukuro ducks and dodges an attempted lunge slam from one of the brothers, finishing with a grab on his uniform and slams him into the wall. The final brother attempts a body slam while she’s open, but she counters with a shoulder check. Said brother had a surprised face from the raw strength the petite girl had from her unknown talent and slammed into the opposite wall.
Hina grits her teeth as the two brothers who missed their initial lunge attempt to grab her. Her swift moves catch them off-guard as she leaps and kicks one of them dead into the head, knocking him out. The other turns to throw a haymaker, but Hina responds with a mighty swing from her three-sectioned staff.
The last brother, who was the first to respond, appears shocked from the two girl’s combat prowess but continues toward Makoto. Makoto looks back with determined eyes.
“If I can grab you, then this is all over!”
Despite dodging backward being the natural response to the Madarai brother’s grab with their strange long arms, Makoto ran forward and uses the momentum to knee him in the stomach. The air knocked out of him, Makoto kicks him in the same place he struck with his knee. The last brother falls over on the ground, groaning in pain. Mukuro quickly moves over and steps on his chest.
“G-Gah…you all…do you have talents…?”
Mukuro makes a final punch, knocking him out.
Makoto sighs. “Wasn’t expecting that at all…all seven of them for just Kyoko-san?” He looks over at Mukuro who has a curious look in her eyes.
“You can fight, Naegi-kun?”
“Eh? I kinda just…played that by ear, really. I mean I almost punched Monokuma once.”
Hina sighs. “You’ve seen so many of us fight that you probably just kinda…got into gear. That looked more like street fighting than any kind of martial art, though.”
“At least we know the Student Council is definitely involved in whatever is happening.”
The door creaks open. It looks extremely damaged, almost coming off the hinges as it does so. Kyoko steps out with Class 78. “Indeed, Makoto-kun. I surmise they wanted to silence me during the chaos.”
Hina smirked. “Geez, look at you two. Calling each other by first name now.”
Makoto is caught off-guard. “N-Not the time and place, Hina-san.”
Mondo grinned and gave a thumbs up. “Holy fuck. You three can brawl! Though the girls surprised the hell out of me.”
“Is that supposed to mean something, Owada-san?” Sakura crossed her arms.
“I don’t mean it in that way Ogami-san, but the freckles chick isn’t buff. The girl in the shorts looks pretty sporty though.”
Leon flashed a smile. “Damn, these two chicks are cute and badass. Thanks for helping us out. Seriously!”
Sayaka sighed. “Kuwata-kun.”
“What? We should be thanking them, right Sayaka-chan?”
“Indeed. Thank you three. I will also apologize for Kuwata-kun and his hungry glances.”
“Geez! Don’t throw me under the bus like that!”
Mukuro looks disinterested and Hina just crosses her arms with a huff.
“Y-Yikes! Alright, sorry ladies. My bad.”
While the students were thanking their saviors, Makoto and Kyoko were busy at work restraining the brothers.
Chihiro watches them. “W-wow, those two are like…professionals.”
“Of course!” Hina smiles. “We’ve been working with each other for years. Erm…well, except for Ikusaba-chan. She’s uh…I guess a new recruit?”
Mukuro looks confused. “I’m here to protect Naegi-kun.”
Hina stops herself as she realizes what she’s saying. “Y-Yeah. Sure. Like the SHSL Bodyguard. Yup!”
Kiyotaka looks confused. “You four seem like extremely talented and driven individuals. Yet…not former students of Hope’s Peak. It’s certainly eye-opening.”
Makoto stands up as he makes the final touches to tying the seven together. “There are a lot of people like us who didn’t go to this school.” He glances over at the other three. It wasn’t exactly a lie, after all.
“True…our class was quite small. Your words have opened up my eyes, Naegi-sensei!”
The former lucky student sighs. “I’m not a teacher, Ishimaru-san. Still just a nosy reporter that seems to get caught up in things.”
“That may be your profession, but you have a scholarly aura. Please, Naegi-sensei! Your worldly knowledge will help me in both my studies and my life.”
Mondo groaned. “Damn, bro. Laying it thick there.”
The SHSL Public Morals Committee Member stands straight. “Brother! Though your worldly knowledge is quite vast yourself, Naegi-sensei is an adult. We could all learn from our teachers and elders, after all!”
Kyoko finishes a quick call from her cell phone. “Munakata-san will be on the way to take care of the Madarai Brothers.”
“Munakata-san is here?” Makoto looked shocked. He hadn’t seen the former Vice Chairman of the Future Foundation for a long while now.
“Indeed. Along with Sakakura-san and Yukizome-san. I’ve been collaborating with those three during my time here.” Kyoko moves close, while everyone else looks with varying levels of interest. She whispers in his ear. “They’re the same as us…though you may be surprised at what they look like.”
“Mm. But first let’s get Class 78 to a safe place.”
“I agree. However, the South Quadrant of the campus is closed off for the moment because of the protest. They won’t be able to return to their dorms.”
“I’ve set up a makeshift ‘home base.’ I guess it’ll come in handy now. Hiro-kun is there.”
“Very well.” She moves away from Makoto and addresses the class. “We’ll need to get to a safe place. Let’s get going.”
Celestia gives her most polite smile. “Is there any place on campus that is actually safe?”
Makoto steps forward. “I’ve got a base camp near the front of the campus. You guys should be able to be safer there – and if trouble happens, you guys can escape easily.”
Hifumi sighs in relief. “That sounds good. I-I haven’t been able to concentrate on my work with all that rabble outside! And I cannot even prepare Celestia Ludenberg-dono’s milk tea in this place.”
The SHSL Gambler sighs. “Yes. It’s quite a shame. Even if Yamada-kun’s tea is not up to par.”
“Y-You wound me madam!”
“Perhaps the esteemed Naegi-san can try his hand at it. After all, he seems adept enough as a fighter and a thinker.”
Makoto laughs nervously. “As much as I would like to give it a try, we should get going now.”
“Whoa dudes! I knew you said you’d be back quick but… that was really fast. Not bad, Naegi-chi!”
The students of Class 78 are spread slightly out at the camp while the ‘outsiders’ are all close together in an ad hoc meeting.
Hina has pep in her step while she moves in place. “Naegi’s intuition is really sharp, you know. He might be psychic now.”
Sayaka’s head turns toward them when she overhears that line.
“Making that old joke, huh.” Hiro smiles nervously. “Still, he’s come a long way hasn’t he?”
“As much as I love the praise, we’re still on the clock.” Makoto turns to Kyoko.
Kyoko nods. “Allow me to share what I’ve found with all of you.”
The other four look at her with full attention. Mukuro seems surprised at how Kyoko is sharing her information so readily with them.
“The current Student Council is heavily involved with the protest. Not all of the members are complicit, but Soshun Murasame is definitely a major player as he leaked the information of the Izuru Kamakura project to the Reserve Course.” She looks over at them all, making eye contact with each person. “However, all evidence I’ve gathered does not make him to be the overall mastermind behind this. He is either a collaborator or an unwilling puppet.”
Hina gives off a confused look. “How can you say that he might be unwilling? Didn’t he send those seven guys after you?”
“The Madarai Brothers act autonomously. In any case, his involvement with the protests could jeopardize Murasame-kun and the rest of the student council’s academic careers. At the very least, they would be forced by administration to step down from their positions. That would easily spurn the SHSL Bodyguard brothers into action to protect them. Plus, as far as I could see, Soshun Murasame is still sound of mind.”
Hiro scratches his cheek. “So, uh, if that Murasame guy isn’t the mastermind, who would it be?”
“There are a few suspects. Not many people were involved with the Hope Cultivation Project, but they could all be easily be responsible. The aim looks to be to assassinate both the Steering Committee as well as upper members of the academy’s administrative body. Such as the Headmaster.”
Hina gasps. “W-Wait, your dad…he isn’t dead is he?”
“He, along with VIPs like Kazuo Tengan and Koichi Kizakura, are currently in lockdown at the Admin. Building. But we’re still on a time limit.” Kyoko turns to Makoto. “They were willing to use bombs before. There’s no doubt they could do it again.”
“Not only would they kill those VIPs, but also kill and hurt all those innocents currently over there.” Makoto spat. “This is insane. Why go through all of this?”
“The failure to create Izuru Kamakura was a massive blow to both the Steering Committee’s pride and the yearly budget. People involved were either fired or expelled from the academy along with a gag order. It ruined people’s lives.”
“Just like it ruined Hinata-san’s.”
“Regardless, I’ve just got word from the SHSL Secret Agent that he’s uncovered more clues. I’m off to meet with him.”
Mukuro frowns at the mention of Yuto Kamishiro.
“Okay. Just leave Class 78 to us, Kyoko-san. You’ve got a perp to catch, right?”
Kyoko closes her eyes and smiles at Makoto. “Indeed. I’ll see you later.”
The former SHSL Detective makes her exit as the three former Future Foundation agents watch her as she leaves their sight. Mukuro finally relaxes as Kyoko leaves the area.
“Ikusaba-san, you’ve got the best eyes here. Let us know if trouble comes running, okay?”
Mukuro nods at Makoto’s request and takes a perched position on top of Hiro’s van.
Hiro sighs. “Was it okay to let her go by herself? I was expecting you’d try and go with her, Naegi-chi.”
“We didn’t have time to argue. I plan on helping her, though.”
Hina smirks. “Hehe. You’ve really grown to know her well, haven’t you?”
“I’d…like to think so. But right now I’ll check on the students. Don’t charge them, Hiro-kun.”
“W-What?! Never! They’re technically old friends, right? S-So…maybe a discount…”
Makoto crosses his arms with a look of disapproval.
“Okay, okay. Fine.”
A few of the students did go to Hiro for food and water. Makoto walks over to his car and taps it gently with his gloved hands.
Mondo walks over. “That your ride? Didn’t take you to be a drift car racer. But you’re a lot tougher than you look. A damn journo risking his neck to save people. That’s a first.”
“Well, I’ve been told that I’m pretty strange. How are you doing, Owada-san?”
“Overheard a bit of what you guys were saying. Whoever started this mess…damn I’d like to give ‘em a pounding myself! Believe me. Putting people in danger like that, where the hell do they get off?!”
“I think as long as lives are saved, that’s enough for me.”
Mondo looked surprised. “Damn. You’re calm, even after fighting that bunch of weirdos.”
“I…I’ve been through a good amount. I wouldn’t say I got used to danger, but I just take it one step at a time.”
“Yeah?” Mondo looked curious. “Must’ve been some kinda shit.”
Makoto pauses for a moment, then continues. “I’ve lost a lot of friends and colleagues over the years. I think of them sometimes.”
The SHSL Biker Gang Leader’s eyes went wide open. “Holy crap. Seriously?”
Makoto nods. “I once said to Kyoko-san that I’d carry my friends with me for the rest of my life. I still do.” He gives a glance over to Mondo and then looks away.
“So ya…you don’t move on, but you literally drag their memory with you, huh? You got one hell of a pair.” Mondo looks away himself. “You ever feel guilty about it?”
“That I’m still here, living and breathing instead of them? There were a few times I felt that way, yeah. But most of the time I just put one foot forward in front of the other and live my own life. Nothing good comes out of moping around and feeling guilty. Those feelings get bottled up and eventually explode like a shaken up beer.”
Flashes of Chihiro’s death and Mondo’s execution went by in Makoto’s mind.
Mondo gives him a look. “You may not be the strongest guy I ever met when it comes to the fight, but… I got a lot of catching up to do if I wanna get as tough as you.”
“Hm? Am I really that tough?”
“I can tell. You lost a lot of people.” Mondo looks down at the ground. “While me, I can’t even get over one damn death.”
Makoto stops himself from asking an obvious question.
“My bro and Fujisaki-san… they’re both good people. They helped me out a lot, but there’s always this kinda…disconnect? That the word? Like those two never felt actual loss, so sometimes their advice kinda just bounces off me.” Mondo gives Makoto a determined look. “Yeah. I think I see what bro sees in you now.”
Makoto sighs. “Not you too. You’re not forgetting about what I do for a living, right?”
“I know. But damn, I can see why you’d be good at that sorta thing. You know how to make people talk. And I feel damn good about it.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t like to report on stuff like this. Not unless the person wants me to.”
Mondo smiles and gives him a thumbs up. “See! Not a lot of guys still know about honor and shit. Guys like us are rarer than diamonds.” The burly man with a strange pompadour breaths out loudly, startling the others. “You got me thinking a bit. Thanks for the talk.”
Sakura watches with an amazement on her own face as Mondo went to think off on his own. “Somehow getting Owada-san friendly like that? Naegi-san is fearsome indeed.”
Hina finishes off a donut. “He’s always been like that. He may not be the strongest or even the smartest, but he’s got like…insane amounts of charisma. At first he was really shy and passive, but these days he’s pretty much a people person.” She offers a donut to the SHSL Martial Artist.
The towering woman smiles. “Thank you.” She takes one and eats it surprisingly daintily. “Ah, where are my manners? My name is Sakura Ogami. Your moves are quite interesting…”
She looks slightly disappointed, but perks up right away. “Aoi Asahina. But you can call me Hina!”
“Very well. Hina-san. The way you move is quite similar to the martial arts that I practice. It’s intriguing.”
Hina looks nervous. “Oh, well…um…is it? I mean I just watched someone else fight and did it the way I felt like. But that person is…” She stops herself and looks at Sakura for a moment. “That person is gone now.”
“N-No, you don’t have to apologize!” Hina almost bites her tongue. “She… did it to protect and save us. She was a good friend to us. Even if she made a mistake at first, she was one of the most trustworthy people I ever met.”
“I see…even in death, this person is both highly revered as well as remembered fondly for her martial prowess. I, too, wish to leave that impression on this earth.”
Hina smiles. “Don’t worry. I think you can do it. I can tell that you have a big heart, Sakura-chan.”
Sakura smiles at the compliment. “It is rare to meet a fellow woman that has an enthusiasm for athletics and martial arts.”
“Is it? Sounds like Hope’s Peak might be slipping! There are a lot of women out there like us. I may not look like it, but I’ve worked as a P.E. teacher before! I’m also a pretty good swimmer.”
“Is that so? You sound like the ideal trainer.”
Hina blushes. “H-Huh? Do I really?”
“I, too, have been curious about swimming. The ability to work out all your limbs at once would help me in my pursuit of strength.”
“Well, I don’t think Hope’s Peak would hire me on as staff, but maybe during your free time I can show you swimming and breathing techniques!”
Sakura lights up. “Yes, that would be wonderful. I would be in your debt, Hina-san.”
“Ah, don’t sweat it Sakura-chan! Just being able to work out with others is reward enough for me. Right Naegi?”
Makoto suppresses a groan. “W-Well…I can keep up with you for a little while now these days. I guess all that exercise paid off.”
“Your arms are still pretty average, Naegi! You need to do more weights! Those legs of yours are pretty strong though.”
“U-Uh…sure. I’ll make sure to do that.”
Makoto looks defeated while Sakura smiles at both of their banter. “Perhaps I could assist with that.”
“Yeah! Between you and me we can turn Naegi here into an athlete worthy of the pro leagues!”
Makoto just gulped. It seems his future wasn’t looking too bright.
Sayaka approaches the former lucky student. “Ah, Naegi-san. Do you mind if we can talk?”
“Sure. I’ll see you two around.”
Hina and Sakura smile and wave at him while he walks off with Sayaka. Leon gives a bit of a look as he’s eating some food.
Sayaka and Makoto reach a point at the “camp” out of earshot.
“Ah, thank you for humoring me. I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while now.”
Makoto gives a genuinely surprised look. “Huh? With me?”
“Mmhm. You live a surprisingly interesting life, but you always act like an average person. I…suppose I wanted to find out what keeps you so grounded.”
Makoto places his hand on his chin. “Er…that’s a little difficult to explain. I’ve always been like this.”
“Really? You’re just naturally a kind and grounded person?”
“Uh-ah… I wouldn’t praise myself that much.”
Makoto stops talking for a moment while Sayaka smiles.
“You don’t even think I’m annoying you and you’re trying to give me a good answer. You’re…something, Naegi-san.”
“Hm. You’re pretty sharp, Maizono-san.”
“Well, you could say that I’m psychic.” She waits a beat. “Just joking. It’s just my intuition.”
Makoto responds with a wry smile. “I’ve heard that you love making that joke.”
“He-he. Your sources are correct! Though most people are pretty shocked when I do it to them. You just…went along with the flow for me. You’re really nice about it.”
“As for your question well…I suppose the best way to describe why I’m always so grounded is because I see others similarly.”
“Oh?” Sayaka looks perplexed.
“Mmhm. I try not to let rumors or stories skew what I can see from people when they just talk to me. I guess you could say that I take people for what they are.”
“I see. So that’s your intuition at work. It’s…somehow more impressive than my own. So, Naegi-san, what can you tell about me?”
Makoto thinks for a few moments. Considering what knowledge he has already because of his own Sayaka, he tries to make sure not to blurt out things he wouldn’t be able to tell. “From what I can see, you value hard work and honesty. It’s why you admonish Kuwata-san so much.”
“That’s…no, that’s exactly right. It irks me a bit, how someone so blessed with talent could make light of how cutthroat the music industry can be. Given that you’ve looked into idols and musicians, you already know. Yet here you are…treating me not as an idol, but as a girl.”
“Do you dislike it?”
Sayaka smiles. “No, in fact I enjoy it. Even in school I’m treated very highly. While it’s nice to be acknowledged and celebrated for all the hard work I’ve put in…I’m still a high school girl. I guess it’s really refreshing.”
“Ah, well. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy your work. Though my little sister happens to be a Sayaker.”
“Oh really? Perhaps I could give her an autograph.”
“That would really make her day. I’d really appreciate it.”
Sayaka smiles. “You know, that’s the sweetest way someone has ever gotten an autograph from me. You’re thinking of others even now.”
Makoto stops for a few moments. “Hey, you know. I’m just a normal guy with a family. There’s no need to make me something I’m not.”
“I…get that there’s not a lot of nice people in the industry. I’m not going to ask what exactly you’ve done to get you and your group to the top. But there are a lot of nice people like me out there. I guess what I’m saying is that all I want is to be treated like I treat others.”
Sayaka thinks for a few moments over what Makoto said. “No, I…started to sound like one of my own fans, didn’t I?” She frowns. “Sorry if I started to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Don’t worry about that. I--I just wanted to stop you before you had some strange image of me in your head.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s a strange image.” She blushes. “But I think of you very highly, Naegi-san. Especially after this talk. You’re right. I should treat you like you treat me. Like a real life person, not an idol.”
The idol smiles sweetly at the reporter. “But even if your kindness is as common as you say, you really are special. I truly and earnestly believe that. My intuition says so.”
“Thank you.” Makoto gives her a small smile.
“As for myself…I should eat something. I appreciate you talking to me like this.” She bows shyly as she walks back to the others.
Mukuro passes by the high-spirited idol and presents herself to Makoto. “No one appears to be making for the camp. They should be safe for the time being.”
“Good. While Kyoko-san is dealing with the mastermind, I’m thinking about confronting Murasame-san myself.”
“Hm? Would it not be a better idea to stay here?”
Makoto smiles at her, making Mukuro try to hide her blush with her hands. “No, I’m not very good at sitting around. Plus the damage could very well cause another Tragedy to occur. I may not be a native to this dimension, but that drives me more than ever to stop it from ever happening. These people don’t deserve that.”
BlackCapPI: A massive protest at Hope’s Peak Academy… it’s just like the Danganronpa games!
Shirokuma: do you think a killing game is gonna happen??
BlackCapPI: I don’t want to even think about it. These are real people. If the Tragedy were to happen for real…
Shirokuma: oh man, that would be pretty exciting don’t you think…
BlackCapPI: Look. I love Danganronpa as much as anyone else, but having it happen in real life would be terrible. Awful.
Shirokuma: yeah you’re right. was just trying some black humor.
BlackCapPI: I thought so. Besides, that would mean that our favorite series would cease to exist. No one wants to be reminded of something horrible.
Shirokuma: but game companies make games on the world wars all the time. those were terrible times.
BlackCapPI: Yeah, but those things happened a long time ago where we can do that while most people aren’t offended. For us, we probably would be either dead or too old to enjoy a new installment if the worst happens.
Shirokuma: okay yeah that’s terrifying.
Chapter 7: Brave the Ocean
Hiro keeps his voice low. “Don’t worry about us and the kiddos, Naegi-chi. We can all run fast if we need to.”
“Are you really sure you want to do this?” Hina glances over at Mukuro. “Shouldn’t Hope’s Peak security be the ones doing something?”
“If Murasame-san is involved but not the mastermind, he might still be a danger to all those people. Kyoko-san is only one person. She can’t go after everyone at the same time.”
The former SHSL Swimmer sighs. “Okay. But if you’re not back in an hour I’m going to come find you two myself. Alright?”
“Okay. Make sure Class 78 stays put in the meantime.”
“Don’t worry. None of these guys’ll outrun me!” The tanned athlete gives a large confident smile. “Just make sure you make it quick, Naegi.”
“I’ll do my best. Come on, Ikusaba-san. Let’s get moving.”
The pair return to the East Quadrant of the main campus to the sounds of absolute chaos. The tense standoff they passed by about an hour earlier devolved into a full-on melee. They can see HPA Security Forces along with the city’s geared Riot Police Unit engaging the protestors with martial arts and rolling up as many in giant futons as they can. Though none of the police have resorted to using firearms, it was only a matter of time before the violence became too much due to the overwhelming numbers of the Reserve Course.
Makoto can see two recognizable figures in the melee – Juzo Sakakura and Kyosuke Munakata assisting the HPA Defenders in preventing the protestors from entering the administration building. Both of them look younger than they were in the Future Foundation. More importantly all their limbs were in one piece. Mukuro simply glares at them while Makoto peeks around the large scale brawl.
“I guess that’s what Kyoko-san meant by their looks being surprising.” Makoto sighs. “No good. We can’t reach them in this mess.”
Mukuro’s eyes look upward. Both of them are in front of the main science building. She can spot someone looking at the violent scene on the top floor.
“Naegi-kun. Someone’s in there.”
Makoto looks up as well as the unidentifiable person steps back from the window out of sight.
“Someone hasn’t evacuated? I wonder.” He enters the building with Mukuro right behind him.
The building itself has its lights still on. Similar to the classroom buildings, the entry hallway is a mess with research papers strewn around on the floor with some of them having footprints on them. Though not as messy as what they saw before, the staff and students were most likely in a panic as they evacuated the place. Makoto sighs in relief.
“They were probably ready for the Parade to happen. Probably have the people who’ve been through the Tragedy to thank for the main course students surviving this time.”
The SHSL Soldier keeps silent, most likely acknowledging her own role in orchestrating the original incidents in mind.
The former lucky student continues in order to find the stairs to the next level. As they walk alone in the mostly-abandoned building, Mukuro quickly moves forward and slams a figure into the wall. A shaking female voice, tearing up in terror, is accompanied by a petite hetereochromic girl with brown hair in a yellow hoodie reminiscent of a certain yellow electric rodent.
“P-Please don’t hurt me!”
“Whoa, whoa! Let’s not be too hasty!” Makoto starts panicking slightly. “You’re one of the student council. Right?”
The girl nods vigorously while looking teary-eyed at Mukuro.
“Can you let her down now?”
The SHSL Soldier softens her glance when she moves her eyes toward Makoto and then lets her down, making the girl fall flat on her bottom. Makoto moves slowly to her and extends a hand to her.
“Sorry about that. Can we start over? My name is Makoto Naegi.”
“A-Aiko…Aiko Umesawa.” She takes it and the reporter helps her up.
“Are you the only one here?”
“N-No.” She looks away. “Y-You don’t look like Hope’s Peak staff. And she doesn’t look like a student. Why are you guys here?” She starts panicking again. “Please, I’ll do anything, just don’t hurt me!”
He gives her a pitying look. “We’re just here to make sure no one else gets hurt. Is the rest of the Student Council in here?”
She shakes her head. “Most of them left already…”
“Who’s still here?”
“M-Murasame-san.” She looks down as soon as she mentions the name.
“Is he planning something?”
The girl bites her lip. “He’s…he’s going to do something horrible. The rest of us tried to talk him out of it but he won’t listen. So most of us just ran away since we didn’t want to also be expelled. We didn’t know it was going to end up like this.”
“Okay. Thanks for letting me know, Umesawa-san.” He gives a small, comforting smile. “You should get out of here too. It’s getting violent outside.”
Makoto starts walking away from the girl with Mukuro giving a sharp glance at her for a moment. She then follows him.
“Please, wait!” Aiko says loudly. “Don’t hurt him. H-He’s still our friend.”
He looks back at her. “Don’t worry. I promise.”
She finally returns a smile back to him. “Thank you, Naegi-san.” The student council member finally runs away and they can hear the doors swing open and slam back closed.
Mukuro picks up her walking pace to be side-by-side with Makoto. “It doesn’t sound like talking will work anymore.”
“It doesn’t mean I won’t try it.”
“It sounds futile, Naegi-kun.”
He only chuckles softly to himself while he looks forward. She gives a curious look.
“Words definitely have an effect on people. I’m living proof of that.” He looks over at her. “They’ve both taken away and saved lives.”
They eventually make it to the main staircase. The stairs reveal themselves to be the main stairway of the building, going all the way up to the roof of the three story building. Makoto leads both of them into the third floor where he starts peering into rooms sneakily. After searching through several labs, he eventually spots a lone figure watching the fighting from a window. Mukuro taps Makoto on the shoulder and he gets out of the way. She places her hand on the door and slams into it with a powerful kick. The door falls over whatever was barricading it while she kicks it some more. The raw force scatters the debris while Soshun Murasame grasps onto a remote for dear life.
Makoto steps forward through the mess, causing Soshun to move his back against the window.
“Sorry to startle you, Murasame-san. I just wanted to talk.”
The SHSL Student Council President glares at him, ready to set off the remote to whatever it was attached to. “Don’t get any closer, I said!”
“That remote. Is it wired to blow up the administration building?”
He makes no motion to confirm or deny it. He just stares at the former headmaster with piercing silence.
“If I had to guess…you’re waiting for whoever you’re working with to show up safe and sound so you can set it off, right?”
The person with the presumed detonator only responded with his eyes opening wide but then returning to a glare.
“Murasame-san, you do know that all those people will get hurt or worse from that. Right?”
The student council’s leader had a hoarse voice from the earlier screaming. He looked insulted. “Of course I know. I’m not an idiot. But this…this is justice.”
“Justice? Justice for what?”
He responds with an inflamed passion. “For what this academy uses us for! The Izuru Kamakura Project, using all of us SHSL students’ talents for their own image…everything! It’s corrupt to the core!”
Makoto studies Soshun’s face. “I think the SHSL Student Council President has enough influence to do that in a nonviolent way.” His eyes narrow as if staring daggers into Soshun. “You shouldn’t lie. Especially to yourself.”
“Urk!” Soshun grips the detonator harder as he starts sweating. He grits his teeth as if taking a heavy blow on his body. “What the hell do you know?! You don’t look like you’re from the academy.”
“I know enough to see that if that bomb blows, it’s not going to have the effect you’re hoping for.” Makoto’s voice raises almost into a yell. “All it’ll accomplish is spreading violence! You can see that right? This isn’t about rooting out corruption, this sounds like that its bold-faced revenge!”
“You don’t know the first thing about this academy! All the cover-ups. All the injustice. It has to end and this is the only way!”
“I work as a reporter, Murasame-san. Believe me. I’m familiar with government cover-ups.”
They carried the burden of despair for me. I have to bear the burden of hope.
Makoto continues. “You want to change things? People look up to this academy, rotten at the core or not. But that sort of change has to begin with you. Otherwise you’re no more than a terrorist that only hurts others in the name of a twisted cause.”
Junko Enoshima used the Reserve Course to spread Despair. She forced all of them to commit suicide.
“There are so many innocents out there! They're trying to live their lives and you can't just decide to end their lives just like that!”
I am not like you. I believe in power. No matter how many I make into victims, even if it means my death, I shall destroy despair. That is my resolve!
Soshun’s grip on the controller loosens as Makoto’s words come out blazing like a hail of bullets. Mukuro begins to make her move but Makoto stops her by moving his arm in the way.
“If you really believe in changing things, do it in a way that you’d be proud of, Murasame-san. Not like this.” Makoto moves his arm as if to reach out to him. “Please.”
The student council president takes a deep breath as if the wind was knocked out of him. He shakily walks over to the reporter and places the detonator in Makoto’s hand. He hands it off to Mukuro, who unsheathes her knife as she starts disassembling it.
Soshun’s voice sounds weak. “I always thought my speech skills were super high school level, but yours is a whole other level.” He looks down. “I almost did something I couldn’t take back.”
“What drove you to this?”
Soshun Murasame looks at Makoto with a softer expression. “A classmate of mine. He did the bidding of the Steering Committee but when the Hope Cultivation Project failed they threw him away. He was expelled. Erased. It was like he became a dead man.”
“Did this classmate of yours give you the bombs?”
The SHSL Student Council President shook his head. “No, the bombs were given to us by someone in our sister class. 77-B. The SHSL Lucky Student of our year.”
Makoto immediately knew who it was. Nagito Komeada.
“Supposedly he was going to use them on the gym to stop the exams from happening to save his class. I wasn’t sure on the details, but then he decided against it. My expelled classmate then asked for the bombs and he gave them to us to use saying that if the true Super High School Level Hope was around then he was confident that everything would turn out alright.”
It seemed that Nagito was another one like Makoto. Someone who remembers things from their timeline.
“We didn’t know what he was talking about to be honest. I learned that if the Izuru Kamakura project was successful, that’s the title they were going to give to that student. But that student is dead.”
Makoto hummed as Mukuro finished off making the detonator useless. “Who was the student that got expelled?”
Soshun looked at Makoto for a few moments. “…his name is…”
Kyoko headed alone to the languages building. Though she would be annoyed at the SHSL Secret Agent’s perverted tendencies, she couldn’t discount his skill at information gathering. Given that Yuto Kamishiro wanted to be acknowledged more than anything for his accomplishments (especially from a pretty lady) it didn’t take much convincing him to assist her with her investigation of the terrorist attacks on the Steering Committee.
Moving through the abandoned hallways, she eventually comes across Yuto. He appears to be standing perfectly still. Immediately Kyoko feels that something is wrong – the talent of the SHSL Secret Agent allows him to remain undetected. More than likely he would’ve tried to flip her skirt or something with her responding with a swift punch to the head. But there he was, standing out in the open. Kyoko steeled herself for what was awaiting her. She moved toward him and managed to reach his position. The former SHSL detective tapped the boy on the shoulder and he fell down, limp.
She immediately stepped back and felt a sharp sensation flying against her cheek. She narrowly dodged a thrown scalpel, leaving behind a cut. The medical tool slams into a nearby wall, leaving it stuck deep in it. Kyoko looks toward where it was and sees a male figure running out of a nearby open classroom. She gives chase.
The sound of flip flops and boots echo throughout the hallways as Kyoko chases the suspect. The former deputy headmistress draws her gun and fires at the runaway. One of the shots grazes against the man’s shoulder causing a curse to come out of the assailant’s mouth. He throws a few more medical tools at her while going into an open classroom. She slides under the thrown objects to avoid the deadly impact and runs into the room after.
The classroom appears empty. The windows haven’t been damaged. She scans the room while blood drips from her own injury. Immediately she feels deadly pressure around her neck as the hunted figure wraps his hands around it. Responding with an elbow into the person, she chucks the man into the ground. Not giving the person the chance to recover, she responds in kind by placing her right boot on the person’s neck.
The man looked messy. His shirt was untucked with an unloosened tie and he was wearing flip flops. His black hair was not neat and his teeth was gritting from the pressure of Kyoko on his neck.
“Shit…” He manages to barely speak. “The princess isn’t as prim as I thought she’d be.”
Kyoko, not dignifying the insult with a response, reaches for handcuffs. She moves her foot and slams it into his back while restraining the criminal.
“Yasuke Matsuda. You’re coming with me.”
“Not like I have a choice, Kirigiri-hime.”
She forces him back up and starts dragging him out of the classroom. Coming back outside with her quarry in tow, a familiar woman in a suit with an apron waits outside for her.
Yasuke smirks. “So the glorified maid was here too.”
“Hmph.” Chisa Yukizome puts her hands on her hips. “I came by since I had a bad feeling.” She pulls out a bandage from a first aid kit she brought and places it on Kyoko’s cut. Then she moves over to Yasuke and rips off a bit of his shirt to wrap gauze around the grazed injury of his. He keeps looking toward the administration building. They can hear a megaphone being sounded off at the top of another building.
“Reserve Course Students…no, fellow students of Hope’s Peak Academy. My name is Soshun Murasame, current Student Council President.”
The nearby melee stops as everyone looks up.
Soshun continues. “I wanted to thank you all for showing that you’re truly passionate about changing this school for the better. I also wanted to apologize on behalf of the main course for how we treat you. The school administration can’t ignore us anymore. A lot of us SHSLs also feel the same way. We want to make this school into something we can all be proud of. But this brawl won’t solve anything. The only way we can change things is by working together. Whether you’re faculty, in the main course, or even in the reserve course – we need to put our heads together to find a real solution. So, I implore everyone to stop this mindless violence at once. Return home for now so we can cool our heads and finally talk with each other. You all made your message clear to the world.”
Many of the Reserve Course’s fire was smoldered after an impassioned speech. Though a few remained to continue in protest, many of them started to walk away. The three near the language building could see two people accompanying the SHSL Student Council President.
Chisa smiled. “Wow, Makoto-kun really pulled through, huh?”
Kyoko simply continued to pull Yasuke toward the administration building. “Come on. You have a lot to answer for.”
The trio passed through the leaving protestors and the police rounding up the more troublesome students. Kyosuke and Juzo stood waiting for them as things were being cleaned up.
Kyosuke kept composed. “Good work, Kirigiri-san.”
Juzo moved to take the suspect into his custody. “Tch. So this guy’s behind it all? Figures.”
“Careful, Juzo-kun. He’s injured.” Chisa crosses her arms. “He’ll probably need Mikan-chan to make sure it doesn’t get worse.”
“That’s more than this shit deserves, Yukizome. Time to interrogate.” He pulls Yasuke roughly.
The four members of Hope’s Peak faculty move the injured Yasuke into an unused office while many of those who were left inside are leaving for the day. Most likely to take a good vacation to forget about what happened today.
“Alright, fess up.” Juzo slams a fist into a desk. “You’re responsible for all this right? There’s nothing you can say that will get you off the hook.”
Yasuke responds by rolling his eyes. “I’m pretty sure I have rights, Sakakura.”
“Why you little…!”
Kyosuke raises a hand before Juzo can make a punch.
Kyoko immediately follows with a question. “What happened to Yuto Kamishiro…you did that, didn’t you? Judging by how he was found, I suspect you snapped his neck.”
“I’m sure the autopsy will tell all the tales, princess. Especially when you fudge some things here and there.”
“I only work on facts, Matsuda. Though I imagine my word is meaningless due to what happened to you.”
Yasuke grits his teeth. “Guess you aren’t as blind as I thought.”
Kyosuke sighs. “You were one of the students expelled after the Hope Cultivation Project’s failure, correct?”
“Yeah. I was a student. Now I’m as good as dead.”
The room goes quiet. They all immediately knew what his words meant – what college or respected medical facility would take on a former SHSL Neurologist expelled from one of the world’s foremost prepatory academies in the world? Just like what happened to Ruruka Ando it would prove to warp and twist people with disastrous results.
Kyoko decided to continue. “So that was your motive. Revenge against the Steering Committee and the headmaster for not only using your talent, but taking away everything that you’ve achieved from the failure of the Izuru Kamakura Project.”
“I’m a petty bastard. Gonna execute me now? After all, a few people were silenced already. What’s one more?”
Chisa looked sympathetic. “You’ve done horrible things but we’re not going to do horrible things to you.”
Kyosuke crosses his arms. “You will be punished. What exactly that’ll be would be up to the headmaster.”
“Heh. Then you know what the outcome will be.”
Kyoko looks at him devoid of emotion. “Perhaps. However, I can already see that it’s eating up your conscience.”
“Since when did you become the SHSL Psychologist?”
“You’ve already asked for punishment.” Kyoko crosses her arms. “I doubt you’ll ask for leniency when the time comes.”
“Who were your collaborators?” Kyosuke interrupted. “I’ve heard that Soshun Murasame and some sympathetic members of the student council were involved. Did you have an outside collaborator?”
“Just that weirdo from 77-B. I got the bombs from him.”
Chisa began thinking. “Weird. He hasn’t attended class for a few months now. The practical exam is soon so I was going to go looking for him myself.”
