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Danganronpa Presents! The Magnificent Despairful Showtime!

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......

"Are you going?"

I keep eyeing on the letter I received this morning, feeling anything but conflicted. It came in a brown parcel, neatly packed with a red and white ribbon; if anything, the way it was packaged made it more suspicious. My first instinct was that it was some sort of prank gift.... or even a ticking bomb considering my position.

However, against my better judgement, I opened it just to see some miscellaneous gadgets and a letter.... an invitation of sort for a prestigious school that I never heard of. The logo resided on top of the letter caught the attention of a figure behind me as he spoke out;

"Well, you're a lucky one. This might be a good opportunity for you to broaden your field and... who knows, maybe you will grow a lot more better than being secluded here....."

"Being secluded.... huh" I muttered under my breath, the content of the letter still bewildering my sense of just. I neatly folded and placed it aside, "You think I could fit in better than I did with your peers?"

The figure laughed, "They all love you nonetheless, you're the best damn thing to ever step in that place besides me. Besides, you need to spread your wings once in a while. You can't just go into hiding every time you get this kind of chance.... you will regret it one day....."

Into hiding, the one thing I'm good at. I'm not fond of crowds but if this person have that much faith in me..... then; "Fine, I will go. But I won't promise that I would do well......"

I felt my hair ruffled, messed up and a hearty laugh booming above me. "You're still a child stuck with an adult's mind...... you don't have to go and report everything you do in school. You should take it easy..... you don't have much time to sit back and relax...... go and make some friends at least.... have the best damn time of your life...."

......

.................

..............................

Hah, if only he fucking knew what lies ahead for a recluse like me.....

 


 

 

"Wha-" I felt gravity pulling my whole body down as I made a full impact to the ground. Groaning, I tried to lift myself up, observing my surrounding, "This..... looks like.... an abandoned... hotel?" Or so what I think it is. I can make out the layout of this room which seems to be the reception area, tattered red furniture lay barren next the wall of glass windows; I could see there's a pool out there but I doubt it's even clean.

I tried to make a steady footing and once I regained my stride, I looked around some more. No doubt, it's an abandoned hotel, floor adorned with green marble floor and the ceiling decorated with colorful stained glass, allowing little light shone through it. Judging by the pamphlets still left on the reception desk, it was named 'Yumeino Luxury Hotel'. 'Yumeino..... that sounds familiar', I looked back and realized that I fell out from the elevator that's now closed. "Why..... was I in there....? Wait, no.... how did I get here....."

 

My memories all jumbled, like my ears are ringing with static, my mind's all fuzzy and full of endless questions; was I kidnapped? Who left me here? Why am I here to begin with-

Suddenly, the PA system in the room I'm in right now ring out, "Attention, guests! It seems everyone is wide awake, up-and-at' em!" It's a high-pitched voice, that couldn't possibly belong to an adult. "I would seriously punch myself for thinking a child would kidnapped someone my size...." I humored myself, making light of the situation right now. The PA continues with a request for "guests" to gather at the auditorium, located a floor above the reception area. If I need answers, then I have not choice but to follow along.

I went back to the elevator, pressed the F1 button, as the elevated made its ascend, my thoughts begin to wander; who's behind all of this?

 


 

 When I stepped out of the elevator properly this time, there was a change in scenery; there's a waiting area right outside the auditorium, the floor is carpeted with gold and cream-colored complete with flower patterns, and the wallpaper consists of gold and light brown stripes. The wooden pillars looked masterfully crafted with lit candle bolted onto them, 'Wait, that's a hazard-'

A loud commotion was heard from the two huge wooden doors ahead, they both seem to have.... some kind of cat-like logo engraved onto them? However, the noise itself was intriguing, I pushed the door slightly and-

..................

................................

Fifteen different faces, all heavily varied in fashion sense and height....

 

"Oh, that makes us sixteen people, then..."

"What? What an unsatisfying number! Why go for an odd number?! That's so annoying!"

"Shut up, dipshit. No one cares about some petty number. If you're too dumb to realize, we're literally trapped in some sort of rich man's orgy house!"

"It doesn't look it has been resided for a very long time...."

"I felt a very restless energy among us though-"

"Yeah, that's me and I will beat your ass if you're spouting that spiritual crap all over again!"

"Silence!"

 

Everyone's attention turned to the white pixie-haircut girl, wearing a brown cardigan above her school uniform, her piercing yellow eyes staring right at me, "You're the last one to arrive..... do you remember anything before you got here..?"

"Um...." I find myself struggling form a sentence for some reason. "N-no.... I just fell out of an elevator..... and found myself in the reception area......"

"Che! Lucky bitch!" A boy with a thick rimmed-glasses and swept-back black hair, adorned with..... multiple layers of jackets (that are littered with colorful.. or rather distasteful badges) spoke out, "At least you didn't find yourself trapped into some stinky swimming pool shower!"

"Beats finding yourself in some sort of storage room with rat shit and dead cockroaches...." sighed another one in a grey jumpsuit, his brown neatly gelled to the side, giving him a rather smart appearance.

 

"Alright, alright, quit your bitchin'!"

 

All of us jumped a bit at the high-pitched voice we heard before. We looked ahead and on the stage...... was a stuffed cat....?

"I ain't a stuffed cat, if you are all thinking that!" It suddenly spoke. "I am yer' host for this special limited time only, Monomyou! A very super, intelligent AI that will guide you through this luxury experience!!"

"An AI who has to say intelligent twice to get their point across as it seems....." chuckles the girl with twin-braided green hair and in a dark blue floral dress. "May we kindly know why are we all gathered here, Mr. Monomyou? Or even.... why were we here in the first place?"

"Keeh-!! Such kind words!! At last, I heard some kind words spouting from this batch of dumb-numbs!!!" The AI cat seems to fake-crying, I picked up the word 'this batch' from its sentence. "Well, I will explained everything as thanks for your kindness! You are all chosen to experience what Yumeino Luxury Hotel has to offer for the Ultimates like you guys!"

"It doesn't seem much to offer as far as I can see....." A taller, messy red hair man appeared right besides me and I almost jolted, he noted my reaction and smirked, "What's wrong? Scared of human beings, missy?"

I swallowed down the lump that's stuck in my throat, this person.... has some sort of bad energy surrounding him. I ignored his presence and tried to focus on what the cat has to say next. It seems to be handing out some sort electronic tabled to others, "Each one of you would need this ElectroIDs to get around this place! You will need them for your rooms or even enter certain places! Don't lose them or I will be very furious at myaou! Eek-! I stuttered!"

The stuffed cat gave mine last, pressing down the power button, I saw my ID and the passport picture that I have taken recently;

 

Hoshino Sumire

December 25th

Ultimate Private Investigator

 

'An ultimate.....' that title sounds absurd.... me? An ultimate? Better than any other hardworking people in my field? That sounds like a joke.....

"I would like to explain the part of why are you guys here but it seems not all of you introduced yourselves!! Now, now, don't be a stranger from one and another! You guys will be here for a very long time!!" Monomyou seems to swayed from side-to-side in a happy-go-lucky manner. "I will popped right back up once you all buddy-buddy up!"

With that, Monomyou jumped down the trap door activated below them. multiple people went over the spot and tried to find the trap door but to no results. I clutched the ElectroID to my chest, feeling wary, 'Introduce myself..... that's a bother-'

"You look like you're going to piss yourself, missy!" The loud booming voice besides me dragged me out of my trance. It's red-haired man from before, "Now, before you get lost in your silly imagination world, why don't say your name and talent, and maaaaaybe I won't consider robbing you!"

".... Hoshino Sumire....." I feel ridiculous introducing to someone shady, " ...... Ultimate Private Investigator...."

His eyes widened, he grabbed my hands along with my ID into his as his eyes gleamed with curiosity, "Wow! We got a Sherlock in this party! How lucky! We can escape in no time!"

Nervously, I tried prying my hands out of his grasp but he hold onto them tightly, "A-and you are....?" That's when I saw his smile, his mischievous smile that I soon to learn his intentions won't do us any good, "My name is Mafuyu Hisao, the Ultimate Con-Man!" He finally lets go as I staggered a bit from the revelation, "It would be a pleasure to work with you, missy...."

Feeling that this situation would only escalate into something bad happening, I scrambled to find a crowd and away from Hisao, something that I never thought of doing. In fact, I never thought this would be the first time I would be running away from a criminal.

 


 

After making sure Hisao isn't going after me or anything, I sighed in relief, the tension before was not like anything I have experienced, it was almost suffocating. "Did that unpleasant man bother you?" I looked up to see grey-ponytail man smiling with gentle green eyes, he's wearing a simple white shirt and black pants with a black and purple haori draped over his shoulders. Unlike before, he's surrounded with a more pleasant aura, "Y-Yeah..... I didn't expect to meet that kind of person here...."

I wanna hit myself. Of course, I should expect it. Especially in a situation like this. "What's your name?" This time, I initiate the conversation. The man bowed slightly in respect, "Pleasure to meet you, my name is Oki Renma, the Ultimate Medium." A medium? This is the first time I met one personally. Looking carefully, I can see bunch of parchment papers hanging from one his pocket. He seem to realized where I was looking at, "Those are protection charm, I placed them on walls to protect the room from evil wandering spirits....."

"Interesting...." I muttered, I'm not one to believe in spirits but it's still neat to learn about this sort of things. "So, you can easily contact them whenever you want?" He smiled and laughed at bit, a slight blush on his cheeks, "There are certain requirements of course. I could only contact the spirits who fully realized themselves and aren't restless.... spirits who couldn't accept their demise are rather fussy and difficult to come in contact."

I remembered when I first enter here, a voice saying that there's a restless energy resided here, so it was Renma who've said that. He looked straight at me, studying my whole figure, "You.... have such a troublesome energy surrounding you.... could it be you lack self-worth?" That.... was incredibly blunt of him to say that, ".... That's very straightforward of you....."

"Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings..." He quickly put up his hands in defense, showing how regretted those words slipped by his mouth. "Oh dear, I didn't realized that came out rather insensitively! I hope you forgive me for that...." "No, It's okay, I don't mind-"

 

"Hey you!!!" Both of us looked at the boy with multi-layered jackets and colorful badges on, crossing his arms with a stern face, "Spouting that occult nonsense again!? Quit that shit or else I will shove those papers right up your a-!!" He was cut off by the grey jumpsuit man punching him on the head, "For goodness' sake, you're begging to choke on a soap for realsies'...." "Oh fuck you, you airheaded freak!"

Renma and I silently watched at the two started squabbling and arguing with each other, throwing obscenities that keeps getting dirtier. This gave the medium a chance to introduce them properly, "The boy with a rather filthy mouth is Mochizuki Higura, Ultimate Graphic Designer, he's actually a very sweet guy and really creative with his hands, no dirty jokes intended, he can be.... very hot headed. And the one in the jumpsuit who tolerates him is Oozora Saku, the Ultimate Aerobat, energetic, spunky but knows his boundaries to not jump on people out of excitement. Both of them have rather matching energy and spiritual level so it's a perfect balance."

I nodded slowly, seeing how the two tries to out-best each other with more gruesome insults, "They are an interesting duo.....". Saku had Higura in a headlock position, smiling once he finally shuts the other up, "Nice to meet you! I heard from Hisao that you're an investigator! That's totally cool!" I clenched my fists when I heard that name again, "Y-Yeah.... my name is Hoshino Sumire.... nice to-" "Sumi! Right!" The aerobat lets go of the smaller boy to shake my hand, "Call me Saku!" Renma wasn't lying that he's full energy, a single excessive handshake was enough to make my arm sore. "Hey, Gura! Introduce yourself!"

 

"Why should I!? That ghostfucker already did and it's fucking embarrassing! 'Sweet' my ass!" Higura yelled loudly, still lying on the ground. Saku sighed as he lift him up, saying how his attitude would only drive people away and was rewarded with even more insults. "They're like brothers, aren't they?" a soft voice spoke up behind, it was the woman with the braided green hair, who bravely spoke to Monomyou earlier. Renma beamed, "Ah, Ms. Hanabusa! I applaud for your cool-tempered approach just now! Ms. Hoshino, this is Hanabusa Hinako, the Ultimate Animal Behaviorist.."

"An animal whisperer..." My eyes widened, I have always enjoy listening to people like her because they're always so full of passion that it made you want to match your excitement along with them! "Nice to meet you! My name is Sumire, private investigator!" Hinako waved as her own way of greeting, "Same goes to you as well, Mrs. Investigator. I'm surprised for a small rabbit like you have such a tough job." A rabbit? Am I that small? Or... am I just not scary enough...? I'm not sure whether to take that as a compliment or not. The behaviorist looked at me carefully before speaking, "Mitsuru, it's rude to touch other people's hair without asking, you know?"

 

"What!?" I whipped back to see a girl around my height, lilac hair with its tip having multicolored strands and an brown apron on top of a school uniform. "Sorry!!" the girl, Mitsuru, clapped her two hands together, "It's just that your hair looks so vibrant and silky and-!! I really wanna know what kind of dye you use and your daily hair care routine!! Oh and I'm Asami Mitsuru, the Ultimate Cosmetologist!" She then strikes a superhero pose with her scissor and hairspray, as I only stare at her dumbfounded, "H-Huh..... yeah, same here..... um... I don't have any care routine..... and I just use some store-bought magenta hair dye...."

"Huh!? You have naturally thick, healthy hair!? Impossible!!!" Mitsuru gasped. "I'm jealous! I wish you could lend me some of your hair genes! It's going to be hard to take care of long hair in this moldy environment!!" "I.... gotta go...." I quickly excused myself once it became too crowded. A medium, a graphic designer, surprisingly an aerobat, a behaviorist, a hairstylist and a conman, what an interesting roster of people. It doesn't seem like they chose people of higher positions, it's all completely random. 'It's too late to judge now, I have to talk to those other people as well....', I eyed on the other group that are more quiet. That's odd, I actually find this introduction time....... kind of fun.

 


 

 

I recognized the white pixie-haircut girl from before and she seemed to saw me heading towards their group, "You're done introducing to those people there?" I nodded and her face softened up, her posture remained regal-esque, "Excellent, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Takara Homare, the Ultimate Fencer." "Likewise, my name is Hoshino Sumire....." A fencer.... the way she idle does make sense. A fencer, in or even out of sports, needs to be graceful no matter what. Even when the competitor starts to fall out of line or fight dirty, they still need to keep their composure. Without a warning, Homare took my hand and inspect them closely, smiling to herself, "Such perfect care..... fitted to hold a sabre....."

'Wow, she could tell...?' I stared at her astonishingly before she lets it go. "I apologized..." she coughed, "I will let you introduce yourself to others.... if you're troubled, you can talk to me about it....." I took a mental note of that, and approach a medium-built man wearing a green bomber jacket and a dark red beanie. Suddenly, he thrust his hand towards me as if he's aiming for a jabbed in my neck but I managed to stopped his hand on time. "Yoooo! You have really fast reflex! Neat!" He smiled as he retracts his hand, "Heard you're an investigator, that's cool! The name's Yoshimune Taiga, the Ultimate Marksman!" "A marksman...?" I arched my eyebrow, "So you're a military man...?"

"Wrong! I'm a free bird!" He laughed it off, "That's my pops', he's a mean sharpshooter in the military! I'm just a kid who got curious and turns-out to be fast learner! Now, before you say he's a horrible parent for leaving guns around, it's actually me who wouldn't keep away from these things especially when they're kept underground with five highly-guarded cipher locks!" I'm really confused at his talent, he looks and act so chipper yet these sort of things he did sounds so.... risky. Before he could continue his list of accomplishments, another person joined in, "Alrighty! Before you make the young babe uncomfortable! Hi! Satoshi Kiharu! Ultimate Archaeologist!!"

 

While it's rude for people to cut in when people's talking, I'm sort of glad this person did before I looked like an idiot, "How fascinating!" I would have mistaken her ultimate to be an explorer or such with an all-brown attire but at least it's somewhat close. She looks incredibly beautiful, brown hair with yellows tips adorning her oval face and amber eyes, she has slightly tanned skin which proves she's really active on expedition site. Kiharu has that free-spirited attitude as she swing her arm around Taiga who does the same in return, "If ya need some bone-expert, leave it to me! I will shower you with knowledge!!" An interesting mirror to Higura and Saku just now, these pair is just brimming with positive aura.

"Hey, since you're an investigator. you must be good at handling guns, right?" Taiga asked. I shrugged, I do own one at my workplace but it was rarely advised to hold one up if needed. "Great! I needed someone to join me at that shooting range I passed by earlier! It would be awkward and suspicious if I'm all alone!" A shooting range gallery?! Near a hotel!? Who on earth planned this place's layout!? "It's alright I got Homare's permission to do something dangerous!" So they established Homare to be the leader of the group, nothing wrong with that. I tried to look around for her but ended up bumping into someone else instead, "Whoa! S-Sorry! I didn't see you there!"

 

It's a small figure, barely reaches my shoulder and is slowly.... wait, oh no, are they crying?? "Sorry!! I didn't mean it!" I panicked. They slowly lifted their head up, "I-It's okay..... it's just that..... you're the first one to notice me......." "N-Notice....?" Sure, they're small but for being unnoticeable is a bit much, "Mind if I ask for your name?" They seemed to finally stop crying, wiping away their tears and shyly cross their arms together, "I-I.... Ishimoto Nao..... Ultimate Ghostwriter.... initials; I. Na" "I. Na....? Ah, I know you!" I exclaimed, an imaginary bulb lighten up in my head, "You're the infamous mystery thriller-crime writer who helped those newcomers in the literary world!"

I was in total shock, I didn't expect to meet one of my favorite writers here.... or would she really preferred to be called a writer? Ghostwriters aren't really acknowledged that much and at most, the writers themselves just credited them as 'assistants' or 'research helper' when they often do half of the work. But she seemed to be happy to be called one as she started wailing again, "I-I'm so glad! I got recognized as well!!" "A-Ah, please don't cry....." I tried comforting her. It must have been a terrible feeling being in someone else's shadow while you do the hard work, I know how much that sucks first-hand. "There, there, Nao......" a third voice joins in, a young man wearing a brown coat and undercut dark brown hair, he pushes back his rimless glasses, "My mistake, Yokoda Machi, Ultimate Librarian..... I would like to thank you for treating Nao so gently unlike that foul mouthed-siren over there....."

 

He then points at the two people chatting in the little circle, one of them, a slightly chubby person wearing a three piece suit, saw him and gave a rather heated glare. "It's hard to be a decent person nowadays......" Machi sighed. "I will save you some trouble and verbal abuse you're gonna get, the foul-mouthed siren is Sekiguchi Amane, the Ultimate Composer, a crazy perfectionist whose attention solely focuses on Setsu Hibiki, who, conveniently, is the Ultimate Opera Singer." Hibiki looks extravagant, the grey feathered long dress compliment her dark complexion and forest green eyes, they way her curly black hair neatly rested on her shoulder; Amane and Hibiki looked like they're celebrity couple or something, "They do look grand together..." "And that will be all the good thing about them....." Machi dismisses them immediately, "Sumi, right? Have you introduced yourself to everyone already?"

"Hmmm.... I think I have two more people to go.... but I can't seem to find them- shit...." as I searched around for the said people, I found them chatting with Hisao, the one person I least wanted to talk to now. Machi seems to follow my line of vision, landed of Hisao and exclaimed, "If you need help, just call out for Homare..... she can beat his ass twice, she can do it again...." "Noted, thanks for the advice....." I bowed as I left the silent and composed group. I mentally prepared myself as I slowly became near to the trio. Unfortunately, Hisao noticed my presence already, "Hey there, missy! Finally coming back with an apology for running away?"

 

"I'm not here for you....." I sternly said, right now, I'm determined to not show how uneasy I am around him. My eyes landed on the blue-haired boy with a weird hat on..... is it a hat? It's looks like some kind of shell plush lazily placed on his head. "Nice to meet you..." he suddenly spoke with a soothing voice, "A greeting from one to you, the identity of Amahiko Shoma, Ultimate Marine Biologist, is bare, please to meet your acquaintance....." Shoma, certainly have a weird way of speaking but I find it oddly cute. He digs around the pocket of his blue collared jacket and handed me some sort of key-chain, "Here..... a souvenir of our newfound friendship..... a nautilus shell for everyone....." A small round shell that's similar to the plush he wearing right now, '....oh, so that's what the thing is.....'.

A cough caught my attention, I looked behind to see a spiky orange hair guy in a white tank top and ripped leather jacket with a confident smile on his face, "Heya! Osame Hiroshi! Ultimate Abseiler, the one and only greatest there is!" Abseiler, a rock climber, huh? "Hey, that sounds rather high and mighty for someone who's just going down on some rocks...." Hisao mocks. "That's ain't tough of a job for someone who thinks he grew enough balls to go into some spooky canyons". That seemed to ticked Hisao off, "Why you little-!!!" Before he could even get his hands on the conman, Monomyou pops out from the floor and landed between them.

 

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! No fighting! Not yet at least! Nyaha!" The stuffed cat laughs. "Now that it seems everyone has fully introduced themselves , it's time for the rest of the details!"

 

 

"Hey, little kitten!" Hisao called out to the AI. "Mind filling us now that we're all chummy-chummy together? There are some people here who can't keep their mouths shut for answers...." He looked to my side and smirked, he's trying to get Monomyou to get to the point without any ridiculous story bits or gags, I wouldn't say a smart move but definitely useful. I could see Monomyou reluctantly to burst into rage or even cry on the spot before it made up its mind, "Fine then! Basically, you are all gathered for this very special game; a killing game!"

 

The room became deadly silent, even the air turned cold. No one said anything after that sentence. It like, no one can really joked about something as absurd as killing.

"Huuuh? What the myatter?! Oh no! I stuttered!" Monomyou exclaimed, trying to sneak a gag in still. "A-Anyaway! I know what's everyone thinking! Why a killing game? Well, that's the main mystery of this game! Why, ask yourselves, were we dropped into this mess in the first place? Was it all your doing to willing step into this place? Orrrrr....... did someone send you here to die?"

Sent here to die, I swallowed the spit that's been collecting in my mouth, watching the cat going on with their speech.

 

"What's important is that you all can't leave here.... not until there's two survivors left!" Monomyou cheered. "Everything here is at your disposal, killer! Torch them, slaughter them! Ripped them apart till they're beyond recognizable!! Nyahaha! Oh! Also, they are certain rules to this game since we want everyone to have a fair chance! I've also updated your ElectroIDs to have these rules in preparation while you guys were all being happy-go-lucky!"

Shoma slowly raised his hand, "Mono... nyau? A critter here has a question....." the rest of us just stared at him in disbelief, wondering how on earth could he still following along with that attitude. Nonetheless, it caught the cat's attention, "Nyaha? Question? Yes, it's the host' responsibility to answer any lingering questions! What is it, young man?"

 

"What if we refused to kill each other?"

 

"Eh, refusal to kill? Hmmm..... well! The answer is simple! Everyone here dies!" Monomyou answered with too much excitement in its voice. "If no one dies in three days, then a game of 'Goodnight, Birdies' will commenced immediately! So all of you have no choice! It's either you die here with regrets or kill someone to escape! Well! Have fun, everyone! The fate of your friends' life is in your hands!"

With that, Monomyou disappeared into the trap door below, we made no effort to try and catch them. Cold, the atmosphere is too cold, we're all freezing, standing still and not even a hush or whimper escaped from our mouth. Then..... a laugh emerged. A laugh that came from Hisao, the conman, not out of amusement but in disbelief, he stared right through me, stone-faced cold me, "I guess there's no escaping from reality this time, missy....."

......

'I guess not....'  I wanted to reply back but couldn't.

Chapter Text

Suffocating

Every night, it's the same thing, the same feeling....

No matter what or where I am, this heavy, crushing, suffocating feeling always lingered in my mind...

After hearing the news about this killing game....

It gets incredibly..... incredibly..... worst.....

 


 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Ladies and gentlemen! This is your daily morning announcement! Hope you all had a good night rest from yesterday... or not! Who cares! I know I slept well like a baby! Anyways, have your very myou-est of day!"

 

'That's right, we all went back to our respective rooms,' I thought to myself tiredly while staring the PA monitor in the room. Last night, it was bizarre and like a fleeting dream, we all left and slept in earlier. Everyone was quiet and nobody bother to look at each other at all. "This isn't the time to wonder in bed... I should get up," I kicked off the sheets and then sat up, catching my reflection on the mirror. 

Geez, what a mess; Tired eyes and hair strands all over the place, I looked even more dead than yesterday's. I tied up my hair and stepped into the bathroom.

 

.....

............

 

I found a lightweight winter jacket in the closet, doesn't looked it was used recently. Well, if it does belong to someone, Monomyou can just popped in and accused me of stealing anytime. I put the jacket on over my black shirt and pants with red ribbon tie. I didn't feel like wearing back the full attire from yesterday, something that made me looking like a military official. 

Almost nine, I better get to the dining hall. Opening the front door, I was greeted by the familiar sight of a certain shell plush, "Oh, Mr. Amahiko-"

 

"Shoma..." He pouted as he tugged the nautilus plush further down. "We're friends now..... call me Shoma, Sumi...." He must have caught onto the nickname from that aerobat yesterday. "This critter here has ccome to pick you up for treatment...."

"T-Treatment....?" I blinked twice in confusion before realizing what he means. "Do you mean you're here to pick me up for breakfast?" Earning a nod from the other, I closed the door behind me and locked it using the scanner system on the handle to scan my ElectroID, 'Thankfully, this is the most secured way...' Once I heard the 'beep' from the handle, I turned to Shoma and asked just in case, "Did you locked your room as well?"

"I learned how to lock door after being scolded by the penguin-looking critter....." He replied every so slowly. "It's was scary.... Renma had to step in and actually teach me calmly how to use my device...."

 

'Oh, he must be referring to the composer guy....' I shoved the ElectroID into the jacket as I smiled, "Shall we get going?" The biologist skipped his way to the elevator as I observed every single doors we passed by, 'His room is just two doors down and the conman is right across Renma's, Renma's room is way at the back.....'

 

This is the start of an unusual daily life for the Ultimates.

 


 

 Right when we entered the dining hall, there's an argument already brewing. 

 

"What do you mean we should just listen to what that furfuck said?!" Higura yelled out, his left foot on top of the chair while glaring at Homare. "Are you saying we should just fucking give up and straight-up murder each other's asses!?"

"Like I've said, there's is no reason to do a stakeout...." Homare maintained her calm facade and kept her eye-contact with Higura as she sips her tea. "We have done it earlier this morning while everyone's still asleep....."

"Yeah, sorry dude, we got absolutely no chances....." Taiga pointed out his observation with a worried look on his face, "Every area of this place we're allowed to to wander around is heavily guarded with automaton soldiers... they even roamed around at night. I recognized those things, serious military stuffs. One step out of the line and they will immediately pulverized you....."

 

"And for what's supposed to be a luxury hotel, the layout made it seem like they're building a prison initially. Those high walls are built with remarkable electrified barbed wires...." remarked Hiroshi. "Not gonna risk getting barbecued there....."

"B-But! Surely, there must be an opening somewhere right!? Like an underground tunnel or the sewer!" Mitsuru argued but was quickly shut down with Hinako saying any access to underground tunnel system are locked up tight. "All communication are cut off as well...." Saku brought up another point, "Whoever planned this entire 'game' have thoroughly set up way too far ahead...."

 

With the argument getting more heated up, I was guided by Shoma to a seat next to Renma, who noticed us and waved, "Good morning, Hoshino. Slept well?" with his usual gentle smile.

"Haha, not really....." I nervously laughed, I always have trouble sleeping and sometimes I wouldn't sleep at hall. It's a habit I needed to break but this whole thing piling onto my troubles, I don't think it will get any better. "The others.... are still full of energy...."

"It's been like this ever since Mochizuki stepped into this hall...." sighed Renma. "Ever since, I can't make peace with the spirits residing here. They have rather strong distaste with loud noises and rude people...." 

 

Afterwards, Renma mentioned what Shoma and I have missed; Homare declared that each day, breakfast will be made by different people according to rotation. Today's meal was prepared by Homare with her french toast, Jasmine tea and chocolate eclairs she prepared specially for today only. I just made one bite into the toast before I catching myself melting at the fluffy texture and savory flavor.

"Such a harmony of flavor....." my admiring gaze turned over to the man besides me, the composer, Sekiguchi Amane, has a similar smile on his face. "As expected of a child who dined in the highest society, spoiling themselves every single living hour.... what an honor to experience such delicacy...."

"Calm down, they're just toast cooked in an egg...." Hisao snickers. "Wow, not only you're a creep clinging onto Hibiki, you're also a weirdo getting a hard-on for anything that's all gleam and glamour, huh?"

 

"Why, you little-!!!"

"Amane, that's enough....." the opera singer, Hibiki, called out to him. "You shouldn't take any words out of a criminal's mouth too seriously.... and you shouldn't even talk so highly about something as minor as an ordinary breakfast.... Learn some pride..."

"A-Ah yes...." Amane calmed down as he slowly sat back down. "My apologies, my lovely muse, I got all too worked up over a petty reason...."

"Your whole existence to bother me is a petty reason as well..." Hibiki sneered. 

 

'I-It feels like I'm slowly losing my appetite the more I watched these three fighting across each other....' I awkwardly finished my breakfast quietly before Shoma interrupts, "Sumi, are you free this afternoon? There's this pool area I would like to check out later...."

"Oh, you mean the one that's near the reception area? Sure, I don't really have any plans after lunch....." I watched as Shoma continues to finish his ration. After washing up the dishes, I looked at the time on my ElectroID, 'Twenty minutes to eleven..... I think I have enough time to get to know someone here....'

I looked around just to see who's left in the dining hall and in their seats.

 


 

 [ Free Time Event ]

 

Higura seems to be staring intensely into his ElectroID, I slowly approached him and touched his shoulder, "Mochizuki?" As if my touch just sent a static shock through his spine, he jolted upwards. "H-Huh!? What!? What the fuck do you want?! You wanna fight?!"

What a reaction, I retracted back my hand as I asked, "I was wondering why you were glaring at your ElectroID, is it malfunctioning?"

 

"Huh, this ol' thing? Nah, it's working a-fucking perfectly!" Higura puffed out his chest as if his overreaction just now was nothing at all. "In fact, unlike you all, I have the balls to make a deal with Monomyou to upgrade mine that will better suits me! Better taped your eyelids wide fucking open!"

He shows his own ID with an icon, that I've never seen before, situated on the bottom right corner. Once he pressed it, a bunch of applications opened up; mostly consist of creative-related programs, "With this, I can finally stress-draw my problems with a flick of my middle finger!"

 

"That's certainly.... a feature" I stifled back a laugh, I found it funny that he's being all high and mighty over a minor add-in. "Although.... it was as expected of a graphic designer. You must have a lot of passion in your field...."

Higura went into his thinking mode but it didn't take him too long to answer back properly, "Nope, I fucking hate it"

"Wait, why?

 

"It's an over-saturated market and it just fucking sucks, okay?!" He sat up, furiously stepping down his right foot onto the chair as he leaned forward. Just to clarify, Higura and I shared the same height so he's struggling to find a footing on his left leg while trying to even look down on me. "Passion dies quickly than you fucking think!! People are just sentient simpleton garbage with linear tastes! You can make the grandest design and still people trash-talked ya' for being a show-off!! Ya' don't have much creative freedom! You do what people said and maybe, just fucking maybe, they will you gave that money that's barely enough to survive!!"

He looks like he's about to fall forward so I'm prepared to catch him anytime now as he continues with his speech, "It's a tough fucking competition, a shark can easily eat a bunch of piranhas in one final swoop!"

 

A corporate media can easily crush many freelancer's hard work, is what he tried to say in that last bit. Higura is more passionate about showing his skills to the world, not being known as the world's greatest designer or something similar to that. He finally took his foot off the chair and sat down normally, I sat next to him, "So you were a freelancer before you got recognized as an ultimate...."

"Yeah, and I ain't selling myself out to some company for some big sums. My works are dripping with pride and that ain't changing, not even a single pixel!" exclaimed Higura. "If ya' like that about me then cool, if ya' hate me then you can get the hell out of my face!"

 

That last sentence has to be an exaggeration, Higura can be egoistic but he treated every single one of his work with care and love. He probably doesn't want be a let down in anyone's eyes, "But you're still satisfied with your work, right?"

"Huh?" Higura had a surprised look on his face for a moment, before that irritating look is back. "Of course I am! Even thought it's shit, hey, if I lived then I lived!..... until I got into this fucking mess that is...."

 

"Don't worry, we will find another way in this place..... I promised....." I said to reassure him. It doesn't mean much for anyone like Higura but if it helps him enough.

"Hmph, you all better....." Higura's mouth twitched. "You're an investigator, right? You can outsmart that Mono-what's-its-name! I would love to see that fucking cat get blown into pieces once we shredded his fucking plan into pieces!"

 

'His thought process is completely violent....' I kept that remark to myself. 'I guess I knew him a bit better now....'

 


 

 'It's noon now.... is it too early to leave?' I keep eyeing on the time, remembering about my promise with Shoma just now. Only a few people remained in the dining hall, still discussing about the place's layout. Homare split the group who will venture out to check out the buildings they haven't entered. So far, Nao, Machi and Kiharu discovered huge private and a lounging area just the southwest of the hotel while Saku, Hinako and Mitsuru discovered the bar and a huge swimming pool area on the northeast. 

 

"This place really likes pool.... not like they're anywhere near usable for skinny-dipping...." Mitsuru pouted in disappointment. Higura rolled his eyes back, "As if anyone wanted to see you naked.... hold on, where's that conman prick?"

"He was investigating the basement floor along with Hibiki and Amane...." said Homare. "From what he told me right after they came back, it looked like a wine cellar storage and there's no access to the sewer system or underground tunnels like Hinako said...."

"We even tested out those automaton soldiers' range!" exclaimed Taiga excitedly with Hiroshi looking rather distressed. Actually, he already looked like that after he came back with the marksman. "The limit is five meters within the restricted area before they set off, they all locked onto your movement and will only stopped once neutralized!"

 

It's amazing how much ground and information they have uncovered just under Homare's guidance, her leadership is really something else to behold of. Looking at the time again, I decided to excuse myself. "Huh? Huh? Where are you going, Sumi?" Mitsuru asked. "Ah, I made a promise with Shoma to check out the pool near the reception area.... I think Renma would be there too since he's not here....." I reassured them with a smile.

"Gasp!" Did she actually say that out loud? "How brave of you to hang out with two boys near a scandalous area! Could it be you're desperate for some compliments from a couple of defenseless boys!? Oh, such bravery!"

"W-What on earth gave you that idea...?"

"Oh, that usually happened if a girl is looking for some funti-"

 

"Settle down, Mitsuru...." Homare seems to get really uncomfortable every time Mitsuru pressed on with her..... fantasy. I can see everyone in the room just stared at her in disbelief for some outrageous scenario, "You are dismissed, Sumire. Oh, and I would like to request that you would kindly take note of Shoma and Renma's whereabouts before and after noon when you're done....."

"Got it!" I bid farewell to the group in the dining hall.

 


 

 "Shoma? I'm here-!? What the!?" The familiar sight of the floating shell plush enter my view as I rushed out of the reception area and headed towards the smaller pool area, "Hey, Shoma!?"

 

"Ah.... Sumi......" The biologist smiled as he lazily float around the water, spread out like a starfish while I see Renma just only soaking his legs from knees down. "The water is nice.... come and relax a bit....." Shoma looked like he's enjoying himself. I can't imagined being happy still in a heavily drenched jacket after he gets out of the pool.

"The weather is also nice out here...." said Renma with his calm expression. "Shoma thinks this is a nice way to get your mind off of a stressful situation...."

 

'Stressful.... I guess Shoma wanted to help somewhat....' "Yeah, just give me a minute...." I said as I took off my jacket and shoes, placed them behind Renma, and then rolled up my pants. Slowly, I dipped my legs into the pool, enveloping into the warm water is a calming sensation. I sighed in relief, "Things are happening way too fast that I didn't get the chance to process everything...."

Renma let out a carefree laugh, "It's easy to get lost once in a while, like a wandering spirit with no direction. What the cute cat from yesterday have said might be alarming.... but you shouldn't let your conscious to be easily corrupted by such malicious intent..."

"A clear strong mind can easily pull through.... even through the toughest time...." Shoma continues as he float-by us. "..... You had the same worried face from yesterday, it's kind of making me feel distressed too......."

 

'These two get along really well... easy-going and really brutally honest,' it just feels like they're talking down on me instead of comforting. 'Maybe I put too much thoughts into this.... I should shut the killing game stuff out and enjoy this peaceful moment at least.....'. Seeing Shoma and Renma being able to find inner peace within themselves made me feel a bit jealous. 

If only my mind can stop with the speculations and shuts down for one second. Maybe I could even find myself in a better place if I stop thinking too much.

 

"Hey, Sumi..."

"Huh?" I didn't realized it was Renma calling out to me, I didn't expect him to call me by that nickname either. He eyed on me silently before a smile appeared on his face, "Shoma is planning a slumber party in his room, maybe just the three of us. We could add in another one or two if you have someone in mind you wanted to invite...."

"Slumber party...? Wouldn't that be against the rul-!"

 

"That request was accepted!!"

Suddenly, Monomyou jumps out of the swimming pool in a full diving suit and landed onto Shoma's stomach, who didn't even flinched or looked to bother by the rude entrance as he still happily floats away. Renma almost grabbed me back by the shoulder as if it was a shark that's going to attack us. 

"Ahem! As I was saying!" Monomyou started. "Normally, I wouldn't bat an eye if you switched rooms or anything but if it makes you super-duper safe, the request is officially recorded, recognized and accepted! Now have fun you three! Do ring out for any room service if you need snacks or anything! Toodles'!"

 

Monomyou jumped into the pool again, we watched as its silhouette slowly disappears into nothingness. The three of us were quiet before Shoma spoke up, "Myoumyou is such a nice host, don't you agree...?"

"I-I guess......" Still looking into the pool Renma and I still wonders how long did that AI cat was waiting down there. 

 

.....

........

 

I waved goodbye to the calming duo before I headed my way, 'Hm... I still got time... maybe I should looked around a bit more?'

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

On my way to the reception hall, I stumbled upon Homare who's inspecting the front desk, "Ms. Takara?" No reaction, her gaze seems to be fixed onto the pamphlets I read from yesterday. "Ms. Takara..." I waved my hand in front of her face and it seems to caught her attention.

"Ah, Sumire....." she doesn't look to bothered that I ruined her concentration. "You're back from your hangout with Shoma and Renma?" I nodded as I pointed at those two through the windows, waving back and still at the pool outside. "Good.... was the pool clean before Shoma....?"

 

"Sparkling clean, it's like someone tidied up the entire place overnight or something...." I pointed out. I noticed how the reception looked drastically different than yesterday as well. Everything look spotless, shiny and grand as if the room itself shed off its tattered appearance. Well, nothing to complain about it being clean and all.

"It seems I have everyone's account noted and checked...." Homare chuckles. "Thank you for your input...."

"I didn't actually do anything?"

 

"True, but you did, in fact, secured the alibi for these two before I got here.... little info such as that can also be rewarding," Homare explained as she handed over a tiny notebook she had with her. "You see, I decided to take up the mantle to ensure everyone's safety and keep up to date with their routine. Even providing unimportant facts can be crucial down the line."

"Ah, I see.... you're very detailed in your own account as well, Ms. Takara....." Seeing something like this made feel nostalgic, I did something similar before when I first became an investigator. "Oh, do you mind if we talk for a bit?"

"I don't mind, I'm open for a small talk..." said Homare. Both of us sat down on the lavish red sofas that are thankfully dusted off any dirt or small animal droppings. "What would you like to talk about?"

 

"Huh? A-Ah.. I-" Truth to be told, I don't have any topic in mind. I though she would initiate the conversation but I did ask for her time so, "About the breakfast you prepared earlier! They were amazing! Do you usually prepare you own meal?"

"Certainly, as a competitor, I like to keep count on how much calories I consumed to keep my health and figure top-notch..." exclaimed Homare, sitting ever so gracefully and not slumping over. "But just for today, I would like to present a more savory dish for others to ease down and enjoy. It would be really rude of me to make something from my own extreme meal planning while everyone still feels unfamiliar with the place....."

"Extreme meal planning? Like what?"

 

"Well...." Homare hummed. "When I was still a novice in fencing, we trained non-stop to perfect our posture and strikes until the brink of exhaustion. Because of this, we, the students, needed to consume a lot more food than needed but while reduce any sugary intake at the same time as well. So my schedule usually have three break in the morning, one in the afternoon and one or even two in evening. And since I'm also looking after my own health, I usually prepared my own meal which leads to me waking up at four in the morning to prepare all of them...."

"W-Whoa.... you're so dedicated to your planning...." I muttered, amazed how she managed to maintained all of this while still being bright and not dying on the inside. "Don't you think you're worrying your parents there....? Seeing their daughter doing all those tasks by herself, surely they're very concern about you...?"

 

Homare crossed her legs and sighed, looking to her side as she spoke, "My family are known to be very lazy, as expected from a pair of successful business tycoons who became an eyesore for the public. They even have their own personal chef to do the meal planning for them and wouldn't think twice of what they eat. And since having a chef who doesn't understand your own planning is useless, I took manner into my own hands. Becoming a fencer was also my decision in order to prove my family's name to still possessed some integrity."

"They let you off of that?"

"It's my decision and it's not asking much from them...." said Homare. "They let me do whatever they want as long as I'm not damaging their reputation...."

 

Having parents who lacked any interests in what you're doing is upsetting but Homare is a strong-willed girl. She seems to have everything under her control, with parents or not, "Well, it's still nice to hear that your parents were not restricting you or anything to pursue your passion......"

"Hmm....." The fencer stared at me carefully. "How about you, Ms. Hoshino? Surely with your stature, you also possessed a routine in your hands?"

"Yeah that......" Oh dear, I fear something like this will popped out sooner or later. "I don't really eat that much. Ever since I became an investigator, my routine went completely out of the window. I usually had light breakfast and then that's it. Sometimes I'm stuck with a case for way too long to care about meals and stuffs, and I only took a few short snack breaks in between..."

 

I made it sound like a lighthearted joke about my forgetfulness but Homare doesn't looked she enjoy hearing that, "That's not something to be proud of! I was worried that only Mr. Mochizuki have this habit but you too!? This is absurd! Please take proper care of your health next time!"

"I-I promised...."

She then goes on with meal prepping and insist how she will, from now on, be checking up on me if I properly ate or not, 'I guess this makes us friends.....?'

 


 

"Heeeey, little miss!!!"

 

'I've been dreading this moment...' I tensed up before sighing in defeat. I turned around to see the conman being all giddy and smiling, "What do you want?"

"Who, whoa! Down with the attitude!" Hisao held both of his hands up as if he's trying to calm down a ferocious animal. "Geez, I just wanna talk to you, one-to-one? From a criminal to an investigator? You know, the usual stuffs! I saw you hanging out with a lot of people earlier today and that made me sad! I can be a good company too, you know!"

"Doubt it...." I clicked my tongue. Hisao trailed off a lot when talking, as if he's doing it on purpose. "Do you want to hang out or you just wanna steal something out of me?"

 

"Steal? Why I wouldn't!" he said in a mocking voice. "I actually don't care about stealing right now when I can get easily caught within the premise! Nope, I just wanna invite you to a game night out at the bar! I'm afraid that I would waste my card skill away while I'm stuck here!"

So he just wanna play cards with someone? I can see him being a risk-taker and a gambler, "Sorry but you're asking the wrong person here. I don't know much about card games...."

"I figured!" he waved the statement away. "I'm open for teaching beginners! If you really don't wanna play cards though, we can play the pool table there!"

 

'He's so persistent', he really doesn't want me to turn him down now, does he? So, Hisao did want something from me, "Ah dammit, I don't have any choice now, do I?" It's a harmless question but I was expecting a stern verbal 'no' from the other. Reluctantly, I followed Hisao to the new discovered bar from the afternoon.

 


 

To my surprise, Amane, Hinako and Taiga are also there besides us. They seem to have a friendly chat over a drink. And considering that this is a bar, "Those better not be alcoholic drinks......"

"Relax, I hid them before they even came in...." said Hisao as he pushes me into the view of the group. "Hey, everyone I managed to kidnapped her!"

'WHAT'

 

"Oh, the young Ms. Investigator.... you actually asked her out blindly...." the composer scoffed. "Well, it's a relief to know that she's cooperative while mingling with the likes of others....."

"Excuse me but what the hell is going on?" I turned to Hisao for answers and this fucker just grinned at me.

"Oh, the pool game I promised earlier? I lied!" he spread out his arms in exaggeration. "That thing broke because Taiga and I went overboard! I, or actually 'we' here, needed you for this discussion!"

 

"To discuss what?" I watched how Hisao easily slide down the seat next to Taiga and happily swung his arm over the other's shoulder. Taiga does the same as well as they both ignored my question except for one;

"Of how we're going to survive this killing game, of course!" Hinako beamed, with that motherly look on her face like before... only more sinister this time. "Hisao has this bright idea of gathering a handful of people who will benefit a lot when working together! You see after that sweet little cat being all hell-bent in getting us all killed, the others went along normally with their own volition! They don't seem to want to make a dent in the place either...."

 

Really? Hisao really believes that? He really thinks someone will actually initiate the first move? I'm terrified of the killing game happening, yes, but to hear that the conman also want to avoid it is shocking. Feeling like something's looming behind me, I quickly turned to see if we were unexpectedly followed... but I never expected to see- "Nao!?"

"Eek-!" The smaller girl almost fell back but I managed to catch her on time. "S-Sorry for sneaking up on you! A-And I'm sorry that I'm late...! Macchan needed my help to clean the whole library from top to bottom...!"

 

"A-Ah, so you're with Machi for the whole day...." I exclaimed. However, her presence almost distracted me the reason why she's here, "Wait, you invited Nao into your group too?!"

"P-Please, it wasn't their idea!" Nao begged. "I-I'm to the one who volunteer! I want to help as well!"

But-!, my word were cut once I saw those tears start to form again. I shut my mouth immediately and grab any nearby tissues, giving it to her as I said, "Fine, I won't ask anymore questions... but if they did something horrible to you, don't hesitate to tell me, okay?" Once that settles, I turned to the conman, "What exactly do you want to discuss?"

 

"Oh, you're done being a gentleman now? That's a shame, it was starting to look like a typical rom-com drama there!" Hisao clears his throat as he started. "It's about Monomyou's attempt of starting the killing game! I predicted that thing would have something for us that would really grinds our gear to make a move!"

"So, a motive?"

"That's right!" Hisao snapped his fingers as he stood up. "That thing knows no one is going to raise a knife without any motivation. So, how do you make a killer? Well, maybe you just give them a little push... say, take something dear to them...... if that thing can easily kidnapped 16 people without a problem then you know it did some intensive research on all of us!"

 

"It's a classic conditioning..." Hinako pondered with her hand rested on her cheek. "Cute Monomyou would eventually give us something but not completely.... not until we do what it wants us to do...."

"The time limit for a murder to happen is three days...." I added in my own speculations. "If it wants to do that, then it has to be tomorrow.... It wants to give enough time for the killer to prepare...."

"But we're not gonna let that happened!" Taiga yelled energetically. "We're gonna overturned the game right at its face! We will exposed them like a slippery snake that it is!"

 

Seeing everyone so determined to prevent and escaped the killing game is..... a refreshing sight. Homare and others, while they do want to escape, wants to make most of their situation and going pacifist all throughout the game. Is that really fine? How long would they last? Would they be so willing to feigned ignorance? Were they really okay with the idea of being trapped here for rest of their lives...?

 

And without a beat, I've said it; "I'm in"

 

"Huh?" Taiga and Amane look at me, surprised by my answer. 

"I said I'm in, I want to escape just as much as you all want to right now...." I looked at their faces, all just staring right back. "But if anything went wrong or anyone of you went out of the line, then I'm immediately out..."

"Splendid!" Hinako exclaimed, her eyes twinkle in excitement. "Now everything can go smoothly as possible! This would be as easy as throwing a fake bone to fool a mutt! We can easily squash them all like tiny mayflies!"

 

Did... my ears deceived me..? Did Ms. Hanabusa said something scary for a moment there?  "Right... but I'm still not sold about everything being set up by... him...." my eyes landed on Hisao and that damn smirk of his. I wonder how he managed to convinced them all in his little group.

"Hey, that's rather mean of you to judge a person by its criminal-y title!" Hisao whined, or what sounds like it. "Trust me, all of you will kneel and kiss my feet once I managed to save all of your asses!"

 

His confidence is admirable, something you would really like to see in a leader. However with the discovery of this group ('The Survival Group', I dubbed it), I wonder how Homare and the rest will react once the word's out. It's obvious to me that they're keeping this circle to themselves, afraid that others think they're plotting something bad behind their back.

"But of course, there are some minor setbacks that concerns you..." Hisao approaches me slowly while he goes on, "With your title and attitude, it would be really messy if others keep demanding your talent on every given chances! There will be so little progress made! So to you, my dear little miss, I would like to ask...." He stood right in front of me, staring down with a smile still; 

 

"Can I actually trust you with their lives on the line?"

 

I can feel Nao from the back clinging onto my arm, freaking out. Hisao held out his hand waiting for mine in return. There was a moment of silence between the two of us before I eventually took his hand.

 


 

Nighttime already, I watched the PA monitor shuts off once it done its announcement. Feeling tired from socializing all day, I collapsed onto the bed, still thinking about the conversation at the bar, 'Trust me with their lives? He singled himself out? Is he trying to be a martyr here?'

I tried humming myself to sleep as I closed my eyelids. And for once, I slept soundly that night.

 

Chapter Text

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Goood morning, ladies and gentlemen!! This is your daily announcement Time to be up and at 'em! Huh, I wonder why do they say that though? Why must we go 'at 'em' like we're going into some sort of war? Old timey phrases are a mystery, who knows!! Have your very myou-est of day!"

 

The TV then turned into static before it turned off by itself, "Huh, I'm actually earlier before the announcement." By some sort of miracle, I woke up, feeling well-rested compared to yesterday. Perhaps, today I can handle things a bit more better? Who knows. I already had a shower before that announcement started and I was about to leave when the TV suddenly turned back on again;

 

"Uhhhh, I'm so furgetful- Ackh! I stuttered! Attention to all guests! As your only gracious host, I required everyone's attendance at the auditorium this afternoon! Thank you for your time!

 

'What's that all about?' I wondered, did Monomyou caught what we were doing yesterday? There's security cameras everywhere in this place, excluding the bathrooms. Maybe the ones in the bar weren't operational....? Anyways, as I opened the front door, I was greeted by a different person this time.

"Oh Sumi! You're actually early this time!!" the colourful Mitsuru greeted. "Ah, even today, you look so luscious! If you need any help with those gorgeous locks of yours, I would gladly take care of you!"

"I-I sure hope you mean 'it'......" I have to politely declined her offer however. As I locked the door behind me, I asked, "Say, did you hear the second announcement just now?"

 

"That? Yeah that was really weird...." she pondered as we make our way to the elevator shaft. "Do you think Monomyou had a second thought about this killing sha-bang it mentioned?"

"Maybe..... but let's not put too much hope in it...." I thought about last night's talk. If Hisao's prediction do come true, then that would be troublesome to deal with. "There's little to no chances of that thing saying this whole thing is a total dupe...."

 

"Hey! Stop the elevator!!!"

Before Mitsuru could even pressed any buttons, a figure immediately lunged forward and pried open the elevator doors with all their strength. Mitsuru let out a bloody shriek as I pulled the person into the elevator. I looked carefully to see it was the abseiler, "What the hell were you thinking, Osame!?"

"Sorry! Sorry!!!" Well, he doesn't look like he's sorry at all! "The competitive spirit in me suddenly jumps out when I saw a closing exit!! Plus, were you guys impressed by my strength?! Getting your hands stuck between rocks does wonder for your physique!!!"

 

"C-Can't you do a better demonstration that doesn't involve scaring the shit out of us!? O-Oh no, I-I think I'm gonna faint....." Mitsuru suddenly leaned against me. "Dear God, please give me strength to live another day....."

"H-Hey, this isn't the time to see God now-" Thinking that she might actually passed out on the spot, I didn't realized that she's literally leaning against my- "Hold on! You're doing this on purpose, aren't you!?"

 

"Hehehe.... you have really nice-- Ackh!?" Hiroshi thankfully pulled her off of me. "What!? How dare you pulled me away from my paradise!? Unhand me now, you fiend!"

"Hey now, you're making Sumi really, really uncomfortable there..." Hiroshi grimaced as Mitsuru tries to get his hands off of her apron. "I guess I made the right choice to board onto the same ride rather than following suite later......"

"Y-Yeah.... you sort of save me... thanks....."

 


 

 

Once the three of us reach the dining hall (Hiroshi lets go of Mitsuru as soon as we left the elevator), there are a few people already present and one of them, Kiharu, popped up with a question first, "Hey, we heard a scream just now. What happened?"

Hiroshi reluctantly answered, "I spooked the girls a bit when I tried to squeeze through the elevator door. And Mitsuru afterwards did a questionable thing-"

"H-Hey! That's completely unrelated to the question before! I mean! All I did was just feeling Sumi's body curves and stuffs!"

 

"Excuse me!?" Both Homare and I stuttered in shock, the former dropped her tea cup. I can't believe Mitsuru outed herself like that!? I can hear laughter coming from Hisao and Taiga while Hibiki made a remark on how inappropriate the stylist have acted.

"Hey, freakshow!!" Higura called out. "How about ya' keep your damn nasty fantasies in your bed next time! And don't go groping people as well! It's bad enough that I could hear you fucking rambling your kinks next door!!"

"Eek!? You heard me last night!? Ahhhh, I'm so embarrassed-!! Now I have to find another place to confess-!!" Mitsuru slides down onto her knees as she hid her face into her hands, I can see her ears turning red after hearing that.

 

"It doesn't sound like you're trying to hide them, you kinky fu-!!" Higura's head was resting on his right arm so Saku took the chance and pull his arm down and his head slammed onto the table. "You motherfucker! You're trying to pick a fight with me!?"

"If it makes you stop running that damn mouth of yours then I will accept it nonetheless...." Saku sighs, rubbing his forehead from an incoming headache. "You're really a handful when it comes to bringing down others...."

"Fuck off! As if you're any better than me!"

 

The chaos just slowly unfolded as Hinako and Machi struggled to keep them all down, Homare must have already realized by now that the hot-headed duo won't even listen so she decided to back down for now. "It seems Monomyou somewhat predicted a fight indeed...." I picked a seat next to the opera singer as she suddenly spoke. "Did you hear that strange announcement too, Sumi...?"

'Huh, didn't know Hibiki is also that type that prefers nicknames...' "Yeah, it sounded really serious...." I pointed out its animosity. "What do you think about it, Ms. Setsu?"

"Hibiki...." She refused to look at me in the eyes all throughout the conversation. "And I could care less of what Monomyou had in store for us... for all I know, all of this could be someone's messed up way to entertain themselves..... I doubt there will be an easier way for us to stay alive...."

 

"That's.... a bit grim....." Hibiki sounds so cold in her words, completely disinterested with the reality she's in. She doesn't look like she have that much faith in her own survival. 'I wonder if Amane being in Hisao's group have to do with her attitude towards this whole situation? He always fawn over her so maybe he just joined for Hibiki's sake...?'

Dismissing that possibility aside, I finished my own breakfast that's prepared by Higura today; simple club sandwiches that are surprisingly good.

 

"I heard that you and that nautilus boy are having a sleepover...." Hibiki sparked up another conversation. This time, it's a bit more light-hearted than her last one. "That cat let that slipped when Homare asked them yesterday...." 

"Geez, that thing can't really keep it to themselves...." I groaned, I figured Monomyou would tattle on us like that. "Yeah, it's a simple night-in with Renma as well. Oh! Do you wanna join us, Hibiki? It would be nice to have another girl to accompany me....."

"Hn, I supposed why not...." she replied. "I have nothing to do but just idling in my room.... perhaps I can get to know you three better now that I have a good reason for that swine to stop hovering over me on every chances he get......"

 

'So she isn't really fond of the attention she constantly gets.... well, Amane can be really intrusive with his approach....' I sat up to go and clean my plate before looking at the time. 'I still got time before the announcement..... maybe I should just head there early, let's see who's there....'

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

Stepping out of the elevator, a familiar sight of plush-wearing figure waving both of his hands at me, "Sumi... you're here for the announcement.....?"

"Shoma, you're here early too... " I smiled. "Well, I have no other reasons to be here if there weren't one, right?"

"True... true......" Shoma pondered to himself. "Myoumyou has been treating us really restlessly, nyou...... This critter hopes this will be quick before it took up our sleepover....... I want everyone to swim along peacefully....."

 

Decoding what Shoma said took me a while but I think he's trying to say; 'I hope Monomyou didn't do anything drastic to push us into this killing game. I just want everyone to get along...' or something similar to that. He has a really weird speech pattern that takes time to get what he means, 'I might as well get used to his way of speaking for a change....'

"Well, we're all stuck on the same boat so going overboard is out of the question....." I swear, no matter where I look, my eyes keep on landing on the nautilus plush on his head. "Hey, Shoma? Why do you keep wearing that? Do you have a bad hair day or something...?"

"Hng...." Shoma pouted as he pulled down his plush hat tightly as if he's expecting me to try and take it of, "It blocks signal waves..... this place has a lot of bad waves.... all piercing and crashing.... I wanna avoid those noisy things....."

 

"Are..... you like a whale..?" If Hinako hears this, maybe she will get all excited since it's in her expertise. Still, I'm not so sure where he's going with that. Plus, he looked really uncomfortable when I mentioned his hat, "S-Sorry if it upsets you or anything! I didn't know it's an insensitive thing to point out..."

".... You always blubbered those words...." He lets go of his hat but is still pouting. "Sumi is always crying.... it's kind of tiring to listen to..... at least Sumi knows boundaries.... but is still awful at keeping calm......"

I wonder if this is a payback for pointing out his weird hat because those words stings like hell, holy shit.


"Maybe Sumi can join Renma in his meditation state? I always see the ghost-speaker doing nothing in silence..." Shoma pointed at the auditorium doors, perhaps saying that the medium is currently meditating in there. "It clears his conscience before... maybe it will help clear yours as well...?"

"Oh... did you meditate as well...?" I kinda figured Shoma would constantly stick to Renma wherever they go, they do have similar personality. Except, Renma is more spiritual-wise while Shoma is more.... emotional-wise...?

"Yes, but mine last only for a while..... as a critter... my thoughts are easily disposable..... my attention isn't really vast...." said Shoma in his usual floaty self. "You should meditate with us too...! It's more peaceful with three people....!"

 

I don't think including more people could guarantee a more peaceful atmosphere but I don't really want to ruin Shoma's mood anymore, 'Besides, he already ruined mine and I'm not the type to drag anyone down.... but at least, he looked like he had a pleasant time talking with me.....'

 


 

 

"Renma...!"

Shoma and I watched as the medium slowly turned around to greet us, sitting on the floor with his legs crossed, "Ah, Sumi! You're here early too! Nice to see you well on this lovely day!"

"Yeah, same here....." I'm surprised he managed to stay optimistic for the second-coming announcement. I offered my hand to him as he take it and I pulled him up, "You've been here since this morning...?"

 

Everyone else started to enter the auditorium and Renma was just staring through the cluster. I tried to follow his gaze and saw that he's staring hard at Hisao and Homare, 'Did something happened between those two...? Or is it just him and his bad energy senses acting up?' "Hey Renma?"

He briefly closed his eyes before putting on his usual smile and tone, "It's nothing. I have been meditating here after breakfast..... I sense a strong negative energy still lingering here from when we first arrived.... except it has gotten worst.... It's been distressing me ever since I stepped my foot in here....."

 

Worst, if anything, I have to take his word for what it stands. After all, if he can accurately pinpoint negative traits in people (mostly me but maybe my signs are just too obvious), then this announcement won't do us all well. Once the last person enter the room, a group of mini Monomyou(s) suddenly popped out of nowhere, playing the trumpets to announce the arrival of the actual Monomyou the Host.

 

"Hello! hello! Gooood afternoon, everyone!! Is everyone well? Making friend left and right? Making sweet, loving memories behind those bitter faces!? Because it's getting preeettty boring with how things are going right now!!"

 

Someone walked towards my side and stopped for a moment, I didn't bother to see who since it's obvious by now. The conman just stared at the host quietly this time. It's a funny thing to think about; an investigator and a conman side-by-side observing the true criminal of this place.

"Uhuhuhu....." Monomyou sullenly approaches us with imaginary rain-clouds above its head. "You guys are torturing meeee! Having such a fun-fun-time while I was sitting alone in the daaaark, you guys are so crueeeel!.... But that's beside the point of calling you guys here in the auditorium!!!"

 

"I somehow knew your sob talk was a bluff," Machi glares. "Just get to the point already....."

"Hey, hey!! I'm the host here!!! Don't rush the excitement!!!" Monomyou angrily exclaimed. "The reason why I gather you all here is due to one thing; the killing game I promised! "

'This is it....' I thought to myself as I side-eyed Hisao next to me. 'If it's true... then we can figure something out from there on....'

 

Monomyou seems to have a bunch similar looking ElectroIDs in its hands except slightly bigger this time. They handed one to everyone as they kept talking, "Because all of you are too much of a wuss to even make the first move! I figured this will somehow motivate you all!! It's a home video made by yours truly that will surely inspired you all!!"

Giving one to me lastly, Monomyou also hands us a wireless ear piece that it claim to be for privacy reason. After making sure everyone have those two things, the cat encouraged everyone to check it out immediately as it just stood there, waiting.  I looked around to see if other are doing it, making sure it's not a trick and the tablet just malfunctioned or anything.

Seeing how everything is going smoothly and nothing went wrong, I put the earpiece on and turned the tablet to my surprise. On the screen, a video of... Hoshino Iwao, my mentor.

 

"Hoshino Iwao, reporting to duty.... I would like to record this video to congratulate my protégé for getting accepted into- Hey, wait, why are you here!?"

 

There's some muffled arguing going on behind the scene before the screen turned static. I almost started to panic before the screen picks up again and another face joined in with my mentor, Endou Ayame, my sister.

 

"Heeeey!! It's your gorgeous big sis here!!! Hey, old man! Stop fucking pushing me off, you're hogging all the attention here! Anyways-! I can't believe I have to cancel a meet-up at the very last minute when I heard you got accepted into some snobbish academy!! Geez, tell me sooner! You know how much I hate breaking into some man's boring office doing their super lame job!! Text me with all the updates, 'kay? Big sis is here to help you anytime!!"

 

The screen turned into static again but I'm more bothered about what they've said, 'Accepted.... accepted to... what academy...?' That thought soon diminishes when the static was gone again but this time it shows a grey empty room, a typical sight of an interrogation room, with the wall splattered with blood. Blood of an unknown origin....

 

....

........ Huh

 

"Odd...." I said it way too calmly.  

Hisao must have realized how off I acted since it caught his attention, "You alright there, missy? You looked eerily calm compare to the messy pool over there...."

I just nodded, still staring at the tablet. This is it, this is the motive that the conman predicted. But instead of taking something, Monomyou literally took someone.

 

.....

........

( How predictable )

 

"What the fuck!?"

"What did you do, you son of a bitch!?!"

"N-no...!! This can't be happening!!!"

 

The yelling brought me out my daydream as I looked around my surrounding and immediately know what Hisao was referring to as 'messy pool'. Higura looked livid, no surprises there, but his fury matches Machi, Saku and Hiroshi. Nao looks like she's on the verge of crying again with Homare trying her best to comfort here. However, her shaky hands and twitching mouth betrayed her calm facade. Mitsuru stares blankly at the screen but I can see tears too slowly forming around the corner of her eyes,

Kihaur drops hers, her whole figure shaking with fear in her eyes and was comforted by Taiga. Hibiki, Amane and Renma all have that worried looks on their face, distressed by not vocally. The only people who stayed neutral were Hinako, Shoma, Hisao and...

....

and....

 

'No, this isn't right..'

I was scared. I was rightfully scared of what happened to them... but once her face showed up.... that fear immediately vanished....

".... even in this situation, my thoughts of her still stay the same, huh...." I muttered to myself, feeling indifferent. Slowly, I raised my attention to Hisao who's also staring at his possible motive video, wonder how his turned out. Apparently, if possible, he can read my mind and immediately groaned in frustration, "What the hell is this crap? You give everyone a fun video but leaving me out of the fun? That's a cruel, cruel way you're doing! Giving me a blank screen!"

 

"Oh, that-! Well, you're a special case, of course!!" Monomyou puffed out their chest. "A criminal like you wouldn't need a motive! I doubt you have anyone outside these perimeters who actually likes you!! But then again, I can't be bother to pursue a criminal... because people like you acted on instincts, ain't that right!?"

"Wow, you're so considerate...." Hisao rolled his eyes back.

I can't ever process what they're bickering about because of that said blank screen, 'So Hisao's motive is..... nothing?'

 

"Anyways-!!!" Monomyou tried to get everyone's attention back to them. "Hope you all enjoy your videos; videos of your last regrets!! Which is why you all better think twice about your living situation right now because who knows!"

 

" If you died here, the pain and guilt you have caused on others will forever be in their hearts! Nyahahaha! "

 

And with that Monomyou made its exit down the trapdoor. As usual, being shell-shocked, nobody move a muscle.....

 


 

 

After being dismissed, we had the same quiet, heavy atmosphere (from the first day) on our way back. Nobody looked at each other, nobody say anything. Once we stepped out of the auditorium, the marksman called out, "Hey, Sumi... got a minute to talk? Let's head to the bar-"

 

"Oh! I have a thing to ask you guys about the bar as well!!"

 

Monomyou suddenly pops out between us and we immediately took a step back out of fear (and surprise). With its high-pitched tone, it proceed to ask us, "Say, did the bar feel off to y'all?"

"Off as in....?" Taiga raised an eyebrow. "If you're asking why the bar have alcohol in its cabinets then you should seriously ask yourself that before asking us....."

"As if I care you guys will get dangerously tipsy or not!!" the cat scolded. "I'm talking about the surveillance cameras!! After meeting with you ungrateful assheads, some of the cameras were completely down without a warning!!! And this happened waaaaay before I knew about your stuck-up asses!!"

 

Well, that answered my question about the cameras in the bar but for them to malfunctioned before we even first gathered at the auditorium does strikes me as odd. Could it be just the bad wiring of that place?

"Sorry but I'm no tech expert...." Taiga said nonchalantly. "If anything the cameras look in pristine condition on the outside so we never noticed it was busted at all!"

"T-That's impawsible! Eek-!! I stuttered!!" Monomyou comically gasped. "Nyaaaah! It must be those rodents, it most definitely be those fiends!!!! That seals it!!! I'm going to declare war on them!!!!"

 

With that, Monomyou just angrily stomping away back into the auditorium and shut the doors behind them and leaving us behind.

".... Can you even take that serious without that smile on your face?" I asked curiously. 

"Sorry. It's really hard to keep a straight face while seriously listening to a cat with a red bow-tie on."

"Hmn, you're right. I wouldn't take Monomyou seriously when they looked like that either...."

 


 

 

"That was a lie, isn't it?"

"Hm?"

 

Once we're back at the bar, I stood on the stool and examined the malfunctioned surveillance cameras Monomyou have mentioned. There are two cameras in the room on opposite sides and it seems both camera doesn't seem to work at all. "... You knew they were broken somehow but you dumb your own knowledge down...." I said while staring at him.

Taiga always strikes me as.... odd. His dangerous talent, his cheerful attitude, his somewhat skillful experiences with stuffs he shouldn't mess with and his involvement with Hisao's group. Other than the conman and marine biologist, he's another mystery that I can't wrap my head around.

 

"Hmm... that....." Taiga thought for a while before he cheerfully answered. "Nah, I just stretched out their claim! Yeah, they do look down and not operational but I don't know if that's true for certain!! I'm good with firearms, I'm not tech-savy or anything!"

"Guess I will take your word then....." I stepped down from the stool. "So did Hisao tell you to lie about it? How does he even convinced you to join his scheme?"

"He asked me if I wanted to piss off Monomyou and I'm immediately on board with it!" said Taiga. "Trust me, I really don't like that cat, like, at all!"

 

Nobody does, and that's safe to admit it altogether. "So what is it, you exactly want to talk about...? Sorry for derailing our purpose here just to ask about the cameras...." Wow, maybe Shoma is right; I do apologized a lot.

"Something to talk about....?" Taiga looked confused before he finally realized the reason why we're at the bar in the first place. "Oh! Right!! I totally forgot!! All these tech stuffs made my head go fuzzy that I almost forgot about it!! Don't worry, I immediately remembered why!!"

 

"He actually asked you out in my place..."

 

In that moment, I actually can't even think of anything else other than 'Of fucking course, it has to be him planning this ahead....' 

Mafuyu Hisao, standing tall and proud and a big grin on his face, with Hinako and Nao right besides him, looking at the both of us with that electronic tablet, containing the motive video from, in his hand, "We're gonna tear that cat into pieces...."

Chapter Text

 

"Okaaaay!" Hisao pointed at Taiga and I as he asked us immediately, "What are your motives? This is really important, you know? So that we all can be familiar with each other and able to work out from there!"

To say that he was rather insensitive in his words is a bit of a reach. Hisao has a different way to approach the problem and it's rather direct and rude. But hey, a straightforward approach is better than a futile approach for him.

 

"Mine was my mentor and sister...." I told them about my video without leaving any important bits. "They're congratulating me for.... getting into some sort of academy..? I don't really remember much after that...."

"Ah, you too?" Taiga looked at me wide-eyed. "I got a similar speech except is by my pop's military squad! They were all excited and such and then.... after that....." his shoulders tensed up, "..... there was a bloody wall....."

 

The video has to end similarly for everyone else if that cat is trying to rile us up. There's no clear answer of what Monomyou did to everyone's loved ones but it's too early to say that it could be fake. Hinako and Nao were next to discuss about their video; for Nao, it was her supportive older brother whom she was scared of burdening them and left to support herself, and for Hinako, it was her close colleagues whom she had a fallout and never made up with prior entering here. 

We were waiting for Hisao to said his but remembered the conversation between him and Monomyou. "You don't have a-anyone in your life, Mr. Mafuyu....?" Nao asked timidly, and was rewarded with a pat on the head.

"Can't say that for sure....." Hisao shrugged. "After all, I'm a criminal! Nobody wants to associate with someone like me! At most, my so-called family may have been dead or already disowned me at some point!!"

 

His answer sounded really cheerful as he made his way passed our stunned faces. He placed the tablet on top of the table as he exclaimed, "Well, it safe to say that we weren't too far off. I'm not sure how much damage did that things caused but Monomyou sure went for a low blow there...."

"But there's one particular info that all of our videos have....." Hinako pondered. "We all got accepted to this academy that recognizes us as Ultimates....... all sixteen of us that are roughly the same age...."

"A-Are they targeting the same school.....?" Nao brought up another point. "W-Was that cat trying to get something out of them....?"

 

Suddenly, I recalled back when we first arrived here, that time Monomyou referred to us as 'this batch', "We weren't the first one to be here..... Monomyou must have done this before...."

"Is it the same academy though? Or they were from a different Ultimate Academies?" Hisao brought up his points. "If it's such an important place, then why host a killing game? And if they are targeting the same school then they should have taken security measures after losing the previous students....."