“Hey, hold on. You sure that’s it? Not some crazy childhood friend?” Juzo towers over Yasuke. “Enoshima, right?”
Yasuke looked confused. “That model? I’ve never met her in my life. Besides my childhood friend…”
His facial expression turned into anger. “Look, that person doesn’t even attend Hope’s Peak Academy. If you drag ‘em into this shit I swear…”
The Class 74 trio exchanged confused looks. Kyoko moved to the door. “I believe our questioning is done here.” She pulls out her phone and looks over a text. “The headmaster has instructed security to take him to a cell until further notice.”
“Tch. Damn it.” Juzo kicks the desk. “Fine. I’ll handle this.”
The former SHSL Boxer drags the mastermind out of the room leaving Kyosuke, Chisa and Kyoko in the room.
Kyosuke turns toward the detective. “Was he telling the truth, Kirigiri-san?”
Kyoko nods. “It’s similar to how Maizono-san didn’t recognize Makoto-kun when she saw him. It seems whoever was behind this strange merging of timelines deliberately cut certain connections.” She thought about how Yui did not recognize her when she passed by at the park.
“Perhaps whoever is Matsuda’s childhood friend now might know something about that. I’ll have to question him about that later.” Kyosuke makes his way over to the door.
Kyoko shakes her head. “I doubt you’ll make any progress in that line of questioning. After all, he went to desperate lengths in order to protect Junko Enoshima in our timeline.”
“Fair enough. He’s someone who has essentially lost everything.”
Chisa sighs. “No, he’s just lost all hope. He may not be brainwashed like I was, but I know that look anywhere.”
“Indeed. Someone who has lost all hope… they fight without regard for their own well-being.” Kyosuke gives a gentle look at Chisa.
Makoto and Mukuro escort Soshun to the administration building. The SHSL Student Council President looks at both of them.
“I won’t waste this chance. The protests will rage again if I don’t make good on my word.”
“Good luck, Murasame-san.” Makoto smiles. “I believe you can really do what you said. Just remember what you’re doing it for.”
“I will. Thank you, Naegi-san.” He bows to them both as he enters the building, ready to submit to questioning. He passes by the quartet of the Hope’s Peak Academy investigation team and only gives them a silent look of determination. Juzo looks over toward Makoto and immediately sees Mukuro.
“You!” He walks briskly toward the SHSL soldier.
“Wait, Sakakura-san!” Makoto steps in between them.
“I may not want to kill you anymore, Makoto Naegi, but what that girl did is practically unforgiveable. If you get in my way I won’t have mercy!”
Mukuro’s eyes narrow as she prepares herself to fight. Chisa, however, stands next to Makoto.
“Yukizome?! What are you doing?” Juzo’s fist clenches hard to show off the bone. “Did you forget what she did to you? What she made us all go through with her demon sister?”
“We just quieted down a protest without bloodshed and now you want to spill blood here? I’m not saying you should forgive this rotten orange.” She makes a glance at Mukuro. “But having spent some time with that demon woman in that theater… well… to be honest, being related to her is punishment enough.”
Mukuro grits her teeth as she wants to defend her sister.
“Tch! So what, we just let her roam free?! She’s SHSL Despair, remember?”
Kyosuke makes his way over. “I’ve been told she’s a ward of the SHSL Hope. Is this true, Naegi-san?”
“Er…well, yeah. She’s been living with me for the past few days.”
The former SHSL Student Council President smirks. “I see your bad habits haven’t stopped. Do you intend to bring all of SHSL Despair under your wing again?”
Chisa giggles. “Well, I could use the help.”
Juzo facepalms and sighs. “Seriously? Even you, Munakata?”
“While I disagree with Naegi-san on things, he has a good, albeit naïve, head on his shoulders. His efforts tend to pay off. I suspect with the SHSL Soldier’s help you were able to reach Soshun Murasame.”
Mukuro looked away. “I barely did anything.”
“Ah, well, I’m not very strong by myself. She managed to take down the barricade that kept everyone else out of where Murasame-san was hiding.” Makoto laughed nervously.
“I see. Thank you both. Many lives were saved today. I’d like to talk to you both, along with Hagakure-san and Asahina-san. We have much to discuss.”
Juzo spat and stared daggers at Mukuro. “Fine. I’ll tolerate this for now. But I’ve got my eye on you.” He turns to Makoto. “Also get your damn cars off the walkways and into the parking garage!”
The Class 74 trio return inside the building while Kyoko stays with them.
“Are you okay, Kyoko-san?” Makoto looks at the bandage.
“I’m fine. It shouldn’t scar. I see you had your own plans when I left you. Come on. We shouldn’t keep them waiting. I’ll show you guys where the staff parking garage is.”
The former Class 78 trio make their way back to the base camp where Hiro is waiting with a huge grin on his face while Hina was hanging out with the rest of the class.
“Dude! Naegi-chi! I don’t know what you did, but I made a killing today! Sold out, baby.”
Makoto narrows his eyes. “Seriously…?”
“Yeah, they were all pretty tired and hungry from all that protesting. Nice work, dude!”
Taka moves quickly to the returning group. “I do not know what you accomplished, but it seems everything ended peacefully. Thank you! Order can now return to our school lives.”
The reporter waves it off. “I’m just glad you’re all safe. It was looking bad for a while there.”
Leon grins with a thumbs up. “Dude! We saw the whole thing on livestream. It was pretty radical. You were standing there with the prez and everything.”
Makoto could only blush bashfully. “L-Look, the important thing now is that you can all go back to your dorms. I’m sure you guys are tired out. Plus, uh…we need to talk to some people.” He glances at both Hina and Hiro.
Mondo frowns. “Aw, crap. Guess that’s the shitty thing about being an adult. Good luck with the cops, I guess. If you need people to speak for you, I’m ready to defend you. I swear it as a man.”
“Me too. You’ve done good things, all of you.” Sayaka smiles.
Kyoko looks at them with her emotionless stare. “We appreciate the help. But you all should get back to your dorms. The campus will be on high alert for the rest of the day. Stay out of trouble.”
“Of course! Class 78, let us get going!” Taka leads the class back to the Southern Quadrant of the academy.
Mukuro only gives a long stare as the class walks away. She almost went along with them out of habit, but forced herself to stay still.
The eight people who were from a separate timeline find themselves together in what appeared to be Kyosuke’s office.
Makoto breaks the silence. “So…you’ve become the deputy headmaster this time around?”
“Indeed.” Kyosuke answers from behind his desk. “Being sent off to that offshore location was a way to keep me controlled back then. Office politics. However, when the Steering Committee went missing, it allowed me this opportunity.”
Kyoko continues. “All members of the Steering Committee have been confirmed deceased. Most likely due to Yasuke Matsuda’s machinations.”
Makoto looked down. “I see.”
Juzo cleared his throat. “Well, if you didn’t stop him, Murasame probably would be in a cell too now. Or worse. If he set those bombs off, that would’ve been his one and only crime.”
Hiro rubbed the back of his head. “Heh, well, guess that’s some good news right?”
The deputy headmaster nodded. “Murasame-kun has been very cooperative with our questioning. However, he knows nothing about Matsuda’s childhood friend. It seems he’s withheld that information from everyone in Class 77-A. And, as Kirigiri-san has warned us previously, he refuses to answer any questions about that mystery person.”
“So Enoshima isn’t his childhood friend here?”
“No. It seems they have no connection to one another.”
Makoto looks disappointed. “I was hoping there was. He might’ve known where she disappeared to.”
Hina is shocked. “Wait, what?! You don’t know where she is?”
The former lucky student shakes his head. “Her penthouse is on the market and apparently she resigned via To-Witter earlier this morning from the fashion business.”
Chisa looks at Mukuro. “So she’s gone completely off-grid. And you don’t know where she is?”
The freckled girl shakes her head. “We…haven’t talked.”
Juzo kicks the door. “Damn it! Who knows what that crazy bitch is up to?!”
Makoto interrupts them. “Yukizome-san, I wanted to ask something. Do you know where Komeada-san is?”
“No, Makoto-kun. I haven’t seen him for a few months. He basically disappeared like Enoshima did.”
“At the very least we can throw out the possibility that they are working together. Even as a member of SHSL Despair, he still pursued hope. In a far more destructive fashion, of course, but I doubt he would be willingly working with her free of her influence.” Kyoko continued. “However, I do believe he may be connected to the strange conception of this world.”
Mukuro looks at the detective. “Was he the one who ‘locked’ me in the old school building?”
“I can’t say for sure yet, but it seems as if he remembers everything like we do. And yet he’s avoiding all of us. I assume he has ulterior motive.”
Makoto turns over to her. “Do the rest of Class 77-B remember?”
Chisa shakes her head. “It’s like they’re back to being the rotten oranges that I knew. I guess it’s a form of mercy.”
The reporter thought for a few moments. “By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask…does Hajime Hinata attend Hope’s Peak?”
Kyosuke gives him a blank stare and then turns to his laptop. There’s a tense silence while he searches. After a few minutes, he looks back at Makoto.
“No, he does not. There’s no registration of him in either the Reserve Course or the Main Course. Even in the restricted files of expelled or deceased students.”
Kyoko taps her chin. “Hajime Hinata and Nagito Komaeda. This can’t be a coincidence.”
Hina crosses her arms. “Well, isn’t he supposed to be some kinda superman because of the Izuru Kamakura thingy? If anyone could mess with time it’d be that guy.”
Kyosuke places his hand on his chin. “That would make sense, yes. But why? And how?”
“I guess we have to find both him and Komeada-san to get to the bottom of this. And figure out where Enoshima went off to.” Makoto looks out of a window. “Just more mysteries to solve, right Kyoko-san?”
“Indeed. Now that we’ve exchanged all information… I trust that this meeting is over, Munakata-san?”
“It is. Thank you all for your time. Though the headmaster wishes to meet the unsung heroes of Hope’s Peak himself in a few moments.” Kyosuke then looks at Makoto. “After that meeting, I’d like to have a word with you.”
Kyoko stood up. “I’ll take them to the headmaster.” The rest of the Class 78 group follow her.
The administration building was very clean and sterile covered in white wall and white tile with a few office workers shuffling between the offices – those unlucky enough to be deemed completely necessary to operations and unable to go home. It only takes them a few minutes of walking to eventually reach Jin Kirigiri’s office. Waiting for the five of them was not only the aforementioned headmaster but his close friend and confidant, Koichi Kizakura. When they all walk in, the unofficial talent scout of Hope’s Peak Academy had his eyes widened.
Kyoko raises an eyebrow. “Something wrong, Kizakura-san?”
“Ah, well, didn’t think so many beautiful people were gonna walk into the room all at once.”
Makoto couldn’t help but feel he was lying. He recalls that Koichi was a man of great intuition with the ability to sense a person’s potential. He was personally responsible for finding certain individuals who populated Class 78, like Celestia Ludenburg, as well as recruitment during his tenure in the Future Foundation.
Jin stood up from his desk and walked over to the group. “My name is Jin Kirigiri, the headmaster of Hope’s Peak Academy. I wanted to thank you all personally for your help during this crisis.”
Hiro looks bashful and grins from ear to ear. “Aw, shucks! We didn’t do much, right? Just being a bunch of good guys.”
Koichi smirks. “You got the look of a snake oil salesman.”
“H-Hey, hold on. My fortunes are 100% legit. They’re right 30% of the time!”
“So you got a talent, don’t you? Guess I was spot on.”
“E-Er, well…” Hiro couldn’t really respond to that.
Jin gives a small smile. “Now, now. Please don’t give them a hard time, Koichi-kun. You all seem familiar with my daughter.”
Hina gives a big smile. “Yeah, we’re old friends of hers. I’m Aoi Asahina.”
“And I’m Yasuhiro Hagakure. Want a fortune read? Let me know! It’s not too expensive, I promise.”
Makoto gives a cautious smile. “Makoto Naegi. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
Koichi takes a sip from his personal canteen. He looks over all of them. “So you look like you can win gold medals in your sleep. This girl with the freckles has a pretty scary look to her…like a hitman or a mercenary. And this guy…”
He just looks Makoto up and down. “Huh. At first glance he seems pretty normal. But… being able to talk down Murasame-kun like that…heh. You’re one of those guys who just hides what they are until it needs to show up, huh?”
“Erm… I don’t know about that. But I appreciate the compliment.”
“Oh-ho-ho! You should watch out for this one, Jin. He probably has your daughter’s heart!”
Kyoko rolls her eyes. “Are you quite done, Kizakura-san?”
“Yeah, yeah. I wish you guys were younger. Could’ve filled out Class 78 more.”
Makoto laughs nervously. “I don’t think I’d be included. The only way I’d get into a place like this is if I won a lottery.”
Jin crosses his arms. “Funny you should mention that. Class 78 lacks a SHSL Lucky Student. Every time we send out the invitation to another prospect, something horrible happens.”
“Y-You don’t say.” Makoto always knew that title was cursed.
“Still, if my daughter was in the company of such people, then I didn’t have much to worry about. Though I would have preferred her to reach out to me as she was growing up.”
“I don’t believe I would have appreciated you as a troubled teenager, headmaster.”
“Heh. I suppose so. But once again, thank you.” He makes eye contact with everyone. “You’re all friends of the academy. I must also apologize, since I have to attend a press conference due to the riot here. If there’s anything you need, please reach out to us. I would like to repay the favor.”
Kyoko speaks before anyone else. “I’ll make sure they’ll be taken care of.”
“Good. Let’s go Koichi-kun.”
“Ugh. The press.”
Kyoko escorts them out of the office as the two older adults make their way off to the dreaded press conference.
Hina sighs. “It’s still so weird being back here.”
“Tell me about it, Hina-chi.”
Kyoko looked at both of them. “Do you mind if I ask you two a few questions? I need to make sure Class 78 was accounted for so I can turn that report in. I am currently on the HPA payroll after all.”
“Okay, sure Kyoko-chan.” Hina looks over at Makoto and Mukuro. “You have that meeting with Munakata right? Good luck, Naegi!”
Makoto sighs as they walk back to Kyosuke’s office.
“Something wrong, Naegi-kun?”
“Kizakura-san was staring holes into the back of my head. I know he’s protective of Kyoko-san, but seriously…”
Mukuro smiles a bit. “You started to notice that sort of thing?”
“Yeah.” He glances over at her. “I guess you get hit a bunch of times in the head and you start to get sharper. Or it’s just a concussion.”
They arrive back at the door. Its left wide open with Chisa and Juzo nowhere to be found.
“I’ll wait right out here.”
“Thanks, Ikusaba-san. This shouldn’t take long.”
Makoto enters the office and closes the door behind him. Kyosuske looks up at him while filling in reports on his laptop. The former headmaster quickly takes a seat near the desk.
“What did you want to talk to me about, Munakata-san?”
“Naegi-san. Do you recall the overseas campus which eventually became the Future Foundation’s main headquarters?”
“Yes. That should still be under construction, right?”
“It is, yes. But since I am here as the deputy headmaster, no one is currently assigned to head the new campus. I want you to be that person, Makoto Naegi.”
“You were the headmaster of the rebuilt Hope’s Peak Academy, were you not? Don’t think I wasn’t paying attention to current events while I was out in the world by myself.”
“I mean, yes, I was but—“
“Naegi-san.” Kyosuke looks straight at him. “While I still believe power is what is needed to change the world, you still taught me things. You can’t be all powerful by yourself or with a small group of associates. You need friends, colleagues and allies. And most importantly the ability to trust those people.”
Makoto continued to listen.
“Frankly, even in this world untainted by Enoshima’s despair, you are the only one I can entrust that campus to. Construction on the campus won’t be complete for another couple of years or so. I’d like for you to think about it.”
Shirokuma: did you see the livestream? that guy looked like Makoto Naegi!
BlackCapPI: I’ve met him before. He’s a journalist. He was reporting on DanganFES and the VR tech they had there.
Shirokuma: theres no way that guy could be the real thing, could he?
BlackCapPI: Don’t be ridiculous. The first Danganronpa released so long ago. Like before either of us were even born. And that guy doesn’t look a day over his 20s.
Shirokuma: i mean i guess, but that would be pretty cool right? being able to meet and talk with the characters for real??
BlackCapPI: I guess. Though I’d be really nervous. I’m a big fan after all. Like…what would I even say to them?
Shirokuma: mmm… well… actually, im inspired! im a cosplayer and this really fires me up. maybe we can’t meet the real deals, but maybe i can…
BlackCapPI: Hey, that could be a SHSL talent you’re talking about there. Maybe you can show me sometime?
Shirokuma: yes! i would love to. maybe you can get to see them firsthand. even critique them a bit, you know?
BlackCapPI: I’d love to.
Chapter 8: Supercooled Girl
A breeze passes through the five former members of Class 78 while they stand among a bed of daisies. Some of the loose petals fly through them, leading Hiro to sneeze from the pollen.
“…why are we here, Naegi-kun?” Mukuro asked with a confused expression.
“Mmm. In all the chaos, I forgot but…today’s the day we ‘won’ the killing game.”
He remembers the six survivors staring directly at the door as the then SHSL Lucky Student pressed the escape button left from Junko’s corpse. The large metal doors opened and revealed the gloomy red skies of the world, remnants of what was left from the Tragedy. An entire group of Future Foundation members, along with Koichi Kizakura, were waiting for them as they walked out into the heavily damaged world.
Makoto bends down and gingerly touches one of the flowers with his gloved hand, smiling as he moves his hand around it.
“Looks like these guys came with us.”
After the final killing game, the rebuilt Hope’s Peak Academy was surrounded by endless daisies as if the souls of all those departed were watching the future unfold. The former headmaster feels the flowers for a good while with a confused expression. He pulls back his hand and hums loudly.
“They feel really dry for some reason. But it isn’t summer.”
Kyoko goes over to check the flowers herself. “I believe these flowers are dying.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa Kirigiri-chi. These flowers are where we’re from right? We’re not dying too, are we?” Hiro started sweating, holding the sides of his head in fear.
Hina looked shocked. “But I feel fine. I feel normal.” She goes back into her cheery expression. “So… maybe we weren’t effected by what happened? Really lucky, right?”
The detective placed her hand on her chin. “I believe it would take more to affect a whole human being compared to a single flower. Perhaps if you were to time travel repeatedly you would start to see some damage. None of you have done so, correct?”
All four of the people she was talking to shook their head.
Makoto sighed. “But whoever is responsible for this…they probably went through the process who knows how many times?”
“True.” Kyoko dusted off her gloves. “There could be a possibility that the person or people responsible could not even exist currently.”
Mukuro responded in her usual deadpan manner. “Severely injured, maybe.”
Hiro sighed. “I just hope that no weird time things happen. Or riots.”
“Enough of that stuff! It makes my head hurt.” Hina looked annoyed. “Anyway, what did you want to ask us, Kyoko-chan?”
“A good number of the HPA Staff will be taking an extended leave or outright quitting. There may be some students who follow suit, but it’ll be a rough week and the academy will be short-staffed.” Kyoko scanned the group with her eyes, aside from Mukuro. “I was wondering if any of you would like to work here temporarily.”
“Man, I’d love to. It’d be like getting my old job back. But I got a job right now. It’ll be hard to just get up and quit, especially since this isn’t a permanent gig.” Hiro sighed and rubbed his neck. “Believe me, I wanna help you out. Seriously. But I got rent to pay.”
“Same, Kyoko-chan! I called off for the day saying it was a family emergency. I mean it was since you’re like a sister to me…” Hina looks down. “B-But I can drop by after work to see what I can do.” She smiles, albeit a bit awkwardly.
Kyoko turned to Makoto. “And you?”
“Well, I’m pretty flexible.” He laughs. “I mean, I am a freelancer after all. Though, uh, this isn’t exactly reporter work.”
“You’re already an experienced educator. In fact, I have an idea of what you’d be doing for the meantime.”
Makoto drops his carefree smile and becomes serious. “You’re not seriously thinking that I—“
“It’s as you suspect. You do recall our homeroom teacher was not as gung-ho about the position as Yukizome-san is.”
“Seriously? You want me as the homeroom teacher for Class 78?”
“It isn’t as if you’ll be doing actual teaching in that capacity. Just more of a glorified babysitter.”
The former lucky student frowns. “This is going to be so awkward.”
“Is it?” Kyoko turned to Mukuro. “Aren’t you already teaching Ikusaba-san?”
The SHSL Soldier slowly nods.
“W-Well, I’m not exactly doing it on purpose!” Makoto sighs in defeat. “Alright, alright. But I’m not going to be their butler or anything. I remember how messy they can be.”
“You needn’t follow Yukizome-san’s example. She goes above and beyond…in fact, I believe she can be too cavalier about this sort of thing.” The former SHSL detective gives her trademark closed-lipped smile. “Also, this allows me to easily bring you anything I can find about Enoshima, Hinata-san or Komeada-san.”
“That’s true. So when do I start?”
The lilac-haired detective taps her chin. “As soon as you can.”
“Tomorrow, then. This commute is going to be rough…”
Hina smiles. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow after work, Naegi! Hang in there!”
“Hey, at least you got your weekends. We definitely need to go out for a drink. My treat this time.” Hiro slaps Makoto’s back.
“I’ll hold you to it, Hiro-kun.”
“Of course, man. You’re working way too hard.”
A haughty and upper class voice interrupted their conversation. “You would do well to follow his example, Hagakure.”
“Whoa!” Hiro stepped back in surprise. “Geez, Togami-chi! How long have you been there?!”
As if entering from stage left, the former SHSL Heir stepped forward. He narrows his eyes at the sight of Mukuro, who responds in kind.
“Long enough to know that you were all prattling. Have you forgotten our time at the Future Foundation? You mustn’t be so lax.” He crosses his arms. “I take it that this…was Naegi’s idea.” His eyes still fixated on the former member of SHSL Despair.
Makoto steps forward. “Yes, well, leaving her with Enoshima isn’t exactly a good idea either.”
“Fair enough. Though I figure that madwoman is plotting things regardless of Ikusaba’s status.”
Those words seem to have hurt Mukuro, but she quickly stones up her face.
Byakuya turns from them, completely draped in a black silk suit. “Now if you’re done loitering, we have much to discuss. Considering my status as the current heir to the Togami Corporation, the academy has so graciously granted us a conference room for us to use. Away from prying eyes.”
Hina sighs. “Geez, Togami. Really going along with how corrupt this place is?”
“It was always corrupt. Or are you remembering with rose-tinted glasses? Enough dallying.” Togami starts walking from the group. Makoto looks at the rest of them, then begins following the affluent prodigy with the rest of the former Class 78 going along.
They make their way back to the administration building with what few staff and students were around giving curious glances over at them. On the third floor of the building is the aforementioned conference room, brilliantly draped with red carpet and silk curtains blocking out the sunset from the windows. There lies an expertly crafted conference table along with very comfortable executive chairs placed meticulously around it. All six of them take seats quickly.
“Togami-san.” Makoto places his hands on the table. “Have you been able to find Komaru and Fukawa-san?”
“I have not. More than likely they’re still in Towa City. However all information about that place has been blacked out by both government officials as well as the Towa Corporation themselves.”
Hiro scratches his cheek. “Whoa, you’re telling me that even the Togami Corp can’t get info?”
“Of course not, you buffoon. They’re competitors. Not directly in product, but in government influence. The only thing that my spies have been able to bring back to me is that they’ve been supposedly testing a new secret project and that the entire city has been on lockdown for the past few months.”
Kyoko taps the table. “Is there any way for us to get into the city?”
Byakuya moves his eyes over to her. “It’s a privately-owned city. You’d have to get permission from a high-level executive to be let through via the bridge. As for the seas, there are JSDF ships around the city. It’s shut tight.”
“Well, we have to do something, right? They’re probably in danger!” Hina stands up and slams her open palms on the desk.
Makoto shakes his head. “I’m sure they’re both fine right now. And an opportunity to get in will come soon. We just need time, right?”
“…how can you be so sure about that?” Mukuro gave him a puzzling look. “They made the Monokumas in the first place.”
“I know. But those two can handle it. They’ve survived and taken down Towa before. They can do it again.”
Hina calmed back down after hearing the former headmaster’s words. “Yeah. You’re right. They’re best friends, after all. They’re a good team.”
Mukuro looks shocked. She wasn’t expecting the younger Naegi to not only be a fighter, but also to somehow be close with the anti-social SHSL Literary Girl.
Kyoko continued her questions. “Have you received any news on Nagito Komaeda or Hajime Hinata?”
“Komaeda doesn’t exactly flaunt himself like a certain gyaru does. He’s essentially a wealthy hermit. Along with his aggravating luck cycle, it’s been nearly impossible to track his movements. As for Hinata… I’ve been unable to locate him. It’s as if he’s a ghost of some sort.”
Makoto glances over at Hiro before he says anything. The SHSL Shaman quickly goes quiet.
Mukuro turns to the heir. “…and my sister?”
Byakuya sneers. “I only know as much as you do. Enoshima casually went off-the-grid after her ‘retirement.’ She’s disappeared without a trace.”
“That’s unlike her. But she doesn’t like to be predictable.”
“Indeed. We should have noticed during our time at Hope’s Peak. We sorely underestimated both of you… as idiotic as it sounds.” A vibrating noise comes from Byakuya’s pocket and he glances over at it. He responds to whoever sent him a message and continues to look at everyone else. “At the very least another Tragedy was averted. For the time being.”
“It also got us to meet with you.” Makoto smiles. “I’m glad to see you’re doing fine, Togami-san.”
“Hmph. Did you expect anything else? No matter what happens, I will thrive.” He then uncrosses his arms and looks at the former SHSL Lucky Student. “However, I am glad that you’re still in one piece. You are extremely reckless as usual. We don’t exactly have the Neo World Program to rehabilitate that criminal next to you.”
“Well, the NWP didn’t exactly work the first time did it?”
“Indeed. Thanks to the legacy of SHSL Despair. Still, it didn’t completely backfire. But it did get you almost killed repeatedly.”
Makoto sits back in his chair. “Well, the ‘I’ve Tried to Hurt and/or Kill Makoto Naegi Club’ has quite a lot of members, don’t you think? I don’t really take it personally.”
Mukuro’s thoughts flashed back to the killing game. “Wait… what do you mean?”
“Makoto-kun means that everyone in this room has done as he said.” Kyoko didn’t mince words. “Even those in the Future Foundation tried to murder him.”
The freckled girl just gave Makoto a strange look while he just flashed a smile. “As I said, I don’t take it personally.”
Hina and Hiro looked down while Byakuya crossed his arms.
“Seriously, for you guys it was because of the killing game. You guys have more than made up for it.”
The former member of SHSL Despair looked away. “And me?”
“Well you haven’t tried to hurt me, Ikusaba-san. I can count on you.”
She doesn’t look back, trying to hide her blush.
“Well, as I’ve said to you in the past, I will respect your decision.” He gives a serious look to Makoto. “Though in this case I reserve the right to say ‘I told you so’ if the worst comes to pass.”
“Either way.” Hina starts smiling again. “You need to share your number with us, Togami! Unless you want us to just show up at your house unannounced.”
“Hmph. If you do so, you’d have better prepared better clothes than those, Asahina. As associates of the great Togami family I would be insulted if you did not at least dress properly.”
Hina pouts. “Associates huh? I guess I’ll take it.”
“Also, you have a point.” He reveals a QR Code on his own phone. The four other adults in the room capture it with their phones. Byakuya gives a scary and stern stare to Hiro. “Do not inconvenience me with minor trifles. This is my personal line. If you do so, well, it goes without saying that I WILL block your number.”
Hiro sighs. “Okay, okay. Geez. I promise I won’t bother you with my business proposals.”
There’s a knock at the door and Byakuya walks over to it. “If you’ll excuse me. I have to return to business.” He opens the door and two figures are there. One is an older, graying man dressed clearly as a butler. The other is a much younger girl dressed in a Hope’s Peak Uniform with a cybernetic arm and a mechanical eye. She clearly looks related to Byakuya.
“Pennyworth. Blue Ink. Let’s go. My meeting is done here.”
The girl referred to as Blue Ink bows slightly. “Yes, Togami-sama.” The two escort the SHSL Heir out of the room.
Hina was shocked. “I know that guy is supposed to be his butler, but what’s with the girl?”
“That is Shinobu Togami, the SHSL Secretary. Normally she would be Togami-san’s older sister, but since he’s the same age as we are…” Kyoko trailed off.
Hiro groans. “Man…this time travel thing is really giving me a headache. I’m gonna go home and take a nice long nap.”
“Yeah, a nap sounds great.” Makoto stretches and yawns. “I guess we should all go home. It’s been a really long day.”
The others agreed with him. Hiro and Kyoko went their own separate ways, while Hina went along with Makoto and Mukuro.
After dropping off Hina at her flat, the two find themselves back at Makoto’s apartment, there was a nice bowl of steaming pork buns between him and his roommate. On his phone he can see a recording of the press conference about the reserve course’s riot earlier that day. Jin Kirigiri stands at the podium with a solemn, serious look on his face. He makes no mention of the existence of the now-deceased Steering Committee and instead takes all blame onto himself, much like the shadow rulers of the government originally intended him to do. There is only mention of one death, Yuto Kamishiro, which causes an uproar in the room.
“And at the end of the school year I, Jin Kirigiri, will be stepping down from my position as headmaster of this academy. My inability to prevent a tragic death as well as the unrest that occurred under my watch has brought great shame to Hope’s Peak. I only ask for your patience and understanding in this tumultuous time for our academy. Know that we will never stray from our mission to continue to nurture the talented and bright minds of our youth. I would like to introduce my successor, the current deputy headmaster Kyosuke Munakata.”
The former SHSL Student Council President stands and bows from his seat as Jin motions to him. Despite attaining what he originally dreamed of, he looks very tense and serious. He sits back down almost immediately, as Jin continues talking.
“Now, I will answer your questions.”
Makoto’s eyes shift over back at the meat bun in his hand as heated questions are being flung at the disgraced headmaster. He quickly eats it up due to the long day he’s had. He then looks at Mukuro who appears to be watching him eat.
“Is there something on my face?”
“N-No.” She starts to mutter under her breath. “It’s still cute.”
The reporter’s face doesn’t reveal whether he heard that or not.
“Anyway, I should apologize Ikusaba-san.” He laughs nervously. “I’ve gotten you caught up in things you probably didn’t want to involve yourself in.”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry yourself about me, Naegi-kun. You already have enough to worry about.”
“But what have you wanted to do? You’ve kind of just let yourself be dragged along by me.”
The freckled girl remained quiet for a time. “Actually, this is fine. Maybe I could be your assistant.”
Makoto’s face contorts a bit into a frown from hearing that word. “I’d rather say you were a partner of mine rather than that, you know. I don’t want to be anyone’s master and I don’t want to be anyone’s servant. That’s just how I am now.”
Mukuro looked shocked but her face softens into a smile. “You’re a lot better at expressing yourself these days.”
“If I don’t say what I exactly mean it could lead to misunderstandings. It’s something I’ve learned from not only my mistakes, but from others’ as well. In a lot of cases it leads people to do things that they can’t take back.”
Those words triggered a bit of self-reflection on the SHSL Soldier’s part. It wasn’t as if she was suddenly remorseful for all the wanton murders that she committed, but rather about how she has acted around Makoto. She would always stalk him from the shadows and watch him from afar. In fact, the past several days have been the closest she has ever been to him. Both in a distance sense and in a relationship sense.
“Naegi-kun…” She musters up a bit of her battlefield courage. “I wanted to ask…why were you so eager take me away from my sister?”
Makoto laughs softly. “I wanted to show that you always have choices, Ikusaba-san. At any time you could have ignored my advice or did what you wanted. I can’t really stop you. My words and my optimism are all I can offer anyone. You could’ve easily went off to find Enoshima yourself. I’d imagine you’d eventually find her.”
“I…I see.” Her face continues to be stoic. “You’re a bit of a mastermind yourself.”
“Erm. I can’t really compete with Kyoko-san, Togami-san or your sister on that front. All I am is reckless. I just do what comes naturally. I make my mistakes and hopefully live on to learn from them. That’s it, really.”
“You always place so much faith in others. I don’t understand.”
“I don’t expect others to do as I do. That’s unrealistic, like how your sister expected us to all relish in the feeling of despair. If I’m able to make someone think about how they live their life and they improve themselves through it… that’s enough for me.”
“Now you sound like a teacher.”
He laughs. “Just in time then, since I have to be one starting tomorrow.” A hefty yawn escapes his lips. “Well I don’t want to fall asleep on the first day. I’m going to get ready for bed.”
“Good night, Naegi-kun.”
The small student body of Class 78 were sit in their seats as directed by Kiyotaka as usual. Leon glances over at the classroom clock.
“Hey, if the teach isn’t on time, I’m just gonna book it.”
The SHSL Public Morals Committee Member raised his voice. “Kuwata-san! That is no way to behave in this institution of learning. I only wish you could take this more seriously!”
“It isn’t like it’s gonna be our regular homeroom teacher anyway. Why does it matter? It’s not like we have to attend class in the first place! Just ace the practical exams. No big deal.”
Sayaka looked at him with an annoyed expression. “Perhaps for you. Others have to continually keep their skills sharp.”
“Whoa, hey Sayaka-chan. You’re going to pass it with flying colors. Don’t stress about it too much.”
The classroom door slides open and Makoto enters while wiping some sweat off of his forehead. “Phew. Right on time!”
Chihiro gasped in shock. “W-Wait, you’re going to be our substitute homeroom teacher?”
“Guess things aren’t as smooth as they want us to think it is.” Mondo sighed. “Lemme guess, Kirigiri asked you to do this?”
“Haha. Yes, well, I can’t abandon a close friend of mine in need. I’m here until your homeroom teacher gets back from their stress leave.” Makoto fixes his tie, looking similar to what he wore during his time as headmaster of Hope’s Peak Academy.
Sayaka gives a good look at him. “He certainly knows how to dress for the occasion.”
“Kinda stuffy, to be honest. Guess it means he’s serious.” Leon leans back in his seat.
Makoto walks over to the teacher’s podium. “So let’s see. The practical exams are coming up, right? I mean it goes without saying, but if you need any advice or counseling… that’s my job, I believe. For the time being I’m just a teacher, not a reporter. Nothing you say will go on any tabloid or blog.”
Sakura spoke up in her powerful voice. “I do not mean disrespect, but do you have any experience with any of our talents? I believe our homeroom teacher also doubled as one of Hope’s Peak’s researchers.”
“No, that’s a perfectly fine question.” Makoto shakes off his normal meekness. As one who had cameras, reporters and the rest of the world constantly on him, he knew how to play the part of the SHSL Hope. “As you’ve seen before, I have experience in getting into dumb fights. I’ve also worked with technology before, which includes working with advanced Artificial Intelligence.”
The SHSL Programmer stifles a gasp as the substitute teacher continues.
“I’ve also been roped into learning how to properly swim by my friend Hina-san. That is to say…I’ve been coached pretty hard before.”
“Ugh.” Leon groaned. “I don’t need another Nidai in my life.”
“I’ve…also played a lot of luck-based games. Even shogi.”
Celestia gives a curious look. She was interested in his “devil’s luck” before, but now there seems to be a competitive fire in her eyes that belies her calm and cautious expression.
“My younger sister is an aspiring manga artist, so I’ve watched a good amount of anime with her.”
Hifumi nearly jumps out of his seat. “Then what do you think of Demon Angel☆Pretty Pudgy Princess?!”
Makoto sweats a little bit from the outburst. “The magical girl anime? It’s… alright. I’m more of a shounen kind of guy myself.”
“Hmph! I suppose I will have to teach you the true beauty and artistry that is Princess Piggles.”
“That’s…” Makoto sighs. “Never mind. Anyway, I can’t say I have much experience as a musician, but considering I’ve reported a good amount of them, I can give some pretty good advice on interviews.”
Sayaka smiles. “You’re a bit of a renaissance man aren’t you?”
“I guess I am. I’m only a few years older than you guys, so I hope we can learn more together.”
The class mutters to themselves after his introduction. There are a lot of impressed faces among the students. Time goes by quickly as the homeroom period ends. The electronic bell rings over the intercom system, signaling the start to normal classes.
Leon rubs the back of his neck. “Y-You know, I wouldn’t mind if we could cancel the next class and have Naegi stick around longer.”
“Kuwata-san!” An immediate rebuke from Kiyotaka follows. “What did I just say about taking your studies more seriously?”
Makoto smiles. “Look, I can understand that classes can be boring and that you don’t really need to attend them. But sometimes you should try and get experience in other things. Your talents can set you for life, that’s true… but if some no name guy like me can get skills from anywhere, what’s to stop actual SHSL talents like you from being talented in other things?”
“Teach has got a point, Kuwata. Didn’t you say you wanted to try to be a musician?” Mondo smirks. “Aren’t gonna get anywhere by just dragging your feet.”
“You…you got a point there, Owada. Though I don’t understand how math can help me in becoming a punk rock star. I mean, I’d imagine Mioda would help me out more.”
Sayaka turns to him. “Songs from scratch, whether you’re playing an instrument or singing the lyrics, requires proper knowledge of measuring timing and melody. One day I’ll be able to write songs for myself so I’ve been using my math knowledge that way.”
“Huh…you can do it that way?” Leon crosses his arms. “Heh. Seems like I’m learning more today than I have for the past year. Wanna help me with my math homework, Sayaka-chan?”
“I’m not letting you copy my answers.”
“Oof! You didn’t have to shoot me down so hard!”
Makoto waves at them as he leaves the room. “Don’t give your teachers a hard time, alright? See you all in the afternoon.”
The former SHSL Lucky Student finds himself back outside of the entire classroom building. There are SHSL-level high school students walking to either their research labs or physical education classes. There was a bit of a melancholy feeling seeing many of these people alive and well – they’re getting to live their lives as if nothing happened, but he still remembers that many of these people most likely died during The Tragedy of Hope’s Peak Academy.
He suddenly feels a soft warmth around his left arm. His eyes quickly dart to the left, and he finds a red-headed female student clutching around it like as if hanging on for dear life.
“Wh-whoa?!” He almost stumbles backward, but the sheer force of the girl is preventing him from even breaking away from her. Makoto gets a better look and his memory comes back to him – he’s seen that face and long hairstyle before.
“Enoshima?! What are you doing? Why are you dressed like that?”
“What? I’m just Ryoko Otonashi, Naegi-kun~”
“You’re not the type to do this again. B-Besides, wouldn’t you be talking about Matsuda-san in the first place?”
“Oh, you mean the guy who doesn’t know who I am here? Come on. If Maizono-san didn’t remember you, what makes you think he would remember me? Besides, my Matsuda-kun is long gone already!” She shrugs in a way more fitting for Junko rather than Ryoko. “Well, at least my childhood friend was actually one and not just some bird voyeur.”
Makoto frowns in frustration. “Could you not speak ill of the dead?”
The redhead just pouts. “Aw, and here I was thinking you’d really like this.”
“Um… this story doesn’t have a happy ending in the first place, does it? Why would I like it?”
“Like, you know. ‘Oh, she erased her memory in order to redeem herself’ or whatever your idiot hope brain would be thinking about this. It’s what you want, right?”
He just narrows his eyes in response.
“Oh? Then what were you going to try to do if I didn’t end my life after your amazing gift? Throw me in the Neo World Program, right?”
“The NWP only rebuilds memories from a certain point. With you that would mean…”
“Hehe, not bad. But that’s right!” She sticks her tongue out and moves her hands in a similar way to her rockstar persona. “You’d have to rebuild me from scratch! That would be—“
“It would be the same as killing you. I know.” Makoto’s eyes move away from the redheaded Junko. “I might’ve done it back then along with Class 77-B. But now I know better. I’d feel sorry for the girl that would have to live in your body because of your crimes.”
Her face moves closer to his as he looks back at her. There’s only a small amount of space between them. “So you’re glad, right? That I kicked the bucket?” She flashes a toothy, dangerous grin.
He immediately shakes his head. “I feel about it the same way I felt about it long ago.” His gaze hardens and looks straight into Junko’s eyes. “It was just another pointless death.” His voice sounds hollow and tired.
The SHSL Analyst’s face immediately flicks into her neutral expression devoid of expression. After a long silence, she starts to laugh loudly, startling some of the students passing by. The girl immediately grabs Makoto’s face with both her hands on both of his cheeks. The former SHSL Lucky Student starts sweating as he can’t get away.
“Even now!” She smiles in what could only be expressed as ecstasy. “I keep on analyzing you and I can’t get a solid answer. I’ve always been impressed with you, Makoto Naegi. Even back then when you were just some boring, fashion-challenged boy that only knew how to make others happy. Even when the odds were against you back in our killing game, you still won.”
Her face moves even closer. “But you know what made me even happier? You were stupid enough to watch the Suicide Video. Oh…when you screamed and despaired, my heart was pounding. It took a damn magical brainwashing video to see it, but it was totally worth it!” She looks playful with her cheeks reddening as Makoto bit his tongue. “And when you raised that knife my breath…I actually held my breath!”
Her lips move toward his as if to kiss him, but she breaks away as she looks angered. “But that damn gorilla Sakakura decided to save your ass. Of all people, HIM?! He tried to kill you throughout the whole thing and then he goes and pulls that?”
The area around them have been devoid of students for a while now. Makoto feels his cheeks for the slight scratches left on them.
“What exactly are you up to, Enoshima?!”
“Are you that blockheaded still? Then let me spell it out for you. I l-o-v-e you, Makoto Naegi!”
Makoto feels a deep pit in his stomach as he grits his teeth inadvertently.
“Oh, do my honest feelings bring you despair, Makoto?!” She lights up in glee. “Amazing, wonderful, excellent—! I wasn’t expecting that, but I’m loving you even harder now.” She twirls her hair as if to validate what she just said to him.
Trying to shake off his feeling of dread, he responds in a shaky tone. “You don’t exactly have the best track record when you actually love someone.”
“Oh, did the reckless SHSL Hope finally found something he can’t take on? Something you’re too scared to face? Don’t be disappointing me now, Naegi-kun.”
“That’s not it at all! Wait…” As if something struck him, he realizes something. “No…you were acting normal all this time to…wait for me?”
Junko smiles as she immediately returns to his side. “Hm? What do you mean?”
“You were acting as if you were the SHSL Fashion Girl again. Everything I could find out about what you’ve done—where you pretty much hid your true nature from everyone again until recently—it all makes sense now.”
“Mmm. Once again, not bad. Guess you aren’t the worst student in history. Hee hee, since I was denied seeing you again so soon, I figured I might see you as an old man when I see you again. So I figured…maybe I can make you feel awful when you see me acting like a totally normal fashionista? Then that could bring you some hilarious despair when you’re all weak and senile. But then you and your merry band of hopefuls decided to mess with my analysis again and show up anyway!”
“You really are twisted, Enoshima. But you have that capability of not ending the wor—mph!”
It was a long and agonizing kiss. Makoto pulls away when he can, wiping the spit from his mouth.
“What the hell?!”
Junko smirked. “It was a good first kiss, wasn’t it?”
Makoto looked horrified. “What was the tongue for?!”
“French kissing.” She twirls her finger around his ahoge. “Did you think I wouldn’t take the chance?”
Looking angry, he stared daggers at her. “This is somehow more dangerous than when you were the mastermind…”
“Oh, but that heart of yours is pounding so hard isn’t it? Want to feel mine?”
Immediately knowing her intention with that, he just pulls away with his meager strength. “Stop it already! What makes you think I’d do that willingly?!”
“True. I could always force it but…that’s not what I want right now.” Junko grins. “Don’t forget, Naegi-kun. I am the SHSL Analyst. I may not be able to accurately predict your actions, but I do know what you’re in to.”
Makoto refused to respond to that.
“And you know how much I love a challenge.” Junko sighs. “But I’m out of time. Your attack dogs are coming. Bye, bye lover~!” The cheeky redhead walks off and disappears into a building. As if on cue, Mukuro and Kyoko show up.
Kyoko crosses her arms. “You have lip balm all over your mouth. What happened?”
He continues to wipe his mouth. After a few goes at it, he responded in an annoyed tone. “Enoshima decided to show herself.”
“Are you okay, Naegi-kun?” Mukuro asked with genuine concern.
“Aside from her taking my first kiss from me, I’m still in one piece.”
Kyoko and Mukuro immediately narrowed their eyes. The lilac-haired woman immediately followed up with, “Where did she go?”
“She disappeared into the science building. But she knew you guys were coming. Doubt she’ll let you catch her.”
Mukuro looked guilty. “If I was around I—“
“Yeah. She probably wouldn’t have approached. But you needed to do this, Ikusaba-san. You’re still a minor after all. Last thing we need is for you to get in trouble with the law. By the way, Kyoko-san, how did that go?”
The former SHSL detective cleared her throat. “Well, we managed to recreate most of her academic achievements in our records from what she told us. And with my testimony of her actions during the riot, she should be on a fast track to becoming an honorary graduate of Hope’s Peak Academy.”
“Good. Thank you.”
“It’s the least I can do, Makoto-kun. Though are you sure you don’t want to take a break? Lunch isn’t for another four periods.”
“Well, I could take a breather. I’m a little stressed out.”
“A little? No need to act tough.” Kyoko placed her hand on his shoulder. “She hasn’t changed much. I’d imagine it was a harrowing experience. And it confirmed my suspicions that whatever she has planned involved you.”
“Yeah, well, can we talk this over inside with a cup of hot chocolate?” Makoto rolls his opposite shoulder.
“Of course. Though I will have to opt for coffee personally.”
Mukuro simply nods as she looks at him with continued concern.
PINNED: Hello everyone! Happy anniversary to the Danganronpa series! Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and comments about everything here.
BlackCapPI: Happy anniversary.
Shirokuma: happy anniversary! wow, it’s been a long time hasn’t it?
BlackCapPI: Yeah. But having to spend a day like today in school isn’t far from ideal.
Shirokuma: you said it, school sucks..
BlackCapPI: Speaking of which, did you know Japan is quite unique in how we handle high school?
Shirokuma: are we?
BlackCapPI: Mmhm. Most high schools in Japan actually don’t have their own cafeterias, but in other countries they do.
Shirokuma: wait, what? other countries don’t eat their own lunch boxes in their homerooms like we do?
BlackCapPI: Nope. Also, get this, students in the United States have to change classrooms all the time when a class ends unlike us where it’s the teachers who go to the classrooms during a period change.
Shirokuma: yeah we only have to move when we really need to, don’t we? like for PE or a lab. do they have two homeroom periods like we do?
BlackCapPI: From what I’ve seen, they usually only have one homeroom period in the mornings and it’s as long as a regular class. Ours are five minutes at the beginning and end of the day with one weekly homeroom meeting that lasts as long as a class period. Here’s one last fact: other countries also hire people to clean the school facilities for them.
Shirokuma: oh wait what?! we have a raw deal here! i hate having to clean up after everyone, even though everyone in school has to.
BlackCapPI: The world’s a varied place outside of our own narrow viewpoints, isn’t it?
Shirokuma: i guess so.
Chapter 9: Andalusian Rhapsody
Kyoko leads both of them to an office back in the administration building. It’s very plain and lacks any sort of decoration or anything to signify as someone’s individual place of work. The detective moves over to the desk and pulls out an all-leather bag. She motions for Makoto to sit down on the nearby couch and she moves over to him. Taking out a medium-sized swab, she starts moving it around his mouth.
“H-Hey, that kinda tickles!”
“Don’t move too much. I need to check if she’s laced her lip balm with something. This is Enoshima, after all. Say ahh.”
He opens his mouth as she uses another swab to take samples. She stores both used swabs in some orange cylindrical containers and moves back to the desk.
“Laced with what? Poison?!”
Taking out a few unmarked bottles, she lays them out to begin her own chemical testing.
“Doubtful, Makoto-kun. She definitely wants you alive. But this school has a bad record of keeping certain medical materials under lock and key. Along with ingredients that could make aphrodisiacs.”
“R-Right. Class 77-B, right?”
The lilac-haired woman nodded.
Mukuro looked frustrated but then looked at the cool-headed detective. “You seem calm about this. Aren’t you angry?”
“A detective has to stay calm, lest our judgment be clouded. That and…” Her right hand balls into a fist momentarily. “Being angry is what your sister would want.”
The SHSL Soldier looks down and then nods after a moment of silence.
Kyoko pours some of the solutions on hand and studies the reaction of the samples. “You aren’t feeling anything strange, correct? Dizziness? Nausea? Heat?”
Makoto takes a deep breath. “No, I feel fine so far.”
“It seems the results confirm your feelings. It was…as strange as it sounds…just a kiss. What did she talk to you about?”
“Erm, well, she just blurted out that she loved me. That was the short of it.” He didn’t really want to get into the raw details of their strained conversation.
“We know she has an obsessive personality. It was her obsession with despair that, she claimed, caused her to do so many crimes against humanity.” Kyoko sighs. “If we’re to take this at face value the answer is simple. She’s obsessed with you.”
Mukuro could only muster a dumbfounded look. She never observed Junko ever harboring feelings for the SHSL Lucky Student. However, her life ended early on in the Killing Game so she didn’t have a point of reference to what they were talking about. She knew her sister was fascinated and could only be entertained by despair. What exactly was Makoto to her?
The current substitute homeroom teacher rubbed his head. Kyoko continued with her explanation.
“The signs were there, now that I think about it. In your final showdown against her, she did mention she was ‘hopelessly in love with you.’ And her Alter Ego kept trying to flirt with you in the Neo World Program.”
“I thought she was just messing with me.”
“It seemed that way, didn’t it? But as we found out when we left the old school building, the only thing she actually lied about was the air being too toxic to breathe. Putting it into that perspective, she was never quite the type to outright rely on falsehoods to scare or mislead us.”
Another sigh escaped from Makoto’s mouth. “I didn’t even think I was her type!”
“That’s a strange thing to say, Makoto-kun. I suspect this knowledge is from your own research?”
“Well, yeah.” He fixes his tie. “The only people she was clearly interested in were Yasuke Matsuda and Izuru Kamakura. I—well—I don’t think I’m like either of them, aren’t I?”
“I only truly know of Matsuda from this world’s incarnation of him. But he seems to be a loner at heart. Hinata-san as Kamakura was quite similar due to his implanted personality.”
The fact that Naegi and Kirigiri were able to discuss these things so freely, without even becoming flustered, showed Mukuro how much they had gone through themselves and with each other. All the while she could only continue to bluster and shy away from her own feelings.
Makoto adjusted himself on the visitors’ couch. “So what? Is it because I beat her?”
“I suspect that’s part of it.” Kyoko looked at him with a softened gaze. “Do you feel like she let you win?”
“She left a way to win, but to actually be able to do it…well…I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it was just luck and pity, right?”
The detective could only smile at his resolve. “Indeed. That was your strength. And don’t you forget it. It was only because of that we were able to move forward.”
Mukuro spoke up for the first time in what felt like ages. “What do you feel for my sister, Naegi-kun?”
“Well, I told you I didn’t hate her. Or you for that matter. But this is…well… it’s just strange, is all. I was kinda expecting revenge, or better yet for her to not care about that sort of thing anymore. Now it’s just…”
Kyoko crosses her arms. “She’s not one to let you process your feelings. Had we not been on the way, I’d imagine she would continue her advances.”
Makoto could only rub the back of his neck. “Sounds like I’m lucky.”
“I’d expect some would say you’re actually unlucky.” Kyoko’s face returned to a neutral expression.
A noise comes from the laptop on the table and the detective goes to check on it. She frowns while reading the message and looks at Mukuro.
“It seems Hope’s Peak’s researchers want to observe your talent. They’re essentially cramming all of the practical exams together so that they get 3-years-worth of data from you.”
“Whoa, hey!” Makoto stands up. “That’s kinda crazy. Who wanted this?”
“The headmaster. Did I tell you?” Kyoko walks back over to them. “He’ll become a full-time researcher at the academy after he steps down. Frankly, this was his actual calling than being a political figurehead of the academy. Even so he’s still very interested in seeing what kind of talent Ikusaba-san possesses.”
“Oh right…Kizakura-san. When he was sizing us all up.”
“I apologize.” She turns to the freckled teen. “They can’t force the rest of us to partake in their observations because we’re all at least 20-years-old. However, you’re still considered a minor in this country. We might have been able to not let this happen if your parents were around but…”
Mukuro responds with her cool demeanor. “This is basically just a requirement to be a graduate of this academy, right? I can handle it.”
“Well, if you’re alright with it…I won’t argue.” She turns back to Makoto. “Let’s get going. It wouldn’t be a smart idea to let you wander around alone right now.”
“Okay.” He nods.
The gymnasium was currently in preparations for the various SHSL’s practical exams. A team of researchers drabbed in lab coats along with several key members of staff were present. Kyoko was busy arguing with her father while Mukuro was dressed in a P.E. uniform going through the physical exams they were assigning her. Makoto stood against a wall, casually watching all of this going on as Juzo approached him.
“Hmph. I was wondering why some of the security cameras were still off.”
“Oh, Sakakura-san. Everything alright?”
The former SHSL Boxer crossed his arms. “I figured Enoshima was behind it.” He narrows his eyes. “Some of my guards spotted a strange redheaded girl roaming the campus. You know anything about that?”
“Well…that’s Enoshima in disguise. Is she enrolled in the school?”
“Hah! No way. It’s just a disguise. Hell, I don’t even know how long she’s even been hiding among the students. What a damn joke. But one guard spotted her hanging on your arm. If you were an actual teacher right now, you’d be in hot water.”
Makoto just sighed. “Do you think I’m in despair?”
“You?” The burly head of security bellowed from laughter. “Unless that she-demon lobotomized you or used a brainwashing video, there’s no way that’d happen. Look fine to me.”
“Glad you have faith in me.”
“Tch.” He looks away. “Munakata told me how you shook him out of despair. There’s proof behind that faith, I guess.”
“I never did get to thank you. For saving me from the brainwashing video and ending the killing game.”
The boxer’s eyes widened for a moment but he returns to scowling. “Yeah, yeah. Are you sure you’re alright in the head? I’m not your friend, Naegi.”
“That’s fine. I only wanted to say thanks.”
“Your attitude really ticks me off. Guess that’s expected from a hero.” Juzo leers over at Mukuro. “And they let a running time bomb like her roam free like this. Ridiculous.”
“She’s…mostly fine now, I think.”
“Always the idiot optimist.” Juzo begins to walk away. “I’d better get back to Enoshima-hunting. She’s not gonna get away a second time.” He stops for a moment and opens his mouth, but then walks away without another word.
A low rumble comes from Makoto’s stomach. He didn’t get to eat much as he was rushing from his apartment to the campus. He looks at both Kyoko and Mukuro and they’re still deep in what they were doing. Making an executive decision to not starve, he slips out of the gym.
His stomach still seemed tied to the Hope’s Peak bell schedule as lunch period just began. The campus grounds were populated with SHSL students casually enjoying their break from classes or labs. He entered the on-site cafeteria – he remembers the smell of Teruteru Hanamura’s dishes vividly, though he hadn’t eaten it in years. Not wanting to awkwardly share a table with students he opted to sit on a bench in the center of campus near the fountain. He starts scarfing down his food while someone takes a seat next to him. Makoto stops eating like a goblin and quickly wipes his face and looks over – a familiar hoodied figure is next to him playing on a handheld console. The current substitute teacher swallows his food and just gives her a surprised look.
“Oh…um…am I bothering you?”
Makoto shakes his head. “Oh, no. Sorry. I was just eating too fast.” He takes a few beats before he continues. “Are you the SHSL Gamer?”
“Yes.” She continues being absorbed in her current game, not even looking at him.
“And Yukizome-san is your homeroom teacher, right?”
The mention of her teacher caused her to pause her game for a moment as she looks at him. “Yes. Do you know her?”
“Oh, well, we’ve worked together before. I’ve known her for a while now.” Makoto scratches his face with his index finger. “My name is Makoto Naegi. Nice to meet you, Nanami-san.”
“Nice to meet you.” The air was still a little awkward between them.
Makoto continued. “Do you mind if I can ask you something?”
“…okay.” She looks at him expectantly.
“Do you know Hajime Hinata?”
Her eyes look upward as she raises her finger in thought. “No, I don’t but…”
“Well, my classmate Komaeda-kun asked me the same question. Am I supposed to know this Hajime?”
The former SHSL Lucky Student furrowed his brow in thought. He was quickly trying to find an excuse. “Well, um, he’s actually a big fan of Gala Omega.”
“He’s not that much older than you, I think. It’s kind of hard to remember his exact age but...” Makoto lit up. “Maybe I could introduce you to him sometime? I mean, he’s an acquaintance of Komaeda-san so it’s not like he’s a total stranger, right?”
“I…I guess. It’s strange. What kind of person is this Hinata-san that somehow Komaeda-kun is friends with him? I’m kinda curious.”
“Is there something wrong with the SHSL Lucky Student?”
Chiaki looks down and pulls on her hoodie a bit. “He’s not close with anyone in class. I have to drag him out sometimes. Maybe cuz he always talks about hope and stuff. And he always puts himself down. It’s really depressing.”
Makoto smiles a bit. “You really are kind, Nanami-san.”
“Have you seen Komaeda-san lately?”
She nods. “He showed up this morning to class for the first time in a long while. We asked him where he was the past few months but he didn’t really give us a straight answer.”
“Do you know where I can find him now?”
Chiaki slowly shakes her head. “No one hangs out with him so the only time we see him is during homeroom. And only sometimes.”
“I see. Well I’m sure Yukizome-san might be able to straighten him out a bit. Don’t worry about it, Nanami-san.”
His words cheer up the SHSL Gamer a bit. The bell rings, signifying the end of the period.
Not wanting to make the goodbye awkward, Makoto stood up. “Anyway, you should get back to class. I wouldn’t want your teacher to get mad at me.”
“Um. Okay. See you around, Naegi-san.” She stands up and places her Game Girl in her pocket as she walks away. As she left his sight, he decided to finish the rest of his food and return to the gym.
His walk back went without incident as he slipped back into the gymnasium. Kyoko crossed her arms and gave him a disapproving look while he only smiled nervously in response. The periods go by as more of their physically grueling tests went on for Mukuro’s study. The freckled soldier, however, didn’t seem as winded as she should have been. Unsurprisingly, the physical examinations for her talent have her basically passing with flying colors. After several period changes, Kyoko walks up as Makoto shakes himself from staring into space during the entire time.
“It’s the end of the day. We’d better get back to our homerooms.”
“Huh? Oh, already? Right.” Makoto looks over at Mukuro who is covered in sweat. “Meet me at Class 78’s homeroom. It’ll be the same place as you remember it.”
She wipes sweat from her forehead and nods, before walking off to the girls’ showers.
He looks back at Kyoko. She nods quietly and they begin walking with each other back to the classrooms.
“They didn’t try anything weird did they, Kyoko-san?”
“No. They behaved for the most part. They want to see her mastery of weapons tomorrow, so they’ll most likely be having observations outside.”
“They really are trying to cram all these before the practice exams, aren’t they? Sheesh.”
“At the very least, Ikusaba-san hasn’t shown to be suffering from any muscle atrophy during her captivity. Or any loss of motor abilities from having died previously. As far as I could see, she’s as healthy as we remember.”
Makoto sighs in relief. “That’s good. Thanks for looking out for her. How have you been with all this craziness? Your dad even asked you to take over a homeroom too.”
“Truth be told it has been extremely stressful. I am, after all, the headmaster’s daughter. I get bombarded with questions. To be honest…I haven’t had respite like this for a long while now. This may have been a blessing in disguise.”
“Sure. I guess.”
“You needn’t worry about me too much, Makoto-kun. Being involved in three killing games makes one a bit more resilient to the normal stress of everyday life.”
“You were always tough, I know. But I can’t help worrying. You can go overboard sometimes.”
A small giggle escapes Kyoko’s lips as Makoto groans from being teased. They find themselves both outside of Class 78’s homeroom.
“You’re a lot more expressive. It’s still surprising to see, Kyoko-san.”
“Yes, well, bottling emotions used to be seen only as a strength in my perspective. But I never knew how to actually connect with people, even during our peaceful class times. We were friends with each other but we were always distant.”
“You have a point. I knew we were all friends before but… well… I was never really close to you before, was I?”
“To think it took The Tragedy for that to change. And it was almost too late when I realized my mistake.”
Makoto went quiet as he knew exactly what she was talking about. “I think you’ve already made up for that thousandfold.”
She motions her gloved hands over where the poison started spreading through her body during the final killing game. “Maybe.”
“Look, we’re family. You, me, Togami-san, Hina-san, Hiro-kun, Fukawa-san and Komaru. Nothing will change that. There’s no need to guilt yourself over the past anymore.”
“I…very well, then.” Kyoko gives him a long stare as she stands next to him. After a few moments she gives him a surprise embrace as Makoto is taken aback. Recovering from the shock, he returns the embrace. After a few moments they break off from each other. An awkward silence lingers between them before the former SHSL Lucky Student breaks it.
“Ah, I should…get back to my class. And you’re almost late to yours.”
Her voice is a little high. “Y-Yes, of course. Of course. I will see you soon, Makoto-kun.”
Kyoko quickly walks off while Makoto ponders over what just happened. He turns and opens the door to the classroom while there is some shuffling from inside, with a few of the students still standing from their seat as he enters. The elder Naegi could only narrow his eyes as they give him all curious looks.
“You know… eavesdropping is a nasty habit.” The substitute teacher closes the door behind him.
Leon broke the standoffish silence first. “Dude! Are you and Kirigiri together? That sounded like a pretty intense convo, y’know?”
Makoto crosses his arms. “We aren’t d-dating currently, no.”
The brown-haired young adult with an ahoge only shook his head.
Sayaka looked a little envious, but interrupted Leon’s tirade. “Is this the proper time for a date? The school is barely hanging on as it is. Please don’t tease Naegi-san, who is only here to help.”
“Thank you.” He waved it off. “Either way, I’m not here to create gossip or more trouble for the academy. I just want to remind you all that the practical exams are at the end of this week. I understand that you are all Super High-School Level talents, but please take them seriously. Especially since all eyes on Hope’s Peak now because of the riots, the proctors and judges will definitely be grilling you guys hard this time around.”
“Yes, of course Naegi-sensei!” Kiyotaka stood up straight from his desk. “If any of you require assistance, don’t be afraid to ask me or the rest of your classmates!”
The bell rings to signify the end of the school day. Makoto smiles gently as the rest of the class stands up from their seats to leave. “You all have a good afternoon. Stay healthy. It’s getting really cold outside.” After his words, most of the class left the room to go on with their own days. He starts to tidy up the room as he waits for Mukuro to arrive. Looking back at the emptied desks, Leon is taking his time grabbing his things, throwing a glance back at him.
Taking the obvious bait, Makoto asks, “Something wrong, Kuwata-san?”
“Uh, well…y’know, I’ve been meaning to ask. How do you do it?”
Mukuro shows up back in her casual clothes while Leon’s mouth goes agape and he looks back at Makoto. “That! All these chicks are around you, and you’re not even trying!”
The freckled girl just gives a confused look before she crosses her arms with a frown.
“Er… I don’t know what image you have of me in your head but…it’s not like you think it is.”
The SHSL Baseball Player looks frustrated and confused. “Seriously, I don’t get it. Sure, I’ve dated a lot of chicks but someone like you… even Sayaka-chan wonders about you.”
“Well I will say that I just act like myself. I’m not a pickup artist or anything.”
“Really? That’s so damn cheesy, guy.” Leon put his hand behind his head then turned to Mukuro. “Okay, what do you think of Naegi-sensei?”
“Are you totally into him too?”
“Th-That’s, um…” Her face goes red and then she immediately leaves the room.
“Ikusaba-san, wait—!” Makoto sighs.
“See? What’s your secret, man?”
“There really isn’t any. I’m being honest. I’m a pretty normal guy. My positivity is pretty much my defining feature, if I had to answer.”
“A big optimist, huh…? I mean, I’m pretty gung-ho myself.” The punk-inspired teen grinned and gave a thumbs up. “Though I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say they were a normal guy. These people around you find you impressive for some reason. Are you just that humble or do you have low self-esteem or something?”
Naegi tapped his chin. “No, I’m pretty confident in myself. I’d say I don’t really care about what people think of me too much. I do get self-conscious and embarrassed but at the end of the day all I want to do is live a peaceful life and make friends.”
“Not caring too much about what others think, huh…” Leon’s expression suddenly sank into a more serious and thoughtful one. “I mean a star like me’s gotta be larger than life right? But you just go with the flow. Huh. I kinda envy that.”
“Do you really?”
“Mm. Yeah. I mean I gotta be cool for the chicks, but…maybe there’s something to that attitude of yours. You don’t get wound up or anything.”
“Tell me, Kuwata-san, why did you want to get into music?”
“Uh, er…” The redhead looks down. “A chick I met at a hair salon was really into musicians so I kinda…wanted to get into it myself.” He sighs. “Yeah, now that I say it out loud, it’s pretty damn shallow ain’t it?”
“Mm. If it really were that shallow I think you would’ve quit it by now.”
Makoto walks over to where Leon is standing. “There’s no shame in going outside of what your talent is. It could be a different career path or a hobby you might enjoy. Some part of you really enjoys punk rock, I think.”
The wannabe punker was taken aback. “Holy crap, dude. Hearing you say that makes me think you’re in my corner. Heh, well, I already learned a bit about playing so…I might as well keep getting better at it, right? Baseball’s always there for me, too.” His spirits are raised and he returns to his normal self.
“I owe you something for the pep talk. Hell, this is better than what coach would say!” Leon extends his hand and Makoto takes it for a firm handshake. “Listen, when I’m at Koshien Stadium, you better come by and watch! Heh… I think I can start to see what people see in you.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it.”
“You better cheer me on dude. My first major league season and we’re gonna go undefeated! Then I’ll rock out at one of the halftimes.”
Makoto laughs nervously as Leon finally picks up his things and leaves the classroom. The substitute teacher sighs when he’s the only one left.
“…I did promise I’d be at one of your games, didn’t I, Kuwata-kun?” A sad smile shows on his lips as Mukuro re-enters the room. “Oh, uh, ready to go Ikusaba-san?”
Her face is still slightly rosy from earlier as she nods.
Makoto sighs as both are back at his apartment. Sitting across from one another at the table with steaming bowls of hot rice with pork cutlets and egg on top of them.
“I didn’t think a normal school day would be so draining like this. How are you holding up?”
The freckled woman just looked back at him. “I’m fine. A little tired, but fine.”
“That’s a relief. I didn’t think they’d try to spring all this on you.”
“I’m thankful for what you and Kirigiri-san are doing for me. For everything.”
Makoto becomes bashful at the thanks. “Ah, well, it’s not a bother or anything you know! It’s rougher on you, after all.”
“I suppose so. Still… you are too kind, Naegi-kun.” Mukuro blushes a bit before returning to her food in silence.
A few minutes pass as they both quietly eat, until Makoto breaks the silence.
“Um, Ikusaba-san, I want to ask you something.”
She stops and places the chopsticks on top of her bowl as she looks at him. “Go ahead.”
“I wanted to ask…I know you’re loyal to your sister and all but…why’d you go along with the killing game?”
Mukuro doesn’t answer right away. Her face doesn’t seem to be expressing anything right away, but Makoto can see her eyes darting around slightly.
“…The way that my sister was explaining the plan to me made it seem like I could…intervene in some way. I didn’t want to go against her but believe me, I had no idea what she was planning until after The Tragedy started.”
“Well I… wanted… to keep certain people alive.”
Makoto looked at her. “Weren’t we all your friends?”
“We were friends, but—“
“We just weren’t close to you, right? I remember that much.”
Mukuro gazed into his face and paused. She slowly nodded.
“Heh…it’s funny. I was busy trying to hang out with everyone that I never realized that people of our class were closer to certain people than others. And that I was really close to Maizono-san at the time.” He looks down. “We did eventually get our memories back, you know.”
“I assumed so.”
“Tell me, who were you trying to keep alive? I don’t think Enoshima counts.”
She doesn’t respond with words, but just kept looking straight at him.
“I—I see. What made me so special, Ikusaba-san?”
More silence. She appeared very hesitant to speak. Finally after a few more minutes of an awkward silence, she says in a low and hushed voice. “You…were the first one to ever smile at me, Naegi-kun.”
A look of pity overtook Makoto’s features. She mustered more will to continue.
“You always did things for others and treated everyone kindly. Even to those who didn’t deserve it. Even now, you’re still the bright guy from way back when. You always give everyone a listen and try to give good advice. And…” She looked away. “It seemed to give rise to a hope that even my sister couldn’t crush. I think I understand why Junko-chan regards you so highly. You’re one-of-a-kind.”
“There were a lot of people filled with hope that we…dealt with. But being able to avoid death so many times seems to be part of your talent. Kind of like a metaphor, I think…”
“Hope never dies, right?” Makoto laughs softly while Mukuro rolls her eyes.
The SHSL Soldier looks back at him. “I may not be able to see or sense potential like my sister can, but I can tell you for a fact that you really are something.”
“I never knew you had such a high opinion of me.”
Mukuro looks down. “Mmm…yeah…and you never would have.” A bitter smile appears on her lips. “I was a fool. I got greedy. I wanted you and Junko and I—”
“Wanted me, Ikusaba-san?”
That question completely blindsided her as her face goes red as a tomato and she covers her face. “I…uwaa…I…still…do…” She parts her hands as she looks back at him, who has an embarrassed expression on his face.
He was not expecting that answer. “Sorry, I didn’t know. I, um, have no idea how to respond to those feelings to be honest.”
Still red as a beet, she continues to look at him. “No idea?”
“Look, I… I’ve never been in a relationship. Even after all this time. I don’t want to give a definitive answer until I know exactly what my heart wants, you know? I kinda just threw myself into work and didn’t even run into anyone until recently.”
“O-Oh.” She goes back to looking away. “I always assumed you knew what you were doing when it came to this sort of stuff.”
“What? Me? Why does everyone think I’m some kind of Casanova...?”
“W-Well, um…” Mukuro immediately stopped herself, lest she reveal her embarrassing daydreams and fantasies of what she had of Makoto. “I’m just happy that you didn’t laugh at me.”
“Why would I laugh? This is serious.”
“It’s…really embarrassing…okay?! S-Sorry.”
Makoto rubbed his own face with his finger. “If anyone should be saying sorry it should be me. I didn’t think I would be finding out about all this today.”
“W-Well, to be honest, it wasn’t like I was really hiding my feelings from you.”
“I know, I know.” He sighs. “I was really dense. I get it.”
“Plus you had Maizono-san always around you.”
“T-True.” He started to feel a little bad. “Look, I’d like to at least sleep on this. There’s way too much on my mind right now. I hope I don’t get a headache.”
“Okay. Don’t trouble yourself too much, I…I don’t want to burden you more than I already am.”
A small smile appears on Makoto’s face. “No, this is more of my fault isn’t it…” He goes back to scarfing down his meal. On Mukuro’s side of things, she feels as if a heavy weight was lifted from her shoulders. She couldn’t help smiling watching Makoto.
Perhaps it was a semblance of hope?
PINNED: Hope all of your holidays are going well and will continue to do so!
Shirokuma: hey hey hey so like… can we talk about the weird canon relationships of DR?
BlackCapPI: What about them?
Shirokuma: there seem to be a lot of incestuous relationships in the series…
BlackCapPI: Well, it’s an easy way to make someone into a villain. After all, what could be more reprehensible in Asian society than incest? I know some other countries still give it the death penalty.
Shirokuma: whoa geez, that’s pretty intense for that sort of thing isn’t it
BlackCapPI: I personally find it very strange. I never got into the whole nee-san and nii-san relationships that some shows have.
Shirokuma: really? how about stepsiblings?
BlackCapPI: I mean there’s no blood relation but it’s still really weird.
Shirokuma: um, i dunno, maybe when your parents get remarried or something and then you have a brand new stepsibling you can bond with…
BlackCapPI: Er…Shiro…is this some kind of confession about what you’re into?
Shirokuma: w-wait no, i didn’t mean it like that!!
Chapter 10: BOX 16
Mukuro wakes up after a surprisingly peaceful sleep from the futon on the floor. A dimmed table lamp was on as Makoto was mulling something over his computer. She rubbed her eyes as she sat up in her plain gray pajamas.
“…did I sleep in?”
He looks back at her from the glowing monitor. “Ah, no, I just happened to wake up before you. Though I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen you actually sleep soundly.”
“Huh. You’re right.” She stands up and walks over to him. “Though being able to sleep at all lately has been a miracle.”
“Were you even able to sleep during the killing game? I remember you always taking your food with you back to your room.”
“I didn’t sleep at all during that time. I…I guess I was really stressed out when it actually started.”
“That would explain some things…”
The freckled woman looked over what Makoto was pondering over. It looked to be a list of familiar-sounding names with a short description under them. She scans through it and sees her own name listed among another select group of people.
Post Final Killing Game and no poison.
Her birthday is coming up soon, I should buy her a present.
Same as during the First Killing Game, Third-Year HPA.
Where is she now?
Pre-Spears of Gungnir & also Third-Year HPA.
Do I buy two presents because of when her birthday is?
Looks exactly like I remember her…
A little bit younger this time.