 

I shook my head in confusion, rubbing my forehead to get rid of an incoming migraine, "It's best to leave this aside.... we're piecing together a messy timeline with limited information. We should wait until Monomyou accidentally spill the beans or anything..... For now, we must deal with these motive videos and what comes after...."

"Actually I have already made my preparations...." said Hisao while grinning. "While you and Taiga got distracted by the cat, I dropped a small tip to Homare and the others that I'm sure they couldn't resist!"

"Which is?"

 

"Well, that's a surprise! Amane is with the other group to make sure they all agree on the same term! But, it's nothing too dangerous or drastic for everyone to handle!" Hisao waved his hand around to dismiss any worrisome thoughts about the whole ordeal. "I made sure each one of us have a hand in this as well!"

"Oh? You sound so sure about yourself, Hisa...." Hinako giggles. "I will gladly look forward to your indestructible plan."

"Awww, you're making me blush with your praises!! Hey, hey! Please praise me more! I wanna be spoiled too, ya know?"

 

Hisao and Hinako went off with their chattering as Nao went over to my side to give them some space. She looked a bit better now compared to earlier, her eyes still visibly puffy. Out of instinct, I hugged her closely, "Don't worry... we won't let anyone fall victim to this....."

The ghostwriter didn't say anything, instead she just squeezed my arm. Taiga smiled once he caught a glimpse of it, "I guess you're the older sister in your family, huh?"

"E-excuse me...?"

"You said you have a sister, right? With how you acted and comforting Nao like that.... you totally have that older sister quality!" 

 

Oh. Oh. I actually forgot about that. "I.... My 'sister' and I aren't.... quite related or close at least......" I can see Taiga getting a bit confused by my words so I clarified it with my next sentence. "We both arrived at the same orphanage and nobody knows if we were left by the same parent or not... but they left us to be on our own. Before I got adopted by my mentor..."

"Until now... you don't know if you two were related or not...?"

"It doesn't bother her, or even me, anyways...." I looked to side. "She seemed happy to have someone who's been with her from that place...."

 

"Then your regret with her was....?"

My regret, that's one thing that I'm not so sure about. There's a lot that goes through my head when I think of her, many unpleasant things. "Sorry... I'm not really comfortable talking about it...." I got questioned a lot once people knew I was related to her in someway. 

"Oh, sorry...." Taiga bowed apologetically. 

 

"Hmmm? What's this?" Out of nowhere, Hisao, who secretly hid behind us, popped in between and wrapped his arms around our shoulders. "Were you two secretly having a fling?? Ohh, that nerve of you two!!"

I sighed as I brush off the arm off of my shoulder and nudged Nao to let go of my arm. Both did so and I'm finally free from physical contact. "I will be going now if that's all we're gonna talk about...." I said while eyeing on the other three. "What about you guys?"

"I'm gonna disturb Shoma and Renma again!" said Hisao energetically. "I made a bet with Gura to see if I can see what's underneath that shell of the biologist!"

 

"Don't expose him like that..."

Nao said that she's going to help Machi with organizing the library books again and Taiga is going to swim laps with with Hiroshi and Kiharu. I decided to follow Nao on her way to the library since it's the only place I haven't check out yet, 'I have some free time.... maybe I can find solace within books....?'

 


 

 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

"Ah! Ms. Hoshino!" 

After the meeting at the bar, it seems Hinako went to the library as well, reading a book about animal biology. Nao already went off to help Machi and I don't want to disturb them or anything, so I went ahead and sat next to Hinako, "What are you reading about, Ms. Hanabusa?"

"Just some miscellaneous stuffs..." Hinako smiled gently. "I'm very glad that this library has many variety of literature available... I want to recap all the materials I have learned in my field!"

 

While her specialty is studying animal's behaviors, she must have gone through other subjects as well like veterinary surgical techniques and such. I've always been fascinating animal science as a subject and I would like to hear more from the student themselves, "Ms. Hanabusa.... If you don't mind me asking, what's the most difficult part of your field that you have to constantly deal with?"

"That depends...." said Hinako. "Although, if I have to be specific.... it's the people themselves..."

"Huh?"

"You see, it's my job to learn and observe animals, both domestic and wildlife-wise...." Hinako sighed, placing her cheek against her hand. "It's troublesome to work with other people.... once I diagnosed a problem and suggest a solution, they insist that their way has no problem at all and that the animal just doesn't want to cooperate...."

 

"H-Hey... they shouldn't be that ignorant towards their needs...." I said. Of course, I shouldn't expect Hinako wouldn't have to deal with stubborn people. 

Hinako continues on, "It is difficult for people to understand how different both species work..... to insist a dog must always be active and energetic, and to insist a cat must always be seclusive and indoors.... all those things are similar to how stereotypes work for humans as well..." 

"Yeah, I don't really understand seeing through those kind of lenses...." I once encounter a very lovable stray cat during my second year as an investigator. It stayed with me for a few months before being adopted by a kind couple. People often asked me if it was feral or not but then, I never have trouble approaching it at all. 

 

"Of course, we shouldn't ignore people with phobias or allergies as well, I'm sure they have their own reasons..." Hinako giggles. "What I'm saying is that, I would be very happy if others understand that even animals have needs and wants of their own. Just because they live under the same roof, it doesn't mean they need to fit your needs.... they're beautiful living creatures, not just some ornamental gifts you can show-off to your disgrace and poor excuse of friends...."

The last sentence startled me so much that I didn't realized she was actually smiling while saying that. Hinako has strong admiration towards animals but not towards humans, I can understand that (even so after hanging out with Higura), "M-Maybe not to that extreme..... were you always this aggressive...?"

 

"Aggressive...?" Hinako covered her mouth and stared wide-eyed. "Oh dear... I must have slipped..... I'm sorry about that, I get easily heated-over when thinking about it....."

"Ah... It's okay.... I get what you mean... even I have those kind of days....." I chuckles at her sudden 'bashfulness'. "I also kept it to myself..... people always think that we have a stone heart but it take many, many years of experience to reach the level.... but I was lucky enough to know when to put up with whatever bullshit my work will be giving me....."

 

"Yet your endurance amazes me!" exclaimed Hinako, gleam with excitement. "Especially how you handle our current situation as well! I have nothing but praises for you! Alrighty then, come here! I will shower you with praises!"

She then proceed to patted and rubbed my head as I awkwardly shifting in my seat, 'She's rewarding me like a cat.... but I think this is enough to close the distance between the two of us.....'

 


 

 

It didn't take me a long time to realize I was the only left in library as I was so observed in a novel I was currently reading. I placed the book at where I found it and made my way to the hotel. From the outside, I can see everyone gathering at the reception area and they were all discussing. I raised an eyebrow, as soon as I enter the building, I spoke up, "What's going on here...?"

"Ah, Sumire...." Homare caught my attention with her usual notebook in hand. "Impeccable timing, I was about to find you...."

"Did Monomyou do something while I wasn't around?"

 

"Not quite, this is just a safety precaution I decided to proposed...." said the fencer. "I was afraid something bad might happened once nighttime strikes following today's announcement.... I have made couple suggestions with others and as well with our host.... So, I want to propose everyone to sleep within groups just for tonight...."

With that, everyone's alibi will have to be recorded by another person no matter what. Is this what Hisao's talking about? I tried to look for the conman and found him standing besides Renma, looking terribly irritated, 'Those two really can't stand each other....'

"Does Monomyou have anything to say in that....?" I asked and right when I did, the damn cat just dropped down in front of me. I almost stumbled backwards before yelling, "Can't you appear normally for once!?"

 

"Awwww... where's the thrill in that? Besides, I would rather act more eccentric to battle you guys' toxic personalities!! I can't lose to the likes of you all!!" Monomyou snickers. "Anyways, like I've said about the approved sleepover, the proposal has been accepted so you're welcome!!! In exchange, grovel at my feet! Pet me! Shower me with all your love!"

"That's one request I would rather not do to the likes of you, dear feline...." Hinako eerily replied with a smile still.

"Eeeek-!! Such cruelty towards your own host!!" Monomyou sobbed. "A-Anyways! Do whatever you want!! It's not like you're all planning some sweet love-making since you're all hell-bent in taking this killing concept and run it deep into the Earth's core!!"

 

"Well, you did sound like you were threatened to accept this..." Hibiki pointed out their behavior."Are you that much of a wimpy host...?"

"Who are ya' calling a wimp!?" Monomyou pouted. "I will have you know I have successfully entertained guests with just a volunteer and an eyeball of spool! It was myarvelous! Eek-!!! I stuttered!!!"

"What the fuck are you trying to prove with that!?" We all expected for it to be Higura's line but no, to our surprise, it was Saku, the aerobat, who cussed. Higura just glared at the cat but keep his mouth shut.

 

"If anything, it proves that you're failing your host' responsibility to even 'entertain' us this time..." said Hiroshi. "I'm not asking for it but it's a useless attempt to seduce us if your killing game plans have failed...."

"Failed...... do you think this motive plan will fail...? Oh no.... no, no, no....." Monomyou usual high-pitched voice turned dark and low as they looked over all of us. 

 

"One of you have already decided..."

 

'What!?' I furiously looked around the room, everyone looked equally shell-shocked at what Monomyou have said before disappearing off once again. No way, no way in hell. There's no fucking way someone's already on the move. Before anything else could happened, Homare steps in, "A-Alright.... we shouldn't think too much of what Monomyou said just now.... here's the planning for all of us....." 

 


 [ Room 1 (front left) ] Shoma, Renma, Hibiki, Sumire

[ Room 2 (front right) ] Higura, Saku, Hiroshi, Taiga

[ Room 3 (back left) ] Homare, Machi, Nao, Hinako

[ Room 4 (back right) ] Amane, Mitsuru, Kiharu, Hisao


 

 

"Monomyou provided these bigger rooms on another floor, just above our individual ones...." Homare held up four set of unfamiliar key cards, "The front rooms are located near the elevator while the back rooms are just a door away so that we can easily hear any noise or distress call... the person listed first in the planning is in charge of the room key. Please, don't lost your ElectroIDs still...."

 

So this is what Hisao meant by everyone having their equal part in the plan. Amane must have been the one handling our placement for each group. Although, I'm surprised he would give up the opera singer who would join our room. Each room has a reliable leader (I can't say for sure for Higura but I have faith in him) as Shoma take the key card and waved at my direction. 

"I guess it makes sense that you will be in charge, Shoma..." I remarked. The sleepover idea was something the biologist came up initially, maybe Homare and Hisao made use of that idea for everyone else. 

"Hnggh...." the biologist doesn't look too happy about it. ".... This should have been a joyous occasion.... for it to be slathered with threat of blood is too cruel....." 

 

"It's probably for the best..." Machi pointed out. "After all, we can't ginore what the cat said.... or even did.... it's for everyone's safety..."

Thinking about those motive videos from before, there are too many people affected by it, and handled them poorly. We couldn't force them to tell us what they saw but perhaps keeping an eye on each other one night should be fine. Should.

 

"Sumire, may I talk with you for a second...?" I excused myself from my group as Homare ushered me closer. She looked... distressed about something, "Would you mind if you could assist me with checking in all the groups before nighttime? Right after you had your shower and all that is.... I want to make sure nothing dangerous is hidden within any of those rooms...."

"Understood...." I nodded in reply, worrying about Homare's troublesome thoughts. She's fidgeting, tapping onto her notebook a lot and her eyes keep wandering, "It will be okay... we won't let Monomyou get the best of us..."

With that, Homare sighed but managed to put on a smile,"I know.... I'm just worried... I don't want anyone else to be fool by that.... creature's demand...."

 

No one wants to, and I kept that belief within me. Starting from there on, we went to our respective rooms.

 


 

 Right after Homare and I had our shower in our individual rooms, we went to the floor above us to make our rounds. We went into the first room, Shoma's group. The door was unlocked so I went in first, "Shoma, have you guys settle- Ackh!!" 

I tripped and fell onto the sea of pillows and blankets littered on the floor, softening my impact, "W-What the....? Shoma, what is this..?"

"Ahahaha...." The biologist let out a carefree laugh as he laid down on the pile, "... The bed is too restricting..... The critter wants everyone to be familiar with each other with no boundaries......!"

"That's nice...." said Homare as she carefully try not to step on the blankets. "Everyone settled in nicely...?"

 

"As nicely as we can be... no problem with the room as well..." said Renma leaning against the pillow behind him. Hibiki does the same as well, both of them seem to have a chat right before we came in. It's a rare sight seeing Hibiki being all loosened up and smiling around other people. It seems like she's glad to be roomed with more peaceful and relaxed people instead. 

"Good... that's good...." I get up and cleared my throat. "We will check the other groups now.... I will be joining you guys later...."

 

Homare and I went ahead to check on all other groups and realized that they all have some interesting atmosphere with them. The second group was.... chaotic as usual. They've started a pillow fight as soon as the both of us stepped in, we even ended up joining as well to relieve our worries (ended with Taiga and Hiroshi as victors). 

Homare's group has that usual pleasant atmopshere; Nao excitedly talked about her help in certain research works by zoologists and veterinarians with Hinako who shared her own knowledge on it. Machi mentioned about the broken faucet in the bathroom that I later took a note of. 

The last group we checked was... unusual. Amane got tossed around (literally) by Hisao and Mitsuru just because they got bored listening to his composer talk and decided to rolled him up using blankets. It was at this moment I just realized, what a chaotic pair Hisao and Mitsuru would make. Thankfully, Kiharu kept them under control...... for now.

 

"Everything is going okay..." I went over the list of things available in all of the rooms and making sure they're all in the same amount. "That should be all, right? Ms. Takara?"

Homare is spacing out again, she keeps staring at.... somewhere. She snapped out as soon as she realized I was calling out to her, "Y-yes.... I appreciate your help, Sumire.... I really do....."

 

This is very unusual of her; I've never seen Homare being so out of focus to the point she doesn't even realized herself. It's almost terrifying for me to see her like this. "Homare....." This is the first time I used her first name. "You don't have to shoulder all the burdens by yourself.... you know you have us to help, right...? If there's something bothering you then you can tell me...." 

"I-It's...." she looked hesitated to tell. Then, she shook her head, "No... it's something else...... that I can't talk so freely within earshot of others....."

"Then we will talk about it tomorrow...." I gave a reassuring smile. "I'm all ears, don't worry..... also, you're free to call me 'Sumi' as well, you know? It's much more shorter than my mouthful name..." We're way past formalities at this point, we shouldn't be too formal with each other. 

 

"Alright, Sumi...." Homare finally gets rid of her stoic facade with a heartfelt laugh. A genuine smile finally made its appearance for the regal fencer, "Thanks for the reassurance..... Can't believe I need to be reminded that I'm not all alone on this...."

'Alone.... Yeah, it's hard to get used to company when it was just yourself this entire time....' Every words that spilled from my mouth just now, I meant it, every single one of it. It's something that everyone here needs to hear right now. 

 

We talked for a while before we parted ways to our respective rooms. I hope she's okay, no matter what she said or shows... I can't be too sure of myself. She looked more laid-back now that I confronted her but..... 'Never mind that! I have to be sure of it tomorrow morning! Then we will plan out carefully from there on!'

 


 

 "Thank you for your hard work!"

 

"Likewise....." I collapsed onto the sea of blankets right after I changed out of my clothes, letting the warmth enveloped my whole body. I even tuned out the nighttime announcement as I rolled onto my back, ".... This is exhausting...."

"Good job...." Hibiki chuckles as she gently stroked my head. "I heard from Renma that you're an insomniac...? It's best to sleep in early for now even if you wanna stay up and chat...."

"... It's time for younger critter to fall into slumber...." I can feel Shoma back pressing against mine. "... I apologized if I rolled too much.... This critter can only do so much in its sleep...."

 

I never considered myself as an insomniac but again, I'm not surprised if people insisted that I am. Renma is the first one to notice my well-being so it wouldn't come as a shock that he tried to help. We were all huddling together at this point; with Shoma and I laid down besides each other. Hibiki is at my side, still stroking my head while Renma is on the other side, trying to sleep in.

A soothing singing voice played out in the room and I immediately feel fatigue washing over my body. Hibiki's voice is pleasing to listen to but neither of us didn't managed to stay up to appreciate it. At that night, the three of us succumbed into a deep sleep with Hibiki following after. 

 


 

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Gooood morning, everyone! Your daily morning announcement presents a special talk-show corner; a promise to start your day with a bang!"

"It's a very shaky format so please forgive some minor slip-ups! Not like those slip-ups would stop any talk-show hosts from getting into trouble, nyahahaha!!"

"They never get a jail-time now, do they? Being a host must be sooooo reassuring since everything that comes out of their mouth have been nothing but a joke like themselves, nyahaha!"

 

'I swear one of these days, I'm gonna give that cat a piece of my mind', I rubbed my eyes drowsily before I get up and prepare myself for another day. After stepping out of the shower, I realized that the other three tenants already went ahead while I was still asleep so I grabbed my ElectroID and was about to head out when I saw Nao, "Oh, you just woke up...?"

"Good morning, Ms. Hoshino!" Nao bowed as she said, "I forgot my ElectroID. I just had breakfast and they asked me to come get you and Ms. Takara!"

"Oh, Homare too slept in..?" I'm not surprised, it was almost nighttime when we've just finished our check-up. "I will go with you too...."

 

Both of us headed towards the Room 3, Nao tried to opened it but it wouldn't budged. "H-Huh...?" Nao keeps on twisting the handle. "I-It wasn't locked when we left it....?"

I tried knocking on the door and raised my voice slightly to not disturb anyone still in their rooms, "Homare! It's already morning! Time to wake up!"

Nothing. No noises or shuffling inside the room. My anxiety immediately spiked when seconds of silence turned into minutes. 'Surely, she's in a bath or something. Maybe she's just prepping herself...?' I tried reasoning with myself.

 

Looking for another way to get in, I saw the window panel above the door, opened wide. I swallowed down my spit as I asked Nao, "Nao, do you think you can crawl through that opening there...?"

"H-huh?" She looked at me confused. Once I pointed at the opened window, she immediately understood, "Yeah, I can. I need a little boost though...."

I held Nao by her waist and lifted her upwards easily, as she grabbed onto the window frame and slowly crawls her way in. I can hear a small thud inside the room and an 'ow' from Nao. "Are you alright?" I asked.

"Y-Yeah.... there's a chair near the door though.... I accidentally tripped over it....."

'A chair....? Why would there be a cha-'

 

A bloody scream suddenly rang out inside the room and immediately I try to pried open the door with all my strength, "Nao!? Nao, open the door!!!"

"What's going on!?" I looked back to see Taiga and Hiroshi coming out of their room, followed by Mitsuru and Amane from theirs as well. With my attention focused on those people, I didn't really hear the door unlocked and Nao immediately tackled me to the ground, her face buries into my chest while sobbing, "Ta-Takara......"

 

....

No

No, no, no, no, no, no, no

..........

( Just like what that thing said )

 

Standing up slowly, Nao guided me into the room and I was met with a horrific sight; Homare, and her oddly serene face, hanging by the ceiling fan, suspended on bloodied towels. Taiga and the others walked into the room as well, Mitsuru let out a shriek of terror. 

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Ladies and Gentleman!! It seems like we have a new murder case!!! Please gather around the first floor to start clue hunting!!"

 

The monitor turned off immediately after that announcement and I just want to shut it out of my head. That sickening sweet voice of that damned cat and with the nauseous sight of a deceased friend, I want to shut everything the hell out....

Chapter Text

 

Once everyone started to gather around in the room, Monomyou appeared with its sickeningly loud high-pitched voice, "Woohooooo!! Finally, one of you made up your fuckin' mind!! I've been waiting for so long that I was so close to consider killing everyone instead!! Good thing I didn't!!"

We don't have the energy, the thought, or even care enough to argue against it, not when we're trying to accept the first death of our group. 'This doesn't make sense....' I bit my nails out of frustration, 'Everything was fine before.... so why did this happened!?'

I'm furious, livid. All those negative emotions swirled inside my head. 'The killer didn't even spare her the misery....' I tried to steady my breathing before anyone could notice. 'I shouldn't be thinking like this... this shouldn't throw me off..... I've done this too many time before...'

 

Just when I'm ready to face forward, a hand hold me back as I turned to see Renma's concerned face. A face the clearly said, 'Take your time, don't force yourself'. Biting the insides of my mouth, I hold onto the hand on my shoulder, "What should we do now that you got what you wanted, Monomyou...?"

"Ohohoho!" The cat snickers. "We're gonna play a detective game, of course!! Everyone will take part in the 'Class Trial'!!! Now that we have a defenseless victim, it's obvious that everyone has to investigate!!! No stone will be left un-turn!!!"

Monomyou handed everyone an electronic tablet, similar to the previous ones that held our motive videos, "Let you adorable host explain a small fraction on how you will begin! The killer or 'blackened' is among you guys but you wouldn't know that until the class trial!! So basically, you will be unknowingly work alongside with one!! Make sure you ravaged your suspected area clean and not miss a single clue!!! Then, you may provide your claims and evidences to sniff out the blackened!!!" They said with a pose, "Nyahahaha!! See ya' in the 'Class Trial'!!!"

 

With that, the cat disappeared once again. The air was deathly still before I spoke up first, "Renma... would you mind tell the spirits here that we came in here to honor the deceased? Homare, if she's still here, needs to know that we're doing this for her...."

"A-Ah...." Renma was taken aback now that I referred to him by his first name, much like he took me off-guard by using my nickname. "I shall fulfill that request...." He walked over to Homare's body, giving enough distance. Slowly, he was chanting in a low voice and quietly before he ended with, "May your soul rest in peace... may we be able to avenge your cruel demise..."

The medium stepped back and gave us a clear indication that it's safe to pass. "Thank you, Renma.... I'm sure Homare will forever be grateful...." I said as I put on my black gloves. I then proceed to ask the others, "I'm gonna thoroughly inspect her now.... would anyone help to keep her steady?"

 

"I will do it...." Taiga volunteered. Carefully, he held the body still, cringing every time he heard a creak, "I'm sorry, Homare...."

Looking through the 'Monomyou Record File', it dubbed itself, and compared it to her current condition, I listed out, "Time of death is unknown. Cause of death is asphyxiation. Suffered from a blunt force trauma on the center part of her head. There's dried blood residue from the wound with unknown flakes surrounding it....." I tried searching through her pockets and found the key card to the door, "The door was locked from the inside...."

Taiga and Saku proceed to untie the knots of the towels so that we can let the body lay down on the bed delicately. I glanced at the chair near the front entrance, keeping that in mind.

 

"This is strange...." Shoma hummed while staring at the record file in his hands. "This is too strange....."

"What is it, freakhead?" Higura glared with a frown. "If you have something useful to say then spit it out. This isn't the time for your cryptic bullshit."

"All creatures eventually bleed..... and will never stop bleeding....." said Shoma. "When did it stopped for her....?"

 

"Stopped for her...?" It took me a while to figure out what he meant by that before inspecting the wound closely and her whole body as well. Dried-up and there's no blood puddle in this room before we even enter. Everything is spotless. "There might be clues at other places.... search the reception area, dining hall, kitchen and possible the first floor near our rooms...."

They all nodded in agreement and immediately dispersed. I took the chance and check the bathroom as well, eyeing on anything suspicious. I looked over that broken faucet of the sink and my eyes landed on the towels neatly packed on top of the cabinet. Each room has five fresh towels and judging by the towels currently drying over the hangers; three towels has been used and leaving two unused

 

"The culprit didn't used the towels from here...." I muttered. I remembered our groups' bathroom have four used towels and one unused so it's out of the question as well. Looking back at the bedroom, silently glad that the other three key holders still present, "Mochizuki, Sekiguchi... mind if you give me your key cards... I wanna check something....."

Both of them gave me the cards and right when I was about to leave, a certain someone pulled the hood of my jacket over my head and said in a hush voice, "Mind if I follow you along, little miss?"

It took every ounce of energy I have within me not to get physical before sighing, "If you actually want to help for once without any distractions then fine...."

 

Hisao then pulled off the hood with a smile and patted my shoulders, "Okay!"

I gave him his group's key card as we both check both rooms at the same time. The second room looked tidy even after the pillow fight yesterday. Repressing the memory I joined in that fight with Homare, I immediately check the bathroom. All five towels and only four were used, nothing out of ordinary.

"Heeeey, little misssy!" Hisao called out from the hallway. "Nothing too sus! One clean towels and four stinky ones!"

 

"So... it's the same amount for all the rooms on this floor..." I grumbled, locking the front door behind me. "Then the bloody towels came from the culprit's own room on the first floor...."

"If ya' suggesting checking each individual rooms, then you will be wasting your time...." Hisao pointed out. "There's a time limit for our investigation...." He showed his record file as pointed at the right corner of the device, a timer counting down till the Class Trial.

"This isn't enough time..." I clicked my tongue. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Nao, still shaking and outside of the room. 'I should give her some space... but... this is crucial-'

 

"Hey, little ghostwriter! Got a bone to pick with ya'!"

"Wait-" I watched how Hisao just approached her without a care or even notice the frightened look on her face. She stared up at the conman, lips pressed thinly, "W-What... Mr. Mafuyu?"

"Did you, Hina and Machi notice anything strange going on in your room overnight?" Hisao asked. "Like hearing any noises?"

"N-No.... or... at least I didn't.... Hina and I are deep-sleepers and all throughout the night.... Macchan is a loud snorer so we can't hear anything...." somewhere in the crime room, we can hear Machi sneezed and Renma scolding him afterwards. "But when we, three, woke up around 6.00 am... Homare was in her bed, still sleeping....."

 

'What was that?'

... was the first thing that crossed our mind. Hearing that, Hisao's expression changed, from a playful mask to a serious one. He must have the same thought process as I do, 'This makes Group 3's alibi shaky....for now, they're the main suspects....'

"You guys went to the dining hall afterwards right?" I immediately joined in the conversation. "Can you remember who was there before and after you guys?"

 

"A-Ah...." Nao tries to remember back from early morning. "We arrived around 7 am. Before us were Higura and Saku who said they were there around 6:45 am. I didn't keep track of the time afterwards but I remember them in order; Kiharu, Hisao, Renma, Hibiki and Shoma arrived...." 

"We can confirmed that the people not at the dining halls are still in their rooms before the body discovery announcement....." The more information I collected, the more disorganized it gets. The timing between everything is just messed up. Anyone, I mean, anyone should have noticed something is off

"For now we should go see whether the ground floor crew found anything useful...." Hisao suggested. Nao and I agreed as the three of us made our way to the elevator. After the elevator door closes, I caught Hisao staring down at something. 

 

"What's the matter....?" 

"There's this smell that's been bugging me since this morning...." He sniffed the air once more. He then proceed to bend down and touched the carpeted floor with his bare hand. The conman brought his hand to his face and gave it a whiff, "Yup, someone cleaned this corner in the morning..... No doubt, I can still smell blood...."

"Now that you mentioned it....." After hearing that, I took a quick whiff of the air and notice the subtle odd smell. "I can barely even notice the difference..... you have a strong sense of smell?"

"Eh... not a fan to talk about it. But this confirms it that the killer transported the body from the real crime scene to misled us..."

 

"Homare's an early-riser... she must have checked the ground floor all by herself and that's when the killer got her....." I muttered. 

"T-That's... a problem...." said Nao."If she w-was killed.... be-before anyone else was up.... then... wouldn't everyone's alibi.... be hardly concrete...?"

"Whoever this killer is.... they're really a pain in the neck..." pondered Hisao. "If that cat gave us the time when the killing happened... we might be able to narrow it down slightly...."

 

But still, everyone's alibi is either airtight or nonexistent. We can't account everyone's alibi during nighttime either. 'There's a gap there but I couldn't think of anything....'

Once the elevator door opened, we spotted Kiharu and Saku at the reception area, inspecting. "Ah, Ms. Investigator!!" the archaeologist called out. "I think we found where the scene took place!!"

"Right here...." Saku pointed at the spotless place near in front of the reception area but thanks to light reflecting on the tiles, we can see it was recently moped with the visible streaks on the tiles. "And there's also this...."

 

Saku handed over a bloodied white coat to Hisao, "Found this while rummaging through the trash behind the reception desk..... it was buried deep under other miscellaneous junks...."

"This look like a... lab coat...." I heard Hisao whispered under his breath. He folded and tucked it under his armpit. "... Hey missy, how about ya' check out the kitchen? Nao headed there and maybe we can get more clues from there.... There's something I wanna ask to these two here...."

"Okay.... take care, you three...." I bid farewell, still pondering about the conman's attitude towards all this. While he still maintained his playful side, he knows his boundaries. Perhaps, he just trying to gain everyone's trust so that his own side of the escape plan would work?

 

'Now that I think about it...'  What is his plan to beat the killing game in the first place? If this sleepover was just a part of it, wouldn't this consider to be a failure to him? Or.... is he aiming for something different? Reluctantly, I added him to the list of suspects, hoping to get more answers from the class trial later. 

 


 

"Macchan, did you find anything else?"

"W-Whoa...!" Machi almost lost his footing and tripped but I managed to catch him. "T-That was surprising.... for a moment there, I was expecting to see Nao...."

"Sorry for calling you out like that....." I've been meaning to ask the little ghostwriter if this kind of reaction has been occurring to her here but that can wait till next time. "Have you found anything suspicious here in the dining hall....?"

 

"Sort of....." He retrieved a box of herbal tea bags that Homare first prepared for us on the first day. "I was on kitchen duty with Homare after we first arrived here.... This box set have twelve tea bags and I remember Homare using only two of them. I don't recalled Higura and Saku using them yesterday when it's their turn but when I check it just now.... there's only eight of them left.... I'm sorry if it wasn't useful..."

"No, no... it might be crucial...." I gave him a reassuring smile. "Like what she said.... 'Unimportant facts may turn out to be crucial down the line'...."

"Y-Yeah...." Machi stuttered, almost taken back at what I've said. He must have no expected that, "You're surprisingly a soft-hearted person.... that was really dangerous....."

 

"Ahahaha, that's the first time someone ever called me that....." I laughed off his comment. Machi then advised that I should check out Shoma and Higura at the kitchen currently. I nodded and went ahead to the said area. Like what Hisao said before, Nao is also with them. 

 

"Have you three found anythin-!?" Before I can even complete my sentence, something swung right at me, aiming my head. I could barely dodged it in time, feeling it merely grazed my head, "What are you-!?"

Shoma just keeps on swinging something aggressively at my direction and no matter what, my scolding doesn't even fazed him. Timing it perfectly, I grabbed the thing, that turns out to be a rolling pin, before it could make an impact on my head, "What the hell were you thinking!?"

"..... Ah!" Shoma somehow just realized there was someone right in front of him the whole time. "Sumi, it's you.... this equipment is truly useful... when no one noticed......" 

 

"You mean; 'It would be more efficient if the victim didn't see the attack coming using this from the back'...." Nao deciphered his cryptic wordings with ease. "W-We get what you're trying to say so please d-don't prove your point even further!!"

Shoma lifted up the possible killer's weapon and I can immediately tell how much of the impact the bulky rolling pin can actually deal, my arm felt a bit sore. With the right momentum and angle, you can use it to render anyone useless. I also noticed how it felt damp a bit, "No one used that this morning right....?"

"Nah, Hinako and Shoma doesn't used them at all....." said Higura. "It's also their rotation time to use the kitchen but they don't see jackshit.... no one sneak past them or anything...."

 

"We know how the killer can easily get Homare.... but that still doesn't explained how they managed to set up that scene in the bedroom...." All of this must have occurred really early than I first thought. ".... No one hear a single thing last night-"

"Actually..." Shoma cuts in with cheek resting on his left hand, "This critter heard a door opened....."

"What?" 

"Faint but....." Shoma hummed. "The critter hear the steps of the sword-bearer... marching along like a soldier, little before dawn...... There's another set that this critter couldn't hear very well...."

 

"The more shit you talked, the more I seriously think you need to get that head of yours dissected and checked....." Higura remarked. "How the fuck do you even recognized people just by their footsteps?"

"He.... probably just have an excellent hearing......"I tried to defend Shoma's account while it does sound really off. If it's true, then we know when Homare left her room. "Is it just their door that you've heard? Did you hear anything after that?"

"No.... this critter can only do that much....." Shoma pouted. "If this critter knew the sword-bearer is in distress.... I wouldn't have failed them....."

 

Shoma, understandably, seems upset that he let the chance to prevent Homare's demise from happening.

 

..........

 

'Damn it....' I try to restrained from hitting myself in front of others. 'I can't think about it at a time like this. Lamenting about what happened is inevitable but at the same time.... the more time we wasted, the closer our own demise will caught onto us.... Homare wanted everyone to be safe..... and I don't wanna fail that last wish of hers!'

 

"Just fucking blame the victim...." 

All three heads stared at the graphic designer who looked, as usual, irritated, "If that bitch didn't leave without someone to look after that stuck-up ass of hers, then this whole bullshit trial wouldn't happened..... But here we are now cleaning up her mess that she clearly should have fucking seen it coming!! So the lesser yous better do your best in this so that we all can fucking shove our well-deserved victory in that bitch's face!"

"T-that's not a very nice way to put it......." said Nao.

 

"But he's not completely wrong...." Now, their eyes turned to me. "Homare should know how dangerous it is after our motive videos were shown..... if she knew that, then she wouldn't go alone. But......for her to do it otherwise.... so early in fact.... it almost seem like she was lured out...."

"Oh yeah, she was acting pretty fucking suspicious yesterday, acting like a shy virgin!" Higura recalled yesterday's evening meeting. "Ya' think this whole slumber party was set up because she was hiding some shit?"

"That's...... a possibility......" Could it be the reason why she was acting so shifty and off yesterday was because someone prompted her to do that? 'If the sleepover idea made her really fidgety then.. maybe..... Hisao did have a hand in this case.....'

 

"Sumi" I felt an extra weight added on my back before recognizing the voice belongs to the medium. "I have acquired something..... odd...." He uncurled his hand to reveal a tissue that's wrapped something, "I cautiously try not to contaminate this evidence in any way....."

I picked it up to inspect it closely, "..... Alcohol swabs... and those flakey stuffs from the wound again...." 'It's bloody too....There's a strong scent as well but why does it smells familiar.....?'

"Ah... that....." Shoma's eye narrowed once he saw the swabs. "Those came from the medical kit in the kitchen.... the box was torn opened....."

 

And with that, our investigation time came to an end when the PA system picks up once again;

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Ahem! Your investigation time is up!! Alright, little detectives!!! It's time to move forward to the exciting 'Class Trial' event!! Please head your way to the northwest of the hotel immediately!!

 

The PA system shuts off, everyone in the dining hall and kitchen immediately met up with the remaining people in the reception hall. "Northwest.....? But that's just the small woodland area.... wasn't?" Hinako asked. If it's true, then Monomyou must have kept that place well hidden until this thing happened.

"We should head there....." I checked to make sure everyone's present. "... That thing doesn't have much patience to deal with us....." 

Slowly, the hall gets emptier as we dreadfully headed our way to the said location

 


 

On our way there, my thoughts about this case still lingers, 'How did the culprit got away with this? How did they managed to sneak past multiple people close during morning time?' and so on. We stopped once we saw the said woodland but looking at it closely, we could clearly see it's an old building that's been wrapped in an overgrown forest. 

Kiharu and Renma were inspecting it, feeling the walls and looking for something dangerous. The archaeologist was the first one to pull away, "A single-storey building and with this...." she pointed at the button mechanism on the wall, "... It's safe to assume that this is an elevator to.... somewhere....."

"An underground trial...." Renma continues. "There's no mistake.... we will be taken down where we will refute each other......"

 

"Then hurry up and call for it already...." Hisao yawned. "It's bad enough we have to go all out for this so early in the morning......"

"I fucking hope you're the murderer so I can skewered you without a thought...."  Higura gritted his teeth. 

"Awwww, a mild threat....." Hisao snickers in a mocking tone. "How adorable... what's next? You're going to threatened everyone with murder? Oh, you better keep that as a secret if you valued your assets!"

 

"Break it up..." I pushed both of them back, sending a glare to the conman who's still grinning at me. "... If you guys wanna fight that badly... then I suggest you two go all out during the trial later instead..."

"Hm, fine by me..."

"Tch, fine... whatever, I'm still gonna hauled that donkey ass down into the fucking ground....."

 

Thankfully, Kiharu, amidst the argument, called the elevator and once the door opened, everyone immediately flood in. I watched as the small room filled up ever so slowly, making sure every single one of them get in..... then I suddenly felt a pair of hands slid under my jacket and touched my sides.

 

"Atchu-"

"Ngyah!?"

 

I whipped around, feeling my cheeks burning up from embarrassment, to see Shoma with his hands up, "Y-You.... this isn't the time for-!!"

"Critter won't survive when under stress....." Shoma cuts me off. He took my hand as he pulls me along the elevator shaft, "When critters went under too much stress.... critters would immediately give out........ critters such as ourselves shouldn't think too much of that......"

Once he lets go of my hand, it just occurred to me how strong his grip was when I saw the reddish marking, 'Wha... .what's with him trying to help but ended up being frightening instead....?'

 

"That was unexpectedly cute of you, little miss!!" Hisao chuckles. "Didn't know you would make that kind of noise when someone took you off-guard!"

"Oh, please shut it....." I sighed. 

As we felt the elevator slowly descends, the usual silence shattered by Mitsuru who speak up first after we got in here, "D-Do.... you guys really think one of us did this....?"

 

"Asking a question like that with all of us here is a useless attempt...." Amane remarked. "If that's true, the killer obviously won't immediately admit it out loud....."

"H-Hey!" Saku interjected. "We don't know that fact for sure! There's a possibility that this whole thing is rigged, you know!! Everything about this seems fishy!!!"

"Gonna cut off my tongue later for saying this but airborne fuckhead is right...." Higura dodged an incoming attack from Saku just in time as he continues, ".... with how we found that corpse and the useless evidences were placed.... I'm putting my bets on this being rigged by that furfuck to watch us fail miserably!!"

 

"Oh~ho? You're placing bets again?" Hisao chuckles. "Mind if I placed mine as well to prove you wrong? Since your tongue will be gone after this, I would like to take one of your ears since you're a one-sided person after all!!"

"Fuck off with your weird fetish of collecting severed limbs!!"

"Well, it doesn't look like you're putting your ears into good use!"

 

'Ah well.... I can't stop them all the time.....' I admitted defeat in my own mind, but it still managed to make smile while hearing those two arguing about ridiculous things. 'Yeah... this is better than that heavy, defeaning silence that's too dreadful to bear....' and with that, the elevator door opened up.

 


 

"Laaaaaadies and Geeeeentlemen!! Welcome to the moment you all have been waiting for!!!"

 

Monomyou, with its booming voice, plopped onto its throne, silver bearings with blue cushioning that stood higher than the rest, "The Class Trial!!! Please make your way to your own podiums so that your adorable host will explain how this game goes, works and ends!"

Our names were engraved on each podiums and we immediately search around to find ours. Right at the first podium facing the elevator, the order goes clockwise;

 


Mitsuru, Shoma, Hinako, Hiroshi, Saku, Nao, Renma, Amane, Hisao, Kiharu, Sumire, Taiga, Homare, Machi, Higura, Hibiki


 

The courtroom is just as lavish as the hotel's layout; marble pillars surrounded with fake vines, white floral tiles, cerulean blue wallpaper with fleur-de-elise markings and dark blue curtains draped over over the ceiling. 

I can't even appreciate the architecture of the room enough when my eyes fell onto the empty podium.... or what supposed to be an empty podium but instead, a standing picture frame of Takara Homare with a bloody X on it. Looking at it closely, the X was smartly depicted by two foils crossed.

 

"Hey, what the hell's with that....?" Hiroshi was the first one to point it out verbally.

"Oh, that? Why, we don't want your friend here to miss out on the fun, right?" said Monomyou innocently. "Rather than constantly bawling your eyes out, how about finding this so called 'justice' for your dead friend here?"

"You have no rights to say that!!" Kiharu shouted. "For all we know, you might be the one behind all of this!!"

 

"Impawsible! Ackh! I stuttered!!" Monomyou exclaimed. "It's impossible for the host to commit such crime!! It's against the rules of this game!!! Which I will now explain you lovely, irresistible yet impatient brats!! As you all heard that or are deaf, your lovely host has no hand or help in this killing game!!"

"With no exception?" Taiga asked.

"Of course, I coooould hurt one of you guys but that only applies to rule-breakers!!"

 

'So Monomyou couldn't have done it....' I thought. 'Then the killer really is one of us....'

"Okay, okay! Now to present the rules before any of you bastards are going to interrupt!!" exclaimed Monomyou. "Rule One, each every single one of you will present your evidences and arguments while theorized who the killer might be. Rule Two, if all of you managed to vote the correct killer or blackened, the killer will be punished for its heinous crime!! Rule Three, if you vote for the wrong person, everyone gets the punishment but the blackened will be set free!! Wohoooo! Hear that, killer?! Better blend in well!!"

 

"Punished...?" remarked Hinako. "What does that mean?"

"Nyahahaha! Let's just say, it will give the killer the taste of it own medicine!!' laughed Monomyou. "Oh, before I forgot or you all suddenly lose any braincells from this! Rule Four, you must vote for someone! Refusing to vote will have terrible consequences so you better not mess it up!!"

 

"E-Either way...." Mitsuru stammered. "All of our lives are on stake right now!!"

"There's no other way for us....." Renma clears his throat. "The spirits that surrounds this place...... proves that our dear host isn't lying about these rulings....."

"B-But.... H-How are we gonna....." Nao wasn't able to finish her sentence before breaking into tears again. The air became tense again, all of them begin to doubt each other. 'This is bad....' I gulped down the heavy lump in my throat, 'Now the pressure is really getting to them.... if this keeps on going... we will never reach till the end-!'

 

.........

"Ah geez, you guys are such a handful of cowards...."

...........

 

Everyone turned to look at Hisao, who stared at them disinterested and, dare I say, disgust, "You guys stepped into this place and once you hear all the simple rules, you guys want to pull out that 'tail between your legs' card now? Man, you guys are way more worst that I am!"

"T-This isn't funny!!" Saku yelled out. "What if we're wrong in the end!? What if we can't find out who killed Homare?!"

 

"Huh?" Hisao glared down at him and I suddenly felt shiver down my spine. His expressionless face yet his voice still filled with malice, "Huuuh? What the hell are you talking about? Of course we will find them. You guys are just refusing reality. You refused to admit one of us killed her. You all refused the harsh reality on what was brought upon you all....."

Hisao brought his hand around his own neck, eyeing on everyone, "Of course, unless you're willing to forfeit your own life and to not endure such torture, you can die right here, right now. You can even go see our beloved leader we all looked up to so much, who promised us that no such killing will happen...."

 

And just like that, my stomach just dropped. My mouth is open but I can't find the words I'm trying to say. I froze. Twice in the row that I actually froze in my place. But then this similar feeling..... also happened before when I first met Hisao, the two-faced conman.

The man who took the words of a dead person to taunt others. The man who wouldn't dare not to show his distrust in others and put them in their place. That's the man who Mafuyu Hisao is.

".......Goddammit..." Hisao suddenly hit himself in the head with a distressed look on his face. "Now look at what you guys made me do! It's all because of your whining of unfairness! I lost my mood in taking this case seriously!! Thanks a lot.... not!"

 

A huge noise echoed through the room and our attention landed on Higura who slammed both of his hands onto the podium, "Fuck.... off......... Fuck off with your creepy ass villain monologue and your superiority complex!!! We're not fucking forfeiting for shit when we're this far ahead!!! If we're all gonna die then fuck it! It's better to not die as worthless trashy scums who didn't even try at all!!"

"Y-Yeah!!!" Saku backed him up. "E-Even though we don't agree with the rules....."

"We will be disrespecting Homare's spirit....." Renma continued on. "She will be disappointed in us if we don't avenge her.... so... we, unfortunately, have to reject your proposal for us to perish....."

 

With the newfound determination that was suddenly prompted, everyone finally calmed down and prepared for the trial. Hisao sneak a glance right at me, winking as he placed a finger near his mouth while mouthing, 'A little push...'

'This son of a bitch....' I can't help but let out a small laugh. So that's his intention. As I inhaled deeply, I watched how Monomyou just looked over all of us with a bored look on their face, "Hey, were you paying attention? We're ready now!!"

 

"Uhnyah?!" Monomyou dropped something they were playing with while we were arguing. "F-Finally!! You guys are so emotional and it's exhausting to watch your turmoil time after time!! Alrighty then!! We can now officially start the Class Trial!!! With your wits and strength!! It's time to refute with all your might!!"

'One of us is the killer.... one of us is determined to escape from here no matter at what cost..... but we're not gonna let them! Not until we bring them to justice....'

Chapter Text

[ Class Trial - IN SESSION - ]

 

"Well then! It's about time we started this class trial with high spirit!!" Monomyou beamed up. "Let us begin the trial with the first topic! May someone be a dear to volunteer as our first speaker?"

"There's one thing I want to confirm before going into the main points in this case...." I started first with the question that's been bugging me. "I want to know the alibi of all the the people who weren't in the dining hall this morning...."

"Those people would be......" Saku pondered. "Amane, Mitsuru, Taiga and Hiroshi, right? Then, we should-"

 

"Hooold on...." Hisao cuts in immediately. "How about you, little miss leader all of the sudden? You weren't in the dining hall in the morning as well, right?"

'What was that?'  Why on earth is he ganging up on me all of the sudden. Surely, he must be messing around, "I just woke up late, that's all...."

"I-I can testify that!!" Nao backed me up. "She just left her room after getting dressed when I went to get my ElectroID!"

 

"Hmmm... nope! Not really convincing!" Hisao smiled. "For all we know, you might be the killer in disguise as well! There's no way we can let that possibility aside!! So, you better fest out or else you're gonna be a person of interest!!"

"W-What..?" I was taken aback by his claim, is he serious about this? But then again, his suspicion does seem reasonable; just because I'm being serious about this case, it doesn't mean I couldn't be the culprit.

"Oh dear, you have a lot of venom in that sentence of yours...." Renma smiled menacingly. "It seems you valued your own life poorly if you dare to accused our investigator like that...."

 

"Hey, keep it in your pants, spiritfucker!!" Higura hissed. "Just because you two are close, it doesn't mean you should listen to that pitched tent down there!!!"

"I will eviscerate you when I get that chance....." Renma spat back. "The people looking after her, including myself, would have been alerted if she would leave the room.... after all, Hibiki and I are quite the light-sleepers...."

 

"That is correct. Plus, she was quickly out like an extinguished candle........" Hibiki added in. "If you account of her and Homare spending almost till nighttime checking all of us individually....... it would make sense for her to be late..."

"Y-Yeah but what if she sneaked past you guys so that she wouldn't wake you up...?" Kiharu asked. "J-Just to be sure!! I-It's not like I don't really trust you guys' or anything!!!"

 

'Everyone's starting to doubt my alibi.... I must convinced them that I wasn't the killer! There's gotta be a way to prove it that doesn't involved any personal account!'

 


( Nonstop Debate )

"It doesn't matter who's with her or saw her...." said Kiharu. "But the fact she's all alone after you guys left does seem suspicious..."

"Is there any way to prove that claim even..." asked Renma. "Especially during morning time? Even during nighttime?"

"But there's no other way...!" Mitsuru shrieked. "We were all out like a light for the entirety of the night!"

"Unless there's a technical way to prove that she isn't the killer....." Taiga remarked. ".... Maybe we can ask Monomyou for help..?"

"Nyargh!?" Monomyou jumped in their seat. "You guys have already reached a dead end!?"

( BREAK! )


 

"Actually, there is a way...." I snapped my fingers as I turned to Monomyou, "Hey, our darling, magnificent host..... can I ask you something about the body discovery announcement?"

"Ohohoho!" Monomyou squirmed in their seat. "Hearing the word 'magnificent' gives me the tingly!! Go on, dearie, this magnificent host will gladly answer for you!"

"What's the requirement for the announcement to go off?" I asked. "Is there a limit to how many people who discovered the body? If so, would that includes the killer?"

 

"Gyeh-!?  Why did you decided to bring that question up so fast?! You could have wait to ask me that until the third trial!!!" Monomyou was reluctant to answer, keeping us in suspense. "F-Fine.... there should be at least three people who discovered the body.... the killer is excluded...."

"Nao and I went into the room first so that makes it two people already...." I pointed out. "Taiga went in quicker than the rest and that's when the discovery announcement went off...."

"I see now!" Macchan exclaimed. "If Sumi is a killer then it wouldn't go off until the next person enters the room!! So that next person would have been....?"

 

"That would be me...." mutters Mitsuru. "But I already hear the announcement before I could even step into the room....."

"Okay so now that's out of the way!!" said Hisao. "Now we can move onto the other slackers who are all holed up in their rooms!!"

"H-Hey! Why did you start accusing me in the first place!?"

 

"Well, that was just a bait...." Hisao waved his hand around. "I was wondering if you would bring up that announcement thing during this whole trial but since I'm an impatient man, I decided to throw in some bait and you took it really well!"

"Don't tell me you're using that to eliminate some suspects off...?" I would applaud for that but honestly? I'm ticked that he did that just to scare me.

"So...." the conman continued. "It's obvious that little miss, ghostwriter and marksman didn't do it since they caused that announcement... so the only remaining people are Amane, Mitsuru and Hiroshi.... oh! And thank you, our beloved host for an interesting fact!"

 

"Hnngh-!!! Flattery won't get you anywhere, f-fools!!" Monomyou squirmed even further in their seat. "Your sweet-talking won't affect me that much-!!!"

"I-Is... it getting off of praises...?" Mitsuru paled. "That's so low, even for me..... of course, my interest doesn't go low as-"

 

"Anyways...." I grabbed everyone's attention from... that. "Asami, Sekiguchi and Osame.... mind filling us in on what were you guys doing when the others left for the dining hall?"

"Well, Taiga and I cleaned up the mess we caused from our last night pillow fight...." Hiroshi explained. I did enter their room during the investigation and so far, he's staying true to his side of the story. "It was really messy that we have to pick up some pillow stuffings..."

"I actually woke up early with Hisao and Kiharu but I spent the entire time trying to wake up Amane!!" Mitsuru pouted. "He's really stubborn even during comatose state!!"

 

"I can back that up, Mitsuru tries to suffocate him using the pillow and it didn't work...." Kiharu sighed, remembering back that loud and terrifying moment. "He's a real treat......"

"Shut it..." said the composer. "If it weren't for you wenches, I could have woken up in a top-notch condition...."

"Then sleep in early next time..." It's Hisao's turn to snapped back at him. "Well, still dodgy... but that's everyone, alright...."

 

"But where does that take us now....?" Hibiki listed out the said alibis collected so far, "We've sort of cleared everyone's alibi in but the people who stayed in their rooms most of the morning is still under suspicion...."

"Why's that....?" Hiroshi asked, raising an eyebrow.

"If what the record file we have now is stating truth......." the singer brought up one of the evidences. "The wound on her head.... it would make sense if she got that when she was all by herself..... and the only time she would be alone was when Nao and others left the room during morning time...."

 

"So... would that mean the killer caught her off-guard once they got into the room....?" Machi asked. "But there would be a struggle going on, would it...?"

"If there's a struggle then that filthy wench and I would hear it since your room is right across ours...." remarked Amane. "But there wasn't any loud noises or such....."

"Wench!?" Mitsuru shrieked.

 

'Did Homare got that wound while she was still in the bedroom? No, there is something I have that contradicts that statement!'

 


( Nonstop Debate )

"It would make sense if the culprit got to her when she's all by herself....." said Hibiki. "When there's no witnesses around...."

"However we would hear the struggle going on from our rooms....."  Taiga rebutted. "The distance between the front and back rooms aren't that far...."

"If such a struggle would to happen there....." remarked Shoma. "... wouldn't the bedroom be littered with messiness....?"

"Think about other possibilities though.... I don't think it has to be the bedroom...." Kiharu pointed out. "I think she took that hit somewhere else...."

( BREAK! )


 

"Satoshi, you're talking about the spot near the reception area, right?" I interjected. "The one that has visible streaks on the tiles?"

"Yeah, that's it!! The one we discovered!!" said Kiharu. "I found it odd that there's only one spot of the floor that looked recently cleaned while the rest remained dirty....."

"Homare got that head wound when she was at the reception area so--"

 

( ARGUED: Yokoda Machi - "Your logic seem flawed to me!" - )


"I'm sorry to rudely interrupt midway through your sentence but I found that hard to believe...." Machi interjected.

"W-What hard to believe?"

"That the crime even took place on the reception area..." Machi pointed out while pushing back his glasses. "That clue might have been tampered prior the body being discovered so it's too soon to admit that even happened!"

'I need to hear him out if there's something about my claim that he doesn't agree with....'

 

"The only possibility was that the culprit sneakily hit her from behind when she least expected..." Machi explained. "When she didn't noticed anyone enter the bedroom as well. And that way without any struggle happening, the culprit may have enough time to hang her body...."

"But wouldn't inflicting a wound like that caused some part of the room to be bloody though?" I asked. "If it did happened in the bedroom, why was there no speck of blood when Nao and I first entered!"

"The culprit must have used the bloodied towels we found to put pressure on her wound quickly to stop the bleeding!" Machi added. "And that's what I think is actually happening! There's no other evidences that a body was moved prior to morning time!"

 

( CUT-IN! - "My words against yours!" -)


 

"The reception area isn't the only place that proves my theory to be possible...." I glanced over to the conman, checking out his fingernails the whole time. I coughed and he finally glanced upwards towards me, "Hisao, care to explain yourself...."

"Ugh... hyperosmia is such a pain to explain...." Hisao groaned, scratching the back of his neck. "The elevator smelled different than yesterdays' so I got on my knees and crawled over the carpet floor. The left corner of the elevator was damped a bit but I got a little touchy-touchy and took a whiff and no doubt there was a metallic scent!" he explained in a disinterested voice. "There, happy now?"

"If it keeps us in the right track then yes, I'm happy that you at least made an effort to explain your finding...."

"Ah! So it wasn't just me!!" said Hiroshi, surprised by the revelations. "I thought the place smelt odd as well but it was so faint..."

 

"But there's no doubt about it.... the subtle odd smell that Hisao pointed out during the investigation is the culprit's way to hide the fact that it happened in the reception area...." I then glanced over at Machi. "I hope that answered your doubts against mine...."

"Y-Yes, with multiple witnesses like this.... then it must be true...." Machi nervously replied back. "Sorry for being aggressive with you..."

"Hey, hey!! This is a trial!!" Hisao called out. "There's no use of saying 'sorry' when you're trying to weed out some lies! Don't go all soft on others just because you made a mistake!!"

 

"You literally accused me as the killer an hour ago...." I sighed, ignoring the shit-eating grin he has right now. "We can finally ruled out two odd evidences that we found during the investigation but one question still remained...."

"Nao's testimony, right...? About Homare....." said Machi. "Around 6 am, she was still in her bed..... but if the reception area is the main crime scene then we would have others witnessing it...."

"And sure as hell, the airborne fuckhead and I didn't hear a single shit!" Higura called out. "There ain't nothing off about that place at all!! Hell, we were all at the dining hall!!"

 

'It doesn't have to happened during morning time.... it happened.....' Listing through every evidences I found, there's one that could be the possible answer, "The wound inflicted happened way earlier than we first expected. Because remember the state of the wound clearly. It was already dried when we first inspected it, right?"

"W-Wait... before we even got up....?" Saku's eye widened. "But then that means.... Homare would have left her room...."

"And for that, Shoma's account makes sense...." Shoma tilted his head in confusion as I explained. "He told me that he heard someone opened the door and two pair of footsteps...... he was sure one of the pairs belongs to Homare as he... umm..."

 

"Homare's steps are elegant and precise like a soldier, befitting of her natural talent.....!" Shoma continued where I left off. "However, this critter can only do so much and have little energy to stay awake thanks to the soothing voice of an angel....."

"O-Oh...." Hibiki looked away, bashful at what the biologist had said. "... I didn't expected to be complimented about my voice here...."

"W-What?!" Amane looked terrified, gripping hard onto his podium. "You witnessed the Holy Lorelei's Voice!? Absurd, certainly this is absurd!! How dare you lots witnessed it before I do!?"

 

"Fucking hell man...." Higura cringed. "Is everyone here at least not fucking weird or horny all the time....?"

"I-I think that's a 'no' at this point...." I can't helped but agree with the foul-mouthed, egoistic graphic designer out of all people. "But to put that in perspective, Homare left her room with a possible culprit who then attacked her at the reception area...."

"The culprit would be someone whom she trusted a lot if it's just the two of them...." said Saku. "Then... wouldn't her group be the main suspect then...? Ah, but Nao is surely not a culprit, we already knew that...."

 

"Y-Yes...." Nao gulped down to her nervousness. "T-To be honest... we didn't hear any noises last night since... M-Macchan snored really loudly...."

"For the entirety of the night, even....." Hinako sighed, rubbing her forehead. "We didn't noticed that our door was opened..."

"Ugh... s-sorry, you two..."

 

"Then... would it possible it was someone she trusted....?" asked Renma. "Based on the facts provided, it does sound like she's on a rendezvous with this culprit.... perhaps to talk about something...."

 

'A rendezvous..... if it's just a simple meeting.... if it's Homare initiating it then... the only person I could think of her trying speak with in amidst of sleepover plan was......'

....

...........

.................

"Mafuyu Hisao.... I'm sure you have something you've been keeping away from us?"

 

Hisao stayed silent when he heard name called out. Now, it's my turn to gang up on you. It makes sense even, it was his doing that this whole sleepover plan was set on motion, "Mafuyu, if I recalled, you had a hand in this sleepover plan, right? You're the one who suggested to Homare right after our motive videos were revealed......."

"H-Huh....?" Mitsuru tensed up, "I-Is that true...?"

 

He still stayed silent however, more people start speaking against him. "I knew you were acting all fucking shady!!" Higura hissed. "Of course, the conman! The least trustworthy person participating in the fucking trial!! Should have burn your ass when I had the chance!"

"For her to be act all weird and fidgety when she suddenly prompted that plan...." Machi glanced at Hisao. "So it was you....."

The conversation started to get heated over to the point there's no space to even breathe in normally. Slowly, I feel the anxiety from before spiking up again, 'Come on, why aren't you saying anything?!'

 

And then....

 

"Okay fine, I admit. It was me who suggested it...." Hisao sighed, brushing off the dirt on his nails by rubbing them against his coat. "Geez, it's so annoying when people go hostile on you just because you're a little involved in it..... but just to be clear, Homare was the one asking me to come up with the plan...."

'Right, this is just a white lie he came up to cover the fact that it was us who-' like that, I almost gasped out loud but managed to keep it in. 'Fuck, did I screw up.....? I almost revealed the group's plan-'

 

"But just so you know, I didn't kill her...." Hisao simply admitted it with a lot of confidence in his tone. "If I did kill her... that means I would have to go back to my room before anyone in my group even awake yet.... and that key card was tucked every so deeply into the composer's breast pocket and I'm not touching him like that....."

"Fair but not too important to bring it up...." Amane shrugged.

"But!!" the conman smiled in return. "It's true, Homare did say she wanna rendezvous with me early in the morning before everyone else but I declined...."

 

"And you didn't say this earlier because....?" Hisao just faked a thinking pose as he answered the aerobat's question.

"Because it will screw me over!! If I mentioned this no big-deal tidbit, I will surely be voted out! You all have so little faith in me so I kept it reaaaal quiet till right now!! It's so sad that I might actually die from the distrust you guys have towards me! Oh! If anyone's curious, she specifically wanna discuss about the final step of our plan!!

 

"What step...?"

"Alllll of it is in heeeere!" Hisao pulled out a familiar small notebook in his hand, it was Homare's notebook. "I managed to steal this when the investigation started... when everyone else got too distracted with the body!!"

"Not only you're a liar but you have no remorse stealing from the dead...?" Renma glared. "Don't you have any shame at all...?"

 

"Emotions this, emotions that... aren't y'all curious what our precious leader writes in her book?" Hisao shakes the notebook to catch our attention. "I was when she actually went along with my plan!! It's funny that the person, who kicked my ass twice and still have no such trust in me since the first day, suddenly agree to what I'm suggesting!!"

"Then what's written in it....? Something that changes the sword-bearer mind....?" Shoma asked.

"Nah... she doesn't change her mind about me at all...." Hisao hummed. "Nope!! She's still the uptight leader we all love her for!"


"Just spill the goddamn beans already, my head is aching from listening to you yapping all day....." Hiroshi groaned.

The conman just smiled as he said;

 

"Homare was planning to murder someone else first...."

 

Just like that, a collective of gasps were heard in the room, others just flinched at the answer. Higura even dropped his look of annoyance and was just as shocked as everyone else. Machi, Nao and Hinako just stared wide-eyed at the conman.

"Oh? Oh? Don't believe me?" Hisao said as he showed the page to the rest of us. A highly detailed page filled with possible murder scenarios written by Homare. "Looky here! These are all her handwriting, right? No doubt about that! She listed everything!! Stabbing, poisoning and even drowning!! It's impressive as well! If she did exactly what she planned out, she would have won immediately!"

 

"T-Then that means...." Nao stuttered in fear. "When she went out..... when she tried to rendezvous with you.... would that mean...?"

"She was planning to murder me?" Hisao shook his head as he closed the notebook. "Perhaps but since I declined, she must have taken another victim then..... but make sense right? Why she would go out so early in the morning just to get hit in the head! That's another mystery solved! Go team!"

"So this whole plan was just.... a trap....?" Mitsuru mumbled. "A trap just to help her escape from here?!"

 

Fuming, everyone's fuming at this revelation. And so am I. Thinking about the words I said to her, when it was just us before nighttime yesterday... did I accidentally set her off...? Did I actually gave her that strength... to murder?

 

.....

 

I'm upset and that's reasonable. But not in a time like this, "It's.... It's what we should expected...." I gripped onto the podium. "During a situation like this...."

"Ahaha! Even dear little miss is on my side!!!" Hisao cheerfully laughed. "It's true though! Just because someone themselves said they don't want anyone to murder each other... it doesn't mean they themselves wouldn't!!"

"I suppose...." Shoma doesn't seem to be affected by this. "It's common human reaction..... even this critter understands..... after motive video... everyone stressed out..... even the stone-cold sword-bearer......"

 

'Then why are we doing this....' I can hear Taiga muttering under his breath. They don't wanna solve this trial for a supposed murderer who they thought was our friend. And I can't blame them. I would to. But- "Everyone..."I slammed both of my hands hard onto the podium, the people standing besides me jolted. "Everyone... please remember.... even though Homare started this whole mess.... even though it was her fault for dragging us down-"

 

"- all of you would do the same thing...."

"Huh?" I looked up, towards Shoma's direction. He tugged his jacket downwards as he said, "This critter understands what you're saying.... though the sword-bearer have selfish intents..... but without that intent, we would no longer exist, no?"

"I.....have to agree with that...." Renma coughed. "If Homare stay true to her principles..... that wouldn't be worth anything once our limit is up, wouldn't it..... by holding back everyone's desire to kill.... that instead escalates our doom..."

"Remember what Monomyou said..." I continued from there on. "If no one died in three days, then we will all be dead by now...... She was the first one who's determined to keep us alive.... and with that time limit... I don't think she has any other choice..... and on top of that, the motive videos...... that's what truly enabled her...."

 

"Nyahahaha! No one can resist my perfectly filmed motive videos!!" Monomyou laughed. "It's a guaranteed despair-driven film that will strike your heart no matter what!!"

I glared at the cat on its throne, "And we can't blame her for that.... we can't blame her for wanting to get out of here... more than anyone else.... because in the end, all of you would do that same thing..."

Again, with the silence, everyone looked at each other, worryingly. Even Hisao just watched over everyone, waiting for an answer. "But please....." I continued. "If you all still doubt her intentions.... then you all don't have to think that we're doing this for her.... we just have to bring down the culprit who could have stopped this in the first place.... let's end this trial for our own survival..."

 

In a desperate attempt to convince them, a plea if you could see it that way, and one by one, everyone lightened up.

"Sumi is right.... just because someone within our group betrayed our trust...." Hibiki nodded. "It doesn't mean we can back down on this now and admit defeat....."

"I still think this whole 'planning to murder us' just being a fluke but-!!" Hiroshi flashed a grin at me. "I'm gonna follow along with your belief instead!! Getting out victorious is much better than being screwed over here!!"

 

'Ah, thank god....' I felt an overwhelming rush of relief once I saw them getting better. Slowly, I slid down and on my knees, trying to catch my breath from the tension before. Through the small opening of the podium, I gazed towards Hisao's direction, wondering, 'Why did he bring that up now...? He could have just said 'no' and we can continue where we left off..... he could have just told us after the trial....'

 

'Is this his way of trying to get everyone's mind rid off Homare's supposed innocence...? Or is it just another one of his tricks....' I quickly pulled myself. Some questions should be left answered some other time. "I hope everyone remembered the sequence of event before all of that happened...."

"R-Right!!" Mitsuru exclaimed. "Homare potentially lured out a victim to the reception area to murder them but it backfired, right?"

"And so she ended up taking the hit..." Amane pondered. "But if your theory is correct and that it happened earlier before anyone of us are awake.... then how do you explained Nao's account in finding her still in the bed?"

 

"Hey..... I also have this thought that's been running in my mind lately....." Taiga shifted his eyes to his left, looking unsure of himself. "... When we first take down the body..... is it really true that it was the hanging that caused her death?"

"There's no other way, is there....?" said Hinako. "It is the state that we found her in... also, between the time of us leaving the room and entering the room, 30 minutes or more seems sufficient enough to be deemed deceased....."

"It's not the state she's found in that's bothering me....." Taiga corrected. "Rather than the state her body was in...."

 

"Care to explain that?" Renma prompted him to go on.

"Well... based from my own experience and self-defence classes..... I do have some knowledge how differentiate wounds and bruises....." Taiga explained. "But when I checked Homare's neck.... there's this weird red evenly lines that's on both sides..."

"Aren't those the lines caused by that bloody towels or something??" Higura snorted. "I thought that would be obvious enough..."

 

"I thought so too but the way the towels wrapped around her neck unevenly.....the usage of towels for hanging even..... and also somehow managed to murder her by just hanging while she's dazed possibly with the wound. The ceiling wasn't even that high to begin with and Homare could have easily stood on the bed nearby judging by their height... yet..." Taiga pointed out all the clue he found by himself and the more he listed, the more it makes sense. "Don't you think all of that could just be staged to throw us off?"

 

'The culprit would have difficult time to set this whole thing up if Homare is still partially awake..... so the only possibility that they managed to do all that without a problem was....'

........

 

"Homare didn't die from hanging......" My face just twitched at the image, "Rather she was most likely strangled to death after the culprit hit her with a blunt object, rendering her useless........and this also fits in Nao's account...."

"Now, if I'm following your thought process here...." said Hisao. "Then that means by the time Nao and others wake up.... she was already dead! That means Nao's group was sleeping with a corpse unknowingly the whole time!!"

"What!?" Nao, Hinako and Machi exclaimed in shock, paled at the thought after all this time, they were in the same room with a dead body.

 

"The culprit critter... after committing the crime.... disposed the evidences.... tidy things up...." Shoma, once again, swaying from side-to-side as he spoke. "... using the sword-bearer key card to get into the room and placed the body there on the bed....."

"So when the culprit managed to placed her there... they would have to wait until the rest of you woke up-"

 

( ARGUED: Hanabusa Hinako - "I cannot ignore such fruitless attempt!" - )


"While I see your point in that statement of yours but wouldn't that be too risky for the culprit to just placed her body in the same room as ours?" Hinako cuts me off.

"Again, it's a possibility but I would like to hear your thoughts in it if you have some doubts...." I gulped, the last person who I wanted to argue against was Hinako and here she is now with that menacing aura again.

 

"I appreciate your kind gesture to let me interrupt.." Hinako giggled. "Now as I was saying, placing a dead body in the room with multiple witnesses would be a poor attempt to conceal a crime. With the wound exposed, there would at least be blood leaking out and staining the sheets, we would have notice that, right?"

"The bloody towels that Machi brought up before answered that last point..." I replied. "And by the time you guys found her on that bed, the wound would already be dried up. Since she died from asphyxiation, wouldn't the blood flow also stopped?"

"I can't deny that possibility but even if you clean up the wound... wouldn't the room be filled with metallic smell that we could have noticed?"

 

( CUT-IN! - "My words against yours!" -)


 

I took out the evidence that the medium have given to me earlier, "This was found by Renma during the investigation... and it's the closest I can get to answer your question...."

"A... alcohol swabs...?" Hinako's eyes widened. "From the kitchen medical kit..... "

"Those were found among the sheets of a messy bed...." Renma pointed out. "The culprit didn't bother to disposed them at all but then again, I could hardly see them until they fell off the bed when we tried to take down the body......."

 

"They were definitely used to clean up the wound and potentially the blood off...." With my gloved hand, I tried to pick up the flakes that still remained on the swabs. "Because of these little things were also found on the wound....."

"Yeah about that...." Taiga nervously called out. "What are those things even....? Those greenish stuffs were scattered everywhere when Renma picked that up...."

 

'Green flakes that has a strong scent once mixed with alcohol.... there could only be one thing that causes that kind of effect....'

.....


"Macchan... I think we found the answer to your missing tea bags question...." I folded the swab and put it back into my pocket. "The flakes must have been the missing herbal tea bags you're looking for...."

"Wait, that's what they're used for!?"

"And for it to still be in the same room as the corpse...." I tried to piece together the image. "Then may I ask you three this, was the body facing the ceiling when you last saw it?"

"Y-Yeah...." Machi muttered. "She was facing upwards when she ummm.... sleeping"

 

"Then the alcohol swab was used to cover the wound underneath wound, hidden between the head and the pillow while also pressing the herbal tea bag against it.... and whatever those flakes were... it was probably used to disguised the smell as well-"

"Ah- Ahhhhhhhhh! Hold on!" Nao suddenly screamed, not in terror but it made everyone else jump. "What was the herb used in this scenario?! Macchan, do you know it?! Do you know what kind of tea it was?!"

"A-Ah um...." Maccha was surprised by the ghostwriter's sudden outburst. "It was.... chamomile.. why..?"

 

"What the fuck, shorty...?" Higura, oddly concerned, stared at the ghostwriter. "What's with the sudden yelling...? Did something possessed you or something to make you scream like a banshee??"

"N-Nao...?" I tried to get the short girl's attention but she looked like she's thinking really hard about the said herbs. "D-Did you remembered something or...?"

 

"Just as I expected!" Nao nodded confidently as she has her serious expression on. "The culprit may have also try to use them to lessen the blood loss!!!"

"Blood.... loss?"

"I had a hand in some remedy expert's findings about herbal tea being a natural remedy.... chamomile is one of the herbs that could also be used to heal wounds!!" said Nao. "As another fact, chamomile is also used for aromatherapy!! It's part of my work as well to research stuffs like this!"

 

"But then... wouldn't that be ineffective towards... corpses...?" Hinako asked. "It's possible that the strangulation happened right before the culprit even bother to clean up the wound....."

"O-Oh right!!!" Nao slowly retreated. "J-Just adding in my knowledge in this topic...."

"Nope! It's pretty helpful, little miss the second!!" said Hisao. "Because that fact significantly lessens the list of suspect we all have in mind! Now we gotta solve the rest of the mysteries!!"