I’m glad he has his eye back.
“Oh…you remember my birthday, Naegi-kun?”
“Well it’s not easy to forget. The day before Christmas.”
“Either way, I’m glad you remembered.” She gives him a small smile. “What is this list for?”
“I was trying to figure out whether there was a pattern to how we all ended up in this reality. The survivors of Class 78 ended up as old as I remembered. Students of both classes in Year 77 look like they’re back before the Tragedy like the dead members of Class 78…” Makoto rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I’m not sure about Hinata-san. There’s been no sign of him anywhere. But as far as I can see, most of the people I’ve run into were ‘reset’ before your sister’s plan went into action.”
“But Junko-chan and I look like we were when the Killing Game started.”
“Yeah. I would’ve expected you two to also be with Class 78 if anything.”
“Maybe whatever happened wasn’t perfected.”
“Makes sense. It’s not like I’d would fully grasp time travel or parallel universes, even if I were an expert in theoretical physics. But…”
Mukuro looked at him expectantly. “But?”
“Well, something’s been bothering me for a while. It’s when we found you.”
“If someone was trying to keep you there, they would’ve tried to bring you back. I don’t think you were being kept prisoner there.”
“Then what did they want to do with me?”
“I wish I knew, Ikusaba-san.” A small frown showed up on the former lucky student’s face. “But there were a lot of Monokumas and a strange robot I never saw before guarding where you were. At least that’s what I think they were doing…”
Mukuro tilted her head slightly. “Where did the robots go?”
“They all disappeared when I got you out from the control room.”
“Because of me, huh…”
Makoto leans back on his desk chair. “Yeah. They definitely were real and there. But there wasn’t a sign of any of them when we were leaving. In fact, it looked like the Killing Game in there before I got to you. But then when we were leaving, everything started going back to normal.”
“I wish I could help you out with this. This is all over my head.”
“Me either.” He laughs slightly. “But you helped plenty. I needed someone to bounce off my thoughts with. I might have come up with an answer, but I need more evidence.”
“Glad to help, Naegi-kun.”
“Ah, well, it’s gonna be another long day today at HPA. Better load up on breakfast.” He stands up and walks over to the kitchenette.
“Let me help you.” Mukuro smiles with a gentle warmth.
Despite her bright attitude at the beginning, the freckled SHSL Soldier looked dejected as they arrived back at the Class 78 homeroom.
“Seriously, it’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up over it.”
“B…But I burned the egg and the rice and…”
“Don’t worry. Everyone has to start somewhere.”
“I could’ve burned the whole flat down, Naegi-kun.”
“Th-That’s why I stopped you. Don’t worry. You’ll figure out cooking in no time. You just need to be more patient.”
She sighs. “Okay. Next time for sure.”
“They told you where to go, right?”
Mukuro nods. “I’ll keep an eye out for my sister.”
“Don’t let them do anything weird, okay?”
“Okay. I’ll see you later.” She turns as her expression hardens for another grueling day of observation by the Hope’s Peak researchers. Makoto watches as she walks off for a while after sighing to himself.
A soft feminine voice calls from behind him. “Good morning, Naegi-sensei.”
He turns around and sees Sayaka with a smile. “Oh, good morning Maizono-san. Right on time.”
“Ah, yes. I must be lucky today. Was that another student?”
“Oh, erm…sort of. The researchers say that she has a talent and want to study it. She’s an old friend of mine.”
“She didn’t seem like your younger sister. She sounds like a childhood friend now that I think of it.” Sayaka looks up with a thoughtful expression. “But it sounds as if you two were living with each other.”
“Well…we are. She’s been staying at my place for the past week or so.”
“Goodness, Naegi-sensei. I didn’t think you were that type of guy.”
“Um. Wait, what?”
She giggles. “Ah. You needn’t worry about it too much. Just a joke.”
Makoto opens the door to the classroom as the other students look at both of them enter the room. The SHSL Idol takes her seat in the middle of the room while the substitute teacher makes his way over to the podium.
“It’s the middle of the week so it’s the one-hour weekly homeroom, hm…” He taps his chin. Kiyotaka raises his hand. “Yes, Ishimaru-san?”
“Naegi-sensei! I am looking forward to your lecture on our futures!”
“Er…” Makoto shook his head. “A lecture? Did you guys get in trouble?”
“Well, no, but it is a homeroom advisor’s job to guide his students is it not?”
“Maybe in a normal high school, sure. But they kinda gave you a career path to stick to with your publicly listed talent, didn’t they?”
Kiyotaka pondered for a few moments. “I…I suppose you’re correct. Indeed, our SHSL titles do contain what society wishes for us to be.”
“I certainly don’t envy it.”
Leon huffs. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Playing baseball forever. I mean, it’s my talent and all but maybe I wanna do other things too! Right, sensei?”
The young adult Naegi smiles. “As for myself, I’ve been lucky enough to have been a lot of things in my short life. I suppose I’m satisfied with what I’ve accomplished so far and I’ll accomplish more things in the future.”
Chihiro looked impressed. “W-Wow…that confidence...”
“It’s just faith, Fujisaki-san. I’ve failed a lot in my life, too. But as long as I’m alive, I can always put the effort in to make the next day better.”
The SHSL Programmer gave a blank and dazed look. Celestia broke the silence with a small, somewhat threatening giggle.
“Well, then, Naegi-san. Since you are so hopeful, would you like to play a game of chance?”
“I’m very sure I can’t wager money with a student. Even if that student is the SHSL Gambler.”
“Ah. Of course.” A small polite smile forms on her lips. “You are somehow very mysterious. If I win this game, you will submit to our questions for the entire period. And you will answer them all truthfully.”
A small bead of sweat dropped from Makoto’s forehead. “And if I win?”
“I suppose I can loan you my manservant, Yamada-kun.”
“Er…” The teacher sighed. “I don’t think I want a student as a servant, Ludenberg-san.”
Celestia laughed with haughtiness. “I do not blame you.”
“Celestia Ludenberg-dono!” Hifumi looked shocked. “Please, the only one I would serve is you!”
“Quiet, fool!” As if her words were the snap of a rose whip, Hifumi immediately shut his mouth. Makoto couldn’t suppress his look of pity for the SHSL Doujin Artist.
“Well, the wagers should be somewhat identical, so if I win then you have to answer my questions about you truthfully Celestia Ludenberg.”
An immediate look of shock appeared on the Gothic Lolita’s face as the substitute homeroom advisor made no effort to show he knew something was wrong with her name. She snapped back to her composed self and then gave her most disarming, polite and close-lipped smile.
“Very well, I accept your terms.”
Makoto immediately knew that smile was no good. Even if he wasn’t her classmate previously, he was able to see through her masquerade as the “Queen of Lies.”
“So, what are we playing?”
“I would have suggested mahjong, but I did not bring my set today. Perhaps it was your own devil’s luck that prevented this. After all, I did win a half-insane billionaire’s game of Russian roulette mahjong.”
The class went completely silent at her boast. Some of the students’ faces revealed they knew what exactly Russian roulette was.
“Well I’ve never played mahjong before, so it was probably for the best. How about a western classic? Poker.”
“Very well.” She uses some sleight-of-hand and reveals a deck of cards hidden on her person. She shuffles the cards for all to see. Ironically for someone who gambled with his life so recklessly, Makoto was never really a gambler in the traditional sense. He was watching her face and she seemed extremely confidence that she didn’t bother to look over the way she was shuffling said deck.
Despite her looking down on him, it was going to be a fair game. Makoto stood across from her at her desk with the rest of the class watching in anticipation. She deals the cards evenly between them both and looks at her hand. Discarding two cards, she picks them up from the desk with class and simply waits for Naegi’s move.
The former SHSL Lucky Student looked at her for a few moments even though her poker face would reveal no tells. He smiles and discards his entire hand, shocking the gambler for a few moments. Even though it was an extremely stupid and illogical move, Makoto just picked up a new hand from the cards.
Celestia smirked as she revealed a straight flush of clubs. Her hands were under her chin as she smiled. She knew the mathematical odds of beating her hand were astronomically small. After all, gambling was heavily reliant on luck but required a little bit of strategy. Makoto began laying down his hand card-by-card. A shocked expression only grew angrier as he revealed his royal flush of diamonds.
While the SHSL Gambler was astonished and appalled at the results, the substitute teacher mused in his how if he had lost it may have put the students in grave danger from what they would find out. After all, Makoto was a never good liar – the only way he mitigated this fact these days was to tell certain parts of the truth. But even with a small amount of information, some of the students could piece together the facts. He decided to go all in on his unwavering hope that the current members of Class 78 wouldn’t have to find out about their alternate incarnations’ deaths.
“Th…this is…” The Europhile was at a loss for words.
Mondo catcalled the results. “Damn. Devil’s luck, huh.”
Her famous temper welled up in her face, but she sighed in defeat. The results spoke for themselves – after all, she was the one who shuffled the deck. While she found him somewhat interesting, she wouldn’t lose something she took pride in on purpose.
Finally bringing back her calmed expression back, she simply said, “It seems I have lost.” She looked down. “Very well, you may ask your questions.”
“I’ll hold you to that, then. When we can talk in private.”
Celestia’s expression switched over to bewilderment. She had lost in a game of chance and yet she was being shown some sort of mercy. After all, Makoto was not the first one to have hinted that her name may be fake along with many portions of her own personal life she was willing to reveal. She just studied the face of the former SHSL Lucky Student who returned over to the classroom podium.
“Well, that was pretty fun. Was that all Ludenberg-san’s idea?”
The other students snapped their attention back to him. Mondo rubbed the back of his neck. “Er…well…we figured it’d be a good idea to learn more about you. Though I didn’t think your luck was like that.”
Chihiro nodded. “Mmhm. I wasn’t expecting Ludenberg-san to lose in a game of chance.”
“Yes, but it certain makes him more mysterious, doesn’t it? The wise old sage with a checkered past, here to right his wrongs by teaching the future!” Hifumi looked extremely proud of his genre savvy.
“I’m barely in my twenties, guys!” Makoto raised an eyebrow. “Also don’t get ahead of yourselves. I’m not exactly your regular advisor. Hell, I’m not even qualified to be a teacher.” A sigh escapes his lips.
Sakura crossed her arms at her desk. “Perhaps credential-wise. But your personality and practical knowledge make you seem very well-suited for the task. I suspect if you learned martial arts you would make an excellent instructor.”
“I…suppose I’ll take your word for it. Thank you. How has your afternoon training been?”
“Hina-san is an excellent motivator and instructor. I have always been seeking to reach the pinnacle of human strength, and she is certainly accelerating my progress. I am thankful.”
“That’s good. There’s not a lot of people willing to spar with you, so…”
“Indeed. Intimidation has always been an issue.” The SHSL Martial Artist sighs. “And the only two who are potentially strong enough will not spar in any circumstance.”
Kiyotaka, in his perfect posture simply answered, “I mustn’t allow violence to spread. Especially after what happened earlier this week. It is a responsibility we all bear as Hope’s Peak students!”
“And I don’t wanna fight a chick. Even you, Ogami. I ain’t about to throw away my morals for it.”
Sakura looks over to them. “Both very respectable reasons, albeit disappointing.”
“Anyway, try not to rely too much on dirty tricks. You can’t force someone to open up, you know.” Makoto scanned the room as he addressed them. “There aren’t any reliable shortcuts to getting close to people. No matter how charming you are.”
Sayaka gives a sad smile. “That sounds like it comes from experience.”
He looks back at her. “You can start to understand and bond with someone in a few days, but you can’t really foster true trust between each other unless you really put the effort in.”
In Makoto’s thoughts he added an addendum. Or find yourselves in a life or death situation.
“I…guess that’s my lecture for the day. Haha, and here I was saying I wouldn’t give one.”
Leon leaned back. “It’s pretty good advice. You just dish ‘em out huh?”
The bell finally rings, being heard throughout the academy.
“Anyway.” Makoto started to walk away from the podium. “Have a good day, everyone. It’s all about effort. Remember that.”
Class 78 wished him well as he left the classroom.
Arriving in front of Kyoko’s temporary office, he knocks a few times. There is no response. He tries to open the door but it is locked tight. More than likely, she was involved in some nonsense dealing with the headmaster. Defeated for now, Makoto leaves the administration building. Thinking of Mukuro now, he realized that he had no idea where her observation was at. The last thing he needed was to inadvertently show up in the middle of a firing range while live ammunition was being fired into targets. His thoughts then moved onto his former Future Foundation peers. He did not run into Kyosuke nor Juzo in the building and Chisa was most likely actually teaching some classes since she was a regular teacher on the payroll of the academy. Loitering on the premises was probably not a good idea either with how high alert the campus was due to recent events.
Not willing to hide away in some random classroom or office, he opts to continue with his own investigation. Looking around as he moves toward the North Quadrant, he eventually makes his way to the old school building. He checks the front doors and tries to open them. They’re mysteriously unlocked. Makoto wonders if Kyoko is inside.
The building is still dusty and relatively untouched from when he was last in there. He closes the door behind him and begins his own search. None of the Monokumas are around, nor is any of the wreckage from last week. In fact, aside from the footprints implanted against the caked dust, it was as if nothing happened inside the building. Lacking Kyoko’s key, he moves to find the staircases. They’re all present as he remembers them. The only things he hears are his own footsteps – unlike in the game footage that he watched, neither during the killing game nor here did he have music to accompany him. He acknowledged the strange thought, somewhat bitterly laughing at himself that funky accompanying tracks would have possibly lessened the tension he felt every day back then.
Makoto eventually reaches the fourth floor. The windows and walls look normal – he remembered that the strange killing game-like look started to disappear when they were leaving. As he comes closer to the Data Processing Room, he accidentally kicks against a loose chunk of scrap. He looks over and sees the door still broken from the fight. Moving into the room, the Monokuma-colored doors were still parted open from his actions earlier. He continued inside and saw that the monitors weren’t on anymore. It was just dark inside.
The inquisitive lucky teacher takes a seat at the mastermind’s chair. Both despair sisters sat in this chair and it felt…uncomfortable. Not only in a figurative sense, but also in a literal one. Most likely for Junko’s despair. He looks over the system to see if he can get it working or even just turned back on. As he continues to fiddle with the Monokuma mainframe, the chair is forcefully turned around and he looks up at the reason behind it.
A white, toothy, and Cheshire grin amongst the darkness.
A sudden movement causes him to close his eyes in reflex. This would be the third time she’s ambushed him – both times previously she knocked him out. After a few moments, he realizes he’s still conscious as he opens his eyes again. Unfortunately, the person who disturbed his investigation was currently sitting on his lap, leaning across and looking down at him with a goofy and cutesy look.
“Aw, did you miss me that much Naegi-kun? Here I was, actually busy, and you actually came out all on your own!”
“W-Were you hiding out here?”
“No, stupid!” Her goofy look went to a more sinister smirk. “This would literally be the first place to look. I just happened to follow you here.”
“How did you not get caught?!”
Junko flicks him on the forehead. “Oh, I don’t know. How does the mastermind of The Biggest, Most Awful, Most Tragic Event in Human History manage to not get caught by an angry monkey and his blind idiot lackeys?” She giggles. “The fact that Kiri-iri-giri is so wrapped up in crap because she’s the daughter of the headmaster really made it a whole lot easier to move around!”
“Ghk!” Makoto just grit his teeth while Junko caressed his face.
The former SHSL Fashion Girl just started poking at the unlucky Naegi’s face. “Trying to get the Monokumas up and running? The system’s disconnected. I mean, even if you turned it on, nothing would show up! Did you forget that there aren’t any cameras around? Sounds like you came here for nothing. Such des-pair!”
He responded by narrowing his eyes. “That’s not why I’m here.”
“Oh? What were you hoping to find out from this thing? It’s just there.”
“That’s the issue. It shouldn’t be here. But it still is. Everything else is ‘normal’ but this area.”
She simply rolls her eyes and huffs. “Geez, you shouldn’t bother yourself with such boooring things! Especially when you have the despairingly perfect Junko Enoshima on your lap.”
Makoto refused to respond to that, but Junko continued. “Gosh. Fine. I guess I can teach you something.” She pats his head while he winces in response.
“The last time you tried to ‘teach’ me something, you were about to execute me! What was that all about?”
“Oh, the sex ed thing? I mean, it was supposed to be purple girl’s execution you know. But I’m sure you needed the lesson too.”
“No I didn’t!”
“My analysis says you might need it. Perhaps…?”
She sticks her tongue out at him. “Anyway, you didn’t piece it together? I thought you were smarter than that!”
“Piece what together?”
“Ah, ah.” She wags her finger in front of his face. “A lesson will cost you. Can’t let you take advantage of a lady like me, you know?”
It was like a frog was lodged in his throat, but he managed to sound the words out. “And…the cost?”
“Oh, I’ll just redeem it after you’re done with your little stint here. Deal?”
Making a deal with the devil was never advised. But Makoto needed a lead. He looked away for a moment. “Fine. Just don’t…make me regret this.”
He immediately regretted his actions as she simply started hugging the life out of him as she rejoiced.
“W-Wait, stop! I…I can’t breathe!” His voice was muffed by whatever he was pressed against in the darkness.
“Oh, hush you. You’re getting the privilege to be smothered by a goddess’ bust!”
“Shhhh…just embrace the despair…”
Perhaps Makoto was the only one in the world who didn’t completely enjoy this situation – for good reason of course. Junko obviously knew this. She finally let him free after a minute or so with him blushing and trying to breathe. His hair was a mess, considering she kept stroking it as she pulled him into her “despair.”
“Wow. Kiri really rubbed off on you. So averse to affection! It’s really amusing.”
“That’s not it at all and you know it!”
“Aa~anyway. Think about it this way. Picture a drain in a bathtub full of water. Or maybe champagne? Everything around the drain will get sucked down first, right?”
“So let’s say the bathtub was Hope’s Peak Academy. Did you see a few things out there that were out of place?”
He immediately thought of the daisies. They were small in number, but they were there all the same. Those flowers were not there in the original HPA, but definitely in his rebuilt version of it. “Yeah. I did.”
“But most things are just like they were before The Tragedy, right?”
“They are, yes.”
“But here, you clearly see things out of place. The master control room. A huge chunk of the remains of Monokumasect. Pretty fishy, right?”
The gears began turning in his head. “So…Mukuro was some kind of…drain?”
“Well, she is a draining person to be around.”
“Could you not?”
“Sheesh. So protective of your smelly wolf cub.” She continues to look straight at him with her neutral expression. “She’s not quite a drain, but more of a magnetic anchor.”
“How exactly could she be an anchor?”
“The same reason you or me could be anchors. Multiverse theory operates on the idea that everyone’s choices create nearly infinite alternate realities. But if we were to think that way, how could we tell them apart when many choices are inconsequential?”
Makoto simply looks at her while she lectures.
“What if we turned that thinking around and only counted individuals and decisions that could drastically change the outcome of an entire world? I mean, it’s pretty obvious your average Joe isn’t gonna change anything about The Tragedy or me trashing the whole damn place in general.”
“So you’re saying…like…if I had stopped you from going through with The Tragedy somehow…”
She smirks. “Or if I made you finally fall into the purest, ultimate despair.”
“What? Isn’t it natural to want your lover to become a little more ideal?”
“Lover? Since when?!”
There was a short and tense stare between them. Junko was reveling in being the sole target of his attention. The circumstances disallowed anything else to be.
Makoto suddenly remembered. Danganronpa IF.
“Maybe if Ikusaba-san were to rebel against you somehow...”
“Yes, my disappointing sister had that potential. Being betrayed by your own flesh and blood! That would’ve been interesting, even though the chance of it happening was astronomically low in the first place. How sad.”
With a pondering expression, he ignored the last half of her statement and continued. “So whoever was responsible is most likely someone else who could be an anchor. And they managed to figure out how to pull stuff from different realities into this one using someone else as that anchor.”
“Bingo! Not bad. Looks like you aren’t a lost cause after all. Not like your beloved detective chick could ever come to that conclusion after all. She’s too rigid in facts and logic.” Her face lets out a silly expression with her tongue out. “Sometimes you have to be a bit more flexible. And amazingly perfect like me, of course.”
Makoto rolled his eyes and sighed. “Are we done here?”
Junko just snuggled into his neck. “Nope! Never! I don’t wanna!”
“Are you sure, Naegi-kun? You’re not exactly trying to push me away with all your might, you know. You try to act like a grumpy adult, but you really like being spoiled deep down.”
“Seriously…I can’t exactly stay here with you all day!”
“True. Annoying and boring people will show up eventually. Fi~i~ine. I’ll let you go for now. You’ll be coming back to me anyway.” She smiles and kisses him on the cheek. “Thanks for the date, Ma-ko-to.”
She twirls her hair as she bashfully blushes. “Yeah, being in a creepy abandoned building while hugging and kissing the SHSL Hope. It’s so gross! I loved it. You really know how to show a SHSL Despair a terrible time.”
“I…may have to invest in a translator for you…because you barely made sense.”
“Pshh. You act like you don’t get it, but I know that you know what I mean. Besides, you did owe me a date since you stood me up that one night.”
“I wish I didn’t understand.”
“Was that your hope, Makoto? Ooh, it’s so nice to say your name like that.”
“I don’t like where this is going.”
“For now.” She finally stands up from his lap. “…for now.”
Junko grabs Makoto by his hand and almost drags him out back into the sunlight singlehandedly. He could finally get a better look at what she looked like – her “normally” pink hair tied in a ponytail while dressed in a white office skirt with a black blouse opened to show her assets. She somehow was able to walk in heels without making a loud noise every time she took a step.
“L-Let me guess. You learned to be quiet from the SHSL Secret Agent.”
“Yeah, well, might as well get something from that weirdo. Hah, the bread boy is a dead boy and by the same guy no less.
“Seriously, stop that!”
“Aww… trying to defend someone you didn’t even know. That’s so like you!”
“A-Anyway, how’d you re-dye your hair so quickly?”
“Who said I was using hair dye when I decided to run around as Ryoko for a day? Wigs, Makoto! Wigs! Did you forget that I was the SHSL Fashion Girl? I know damn well how to change my appearance.”
Junko pushed open the doors back on the ground floor and took a deep breath. “Ugh. It’s so peaceful and nice.”
“Yeah. It is.” He gives her a strained look. “I’m just glad that you’re…behaving…I guess.”
“Oh? Actual, genuine praise? Hummmm…” Her face goes to her neutral, emotionless state. “Here I was waiting for you to declare how you won’t let me bring the world to ruin again.”
“That goes without saying but…well, compared to what you were like…this wasn’t all that bad.”
Her face shows her trademark disgusted shock. “Hey, stop that! You’re making this into some sappy moment. Ugh! It makes me want to puke!”
“The positivity won’t kill you, Enoshima.”
“Hah!” She gives off her genuine smile. “Can’t let you gain too much ground on me. See you around, lover.”
Makoto finally found a brief respite during lunch period, eating a pork bun while on the move. His little adventure into the old school building went long enough where it actually cut into it, not letting him even enjoy a meal while sitting. Finding himself back in the East Quadrant, he was moving back toward the administration building until he ran into the SHSL Gambler.
He was a little shocked that she started to refer to him with respect. “Ah, Ludenberg-san. Headed toward your lab?”
“Yes. Though it is a bit hard to quantify the luck side of my talent. I doubt my assigned researcher will be in today. He mentioned something about studying a transfer student today.”
“Oh, I see. Then maybe we can have that talk now?”
Celestia curtsied. “Well, I suppose there is no time like the present. Shall we?”
Makoto nodded and followed her to the Gambling and Luck laboratory. There were various chance-based activities around the room. The Victorian-esque teen looks pleased they’re the only ones in the room. “Ah, good. There will be no irritating distractions today.”
The former SHSL Lucky Student, however, was disappointed. He was hoping that he would run into Nagito today in order to do some questioning to him as well. The SHSL Luckster of Class 76 was also notably missing.
“Do the people you share your lab with not show up often?”
“As I mentioned previously, it is extremely hard to quantify luck. Perhaps they show up once and week for a check – possibly to see if luck can fluctuate naturally. Some luck is more dangerous than others.” She shifts her eyes over to a burnt spot in the corner of the room. Celestia takes a seat in the middle of the room, some various types of dice scattered around it. Makoto takes his own seat across from her.
She smiles politely. A dangerous smile. “I’ve been able to mentally prepare myself for this. Go ahead.”
“I’ve heard an interesting rumor about you. You apparently really enjoy gyoza.”
A surprised look on her face showed up. She was most likely expecting hard hitting questions out of the gate. “Well, I cannot deny that. There’s something enjoyable about its base vulgarity.”
“Though you claim to be of European ancestry.”
“Is there something wrong about enjoying Japanese cuisine?”
“Well gyoza is a working class food. I should know. I’ve eaten it a lot myself.”
The phrase “working class” seemed to illicit a stir of emotions from her. She regains her composure while darting her eyes to the right. “I—I suppose you are correct. We all have our guilty pleasures.”
“Is it really that guilty? It’s just food. If something tastes good, then it’s good right?”
“The only way true flavor is reached is by using high-quality and fresh ingredients. Gyoza tends to not use either.”
“Well you can obviously make high-class gyoza but it remains gyoza all the same right?”
Celestia slowly realizes that she immediately fell for his trap. She prepared a ton of answers in preparation for any horrible question Makoto might have had. Especially ones regarding her name. She had grossly underestimated his intelligence as she had the assumption that he was a lucky idiot – casually tossing away your entire hand was a stupid move no matter how you painted it. Her pool of potential answers was quickly drying out into a shallow puddle.
She became angry, nearly jumped out of her seat and pointed her metallic-covered finger at him. “Your idiotic questions are illogical and nonsensical! I thought you wanted to learn the truth, not about my eating habits!”
Makoto immediately realized he struck gold. She was struggling to keep her dignified prose and almost slipped into the impolite language. Something she was doing while being cornered during her own trial. Despite a sharp potential weapon being pointed in his face, he remained unphased.
Mentally apologizing to her before continuing his onslaught, he smirks. “Am I really that scary, Ludenberg-san?”
“You bastard! You act as if you know me… moron!”
“I understand that you’re supposed to be the ‘Queen of Lies’ but it seems all that lying made you forget how to tell the truth.”
“Gh--! Just who are you, Makoto Naegi?!”
He stands from his seat and points his own finger back at her, as if he was back in his trial days. “You thought you could lie out of my questions. Mentally preparing your own answers for anything I could possibly ask while taking me to a comfortable location where you were normally in control.”
She falls back onto her chair, some sweat dripping from her face slightly smudging her makeup.
“Damn…you’re intense, you know that, Naegi?”
It seems he had finally cut through Celestia Ludenberg and reached Taeko Yasuhiro. For the moment, anyway.
“You like gyoza even though it reminds you of who you really are. I realized that in our short conversation.”
She looks down as he doesn’t let up. “Yeah, but who the hell wants to be a loser? I want to be a black and white wedding cake, not damn gyoza!”
“Taeko Yasuhiro, right?”
The SHSL Gambler looks up at him with shock in her eyes. It was like the final blow of his argument. "H-How…how the hell do you know that name?!”
“I’m a reporter by trade, remember. I tend to run into a lot of information.”
“So then what was the point of all this? It’s like you already knew.”
“I wanted to get to know Yasuhiro-san. The one forgotten by Celestia Ludenberg.”
Taeko was speechless. She had thought he had pinned him down as an insanely deceptive mastermind, one she could actually learn from and overcome, but he quickly steered into something else. Something even more interesting.
“What’s there to know? I’m just some working-class gyoza wanting to dress up as a beautiful cake. That’s it. It’s boring, sad and awful.”
“I mean, you may have fooled yourself, but I think she shares some of the same dreams as Celestia does. After all, you wouldn’t have gone so far with this charade if it wasn’t at least genuine on some level.”
“My dreams, huh…yeah. I’ve always hated being plain and boring Taeko.” She continued looking straight at him. “So Celestia’s me, but way more aggressive. You gotta take life by the horns to get anywhere in life.”
“I think that aggressiveness was always there. But when you’re trying to compensate for your own weaknesses more than necessary, you might go overboard. Even do something you could never take back.”
His words seemed to cause her some thought, taking them to heart. Briefly scanning the look on her face he was able to tell that she went back to being Celestia Ludenberg.
“That is an interesting point, Naegi-sensei.” She still looked at him warily. “Hmph. I had considered something briefly due to how interesting you are.”
“Considered for what?”
“To become a B-Rank. However, you are quite unruly and dangerous so I sadly must leave you at C-Rank.”
Makoto waved it off. “That’s fine. Do you mind treating Yamada-san a little kinder? He seems to be trying his best.”
Quickly snapping back to Taeko she only responded with, “Not on your life.”
The end of the day quickly approached and the class simply looked at Celestia and Makoto as they walked in around the same time for the closing homeroom.
“Ah, Ludenberg-san.” Sayaka looked straight at her. “It seems you’re quite happy today.”
Celestia responds with her trademark polite smile. “Yes, well, Naegi-sensei is quite the conversationalist.”
Leon’s eyes widened. “Holy damn. Seriously? You even got her of all people to play nice? What kind of crazy voodoo magic you got man?”
“I’m sorry, Kuwata-san. What exactly did you mean by that?” A dangerous aura was around the SHSL Gambler.
Makoto stepped in between them. “Hey, let’s not fight. It’s already the end of the school day.”
“Ah.” The Gothic Lolita backed down first. “Very well. You are correct. I should not ruin a pleasant day like this.”
The class was continued to be shocked at Celestia’s immediate response to not escalate the conflict further. Hifumi looked with confusion and a bit of envy from his end.
Makoto walked over back to the podium. “So they’ve scheduled all your practical exams for Saturday. Well, you guys are the youngest class so I guess it makes sense. Gives you all the most time to prepare for them.”
Mondo, Sayaka, Leon, and Celestia all brim with confidence. It gave some small comfort to Makoto’s heart, he wasn’t sure if his interactions were the reason why they were able to focus on their upcoming exams but if they were any part responsible for their new outlook, he was glad. He noticed that Chihiro looked to be skittish, perhaps pondering something to himself, Kiyotaka was giving him his full attention, Sakura looked to be meditating and Hifumi was looking at both Celeste and Makoto.
The bell finally rings, closing out classes for the day. “Alright. You heard the bell. Get ready for those exams, but don’t forget to take care of yourselves.”
Class 78 empty out the room while Makoto just leans forward on the podium. Between wondering where Kyoko gone, how Mukuro’s observations went, Junko’s machinations, what he figured out about the nature of the world, and worrying about Class 78’s practical exams – there was no rest for the unlucky Makoto Naegi.
He snapped out of his own thoughts and looked over. “Oh, Ikusaba-san. How did it go today?”
“The only things they didn’t have were high explosive weapons.”
“So I take it they were impressed?”
“Mmhm. They wanted to test my mental faculties next.”
“O-Oh. Does that include a psychological evaluation?”
“Doubtful. That wouldn’t really help their research.”
“Well, it was a pretty long day for you. Wanna stop by Apricot with me and get a bite to eat?”
“I’d love to.”
He walks past her while she taps his shoulder.
“Naegi-kun, I can smell my sisters’ perfume on you.”
He had forgotten about that.
“Yeah, well, she found me again. But I’m fine.”
Mukuro just kept her worried look on her. “What is she trying to do with you?”
“If I had a definite answer, I’d let you all know. Believe me.”
“I know. But you shouldn’t be so reckless.”
“Haha…you’re not the first one to tell me that. And I hope you won’t be the last.”
She stuck close to him until they left campus.
BlackCapPI: You know, I just realized something.
BlackCapPI: Well… isn’t Hope’s Peak Academy a 3-year program?
Shirokuma: i believe so.
BlackCapPI: But you have to be attending a high school in order to be scouted.
Shirokuma: yeah, that’s right
BlackCapPI: So if you went to HPA, you’d have been in high school for at least 4 years.
Shirokuma: well, just think of it this way. if and when you graduate from HPA, you are set for life. theres no need to go to college or anything, you just go and live your dreams out right away!
BlackCapPI: I suppose that makes sense. But what about the rest of us? We have to go to university or vocational school to get anywhere in life.
Shirokuma: it’s so stressful isn’t it? even if you don’t wanna go to college in japan, your school life is still based around it. but maybe you and me can be SHSL students somehow…
BlackCapPI: You think? I don’t think I was born with any SHSL talent.
Shirokuma: you don’t have to be born with it, just look at ishimaru-san! he became SHSL because he was super hardworking.
BlackCapPI: Makes sense. Though I’m still a little hesitant.
Shirokuma: have some hope in your life for once! don’t wallow in despair!
BlackCapPI: Are you being sarcastic?
Shirokuma: perhaps, but it’s still good advice.
Chapter 11: New World Order
The sun set when Makoto and Mukuro arrived at the café Apricot. The eatery was surprisingly busy for a weekday. Asking the owner, Makoto finds out the place began to advertise live performances for unknown performers to get their name out in the hopes of becoming the next big thing through the power of social media.
It was a nice gesture to give back to the community at the very least. Tonight there was a keyboard – possibly because bringing a grand piano into the place was probably not feasible in any fashion. Mukuro looks at what Makoto orders – a gourmet hamburger with a side of something fashioned as a “donut cake.”
The hamburger was extremely out-of-this-world. Almost alien even. He feels as if someone may get a high by eating the foreign staple. Trying out the cake now, it’s extremely sweet. He didn’t even have to order a cup of coffee with how much energy was contained in the dessert.
“Kirigiri-san was right. You’ve gotten some strange tastes.”
“That’s the specialty of this café.”
“Yeah. One of the owner’s distant relatives travels around the world a lot. Says he’s only a teenager. Maybe he might have some sort of SHSL talent?” Makoto chuckles a bit. “Anyway, he brings back some exotic recipes and the ones the owner likes get added to the menu.”
Mukuro’s eyes shift back toward Makoto’s face. “Still, you were the type to only eat curry, or sandwiches or maybe a dry piece of toast.”
“I realized that even food from far away feels comfortable. So if I happen to find myself far from home, I can still feel at home anywhere I go. Curry’s still my favorite though.” He breaks off another piece of his donut cake with a fork. “After all, both my parents’ house and Hope’s Peak Academy are long gone. Not to mention that we’re not even from this version of this world…”
“Do you want to go back?” Ikusaba kept her face as neutral as possible.
“Ignoring the fact that it sounds like we might not even be able to… I don’t know. Would that world be my home now?” Makoto smiles. “All my friends are here with me. That’s good enough.”
The raven-haired lady looked down while blushing. “I see. I’m glad.”
The two enjoyed some more small talk between each other while finishing their meal. They can hear the keyboard come to life as the performer finally took the small stage. The performance is full of energy, yet there was a somber melancholy to it. Makoto decides to look back during a pause in their conversation and sees the blonde girl he saw earlier this week. Her set finally ends with applause from the other patrons. Some of them finally put down their phones as they finish recording.
The owner makes a motion while Makoto tries to wave it off. Unfortunately, he brings the young blonde piano player over to their table and introduces them.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Kaede Akamatsu. So you’re a reporter, Naegi-san?”
“Ah, yeah. I am. Though at the moment I’m on another job…”
Kaede smiles sweetly. “Well, what did you think about my piece?”
“It was really nice. I’m, uh, not really a music critic or anything.”
“Ah, well. That’s okay! Just hearing praise from someone so cute is enough for me.”
Naegi was taken aback. “C-Cute?!”
While Mukuro scowled a little bit, Makoto felt that there was something…off. Funny how with all of Junko’s aggressive flirting, his gut feeling knew it was at least genuine. Akamatsu’s own words, while there was some feeling of fondness, seemed to have something else hidden behind them. He wasn’t entirely sure what it was but he felt he needed to probe around a bit.
“Erm, well, thanks for the c-compliment. But, really, I enjoyed the melody. Though it, I don’t know, felt a little sad to me?”
“Sad, huh…” The blonde pianist looked a bit thoughtful. “That’s kind of impressive! Yeah, I wanted to play something that evoked that kind of melancholy without making it sound like you were at a funeral.”
“It was a good choice. You might have gotten a few fans.”
She slyly smiles. “Are you one of them?”
The SHSL Soldier glances over at Makoto while he responded with a strained smile. The freckled warrior just sighs quietly and watches closely.
“I…I wouldn’t go that far. I’ve only heard one song, after all.”
“Ah! Yeah, that’s true. I could play some for you at some other time. Maybe in private?”
Revealing how uncomfortable he is on his face, he flatly replied, “I don’t think that’s necessary. Really. You did fine.”
Kaede, however, looked a bit confused. The look on her face revealed how she wasn’t expecting this. In fact, she looked unsure on how to proceed.
“I plan to write about this event. It’s a nice little thing happening in the community. That includes your performance, too.”