 

"It did?"

"Sure as hell it did!!" Hisao pumped his fist up. "It proves that whoever the culprit is have a rather specific knowledge on how to treat wounds in their daily life!"

"Someone with a scientific background, you mean....?" And then I froze, wherever Hisao is going with this. I don't like it. Because the people he suspected... would be too tough to crack. But if he's gonna turned this trial towards that direction where we start accusing those people......

...... Then I better take control of this trial before he does!

 

[ Class Trial - INTERMISSION - ]

Chapter Text

[ Class Trial - RESUMED - ]

 

"Whaaaaaaat a shocker!!!" Monomyou excitedly shouted. "To find out our lovely guests has been sleeping with a corpse this whole time!!! How cruel!! How putrid!! How exhilarating!! I wonder how, I wonder how!! Will our lovely guests find out who would do such a daring move!? Will they smoked out the culprit!? Let us proceed with high curiosity!!"

"So we got the clear picture of how the culprit set up that bedroom scene! Little miss, you may go on with your next point!!"

 

I eyed on the conman carefully as I went on, "The next thing I want to know about is what everyone's doing during morning time, before the announcement go off..."

"Not much...." Saku replied first. "The usual.... after Hinako and Shoma served us breakfast, everyone had a chat, Gura said something lewd and I hit him..."

"Yeah... the usual....." Higura grumbled along, rubbing what seem to be reddish sore spot on his forehead now that I looked at it closely, at least it's not a lie. 

 

"I excused myself to use the toilet in my own room since the ground floor plumbing system is under repairs..." said Hinako. "Shoma and Renma were... 'meditating'... at the corner of the dining hall..."

"Hibiki and I were planning to go swimming!!" said Kiharu. "But we were on our way there right when we heard the announcement!"

"I went to check some books I borrowed from the library in my own room... checking out their serial numbers and all..." exclaimed Machi. "Nao was with me before she went to get her ElectroID since she borrowed some books too..."

 

"And I was playing around with those automaton soldiers outside!" Hisao grinned. "It's been a while since I had a good exercise!!"

"That.... Yes, Kiharu and I did see you do that, Hisao...." Hibiki sighed. "You sure have a death wish....."

"Well, I can't just go sitting around and doing nothing, I wanna do something useful too...." Hisao pouted. "So, that's all the morning events sorted!!"

 

Again, Nao's group have the most suspicious alibi, going their separate ways. If that's the case, then I would have to eliminate some evidences we found first, "Keep everyone's placement in mind.... let's discuss how the culprit got away...."

"Right.... it was locked from the inside.... we did saw you trying to pry open it...." Taiga pointed out. "... But why would the culprit do that though...? Were they trying not to get caught?"

"Perhaps.... and maybe staging the hanging would also make us think that it was a suicide move...." said Higura. "I would have a hard fucking time to believe the culprit would be that much of an idiot to just leave the body lying down in open like that....."

 

"Because of that scene, we have diverge from the main focus of the trial, rather than trying to find the culprit...." Renma tapped his finger against his cheek. "The culprit both want to mislead us and possibly turn this trial around so that we purposely vote wrongfully...."

"Hey, is it possible to vote for someone who committed suicide since... well... they would be considered the 'blackened' one...?" Kiharu asked.

"Ahemm-hmmmm, hmn! Nyargh-!!! I bit my tongue!!!" Monomyou fell back in its seat after coughing several times. "That kind of scenario were often handled differently by other hosts so for your adorable host's view, a substitute will be punished instead, the reason for their death!!"

 

"Substitute...? Like wha-"

"It doesn't matter and it will never happened..." Hisao cuts off the composer's sentence. "We're getting side-tracked as usual. Wow, you guys sure are useless without darling little miss here holding your hands! Maybe some of you should sit out most of the trial if you're gonna ask all these useless questions!!"

"H-Hey!! You're the one who's trying to take our mind off of this trial with that notebook clue of yours!!!" Mitsuru pointed out, accusingly. "Besides!! Why are you giving Sumi those creepy nicknames?! Is there some secret relationship you guys had without us knowing!?"

 

"Ergh, ew, I'm not interested in some too-serious-for-everyone's-sake kind of person, I wanna have my own freedom, you know? I'm not gonna settle with some robot with a ticking heart." Okay, he went too far, even as a joke and the conman knew that. He smirked at me and I just rolled my eyes back at him. "And like I've said... we're being side-tracked here..."

"The question about.... the critter culprit got away......" Shoma pondered, tugging at his shell head. "Is there a secret entry the critter culprit could have gone.....?"

"Maybe they were hiding in the closet and got out once everyone arrived at scene!" said Saku.

 

'No, that's not it. I'm sure the answer is clearly there, right in front of our eyes.....'


( Nonstop Debate )

"The critter culprit must have escaped through a secret entryway....!" said Shoma.

"The wall between rooms are not that wide...." Amane corrected. "I failed to see a secret room trick would have a place in this...."

"Could the culprit be hiding in the bathroom or even the closet at some point...?" Saku asked. "Until everyone else is there...?"

"Nah, you're all wrong!!" Hiroshi shouted. "The culprit must have escaped through the windows and scaled down the hotel walls!!  That's how they did it!"

"If it's that obvious then we could have seen that as we were outside when it happened....." Hibiki shot his words down.

( BREAK! )


 

"I don't think so..." I explained, "... while you're correct they escaped through a window.... but it's a rather smaller one they used...."

"So... I'm half-right and half-wrong....?" Hiroshi sound confused. "I don't really get it but what kind of 'smaller window 'are you talking about?"

"Do you all remember the chair near the front door? Near the door that was locked from the inside..." I recalled back the moment when I sneaked Nao into the room. "The culprit escaped through the window panel above the door, using the chair as support...."

 

"Wait!! I remembered that!!!" Taiga snapped his fingers. "Nao knocked that chair over when you guys did the same thing!! That was bugging me for some reason!!"

"I-It was upright before I knocked it over...." Nao nervously laughed. "So.. that one is perfectly solved....."

"I supposed the culprit couldn't placed the chair anywhere else after escaping. Prioritizing the chair placement is slim in trying to escape from the crime undetected....." said Renma. "So they leave it be...."

 

"So we got the beginning and the end solved...." Machi pointed. "But what's troublesome is the gap we can't solved.... the middle part......"

That's true, even I can't figured that part out. "Everyone's scattered around so it's hard to pinpoint who might even have any solid alibi-"

 

"I say we should just accused Homare's precious roommates first..."

 

"Huh!?" Nao, Machi and Hinako all was shocked by the sudden statement. I'm sure everyone else also felt that sudden jab from nowhere. Lo' and behold, by himself, Hisao finally make the move I was afraid he would do.

"Come on, don't act all surprised...." Hisao sighed. "Everyone is at least suspicious that her roommates somehow acted like nothing's even happening within their group...... Nao, you're on clear duty and also, you've been sticking to the librarian's side the whole morning so he's on clear duty too.... but Hinako on the other hand...."

"I-I beg your pardon...?" It doesn't sound like she asking for a repeat of what he said, it's more like she wanted Hisao to go on with his explanation.

 

"It's too sus that you went ahead alone while the others didn't think too much about it....." said Hisao with a smile. "Which got me thinking... did you really go to your room after that...? Or did you go ahead to the crime scene and staged everything?"

"T-That's preposterous!!!" Machi yelled. "We were on the same elevator!!! We were on the same floor!!"

"Oh, but did you saw her left the room after you've gone to yours? Any confirmation on that.....?"

 

"She's not the killer!!!" Nao squeaked out, desperate to defend the behaviorist. "She would never kill anyone!! She's always so kind and helpful!! She doesn't want anyone to die either!!!"

Hisao's face darkened, "Just because someone's kind, it doesn't mean they would never kill........ also explain this....." He pulled out something from under his jacket, once he unfolded it; it was the bloodied white coat that Saku found at the reception area. "I'm sure no one is aware of this but has everyone checked their closets in their own room?"

 

"Huh... closets...." My eyes wandered on the sleeves of the jacket I'm wearing, "Mine has a winter jacket that I'm wearing right now...."

"Oh! That's good!!" Hisao exclaimed. "Now check the cuffs on the sleeves, there should be a tag inside of it!!"

A tag...? Sure enough, I found the said small tag he was talking about, sewed near the cuff area. 'It's my room number..? Wait, that means-'

 

"Ding, ding, ding!!!" Hisao imitated a winning bell noise as he pulled the tag from the coat's cuffs, "Each room has their own jackets and coats provided by our wonderful host!! And this coat here.... has Hinako's room number on it...."

Hinako's face immediately lost it color after hearing that, making her looking a lot more guilty than innocent, stammering, "S-Surely.. there's a mistake.... I have never seen that coat before.."

"Aww..... Hinako is a bad liar as well...." Hisao smirked. "I really hate liars... especially those who are bad at it....."

 

"No!!" Hinako yelled. "It's just a mere coincidence!! There's no evidence that I could have been the killer!!"

"T-That's right!!!" Machi backed her up. "You're accusing her on baseless facts!!"

"I wanna believe Hinako...." Nao muttered. "I wanna believe in her!"

 

"There's no prove I'm the killer / she's the killer!!" Three sentence meshed together into one-powerful sounding sentence. Hisao doesn't look like he can argue with three people at once. He's jumping into some serious territory here but... there's something about what he said could possibly be true. If he's trying to prove something with Hinako being the main suspect, then..... I must find the contradiction here!

 


( Mass Panic Debate )

"All of this could have done by anyone who's skilled enough!!!" (Hinako)

"Hinako have no reason to murder Homare!!" (Machi)

"We were all together during nighttime!!" (Nao)

"I was with everyone during morning time as well!!" (Hinako)

"With only that evidence, it's too far-fetched to pinned it on her!!" (Machi)

"Even though we didn't realise it..." (Nao)

"There's no other evidences that even has my involvement!!!" (Hinako)

"You've got the wrong person!!" (Machi)

"There's no way Hinako sneaked past us!!" (Nao)

 

( BREAK! )


 

"Is the kitchen roster the reason why you're suspecting Hinako..... Mafuyu...?" If there's any evidence that stood out the most, it's the kitchen roster that was created on the first day. Two people will be in charge meal-prepping and the keys to the kitchen has to be given to one of those two said people. "Shoma has an alibi during the morning with Renma... and Hinako was...."

"She left the room...." Hisao whistled. "While everyone's getting rowdy, she took the chance to make up some excuse to go set up the crime... getting something she needed from her own bedroom first....."

 

'Something she needed from her own room? The only evidence that might came from individual rooms was.....'

 

"The bloody towels you used to hang Homare....." I gasped out. "... The reason why those towels wouldn't belong to the third floor bedrooms.... was because they came from your own bedroom...... you hid them there before heading towards the third floor....."

"Right...." Saku speak up, slowly. "I remembered something important now.... the key both Gura and I had when it was our turn yesterday.... we gave them to Hinako during that evening meeting....."

"I said, it's just a mere coincidence...." Hinako starting to get really furious at us. "There's no other evidences that proves I was the killer...."

 

'There is something else.... something that maybe only her would knew.... to get her to keep talking. I have to carefully listen to what she said!'

 


( Nonstop Debate )

"What other evidences that points to me being the killer exactly?!" Hinako snapped.

"Is it the alcohol swabs being stolen from the medical kit?"

"Why does the kitchen roster could possibly be the most important clue here in this trial!?"

"Is it because tools there stood up the most? The knives? The damp rolling pin? It could have been any other tools in that kitchen!"

( BREAK! )


 

".... That's really specific for you to say about a rolling pin which stood out the most..." I interjected. "And how did you know it was a damp at that time...? The only people who knew about that was Shoma, Nao and Higura...."

"Aaaand there you go, a clear cut answer!!" Hisao clapped. "Wow, you seriously landed yourself in your own trap there! Of course, you have yourself to blame once you mentioned the bathroom problem and the rolling pin. You basically doomed yourself for revealing those stuffs to us!"

Just like that, her furious expression morphed into something with terror. A horrified look on her face. It's over. She has been caught.

 

"Nao.... Macchan..... are you two convinced now....? Please do think about it...." I asked to her previous defendants. They both looked each other, still trying to accept the slip-up being the truth and finally nodded as they made their decision. "... Before everyone voted.... I wanna go over this case one more time, starting from the beginning...."

 


( Closing Argument )

 

"The plan was set in motion when Homare decided to plan a sleepover in order to lessen any witnesses around to see her commit a crime. After Hisao rejected her request, she went after the culprit... who will end her plan prematurely. The culprit had time preparing all the things before Homare announced the plan to the group..."

"Early morning, the culprit went to take the towels from their own room and the rolling pin from the kitchen, waiting for Homare to arrive near the reception area. And once she did, the culprit struck her from behind, staining the floor and the coat they're wearing."

"Wasting no time to panic, the culprit threw away the coat into the trash behind behind the reception desk, went ahead to use kitchen's medical kit to get the alcohol swabs and the herbal tea bags. The culprit used the towels to put pressure on the wound until it stopped bleeding, clean it up and pressed the tea bags against it, mixing it with the alcohol swab to disguise the metallic smell as they cleaned up the scene...."

"The culprit momentarily hid the said bloody towels in their room before heading towards their group's room and cleaning any leftover stains in the elevator room. Carefully placing the body on the bed with swab still pressed against the head, they make sure the wound and swab could be barely seen, hiding using the pillow supporting the head. From there on, the culprit just need to play pretend...."

"Convincing to leave someone behind unguarded, the culprit decided to finish the job, to not let anything traced back to them. They proceed to get the bloody towels back from their room and staged an elaborate scene that would mislead us all, carelessly discarding the alcohol swab on the bed. Locking the door from the inside while escaping through window panel above the door, they joined the rest of the group in the dining hall.... waiting for anyone to discover the body.

 

"That's the true story you've been keeping from us, Hanabusa Hinako, the Ultimate Animal Behaviorist!"

 

( BREAK! )


 

Silence.... the whole room became silent as we watched carefully how Hinako just stood still, looking all over us. Her eyes seems to have a tint of regret in them. In the end, she chose not to fight back, not to refute and that's her way of surrendering. It should have been a satisfying conclusion for all of us, yet it left a bitter taste in my mouth instead. Why?

"Hoooo, boy!!! Never had two smartasses working on the case together!!" Monomyou exclaimed loudly. "Now then, it's time for the long-awaiting and possibly the most satisfying part of the trial!! It's Voting Time!!!!"

 

A panel was suddenly shot upwards in front of us, showing the pixel-ated head icons of everyone, saving for Homare who was grayed out. Some have already voted as the panel immediately vanished from their sight while some hesitated to even vote but did it regardless. 'As much as I don't want to this but..... all those effort will go to waste if I don't vote....' I pressed onto Hinako's icon and the panel retracted.

A big monitor suddenly appear behind Monomyou's throne, showing a roulette system with our faces on it. The arrow quickly spun around in clockwise fashion before it landed on Hanabusa Hinako, and the bright neon light of the words perfectly described her current situation, 'GUILTY'

 

"Woooohooo!!" Monomyou jumped from its throne to join the rest. "I was on the edge of my seat this entire time!!! I never had two smartasses joining forces to solve a trial!! Usually, it's only one smartass doing to the job piecing together the mystery!!!"

While Monomyou paraded around, Nao stepped forward, ".... Hinako... why...? Did you really kill her.... just like that.....?"

 

With not a lot of energy left, she bitter laughed, "... I tried to convinced her...."

'Huh..?'

"I tried to convinced her... that murdering anyone else wouldn't be the only solution...." said Hinako. "It's because I overheard her conversation with Hisao..... and saw what she has written on that damned notebook......"

 

"You put two and two together....." I muttered. "And you realized she was planning a murder..... and you tried to stop her but...."

"She was stubborn, I will give you that...." Hinako think fondly of the said fencer. "But she's also has so much pride in her family name that she's willing to tarnish her own hands just so she could defend it... like her life depends on it... She doesn't want her family line to end with her...."

 

"Ah yes, family...." Monomyou chuckles. "The most easiest target to rile people up!! It's easy to break that cool facade of that fencer!! Saying her parents doesn't care.... when she obviously does!!! Geez, what a poor quality tough character that she is!!"

"And I admit, I admired that side of hers.... doing whatever she can for her family...." said Hinako. "But.... it's 'one death against multiple deaths' situation..... As much as I don't want to do it.... she wasn't in the right mind to be reasoned with at that time so I-....Ahahaha, this is why I hate dealing with human beings' problem..."

 

"It's either us or her....." Machi nodded, understanding what Hinako must have been going through. "... You try to take matters in your own hands yet... you escalated it into a more absurd approach.... an approach that you will sure regret....."

"Even in the end, I tried to defend myself.....I panicked, cleaning everything and acted like nothing had happened.... as if I'm not the cause of it...." she snorted. "I was almost disgusted with myself.... trying to defend a murder.... but I'm glad all of you made the right choice.... Sumi, I'm glad you've lead everyone into a safer heaven...."

 

My hands clenched into a tight fist, was I happy with this result? No, of course not. In the end, Hinako was trying to protect us from Homare, even with selfish intents, who wanted to survive to see her family again. In the end, who's the real culprit here? Monomyou? That's logical right?

"Homare..... talked rather fondly of you...." said Hinako. "Both of you are like two peas in a pod.... she did think twice about her escape plan when she thought about you...... You were her first friend and she's glad that she met you.... And I'm glad to meet you all as well even for a short period of time.... please escape from the hellish place...."

"We will...." Nao's already breaking down into tears as Machi comforted her. The others tried to hold back their tears while Hisao and Renma remained stoic most of the time. Hinako ushered me close, holding my hand as she places her small white rabbit pin that she used on her clothes as a decor, "A memento... from me to you.... don't go astray, little rabbit....."

 

"Alright, alright!! Enough with this sappy shit!!" Monomyou called out for our attention. "I've prepared something special for the Ultimate Behaviorist, Hanabusa Hinako!! Ladies and Gentlemen, strapped yourself back!!! The exciting moment we've all been waitin' for!! It's Punishment Time!!!" Monomyou pulled down the curtain and revealed a big monitor of a sprite version of them dragging along Hinako's sprite and the lettering above them reads out;

 

[ HANABUSA HINAKO HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY! ]

[ LET US COMMENCE THEIR PUNISHMENT!! ]

 

Out of our sight, a collar with a chain snapped onto Hinako's neck and pulled her back into the room we've never seen opened before, her face twisted in horror once she realized what was going to happened to her.

 


 

[ Ultimate Animal Behaviourist, Hanabusa Hinako's Execution ]

[ Pavlov's Execution Theory ]

 

The chain dropped Hinako in the middle of an empty white room, reminiscing a veterinarian room, the collar still attached to her neck. She trail along the chain to see it was connected by the hook on the ceiling as it continue to trail along the floor.... and attached to the collar of what she assumed to be a huge robotic dog.

Monomyou appeared in their medical scrub, holding a bell. They ring the bell once and the robotic dog reacted quickly, immediately leap towards them but not too close, salivating. The sudden movement caused the chain to lift Hinako's higher by the collar, slowly suffocating her. The more times Monomyou ring the bell, the more excited and active the dog is, causing the chain to be pulled every so tightly as the behaviorist desperately clawed at the collar around her neck till it bleeds.

Nearly running out of oxygen, Monomyou threw a bone at the Hinako's direction and into the air, near her body. The robotic dog, with its gnarling teeth and large mouth, bite onto both the bone and Hinako, crushing the body and snapping it in half. Tearing through the the skin and bones, the crushing and snapping noises continued to the echo in the room.

 


 

We were all watching it happened in real-time.

I can almost feel the bile rising up in my throat. Vile, putrid, that's the only thing I could described this. I found myself hugging my own body, feeling the shiver every time I hear the noise... those crunching noises. "Sumi...." Shoma calling out to me and rubbed circles behind my back, however that simple action isn't enough to distract me from those horrifying noises. 

Everyone's eyes glued onto the monitor showing the said punishment, all horrified at the sight of it. Mitsuru's knees trembling as she fell onto it, Nao's speechless cries, Renma's constant chanting yet stuttering at the same time and Higura's loud noises of denial to drown out the noises. Everyone was thoroughly distraught by it.

 

"The execution has been a tremendous success!!!" Monomyou dropped down in the middle of the group, with their booming voice as they laughed at the wrecked group, "I will admit, I will admit!! You solved the mystery way too quickly!! You are all gifted with two geniuses so better not waste them!!! Ya better entertain your host with a more exciting class trial soon in return!!!"

'Another class trial....?' How are they so confident that it will happened again? After what we witnessed, I don't think anyone, I mean anyone, want to suffer the same fate Hinako and Homare have to go through. Yet, I have to doubt that thought once again. As long as Monomyou keep on tormenting us, teasing us with a small hope of escaping, we shouldn't let anyone be fooled by it ever again

 


 

It was evening by the time we get back to the hotel, the now silent and soulless hotel. Everyone retreated to their own rooms, doesn't even want to be bothered by anything else. However, I stayed back, heading my way to the bar area where it's still quiet and the camera seems to still be under repairs. The same place where we gathered to discuss our escape plan, where we swear no one will die. And yet, we let two people come and go just like that. 

Sitting by the booth area, I just stayed there in silence, as my thoughts runs wild. 

'If this goes on.... if this class trials goes on.....' Tapping onto my leg the more I think about this killing game, '... There would be no one else left.... there's no way anyone... or even one of us would want to accept that victory....' "If we actually escaped...."

 

"You mean when we actually escaped...."

I sighed heavily, resting my head onto my folded arms on the table, "You're such a stalker, you know that right?"

"Said the person who always went out of everyone's sight...." Hisao shot back, sitting right across mine. "Well, it seems your very first class trial proves to be such a huge success. Another victory, another day!"

 

"..... Why would you say that....." I'm now pissed off by his free-spirited attitude, I wouldn't mind it some other times, but now? Now he want to joke around after what happened? "Why would you even say that as if Hinako wasn't part of our group? She wanted to escape just as much as anybody else.... are you that happy to see someone died terribly...?"

"You're talking to a person who sees this shit all the time...." said Hisao, not minding my anger towards him. "People have dreams and they died for it, it's not rocket science. And people like Homare and Hinako made sacrifices that aren't even necessary..."

 

"So you're saying their lives doesn't matter!?" I stood up, hands slamming against the table as I shouted at the conman. "Wasn't it your plan that sets them off?! Wasn't it you who decided you will save everyone like some wannabe-martyr!?"

Hisao doesn't flinched at my outburst, in fact, he still remained stoic, like most of the time. That's one thing I don't understand, he can perfectly masked his emotions so well that even I couldn't see pass through him. 

He stood up to my level, "I never said I will guaranteed everyone's lives will be saved. Monomyou kept this place's security in their tight grip for me to make a possible dent, which is why I required everyone's cooperation....... if Hinako didn't act irrationally, she and Homare would have been safe...."

 

".... What....wait..." I stepped backwards, away from the conman, processing what he have just said. "..... You knew...... you knew about it from the beginning...."

"Hinako believes in justice but that justice she's trying to prove is beyond everyone's view.... I tried saying that to her but she won't listen. Ironic, huh? Calling someone else's stubborn when she's also one....." said Hisao. "In the end, she hurt a lot of people, including yourself. When that mental wound is made, it's that cat's turn to dig it further down, making them all vulnerable. One person's action affects everyone and the other takes advantage of it. I'm sure someone like you would understand how that usually goes...."

Someone like me, a recluse who doesn't want to deal with other people's problem. That 'me' who immediately was eradicated once I met these people. The people I considered to be my friends at this point, was that my mistake? If I don't think twice about them, will I be fine?  "Why do you always say like you know how everyone will act....?"

"Oh.... I just knew..... so memorized this by each words, Hoshino Sumire..."

 

Hisao brought his finger to his lips, with his expressionless face he said, "Don't be surprised when I don't act like what you all expected me to. I stand on a neutral line and my only wish here is to escape this hellscape. I can help you, Sumire, but that doesn't mean I'm obliged to save you all. So let met cast this curse upon you that I found while I was doing my own thing...."

He slowly approached me as I suppressed the urge to run away, he's been acting so eerily to the point it's not even treated as an act or joke. Hisao knew a lot more than what I bargained for, and he knew what's going on behind the scene. I can feel his steady breathing next to my ear....

 

"There's a fake in our group.... someone who shouldn't be in the killing game with us.....working for the mastermind who controls Monomyou...."

 

"The mastermind....?"

That's too crucial to glossed over, the mastermind behind the killing game. And somehow, Hisao knew this while we weren't paying attention. But, a fake? Someone who shouldn't be with us? An extra player in this game?

"Be careful of who you made friends and enemies with... or else...." He pulled away, not noticing how his right leg was behind mine as he proceed to knock me off, making me landed on the floor with a resounding thud. "... They will pull the rug underneath you and you will regret trusting anyone in this killing game...."

 

I was too stunned to even say back, all of this is just too much for me to process. Hisao seem to finally be satisfied getting his revenge for getting outed during the class trial, "Oh well, serious time is over!! It's been a while since I played the bad guy in a situation like this!!! I hope you really take my words seriously by now!! That bad-talking just now when you put me in the spotlight really gets me and that really pissed me off!! So, I decided to end that trial prematurely!! Hope you don't mind me cutting off your fun!"

".... Yeah.... I guess...." I muttered under my breath.

"Hmmmm.... so what are you gonna do now?" Hisao kneels down, his tone shifted into something childish. "You said you want out once one of us went out of the line and Hinako did!! And from what I know, her actions are usually justifiable from an outsider's viewpoint! So what's your answer?"

 

.....

"I will stay...." I replied without thinking, it was a quick answer but I don't think it's wrong to say or admit it. "If we can't escape then the best we can do is expose who's behind this killing game..... and I'm sure that's what your new aim right now... am I wrong?"

Hisao smiled, the same childlike smile he showed during the entirety of the trial, "Yup!! Two minds think alike!!! Geez!! That's sooo creepy! Could we possibly be twins separated at birth!?" 

"I really don't want to be associated with your way of thinking...." I grumbled. The conman stood upright and put out his hand, which I accept his attempt to help me stand up. In the end, I trusted his judgement and words."... Also, if you ever messed something up like that again...... then I would not hesitate to beat you up, Sao-chin..."

 

"Huh.....? Huuuuh? Sao-chin!??!" Hisao faked gasped. "Are we at that level already!? Are we finally giving each other ridiculous pet names!? But that's soooo lame!! Why would you call me that!?"

"That's your punishment from now on for being such a dick...." I puffed out my chest in retaliation, trying to get onto his level of annoyance. "From now on, you're known as Sao-chin, the most childish trickster in the group!! If you don't want such embarrassment to get to you, then you better stop with those jabs you threw at me during the trial!!"

"Ergh.... so your looks just screams strict but your mind is just filled with cotton candies and plushies...... that's such a fucking whiplash that I didn't see it coming......" Hisao sighed. "At least it's a nicer contrast to 'dear little miss'....."

 

I let out a small chuckle, honestly, the evening is filled with mixed emotions. The daunting realization that Hisao knew about Hinako's plan, the shocking reveal of the said fake and the childish nature of two people fighting over some nicknames. Even though Hisao treated everything as if it's a game to him, he's not entirely heartless. It's clear to see he's dragging along that playful side of his just because.'One of these days.... he will outshine me, thanks to his charisma....'

"Sao-chin...." The nickname does sounds nice once you got used to saying it multiple times, even though I came up with it in the last minute. ".... I know you're hiding a lot of things from us.... but you're the type who wants to everyone to solve your puzzles and riddles..... because that's just what you are.... I wonder when will that time come when you decided you will be honest with us?"

"That......" He trailed off. "... that will take a very long, long time. And like you're the one to say that!! You too were never honest with everyone else.... you also have stuffs you hid behind everyone's back! One of these days, I will be the one ending up exposing you in front of everyone in a dire situation!!"

 

.......

..........

He's not wrong....

Chapter Text

"Hanabusa Hinako.... and Takara Homare...."

"The kind yet menacing..... the strict yet heartwarming.... you have a way with selecting people..."

"Does it bother you that much?"

"No... but these two...."

"The crowd needs a leader and the group needs a mediator......"

 

"........"

"You're a cruel faceless monster...... you know that right?"

"I didn't say anything......"

"Nyahaha! You have your way with words... but yet again, you're too easy to read and it's getting really boring to see you like this.... try and think a more suitable role for yourself or else you will be discarded all too easily!"

 


 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!!!

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, rise and shine!!! This is your daily announcement after the exciting event from yesterday!! Wooohooo, I still feel all tingly with the leftover adrenaline from that class trial!! And I'm sure everyone also feel the same!!"

"I would like to announced that several areas, that were off-limit before, are now opened for exploration!!! Be at your tippity-top best and have fun!! Have a myou-est of day!!!"

 

The PA system finally shuts off after that annoying cat's speech. I woke up earlier this time, just so my ears wouldn't be greeted with the unholy screeching voice of Monomyou. We all returned to our rooms on the second floor, alone from evening till morning. I keep staring at my front door, fidgeting with my ElectroID in my hands, 'That talk with Hisao last night really exhaust me... I've spent all night thinking about what he told me instead.....'

 

"There's a fake in our group....."

 

"Fake... what fake is he even referring to?" Fake identity? Fake talent? Fake personality? It could be any of those things and Hisao is probably the only person who knew, keeping it to himself. He's not referring to the survival group but everyone as a whole. With this information, what is he going to do next...? And how did he even know this? Where did he even get it?

 

Ding dong! Ding dong!!

 

The doorbell was rung repeatedly without giving it a break, making me immediately get off the bed and answer it before the person could potentially break it. "I'm coming...." I called out before opening the door and was surprised to see Higura standing there. "O-Oh... Gura...."

"Who said you can use that lame-ass nickname?" he growled. "The airborne bonehead won't stop bothering me so I'm here to get your ass to the dining hall......"

"Oh, was I the only one not there...?" Earning a nod as confirmation, I closed the door behind and locked it. "Then, we should get going. I'm sorry, I was idling around....."

 

Higura doesn't waste anytime, not up for a small talk or anything as we both made our way quietly to the elevator shaft. Once we selected the floor, I realized how the elevator have a more pleasant floral scent currently occupying the air, leaving my head to wander again, 'What happened to the second floor room bedrooms....? Is she still......'

"The spiritfucker checked the bedrooms we've stayed a night ago...." Higura started suddenly. "He wants to cleanse the room or whatever shit he's messing with.... everything was cleaned up, tidied, spotless like hell never break loose in there....."

"So the body...."

"Who the fuck knows....." Higura exited first once the elevators doors opened. Staggering behind him, we both entered the dining hall as he announces, "Got our savior here!!! Go ahead and kiss her ass!!"

 

Something flew by but the graphic designer managed to dodged it on time. I take the seat next to Saku, seeing how Higura now sits with Nao and Amane. The three people I would have never seen interacting.

"Good morning, Sumi....." Saku smiled, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. "Did you sleep well...?"

'Sleeping well' has becoming more of a challenge to me and not what should be a natural thing to do. "I stayed up till midnight thinking about.... stuffs...... I would have stayed in my room a lot more doing that if you didn't send Gura to get me..."

 

"Huh...?" Saku raised an eyebrow. "I didn't do that....? He left on his own."

Oh. So Higura was..... worried about me? Somehow? I guess he is more than a potty-mouth, maybe Renma's comment about him being a sweet guy might be true after all. Speaking of said medium, I looked around to look for but instead seeing that they aren't many people present at all. Saku mentioned that Renma and Hibiki prepared breakfast with porridge (something easy to digest after the yesterday's horror) and left a few moments ago. Taiga, Hiroshi, Kiharu, Shoma, Hisao and Mitsuru also appears to be missing.

 

"I think they were exploring the new areas that Monomyou mentioned....." said Machi. "If I recalled, it was two places..... the gymnasium and the-"

Loud, heavy footsteps echoed through the hallway from the reception room to the dining hall, getting closer and closer before the person burst into the hall, sweating and panting. Kiharu looked really pale and out of breath from clearly running, "G-Guys.... Taiga.... and Hisao-!! Trouble-!! At gym!!"

 

'Those two!?' I immediately get up and left my seat, leaving my meal half-eaten. A path was cleared up near the library so I took my guess that it's the way to the said gymnasium. Never skipping a beat, I whizzed past by the eyes of the automaton soldiers as I drastically opened the doors once I got there, "What's going on!?"

"Ah.... Sumi...." Renma stared wide-eyed at me, leaning against the wall of the gym. I almost didn't see him if he hadn't grabbed me by my wrist, pulling me in, "It's best not to stand right there..... it's too dangerous here....."

"Standing why-" A shot rang out and out of instinct, I whipped around and grabbed onto my holster on my belt.... or where the holster should be but it's not there. I slowly retracted my hand and looked upwards, where Renma kept staring. And I couldn't believe my fucking eyes.

 

"Woooohoooo!!!" Taiga wearing a vest, attaching himself to the zipline, swinging widely... with a gun. "Sumi!!! Hey!!!! The shooting range gallery finally opened up and I found an air-soft gun and some pellets, free-to-take!!!"

Oh thank fucking god, they're not real. I exhaled a deep breath that I've been keeping in once I saw what was it he's holding. Yet.... "Wait, no, fuck- Taiga, why the hell are you on the zip-line for!?!? You're gonna hurt yourself!!!"

"Morning training, missy!!" Ah yes, there he is. The root of my midnight crisis. There's a rock climbing wall on the other end of the gym and the starting point of the zip-line seems to be connected on top of it and there, Hisao and Hiroshi overlooking us all. "This is apparently an ordinary training for the little marksman here!! He got all hyperactive when he saw that thing and we just pitched in to satisfy his needs!"

 

"They've been going at it...." Renma sighed. "I'm only here in case the situation turns south..... I accompanied Taiga to the desired range gallery but... I, unfortunately, have lost control over him way too quickly...."

".... I don't think anyone else can control his excitement to this extent....." I can see Higura, Saku and Kiharu now entered the gymnasium and screeched at the wild sight right before their eyes.

"What the fuck!? How is this fucking allowed!?"

"T-They've been doing this once the places opened up!!! I can't stop them!!!"  

"Hey, that's totally unsafe, Tai!!! Your vest hook will come loose!!! You shouldn't move around that much!!!"

 

"That's a great idea!!" Hiroshi grinned. calling out to the marksman. "Taiga, unhook your vest, let the safety mattresses break your fall!!"

"How about DON'T!?" Kiharu screeched, wildly flailing her arms around as if she tried to stop them. "You guys are being too reckless-"

"Okay!!"

 

Just like that, the hook came off and the marksman fell ever so slowly, in my eyes, to the mattress below. Without realizing, I took off, I immediately ran at his direction, ignoring the protests behind my back, 'Shit, shit, shit, shit!!!!' . Once I'm near enough, trying to break his fall, I caught him in my arms right before we stumbled down after one misstep. I instantly gabbed onto the air-soft gun, "O-Ow.... are you okay, Taiga?"

"Wooooo!" He got up, held his arms up high with a wide smile as if he didn't cause any trouble or gave anyone a heart attack. "100% well and safe!!"

 

"Good...." I pulled the trigger and the pellet hits him in the chest, leaving small amount of paint. "Because we're fucking not..."

"Ahahaha.... for a moment there, I thought you were aiming for my face...."

"That was my initial target..." I tried to stand up but hissed when I felt a sharp pain in my right ankle. "Seriously.... did I actually overdo it?"

 

"Whoa, whoa, did you actually sprained your ankle trying to catch me...?" Taiga suddenly became worried. "Why did you do that? I mean, the mattress here would have been enough to catch me...."

"Ugh, instinctual sense got the best of me...." I replied, trying to push myself up, stumbling a bit as I managed to stood on both legs. "Anyways, I'm fine.... it's just a small sprain-" I almost fell back on the slippery surface of the mattress, "Ah-!!"

"Gotcha'!!!" A pair of hands caught, secured under my armpit as they lifted me up, swing my right arm around their shoulder. "The critter caught the bait on time....!"

 

Shoma. Never have I feel so glad to see that plushie hat again. The biologist hit Taiga on the head afterwards with a karate chop, pouting, "Tiger shark is always so aggressive...... it's not nice to hurt others..... everyone needs to be in their best condition after this, you know?"

"Ow-!! Okay, I got it!! I will be more careful next time!!! Please- stop hitting me!!"

"Nope!! No more next time!!!" Kiharu cuts in, dragging Hisao and Hiroshi behind her by their clothes. "Don't do the ever again!! I'm being serious right now!!! I'm gonna tie everyone up and put a lock on the gymnasium and the shooting range gallery next time!!!"

 

Higura, Saku and Renma joined the crowd, scolding at the troublesome trio as well. The medium urges Shoma to carry me back to the hotel in which he agreed, immediately picked me up with no problem over his shoulder, letting me slumped over like a rolled-up carpet, "W-Whoa.... never knew you have that strength in you, Shoma...."

"Fuah...... this critter went through many currents...." said Shoma as he walked forward, swinging his free arm around. "Resilience only builds up faster for critters like me......"

"But the ability to talk like a normal human being is apparently a very slow work in the progress....." grunted Higura. "Would have been a lot more useful if he acted normal for once...."

 

"Like you did when you try to coax Sumi out of her room?"

".... Are you fucking implying a simple gesture like that is too outlandish for someone like me? Do you wanna get fucking shanked, you bonehead?"

 

Being carried around by the biologist, the conman and abseiler getting dragged along by a fussy archaeologist, the designer and aerobat arguing, and finally the medium just leading the way and not minding the noisy commotion we're making behind his back.... it's like nothing bad ever happened yesterday. But it did. My mind keep flashes back to yesterday's events.... the class trial, the execution and the revelations, they were all just too much.

I can see why Taiga and the rest acted so reckless just now; they were trying to cope with what they had just witnessed, something they never wanted to see for themselves. I'm sure the people at the dining hall were also trying to desperately act like yesterday didn't happened, they wanted to focus on tomorrow instead......

 

'But how much difference would that make....? Can we really just settle down.... and hope tomorrow will be different....?'

........

'As always....... my mind keeps spiraling downwards.......'

 


 

"There.... I wrapped it up nicely...." Renma said to himself, looking at his handiwork. He recommended that I will be taken to my room instead to treat my sprained ankle, not wanting any worrisome attention distracting him. Currently, Shoma is laying down on my bed, spread out like a starfish while I'm just sitting at the corner with Renma handling me.

"Thanks, Renma...." I tried to move but winced when the pain still shot through a bit. "You don't have to do that for me...... it's only a sprain... it will go away once a day has passed......"

 

"Which is why I would not recommend you going anywhere for today...." Renma strictly warned me. "To ensure a full recovery.... I suggest sitting in for today.... even if it makes you really off. After all, it was by your own action that landed you with that injury, right? I wouldn't want to remind you again if you injured yourself even further...."

'Why does every time he speak, it feels like I'm being scolded by an angry parent instead? And it actually made me feel bad?'  "I panicked, alright?? And I don't want to risk someone getting hurt over a stupid stunt....." I mumbled. "If anything... I think Hisao and Hiroshi are the ones should be scolded for letting Taiga do something like that...."

 

Shoma shot upwards as he said, "The relic-examiner have done that duty....! I have never seen such fury exudes from a single critter..... Tiger shark is lucky, they swim along before getting devoured..... leaving his two companions behind....."

"But Hibiki caught him in the end..... good grief, those three are quite a handful when left to their own devices...."

"They were all so cheerful and full of energy...." Renma laughed. "... I'm positively sure they're trying to take their mind off of such serious issues...."

 

Yeah, Renma thought so too. So it wasn't just me. I think. He's really open when talking about his feelings and he's always so level-headed, even during the class trial....... well, most of the time except when Hisao starts suspecting me as the culprit. That disembowelment remark was also really weird for him to say and almost unnecessary.

"Say, Renma.... your way of wrapping the roller bandage is surprisingly accurate for the sake of comfort and support...." I pointed out. "Have you done this before?"

"It's a necessary practice from where I came from...." Renma stated. "I also have wrapping practice when handling corpses. Since my family's shrine was constantly used for funerals and spiritual cleanse, I have multiple skills that I picked up that doesn't just involved communication with the dead...."

 

Renma's family must have been the strictly traditional type. I heard this kind of tradition always passed from one generation to another but it also has some rather negative reactions from the public view. "How about you, Sumi? Certainly you're not just a detective in disguise? Your deducting skills yesterday was really impressive!!"

"A-Ah.... if it weren't for you guys contributing a lot though, we wouldn't managed to end that case rather cleanly..." More specifically, if it weren't for Hisao bringing up the bloodied coat and the kitchen roster, we wouldn't be able to made it out alive then. "My own strength lies somewhere else....."

"What is Sumi critter's specialty....?"

 

"Covert surveillance......" That answer doesn't sound all too nice and I can already see how confused they are by what it actually meant. After all, I'm mostly just a document manager through and through, "I collect information on others, that's what it meant. Murder cases are usually my last minute resort if I'm actually required for it. Most of my undercover cases involved impersonating as an executive protection...."

"Ah, so that's why Sumi acted weirdly when Taiga has a....." Renma must have seen how I acted at the gym earlier. It probably looked weird to him. "..... You lead a dangerous life...."

"Well, it's not all the time I have to go out and risk it...." I tried to reassured them. "Most of times, I work on infidelity cases, since that's what we're usually called for!"

 

Still unsure, both of them have no idea what to say next. Figures they would rather looked oddly at my work of choice. It's what I chose to do, after all. And it's what I'm actually good at. But it's mostly the reason why others were scared to begin with when I told them.

A weight suddenly added on my shoulder, Shoma's leaning against my back with his chin resting on my shoulder, "Sumi critter is a really important person then.....? Really brave and hardworking.... perhaps everyone looked up to your strength.....?"

"Geez, you really like to invade other people's personal space, Shoma...." I grumbled, pushing his face away. ".... I guess that's a somewhat positive way to view it..."

 

While trying to get Shoma off of me, Renma just stared at the both us, expressionless. I prompted a 'what?' and immediately that does that trick, "You've started calling everyone by their given names.... during the trial even...."

Even a minor detail like that, he notices it?  Seems nothing can just go by under his radar. Color me surprise, the medium is actually not all about that spiritual stuffs, "I thought it would be nicer if I called others properly from now on, not treating them like they're strangers or so...... plus, it way shorter....."

"Indeed....." Shoma rolled off the bed and landed on the floor with a small thud. "..... We're all swimming the same ocean..... best to familiarize one with another....!"

 

Both of them left once they felt like they over-stayed, which I don't really mind. Renma said he will fill me in some details of what they've later before nighttime and will check-in from time to time to ensure my needs. I looked at the clock on the wall, 'Even though I'm supposed to stay in bed.... there's no way I can idle around with this much free time.... maybe there's someone else on the same floor who I can hang out with...?'

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

I found myself standing in front of the composer's room. I will admit; Amane always stood out to me the most interesting person out of the bunch, in terms of normalcy. He's not really raunchy or off, he's just the usual normal snob you can find elsewhere, 'And for that... I'm actually okay with....'

Knocking on the door twice, I heard shuffling noise and a soft voice, "Come in, it's unlocked....."

True to what he said, the door opened with no problem and I was taken aback by the amount of musical sheets littered all over the floor, "What the.... were you in the middle of cleaning, Amane...?"

 

Leaning further into his seat, the composer just twirled the pen in his hand, "I just had an inspirational muse tickling my genius brain so I have no time to waste on some rejected failures...."

He's really critical of his works, quite the opposite of Higura now that I compared those two side by side. Slowly, I picked up some of the sheets up on my way to his desk as I placed it neatly on it, "You know you will work more efficiently within a clean environment...."

 

"I've heard of that but I paid no mind to it...." said Amane, who seems to be listening to a music player in one ear, probably acting as his white noise while he works. "State your business with me..."

"Well.... I got into a bit of an accident....." I showed off my left sprained ankles, thankful that I found the hotel slippers in my closet. "So I can't really go anywhere far.... and I decided to hang out with you since we never properly talk...."

 

"Unfortunately, I won't be able to pay attention to what you will be saying...." Amane turned to the empty sheet in front of him. "I'm in a bit of a rut so if I'm ignoring you then do keep in mind, I treasured work over social skills....."

Wow, he really said that without hesitation. Ironically, both of us have that in common. Curiosity got over me as I tried to see what he was listening to, "Oh, Gnossienne No.1..... I have heard of that piece..."

"Huh!?" He suddenly got up from his seat. "A middle-class human actually have heard of such piece!?"

 

"..... You know you're also one of them, right?" I sighed, so it's gonna be one of those kind of conversation. "I used to play the piano when I was young.... actually, I have tiny bit of experience with playing other kind of musical instruments.... but piano and violin is my go-to stress reliever....." I have classes before but I solely focused all my time and energy on my piano and violin skills.

"Amazing....!!" Amane grabbed both of my shoulders, frantically shaking me. "Would you ever so kindly to use your unimaginable skills to play one of my masterpieces one day!? Oh, for how long I've been wanting to hear my pieces to be played ever so gracefully!!"

"Huh...? You mean....... you never heard them in person?"

 

"I sold them off," He confessed. "A man has to write a check to survive, after all. However, I would rather not want to hear a poorly improvised version of my masterpiece in person. I would slit out my own stomach if they play a note wrong...."

"I bet you will... do that...." Everyone always have these morbid speeches and I'm not so sure whether to take them seriously or not. "But why me? You've just met me and you think my skills are exceptional already....?"

"If you can recognized Gnossienne then I'm sure you would recognized Gymnopedie as well..."

 

"You're..... not actually wrong...?" I mean, both pieces are done by the same person, it's evident that I would recognized it. I'm not sure where's he trying to lead this conversation here.

"Answer my question...." He demanded. "When you hear these pieces, what kind of feelings did it invoke within you?"

"Slow, solemn.... as if you wouldn't realized the passage of time slowly goes by while daydreaming during a rainy evening......" that answer made me realized. "Oh, you're looking for someone who would play your piece emotionally, right?"

 

"Indeed!!!" He finally lets go of me, continuing his triumphant speech. "I've been eyeing on your behavior, Ms. Investigator!!! You're truly one of those people who would rather go along the flow of emotions these pieces are trying to invoked!! Everyone should know!! You should not only convinced the listeners to listen to your impacted piece but also you, the holder, should feel its emotional impact!!"

Listening to him rambling was interesting but it's also tiring every time his voice peaked and I have to really pay attention, passion does wonder to a person. "Then maybe when we leave this place one day.... feel free to approach me if you want a trial version of your musical piece!"

 

"A trial!?" Amane scoffed. "Nonsense!! I'm expecting a fully prepared orchestra to be doing my masterpieces in public once we're out of here!!"

"Wha- I don't have the capabilities to put out such a huge musical roster in a short amount of time!? You can't even set up Saint-Saëns' 'La danse macabre' perfectly with that limit!!!"

'Passionate, thinking big about his work yet always discarded them and calling them failures.... I feel like Amane may have been too hard on himself here. But, if I spend more time with him, he might give them a chance to shine....'

 

Both of us ended up listening to 'La danse macabre' in silence, I can see how fingers keep tapping in tune with the flutes. Somehow, it ended pretty well for the both of us.

 


 

I went back to my room shortly after and once I opened my door, stuffing my ElectroID into my jacket, it appeared, "There you are!!!!"

"Ngyah!?"

I fell backward when something suddenly dropped down from the ceiling, scrambling away till my back reaches the door. "Y-You-!!!"

 

"Huh??? Meeee??? What meee??" Monomyou tilted their head, acting all innocent. "There only one of me, your adorable, magnificent host, Monomyou!! Could there be someone else impersonating me!?!? Tell me, dear guest!! Who's been bothering you all!?"

"Y-You're the one who's bothering us!!" I yelled back. "Why are you in my room!?"

"Hey!! Isn't common for host to check on their injured guest!?" said the cat. "I got reaaaaally worried, ya' know!? It would be hugeeeeee loss if ya' out of the game!! It wouldn't be anymore interesting if we only have one person carrying the whole group on their back!!!"

 

Monomyou keep saying that, keep saying that it was because of Hisao and I that the group survived the class trial. They've said it like that as if someone else, other than the mastermind, is overlooking our whole situation right now. Probably an organization. "Enough stalling... what do you want?"

"I've been looking all over the hotel for you to give your reward!!"

"Re-Reward....?"

 

"For a job well done during the class trial!!!" Monomyou threw a small amount of confetti in the air, blowing the air horn. "Don't get too special!!! Everyone gets one!!! This is a fair game after all!! Nyahahaha!!"

Monomyou proceeded to hold up the said award, a stuffed animal? It's clearly a stuffed white cat plushie with beady blue eyes and a black ribbon around its neck. Not gonna lie, it's actually quite cute.

"It is!! Isn't it!?" Wait, did they just seriously read my mind? "Everyone have the same toy but in different colors!! Don't wanna anyone to fight over it, ya' know like little brats!!"

 

"What do you seriously take us for....?" I grabbed the plush from their arms, it actually has a hefty weight to it. "This is all you're gonna give us? Just a plushie?"

"Nyahahaha!" Monomyou laughed. "Oh no, my plushies are reaaaaaal special!! They all can talk!! So that you wouldn't feel lonely during the coldest nights and in your lowest of moments!"

"If it talks in the middle of the night, then I won't hesitate to burn it...."

 

"D-Don't do nyat!! Ackh- I stuttered!!" Monomyou begged. "T-That's one of a kind plushie made by yours truly, ya' know!!! It will entirely be your loss if you burned it without listening to what it's saying!!!"

My loss?  "What do you mean??"

"Nyahahahaha!" Their annoying laughter returned once again now that they caught my interest. "Can't say! Won't reveal!! Why won't you let them do the talking for you?" And just like that, they disappeared, through an opening on the floor that closed up once they're in.

 

"Talk....?" I held up the plushie high as I collapsed onto the bed. "What does that mean......?"

And then, the thing practically answered my question, "Three.... mice..... three.... mice....."

"T-Three mice...?"

 

"Three blind mice! Three blind mice!!! Three mice executed!!!" the white cat plush screeched horribly. "Three blind mice!! Three blind mice!!!"

It kept repeating the same three words all over again. It's a nursery rhyme, or what supposed to be a nursery rhyme but with its own twist. I'm familiar with that rhyme but the way this thing keeps saying it make it seem like this isn't just an ordinary twist.

"Ravenscroft...." I spoke to it, the name of the original composer of the old rhyme. It feels like this is a puzzle I have to solve. Not sure why but if I learned anything from staying in this place, it's that the cat host really like mysteries.

 

Just like that, the plush suddenly became quite, silent finally fills the room. Good, I was seriously going to consider burning this thing later if it continues to do that. What's the purpose for it to talk? Is Monomyou just messing with us?

I was so hyper-focused on the plush that I didn't realized someone was ringing the doorbell as I scrambled to answer it. As I opened the door, I was greeted with another cat plush except it's grey this time, held by Renma who looked troubled.

"Ah... I see they got to you as well...." he took a peek behind and saw the white cat plush on the bed."I supposed yours started acting undesirably as well....?"

 

"Did yours talk about mice?"

"No....." He shifted the plush, carrying under his armpit. "It started spouting old folklore however it's incorrect.... and gruesome at the same time.... Currently, I'm finding a way to communicate the spirit to use this as their vessel.... it's much more pleasant to talk to them rather than a mindless doll....."

That sounds wonderful, I'm not gonna lie. "If it works the same for you... I've tried to talk by saying the name of the creator of said story.... it shuts up really quickly....

 

"That's an unfortunate solution....." Renma sighed. "As we know it..... old folklore tend to change as centuries gone as well the name of the creator who vanished without a trace. In fact, no one really knows if the folklore even stemmed from one person, it could be a collective of like-minded people to put others in their place.... or to scare off wanderers....."

"It works for me, I'm not so sure about yours....." I stated, trying to think for any other possible solutions. "How about try and complete its story? If they keep saying the same thing, maybe continued from where it left off...?"

"That's.... plausible...." Renma nodded. "Oh well, there's always possession as an option. Perhaps the underworld wouldn't mind a sudden spiritual call from their one and only messenger since I'm offering up a body to them......... Do you required anything now that I'm here?"

 

Right, this is part of his routine he talked about just now, "No... not really. But I would like to hear your report before the day ends! I want to know about everyone's experience with..... this thing...." I pointed at the cut plush. "I'm afraid it's not gonna be an ordinary gift from Monomyou....."

"We should never trust what the cat gives..... not after the last gift....." said Renma. "We all hoped and wished that this is that thing's attempt to cheer us up... as strange as it is....."

 

Perhaps it's a motive, was what crossed my mind. But why give it so soon? And why in a form of a talking plush even? To make it less obvious? Or is it made for a specific someone they're aiming to pursue-

"Eyes!! Eyesss!!! Everywhere eyessss!!!!"

I groaned, looking back to see my own cat plush came alive with another cryptic message, "I gotta take care of that.... I will be seeing you soon, Ren-chin....."

 

"Aha, that was adorable...." Renma chuckles at the accidental nickname I gave him but glad he liked it. Right when the door is almost shut closed, the medium said, "Be careful, Sumi... the spirits surrounding this place are getting even more restless.... Someone is prompting them....."

'Someone...?' I stopped, he said the same thing before those motive videos were revealed. Something is going to happened and Renma noticed it.

 

.......

 

Come to think of it, he always notices something's off way before everyone else. Even before Hisao pointed out. 'Could it be....?' thinking about the conman's words from before, I surely hoped the supposed fake doesn't point its finger at the medium. Or else this will be difficult for Shoma and I to handle already. Once again, I collapsed onto the bed, hugging the cat plush close to my chest that went suspiciously quiet, 'So a time limit for this thing to loop its speech, that's good to know....... this thing is lucky, at least its cuteness prevents me from burning it for now.....' and I let myself drifted into a short sleep. 

Chapter Text

- Ding Dong! Ding Dong!!

 

"Wha....." I groggily lifted my arms and stared at the front door, someone ringing the doorbell again, "Ah shit... I accidentally slept in till afternoon.... damn it...." Leaving the comfort of my bed and letting go of the cat plush that's still quiet, I didn't bother to look at myself in the mirror to fix my appearance as I answered the door disgruntled, "What...?"

"Oh whoa, you really enjoyed your sleep...." said Taiga sheepishly. "I've been hitting that bell right before noon!!"

 

"Usually, if no one answered the door for three hours, that would be your cue to leave....." I sighed out a response. 

"Yeah, but I'm persistent!!" Taiga stated. "Also, this is really important since Monomyou dropped by and gave us rather strange gifts!!"

 

Letting the marksman into my room, I made sure there's no one else in the hallway for safety reasons. After the coast is clear, I closed the door and locked it, "So what did your gift said? A nursery rhyme? A folklore?"

"Codings...." he replied, not too out there for a person said to be able to solve five cipher locks, "And they're tough to crack.... I'm glad the library has bunch of decoding manuals but it will take me a day or two to actually solved all three questions...."

"Three questions...?" I raised an eyebrow, what is this about again?

 

Taiga nodded as he explained, "Yeah, Kiharu, Shoma and Hisao already solved theirs and they said they're only given three questions before their plush congratulates them. But I don't think they were happy with the last question from what I've seen...."

"Why?" Now I'm curious about what those two's target questions are. For the biologist, maybe a trivia or quiz? I can think of the conman's questions to be tailored as an escape game quiz. "They're just meaningless questions we have to answer to shut them up, right?"

"Because the last question is about others...."

 

"What...?" My eyes widened, so the plush reward thing really is just a disguise to introduce another motive. "Did they say anything about it?"

"They're riddles and they're very personal, sensitive information about others...." exclaimed Taiga, with a worried look on his face. "It's not something to joke around either or even seen as childish secret, this is a very grave situation.... I think they're being used to make us turn against everyone...."

Something you've kept from others, something they shouldn't know about yourself. Would the mastermind revealed its fake player that easily if that's the case? Maybe they realized one of us got a hold of that secret and so they tried to get rid of them as quickly as they can, by disguising it as a motive for everyone?

 

"Did they mentioned who got whose?" I tried to pry for more information, cursing myself for ignoring that damn plush's second question earlier. 

"Kiharu did... the other two..... not so much, they're very vague about it..." Taiga tries to remember back of what he knew. "Kiharu got my secret which is why I knew about the three questions that the plush gave. And if the others' secrets are anything like mine, then this whole plush mystery is gonna escalate into a shit-show real fast. Shoma got someone he trusted and Hisao got someone he really, really hates....."

"That literally could be anyone...." the conman doesn't mingled a lot with other people and somehow show discomfort with almost everyone. "I've only answered one question.... so if I answered the next one, I will know who I will get by tomorrow morning...."

 

"But is it wise to reveal this thing to others?" Taiga asked uncertain. "I mean, I'm telling you this since you're the most trustworthy person I could think of by now...."

"I......" I don't actually know what to say. If I said it would be fine to tell others about it, it would end in a messy situation like last time. If I said we shouldn't tell, then it will just made it worse once others knew everyone have each other's secret. No matter where or how you see it, we're all still screwed. "I think we should wait till tomorrow.... until everyone settled down first so that we could talked about those plush mysteries..... if by bad luck they all got those three questions answered by then, we might need to discuss about those stolen secrets and how we should kept them from others knowing...."

 

"Huh, strange.... the exact opposite of what Hisao had in mind..." I really, really don't want to know what he means by that and I really hope 'telling everyone your darkest sercret' isn't the exact idea he had in mind. "But I'm with your logic.... it's best for others to not know who got whose in the first place..... even though Kiharu technically already crossed that line...."

"And you're okay with that....?" He doesn't look to bothered when he said that. 

"It's a rather risky thing to admit...." Taiga side-eyes while saying that. "But I'm sure you guys understand my predicament if you hear my story first!! I haven't told you guys about my crazy home life in an urban neighborhood, right!? They're very wild stories that will keep you in the edge of your seats!"

 

If his stories are gonna be anything like when he first introduced himself as an Ultimate, then I'm prepared for total absurdity, "I'm looking forward to it already-"

"Oh!" Taiga snapped his fingers. "I almost forgot!! The reason why I'm here! The most important thing of why I'm here to begin with!"

Really? I thought the whole plush thing is a lot more important than whatever his reason is to be here.

 

"Since it's going to be real dangerous with that thing going around, exposing everyone and because you sprained yourself just now!" I want to defend myself there but I will let that remark slide for now. "I went back to the shooting gallery got something extra to work with!!"

"To work with?"

"I was experimenting something while everyone's busy exploring or staying in their rooms!!" Taiga handed me the air-soft gun he had earlier, except this one seems a little different. "I actually found two of these things when that place first opened up!! Both of them now belonged to the two most experienced holder!! We both know these things can't really kill anyone!! Unless we're aiming for the eye that is!!"

 

Yeah, makes sense. I examined the gun I'm holding right now, small handheld and a more spring-powered type. "If by any chance we ever got separated.... we should stick into two groups, in that way, it will be more secured...."

"And-!!" He handed over some pellets that I hardly recognized, brightly neon-colored pellets. "You're gonna need these!! I can give you the ordinary ones because that's all they have but I added my own spin as well- Tracer pellets!!"

"Tracer pellets....?"

 

"The only places that we're not allowed to enter during nighttime is the library, gym and the shooting gallery...." Taiga pointed out. "However, wandering around the night is somehow acceptable with the exception of those machine soldiers watching your every movement, plus lights are off during nighttime so it can be really, really dark!!!! So in case of an emergency, I concocted several different pellets if we ever try to catch a bad guy down!! They're essentially glow-in-the-dark kind of stuffs!"

"How do you even made these and who did you bribe?"

"That's a secret!!"

 

"Your talent....... terrifies me sometimes...." I sighed, taking the pellets and put them into a smaller pocket pouch I found at my nightstand. Taiga could have mistakenly be an Ultimate Gunsmith instead of Ultimate Marksman with this much effort made. It's almost impressive how much he prepared in a short amount of time. "There's only five pellets for each of us?"

"I have five tracer pellets and five marker pellets!!" Taiga grinned. "With my perfect precision skills, there's no way I would skip out on those last pellets!! We now wouldn't worry a single thing when we're gonna catch our next culprit!!"

 

Our next culprit....

So even Taiga, who is also optimistic and all that, is really worried about the killing game starting again. Both of our survival instincts decided to kick in too late yet too soon as well, it's almost frustrating. But now it's not the time to sob about it, "Thank you, Taiga. You really don't have to go this far for our own sake...."

"Well, call it instinct or paranoia, I always have to be prepared for the worst ever si-" Taiga immediately stopped, his face went pale for a moment before he changed the subject. "Anyways!! I better get going!! Because of the shenanigans this morning, I was forced to clean the dining hall with Hiroshi!! So, see ya' later!!"

 

With that, he quickly left and closed the door behind him without me greeting him out, 'What was that about? That was so abruptly.... did... did he looked terrified for a moment there...? Did it has something to do with....?'

I shouldn't think too hard on this. If it makes Taiga uncomfortable, then I have no reason to pry that kind of information out of him. Huh, how ironic that I actually have that thought, 'Anyways, I still have some free time left..... are there anyone else still holed up in their room....? And I'm really not in the mood for another classical music lesson and being scolded relentlessly....'

 


 

[ Free Time Event

 

Nao and Machi weren't in their rooms (presumably they're at the library, go figures) so I decided to hang out with Kiharu this afternoon. 'I'm sure she have a lot of interesting stories to tell as well....'

I rung the doorbell once and immediately I can hear her stumbling around the room before opening the door with a disheveled look on her face, "Oh, hey, Sumire!! Hi!! Welcome! Welcome!! Why don't you just come in here and not stand in the hallway like that!!"

She pulled me inside and locked the door immediately, "Sorry!! I'm currently hiding, you know!?"

 

"Hiding from....?"

"Oh, I stole Saku's air plane model from his room when I visited him just now!!" she snickers, pointing at the said air plane model currently on her bed. "I did leave a note behind to say it was for research purpose but I want to be sure I said it or else he will be breaking down my door any minute now!!"

"Okay...?"  Was there a rivalry bond that I missed out on...?

 

"So why are you here for? Oh!! Now that I have someone in my domain!! Come, come!!!!" Kiharu then dragged me along to her desk by the nightstand, there's numerous shelves stuck to the walls filled with miscellaneous fossils and bone fragments. It almost gave the room an eerie vibe. "I want to show to someone about this picture I found during my library hunt!! See here!!"

There are two set of photographs showing numerous excavation sites, it looked like they've just dug up a massive graveyard considering the bones and skulls all scattered on the floor.

"Ya' know when I see sites like this! I get all tingly and excited! Because it made you wonder, 'What happened here? Was there a feud between two tribal groups? A small rebellion?'. It's something like this made my heart pounding really, really fast!! I really wanna be there to witness these kind of things!!!"

 

"I-I can see that....." It does made me questioned it but at the same time, doesn't it seem too dodgy to say that so freely? Theorizing something like massacre shouldn't be taken so lightly considering how many tragedies plagued the world right now. I get finding these sort of things uncovers the missing part of the past but still....

"But.... Argh!! It's so annoying!!!" Kiharu threw the photographs back onto the table. "I wanna go out there again!! I wanna go and do some energized digging, let history rubbed its spores all over you!! I want that kind of excitement!!"

'That actually sounded way more lewd now that she said it out loud!?'

 

"But alas, archaeology paperwork and this stupid killing game prevents me from doing that...." Kiharu sulked in her seat, sinking in deeper. "I wanna go back to my excavation buddies one more time..... every moment I'm not there with them is a huge loss for the them....."

"Your team? Do you think they're still on site, waiting for you to return?"

"Huh? Of course they are!!" she immediately stood up straight. "I'm the one who's carrying them around!! Without my guts and knowledge, we wouldn't uncovered the entire missing tribal city and their massive graveyards!! We even uncovered their sacred ritual temple with strange artifacts and books, we still haven't theorized what those are actually and we haven't figured out their language as well...."

 

"Considering the place and what you guys found in there, I'm pretty sure they're cursed and you guys are in big trouble...." I said my point bluntly, knowing how most of that situation will typically go downhill from there. "But wow, with only you and your team.... you uncovered that much, huh? No wonder you're considered an ultimate, Kiharu...."

"Again, I couldn't have done it without my team!!!" she flashes a grin at me. "You know one thing about me? I hate quitters!! I hate slackers!!! I hate people who do stuffs half-way and just give up when it became too hard for them to continue!! But my team learned how to push through those challenges!! So whenever I do something amazing, I will always mentioned them at every chances I get!!"

 

A team leader and a team player, Kiharu has that amazing quality in her. Strong, adventurous, instinctive, she's all and all, such a down-to-earth kind of person you would only meet in your fantasy. I'm almost jealous of her. She's definitely an ideal person I would like to listen to all day without getting tired of it.

"Hmm... I wonder if my teammates are worried about me though... I mean they're always looking after me... even when I get sick during excavating..." Kiharu laughed it off. "Of course, when you're surrounded by history, you bound to catch something other than knowledge!!"

 

I almost laughed at the sentence before I considered her usual excavation sites and their conditions, along with how her attitude is as well. There was silence between us for a moment.

"Are you sick right now?"

"A bit...? But it's not too serious-"

"Ask Monomyou for a proper health diagnosis immediately...." I told her, instantly and firmly, with no doubt, I can't believe she kept that to herself up until now. Even with her protests, I called out for Monomyou who appeared in a full doctor getup, disgruntled. 'Better safe than sorry.... I hope Kiharu didn't think I'm being too harsh on her....'

 


 

Exiting the room, I was greeted by Hibiki who was about to knock on the door, "Ah... Hibiki... were you here to see-"

"No, I was asked to get you and the others to meet up in the dining hall this instant...." she sounds like she's in a rush, her expression seem serious as well. "Machi and Nao checked the library archive and found something related to this place.... and us...."

A possible clue to our past, our missing memories? "I will help you as well, I'm gonna go tell Kiharu. I think Amane and Higura are still in their rooms..." She gave a nod and went ahead to get them. First, the plush now this? These mysteries keep on piling up.... but it's better to get some answers out of it and try to make sense of everything.

 


 

"Geez, you guys are so slooooow!! We already went through the stuffs before you guys do!!"

 

"Oh, shut the fuck up!!" I sighed once Higura and Hisao started bickering. My patience keeps thinning every time both of them opened their mouth, I have already found my personal kryptonite and white noise at the same time. Everyone else already gathered at the dining hall. On the table, they were bunch of newspaper clippings that looked pretty old.

"Nao and I found these while cleaning the archive rooms.... it's about this hotel and.... it has some connections to us...." said Machi, looking unsure of himself.

"May I read it?" I asked. Machi handed over the documents as I skimmed through it. Kiharu and Amane read them over my shoulder as well as Higura, whom I actually have lowered my arms a little so that he could see.

 


TRAGEDY STRIKES AT THE YUMEINO LUXURY HOTEL

xx.xx.xx, an unfortunate tragedy have struck at the brand new hotel that was built by its main facility, Yumeino Ultimate Academy For Elites. As the place was intended to held the graduation program for its 50th Class and their sixteen talented students, multiple explosions around the building went off causing the building to collapsed, leaving no survivors.

We would like honored the deceased who, unfortunately, left this world too young and too soon.....


 

Then, there's a list under the column, the list that has all of our names on it under the title, 'In Memory Of...'. "What the hell.....?" those words escaped from my gaping mouth. So we were.... dead...? We were supposed to be dead? You're kidding, right?

"This newspaper.... but it's recent....?" Kiharu stammered. "S-Surely this is just a messed-up prank!!"

"Unfortunately, it isn't...." Machi sighed, taking off his glasses to rub the dust off the lenses. "There are multiple newspapers that we found made by different companies but all covering the same topic, all reported the same thing. Sixteen students who perished in a brand new hotel. And to make it even worst and nonsensical, these newspaper clippings are at least a few months old...."

"But the place right now.... this whole place....." Amane's distressed voice is hard to miss. "This is the same hotel as the one mentioned in here.... how could they rebuild this entire place.... just to get us killed all over again....?"

 

"Perhaps they're trying to get something out of us...."

 

Everyone turned to Hisao, who still looking at the other newspaper clippings, voice still has a tint of boredom in it, "Think about it. A tragedy strikes yet we're still alive. We found ourselves in this copycat hotel that supposed to be destroyed, only to get us to murder each other. It sounds like they're trying to see who's the best among us. Or think about how Monomyou present themselves, us and this whole killing game system they've been going on again.... it sounds like this whole thing is being broadcast...."

"That's impossible", is what I wanted to say. But it was cut short when the conman continues, "Just kidding! There's no way anyone would be that cruel to watch some high school students murdering the shit out of each other! That would be so mess up!!!"

 

"You little-" Instinctively, I held back Higura, stopping him by firmly grabbed him by the shoulder and pushed him back. He was surprised by the sudden aggression but didn't say anything afterwards.

"What if your first sentence was right?" I told him. Hisao immediately has that all too familiar smile on his face, that I'm following his logic here. "Someone or some organisation kidnapped us... during this tragedy..... just to gain something......"

"Or someone...." Higura shrugged. "If you really think about our class roster, our talents and our list of achievements pinned to it.... they looked like they're planning to recruit some members to join their occult organisation...."

 

Those are exceptional talents on that long list. If these whole setup was done by those people who are after our talents, then we already fell right into their trap, didn't we? To have people murder each other, leaving two survivors at the end of the killing game. It sounds like a typical requirement or a recruitment method for a dangerous organisation, there's no doubt about it. Though their existence is rarely known, they're still out there, hiding in plain sight.....

An organisation that determines who will gained freedom and the will to live.... and who will just died and disappeared off the face of the earth....

 

"But now we know the name....." Saku cuts through the tense atmosphere, "Yumeino Ultimate Academy For Elites..... that's the school we all attended together, right...? The name really fits for a prestigious school mentioned from our motive videos....I heard that everyone's previous motive videos have some kind of acceptance speech to an unnamed school...."

"A-According to some information about that school...." Nao hastily go through all the notes she collected. "A-An agent goes around a-and recruit the best of the best...! I-It seems like this school is a more smaller yet pristine version of its predecessor school....Although, Macchan and I can't find anything related to that latter school...."

 

"But the 'For Elites' part is quite on the nose, don't you think?" Hiroshi pondered. "Does that mean we came from a higher status or something? Is that why we got kidnapped to begin with?"

Could be, could be not. Almost all of the talents here are quite absurd and really outlandish. They even have talents like myself, Hisao and Taiga, who are well-known to be heavily armed and dangerous as well. In which aspect of ourselves were they targeting for?

 

As far as most of the revelations goes, this is the at least tamer than yesterday's. Everyone still kept their cool yet still showing considerable amount of stress and curiosity (surprisingly). Most of these still doesn't make sense so we can't quite piece a complete story yet. Maybe there's a lot more clues in this place as well...?

"Hohoho!!" Suddenly Monomyou jumped down and landed on the table. "You guys found those things at last!!! Man, I was hoping someone to bring these out right before the first class trial!!"

"Y-You there!!" Mitsuru shrieked as she pointed at them. "What is the meaning of all of this!? Are these all real!?"

 

"Huuuuh!?" the cat gasped. "Of course, they're all real, you dumbnumbs!! These are the original copies as well, don't go rough on them, okay!? I spent an entire lifetime collecting such interesting stories for you all to go through and reminiscence!!"

"Please answer our question, our dearest host...." Renma asked kindly. "If the said hotel was destroyed in said tragedy... how was it rebuilt so quickly with only a few months gap?"

"Whoops!! That's too soon to ask!!" Monomyou giggles. "Man, you guys caught onto some details really fast!! No wonder you were all chosen by that Elite Academy!! You got some mad brain cells in that head of yours!! Too bad your personality suckass, just a copy of a copy!! All of you are not likable enough!!!"

 

Like that, it disappeared and we all let out a collective sigh together. We didn't expect them to answer but a hint or so would have been a wishful thinking. In the end, we got more questions in our mind but that's a given. Nao and Machi said that they will keep the records in their room got safety reasons. They will return to the library tomorrow to search for more clues.

The others decided to do their own thing, now with these sort of things occupying their mind. Taiga, Renma, Saku and Amane look the most troubled out of the group. Meanwhile, Shoma still looks as floaty as ever, mindlessly dusting off the dirt on the table.

 

"What do you think about it, Shoma?" I asked, curious to hear what he had to say. He was really quiet during the whole discussion but the biologist did look like he wanted to say something but didn't.

"Hmm... this critter doesn't think a lot...." Shoma confessed. "From what this critter remembers...... it doesn't matter. Because everyone is here together.... we shouldn't worry over such history.... right? One day.... we will leave this place, full of great memories...!"

Again, still as cryptic as ever but still positive about it nonetheless. I thought about the plush mystery from earlier, wondering what kind of secret he's keeping from us, 'It's probably not that bad if he's still optimistic....'

 

"Hey, little miss!!" the conman patted my head to get my attention. "Got a minute? Need to ask you for something!"

'Guess it's the survival group time', I thought to myself, seeing how Amane is also with him, both Taiga and Nao have other stuffs to do. Of course, if we all keep staying as a group, then someone would find out soon. It's better if they don't know about our intentions yet.

 


 

' Back at the bar once again....'

 

And it doesn't look like Monomyou managed to fix the security cameras here, judging how they're still down and looking really dusty by now. They must have given up and left it just like that. That would be a reassuring thought, since that thing have no idea what we've been doing here.

"Do you guys got your lame plush rewards from the annoying cat?"

Expecting him to ask about that, I simply said, "Yes, but I've only answered its first question... and from what I know, it seems you, Shoma and Kiharu solved them already....?"

 

"What??" Amane became confused by the revelation. "There's more from that lousy doll? What's so important about it that we must gather here??"

"Ahhh.... I knew Taiga wouldn't shut up about it, that stupid paranoia in him is too great for him to even try and brace through. Geez, what a coward....." Hisao sighs. "Guess his bravery, easygoing attitude is just a front and a mask!! Should have known it!"

"Sao-chin...." I warned him.

 

"Ergh!!" Amane tried to hold back laughter once he heard that atrocious nickname and Hisao's reaction. "I-I'm just joking around!! That's totally uncalled for!! Anyways!! This is clearly another trap set up by that annoying cat!! Another motive!!"

"Just as I thought...." For once, I'm glad my doubts towards these 'harmless' rewards were right all along. "From what I've heard, the last question will revealed other's deepest, darkest secret.... something that's really serious...."

"And that's not just an overreaction, what I got really just shot through the shock factor by a million on a horror movie scale...." said Hisao, as he pointed his finger at the both of us. "Here's the deal; we can never, EVER anyone about their own secret!! Trust me, this shit is way too gruesome to reveal publicly!!"

 

Oh. So he doesn't want to reveal it that easily? That's a surprising approach. Then what did Taiga meant by him having an opposite idea? Did he compromised his plan that fast? "I really thought you would insist on telling others...."

"Yeah-no, I'm a jackass but I have boundaries and I value my life very much even though we're stuck in a killing game...." Hisao grimaced, clearly telling the truth. "I've got a job for you two, being a musical genius and all...."

He searched for something in his jacket, rummaging around and for a moment, his sleeves was pulled back a bit and I see an odd-looking futuristic bracelet clamped tightly around his wrist, 'What is that?'

 

"Here ya' go!!"

The conman handed the both of us some numerous musical sheets, "Study them!! They're gonna be very much useful in due time!! I'm sure you two will have so much fun with these things but don't go overboard and do something naughty behind my back!!"

"Shut the fuck up" Amane and I said in unison, annoyed by his crude joke.

"Woooo, what an attitude from these two this evening!! Such vigorous energy!!!" Hisao laughed. "Anyways, I'm gonna do my own thing now!! I'm gonna play around with Renma and his sixth sense again! He's a very interesting person he turned out to be!"

 

My theory of Renma being the fake player suddenly double its possibility when he said that. Does that mean he has Renma's secret? Is he going be a jackass again and revealed during the class trial? Internally scolding myself for thinking about a class trial happening soon, I want to make sure Hisao wouldn't do anything too rash or else it's gonna obvious that he's making both a bigger target AND a fool of himself.

'I feel like... without Hinako around....' the behaviorist with her usual cheerful face and floral appearance flashes through my mind. 'We became this man's babysitters instead..... God, please send my gratitude to Hanabusa Hinako and her amazing resistance towards this grinch....'

 


 

After that, nothing much happened. We all finished up what we know so far and then left the bar. I met up with Nao and Machi on my way to the hotel, leaving Hisao chased after wherever Renma is (as I silently pray for him). Even after a traumatic event, Nao still remained herself, still stuttering through her words and avoiding people's glances but she managed to pull through. Perhaps it's thanks to Machi's doing that she's able to stand her ground.

'Maybe one day, I can help them with their library duties as well. It's the least I can do for troubling them so much during the last class trial...' I mentally took a note for tomorrow maybe. 'I really wanna know what those two actually do when they're at the library alone- Fuck, that sounded really weird....'

 


 

Entering my room, exhausted and sitting on the edge of my bed, it took me a while to noticed but once I saw my ankle being wrapped, I suddenly feel dread washing over me, 'Oh God, Renma is going to kill me and he was there during the talk earlier....'

I didn't realized it before, the pain has becoming numb now that I limited my time wandering around the place. The bar and the hotel doesn't even have that much of a distance to begin with. 'Also, why am I actually afraid Renma is going to hurt me? I can easily overpowered him and won a fight-'

 

Silencing that thought immediately, I sigh while falling backwards onto my bed, "I shouldn't be thinking about fighting someone at a time like this, even though my instincts still screams for it. I shouldn't let violence be my only answer this time...."

If my secret turns out to be that. then I would have a tough time explaining myself. They might not even trust me that much anymore if the person who has my secret spilled the beans. Right on cue, the cat plush starts acting up, "Eyeeeees!!! Everywhere eeeeeeyesss!!!!"

"Eyes....?" So it's no longer a nursery rhyme? Now we're onto some cryptic bullshit. It couldn't be a riddle, this one is too direct. It must be related to something, like something in this room? The hotel as a whole? But the only thing I can think of the words, 'Eyes everywhere', could be referring to is... "Monomyou's Security Cameras...."

 

Just like that, it stopped repeating, and then said, "Congratulations, Hoshino Sumire. You have completed 'Monomyou's Special Surprise Quiz'! You're a lucky one!! Due to your fortunate partner's luck, you are only required to answer two questions as your partner offered no such scandalous information in his lifetime!! What a shame!! It seems like you have no materials to perform a blackmail!!"

"Blackmail? Seriously...?" I frowned, did that cat seriously have a death wish? Well, of course, that's what they're aiming for. Something to rile up the potential killer. 'But thank god, I didn't get it.... or that person is pure or something....'  So I'm supposed to get one of the boys' secret? They made no effort to hide it so it's seem pretty intentional. Kiharu already got Taiga's so the suspect list has gone down to eight people, which is still a lot, 'The closest I can think of who wouldn't do anything remotely wrong is Macchan.... I mean, how much trouble can a librarian get into? But still... I shouldn't be too sure about this, I can still be wrong about it. And if this is a fluke then....'

 

Tomorrow will still be troublesome, that worried feeling keep bottling up. Inside of the desk's drawer was the air-soft gun that Taiga gave for safe-keeping. I really, really hope that the day I will be forced to use it wouldn't happened. That would truly be a first for me. The nighttime announcement begin without a pause or anything, I slowly succumbed into a deep sleep, into the welcoming embrace of the dark. 

Chapter Text

"This is it, we're finally graduating today...."

"Yeah, fuckin' finally. I had enough looking at you fucking exhibitionists' faces for three damn years already!! I gotta force some clients to kneel down after this!!"

"Gura, that will only drive off your potential customers...."

"Gah! Who cares!? They will come back crawling eventually! Because I'm the best one out there that they will ever fucking find!!"

"Your spiritual aid does proven to be correct. You might even found a handsome offer here after the ceremony..."

"Ooooh! I ain't passing that shit up!"

"So you will only eat up that spiritual claim if it gives you money, huh. But hey, an offer is an offer...."

"Amane and I wishes for you all to have a successful future...."

"Oh yeah, good luck on that overseas tour, you two!! Send us some souvenirs!!"

.....

..........

"Hey, *****.... you've been really quiet this entire evening.... you okay there, buddy?"

"Yeah, I'm fine.... I'm sorry, Sumi...."

 


 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!!!

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, rise and shine!!! This is your daily announcement to be at your very myou-est of health!! I hope everyone have found joy in my special rewards, they're limited edition, you know!!"

"Actually, did you know I was actually planning for a raggedy doll-kind of reward? That would be very interesting, ya' know!! I wonder if a horror movie starting some high school students getting chased down by some cheap knock-off doll would even make a buck!!"

"Anyways, have a myou-est of day!!"

 

The PA system turned off. It took me a while to think clearly after that, 'What... what was that dream? Everyone was there.... everyone...even Homare and Hinako...... but I don't recognized that place we were at.... and did Mitsuru in that dream mentioned about 'graduation'...? Was that a missing memory...?'

 

"So those newspaper clippings proved to be true then.... seeing those things must have flipped a switch or something....." I said as I combed through my hair, deep in my thoughts. "If we discovered those things right before the first trial..... we could have done something more about it...."

Well, no use lamenting about it now. We have another situation to handle; the plush mysteries. It's reassuring to know I didn't get anyone else's secret or that person is just really pure; that means that person and I are cleared of suspicion. Now for the others.....

As if on cue, the doorbell rang and I wasted no time idling around, immediately answered it, "..... It feels like there's a duty roster to wake me up first before anyone headed out....."

 

"Sorry, Ren's orders...." Saku, this time who is at my door, chuckles. "He wanted to make sure you're alright, eating breakfast and your ankle is all healed up! You were at the meeting yesterday so everything's okay, right?"

"Yeah... I think...." I tried moving my right foot a bit, subtle but not too serious. "I needed to move around anyways.... or else it will become more worst than before....."

"Don't worry, I will came up with an excuse to let you walk if Ren ever looks at us disapprovingly!!" Saku cheered. "It should be well-known that you need to exercise your joint even when you're injured!! If not, then it will stiffened and you will ended up feeling those thing poppin' every time you moved!"

"I'm sure there's a better way to describe that feeling...."

 


 

"There's no fucking way we're keeping this shit to ourselves!!!"

"If we don't do that then a class trial will happened soon!!"

"This isn't something to joke around, you know!?"

"This is that creature's initial plan, you shithead!! Of course, a class trial is one of the things will happened!!"

 

"Shit....." We've just exited the elevator yet I can already hear the commotion from the dining hall. My worst fear have unfortunately came true, they already found out about it.

"W-What's going on...." Saku looked at me for answers. "Why are they so heated up so early in the morning....?"

"You will see...." I mumbled, and quickly change my pace. I marched towards the dining hall door, swung it open dramatically and clearly see how divided everyone is.

 

On the left, Higura is upfront, snarling at Machi and Hisao on the opposing side. Following the graphic designer was Mitsuru, Hibiki, Nao, Kiharu and Hiroshi. Machi and Hisao still stood on their ground, with Amane, Taiga, Shoma and Renma behind them looking unfazed. If I have to guess from the first sentence I heard earlier, Higura's side wants the secret motives to be revealed.

"Hey, what's going on here.....?" Saku looked around the surrounding before his gaze fell onto the fuming Higura. "Gura, what did you do?"

"Fuck you, you bonehead..." Higura pointed at the conman accusingly. "This time, I have a good fucking excuse to be really pissed off!!"

 

"Excuse your boytoy's language but at the same time, learn how to restrain him a bit, will you?" Hisao sighed, not minding the heated glare from the opposing side. "Ironically, the person who's always in the sky is not on the same ground with us but the plush rewards we were given was a trap that revealed everyone's darkest secret..."

"W-What!?" Saku didn't bother to argue him about what he said first but he thankfully didn't ignored that last bit as well. "You mean it's not just a useless talking plush!?"

"The cute facade is fake....." exclaimed Machi. "Like those motive videos, Monomyou is using each others' secrets that we can use to blackmail each other...."

 

"Which is why-!!!" Higura cuts in before Machi can finish. "If we tell everyone else's secret, there is no reason for blackmailing and no reason for anyone to kill for their secret to keep shut!!"

"Unfortunately, your logic is so flawed and I can't help but pity you..." Renma frowned. "If the other's secret made them look dangerous, then there would be a dispute. There is a chance anyone can use that revelation as an advantage to cover themselves up and blamed the said dangerous individual instead...."

 

"It's a 50-50 situation...." Hibiki argued. "Yes, there will be a dispute but regardless of that, we still knew about that at the end of the day. We can still trust each other's account-"

"Oh, so just like the last trial?" Everyone's breath hitched. The conman's merciless tone continues, "You know what happened last trial? We trusted Homare's innocence and yet she was plotting for a murder behind our back, wanting to leave unscathed. And just like that, we lost another person who also wanted to save her own skin! Do you really wanna throw that word 'trust' around now?"

 

He has a point, no matter what everyone said or even denied it, Hisao has a point. Keeping it to yourself will feel like torture but it will be like a Russian Roulette once you let it slipped from your mouth. It's everyone's game to take the opportunity to murder anyone using that secret motive, easily blamed it on the said person with their secret.

Everyone here is smart on their own way but once that will to live burns stronger, being logical during the class trial would never crossed their mind. Trusting anyone's word could only get you so far.

 

"I'm with Hisao on this one...." I calmly said, walking over to the defending group. "It's too risky... And Saku, I'm sure you're siding with your best friend on this and we won't judge you for thinking-"

"Actually...." to everyone's, even Higura, surprise, he walked over to our side. "I'm also with you guys.... there's no way revealing all of our secrets... will end in anything but bad luck...."

"Tsk!!" Higura clicked his tongue as he looked away. "Like a spineless coward he is!!"

 

Saku didn't say anything, he looked like he regretted his decision but he still stick with it. The atmosphere has grown tense as we continued our breakfast (prepared by Nao and Hiroshi today) in awkward silence, in separate groups. 'We can't....' my mind wandered. 'We can't let this thing get to us.... but we can't let that opportunity go as well..... because Higura's group already made themselves a bigger target....'

"Hey, Sumi. Are you free later this afternoon?" Taiga snapped me out of my daydream, with his usual cheery tone.

"Huh? Oh yeah, I am..... do you need something?"

 

"Nah, nothing too serious..... I just need a training partner to hang out with at the shooting gallery....." said Taiga, nonchalantly. "It's kinda creepy being on my own and who knows!! Maybe we might realized something about you as well!! You might out-shot me and it turns out you're the Ultimate Marksman!!"

S-Shouldn't that posed a bigger threat to your livelihood though? "Yeah, I'm in. Don't have any bigger plans at the moment..." Guess I can hang out with Nao and Machi some other time.

 

'Hmm... I still have a lot time before I meet up with Taiga.... maybe I should hang out with someone at the gymnasium first?' I stared at the time on my ElectroID before I left the dining hall.

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

Not surprisingly, I bumped into Hiroshi at gymnasium on the rock climbing wall. He was midway up there before he noticed my presence in the same room, "Oh hey, Sumi!! Fancy seeing you here!!"

I gave a wave of acknowledgement before asking, "Guess Kiharu just let you go here in the end, huh?"

"Nah, I need no permission from anyone else to do my own thing!!" He gives a thumb up and his other hand still holding on. "I need to keep up my stamina or else I will be as weak as a wet noodle strand!!"

 

Weird analogy but okay, "But you're the Ultimate Abseiler, right? Do you usually do rock climbing while you're at the outdoors as well?"

"Used to..." he shrugged. "It was something I always do before I took abseiling up but now? Not so much! Ever since my rope gave up and lost my footing while I was mid-climbing no less! And so, all I can do is scaling down basically!!"

"Wha- You fell!?" I unintentionally shouted at him, staring as he continues to climb up. "B-But you're fine now right!? I mean you're doing alright so-"

 

"You're good at analyzing people right?" said the abseiler, still climbing and not addressing my concerns towards him. "I want you to take a good look at my movement and find out what's wrong with me!"

What's wrong with him? He made it sound like a challenge for some reason. For once, I know he has no trouble maneuvering his arms, they're very responsive if that elevator moment didn't prove enough. But once I saw his feet placement, it clicked, "....You can't move your left foot...."

"Bingo!!!" he managed to be on top of the wall. "Well done!! I would give you a noogie if I was down there with you!!"

 

So he injured his left foot caused by the fall and because of that, he can't strained himself even further. Or he still do considering he have just successfully climbed the wall at this moment. Hiroshi made his way down using the stairs besides the wall with a large grin on his face, "I know what you're thinking, 'Why did I decided to became an abseiler?'"

I just nodded and he continued without interruption, "Well, right after that fall, I was really bummed out, you know? Knowing that I can't help out the folks at my area. My hometown have like mountainous areas so it's a perfect tourist attraction, you know? I was only helping out as a part-timer after my incident, making sure they go their gears on safely and tightly..... but one day, one of the anchor gave out...."

We both sat down on the floor, listening attentively to his story, "It wasn't too serious... the person's didn't immediately fell to her death but still stuck in the darkest pit nonetheless. And so I did what I have to do, put my gear and go right after to save them. Long story short, grave injuries but heard that she was still alive afterwards so that's a good story!!"

 

"You didn't let your injury get in your way huh....."

"Well, I already accepted the fact that this thing will never recover anyway..." said Hiroshi. "It will only get worst and worst no matter what I do so.... best to go ahead while I still can, right?"

I chuckled at his statement and smiled, ill-advised but he's pretty determined enough. He wanted to make sure no one suffered the same fate he did, and so he earned his Ultimate title out of his wish to ensure everyone's safety. Of course, you can call it obvious safety precaution, but it's rare to meet a young person like him willing to risk his life again just to help anyone in danger.

 

"Guess that moment from yesterday morning really went over your head..." he pointed out. "That was a spur of the moment but I did not expect you to swoop in catch a falling tiger!!"

"Ahhhh, I panicked..." I admitted it. "It was too sudden so I wasn't really thinking...."

"That's pretty bad for an investigator like you....." He repeatedly poked my head while making his point. "You're still fine, you know? You still got a long road ahead of you so don't go rushing into danger just because you weren't thinking straight..."

'He sounded like an older sibling profusely scolding the younger ones for hurting themselves. Still, I gotta looked out for him or else... Someone should also look after his safety too as well....'

 

'Oh I better get going to meet up with Taiga at the shooting range....'

 


 

"Heeeeey! Over here, Sumi!!"

"Ah.... Kiharu and Renma are here too....."

 

"On watch...." Kiharu puffed out her chest, staring at us keenly. "I don't want any accident like yesterday's morning!! Even if those things are bolted to the stands, I won't be fool by Taiga's amazing skills, naivety, carelessness and clueless nature!!"

"You have one positive thing to say right before you sprinkle in the other three negative things...." Renma awkwardly laughs. "We're just here to make sure nothing goes wrong, like Monomyou appearing out of nowhere....."

 

Taiga commented how there will be no real loss there, if the mascot did abruptly jump in, before going to his place, "The distance is quite alright...... wanna see how many we can take out?"

"Fair warning... it's been a while since I've held a proper one....." I said before inspecting the said equipment. "I'm more onto hand-to-hand, you know?"

"Yeah but I'm not risking hurting you any further that I did before!!" He exclaimed while pointing at Renma, by the side, smiling with that still menacing aura. "Renma will sure plucked out my bones to make soup during his shift!!"

'Again, another morbid thing said by the medium....'

 

And so both of us fired away, with ear muffs and goggles on for protection. I took a peek at how Taiga was doing and to say it wasn't mesmerizing how serious he looked would be a lie. I never seen the marksman looked really deadpan and solemn, contrast to his exaggerated yet energetic personality from before, 'I wonder if this is how he usually is....'

The score ended with 10-6, with the exception of my shots being all over the target carrier while Taiga perfectly aimed at the perfect middle. I took of all the safety gears to congratulate him, "A perfect score..... as expected for the Ultimate Marksman. You looked really cool just now...."

 

"Wow, I usually got told 'they're scared of my precision skills' but thanks!!" Taiga smiled, a really heartwarming one at that. "It's been a while since I've had a partner to hang out with who wouldn't weird out!!"

"It's not really ideal to bring your friends to a shooting range just to hang out but I actually had fun nonetheless...."

 

"Both of you guys' ideal of fun is way out of the chart, especially for normalcy...." Kiharu sighed dejectedly. "But whatever floats your boat...."

"Sumi and Taiga have both rather dangerous occupations but they're very lovely people...." Renma chuckles. "They're much more reliable than the conman who always disappeared and reappeared to mess with people. It sure is a blessing to have these two being decent...."

'Ren-chin, just say that we're good people and end there! You're making both of us feel really down here!'

 

"I still find it quite strange though....." Taiga looked around the place, like he's inspecting the structural components of the building. "Although I'm happy that this place exist but right near the hotel? I have heard of amusement park or tourist destinations having shooting galleries but why would they find it fine for a hotel to have one?"

"It's not that really off, though?" said Kiharu. "Maybe people find it entertaining enough to have one built here. I'm sure a luxury hotel like this can also attract many, many wealthy hunters as well..."

"Oh right, I didn't think of that possibility..." Taiga scratched the back of his head. "Sorry!! Guess my brain isn't working well today!!"

"When will it ever be...."

 

"Kiharu, don't be rude...." Renma warned her. "There's a lot more mysteries to this place. Unfortunately, we can only do as much as relying on certain physical evidences...."

"What Nao and Macchan found was really by luck... if they didn't check archives as soon as possible, we would have missed that completely....." And since Monomyou themselves said that they're completely true, then what else is that thing hiding from us?"

Something tells me that we will get our obscure answer.... really soon....

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

'I still have enough time.... maybe I should waste my time at the library till evening since I wanna check on Nao and Macchan....'

... was my initial plan before decided to leave if those two have everything handled. But instead, I was greeted by a pile of books on the floor and a figure being buried underneath it, "What the- Macchan, is that you?"

"Y-Yeah... a book fell and I stepped on it...."

 

'Geez, how unexpectedly clumsy', I hurriedly shoved aside the books on top so that Machi can finally breakthrough and rolled over from the messy pile, "Isn't there a moving cart you can use to move these books?"

"Both of them are broken so I have to manually move them...." Machi sighed. "I was doing fine before that fall happened...."

"Where's Nao? Wasn't she's the one helping you out?"

 

"Low stamina, she's not used to heavy lifting so I would feel bad if I ask her for help...." said Machi, collecting the fallen book and placed them on a nearby desk. "She always left earlier before I do. I only leave the library once nighttime begins...."

"That's a long time to spend in one place...." Especially for a whole day. "What do you even do here that you would be willing to stay till nighttime?"

"Ah, the usual thing librarians are expected to do...." he explained. "Organizing the shelves, keep everything neat and tidy, updating the library databases, making sure none of sections are missing a book or even a page and making sure the locating system is functioning as well..."

"So in short, you're kind of a neatfreak....." But I'm surprised, this two floored library can be easily handled by one person and a helping hand, but mostly Machi (Sorry, Nao!). But he said it's a common practice right? "How did you became an Ultimate actually?"

"I don't quite remember...or even know what I did....." Machi initiate his thinking pose. "Perhaps it has to do with me handling all five local libraries in my area? Of course, it was only for a short time since I mainly handled university libraries. I even managed to get a hold on really detailed and treasured works by famous scholars, and I did it by begging..."

 

"B-Begging, huh...."

"Not like that, not like my knees on the floor, you know?" Machi reassured me, doesn't look slightly offended that I think of it like that. "Just a simple please and sugarcoating by saying it's for the future generation or something. But I just think it looks more complete for a library to have such valuable information to balanced out other stuffs as well...."

'Wait, so you did all that stuff for aesthetic purposes?!'

 

"Believe me, university libraries are just better than public ones...." Machi confessed with an uncertain look on his face. "I really like hardworking people so seeing other students studying all day in the libraries just made me feel glad that my contributions didn't go to waste! Of course, I actually do that myself since... I'm still a student...."

"A librarian who handles the library... is also a student themselves...." Is there like an assistant for Ultimate occupational students like Machi who have to check in everyday? It sounds like a hassle. Being home-schooled on my own, I always wonder how they managed their time. 

"But then one day, it will eventually end....." Machi sighed, placing his cheek on his hand. "My effort and position won't even matter in the future....."

 

Ah, he's upset. It's true, libraries won't be really relevant anymore in the near future, with how technology improved over the years and e-book becoming more convenient for busy people. But I can't say all of that in front of Machi, he would surely be in low spirit if I did.

"That won't happened...." I said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "B-besides, there are a lot of people who prepared the classic physical books, you know? People who don't want to ruin their eyesight or keep getting migraine for staring at the screen for too long! Who knows, maybe there would be a futuristic e-library place and you might the first one to manage that!!"

"E-library place, huh...." He made it sound silly with his melancholy tone but a glint of interest in his eyes said otherwise. "That wouldn't be much different that an information center for businesses but- That actually sound really cool..... Hmmm, hey, Sumi.... if we ever get out of here... mind be my business consultant for a while? I wanna make sure that idea doesn't go to waste...."

 

'Ah, so I became a business partner, huh? Kind of dug myself a longtime commitment there with someone I'm not close with yet....... Hmmm, it's still not a bad idea. I would hang out more with Machi so that the idea would flourish more!! I might be able to protect him from loan-sharks as well!'

 


 

When I entered the hotel at night, I witnessed a really strange sight at the reception area, two unlikely people conversing with a serious look on their faces, "Huh? Hisao... Renma?"

"Ah, dear little miss!!" The mood suddenly shifted as Hisao started to flail his arms around while greeting me. "Were you on a date? Who did you go out with!! That's not fair!! Spend more time with me too, you know!! I want some care and attention too!!"

 

"You will have your day...." I replied without missing the playful tone I decided to match with his, I don't really have the energy to be snappy. "What are you two doing? This is really rare to see you two in the same room, not trying to snap each other's necks...."

"The young conman made a peace offering, you see...." Renma showed a neatly wrapped gift, it's hard to make it out what is it. "And so we both are on an equal stand.... for now...."

"Oh, so momentarily...."

 

"Yup, yup!!" Hisao exclaimed. "Ren-chan and I have formed a spiritual bond!! Now we're bound together and wouldn't die for the next two days!!"

"Gross, go to hell, you disgusting vermin....."

"Ren-chin, that's rude for you to say that....." I narrowed my eyes. A spiritual bond? So a partnership? But what would Hisao get from partnering with a medium? Don't tell me....

 

"Sorry, sorry...." Renma smiled apologetically as he looked outside. "It's already dark... I still have a lot of matters to discuss with this conman here so mind if you take Shoma to his room, Sumi?"

"Ummm... sure, just that.... where is he exactly??" The medium pointed downwards, my eyes traveled and widened at the figure sleeping right next to the medium's feet. "Wha- How long was he sleeping on the floor for!?"

"He... passed out while swimming....." the medium looked like he has a tough time explaining his state. "Shoma has this thing he called... 'swimming gauge' that if it runs out, then he will just mindlessly float around limply..... Luckily, I found him, facing down in the pool and managed to fish him out in time...."

'No, no, no- no matter what he called it!! That's his stamina he's talking about!! Out of all the things he could say, that's the easiest word to decode!!!'

 

"Then this man came along, wanting to converse so I have no choice but to put him aside which is an immoral decision-"

"Hey!! I did say, 'You can go and take him to his room first then we could talk' but you insist on saying that it would be a waste of energy to go up-and-down on the elevator just to talk to me!!" Hisao argued back, earning a heated glare from Renma.

Leaving the two with their 'friendly' talk, I walked over to Shoma's side and leaned down, poking at his sides. His face twitched a bit, before burying into his high-collared jacket, "Ah, good thing he's still responsive. I will be carrying him now...." I tried lifting him up, with one arm over my shoulder, 'Whoa, he's heavier than I thought...'

 

"Don't take advantage of him!! Even when you're in a boy's room!!"

"You better shut your mouth if you value your tongue!!"

'Hey, she finally know how threaten people like you did, neato!' was what the last thing I heard before getting on the elevator with the sleeping biologist.

 


 

By miracle, I found the ElectroID, not damaged somehow despite its user constantly submerged themselves in water with their clothes on, that Shoma kept in his jacket and swiped it in front of the automatic lock until a noise was made. Inside his room, he has two small aquariums with many vibrant fishes, there's also many fish models like a mounted eel on his wall.

"All of our rooms were decorated to match our talents...." My room only consists of a cork board and just a bunch of notepads, nothing exciting for a person like me and that's already a given. Carefully laying down the sleeping figure onto the bed, making sure his head aligned perfectly on his pillow, I spotted the plush reward that Shoma had, except this one is a.... jellyfish?

'That's strange.... and really cute as well. Knowing Shoma, he must have not be happy having a plush of a mammal or even of Monomyou themselves as a reward....'

 

The biologist is still sleeping soundly but for some reason, something within me wants to say this out loud, "I will be leaving now Shoma..... be sure to lock the door..."

"... Yes..." Oh wow, that actually worked? He's semi-conscious, I supposed. He will eventually get up and have quick shower to get out of those soaked clothes. Making my leave, I walk down the hallway to my room, planning to idle around till the nighttime announcement kicks in before I heard a loud crashing noise, "What the!?"

 

'That sounded like a window breaking.... from downstairs? The reception area?' Against my better judgement, I quickly went into my room to get the air-soft gun and the tracer pellets, shoved them both into my jacket before leaving my locked room behind, "Renma and Hisao are still there..... they should be-"

Words and thought suddenly disappeared once I saw the sight right before me, Hisao kneeling down with a bloody arm, "Sao!!"

"Ah, little miss!" he gets up with no problem, and then begin whining. "God, this is so uncool. I got injured even though I saw it right before it happened even!!"

 

"What is....." the area that Hisao and Renma were previous talking at has now shards of broken glass from the windows. Tiny glass shards has speck of blood on them, the conman must have picked them right out of his arm, "What the hell happened here!?"

"M-Medic here!!" Nao, appeared right from the direction of the dining hall along with a panicking Hiroshi, with her hands full of bandage and antiseptic. "W-We just got here when we saw it happened!!"

"A-A hooded figure threw something at the windows!!" Hiroshi tried to explain without going over his words. "Renma chased after them!! H-He said that we should help Hisa-"

 

"That peabrained idiot fucking took off without giving two shits about his own safety!!!" Hisao scowled. That's enough information for me to take in, I encouraged Nao and Hiroshi to stay with Hisao for a while and check in whoever is still in their rooms as well. Swiftly, I left the hotel, loading two tracer pallets into the gun, scanning the area as I did it.

 

'Fuck, it has to be during the night that this happened.....' I gritted my teeth, a strong grip onto the air-soft gun. I have to hear for anything; rustling, footsteps, any indication of life in the same perimeter. And then I saw it; the said hooded figure running from the shooting range to the direction of the gymnasium; "Got you!!"

I fired once, the straight neon light of pellet shot from barrel and aiming ahead, almost missed the figure. But confirming the direction of the figure, I quickly gave chase. From the distance, I heard two more shots and a grunt, did someone else fired it? There could only be one other person- "Taiga!!"

 

"Sumi!!" Taiga looked like a mess, wide eyes filled with fear and messy hair, "Y-You saw that right!? Your tracer pallet lead me to it so I used two of my marker pallets as well!! I-I think I only got them by the legs though...."

"That's good enough!!" I grabbed him along and quickly ran to the gymnasium. Quickly, quickly, quickly, or else we will lose sight of it-!! We have to corner them immediately or else-!!!

.........

Or else... what?

 


 

Panting heavily, trying to catch our breath in front of the gymnasium, we heard the nighttime announcement rolled in minutes before we even got here. Facing the gymnasium front door, I tried to speak clearly, "Unless, that person went in here before the announcement.... it's best to search the surroundings first....."

Taiga nodded in agreement, and went to the left side of the gymnasium. I proceed to take the right side.... before I heard something rustling. I braced myself, it took everything in me to remain calm in a dire situation like this. 

"Who's there!?" I yelled out, looking over with my gun up but my tense reaction softened when I saw who was it, "Renma....?"

 

"Sumi....." he looked frightened, eyes wide like a deer in a headlights, stammering. "I-I-I.... I can explain......" He stood up and cowering backwards, away from the familiar looking sheet on the ground; the sheet that the hooded figure wore. Whatever got into me, whatever spirit possessed me, I went ahead, leaned down quickly and pulled over the sheet, a ghastly sight was waiting for me.

Kiharu was laying downwards with her head facing towards me, empty eyes and mouth agape with blood dripping out, pooling underneath her rigid body.

 

"What the hell!?" I don't understand, what the hell is going on!? Who's behind this wild goose chase!? Renma, still standing with his eyes locked onto the still frame of the archaeologist, trembling even. "R-Renma, did you...."

"It wasn't me!!" he yelled, his calm composure broke down at a worst possible timing. "I-I just found her like this!!! She was already here when I've arrived!! The person I was chasing isn't here!!"

Taiga must have heard us, he went over to our side and looked at the horrid sight, knees buckled immediately, "Oh no.... Kiharu.... h-how..."

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Ladies and Gentleman!! It seems like we have a new murder case!!! Please gather around near the gymnasium to start clue hunting!!"

 

It will take the others five minutes to get here from the hotel, and when they get here, the investigation will start again. We have to go through the class trial again. 'We need to find out who did this no matter what....' I have no reason to even be mad that it happened again, it's evident that it will from this morning. 'But... these sequence of events are rough.... can we even solve it this time....?'

Chapter Text

Monomyou spun around, wearing a long brown overcoat and a hat on, making its dramatic entrance once again, "Boy, what an exciting development!! The suspense just now literally gave me a heart attack that I have to resurrect myself from underground!! This time, dear guests, this is a tricky case!!!"

Tell me about it, a reply that I wouldn't say out loud. I don't want to give any of them any indication that I'm getting used to this. Just like the case from before, everyone gathered together, sharing the same shocked expression and Monomyou appeared to give us the gist of it.

"Just hurry up and give that file to us...." Hisao grumbled, rubbing his bandaged right arm. "It's bad enough we have to haul our asses here just because someone is too trigger happy to murder someone so soon......"

 

'What's with that attitude all of the sudden?' The conman never show any disinterest in the killing game, even if he actually want to get out of it, so why did this particular case ticked him off?

"Ohohoho!! Straight to the point, I like that 'no nonsense' trait you guys have!! But no need to rush me! I'm the host who should be entertaining you guys, dammit!!" Monomyou handed everyone the 'Monomyou's Record File No.2'. "I'm looking forward to how would you even solve this case, little detectives!! Show me the most despairful trial you will give to us!!"

 

We didn't wait for the them to disappear, we immediately went ahead. Everyone's discomfort immediately wiped away as they waited, for me to make a move. I guess.

"Renma... can you take off the sheet? I'm gonna inspect it now...." I gently called out to the medium, he still looked shell-shocked. Fidgeting a bit, he slowly removed the sheet as I immediately kneel and turned the body over. With the record file in one hand, I begin listing, "Time of death is unknown. Found near the gymnasium but the exact location of death is approximately between the gymnasium and shooting range gallery...."

I frowned at this detail, 'What's with this gap? It's too wide for something that happened in short amount of time and it's out in the open as well. Which is why they didn't add the time of death probably.....'

 

"Wait, what's that?"

Taiga kneel down on the other side of the body, his hand almost touched Kiharu's clothes before I told him, "Ah, better use my gloves if you're gonna inspect the wound or anything...." I took off my gloves and gave it to him as he wears it immediately, "Are you alright with inspecting... ummm..... a woman's body?"

"It's not my first time," he said that too casually. "But, I would rather have everyone looked away for a bit since it's embarrassing to have this many eyes staring right at me...."

"Hey, this ain't a time to be publicly shy, you-" Higura sighed before he could even insult any further, probably because Saku just glared right at him. "Fuckin' fine, we will turned to our backs..."

 

One-by-one, they all turned, except for Hisao, Shoma and Renma. 'I understand why the two of them didn't but Shoma....?' The biologist looked dazed, he must have woken up abruptly after hearing the body discovery announcement. 'He's probably still confused by all of this...'

"Bullet wounds......" Taiga exclaimed, partially revealing the source of bleeding, near the stomach area. "There's no exit wounds either......"

"The cause of death is excessive blood loss..... and another blunt force trauma as well....." I revised the record file once again. "But the main factor here is the bullet wounds so the head injury is a bit off...."

 

"Why bother hitting someone, when this amount of wounds..... three wounds even...." Taiga furrowed his brows. ".... is enough to kill one person...."

"They probably didn't planned it well enough....." Hisao joined in, giving his insight. "If I have to guess, this culprit is this much of an idiot who think head trauma is enough to kill so they have to go to the extreme....."

Taiga and I stood up, the medium was still silent this whole time. His lack of words and reactions is really worrying. "Everyone.... you can look now..." I called out to them. "It's best that everyone spread out and look for clues..... I'm not sure about the locations but best to go with everyone's guts....."

 

"Nao and I will inspect the hotel...." Hiroshi stepped forward. "Where the hooded figure was first spotted..... the back of the hotel has bunch of waste disposal bins so maybe they were throwing something away...." Machi also joined the duo, saying the thing that broke the hotel's window may have significance to the case as well.

With the trio left, Higura, Saku and Mitsuru said they will checking out the shooting gallery for possible murder weapon as well. Amane and Hibiki will stand-by at the body, in case of anyone tampering with the crime scene. Two teams already spread out, leaving Hisao, Shoma, Renma, Taiga and I behind at the gymnasium. "Renma, aren't you gonna-"

"Yeah... I will tell the spirits here....." the medium didn't wait for me to finish. "It's what I can do for now.... I don't think I have the fortitude to do the investigation right now....."

 

Something is definitely bothering Renma, he never acted this way during the last investigation. Did he saw something? Or he knew something's off about this as well?

"Can we even investigate the gymnasium?" Taiga tried to pry open the doors. "It's shut locked, since it's nighttime!!"

"Hmmm... hang on, let me test this out....." Hisao brought both of his hands together and yelled out. "I summon thee, the one and only, the magnificient Monomyou!!!"

 

"Uhu~nyah!!!" Like a magician, Monomyou appeared with smoke coming out from seemingly nowhere, in between Taiga and Shoma who jumped back a bit. "Nyahahaha!! You have learned the marvelous spell that summoned your dear host, eh!?"

"No, no, it's kind of obvious you were waiting for us to beg for you to open the door...." said Hisao, putting his hand on his hip, "We're asking for your permission to investigate the gym since it might related to the case. You can do that, right? Pwetty pwease??"

I have no idea why but I just raised my arm involuntarily so did Taiga.

 

"Nyahaha! Who am I to reject the beautiful pleas of my guests!! Alrighty then, this is the only favor I will give to you all!! Open sesame!!" a clicking nose was heard behind Monomyou. "There, now investigate to your heart's content!! Especially, you two, dear ace detectives!!!" the thing was referring to Hisao and I, "Give us your best performance!!!"

The smoke appeared once again, replacing the spot where Monomyou was just mere minutes ago. The three of us immediately entered the gymnasium with heavy creak of the door echoing inside. Nothing's off, everything looks ordinary.

"We should check the storage room just in case...." Taiga said, pointed at the door on the right side. "There's a lot of equipment in there and also a sink in it....."

 

"Do you think the culprit used anything from here before nighttime hits?" I asked him while walking to our destination.

"Hmmm, possible....." Taiga replied, unsure of his answer. "There's also dumbbells and heavy-lifting thingy that they could use..... but I doubt they would find enough time to put them back....."

Once we're there, Taiga turned the knob and opened the door widely. Immediately. Hisao's face scrunched up and covered his nose, "Ugh.... what an overwhelming smell....."

 

Hisao's hyperosmia isn't the only one that's picking up that scent, all of us reacted the same to the strong metallic smell. I went in and approach the source of the foul smell, it was the crumbled-up gymnastic mat that's still covered with blood. It's a thinner kind that wouldn't be usually used by acrobats.

There is also a small horizontal window above, slightly higher and almost near the ceiling as well. "Hisao, can you reach up there...." I pointed at the window. "I just want you to give it a little push...."

"Alright, anything for my dear little miss!!" He skipped over and on his toes, reached up the window and barely pushed the frame of the window, "Huh... you can only open it from the inside..... plus a little push is enough to open it wide..."

 

"Was that window opened before....?" I asked Taiga, remembering the incident from yesterday's morning.

"No... when we were trying to find the zipline that Hiroshi set up, it was closed.....Ah! But..." Taiga remembered something important. "Someone did cleaned up the place this morning! I think it was..... Saku, Higura and Hiroshi... right after that morning disaster..... maybe they opened it up when they were dusting off the place....."

 

'Dusting, yeah, that sounds about right.....' I may understand how Higura would have a hand in this case, it's plausible after all. He's the first one who wanted to reveal all the secret motives. But, that's shouldn't be all, right? Right now, it's not looking too good for his side.

Out of the corner of my eyes, Shoma still stood outside of the room, looking dazed still, 'Alright, these two laid-back people literally worried me to no end, something's actually up....'

"Hey, Shoma?" I waved my hand in front of his face. "You okay? You seem out of it ever since you've arrived here....."

 

"Hmmm.....hngh....." Shoma's in distress, trying to think clearly. "I..... I don't remember..... this critter doesn't remember what happened....... the events from this afternoon is too rough for this critter......"

"You've been out since this evening though...?" Hisao raised an eyebrow. "Renma found you floating dead in the pool and he fished you out like a beached whale... you've been asleep for the entire time as well....."

"But this critter.... doesn't remember sleeping.....?"

 

'Doesn't remember? What-' Something caught my attention, a very familiar scent. Without thinking, I held Shoma's head with both of my hands on his sides and leaned closer, "Shoma, don't move..."

Shoma started stammering but I didn't pay any mind to it, what's important was the smell I caught a whiff of. Once satisfied, I let him go, "Someone knocked you out.....it's a slightly sweet smell as well......"

 

"Ummm.... Sumi....?"

"What?" I whipped around, expecting for either them to questioned my finding but instead Taiga looked bashful while Hisao just grin mischievously. Looking right back at the biologist, Shoma looked flustered, his cheeks entirely red until the tip of his ears, tugging onto his nautilus hat further down.

"A-Ah...." I suddenly feel the weight of my action, my cheeks heat up a bit. "S-Sorry..... I got too close and didn't realized it..... Sorry, Shoma. I got too carried away......"

"S-Sumi critter is just helping... that's all....." his mouth is covered within his jacket, still looking away.

 

"Okay!!!" Taiga's voice suddenly boomed and a forced laughter rang out. "Now that we solved that mystery!! What did the culprit used to knock our biologist out, huh, Sumi!? We're now talking about the case and nothing else!!!"

'Oh, thank god, that scared the embarrassing feeling out of me....' I sighed in relief, and coughed a bit to retain my normal speaking voice. "There's cleaning supplies in the kitchen but we all know that it's locked and the key is with one of the people in charge. But there's some here as well....."

"Ah, now that you pointed it out... there's like one of the cleaning supply missing here...." Taiga pointed out. "I don't remember what was it though...."

 

"It's not that hard to deduce...." Hisao shrugged. "A sweet smell.... something that needs some kind of cleaning supply to make it... basically chloroform is what I'm trying to say here...."

"You ended up telling us that anyways....." I'm grateful for his hint, though. "The bar doesn't really have any restriction in taking any of alcoholic drinks out.... so the culprit must have taken these two things with them...." Or a more possible scenario, they made it at the bar to avoid suspicion.

 

"But why Shoma though....?" Taiga asked. "It's kind of weird to knock out one person who did absolutely nothing wrong.... especially someone who's not the most intimidating or doesn't contribute much during the class trial. Sorry, Shoma...."

"Tiger shark, I will chop you...." Shoma pouted and the marksman reflexively hid behind Hisao once he saw a hand being raised. "This critter was aimlessly wandering around.... can't seem to remember how this critter was taken down unfortunately....."

'That's one thing I'm not so sure about it right now but....' "For now, let's investigate the area between here and the shooting range.... perhaps there's more clue out in the open....." I suggested.

Everyone agreed, we make sure everything's in place before leaving the room. Hisao checked up on Renma, Hibiki and Amane with the body, nothing out of the ordinary for them as well, before we headed to our next destination.

 


 

The automaton soldiers wanders around still on the patch of grass, away from the stone walkway that we're stand on right now. We've been keeping an eye out anything suspicious or off about the environment but can't find anything too out of it.

"The exact place where Kiharu was killed... was around here......" I keep going back to that irritating detail on the 'Monomyou Record File No. 2'. "But the distance between two places is wide so it's hard to pin-point...."

"Yeah... not gonna risk at getting another useless body discovery announcement just because we decided to step on some grass...." Hisao commented. "But if she really died here.... is there even a need for a search for the murder weapon?"

"What?"

 

"Ah, never mind, I'm just talking to myself...." Hisao smirked. "You have reached your helper-pal limit from your own friendly conman! Please wait for a recharge to use your help-pal for more clue-hunting on some other day!"

".... You're unbelievable...." I sighed while closing the record file. "I sure hope Mitsuru and the others return from the gallery with any clues....."

And before Taiga could say anything, a familiar ringing tune was heard and our attention was glued on a nearby PA system around that area.

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Ahem! Your investigation time is up!! Alright, little detectives!!! It's time to move forward to the exciting 'Class Trial' event!! Please head your way to the northwest of the hotel immediately!!

 

"Seriously? It doesn't feel like we were given enough time at all!!" Taiga complained but hung his head in defeat nonetheless. "I really hate going through these things...."

Yeah, suspecting others' innocence isn't a pleasant thing to do. Especially to those you're closed with. I get why he's upset about it, but there's nothing else we can do about it. "We should get going, before that thing loses its patience with us...."

The three of headed to the direction of the hotel, meeting up with Nao, Hiroshi and Machi who looked just as distraught as we are. "Hey, hope you all found what you were looking for....." Hiroshi started. "We didn't find much... except for two things....."

 

"What is it.....?" Shoma prompted.

"W-We found... two of the small weights that came from the gymnasium....." Nao explained. "One was used to break the window, it was covered with a towel so we didn't knew it was the same thing like the other one we found in the waste bin...."

"I took a quick shower while after the diving into dumpster, no worries...." Machi pointed out. "The one found in the bin was bloodied as hell..."

 

"I don't even think you need to worry about smelling nice for a trial to damned someone's life to hell...." exclaimed Hisao. "But with that detail, as nonsensical as it is, this case will be all over the place...."

"Last time we had trouble because of everyone's alibi, right?" Hiroshi hummed out. "This time, everyone is in different buildings so it's hard to know if they're being concrete about it....."

"But the reason why they go after Kiharu was because of the secret motives, right? Perhaps she have the culprit's motive which is why they went after her..." Machi theorized.

 

I can see the marksman's frame suddenly tensed up but the others didn't realized his sudden reaction. Quietly, I placed my hand on his back, mouthing, 'It's going to be okay' as a reassurance. His shoulders relaxed a bit, his normal composure is back for now. All of us headed for the location of the class trial.

'Right I should take this chance as well...' "Hisao, Nao, Hiroshi.... what was it you guys saw before the hooded figure left?" They are the only people I could get out of who've actually seen the culprit since Renma is still shaken up and refused to speak anything about it. 

 

"Can't provide much, little miss....." Hisao grumbled, clutching onto his right arm. "The spiritual man saw it all, I barely saw the figure just leaving from the back of the hotel.... probably carrying that said weight with them and used it to distract us while they dashed away...."

"What happened to your helper-pal's limit?"

"Yeah, I got bored when you're not paying any attention to me so I take it back...." 

 

"Nao and I were right outside of the hotel when that crash happened...." Hiroshi explained his side of the story. "We saw them left in a hurried but since it's during the night, we can't take a good look on their face... we seriously froze when we heard that crashing noise so we didn't react enough to catch them...."

"B-But!!" Nao added in. "We can confirmed it's definitely a male culprit!! T-Those figure proves it!! I-It looks like they're wearing something that came from the gymnasium....?"

'Is it the same matting that we found in the storage room....?'  There's two different mats found at the crime scene and the gymnasium, why even bother hiding the body under one as well? 'Hisao's account as well as Nao and Hiroshi's account prove to have more vital information....'

 

While waiting for the others, Hisao came up with another question, "Say, Taiga, Sumi.... you two have those handheld guns that were at the shooting range originally right? How effective they are?"

"Ah, they don't do any real damage... they're just for practice rounds....." Taiga explained since it's his talent. "We both have tracer pellets, something to help us see in the dark, like they're essentially glow-in-the-dark kind. I also have marker pellets which just leaves a bit of dust or paint on the target...."

 

"Just for clarification...." Hisao took note of it. But I wonder why he suddenly brought up the air-soft guns that we both have. 'If he's going to suspect either of us, then we wouldn't hear the end of it even after the trial ends... well if it even ends with our favor on the line....'

Right on time, the rest already arrived. Mitsuru skipped over to spill their findings, "One of the guns was taken out from its stand... the bolts were totally busted as well... the culprit probably used that as a murder weapon!"

"Wait, what?" Taiga frowned. "But that's-"

 

"Everyone, it's here....." Machi already called for the elevator and in an instant, it slowly filled up, the door closes we begin our descent. It's moving even faster than before, must have been my imagination. The medium right besides me still has that concerned look from before, 'What's going on? Why is he being like this?'

Now that I think about it, there's a lot of people getting indirectly involved in this case; Renma and Hisao who were just talking at reception area but one of them got injured while the other witnessed something that shocked him to his core. Shoma got knocked out without a reason and Taiga, if they found out, would get the blame because Kiharu got his secret motive.

 

Once we reached the class trial grounds, the beeping noise synchronized with the conclusion I thought up in my head, '.... They're trying place the blame on either of these people.....'

"Alrighty, my lovely guests!!! Time to make your rounds!!" Monomyou announces from their throne once again. This time, Kiharu and Hinako' podiums were replaced with their funeral photos; Hinako have a bloody animal paw on it and Kiharu has that usual 'X' mark.

 

Everyone went to their podium, slowly the tension keeps raising, looking at each other suspiciously, 'Here we are again. Doing the class trial.... condemning whoever killed Kiharu and set up this wild chase..... even though it's not obvious, we're still split from this morning argument. The secret motives has to be involved in some way or another. If not then they wouldn't target Kiharu specifically....'

 

"My, my, not gonna raise a question or anything, my dear guests?" Monomyou snickers. "Everyone have became rather obedient children, huh? That's good enough for me! I had enough listening to you all acting all pansy just because you're too down and stubborn to do this!!"

"And you sure have a lot of energy to talk down on us when we're playing your game...." Hisao remarked. "After all, if we stopped, you're just gonna get bored, right? You will have to find your other source of entertainment once your beloved puppets doesn't do what you wanted...."

 

'How are these two talking so normally...? The conman even addressed them directly'

"True, true but I can't let a bunch of meatbags go to waste!! All of you are so interesting yet so stupid at the same time!! I wanted to see some development too until I'm satisfied , you know!!" Monomyou fights back. "Anyways, I hope all of you would put up a good fight!! This class trial is going to be interesting!! Everyone, impressed your host, amaze us with your amazing detective skills!!"

 

"We can now officially start the Class Trial!!! With your wits and strength on this nightly trial!! It's time to refute with all your might!!"

 

'Must they do that as if this is a wrestling ring?' I sighed, but look ahead on everyone else. 'But one of us did it... one of us killed Kiharu using the secret motives case as a possible cover-up. I may have my doubts but what matters is the outcome of this trial, with everyone's lives still intact. No matter what, we will reveal this shrouded mystery, once and for all!'

Chapter Text

 

[ Class Trial - IN SESSION - ]

 

"As per usual....." Monomyou started, "... this class trial will determine on who is the killer of Satoshi Kiharu, the Ultimate Archaeologist! A bright and spunky girl who perished way too soon! Well now, I don't want to waste anytime explaining the rules all over again now!! Vote for the correct culprit and they will be punished!! Vote wrongly then everyone's punished except for the killer!! Now then, let us all hear your verdicts!!"

 

"It's safe to assume that not everyone were near the scene of the crime or the body before the announcement, right??" Hiroshi begins first, pointing out the obvious. "The first three people who discovered the body were Taiga, Renma and Sumire so that's an automatic clear right there..."

"We can also clear the people who were at the hotel for the whole evening...." Machi added, listing the said people. "Hisao, Amane and Shoma, I don't think they would even have any time to commit a murder and came back in one clean slate...."

"So the people under suspicion are the ones who are in other buildings, Nao, Hiroshi, Machi, Higura, Saku and myself, correct?" Hibiki asked.

 

"Now hold on, everyone...." I stopped them before they could go even further. I'm glad they're getting ahead with this but I'm afraid their sudden rush of judgement may overturn things a bit. "It's too hasty to even singled out everyone like that.... There's also other things that we must be concern about such as the incident at the hotel...."

"An incident at the hotel....?" Saku sounds unsure. "What happened at the hotel? Did someone else got hurt?"

"God, I wish that wasn't the case...." Hisao sighed, showing off his bandaged arm. "Renma and I spotted the culprit near the hotel and before anyone gave chase, they threw something at the window as a distraction while they quickly left the scene...."

 

"Why the hell they would go to the hotel after they fuckin' shanked someone?" Higura spat out in usual tone. "Are they like brain-dead or something?"

"Could it be they're trying to retrieve something...?" Mitsuru added. "Like, something they left at the hotel that they forgot to take....?"

 

'The reason why the culprit went to the hotel lies in one of the groups' findings, but it's better listen to their statements first....'

 


( Nonstop Debate )


"What else could they possibly go back to the hotel for?" Higura argued. "It's not like they left something important there!!"

"Could there be a possible second murder weapon?" Mitsuru added. "I mean, I find the dismounted gun at the shooting range rather odd....."

"Like what Taiga found....." Amane commented, "... Kiharu was shot, right? There's nothing odd about it....."

"Perhaps they were discarding an important clue to this case...." Hibiki pondered.

"Can the culprit be really careless to leave it be though......?" Nao asked. "It may just be for a distraction when they got caught sneaking away..."

 

( BREAK! )


 

"Hibiki's right...." I spoke up. "Nao, Hiroshi and Machi found couple of weights from the gymnasium at the hotel's reception area and in the waste disposal bin behind the hotel..... only one of the weights was discarded and that one was bloody...."

"One of them was used to distract Hisao and Renma....." Nao exclaimed, her stuttering seemingly gone since the trial started. "And we're not so sure about the source of the blood of one of the weights but-!! It's probably used for the blunt force trauma part in the record file, right?!"

 

"Yeah, you don't need an investigator to tell you that...." Hisao smirked. "It's kind of obvious, you know? Even a stuck-up know-it-all like Amane can see it from miles away...."

"Who are you calling-!?"

"Anyways, the fact that the culprit was first spotted at the hotel still doesn't make sense. But before we get into that, there's something else I wanna talk about...." Hibiki interrupted before Amane could even finish his insult. "Because of what's stated in the record file.... Kiharu's original placement of death was between the gymnasium and the shooting range, right? How did the culprit transported the body from the obscure spot to the gymnasium with not a single drop of blood on the walkway?"

 

"Right, just like the previous case....." Machi recalled back from the first grisly trial. "But don't you think the record file could be possibly wrong and that she got killed near the gymnasium?"

"Not possible....." This is the first time I heard Renma's voice since the trial started, confident and in control for now. "Monomyou wouldn't give a faulty information since they wanted the trial to be fair for both detectives and the culprit here...."

"Right, right!! I play no favorites here!!" Monomyou butts in for a while. "I just wanted to entertain everyone equally!!"

 

"Hey, shut it!!!" Higura snarled at the cat host. "You're not helping us at all here!!!"

"Gura, please, your yelling doesn't even help us to progress further as well...." Saku sighed, fingers visibly twitching. "But maybe they just covered the body with something when they were moving it?"

"Is there even something like that here to fully cover a blood-dripping body?" Hiroshi asked.

 

'Something used to prevent blood from spilling while moving the body between two location with such a long distance.... there could be only one evidence that fit that statement....'

 


( Nonstop Debate )

 

"Should we really trust what our host wrote in the file?" said Machi. "For all we know, they unintentionally make this case even difficult by giving us a false report....."

"Hard to say where Kiharu was killed in the dark....." Shoma added. "It's hard to rely on our sight....."

"So she was actually killed near the gymnasium then?" Nao asked.

"Giving the circumstances..." Hisao added in. "It's still possible that they just carried over the body with some sort of sheet...."

 

( BREAK! )


 

"I hope you remember that we check out the storage room in the gymnasium during the investigation, Sao-chin....." I can see him cringed in his podium as Machi and Shoma almost let out a laugh. "We found a crumpled-up bloody gymnasium mat in the storage room.... recently used as well since the blood is still fresh....."

"Huh!?" Saku looked shocked. "I-I thought the mat covering the body would the one that's used to carry the body!"

"T-Too convenient...." Hisao recovered from the nickname slipped-up. "Besides, the one covering the body looked too clean... and the bloody one looked eerily similar to the clean mat that's on the body...."

 

"But how did that ended up in the gymnasium, though?" Hiroshi asked. "The gymnasium should locked when nighttime hits, right? No one's even allowed to stay in there ten minutes prior to nighttime...."

"That's right...." Higura stated. "When Mitsuru and I were hanging out at the bar, we were kicked out like minutes before nighttime yesterday!!"

"We arrived at the gymnasium a few minutes before the nighttime announcement hits....." Taiga pondered. "If someone did enter there, we could have seen them leaving the front entrance....."

 

'How did the bloody mat ended up in the storage room? Hisao and I already tested that out, it's the-'

"The storage room's small horizontal window...." I answered. "The culprit must have tossed it in from the outside since the window can only be opened from the inside and can easily be closed from the outside. They probably propped it open before they commit the murder...."

 

"Then, wouldn't the suspects be someone who were at the gymnasium earlier....?" Machi asked. "That would be the people who's in charge of the cleaning duty; Higura, Saku and Hiroshi....."

"Alright, hold it right there!! You got a lot of guts to suspect us!!!" Higura sneered. "We've only opened the window because we don't wanna get suffocated to death by dust, you know!!"

"If that actually happened, then you truly are a weak person....." Renma remarked. "Anyhow, it's still too hasty to boiled it down to just those three.... anyone could have enter the gymnasium and open the window......"

 

"That's true...." I can't deny that possibility, it's also possible that the culprit just pined the blame onto Higura because of his hostile attitude towards the secret motives. "Anyone can take an advantage of the gymnasium lack of security so it's not right to suspect only those three....."

But there's still that possibility....

 

"Ah! There's one thing that's bothering me.... Mitsuru!!" Nao tried to grab the cosmetologist's attention. "When you were investigating the shooting range... you said there's a dismounted gun, right....? You commented that it's odd but you didn't really clarify that afterwards......"

"Hmmm..... yeah...." Mitsuru said. "I don't know.... there's just something about it doesn't make sense......"

 

"But it should be obvious that it's the murder weapon, right?" Hibiki pointed out. "Not all of us are skilled with firearms.... there's only one person who has that talent. Right, Yoshimune Taiga, the Ultimate Marksman?"

Taiga froze, his face paled almost immediately, "I-I....."

"Usually when people stuttered, it obviously mean they're guilty of it!!" Higura fights back. "Face it, gun-freak. You're the only who could do it!!"

 

I doubt it, I seriously doubt that statement. Even if it's just my personal feeling doing the deduction, there's no way Taiga would done something as cruel as this, 'Plus.... he was clearly there.... he has an alibi-'

Hisao stared right at me, he also know there's something wrong with what Hibiki said. Both of us knew Taiga wouldn't do it because of that one fact. We just needed Higura and Hibiki to realized that..... so....

Hibiki continued on with her statement, "Taiga, I understand how frightened you are but you must admi-"

 

( DUO ARGUED: Mafuyu Hisao & Hoshino Sumire - "You've got that wrong!" - )


 

"No, it's not possible for Taiga to use it, even to commit the murder...." I stated. "And it's highly unlikely it was used as a murder weapon as well...."

"Excuse me...?" Hibiki frowned.

"Wait a second, you're related to the forces....." Higura pointed accusingly. "You also know how to use them!! So it's either you or Taiga who did it!!!"

"Well, someone's really eager to vote someone and let everyone else die....." Hisao rubbed his forehead out of frustration. "That's not the point, you moron. Both of you are wrong thinking that the gun at the shooting range is the murder weapon here...."

 

"How so? We weren't way off from thinking that it might be....." Hibiki explained. "After all, Kiharu is said to be shot at least three time, right? And the only thing available at hand is the dismounted gun at shooting range..."

"That's right!! And there's only one likely suspect and it's Yoshimune Taiga, the Ultimate Marksman!!" Higura added.

 

"The guns used at the shooting range are all filled with rubber bullets..." I refuted back. "It's still a small chance that it can actually killed someone...."

"Well, can't know the exact velocity for sure...." Hisao shrugged. "But know this; there's no way those kind of bullets even pierce through the human skin on the first try. They can cause hematoma but there were clearly bullets wounds on Kiharu, remember?"

 

"Velocity or whatever!! It's still the only available weapon that counted as a murder weapon!!" Higura yelled.

"When I was at the bar area, I clearly heard gunshots....that's no doubt the shots fired was from the dismounted gun from the shooting range!!" Hibiki remarked.

 

( CUT-IN! - "We will cut through your delusions!!" -)


 

"You're mistaken... the shots being fired wasn't from that dismounted gun you guys initially thought...." I finally managed to convinced the other two to listened first. "Rather, it was from the air-soft firearms that both Taiga and I have...."

"Air-soft what now?" Higura stammered. "What kind of bullshit name you're throwing out this time??"

 

"Air-soft gun is something they usually used in a paintball fight....." Nao thankfully explained in my place. "I made a study on this as well. They've used spherical projectiles that contains either both bio-degradable and non-lethal materials, right?"

"The projectiles that those two used aren't harmful at all...." Hisao then shared his insight next. "They're just glow-in-the-dark and marked the target with dust or paint kind of pellets.... and those are the only things that these two have in hand...."

"Then... what's with the dismounted gun problem....?" Hiroshi looked confused by all the revelations. "If those shots we heard were harmless then why is that left at the shooting range-"

 

"May I please say something first...." Taiga raised his voice, he's clearly in distress, trying to speak up but the accusations overwhelmed him. Now, he can finally speak up, "I don't really get what Mitsuru meant by finding the dismounted gun...."

"Huh, what about it that you don't get?" Saku asked.

"Because I was at the shooting range and just left when Sumi was chasing down the culprit....." Taiga explained. "After checking on all the guns in the shooting range, before even leaving and encountering the possible culprit..... none of the guns were even dismounted or left on the ground..."

 

"What!?"

Everyone shouted in unison that their voices actually echoed back in my ears. I unconsciously bit my lower lip as this heavy feeling from before start piling up, 'So it's just a distraction...? No, why go as far as doing that? Was the culprit seriously try to pin the blame on Taiga....?'

"Right, that's why that thing bothered me so much!!" Mitsuru snapped her fingers. "The barrels of the gun is still full!"

 

"It's still possible the culprit just filled it in after used it but...." Amane added. "If Taiga confirmed that none of guns were even used before him.... then that means...."

"The culprit used a different gun that's not from the shooting range...." said Renma. "And that thing was just a decoy...."

"This culprit really wants us to suspect Taiga that heavily...." Saku wondered. "Why is that?"

 

Taiga sighed, scratching at his exposed neck, he's really going to say it, "It's obvious why they want you all to suspect me, not sure how they know it but.... it's probably because of that..... it's because Kiharu has my secret motive...."

"Taiga......" I'm getting really worried. In the end, he has to come out clean with it.

"Your secret motive....? How did you know that she has it...?" Shoma's eyes widened. "Ah... she told you...?"

 

"I wasn't bothered by it...." Taiga looking sideways. "Like, I didn't mind if she told anyone else about it as well because it's way out of my control on what she's going to do with it..... but please believe me, I didn't kill her.... not even the secret motive can tempt me to do anything like that....."

"Oh, trust me, we all knew deep inside that you're not the killer..."

 

"Huh?" Taiga looked at the conman, confusion plastered all over his face as if he didn't believed his words.

"No matter how many evidence they provide that's pointing toward you....." Hisao became serious with his words. "There's no way you're the killer...."

"Why are you so sure about that?" Amane asked.

 

"Alright!! Time for me to play my part then!! Little miss, remember what I've said right after I professed my burning admiration for you?" Hisao teasingly asked. "It's really important, you know!!"

"You what!?"

Ignoring Mitsuru's sudden outburst, wild looks from others and excessive actions, the question that Hisao asked during the investigation was, "Is there even a need for a search for the murder weapon?"

"Yeah... and do you understand why I ask you that question at that particular moment...?"

 

At the particular moment, at the spot where Kiharu was killed, near the- It suddenly clicked, "Hisao, you son of a bitch...."

"Ohhhhh...." Hisao grinned. "You actually didn't all this time!! I thought you would have get it by now!! I was very explicit about it this entire time, you know!!"

I curled my hand into a fist, this guy, this fucking guy. One day, I will beat his ass and I will enjoy it immensely, "There's no murder weapon to begin with...."

 

"N-No murder weapon!!?" Hiroshi exclaimed in shock. "I-Is that even possible!?"

"Ms. Investigator, you better explain this properly...." Amane furiously demanded. "I will not accept such an outrageous answer!!"

"S-Sumi... I don't get you....." Shoma cowered a bit. "This critter doesn't understand what you're saying....."

 

"Ah, geez... no wonder Taiga was so scared speaking up this entire time!! It's because all of you keep on jumping onto others, demanding answers when you didn't leave some space for them to breathe!!" said Hisao. "Dear little miss need some time to think about it, you know? And because of that, I will gladly answer in her place!"

"Don't..." I warned him, before he filled his statement with lies. "The reason why we can't find the exact location where Kiharu was killed and the exact weapon used to kill her.... was because both of those things were not done by anyone of us..... the real cause of death was those automaton soldiers....."

 

"S-So....." Renma tries to piece it together. "... Makes sense.... they're the only ones that are equipped with real ammunition. And we can't get too close to the real crime scene because if we stepped too near the restricted area.... then we will share the same fate as Kiharu...."

"Huh?" Monomyou tilted their head. "Whatcha' mean restricted area? There's no such thing!! I don't remember anything like that existed in their coding!!"

"Yup, you got that right, little kitten!!" Hisao continued. "The real danger zone is when you're too near those soldiers which truly sets them off!! Each soldier only fired once, isn't that right Taiga?"

 

"Yes... I actually test that out during our first day here with Hiroshi....." Taiga confirms it. "I ran past by them but I initially thought that it's because I went into some restricted area because of their odd range gap... so it's true that the real trigger here is when we're within five meters of their range....."

"So when you said you were playing with them from the last trial...." Hibiki remembered something else. "You were actually....."

"Wow, you actually remember something as minor as that, Hibiki?" Hisao snickers. "That's amazing, maybe you're actually useful rather than making accusations like these poor excuse of said detectives!!!"

 

"Ummm.... but then that would complicated things a bit more drastically, right...?" Saku pointed out. "If it's by those things then... who would we actually vote for....?"

Right, if it's a suicide, Monomyou said they would present a substitute or someone who pushed them to do it. Then, it should be similar in this situation, quite literally, "It would be someone who tricked them into getting themselves killed...."

"Oho! Thank you, dear investigator, for answering the question for your dear host!!!" Monomyou sniffed. "Such kindness!! Not worthy for your despairful host!!! I would give you all kisses if I could!!"

 

"Sorry, but I would rather die in a pit to even receive anything like that from you....." Mitsuru cringed a bit. "But this is getting weirder and weirder...... I mean, how else are we gonna cornered the culprit at this point...?"

"The list doesn't even go down at all...." Hiroshi admits. "Anyone, excluding the people stayed at the hotel and the people who discovered the body, can still be a suspect and we were't even near halfway there....."

"Should we just play the blame game then?" Hisao suggested. "I mean, it's much more fun and easier when we throw accusations at each other until one of them slipped up....."

 

"Anyone can lie, Sao-chin....." I refuted without hesitation. Monomyou wasn't joking when they said this case is a tricky one. It took us too long to determine what's the cause of death actually is. Now, trying to find who's the culprit has become really difficult. But there's one thing that bothers me right after Taiga said about the secret motive, "Who else knew about each other's secret motive?"

"Is that still relevant to this case....?" Hiroshi asked

 

"If the culprit actually uses Taiga's secret motive as a cover-up... then Kiharu must have told someone else about it... someone who could possibly be our culprit...." I explained, I couldn't imagined the archaeologist would carelessly reveal someone else's secret like that but the fact that she's siding with Higura before, then it's possible. "Because Kiharu sided with Higura to reveal each other's secret motives....."

"Are you saying Gura is to blame?" Saku narrowed his eyes. "That's too far-fetched, wouldn't you think?"

"I don't know where you getting that idea from but I don't like what you're hinting at!!" Higura gritted his teeth. "I will tear you a new asshole if you're gonna corner me like that again!!"

Resisting as usual, I have to-

 

"Kiharu revealed it to the group...."

 

"What...?" I stared wide-eyed at Hibiki, who was Higura's side as well, with the revelations she suddenly spouted. Everyone else also reacted no differently.

"I don't want this to escalate into something dramatic and getting side-tracked because of it......" Hibiki confessed. "So it's better if I said it right here, right now..... Kiharu told us about Taiga's secret motive and so did everyone else in the group....."

"Ah.... so it's true. You guys are just a bunch of spineless cowards as well...." Hisao's tone shifted once again, cold and low. "You really don't give two shits about others....."

 

"I wasn't on-board with telling others about the motives to begin with...." Hibiki defended herself. "But I know it's not something I could ignore it just like that. Someone's bound to make a move in that group.... to think everyone else actually revealed it to each other was disheartening to say the least..... which is why I'm the only one who didn't reveal my partner's secret motive in the group....."

Mitsuru, Nao, Hiroshi and Higura all looked betrayed, but I don't get it. How could they be so careless about it? Did they seriously think it would turn out just fine if they spilled it out? Were they really being serious about it being the only way to prevent blackmailing from happening?

 

"And so that cat's out of the bag.... but no surprises there....." Hisao was the first one who break the silence. "Geez, I wonder what's that thing I've said during yesterday's feud? Something about 'trust'? Oh, that's right! How are we gonna trust you guys' word now that we knew you guys did that?"

"Y-You!!!" Higura stammered, clearly loss for words but still trying to fight back.

 

"Higura, enough....." Hibiki tried to confront of him. "The more you tried to defend yourself, the more you're making a bigger fool of yourself. If you truly care about the outcome of this trial more than your own pride... please let us all admit it...."

".... Fine... be my fuckin' guest....."