“O-Oh.” His words shook Akamatsu out of her short shock. “Sorry, I was…”
“Were you trying to get me to write about you?”
Kaede laughs awkwardly. “Y-Yeah. You caught me. I mean… you didn’t look like a creep but I figured I might as well try anyways.”
“Have you done this before?”
“Well, guys fawn over me. Especially those in showbiz. Thank the stars I didn’t want to become an idol. Eugh.”
Mukuro decides to chime in. “It sounds like you don’t think highly of people.”
“Can you blame me? People can be really awful. I don’t have any faith in humanity.”
Makoto gives her a sad smile. “Does that include yourself?”
The question caught the pianist off-guard. “N-No. I suppose not.” She looked a little on the defensive. Makoto immediately noticed that she seemed extremely stubborn on her own worldview.
The high school piano player sighs. “Believe me, I want to believe in people with all my heart. It’s just that I’ve seen too much that makes me think the contrary.”
“That’s alright. You don’t need to justify yourself to me. You barely know me, Akamatsu-san.”
“Gee…you’re such a cute softie you know that?”
Makoto sighs in response.
“But I’ve never met someone as nice as you before. That’s it! You’re like… a unicorn.”
“Something that probably doesn’t exist. There’s no way you’re this easygoing.”
“I mean I get mad or anxious like anyone else. I don’t know what to tell you. I’m just like this.”
Mukuro nodded in agreement.
“But people can take advantage of you and betray you…how can you just live like that?”
“Oh, believe me. It’s happened. Many times. All I can do is learn from it and keep going on with my own life.”
Kaede frowns. “Sounds like a really painful way to live.”
“It’s not easy, yeah. But with a good attitude, a level head and a bit of luck…it all works out.”
After all, there were plenty of people with infectiously cheery attitudes like he has. His luck, while painful at times, has saved him more than he realized. Though that was before he was able to take an outsider’s perspective on things thanks to the Danganronpa series.
“You know, I thought you were a wimp. But you’re a lot tougher than you look.”
“Hehe. Thank you, Akamatsu-san.”
“Maybe I ought to try being a little more positive. A little bit. I mean, a smile uses less muscles than a frown, right? Don’t want to get wrinkles either…”
“By the way, are you a fan of Danganronpa?”
“Huh? How’d you figure that out?”
“Just a gut feeling.”
“Really? Huh. Anyway, yes, I’m a fan. Not like a hardcore one or anything, but I started getting into it around… Danganronpa 45? I really liked the dance mechanics in the trials! And all the characters were highschoolers so I guess I connected with them a little bit.” She blushes. “Ooh… sorry. I was rambling. Between DR and piano, I can start gabbing a lot. Did you watch V1?”
“Oh, erm…” Some sweat drips from Makoto’s forehead. “N-No, I haven’t been keeping up with it.”
“Aw. I wanted to talk about it. But I don’t want to spoil it! Better catch up, ‘cause V2 is coming out soon!”
“Yeah. They used actors for V1 to kinda show it off to the world but they had auditions for V2 while it was airing. They wanted people of high school age so I decided to give it a shot. I mean, it wouldn’t hurt right? Might help out my music career and get my name out there. And maybe if I don’t get into V2 there’s always V3!”
Makoto laughs. “Wow, you’re being really optimistic.”
“I blame you!” Kaede smiles back. “A-Ah! Anyway, I need to get home before my parents kill me. It was nice talking to you, Naegi-san! Hope the next time you see me is on Danganronpa!”
Makoto sighs in relief as the blonde pianist walks out of the café.
Mukuro shifts her eyes to the sides. “Is the killing game some kind of blood sport in this world?”
“Er…well…that’s actually not too far from the truth, actually.”
Makoto yawns as he arrives back at Class 78’s homeroom. He had to arrive early onto campus in order to attend the normal teacher’s meeting for the last three days of the school week. Mukuro had to fill out paperwork in order to finalize her examination results for Hope’s Peak Academy records. Her arduous trials were finally coming to a close.
The class greets him while the substitute homeroom advisor stifles a yawn and replies.
“Sorry. Had an early morning. Anyway, since we’re a little short staffed because of the riots earlier this week the exams will be spread over the next three days. You guys will have your practical exams on Saturday.”
Leon groans. “Seriously? So we’re last. Man! And I was hoping I’d have time to ask a chick out.”
“However it means we have ample time to prepare.” Sakura smiles. “Isn’t that right, sensei?”
“Yeah. You guys are the freshmen class so they definitely want you guys to succeed. Though that means you guys are going to only be going to your labs for the next couple of days.”
Sayaka spoke up next. “Will our normal observers be in our labs with us?”
“Ah, sadly no… we’re so short staffed that they’re also assigned to be proctors for the upcoming exams.”
“Hot damn. That bad huh?” Mondo huffed. “How about you? You stuck with that job too?”
“Oh no. I’m not an official faculty member of Hope’s Peak so… I’ll be checking in on you guys from time to time.”
“It seems you take your charge very seriously, Naegi-sensei. I doubt they’re asking you to do such a thing.” Celestia smiles. “Still, it does bring some comfort.”
“I’m glad you think so. I have no doubts you guys will do fine. I’m just making sure nothing strange happens, is all.”
“S-Strange?” Chihiro shivers. “What do you mean by that?”
“Oh. Sorry if I’m alarming you, Fujisaki-san. It’s just there might be some damage left over from the riots. I wouldn’t want any of you to get injured while you’re preparing.”
“Ah…I see…” The SHSL Programmer calmed down a bit.
The bell rings to signal the end of homeroom. “Alright everyone! Make sure you’re sharp for the exams. Practice if you need to, but don’t go overboard.”
The students file out as Makoto watches them all leave. He looks around the classroom for the first time, alone. He walks over to one of the unused desks. This was the one he used and the one he woke up in the killing game at. It was criminally funny how the students were all worried about their exams rather than their own well-being. A thought process he used to know and subscribe to himself.
The old adage must ring true, Naegi thought, that when you’re young you feel invincible. But he was still young. He was only 20-years-old at this point. But those few years from the Killing Game and onward felt more like decades. You see many of your friends, colleagues and family disappear from your own eyes.
But the classroom felt timeless. Had he done the time travelling himself, he might have foolishly thought he could relive the years he lost. Makoto knew that this was just an exercise in futility. Regardless of whether he truly went to the past or not, the fact remained that everything still happened. Nothing could change that.
Walking away from the desk and stopping at the door, he looks back at the classroom. After realizing something about himself, he smiles and takes one last look at the past he will continue to carry with him for the rest of his life.
“Kyoko-san. Good morning.”
“Would you like to come with me to my office?”
Shaking off his melancholy feelings, he smiles at the former SHSL Detective. “Yeah. I’d love to.”
He followed Kirigiri all the way to the office she was being lent in the administration building and he could smell a nice aroma. She opens the door and a couple of cups of tea were laying out on the coffee table still steaming. Naegi takes a seat on the visitor’s couch and she sits next to him.
“The receptionist in the lobby said you came by. I apologize.”
“Ah, n-no. It’s okay. I assumed you got wrapped up in important business.”
Kyoko picks up a cup with her gloved right hand. “Yes. A lot of reporters have come by lately. Some authorized, others not. It certainly was a draining day yesterday.”
“I bet. With the whole scandal and now the practical exams… I’m glad to not be in your position.” Makoto sighs. “S-Sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.”
“You are correct, though. I don’t envy myself either.”
He rubs the back of his neck and then reaches for the other cup of tea. “Must be annoying though. You aren’t able to take other detective gigs for the meantime.”
“It is annoying but not for that reason.”
“Huh? I thought you missed being a detective.”
“While maintaining the Kirigiri name is important…” She looks over at Makoto while she puts down her tea cup. “…I missed the quiet.”
“O-Oh. Yeah. You were being hounded by reporters back at our HPA too.”
“It was necessary back in our world. Here…not so much. I had forgotten how irresponsible adults can be. The headmaster especially.”
“Well it should die down soon, right? Just a little bit longer.”
“Indeed. Though it always seems to be the way things are. Even during our time in the Future Foundation, I hardly ever got a chance to be with myself. And…” Her eyes scan Makoto’s face.
“That’s right. You were the head of our division.”
“Not to mention we hadn’t seen each other in literal months. I suppose its bad luck.”
He just laughed nervously. “Yeah, but we have some downtime now.”
“I suppose I’ll take the chance to ask you a few questions.”
The former SHSL Lucky Student gulped his tea in response. “S-Sure.”
“What were your plans for the future? We never got to discuss them at length.”
He placed his hand on his chin, reminiscent of the lilac-haired woman’s own pose. “Well completely rebuild the academy, assist with reconstruction efforts where we needed it, and I guess live the rest of my life with my head held high.”
“No, not that. I mean for your own personal life.”
“H-Huh?! Oh…um. Well, I-I don’t really know...”
“If you’d like, I’d like to tell you my own.”
“Sure!” Makoto breathed a sigh of relief. “I’d like to hear them.”
“When the commotion died down, I was hoping to live my life out peacefully. Perhaps take an early retirement and maybe teach my…successor.” Her eyes move to meet Makoto’s. “I was tired of fighting, Makoto-kun.”
He just looked back at her.
“I wanted to be with my special person, grow old together, and live out my life like anyone else.”
Her eyes narrow slightly and her tone drops flat. “Makoto-kun.”
“O-Oh…” He rubs his cheek with his finger. “I-I see.”
“Hm. For someone so expressive, it seems you’re as clumsy with love as I am. Or is it something else?”
“I guess after Maizono-san I never allowed myself to really think about that kind of stuff. It’s funny. We weren’t even dating.”
“It makes sense. Out of everyone’s deaths, hers really stuck with you. I recall the password. ‘11037.”
“I’ll never know what her intentions were when she left that message with her dying breath. And frankly, I probably shouldn’t. She took those thoughts to the grave.” Makoto sighed.
"I still maintain my belief that she was truly remorseful for her actions."
He smiled in response. "Hey...if you don't mind, I'd like to...to talk about the video."
Kyoko immediately knew what he was talking about. "You've been tight-lipped about it. I suppose you want to share it now?" She crossed her arms.
"I was just remembering the last time I tried to hide something from you."
"...you were in an unenviable position. I was out of line. Now...what did you want to share about the Suicide Video?"
"I saw them all, Kyoko-san. All our dead friends. And...and...I thought you were dead at the time. You and Maizono-san were telling me to join you."
The former SHSL detective flinched when she heard this. Even though, logically, she was not at fault for this; she felt guilt from almost driving Makoto to death. It would be the second time in her mind.
"Kyoko-san? Are you alright?"
"No, I...I'm fine. I was just thinking about what a poor friend I've been. I should have found you as soon as I could have."
“Don’t worry about that. We’re here together now, right?”
“Yes. You’re right.” Kyoko shows a close-lipped smile.
“A-Anyway. About your feelings…I can barely sort my own at the moment.”
“As I thought. You’ve hardly really had time to even think about it, as you said.”
“Yeah. When it comes to something like this, I want to give an answer that I back 110%.”
“I see. While I am disappointed, you aren’t one who wants to leave room for doubt. I would’ve been angry if you agreed to date me and had second thoughts.”
Makoto blushed at how well she took it, leaving an awkward silence between them. He looked away and then saw some wrappers laying out on her desk. “Hey, have you been eating well?”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s just… you were never really one who knew how to cook.” He laughs nervously. “I mean, you just ate cereal most of the time I saw you back in the killing game.”
“And what is wrong with cereal?” She crosses her arms.
Unlike the previous time where she was annoyed with him for pointing out her bad dieting habits, he got angry in return. “Hey! You can’t just eat poorly all the time. It’ll catch up to you, you know.”
“I—“ Kyoko sighs. “I know you’re right, but bad habits are hard to break.”
“Kyoko-san…” Makoto looks at her with a disapproving look.
She looks straight at him in a neutral stance. “How could you bully me in my own office? You’re a cruel, cruel man Makoto-kun!”
They both look at each other in tense silence for a few moments and finally laugh.
After a short chat, Makoto bid Kyoko goodbye and headed over to the art building. He walks through the hall where he can still hear a certain SHSL Music Club Member’s shredding on her guitar through the thick walls and doors. Ibuki always had a “unique” music style, the older Naegi mused. After ascending a couple of floors, he manages to find the Anime Development lab. Opening the door, he finds Hifumi working on his latest piece of fan work.
“Ah! Sensei! Glad of you to drop by. Are you ready to learn the wonders of Princess Piggles?”
“Erm…I’ll pass for the moment. What are you working on?”
He walked over to the SHSL Doujin Artist and immediately saw a panty flash in one of the panels. “O-Oh…is this one of those kind of works?”
“Hmph! While I do embrace how the art of doujin-making allows us to tap into our base urges, this is definitely not what you’re thinking of!” He looked proud. “I don’t need to rely on R-18 works to garner an audience.”
“Not to mention that wouldn’t be legal.”
“Details, details!” Hifumi takes a large gulp from one of his cans of Orange Panta and sets it aside with five other empty cans. “Tell me, Makoto Naegi-dono, your sister wants to be a manga artist right?”
“Yeah. It was always her dream to make stories that could make people happy.” He taps his chin. “Girls’ manga really inspired her.”
“It is certainly an admirable dream. You know, I wish to one day make my own series as well! Many popular doujin artists transitioned into becoming celebrated manga artists. And I will be the next Osamu Tezuka-dono!”
The substitute homeroom advisor looked impressed. “That’s a pretty big dream, Yamada-san. Have you any idea on what you’d make?”
Hifumi suddenly deflated and sighed. “Actually, I have not. It’s increasingly difficult to make something completely original these days. But I want to revolutionize the industry in some way so that my name could be remembered by otaku for generations!!”
“Yeah. I don’t think my sister would help you here. She doesn’t have any grand ambition like that. She does it because she wants to tell her stories.”
The SHSL Doujin Artist huffed. “…when you’ve been making fan works of other people’s work, I’m afraid that I’ve never learned how to be original.”
“Everyone had to start somewhere.”
“Yes, but how do I go from the realms of the masses and transcend into manga godhood?”
Makoto was at a loss for words. While he knew he could cheer him up and reinforce his skills and ego as a doujin artist, he knew that Hifumi wanted to become more. Unfortunately he wasn’t an artist. He was, at best, a casual anime and manga fan. He had no idea about the intricacies of the world of mangakas or a way to make a sufficiently unique story that could be remembered by literal generations of fans and others.
“I know this may be a personal question, Yamada-san, but am I the only one you’ve ever told these things about?”
“Aside from my darling sister, yes. In fact you two are the only ones who have been willing to listen.”
It seems between dimensions some things never change.
“Have you talked to the other people who used this lab? I mean, they would at least share some interest.”
“Hmph!” Hifumi looks away sadly. “Philistines, the lot of them! They simply want to steal my ideas! Besides, none of them hold any ambition. It’s saddening. Only wanting to stick into the status quo and make their harem and romance-centered works.”
“That can’t be true of everyone that uses this place.”
Footsteps arrive at the door and both look back at the entrance. A large portly male with long black hair was helping a sickly-looking Ryota Mitarai into the room.
“I-I have to go back to our dorm…I need to keep working on it.”
“Mitarai. You know that sensei will drag you here herself if you didn’t come out. We’re all to report to our labs while everyone else is taking their practical exams.”
Makoto now realizes that the larger man was the SHSL Impostor. “Is Mitarai-san alright? He doesn’t look too well.”
“Oh? There is a teacher here?” The Impostor suddenly become self-conscious, looking ashamed that he wasn’t in disguise. “Y-Yes, I’m afraid he’s a little ill. He hasn’t been eating well.”
“From your little conversation, it sounds like he’s been working on something until he collapses. And if I recall he’s the SHSL Animator.”
Hifumi stands and brings him a bag of potato chips. “I understand that art must be given its full heart and soul, but you must eat! Your creative juices require it!”
Ryota weakly looks at it while the Impostor just nods at him. He takes a seat and eats some of the chips he was offered.
The Impostor sighs as he helps the sleep-deprived animator to the table where Makoto and Hifumi were sitting. “My examination is in a few hours. Afterward, I’ll come back to check on you, alright?”
“Okay. I’ll…I’ll see you later.” He watched his large friend leave the lab and turned his attention to the other occupants in the room, trying not to make eye contact.
“Yamada-san, have you and Mitarai-san met yet?”
“No. I knew that he attended this school, but this is the first time I have ever met him! To think someone so dedicated to anime could exist!”
Ryota just looked cautiously at both of them.
“Mitarai-san, do you mind if I can ask you something?”
“Why did you become an animator?”
Ryota was jolted out of his daze. “Ah…I…” He looks embarrassed. “I want to spread hope to the whole world with anime. I want people to look back fondly on my work and smile on it. Not just here in Japan, but the rest of the world too.”
Hifumi looked at him, impressed. “Ryota Mitarai-dono. What are your opinions on Demon Angel☆Pretty Pudgy Princess?”
“The magical girl anime?” Ryota musters up a weak smile. “Hehe, the show is actually one of my inspirations!”
The portly doujin artist smiled and looked triumphant.
Makoto also smiles. “It seems you and your senpai have a lot to talk about.”
“Indeed! That devil’s luck of yours…it truly has helped me out this day! To think I could find a kindred spirit!”
“I didn’t do anything. I should get going and check on the others. But I want to remind you two that ‘no man is an island.’ It’s tempting to just stay by yourself and focus on your own things. But that’s unhealthy. After all, you both were inspired by someone else’s creation.”
The two looked at him and nodded.
“Now, now! As Makoto Naegi-dono has said, we have much to discuss. I wish to probe your brain a bit to truly understand your passion!”
“Here!” Hifumi offers him a can of his Panta, “It wouldn’t do if you just fell over unconscious!” Ryota smiles and takes it.
Makoto could only chuckle to himself as he leaves the lab. Walking into the hallway outside, Makoto runs into Chisa.
“Were you here to check on Mitarai-san? He’s fine and in the anime lab.”
The former SHSL Housekeeper sighs in relief. “Ah! That’s good. I was wondering if I had to drag him over here myself. I’m on my lunch break now. Care to join me?”
Makoto smiles. “Sure.”
Both young adults make their way to the cafeteria for some food. It seemed they got Teruteru’s examinations out of the way as soon as possible so the campus wouldn’t miss his cuisine. Also probably for the safety of the other students. It seemed Makoto’s good luck was on a roll today as curry was on the menu.
The homeroom advisor of Class 77-B sighed. “It’s all just been work, work, work lately! What rotten timing, you know, with the practical exams happening.”
“Must be rough.”
“Yeah! And I haven’t been able to hang out with either Kyosuke or Juzo-kun either.” She puffed up her cheeks.
“Hey, I wanted to ask Yukizome-san...how are you?”
She smiles. “I’m feeling way better than before, you know. It’s like I’ve gone back in time before your freckled friend…” She stops herself with the corner of her mouth forming a frown.
“No, no. I know what she did.”
Her voice sounds as tired as she should be. “To think I lived lobotomized for so long. It was like watching yourself and not being able to do anything. And I killed those children…”
“Just like your class, it wasn’t your fault.”
“Yeah. I was able to see my darling students help you out at the end. I’m proud of them.”
“Do you still blame yourself for what happened to Munakata-san?”
Chisa sighs. “Brain drain or not, I still did that to him. It was like my love for him was transformed into wanting him to fall into the depths of despair.”
“Yeah. I noticed you two seemed distant but…”
“Even at the end, I’m sure he still thought of you.”
Chisa pinches Makoto’s cheek and he immediately reacted with an “ouch!”
“I can see why Kyoko-chan says you’re so cheeky.”
“I-It’s true, though!” Gritting the pain, he continues. “I mean, you saw it too, right? In that weird theater.”
“Yes, I did.” She looks down in guilt and releases his cheek. “That pink demon was cracking up but my thoughts drowned her out.”
“Hey, you know this is a second chance right? Might as well take it.”
“I know but...” The orange-haired woman looked at him. “Okay, Makoto-kun, how do you manage to do it with Kyoko-chan?”
“Both her and Kyosuke are really distant people, you know. How are you guys so close? I’m jealous.”
“I-I think you might be misunderstanding our relationship here. But…I guess it’s because hiding what we feel is pretty useless. I’m terrible at lying and Kyoko-san is always candid about her feelings since we’ve known each other for so long. I guess that’s the secret.”
“Look, if you two actually sat down and talked…I think you two can reach an understanding.”
“Hehe, just like both of the killing games. You’ve always been about that. And the fact that the people who took your advice make it work so well means you have a point, huh?” The former SHSL Housekeeper clutches her fist and stands up. “Okay! You’re right, Makoto-kun! We’re not going to get anywhere if we just keep moping!”
The few students and faculty in the dining area give her looks, but she ignores them.
“And this time we’re going on an actual date! I’m not taking no for an answer.”
Makoto starts sweating a bit and thinks to himself what a fearsome woman she was.
After bidding the ever-cheerful Yukizome goodbye, the substitute homeroom advisor decided to visit the academics lab. Upon entering it, there were computers neatly in a row in the middle table with the surroundings looking like an entire library. He sees Kiyotaka with a high stack of books while he reads it with undivided attention.
Makoto knocks on the door frame and he turns back to see him. He immediately stands and bows. “Sensei!”
“Ishimaru-san. Have you eaten lunch?”
“I-no-I’ve been too busying preparing for the exam!” He looks down in shame.
“I think you already know, but I did say to not go overboard. Your health is still important.”
“This is true! However, eating in the laboratory is strictly prohibited!”
Tell that to everyone else using these labs… Makoto thought to himself. “Just make sure to eat something on the next break period, okay?”
The brown-haired adult walked over and glanced at the books that Kiyotaka was reading. They were all academically inclined – from Japanese literature, to history, to various mathematics.
“I’ve been asking people this, but do you mind telling me what your dream job is?”
“My dream job? Well, that is simple, Naegi-sensei. I want to become Prime Minister of Japan!”
“I heard you’re related to Toranosuke Ishimaru.”
“You are indeed correct. He was my grandfather. However, I am also sure you are aware of the shame that he brought to our family. I wish to bring honor back to the Ishimaru name.”
“Yeah. I can see that. You’re extremely dedicated.”
“To be acknowledged for that one fact, that all my accomplishments were through merit rather than natural genius, is what I strive for. As expected from a well-researched reporter.” The SHSL Public Morals Committee Member beams with pride.
“Ah, I’d like to ask a more personal question.”
“Go ahead! I have nothing to hide.”
“Well, I…I just wanted to ask if you’ve made a lot of friends in your class?”
Kiyotaka looked dejected, almost teary. “N-No. In fact the only people I have connected with are my brother and Fujisaki-kun.”
“Hm. Any reason why?”
“Well, I…I haven’t had friends growing up. Maizono-kun said that it was really sad and tried her best to have a conversation with me, but it was too strained.”
“I don’t mean to admonish you, Ishimaru-san, but you do realize a politician needs to know how to interact with people. It’s a major part of the job.”
“Y-Yes, I know. But…” He looks over to the side.
“I noticed you trying to take charge several times but no one seemed to heed you.”
The red-eyed student sighs. “I only want what’s best for my fellow classmates. While most of them are behaved, there are a few problematic members of our group.”
“You’ll encounter a lot of problematic personalities in the world of politics, you know.” Makoto gives a sympathetic look. “I’m not saying your efforts are wasted here, but as a person and as a future political figure you want to become well-rounded. Especially as Prime Minister.”
“Hm.” He shifts his eyes back at the adult Naegi. “Have you ever been in politics?”
“Not exactly.” He chuckles at his memory to when people were calling him Headmaster. “I am a reporter, after all. I meet a lot of different people.”
“Indeed. It’s a shame you aren’t our regular homeroom advisor.” Ishimaru grins. “I can see and feel the dedication you have, too! Haha, had you been a student of Hope’s Peak Academy, I would have found a kindred spirit!”
Makoto could only laugh nervously in response.
“However you have a point! I need to not only become a model student, but also a model human being!” His voice booms throughout the laboratory. “I swear to you, Naegi-sensei, that I will redouble my efforts into befriending my class! You’ll see!”
“Once again, don’t overdo it. Some people might need their space too.”
“Hm. It sounds as if the art of human interaction is a lot trickier than I realized.”
“It comes with experience.”
“Your words have lightened the burden on my heart. I thank you! Perhaps you, my sworn brother and I can take a trip to the public hot spring in order to strengthen our bond as men!”
“I don’t think you should be offering that to your homeroom advisor.”
“Y-You are correct! I am sorry!” He gets down on his knees and repeatedly bows his head over and over, almost slamming his forehead into the floor.
“Don’t kowtow to me like that! Please!” Makoto could only sigh as he spent the rest of the class period to calm him down.
After checking in on some of the other students of Class 78, he returns to the homeroom where the students waited for his arrival. Makoto makes a glance over at Chihiro and Sakura, the only two he hasn’t spoken at length with yet.
“I know it’s been a long day for some of you, so make sure you guys get a lot of relaxation and rest in.” Makoto smiles. “I’ll see you all tomorrow, alright?”
The bell finally rings and the students file out aside from one of them. Sakura seems to be waiting at her desk. Before Makoto could ask, Hina and Mukuro arrive at the classroom door.
The former SHSL Swimming Pro smiles. “Hey hey! Look who I ran into!”
“It’s done.” The SHSL Soldier states flatly.
“Naegi-sensei, would you like to join Hina-san and I in our training?”
“Sure. Would it be alright if Ikusaba-san joins us as well?”
The SHSL Martial Artist glances over at Mukuro and smiles. “I have no issue. I sense some frightening strength in her.”
“Yeah, Naegi! I don’t mind either. How about you, Ikusaba-chan?”
“I would like to.”
The four of them arrive at the martial arts laboratory, looking similar to the dojo in the old school building. There are wooden weapons aligned on the wall for public use as well as the scent of lavender incense wafting throughout the room. The walls were also lined with cushions for obvious reasons while the floor looked to be straw tatami.
“Naegi-sensei, if you would indulge me…I would like to spar with you.”
“W-Wait, me? But I’m not much of a fighter.” Makoto’s shock didn’t disappear from his face. “But…alright. Just don’t go too hard on me.”
Mukuro looked like she was about to step in, but Hina shook her head and gave the freckled girl a stern look. The raven-haired former mercenary sighs and stops herself from acting on her own protective instincts.
The actual spar was no contest. Sakura Ogami was the undisputed strongest human on earth as of the moment. Despite being bruised and battered, Makoto always kept standing up after being downed or thrown into the walls. Mukuro was biting her own lip and her fist was shaking. Hina was just watching carefully with a serious look in her eyes.
“Interesting.” Sakura blocks another clumsy attack from Makoto. “You are definitely untrained but you seem to be far sturdier than you look.”
“Y-Yeah…I’ve heard that before…”
“I believe I’ve seen enough.” She pushes him away, while he wipes sweat from his forehead. He looks for his suit jacket which was left somewhere on the floor.
Mukuro sighed in relief.
Sakura crosses her arms. “Even in the few lucky hits that you had, you lacked any desire to hurt me. I believe it is that which holds you back.”
“I’m not really a fan of violence.” He picks up his suit jacket and dusts it off. “I’d like to talk it out.”
“That is actually quite admirable. Albeit quite risky and potentially foolish. There are people out there that refuse to listen to logic or understanding.”
“I know that all too well, Ogami-san.” Makoto laughs despite the pain coursing through his body. “I wanted to check on you tomorrow but it seems like you already have a good head on your shoulders.”
“I would like to ask you a question, if that is alright.”
“When you first met me, you weren’t intimidated at all. I’m curious to know what your thought process was.”
“It’s true. You have a very intimidating presence and reputation, but the way you carry yourself and treat others tells me another story.” He smiles. “You are the textbook example of a true warrior of honor, you know? You’d fit in with samurai.”
The SHSL Martial Artist looked confused. “Please elaborate.”
“You’re polite, calm and always looking to improve yourself. You seem to have a clear idea of what you want in life and how to achieve it. And, frankly, I don’t think I could teach you anything. I believe you’d do what is needed to be done without any hesitation. The ideal warrior.”
Mukuro looked over at Hina and noticed a few teardrops fall from her face.
“I…I see.” Sakura relaxes her pose. “If you are able to grant me such praise without reservation, I have no choice but to believe you. Thank you.”
Makoto looked back at Hina for a moment and saw that she was trying to smile through her tears. Mukuro stepped forward.
“I would like to be your opponent, Ogami-san.”
“Very well, Ikusaba. I am curious about your strength as well.”
Makoto quickly stepped out of the way and back to Hina while Mukuro and Sakura began their friendly duel.
“Are you alright, Hina-san?”
“I—I’ll be fine, Naegi. Seems like Ikusaba-chan’s gotten better at reading the room. I guess it’s because,” she sniffs for a moment, “of you.”
“You know. You said we’re best friends. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“I spent all this time helping Sakura-chan with her training and…she’s the Sakura I know but, it doesn’t feel real. I don’t know how to explain it. And then I realized I had the same feeling with my parents. With Yuta.”
“Yeah. They all died still. That still all happened.”
“You already knew huh. So that’s why you never visited your parents.” She wiped her eyes. “I…why would anyone want to time travel? This is like torture…”
“Sometimes the temptation to change horrible things and wanting only the best for the people you love is too great. I can understand it. Maybe there might be some realities where I fell into that same temptation. I don’t know. But that’s just how I see it.”
“So when you saw Maizono-chan here…”
“She’s not the Sayaka Maizono I knew. And I only hope for this world’s Maizono-san that she never has to go through anything horrible like ours did.”
“You’re pretty damn tough, Naegi. You may have noodles for arms but you’ve always been able to look straight at anything horrible and move forward.” She laughs in a sad tone. “Hehe, if you worked out more, you’d be the complete package.”
Hina looked at Sakura and Mukuro who were trading blow-for-blow in perfect synch.
“I really don’t like what Ikusaba-chan did, but I can’t bring myself to hate her. I can’t even hate Enoshima-chan.”
Makoto looked straight at her as she continued.
“Because the last time I hated people, I almost did something I could never take back.”
“Yeah.” He remembers how she lost Ogami and wanted to take down the survivors along with her in the fourth trial.
Hina looked down and clasped her hands together. “I regret losing control even to this day. And…I’ve always wanted to make amends.”
“You’ve paid back thousandfold, Hina-san. Without your help in the final killing game, I don’t think I would’ve be able to save what we had left.”
“Thanks.” Hina smiles. “You’re always so sweet you know that? No wonder I used to have a crush on you.”
“Y-You did?! Why am I just finding out about this now?”
“Hehe. You’re a little prince charming when you become heroic. But, well, things change. And I want to continue changing and growing so that our Sakura can watch us and smile.”
Makoto smiles back. “I think she’s happy with us. Actually, no, I know she is. She gave her life for ours. She will always remain one of my inspirations.”
“Mine, too. That’s why I’ve decided to keep on helping this Sakura. I want her and Kenshiro to have a happy life here. It’s the least I can do to honor her memory.”
The spar ends with Sakura slightly eeking out as the victor with Mukuro on the ground.
“It was a good fight. I was pushed to my limit, Ikusaba.” Sakura extended her hand to her.
Mukuro looked a little dissatisfied with her loss but looked back at Makoto and Hina laughing about something. She smiled and took Sakura’s hand, being helped back up on her feet.
Shirokuma: omg!! that ending to V1…
BlackCapPI: It certainly caught me off-guard. The hero’s best friend and mentor being the mastermind. It was a very good twist.
Shirokuma: yeah, i really love it when good twists are used. maybe they’re a little cliché in the mystery genre, but you know what i say! if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
BlackCapPI: By the way, did you audition for V2?
Shirokuma: aw i wish i could have but im so busy with my part-time job, you know?
BlackCapPI: Really? A highschooler with a part-time job huh.
Shirokuma: gotta pay for all my cosplays somehow!
BlackCapPI: Yeah. It makes sense. They said they would be using the videos for both V2 and V3 since a lot of people auditioned. More than they were expecting.
Shirokuma: yeah, i even heard they’re planning on starting production on V3 right away after V2 ends. no rest for people in the entertainment industry…
BlackCapPI: Really? Yikes. I feel for the production staff.
Shirokuma: well the best way to support them is to watch and buy the work they poured their heart and soul into.
BlackCapPI: Yes, I know that. But I feel like that creates a bad situation where companies are then encouraged to overwork their staff even more.
Shirokuma: that’s also true… it’s kind of rough in today’s world isn’t it?
Chapter 12: DEAD OR LIE
Some confetti falls on Mukuro’s face while she’s sitting down at the lowered table in Makoto’s apartment. Makoto himself looked a little awkward, sweating a bit from Hina’s cheer for the freckled ex-mercenary. Kyoko chuckles to herself, eyes closed, and mouth tight-lipped.
“You graduated, Ikusaba-chan! Congrats!”
“O-Oh…is this what this is for…?”
Makoto sighs a bit. “Y-Yeah. Hina-san came up with the idea. I just went along with it. Though my flat isn’t exactly the best place for a party…”
“It’s the thought that counts, Naegi! Besides they had her get a degree with honors and everything. Why not celebrate?”
The brown-haired man only laughed in response. “Yeah. You’re right.”
Mukuro looked away. “This isn’t really that big of a deal.”
“What do you mean?” Hina looked gave off a comforting smile. “Of course it’s a big deal! Now you’re, like, basically an adult.”
“If you say so.”
She fidgeted a bit, looking completely like a fish out of water.
“Now, now Hina-san.” Kyoko moved shifted her eyes away from Mukuro and then at the cheery swimmer. “She’s not completely comfortable with this. Take it easy on her.”
“I guess you’re right.” A sigh escaped from Hina’s lips. “She didn’t even want us to celebrate her birthdays or even Christmas the next day, now that I remember. Enoshima-chan always said they were busy.”
“I suspect it was for an obvious reason.” Kyoko stopped her deduction at the end of the sentence, with Mukuro only sadly nodding in response.
Makoto immediately interrupted. “W-Well, she was a good sister who wanted to keep Enoshima company, right?”
Ikusaba responded flatly. “She always hated our birthday. Spending time with her was supposed to be despair-inducing. For herself.”
“Was it bad for you?”
“No. Of course not. She’s my sister.”
Makoto sighed. “Anyway, we might as well eat. The food’ll get cold.”
“Y-Yes, of course.”
The four started eating the warm food that Kyoko bought for them. Assorted rice balls, panko-crusted chicken slices, and some donuts that Hina insisted on bringing herself. The three survivors of the killing game were chatting up a storm while Mukuro would only respond when being addressed to.
“…and so father decided to pardon Matsuda in exchange for re-enrollment.” Kyoko looked at her half-full cup of coffee.
Hina was shocked. “W-Wait, seriously? Why?”
“It would be a monumental disaster for the academy if it comes out that a student murdered another student, even if they were expelled. Especially when that former student was tied to one of the most despicable example of human experimentation in recent times. I suspect it’s similar to how the deaths of the Natsumi Kuzuryu and Sato were kept under wraps from the public.”
Makoto looked disappointed.
“I also suspect that the headmaster felt guilty that a student was driven to murder due to something he was complicit in, despite the Steering Committee. It comes with the caveat that Matsuda has to check with Gekkogahara-san weekly for psychological evaluations.”
The former SHSL Lucky Student thought for a moment, imagining how he himself would react in that situation as a headmaster. “I…see. How did Matsuda-san take it?”
“Visibly irritated and proceeded to berate the headmaster. Unsurprising. However, he ended up accepting the terms.”
“I see. Maybe they needed him to complete work on the Neo World Program?”
“True. That could also be another reason. Though…”
“Hm? What’s wrong, Kyoko-san?”
“Well, any ongoing project right now is under heavy scrutiny. There is a high chance that the project will be abandoned. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology slashed the upcoming quarter’s funding due to the riots and what information was leaked to the public.”
“I guess all we can do is wait and see what happens. I don’t know how Munakata-san will handle the NWP. He knows that it was pretty invaluable for reforming Class 77-B.”
“The final decision rests with the headmaster, unfortunately.”
Makoto sighs and looks over to Mukuro and Hina. “S-Sorry, it got really heavy there.”
“Well it’s important! We might need the Neo World Program!” Hina gave a small smile.
“As long as there isn’t an Alter Ego Enoshima that comes with it.” Makoto chuckled, while Hina and Kyoko looked unamused. Mukuro just gave an empty stare into space.
“So, ah, Ikusaba-san, now that you’re an honorary graduate of Hope’s Peak Academy, what do you think you’ll be doing?”
“I haven’t really put much thought into it.”
“Well!” Hina gives a big grin. “Someone as athletic as the SHSL Soldier has got a lot going for her!”
“You also have expertise in being a survivalist.” Kyoko added.