"Even till the bitter end....." Hibiki sighed dejectedly. "I'm sure not everyone else in this group is happy to admit so I will just said it right now in their place. Kiharu has Taiga's motive, that's confirmed. Even though I didn't revealed it, but I have Sumi's motive... I pity your condition, Sumi. I hope you're doing well...."

So, they're using that. It's a lot more tamer than I thought.

 

"Nao has Hiroshi's motive while Hiroshi has Kiharu's motive..... both of them have nothing too serious...." the opera singer continued. ".... But Higura has Renma's secret motive...."

"Just as I thought....." Renma's eyes twitched, his worrisome look from the investigation is back. "I was afraid that your group has something to do with this..... I was wondering what that scrap of paper doing at the scene...."

Could this be related to his sudden change of attitude just now? "Renma, what did you say? What 'scrap of paper'?....."

 

Renma doesn't waste any time, he pulled out the said scrap of paper out of his pocket with the words saying, 'I know about your petty lie about your Ultimate talent. I will tell everyone else if you interfere the investigation and class trial'

"I didn't want to say anything until the person responsible for this note came forward or when the secret motive is mentioned again...." said Renma. "But this truly shines more light to it, didn't it....?"

Right now, everyone turned their attention towards the graphic designer, now silent and expressionless. 'The way he keeps on pushing back on others from before makes sense.... but why does it feel... incomplete? Why does it feels like there's more to it?'

 

"Well, Higura.... all the clues and your careless attitude lead the spotlight to you...." said Amane, glaring at the designer. "Is it your doing this entire time? Did you intentionally mislead us in this trial?"

"I can sense you're feeling restless from all of this but...." Renma stated. "I won't be satisfied until you revealed your intention for using my secret motive against me....."

"Gura... that's not true.... right?" Saku pleaded. "You're not actually the culprit... right?"

 

"No, he's not" I cut in. "There's something completely wrong here.... not all of it makes sense just yet....."

"Does it matter at this point?" Hisao yawned, looking irritated at this point. "We're all getting tired on this late night trial so it's best to vote ahead while found our suspect..... It's obvious that Higura was the one who left that note to blackmail Renma to not give a helping hand in this one so it's safe to assume he tricked Kiharu, right?"

"Do you want to get us killed?" I hissed back, unintentionally but it did jerk the conman back to take this seriously. "I don't believe Higura would planted that note just to scare Renma away from the investigation....." 

 

"And don't you think all of that is too convenient?" Machi refuted, siding with me. "Look, Higura may be dense but he's not an idiot to go around and do something like that...."

"I wanna believe in Gura's innocence!!" Saku loudly exclaimed. "There must be something else wrong in this case and we haven't discuss most of the evidences we found as well!!"

"The critter believes it's a fake......." Shoma slowly raised his hand up. "The real culprit tried to set up the creative child and lead us to our doom..... I'm sure the siren and the colorful puffer-fish thought so too..."

Both Hibiki and Mitsuru nodded, it took me a while to realized Shoma was referring to the cosmetologist as the latter.

 

"But even so....." Nao wasn't too convinced about it. "Is it even safe to give a clear for him... when there's this many evidences pointing towards him...?"

"It's too early to determine...." Hibiki tried to calm everyone down. "It's best to rationally think about it without any disagreement-"

 

"Hold it right there!!"

 

"Whaaaaaaaat?! Did my little cute ears perked up and heard that correctly?!" Monomyou interrupted. "Disagreement, you guys said?! Well then, you guys are in for a reaaaaaaaal treat!! Ladies and Gentlemen! Your amazing host would like you all to proudly participate in this luxury hotel's exclusive morphenomenal trial grounds!!"

"Those.... those are completely different words that shouldn't be meshed together like that...." What does that mean and what's the purpose of it? "What are we going to do while....?"

"Basically it's like debate!! Which is also the name of the said trial ground, Scrum Debate!" Monomyou explained. "Everyone will be split into two different teams with opposing statement or opinions!! Then both team will go after each other's throat!! Ripping each other's statement with their own!! Just like a true debate competition!!"

 

"Oh god, middle school memories...." Mitsuru shuddered. "This wouldn't end well...."

"Oh hush, no one cares what you think!!" Monomyou stood up as a button appeared right before them. "Better get ready because this will surely give you sickness!!" and just like that, the host pressed the button.

'But this means that we could convinced other that Higura is not actually the culprit, right?' I balled my hand into a fist. 'Then we will have to carefully sort out everyone's doubts and provide everything that we need to discuss even further...... we shouldn't make any mistakes here! Not now!'

 


( Scrum Debate )

 

( Question - "Is Higura really the culprit?" )

( "Higura is the culprit!" - Hisao, Nao, Renma, Hiroshi, Amane, Taiga )

( "Higura is not the culprit!" Sumire, Shoma, Hibiki, Machi, Mitsuru, Saku, Higura )

 

"The note placed on the body could only be done by none other than Higura, correct?" Renma pointed out.

"Any other critter could possibly placed that note as a mislead evidence...." Shoma answered.

 

"Wasn't it their group's idea to reveal the secret motives in the first place?" Hisao asked smugly.

"Anyone in our group could possibly take advantage of that too, you know?" I fight back.

 

"His hostile attitude towards Taiga proved to be sufficient, no?" Amane exclaimed.

"Blaming on one person's attitude is not a satisfying reason to suspect someone for murder..." Hibiki shot them down.

 

"But shouldn't this be enough evidences to suspect him now?" Nao asked timidly.

"Not yet, there's still a lot more evidences we haven't gone through!" Machi argued.

 

"Is it wise to blindly trust Higura's words after what he and his group did?" Taiga demanded.

"If those words can provide any breakthrough in this trial, then it's best to hear out his side first!" Saku reassured them.

 

"Is it really wrong to suspect him as the blackened?" Hiroshi asked.

"He may not be the blackened but that doesn't mean we're ruling out his involvement!" Mitsuru answered.

 

( BREAK! - "This is our answer!" )


 

"Everyone, it's still wrong to completely went ahead and vote for blindly.... " I said with confidence. "Because there's still a lot of things that doesn't make sense in a bigger picture.... mostly the note....."

"The note....?" Nao tilted her head.

 

"While it's true Higura have Renma's secret motive," I continued on. ".... It's still possible that someone within their group could have taken advantage of that and waited till the class trial for someone to bring it up.... and that Higura may have no idea about it.... right, Higura?"

Again, no reply. The graphic designer just stood there in silence, not even moving a single muscle.

'Come on... why aren't you saying anything!? Where's that tough defense you always had!? What's holding you back-' The real reason why the secret motive existed in the first place suddenly came to mind, why they were told to us instead, "Higura.... did the culprit blackmailed you to take the blame?"

 

Just like that, he flinched, that confirms it. "So..... you didn't write that note? Right?" I asked, my voice softened, something I haven't done for a long time.

"..... No...." Higura quietly muttered. "I didn't know that note existed... I didn't know it was with her to begin with....."

 

"With her.... you mean....." I turned to questioned Renma first. "Renma, where did you find that note actually?"

"It was right underneath Kiharu's body.... right near her neck actually....." Renma confessed. "I just saw the edge of the paper poking out, I could have missed that entirely....."

"Well, little miss....." Hisao asked. "What's the conclusion after hearing all of that?"

 

'The conclusion.... we're still not even halfway there.... but we know for certain that..... the runaway hooded figure that the people at the hotel saw was....'

....

..............

"Mochizuki Higura.... you were the runaway figure from the hotel, right?"

.....

"Yeah...." he lost his strength to fight back, he just looked tired. "It was me.... but that's all I can say right now....."

 

'"That's all he can say right now"? So someone else is truly threatening him to do this.....' I eyed on everyone in their podium right now. 'Someone who's willing to put up this elaborate scheme and forced Higura to take the fall.... but I'm not gonna let that happened. I will surely bring out the culprit from its hiding no matter what....'

 

[ Class Trial - INTERMISSION - ]

Chapter Text

[ Class Trial - RESUMED - ]

 

"Wowie!!! I hope you folks out there can keep up with this trial because this has gotten way more interesting than the last case!!! Nyahaha!!" Monomyou let out their bellow laughter. "I wonder who!! I wonder who has the balls to pull this out of their asses and deceived everyone!!! It's just a nyatter of time till they figure out who it is!! Ackh- I stuttered!!"

"So we have the runaway fugitive's identity confirmed... which is Mochizuki Higura, the Ultimate Graphic Designer...." Machi went over the details we've covered so far. "He helped the real culprit to disposed one of the evidences but once Renma and the others saw him, he panicked and threw one of the evidence at the window as part of his distraction......"

"This critter here thinks it doesn't go like that......" Shoma said in usual tone as he managed to keep up with events that transpired. "If it's too hollow and dark.... the sketchy critter would have managed to escape from the den but.... for them to get easily noticed..... the critter must be too near to the window to start with....."

 

"Ummm..... Sumi, Ren, translate that for us, please....?" It seems like Hiroshi, Mitsuru and Amane still doesn't understand what the biologist is saying.

"He actually brought up a good point and I was about to say something similar to that as well....." Renma answered. "If you all remembered the layout of the hotel outside.... the small pool area is surrounded by really dense trees and shrubs.... if Higura doesn't want to get caught, then he would have went through them in the first place. But he didn't, because Hisao and I saw him right near the window...."

"First thing first...." Hisao pointed out the glaring point in that scenario. "If he were to dispose of the evidence, then the bloody weight would have been alright and he's good-to-go.... instead, he trying to dispose another weight that is totally clean and he decided to used it as a Frisbee instead so that shit doesn't make sense...."

 

'The only reason I could think of why Higura did all of that instead of going into hiding was....'

.........

.......

"It's because he's trying to lead us to Kiharu's body....." That's the only logical conclusion I've came up with. "Because of the blackmail, Higura is only an unwilling accomplice. He never wanted to cooperate with the culprit to begin with..."

"Which means....." said Hibiki. "If Higura didn't plant that note, then the culprit must have done it....."

"But the people who knew about the secret motive would be Higura's group...." stated Taiga. "Then... the culprit must be one of them...."

 

"That's too early to say, wouldn't it?" Hibiki narrowed her eyes, almost feeling threatened by the accusation. "Like I've said, I didn't revealed Sumi's motive because I don't think it's the right thing to do.... and I don't want to believe that Mitsuru, Nao and Hiroshi could even convinced Higura to do something as absurd as this...."

"Y-Yeah!! I'm just as confused as you guys are!!" Hiroshi exclaimed nervously. "This whole trial would have end a lot quicker if I was the one planning the whole thing!!"

"There's.... a lot of flaws in this culprit's plan....." Nao admitted. "If it were me..... I would have skipped the unnecessary steps....."

"Not only that.... I don't think we would even want to mess with someone as dangerous as Renma...." That's an odd detail that Mitsuru added, what did Higura said about the medium?

 

"Sorry but I don't want to think about how a hot-headed idiot like Higura would ever be intimidated by a poor man's dumb and dumber...." Hisao snorted, his attention turned to the medium with curiosity in his eyes. "What's more interesting is Renma's secret motive. Hey! would you mind telling us about that?"

"Sao-chin, now's not the time-"

"Ah... I see what you're trying to get out of me now....." Renma closed his eyes as he exhaled deeply. "I was wondering what's with the sudden friendly atmosphere you've emitted towards me.... so this was your whole plan....."

 

"Yeah... it's not like I wanna be friends with a freak like you anyway...." Hisao confessed. "After all... who on earth wanted to be friends with a lunatic like you?"

"Hisao, enough...." Shoma and I both warned him. 

Renma chuckles at our defensive nature, "I appreciate you two defending me but unfortunately, I have to come clean with my confession as well if it helps the trial..... Alright then, I'm sorry everyone but I have deceived you all, I am not the Ultimate Medium...."

 

What was that? A fake Ultimate?

"Please refer to me by my first and actual Ultimate title...." Renma admitted, a hand on his chest. "Oki Renma, the Ultimate Mortician......"

"You're a what!?" That wasn't what I expected at all. I thought he would be someone dangerous, like the said fake player Hisao told me, but... a mortician...? I mean, his morbid jokes and description about his family work now makes sense but still-

"Yes but he worded that really weirdly. Can't believe you're that bad with words, Renma!" Hisao said nonchalantly. "Renma specializes with handling dead bodies but with an overbearing guilt, he abandoned that talent to focus on his spiritual side of things that we knew him as .... hence, Oki Renma actually have two Ultimate talents...."

 

"It's a title that I felt remorse of identifying with it...." Renma sighed, saddened by his own revelation. "It brings me nothing but grief..."

"Wait a minute!!!" Hiroshi cuts in all of the sudden. "That's your secret motive!? That's way different that what we were told!!"

"What....?" the medium, now known as the mortician, furrowed his brows. "Is that not what Monomyou picked in order to pursue me or anyone into killing? If people knew that about me, they would be very wary that I could potentially murder someone...... except I wouldn't dare to do so......."

 

"Yup, yup!! That's correct!!" Monomyou confirms it from their throne. "Our cool-spirited actor, Oki Renma, here is a wildcard!! Two Ultimate talents and both of them are terribly scary as hell!! That's his secret motive!!"

"That's...... then....." Hibiki sounded unsure, she could even say anything until Nao said it. "We were lied to.... Higura lied about Renma's secret motive to his group!!"

"Hold on a second, Higura!!" Mitsuru shrieked. "What the hell is going on!? Why did you lie and said that Renma is some psychopath who murdered people before this killing game happened!?"

 

"Wha- I never murdered anyone in my life!!" Renma, why do you look so offended about that instead? Ask Higura about the last one!! "I get my talent might make everyone feel uneasy.... but accusing me for murder before entering here is way too far!!"

"That's because you never killed anyone in your life. Which proves my theory is correct all along...." Hisao snickers, bring his hand to his mouth like a mischievous child. "That Higura having Renma's motive is nothing but a fake fact. He actually have the culprit's secret motive...."

"The culprit's!?"

 

"Geez, how much time must we waste explaining stuffs all over again??" Hisao rolled his eyes back. "I'm getting really tired piggy-backing you all here so I'm gonna go 'Too long, don't have much time' to you all now except you guys figure it out from here on. Now, explain this to me; why did the culprit specifically choose Higura? If they were aiming for any weakling, Mitsuru and Nao would have been a better choice, right?"

Right, if the culprit would want to get away quickly, either of those two would have been fine. For Higura to be chosen as an accomplice, there has to be a reason why they aiming for a tough-headed person to be their helper, "Because of your theory, right? Higura has the culprit's secret motive.... To keep him from spouting their motive. As an exchange, the culprit gave him another person's motive as to replace their own...."

"Hahaha!! Dear little miss strike gold once again!!" Hisao cheered. "I knew you could do it!! Now, now!! Can you guess who's secret motive that the culprit had and gave to Higura?"

 

'Well.... there can only be one person.... And now that we know, that person is...'

.....

.....

"Oki Renma...... the culprit has Oki Renma's secret motive....." I answered, it was a rather slow process for my think about the whole thing but in the end, something doesn't add up. "Hold on a second..... if that's true... that the culprit did planted the note framing Higura to begin with and made him lie to his group....... and if nobody in that group even knew about Renma's Ultimate talent lie on that paper..... then...."

"The culprit instead is in one of our group!! The group that didn't want any of our secret motives to be revealed!!!" Hisao exclaimed loudly and somehow proudly to himself. "Can you believe that, little miss!? There's a snake in our group!! We must weed them out as soon as possible!!"

 

"You made Renma confessed his other Ultimate title so that you can eliminate some suspects even further down.... that's quite fucking bold move, as expected of the conman...." Higura commented, who sounded really glad.

"Oh, thank you!! I didn't expect to be complimented by an associate of the culprit!!" Hisao took a jab on that, earning a glare from the other. "I was expecting for little miss to appreciate me a bit more but that will do! Now, my next question and quite a sad one in fact, why was Shoma found dead in the pool this evening?"

 

"Huh!? He's dead!? Then who's that standing in the biologist's podium!?" Mitsuru pointed at Shoma himself, who just stared at her in disbelief.

"That's Shoma, Mitsuru, in flesh and blood...." I reassured the panicking cosmetologist. "Because he was knocked out.... since he's always swimming at that area, he would have found out it was Higura helping the culprit.... "

"Ah....! This critter now remembers.....!" Shoma lightened up a bit. "This critter was wandering around...  heading towards the pool near the hotel for a quick float.....  but because of a strong smell..... this critter blacked out......!"

 

'The smell he's referring to.... must have been the thing that knocked him out in the first place......'

.........

.....

"Yes, I'm sure you've recognized that smell now, Shoma..." I answered. "It's the makeshift chloroform that the culprit used to-"

 

( DUO ARGUED: Ishimoto Nao & Osame Hiroshi - "We will test your logic there!" - )


"I'm sorry, Sumire but I have to stop you right there!" Nao warned me but in a rather respectful way.

"W-What?" I didn't expect the ghostwriter to argue with me but I can't lie, I'm interested in what she has to say.

"Shoma, are you sure you're not hit by some sort of a secondary weapon instead...?"

"Eh.... this critter doesn't get it...?"

 

"Don't you think it's a little bit extreme to guess that the culprit would used something like chloroform to knock Shoma out?" Hiroshi asked. "They could have used the clean weight they were carrying around as well!!"

"But there's no way they could make such a substance!!" Nao stated. "We don't even have any apparatus or the proper ingredients to make such a pure, strong substance..."

 

( CUT-IN! - "We will cut through your delusions!!" -)


 

"There's no doubt that chloroform is used here... I can even smell a sweet scent just from standing near Shoma. It's strong to enough for anyone to noticed...." I explained, carefully not trying to raise my voice against the ghostwriter. "And I don't think the clean weight has anything to do with this... using that to knock someone out would definitely cause severe bleeding and the culprit doesn't want that to draw any suspicion...."

"This critter believes that.... a cleaning detergent and alcohol... would be sufficient.... after all... it's the most common used ingredients that shouldn't be swim together...!" Shoma continued.

 

"Wow, Nao!! You usually help Machi at the library! Didn't you realized there's like a billion of books that could have instructions into make such a deadly weapon?" Hisao called out, making Nao shy away a bit. "But hmmm... I wonder who would have that much power to get two things at once and with a motive as well!"

That's sarcasm, that's definitely sarcasm right there. But I can see why he's doing this. So, I will just have to play along for now.

 


( Nonstop Debate )

 

"Hey, culprit!! Would ya' mind telling us how do you made the goods!" Hisao called out. "Do you have some sort of stash hidden somewhere in the hotel?"

"If that works, then I truly be surprised....." Saku commented. "I'm sure the culprit must have got them at the kitchen since that's the only place that has the cleaning detergent...."

"That's impossible... because the kitchen is locked...." Hiroshi refuted. "I'm the one who's holding the key so there's no entry there...."

"What if the culprit just picked the lock though?" Mitsuru asked. "That's still a possibility!"

 

( BREAK! )


 

"No, there's one other place that we looked that has that one last and important ingredient...." I answered. "The gymnasium and Taiga confirmed it for me...."

"Yes, when we checked the storage room where all equipment and cleaning supplies were kept..." Taiga explained. "It seems like there's one less bottle missing from the pile....."

"And the other missing ingredient is the alcohol from the bar!! Since the bar has no restriction and we're too much of a goody-two-shoes to drink them...." Hisao continued. "So the culprit took the chance!!"

 

"That's great and all... that we found out why Shoma passed out...." Machi pointed out, still confused by the chain of events we're going through. "But where does all of that lead us now? We're just solving like small branches of the mystery that the culprit made for us to side-track from the bigger one......"

"No, no... I wouldn't call this 'side-tracking'...." said Hisao. "I would rather called it, 'the culprit's big mistake'. Because if they're actually thorough about their plan, they would have won by now! But instead, they let not one but two major slip-ups!!"

 

"Slip-ups...? Such as what...?" Renma asked.

"Whoops, I got tired all of the sudden!! Little miss, I'm gonna take a nap for a while so I will be leaving the spotlight to you!!" Before I could even say anything, Hisao slid down into his podium as his back leaned against it.

"..... Unbelievable...." I muttered under my breath. But this means I can take control of this trial for a while before he spurt into action, "I hope everyone can keep up with this string of events, as heavy as it is......."

 

"I-I will go over it again...." Taiga volunteered. "Sumi, Renma and I found the body covered with the gym matting that's similar to what the runaway fugitive was wearing and the bloody one in the gymnasium. Higura disposed of the bloody weight but used a spare in order to lead us to the crime scene. We know the cause of death was by those automaton soldiers so the dismounted gun at the shooting range was just a decoy...."

"That's one thing I'm still confused about...." Mitsuru admitted. "When we went there to investigate, we found it laying there on the floor... but since Taiga said it wasn't like that before.... who took it off in the first place and when did they do that.. ..?"

 

'There's actually a huge gap of time between there so judging by what I know, the person who did it....'

..........

.......

"It has to be the culprit...." I answered. "They must have waited for Taiga to leave the shooting range before they could even take it off from their stand. They may have an idea to leave it somewhere visible so that we can think of it as the potential murder weapon... but because of Higura's sudden change of plan, they wasted no time and have to leave it be once the body discovery announcement happened...."

"With that amount of time..... the culprit would have to pretend they about to head to the gymnasium from a different location...." Renma pondered. "This might be better if everyone else remembered who they meet up with, specifically people who just came out from the hotel or library..."

"I was about to head to the hotel from the library when the announcement happened and I immediately rushed to the gym......." Machi answered. "On my way there... I met up with Mitsuru, Hibiki, Higura and Saku...."

 

"Okay, it's time to interrogate those people heavily!!" Hisao suddenly jumped up from his place. "I'm all hyper-charged and ready to tackle some inconsistencies!!"

"C-Come on!! Me again?!" Mitsuru panicked. Higura was silent this whole time but we knew for certain he's just an accomplice in this plan. "You can't be serious about pitting us against each other!! Like we said before!!! We're not the culprits!!!"

"Hey, I got bored and wasted my energy explaining things to you guys...." Hisao pouted. "Now it's your turn to explain yourself!! I wanna hear everything so entertain me, peasants!!!"

 

"Didn't you say the people who sided with Higura are unlikely suspects...?" Amane rephrased what he said. "That's an awful contradiction you've dug yourself there-"

"He means... it's Higura and Saku......" Shoma cuts him off immediately. "He doesn't want us to mass interrogate the extras.... he wants us to eliminate them..... which means it can only be them...."

"W-What!? Hell no, I wanted little miss to figure that out!!!" Hisao pointed at the biologist, whining out loud. "How dare you steal her thunder!!! Boo!!! Repent!!! Repent for that right now!!!"

 

'The person that Shoma is referring to.... has to be our culprit. With Higura as his helper, the only person who would be able to keep his mouth shut about this whole plan is.....'

......

...............

........................

"Oozora Saku..... you're the true culprit of this case, aren't you?"

 

"G-Guys...." Saku staggered a bit. "What are you talking about? I-I... wouldn't kill Kiharu!! She's my friend!!!"

"Friends can kill each other if being pushed to do it...." said Amane. "But I see why Hisao mentioned the major slip-ups...."

"The first major slip-up was the cleaning group for the gymnasium.... since we knew Higura isn't the suspect and Hiroshi doesn't even know about the actual secret motive, it automatically has to be Saku doing the prep work before murdering Kiharu...." I explained. "The second slip-up was when the body discovery announcement happened.... because he doesn't have enough time to even fake his arrival, he has to meet-up with Higura mid-way before Machi spotted him...."

 

"Oh yeah and there's a third major slip-up actually...." Hisao whistled. "I bump into Saku at the bar during yesterday evening......."

"You what!?" Mitsuru and Amane shrieked, I defensively shielded my ears from their piercing voices. But still, what the hell!? Why didn't he brought that up before!?

"Yeah, I saw him being fishy at the bar but I didn't say anything...." said Hisao. "I just acted like I didn't see anything and he didn't even suspect a single thing. That confidence is truly something else, Saku!! You have to teach me your ways!! I didn't bother mentioning that earlier because that will end this mystery way too fast for my liking!!"

 

"You... You!!!" Saku is fuming, this is the first time I saw him being this furious. "You dirty... no-good, fucking con artist!!!"

"Ah-ha!" Hisao laughed away his insult. "It is what I am!! A sneaky actor who faked his own reactions just to mess with everyone!!!"

"Hang on...." Taiga pointed out. "If he got the alcohol bottle from yesterday already... doesn't that mean...."

 

"It was a breathtaking performance done by Higura, wasn't it?" Hisao said excitedly. "Yup, there's no doubt.... Higura was only acting like a feral dog on heat this morning just to fool everyone... so that we all would suspect him as the scapegoat and not Saku who joined us just for virtue points!"

"Lies... lies!! Lies!! Lies!! Lies!!!" Saku yelled out in frustration. "I'm not the culprit!! I didn't do anything wrong!!! Gura-!!! You're my friend.. right!? Why aren't you defending me!!?"

 

Higura just cringed at how the aerobat spat out his name like he pleading for him to say something. His whole body grew tense and shook every time Saku said his name.

"Gura... hey..... buddy.... you're my friend right...." Saku is smiling, but it's not that usual heartwarming smile he always have. It's the kind that just sent cold shivers down your spine. "I've done a lot of great things for you..... I even corrected your manners since you got here!! So why!? Why aren't you defending me!? Aren't you supposed to be my friend!?"

"Stop it...." Higura slid down, covering his ears at this point. "I don't wanna hear it-!!"

 

"Saku, stop it!! You're scaring him!!!" Mitsuru looked like she was about to leave her podium to comfort the designer. "There's no way Higura would want to defend a murderer like you!!"

"But I'm his friend.... that's what friends do, right...?" Saku slowly spoke, his low voice echoed in the trial room. "Friend.... got each other's back.... friends defend each other until the very end...."

"If you didn't push ahead!!!" Higura yelled out, still refusing to look at the aerobat directly. "If you didn't go overboard, we wouldn't be in this mess right now!!!"

 

.....

"Huh?" Something inside me just shattered. "Huh..... Higura.... are you saying that..... Kiharu's death was accidental?"

"Don't say it, Gura.... Please, don't say it.... I don't wanna die...." a sob wrecked the aerobat's body. "I don't wanna be punished, Gura. Please, I'm begging you...."

Higura stood up, hugging himself at this point as it's comforting to him, "Saku's plan was to confuse everyone with the mixed-up secret motives... and it's true, Saku did have Renma's motive. With Kiharu revealing Taiga's motive, Saku was planning to use that against someone else in the group..... He's planning to use it against you...."

 

"M-Me....?"

"After the first successful class trial, the aerobat have to aim for the self-appointed leader of the group right now... which has to be you, little miss, Hoshino Sumire the Ultimate Private Investigator...." Hisao explained, yawning midway. "Without you, we wouldn't even be able to put a dent in this mystery..... and if I have to play a guessing game, he originally plan to knock me out instead of Shoma.... so that I wouldn't be aware of what's going on...."

 

"And the secret motive paper.... was put alongside with her body so that I wouldn't be able to inspect the true cause of death....." Renma grimaced. "If I didn't put my skills into use, we would have easily blamed it on Taiga and the dismounted gun decoy...."

"But everything went into the wrong order....." Higura confessed. "Because Kiharu saw us at the gymnasium earlier this evening..... Saku panicked and then-"

"Stop it!! Stop it, stop it, stop it!!" Saku yelled. "Why are you telling them all of that!? Do you hate me that much!? I didn't mean for her to die!! I wanted to help her but-!!!"

 

"But you're a coward and you don't want to take the blame...." Hisao sighed, looking bored already. "How boring.... I thought you would at least put up a fight unlike the other one.... you decided to push the already severely injured Kiharu into the automaton soldiers range and let them obliterated her.... I'm sorry, but where in this part of the play are we supposed to feel sorry for you?"

"That's enough...." I gritted my teeth, this whole situation is too tough to bear yet it's still feel and look familiar to me. I don't need to hear neither Hisao's or Higura's explanation any more. "You don't have to explain it anymore, I get the full picture. You're mad at Saku that he didn't have the heart to save Kiharu... because he's afraid of getting caught. Is that a satisfying story, everyone? Shall I go through the details from the beginning again?"

"The stage is set for you, little miss....." Hisao faked a bow and everyone else just nodded, feeling rather uncomfortable by the confession earlier. "You're the main attraction of the class trial, after all... convicting two wrong-doers to be punished...."

"No... there's only one wrong-doer...." My eyes met the heated glare of the aerobat. "And I will end this trial with no guilt....."

 


( Closing Argument )

 

"In order to get away with the crime they will soon commit, the culprit has to plan ahead. They convinced Higura to follow along with their plan, because he originally have the culprit's motive and so the culprit has to threatened him to cooperate. The culprit has to collect the alcohol bottle from the bar first to initiate the first step, which ironically falls apart from here once they didn't noticed that Hisao saw them."

"Higura set up the morning confrontation in order to divide us all and making sure that the suspicion was drawn away from the culprit who sided with us, so that he's the one who will take the fall. After that, during the morning clean-up, the culprit took the chance and open the small window to the storage room to disposed of the evidence later that night. Higura and the culprit meet up at the gym to start their plan and making the chloroform with one of the cleaning detergent but unfortunately, Kiharu spotted them and the culprit, in panicked, hit her with the weight. Despite the miscalculations, they have to pressed on. They carried Kiharu's body, the gym mats and the weights they needed to disposed to the field where those automaton soldiers would usually roam around, and pushed her into their range.... to alert the soldiers and misfired."

"The culprit and Higura carried the body, being wrapped in the gymnasium mat and carried it over to the other side of the gym, where one of them disposed of the bloody mat through the small window to the storage room and closed it from the outside. At this time, the culprit would have to go and went ahead, waited for Taiga to leave the shooting range. Higura, on the other hand, has to disposed of the evidences...... but he has another plan in mind."

"Higura has to knock Shoma out in order to avoid detection and placed him unconsciously onto the pool. Since it's Shoma's strange gimmick, nobody suspected something's wrong with him. Higura disposed of the bloody weight and the rest of the evidences, mainly the empty bottles to make chloroform. Next, he just have to lead someone to the crime scene. With the clean weight he secretly took it with him, he grabbed Renma and Hisao's attention as he threw it into the window and make a run for it, also attracting Hiroshi and Nao's attention as well."

"After he arrived at the gym, Higura removed the clean gym mat he wore over his head and placed it on top of Kiharu's body, not realizing the scrap of paper underneath her that the culprit planted to frame him. With everything set, he immediately left using a different route. While all of this happened, on the other side, the culprit immediately removed the bolted gun from the stand once Taiga left but because of the body discovery announcement, he just left it on the floor in a hurry to meet up with everyone. From there on, Higura and the culprit just has to pretend that nothing went wrong... and one of didn't realized he was being set up to begin with."

 

"This is the act that could only be done by you, yourself, Oozora Saku, the Ultimate Aerobat!!!"

 

( BREAK! )


 

.....

Despite everything, I still feel sick in my stomach. It's not because of Saku willingly to throw Higura under fire for a crime he shouldn't have done it, but it's because the pure feeling of satisfaction I get once I explained the whole story from the start. It still feels wrong. It still feels like Saku didn't want to do this in the first place, "Is that story clear enough for you to admit it? That you're just using your friendship with Higura just to get away from the murder that you've committed?" The aerobat didn't reply, "Forget about it.... Monomyou, it's voting time!!"

"That's my line, you brat!!" Monomyou exclaimed, laughing in between their lines. "But boy, I can't believe it!! What a terrifying venomous snake hidden within these freshly pile of scattered flowers!!! I would have been scared shitless if I ever encounter those kind!!! Now then, ladies and gentlemen, it's the satisfying conclusion to the trial that you all have been waiting for!! It's Voting Time!!!

 

The voting panel appeared right before and I wasted no time but pressed onto Saku's icon as the machine immediately vanished from my sight. Everyone already voted once it appeared as well, no need for second guesses or even anything, Higura and Saku already voted as well. Once every panel is gone from each podium, the big monitor from before appeared behind Monomyou, playing the roulette system again.... until the arrow landed on Oozora Saku and the bright neon lights of the word 'GUILTY' lightened up once again. 

"Nyahahahaha!!!' Monomyou laughed as they jumped down from their throne. "Amazing!! Stupendous!!! All of you got it right!!! Right!!! Right!! Right!!! Right!!!! As your magnificent host, I'm proud of you guys!!! Let us all huddled together and hug it out!!! Come on now, hug it out!!! Victory for the team!!"

"Saku....." I ignored the cat host as I approached the trembling aerobat. "Why did you do it...... you could have stopped there..... you could just stopped when you hurt Kiharu..."

"Little miss, I wouldn't do that if I were you...." Hisao warned me but I didn't pay attention to him. "If his secret motive still have any truth to it, it's best to stay back while you're interrogating...."

 

"So you also knew about that....?" I hesitated but I took a few steps back just in case, Higura is right behind me, looking at Saku directly. Heavily sighed, I asked, "What else do you know?

"Well.... as absurd as the graphic designer lied about Renma being a cold-blooded killer machine who thirsts for blood before this....." Hisao smiled, placing his hand on his cheek. "Don't you think he got that inspiration from someone else? Someone else's motive perhaps?"

Everyone gasped but Monomyou's the only one who let out a laugh, "Bingo!! Ohhh, you've got that right again, Mr. Conman!!! That's right, everyone!!! Since it's the end of the show, it's time to revealed Oozora Saku's secret motive!!! Being the youngest and proudest aerobat out there, Saku would do anything to stay on top of everyone!! Using his overbearing personality and friendly nature, he would make any connection he could out there to need a helping hand!! But once a group of said talented young and up-coming aerobats took his spotlight for a show!! The boy saw green!! Green!! That's bad news there!! So.... he jeopardize their whole show, staged a big major crash that caused the group's life and no one knew he did it!! Nyahahahaha!!"

 

"A-Ah..." Amane was speechless by the revelation but Hibiki took those words he wanted to say right from his mouth. "How... horrible.... how heartless can you be...?"

"Cruel.... you're a cruel monster, Saku...." Mitsuru shook her head, trembling as Nao hold onto her with a worried look.

".... So what?" Saku started, glaring at each and every one of us. "So what if I did it? It doesn't even make a difference. Nobody would want to waste their time on mourning a group of children they barely know or even bother to feel sympathy for. It's their own fault for starting way ahead of me...." 

"You little-!!" Taiga sneered, looking he was about to attack him but Renma hold him back. "What hell is wrong with you!? How could you feel not feel any remorse for you've done?!"

 

"Remorse.... remorse!?" Saku stomped his foot down in anger. "Do you think I would give a shit or feel any remorse for a group of brainless dickwads who's done nothing but squawking around like a bunch of chickens!?!? I have a brighter future and unfuckable plan ahead of me and I don't want this killing game or any of you guys get in my way!! It was all going so well until some idiot fucked up the whole thing!!"

Unconsciously, I grabbed onto Higura's arm, for safety. This is bad. I recognized this seething, emotional outburst, this will turned physical if Saku continued on. "So to you, our lives meant nothing. As long as you managed to get out of here, we would just act as your stepping stones towards freedom...."

"That's your purpose, ain't it!?" Saku clicked his tongue, hand wandering near his neck as if he's going to choke himself out of frustration. "It would have gone sooo much better if you became my friend, then you wouldn't worry about me throwing you away like a piece of garbage! I would have carried you guys' name out from this ruined hotel once I won.... at least, that's the most I can do for a nameless crowd like you-!!"

 

Something whizzed past me, I didn't catch it, it was too fast. But once it got to the front, my eyes widened in shock, "What!?"

Shoma held Saku up by the front of his jumpsuit, lifting him up with no problem at all. The aerobat looked absolutely terrified by this turn of event. In Shoma's other hand was a scalpel,  "Annoying..... you're so annoying..... people like shouldn't last this long in this killing game in the first place..... you don't deserve to leave out of this place unscathed...."

"S-Shoma, wait!!!" I quickly approached him, placing my hand onto his shoulder, gripping it tightly. "Shoma, don't do this!! He's gonna get punished either way!! Don't make it worst for yourself!!" 

Reluctantly, the biologist lets go, leaving Saku falling onto the ground with a heavy thud as he coughed. In return, I let go of his shoulder, my hand shook for a bit. His sudden change of personality, sudden change tone. Fake Ultimate, fake personality, fake identity, didn't I predicted them all before? But.... this is still different, they still stay true to themselves, their real true nature.

 

"Wowie!! I wouldn't have mind you killing the blackened right now!!!" Monomyou interrupted the tense atmosphere. "But I've already prepared a very special punishment for the Ultimate Aerobat so please let me entertained you guys a bit more!!! Any last words for our dear blackened here?? Everyone looked like they're a bit too glad to see him off!!"

"There's something I want to do..... before you punished him....." Higura spoke out. He approached the aerobat with heavy steps as I watched carefully, on stand-by in case anything goes wrong. 

"Ah.... ahahaha....." Saku let out a laugh. "In the end.... you won.... you actually won and proven to be better than me..... I thought you would be that kind of buffoon who would accept any kindness given to them....."

 

"I know a manipulative bastard when I see one....." Higura counter back. "And I know not to be taken in by sweet but empty promises. I'm hard-headed but that doesn't mean I'm dumb enough to be fool by someone like you...." He pulled Saku up by the shoulders, who was taken aback by the designer sudden showcase of strength. "You really cause me nothing but hell for the past few days since we got here.... so here's my revenge...."

Higura pulled Saku into a hug, earning a noise of confusion from the other who didn't even try to break free from it, "This is my revenge, Oozora Saku. This is the only time I will show you kindness and it will be the last time you will ever get..... you have that chance to build a long-lasting friendship and make things right.... but as usual, you ruined it and no one else would want to mourn for you after this....."

He lets go and stepped backwards, but Saku doesn't look like he wanted to with his arms still in position. Saku's face, his destroyed face, like he have just realized what has he done, "Shameful, isn't?.... I could have consider you as a friend if you weren't like this....." 

.... That's Saku's punishment from Higura. One last word of kindness that's dashed away with cold, brutal reality. 

 

"C-Cold!!!" Monomyou shivered. "That's so cold!!! I can't believe everyone else is so cold to deliver such a heart-wrenching line!!! But no worries!! Your beloved host will provide a special warming act that will surely bring heat to those frozen hearts!!! Ladies and gentlemen, strapped yourself back!!! The exciting moment that we've all been waiting for!!! It's Punishment Time!!!!"

The curtain pulled down, the monitor showing Monomyou dragging along Saku with them as the letters below them spelled out; 

 

[ OOZORA SAKU HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY! ]

[ LET US COMMENCE THEIR PUNISHMENT!! ]

 


 

[ Ultimate Aerobat, Oozora Saku's Execution ]

[ The Amazing Glider's Hammerhead Extravaganza!! ]

 

Both Monomyou and Saku were in the cockpit of the plane, with the actual aerobat being strapped to his seat with no free will to move around. The plane took a running start and took off with accelerating speed. Monomyou guided the plane higher, higher into the atmosphere until Saku was gasping for breath, feeling his ears starting to popped due to sudden increase of pressure. Once they're near and almost out of the Earth's atmosphere, Monomyou let the plane descended rapidly. The cat host panicked, trying to search for something and accidentally knocked Saku's helmet out from his head. Monomyou pressed the emergency evacuation button as their seat jumped out of the cockpit with a parachute attached. 

With the plane particularly heating up and falling apart as they descended further down, they crashed into the ground with a loud explosion. Monomyou safely landed with their seat and parachute, not affected by the loud burning crash site behind them. The cat host strikes a pose as the judges off screen seemingly cheered for them, throwing bouquet of flowers at them as the curtains closed.

 


 

"Wohoooooo!! Who knew aerobatics could be so exhilarating!?" Monomyou announced in the same room as us. We watched the execution happening and the same thought crossed our mind, 'There's no way Saku would make it out alive from that.....'

"The execution has been a tremendous success!! Especially my performance!!! I hope everyone is entertained with my spectacular performance!! I've practiced long and hard enough for it, nya' know?! Ackh-!! I stuttered!!!" Monomyou went on and on. "This class trial is so interesting!!! Lots of lies and backstabbers!!! We're truly at the height of betrayals!!! Careful, dear guests!! You wouldn't know the next person who will end up being blame on...... is you!!! Nyahahahaha!!"

Just like that, they disappeared. 

And as always, we walked to the elevator, no sound, nothing, just in complete silence.

 


 

"Here... Sumi...." Hiroshi handed me the key to kitchen before he get on the elevator to his room, he put on a small life as he left almost immediately. It's Mitsuru and my turn to cook for everyone tomorrow, I sighed as I placed the key into my pocket. What a mess, seriously. Now that everyone know about Saku's true nature, they don't know whether to actually feel bad for exposing him or relieved due to his dismissive personality. The person I'm most worried about is Higura, who's still siting at the reception area, head in his hands. 

'He's been through so much shit for the past two days....'  Higura is already stressed out during the time period of setting up that crime with Saku, I'm not even sure how much more did the class trial piled onto that. With the aerobat acting like his friend, he will have difficult time trusting everyone else right now, 'I wanna talk to him... but...... I'm not good with helping people going through a traumatic experience..... not when I, myself, still recovering from Renma and Shoma... sudden changes....'

"Sumi...? You're not going up?" Mitsuru snapped her fingers in front of my face, as I staggered a bit. "Ah sorry, that was really rude of me...."

 

"N-No... it's fine.... it's just....." the cosmetologist saw my eyes wandered on the designer, sulking. Mitsuru hummed a bit before skipping over to Higura, approaching him from the back, sneakily. Then without any words, she uses both of her hands and pushed Higura's back down, causing the other to reveal his face, "There you go!!! Now I can see your face!!"

"What the-!? What the fuck are you trying to do!?" Higura yelled out his usual foul language. "Are you trying to start some shit up!!?"

"There you go!! That's our Mochizuki Higura, the foulmouthed Ultimate Graphic Designer!!" Mitsuru chuckles. "All pride and not taking anyone's shit!!! Not the usual sulky teenager just because of a little betrayal!!!"

 

Higura winched at that last statement, as he sighed, "Look..... I'm not in the mood of your stupid game.... just leave me alone and-"

"Contemplate what you could have done?" Mitsuru frowned at his shifting attitude. "No, it's too late for that now. There's nothing else you could do about it right now. You just needed to focus on improving yourself. Improve more and try to intimidate others more so that you're not just a sack of meat waiting to be pushed around!!! You're a strong, hot-headed young man who isn't afraid to diss The Devil himself!! Now get up and clean your face!!! I'm gonna help you out!!"

"W-What!?" Higura got dragged along with Mitsuru, guiding both them to the elevator. "I-I can do all of that by myself!!! Stop fucking pulling my arm, it hurts, you know!?"

"Nonsense!! You're just gonna lie on your bed all day and won't even take a shower out of guilt!! I'm gonna make sure you clean yourself up before going to bed!! Even if it means I have to get into the same shower as you do!!"

"Hey!! Fuckin' stop!! That's not something you should say so freely!!"

 

The elevator door closed on the chatter duo, leaving me dumbfounded, "Wow.... just..... wow....." Mitsuru actually helped out Higura from his troublesome self, without breaking a sweat, that's really amazing of her.

"Mitsuru is an enthusiastic and positive young woman....." I heard an unfamiliar tone, I looked around to see it was Shoma, with his nautilus hat in his hands, smiling normally. "It's obvious she doesn't want to leave Higura with such heavy thoughts..... so she wanted to help out... it's the best thing she can do..."

"God... hearing you talk normally is so weird now...." I rubbed my forehead, not expecting for Shoma to suddenly talk like a normal person and not his usual floaty self. "This will be really difficult to get used to it now...."

 

"This critter can changed its tone whenever it wants to, Sumi....." Shoma faked his high-pitched voice for a moment. "And I accidentally exposed myself as a more ruthless person so it's no use to disguised myself as a defenseless shell-less sea creature anymore....."

"Why did you do that?" I asked, curiosity gotten the best of me. "Why would you fake your whole personality just to be closed to others?"

"Hmmm... I have my doubts like you do, Sumi....." Shoma answered. "I don't really trust everyone. Especially with Saku and Homare... people who's usually kind and orderly-mannered never turned out to be good people in the end. So I have to act like a defenseless kid for a while, so that everyone let their guard down for the harmless sea creature...."

Amazingly, his speech pattern still doesn't changed, just gotten a lot more vague there. But now knowing that Shoma is a skeptical person, is it possible that he's trying to pry more info out of others by getting closed to them? 'So... the reason why he's closed with Renma and I was.....'

 

"I really like you and Renma, don't get me wrong....." as if he read my mind, he explained himself. "I don't believe you two would hurt anyone else here.... and you have your own problems to sort it out by yourself as it seems. I can't see you do anything remotely bad in the slightest....." 

"That's a way too hopeful of a statement you have about me...." I chuckled. "Not everyone in the entire world can trust me that easily. There are some people who severely loathed my entire existence too, you know?"

"Then are you happy with yourself? Are you happy with being known as the Ultimate Private Investigator? Is something you've been doing since your entire lifetime, right?"

 

That question came out of nowhere. I didn't expect for him to ask something so personal like that. The biologist always studied people's emotions from a far, like how he guessed whether Renma and I feel down or not. With his eyes still staring right back at me, piercing through, I can only give him this answer, "...... Probably. It's something I'm only good at after all. It makes me happy that I can at least help someone else out there but.... it's never a satisfying job regardless the outcome....."

Shoma didn't look like he's buying it for a moment but he simply walked away, "Thank you for the inquiry. I really want to know more about Sumi and Renma before getting out of this place.... it's been a while since I made such an amusing group of friends, you know?" 

Friends..... 

So he still considered this weird back-and-forth, speech-decoding relationship that the three of us have as a sign of friendship.....

Ultimate Mortician or Medium, Ultimate Marine Biologist and Ultimate Private Investigator.....

"What a messy group...." I said to myself and laughed. 'It's been a while since I have close friends like them too.....'

The elevator doors closed behind us, leaving an eerie presence that's looming over the hotel area alone

 

.....

...........

"Nyahahaha!!" Monomyou laughed, gleefully spinning and dancing alone in the reception area. "It's almost time!! Almost, almost time!! For the main attraction!!! This next motive... will drag them all down to hell!!! Nyahahaha!! I can't wait, can't wait!!!..... Now then, my little puppets, make sure you entertained us greatly for your next act!!!"

Chapter Text

"Oozora Saku.... Satoshi Kiharu..... another opposing pair you've picked up now..."

"Nyahaha! Those two piqued my interest so there's no way I'm letting them out of my hands!!"

.......

"Please get up from the floor.... you're such a filthy person...."

"No need to be so coiled!! What, are you trying to act like a restricting parent now? Try and find a different role!! Your acting is getting more boring!!"

..........

"Wouldn't they be so troublesome? A kind man who's a megalomaniac and an overbearing woman who's forgiving...."

"That's what makes the pair so interesting!! After all..... they're much more interesting actors than you are....."

 


 

'It's been a while since I last woke up earlier than the alarm.... but then again...... It was more of a nap since we got here really late....' To even think that the PA system of Monomyou screeching in your ears to be your personal alarm is quite a nightmare so today, I'm glad that I managed to wake an hour early, 'Should I go and wake up Mitsuru....? Maybe I should just go and check on her room.....'

With my usual attire, I walked out of my room and locked the door, shoving the ElectroID into my jacket as I approached Mitsuru's room just in front of Saku's room. I stopped for a moment and just stared at the recently deceased's old room but shook off those unpleasant memories from yesterday, 'As cruel as it is.... it's still not right....'

 

"Mitsu-" A note was placed onto the door of the cosmetologist, written out with a rather curvy handwriting; 'Currently being a short-time therapist for Higura, please knock on his door if you're searching for me!' - Mitsuru.

"She stayed overnight in his room.....?" My mind wandered into a dangerous territory and I immediately slapped both of my cheeks 'Ehhhh, inappropriate thoughts! Inappropriate thoughts, I vanished thee!'

"I-It's just a normal slumber party... like last time...." I tried to convinced myself. Yeah, that's right. Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. "I better head to the kitchen and have everything be prepared....." With a clear conscious, clear head and clear thoughts, it took everything in me to just walked past Higura's room without looking back as I take the elevator.

 


 

"Ah!! Sumi!!" A familiar sweet-sounding voice echoed in the dining hall, Mitsuru wildly waved her hands in the air, "Goodness! Did you already went ahead and make breakfast for everyone!? Ahhhh!!! I'm sorry I'm late!!! I wasted a lot of energy getting Higura to take a shower last night!!"

Yeah, I'm sure you did- "I see...." I smiled, ignoring that intrusive thought of mine. I didn't really planned well on what to make so I decided on normal sandwiches with lettuces, onions and barbecue sauce (it's unhealthy but it's still good). "I didn't prepared any drinks so..... you wanna be in charge of that?"

"Aye, aye!" Mitsuru salute as she skipped to the kitchen. A familiar tune played out and the PA system turned on by itself;

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!!!

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, rise and shine!!! This is your daily announcement after the exciting event from yesterday!! I hope everyone slept well! I sure did!! After such an amazing performance, who wouldn't be thrilled to start the day today with a BOOM! Whoops! Was that tasteless of your dear host to joke about? Well, it doesn't matter anyways, nyahahaha!"

"I would like to announced that several areas that were off-limit are now opened for exploration!!! Be at your tippity-top best!! Have a myou-est of day!!!"

 

I went over to the kitchen to check on the drink-making progress, "Did you hear that? More new places to explore...."

"Yeah.. I heard it...." Mitsuru seems to be mixing some kind of fruit juice. A vibrant yellow-ish-green colour showing through the translucent jar. "Just like before huh..... I wonder this will be different for once... or it will be the same thing all over again...."

"Little chances....." I said, while smiling. "Best to be positive, right? Better not let Monomyou triumphed over us...."

 

Mitsuru gasped, a slight blush appeared on her face, "Sumi's smiling face is absolutely adorable!! Ah, just like my favorite idol, cute and perky!! Come to think of it, Sumi and my goddess shared almost the same face!!"

Favorite Idol? Could she be talking about... "Are you talking about the style-influencer, 'Dolly Esther'?"

"Yes, yes!! Her!!!" She let out a squeal as she jumped around excitedly. "She used to be my client, you know! She's an angel sent from the heaven themselves!! I've made sure she looked absolutely divinely, you know, every time she visited me!! Ah, Dolly Esther, how I wish to see you again, my beautiful angel!!"

 

Her overreaction made me rethink what I'm going to say next, but seeing Mitsuru being so excited talking about that person, I can't help it but feel really proud of her, "Yeah.... Ayame is always nice to everyone...."

"Huh... Ayame? Who's that...?" Mitsuru tilted her head.

"What? She's your client but you never knew her real name?" As expected, only her internet persona is well known to everyone else, even to her service providers. "Well, that's 'Dolly Esther's real name.... Endou Ayame, my sister....."

 

Mitsuru dropped everything she holding, her mouth wide opened, unable to form any words. In a flash, she held my hands and leaned against me, looming over my head as she spoke in a rapidly manner, "Both of you are related!? No wonder you guys look so similar!! Ah, but you two have different eye colours and used different hair dyes!! Are you guys perhaps fraternal twins or something-"

"S-Slow down, Mitsuru..." I slowly pushed her away, letting her catch her breath before I answered her question. "I wouldn't say we were related.... both of us were raised in a same orphanage before I was adopted by my mentor and Ayame was adopted by our previous caretaker..... no one knows for sure if we're really related or not since we're eerily similar but.... Ayame doesn't really care about those kind of minor details....."

 

"Oh... you guys were.... orphans?" Mitsuru's excitement doubled down into concern once she heard about that. "Esther never mentioned anything about her childhood.... she always sounded like she had a good one with a really closed family member... was that you, she's talking about?"

"She could be referring to our previous caretaker, Endou Mio...." It's been a while since I've last said that name. "After all, she rarely visit me after I chose to go with my mentor. Both of them really hated each other for some reason....." 

"Ummm.... you keep saying 'mentor' and I know you're referring to your senior investigator but..." Mitsuru asked. "Doesn't that mean your 'mentor' is technically.... your adoptive father? Do you just never call him that or is it some private reason that you don't want to talk about?"

 

"No, it's just for a silly reason.... here, I will take the drinks out on the table now..." I take the jug and the piled-up cups in one hand, as I continued my story. "He placed me under his wing once he saw my potential in becoming an investigator like he is. So I followed in his footsteps like any normal students with strong commitment would do, but in the end, we really never have time to even spend together as a family. Due to countless excursion both of us have to make because of our jobs...... we barely even seen each other...."

Placing the beverages on the table, I whipped around just to see Mitsuru looked like she's on verge of crying.... for some reason. "Umm... are you okay?" I asked. "I'm sorry, I must have been talking for so long. I didn't noticed you're upset over something...."

 

"N-No!! Waaaah!!!" The cosmetologist tackled me into a hug, sobbing, as we both tumbled down, my head almost hit the chair behind us. "Sumi is such a lonely soul!!! No wonder you're so oblivious to everything!!"

Oblivious to what exactly? "I don't really get you what you're saying but....." I tried rubbing circles on her back awkwardly. "There, there.... it's not all that bad.... It's really nothing once you get used to it..... I may not have an exciting childhood but.... at least I made some friends who are.... for the lack of a better term, really wild...."

"T-That's right!!" Mitsuru sat up, rubbing the tears and snot away from her red-painted face. "Sumi got us!! Don't worry, we won't leave you be!!! We will stay by your side forever!!"

Another long-time commitment, "Great!! Now, please get off of me before anyone else sees us-"

 

Cough.

Both of us turned our attention to the dining hall entrance, Higura, Renma and Shoma just stood there overlooking us, in this position. Renma is smiling, but it's that all too familiar pity smile that he has. Higura, while his ears has a tint of red, doesn't look too amused.

"Ah, are you two recreating some sort of a romantic scene or something...?" Shoma asked bluntly, noticeably not wearing his usual nautilus hat. In fact, his entire appearance has changed. Instead of wearing a high-collared jacket, he's now wearing a long lab coat over his dark blue attire.

"No!!.... Maybe a bit...." Mitsuru awkwardly laughs. "It's just that Sumi told me about her lonely childhood days and I just burst into tears, showering her with all the affection she's been craving for!"

 

"That's really not it..." I sighed, immediately getting up that caused Mitsuru to fall off. "It's a long time coming but she personally asked for it and I deliver.... I didn't expect anyone to be that emotional..." Apologetically, I helped her up and fixed the elaborate outfit she wore for her. "You three are early..."

"Yes, because sleeping for three fucking hours is not ideal after suffering through a two hour trial plus a few minutes of immense torture watching gore galore...." Higura grumbled as he made his way to his seat. "I also needed to sleep in more after Mitsun keep nagging me all night...."

Shoma and I turned to Mitsuru, "Mitsun?"

 

"I nagged him into giving me a nickname since Hisao gave you one and you gave him vice-versa!!" Mitsuru explained, sitting next to Higura. "I was getting jealous of how close everyone is already yet I never received such a nickname!! Ain't that right, Mochi?"

"God, that's so fucking lame......" the designer buried his head into his folded arms, I almost missed the slight blush on his face.

 

'Ah, could it be.... those two actually became that close?' That was a surprising development. Higura was the first one who bullied Mitsuru around when we got here but to think they ended up as close friends was a twist I didn't expect.

"Ah, it seems Sumi also looked well today...." Renma commented on my appearance. "That's relief.... I would have thought you would ended up becoming a walking zombie because last night's unfortunate events....."

'Not gonna lie, I also thought I wouldn't get enough sleep from overthinking as well....' Higura looked to his side, trying not to listen in the conversation about the last trial. "It's best if we keep our spirits up, right? We also need to investigate those other areas that just opened up...."

 

"Ah... I'm afraid one of the places might have been mine to begin with...." Renma added, with a strange look on his face. "That place is only accessible for me from the beginning but it seems Monomyou might have opened it for everyone to visit whenever they please....."

"A place... specifically for you...?" I asked.

"It was one section of the basement cellar that we discovered during our first day here...." the mortician explained. "To put it simply; it was the mortuary...."

 

"A-A mortuary!?" Mitsuru shrieked. "W-Wait, so you were....?"

"Yes... I've been embalming the dead from previous class trials for the past few days now...." said Renma, somehow not minding telling us his work right now. "If anyone's interested, I can be your guide...."

"Just wait for us to finish our fucking breakfast then we will head down the creepy crawly land...." Higura stated, biting into his food, mouthful of lettuce.

 

"Sounds like a plan....." Everyone seems to be on board with that idea. That's good, everything is moving along as usual. With a thought like that, there's a heavy feeling in my chest as my anxiety starting to act up, 'Why does it have to be now? All the mysteries after that damned plush events already cleared up.... What am I so afraid of it now? We just needed answers to our whereabouts right now....' I pushed those feelings away once more people entered the dining hall.

 


 

"W-Wow... what a place....."

"Thank you for a kind review...." Renma chuckles at the trembling girl, facing the countless cold chambers built into the wall. There's also others covered with a sheet over them on certain tables and tag attached to them, we don't want to disturb anything as a sign of respect. "I'm still in the middle of embalming so please do mind the awful silence....."

"Is it....." the mortician barely lift the cover, but I can see a burnt piece of the grey fabric. Mitsuru and I looked at each other for a bit, I mouthed, 'Distract Higura' quickly and thankfully, she got the idea.

 

"Hey, look at this...." Mitsuru pulled out a random book from the shelves. "This is.... a list of people who died over the years!! Let's see if there's any funny causes or what!"

"Okay....." Higura sounded really uncomfortable but it works, a distraction is a distraction.

 

"How on earth did Monomyou recovered the body from the site....?' I frowned, looking at the burnt remains. "Are you sure you're okay with this, Ren?"

"It's.... alright, I can assure you that...." Renma confessed, as he puts on his gloves. "It's difficult for me to go back to my old ways but... if it helps them to passed on to the afterlife, then I don't want to ignore and not fulfill that wish of theirs...."

"Don't push yourself too hard there, Ren..." Funny, that was the same thing he said to me during our first investigation.

 

"Hey, Sumi?" Mitsuru called out to me, I would have thought she actually found something really funny but her serious expression tell a different story. "Look at this.... Does this name sounds familiar...?"

"Name....?" She passed me the book as she pointed at the title of the page. "'The Tragedy Of Hope's Peak Academy'..... it... does sound familiar......"

"Right!? I'm not tripping out or anything, right!?" Higura looked at it, his face paled. "I swear I heard that shit from somewhere! Turn to the next page, there's more of that!!"

 

More? The list of the deceased is mostly students from the same class, known as the 'Reserve Course Students' and their cause of death is stated as mass suicide. What could be possibly worst than that? Once I turned to the other page, I finally get what he's saying, "The Biggest, Most Awful, Most Tragic Event in Human History...."

I would have let out a small laugh at the name, if it weren't for such an alarmingly high death count that reached almost over ten pages and it's not even halfway there in the alphabetical order, "What the hell is this....? What's with the cause of death.....? Driven into despair by the.... Ultimate Despair...?"

"I heard about that title but.... that was already a long time ago.... right?" Mitsuru gulped down her nervousness. "One disaster that humankind have to suffer.... all because of one Ultimate student....."

 

"I.... I have heard of her....." Working with previous powerful people who needed my help in covert surveillance allowed me to learn more about my clients and the people I'm supposed to keep an eye on. One of those clients have this really detail record about 'The Tragedy' he kindly let me borrow to read. Enoshima Junko and Ikusaba Mukuro, the Ultimate Despair Sisters, with their undying followers, 'Remnant of Despairs', they wrecked havoc across the nation.

'Wait.... what was that one piece of information I'm missing....' I bit my tongue out of reflex. 'Damn it, why can't I remember!?'

 

"But the school... Hope's Peak Academy....." Mitsuru pointed out. "Could that be the school that the previous elite school we enrolled in was related to....? They're both Ultimate Academies so....."

"Possible but too early to tell....." Shoma appeared right beside me, looking down briefly. "But..... 'The Tragedy'..... I wonder why did that name just cause a sudden reflex in all of us...? The gap between that event and the present is a bit more than ten years, I doubt every single one of us even existed to live through it....."

"W-We probably learned that shit in school or something!!" Higura tried to convinced that's the answer to the unwavering mystery in our head. "It's a pretty awful fucking event that probably scarred us for life!! That's why we were scared shitless!!"

 

"That will be very ideal..." Renma commented far from the crowd, still working on the body, brushing something off of it. "I unfortunately got the same reaction when I first saw that...... it might have been related to our missing school memories.... it's plausible that we all heard of it when attending the Ultimate Academy for Elites to spread awareness of such tragedy. If we're the 50th class... then the academy might also suffered through it as well..."

".... For now...." I closed the book and approached the mortician. He warned me to cover my nose and mouth first before going anywhere near the body. I did what he told and I placed the book on the table, "It's best to keep this with you.... since this place is open to everyone, I'm afraid someone might just steal it from the shelves...."

 

"Who would steal a book list of deaths?" Higura questioned.

"I can think of one person who would do it...." I sighed.

"Hisao..." Everyone said in unison, including Renma.

"That's right..."

 

"Alright, should we go now? I'm sure everyone else already discovered the new places!!" Mitsuru pulled along Higura with her. "Come on! I'm sure there's more exciting places we can go and scavenge for clues!!"

"H-Hey!!! Fuckin' ask for permission before dragging people with your shit!!' Higura tried to keep up with Mitsuru's pace until both of them exited the mortuary.

 

"Those two are doing well together....." Shoma hummed, looking pleased with himself. "It's a good thing that Higura has fallen into despair due to Saku's betrayal.... Mitsun has taken the initiative to be his guardian angel after all....."

'Fallen into despair'? What's with this sudden use of 'despair'?

"They make such an unlikely couple, don't they....?" Both Shoma and I just stared at him in disbelief, but Renma doesn't understand the weird looks he's getting. "Oh? Is it really off to have that thought about them?"

 

"With how Mitsuru usually act towards.... pretty things...." Sugarcoating a bit there. "I don't think Higura can keep up with that kind of pent-up energy...."

"I think he also have similar energy level...." said Renma as he covered the body with the sheet, signalling the end of his handiwork. "After all, Higura always go on of how great his work is, yes? If Mitsun encourages that side of his.... he wouldn't have to worry being hold down by petty restrictions...."

'Right... he was really unhappy when Saku acted aggressively towards his usual foul-mouthed self.... with Mitsun, he wouldn't have to feel suffocated and have someone a bit more enthusiastic by his side....Ha, I'm really envious of him...'

 

"Sumi, your jealousy is showing....."

"What....?"

"This critter is simply pointing out the obvious..." Shoma giggled. "This critter might want to stay here a little longer to help out Ren with his work.... after all, this place might have more mysteries to it than we first thought...."

Like when we first missed the newspaper clippings from the library, "Yeah, sure... I will be going ahead.... be safe, you two. Careful not to hurt yourself..."

I bid farewell to the biologist and mortician as I headed my way out.

 


 

One of the other places that's recently opened up was strangely an large theater house, right behind the library. As expected, I bumped into Amane and Hibiki there, looking enamoured by the stage. Nao and Machi fooled around, dancing in the middle of it all, laughing at each other.

 

"Ah... such beauty...." Amane dramatically faked a sob. "To think this was hiding from me for too drastically long.... oh, how I wish to recreate such a masterpiece I once saw in my life!!"

"So not that too long ago and it's your piece still...." Hisao snickered behind him, probably egging on his self-centered ideals. "But wow!! Haven't seen a stage this grand for a long time!! Dear little miss!! Do you think we can recreate 'The Grand Guignol' with this amount space?"

"If you can even think about an original act so putrid and horrifying, then the stage is yours to have control over it...." I answered, wondering how the conman would know such a specific theater. A horror theater, at that.

 

"It's almost similar to when I perform on stage before....." Hibiki muttered. "A theater packed with people just to hear a poor canary sing.... truly a nerve-breaking moment...."

"Even the Ultimate Opera Singer would sometimes get nervous on stage as well, huh?" Hibiki have such a lovely singing voice that even a single note out of her would be enough to put into a deep sleep.

"There's always the unexpected... My voice often cracks whilst in the middle of a song that I usually improvised my notes... sometimes a compromise is necessary as long as the end result still closed on a good note...." Hibiki chuckles. "Perhaps you would be interested in some vocal practice with me, Sumi? You seem suited for a soprano almost..."

 

"I used to sing in a choir when I was young but not so much anymore...." It used to be my favorite thing to do when I was under the orphanage's care. My appreciation of music did stemmed from my daily choir singing. "I may be a bit rusty so I might be stuck within the mezzo range....."

"I didn't take you as an elegant type, little miss!!" Hisao butted in. "You have such a bite that everyone would see you as a brut- Ackh!!!"

Hibiki slapped the conman in the face from the back with the pamphlet she was holding the entire time, making him tumbled down onto the floor. I held back a laughter, 'Serves him right....'

 

"You have to start from somewhere else, after all, that's good enough for me to teach you more...." Hibiki smiled. "Maybe some other day... since there's still one more place you might want to see for yourself... it appears to be a casino that Taiga and Hiroshi is checking out right no-"

"Yes, definitely, I will definitely go there right now....." My instincts just screamed at me to go there right now and I obliged to listen to it.

 


 

'Ah, I knew it.....'

Once I hear the words 'Taiga and Hiroshi' and 'Casino' together in one sentence, it's a perfect recipe for the chaotic-driven troublemakers. And I'm right.

Hiroshi lie down on the floor in defeat with Taiga sitting on top of him, proud and smugly showing all the casino coins he won against the abseiler. Mitsuru and Higura just cleaned up the messed they made while playing with other machines, disgruntled looks on their faces.

 

"No faaaaair!" Hiroshi sobbed out. "How can you have that much luck!? That humanely impossible!! You must be cheating!!!"

"It's alllll calculations, buddy!!" Taiga snickered. "Even with Lady Luck on my side, if ya' probability is too weak, then you don't exactly have any chances in winning!!! That's how you actually survived in gambling!!!"

"Nooooo....." Mitsuru pushed Taiga off a bit and lifted the other one up. "No one's gambling anyone's money away...... I don't want anyone to be addicted to this place and waste their entire savings....."

"Too late...." Taiga and I said in unison, eyeing on the abseiler.

 

So there are three new places that just opened up; the mortuary, the theater house and the casino. All three are seemingly harmless for now. 'Wouldn't this be the part Monomyou would waltz in and said something about the last trial-' and right on cue, the cat host appeared right in the middle of the group, with Mitsuru screeching.

"G-Good morning, everyone....!!!" Strangely, Monomyou acting really weird and is visibly trembling, even their voice isn't in its usual pitch. "I-I hope everyone is having fun!!! This time, the areas you guys have discovered are all about entertainment!!!"

"Why the hell are you stuttering?" Higura raised an eyebrow. "Are you fucking finally acknowledging us being your potential killers or something? That we will ripped you apart?"

"V-Violence against your magnificent host is forbidden!! Y-You will be punished for that!!!" Monomyou spurted out the answer. "B-Besides!!! Your wonderful host.... accidentally misplaced your rewards for your recent class trial!!! I-I'm terribly sorry for that!!"

 

That mention of reward made everyone stared at each other, worried that it will be like that plush thing all over again. Higura and Taiga also reacted really poorly towards it. But Monomyou didn't take note of it, "Y-Your magnificent host will try their best to find them!!! F-For the mean time!!! Please indulge yourself with some wonderful entertainment I have provided you guys!!! I promise the rewards will be worth it!! A-And if anyone of you happened to find it.... please call for me!!"

And with that, Monomyou disappeared into the trap door below them. Hiroshi sighed, scratching the back of his head, "Well... this mean they won't be bothering us with any nonsensical things for a while..... it's best we savor our peaceful moment before everything will eventually come crashing down....."

 

"But what else could they possibly have in store for us now?" Mitsuru asked. "They have already used most of our personal info and family..... and they wouldn't even tell us about our missing school memories...."

"It's best not to think about it too much...." I reassured her. "If we do, it will only end in a complete mess.... like last time. For now, we should all talk about it once Monomyou came back with it....."

"Yeah, that would be a nice change of pace.... for now...."

 

I wouldn't want anyone to be completely divided over it, it was partially my mistake for saying we should keep the secret motives to ourselves last time, without knowing someone else already planned ahead. Taiga and others are already leaving the casino, saying that they want to at least sleep for a little longer before venturing out again. 'Ah... I don't feel like going back to my room.... perhaps I should go look around some more....'

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

"Are you finally dead?"

"Ah!! Little miss!! Didn't noticed you got in!! I was having a wonderful daydream, you know!"

 

I decided to visit the theater house again and found the conman still laying on the grand stage, spread out like a starfish. Not really an odd thing I would see him doing, "So this is what you usually do when you have too much free time?"

"Hmmmm, nope!!" He sat up with his legs crossed each other as I do the same thing as well. "I actually have done a lot of things during my spare time!! Like fooling around with others!! I tested out their gullibility!!"

Right, conman usually have a specific target; people who are easily fooled or even unusually greedy, "Mind if you test that out on me as well? Would want to know how much confidence you have in your own tricks...."

 

Hisao thought about it for a while, before deciding, "Alright! It's been a while since I tricked a law enforcement! So I may lose some points! Now, say you just caught me tricking a young man into emptying out his back account in order to get this super secret and rare medicine for his dying girlfriend! What do you think you should do in this scenario?"

That's really oddly specific. I didn't expect for this to be a full-blown story but could it be this sort of thing happened to him before? "I would have interrogate 'the marks' first... explaining the situation to me first before gaining on the both of them exchanging the deal..."

"Ohhhhh! So you actually knew our street terms for our victims! Nice!!" Hisao grinned, clapping like an excited child. "But why before the money is involved? It would have been better if you burst into action once the exchange has been made!!"

 

"Well, legal tender is also part of this ploy...." I pointed out. "It's one way to scammed a sketchy medicine to an innocent bystander but it's also really scummy for you to scammed over the intended amount of cash that the both of you agreed on.... so not only you will be caught selling a counterfeit but you're also caught for intentionally lying about the amount...."

"Oh wow, I'm scared now...." a sweat just rolled down on his face as he laughed. "I guess I shouldn't underestimate you, young little miss!! People usually say they will jump on us once the deal has been made!! Like, that wouldn't change a thing!! Once a deal is made and done, it's already over!"

"It's when both parties are practically vulnerable so I get why...." I frowned. "Why did you use that scenario? It's an odd choice...."

"Oh, because that happened to me before..." Hisao put it bluntly. "I'm sure you had that thought before right? And it's not even a rare occurrence for con-artists everywhere!! People would go far and wide just to satisfy their own needs and wants!!"

 

I would be lying to myself if I said I'm not aware of that. Hisao must have made a fair share of deals and met more ruthless people that I do. With how unusually positive and giddy he is, he's able to tricked people into trusting his confidence. But I wonder if he ever screwed up a deal before, will his confident act managed to get him out of it?

"Awww, I'm really happy that you're thinking really hard for me! It shows that you're very worried about a criminal!!"

"No, that's not it.... I was wondering if there's a time that your own act wasn't able to fool anyone...."

 

"That's a story for another day!!" Hisao announced as he stood up. "Because I  already blabber my ideas to you for too long!!! You will surely be able to catch me in the act once we get out of here!! And that would be terrible for me to try and make a living!! Though, I wouldn't be mind being captured by you! After all, you're the only person I would be willing to listen to!!"

"That's.... not an investigator's job..... unfortunately for you....." I stood up as well. "If you really wanna see me, then best to make a request.... but considering the amount of work I have to go through that stretches over months.... you will have to wait for a long time....."