“I do yes, but… what kind of things are those skills in a peaceful world like this?”
“Hey, Ikusaba-san.” Makoto gives a half-smile. “There’s no rush. Just take some time to think about it, alright? I’ll support you any way I can.”
“…thank you, Naegi-kun.”
Kyoko glances out at the window as the moon starts to rise. “I should get going. Thank you for having me, Makoto-kun.” She stands from the grounded table.
“Anytime.” He looks over at Hina who also stands. “Heading out too, Hina-san?”
“Yeah. Mind giving me a ride back to my house, Kyoko-chan? Another day of work and some final touches on Sakura-chan’s training in the afternoon! Also need to work off this food.” A sheepish grin appears on her face.
“Of course. It’s no trouble, Hina-san. You two have a good night.” The two women left the apartment while Makoto began cleaning up after everyone. Mukuro looked deep in thought as the sound of washing goes on in the flat. After a good while, the eatery was dried up and put away.
She snaps out of whatever trance she was in and looks back at Makoto.
“Oh…um…did you need something?”
“You’re really thinking about this earnestly, aren’t you?”
“It’s really been a second chance for me. But you can’t just…change so easily. I don’t know how you all did it.”
“That sounds like a personal journey, I think. The best part of a second chance is that you get time to find that answer.”
“Can a wilted flower like me grow at all?”
Makoto walks over and sits back down at the table. “Sometimes the wilted flower somehow survives. Even after being trampled on.”
Mukuro can only smile in response. “Sometimes I catch myself just staring into space thinking about what I can do. It still feels like a dream. But…when you look at me…I know that…it’s real.”
The former SHSL Lucky Student couldn’t help but be touched.
“U-Ugh.” Her face goes beet red. “I-It’s easier to say s-something like that in disguise…”
“I think it means more when you said it like this.”
“S-Stop, I…I’m not like my sis—”
“Hey. I’ll have to cut you off there. You’re talented and extremely introspective, you know? Whatever awful things Enoshima has said about you, I guarantee that it was just stuff meant to put you down.”
Mukuro just looked down and her blush intensified.
Makoto looked alarmed. “H-Hey, don’t faint on me now.”
“I-It’s just…I’ve never been treated like this before. I don’t know…”
He could only bite his lip in response. Wanting to change the subject, he started off with another question. “Well, you’re free to do whatever you want now. I’m sure you’re tired of seeing the academy by now.”
Steering away the conversation seemed to have worked. “No. I’m not, surprisingly.”
“Really? It must’ve been pretty grueling the past several days.”
“It’s fine. Everything about me seems to be working. I was a former mercenary, if you remember.”
“True. But I’m not quite free from my promise yet.”
“I would like to go with you, Naegi-kun.”
“To Class 78? Any reason?”
“…I’m curious to see how you work.”
Makoto could only laugh nervously. “Alright. Sure. Though they may ask you some questions while you’re there.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t reveal anything.”
“…that’s not exactly what I’m worried about.”
The entirety of Class 78 looked wary of the new person joining for the day in their homeroom. Mukuro kept her face completely devoid of emotion as they tried examining her face.
“Ah, well, you’ve all seen her before. During the riots. She’s an old friend of mine.”
Leon raised an eyebrow. “Old friend, huh? Sure, whatever you say sensei.”
“Kuwata-kun!” Kiyotaka admonished him once again while the SHSL Baseball Player only rolled his eyes in response.
“She’s been taking exams from staff the entire week, but she’s never gotten to see the academy in full. I figured she could use a tour of the entire campus since she’s never seen it in full yet.”
“Whoa, shit. Exams, huh… guess they wanted to make sure they got every single piece of talent they could get their grubby hands on.” Mondo crossed his arms. “Figures.”
A respectful, yet cold greeting came from Mukuro’s mouth. “My name is Mukuro Ikusaba. I’ve been given the title of SHSL Soldier. It is nice to meet all of you.”
Sakura only nodded and smiled, recalling their spar the day previous. “Thank you for yesterday, Ikusaba. It was a good fight.”
The rest of the class snapped their heads back at the SHSL Martial Artist and then back to the SHSL Soldier.
“Mukuro Ikusaba-dono fought Sakura Ogami-dono?! I’m surprised explosions did not start reverberating throughout the school!” Hifumi held his head in terror imagining the collateral damage the two could cause.
Sakura crossed her arms. “It was an earnest spar, not an all-out fight.”
Mukuro only nodded once in response.
Celestia left a snide response. “How barbaric.”
“Let’s settle down.” Makoto crossed his arms with a stern look. “Today will be the same as yesterday – all day in your development labs along with breaks. Please remember to take them.” His eyes shifted to Kiyotaka who nodded furiously.
“In any case, try to have a good day alright?”
The bell rung to begin the slow-paced day for the school. Less students were attending class due to the third years already completing their exams. He saw from the corner of his eye the entirety of Class 77-B walking past Class 78’s homeroom along with Chisa. The former SHSL Housekeeper gave a wave and said in a cheery tone, “Morning, Makoto-kun!”
Naegi could only wave back awkwardly.
“Seriously, dude! This is getting out of control!” Leon pouted.
“Hey, hold on, we’re just old friends.”
“Just how many ‘old friends’ do you got, dude?”
Sayaka rolled her eyes. “It was just a friendly greeting amongst peers, Kuwata-kun.”
“Yeah, but she’s hot!”
The SHSL Idol just huffed and stood up, getting ready to head to her own lab. The rest of the class followed suit while Makoto and Mukuro were left in the classroom.
“You’re a lot more authoritative, Naegi-kun.”
“I can’t exactly be super laid back around teenagers. I don’t want to step on any toes, but I’d like to do my job right.”
She smiles softly at him. “I think it’s a good change. You’re still friendly but people listen.”
“It took a lot to get to this point.” A sad look showed on his face. “But at least I finally made it this far.”
After giving a once-over of the room, they both walked out of there and Makoto started walking toward the hard sciences building. Many of the labs inside were unoccupied as the two made their way through the many floors. Eventually they reached the third floor where they could hear the soft whirring of supercomputers working in various rooms. Going down a few hallways, they eventually reach the actual computer lab. There were a few workstations widely spaced out between each other and they could see the light flickering at one of them.
Makoto called out. “Fujisaki-san?”
The SHSL Programmer jolted in his seat but calmed himself down. “O-Oh. Sensei. H-Hello.”
Mukuro took a seat in one of the far off workstations, listening closely.
The substitute homeroom advisor looked over at the PC screen and nothing was displayed. He had a sneaking suspicion on what Chihiro was working on, but decided to ease into his questioning.
“You weren’t looking at anything inappropriate, right?”
“N-No!!” The programmer’s face turned beet red. “I would never! Honest!”
“Well I heard some intense typing from outside so I thought you were working on something.”
“I-I was working on something. But I finished!”
“Really? Can I see?”
“Is something wrong?”
“You know I’ve made a vow to not report on anything I’ve seen for the past week. I’m not a gossip, Fujisaki-san.”
“I…I know. And both Owada-kun and Ishimaru-kun have high praise for you.” The mousey Chihiro looks down a bit with the blue light of the computer screen reflecting off of his face. “I was working on a top secret project. I can’t really go into it but…it involves creating an advanced Artificial Intelligence to oversee it.”
“The Neo World Program?”
“H-How…oh right…you’re a reporter. I forgot.” A sheepish smile formed on the youthful face of the SHSL Programmer.
“It’s nice to see something that could revolutionize and help the world out being created.”
“Yeah. I f-feel the same way. I’m not very strong myself, but being able to help others’ with their psychological problems using my talent makes me really happy.” He shifts his eyes over to the side. “I’m happy that I can be of use.”
“You value strength, huh?”
Chihiro looked down as he continued talking. “Y-Yes…I wish I were physically strong. I’m useless if I’m not in front of a computer.”
“I don’t believe that, Fujisaki-san. It sounds like you’re a good friend.”
A look of disappointment only persisted on the young prodigy. “Maybe…but I want to be able to do things on my own, you know? And maybe protect others. Having to rely on others is just so unmanly.” A few moments pass by and a gasp escapes from his lips, having just realized what he said. “U-Um…I…”
Makoto, having already known Fujisaki’s secret, could only muster a look of concern. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Oh n-no, I didn’t mean, I…you must think I’m some sort of freak, don’t you?” Tears started forming in Chihiro’s eyes.
“I think you might have a reason for hiding your gender. That’s what my gut tells me, anyway.”
The backstory is the same as he remembers it. A bullied and waif-like child who decided to begin cross-dressing in order to make up for his perceived weakness. Despite this, he continued to feel insecure and continually felt trapped in the decision he made. But he resolved to become physically strong so that he could be proud of being a boy. After stating his piece, Makoto exhaled loudly from his nose.
“You’re not as weak as you think you are, Fujisaki-san.”
“D-Do you think so?”
“Definitely. But I have a question to ask.”
“Well, um, what’s exactly stopping you from changing the way you dress?”
Chihiro looked down. “U-Um…well…since I’m a Super High School Level student, I’m sort of a role model. People were saying how it’s great that a girl could be a SHSL Programmer and that it inspired girls to get into the computer sciences.”
“I see. You don’t want to disappoint them.”
“I don’t. Between that and not being strong, I…I don’t think I can do it.”
“There are people out there like you who are afraid of something similar. People who struggle with their identities for their entire lives. I think you could be a role model for those people.”
His eyes widened momentarily and then he quietly shrunk back down. “I was hoping I could get strong and then I could be able to become my true self.” He bit his lip. “But then if I do it now…I…I think everyone would turn against me.”
“Your fears make sense. But do you think you can keep living like this?”
Chihiro sighs. “No. No, I can’t.”
“I’m not going to tell you to immediately go online and proclaim who you are to the world. But, just like working out, I think you should start small. Tell people you trust.”
Some moments passed by and Fujisaki finally answered. “You’re…right. I can’t move forward if I’m afraid of being who I really am.”
“What you lack in muscle, you’ve got plenty in spirit. I think you’ll be able to make it through.”
“Thank you, Naegi-sensei.”
“Don’t thank me. This was all you. It’s going to be a long road.”
With determined eyes, the SHSL Programmer nods. “I have to become both strong mentally and physically. I…I can do this. U-Um…do you mind if I can leave my lab for a bit? I have someone in mind to tell first.”
A small smile comes from Makoto’s lips. “Alright. But come back as soon as you can, alright? This’ll stay between you and me.”
“Yeah.” Chihiro blushes and smiles as he rushes out the door, not having noticed Mukuro hiding in one of the workstations. Makoto has a sneaking suspicion that a certain SHSL Biker Gang Leader was going to receive some shocking news. Without the stress of the killing game along with a friendship that already has been going on, Makoto felt a sense of redemption.
After all, he was the one who suggested Mondo as his “trainer” way back on that horrible day. And knowing what he knew now of their Class, it was ironically the right choice…but at the worst possible time.
Mukuro stood up and walked over to where Naegi was standing.
“Some things change, but it seems you’re mostly the same.”
“Thanks. I think.”
“I meant it in a good way. You really believe in yourself.”
He shrugs in response. “I’m just a little more gung-ho than others. If my attitude helps others out, then I think I can walk around with my head held high.” A nervous laugh came out of his mouth. “Though I should probably explain to Sakakura-san that I gave him permission to leave the lab momentarily.”
The mention of Juzo hardened Mukuro’s gaze. Makoto waved it off and began walking toward the administration building. When they arrived, they ran into Byakuya and Kyosuke walking from an adjacent corridor.
“Ah, Naegi-san. Would you and Ikusaba-san please join us in my office?”
“Is something wrong?”
“I’m afraid so.”
The four walk together in tense silence and eventually enter the Vice Headmaster’s office. Papers are stacked on top of the desk as Kyosuke sits down at his desk. Byakuya’s eyes narrow straight at him.
“What happened, Munakata-san?”
The affluent heir crossed his arms. “The carelessness of this administration continues to baffle me. You already sold the overseas campus to another party.”
“I had nothing to do with this, Togami-san.” Kyosuke leaned forward and placed his hands together, crossing his fingers atop one another. “With the abject failure of the Hope Cultivation Project and now the upcoming budget cuts, Headmaster Kirigiri went ahead and pushed through a deal he made earlier this year.”
Makoto placed his hands on his chin. “Who’d he sell the overseas campus to?”
“Some entertainment company. We’ve also had to lease data on the Neo World Program to them in order to reach enough funding to prevent furloughs for the upcoming semester.”
“Whoa, wait.” Makoto looked shocked. “You’re basically leasing something that could overwrite an entire person’s personality and memories…to an entertainment company?”
“Yes. Despite my efforts, the budget has always been mismanaged. Running a glorified research facility for talent was never cheap Naegi-san.”
“It also seems the upper echelons of Hope’s Peak administration has poor communication between one another.” The blonde business magnate spat. “Munakata did not even know about all of this until I arrived this morning. What a waste of my time.”
“I apologize for making you come out here for nothing. And considering I was in the middle of convincing Naegi-san to become the headmaster of the overseas campus, it seems all my efforts have been wasted. I’m not in a position to override any of the Headmaster’s decisions. Not until he steps down formally.”
“…did you find out what that entertainment company wanted to do with an uncharted island and the NWP?”
“Unfortunately, no. We’ve been told it’s been approved by MEXT so it’s within legal boundaries. They aren’t at liberty to tell us anything.” Kyosuke cleared his throat. “That’s all I am able to share with you three at the moment.”
Byakuya storms out of the office.
“Thanks for keeping us in the loop.”
“I apologize. Even after such lengths you went through for us.”
A wry smile appeared on the former Future Foundation section leader’s face. “Chisa stormed into my office yesterday and made me promise to take her on a date. I recall her being forceful while under the influence of despair. But this time, it seems like she got the idea from someone.”
“O-Oh.” Makoto rubbed his neck. “I thought she was kidding when she was saying that.”
“In any case, she and I needed to talk. So, thank you. I was wasting away this second chance by burying myself in work.”
“Did she make you say this?”
Kyosuke cleared his throat. “In any case, I also wanted to let you know that Class 78’s homeroom advisor should be returning this upcoming week.”
“Ah. I see. W-Well, it certainly was an interesting experience the past week.”
“I’m sure it was. If you like, I could offer you a permanent position here in administration if you’d like.”
Makoto laughed nervously. “Uh…ah…I’d like to think about it for a bit.”
“I imagine you have much on your mind. You would be a lot safer here.” His eyes shift over to the silent Mukuro, who only returns a sharp gaze.
“I’ll let you know when I can. I mean, I doubt I’d be able to work immediately into the next semester.”
“True. You have time to think about it. If nothing else, I’ll let you go on with your day.”
“You have a good day, Munakata-san.” Makoto turns to leave the office with Mukuro following closely. Kyosuke silently watched them leave before closing the door to his office.
The duo could only walk past a few offices until they caught up to Byakuya, his arms crossed with an annoyed expression to boot.
“You sure took your time, Naegi.”
“Oh! Togami-kun. Did you want to talk?”
He gives a cold, firm glare at Mukuro. “Preferably alone, but she seems determined to stay next to you like a certain pervert I know.”
The SHSL Soldier just blushed and looked mortified. “P-Pervert? Wait, you’re talking about…Fukawa-san, aren’t you?”
“I know from experience how difficult it can be to unlatch a parasite once taken a liking to its host.”
Makoto crossed his arms in response. “Let’s not go into the insults today. What did you need?”
“I simply wanted to ask you a simple question: why are you avoiding your responsibility?”
“Avoiding my responsibility?”
“Yes. No need to parrot my words.”
“No, I’m wondering what you mean by that.”
“You, Makoto Naegi, are supposed to be the headmaster of Hope’s Peak Academy. Yet you’ve made no attempt at reclaiming your rightful place.”
“There’s already a headmaster. In fact, there are technically two.”
“While that may be true, Naegi, you seem to have forgotten what abject failures they both are. Jin Kirigiri had a foolish plan to lock us up away from the world in order to ‘protect hope.’ Kyosuke Munakata had a hand in destroying the Future Foundation, almost undo all we worked at to reverse Enoshima’s damage on the world at large.”
Makoto stared straight at Byakuya while he continued.
“Weren’t you one to never run away from a fight? Why run now?”
“I’m not running. There are things I need to do, and the only way I can do them is as I am right now.”
“What? From your small hovel in the middle of Yokohama?”
“I only became headmaster because it was what I needed to do. Enoshima’s influence was finally all but gone and it was the only way I could think of to make sure it never sprung back up again.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “What’s this about, Togami-kun?”
“You had proven me wrong.”
“You, a lowly commoner, became one of the elite in the span of a few years. You had no family legacy, no outstanding talents, and essentially only the clothes on your back and made yourself into something more. Something I could say I could be associated with no reservations.”
Makoto was irked, but was also speechless.
“As Byakuya Togami, I cannot in good conscience let you continue wallowing in destitution like this. After all, I repay my debts in full.”
“Was that why you were trying to buy the overseas campus from Hope’s Peak?”
“Indeed. If you were too hesitant to take over HPA itself, you could have easily founded a rival school. With the backing of the Togami family of course.” A smirk appeared on his lips while Makoto sighed in response.
“Still, I guess thanks for believing in me.”
“I would not say its mere belief. Or are you doubting my perception?”
“No, I’m not. But right now I’m worried about a lot of other things.”
“Fair enough. I almost forgot how stubborn and idiotic you can be. In any case, I’ll make sure to let you know when I’ve seized that uncharted island from whatever imbeciles thought they could snatch a deal from the Togami Corporation.”
“You really think they’ll just give it up like that?”
Confidently smiling, Byakuya responded. “Of course. Whatever project that they have in mind, I assure you that I could do it in a far superior manner. Whatever negotiators they may have employed, I can easily run mental marathons around them in a matter of seconds. This isn’t a question of if they will comply with my demands, it’s when.”
Seeing the SHSL Heir in his element, Makoto couldn’t help but smile.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me.” The suited young man walked past both of them, strutting along in both opulence and ego.
Mukuro raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you two are friends?”
“I think so.”
After lunch period, the two head over to the performance arts building. Many of the labs were unoccupied compared to the last time Makoto was inside. They did not walk long as they could hear singing and the shuffling of feet in one of the ground floor rooms. Sayaka was dressed in her school uniform while singing and dancing one of her idol group’s latest songs. She eventually finishes her performance with Makoto softly clapping afterward.
“O-Oh, Naegi-sensei! Ikusaba-san! Hello!”
“I didn’t want to interrupt you. Seems like you’re ready for the practical exam.”
“Ah. Thank you very much.” She bows. “There’s a short tour coming up for our new album so this was a perfect opportunity to make sure my moves are still as crisp as ever.”
Sayaka moves over to the piano and sits down, drinking a bottle of water.
“It’s good you’re taking breaks, too. I was a little worried that you might be pushing yourself too much.”
“Health is important, right? By the way…I’ve actually been meaning to talk to you, sensei.”
Mukuro looked a little on edge, but managed to suppress it from showing on her face.
“Y-Yes. Please don’t laugh at this, but I’ve been having some strange dreams lately.”
Makoto looked concerned. “Dreams, huh? What are they about?”
“Well…it’s so strange. You’re in them.”
The SHSL Soldier bites her tongue.
“Oh? What am I doing in them?”
“Ah…well…it’s a little alarming. But you’re a little younger than you are now and we seem to be trapped in some kind of strange building on campus. And, then…and then I see my own death.” She holds herself. “I…I see a knife in my stomach and some strange numbers on the wall behind me. Then darkness.”
Some sweat forms on Makoto’s forehead. Mukuro breathes a sigh of relief, even though what came out of Sayaka’s mouth was still alarming.
“It’s kind of silly to hear, right? You’re an adult right now, first of all. I’m not sure what my dreams mean… but it’s concerning.”
“Have you been having them often?”
“Not often. Just once. Last night, actually.”
“I-I’m sure it’s just your imagination, then. It sounds more like a nightmare.”
“Yes. It was. There was a feeling of sorrow. Like I may have done something wrong…”
Makoto held himself back from shouting out. “Well. I…I guess I’m glad you shared that with me, Maizono-san.”
“It means you trust me enough to tell me what’s been bothering you. It means a lot. More than you realize.”
“Trust, huh…” Sayaka looks down. “I’m glad you think so. Really. But something about that makes me feel sad.” She looks over to Mukuro. “I should apologize to you, as well. I shouldn’t be bothering you with disturbing imagery.”
“It’s fine, Maizono-san. I’m a former mercenary. Death is something I’ve seen often.”
“Oh my… so that’s what they meant by SHSL Soldier. You must have had a hard life.”
“…I did.” Mukuro looks away.
“Ah, I didn’t mean to pry.”
“It’s only fair. You spoke about something personal and we just met.”
“I suppose. Regardless… thank you both for being understanding. It’s just a silly dream, nothing more. Think nothing else of it, please.”
Makoto looked bashful. “If you say so. A-Anyway, I still need to show Ikusaba-san around and check on the others.”
“Of course. Thank you for stopping by.” Sayaka smiles, one that wasn’t practiced as an idol, but a natural and awkward smile.
The two leave the lab and walk for a ways until they were sure they outside of earshot.
Mukuro broke the silence. “Wasn’t Maizono-san always joking about being some sort of esper?”
“She may not be fully aware of what she can do. I always had a feeling about that, anyway.”
A strange possibility crossed the freckled girl’s mind. “Do you think our Sayaka Maizono could be…crossing over? I was dead, but I’m here now. So it’s not super unheard of for that to happen.”
“Mmm. I’m not entirely sure about that. There’d be some weird things happening if that were the case, I think. I don’t want to come to a conclusion without some evidence backing it up.”
“Okay. I understand.”
Makoto chuckled while Mukuro looked confused. “Is something funny, Naegi-kun?”
“You’re a lot chattier now.”
“O-Oh.” She fidgets with her short hair. “Am I being annoying?”
“Huh? No. I like to hear what you think.”
All Mukuro could muster from her nervous attempts at forming a response was a wide smile.
The rest of the day felt like a blur for Makoto. He was merely moving through the motions the entire time, on autopilot, all the way until he laid down on his bed and wished Mukuro a good night.
“Ah, right. Ikusaba-san.”
Both of them stopped as they were on the way to Class 78’s homeroom.
“I’ve been told that they’re being really strict about who even comes close to the practical exams. So… can you wait with Kyoko-san?”
Mukuro looked apprehensive, but decided to give in. “I see. Very well.”
“I won’t take too long. Promise.”
“You seem to be very good at keeping them. I’ll be waiting.”
Mukuro went off on her own, at the very least until she was out of sight from the former SHSL Lucky Student. Taking a position atop one of the class buildings, she watched Makoto with the eyes of a hawk.
Meanwhile, the substitute homeroom advisor went into the classroom.
“Ah, good morning everyone. Today’s the day of your practical exams. Also, I’ve been told your normal homeroom advisor will be returning on Monday.”
Groans could be heard from some of the members of the tiny Class 78.
Mondo spoke up first. “Seriously? Ugh, can’t you just like…become our normal advisor or something, sensei?”
“Haha. I’m glad you all think highly of me. But…well…laws are laws.”
Kiyotaka looked down. “Indeed, but…I still have much to learn from you. We’ve only had a few talks.”
Leon laid back in his chair. “Man, this sucks. I got so many more questions! And I need ya to rate some girls I’ve met!”
“Now, now. You’ve all got to pass your practical exams first. I’m to escort you all to the gym.”
As if on cue, the short homeroom period ends and the bell rings. Makoto motions for them to come along as he walks with them all the way to the gymnasium. He looks up seeing that it was a gloomy Saturday. The entire sky was overcast. When the class arrived, there was an entire security detail as the students were subject to searches as they entered one-by-one. Waiting until the last student was inside, Makoto sighed and turned around. He began his trek to the administration building. The statue of Izuru Kamakura was still missing, only leaving its lonely base.
Another thing catches his eye. A smug-looking grin with strawberry blonde hair.
He could only stare down his despair counterpart in the emptied quad.
Shirokuma: owww… i never realized i could get so many splinters.
BlackCapPI: At your job, right?
Shirokuma: yeah! we’ve been doing a lot of construction. i really hope i don’t break a nail.
BlackCapPI: Are you physically fit?
Shirokuma: nono, but we’re short-handed as it is. we don’t have that much for staff.
BlackCapPI: Ah. I see. My condolences.
Shirokuma: i don’t have to do this, but it’ll get me in good with the boss.
BlackCapPI: I never realized you were so ambitious.
Shirokuma: well i want to become a big time writer. gotta make some sacrifices to reach my dreams, right?
BlackCapPI: Good luck with that.
Shirokuma: thank you so much! im glad you’re so supportive of me, cap.
BlackCapPI: You know, we’ve had so many private chats that maybe we should call each other by our first names?
Shirokuma: oh yeah! we are friends, after all.
BlackCapPI: You can call me Shuichi.
Shirokuma: shuichi, huh? ok! my name is tsumugi!
BlackCapPI: That’s a really uncommon name.
Shirokuma: is it? i guess that’s the only thing flashy about me. im pretty plain.
Chapter 13: Discussion -HOPE VS DESPAIR-
Mukuro’s eyes widened when she saw her sister callously approach Makoto out in the open. Mentally steeling herself to face Junko, she immediately senses something coming straight for her. She quickly draws her combat knife and immediately deflects an object that flew at her with tremendous speed.
A syringe falls with little fanfare, rolling on the ground near her. Continually blocking the dangerous projectiles coming straight at her, the freckled SHSL Soldier could see what appeared to be a baseball launcher continually firing them at her from a building across from where she stood. Leaping great distances between every move, she eventually makes it to the launcher. Immediately piercing it with her knife, she drags it to destroy the mechanisms inside it.
Taking a breath and turning away from it and now looking toward where Makoto and Junko where, she was about to move when she heard a faint burst of air. Her eyes widen and she immediately feels woozy.
It was rigged to release a gas trap when destroyed. She looks over and can see Kyoko’s office window. Unfortunately for her, that’s the last thing she sees as she falls unconscious.
“Man…what’s takin’ Naegi-chi so long?”
Hina was munching on a donut. “Well, you know how strict security is. He prolly got held up.”
“Yeah but all this waiting around is…real tiring…” Hiro yawns loudly.
“Gee, Hiro. Were you up all night getting drunk again?”
“No way! I saved that for tonight with you guys! Just…I dunno, I’m feeling real sluggish right now.”
Hina rubbed her eyes. “Now that you mention it…”
Kyoko immediately stood up in panic. “No, this is Enoshima’s…”
Hiro was already knocked out, with Hina fading in and out of consciousness. Kyoko made for the door, but fell before she could reach it.
The scene unfolded all in front of Juzo in the control room. He saw the others falling to the sleeping gas and Junko walking slowly toward Makoto in the empty quad.
“Tch. Figures that bitch would try something like this. But you aren’t getting away this time.” He looks over to the guards in the room. “Get everyone on alert. We’re catching SHSL Despair. And I’ll skin her alive.”
The guards immediately radio out Juzo’s orders while he leaves the room. Immediately exiting the hallway, he sees a mass of guards blocking the lobby. Even the receptionist joined the blockade.
“What the hell are you all doing?! Didn’t you hear your orders? Catch that pink witch before she gets away!”
The crowd of people are unresponsive. They have a spaced-out look in their eyes.
“Move!” He tries to push one out of the way, but they immediately push back and try to dogpile him. “You!” He punches out of them and he flies into the crowd. Despite this, they continually try to overwhelm him with their bodies.
“Sakakura-kun!” One of the hypnotized bodies is thrown into a guard that was ready to jump Juzo from behind.
“Munakata!” Juzo slams the heads of two guards into each other.
“They’ve blocked off the other side of the hallway as well. I assume this is Enoshima’s work.”
“What the hell!? Can’t we just beat her for once?!”
“We don’t have time to complain. We must break through!”
Juzo wanted to go all out, but he knew that if he started murdering the guards, it would be catastrophic for the understaffed academy. He could only throw half-hearted punches in order to try and make way. “Damn it! Where’s Yukizome?”
“Over here, Juzo-kun!” She starts spraying a fire extinguisher at the mob’s feet. A good number of them start to trip all over each other.
Makoto wearily eyed the SHSL Despair, still wearing her hair down. “You’re showing up out in the open…what did you do, Enoshima?”
“Upupupu~. Wouldn’t you like to know, Makoto? Though the next part might not be a surprise for you.” She slowly moves closer and closer to him. “And the next thing you’ll say is…what do you want?!”
He mouths out the first word and stops himself.
“Awww, the joke doesn’t work if you don’t say it.”
The adult Naegi stood his ground despite the menacing aura coming from the former SHSL Fashion Girl.
“Oooh and here I thought you were going to run. That would’ve been a smart choice. You’re pretty fast.”
“I just can’t leave everyone at your mercy…”
“So smart indeed! Guess I don’t have to go through the whole, ‘I’m going to play with everyone if you don’t play with me’ speech. Good. Cause it’s a one-way ticket to snoresville!”
“What did you do to everyone, Enoshima?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know? Don’t worry about them! After all, they’re not gonna get in the way this time.”
Junko was right in front of Makoto right now, with his head slightly looking up at her face.
“Besides, I’d worry about yourself right now.”
Some sweat started to bead on the former SHSL Lucky Student’s face.
“Whatever you’re planning, it won’t work.”
“Oh, do you think so? My plan’s been working as planned so far you know. Seems my analytical prowess is still in top form!” She smirks and holds herself, almost seemingly like she was congratulating herself.
Immediately after, she grabs Makoto by the wrist with him clenching his own fist in response.
“Come on, Makoto! Struggle, or this won’t be as fun!”
With a raised voice he replied, “And what, Enoshima?! I can see that bat behind you.”
“Ohohoho! Finally aware of your surroundings? No wonder you started to lock your door.”
“This is insane. You’re alive again, aren’t you? Why go this far?!”
She stops grinning and her face drained of emotions. “Because you’re the only thing worth a damn in this boring world.”
“Is that really it?” He grits his teeth. “You…you just want me to feel so angry right now, don’t you?!”
“And aren’t you? All that seething rage I can see in those eyes of yours.” She looked as if she was in a daydream and started to drool. “Kyahahaha! I’m drooling, I’m leaking! It makes me feel so alive!”
“Is that all?”
Junko was shocked out of her daydream and looked straight at him.
“You’re addicted to despair. All I can be is sad for you.”
“Sad? Hah! You’re just trying—“
“You’ve been trying to get me to hate you this entire time. Violating my personal space, causing trouble for my friends…threatening my life. But I could never hate you. Having to think of what you did and who you are for the rest of my days? That’s no way to live!”
“I DIDN’T WANT TO LIVE, MAKOTO!”
He was shocked at her outburst and saw that her forehead started to form sweat.
“Don’t you remember? Living gives me no hope at all. And now…and now…and now, and now, and now, and now…I was robbed of what I wanted!!” A crooked smile forms on her face. “Having to watch you undo all my work was supposed to be the absolute worst, but it ended up as I predicted. It was boring. It didn’t even drive me further into despair.”
“If you wanted to despair so much, why didn’t you decide to live? That’s part of despair, right? All that guilt in that conscience of yours.”
“Even that feeling would fade eventually. Besides, a conscience? Me?”
“Of course you have one! You may be genocidal and amoral, but that’s part of what drove you to use us in the killing game, wasn’t it? Why you chose Class 78 over everyone else.”
“The feeling of doing horrible things to the few people you give a damn about…and them looking at you with hateful gazes…” She stops daydreaming and snaps back to reality. “Do you think you know me, Makoto?! You wouldn’t be the first moron to claim that! And probably not the last.”
“Don’t try to gaslight me! I’m not like you or Kamakura-san. Claiming to completely understand and predict someone else is out of my reach.” Makoto took a breath. “But even Hinata-san didn’t fall like you did.”
She lets go of his wrist and cups his face with one hand. “And what will that lead to, huh? A future where he’d be forced to live on some island for the rest of his days. If there’s a hell on earth, it definitely was that.”
“So what, you’re a coward?”
She smirks and tightens her hold. “Oh, so the cowardly lion wants to keep roaring? Don’t forget that I made you like this, Makoto. Before The Tragedy, you were just a bumbling high schooler that could only be described as a giant doormat.”
“I know for better or worse, you were the one person that affected my life the most.”
“Oh yes.” Her voice goes soft and sultry, even whispering into his ear. “I took away your first love, your friends, and your peaceful high school life. You carry so much despair with you and yet you just lug it around. Carrying it like a ball and chain! You’re married to it! Don’t you remember their faces? The way they wanted you to join them? It may have been cheating, but your weakness finally reared its ugly head…”
She didn’t move away from him while he was silent.
The same haunting vision appeared as if she summoned it on purpose. Only this time, Kyoko was not present. As a teenager, Makoto would’ve easily frozen up and started to doubt himself. But he was older now – saddled with experience he never wanted and a responsibility he never asked for. The SHSL Hope didn’t feel the weight of regret, but a stoking fire that seemed to come from his own heart.
How could he face the friends that haunted him if he succumbed now? The voices began to drown out and they only looked at him now as if expecting something.
“My friends are still dead. Maizono-san is still dead. That much is true. But I learned something about myself.”
He turns his head toward the former SHSL Fashion Girl and his vision clears, only seeing her.
Junko raised an eyebrow. “That you’re just the poster boy for blind optimism?”
Only four words came out of his mouth. “I want to live.”
She looked bewildered and stepped back from him. A soft reply comes out of her mouth. “What?”
“I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to eat good food. And I want to see a new day, because none of them can anymore! I won’t just carry their memories with me for the rest of my life. I will live for them!”
“You…what are you saying?!”
“I won’t despair! I won’t get bored! Their memories may be painful, but I will make new ones for them!”
A shocked expression painted the fashion girl’s face. “This wasn’t supposed to happen! You’re alone! Seeing your dead friends is supposed to be painful! I could just end you right now!!”
He stepped forward. “Even if you strike me down now, I won’t stop! You hear me?!”
“You’re just cocky because your luck is soooo unpredictable! You know what they say about those who live so long on a battlefield – they start to believe they’re invincible.”
“Maybe my luck protects me, but it doesn’t protect others. It doesn’t erase every single failure I’ve experienced! Every single life that I’ve seen gone in front of my own eyes! But that’s not the point! I have a responsibility and drive to continue on because the rest can’t!”
“You…turning your weakness into a strength… what the hell what the hell what the hell what the hell…what the hell are you?!”
“I learned it from you.”
Junko could no longer utter a response, just staring straight at him in complete silence. After a few tense moments, she moves beside him, facing the opposite direction of where he was facing. He still stands there with his hand outstretched, his eyes shifting to the side to look at her.
“You won’t embrace despair, you won’t hate me, and you won’t back down. To think I’d have to prepare so many backup plans because of you. You do realize what kind of position you’re in?”
Her eyes shift over to look at him in return. “You already knew that there’s only going to be one outcome from this. Despite that, you remain as defiant as ever. I have everyone as a hostage, you know! Including your sister, of course.”
“…Wait, Komaru too?”
“Did you forget? Getting into that dumb city is a lot easier than you think!”
Makoto made a small realization. If anyone could get clearance to enter Towa City, it would certainly be Junko due to a certain green-haired mastermind’s devotion to her. But what confused him was how she was able to even contact her if the entire city was on lockdown by both the Towa Corporation and the military.
“Well we still haven’t had our date, darling.”
“Yep yep!” She grabs his outstretched hand. “Call me Junko now!”
“N-No, wait I…” He gets dragged along.
“Nope! No third, fourth, or eleventh wheels! This is a romantic getaway just for two!”
Mukuro’s eyes opened up. Her senses were still dull and her limbs were still asleep. She looked around, finding herself still on top of the roof with the modified baseball launcher. As soon as she regained fully regained her senses, she looks over to where Makoto and Junko were the last time she remembered and both were, as she feared, gone.
Making her way down, she can see the Class 74 trio breaking through the mob of brainwashed security guards.
“Damn it!” Juzo was seething with rage. “Where is she, despair sister?!”
Keeping a cold and distant tone, Mukuro only responded. “She’s gone. With Naegi-kun.”
Clenching his fist, he passes both Kyosuke and Chisa as he heads back to the surveillance room back in the administration building.
“Well…if nothing else, this is proof that you aren’t working with Enoshima.” Kyoksuke adjusts his tie as he clears his throat. “Where are the rest of our dimension’s Class 78?”
“I don’t know.” Mukuro suddenly remembers the very last thing she saw. “I remember them being all in an office before I passed out.”
Chisa looked a little sad for her. “She even dealt with her own sister. What a wicked girl…”
Mukuro clenched her fist and her teeth. She found herself agreeing with the former SHSL Housekeeper, despite her gut instinct wanting to believe and protect Junko at the same time.
“If I know my sister, they were probably kept in the office somehow.”
“Then we must retrieve them. Sakakura-kun will review the security footage to find out where she went with Naegi-san.” The current vice headmaster turned away from Mukuro with Chisa following close. Not having any other choice, Mukuro followed them.
Finally arriving in front of Kyoko’s office, Chisa knocked on the door. No response. Kyosuke tried to open the door and found himself slamming himself against the stubborn point of entry.
The two adults stepped aside and Mukuro kicked down the door with one kick. The door itself hung onto the frame as if it were clinging for dear life, slamming into the wall next to it. Kyoko groaned as she started to stand up. Chisa went to check on Hina and Hiro who were both still unconscious.
Kyoko’s eyes widened as she slowly got out of her daze. “Ikusaba-san, where’s Makoto-kun?”
“Gone. With Junko-chan.”
The former SHSL Detective had her face darken, her fist clenched, along with a scary look on her face. She exhales a long breath and pinches the temple of her nose, looking back at Mukuro. “I take it she managed to incapacitate you as well.”
Mukuro just looks to the side while Chisa slaps Hiro awake.
“Ah owowow! I’m awake, I’m awake! Stop!”
Hina yawns as she wakes up from the noise. “Ummm…what…what happened?”
“We were all knocked out by Enoshima’s sleeping gas.” Kyoko turned to Mukuro, who only nods in response while still not looking back at her.
“R-Really? Was that what got us the first time?”
“Perhaps it was. It’s hard to tell. My memory around that time is still hazy.”
“Yeah.” Hina looks down. “Mine too. Where’s Naegi?”
The former SHSL Swimmer gasps. “No! We gotta get him back!”
Kyosuke’s cell phone rings and he looks it over. “Sakakura-kun. Mmhm. Very well.” He hangs up after the short conversation. “It looks to have been approximately an hour ago. The footage is available now, Kirigiri-san.”
“Good.” She fixes her leather gloves. “The security feed should give us an idea of where they went.” She quickly walks out while the rest follow her.
Inside the surveillance room, Juzo was replaying the footage over and over. The guards stationed in there looked nervous and turned their attention at those entering the room.
“They’re not on campus.” Juzo growled.
“Not surprising. Now let’s see.” Kyoko moved toward the multiple monitors while Mukuro looked over her shoulder. The SHSL Soldier glanced at Juzo who returned an angry glare for a moment, then returned back to looking at the footage.
Junko looked to be embracing Makoto by the arm as he looked like he was being dragged along to his car. They could see the baseball bat sheathed on her back. Makoto unlocks and opens the door on the driver’s side of the vehicle and he steps in, Junko slams the door closed and entered on the other side. The car exits the staff parking lot. On another monitor, they could see the car getting onto the main road and into the city.
Kyoko places her hand on her chin. “Looks as if they’re driving away from his apartment.”
“Y-Yo, why’d he just go along with her? I mean…he ain’t looking like he was all lovey-dovey back with her.” Hiro scratched his hair.
“Knowing Enoshima,” Kyoko replied, “She most likely gave him no choice. If he knew what was going on to all of us…”
“We were hostages.” Mukuro said flatly.
Hina gasped in shock. “Wait, we were?”
“It makes sense.” Kyoko looked back at her. “While she could simply abduct him at any time, we would be able to track him down easily. This way she would take out anyone that could help Makoto-kun while taking him away herself. I assume the bat was for…insurance.”
“Seriously?! What is wrong with her?” Hina yelled. “Isn’t what she did to us enough already? Why does Naegi have to go through with this…?”
Kyoko and Mukuro grimaced. The lilac-haired detective instinctually knew that Junko was no good, while the raven-haired former mercenary knew that she was not kind to those she loved.
“Aside from the general direction they’re moving in, I’m unable to figure out where exactly they went. Enoshima probably knew this and if I begin an investigation now we’ll only lag farther behind.”
It seems Kyoko lost to Junko this time around. She was distracted by so many things that she was unable to completely counter the diva of despair’s machinations.
“Then it’s up to me, right?” Hiro grinned.
Mukuro was out of patience. “And what do you plan to do?”
“I’m gonna figure out where he went, that’s what!” Hiro moves over to a nearby bag where he sat and pulled out his crystal ball.
The freckled girl almost yelled. “We don’t have time for this! Naegi-kun could be…”
“Wait.” Kyoko interrupted. “Go ahead, Hiro-kun.”
“Aw yeah, time for the Shaman to show his stuff!” He focused hard on his crystal ball. “Alright, I’m getting something…whoa…what the hell?”
Hina tried to look into the crystal ball herself. “Eh? What do you see, Hiro?”
“This might be worse than aliens.”
Juzo grit his teeth. “Just get on with it already!”
“Alright. Heh…seems whenever Naegi-chi’s involved my predictions get better. Listen up!”
As Hiro’s outlandish explanation began, Mukuro looked over at Kyoko who seemed to be taking the prediction as seriously as possible. She felt like she needed to move, but she didn’t know the first thing about where. Suddenly, some words caught Mukuro’s attention from the SHSL Shaman’s vision that shook her to the core.
The drive toward Towa City was a two-hour ordeal directly east from where Hope’s Peak Academy was situated. The bridge they were driving through was surrounded by the ocean itself and they came upon what appeared to be a toll gate. Inside, the security guard was wearing body armor and even had a rifle on his back – something that only military personnel would even be allow to do.
Junko smirked and pulled out her gaudy phone, showing it directly to the guard. His focused and trained gaze suddenly made him look completely out of it.
“Open it already, chump.”
The hypnotized guard nodded silently and raised the boom gate to let the vehicle pass.
Makoto silently drove after what he saw. “W-Was that…?”
“Did you forget that I learned how to make the videos?”
“No, it’s just…”
“Do you want to try it out? It’s kinda fun.”
“Awww… but I kinda wanted to see what would happen if you went from such an herbivore man to something like the reserve course. You know: loving me, doing whatever I want…maybe even being less of an herbivore!”
“Pfft. Fine.” She rests her head on his shoulder while he cringes. “Your loss. I guess you’ll always be a bottom.”
“W-What?” Makoto continued to focus directly on the road. “No, never mind.”
Eventually the bridge connecting the manmade island to the mainland opened up into Towa City proper. Shocked at what he saw, Makoto immediately hit the brakes and stopped a small distance from an abandoned, wrecked car in front of him. The vehicle wasn’t the only thing that was in ruin – the city itself looked to be in bad shape from what he was able to see. Buildings were ruined, the streets were only littered with scrap and were broken from multiple impacts.
He stayed silent as he stepped out of the car. Junko stepped out a few moments after he did.
“This looks like…the same city from our world.”
The only thing missing was the crimson red sky.
The SHSL Despair looked around with a neutral expression on her face. She wasn’t expecting a slice of their world to be existing right there in front of her. Eventually, a huge grin formed on her face and she grabbed Makoto in a deep embrace while he was almost knocked over by the force.
“This is…this is this is this is…! Amazing, you can feel the despair in the air! Looks like those kids weren’t reformed after all, huh?”
“No, that’s not it.” He tries to ignore her as she’s practically squeezing him at this point. “When I finally picked up Komaru, the city looked like this. Well…there were people roaming around helping with reconstruction…but this looks like how I remember it.”
“Upupu~! The plot thickens. Maybe someone’s an anchor around here…?”
Makoto recalled their earlier conversation about how certain people could somehow bring a piece of their original realities to this world.
“It could be the same person who tried to do it with Ikusaba-san.” He felt something wrong as she finally let go of him and ducked, while Junko swung her bat over his head. “Hey!!”
The bat connected with something metallic. A human-sized Monokuma bot was swung into a nearby wall.
“Pay attention, darling!” She continues swinging at other nearby ones that started walking toward where they were standing.
“It’s like a zombie movie! Oh, to be eaten by my own Kuma-chan! Such despair!”
“Stop fooling around!” Makoto kicks one away. “Let’s get out of here, already!”
“What? We can always drive away, you know.”
“I’m not leaving without Komaru and Fukawa-san!”
Junko squeals. “Oh, so heroic! Do you seriously have no sense of self-preservation?” She rolls her eyes.
The noise generated from the two started attracting more of the man-eating Monokumas. Slowly being surrounded by a good-sized mobs of the murderous mascots, Makoto notices some of the loose gravel starting to shake. Both of them can see large monkey-like bipedal robots approach from the opposite side.
“I don’t remember those!” Makoto starts sweating.
“Not like I know what the hell those are either!” Junko grins. “Those things seem faster than they look.”
“How can you tell?”
“Who the hell cares?! This might actually be fun.”
The Monokumas stop advancing on both of them and turn around to the unknown mechanoids. Makoto watches, confused, as they start to assault the strange looking mobile weapons platforms.
The SHSL Despair grabs the SHSL Hope by the arm and pulls him along while the opposing robotic forces fight each other. The monkey-like robots began being swarmed by them, but as Junko stated they were extremely agile despite their size, managing to hold them off with their raw power in combination with speed.
They both start to get farther from both the metallic carnage and the car. A sudden laugh comes out of the fashion girl’s mouth. “I’m gonna call them Exisals!”
“Wh-what does it matter what they’re called?”
“Do you wanna keep calling them monkey bots? This is waaaaaaaay cooler!”
“Fine! Whatever! But where did the Exisals come from?”
“Beats me! Never even thought of ‘em before now. And I doubt my little fan created them either.”
They both eventually stop running and find themselves in another desolate pocket of Towa City. Unlike Komaru’s own adventure, there weren’t even brainwashed children around. It was just empty and lifeless. Makoto was wondering what happened to the remaining population of the city.
“How long are you gonna space out for?!” Junko’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts. “So, what, are you gonna try to talk to the robots? Maybe take them on a nice playdate or something?”
He sighed. “Please don’t patronize me.”
“I’ll do what I want!”
The two start to look around. The buildings look like they’ve been ransacked and abandoned for a long time now along with skeletons scattered about, consistent with what Makoto saw from the city when he finally got Komaru out. He took a deep breath.
“No one’s around. Where did everyone go?”
Junko pointed upward to a damaged sign of a tall building. Urban Hotel Towa.
“Yeah. Maybe someone’s still here.” Makoto stepped forward and entered, with the former gyaru following right behind him.
Inside the hotel was only desolation, boarded up rooms, some scattered bones and skulls, dried blood splattering the walls and the wreckage of shot up Monokumas. Going through multiple floors of the building and not another soul was around. Wherever the population hid, it definitely was not in this place. It looked as if the two ladies he was looking for passed through the building in the past as the Monokumas left there looked to be completely destroyed by someone with a hacking gun and/or something sharp.
“Huh…” The fashionista kicked over some scrap metal. “If I was gonna guess, this all happened way, way in the past.”
“It’s starting to get dark. It’d be a bad idea to wander around outside.”
“Duh!” She swings her bat and forces open one of the boarded up rooms near them. “This’ll do.”
Makoto shook his head. “Well, good night.” He starts walking away from her, while she grabs him from behind by his coat jacket.
“Nope! Obviously we should stick together, right?” A cheery grin with her eyes closed appeared on her face as he dragged him into the room.
Despite the cracks on the wall, the room still looked fairly luxurious. A mostly in-tact wide screen plasma TV, a leather couch, a large closet separated by a wooden screen, an executive chair tucked into a fancy-looking desk, a queen sized bed that looked untouched for weeks, and a small bathroom. It made sense, of course, since Towa City was renowned for its tourism and would definitely appeal to visitors to try and spend as much as possible.
The former SHSL Lucky Student sighed as he sat on the couch, leaning back. The fatigue from the past week was starting to catch up to him. He closed his eyes for a moment and opened them up again to see Junko laying on her stomach next to him, legs in the air, facing and looking straight at him with a grin.
Tiredly, Makoto flatly said, “Uh…there’s a bed over there, you know.”
“Such a gentleman. You do realize that I can just move you when you finally fall asleep, you know.”
He rubs his face and sighs again.
“Even grown up, you still have that little rabbit vibe when you’re tired like this you know. Makes a girl wanna devour you.”
“Those lines…they were from you?”
“Oh, you mean that crap that sad Muku-nee would say way back when? Yep! All rehearsed. She tried so hard, but never lived up to the real thing. But did you think that emotionally suppressed siscon be able to express herself without an excuse?”
“Oh please. Like I didn’t notice her unnatural feelings for her despairingly sweet little sister.”
Raising his voice slightly, he responded. “She was emotionally suppressed like you said. You turned her into that.”
“Maybe I did. But you can’t really develop feelings like that if you didn’t have a predisposition to it, you know! Remember my minions of despair? They weren’t that different from what they were.”
Makoto glared back at her.
“And with my little experiment, it only proves that.”
“Leaving her with you. You became a mentor to her and she always liked you, you know?” She glares back at him with a wicked smile. “So now you became a big brother to her in a way, right? She’s probably way into you more now than before!”
“Do I really have to explain why treating us like toys is wrong?”
“Aw, are you gonna punish me Makoto? I really have been a bad, bad girl!”
He doesn’t stop leaning against the couch, but buries his face with his hands. “Why are you like this?”
“What? Beautiful, talented, and intelligent?”
Makoto removes his hands from his face. He looks over to her. “Was it really worth being that dedicated to despair?”
“How was I gonna know that it wasn’t going to be the end there? Just be like a blazing comet in the sky, right? Burn out before you’re a damn eyesore.”
“Do you still want to burn out?”
Her voice goes quiet. “I don’t know.”
He closes his eyes. “Sounds like a no.”
“…you’re gonna hurt your neck if you sleep like that.”
One of his eyes open as Junko looks straight at him, a face devoid of any false emotion.
A small smile forms on her face. “I’m still right.”
Makoto stands up, already feeling the pressure on his neck, walking over to the bed. “Don’t try anything funny.”
“I won’t try, I’ll do.”
Already feeling heavy from fatigue, he just groans and lays on the bed, nodding off.
BlackCapPI: Looks like V2 is starting. Hopefully it’ll be a longer season than V1.
Shirokuma: oh i can guarantee it, V1 had some great viewership on all the livestreams
BlackCapPI: Is it just me or are they focusing a lot on Rantaro Amami?
Shirokuma: well i mean just look at him, he’s a pretty boy and he’s got two ahoge!!
BlackCapPI: Yeah. He’s sure to be a fan favorite if the 50 games and anime are any indication.
Shirokuma: so since you’re typing to me still im guessing you didn’t get in V2…
BlackCapPI: Ah, no, sadly I didn’t. I was really nervous during my audition. I kept talking about dumb theories…
Shirokuma: aw, well, there’s always V3 to look forward to, shuichi-kun.
BlackCapPI: Yeah. If I get chosen, I wonder if I’ll actually get to be the SHSL Detective?
Shirokuma: hehe, you’re so serious sometimes that i think you’d make a great one!
BlackCapPI: Do you really think so, Tsumugi-san?
Shirokuma: yeah. but you don’t really strike me as the hard-boiled, super cool type.
BlackCapPI: Guess not. I’m…a little too skittish for that.
Shirokuma: well don’t worry. i’ll be rooting for you!
BlackCapPI: Thank you.
Chapter 14: HERE I AM 「2V-ALK」
Kyoko looked down at her cell phone while she was walking toward Makoto’s apartment. Six unanswered calls that never even rang – wherever he was, there was no signal. It only solidified where she believed he was along with the current status of said place. Knocking on the door, it took exactly one-and-a-half minutes for it to open up. Facing her was current lone occupant. She looked spaced out and there was a sad air about her.
“Ikusaba-san. Did you sleep at all?”
The freckled woman slowly moved her head from side to side.
“May I come in?”
Mukuro looked disinterested and retreated back into the flat. Kyoko kept her composure and let herself in. Her eyes shift to the right and she could see the bathroom was left open and her own reflection – instead of wearing her red suit set, she was wearing something resembling what she wore back in the Future Foundation. A plain white blouse buttoned up with a black skirt while wearing black boots.
The detective sat herself down across from where Mukuro was sitting, back on her bed. She kept looking toward the unoccupied bed as if expecting Makoto to pop out of there any moment. Kyoko kept looking toward her, studying the former mercenary’s inaction. This was someone who looked like their will to live was ripped out from them. It made sense. Whether it was from her handlers in Fenrir, her younger sister or even Makoto as a guiding mentor, she looked absolutely lost.
Whether or not the former SHSL lucky student knew or not, he was helping her correctly. He was trying to get her to become more independent. And knowing Enoshima, her plans and schemes had the additional effect of stopping and undoing some of that progress. The former vice headmistress knew they were short on time. While Kyoko was no slouch in a fight and was even able to overpower Junko, what Hiro revealed about his mission required someone of Mukuro’s caliber.
“Are you still worried about Makoto-kun?”
Mukuro’s eyes didn’t move from the bed. “Aren’t you?”
“Well, yes. Of course I am.”
The freckled girl’s voice wavers slightly as some anger leaks into it. “It doesn’t sound like it. He’s with Junko-chan.”
“Believe me. I know.” Kyoko continued to keep her cool. “But unlike you, I have faith in Makoto-kun.”
“Faith? Do you think that would stop him from falling into despair?”
“Knowing Enoshima, she’s imposed some rules on herself.” A few silence moments pass. “I’m unsure if you already knew, but the one and only time he fell into despair was through a suicide video.”
Mukuro’s eyes widened. “W-What?!”
“I know it sounds unrealistic, but he’s a man who kept going on even though he knew two of his closest friends were on the cusp of death. He walked right into a situation he needed to get through despite the high chance of dying.”
“But he’s—he’s just a normal guy. A kindhearted soul who would just get overpowered.”
Kyoko shakes her head. “He’s just being modest. When it came down to it he turned out to not be normal, either. A truly normal person would have quit a long time ago.”
The former SHSL Soldier’s eyes finally looked back at the older woman.
“I’d imagine many people worldwide wanted to see him fall into despair. There are people who thought he shouldn’t have been able to push through despite the odds. But he did. It may not have been a spectacular or flashy victory, but he did it. Know this: Makoto Naegi’s own body would give out before his will would. Despite the fear and despair that would grip his heart, he would not allow himself to fall.”
“That sounds self-destructive.”
“But it was what was needed. Enoshima caused so much damage to the world mentally that he took it upon himself to truly be the SHSL Hope. That’s why the rest of us wanted to take some of that burden from him. Because he showed and gave us that hope in the first place.”
A guilty expression washed over Mukuro’s face.
“Makoto-kun wouldn’t want to see you like this.”
“But I…why do you even care?”
“Because I know what happens when you lose a light that guides you. You may not be a morally upright person, but seeing how he’s affected you made me realize that you could’ve used someone like him a long time ago in your life.” She removed a glove, showing the burn scars on her hands. “I was lucky enough to have someone in my life like that during my early teenage years. But when I lost her…I looked like you.”
“…I look pathetic now, don’t I?”
Kyoko shook her head. “No. You just haven’t experienced this before. And I want you to not make the same mistake I did. Because of what I did to my own emotions, I almost sacrificed Makoto-kun just to protect myself from Enoshima. He may have forgiven me but I cannot.”
“The killing game, right? You didn’t remember who he was. We made sure of that.”
“Despite that, he was always believing in us and trying to keep us all alive and together.” She puts her glove back on. “I was petty. It’s no way to act toward someone who had been constantly trying to help.”
The younger woman paid her full attention now, which prompted a continuation.
“And when we were thrust into another killing game situation I knew what I had to do. I was ready to lay my life on the line to repay him. And it came to that.”
Mukuro moved over to the table. “You sacrificed yourself?”
Kyoko nodded. “Had it not been for some luck, well…we’d be having a different conversation now, I’d imagine. But that’s not the point. If his life is on the line, are you willing to do the same for him? Even if it’s against Enoshima?”
Several minutes passed in silence. Kirigiri continued staring straight at her while she was pondering that conundrum.
“…I don’t want go against Junko-chan but…I don’t want him to die either.”
The detective mentally made a note of how she did not mention or weigh her own life in the answer. “I suppose it was an unfair question to ask you. I apologize.”
“No, it’s not that.” The raven-haired girl exhales sharply. “I can see how Naegi-kun became really good at posing questions to others.”
“He always had that gift of peering into someone else’s heart. I would say the killing game itself taught him more than I did in terms of having to interrogate a person. The only thing I taught him is that the truth, despite everything, is still important.”
The former half of the despair sisters sighs, but still appeared to have snapped out of her self-inflicted funk. A knock against the door occurs and Mukuro immediately stands to open it.
“Gooood morning!” Hina’s smile beamed along with the sunrise. “I got some breakfast for us.”
Mukuro simply stepped aside and let the former SHSL Swimmer inside.
“So what’s the plan, Kyoko-chan? You got this all figured out, yes?”
“From Hiro-kun’s scrying and Makoto-kun being unable to receive my calls, I suspect they did indeed go to Towa City. Of course, we have two problems: one, we’d have to gain access into the city somehow and two, judging from the lack of cellular signal from a normally popular tourism city, I am assuming the worst.”
“Eh? So all those ruined buildings that Hiro saw…”
“Indeed. The description sounds reminiscent of a post-Tragedy Towa City.”
“Gee. That brain of yours really goes into overdrive, does it?”
“I’m…afraid not. Deducing this mystery was not very difficult. Though I doubt Enoshima took the talents of the SHSL Shaman into consideration. But the important part is that we go into this prepared.”
“Yep! I’m going to be all energized from a dozen of these babies and I can go on forever after that!”
“That’s not the type of preparation I was thinking of...”
Makoto woke up plenty warm from his slumber. Despite the bed being comfortable, he wasn’t – unsurprising as he fell asleep dressed in a full suit. He looked to his left and saw a face too close for comfort. He almost fell out of the bed in surprise, but saw that Junko had fallen asleep herself.
“…you’re thinking about how cute I am when I’m asleep, huh?”
Or so he thought. Now shocked again, he actually fell off of the bed and groaned in pain while being on the floor.
She grinned while looking over at him. “You’re so jumpy in the morning! It’s good that you’re so energetic in the bedroom.”
“What?” He sat up and just looked at her, dumbfounded.
“Seriously, Makoto. You wouldn’t take off your hoodie back in school and now you’re sleeping in your suit. Are you really trying to get heat stroke?”
“Hey, I was just really exhausted okay?”
Junko smirked in a childish manner with a mocking voice. “And you decided to sleep next to your greatest enemy. Wow! You really are bold!”
“But you didn’t do anything, right?”
She leaned forward toward him from the edge of the mattress. “Ohohoho, did you want me to do something…? Who knew there was a deviant mind behind that innocent face of yours?”
He narrowed his eyes and stood up, dusting off his clothing.
“I’m just going to figure out if there’s anything to eat in this place.”
“Good! You’ll get to try my cooking. Despair at how you’ll never reach my level.”
“What? Want to starve?”
“Well, I’ve only seen you cook once and it almost ruined curry for me…”
“The curry was good!”
“It also involved someone’s eyeball!”
“Did you want some in your dish, darling?”
“No!!” Makoto, finally frustrated, begins to walk out of the room. Junko snickers right behind him, following close behind.
The two eventually find themselves back on the ground floor. While looking for something resembling a kitchen in the long-abandoned building, they could hear a loud clang from outside the building and feel a large shake soon after. It was the sound of the building being caved in from something. They both ran toward where it was and were greeted by the rays of the rising sun. Makoto looked over to an Exisal that fell onto the entrance of the building and it crushed the hotel kitchen.
“Tch…just my luck.”
A young female voice called out to them. “Hey! Are you two okay?”
The former SHSL Lucky Student had his eyes widen. He instantly recognized that voice.
Another female voice called out. “Who knew there were still a couple of idiots still out here?”
Two young women approached from over the dusty corpse of the monkey-like robot.
“Don’t worry! You guys are safe now.” The girl with an ahoge, wearing a torn up coat and jeans with a white v-neck and grey sneakers struck a magical girl-like pose. “The ordinary girl, Komaru Naegi, is ready to guide you guys out of here! Hehe. I always wanted to say something like that.”
Komaru’s friend and partner stepped forward with her trademark red eyes and long tongue, wearing a long torn up skirt like her former school uniform along with a buttoned up long-sleeved white blouse. “And don’t forget your neighborhood friendly serial killer, Genocider Sho! Though don’t mind me if I get a little snippy. Kyeeehahahaha!”
Some beads of sweat fall from Makoto’s forehead. “K-Komaru and Fukawa-san…”
“E-Eh?!” The younger Naegi became far more self-conscious. “M-Makoto? You’re here…!” She becomes a little bashful due to her eccentric entrance moments prior.
“Big Mac!” Sho smiled for a moment until she saw who was right behind. “Ugh. I may be an ugly sewage bitch, but I’m definitely still way better than that fake tramp that’s lurking right behind you.”
“W-Wait…” Komaru started to panic. “Hold on, that can’t be…?”
The SHSL Murderer crossed her arms and huffed. “Yeah. There’s no mistake. That’s the Super High-School Level Disaster herself!”
Junko grinned right at them.
“Toko-chan was right about her.”
The Naegi with her trusty hacking gun raised it slightly, staring the fashionista of despair down. After a few tense moments of silence she blurted out the rest of her sentence.
“She really does have huge breasts.”
Makoto’s eyes shot wide open. “W-What have you been telling Komaru?”
Sho looked uncharacteristically serious. “They’re too damn perfect to be real. Bet her and donut tits went to the same plastic surgeon.”
“Oh?” Junko turned her grin into a crooked smile. “Think they’re fake, do you? My darling here can attest to how real they are.”
“Wait. Darling?! Makoto!” Komaru puts her free hand on her hip.
“Yeesh. Seriously. Have some standards, Mac n’ Cheese.”
He finally responds. “We’re not!”
“You’re so cruel, Makoto! After you’ve felt my chest and slept in the same bed as me…”
Komaru really starts to panic. “Makoto! Seriously!!”
The aforementioned Makoto already realized he was put into a losing situation. “C-Can we not discuss this out here? Aren’t there still Monokumas and Exisals roaming around?”
“Exisals? Anyway, yeah, you’re right. But you better explain what’s going on! Come on!” Komaru leapt away, with Genocider keeping up with her pace. Stifling a groan, Makoto follows in a dash with Junko right behind him.
The two fire-forged friends lead the way, clearing their path of wanton Monokumas with hacking gun bullets and strikes with specially-crafted scissors. Carving a path through the masses of ursine robots, they eventually make it to an inconspicuous manhole. Lifting it up, looks around and motions to Makoto and Junko as they arrive right after.
The fashion girl raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“I wasn’t lying when I said I was an ugly sewage bitch! Kyeeehahaha!”
“Come on. Before the big ones show up.” Komaru hopped in right after her words, with Genocider right behind her.
Makoto showed a small smile on the corner of his mouth as he thought about the two. “Too good for you, Enoshima?”
“Psh! The horrible stench and grossness of a sewer…the despair of it ain’t bad. Maybe I can dunk you in the sewage too!”
Makoto rolled his eyes and began climbing down into the sewer. When he finally reached the bottom, he looked up and saw the outline of the fashion girl’s body coming right for him. Instinctually, he extended his arms to catch her. She was surprisingly light, but even despite that he almost toppled over from the force of the drop. The mean-spirited woman giggled while the two girls just watched in bewilderment. Genocider suddenly sneezed and an annoyed expression with her tongue back inside her mouth appeared on her face.
“H-Hey, you two horny idiots! W-We’re still not safe here, you know!”
“Fukawa-san, you can remember what Sho does now?”
“Only somewhat. I don’t have time to explain! Hurry up, already!” Komaru and Toko moved on ahead.
“Can you get off already?”
“No! Carry me. I kinda wanna see when your noodle arms give out…”
“Hgh! I should just drop you.”
“But are you going to?”
Makoto bit his lip while Junko smirked and wrapped her arms around his neck as he struggled to catch up with the others. Wading through the leftover wreckage of old Monokuma units from Komaru and Toko’s adventure, they eventually reach a ladder going upward.
“This leads to our hideout. We’ll be safe in there. After all, all the adults used to hide here too.”
“Used to, Komaru? Where is everyone?”
“I’ll explain when we get into the hideout. Come on, Makoto!” She starts climbing up.
Toko just glares at Junko for a few moments and climbs up as well. “Y-You better not peek!”
“O-Oh, right.” Makoto looks down to avoiding seeing whatever she was wearing under her skirt but can only see Junko looking straight up. “Seriously?”
“Just curious. Don’t be so jealous.”
“Sure. Whatever you say. Ready to get off me now?!”
“Fine, fine. For now.” She leaps out of his arms. Winking at him, she starts to climb up. “Feel free to look~”
Makoto just rubbed the temples of his head and waited for her to climb up before going up himself.
The warehouse itself was extremely big, large enough to hide a village of adults. There were makeshift houses all over, presumably built by the previous inhabitants of the hideout. Other than the four there was no one else that Makoto could see.
Komaru yelled out. “It’s just us, guys! No need for an ambush!”
As if on cue, there were four other figures that appeared from behind one of the shelters. They were slightly older, smack dab in the beginning of their teenage years. Wearing similar clothes to what they had before, Makoto recognized them as the former Warriors of Hope: Masaru Daimon, Nagisa Shingetsu, Kotoko Utsugi and Jataro Kemuri.
A maskless Jotaro stepped forward. “W-Welcome back, big sis Komaru.”
“Hey!” A large smile showed up on Masaru’s face. “That’s him, isn’t it? The SHSL Hope!”
“You should wipe that smile off your face. Look who’s right next to him.” Nagisa lectured.
Kotoko looked nervous. “E-Eh?! Big sis Junko is here, too? B-But…she’s totally adorbs and not dead!”
“Huh. They’re still alive.” Junko looked deep in thought. “Did they somehow survive Monaca-chan…?” The four youths winced at the mention of their former leader.
Makoto looked at her moments, keeping his thoughts to himself. Finally, he blurted out, “Hey, what’s going on here? Where’s everyone else?”
“We were hoping you’d be able to tell us.” Komaru replied. “Those strange robots appeared out of nowhere and started making a bigger mess of the city!”
Toko pointed her finger straight at Junko. “Y-Yeah! D-Did she do this?! How the hell is she alive, anyway? We all saw her turn into paste!”
“Too bad, I’m back bitch!”
Makoto interrupted. “I wanna fill you guys in, but I need to know what you guys know first. What happened here?”
“Well, Toko-chan and I went back to Towa City. After freeing the last of the kids from the Monokuma helmets, we talked to everyone. No one wanted to stay, so we were helping everyone leave the island. We pretty much got everyone out and we went to go looking for these four. Since staying at the hotel would mean they would be spotted, they hid themselves here where the adults used to hide. We were about to leave when a huge earthquake happened. It was like…over a minute long!”
A look of realization appeared on Makoto’s face. “Go on.”
“When it finally stopped, we decided to leave. We got to the streets from the sewer and saw those giant monkey robots—“
“Exisals.” Junko interrupted.
“Sure. Whatever. The Exisals showed up and started destroying everything! We couldn’t leave.”
“Y-Yeah. These kids are dead weight without their fancy Monokumas…”
“Toko-chan!” Komaru put both her hands on her hips.
“What? It’s the truth! They can’t fight those Exisals or whatever! They’d j-just be turned into paste.”
“Anyway. We’ve been hiding out for the past month or so.”
“Only a month, huh…?” Makoto placed his hand on his chin. “But it all makes sense now. I remember reading an article on a 5.5 Earthquake that originated from Towa City. That’s when the Towa Corporation stated they were doing a product test and had the military help them with a blockade.”
Komaru looked panicked. “Eh? But, Makoto, the Towa Corporation doesn’t exist anymore!”
“Now I know how to fill you guys in. It’s going to be a long story…”
Kyoko’s own purple eyes stared deep into a pair of binoculars she was holding, looking over her parked car. Hina was doing a few stretches outside while Mukuro was sharpening her knife.
“An armed guard on the bridge, several destroyers patrolling the waters and dozens of patrol boats roaming the area.” Kyoko put away the binoculars. “Togami-kun wasn’t kidding. It’s been shut tight.”
“Then we have no choice. We go in by force. One guard is nothing.” Mukuro replied.
“No doubt he would have access to an alert system if we tried to force our way in. Even you can’t handle heavy ordinance coming from destroyers.”
“If I had a rifle, this would be over already.”
Hina sighed. “Can we not try and kill people, please?”
“I agree with Hina-san.” Kyoko affirmed. “I have an idea. I’ll need your cooperation, Ikusaba-san.”
Kyoko and Hina went back into the car while Mukuro crawled underneath it. She pulled up to the guard station. The guard began to question the purpose of them being there, while Kyoko decided to distract him with a long, convoluted story.
Mukuro let go of the car, covered in some dust and oil, and quietly went prone on the asphalt and crawled to the other side of the station box. Kyoko counted in her head the seconds she kept talking.
Eventually, after a minute and a half, she stopped talking which prompted the guard to continue questioning them – immediately, he was struck behind on the head by Mukuro. The guard fell forward, knocking his head on Kyoko’s car, knocking him out.
Hina cringed at the sound of impact. “He’s going to be okay, right?”
“Possibly. Good work.”
Mukuro just nodded, kicking the roadside barrier out of the way. She re-entered the vehicle and Kyoko hit the gas. Not even 10 minutes elapsed and they eventually found the barrier of cars at the end of the bridge.
Turning off the ignition, her eyes immediately darted to a familiar car. “They were definitely here.”
“What the heck happened here?” Hina pointed at the wrecked horde of Monokumas covered over the corpse of an Exisal.
Mukuro stepped out of the car and looked all over. “Tch. There’s too much scrap and oil everywhere. But this all looks to have happened over 12 hours ago.”
“It’s doubtful those two did this by themselves.” Kyoko fixed her gaze at the pile of broken robots. “They most likely went somewhere for shelter.”
Hina looked surprised. “Uh…is there any kinda shelter in this wasteland?”
“The buildings may be ruined, but they’re mostly intact. Let’s continue our search before it gets dark.”
Hina and Mukuro moved on ahead. Kyoko could spot from the corner of her eye someone watching from the rooftops. The only thing she could make out from the distance was some sort of strange looking hairclip.
The six remaining denizens of Towa City each had different reactions to what Makoto revealed about the world to them. While they were cut off from the rest of it, outside was a world that was untouched by the Tragedy. Komaru herself was deep in thought, Toko looked unhappy, Masaru looked like he didn’t understand at all, Jotaro was indifferent, Nagisa had his eyes narrowed and Kotoko looked strangely happy.
“D-Damn…we’re in a whole different world…that’s not good. W-What if I relapse?!”
“Toko-chan! Don’t worry. You won’t. I promise that.” Komaru placed her hand on Toko’s, which seemed to calm her down a little.
Junko noticed this and smirked, not saying anything.
“There’s something that’s been bothering me, though.”
“W-What?! You tell us a crazy story like that and only one thing bothers you, Naegi?”
“Yeah. What happened to everyone that was in Towa City before this place showed up a month ago?”
A deafening silence filled the room. None of them had an answer.
Komaru finally spoke up. “You two have been the only ones we’ve run into for the past month. There haven’t even been any new corpses either.”
Nagisa went deep in thought for a few moments, then added, “They must have disappeared somehow. There’s been no trace of anyone else before you two arrived.”
“I figured as much but…why and how?”
The blue haired boy crossed his arms. “You’re an adult aren’t you? Figure it out yourself.”
Masaru looked over to his pink-haired peer. “Hey, Kotoko-chan, why do you look so happy?”
“I mean…no one knows what we did, right? We can totally live normal lives now! And Big Sis Junko is back! This is really great!”
“Aw, see? They missed me.”
Komaru and Toko did not look amused.
“Why couldn’t you be happy about me being back?!” She leered over at Makoto.
“Do I really need to answer that?” He crossed his arms in response, while she pinched his cheeks.
“You’re so cute when you’re pissed.”
“Can you stop harassing me for two minutes, Enoshima?”
“Nope! Request denied.”
“Um…” Jataro finally piped up. “Is Naegi-san together with Big Sis Junko?”
Both replied immediately. “No.” “Yes!”
Komaru frowned. “So can you explain what’s going on? She is really Junko Enoshima, right? The one who ended the entire world?”
Makoto began to reply. “W-Well…hey, stop pinching me already!”
The diva of despair finally releases his face from her fingers.
“It’s all thanks to her that we managed to get into the city in the first place.”
“She belongs in a prison, though!”
Junko smirked. “Do you really think a prison can hold me? You’re somehow more naïve than your brother.”
“A Future Foundation one should be able to hold you! Probably! Because of you everything was wrecked!” Komaru stepped forward.
“…and because of her we were given some hope in our lives.” Nagisa countered.