"Awww.... that's boring.... maybe I can scammed one of your seniors so that you will have to leave your work space to see me!"

"I admired your strong determination but please don't do that...."

'Yet again, Hisao's confident nature still remains strong even with just one person.... perhaps some other day, I will managed to tear that down.... I would really like see his true nature one day....'

 


 

"Wait, little miss!!"

"Huh? What now?" I was heading towards the library to see if Nao and Machi needed my help or anything until Hisao stopped me. "What is it? Got another job for me?"

"Hmmm.... close!!" Hisao puffed out his chest. "You're heading towards the library, right? I almost forgot about my plan today until you came to see me!! I need your help with the library's archive!!"

 

"The archive....?" The last time anyone visited the archive, it was for those newspaper clippings. "You wanna find more clues in that room? Why not ask for Nao? She's the closest, you can ask her to accompany you...."

"No, no, this ain't a simple task for a pipsqueak...." Hisao waved his hand around. "Besides, I needed someone with your height to do this job!!"

"Taiga would have been perfect", but the conman didn't listened as he drag me to the library with all of his strength as I kept on resisting.

 


 

The library's archive is a bit of a mess. While there are books neatly lined-up in their shelves, there ares still many miscellaneous books scattered all over floor, all from different categories and language. Carefully not stepping onto some important parchments, both of us were surprised that Nao and Machi wasn't around right now, they probably want to take a day off.

"Hmmm.... in every library archive, there's always a really suspicious spot for someone to hide important documents......" Hisao wondered, while looking around. "Think, little miss!! What's the stereotypical place would someone picked to try and hide their precious documents!?"

"Inside a concrete wall, between the floor boards.... anywhere that has enough space for thinly-made book....." I answered nonchalantly. I looked above the bookshelves and spotted one of it has a blue and white folder placed onto top of them, "Hisao, is there a stepladder around here?"

"You can use my shoulders!"

"Anything is fine, just lift me up...."

 

"Okay, wow, I guess respective gap doesn't matter in your book.." Hisao commented as he easily lifted me up with no problem. "Is this enough?"

"Yeah, just keep still...." My head is on the same level as the top of the shelves but I can easily get the folder, blowing away the dust. "I got it, you can put me down now...."

Hisao did so as his head rested on top of my shoulder while I flipped through the folder, "What did ya' find?"

 

"'Yumeino Ultimate Academy for Elites' Students Folder'......" I read the front cover out loud. "So it's the student profile folder.... we may be able to find our profile here if there's any ties to our missing memories....."

And so we skimmed through the folders of countless students from different classes, until we reached the student profiles of the 50th class. Asami Mitsuru, Amahiko Shoma, Hanabusa Hinako, everyone's data is included here, especially mine. I looked through my profile but nothing out of the ordinary, especially the guardian's name, Hoshino Iwao (48 y.o, PI).

"Weird.... they only recorded your measurement but the rest are.....?" Hisao's page is almost entirely empty. Anyone could have mistaken it as nothing but an empty slot.

 

"Like I've said.... I'm a criminal..." Hisao shrugged. "If they recorded everything about me, then they would get into a big trouble for hiding a dangerous individual from the law enforcement. But take a look at this one.... there's another page after Hibiki's......"

Setsu Hibiki's profile should be the last one in the list but he's right, there's strangely another profile included for our class; Oshiro Eiichi, the Ultimate Lucky Student, an entirely empty page.

"I've never heard of this person....."

"Me neither.... but he's in our class... then why is he not with us...?" I asked, still staring at mysterious 17th student in the list. "Wait, his name wasn't even mentioned in the newspaper clippings..... was he expelled?"

 

"That would have been mentioned here still....." Hisao tried to examined it thoroughly once more. "Who the hell is this ghost student? It's fucking creepy as hell...."

"Hmm.... I will keep this with me...." I closed the folder, tucking it into my jacket. "Once everyone's present then maybe we can ask them about this mysterious lucky student.... what kind of talent is that anyways?"

"The Ultimate Academy scouted out their talented students, right?" Hisao exclaimed. "Perhaps this person is one of the lucky students to get in without even being good at anything!" 

"That's a bit of a downer...."

 

"There's a lot of nonsense talents in the world, I'm sure this person would be fine not associating with such a strange, weird or morbid talents....." said Hisao, as he exited out of the archives. "Anyways, I think that's enough mystery for today!! That's a bountiful for sure!! Can't believe we missed another important one in the archive!"

Tell me about it, it's not really out in the open but if you looked around carefully, it's not that hard to miss it. 'Was it there initially? Or did Monomyou secretly placed it there and waited for us to discover eventually?'

Once again, another mystery to solve as we left the library. 

Chapter Text

"Sao-chin.... just how much of your claims during the class trials has been your bluff all along?"

"In the end, you're using that punishment nickname as an everyday thing now...." Hisao sighed, but put on a small smile at the end. "And what do you mean by that, little miss? Are you saying that I've been wildly speculating without putting too much thought in it?"

 

It's exactly like that, Hisao's confidence during the class trials never wavered so many of us assumed he's speaking the truth. But, it's his talent to fake confidence, isn't it? That thought lingered in my mind ever since the first trial and it's getting even more obvious since the last one. And so naturally, I got curious. "Well, how often did you do it?"

"How rude!" Hisao faked a gasp. "Are you calling me a liar?! How dare you, little miss!! You know I really hate liars!!"

"And I hate really terrible actors yet I'm talking to one. You don't have to give a very lengthy answer, just either a yes or no would be enough....."

 

"Either!!" Hisao grinned, playfully twirled around along with his coat. "You need to broaden your answers more, little miss!! After all!! It's hard to walk in the middle for a question like that!! While I may help a lot during the class trials, there's no guaranteed that most of my claims were anywhere true or completely made-up!!"

In other words, he's not going to say it. As expected, I thought he would be more open if being confronted alone. Guess I'm the one who's underestimating him, "But the things you brought up during the trials were the reasons why we're still alive right now so.... it's a half-and-half truth and lie...."

 

Hisao was quiet with a wide grin still on his face, then proceed to ask, "Why do you exactly trust my words so much then? It's kind of dangerous considering your position, to blindly trust me so much when everyone else relied on your own knowledge so heavily!! I could be wrong and then you would try to back me up, completely steering us into the wrong direction? Are you really okay with that possibility happening one day?"

He's technically right, most of the answers we've reached in the end were thanks to him after all. Yet, if one day, if another class trial will happened and Hisao gave us the wrong clue and we've just doomed ourselves in the end. Will that really be okay? "..... Perhaps...."

 

"Huh? Perhaps, what?" He's gotten way too close to my face after hearing that answer. "That's really scary, little miss!! You shouldn't say it like that!! After all, we shouldn't make any mistakes or else we're dead!! You memorized the rules of the trials' voting system, right?"

"I get that...." I gently pushed his face away. "I'm just saying that..... if you were wrong and we accidentally follow your own line of thought..... well, that would be entirely our fault for believing in it without thinking twice..... but I would like to think that wouldn't happened anytime soon....." 

"So that's the direct answer to my previous question then!!" He places his hands on his hips. "A 'half-and-half' answer as well!! My claims might be right and your judgement might be wrong!! As simple as that!! Though you're exactly right at that last part, it's still everyone's fault for believing my word!!"

 

A simply cycle, a simple circle. Everyone contributed their fair share of evidences and theories, some of them were even correct. But I doubt that everyone would fall for Hisao's shot-in-the-dark claims that easily. They're smart in their own special way. "Not everyone is dependent on us..... you simply provide your own findings and I simply refute..... that's all what we've been doing....."

"You walked on a thinly-made neutral line, little miss....." the conman said as he played around with the split ends of his hair. "That's really bad, ya' know? One day, you gotta choose a side like before and it will make you feel like an ass despite your choice!!"

 

"Not like I was given any choice since the beginning....." I muttered quietly under my breath. Thankfully, the conman didn't catch that as we proceed to head to the hotel in silence. It was reassuring to say the least, while Hisao himself is still an enigma, he doesn't really mean any harm.... for now. But I feel like the tension from before immediately washed away after talking to him.

From the outside, I can see everyone gathered around in the reception area with Renma and Shoma, probably showing them the book we found in the mortuary, "Say, Sao-chin..... have you ever heard of the 'Ultimate Despair'?"

 

Immediately, he flinched and his eyes widened, "I've heard about it.... but..... hold on, is this one of your games, little miss? That I have to figure out by myself like what you did during the class trial? Please spare me the torture!!"

"I don't know much about it either, no worries....." It's the same reaction as Higura and others. No doubt, something's up with 'The Tragedy' and 'Ultimate Despair' being our personal switch. "I've just found out about it today....." 

 

As we entered the hotel, I can see the book with list of deaths on neatly opened up on the table with everyone surrounding it with worried and confused faces. Machi and Hibiki looked the most distraught. "Ren, Shoma.... how was it?"

"Ah, Sumi....." Shoma waved. "Hmmm.... as expected, all the critters reacted similarly but with no real explanation...."

"Unfortunately...." Renma pulled down his surgical mask so that I can hear him clearly. "A certain memory is being repressed deep within us to cause such convulsion..... even though we don't live through it or even remember much of it....... it might have been an indirect cause...."

 

Indirect cause that leads us to be here? In this luxury hotel built by our supposed Ultimate Academy? I supposed..... it's a far-fetched yet possible theory. "Sao-chin and I found something else as well.... we visited the library archive and found this on the very top of one of the shelves..... it's our student profile...."

"Huh!?" Nao jumped in her seat. "A-Again!? But, we completely cleaned out that place yesterday and we've never seen that thing in there before!!"

"It's probably Monomyou's doing, placing it there discreetly....." Imagining the cat purposely spread dust all over the file, to make it seem like it was there for a long time, is quite amusing. "I want to ask everyone this question first; have you guys ever heard of the Ultimate Lucky Student, Oshiro Eiichi?"

 

"Ultimate what-now?" Hiroshi raised an eyebrow. "Is there such thing?"

"What a lame-ass talent to specialized in!" Higura sneered. "If that talent actually exists, might as well let those unfortunate NEETs to enroll in a prestigious academy to show off their godly luck in games...."

"Sorry... doesn't really ring a bell...." Mitsuru confessed. "Why? Was he from our class?"

 

"Weeeeell......." Hisao sneakily took the folder right out of my hand. "He is placed under our class name but not sure if it's on purpose or by accident. But nobody ever seen or heard of that name before, right? It's probably a mistake or something!!"

"But...." all eyes turned to the marksman, who's having a difficult time thinking. "Isn't that.... Wait, no.... Argh! Dammit!! Why does that name sounds familiar!?"

"You too....?" Machi admitted, with Hibiki who's also in distressed after hearing that name. "Both of us.... I mean, it's still not clear but we both have heard of that name before......"

 

Odd, why do some of us don't remember it but others do? Why only Taiga, Machi and Hibiki? Were they close friends of this mysterious lucky student before entering here? This memory loss thing is getting really inconvenient for us, it has a different effect for each and everyone of us.

"Gosh, this is getting so annoying...." Hisao clicked his tongue. "The more clues we find, the more fucked up our mind is!! If these are the only survivors who slightly remembered who Oshiro Eiichi is, then imagine how much ground we will break if we still have the others with us! They could have potentially remembered them as well!!"

Would they though? We never heard of it until now that we found the file. They could have reacted similarly like Taiga and others and it still wouldn't give us any answer. "Whoever this person is..... we might have to watch our backs.... who knows that one day, he might appear and is planning to kill one of us...."

 

In a flash, I jumped and took the file quickly from Hisao before he could even react, leaving the conman whining and pouts. Everyone started to look wary after I said that last line, fearing for that day that has yet to come. 'Better be safe than sorry.....' I tucked the student file under my arm. 'There's a reason why Monomyou even placed it out in the open.... it's definitely a clue to our missing memories... but where do it even fit in....?'

"By the by, everyone...." Amane coughs, grabbing away our attention away from the solemn topic. "Has anyone seen that annoying host of ours? Their empty presence has really left this place feeling........ not lively....."

 

"Furfuck is too busy trying to find some messed-up shit to reward us for the last trial...." Higura replied, his voice noticeably strained when mentioned about the class trial. "That fuckin' animal is not done toying with us just yet....."

Motives after motives, everyone has become reasonably on edge and tired from everything. It feels like they're giving up soon if this thing keeps on going.......

"So, leader? What do you think we should do now with the clues we have and with Monomyou distracted?"

 

"H-Huh...?" I was taken aback with how Shoma addressed me. A leader...? Me? Nobody corrected him or even stepped forward to claim it.... they're all looking at me. "I..... I'm......"

"We're gonna have to stay put for now...." Hisao grabbed my shoulder back, as he spoke. "It's too risky to go on ahead while that cat plush could be lurking around and waiting for one of us to mess up! Also, don't be too dependent on little miss!! Look how terrified she is!!"

"It's natural to think of her as a leader....." Hibiki pointed out. "After all, she leaded most of the investigations while we just found the smaller parts-"

 

"That's because all of you are lazy to even wanna solve it by yourself. " Hisao frowned, gripping onto my shoulder way too much until it hurts. "It's pretty obvious, ya' know? All of you are too scared to even want to solve a mystery by your own and fearing for your life on the line so all of you relied on the professional to the work for you!"

"T-That's not it!!" Mitsuru defended. "Sumi is just more experienced than all of us so-"

"What if she turned out to be the future culprit and she purposely mislead you all?"

 

The room suddenly turned cold, a heavy dreadful feeling filled the air. I was speechless by what he's suggesting, 'Me...? A culprit....? I....'. Instinctively, I swatted the hand off of my shoulder, "I'm not planning to kill anyone here.... and for all we know, you're probably the only one who's thinking about it....."

"H-Hey!! I've been acting like your assistant for the past two trials and this is how you're gonna treat me!?" Hisao acted hurt, acted. "I'm terribly wounded by your words, little miss!! How could you say something like that!?"

"Anyways....." Ignoring his pleas, I turned to everyone else. "That won't happened.... I can promise everyone that. I really want to get out of this killing game, no matter what, but that thought alone won't make me resort into killing anyone here ever...."

 

"Y-Yeah, dipshit!!" Higura is the first one to speak up after being stunned. "That's a huge ass accusation for someone who always messes around during the class trials!!"

"You even managed to take a nap during the last trial....." Machi sighed. "Yeah... from there on.... I trusted you even less and I didn't think it could even go lower than before....."

"I'm being bullied!! This is the worst! Little miss, make them stop!! I will seriously repent for my words!! For real!!

 

Why does it feel like he was distracting them with that question? Especially with what we were talking about before this. Everyone did react really heavily with the part of leaving the investigation to Hisao and I so.... did that came from his own heart? Was he actually that frustrated about everyone being too dependent on us and wanted everyone to think for themselves now?

While everyone's busy humoring themselves, I looked over to Hisao still faking his hurt reaction and in a soft tone, "Was that actually the truth?"

Making sure the others is not looking at him to deliver any insults next, he just grinned and said, "You can believed it as such, little miss!"

As obscure as that answer is, it still managed to make me smile, "An enigma still.... you're definitely the worst....."

"Okay, I'm seriously hurt here... stop bullying me!!"

 

Everyone dispersed once that chaos is over, Renma suggested that he will keep the book with him while the rest agreed that I will keep the student folder in my room. I still have enough free time to hang out with someone and for some reason, my thought went to the mortuary, which I decided to make my way there.

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

"Oh, Mitsun? I thought you're scared of this place?"

"Hey, Sumi!!" Mitsuru was organizing something on the table. It looked like some kind of kit that Renma used for embalming. "Well at first I was!! But the more I spent my time here, the less scared I am right now!! Plus, Ren needed my makeup kit so I'm here to deliver it!!"

 

"I see....." an unlikely partnership between the mortician and cosmetologist. No matter what, it's really jarring to see a really bright person like Mitsuru (both appearance and spiritual-wise) being surrounded with grey and blue hues of the room. "Both of you are surprisingly similar in terms of work...."

"You mean the embalming part and the makeup applications thingy, right?" Mitsuru nodded as if she's asking that question to herself. "Surprisingly, yeah! Almost similar!! Well, I applied my skills on the living while Ren applied his on the dead. But I think Ren just want to test something out......"

 

"That's..... really vague....." Maybe I can talk to Renma tomorrow about his work, if he feels like it. "Say, Mitsun... why did you decided to became a cosmetologist?"

"Hmm.... I thought it would be fun, you know!! Like, riding a bicycle for the first time!"

"I.... I'm sure there's more to that though......"

 

"Just kidding!!" Mitsuru laughed. "Well, I just got curious about it, that's all! Back then, I wasn't really into deep about beauty and such because I was actually curious about the science part of it!! I got bored studying building parts and engineering and stuffs that too mechanical for me to comprehend so I decided to become a wild chemist beautician!"

"That's.... actually a really accurate description for someone with your talent....." So she focuses more onto the science part of things? I can see Shoma and Mitsuru getting along really well.

"Of course, I started off experimenting with stuffs!! Like hair dye and such things, I always tested them out and mixing stuffs up for more wilder results!!" Mitsuru combed through her hair. "It's a worthwhile result even!! Like, my hair is actually brown but now they're lilac!! Like permanently lilac, ya' know!"

 

"P-Permanently....? Isn't that really dangerous....?"

"Cosmetology itself is a dangerous landmine!!" said Mitsuru. "We're constantly getting exposed with dangerous chemicals and rays!! All for the sake of beauty and to satisfy our clients!! Well, I'm more about the end results after the treatment than our initial goals but it's usually worthwhile!!"

"Have you ever messed up a treatment...?" I asked, curiously. I know Mitsuru is wild but this is way off than what I imagined her to be.

 

"Can't say for sure!! Sometimes, the clients will ended up looking different but ended up liking the alternative version more than what they initially requested!!" Mitsuru answered with a wide smile. "That happened way too much and sometimes by accident!! And sometimes, I don't even know what I did to produce such colorful results!!"

"That's a miracle....." So even to herself, she's full of surprises. I couldn't imagine the reactions of her clients, whether they were rather with the result that differs from what they have requested. "So you've changed your passion from engineering to beautician. May I know what's your previous focus was?"

 

"Plant engineering!!" she answered that way too cheerfully. " I got really bored after the first year..... nothing in that course even excite me anymore so I dropped out early before graduation!! Even though my teachers begged for me to stay and finished it first but I completely lost my interest in it!!"

That is not the kind of reason you would hear from someone who specialises in such a heavy-duty field but at the same time, this is exactly the reason I would expect from someone like her.

 

"Of course, my grandparents were really mad at me for picking such a low-bearing field but eventually they have to learn and stick with what I'm passionate about!! Even though my experiments tends exploded off parts of their house way too much!!"

Have to learn and stick with it? Was she not that close with her grandparents? What about her parents then? Are they not around? It feels too soon so talk about them, not when she's having much fun explaining-

"Wait, you exploded your grandparents' house....?" that last line didn't quite registered well in my head and I can't believed I almost missed that.

 

"Yeah! Their house got remodeled way too much until it looked like that kind of fun house from an amusement park!!" Mitsuru clapped her two hands together as she said. "I would love for you to see it!! It's really colorful and wildly decorated!! Of course, I will surely treat you like a guest if you ever come over!! Heck, I can even give you one of my special hair treatments for free!! They usually cost thousands, you know, so consider yourself lucky!!"

Wild, colorful and just full of surprises, the three things I have learned to associate Mitsuru with today. With how cheery and bright she is, her personality completely overshadow her quick-wittedness, even though she doesn't show it that much.

'Hearing her colorful experiments is like a roller coaster ride but I really had fun talking to her.... maybe one day, I would witness her doing those sort of experiments in person- Ah, if I have my own safety gear prepared that is.....'

 


 

It's almost evening time....

And almost no sign of Monomyou interrupting us or whatsoever. It almost felt weird without that thing barging in and throw something right at our face to get us going. I sighed, 'It's better if that thing stayed away right now.... everyone is still tense from that book and the student file.....'

Mindlessly spacing out at the reception area, I think back of the first two class trials, 'Four deaths.... two betrayals....... and two innocents...... no matter how much they tried to justified their actions..... I can't find any excuse for it..... even though they're my friends......'

 

I frowned at that thought, 'Friends, huh...... even Shoma said so himself.... even with others being freaked out a bit by his sudden change of attitude and gimmicks..... I wonder how everyone handled the news about Renma's own mortuary room as well......'

"Sumi....?"

"Ah, Hibiki....." I was leaning my head over the head cushion of the sofa, as Hibiki leaned over to check on me. Sitting up straight, Hibiki took the seat right across mine. "Why are you here?"

"I was looking for you... to talk about something....." Hibiki looked sideways. "Regarding the last trial's secret motive.... it's been bothering me so I hoped you don't mind talking about it....."

 

About that, huh? "My secret motive is about my injury, yes?" Earning a nod in return, I continued on. "Monomyou must have used that as an advantage point instead of a blackmail.... I didn't expect that cat would aim for a low-blow like that....."

"Which is why I decided to keep it secured, I fear someone would used it as an advantage against you....." Hibiki explained. "Though I'm also worry about your own condition, Sumi..... with a disadvantage like that.... wouldn't that make you an easier target rather than a culprit like the conman suggested?"

"They can try......" I massaged my right shoulder, the residual pain is still there. It happened a long time ago and not everyone, even my mentor, knew about it. That incident is kept as a secret by myself. "Besides, I'm perfectly healed up.... there's no need to worry......"

 

"If.... you say so....." Hibiki doesn't look like she want to let this conversation go but seeing the persistence of my well-being must have changed her mind. "I also wanted to talk about the lucky student from earlier, Eiichi..... it feels like I'm the only one who remembered this but.... isn't he a close friend of yours...?"

"A.... what?" I didn't expect the lucky student topic to be brought up again so that took me off by surprise. "L-Like I've said.... I don't remember anyone with that name or talent....... my school memories are completely wiped off...."

"..... I suffered from a massive headache right after I heard that name....." Hibiki confessed. "And I remembered only bits of when we're in that ultimate academy.... but.... you and Eiichi were really close friends, there's no doubt about it....."

 

I don't know what to say but that's literally it, I don't know anything. Not all of my school memories came back so I can't disproved her memories now, not when mine is also vague as hell. But I thought about the dream I had yesterday, could that be it? "I..... I had a dream...... it was about our graduation day... like what those newspaper clippings said...... everyone was there and......I...... I think that lucky student was there......"

"So he really was from our class....." Hibiki's eyes widened. "Do you remember some of it?"

"It's hazy but..... I'm sure he was there....." He even called me 'Sumi'. My anxiety keeps spiking up now that I brought it up. "I even addressed him directly...... but since his name wasn't mentioned in the newspaper clipping...... on the memorial list...... then.... he's still alive....."

Is he the supposedly fake player that Hisao mentioned? Even though he's not with us right now but still....

 

"But what does that mean for us...? For those who remembered him almost vividly...?" Hibiki asked. "Are we.... supposed to remember something important?"

I gripped onto the arms of the sofa as more questions started pressing on. What's going on? Why are we now remembering it? What's Oshiro Eiichi's involvement in all of this? In this killing game... if he's even in it......Where is he now-

"Sumi... you're going to tear off the leather of that sofa...."

 

"Huh?" Snapping back into reality, I didn't realized I dug my fingers deep into the leather sofa until I let go, nail marks still visible all over it with a bit of a tear. I placed both of my hands on my lap this time, making sure I'm causing anymore damaged to nearby furniture, "I'm sorry.... got into a very intensive thinking moment....."

"You looked really scary just now....." Hibiki commented. "I thought you would actually passed out if you overthink too much....... but.... I guess it's no use at the end, neither of us really remembered who he is....."

"But we can confirmed that he's one of our classmates and he may still be alive....." I tried to focus on the positive side of things. "We may not know anything for now but if we tried and find more clues like we did just now.... everything will become clear and we might even find someone responsible for this killing game....."

 

Hibiki let out a small chuckle, "Spoken like a true leader..... Ah, I wonder what made that conman really mad when I said that just now? I didn't expect for him to explode just like Higura......"

I've just picked up on this but..... they really just called him 'that conman' after all this time. I rarely hear them say his name directly but even if they did, it's always out of spite. Do they distrust him that much?  "Who knows? He's a mystery after all....."

"Ahahaha, no denying that....."

 

"Sumi...!" Another familiar voice rang out behind me. I didn't have to look behind me to know who it is until the biologist walked over to my line of sight, "Are you busy....?"

"We're just having a chat, Shoma...." I smiled as I patted the empty space next to me. "You can join in if you want to....." The biologist nodded and happily skipped his way and sat down, next to me. "So.... was everyone used to your new self, now?"

"Hmmm..... they're still confused..... but they think this self is more understandable......" said Shoma, in his usual tone. "Even though my critter speech still stayed.... they've gotten way too close to me all of the sudden!!"

 

That's a relief, I was afraid they would shunned Shoma out for faking his personality around everyone else. Considering the outcome of the last trial, they're all now wary about everything being completely fake..... Saku faked his views, Shoma faked his personality and Renma, while not entirely, faked his ultimate talent. And now, we're dealing with new clues to our past...... that could really be that.

'It's such a coincidence that we found it once we went back in there again that I can't help but thinking that it might be fake as well..... yet, we still remembered something similar to it...... is it possible they were fake memories....?'

"... Is that even possible..?" 

"Hm?"

 

"Ah, it's nothing..." I didn't realized I've said out loud but Shoma at least didn't ask about it afterwards. "So, did you find anything else in the mortuary?"

"Hmmm.... no..... just mortuary equipment and books....." Shoma twirled the scalpel in his hand. "Nothing too out of the ordinary for Ren's own room...... though it's strange that the dead room doesn't have any locks to it..... so Ren sealed the door using his barrier seal charms....."

"H-His what now?" Both Hibiki and I asked in confusion.

"Barrier Seal Charms...." Shoma repeated, not really making any sense. Or he could be referring to the parchment papers that mortician always carried around under his jacket, when we first knew him as just a medium. "They're strong adhesive......"

 

While listening to him, my eyes were glued on the scalpel in his hand, "Where did you get that from?"

"Hm...? They were in the critter's room to begin with.....!" The biologist stopped twirling the scalpel for a bit. "After all.... this critter likes collecting live specimen to dissect.....! I even helped Ren with several autopsy down the-"

"On who?"  That casual mention of autopsy on an unidentified corpse shouldn't be disregard that easily there, I don't know why did the biologist just mentioned it like that.

It took Shoma a while to answer, "No one knows, there's no records in the room about them.... even Ren doesn't know who they are.... they were there when it opened up for them..... but when we did the autopsy.... their bodies are strange....."

 

Hibiki trembled a bit with the mention of dead bodies being cut up while I'm too preoccupied by their findings, "Strange as in....?"

"Not internal or external wounds...... or.... their bodies were in pristine condition with no faults.... nothing that results in their death......" Shoma explained. "Ren suggested it might be related to their brain but.... neither of us, critters, are expert in cut-"

"Why on earth did Monomyou leave those bodies there then.....?" I didn't mean to cut him off, that question has been bugging ever since I first walked into that room.

 

"I-I think I have to excuse myself....." Hibiki stood up, a bit wobbly in her stance. "S-Sorry.... I don't do well with.... gruesome explanation about death and corpses....."

Right, she always looked away when around corpses (even though she insisted on guarding near one before) and after the trial ended when we were forced watch that..... thing. "It's alright, Hibiki... sorry for bringing it up around you....."

Hibiki just nodded and leave the both of us be, presumably heading towards her own room to rest for now. 

 

With just the two of us, we begin to awkwardly shift around, thinking about another topic to talk about. 'Well.... I'm not sure what to talk about anymore.... I did have a lot of question to ask him before but I think they're useless to do so now.....'  "Say, Shoma.... what do you think of that mysterious lucky student? About Oshiro Eiichi?"

Shoma is always silent, in every discussion that the group had, he always stayed quiet. Possibly wanting everyone to state their opinion first before he could even say or think about his. I wonder what goes through his head during those moments.

"Hm..... this critter doesn't know why but...... I despised him....."

 

"Huh? Why?" Despised him? Even though he don't remembered him that well? "D-Did you also remembered something....? Something that made you say that.....?"

"...... Don't know but..... deep inside this critter's gut...... I despises this lucky student critter......." Shoma frowned, the kind that he usually shows whenever someone tried to take off his nautilus hat. "...... Usually a really bad thing if I dislike something......." 

A close friend of mine yet it's someone Shoma really hate? What kind of impression that this person gave back then? I never thought the biologist would come to hate anyone, especially when there's someone like Hisao whom he just tolerates

 

"I.... I'm not so sure of myself..... on what to think about who this mystery student really is......" I confessed. "But, to be honest, I do want to believe that he isn't a bad person..... but if he is, then you're free to hit me for having that thought....."

"We won't blame you if you turned out to be wrong, Sumi...." exclaimed Shoma. "We're aware that you don't have all the answers..... and you're struggling to find them as well...... that's why we're trying our best to help! We don't want to burden you with anything at all!!"

 

That.... came out of nowhere......

I meant for that 'hit me' part to be a joke but it just made Shoma upset and took it really seriously. Does this sudden burst of determination have to do with what Hisao said before? About them being too dependent? It.... actually affect him that much?

"I don't mind....." I have to be careful on what I say here or else the biologist might do something with that scalpel in his hand. "I don't mind if everyone relied on me to search for a way out but..... I also wouldn't mind if you guys wanted help me out....."

 

"Ahahaha.... Finally Sumi critter asked for help.....!" Shoma put away the scalpel, into his lab coat's pocket. "A relief for this critter......! Sumi finally learned how to cry for help........!"

Cry for help, so he's just worried. Worried that all of this will be too much for me but won't act until I actually ask for it. '.... If I can't ask for help, then how else could I receive it....' that phrase sounds really familiar.

"I've learned this from some land critter but......!!" Shoma held out his pinky with a bright smile. "Let us make a promise.....! A promise that no one should hold all the burden!! We should be dependent on each other starting now....!"

 

So forceful, it doesn't sound like he's gonna take a 'no' as an answer. It's a new side of him that I haven't fully comprehend, but it still 'him'. As I linked my pinky with his and a small smile to match, "I promise...... I'm not gonna do anything on my own......"

Amahiko Shoma is my friend after all and I trust him.  

Something I haven't done for the longest of time. 

Actually trusting someone for once. 

......

And for once, I blindly believed that. 

Chapter Text

......

"Hey...... guess I screwed that up real bad 'till it put you in such a bad mood..."

............

"I'm sorry.... but I just don't really like this game you're playing.... forcing myself to be friends with everyone here..... they're all lunatics...."

.......................

" ["That shouldn't be said by someone like you, who liked to be pushed around"] is what you're going to say right? I can tell from your face...."

..................................

"Fine... I will play along a little longer..... I don't want to be cast aside like that, okay? I want to make friends with other Ultimates too.... even though I don't have that talent-"

 


 

"Eiichi....?"

Feebly, I found myself awake an hour before the morning announcement even hits, my arm reaching out as if I'm trying to grab onto something..... something getting away. 'I.... unconsciously called that person 'Eiichi'..... someone that I don't really recognized..... could that really be him....? A person with no talent.... just luck...... '

After a long day of discussing the clues we've found, I immediately retired to my room, tuned out the nighttime announcement and collapsed onto my bed, that conversation with Shoma yesterday still resonates deeply within me, "It's fine.... It should be fine..... I want to believe in others more than ever...... there's no reason for me to be ignorant right now....."

 

Kicking away the covers, I spotted something on the desk that's nearby; a big brown envelop with my name on it, "What the....? What on earth is this....?"

'Is this the next motive?', my thought immediately came into that conclusion. Without wasting any time, I opened up the envelope and inside it.... was a script for a play? "Wha- It's not even in Japanese...? Or English.....?"

It's a script that's provided by Monomyou, as stated on the bottom of the front cover and while I don't understand the language used here, I can definitely tell this whole thing is written in German. "Is that thing seriously going to ask us to translate this entire 10-page script to get our next motive....?" This will be the most easiest motive to be ignored completely.

 

'I have no idea how the hell we could even discuss anything about this but.....' I carefully placed it back into the envelope. '.... Maybe there's a clue within these lines that we should decode or something..... for now.... I really need a shower....'

 


 

"Ah, little miss!! You're early!!"

"Same goes to you....." I expected the dining hall to be empty since it's a few minutes before the announcement so Hisao's presence was a an unexpected ssurprise. Sprawled across the dining table is the same script I've received earlier, "You too? I have a feeling they're the same thing-"

"They're asking us to set up a play, right?" Hisao asked, pointing at the rest of the script that's placed neatly above the envelope. "I've translated half of it already..... it's a scripture of Faust.... there's a bit of similarities to Goethe's but with more minor details and stuffs...."

"You.... understand German....?" And he's knowledgeable in theatrical as well.

 

"I used to take German Language classes during middle school....." Hisao stretches his hands further back, taking a short break. "I also went to a very international school so I easily picked up different languages whenever I can...... that hellhole was expensive but hey! It's a starting point for me as an Ultimate, ya' know?

That's..... where he started? Scamming people out of their pockets just to continue his education...... he said something about being disowned by his family way back then as well. I..... I didn't expect this kind of background from Hisao, himself, 'Ah.... while I'm really curious about that..... there's still this thing to worry about..... some other time if he decided to blabber his life again....'

 

"So...." I placed my own script onto the table and while I didn't say anything, Hisao took it right out of my hand. I didn't make any comment about it, I kind of expecting for him to do that. "Do you think we all have the same thing or....?"

"Yes and no.... everyone's roles are different..... the lines are all the same but the roles are different....." he stared intensely onto the page before giving it back. "Apparently for once, I'm the main lead, Heinrich Faust..... and you little miss is playing the role of the devil themselves!! Mephistopheles!! Ah, such a fitting role!!"

 

"Mephis- what?"

"Mephisto...." Hisao thankfully shortened the name for me.

"The role of the Devil..... why, am I really that threatening.....?"

"Don't worry, little miss!! You definitely have that elegant aura surrounding you! Even though your scariness is just half-baked, your elegance will sure pull through your bad acting!!"

"I'm gonna punch you, Sao-chin...."

 

Hisao instinctively put up his hands when he heard that. I sighed as I looked back at the script, "But what's the purpose of doing this, anyways....? It's not like we would find a clue about our past memories in this one.... I could hardly even call this a motive...."

"What if the motive lies within the roles themselves?"

"What was that?" Hisao just put on his usual grin; the same expression that I've learned to take it as, 'Nope, I'm not telling you what I'm thinking about right now! You figure it out!' and I've been expecting to receive this kind of treatment from him after relentlessly picking on him yesterday.

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!!!

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, rise and shine!!! This is your daily announcement from your dearest host!! I would like to make a special announcement!! I have now given each and everyone of you your late rewards for a job well-done for surviving the last class trial!! Make sure to read through properly!! It will all be explained once everyone gathered around at the dining room this afternoon! Have a myou-est of day!!!"

 

"So it is a motive after all....." I begin tapping onto the dining table, if Monomyou had to explain the stuffs themselves then it isn't something we should be dismissive about, "But why making us do a play about it....? Were they really that bored....?"

"Hey, I would be if there's no killing happening yet!" Hisao laughed once I delivered a glare. "Besides, maybe they just got tired of entertaining you guys who are always down and gloomy. This time, they wanted to be entertained by us!"

"I thought this entire killing game is their source of entertainment...." I'm not asking for one.

"People can get bored of killing too, you know? They probably want a change of pace for once and involved everyone!! Make a close-knitted friendship once we all worked together to put up this show!!"

 

A close-knitted friendship, we don't really spend the much together as a group. We're always in twos or threes, but never as a group, huh? Just when Shoma talked about depending on one and another too as well....

Speaking of the devil, the biologist and librarian have just entered the dining hall with similar looking envelops in their hands, "Good morning, you two...."

"Ah.... Sumi....." Shoma was smiling, but immediately turned sour once he saw Hisao. ".... and you....."

"Awww, no need to get so mad!! I'm not stealing your precious friend away after exposing the liar that is the Ultimate Mortician....." Hisao aggravates him. "Oh, but maybe I should try and steal little miss away? After all, she wouldn't get any benefits from a couple of liars here, don't you think so?"

 

"Hisao, stop...." I warned him, he.... really hate liars that much? Even when he is one himself?

"Please, I don't want to have to step in some bloodthirsty feud between the two most and possibly dangerous people left in this hotel...." Machi sighed, taking the seat besides me. "After yesterday's mental-draining talk, I didn't have that much peace to myself...."

Right, he's one of the people who also remembered something about the Ultimate Lucky Student. Is it wise to bring it up now? About my dream earlier-

 

"Hey.... those are the things in the envelope, right....?" Machi eyed on the papers scattered all over the table. "I was confused at first... I seriously thought Monomyou was just messing with us but it turns out it's a serious thing, huh?"

"Unfortunately....." It would be much better if it weren't. "But... it doesn't seem like a harmless thing for now.... it's just for a play we're supposed to perform....."

"A... play?" the librarian raised an eyebrow. "Is that cat out of ideas already??"

 

"Well, we shouldn't give that thing anymore ideas if we're not satisfied with the rewards...." A voice was suddenly heard from the dining hall entrance, I looked back to see a very irritated Amane, who look completely disheveled. "Honestly, I couldn't barely stand a single second listening to that feline pest's demands....... pressuring to compose music in just a day....."

"They're...... only giving us a day.....?" Shoma asked, his head tilt to one side. "This critter thinks..... it's not sufficient enough......"

 

"Nope, it's totally enough!!" Hisao threw the rest of script onto the table like it's nothing. "This is just the first part of play, which means it's more or so dialogue-heavy..... unless Monomyou wanted to make a musical out of it in which case, knock themselves out..... but there's nothing much happening in this part so it's a pretty short one if you ask me!"

"You've..... read this?"

"Wow, no one believes someone like me could also have other special talents or abilities that much?" Hisao faked a sob. "I'm crushed!!... But if it's someone like Amane who doesn't believed me, then I wouldn't be so emotional about it!"

"Watch your mouth...." Amane hissed.

"Make me..." Hisao retaliates, holding a pocket knife in one hand.

 

"What's going on here....?" Mitsuru and Higura entered the room, and immediately Hisao retracts back his knife, why on earth did he have that with him? Higura just stared at everyone who's either really exhausted or acting rather strangely, "Apparently having one fucking normal day is way out of the question right now....."

"S-Sorry for coming in with such a bad timing....." Mitsuru apologized making her way over to sit next Machi, followed by Higura, who looked different today. 'His hair..... the tips are dyed with slightly purplish hue.... were they-'

"Anyways, what's with the furfuck's reward? I don't really get it..." Higura started. "That shithead came into my room begging for stuffs to be done in one day and I fucking hope I get something out of it for a rushed commission..."

 

"Monomyou also came to me but just for my makeup skills....." Mitsuru fidgets a little in her seat. "So, it's true, huh? We're gonna do a play or something....?"

"It appears so...." Renma and Hibiki appeared next, followed by Taiga, Nao and Hiroshi behind them. Renma's appearance also changed drastically, with his silver locks now freely draped over his right shoulder, "It appears some people have been asked to do their part in the production or during the play...."

"Little miss and I will be acting..." Hisao mentioned it as he motioned everyone to show their scripts as well, and they reluctantly did. After examining most of their things, he finalised them, "So, little miss, Hibiki, Nao, Taiga, Hiroshi and I will be acting, Amane is in charge of the music, Mitsuru and Higura are both in charge of stage planning, costumes and makeup...... which leaves Shoma, Machi and Renma the only people who wouldn't take part in this!"

"Thank god for that...." Machi mumbled into his hands. "Still...... this is way too weird even as a motive.... like... what's the real threat here....?"

 

"The Time Limit!!!"

 

Out of nowhere, Monomyou suddenly dropped down onto the table with a loud sound that startled everyone nearby, even Shoma and Hisao who are both taking out their scalpel and pocket knife respectively. "Eeek!! Such strong reaction from the dangerous duo!! It frightens me to no end!!!" Monomyou shrieked. "Anyways!! I hope everyone liked my entrance!! I heard that everyone misses me!! Gosh, I feel so, so loved!!"

"We've been dreading your existence, ever since we got here...." Hibiki commented. "What's the deal with this thing you gave to us? How is this a reward...?"

"Ah well!!" Monomyou explained themselves. "Since everyone already gathered here so early in the morning!! Best to say with it, nya' know? Ackh- I stuttered!!! A-anyways!!! It's just a simple group project!! A little 'getting-along' project, that's it!! All of you were so tense around each other after certain two people showing their true colors!!!"

 

Shoma and Renma, they weren't even being subtle about it. As far as I'm concerned, only Hisao, Mitsuru and Higura were accustomed to this change. I'm not sure about the rest.

"So!! I proposed a play that everyone can enjoy!!!" Monomyou exclaimed. "A play that encourage teamwork and other-togetherness-terms-that's-too-boring-to-say-out-loud-without-sounding-interesting!! Also!! I needed a break from being you guys' host as well!! I wanna be entertained by your Ultimate talent for once!!"

"What happened if we said 'no' instead....?" Amane asked, disgruntled.

 

"Nyahahaha!! Are you reaaaally sure you wanna reject this proposal??" Monomyou snickers. "This is also a time limit motive after all!!! If ya' failed to finish it within that limit, then something terrible will befall on you wonderful actors!! But!! I made sure it would be a great finale for you all!! But!! If ya' did it, then I will return your school memories back!!"

"You, what?" My eyes widened at that revelation. They will just give it away, just like that?

"That's what everyone wanted, right? Your memories from when all of you attended that Ultimate Academy! Well, worried not!!!" Monomyou struck a pose. "Your beloved host will provide it to you!! Well, provide part of your school memories to you, but it's something!!! Nyahahaha, if it sounds like a great deal to you then better get up and at em' with your performance!! Toodles'!!"

 

With that, Monomyou scurries away as usual, leaving everyone stunned by what they're proposing.

"I.... I'm not hallucinating that, right.....?" Hiroshi stammered. "They... they would actually give us the answers......?"

"Let's not be fooled by such an alluring reward....." Amane scoffed. "They've said themselves, 'partial' memories will only be returned to us. What are the chances that those memories wouldn't give us any answers at all? It would be a waste of time to consider it...."

 

"It's worth a shot......" Hibiki frowned. "Even though it's not much..... we cannot simply dismissed this due to its time limit motive. It's still similar to our first cas-"

"I'm against that...." Amane countered back. "My apologies, my dearest muse, but I'm simply against the idea of all of us working together. After all, the last two times we did ended up in very disastrous results, didn't it? How much difference will it make for this motive in particular?"

 

Amane.... has gotten really hostile all of the sudden but at the same time, everyone's getting desperate for answers at this point. I get what's he's saying, we're still playing right into Monomyou's trap here. But if that time limit motive really is true... then..... we don't exactly have any choice here.

"I-I.... I'm sorry, Amane but..... we shouldn't ignore this...." I have to admit it, but it's for our own survival. "Even if it isn't much.... as long as all of us made out alive and completing that time limit motive... then.... it's not something all of us can reject altogether....."

 

The composer just stare straight at me before exhaling a deep sigh, "How unfortunate.... Miss. Investigator has learned to grow a backbone for these fiends.... I thought you would be different from that fencer..... I'm both impressed and disappointed by your decision...... you may do as you wish.... but whatever falls after that, that will be you taking the role...."

With that, he just simply walked away, without sparing a glance at others. I clutched onto my chest, that heavy feeling is back, 'Calm down, he's just saying his thoughts. Nothing's bad gonna happened. He's just disappointed that we're still following along the motive....'

 

"I will prepare everyone's breakfast...." Machi awkwardly excused himself with Nao following close to help him. No one else said anything at all, everyone is still stunned by both Monomyou and Amane's outbursts. Even Hibiki, who never show any interest towards the composer, even looked hurt by his words, '... From the start.... Hibiki has always been disinterested in everything.... saying it wouldn't matter if we stayed alive but...... she has grown a bit and wanted to get out of here alive with everyone else.... so hearing those same words from a different person must have shocked her.....'

"Ah well, it's his loss...." Hisao dismissed the dreadful atmosphere surrounding everyone right now. "It doesn't matter if he's joining or not, the time limit is still ticking down after all..... we just gotta focus on ourselves and don't mind the extras!!"

 

How are you still so cheerful, it's getting really frustrated to hear him going on and on after every disagreement we made. But..... that's just me. That's just my own existentialism talking. "You don't have to say it like that..... but as long we get it done... then perhaps.... it doesn't matter....."

"Yup, yup!! It doesn't matter indeed!!" Hisao swung his arm around my shoulders. "As long as we all got our head in this play, then everything will go as smoothly as we can!!!"

 

One by one, everyone just give out a nod in agreement and went on with their lively talk. It took me a while to acknowledge Hisao's attempt to back us away from the table as he said, "Best to keep an eye out for Amane........."

"What...?"

".... Only caught a glimpse of it but...... there's still leftovers in that brown envelope...... I don't think he only received just the script..." Hisao frowned. "He must have gotten something else that made him think otherwise of this motive........"

"I see....." So that's why he didn't stop Amane from leaving or even reconsider his opinion, it's because of that thing. Then, the composer is the only one who knew what's going on for this motive..... why?

 

"Heeeeey!! You two better not making out over there!!!" Higura yelled out to us. Letting go of my shoulder, Hisao replied, "Come on, it's not like we're the only people here with a lovey-dovey relationship!!"

"Y-You take that back, you fucking son of a bitch!!!" the graphic designer looked flustered. This comment also made Mitsuru burying her head into her hands out of embarrassment.

"Oh wow, they have it really bad....."

"I know, right? Who would knew, little miss, that such relationship is possible!"

"A relationship in denial....." That made the conman laughed as he patted my head. Walking away to talk with Taiga and Hiroshi, saying that the actors will have to attend the practice for evening till nighttime. "How about you, Higura? I'm sure a designer like you has to drop-by and-"

 

"Nah, I'm gonna go holed-up in my room doing all these crappy rushed projects that furfuck forced onto me....." Higura scratch at back of his neck. "Besides, I got the theater stage all memorized from a single visit and I know what kind of design I'm aiming for you shitty actors so hold ya' horses!! No need to give your measurements, I can already tell from looking at those pathetic stances!"

Eidetic memory, Higura almost described his first line to be that and if it's true then I'm almost impressed. It seems he has gotten everything already planned out ahead of us, he's pretty well-prepared. Mitsuru's chatting with him, looking really excited about it. As breakfast come and go with only Amane missing, things have gone pretty okay, without any trouble at all.

'Ah, well.... there's nothing else I could do for now.... perhaps I could check on everyone else during my spare time later on....'

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

 

I decided to visit the mortuary again and was glad to see Renma present at this time of the day, since I was really curious about his Ultimate talent, 'I wonder if he's okay with me asking that.... he did said so himself that he hated his own talent....'

"Ren-chin....?"

"Ah, Sumi... didn't expect you to be here!!" Renma smiled as he pulled the sheet over the corpse he's working on. "Erm.... I have to apologize for my get-up, I didn't expect any visitors to be here while I'm working!!"

 

"I'm sorry for interrupting....." I apologetically bowed, to Renma and possible spirits residing in the same room as we are in. "I was.... curious about your Ultimate talent...... both of them in fact....."

"Ah, I see... you wanted to know how I got recognized, yes?" the mortician chuckles. "Very well, I still have a lot of things to do but I can talk while working so please take a seat....."

Renma gesture the chair next the table filled with miscellaneous things scattered around, once I sat there, it's clear to me that those things are actually surgical tools and embalming chemicals.

 

"My family has quite a tradition, you see. From elders to children, we're all accustomed to death rituals and preparation......" Renma started as he continue on working. "Each parents must have a child at least knowledgeable in such practices, from autopsy to embalming, from cleaning to covering one's corpse, and we also hold a special ceremony for passed souls to make it out to the afterlife....."

This just took a turn really quickly and I'm immediately frightened by this, "I-I see.... So from before you've said you lived in a small village... right? It must have been hard for your family to hold a funeral for your close neighbors-"

"Those rituals that my family hold weren't for others....." Renma corrected. "Those rituals are for ourselves....."

 

"W-What!?" I tried to stop myself from falling out of my seat from shock. Thankfully, he didn't noticed my stunned state as he goes on, with his work and talking.

"Indeed, my ancestors has cursed their own bloodline to never be gifted with longevity. And so we must prepared such rituals, so that our close relatives' soul could passed on with peace. Even I have to preform such rituals for my cousins and siblings. Due to our family's sickly nature, it's a norm for some of us, children, not be able to live long past the age of 10......"

"Renma....." He said that so solemnly yet he's doing his work right now so delicately. He hated his own Ultimate title that was given to him because.... of such morbid traditions his family had that made him earned it. 'But... considering their health issues and this tradition they've passed down for centuries..... then wouldn't that be....?'

 

"But of course.... I can't simply turn a blind eye to it....." Renma looked like he was finished with his work, placing back the sheet and removing his gloves. "After all..... if we stopped doing it, our family name would be completely wiped off from the records.... there will be none of us left. But in the end, I have taken that risk...."

"And you've chosen to become a medium.... the Ultimate Medium...." He didn't say anything about that but I can guess why. Still, I won't say it. I wanna hear that reason from himself, "I didn't know you had such a..... difficult childhood...."

"It is what it is...... it's what attracted everyone's else curiosity to begin with, and what I was recognized for by the Ultimate Academy....." Renma stated. "It's probably why Monomyou have chosen that to be my secret motive to begin with, yes? If people knew I've been embalming my dead family members since I was young, they would hold a lot of suspicions towards me....."

 

"They won't think it like that...." I answered defensively. "S-Sure, to them, they think it's.... odd....... but..." I seriously don't know how to say this, this is.... way out of my field. "....... Traditions are just like that... right? People might not understand them.... but you, your family do and possibly take pride in that..... but........ you shouldn't let that defined you..... Beside, the Oki Renma I knew personally from the start is such a kind and gentle soul..... even after hearing that, that thought of mine will not change....."

 

Renma was taken aback by my words, after a few moments, he let out a small laugh, "That's..... quite interesting to hear that personally from you, Sumi..... I was afraid for a minute there you would find my own talent or even myself terrifying...."

"It will take a lot to even scare me....." I said that but then again, I was already terrified of Hisao when he literally just stood next to me from the start. "Besides..... I find it oddly..... fascinating..... but I don't want to push it if you're still uncomfortable sharing it......"

"I doubt it will die off within this generation....." Renma sighed. "So.... you might still have your chances to know all about it one day...... but.... I still want to have that honor to share it with you, a dear friend of mine....."

 

"I look forward to it already....."

'I never knew Renma would have to handle such troublesome task, started out from a young age. He doesn't speak ill of his family but just how much of that statement can be even considered the truth? Just..... I wanna look out for him more now, even more than before..... I just don't want that thought of not being seen as a normal person due to his background even plagued his mind for that long....'

 


 

Planning to head towards the library to waste some time there, I bumped into an unexpected person right after this morning's debacle, "Amane...."

"Hmph.... Miss. Investigator......" He reverted back to calling me that once I disagreed with his idea. "This is quite a meeting I didn't expect..... I thought I wouldn't be bother by others at this time of the day...."

"I'm just heading my way out, Amane....." I answered, without showing any fear. "There's no reason for stopping me here or even consider that I'm stopping you here for a talk...."

 

"That would be unwise of you since I have nothing else to confess....." Amane cleaned off the dirt under his nails as he continue talking without sparing a glance. "But I must say, Miss. Investigator. I'm surprised you didn't have any doubts about this motive. I used to admire that side of yours, being skeptical of everything. But it seems after two cases, you've become really worn out afterwards to even consider this one of Monomyou's trap....."

"At this point, what other choices do we have?" He said he has nothing to confess and yet he's still here, speaking his mind out. That's the biggest contradiction outside of a class trial. "We have all these clues but nothing jogged our memories.... even if it's just tiny bit, we can still get the answers in the end that will bring us closer to find the culprit behind this killing game....."

 

"What will happened if we found out there's no culprit? What if it's just some petty unknown organisation orchestrated this whole killing game aspect like what that conman proposed when we found those newspaper clippings? I doubted every single detail of this plan would purely be done by one person....." Amane pointed out. "If it's just an organisation trying sought out the weeds to find the goods.... then that would be more believable....."

"I..... don't get what you're trying to say here...." Sure, I did take Hisao's organisation theory into consideration but what about it that Amane was so sure is the actual answer?

 

"Never mind what I have to say...... you enjoy your time with the others.... I would only sour the mood if I show my face ever again....." Amane simply walked past me. "Just so you know, I have finished composing and given the pieces to Monomyou so don't bother me anything related to it. I figured with this much free time... I just made it right away without having to discuss with others about it...... But I won't be attending this whole theatrical nonsense that cat has for us, I won't be fooled by it....."

The composer just marched his way to the elevator, the door closes behind him. I exhaled a deep sigh that I've been keeping in, 'What's.... with him....? Was it something he received? Something that riled him up to be like this.....? If that's the case, then we can't just pursued him to show us like that..... he's really... stubborn to say the least.....'

 

"But why only Amane.....?" I pondered, was there any significance about him...? For this particular motive.....? 'It's best for me to talk discuss this with Hisao and others..... they might have an idea or so...... for now... I wanna clear my head a bit after that.... weirdly vague conversation......'

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

"N-Nao.....?"

"Huh...?" Oh, Sumi!!!" Numerous stacks of books were placed way near each other and I could barely see Nao, who's sitting down on the floor, being surrounded by these things. "I was doing some research!!"

"A research, huh......" I carefully placed the obstacles, neatly on the table, to leave more space for me to sit down. I was thinking that I would spend more time with the ghostwriter, and of course the library was my first thought to go to. "About what....?"

 

"Ah, whatever pops in my mind....." Nao closes the physics book she was holding. "I used to write for all fiction and nonfiction books of all genres, you see. So my mind tends to wander around between different topics..... I could be finding materials for flower and soils initially and I would end up researching about an entire micro-nation's culture!!"

"Is that so...." I chuckled. "I've just noticed this but.... it seems you have gotten over your stuttering, huh?"

 

"Even you?" Nao awkwardly laughed at herself. "Macchan also said the same thing..... I've been trying to mingle in with everyone else more often.... even when I'm always away from the public eye back then.... but!! At least it's not for nothing, right!?"

"Yeah... you've been improving your communication skills and it really shows....." Nao handed me another book; one of the mystery-fiction book that she co-write with a familiar author. "Ah!! This is the book where I first knew about you!!"

"I had a feeling it was....." said Nao, playing around with her glasses frame. "It was the starting point of my literary career as someone else's ghostwriter...."

 

"I've always admired this person from way back then.... I absolutely love the twists and turns in his writing to the point I even bulk-buy the entire volumes so that I wouldn't have to wait to buy another one!!" I exclaimed gleefully, admiring the beautiful hardcover of the book. The gold details that gleamed once it's under the light. "What was he like? I'm sure you've met him once or twice before?"

The ghostwriter just stared at me, dumbfound, before a look of realization hits her, "O-Oh right, they didn't make that publicly known yet, huh? He's dead now...."

 

I chocked on my own saliva, "W-What!?"

"Y-Yeah, he's no longer around....." said Nao as she twirled her hair and avoiding eye contact. "S-So... he died when making the second book due to heart failure.... but he already assigned me to write the next few volumes for him so I took his place and finished it before the deadline....."

"There's.... six volumes in total in this series....." I remembered the neatly packaged box-set that I bought a long time ago. "So the rest of the volumes were actually written by you alone?"

 

"Us, ghostwriters, can easily mimic other people's writing style...." Nao explained as she begins to move around and placed the books in their initial place. "So, I kind of understand why you thought he would still be alive.... but to be honest, it was to save face, actually. Because the author's high-earned fame, the company wasn't entirely prepared to let his series go so I have to step in and complete it for them....."

"Y-Yeah, I can see that....." It's no wonder the book company heavily promoted his, I mean, Nao's books a lot. They wanted to announced the actual author's death once the supplies and demands have been met and long gone, huh. "I-I'm still impressed!! All the plot points in the book eerily fits the whole theme and all the mysteries from the first book was solved in a really satisfying way! Did the author leave you some points he wanted to put in his series....?"

 

"Nope, the author is actually not that type of person!!" The ghostwriter giggled, remembering back her days while writing the said series. "He..... just goes along with his thoughts as he writes. Even though he has a topic he wants to put in his book, he just waited for a perfect opportunity to sneak that in! He doesn't have a plan or anything prepared, he just follows along what would make his series more interesting!!"

"That's.... really brave of him....." I could hardly find any author who would do something like that yet turned out to be successful. Hell, I could hardly find any author whose lines of thoughts could be even close to understandable. "He must have been a very interesting person to talk to....."

"Even though I never met him in person..... but everyone keep saying that he's such a sweetheart......" Nao sighed, seemingly fond of talking about the author. "To be honest, his writing style and stories actually inspired me to write a series on my own but..... since I'm a ghostwriter...... I don't any distinctive style or even any creativity to make it up for it....."

 

"I will be the judge of that....." I smirked. "It's too early to put yourself down like that. You've already heard me; I absolutely love the series you co-write or, to extend, stories you actually wrote by yourself with your own ideas in it. So, you still have plenty of chances there and I will be happy to help as you beta reader or anything!!"

"Really?!" Nao's eyes gleamed with excitement. "T-That's great!! I can't wait to show you the prototype!! I have my mind set on a sci-fi genre with some Kitsch elements in it!! Oh but I have to discuss it more with Mitsuru about that last thing!! I want it to be more realistic, you know!!"

 

'Nao's quite passionate even though her skill wasn't that well-recognized and people barely knew anything about her. Beyond the shy exterior is someone who's been wanting to make a name for herself.... and not someone who can just be shoved aside when not needed anymore. Alright, I'm going to help her out!! I wanna be her support whenever she's in trouble!"

 


 

Nao and I decided to head to the theater house together from the library. The ghostwriter mentioned how strange that Machi didn't clocked in the library earlier and to be honest, I didn't notice that the librarian wasn't around just now. I brought up a point that he probably still feel a bit restless from yesterday so it's best to give him some time to himself, in which Nao agreed.

 

Once we stepped into the theater house, we can already see Hisao and Taiga on stage, practicing already. Higura is also present, observing from the audience seat. "Ah, Sumi.... perfect timing....." Higura looked back to see both of us arriving . "I wanted you to stand on that platform there...."

The platform he's referring to is just a mimicry of marble stairs. "Umm... why exactly...?"

"Well, you're, ironically, acting as the devil, Mephsito, right?" Higura explained. "You're supposed to be towering over everyone with your appearance but with stunted-height, I doubt you can even reach over anyone's shoulder...."

"You're literally the same height as me..."

"This is about you, don't fucking rope me into this..."

 

I sighed dejectedly, but went over to do what he says. Stopping by the third steps, I looked towards the front stage and called out, "Like this!?"

"Hmmm, alright, try and out act with that conman prick!! I wanna see how much damage will you two make during the play!!" Higura yelled.

Impact, he could have just said impact. "It's when the main lead is being confronted by the devil... right?"

 

"Hmmm.... my personal attendant isn't around soooo, maybe!!" Hiroshi was supposed to play as his attendant but he hasn't arrived yet. So we jumped into the part where both of our characters met for the first time. Hisao started his part, the character who laments his existence and desires for more knowledge. Everyone just stared agape as he acted out, his expressive actions and loud voice echoed within the walls. His face even contorted in pain to match the emotions emitting from his lines.

'Amazing.....' It's all I could mutter. This is...... the most emotional thing he ever expressed, ever since we got here... and it's still fake. He looked like he's really into his role, as if he's supposed to have this. Almost like Monomyou planned it- 'Didn't he say our roles may have something to do with the motives as well....?'

Once Hisao's done with his lines, I prepared myself, trying to stand up straight and with what I can do, I acted out my lines with finesse. The devil is cocky but regal, almost close to dainty. For the last line, I offered my left hand as I followed, " -submit yourself to despair-" What!?

 

Hisao was taken aback, his eyes widened and- is that..... fear?

"S-Sorry, I misread my lines!!" I tried to correct myself as I looked back on mu script. '... Ah, no, I was right.... It did said 'despair' here but.... why does it feel wrong...? Why does it feel like it shouldn't be here in the first place....?'

"Ah, geez, little miss!!" Hisao sighed, folding his arms against his chest as he looked at me disapprovingly. "And I was sooooo into it!!! I was really in the mood to be tricked into making a deal but you just have to mistake, huh? Repent!! Repent for your mistakes, devil!!"

"H-Hey, I said I'm sorry....." And he's back, in his usual annoying self.

 

"Alright, stop yapping you two!!' Higura yelled out. "I have no idea what the fuck just happened but I could have immediately disintegrate from that intense practice!! Y'all better tone down, we ain't doing this for someone special to begin with!!"

"I-It's amazing!!" Nao clapped. "I-I got so invested that I could hardly breathe!!"

"Holy fuck, you're actually breathing really hard....." the designer stared at the ghostwriter astonishingly. "Anyways, I got the picture already!! Ya' better be fucking amazed by my craftsmanship once it's done by tomorrow afternoon!!!" and just like that, he left without turning back.

 

'Ah, perfect timing.... since it's just Hisao, Taiga and Nao now....' "Hisao, I bumped into Amane on my way here.... he seemed... off...."

"That guy always goes off on something so you need to be very specific about it, little miss..."

"I'm not gonna ask you about that or even wonder what the hell are you saying....." I sighed. "Something about what he said earlier this morning.... and just now even...... he's taking your theory of some secret organisation orchestrated this whole thing with a lot more consideration......"

 

"That's..... a one-off thing....." said Taiga. "I mean.... yeah, it's possible.... but what made him think it gonna be like that....?"

"Hisao.... when you said there's a mastermind....." Taiga and Nao looked at me, confused, So he didn't tell them about that. "What do you mean by that? Is it only one person? Or a group?"

"Ahhhh.... I forgot I told you that!! I seriously forgot!! I thought I was the only one with that info!!" Without hesitation, I lightly punched his arm. He wasn't fazed by it, "Without a doubt, there's one..... and I mean it..... I think! I'm not so sure anymore!!"

"Then why the secret organization theory....?" I ignored that last line. "Why was he so adamant about it?"

 

"Look, little miss..... we can leave that person to his own device. Let him believe what he wanted to believe in...." Hisao waved his hand around dismissively. "In the end, he's someone who considers his opinions to be the best, that's just who he is after all!!"

"D-Don't you think......." all of us looked at Nao. "..... he might be the next culprit....?"

"W-Wait, Nao.... don't think it like that!!" Taiga reassured her. "Sure, he doesn't want to do this whole time limit motive but there's no way someone like him would even dare to do anything like tha-"

 

"He might......"

Taiga just stared at me, "H-Huh...? But why....?"

"I'm not saying he's going to be our next culprit but......" It's not just that but reluctantly sharing his own information with us, the survival group. "... There's definitely something he has that would prompted a killing to happen. He already acted way too selfishly earlier... similar to how Higura did when the secret motives happened..... there's no doubt our potential culprit would make a move on him....."

 

"So!!!" Hisao snapped his fingers. "We might ask someone to look after him then!!! Preferably the people who has nothing to do with acting or preparation!!! Someone like... like those no-good slackers!!"

"Oh... Machi, Renma and Shoma.... those three right....??" Taiga mentioned their names. "Hmm..... they have more free will when it comes to looking around while the show is goes on in the background....."

"But Amane said he wouldn't-"

 

"I will make him attend...." the conman eerily smiled, with a tone full of malice that just sends shiver down our spine. "I will make him.... I won't let that idiot doomed himself..... Alright!! I might have to stay here for a little longer!! Hibiki will be late to practice so the rest of you lots, excluding Nao!! Shoo!! Go away!! I wanna be indulge in my own role a little bit more!!"

"You don't have to excused us so rudely but....." I hesitated to even say it. "...... Just be careful after you guys are done, okay? Especially when it's nighttime......."

"Huh!? You're concerned about me!?" Hisao gasped. "Unbelievable!! Who are you and what have you done with little miss!? Could you possibly be the devil we accidentally summoned?!"

"Die then."

"There you are!! That's the little miss I know!!"

 


 

Taiga and I walked back to the hotel together, when the marksman suddenly spoke up, "Do you really think..... there's going to be another killing.....? It's just...... you didn't looked too bother about it...."

Right, I was being straightforward about it, not everyone is too happy to hear that it just might happened again. "Well, for once, I hope I will be proven wrong but..... you've seen how the others acted right now.... everyone's still confused and desperate for answers...... a slight push can make a whole lot of difference....."

 

"What about you....? You're always keeping your cool but....." Taiga trailed off a bit. "Even people like you have limits....."

"I... tried not to let my emotions get in my way of doing things....." I answered, with a little bit of honesty. "It's nothing to be concern about, I can promise you that, I will be fine......."

"It's just that.... okay, this is gonna sound really idiotic and invasive as hell but I overheard your talk with Shoma yesterday...." Taiga admitted. Both of us stopped walking, "He sounded really genuine in his own words but you.... you.... it feels like you're lying to him somehow....."

 

"Lying....?" Why would he say something like that? Not when I actually seriously meant it.....  right?

"I mean!! That part about you not minding being relied on!! Not the part where you will look for someone to lend a hand or anything!!" Taiga corrected himself, immediately flustered. "That's what I meant!!"

"O-Oh, that....." That's a relief.... I almost got mad at him for thinking otherwise. "Y-Yeah.... that's sort of a half-truth and half-lie, huh? I'm happy that I'm being useful for everyone...... if only the end results weren't so....."

 

"I get it.... Fuck, I shouldn't have brought it up, huh?" Taiga awkwardly laughed. "I was just worried that you weren't really honest with yourself this entire time and especially towards others..... it's okay to unwind once in a while... I'm sure Renma and Shoma told you that, right?"

"Yeah...." When it was just the three of us by the pool, just relaxing without a worry, before the first killing even started, before hell breaks loose. "..... I will try to be more honest with you guys then. I sort of got tired trying to work around my words and also trying not to sound bad, hahaha..."

"That's more like it!!"

 

Both of us talk a bit more about the play for tomorrow night, as we immediately went to our separate rooms. I collapsed onto the bed, the cat plush from the previous motive sits still next to my pillow, 'Honest to myself..... huh...... trust and honesty, these two words I keep throwing around...... Is it really alright....?'

Once again, I fell into a deep slumber once the nighttime announcement rang out. 

Chapter Text

......

"Endou... where's Ayame and...... God, who's that other kid again?? The little one?"

"Sumire..... it's not that hard to remember them... I already gave them such simple names, you know?"

"Geez, sorry, sorry!! I just don't do well with twins, you know? They're creepy as hell!! Always do or said the same thing in unison.... Heck, they might not be even related to begin with and we don't know that!!"

"Keep your damn voice down, they can hear you from the next room!"

"Ackh, it doesn't matter..... the younger one always ran off to do her own thing anyways..... it's funny to see her making up for her lack of skills that Ayame has...."

"......... Sumire wants to be distinguished from her sister, related or not.... I doubt she's even trying to follow in her footsteps....."

"Well, it doesn't matter what talent you have...... you can't really improve them even further, like a small restrictive box, whatever shape or size, no matter how much sweat and tears you put into it, it will never expand-"

.......

 


 

....

.........

'God, this is so annoying....'

Exhausted, that's one thing I can only described my feelings right now. For once, sleep has finally come naturally to me for the past few days yet I still feel restless. Restless. "That damn memory again.... why do I have to remember it now? I thought I'm already over that....... I should just... get going..... moping around doesn't go well for yourself..."

 

As always, I started my morning routine, feeling a lot more better after prepping myself for the day. 'Alright then.... just a few more minutes before the morning announcement.... I'm sure everyone's at the dining hall already.... except for Amane......'

"Can't hope for the best if he's around......." I sighed to myself, exiting my room and almost bumping into someone as I did. "Ah-! S-Sorry, didn't see you there!!"

 

"T-That's okay!!" Mitsuru regained her composure as quickly as she could, waving her hands around in panic. "But thank goodness you're already up!! Mochi is getting really impatient, ya' know! Your costume is already finished!!"

"Wha- That fast!?" I exclaimed in shock, I know Higura is an Ultimate but still- it's not like he's a professional seamstress or anything! He just had an idea from yesterday's practice!!

"Weeell, it turns out Higura is only needed for designing stuffs and Monomyou with their so called.... 'Mini-myous' are the one making them!!" Mitsuru explained. Ah, okay, now that makes sense. "Come on, I reaaaally want to see you in your costume!! It looks really cool and elegant on its own!! Ahhh, I can only imagine that you would look way more sexier than right now!!"

"Mi-Mitsun, you're drooling...."

 


 

The reception gotten a lot crowded now that Monomyou have introduced a few smaller, more adorable versions of themselves, the 'Mini-myous'. Each of them were holding different costume, one of them who has mine immediately approached me with its tiny feet, 'A-Ah.... this is bad.... I wanna hug them-!!'

"Let's go!" Mitsuru pushed from behind, directing me away from the crowd. "Let's put on that costume immediately and surprised others!! Head towards the restroom near the dining hall!!"

"I-I can walk too, Mitsun...." The smaller Mini-myou struggled to keep up with us so I took the chance and picked them up into my arms, ruffled through their soft fur. 'S-Soft.... they're actually so soft...!!'

 

Once we got into the restroom, another familiar face appear who just finished changing. "Ah, Hibiki!!" Mitsuru skipped over to the opera singer, squealed at her beautiful dress. "Gosh, you looked so divine!! That sandy-color just glitters under the light, the way your shawl delicately placed onto your shoulders is just spectacular!!!"

No joke, as expected of person with the lead female role. Gretchen, if I remembered it correctly. The Mini-myou in my arms started twitching and flail the costume right in front of me, I set them down and gave them a little pat on the head before going into one of the stalls. 'Higura.... has such a strong taste, this actually looks really cool.....'

 

Typical black and red suit with its vest jacket having subtle floral pattern stitched onto it with fewer reddish accent at the end, ruffled red shirt with a black ribbon-tie and a long purplish-black fur coat to mimic the devil's possible animal-like appearance, "I'm... this is really beautiful...."

"Right!?" Mitsuru commented from outside of the stall.

I chuckled, as I started to put on one piece of the clothing at the time, 'Red shirt, ribbon-tie, the black vest.... I didn't know Higura has an eye for details as well.... I never took him being the fashionable type either..... maybe I should ask him for an advice one day....?'

 

Stepping outside to see the Mini-myou patiently waiting in front of my stall, I flinched when I heard a shriek coming from Mitsuru, "Oh my-!! Sumi, you look absolutely cool!!! Ah! It feels like I'm falling in love with you all over again!"

Nervously, I collected the Mini-myou into my arms again and walked over to Hibiki's side, "Guess the contrast between the two of us really shows, huh?"

"Higura have done such a great job showing your devilish nature...." Hibiki smiled. "With only your costume on, I wonder how much exquisite you will look with a full wardrobe. It's really clear to see why the host picked you for such a role...."

 

"Come on now!!!" Mitsuru pulled the both of us outside, urging us to meet up with others once again in the reception area. Struggling with holding the small cat robot in my arms, I sighed in relief once the cosmetologist lets go. "Everyone!! The wonderful main attraction is here!! The most beautiful women in the play, Hibiki and Sumi!!!"

The cosmetologist presented us with a pose, Hibiki just laughed at her eccentric entrance. Observing our surrounding, almost everyone is in their costumes, except for Nao and Hisao. Almost everyone is here.... almost. 'I knew it.... Amane is not here.....'

"Little miss!! You look fascinating that my heart almost stopped at the sight of you!!" Hisao clapped. "I could have died by just seeing your devilish appearance, indeed, you play way too well into your role!!"

 

"Knock it off!!" Mitsuru pouted, clinging to my arm. "Sumi needs a more non-creepy and annoying partner in her life!! Someone like you would never have that chance!!! Even she, herself, wouldn't give you that either!!"

"That's totally uncalled for!!"

During the argument between Hisao and Mitsuru, Higura got close and inspected coat I just wore over my left shoulder, "I seriously misjudged how well you will look with this..... I thought asking for a black wig would make you look more believable and grounded in reality but you don't look too bad with that irritating magenta color...."

 

"Right...." I slowly pulled myself away as the duo continued fighting. "You've done an amazing job, Higura. You weren't lying about it!!"

"Huh?? Do you actually take me as a liar?!" His usual irritated tone is back but instead of looking angry, he actually has a confident smile on his face. "Like I've said!! You guys are gonna fuckin' be amazed by my own works that you will regret looking down on my talent!! I may not be so extravagant like whatever shit you guys excelled in but I do best in things I'm fuckin' good at!!"

That was.... strangely optimistic of him. He still has his bite but it's not so depreciating anymore. He really changed that much. "And with that, the amazing Mochi has truly bewildered us with his skills ~"

"You have absolutely no permission to use that lame-ass nickname!! And that doesn't mean you're allowed to call me that either!!!"

 

"Hey!! Sumi!!" Taiga slapped my back to get my attention, in which he did. "You haven't eaten, right? Me too!! Let's head to the dining hall!!" He motioned the Mini-myou as he gently pushed them down. I got the message and put them down as I followed the marksman into the dining hall.

In there, the real conversation starts, "How's everything?"

"Amane's stubborn.... I've been prying his door open for about an hour earlier and just refused to come out of his cave....." Taiga looks frustrated. "Not only that.... you do feel like something's off... right?"

 

"Yeah...." While everyone's having the time of their life, they wouldn't even noticed it didn't really happened. "The morning announcement didn't happened.... something happened to Monomyou, probably.... but I bet the mastermind can still see through those Mini-myous....."

"Wait, didn't you just take that thing to the restroom?"

"Yes, I did, I was stupid and I didn't think of that...."

 

"Although, one thing for certain is that Hisao was able to...... provoke Amane...." Taiga gave me the rundown of what happened. "Last night... minutes before nighttime, Hisao along with Nao dropped by to have a small talk and he managed to take a glimpse of the papers the composer received...."

Amazing, Hisao managed to get through him, Nao must have follow along just to act as a distraction. "And...?"

".... A... fake player....." There it is, another confirmation about the fake player that Hisao has been going on after the first trial. "Someone within the group.... that wasn't supposed to be here......"

 

"Since Amane received that note......." I crossed out list of possible suspects in my head. "Is it someone with a dangerous talent maybe? Like...."

"Please don't consider me...."

"I won't.... but........" There's something that I couldn't dismissed it like that. "Don't forget, we don't have all our memories so that fake player themselves might not be even aware that they are one. It's an open case and anyone could be one.... so.... I can't let that possibility be brushed aside...."

 

"That's true....." the marksman scratch his cheek, a nervous tic. "Do you think we will get our answers after the play...?"

"Not entirely.... but part of it....." I grabbed both of his shoulders, making him jumped. 'Taiga have been acting really nervous since last night and.... I'm not good with dealing with other people's emotions still but....' "I know everything seems dodgy because we're playing into Monomyou's plan but.... it will be alright... Even though Amane is being secluded from all of this... he knows how dangerous it is to share it with others so he purposely have to hold himself back..... let have faith in him, okay?"

 

I didn't received any reaction from the other yet. For what felt like a minute of silence has passed, the marksman commented, "Physical...."

"Huh??" I blinked twice in confusion. "What did you say...?"

"N-No..... I realized that you're getting really physical right now.... like you don't mind being near someone or anyone touching you..... you always shied away when others talked to you directly when we first got here......" Taiga tapped onto my hand on his shoulder, in which I immediately let go. "I thought that was a nice change...."

 

That's a whole different thing he decided to talk about but I'm glad it's enough to distract him from more pressing issues. "Yeah... I'm still learning.... but I won't come off too strong right from the bat, I have set my limits......."

"Yup!! But thanks to your last speech!! I'm inspired to do my own thing now!!" He grinned at me and immediately I'm at peace. "Thanks for the motivational boost!! I've been waiting to be cheered on by a cute girl for a long time!!"

Same. "I will go and do my own thing then...." Both of us made our way out of the dining hall. "I will be hanging out with someone to pass the time before heading to the theater house.... what about you...?"

 

"With Hiroshi!! He's been teaching me his ways of rock-climbing and abseiling!!" He looked pumped up already. "It's been a while since I had such a exhilarating exercise but I promise I won't overdo before the play!! Don't want an actor to be way too tired before the real even started, you know!!"

"Good luck....." I watched as he jogged his way to Hiroshi and other. 'Well... I don't feel like taking off this costume yet.... it feels really nice, looking grand for once.... I wonder who should I hang out with today....?'

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

In the end, I chose to go to the theater house to spend the time and surprised to find Hibiki there. 'Ah well, I really don't want to hang out at other places, only to go here again.... it will be a waste so I'm glad Hibiki is here....'

"Hibiki... practicing your singing?" She was in a daze before I called out to her, smiling radiantly.

"Ah... I did finished doing that...." she said, sitting at the audience seat. She waited for me to be seated before asking, "How about you? Have you come here to practice your singing as well?"

 

"I-I don't think I can even mimic my own voice from a few years ago....." I replied, remembering my choir days. "Besides, I've only done it to pass the time..... I wasn't really serious about it at all......."

"But I'm curious....." Hibiki confessed. "I'm curious why you specifically chose choir to be your own expression of music....."

"Expression.....?"

 

"Let me provide you an example....." Hibiki started to sing a note, a high-pitched one. instinctively, I closed my eyes, hearing the string of notes carefully and how the volume changes over time. She then stopped, "How do you feel now...?"

"At peace......" I somehow said it without thinking. "I'm not really got at describing things but.... my heart is at peace, was the first thing that popped into my mind...."

"I see.... though it's just like that, it's still something....." Hibiki giggles. "When I was young and witnessed it for the first time..... all my worries at that time immediately washed away.... the sheer negativity at that time was a heavy burden that hearing such comforting melody made me feel lighter than ever before...."

Ah, I guess we're both the same.

 

"Of course, my strongest suite is in fact arioso, just as you've heard it....." Hibiki begins. "Despite mastering other types and ranges, I found my comfort in arioso, knowing my own audience who are easily star-struck.... there are times where I have to stop singing just to help multiple people who faint during my performance...."

"Fainted due to.....?"

"I don't know all the details......." Hibiki tries to remember back. "But what I've heard from my agent at that time was because they... fell asleep...."

 

I sure hope they did. "Well!! It did work on me!! I fell asleep when I first heard your voice after all!!"

"It quite saddening how that happened every time....." Hibiki sighed dejectedly. "Every performance I made outside of Japan, I would have people rushing out of the room due to my, 'incredible singing voice that caused them to weep into slumber', they said....."

"Now that you put it like that..... it does sounds like they're exaggerating it a bit........" I wonder how often people would do that....? "But it's probably why you're considered an Ultiamte, huh? For being able to sway people so easily like that..... others won't really appreciate opera singing that much regardless of age...."

 

"It feels as if most my audience are sort of an insomniac...." Hibiki joked around. "They would often drop by my show just to finally be lulled into well-deserved sleep..... I even have someone who confessed they listened to my singing because of that....."

"That's...... quite rude of them....." I frowned. "They shouldn't treat your own singing performance as their personal lullaby and just leave whenever they feel like it...... you should really reconsider about that....."

"I don't really mind, I mean, I am indirectly helping someone....." said Hibiki in her reassuring tone. "After all, I can't imagine how helpful can an opera singer be in the real world, much less here out of all places. So, helping someone with their internal problems indirectly is some sort of a relief for me....."

 

Ummm, I can't really argue with that now. Since I'm one of those people, the more I think about it. I did admit it to her earlier as well. "S-Still.... It's kind of upsetting if people like me didn't get to witness your full singing performance!! I really wanna hear it....."

Hibiki pondered for a long time before suggesting, "How about we tried and practice singing for a bit? If you easily recognized the melody then there would be lesser chance that you will fall asleep, right? And to accompany my voice, if you focus on your singing instead, there's no way you would hear only my voice too well and you would be too distracted to even fall asleep!!"

 

"I'm not sure if it works like that but.... Alright, then! It's worth a shot!!! I may be rusty in my own choir voice so please excuse that!!" I want to witness Hibiki's talent for what it's worth. I think it will also be fun to have a singing coach for once. A serene opera singer and a rustic choir, what an odd combination.

 


 

"Sumi!!"

A certain someone tackled from behind, clinging onto my back like a koala, "Mitsun, you're here early...."

"She's been nagging me about coming here early so that she can prepped you guys earlier...." Higura grunts behind her. "So I have no choice but to get dragged along like fucking rag-doll...."

"Yup, yup!!" Mitsuru nodded, grabbing both Hibiki's hand and mine. "Come on, girls!! Let's head towards the dressing room at the back!! I have to check the out once I knew there was one!!"

 

"Don't hauled up in that dressing room for too long, ya' dimwits!!" Higura called out. "We have other people who wanted to used them ya' know!? And we gotta practice our fucking ass off once more before the actual play started!!"

"Got it!!!" I replied, while being dragged by Mitsuru. 

"Y-You're really a handful girl...." Hibiki stammered as she tried to keep up Mitsuru quickened pace.

 


 

Once we got into the dressing room, Mitsuru twirled around with her eyes shone bright with excitement, "I can't wait!!! I can't wait to see everyone shine with such great beauty!! I also can't wait to see Sumi acted all-so high and mighty....."

"Mitsun, you're drooling again...." I take the nearby tissues as I gave them to the cosmetologist. "You really like pretty things that much, huh? That's kind of dangerous for you to fall in love so easily....."

"Y-Yes, it sure is!!" Mitsuru giggled, wiping the remaining drool off her face. "When I see beautiful people, I can't help this really heart-wrenching feeling inside of me!!! Of course, since most of my clients are women, it only applies to them!!"

 

"How about men? I'm sure you fancied Higura with how close you are to him...." That sentence from Hibiki made her squeak. Like she wasn't expected to hear that.

"O-Oh that's..... a different case!!!" Mitsuru answered confidently. She urged me to sit down as she decided to comb my hair from nearby makeup kit. "Hmmm.... how can I say this....... It's not something I could leave Higura to his own devices, you know? I tried not to bring Saku's case into the conversation as much as I could but..... it's never a good idea to leave people to grieve......"

'Leaving people alone so that they could grieve.... Is she saying that Higura still feels guilty about the last trial?'

 

"Higura is headstrong but I know a lot of people who have that traits are just.... not so headstrong in the inside......" Mitsuru hummed, smiling peacefully to herself. "I've met a lot of clients who lacked self-worth but only wanting to hear the nicer parts about themselves...... never the negatives. I never took them in as my clients, you know? It's a bad move for business, I know but.... I really can't help with people who don't value themselves and think they can replace any part of them superficially...."

 

Hibiki and I were quiet as Mitsuru continued with her story. It's a rare sight for sure, a super rare sight of a serious cosmetologist who's always cheerful and bubbly, "Helping Higura was really tough and I'm glad he's improving....... but, well, here's the contradiction of me 'falling in love' so easily, even though I always throw around those words very freely; I can't fall in love with someone who doesn't love themselves. I can't really give Higura what he wanted because I don't know the real 'him' and I want him to realize that by himself! I'm no therapist, yeah, but..... if people like Higura keeps on clinging to other people as their source of happiness then..... they would become more unhappy with themselves instead......"

 

With the final stroke of the hairbrush, she ended her story, "It's something you should only find by yourself and only for yourself..... And that's my cosmetologist's motto!!"

She let out a hearty laugh, not realizing the rather heavy atmosphere emitted from her story. Once she did, she stopped and begin to act really nervous, "W-What? Did I say something wrong?! I-I know that sounded really arrogant but please forgive me!!!"

"No.... it's quite nice...." I muttered. "It's nice to hear your thoughts..... and it helps us to get to know you better after all. Who would have known our cute, bubbly cosmetologist turns out to be the most matured person out of all of us. You're quite a thoughtful person, Mitsun...."

"It made us feel like you're the older sister...." Hibiki chuckles. "Perhaps.... you're our moral compass, after all...."

 

"That sounds like I'm stealing someone else's talent instead, I wonder why...." Mitsuru faked a deep thinking pose. "Ah well!! It's what I can do!! I'm prepared to cheer everyone up in time of need!!! But please don't call me 'big sis' or anything!! It will surely make me melt into a puddle!!"

"Big sis...."

"Kyaah-!!! With a tone like that, I can't resist-!!"

 

After recovering from the nickname, Mitsuru went on to prepare our hair and makeup, she ended up using the black wig that Monomyou provided, "Ah... I always have this thought before but now that I see this.... Sumi's original hair colour is black, huh...."

"Well... my sister is your client so I assumed you would know that for a fact already......"

"Right, right!!" Mitsuru nodded in agreement. "I always wonder, you know?! If Sumi's hair stayed black, no doubt, she will give out that mysterious, sexy vibes!"

"I.... Hmm, if you put it that way......" Hibiki stared at me intensely. "I do see your point....."

I.... I feel like I'm in danger-!!

 


 

Evening has come.

Hisao, Taiga, Nao and Hiroshi has arrived with their costume and I'm almost impressed by the conman's getup. I was so used to his long coat, shady alley look that the outfit Higura designed for him made him look completely different. "Huh... guess... you can look like a gentleman for once....."

"Little miss, please stop bullying me already!!" Hisao whined. "It's bad enough that I'm being pushed around by that Lady Boss!!"

"Lady Boss....?" He must have meant Mitsuru. I never seen anyone else have that kind of energy to argue with him. 

 

"Hooooold on!!" Machi looked disgruntled as he approached the main lead. "I still haven't done your final touch-up, now hold still!! This will surely poke your eye in if you opened slightly!!"

"Is it even wise to give a person who's naturally double eye-lidded some eye shadow? It's hardly noticeable!!"

Seeing these two people arguing about it, I was almost shocked myself, "Machi, you knew how to put on makeup as well?"

 

"A-Ah.... didn't see you there...." Machi looked at me with wide eyes. "Y-Yes... since I mostly lived my entire life with my mother and two sisters, I'm always their dummy practice to put on test makeup so I unintentionally picked it up from them......"

"And he's not even being gentle about it..." Hisao sneered.

"Do you want me to screw this into your eyeball?" Machi dangerously hold the eyeliner pencil near the conman's face.

 

"Just live through it...." I sighed, restraining Hisao by placing both hands on his shoulder to prevent him from moving around or flinching. "I'm surprised.... I was wondering why Mitsuru said that the boys have everything taken care of.... It turns out you're the one who's taking care of them, huh?"

"Yeah, yeah....." Machi is really focused in it. "It's quite a pain to make them stay still so I'm really glad you're helping, Sumi. You're the only one who's immune to these idiots' wild energy...."

"I have a penchant for restraining people anyways...."

 

"It's always needed...." Machi chuckles, finally finished with his work. "Oh yeah... Amane came by just now.... saying that he feels like he's in danger if he were to be left at the hotel alone..... or someone else is threatening to do that...."

"That's this guy's work...." I squeezed the conman's shoulders. "He forced him out of his room by purposely scaring him and saying that....."

"Well, safety is more important than trying to act better than all of us so I'm glad that idea got through to that idiot's thick head....." the librarian commented. "Alright then, I will leave you two be.... I have to check onto Nao before heading to see Shoma and Renma...."

"See ya' after the play...."

 

With the librarian left and my hands still onto the conman's shoulders, I leaned down and asked, "Do you think your own persuasion worked?"

"Ehhhhh...... maybe..." for once, he sounded unsure. "It's either by my own doing or someone else is doing that to him..... Of course, he was still stubborn when I invited him out so can't say for sure!!"

"Then we shall see......" I let him go. "What did you and Amane even talked about last night?"

 

"Hmmm.... not much...." said Hisao. "He just said what we already know!! A fake player working for the mastermind. What about it, little miss? Do you think this time we can cornered that fake player for once?"

"But you do know who they are, right?" That made the conman laughed for some reason.

"Oh, you already forgot? I just know what I know....... Please remember that curse really carefully, little miss!! It will certainly be helpful for you later down the line! Well, I will be looking out for my own beloved now so bye-bye!!"

 

With Hibiki, according their roles, Hisao and Hibiki are the supposed main leads. 'I didn't get the chance to see him practicing his acting with Hibiki before...... guess this will be a very interesting duo-'

Just as I finished my thought, Monomyou jumped in front of me as I screamed, "Well, well, well!! Look at my favorite character in the play!! Oh, you looked so divine!!! I'm shocked and proud of my own choice in casting call!! Dear investigator, you sure made your magnificent host weeping with joy!!"

"Y-You....." Usually I will be mad at their sudden entrance but now that Monomyou showed themselves, physically, I can actually ask them about this morning's mystery. "Hey you. What happened to this morning's announcement? You didn't show up at all. Going through some technical difficulties at your side there?"

 

"Eckh!!" Bingo. "N-No need to worry about your dear host!!! I just got into a bit of a rough situation after all!! My little Mini-myous have been going on wildly with those stuffs for the play!!! Of course, this host is glad that it turns out those stuffs and Mini-myous have found their way to you all!!"

They didn't need to mentioned how they know that; it's because they're seeing through the Mini-myous' eyes. It sounds like they can't control numerous copies of the AI cat. "I want to confirm this with you..... are you sure we will received part of our school memories? Will that actually tells us why we're here?"

 

"Of course!! I nyaver back down on my words- Ackh!! I stuttered!!!" Monomyou screeched. "But I'm not so sure about that last part though!! That last part..... is something you guys should know by yourselves, nyahahahahaha!!"

I didn't even bother to watch them disappeared, closing my eyes and rethinking back all the clue we gathered so far, 'So we came here... on our own? Is that what Monomyou's saying? Then why did we go so far as to forget our own school memories....? Did something happened during our graduation event that made us forget..... our purpose here?'

".... For now... we will focus on finishing this first..... then we will have our answers....."

 


 

Mitsuru and Higura seated with Renma, Shoma, Machi and Amane, who's not paying attention to what the people next to him is saying. Monomyou sits on Mitsuru's lap who doesn't look like they minded a bit but receiving really odd glances from others next to her.

'At least Amane is here..... that's good....'

 

The play started without a problem, with Amane's skilled composed music played through the loudspeakers. Ominous and dark melody played throughout the theater house that even put Monomyou on edge. The first scene that started with Mephisto, myself, declared to lure Faust from the path of righteousness, which results everyone staring in awe.

The next scene begins with Faust, Hisao, in his study room lamenting about his thirst for knowledge and his walk of philosophical talk with Wagner, his assistant played by Hiroshi. The abseiler is still stiff with acting but can still managed to match the conman's dramatic talk.

The part where Hisao and I made a pact even went smoothly, not flinching from the sudden use of 'despair' in the script. Just like that, Nao and Hibiki played their part perfectly. Nao, as Faust's neighbour, who tricked Gretchen, Hibiki's role, into meeting and being seduced by him. With the devil working behind the scenes, the final act draws nearer.

 

"Ah geez.... I got really exhausted....." Taking my breath behind the curtain with Hiroshi helping, I never imagined my role being even involved that much. The air even began to feel heavy as the climax of the story is approaching. "I never knew the devil role is really active but I got really into the role. Even the story itself got me really hooked up...."

"Right!?" Hiroshi admitted. "I wasn't really interested in it at first but I got really into it as well!! Even though I wasn't in like most of the parts!!! You were amazing as well!! You gave your own devil's part an alluring charm that I'm sure everyone's mesmerized by your acting!!"

"S-Surely not....I think I just overplayed my part....." I laughed a bit, paying attention to the audience and then frowned. 'Wait.... where are.....?'

 

"Ah! It's Taiga and Hisao' turn!!"

Sure enough, I recognized this part to be the challenge between Faust and Valentin, Gretchen's brother. Taiga's showcase of rage is really hypnotizing to the point your knees will surely buckled under you with every fiery words spit from his mouth. 'I can see why he has that brother role.... Taiga is really frightening when mad....'

The music picked up once the two declared their duel..... but.... it sounds.... off....?

 

'What's happening...? Why does the music sounds so jarring....?' It's like they've skipped the melody or something. This is making me nauseous, why am I feeling like this all of the sudden? 'No, it's like.... there's something playing behind that melody. Something.... saying...... is it saying something....?'

 

....

'Look up'

....

 

I unconsciously followed the decoded message in the melodies themselves and immediately felt a cold dread and pit in my stomach, I gripped onto Hiroshi's hand tightly, "Move....."

"H-Huh?" Hiroshi gasped as I immediately stepped into the spotlight. "S-Sumi, it's not your turn ye-!!"

"Move!!! Get out of there!!!!" I yelled at the two actors, looking bewildered once I stepped out. I acted without thinking again, nothing is holding me back. I have to push them away or else-

 

Taiga was the first one to react, he must have heard something's off as well. He was confused but at least looked up and finally understands. He took a few steps backwards with a sheer look of terror on his face. Hisao didn't budged, still with that questioning look on his face. I wasted no time and grabbed his arm and pulled away from the spot.....

...... the spot where one of the stage lights come crashing down.... along with Machi's body, with blood coming out of his mouth.

A scream broke out from the backstage, Nao run towards the site and immediately pulled the body off from the stage light, "Macchan!!!" Despite her small stature, she can easily moved the body with such force, tears streaming down her face as she did. 

 

"Machi...." This doesn't make sense. Why him...? "What's going on...."

"What in the actual fuck!?" Higura jumped off of his seat and immediately approached the stage. "What the hell is this?! When did he-!?"

Renma and Shoma also acted, heading towards the backstage way, along with Mitsuru who got up and left Monomyou who, with their signature laugh, disappeared while the chaos is still happening. 

 

"What the hell's going on!? How did this happened!?" I yelled out in frustration. I don't understand. I couldn't understand. Why is he-

Another scream broke out, it's Hibiki this time.....

"Hisao, come on-!!!" I pulled the conman up to his feet, following the source of the scream. Still puzzling the events that's just transpired but Hisao is still aware enough to follow along. Still nauseous from what just happened, I still need to make a break through it. The source came from the backstage room that's on the other side; Renma, Shoma and Hibiki were all standing outside, faces twisted in horror.

 

"What happen-" I stopped once I saw the scene, a really strong chemical smell emitted from the room itself but what contained inside the room is more horrifying; Amane lied down on his back, his face blue and contorted in pain, arms grasping onto his chest and stomach, surrounded by the pool of his own blood and bile.

The sight itself already made me sick, the sickening smell of bile and chemical didn't help at all. Unconsciously, I backed myself up onto the wall behind me, feeling dizzy from everything, "Are you serious....? The two of them.....?"

We lost two people.... without even noticing...?

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Ladies and Gentleman!! It seems like we have two new murder cases!!! Please gather around outside of the theater house to start clue hunting!!"

 

With that PA system to confirm it, someone did successfully murdered two people, right under our noses. "Who..... who could have done this....?" I pleaded, not ask. I actually pleaded for an answer. An answer.....

 

....

An answer that I have to find...... during the class trial.

Chapter Text

'This can't be happening. Are you fucking serious? Macchan and Amane.... are both dead...? How the hell did we not notice-'

 

"Sumi..."

"Wha-" Shoma appeared right before me before shoving a folded napkin to cover my nose and mouth. I struggled a bit, wondering what the hell is he doing before I heard him said;

"Critters should leave this place right now.... the strong chemical smell in here is too dangerous for us to swim through..... Monomyou said they will re-ventilate the theater house for a moment before we could start investigating...."

'Is that why I feel nauseous earlier...?' I looked around to see Renma helping Hisao, who look really pale, 'Right, his hyperosmia.... it's too dangerous for him to remain in here....'

"Alright...." I get up slowly, holding the napkin close to my face. "Everyone, evacuate immediately......."

 

Without needing to be told twice, everyone walked away from the room, the room Amane is in. Gripping onto my front shirt, I keep thinking about it, 'Who... who could have done this and how? How did the culprit get away with this...? Macchan....... he....'

"I don't understand......"I choked out. I seriously don't get it.....

Once everyone made it outside, Mitsuru and Higura went over to Hisao and I. "Hey, hey!! Get a grip of yourself!!" Higura yelled, but with a hint of concern in his voice. "From what the furfuck said.... It would be very shitty to have a third death happening in the row right now!!"

 

"What do you mean...?" Hibiki asked, trying to regained back her composure.

"Umm.... we asked Monomyou..... what happened if there's a third death... because we already have.... them....." Mitsuru flinched a bit mentioning about it. "They said it won't happened due to the killing game rules.... we just have to focus on the first case....."

"First case.....?" removing the napkin and placed it inside my pocket, I tried to ask them without wavering. "What do you mean 'first case'?"

 

Right on cue, Monomyou appeared in its previous getup, long brown coat that reaches the ground and a similar color hat, "Wowie!! Thank goodness everyone left the building while they can!!! It would be a total disaster to have everyone dropping dead like flies!! Nyahahahaha!!!"

"What do you mean by focusing on the first case, you little shit...." Hisao spat out his insult before coughing into his hands. "Fuck.... that's way too much...."

"Stay down, you tainted human!!!" Monomyou mocked him. "Perhaps I didn't clarify the killing game rules enough!!! If two murders occurred, you only need to find the blackened for the first murder!!! Which is why-" the cat pulled out the record files from under their coat. "It's time to be reaaaal careful about this case!!!"

 

"Just give it to us already...." I gritted my teeth. 'They're stalling so that we don't have enough time for investigation....'

"Whoops!! Don't want to anger the devil now do we!" Monomyou snickers as they handed out the Monomyou Record File No.3. "Happy clue-hunting everyone, especially for our main star attraction!!! I would like really love to see how you all solve this one!!!"

Like that, Monomyou disappeared and immediately... I proposed something else, "Sao and Ren.... I would like you two to investigate somewhere else....."

 

"H-Huh!? Little miss, do you really hate me that mu-!?"

"Sao, if you go back in there again, you will end up hurting yourself...." I sternly stated. "Your own condition is too overwhelming, you won't even last a second. So unless you wanna risk dying in there..... I suggest you should look somewhere else....."

Hisao was taken back, but gets the idea, "I didn't expect to be shoo'd away for this case but I will listen to ya', little miss!! After all, you will ended up lasso-ing me if I don't listened so I will do what you ask of me for now!!"

"Thank you for cooperating....." No matter how much the theater house is well taken care off, Hisao's hyperosmia is not something that can be disregarded so lightly. Just a slight strong smell can easily knocked him out so..... I guess we have to lose two people from our group for now, just in case. "You two... can check out the mortuary.... I feel like there's something you need to take a closer there....."

 

"I understand your suspicion... this chemical-like scent must be something from my domain...." Renma nodded. "I shall re-examined my supplies once more. Such a dreadful turn of events...... I didn't even visit my place this morning for the daily check-up....."

With that, the conman and the mortician left for the hotel. The rest of us check the record file in the mean time. Out of the corner of my eyes, I can see Nao intensely staring at it, eyes visibly red but still looking determined about this case, 'She took it the hardest.... but... I'm glad she's willing to fight back....'

"Let's look over Macchan's record; Time of death is approximately 10 p.m. Place of death is unknown. Cause of death is broken spinal chord caused by a blow from an heavy object....."

 

"That's....." Mitsuru's eyes widened. "The time... that's when the sequence where Nao, Hibiki, Hisao and Sumi were on stage... Machi excused himself to use the restroom at the backstage....."

"Hey, you two....." Higura put his hands on his hips, looking at both Hiroshi and Taiga. "Didn't you two seen him at all?? Like shouldn't that be obvious since you guys were also there...."

"We didn't wait at the backstage...." Hiroshi confessed. "We were hiding behind the curtains, right at the sides of the grand stage because our parts were coming up really closely then!!"

 

'No witnesses... how is that possible...?' "Let's look over Amane's record then....." I insisted as we moved on. "Time of death is 10:15 pm. Place of death is the dressing room of the theatre house. Cause of death is ingestion of substance that leads to internal bleeding...."

"What the.... what the fuck does that mean...? He was poisoned then...?" Higura stared at his file confusingly. "How the hell was he poisoned? There's no drinks or anything in the dressing room to even tricked him...."

"But according to this... Macchan's the first one to be murdered....." Mitsuru pointed out. "So do we have to focus on his first...? What about Amane-"

 

"It doesn't matter!!" Monomyou suddenly appeared. "Like, I've said before!! Just find the blackened for the first murder and you're good to go!!! If there happens to be two blackened for these two, then the second blackened wasted their chance!! How pitiful!! Nyahahaha!!! Anyways, the theatre house is good to go!! Happy hunting!!"

All of us immediately move forward, ignoring the crying cat behind us. "Ignoring Amane....." Hibiki muttered. "Even though he's a difficult person.... still...."

"Then fuck what that cat said...." Higura demanded. "This class trial is all about sniffing out the ones responsible for the murder so that's we're gonna do. I don't give a shit if we're getting punished for focusing on the second murderer, we all wanna fucking live by knowing who's this wasted blackened is anyways..."

 

"He's right.... if there really is two blackened...." Will there be? It's still highly unlikely. "Then it's best to know who the second one is so that we can cornered them....."

Once inside, we immediately split into three groups. Higura, Mitsuru and Nao will investigate Machi's body on the stage, Hiroshi and Taiga will investigate the stage lights from above and lastly, Shoma, Hibiki and I will investigate Amane's body inside the dressing room. 'There's fewer of us left now.... Dammit!! I should have pay more attention to what's happening!!

With a heavy heart, we approached the dressing room from the back of the stage.

 


 

We can finally breathe in the air normally, the strong smells disappeared in an instant once we got into the room. Immediately, something caught my eye when I looked at Amane's body closely, "Is that... tape in his hand....?"

I walked over to inspect, moving his arms slightly to the right to get the said item. "A tape... did the culprit used it to cover his mouth or something..?"And Amane tried to take them off....?

"Sumi... please hold the penguin-critter really closely...." Shoma said as he walked over to the other side and kneels down. With his other hand that's holding the scalpel, he gently scrapped the corner of Amane's gaping mouth, on it were this strange white-jelly like substance, "Hmmm.... this looks familiar... from the mortuary....."

 

'Glad I made the choice to send those two there.....' For once, I felt relief. Glancing back the tape in hand, there's even white jelly things on it. "But what could he possibly ingested....?"

Hibiki, trying not to look at the body, made her over to the corner of the room, where there's a wardrobe closed. The moment she opened it, she gasped, "I-I think I found it....."

I walked over and picked up what she found, one of the embalming chemicals from the mortuary, "I knew it.... the culprit used the things from mortuary in this case...."

 

"Sumi-critter, be glad you're wearing gloves.....!" Shoma called out. "That bottle.... Ren doesn't want to touch that either....!! It's highly corrosive in matter of seconds....!!"

"Even with a small amount.... you're immediately gone within seconds once your insides started to deteriorate...." Hibiki shuddered at the image. Inspecting the wardrobe's doors closely, there are similar white jellied thing stick to it, still soft and really warm, "Just what is this thing....? Why is it all over the edges....?"

 

"Hmm..... this penguin-critter's legs are broken...."

"What?" Both Hibiki and I turned around but the other winced once they saw Shoma attempting to twist Amane's legs in a weird angle. "Shoma, we get your point...."

"Sorry....." Shoma lowered his head. "But his ankles are all broken..... even his neck has a bit of a bruise...... it seems this penguin-critter and the culprit are in some sort of fight....?"

Amane fought back his culprit but in the end... he lost..... wait. "If he fought back then..... does that mean he got force-feed this....?" I stared at the chemical bottle in my hand. "The culprit should have had chemical burns or a stain at least on their clothes if there's a struggle happening...."

 

"Everyone looked clean...." Hibiki pointed out. "I check on every single one of us, even Monomyou...... there's no burns, stains or even that strong smell coming from each and every single one of us...."

"Then how did the culprit even...... plus what did the culprit used for the-"

"Ah- Hold on!!" the opera singer went into wardrobe, pushing aside others stuffs to grabbed something, a crowbar. "Could it be this....?"

".... Possible....." Why would the culprit hid in here.... without worrying that others might check in here? ".... Hibiki, Shoma.... you two were the first one who discovered his body.... right...? What happened before that...?"

 

"Hmm.... when Ren and I walked up..... we passed by the closed dressing room that has such a familiar smell...." Shoma told his side of the story. "We tried to open the door but... it wouldn't budged..... so.... Ren and I have to forcefully open the door at the same time.... that's when the siren came and screech......."

"So the dressing room door was jammed...." Walking over to the door frame, I inspected it closely. 'Again, these white stuffs but now they're a bit tough to remove... we could hardly see them when we first entered here.... just what are the stuffs anyways.....?'

"What about it, Sumi.....? Have any idea....?" Shoma skipped over and asked. "Or you need more clues....?"

 

"Amane's case doesn't provide much and I couldn't think of anything else so...." I turned to Shoma. "Shou-chin... I need your help with this.... I don't think I can do it on my own....."

I can see his face immediately lightened up, hearing the nickname I've given to him must have done that, "This critter will do his best!! This critter will help his friend in time of need!!"

His reaction made me smile, 'Almost like a kid..... after all, his whole attitude kind of reminiscence one....'. Letting him to go ahead, Hibiki still inside, staring at Amane's stiff body, 'Ah... she's looking at it directly.... like she doesn't mind it at all anymore....'

 

"Hibiki...?"

"Ah..... you two can go ahead..... there's something I needed to say to Amane.... while he's here still...." She doesn't look at me directly.

"Alright...." Reluctantly, I leave her alone with the composer's body. '..... Even though they're not close..... Hibiki still feel remorse for his death...... she still cares about Amane, no matter how cold she acted towards him before.....'

........

'No, I shouldn't doubt anyone's kindness like that..... nobody deserved to die here in the first place.....'

With a flourish, I met up with Shoma who has been waiting for me.

 


 

Shoma and I decided to check on Taiga and Hiroshi' findings first. Investigating the stage lights above, we went up the metal stairs leading to the lighting system of the grand stage, taking notes of the speakers surrounding ceiling as well, 'They should have heard anyone coming up here but.... could the music be the problem....? Did the really intense background music be really enough to mask anyone's steps....?'

The biologist got up first before I do, heading towards Taiga who's been down this entire time, "Tiger shark... any luck...?"

"Erm.... not really......" Taiga is still looking downwards. "We just found some loose screws.... there's also a toolbox here, the culprit must have used one of the tools in there to do the job.... there's also one tool missing as well....."

 

'The crowbar.... that settles it...' I mentally thanked Hibiki for noticing that sooner. I wouldn't want to know what would happened if I missed it or even check the wardrobe even deeper. "Taiga... are you looking at the spot where stage light dropped...?"

"No... I'm just trying to test out something....." Taiga claimed, holding onto something. "Hiroshi is down there right now, proving my suspicions....."

"Hiro- What?" I immediately looked over the rail and the abseiler suspended with wires connected to the speakers. "H-Hey!? That's way too dangerous!! What the hell were you two thinking!?"

 

"It's fine!!!" Hiroshi grinning as he let his hands go and the wire swayed dangerously slow. "I made sure there's a tighter grip this time!!"

"This time!?"

"Yeah, that's a long story between the two of us....." the marksman sighed. "But yeah.... no doubt about it. Where Hiroshi is suspended above.... is the direct place where that stage light was dropped....."

 

"Strange..." Shoma swayed from side-to-side. "Why does the culprit want to get rid of the lighting effects in the first place.....? If the culprit left the bookworm alone up here..... it wouldn't make much difference...... we would still notice the bookworm disappeared during their performance....."

Shoma's right, what's the point crashing the stage light down below then? Does the culprit have some sort of ulterior motive....? Were they aiming for something...?

"Alright, I'm pulling you up!!" Taiga called out to Hiroshi who just give a thumb-up in response. "Oh yeah, Sumi.... I wanna ask you something.... I'm sure it sounds like pure coincidence.... but.... do you think the deaths this time were related to our play....?"

 

"What....?"

"Well think about it....." Hiroshi easily got over the rails, and landed safely. The marksman helped him untied the knots, "In that story, Gretchen's mother died from some sort of sleeping potion.... and Amane was killed by ingesting some kind of poisonous substance... right?"

"Not only that....." the abseiler added in his point. "When Macchan... appeared..... it happened right before the duel between Taiga and Hisao.... between Valentin and Faust.... before Valentin was even killed....."

 

"An imitation murder....." Of course, I have heard of this. I collected a lot of information for one of the police forces who's hunting down a certain serial murderer..... or some sort of crazed group who admired such person. "It's.... possible...everyone did received the script play.... including the people who weren't chosen for acting...." Then, I remembered something else. "..... Taiga, Hiroshi.... do you remember who went onto the stage and who left the stage after their part is done...? Like... which direction did they go...?"

 

"Right... because you were needed a lot during the play...." Hiroshi cleared his throat, preparing for a long talk. "From the audience's viewpoint, you always go back to the right side of the stage and Hisao, at first, came from the left side but returned to the right side for the rest of the play as well as me. I think the only people remained the left side of the stage were Nao, Taiga and Hibiki.... but.... still.... this is still confusing...."

"But I think we can narrowed the suspects down slightly. You're really helpful, no worries...." I thanked Hiroshi quickly. "I will be heading down then.... if you guys are done.... we should re-grouped once more to discuss our findings...."

"Gotcha'!!"

 

"Shou-chin, let's go...." As usual, the biologist overtake me as soon as I said that, following closely behind his lead. But once midway down the stairs, Shoma suddenly jumped down from the highest point without a problem and ran off. "H-Hey!!" I immediately give chase.

Thankfully, he stopped nearby, examining the.... fire extinguisher right behind the stage. "Sumi... take a closer look at this...."

"D-Don't just go off like that..... You almost made me worried-"

"Worry about... what? Why would you be worry..?"

 

"I.... umm.... Never mind, you just gave me.... a sudden fright that's all...." I shook my head to get rid of those worrisome thoughts as I did what Shoma said. It's an ordinary fire extinguisher attached to the wall.... but.... "What's this...?" I peeled off something that was hiding behind it, that was covered up by the wall, "Another tape....? But why...?" It's a bloody tape as well.....

"Not only that.... look at where we're standing....." looking below, I can see the wooden floors of the stage with streaks of blood, as if someone was trying to wiped them clean. "Could it be.... the fire extinguisher was used as the culprit's weapon...?"

Well, there's only one case that would needed it and that's....

 

.....

........

 

"But wouldn't someone noticed it.....?" I asked, loudly, that suddenly hits me. "This place is near the left side of the stage, really near the dressing room as well.... why didn't anyone hear anything then....?"

".... Perhaps.... the critters' positions during the play..... holds a lot more significance than we first thought......" Shoma shoved his hands in his lab coat's pockets. "I think.... we searched enough..... it's time we investigate Macchan's case....."

"R-Right...." It's like the first case all over again. Someone should have noticed something...... or even heard anything at all. There's no doubt about it that the culprit..... has to be one of the people involved in the play.....

 


 

Nao, Higura and Mitsuru were investigating Machi's body, with the ghostwriter still kneeling down, looking over the librarian. Her stature shaking a bit.

"Nao....." They're close, there's no denying that. Losing your friend in this situation so drastically... so unexpectedly..... hurts a lot. "Nao... did you.... all find anything....?"

"Hmmmm.... just this..." Mitsuru opened up her hands to find another loose screw and some sort of metal panel. "This was near the stage light but other than that.... not so much...."

 

"I see....." I glanced over Machi once more. "I will be investigating his body..... Nao... would you mind if I...?"

The ghostwriter just nodded as she stood up and back away a little. Her tears are already dried up but the redness under her eyes remained. Her gaze on the body hasn't broke yet.

"Macchan, pardon me for being invasive....." I quietly spoke to him as I started reaching. There's a paper in his pocket that I immediately pulled it out and unfolded, reading its contents, " [ "There's something I needed to tell you..... meet me at the backstage..... something about the script I received just isn't right" ].... No signature or anything..... This has to be the culprit's doing...."

 

"So he was summoned and this fucker think nothing of it....?" Higura sneered. "Why the fuck would he even go in the first place? He's smarter than this.... or are we overestimating him too much....."

"...... There's a lot to this I still can't wrap my head around but....." First thing first, there's something else I wanted to know as well. "Mochi, Mitsun.... when did Amane and Machi left their seats exactly? This is crucial...."

"Ummm... like I've said before..... Machi left when Nao's part played.... but I'm not sure about Amane... we were really focused on the play, we're terribly sorry!!" Mitsuru bowed down.

 

"Not only that.... the music was like... too fucking loud that we didn't notice them leaving their seats....." Higura complained. "Like my eardrums are going to seriously fucking burst if they ever go a volume higher!!"

The music volume.... not only that, was it just me who noticed something weird about it? Like there's some kind of....

Wait...

.....

Don't tell me...

 


"Here ya' go!!"

The conman handed Amane and I numerous musical sheets, "Study them!! They're gonna be very much useful in due time!!


 

....

......

'Mafuyu Hisao, what the fuck did you just do....?' My eyes widened once I remembered that, that moment where it was just him, Amane and I at the bar, right after we knew about the Ultimate Academy from just a few days ago. I only studied the musical sheet once or twice but that's it. I didn't think much of it after that.

Now....

Right now..........

 

'But.... he would have known....' That's the contradiction here. 'If he was the one behind it.... he would also have known about that secret message within the music itself..... he would have looked up as well..... so... who was Amane targeting for....?'

...... Is it me?

  

"Sumi....." Shoma waved his hand in front of me. "Spacing out again....? Did the chemical got into Sumi's head.....?"

"A-Ah no.... just thinking about this...." I hurriedly shoved the letter in my pocket and continue searching but so far, there's nothing on him at all. "W-What...? That's seriously it....?"

"Yeah, that's what we thought!!!" said Higura. "We didn't inspect the body since we're leaving that job to you but honestly, this just fuck us up even more!! Like, there's nothing on him we can even deduce why he went to the back in the first place!!"

 

"I-I... saw him last night....." Nao confessed, her stuttering returned. "When I was returning back to my room after the practice play, he was standing outside of his room, looking really worried.... I asked him what's wrong but he just brushed me off.... saying that it's nothing......."

At that point, he must have received that calling letter. So the culprit plan's started from yesterday? But when did they get to visit the mortuary? That embalming chemical is highly reactive when exposed to outside environment for too long so they must have gotten hold of it today.

For now, I will be taking note of Nao's account as well as Mitsuru's and Higura's account.

 

"Shou-chin... may I ask you something....? I'm done inspecting Macchan's body...." I stood up, holding the biologist by the arm and pulling him away from others and out of their earshot. "This morning.... did you see anyone headed for the elevator or anything after the Mini-myous gave our costumes....?"

"Elevator..... no......" Shoma answered simply. "Ren and I went for a swim..... Hisao and Hibiki went for a practice a bit at the theater..... Higura and Mitsuru went to the bar they said...... Machi and Nao was at the library all day...... and... Hiroshi and Taiga went to the gymnasium......"

"That's.... very concrete alibi....." Again, everyone's accompanied by another person and the only people who didn't witness anyone going anywhere should be.... "No one has seen Amane for the entire day....."

 

".... Ah that....." Shoma frowned. "..... Could the penguin critter possibly..... did it to himself......?"

"No, there's a struggle going on so there's no way he.... would inflicted that much damage onto himself....." Plus, it would mean he would only have matter of seconds to hide everything. I doubt it's even enough. And whatever that substance is.... if he's the one who applied it, he wouldn't end up in that position.....

"Still stumped....." the biologist pouted. "Should we check Ren and that creature now...? I think they're done....."

"S-Sure but we have to-"

"We will discuss about it once everyone's present.... It would be troublesome if we did so now without those two.... there will be a lot of current waves....." Shoma explained.

'Right... if we present our evidences during the class trial... Renma and Hisao wouldn't even know anything about it and would think I'm just flaunting it so....' "Yeah, you're right.... let's go...."

Shoma called out to the others that we're leaving and will be waiting at the hotel. Once everyone gave out their reply, we immediately left the place.

 


 

Sao-chin.... are you alright?"

"Ah, little miss!! Finish with your side of the investigation? It's unfortunate but looks like I'm not going to be much of a help for this trial!!!" Hisao is lying down on the couch in the reception area, with the napkin still covering the lower part of his face. "Hahaha, it seems this one fucking culprit really planned ahead my demise...!"

" You just suffered from an unfortunate health complication....." said Shoma, looking over. "This critter culprit couldn't be considering you-"

 

"They did...." Out of nowhere, Renma appeared right behind us with a serious expression. "When I checked my mortuary.... a culprit left behind a note... probably accidentally..."

The said note was in his hands, he unfolded and read it out loud, " [ "Highly corrosive chemical in the mortuary, strong smell will be able to render the thorn useless and unable to investigate..." ] "

"Another note...?" But this time, it's a reminder for the culprit themselves? Two notes, a note that lured out Machi and a note that contained vital information about the plan. Both of them have to be written by the culprit, right?

 

"The special adhesive I applied to the mortuary door was unfortunately torn off.... I didn't expect the culprit to know about the materials I used...." the mortician sighed. "It would be near impossible to remove such adhesive without a lighter....And unfortunately.... I lost mine this morning...."

"A.... lighter...?" What kind of adhesive is that..? Is it the barrier protection charms that Shoma was talking about....?

"I usually light special candles in my own room for relaxation and aromatherapy...." Renma explained. "I used special adhesive I applied to the door frame that could only be removed when exposed to warm temperature. Although, they're quite sensitive material, even small exposure of heat could easily make them melt away...."

 

"That's....." That has to be it. "Alright, I will be explaining our findings as well then....."

Shoma and I take turns explaining, we can see how both of their expressions slowly morphed into confusion. After we're done, Hisao immediately stood up straight, "Well, this is really tricky.... reaaaaaal tricky.... and I can't believe this is the second time someone tried to kill me!! Am I really that unlikable!?"

"Personal preference....." It would make sense why they want him out immediately, he is our savior sort of. "So..... what do you guys personally think...? Are there two blackened or....?"

 

"Possible..... but I doubt anyone would risk that!!" Hisao exclaimed. "I mean, it said so on the killing game rules!! The other blackened would be completely ignored so why even want to murder someone else right after the first one?"

Unless they're planning to murder two people in the first place..... but that will only work.... if there's only one culprit. ......

This is the first time.... I felt really lost......

Years of working myself to no end, not leaving any mysterious traces and tying up all loose ends..... and this is what stumped me in the end? That's so fucking laughable-

 

"Chop!"

"Ackh!!"

 

Shoma delivered a swift blow to the back of my neck, cutting out air for a moment as I begin coughing. "W-What...? Why did you do that...?"

"You're thinking about negative stuffs, weren't you....?" He seemed upset. "That's no good.... bad... that's bad!! If you don't say it, you will explode!!!"

"Ex-Explode....?" Trying to regain back my speaking voice, I asked. "Shou-chin... I-I know you're trying to cheer people up but hitting them without permission isn't going to work at all-"

 

"I'm not cheering any critter..... I'm scolding instead....." Shoma clarified himself. "If I cheer.... other critters will think it's fine to do it again.... so if I scolded instead, every critter will understand that it's not a good thing to do..... so Sumi..... what's in your mind...? We want to help as well..."

That 'we' Shoma mentioned, Hisao and Renma is looking right at me. With all three pair of eyes staring, I have to forced myself to admit it, "I just don't know.... I don't know what to think about this case..... I was so focused about the reward that Monomyou mentioned..... I got completely distracted from what's happening around me...... I should have pay more attention....It's... my fault for going along what that host said....maybe this is just karma from what Amane has been saying..... I'm sorry, everyone....."

 

Vulnerable.

That's the first time.... I was being vulnerable to everyone.

I wasn't expecting anything, any encouragement or what but....

 

"Yeah, I completely agree with you... you're definitely being too gullible this time....." Hisao replied, all too calmly. "I mean, I followed along because I thought you had some sort of plan for this one but it turns you didn't, huh? Imagine my shock!! I'm greatly disappointed in you, little miss....."

"It turns out I'm not really that bright, huh...?" That damn time limit motive, if I wasn't too focused on that, I would have thought of another way. "Now... we lost two people... because of that stupid play-"

"Whoa there!!" Hisao stopped me right before I could finish my sentence. "We can blame you for listening to Monomyou for once but we can't really blame you for the deaths of those two.... those were planned really way back than we first thought!!"

 

"What....?" What does that mean? "Mafuyu Hisao, I swear to god, what do you mean by that?"

Following the conman's behavior pattern, he just grinned at me, wanting me to figure that out during the class trial. Typical, a massive hint he dropped out of nowhere. Even Shoma and Renma just looked at him in shock as what he just said. But Hisao just stretched his arms around and pointed out, "By the way, everyone's here already... don't kept them waiting, little miss!!"

"Everyone...." Sure enough, once I turned around, the people from the theater house were already here, standing around with unreadable expressions. "H-How long were you guys....?"

 

"Long enough to hear you bitching about yourself...." Higura glared as he approached me slowly. "I heard enough depressive crap from everyone here but yours just take the cake, literally, and I fucking hate it so goddamn much. How stupid can you be for trusting that furfuck in the first place? You literally set yourself a death trap without realizing! Man, I can't believe I actually trust your guts in this one!!"

He's going to hit me, isn't he? This familiar pent-up aggression, Higura is pissed at me for not giving this whole motive a second thought. Yeah, that's reasonable. It's reasonable why he would be so-

He did the unexpected.

Higura pulled me into a hug, "But God fucking damn it, I can't fucking blame you for everything! We're all idiots here for depending on such a one-sided opinion!!! We're all even here so don't fucking beat yourself up for something that wasn't your own fault to begin with!!"

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Ahem! Your investigation time is up!! Alright, little detectives!!! It's time to move forward to the exciting 'Class Trial' event!! Please head your way to the northwest of the hotel immediately!!

 

The graphic designer lets go and I was lost for words. "Ah... I.... Was that... a warning or......"

"Who gives a shit, it's yours to think about it...." Higura shrugged. "Anyways, time for the most pain-the-ass event for tonight.... move out, everyone!! Let's finish this as soon as possible!!" Everyone hesitated to leave and keep glancing back at my direction, but one by one, they did so. Until it was just the four of us in the hotel.

 

"Well.... there you go...." Hisao patted my head. "You got your answer.... do you still think people blame you for those two's untimely demise? Or does your mind still speaks otherwise? Alrighty then, I'm leaving that inner battle to you, little miss!! Toodles'!"

Hisao went ahead, catching up with others. "Honestly, that man has no boundaries....." Renma placed his hand on my shoulder. "Sumi... let's go..... if it helps your heart to be in peace, everyone here knows you have good intentions..... we're just blinded by other unforeseen circumstances..."

"Let's go, let's go!!" Shoma pushed the both of us forward.

 

............

Forward.

That's right.

There's no other way... but to push forward.... for now.

 


 

The elevator to our destination descended way quicker that before, there are fewer of us left and it doesn't feel like we're being suffocated in here anymore. For once, everyone looked composed, they're not worried or anything. It's .... unusual.

'I wonder what everyone.... thought about just now when I.....' I shook my head, trying to forget about those negative thoughts. 'No.... if what Higura said is true then.... there's no other reason why I should keep putting myself down now, right?'

"Sumi... we're here already!"

 

Mitsuru standing right in front of me, with a confident smile, "It's gonna be alright!! We will definitely find the culprit behind this case no matter what!! You have everyone else on your side!!"

Very hero-like. Her attempt to bring other people's hope up is quite effective, I did smiled a bit as she dragged me to my own podium. Everyone, at their podium, looked determined, smiling at my way. Even Nao, who's always shy and prone to crying, stand her ground, ready for the trial.

A really... unexpected sight. But, seeing all of them like this, I feel way more determined right now...!

"Monomyou...." I started, glaring at the host in their seat. "I hope you're not wasting our time idling around right now. Everyone's already in their places so why don't you do your duty as our host and start this trial now?"

"Ohohoho? Feeling rather feisty now, are we!?" Monomyou snickers. "Well then, hope all of you are really prepared!! Because this case... will really make or break ya'!!! Finding out who's the culprit of these two murders will surely entertained everyone till the end!! It's time to give it your all!!"

 

"We can now officially start the Class Trial!!! With your wits and strength on this nightly trial!! It's time to refute with all your might!!"

 

'Will there be one blackened? Or two? Whoever they are, they killed two people in one night without any remorse. They got guts for ruining our chances to get our answers, now, it's time to ruin their chances from even escaping this place unscathed! We won't give up hope, not now.... not ever!!"

Chapter Text

Class Trial - IN SESSION - ]

 

"Now then, due to this exciting development of our magnificent play, this class trial will determined on who are the killers of Sekiguchi Amane, the arrogant Ultimate Composer and Yokoda Machi, the gentle Ultimate Librarian!" announced Monomyou. "Of course, like I've said before, you only need to find the blackened responsible for the first one! But if you really want to, you can find out who's the second blackened as well!! Maybe, just maybe!! One of you might ambushed them after this, nyahahaha!!!"

"Anyways, let's proceed the trial as usual!! Vote for the correct culprit and they will be punished!! Vote wrongly then everyone's punished except for the killer!! Now then, let us all hear your verdicts!!"

 

"Sorry, my fellow friends!!" Hisao started, placed his hand on his forehead and the other on his chest as he dramatically faint. "It's unfortunate but I won't be much of a help for this trial for I drastically been cursed by the culprit's trap!! Oh, how unfortunate!!!"

"You're sick, so what, this trial will go even more smoothly if you shut the hell up...." Higura sighed. "Like what that furfuck said, the first case is more important but.... it's going to be real tough since there's close to nothing about Machi's case that we can even talk about....."

 

"Ummm..... perhaps we can start with identifying the weapon but......" Mitsuru added. "We didn't really find one during our investigation....huh?"

"There's no way there isn't one!!" Nao exclaimed. "There has to be a weapon!! The culprit must have hid it somewhere!!!"

"Relax, little ghost....." Shoma tried to calm the writer from a far. "I agree... the weapon is the main factor here.... we must determined that first...."

 

'The weapon used to kill Machi.... it must have been that, right? That thing we found at the back of the stage....!'

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"There's no way the murder weapon wouldn't exist!!" Nao yelled.

"But we didn't find one during our investigation...." Mitsuru pointed out. "Maybe the culprit disposed of the weapon....."

"Maybe they hid it in plain sight..." Hibiki asked. "Because nobody would even suspect it?"

"Or maybe there's no weapon to begin with..." said Higura. "It's possible that he just died on impact..."

"It is a huge drop....." Hiroshi wondered. "Like he might have been pushed off...."

 

( BREAK! )


 

"No... there's definitely a weapon... like what Hibiki said...." I explained thoroughly. "Shou-chin and I found a fire extinguisher at the back of the stage. If you swing one and just aim for the weakest point in the human body, in this case their spine, it is enough to kill a person in one blow....."

"And there's another weird nickname, great....." Higura mentioned the least important part out. "But I can see that.... shattering someone's spine is really fucking easy. Putting back the weapon in its original place, though, is a weird move from the culprit....."

 

"Not quite...." Renma pondered. "Anyone in charge of backstage would have noticed the fire extinguisher that suddenly disappear from it usual place and be very wary about it.... which brings me to my next point; where was he actually killed?"

"That was marked unknown in the record as well...." said Taiga. "But it's kind of obvious that he was killed up where the stage lights are...."

"There would have been blood dripping from above and onto the stage...." Hibiki rebutted. "There's no way that would happened...."

 

"Unless you placed something underneath the body then there's no way there will be any blood spill!" Mitsuru remarked.

"Then we would have find some kind of matting or sheets when we investigate that place...." said Hiroshi. "Yet there was none and the railings were all clean too!!"

"W-well.. the culprit could have disposed it as well....." Nao replied. "And we couldn't really find it....."

 

'The place where Machi was ambushed. If I remembered correctly, it's not too far from the murder weapon as well.....'

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"The only possibility is that he was killed above where the stage lights are..." Taiga proposed.

"We would have noticed a trail or spill of blood at least on the stage below...." Hibiki shoots down.

"Maybe he was killed at the back of the stage when there's no one around?" said Mitsuru.

"Too risky...." Renma pointed out. "They would have done it in a more secluded room...."

"Is it possible he was killed out of the theatre house?" Hiroshi asked.

 

( BREAK! )


 

"Mitsuru's right, Macchan was killed at the backstage while we were too busy doing our theatre play...." I can see the cosmetologist pumped her hands up for getting it right. "When we inspected the back stage, we found the wooden floor with streaks of blood on it so it's possible that he was killed there-"

 

( ARGUED: Yoshimune Taiga - "Your weak points are showing!!" - )


 

"No, it's wrong to think he would be even killed there!!" Taiga argued.

"What gives you that idea...?" That was surprising, I didn't expect it but at the same time, I'm curious to what he's going to say about this. "I would like to hear your opposing points..."

 

"Gladly!!" Taiga grinned. "Those streaks of blood on the floor are just the culprit dragging Macchan's body from somewhere else!! There's no way the culprit would even kill when there's that many people waiting by the sidelines!!"

"There were streaks because it's the culprit's attempt to wiped off the blood...." I replied. "And don't forget, we're only waiting on the either side of the stage. Neither of us even noticed there was something going on or even heard anything. And saying that the culprit dragged the body.... are you suggesting that they might killed them in the dressing room?"

"It's the most likely choice!!" Taiga exclaimed. "If the culprit really did killed them backstage and try to clean up their crime, there would have been evidence left by the culprit themselves!!"

 

( CUT-IN! - "My words against yours!" -)

 


 

"Funny that you said that because the culprit did left a rather sloppy evidence...." I pulled the said evidence from my pocket. "A bloody tape I found hiding behind the fire extinguisher.... this also leads me to conclude that latter to be the murder weapon as well...."

"Did you.... actually put that in your own jacket?" Taiga looks horrid.

"Yes, I'm taking that risk...." I replied without a beat. "There's no other disposable materials on the stage, it has to be the tape....."

"If the culprit's smart, they would have used the tissues or napkins from the dressing room but perhaps they don't want to alert the actors who were waiting for their part next...." said Renma. "So they settle with the tape.... I wonder what's the intended use of that tape to begin with.....?"

 

'The reason why the tape was used in Macchan's case has to be....'

.................

.............

"The only thing I can think of is to cover his mouth as he was being murdered..... It's hard to imagine being so quiet and out of it when your spine just got shattered by a really heavy object....." I suggested. "But that would have result in a struggle.... huh...."

I just realized something, Hisao is being really quiet this entire time. He was just leaning over his podium looking at everyone with a boring look on his face. Did he seriously stayed quiet just because Higura told him so? I sighed and called out, "Sao-chin, you can talk now....."

"Oh, good!!" Hisao straightened up his posture. "I got really bored at everyone suggesting a question and poor little miss has to answer all by herself!! Booo, you guys suck! As well as your questions!!"

 

"Oh yeah, ask better ones then!" Higura spat.

"Okay!! Then here's my question!! Why did Macchan go to the backstage in the first place?" Hisao asked. "It's kind of weird he would go to the back all alone!!"

That's.... didn't Mitsuru said so earlier? She said that Machi was going to use the restroom at the back? Or is he saying that because there's something else to the mystery?

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"Now, why did our precious librarian went to the backstage in the first place?" Hisao asked.

"He said he wanted to use the restroom, that's it...." Higura furrowed his brows. "It's not rocket science, you idiot...."

"But the restroom is at our side...." mentioned Hiroshi. "I would have seen him approaching from the right side of the stage!!"

"I'm sure he has no other motives to even want to go to the backstage....." said Renma. "We're overthinking this simple action...."

"Maybe he found something suspicious...?" Nao asked.

 

( BREAK! )


 

"No, that's wrong. Macchan did have other things to do when he excused himself....." I rebutted. "Look at this note I found in his pocket..... he was planning to meet someone else on stage about the script they've received...."

"Something strange about the script.... that they wanted to talk about......" Nao carefully read it out loud. "...... I've seen that note when you pulled it out of his pocket but.... I still don't get it....."

"Now, now, Nao.... I know you wanna avenge Macchan but now it's little miss' turn to shine..." Hisao smirked. "Now, little miss devil, who could have sent that note? Who in this room would have the script that seemed a little bit off...?"

 

'Ah, so that's where you're leading me ahead. As expected, the conman who would just threw out bunch of things out in the open, getting at least one of them correct. Well, guess I have to play hook-line-and-sink now, do I?'

.......................

................

"Sekiguchi Amane........ Hisao pointed this out yesterday morning when everyone showed off their script to get them checked..... Amane still has few extra pages in his envelope that he secretly kept with him......"

"Because of that, I took my sweet time seducing the composer into spilling some details, it was hard work, ya' know!?" Hisao whined. "Last night, I went to his room with Nao.... apparently his script said something about a fake player being in the killing game....."

"A... A fake player....? What does that mean...?" Mitsuru stammered.

"A fake player is what it is!! Someone who's not supposed to be here!! Someone who's not supposed to participate!!" Hisao exclaimed. "And all I can theorise why this fake player is with us..... is because they're working for the mastermind....."

 

'The cat's out of the bag, it's hard to imagine such a wild theory from almost a week ago became relevant right now.....' I collapsed onto my podium for a while. 'But why was Amane the only one who have that still...? Where does that brings us in this matter....?'

"Well, I got really bored for dilly-dallying for too long because you guys are so slow so say consider this; what if Amane tried to kill the fake player?"

"Eh!?" Nao and Mitsuru gasped, I immediately jolted back in my podium when I heard that. Amane planning to murder....? Is he......serious?  "You're saying that.... Amane sent that note to Machi..... to kill him because he thinks he's the fake player?"

"What? It's not that hard to imagine...." Hisao shrugged. "I mean, he did act cold towards us in the end. He was against this play to begin with. And let me rephrase what your meeting with that composer was like, saying things like 'maybe a super secret evil organisation is behind this killing game'...?"

 

"Ohohoho! I have heard of that idea!!" Monomyou snickers. "Sounds like a really good backstory for a character from a fictional dystopian TV show!! Better jot that idea down for future purposes!! One man's trash is another myan's treasure! Ackh-! I stuttered!!!"

"It's just his hunch, right....?" Taiga looked at him confused. "I mean..... yeah, it sounds more likely but why do you think he's really fixated on that??"

"Oh... for no reasons..... perhaps he was just fooling around with it....." Hisao whistles. "Like he just thought it's a neat idea and begin screwing people around with it!!"

 

'Screwing people around..... that seems a bit childish-' My eyes widened. "..... Amane is trying to weed out the fake player by saying things like that...."

"A hook-line-and-sinker type of approach....." Hisao grinned. Ah, this bastard. "If Amane trying to riled up the fake player by doing that kind stunt.... and see who reacted the most.... after all, the most guilty one is often the most reactive....."

"N-Now that you mentioned it......" Taiga remembered something. "..... He did said something like around Hibiki and I yesterday afternoon...... we were really confused why he even did that...... he did that after visiting us at the bar..... and just left....."

"That's a strange roster of people he asked....." Renma narrowed his eyes. "If he were adamant to weed out the fake player, he could have went for everyone in one go....."

"He wasn't because he was too sure of himself, you know like he always is?" Hisao hummed. "He went for these people because they have one thing in common....."

 

'The one thing in common that Taiga, Hibiki and possibly Machi has to be related with that thing... when we were discussing about the mysterious lucky student and the Ultimate Despair......'

......................

................

"They were the only ones who partially remembered their past....? But that still doesn't make any sense! They only remembered bits about that missing lucky student! Nothing about the fake player!"

 

"We don't even know if they're even connected as well!!" Hibiki argued. "I think you should stop screwing around and throwing nonsensical things into this trial thinking it makes sense to you!! This is serious, you know! Nothing you propose makes any sense!!"

"Of course, it doesn't make sense!!" Hisao exclaimed. "Macchan's entire case itself basically doesn't make any sense!!! That's why we're here arguing about it!!"

"No, it's not!!" Nao yelled. "There has to be a reason why Macchan's even killed!!"

 

....... Doesn't makes sense.....

"Sao-chin.... are you saying Amane just went for a blind kill?" I asked, my voice wavering. "Are you saying that there's a possibility that Machi reacted so heavily to that fake player sentence that Amane deemed it enough to kill him? Is that what you're saying??"

"We were at height of paranoia...." said Hisao. "Anyone could act rather selfishly at that moment. It doesn't matter what or why and it never has to make any sense. Anyone can kill anyone, you don't even need to justify your own reasoning to do it. It's just one less piranha in the sea!! Let me ask you all this; do you guys really know who Sekiguchi Amane really is?"

 

"This isn't the time for some pep-talk-"

"No, no, I'm getting annoyed by everyone here so let me spill thoughts into this....." Hisao cuts off Hiroshi with a glare. "You guys have to stop saying things doesn't make sense just because Amane has no reason to kill anyone out of the blue. If you gave someone such a non-descriptive message, they will get paranoid over it that they will go to the extremes making sure they're safe at all costs!! Prioritizing friendships and all is pretty useless when there's a dangerous person lurking in the group as well!!"

"Y-You're saying......" Nao stammered. "Macchan was killed.... for nothing...?" No one wants to confirm that but at the same time, no one wants to argue that. What Hisao said could be the truth, that it's nothing but just some paranoia of a person.

 

"Fine, he's a scummy one, so what?" Higura snapped. "That still doesn't help us-"

"Hold on....." I stopped the designer from finishing his sentence. "Hold on...... Sao-chin.... you don't think....?"

"Aha!! Little miss devil finally got the point!!" Hisao clapped his hands. "Bravo!! Were you impressed by my villain role?! I've practice plenty of times to be more believable this time!! Please shower me with praises after this!! Everyone else is too cruel to not do so!!"

 

Ahhh.... I'm the one being screwed around here. Finally piecing everything together for this unmotivated case. "Monomyou, correct me if I'm wrong but....." I stared at the grinning cat in their throne. "Is the 'mystery of the fake player' the actual motive for this case?"

"Nyahahahaha!!! You've got that right!!" Monomyou laughed. "That play thing was just an act!!! Nyahaha! Get it!? The script itself was a distraction from the real motive given to two of your people!!! Ackh-!! I made a mistake-!!!"

"What was that!?" I gripped onto the podium and, to everyone's surprise, Hisao was also taken back by that slip of tongue. So, he doesn't know about that as well? I guess he doesn't really know about everything. There's another one who knew about the flake player.....

 

"So it was a lie!?" Mitsuru shrieked. "That whole script play was just to distract from the real motives!? Like our secret motives last time!?"

"The real motive for this case isn't a time limit motive......" Nao gasped. "But it's the secret identity motive..... A motive that prompted someone to take action against this supposed fake player......"

"And so the fake curtains fall at last!!" Hisao announced out loud, as if he didn't break character just now. "That's right! That's what I mean by gullible, you know, dear little miss devil!!! You keep looking at the surface level but never go beyond it!!!"

 

This motive. Is that why Amane brought up my skepticism in the first place? When I didn't even think twice about this idea of a play suddenly appearing out of nowhere? Now that I think it like that, I'm really that stupid for believing so much in it. It turns out Amane was just....

'No.... Amane still acted on his own by murdering someone else....thinking that's the answer.....' That, there's no way I'm going to applaud his awareness just like that. He's just as clueless as everyone else was at the start. If he was so serious about finding this fake player, he could have went to us first.... Hisao and I would have helped him.

 

"Sao-chin... so this is what you mean the culprit planned this way before we even thought about doing the play...." I sighed, these revelations starts to really weighing me down. "Amane went his way and tried to find the fake player by himself and while everyone's distracted by the script play that Monomyou proposed..... he interrogate those people who remembered the mysterious lucky student who, by chance, have part of their past memories...." Shit, is that why he wasn't convinced that Monomyou would even return our memories after the play? It's because we have others who actually did....

"Well then, dear little miss devil....." Hisao pointed right at me. "Who do you really think is Macchan's killer now that we know the true motive for this case?"

 

'The killer for Macchan's case could only be the person who received such ominous motive.... which is......'

..........................

....................

...A blind kill, a first for this case. But is that really true? Would Amane.... really go that far...? Wait a second-!!!

"If Amane's the killer...." I looked back at the Monomyou. "Hey, if the blackened who killed Machi is already dead..... then who on earth are you going to punished then....?"

"Ah...! That's the fun part of this case!!" Monomyou exclaimed. "Find your appropriate substitute!!! I mean, this is one-in-a-million of chances, ya'know!! Your beloved, cute host have given you a chance to substitute the deceased blackened this time!! Take your pick, you bastards!!!"

 

"We can....... nominate someone to be punished.....?" Hiroshi's eyes widened. "No way!! There's no way we're gonna do that!!"

"Of course, we're gonna do that....." I remarked sharply. "Because we're gonna nominate the second blackened to take the fall. Now that we knew what happened with Macchan's case, Amane's case became more clearer right now....."

"Umm.... you said that but...." Mitsuru doesn't look to convinced. "What about when Macchan.... fell along with the stage light....? That's one mystery that I don't really get here......"

 

"I feel like that one answered itself...." Higura initiate his thinking pose. "I mean, think about it, you've already killed one person so why not do the job and finished off the rest?"

"That's too absurd!!" Hibiki fights back. "Amane won't do such a suicidal move!!!"

"Well, when you're paranoid, it does makes sense....." Hisao rested his chin on top of his hand. "I mean, I'm not ruling out any possibilities, like what little miss devil always do!! That's her signature catchphrase after all!!"

 

"I don't have such catchphrase...." It sounds too absurd but if given the choice..... wait, then what's that weird melody thing that I've heard? Why did Amane composed that piece at that exact timing? At the exact moment, Macchan fell. As if it's scripted-

......

I see, so it's like that.....

"Anyways!! Let us discuss why did our beloved librarian fell from the heavens above, shall we!?" Hisao announced.

I need to think about it more later. We have this mystery solve first!

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"The culprit placed the body above the stage lights!!" Hisao started. "The weight of the body adds on and the stage lights immediately gave way!!"

"Those things are sturdy...." Hiroshi rebutted. "There's no way they're going to break off that easily....."

"Maybe they're just old and rusty...?" Mitsuru remarked. "I mean, that alone can break them, right?"

"Everything in that place looks brand new so impossible...." Higura added. "The culprit probably tampered with the safety locks on it or something...."

"Are they that easy to removed....?" Shoma asked. "That's quite a feat... even for a critter....!"

 

( BREAK! )


 

"Higura's on the right track...." I smiled at him, as he puffed his chest out. "During Taiga and Hiroshi's inspection, they found loose screws right above the stage.... and from where they're inspecting, there's also a toolbox that the culprit used..... so no doubt, the culprit was planning to drop the stage light above the unsuspecting actors in the first place....."

"I know Amane is arrogant but sheesh....." Hiroshi scratched the back of his neck. "Willingly to throw away lives to try and get rid of a single person is just way too much!! That's like borderline maniac right there....."