She looked at him in surprise. “Shingetsu-san…”
The four former Warriors of Hope stepped in between Komaru and Junko.
Masaru spoke first. “Hey, don’t think we aren’t glad that you helped us. It’s just we don’t want you two to fight.”
“Tch. F-Figures.” Toko groaned. “Whatever. But I-I’ll be keeping an eye on her. She definitely hasn’t changed at all!”
“Go ahead and eye me all you want. Can’t help that you’re jealous of me.”
The former SHSL Writer glared at her in response.
Makoto clears his throat. “It’d be best to get out of here first.”
“I’m sorry, Makoto. I can’t leave yet.”
“Eh? Why’s that, Komaru?”
“Someone restarted the production of Monokumas at Towa Hills. It could mean Monaca Towa is back. And if they and the Exisals start to fight outside of the city, a lot of innocent people could get hurt!”
“Are you planning to fight her?”
“I want to know why the Monokumas are back. And since I’m here, I can do something about it.”
“I…see. Well, since I’m here, I’ll do what I can to help you.”
“No offense, Makoto, but you’re not exactly the first person I think of if I need help in a fight.”
He laughs nervously in response. “I know. But I’m no good at sitting around and doing nothing. You two aren’t alone, you know.”
Komaru smiles. “Thanks. Though…the person playing with your hair still makes me nervous. But if she isn’t trying to blow up the world this time, I guess I can let it slide. For now.”
The younger Naegi gives one last look at Junko then looked back at her partner. “We should get them some food.”
“Do w-we seriously have to feed her?”
“Yeah. We do.”
“Ugh…fine. You’re too soft-hearted f-for your own good, Komaru.”
The duo left to go inside one of the makeshift structures while the four young teens looked at Makoto and Junko. The strawberry blonde woman was still messing around with his hair. The teens, feeling awkward in the silence, scattered to separate parts of the warehouse.
“You’re too serious for your own good.”
“Kids have a weird way of making people around them a lot more honest about themselves.”
“Oh yeah. Their moms and dads really were honest with them, weren’t they?” She smirked.
Ignoring her snide comment, he continued. “Regardless of why you did it, you still gave them the hope to live on.” He sighed. “It’s saying something when you happen to be the better alternative to whatever they’ve been through.”
She stops idly playing with his hair. “Are you seriously placing your hope in me? Ew! I thought your little sister was a little dim, but you’re definitely way dumber.”
Makoto turned around and faced her. “So you’re denying what you did for those kids?”
“All I wanted was to use them to spread despair.”
“You only needed the Towa Corporation for that – you only needed Monaca Towa. But you saved the other four. It was you who said they could build a paradise for kids.”
“My little fan needed some loyal pawns of her own, you know. Seriously, are you trying to whitewash the whole thing? I thought you were better than that. Or are you still as nauseatingly naïve as I thought you were?”
“So why give them hope? They’re not guilty over what they did. They know full well what they got into and that they were used by you. When you found them they were already in the deepest despair!”
“Well I…” Junko was surprisingly tripped up by his point. “You—you’re using my own strategy against me! I take back what I said about you being stupid. You’re just a smartass.”
He crossed his arms and just smiled at her.
“Ugh! That defiance of yours…” Her face darkens. “It pisses me off! What the hell?! Not even Yasuke-kun was this stubborn.”
“Are you really that surprised when I fight back?”
“Being smug, huh?” She steps forward right into him. “I’ll wipe that smile off of your face.”
“Don’t throw a tantrum just because I was able to point out the flaws in your logic.”
Komaru and Toko eventually returned back to the duo, each with a plastic tray steaming hot with the plastic peeled back slightly.
“There’s some vending machines that had instant food in them! It’s not the best, but it’s definitely better than eating out of cans—” She stopped when she finally actually looked at them. “What are you two doing?!”
“I-I knew it. Horny idiots.”
Makoto’s face was shocked as he was in the middle of a surprise deep kiss with the SHSL Despair. He looked over and was trying to say something, though all they could hear was panicked and muffled speech.
Junko pulled away but kept looking at Makoto. “Or what?”
“Or you’re not getting lunch.”
Toko grimaced. “S-She’d probably get off on being starved.”
“Why?!” Komaru was so shocked even her ahoge was affected.
“Get off me already…!” Makoto wiped off some sweat from his forehead.
“Aw, sounds like you don’t really want me to. What can I say? I’m a pretty good kisser.” She sticks her tongue out at him.
“C-Could you two stop flirting and just take your damn food already?!”
“Fine, fine. We’ll continue this later.” Her wide grin shows itself while Makoto just narrowed his eyes.
“You guys can, um, choose any building to stay in. No one else is around after all.”
“Komaru, we seriously aren’t together.”
“Sure. Whatever you say.” She continued under her breath. “Flashy girls were always your type, weren’t they?”
Makoto didn’t hear her additional comment and finally took the plastic tray from her hands. It resembled a microwaved meal.
BlackCapPI: Only a day into V2 and a murder already happened. The cast is pretty bloodthirsty this time, huh?
Shirokuma: if i were to guess, since they're doing a live killing game, you can only stretch out the budget so much
BlackCapPI: I suppose. Though next season I’d like some more…slightly more normal…figures.
Shirokuma: well since the second entry, the casts have always been colorful characters you know?
BlackCapPI: Still…how can you connect with the cast when the people can be described as caricatures? The first title had some trope-y characters in them, but they definitely felt like people you could meet in real life.
Shirokuma: no i definitely see your point. plus you don’t want to do the same things over and over again. personally, i’d like to see some more throwbacks to past titles for the next season.
BlackCapPI: Yeah. Danganronpa shouldn’t forget its roots. That’s probably a good call.
Shirokuma: though actually i heard a rumor about this season. its actually supposed to be more realistic.
BlackCapPI: Realistic? I mean they’re not using paid actors like they did in V1.
Shirokuma: no i mean there’s really no script this time. they’re all just competing.
BlackCapPI: Oh, right, there’s a cash prize for the winners. Still for a game, all the contestants act like they’re in the real thing.
Shirokuma: maybe that’s part of why it’s supposed to be more realistic
BlackCapPI: Wonder how they’re doing it?
Shirokuma: probably a trade secret. its legal, though! otherwise the government would’ve stopped it from happening in the first place.
BlackCapPI: There is still a difference between being legal and being right, though.
Shirokuma: haha, you’re quite a thinker, Shuichi-kun
Chapter 15: Matte Black Bullet
A Monokuma falls over as it ceases to function while Komaru leaps over its remains. Genocider Sho rushed forward, scissors in hand as she sliced incoming bears to pieces. While the two girls were running roughshod through the ursine hordes, Junko and Makoto were at the leisurely pace behind them. Some large bears appeared on their flanks, while the fashionista yawned and swat them away with her trusty baseball bat.
“Come ooon…show up already!”
Makoto sighed. “It won’t show up just because you commanded it to.”
“We’re making so. Much. Noise!” She whacks a building with her bat.
They can feel the ground shake a little bit as the SHSL Despair’s prayers were answered. An Exisal appeared from around the corner, running toward Komaru. Using a nearby ruined building as leverage, she leaps high into the air. The sharp-tongued former serial killer rushed forward and drew its attention while leaping over every swing that the giant ape-like robot tried to land on her. From above, Komaru shot several shots from her hacking gun right into where its head would be. Eventually it slows down and shuts off, tipping over forward.
Komaru cheered. “Okay! Should be in mostly one piece. Nice job!”
The other duo approached the large machine carefully. It was completely devoid of life, not even making a single noise as Junko went to look inside as she messes around with it. Makoto cautiously looked into where he thought the cockpit would be. Inside he saw a singular seat that was fairly small – only enough comfortable room for one person with a display for what he assumed would be the controls for manual operation.
“Okay! I’m gonna turn this thing back on!”
“Do you think we can lug this thing back by dragging it? Use your head!”
“Are you going to move it back?”
“I’m not that quick. Just get in the fucking robot, Makoto!”
He felt a force on his back – most likely Junko’s boot – and he tripped into the cockpit. For some reason it felt a little ironic that he would be commandeering a giant robot himself, though he didn’t quite understand why. The machine whirrs back to life and the screen turns on. It starts to move by itself. Using the touchscreen, he tries to find the manual override. Thankfully, it’s clearly marked in one of the menus, so he manages to take control of the lumbering, yet swift machine.
Enoshima hopped into the Exisal while it was moving, eliciting a surprised sound from Makoto as she sat on top of him.
“H-Hey! There’s no room!”
“Geez, you act so jumpy when I’m on your lap.” She grins and drools a bit. “Trying hard to control yourself, darling?”
“I can’t see!”
“Psh. You get a face full of me! Better than any ol’ boring ruined cityscape.” She leans forward and takes over the touchscreen. “There’s so many weapons. Wonder why the AI doesn’t use them? Such a damn waste!”
She unloads a couple of shots from the gun arm of the Exisal, surprising Toko and Komaru on the ground.
No longer being her serial killer split personality, Toko shakes her fist at the giant robot. “Enoshima, you m-maniac! Stop it!”
“Sorry! Not sorry.”
Makoto glared at the SHSL Despair while she was still focused on the control screen.
The four arrive back at the former adult hideout, where the former Warriors of Hope were waiting at a docking bay that was recently opened by them. The four young teens looked up as the Exisal entered the loading area and strode into the warehouse proper.
Masaru broke out into a wondrous grin. “That thing is kinda cool!”
“That thing can kill us all, Daimon.” Nagisa crossed his arms as he wearily looked it down.
Komaru walked up to them. “Was everything alright while we were gone?”
“Yep, nee-san!” Kotoko showed her practiced stage smile. “You guys were so noisy that they totally didn’t come over here.”
Toko narrowed her eyes at the Exisal. “This is still a really stupid idea. We’re trusting her with that thing?! She’s just gonna blow us all up for despair or whatever.”
Makoto hopped out of the mechanoid as he walked over to the rest of them. “Yeah, well, are any of you good with computer systems? I mean, she was able to trace Fujisaki-kun’s talent to create an Alter Ego.”
The former SHSL Writer rolled her eyes. “Ugh. What an overpowered character.”
Junko seemed fully absorbed into her new toy as she controlled it into a different part of the warehouse.
“At least she’s distracted enough to stop clinging onto you for a while.” Komaru laughed nervously. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yeah. I’ll…manage.” Makoto rubbed the back of his neck. “But if this helps us get to the bottom of what’s going on here, I’m willing to pay her price.”
“Sheesh, Makoto.” Komaru sighed. “You’re a little too eager to make yourself collateral.”
“Well, Enoshima’s the type to snake her way into what she wants easy.” A sigh escapes from his lips. “But she’s been behaving. I wonder what her endgame is.”
“It’s probably nothing good.” Toko replied flatly. “There’s only two people that we know that can keep up with her twisted logic, and neither of them are here.”
Komaru smiled. “Well, we’ll all meet up sooner or later right? Kirigiri-san shouldn’t be too far behind.”
“Yeah. She might be somewhere in the city right now.” Makoto smiled back.
Even the normally pessimistic Toko nodded in agreement.
Jataro gave one last look as the machine went out of their field of vision. “W-What’s Big Sis Junko going to d-do with that thing?”
Makoto began to explain. “Since they’re running on AI, they might be able to show what exactly happened to Towa City while the earthquake was happening.”
“O-Oh, so…they’re like walking cameras?”
“Sort of. Plus having one of those we can use should be helpful.”
Komaru sighs. “Yeah. Fighting these things on foot isn’t exactly easy. It just wears me out.”
“B-Bet you’re all energized now that your nii-san is here, huh?” Toko smugly smiled.
“Toko-chan, seriously, I don’t have a brother complex! I honestly have no idea where that came from…”
“Take it from me.” She looked at Junko’s general direction. “I had a class that had ties to a couple of people who loved their family a little too much.”
Makoto frowned. “Are you talking about Ikusaba-san?”
“Not just her! Remember that weird girl that Hiro brought to the Future Foundation? S-She kept talking about how she was gonna get revenge on us for Kuwata dying! She was his cousin, right?”
“O-Oh. Right. Kanon Nakajima.”
“Seriously, I’m not like what you think I am! Makoto’s my brother but we’re not close like that!”
“I-I was just making a joke, Komaru.” Toko looked down.
Komaru softened up. “Sorry. Your imagination runs wild sometimes that it can be hard to tell.”
Makoto laughs nervously as he immediately knows what she means.
“Oh right. Togami-kun is fine, by the way.”
“M-Master’s okay!” Toko suddenly bites her thumb as she stops. “I-I mean. It’s good to know that Togami-k…Togami-sama…is okay.”
The younger Naegi sighs. “She’s been getting better about it. It’s good to know that even Toko-chan can see the writing on the wall.”
“Oh.” Makoto smiles. “That’s good. I’m glad that everything’s been going better for you, Fukawa-san.”
“Geez! You Naegis are so upbeat that it—it’s nice.” Toko seems to struggle with her words as she grits her teeth until she says a muffled, “T-Thank you.”
“Yeah, well, going back to Enoshima-san…” Komaru continued. “We really should keep an eye on her at least. Toko-chan and I will watch her on shifts while she works.”
“Alright. That sounds fair.” Makoto replied.
Toko immediately started moving toward where Junko set up her own workshop. “I’ll go first.”
“Something wrong, Komaru?”
“She just doesn’t want to take a bath.” She yells at the former SHSL Writer as she’s moving quickly away. “You can’t escape Sponge-san forever, you know!”
“Hehe, sorry. She still really doesn’t like taking a bath. But she’s been getting better. It’s only been a few days this time!”
“You really are a good influence on her.”
“Well, it was thanks to you that she was able to open up to me in the first place. You really got her to hope again.”
Makoto laughs. “We’re not close at all, even though I consider her a friend of mine. But I’m glad you said that.”
“Also, thanks for keeping your promise. I knew you’d come pick me up eventually.”
“What good would I be if I didn’t keep a promise?”
“Aw, you’re always working hard! You may be kind of wimpy, but you’re reliable.”
“Hey, I’m not that bad anymore.”
“I’m still taller than you.”
“Sheesh…I’m just unlucky. But enough about me. I didn’t know you took the Warriors of Hope under your care.”
Komaru looks over at the troubled teens who were conversing amongst themselves. “Who else would, Makoto? I mean, I know you would…but the SHSL Hope has a lot of responsibilities. I’m just doing my part.”
“I don’t think Fukawa-san is happy about it, though.”
“No, probably not.” A nervous laugh comes out of Komaru’s mouth. “But they’ve been really through a lot of abuse. It doesn’t make what they did okay, but I really think they can come around.”
Makoto smiles in response. “I think you’ve gotten through to them.”
“Haha. Maybe. But it’s all a process. That’s why when Enoshima-san showed up, I got a little scared.”
“That makes sense.”
“She doesn’t seem interested in them right now. While I’m glad, I…I feel bad for them, too. They looked up to her.”
“They did what she wanted them to do.” He sighs and looks away.
“That’s…and you’re hanging out with her?”
“Mostly not by choice. Believe me. She’s done horrible things by any standard. I’m fully aware of that. But, just like how you won’t give up on Fukawa-san and the Warriors of Hope, I’m not going to give up on Enoshima.”
“You know, if it were anyone else that was saying what you were saying, I’d think they’d be completely crazy. But you have a weird way of making people see where you come from.”
“They have to let me show them in the first place.”
“Is she letting you do that?”
“I don’t think waiting for her to let me is the right way to go through with it.”
“Oh, I see. I noticed you two fight a lot. Like an old married couple.”
“Please don’t joke about that. If she heard that, she’d take it way too seriously. At my expense.”
“Be honest, Makoto. What exactly is your relationship with Junko Enoshima?”
“I’m a pretty bad liar, so I really have no choice do I? She was a friend and classmate of mine. At least, she was really great at acting the part. But now having seen what she’s really like…I guess I have some regrets.”
“If I was as observant as I am now back then, maybe I could’ve done something. It would still be a longshot but I could’ve at least tried.”
“Like try and make friends with her?”
“Something like that. To think that the end of the world happened because a gifted high school girl was bored with it.”
“It does sound ridiculous when you say it out loud.”
“Yeah. But it still happened. We’re living proof of it.”
“I wish it didn’t.” Komaru looked away. “Sometimes I wanted to think it’s all a dream. That I could just wake up, you would come home for the holidays from Hope’s Peak, and mom, dad, you and I would just have a boring normal conversation around the dinner table.”
“That would’ve been nice.”
“I still miss them, Makoto.”
“Me too. Could’ve used their advice on how to be an actual adult.”
“Yeah. Dad would probably say something mega cheesy.”
“And mom would roll her eyes.”
Both of them start laughing quietly. Tears started to fall from Komaru’s eyes as she continued to laugh, burying her face in Makoto’s shoulder. He softened his look and embraced his younger sister in silence.
It was a long time since Komaru cried. But she wasn’t trying to bottle up her feelings inside. No, she resolved to cry as much as she could when the feelings come again. She did this so that when the time for action comes and she wants to cry again – there’d be no more tears left to shed.
“Oh thank goodness the plumbing works!” Hina steps out slightly damp with her hair wrapped up in a towel.
Kyoko was watching the outside via the only window in the room, while Mukuro was sitting in the corner sharpening her knife with a flat piece of debris she found.
“So, were they here Kyoko-chan?”
“If the destroyed robot wasn’t enough proof, I managed to find some strands of strawberry blonde hair on the bed here. Looks to be a few days since they were here.”
“E-Eh?!” Hina gasped. “Wait, there’s only one bed in here.”
“Two people sat on the loveseat there, but it doesn’t appear anyone slept on it. It’s too small to lay down on even for a child.”
Mukuro continued flatly. “They slept in the same bed.”
Hina’s face went completely red. “W-What?! That’s…”
“My sister doesn’t care for societal norms. Believe me.”
“Still! That’s not okay!”
“It’s quite obvious what she’s doing. She’s not only buying herself time but also trying to make up for lost time.” Kyoko turned back from the window and faced them both.
“Uh…make up for lost time?” Hina looked completely dumbfounded.
“If her feelings for Makoto-kun are in earnest, she has a lot of ground to make up. After all she is the root of many things that he’s suffered through directly and indirectly. Enoshima is a being of complete chaos but she is still the mastermind that caused the Tragedy. This was all calculated.” The former SHSL Detective moved toward both of them. “And we’ve been playing into her hands this entire time.”
“What do we do then? We can’t get to Naegi-kun like this.” Mukuro looked down. “I-I can’t compete with her. She’s too perfect.”
“Ikusaba-chan, don’t say that! Would a perfect girl do all those horrible things to people she’s supposed to care about?”
Kyoko looked at Mukuro with a mix of both pity and bewilderment. “In any case, our strategy should be changed. If we haven’t caught up with him it’s most likely he’s with people who know the city layout well.”
“Oh! Komaru-chan and Fukawa-chan!” Hina smiled. “So he should be okay.”
“In any case, we should be alerting them to our presence.”
“Um…how are we gonna do that?”
“Smoke signals. Low tech, but it should work.” Kyoko walked over to Mukuro. “I trust you can handle that?”
“…sounds simple enough. But what about the figure that’s been chasing us?”
Hina started to panic. “W-Wait, someone’s been chasing us other than those crazy bears and robots?!”
“We’ve been followed the entire time we arrived.” Kyoko replied. “I’m sure that person is tied to the third party behind all of the robots.”
“But that person hasn’t done anything to us yet.”
“Keyword yet. We should get to work on those smoke signals. Let’s gather enough flammable objects so we can light them up on the roof of the hotel.”
The shift between the two Ultra Despair Girls switched and the glasses-wearing author was looking over her tablet when she noticed Makoto enter the common area for some food.
“Ugh.” Toko looked dismissive at him as he approached.
“Y-Yeah, you heard me Naegi. Are you going to go on another spiel about friendship and hope?”
“I was just going to ask how you were doing, Fukawa-san. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other.”
The morose-looking woman sighed. “You’re always so straightforward. It’s gonna blind me again.”
“I don’t want my words to be misleading or anything. I managed to get around reading your latest I-Novel. It was really good.”
“Of course it’s good. If there’s only one thing I’m actually confident about, it’s my writing. But…thank you anyway. You inspired me to write that back in the killing game, after all.”
“I didn’t do much.”
“Don’t let it go to your head. Sheesh. You’ve gotten a lot cockier ever since you got that SHSL Hope title.”
“Have I really?”
“W-Well…maybe not too cocky. But I know the type of character you are. One who thinks they have to shoulder every single thing by themselves for others’ sake. The quintessential all-loving hero.”
Makoto reflected on that word. Did he consider himself a hero? What exactly was one?
“Look, I know I was really unfair to you back then.”
“What are you talking about Fukawa-san?”
“See? That niceness of yours feels so unnatural! Straight out of a fantasy novel.”
“I wouldn’t go that far. There are a lot of people like me out there, you know.”
“Yeah, but good guys like you don’t live long. Usually. A-Anyway stop distracting me! I’m trying to apologize.” Toko grits her teeth and takes a deep breath. “Maybe if there were more people out there in the world like you and Komaru…well…it might not be a bad place to live in.”
“I really appreciate it, Fukawa-san. I consider you a friend, too.”
“And I’m n-not gonna say this again. If you tell anyone I said any of this, I’ll deny it.”
Makoto laughed sheepishly. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
Komaru suddenly showed up, rushing down the corridor. “Makoto! Toko-chan!”
“What’s up, Komaru? Did Enoshima do something?”
“No. It’s not her. There’s bunch of smoke coming from the hotel!”
Toko sneered. “So what? Let that abandoned building burn down. It was creepy as hell anyway!”
Makoto shook his head. “No, that means that someone is over there. And they might be making a fire on purpose.”
“It could be people that need our help. We need to go! Makoto, we’ll be back soon, okay?”
“F-Fine.” Toko and Komaru immediately ran off to investigate the suspicious smoke.
The hapless luckster watched them go off. He returned to the meal he got from the vending machine and began to eat. A few minutes later, the former child drama star ran in.
“W-Where’s Komaru-nee and Toko-nee?”
“They just left. What’s wrong?”
Kotoko took a deep breath. “The boys. They’re in trouble!”
Makoto immediately stood up. “What? What happened?”
“We were just doing our normal scavenging…”
“Normal scavenging? Did the girls know you were doing that?”
“N-No. We usually went when they left to do their patrols. But we usually didn’t go too far away! Honest!”
“A…a big one…an Exisal showed up! I-I managed to run away but they’re still totally stuck there!”
His eyes shot open. There was no time.
“Show me where they went.”
She looked completely unsure. She was even keeping a safe distance away from him. But she just nodded frantically and started running. Makoto went after her, hoping he wasn’t too late. Dashing through the sewers and back onto the streets, they ran for such a long time that even Makoto was starting to sweat through his suit. Eventually, he saw a giant Exisal swinging through a few crates near the harbor.
He saw Jataro cowering behind from metalworks on one side away from it and Nagisa watching it wearily from an abandoned crane. Looking closer at the cranes that the Exisal was swinging at, he noticed red hair sticking out from one of the sides. Without thinking, Makoto started running for Masaru. By the time he got close, the last crate fell apart and showed a cowering, crying redheaded boy, covering his head for dear life.
The Exisal opted to swing down on its gun-less fist to crush the young teen, but Makoto leaped and rolled on the ground with him in tow. Masaru didn’t even realize he was still conscious as he opened his eyes through his tears.
Makoto grit his teeth as he got off Masaru and kept moving while the auto-piloted mech was chasing him.
“What are you doing? Get out of here!”
The former Super Elementary School Level P.E. was still paralyzed by fear.
Nagisa ran over and started to drag him. “Why are you always such a pain, Daimon?!”
“But he—he can’t take that thing. He’s not Komaru-nee!”
“And what are we gonna do? We’re just gonna get in the way!”
“Shingetsu-kun…weren’t we supposed to be heroes?”
“This isn’t the time or place for to be asking that!”
Makoto ducked behind some other untouched cargo as the Exisal chased him away from the youngsters.
“Get out of here already! I can’t run forever, you know!” He starts to take off his coat jacket.
The giant robot started smashing through the crates one by one, trying to smash its fist into the former SHSL Lucky Student.
Jataro and Kotoko ran over, helping Nagisa drag the young redhead away. Masaru reached out to where Makoto was while they began to escape the scene.
“I really didn’t think this through. But I have to buy them some time.”
One by one the crates crumple as Makoto starts to think of anything he can do to make sure the kids left the scene safe. He sees a slightly rusted crowbar drop next to him as a crate breaks.
“Not as lucky as I’d like, but I’ll take anything!”
The crate hiding him breaks and he sees the Exisal preparing to smash him into paste. Throwing his coat jacket right toward the cockpit, the AI inside the giant robot responds accordingly and swings its fist at it to stop it from blocking its camera. Makoto runs around it from its legs and hops onto its back. Noticing what he was doing, the robot starts to move frantically as it tries to shake him off.
The world started to spin, but he held on as his life depended on it and kept climbing, using the crowbar to assist him whenever his grip would slip off the metallic back. Eventually he reached the top of it and the Exisal tried to reach it with its arms. It was even going to damage itself in order to kill Makoto. Hopping onto its back when it smashed itself, it revealed the cockpit – it seems all the Exisals had a similar design from top to bottom. Jumping into it, the Exisal continued to try and smash itself in order to get him out one way or another.
He continued to look into the menu on the inner touchscreen – but the metal shell of the mechanoid was going to give way before he could override it manually. Giving one look at the rusted crowbar, he decided to swing haphazardly inside in order to stop it. The crowbar finally snaps from overuse in its near-ruined state and all he can see is a ruined cockpit. There was no movement from the Exisal itself, which simply dropped and leaned forward, dropping Makoto on the ground.
Makoto wanted to vomit but he was on his back. His entire upper body was sore and numb. He couldn’t even look straight. Regardless of his personal status, he only thought of one thing.
“…I hope they got away.”
He looked over to his side and saw a few pieces of loose gravel start to shake near him. Groaning, he slowly stands up and tries to regain even footing to limited success. He almost stumbles back on the ground, but he looks up and sees two more Exisals coming his way. His legs felt like jelly. Preparing himself for a desperate last stand, the two incoming giant robots were blindsided by a hail of bullets and missiles. Covering his ears from the deafening loud noises of impact against metal and explosions, he looked over and saw a lone Exisal finishing off the other two.
The lone Exisal rushes over to Makoto as he instinctually flinches. It stops right before him as the cockpit opens.
“Sheesh! Giving your life in exchange for a bunch of kids. You’re in trouble Ma-ko-to.”
Junko jumps from the cockpit and lands in front of him with her trademark twisted grin.
“Weren’t you the one who promised yourself to me in exchange for the footage? Wow. Going back on your word huh?”
“I didn’t promise any such thing. All I said was that I’d...” He sighs. “Go on another date with you.”
“Yeah, so we’re boyfriend and girlfriend now. Officially!”
“I told you I didn’t say that!”
“Aw. So you didn’t want to see my gift~?”
She takes him by his hands and pulls him up the Exisal.
“Wait, what is this?”
“It’s such a damn pain to move and use the weapon systems at the same time. I mean, I can do it since I’m despairingly amazing. But now we can spread some havoc!”
The cockpit looked to be expanded for two seats as if similar to a small plane.
“The second seat’s not too comfy since someone here decided to be suicidal and rushed me!”
When he decided to sit in the backseat, she wasn’t kidding. It felt stiff as a board.
“T-This really doesn’t make the pain any better. How did you know I was all the way over here?”
“Well, it’s broken now…but I did slip a little something in your coat jacket.”
Makoto palmed his face. “Of course…”
Junko hops into the front seat and starts moving the Exisal forward. “Even put in manual controls because the AI moves so slowly! Snoresville.”
“I guess you were paying attention while Towa-san and Soda-san were working.”
“Well, yeah! Sometimes you might end up in a situation where you gotta do everything yourself! Ugh. What a pain.”
“Anyway, thanks Junko. For, well, saving my life.”
“…eh?” Her voice raises up a few levels. “Did you just call me—?!”
“That was just a slip of the tongue!”
“Makoto likes me, Makoto likes me!!”
“Awww, well, better pay attention now lover. Or else we’re gonna be turned into scrap.” She points forward at several Exisals converging on where they were. “Oh, the happiness of being called by your first name and then the despair of dying right after! It’s a bit much, I might not be able to control myself!”
“I get it already!” He grabs his own controls and an aiming reticule lowers down on his right eye. “Never thought I’d ever shoot a real gun…”
Komaru and Syo tear through a mob of Monokumas like wet paper. Eventually making it back to the wreckage of the Exisal they destroyed when finding Makoto, they find the trio from Class 78 fighting off their own group of deranged metal bears.
“Ice Cold Purple and Balloon Tits? Hey wait, that third chick…ain’t that…?”
Komaru smiled. “We found them! Don’t worry, we’re here to help!”
Komaru leaped forward and unloaded a barrage of shots from her hacking gun, pacifying the remaining Monokumas into a silly dance. Syo followed up by easily slicing the rest with her unique scissors.
“Kyeeehahaha! Should’ve made them do the default dance, Dekumaru!”
“Um…I don’t think I can change what dance they do, Syo.”
“Komaru-chan! Fukawa-san! It’s you guys!” Hina smiled. “I’m glad you guys are safe.”
“Of course I’m safe. My breasts aren’t gonna slow me down like yours.”
“W-Would you stop talking about my chest?!”
Kyoko interrupted them. “Where’s Makoto-kun?”
“Makoto’s back at our hideout. He’s been staying with us for the past couple days. Um…with Enoshima-san, too.” Komaru replied.
Mukuro sighed in relief, though she kept eying the younger Naegi with a curious gleam.
“Then lead us there, Komaru-san.”
“Okay! Let’s get out of here before the Exisals and Monokumas come back.” The so-called normal girl began leaping away. Syo keeps up with her. Mukuro raised her eyebrow while Kyoko and Hina go after them. The SHSL Soldier didn’t quite believe what she was seeing, but decided to shake it off and follow them.
The trip compared with Makoto’s own trip with this duo was only half as long – probably because all of the girls seemed excel in their own physical state. Reaching a sewer hole, Komaru lifted up the manhole by herself and climbed down.
“Ew.” Hina replied. “You guys live in a sewer?”
Syo was no longer with them, leaving her more nervous personality in charge. “Y-Yeah. It stinks. So what?”
Kyoko begins to climb down herself. “Watch your footing.”
The five females find themselves walking through the sewer. Mukuro moves forward to walk next to Komaru.
“Y-You better not try anything, SHSL Despair!” Toko kept her hands on her taser, ready to summon Syo at a moment’s notice.
Mukuro ignored her. “Are you Naegi-kun’s younger sister?”
“Huh? You’re also a friend of his? Yeah, my name is Komaru Naegi! Nice to meet you.” She smiles warmly at her. “And you are…?”
“That’s kind of an interesting name…”
“I guess since Enoshima’s alive, it’d make sense her sidekick sister would be too.” Toko glared at the former SHSL Soldier.
“Huh? You’re Enoshima-san’s sister? Why do you two have different last names?”
“Well, I was a mercenary for a few years.” Mukuro waited for Komaru’s reaction to that knowledge.
“Oh wow! So you must’ve seen a lot of world, huh. Ah…it all makes sense now. A hardcore woman with a checkered past. I wonder if you’re a kuudere too.”
“Excuse me?” Mukuro was completely confused at what she was saying.
“Don’t mind her. She acted pretty similar to when she found out about Genocider. I knew anime and manga rotted your brain!”
“Aw, come on Toko-chan! There’s some good stories to be found in them, you know.”
“U-Ugh. Just mindless drabble and terrible trash. All hidden beneath a pretty visage. Just like girls with makeup!”
Mukuro continued to be confused, in awe at how well the two got along. Toko never even got along with her classmates aside from her one-sided affection toward Byakuya. She also was surprised at how well Komaru took the knowledge of her past occupation. It wasn’t quite the same as Makoto’s reaction, but there was a familiar friendliness that she could recognize.
“Okay. Just up this ladder and we’re home free!” The younger Naegi started to climb up herself with Kyoko close behind. Toko glared at the remaining two as she motioned for them to go on ahead.
The five finally enter the former adult’s hideout and see Junko wrapping up Makoto’s right arm in bandages with the four Warriors of Hope surrounding them.
“M-Makoto?! What happened?” Komaru immediately rushed over.
“It’s nothing.” He tried to wave it off but couldn’t since his right arm was being mended. “Just some bad luck.”
Nagisa interjected. “He saved us.”
“Huh? Did you four go outside?!”
Jataro looked down. “W-We didn’t w-want to be useless, big sis.”
“Guys! You aren’t useless. I just want you four to be safe, okay?”
Masaru looked down. “W-Why did you save us? Don’t you both hate us for what we did?”
“Daimon-kun…” Komaru gave a look for pity.
“Did you overhear me and Komaru talking about our parents?”
The four looked away in shame.
“Well I…I know that adults failed you guys. What happened to you four should never happen to children ever.” Makoto looked up at the warehouse ceiling. “And since I’m an adult now, well, I just felt like I needed to try and make up for them.”
“That’s illogical.” Nagisa replied.
“I get that a lot.” Makoto chuckled. “It’s the way I’ve lived. There are going to be people out there who do horrible things. Sometimes they happen to be your family. But there’s people out there who want to help and try to fix things. It doesn’t always work out but we try. And if I was able to help a single life, then there’s no regrets.”
Komaru smiled. “Yeah. And sometimes those people you meet can become your new family, too.”
Kotoko mumbled something and Makoto looked at her. She looked at him and then said it louder. “Thank you, big bro.”
“You’re a hero, big bro!” Masaru grinned and gave him a thumbs up.
“Ugh. My stomach’s churning from that speech. Good job, Makoto. Want a prize~?” Junko smirked.
“No.” He replied with a straight face. “You’re like a…”
“A beautiful rose with thorns?”
“More like a venus flytrap.”
“Why you little…!” She grabs him by the collar. “Sometimes I just wanna strangle that cute idiot face of yours!”
Makoto narrowed his eyes. “What kind of bedside manner is this?!”
“That’ll be enough, Enoshima.” Kyoko walks up to them.
“Yeah! You’re going to definitely get in trouble for what you pulled back at Hope’s Peak!” Hina crossed her arms with an angry glare.
“Oh, am I?” Junko smirks in response.
“Well, yeah! We all know what you did! Right, Kyoko-chan?”
Kyoko narrowed her eyes. “No. She played this all out in a specific way. We would have gotten the conclusive evidence in order to get her charged and place in prison for various crimes…but if I did that, she would have gotten away with him a long time ago.”
“You crafty bitch…” Toko pointed her finger straight at Junko. “I get it! You were gonna sneak away with Naegi when we weren’t looking huh?”
Hina groaned. “So you mean…?”
“Yes, if we wanted to catch up with Makoto-kun, we would end up sacrificing all of the evidence we could have used against her. They were most likely things that only I could have found.”
“Not bad, Ace Detective Kiri. As expected from one of the only people who could match my despairing brainpower! Guess you chose Makoto over your own ego this time.”
“And since we’re here, she won’t be able to get away. I believe this trade is worth it.”
“Look at these scheming girls, darling! Trying to take my boyfriend away from me.” She clutches on hard to his unbandaged arm.
“H-Hey! Let go already! I’m not your boyfriend!”
“B-Boyfriend?!” Komaru looked completely shocked. “Since when? Why her?!”
“N-Naegi-kun…” Mukuro looked down.
“Hmph. Your attempts at making me lose my cool are admirable, Enoshima. I’ll have to ask you to let him go. Though soon that won’t be a request.”
As Junko planned, the entire situation devolved into chaos.
Shirokuma: hey shuichi-kun, how do you feel about multiple protagonists?
BlackCapPI: In the context of Danganronpa? It could work.
Shirokuma: really? what makes you think so?
BlackCapPI: Maybe you can have different POVs during a trial. Or maybe the classic mystery novel twist of a fake protagonist.
Shirokuma: hum. yeah, that does sound very interesting. and it can make a really compelling chapter 1 character rise to the top!
BlackCapPI: True. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a first chapter character ever be massively popular. Even Ikusaba-san is pretty unpopular in Japan and she’s had so many appearances.
Shirokuma: well when you’re the sister of the fashionista of despair, it’s hard to top it!
BlackCapPI: So she gets screwed both in and out of universe, huh?
Shirokuma: what a shame, right…
BlackCapPI: Yeah. But if done correctly, we can have a character that we can really connect with that has a lasting influence throughout the rest of the game.
Shirokuma: you know i’m liking this idea more and more the more i think about it!
BlackCapPI: Kind of puts a twist on the whole formula, don’t you think?
Shirokuma: it does! it really does. maybe we can see something like that in the next game?
BlackCapPI: It would really make it memorable.