 

Hibiki twitched, looking down at her feet when she heard that. Even though it's almost evident that Amane's the killer, she doesn't feel like it's right yet she's too scared to object, to fight back. Almost like how Higura doesn't want to reveal that he's working for the Saku in the last trial.

.....

Well, Hisao, it's my turn to overturn this trial. Amane just gave me a clue without even being here.....

 

"Actually, I have another possible theory. What if we're wrong? What if Amane wasn't the one who deliver the blow....." I proposed, and then everyone turned to me, including Hisao, bewildered. Got you now. "I would like for everyone to remember to content of the note sent to Macchan..... it specifically said they wanted to discuss about the script they got.... that doesn't make sense if Macchan and Amane actually talked about it prior to theater play when everyone's around...."

"..... That's.... a good point...." Taiga realized that biggest contradiction. "If they actually talked about it prior to the play, like how Amane went to Hibiki and I yesterday...... there's no reason why Macchan even want to go and see Amane at the backstage to begin with....."

"If we went ahead with Amane's sudden blind kill plan, then he would have planned everything ahead...." I explained. "But according to Nao's account, he might have received that note last night, and Amane has been holed up in his room from this morning till evening..... is that even enough time to prepare the things he needed?" A bit of a lie, but if everyone's convinced by it, then it will become the truth at the end.

 

"R-Right... he looked really worried last night...." Nao said her side of the story. "He even brushed me off as if he doesn't want me to know about his problem. Then, this morning, he was fine, like he wasn't really down or anything....."

"Little miss.... what are you trying to say here...?" Huh, this is the first time I got him to ask me that. That's an accomplishment.

"Amane's wary of everyone..... but I don't think he wanted to resort into killing either, and that's what I'm sure of it now....." I said. ".... And I think he's being an accomplice to the actual blackened, who also have that secret identity motive....."

"Ohohoho!! Another accomplice plot!!" Monomyou laughed. "Man, you guys are being too buddy-buddy with killers nowadays!! Must have been a really wild relationship you guys have!!!"

"That's the only the thing that makes sense in the whole skim-"

 

( ARGUED: Mafuyu Hisao - "I will slit your throat off!!" - )


 

"That's some shot-in-the-dark theory you're presenting there, little miss!!!" Hisao cuts in. "But I'm gonna have to stop you there!!"

"If you're gonna present your argument then present it seriously...." I said, folding my arms together. "Otherwise, you won't be able to convince me to change my mind, which is bad considering your own Ultimate talent...."

 

"Cheeky jab!! But alright, I'm gonna go all out!!!" Hisao started. "Saying that Amane having an accomplice in this case is too far-fetched, ya' know!! This can only be done by Amane himself, there's no way he would be working for someone else to carry out this plan!!"

"It's not far-fetched, it's still a possibility....." I argued. "If he was just an accomplice, it would explained how he would easily disposed of the body and clean up everything before anyone else witness them...."

"Come on, it's not that hard to clean up after yourself!!" Hisao snorted. "You only have to wiped them off and deal with the body afterwards!! There's no way there's any evidence that the culprit was helping in the midst of that!"

 

( CUT-IN! - "My words against yours!" -)

 


 

"Sao-chin.... do you remember the note that Renma had with him?" I asked the conman. "Do you remember what is said and what it looked like....?"

"The note..... the note that mentioned about that highly corrosive chemical in the mortuary, right....?" Hisao raised a brow, before hitting himself in the head. "Gah-!! Of course!! How the hell did I not figure that out!?"

"It seems you're finally the one who's being slow in this case...." I chuckled, as I pulled out two different notes I got from different locations. "These are the two notes relating to this incident. Both of them have different writing styles, and the second note is more so too specific for Amane to even write....."

 

"I recognized the note that you found on Macchan to be written by him but the other one.... I don't really recognized it...." Hibiki mentioned.

"I thought of that note as the culprit just reminding themselves....." Renma explained. "Now, with that accomplice theory, it's more of an instruction sent by the real culprit for Amane......"

"So the penguin critter didn't really committed suicide in the end......" Shoma sighed in relief. "Thank goodness.... my heart is elevated now....!"

 

"They..... still died though....." Mitsuru cowered back. "But... Sumi.... why do you believe that Amane isn't the killer for Macchan's case.... he's the only one who met with him face-to-face...."

This will take too long to explain so I have to cut it short. "I-I'm not sure if I can explain it well enough but Amane and I both have knowledge in musical cryptogram. It's part of my job and also Amane's specialty. It's when different notes in the music itself translated into letters by people who are familiar with it..... When the music that Amane composed played, I began to noticed how jarring the notes were played...."

"I thought that's just the haunting experience for the play...." said Hiroshi.

 

"It's not like that.... it turns out Amane was playing out certain notes to warn us....." I shouldn't underestimate his skills, honestly, dropping a secret message in his own work and made Monomyou to play it out without even noticing? That's insane. "And he wouldn't go as far as to do that if he was the actual blackened of this case. It sounds like he's crying for help to me....."

"Nyaaaagh!? I unexpectedly helped in this case!?" Monmyou jumped in their seat. "I've been tricked!! I've been deceived!! Although I was really sure there's nothing wrong with the reprise version that person gave me to yesterday, I was still fooled by this cunning composer, how terrible yet brilliant!!" So Amane actually reworked the piece once he worked along with the culprit? That really shows how much he's not on board with the plan either.

 

"Like a true spy on a mission!!!" Mitsuru gleamed with excitement. "Ah!! That's why you went on stage all of the sudden, right? It's because you heard that....."

"Shit... that's so fucking extra....." Higura grumbled. "But considering our Ultimate talents, I get how and why he's daring enough to do it!! Alright, I'm really convinced!! Not gonna lie, I wasn't on board from the beginning, saying that stuck-up composer being the actual blackened in this one!!"

"So Amane... was just another victim who fell into the culprit's trap....." Hibiki looked a bit glad. Glad to think that Amane isn't the far gone and would end someone's life without a reason. Hisao didn't look too different, expressionless still but I know deep down, he's actually impressed that Amane and I did what he told us to do, using such a dodgy technique in that kind of situation. 

 

"There's also a lot of things that I couldn't even figure out... if Amane's the only one behind this case....." I added. "How would he easily caught Machi off-guard, managed to kept him quiet and somehow everyone stage didn't even noticed a single thing happening backstage. Amane even suffered these mysterious injuries and broken bones when it was already mentioned he died from poisoning. And there's still a lot of clues inside the room that Amane died in when Hibiki, Shou-chin and I first inspected!"

 

"The culprit tried to get rid of him who witnessed the whole thing. That's why I can't believe so blindly that Amane wouldn't be the culprit for Macchan's case....."

 

"I see.... now that we got the full picture.... it does feel... incomplete...." Renma remarked. "Very well then, we will follow along your logic, Sumi. We will believe Amane's innocence in this one...."

"Ahhhh, I got totally beaten down heavily by little miss devil!!" Hisao sighed. "How shameful, I lost my winning streak!! But this case got a lot more interesting so I wanna join the fun as well!!"

 

 

"Nyahahaha.....!" Monomyou laughed, catching everyone's attention. "You sound reaaaally confident with yourself, miss devil!! Don't forget!! If your own theory is wrong then everyone here will be severely punished!!!"

'Of course, I knew that..... I just don't believe that Amane would do something outrageous as this.....' I studied everyone's face carefully. 'Amane wouldn't want to endanger everyone's lives.... even if it's only for Hibiki, he wouldn't go that far. If he did, then there's no way to explain those clues we found in that dressing room...... there has to be another blackened in this case..... the blackened who also received that secret identity motive....'

Class Trial - INTERMISSION- ]

Chapter Text

[ Class Trial - RESUMED - ]

 

"Nyahahaha!! So our dear actors has finally cleared up the mystery behind this case's motive; the secret identity of the fake player!!" Monomyou started. "Where could this motive will lead them through?! Will it truly lead to the actual blackened of this trial!? This exciting development will surely send our darling actors into the edge of the world with these twists and chills!! Now then, we shall see who the devil will take as their next victim for tonight!!"

 

"I shall go over the details of the case to keep a coherent timeline...." Hibiki gladly explained. "Amane received the secret identity motive as long as the other culprit in this case. However, due to his suspicion and high distrust in not only Monomyou but everyone else instead, he decided that he would act on his own. He talked to the two likely people who have unclear memories but with no luck. And so, his last hope is on Machi...."

"Somewhere along the line...." Mitsuru continued. "He conspired with the culprit, who also have the motive, to lure Machi to the backstage. But since the culprit themselves don't want any witnesses..... they have to get rid of Amane as well......."

 

"That summed up way too short but less confusing at least....." Higura looked more irritated as he thinks about it more. Can't blame him, we've already gotten this far and it's still a mess. "What I wanted to know is that Amane is a willing accomplice or not? I really don't want any sudden flashbacks from the previous event...."

"We unfortunately wouldn't know about that for a fact coming from a personal account....." said Renma, fidgeting and playing with the split ends of his hair. "But it's safe to say Amane wouldn't let the culprit get away with his crime using his unusual way to disposed of the body....."

 

"Machi's body did dropped in a rather odd timing..... even when it's in tuned with the musical cryptography part....." Taiga pointed out the odd sequence. "Like... did he actually planned that....?"

"He probably did...." I replied. "When investigation near the site.... Mitsuru and Higura discovered a broken metal panel and another loose screw nearby..... meaning he purposely loosened one screw and waited till the panel just gave away. When no one's paying attention, Machi and Amane probably left the audience seat at the same time, just before that hidden notes part coming up as well...."

"T-That's so risky!!" exclaimed Nao. "E-Even if with that.... there's no way he would be so sure that it will immediately fall along with his composed piece!!"

 

"Well, he could either be the mysterious lucky student or he just have a really good intuition on how long with that thing last before it fell to the ground...." Hisao twirled around his pocket knife in his hand. "But whatever it is, it has done well in his favour!! But now come with the question, who did he conspired with?"

"We don't know who would that other person be, huh....." Hiroshi looked down on his feet. "W-We were sort of lucky that Hisao saw those papers.... but since we only know he has it....."

"Let us critters not dwell too much into their identity...." Shoma suggested. "Instead, we figured out the penguin critter's death and the dressing room itself.... surely from there on.... the identity of the culprit will become more clearer......"

 

"I agree with what Shou-chin said. If we uncovered all the mysteries inside of that dressing room...." And probably find out the culprit's reasoning to why they discarded the evidences so sloppily. ".. then we might eliminate some suspects off......"

"The cause of death is ingestion of something that caused internal bleeding, right...?" Mitsuru brought up the line stated on the record file. "So it's safe to say he was tricked into getting poisoned by the culprit!!"

"Negative, there's no water bottles or anything that can be used to hold poison in......" Renma refuted. "It could have been something more of a solid matter....."

'The thing that killed Amane... was something that's really dangerous that we've discovered near the crime scene...."

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"It doesn't have to be poison...." Hiroshi added. "You could swallow like shards of glass and that would do the trick...."

"Why the hell would that fucker swallow them in the first place?!" Higura yelled.

"So it is poison...?" Taiga brought it back. "I mean... that's more possible..."

"Poison is a slow reactive...." Shoma pointed out. "... The critter drank down something... that destroy its insides immediately....."

"I-Is there such thing...?" Nao questioned.

 

( BREAK! )


 

"When I investigate the wardrobe inside the dressing room...." I carefully and try not to flail my gloved hand around too close to my face. "I found this embalming chemical hiding in there....."

"Ah, right... the critter almost forgot about that....!" Shoma clapped his hand together. "The chemical is highly corrosive...... ingesting small amount can vaporise your entire organs without a problem...."

"If it's that reactive then it would just take matter of seconds to kill a person. That's our murder weapon of choice, alright...." Mitsuru added her own insight. "But how did it even get to his mouth though? Even though he loves to blabber about, I doubt he's willing to open up just like that....."

 

"You..... might wanna rephrase that a bit more better...." Taiga looked at her awkwardly with a side glance, with Mitsuru staring back in confusion. "Well, Sumi and Shoma said he suffered from injuries, right? The culprit must have struggled a lot to get him to drink that chemical...."

"As I discussed this problem with those two before......" Hibiki added in. "If there's a struggle then there would chemical burns or taint on the culprit themselves..... but as everyone went out of the theatre house, everyone was clean. The chemical even have a strong smell that could filled the room yet there's none when we're at the outdoors....."

'How did the culprit managed to get Amane to drink the chemical....? Is there a way to even administer it without injuring oneself....?'

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"There has to be a struggle going on....." said Taiga. "... and the culprit must have suffered a few burns....."

"But all of us turned out clean after we left the theatre house!" Mitsuru rebutted.

"What if they washed the chemical off of them...?" Hiroshi asked,

"There's no shower room and water bottles inside that place, it's impossible..." Higura replied.

"If they immobilised their victim...." Hisao suggested. ".... then it would make things easier for them......."

 

( BREAK! )


 

"Like what Hisao said, the culprit stopped Amane by breaking his ankles so he wouldn't run or even fight back....." I tried to recall the moment Shoma twisted his legs in a very odd angle. "And if the culprit's fast enough... they could administer the chemical just at that moment....."

"You can use your arms when defending yourself but if you have no experience in self-defence or, just have lack of strength or exercise....." Taiga explained. "Then, you will be easily overpowered by the culprit....."

"If you kept someone hands really secured, it made the job much easier to torture someone, from personal experience!" Hisao said with a cheerful tone. "It still, however, doesn't explain the lack of stains!! I couldn't imagine the culprit down the whole bottle of poison without spilling. Amane could at least try to shake them off!"

 

'The reason why there's no mess or anything on the floor... was because...'

...............

...........

"From what Shou-chin discovered, he scraped the corner of Amane's mouth using his scalpel and found these weird white-jelly substances sticking to it...." I glanced over to the medium. "Ren-chin, may I know more about this... adhesive you used for your mortuary....?"

"I haven't fully used them to the fullest since they're Monomyou's creation but they're multi-purpose material....." Renma explained. "In fact, you can used them so far as preservatives for organs and freshly-cut off limbs-"

 

"Eek!!" Hibiki paled and let out a squeal.

"S-Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, slipped of habit....." the medium cleared off his throat. "A-Anyways..... they can also worked as glue or some kind of casing that could hold any material in it. But the downside is that they can easily melt when exposed to heat or in any environment that has high moisture......"

"What the...... that's like..... super ridiculously fictitious!!!" Mitsuru's mouth was wide open at that revelations. "With those kind properties, they might as well be made for like a bomb or something!! There's no way they're that functional!!"

"Are you insulting my work!?" Monomyou showed of their claws to the lilac-haired girl, slowly cowering in her podium. "How dare you!! I work my ass off for those things!!"

 

As ridiculous it is, the description of the said adhesive does fit the thing I'm looking for. "You said it can work like some sort of casing, right...?" It's worth of shot. "What if it's used like a casing for the chemical?"

"T-That...." Renma struggled to find an answer and his shoulders slumped. "I-I unfortunately haven't test if the adhesive would be that reactive towards such corrosive chemicals-"

"They won't!!" Monomyou shrieked. "How dare you look down on my creation!! I won't forgive you all!! They're high-quality materials made by yours truly!! They defy all properties existed on earth!!!"

 

"All except for heat, huh? Well, endlessly hearing a lot of bullcrap coming from you just made me no choice but accept its existence...." Mitsuru sighed. "Besides, if it's like that, it seems like it's a more possible choice....."

"Oh shit, this is the first time I heard you swear!!" Hiroshi gasped. "B-But... if it's like inside of a casing.... there's no way Amane would just.... swallow it like that....."

"Wow, this trial really wants us to make inappropriate innuendos without fucking mercy....." Higura's eye twitched in annoyance. "And I say this without fucking meaning it, but ya' really can't force-feed someone if it's like that either...."

'There should be evidence left by the culprit about it... the only way they can make Amane swallow- Yikes, Mochi is right, that sounds really wrong...'

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"Ingesting a solid object isn't that easy...." Nao stated. "It would have make sense if it's just in liquid form!"

"But there will be a mess, remember?" Taiga pointed out. "If anything, the solid casing theory made a lot of sense...."

"The solid casing can withhold anything, especially corrosive materials...." Mitsuru pondered. "That's sound like a lie, isn't...?"

"That furfuck has higher ego than the fucking Enterprise itself, there's no way they would lie about it!!" Higura yelled.

"It's possible that Amane willingly take it in...." said Renma. "As a final act of suicide as he surrendered easily, perhaps?"

"Without taking a hit....?" Hiroshi questioned.

 

( BREAK! )


 

"No, Amane did suffered another injury....." I refuted. "There's a bruise right on his neck. The culprit must have done that when they placed that casing thing inside his mouth....."

"If they aim for the throat, there's no doubt, Amane would have to involuntarily swallow it...." Hisao's brows furrowed, as he muttered 'Wait a second' and into a deep thinking process. He must have been close to figuring out the answer we needed, but we will have to play his game to get it.

 

"Just like what Sao-chin said, the culprit aimed for the throat so that the casing would go down easily-"

 

( ARGUED: Ishimoto Nao - "I will challenge your words!!" - )


"T-That's still not enough!!" Nao stammered.

"W-What is not enough...?" I took a step back confused. "It's logical, isn't...?"

"No, I can't accept that!! There's too many holes in that logic!!" the ghostwriter fights back. "There's no way the culprit could think that would be enough to kill Amane!!"

"C-Calm down, Nao...." What's wrong with her? Why is she more worked up about this more than Macchan's case...? That shouldn't scare me off, I better hear her arguments for carefully!!

 

"Even aiming for the throat would lead to no good results!!" Nao refuted. "There's no way he would just involuntarily swallowed!! He could have accidentally spit it out and it would just be useless to try it again!!"

"But it work, didn't it?" I answered. "The chemical did found its way into his system and don't forget, the casing will dissolve once exposed to heat or high moisture. There's a possibility that it just did that while it's trapped inside his mouth or throat..."

"E-even if you said that..." Nao continued. "How would the culprit even placed that thing securely inside!?"

 

( CUT-IN! - "My words against yours!" -)


 

"I think that answer lies on another tape I found... but this time, it was in Amane's hand...." I explained cautiously, still reeling from the ghostwriter's sudden outburst. "The tape that he has have that similar white jelly thing all over it.... and I think culprit used it to tape the casing onto it as they put it over his mouth...."

"So even if he struggled, it wouldn't just.... fall off.....?" Nao trailed off. "I-I see... my mistake....."

"No worries, Nao!!" Hisao called out. "Everyone's still iffy about this case!! Now then, little miss devil, since my head is now cleared up!! I wanna ask you this!! What did the culprit used to hit the composer like there's no tomorrow!!"

 

'Why do you sound so happy when saying that..?' "The crowbar that I also found in the wardrobe....." I brought it up nonetheless. "The culprit must have gotten from the toolbox upstairs......" Hold on. There's something clearly wrong here.

"The wardrobe fame as well at the dressing door frame were covered with something that prevents us from entering in there....." Hibiki muttered. "Sumi mentioned it's the white jelly stuff similar to what's on Amane's mouth. I've never noticed that before the play even started...."

"Which means, the culprit must have applied them during the play since said material will immediately harden when in cool environment. Indeed, the culprit must have sneaked into my mortuary and steal my materials while I was busy with something else...." Renma sighed. "How careless I am today....."

 

It has to be today. The culprit must have taken everything they needed from the mortuary today. But the only people who doesn't have alibi for today morning is.... "Amane....... everyone has alibi during early morning but Amane stayed in his room since this morning......" my hand shook a bit. "But how did he get into the mortuary if it's sealed shut....?"

"W-Wait, all those chemicals thing and jelly stuffs were taken by him!?" Hiroshi's voice peaked. "But they were used in his murder instead!!"

"The note about the chemical supported that accomplice theory....." mentioned Renma. "I lost my lighter this morning so it must have been stolen by the said culprit and gave it to him as he break into my mortuary..... we wouldn't know that if he didn't left that note behind...."

 

"But... that means.... there has to be someone who doesn't have an alibi.... this afternoon...." I bit my lower lips anxiously. "But everyone was together the entire time!! Except for Amane....."

"Sumi..... there's a way...." Shoma spoke up. "There's a way to find who's the culprit in this case no worries, this critter here just want you to remember that actors' positions....."

"Huh...? Why the hell does that matter?" Higura clicked his tongue. "All of you didn't even witness a single shit when the murder is happening!!"

 

'No, wait, Shoma is right. And the reason why he even brought that up was because....'

..........................

............

"The culprit has to be one of the actors....." I answered. "Our positions mattered because we were never always at the backstage and the culprit must timed well enough who's out there performing and who's not to go undetected..... and they might also take advantage of the loud speakers that played Amane's carefully composed song to cover up their ruckus......."

"So we can singled Hibiki, Hisao and Sumi out......" Shoma pointed out. "Hibiki and Hisao are the leads, they were on the stage for long enough so they couldn't have murder Amane..... Sumi was on the other side of the stage... that wouldn't give her enough time to murder someone and immediately run over to the other side of the stage for her devilish entrance. So what's left of the critters are Nao, Hiroshi and Taiga...."

 

"Whoa there!!" Mitsuru halted the biologist. "Y-You shouldn't accused people like that!!"

"It's merely a suggestion, you idiot....." Higura sighed. "But yeah, I kinda agreed, these three are highly suspicious for not noticing something's going on....."

"Perhaps not Nao....." Hibiki gulped down her nervousness. "Nao was with me the whole time so there's no way she would do that....."

 

"But was she waiting by the curtains when your part is up?" Hisao questioned. "I don't think so!! Maybe everyone else didn't noticed she might have gone to another place!!"

"H-Hey, stop pining the blame on other people!!" Hiroshi yelled. "You guys are wrong!!! There's no way the three of us would do something like this!! We stand aside for, like, the entire play!!"

"That's right!!" Taiga and Nao said in unison.

 

"We're not the culprits!!!" Nao, Hiroshi and Taiga said in unison.

'This again.... they will try and prove their innocence.... and I just have to find any contradiction in their statements....' I tapped my fingers against the podium. 'But these three? Seriously...? As much as I don't want to.... there's no use playing favorites here.....'

 


( Mass Panic Debate )

 

"I would never kill Amane!!" Nao screamed. "I didn't even know he went to the backstage at first!!"

"You say that but how should we know that it isn't a lie?" Higura asked. "Can you prove that?"

"How else can I prove it....? I was waiting besides the stage all the time!!" Nao stammered. "There's no way I would planned this!! I have never seen Amane for these past few days!!"

"Ohhh, you got some ballsy moves there, Nao!!" Hisao snickered.

"W-What does that supposed to mean?" Mitsuru looked confused.

 


 

"I was waiting the right side of the stage this entire time!!!" Hiroshi confessed. "I immediately went back to that side after my part is done!!"

"But you only appeared once...." Hibiki mentioned. "And you would still have enough time to murder someone while Sumi's out...."

"I wouldn't do that!! I don't even have that secret identity motive to begin with!!" Hiroshi replied.

 


 

"T-There's no way I would help Amane to murder someone!!" Taiga defended himself. "I'm not that kind of person!!"

"Knowing your history of violence...." Renma calmly pointed out. "We can't really ruled it out...."

"You three have only appeared once....." Shoma stated. "So we, critters, have right to suspect you three......"

"That's still blindly accusing someone who doesn't know anything!!" Taiga yelled.

 

( BREAK! )


 

"Nao... you lied...." I clenched my fist. "You did see him yesterday, with Hisao even to check the script he has...... in fact, it's only you who met with Macchan and Amane yesterday before they got murdered....."

Nao yelped, ducking her head down as she covered her face with her arms, "I didn't do it!! I wouldn't kill those two!! I swear!!!"

"Nao...." I don't want to admit it. I seriously, really, don't want to say it. "How much did you lie? When you met with Macchan, is that part a lie as well? Was it you who actually gave that note to him...? About Amane and the script...?"

 

"Well, well, well, it looks like the defenseless is actually the attacker, huh!" Hisao grinned. "Nao, how could you forget! I was with you last night!! You even have that chance to talk with Amane and Macchan while I was out of your earshot!! And- Hmm... what was the specialty of the great Ultimate Ghostwriter...? Oh! They can copied other people writing style...."

Forgery.

Nao forged the note that she gave to Machi.

 

"Nao.... if it really isn't you... then please say something back....." I begged. At this point, I'm just begging. I can't lie to myself saying that I shouldn't feel bad for the culprit. I can't overwrite my feelings and the bond I shared with Nao, "Please refute back what Hisao and I are saying... say that you're not the culprit..."

"I-I'm not the culprit...." Nao just breaks down at this point. "I'm not!! I'm seriously not the culprit!!!"

"S-Sumi.... please think about this more!!" Mitsuru called out. "There's no way Nao would planned something as cruel at this!!"

"Unfortunately.... I can fucking see how she would have a hand in this...." Higura, himself, tries to hold back. "If there's any way for that bookworm idiot to even willingly visit Amane.... is that they would be convinced by a closest friend...."

 

"Nao's alibi is only with Machi during afternoon... right....?" Hiroshi rubbed his other hand, avoiding eye contact. "That..... should be enough time to visit Amane to carry out the plan...... and Nao was also present during the morning to be able to-"

"I.... " Renma's almost speechless. "... hardly want to believe it... but... Ishimoto Nao, are you really the culprit of this case....?"

"No, I'm not!!" Nao wailed. "I'm not!! I'm not!!! I'm not!!!"

 

"Oh, shut your mouth, you damn brat...." Hisao gritted his teeth, his dark expression from previous trials is back. "Is this how you will act right now when proven guilty? Being an insufferable little brat? Hah, you must be such a spoiled little princess in the past if that's the case...."

"Sao, now's not the-"

"Ah geez, I wonder how many people got fooled by your cuteness?" Hisao asked, menacingly. "I wonder how many lies you managed to tell? Do you honestly think your cute, shy and anxiety facade is enough to carry you out of here? You know I can tell a liar just from their acting...."

"H-Hey!!" Mitsuru pointed at the conman. "L-Leave your judgmental thoughts out of this tria-!"

 

"Huh... so you really saw right through me....."

'What!?' Everyone stared in shock as Nao removed her arms from her face. Tears still streaming down, crocodile tears. While her face was still flushed from crying, her face is still void of expression, "I'm sad... I'm really, really sad.... I can't even fool the master deception himself....."

"Ah well, you're just a terrible actor, that's all...." Hisao said, nonchalantly. "But then again, I hate cute brats like you, and I will never see you as anything but a human being so it's easier for me to suspect you....."

"Ehehe!" Nao giggled. "How unfortunate!! So that's why you don't trust me that much!! What a shame!! We could have been great working together, you know!"

 

"What the hell!?" Higura stepped backwards. "Is this bitch really alright!? She's acting really out of her head right now!!!"

"N-No... she almost feel so.... superficial...?" Mitsuru replied with a stunned face. "Like... she's not even real...... it's like she's a doll or something...?"

"A doll? Why, I've been called like that before, thank you for reminding me!" Nao bowed down elegantly. "I got really tired acting so weak that it's embarrassing. So embarrassing that I wanted to kill myself. But I can't really! I want to complete my task for my dearest before I could truly passed on!!"

 

"D-Dearest...?" Hibiki and Hiroshi doesn't look like they wanted to hear the context behind that word, with her attitude like this.

"So unfortunately, Sumire, I must deny your claim!!" Nao smiled sweetly, with her posture straight and hands folded on her chest. "I must deny your claim of myself being the culprit for this trial!!"

'What the fuck's going on...?' I can't even think carefully with these sudden turn of events? Has Nao been lying to us all since the beginning...? The shy exterior was just a fake....?

 

"A fake knows its people...." Shoma's the only one who doesn't look too affected by this. "Nao, if there's still a bit of sense inside of that head, if we, critters, be able to convince you to admit to the case.... will you finally give in and abandon that task you said were given....?"

"Ahhh, let's see here...." Nao acted so flimsy and cartoonish, clapping her two hands together as she decided. "Yup! I can step down if you could convince me!! After all, I think I did my part really well this time!!"

"Fine then, this is payback for making me hear your sickening sweet voice every single day...." Hisao stepped in. "Little miss, if you're still feeling uncomfortable from this thing being an eyesore, that you can stay back and watch me disintegrate this brat...."

 

"No...." I glared at him. "There's no need for that. I want to do this as much as you do now. And I'm not gonna plan to back down now... just because we're close. I wanna hear her confession, loud and clear....."

"I warn you! It's gonna be reaaal tricky to convinced me!!!" Nao twirled around in excitement. "Now then, let us have our heated debate on a go-go!!"

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"Seriously, how else can we make you admit...?" Hisao asked, annoyed. "We've been through a lot of clues that are clearly pointing towards you..."

"Oh? Is that so...?" Nao tilted her head sideways. "Was the note really sufficient enough?"

"Was my meeting with Amane and Machi really is what you guys think?"

"Was my role really that flexible?"

"Was my absence behind the curtains really put you guys on the edge?"

"Or did I really go anywhere else at all?"

"You guys really need to think about it carefully!!" Nao smiled. "If all of you don't want to die!!"

"Little miss, you might need to point out her mistake...." said Hisao. "This brat can blabber all she wants and likes, it wouldn't matter to her...."

 

( BREAK! )


 

"Nao.... why would you talk about your absence during the play.... as if you weren't behind the curtains at all....?" I asked without hesitation. "If you were really watching the whole play without looking away, then please describe the whole scene when Faust and Gretchen met for the first time...."

The ghostwriter gone quiet, really quiet. Then, "Aww, I got caught! Such a shame!! I had so much fun with this trial as well!! It was exciting to see you all solving my own mystery!! It would have been the making for a really exciting three-part novel if I wasn't figured out so early!!"

 

Figured out. This time, it wasn't due to Hisao's suggestion, it was thanks to Shoma. If Shoma didn't brought up our positions during the play, I wouldn't have guessed correctly. But.... am I even glad to be right this time?

"Sumire, it's time for you to go over the case, right?" Nao asked innocently. "It's okay!! I will tell everything that everyone wants to hear after the voting time!! It's a fair trade after all!! I made you guys go through my case, I will tell all the mysteries that I found!!"

Saying those words with a face like that, it's almost like her previous self before going through this drastic changes. But, there's no reason for me to act so selfishly, "Alright then.... I will go over once.... please be patient everyone...."

 


( Closing Argument )

 

"This whole case was set in motion once two people received the secret identity motive. Amane just made his involvement too obvious to hold suspicion from the other and begin asking people with foggy memories around for some answers. When Hisao and the culprit begin to confront him of such thing, the culprit took this chance to work with him because they shared the same goal; getting rid of the fake player."

"The culprit forged the note using Amane's handwriting and handed it over to Machi. Even with Machi's distrusting nature, it was thanks to the culprit that the librarian was willing to listen... who unknowingly fallen into their trap. This morning, while everyone's busy with their costumes, the culprit managed to take the lighter away from Renma when he wasn't paying attention. During the afternoon, the culprit gave the light and the note about the embalming chemicals to Amane, giving him full access to the mortuary."

"Once Amane burned off the adhesive off the door frame of the mortuary and gotten all the materials the culprit needed, he may or may not accidentally left the note that the culprit written for him. While this whole thing was happening, the culprit at the theater house have taken the crowbar earlier before the play started for their other plan in mind."

"Once the play started, Amane and Machi went to the backstage to discuss about the script they said was off. Unknowingly, the culprit went behind Machi and struck him from behind using the fire extinguisher, an instant blow to his spine. The culprit suggested getting rid of the body quickly and let Amane do the rest, wiping the remaining blood on the floor using a tape and putting back the weapon from its place. Because they don't want any witnesses, they have to get rid of the composer as well. "

"Amane's way of getting rid of the body is also his way to alert others. He placed Machi's body on top of one of the stage lights and used a tool from the nearby toolbox to unscrew the panel but only left one loose, to perfectly timed with the secret message in his music. From there on, he immediately left, waiting for his message to be heard...."

"On the other side, the culprit prepared and applied the adhesive on the dressing room door frame and the wardrobe when Amane's occupied. As the composer walked in to check on them, the culprit strike them down using the crowbar, aiming for his ankles so that he could escape. With the casing and the embalming chemical inside, the culprit force-fed it to him while taping his mouth shut so that he wouldn't spit it out and for extra measures, they used the crowbar and aim for his neck so that he would involuntarily swallowed it."

"The culprit hid everything in the wardrobe, not realizing that the adhesive isn't dry enough to secured the doors tightly. The dressing room door's adhesive was dry enough and shut tight. The culprit left, closing the door behind them, leaving Amane to writhe in agony without any care....."

 

"This is the crime that's been orchestrated by you, Ishimoto Nao, the Ultimate Ghostwriter!!"

 

( BREAK! )


 

Heavy. My whole body feels heavy. Satisfaction and relief, those things began to feel foreign to me right now. I can't believe it. I can't actually believe it. That Nao would do something as cruel as this. Everyone's silent, waiting for something.

"Wowie, such an amazing performance by an unsuspecting extra!!" Monomyou announced. "Well now, ladies and gentlemen!!! It's the satisfying conclusion to the trial that you've been waiting for!! It's Voting Time!!!"

The familiar panel popped up from the ground and in front of me, my hand was shaking as I pressed onto Nao's icon. The rest were too hesitant to even press any thing but Nao and Hisao did so without a care in the world. As everyone already cast their votes, the big monitor showing the roulette system appeared, the arrow keeps spinning until it landed on Ishimoto Nao as the word 'GUILTY' lightened up brightly to mock us.

 

"Nyahahaha!! What a spectacular performance, everyone!!!" Monmoyou jumped from its throne to mingle with us. "You've got it right this time!! The blackened who killed Yokoda Machi and Sekiguchi Amane is the lovely Ishimoto Nao!!!"

"Congratulations, everyone!!!" Nao cheered. "You guys won!! As expected!! You guys survived this time!! What an amazing ending!!"

"W-Why are you so happy about this......" Mitsuru hugged her whole body to comfort herself. "You're gonna die.... you killed two people just like that and you still lost....."

 

"Yup, I know, I was waiting for it!!" Nao answered with a bright smile. "After all, it's too boring for me to go ahead with this killing game and I got sort of tired. So, I took my gamble and murdered the two people whom I'm really closed to!! Machi was a sweetheart and Amane was a really smart partner and client.... but I have to get rid of them! Unfortunately, it's only natural to not wanna get caught!!"

"Describing them like they were toys to you....." Higura's face twitched in disgust. "Were you always this heartless? I can't believe I thought of you as remotely decent....."

"Hey, hey...." Nao turned her attention towards Shoma. "You promised us critters, right? Telling us what you know...?"

 

"Ah, I did! I did!!" the ghostwriter twirled around. "Alright, listen up closely because this will be my last important role in this game!! Amane and I both received the fake player motive!! Yes, yes, that's true! We both received them which is why we partnered up immediately and without a problem, as we execute our plan. Amane actually planned to only talk to Macchan but he's too smart, you know? If Macchan realized our partnership then he would exposed us... so I was the one who suggest that we should get rid of him!!"

"Amane... didn't want to kill him....?" Hibiki's eyes widened. "It was all your plan....?"

"It hurts me, you know!!" Nao faked sobbing. "It hurts me so much to kill my closest friend that I could actually die for it!! Feelings asides, Macchan was such an easy kill that I was surprised myself!! But, that's not all!! It took everything in me to convinced Amane to do his part!! And I did mine!! I decided to kill Amane because he gotten too close to figuring it out!!"

 

"Figure out what...?" Taiga asked.

"So that bastard actually figured out who is the fake player, huh....?" Hisao sighed in annoyance. "That fucker... making things harder for everyone else, being a lone wolf. And judging by how you acted after that... that person must have been......"

"Me...." Nao answered without hesitation. "I'm the fake player that you guys have been wondering!!"

 

"What the fuck!? Are you fucking kidding me!?"

"Y-You're the fake player!?"

"You're.... working for the mastermind....?"

Words of denial ring through my head, I urged myself not to cover my ears from all of this. This is the answer we needed to hear, but not the person whom we wanted to hear from. "So.... this dearest of yours....." I asked. "Are you talking about the mastermind of this game? Did you do this for them...? If you weren't supposed to be here then why..... why are you here with us!? Why bother befriending all of us...making us go through all of this.... when you could have easily gotten away!? Are you that much of a sadist!?"

 

"Oh... that's still a mystery for you guys to solve but I can correct that statement of yours!!" Nao giggles, as her eyes just stared right through my very core. "I did all of this for the Ultimate Despair....."

Ultimate Despair.

"I-Impossible.... they're already dead......" something cold just run through my body when I heard that. "You saw that list.... they were all dead.... there's nothing left of Ultimate Despair or anything! You're just delusional or something.....!"

 

"The Ultimate Despair can't die off that easily, silly!! Despair is, after all, contagious...." said Nao, in an innocent tone yet that crazed gleam in her eyes tells a different story. "No one knows who's inflicted with despair because they act so normally, so pure that you wouldn't believe it. This despair is still spreading.... still spreading and you guys didn't noticed....."

"What does that even mean?" Taiga snapped.

"Aha!! So scary!!!" Nao laughed. "Anyways, that's all I can say!! I told you guys too much already!! Monomyou, it's time for my punishment, isn't?"

 

"W-Wait!!" Hiroshi stopped them. "T-There's no reason to do this!! You said you were forced to do it, right!!? S-So, you don't have to-!!!"

WHAM!

The abseiler staggered a bit, hand clutching at the back of his head, seething with pain. Behind him, the conman looked down with his hand curled up in a tight fist, "The Ultimate Despairs and their followers are not human, they have no morals to begin with. So don't waste your pity on sentient garbage that are easily disposable....."

"Ahaaa, you shouldn't speak so ill of them, Mafuyu Hisao....." Nao chuckles. "Such a shame, you're always so cold-hearted towards your friends.... if you have someone you devoted your life to, you will immediately feel like your life is worth living, right? You have that wish too, right? Perhaps the both of us are way too similar than we first thought!!"

 

"I should have killed you myself....." Hisao glared. "It would be much more fulfilling to me if I was the one who got your head....."

"Ahahaha, unfortunately, you missed that chance!!" the ghostwriter dismissed his rage towards her. "And now, I can finally die, knowingly I have done my duty spectacularly!!"

"Alright, enough of the exposition!! My fingers are itching!!" Monomyou interrupted. "Now I prepared a very special punishment for the Ultimate Ghostwriter, Ishimoto Nao!!! Ladies and gentlemen, strapped yourselves back!! It's the moment you guys have been waiting for!! It's Punishment Time!!!"

"Bye-bye, everyone!!" the ghostwriter waved with a wide smile on her face, a single tear travels down her cheek. "Until next time, let's play together again! Adieu!"

Like before the curtain pulled down, a monitor showing Monomyou dragging Nao with them as the letters below spelled out;

 

[ ISHIMOTO NAO HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY ]

 

[ LET US COMMENCE THEIR PUNISHMENT ]

 


 

[ Ultimate Ghostwriter, Ishimoto Nao's Execution ]

[ Memoirs From The Dead ]

 

Nao's sitting down, smiling as she was writing down something onto the paper parchment with red ink. Then, multiple decaying Mini-myous appeared right from the ground equipped with crossbows and large sharp pen nibs on it, and aimed right at her, shot mostly from the back and at her neck. The last Mini-myou stabbed a fountain through her hand and into the table, trapping her as she tried to desperate pulled away.

Convulsing with pain, a noose was tied around her neck and lifted her entire body up, the stabbed hand left the table with the fountain pen still buried deep in it. While being suspended in mid-air, another Mini-myou with a crossbow, with a bigger pen-nib arrow, aimed at her heart and lets go, piercing through her chest without a problem. 

The body slowly swayed from side-to-side, with the Mini-myous surrounding it, seemingly whispering to one and another. 

 


 

I didn't have the heart to watch it all, I turned away right before the fatal shot. Almost everyone turned away, excluding Hisao, Shoma and Renma. Three people who were eerily familiar with these executions. Mitsuru sobbing and Higura is comforting her, Taiga cursed while the others just..... standing there without a sound.

"Nyahahaha!! That was such a riveting execution!! Perfect for the undead!!" Monomyou's high-pitched voice rang out in the room. "Good job, my beloved guests!! As your host, I'm highly entertained by your performance!! In fact, this calls for an early reward for you guys, huh!?"

 

"What kind of reward are you on about...?" Hiroshi asked, voice wavering.

"Oh? Did you forgot that I promised you to bring back some of your Ultimate Academy memories back?" Monomyou whipped out some kind of flashlight in their hand. "Well, here it is!! This is just a prototype though, still a work-in-progress!! But!! You, my dear guests, will be my guinea pigs for this one-of-a-kind invention!!"

My eyes widened, "Look awa-!!"

Monomyou turned on the flashlight and a bright light engulfed us....

 

The world

went

white

.......

....

...

 


 

"Ahhhhh, we're really graduating...." Mitsuru slumped over Higura's back without a worry. The graphic designer let out a surprised noise but didn't do anything to get her off. "I'm really sad that I won't get to hang out with you guys anymore....."

"You're saying that as if we're moving somewhere faraway...." Hinako laughed. "We will all keep in touch, especially Ren, right?"

"I-If I can...." Renma coughed, a slight blush on his face. "The spirits of the future tells a fortunate meeting.... we will all meet under the triangle stars of the summer....."

"And other shit that doesn't make sense...." Higura rolled his eyes back, getting pinched by Saku in return. "I'm gonna kick you guys' asses if you appeared in front of my face one day....."

 

"No worries, not everyone is gonna crash the reunion party soon! I will be travelling around the world with this fella' here!!" Kiharu and Hiroshi grinned, standing right besides each other. "We got sites to dig and mountains to scale!! We're the ultimate duo for history, ya' know!!"

"Amane and I will hold a special collaboration with musicians all over the world....." Hibiki smiled at Amane, who did the same in return. "Do see us if you two are ever in the same country as we do...."

"I wish you pairs well for your future journey...." Homare chuckled. "If anyone liked, Taiga and I planned to hold classes for people in need of self-defense... we won't hold back though....."

 

Machi, Nao and Amane were both talking to each other normally. Hinako, Homare, Saku and Kiharu were there, like nothing ever happened. Like this killing game was just a horrible nightmare. This is.... our memory of the graduation event. 

"Hey, Ei-chan...." I waved my hand in front of an unfamiliar student besides me. "Ei-chan, you alright there? You've been spacing out this entire time...."

"S-Sorry... Sumi......" he looked flustered and uneasy. "It's just.... I'm not.... It's nothing really, just gotten really nervous....."

"What? Meeting a lot of amazing people here? With former Ultimates of our academy??" I laughed at his bashfulness. "It's been two years and you're still like this...."

 

"I'm..... no one special....." His shoulders hung low as he admitted. "I'm just some lucky student who got picked for this year by chance....."

"At least you're the very first lucky student to be recruited for this year!!" I cheered him up. "Alright, enough being such a negative pansy. It's your day, you know? You're gonna have a great life and future ahead of you!!"

"She's right, Eiichi...." Homare stood right before him. "In a way, you're special just like us. Our very first lucky student....."

 

Homare marched towards the front, in front of the group as she turned around and said, "Hisao's not here yet but let me say my speech to save time before we go onto the stage. For our future, for our sake, we know how our lives will go and end, which is why, as our last performance...... let us take this whole building down with us-

 


 

"Gah!" I clutched head in pain as my ears keep ringing. What... what the hell was that? Was that really.... our memory....?

"H-Huh.....?" Mitsuru staggered, in a bewildered state. "W-When was that? That looked like the backstage of the theater house... but everyone was there!! What the hell is that!?"

"You motherfucker, what kind of tricks you're pulling this time!?" Higura hissed. "Giving us that nonsense.... that better be a fucking joke. furfuck!!!"

 

"How dare you!! Those are not just some fake memories!!! They're real!! Real, I tell you!!!" Monomyou pouted. "Those are the memories that you repressed so heavily at the back of your head!! The memories that all of you wanted to forget!!"

The memories..... we all hid from ourselves.....?

"Then, the destruction of the luxury hotel in the newspaper...." Taiga trailed off. ".... that was our doing....?"

"Impossible... we caused the lives of many innocent people in that hotel...." Renma looked horrified at himsef. "And for some reason.... our deaths that were listed on that newspaper.... they were fake....?"

"Why... would they be hiding us critters...?" Shoma asked, nervously. "Why would they hid us away.....?"

"We.... atonement.... that should be it, that's gotta be it....." Hiroshi is becoming more erratic as he goes on. "There's no way.... there's no other way we were excused for it....."

 

'... He was there, the mysterious lucky student, Oshiro Eiichi.....' I stared at my hands for a bit, shaking a bit. 'Hibiki's right.... if that memory is really true.... then... we must have been really close friends...... but what does that mean now? He's real, he's in our classroom but what now? We already solved the fake player mystery with not much answers and all we have to be concern about is the mastermind.... the mastermind who.....'

"Why did we planned that.....?" I asked to no one. "Why did we planned... to destroy that building.... for what purpose.....?"

 

"The Ultimate Despair....." Hisao answered, closing his eyes as he said. "If what Nao said was true, that the Ultimate Despair is still alive then.... the only reason why would we even go suicidal was to take down the Ultimate Despair with us, something similar to that Hope's Peak Academy incident........ making empty promises to each other as we did it like bunch of drama queens......"

"Nyahahaha!! As if that would work!!" Monomyou laughed. "Despair can't go down easily, like what that brat said!! No matter what, despair will stay forever and ever!!! Nyahahaha!!!" 

 

Despair...

Despair......

Despair...........?

................

............

......

 


 

Everyone retired early, after returning back from the trials, as usual in silence. It's becoming a norm, isn't it? After such a heart-wrenching moment we all have to go through, we didn't have the energy to even say something to each other, encouragement or anything. We're just so tired of it already, we just want to forget about what happened.

'Homare, Hinako, Kiharu, Saku, Machi, Amane, Nao....' All of them, all of them. They didn't deserve it. Fucking hell, they didn't deserve the shit they have to go through, all that pain and torture. Doomed by ideals that were twisted by the motives we were given. We're still here living out for their sake... for their last promise of freedom. 'Is it still worth it? Is it still fair? This situation we're in was due to our actions in the past, is it still worth yearning for freedom-'

 

"Little miss, if you're gonna cry, do it in your room... it's gonna be mega embarrassing if I'm the only one here witnessing it....."

I slowly lifted my head, Hisao is lying face down on the couch. Right, it's just the both of us at the reception area, I mindlessly came here with my thoughts too occupied in my head that I didn't noticed the other's presence. "You're not...?"

"My head still hurts...." Hisao groaned. "From that stupid chemical fume and the trial.... it's a bad combo, ya' know? It feels like I'm gonna be a zombie tomorrow morning..... or later in fact....."

"You're still cheerful...." I'm too tired to even try and joke around anymore. "Despite everything else, you're still cheerful. When others tried to bring you down or anything, insult you and even try to murder you.... you're still like that....."

"I have to learn and adapt...." Hisao shrugged off. "It's easy, ya' know? I have resigned myself knowing, hey, people won't see this in a better light at all!! Hell, I even knew this situation is really dangerous for everyone!! But that's the thing!! People care too much about this sort of stuffs!! They cared too much that it became a reality for them!!"

 

What was that?

"But, that's just my assumption!!" He sat up. "After all, no one's want to take the word a criminal after all!! The most untrustworthy person in this place!!"

A criminal. The first word I associated him with when I first met him. I sighed to myself. "I think..... I will revoke what I said about you..... you may be shady, annoying, nuisance and a glorified punching bag...... you're not that bad. Really.... not that bad of a human being....."

"You're gonna take back those words really quick soon!!" Hisao laughed. "But thanks!! That's the kindest word you've ever said to me after all this time!!"

 

".... Do you seriously think I'm kind...?" I asked him. "I've sent three people to their deaths and let the other two died without even realizing..... I indirectly caused those deaths... do you still think I'm 'kind'....? It's getting hard to even accept that kind of flattery right now...."

"Honestly, that worthless sentiment is getting really annoying for you to say out loud, little miss...." Hisao pouted. "Look, it's whatever you want to see it as. If you don't convinced yourself that it's your problem, then it's not going be seen as a problem in your eyes. As long as you think it's okay to think like that, then nobody can say otherwise. It's either you take it as your own or leave it as it is...."

 

That was..... out of nowhere. I didn't expect such a moral lesson or even an advice from Mafuyu Hisao, the Ultimate Conman, the person who lied and fool people for a living. The way he said it, it felt real, it doesn't sound like a lie. Confidence tricks or not, that kind of sentiment is strange enough for me to actually  believe in it.

"But then again... I'm not forcing anyone....." Hisao yawned crashing back onto the sofa beneath him. "I'm not up for game or anything right now. I'm really tired.... it's time for me to rest up and annoy more people tomorrow!! I wanna have enough energy to scavenge for stuffs too, you know!!"

".... Sao-chin..... are you scared of dying in a place like this...? Be honest with me...." I don't know why that question popped into my head but it feels like I need to ask him that

 

"This again.... You're gonna be my top priority tomorrow to be annoyed to no ends!!" Hisao sneered. "No, I'm not afraid. And why should I be? I'm everyone's first choice at this point. I have no one who will remember me when I died anyways, just another unknown street corner criminal!! But!! If you really want to know this ideal death of mine!! I would prefer getting killed by you, little miss!! At least you will feel bad about killing a person like me!! It would really suck if people kill me with no remorse!! I wanna take that regret as a chance to haunt them in the afterlife!!"

"Then......" My lips formed a small smile. "I will make it a short and painless death for you..... if I ever become desperate...."

"Doubt that! We still have bunch of optimistic people around so it's gonna be hard for you to be true to that! There's no way it would happened soon!!"

 

"Then you won't die next, as easy as that. No blood will be spilled, everyone wins...." I stood up. "I will go back to my room now... you sure you don't want to return to yours...?"

"Nah, the coolness of the reception area is really nice... I wanna stay here all day..... I'm sure everyone's too tired and traumatized to even want to consider murdering me right now so I'm safe!!" I was already walking halfway to the elevator when he said another thing. "Good night, Shino....."

"W-What was that...?"

"Shino.... I got tired of saying 'little miss' all the time and it became much more of a tongue twister the more I said it. I was also thinking about it ever since the last trial on how to get back at you with that lame ass nickname so.... Shino!! That's your lame nickname for now!!"

 

"..... I think it's cute...." I chuckled. "Yup, as usual, you're terrible at your own job, acting like you really don't care.... good night, Sao....."

'If you never see it as your problem, then no one would be convinced enough to say it is.'

That's denial, isn't it? Telling me to forget about it and just go forward on my own, that's the first for me. For a person like me, who always blindly take those problems in, pushing my own priorities aside. That's almost an impossible thing to do. Yet, it's such a simple action. I'm...

......

Maybe, I'm the one who's been causing problems for my own damn self.

Chapter Text

"Yokoda Machi.... Sekiguchi Amane..... Ishimoto Nao..... you even included that nobody as well? Interesting that you decided to use the very person who created that calming tune just for you....."

"..................."

.......

"What's wrong? Cat finally got your tongue? Are you finally rotting from the inside? I've been waiting, you know? Since you have her ideals, it wouldn't take that long for someone like you to-"

"Nyahaha, I've been feeling reaaaaally tired, you know!! I've been losing a lot of energy!! How rude!! To laugh at me like this!! To be bullied by you- how unimaginable!!"

.......

"I'm always like this, you're just an ignorant idiot who's oblivious to others' surrounding. You did this to yourself even...."

"So why are you here? You're not even that useful at all!! Always doing some monologue in your own head, making up sob stories on your own to justify yourself- in the end, you're quite a ridiculous character, aren't you? Why do you even exist!"

.......

"I ask myself that question everyday as well..... ever since that academy recognized my Ultimate talent...."

 


 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!!!

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, rise and shine!!! This is your daily announcement after the exciting event from yesterday!! Nyahahaha!! What a twisted end to our little drama!! I can't wait for today will bring!! Let's us wear our rose-coloured faces for our adventure onward!!

"In other words, I would like to announced that several areas that were off-limit are now opened for exploration!!! Be at your tippity-top best!! Have a myou-est of day!!!"

 

........

................

'This again....' The announcement played for nine remaining people in the hotel. Nine of us left. It's frightening, almost scary. From when I first thought fifteen people is such a drag, until our group starts shrinking. 'Even our own group.... Hisao, Taiga and I are left.... and we're still not making any grounds here.... we still don't know who the mastermind is.....'

 

After staying in my bed for a almost ten minutes, I finally gave in and went through my daily morning routine.This time, I didn't feel like wearing the jacket anymore, 'It's been weighing my shoulder down. It will get incredibly warm when we decided to investigate some areas more......'

Hoping for a more serene morning this time, I left my room.

 


 

"Higura...? You're the only one here....?"

I was surprised to find the dining hall vacant, except the presence of one said person, of course. The graphic designer doesn't look away from his ElectroID, drawing something on it as he spoke, "Was waiting for you, the others already went ahead investigating. Hurry up and finish your breakfast so that we can catch up with others, already...."

"Alright, alright......" He's a bit indifferent right now, maybe a little impatient. Higura always kept his guard up around everyone. That little resistant side of him is something to be admired.

 

"How's everyone?" I asked, concern about everyone's well-being after the trial. If I could barely keep tabs on my thoughts last night, I couldn't imagine how it went for others. Especially for people like Taiga and Mitsuru, who saw Nao in a brighter light.

"They're.... coping as hell...." Higura doesn't let that one remark slide. "It ain't easy when it turns out we're all in this situation because of our own wrongdoing....."

"I don't think it's just that...." I countered, finishing my breakfast as I continued. "Whatever we're trying to do, trying to bring someone down... probably this... Ultimate Despair...... maybe we failed and they took us away..... somewhere far away......"

 

"That's ridic-"

"Why else are we in this killing game? Why else are we forced to kill our classmates when only given motives by that accursed cat?" I asked, washing my own plate as I deliver one question after another. "It's because this whole thing is for someone else's sick amusement. Someone who doesn't feel anything else but despair. They want to watch us fall into despair just like them... just like Nao, who probably did without us noticing......."

Higura didn't bat an eye at those questions but he doesn't look too surprised or anything when I finished. Just a neutral expression, "So, you're riding onto Amane's theory now, huh? That this whole game is set up by the Ultimate Despair? I still think it's the most ridiculous shit ever but.... fuck it, what else should we believe in now?"

 

".... Ironic, that he has the upper hand.... when he's dead right now....." I sighed, leaning on the bar of the dining hall. "Whoever the mastermind is.... the Ultimate Despair or some sadistic corporation.... we better find out or else, we're done for....."

"Of course, there's no way in hell I would even want to listen to you if you suggest we should give up right now...." Higura sat up, hands on his hip. "By the way, you look like a poor imitation of those weird Visual Kei idols, what's up with that?"

"We're gonna go scout anyways.... I don't need to feel extra heat from wearing a jacket all day...." It does feel weird wearing just my black shirt and red ribbon tie on. And the color does seem a bit punk-ish. "So.... shall we go?"

 

The both of us left the dining hall, my eyes wandered on the sofas at the reception area as I remembered last night conversation with Hisao, "Oh, was Hisao alright?"

"Ah, fuck, that guy....." Higura scratched the back of his head. "When that gunfreak and I woke up, we found that prick passed out on the sofa with high fever. Gunfreak volunteered to take care of him as he brought him to the prick's room...... I also recommend tying that stupid conman's up so that he won't bother anyone else anymore....."

'In the end, he got sick staying here.....' "Well, serves him right for listening and annoyed other people....." Even with that, I'm planning to drop by and to check on him this afternoon. There's only the three of us left after all.

 


 

One of places that recently opened up was an old warehouse that hid right behind the theater house. It's a fairly small building compared to the grand structure of the theater but the insides are still vastly spacious. Hiroshi was already ahead, scavenging through some parts.

 

"There's a lot of old spare parts and stuffs but......" Hiroshi remarked. "I think they're beyond usable at this point...... plus I'm not really familiar with machinery and stuffs like this....."

"Mechanical parts......" Higura muttered. "If that airhead freak was still here, he would be losing his mind over this place....."

The abseiler and I tensed around when he mentioned the aerobat. We didn't expect for him to name-drop the person so casually. He must have realised it as he asked, "So nothing useful to help us getting out of this crummy place?"

 

"Ah!! Actually I found really old-looking document under some busted computer....." Hiroshi handed me the thing he found. "I didn't really look inside, I was too busy inspecting this whole place to look for clue but so far..... this is just machinery's graveyard mostly...."

"This is....." Carefully, I wiped off the dust, and flipped it open to read, "Hope's Peak Academy..... Confidential Case.....?"

"This school again....." Hiroshi frowned. "I guess it's safe to assume the academy we attended really is just another smaller branch....."

 

Without wasting another time, I begin to read the lines, "Due to numerous disappearance cases of the students of Yumeino Ultimate Academy For Elites, Hope's Peak Academy Community have decided to hired a few of their previous alumnus relating to the law enforcement to collaborate with a few teachers from the smaller sister school. Said included individual will have their identities hidden from the staff and students of both schools....."

"A disappearance case.....?" Higura raised a brow. "That came out of nowhere.... what's with that...?"

This has to be related to what Monomyou have said. Referring to us 'this batch', could it be they were also kidnapped by the- My eyes widened once I saw the list of identification that were alumni of Hope's Peak Academy, "Hoshino Iwao, Former Ultimate Private Investigator, Alumni and Specialist Instructor of Hope's Peak Academy...."

 

"W-Whoa!! Your father!?" Hisao gripped onto the folder to take a closer look. "Wow, your family tree is surely blessed with intelligence, huh!"

"Y-Yeah... my mentor is.... amazing....." I trailed off, when I saw the year he was assigned with this case. "This case has been going on for.... nine years.....?" Nine years ago, that's when my mentor first took me in.

"On verge of becoming a cold case or something? What's taking them so long to figure it out??" Higura commented. "Maybe we should share this info with everyone else.... like last time, let's wait out until they received a concussion or something...."

 

"Right...." I closed the folder, alarmed by how bulky it is compared the previous files we've found so far. This contained both information from both schools and dealing with disappearance cases that's been going on. But does it really relate to us....?

As we both exited the warehouse, Hiroshi showcased the interchangeable lock on the doors, secured the key inside his pocket. "If anyone tried to steal the key from me, they would have tough time trying to detached the chains and all" he said so himself.

 


 

The next place that was unlocked was a huge garden area; Monomyou's Rose Garden Terrance, located between the gymnasium and the shooting gallery. Like the name suggest, it's just a park filled to brim with different colors of roses and other floral kinds. A huge white archways leading us to the middle of the park there's a white birdcage-looking house being surrounded by benches. There, Hibiki and Mitsuru seems to be relaxing instead.

"Sumi!! Mochi!!! Heya!!!" Mitsuru jumped to her feet, hugging both of us at the same time. "Good to see you two up and healthy!! Best to be in ultra hype behavior!!!"

"You were sulking early this morning, don't fucking throw that shit at us....." Higura sighed. "Anyways, nothing suspicious? Just some really off-putting garden? In the middle of nowhere?"

"To be honest, this is the most nicest place Monomyou have added at the moment....." Hiroshi laughed. "Knowing that cat..... there has to be something here that worth checking out...."

 

"There's a labyrinth behind this building here......" Hibiki pointed at the birdcage building. "We didn't dare to venture further, we're afraid it might be a trap...."

"Yeah, yeah!!" Mitsuru nodded in agreement. "There's like a sign near the entrance saying, 'There's a special surprise inside!! Come and take a look; The Ultimate Reward!!' or something like that. It sounds promising, doesn't it?"

"It's best to leave it as it is first.... we don't know if that reward even mean any good to us...." I stated. "So... the old warehouse and this rose garden are the only new places....? It's..... a bit underwhelming...." The theater and casino from before really did made a huge impact on all of us.

 

"There's another place......" Mitsuru gestured at the building. "This one in fact!! This is just an entrance!! There's another place opened up, underneath it!!"

An.... underground passage....? Something we talked about during our first day here. Hinako said they were locked tight, the one at the basement.... does that mean it was recently unlocked...?

"Renma told us to just stay up here.... since um....." the cosmetologist tries to remember. "I don't know what he actually said since he's being vague about it but 'we won't like what we will see down there'.... or something like that?"

 

'That's something Shoma would say....' "Then, I will go and check on them....." I volunteered. "If it's really that serious to warrant a warning then it's something worth checking out....."

"I will go to...." Higura joined in. "This bright floral landscape is starting to hurt my eyes and I will really throw up if stay any longer....."

And so, both of us entered the building, discovering the way down through the spiral metal staircase that made a lot of noises as we descend downwards into the abyss.

 


 

"W-What the fuck is this.....?"

"I.... is this..... a catacomb....?" I shivered when the coolness of the air starts to hit. Alarmed by the sight of humans remained lined up on the wall, giving a passing glance as we walked forward until we see two familiar figures, "Shou-chin, Ren-chin!!"

"Ah... Sumi....." Shoma waved. "You're finally up..... We, critters, have been investigating this place....."

 

"Yeah, now I fucking understand why you two wouldn't want Hibiki to see..... this....." Higura gulped, hiding behind my back. "This is some freaky shit, whose remains are these!? And why is there a fucking catacombs underneath this place anyways!?"

"A more appropriate term for this is a 'crypt', I don't see any religious intents or purposes being associated with this place....." Renma commented. "And these remains here are more or so ten years old, there are some newer ones here as well......"

"So, they're not ancient burials or anything....? This place is recently made....?" Absurd, that's all I can say. It's absurd. With how many deaths we've witnessed so far, it's almost insulting to be horrified by that instead of this place. 'Kiharu..... if it weren't for the situation we're in, she would have been overly excited to see this as well.... no, she has the decency to be a bit more disturbed by this....'

 

At the far end, there was a huge metal door, a striking difference than the stone walls surrounding it. Above the door, there's some writing, Latin writing. "Dum vita est spes est....." It's been a while since I've last spoke in this language. 'I've been abandoning by choir practice since I was taken in as an investigator....'

"Ah... Sumi... you understand it....?"

"N-No, I just know how it sounds or spelled like.....?" I answered Shoma's question. "My knowledge is really rusty so it might take a while for me to find it out what it meant... maybe the library have some sort of transla-"

 

"When there is life, there is hope....." Higura said suddenly. "That's what it meant...."

"-tion...." He understand that...? "Wait.... really? You knew that phrase....?"

"As stupid as it sounds like, I've deal with a lot of people who wanted me to design some stuffs for their website, business profiles and shitty things like that...." Higura shrugged. "I'm familiar with people trying to sound cool and edgy with their works so I have to take safety precautions and actually research my shit before putting the things they asked me to do... apparently Latin phrases is just one of most used language for aesthetic reasons only...so I recognized that phrase because my client keep requesting that and it drilled into my mind, it was really annoying...."

He understood it just because of that!?

 

"That's.... strangely convenient...." Renma remarked. "Hope...... these phrases has been appearing a lot more lately..... Hope and Despair....... Ever since we discovered the event known as 'The Tragedy' few days ago, more things appeared relating to said words. Regardless of words usage, there doesn't seem a way to open this door..... it could have lead us to somewhere else...."

Like a way out of this place, there's no way Monomyou would easily revealed this place as that, right? If there's anything we have learned about that cat, is that they just love to toy with us using misleading clues.

"Ah, right....." I almost forgot something important. "I found another document hidden at the warehouse with Hiroshi.... it's best all of us gathered at the reception area to talk about it....."

 

"Understood, I will come by this place again some other time...." Renma mentioned. "I could use my spare time studying the remains more precisely...."

"You're getting a lot more creepier the more you dwell into this deceased side of yours....." Higura grunted.

"My apology, forced of habit....."

 


 

"Here's what we found....." The folder and other important documents are sprawled all over the desk, making sure everyone can see them. After investigating the eerie crypt, Hiroshi has already told Mitsuru and Hibiki the details and so all of us headed to the hotel with no problem. Now, each and everyone one of us is going through the documents, trying to piece with previous info in the past.

"The disappearance case..... it has to be something similar to us... right?" Mitsuru asked. "I mean, we're 'kidnapped' per say.... by the mastermind of this game...."

"But unlike us, we have a reason why we're in this predicament..... but them....." Hiroshi clicked his tongue. "I don't know man, the fact that our academy has this case going on for almost ten years is kind of freaky.... and we probably didn't noticed at that time when we first attended...."

 

Ten years, ten years after 'The Tragedy' ended. Is it purely coincidence? Or is there some information we're missing right now? If the Ultimate Despair is still around, then it has to be their followers' doing, right? If it is, then why? Why even bother building some sort of cult....?

"H-Hey!! Isn't this your mentor's name!?" Mitsuru showed me the document of one of the Hope's Peak' alumni. "He was also an instructor at Hope's Peak Academy?!"

"Don't ask me, I didn't even know that myself......" The academy has been around for hundred of years already, I just didn't expect my mentor could possibly be one of their oldest students. "I didn't even know he was working on this case for so long....."

 

"What? And you called yourself his daughter?" Mitsuru gaped at the designer as she slightly punched his shoulder. He was about to scold back but the other's expression warned him not to go even further.

"I just didn't know about it, that's all-"

 

"Sumi...." Shoma had a worried look on his face as he passed me another set of document, the one I haven't read and placed way underneath the reports. "This critter think...... you don't remembered......"

"What do you mean-" I scanned through the paragraph and immediately understood what he meant. "Due to the circumstances, we will be transferring the supposed students of Hope's Peak Academy to the sister school, Yumeino Ultimate Academy for Elites. While these students' Ultimate Talents were already recognised for the next semester, they will spending their years at the sister school while simultaneously report back any findings back to the main branch for any breakthrough......"

 

And there my name and talent; Hoshino Sumire, Ultimate Private Investigator, Transfer Request Accepted. And there's two other students who's been marked as 'Request Pending'

"I... knew about it....?" And I was supposed to be helping my mentor and the Hope's Peak Academy about this case? Why did I forgot something so important? Most importantly, "Who the hell are these two students....?"

"Another mystery......" Hibiki muttered. "It seems our class is plagued with unknown identities......"

True, but now we know Oshiro Eiichi and his lucky talent actually exists and was there with us. "I don't think it affects.... our class.... I guess I'm the only one transferred with you guys and they must have been for the other classes...... I'm not really sure anymore....."

 

"I'm gonna skinned that furfuck if this turns out to be one of their tasteless lie....." Higura gritted his teeth. "But now, we have a disappearance case and some more useless information...... we didn't even react that strongly at all...."

Right, that headache thing. If it's something severe then we would have remembered tidbits about it, like last time. But was it because they weren't heavily involved in it...? If yes then.... why can't I remember it...?

"I'm gonna keep this with me!!" Hiroshi said as he reorganised everything. "I found a very secured lock box at the warehouse that only I know the combination to! No worries, I will keep it safe!!"

 

I've been hoarding a lot of things in my room, I'm glad Hiroshi took the initiative, "Great idea, I will be leaving it up to you. That's it then.... nothing much to take from it....."

"May I ask who will relay these findings to Taiga and Hisao?" Renma asked. "There are slight chances that they might remembered something about this as well....."

"How useful can a marksman and a goddamn criminal can be during this period?" Higura replied. "Things like these can only go over their head....."

 

No, Renma said that for a whole different reason; "ask Hisao about this, he might have an idea or two". That person is quick at making decision as well, "I will be telling them. After all, if anyone of you are in the same room as him, it wouldn't take long for him to be beaten into pulp....."

"Aren't you his friend?"

"I'm his caretaker at this point...." I can spare my free time to visit him and Taiga.

 


 

I rang the doorbell, "Tai-chin, it's me, Sumi!!"

A bit of rummaging was going on behind the door before it was swung open by the marksman, "Ah, g'morning!! Or actually.... it's more of a 'good afternoon' at this point!"

"Seems like you've gotten really busy taking care of him...." I looked behind him, seeing an awfully messy room. 'I thought Amane's room is the most messy one when he's in his composing mode....'

 

"Yeah, he's surprisingly...... more annoying when he's sick and not right in his mind......" Taiga cringed a bit. "But he has gotten a bit better now, can actually think and speak clearly for once...."

"Wow, a huge feat for him....." the marksman welcomed me into the room. Despite the clutter, Hisao's room is much more spacious. His room is just like any other hotel rooms in this building, wouldn't have expect to see some trinkets or something. And there he is, laying down on his bed with a towel over his forehead, "So you still think sleeping in a cold area is a-okay?"

 

"Oh, shut up, Shino....." Hisao grumbled out as he buried his face underneath the covers. "This is embarrassing, like super, mega embarrassing. To be seen as weak and vulnerable at a time like this, there's no way I can regain back my cool image!!"

"Hey, you're lucky that I'm willing to nurse you back to health...." Taiga argued, sitting on a chair nearby. "Just my luck that there's appropriate medicines and herbal remedy in the kitchen that I can use to save his sorry ass. Guess my survival skill did come in handy...."

"I'm sorry that you have to be a mother to him at this moment...."

"Nah, I got used to these sort of things. I take care lots of people, sick and injured, in the past as well!"

 

"The worst thing he done was forcing me to take a bath......" muttered Hisao.

"And that's a problem because?"

"He called me a 'casanova' just because I said I'm used to seeing other people's naked bodies...." Taiga sighed, resting his chin onto his hand. "Even though it's just me saying that he should be scrubbing his whole body down...."

"......... I seriously don't know what you guys wanted me to say about that..." The boldness of these two- "Anyways, there's three new places that recently opened up. The old warehouse that has electronic and machinery parts but all of them are beyond usable...."

 

"That's interesting...." Taiga remarked. "I might drop by later if I can... who knows there might be materials I can used for my pellet-making....."

"Ask Hiroshi later, he's holding the key to that place...." I told him. "The next place was the Monomyou's Rose Garden Terrance, just a rose garden and really sketchy labyrinth that promises an 'Ultimate Reward' if we go in there....."

"That sounds fucking horrible...." the conman sputtered out. "... and a trap!! Don't do anything rash until I see it for myself!!"

"We got that idea way ahead of you and we stir clear from that. And the last place was.... highly disturbing.... it was a crypt with a metal door leading somewhere...."

 

Taiga immediately sat up straight, "A crypt?? Here??"

"Why is there a crypt near a resort....?" Hisao frowned. "This gone way beyond just a tourist attraction..... is there anything significance about that place....?"

"Just that metal door that we couldn't open, we didn't know how to....." I answered. "And I'm not sure how important this is but there's a writing above the door that said, 'When there is life, there is hope', and that's it. That's all we found in that place. Renma even said the remains there are at least ten years old or less than that....." The Tragedy, the disappearance cases and the crypt's existence all happened approximately ten years ago, could it be....?

 

"Sorry, Shino.... can't think at all at the moment....." Hisao pulled the cover over his head. "Head's full of cotton and white noises that I'm gonna get drowned if I don't rest enough!! All those things are really interesting to talk about but probably not now!! Not yet!! Wait till I recover then we can go on an adventure!!"

"Or.... wait, where...?"

"The crypt!!" He pulled the cover down again. "I have a feeling that shady metal door has to be related to some sort of an organisation with the word 'hope' being included and all!"

 

'What does that supposed to mean?' "Well, if you thought of answer or even come up with any suggestion, please tell us.... we might be able to work it out from there....." I told him calmly. "There's also another thing we discussed.... have you guys ever heard of the disappearance case involving the students from our academy...?"

"Nope... doesn't ring a bell....." Both Hisao and Taiga shook their head. So they don't know anything as well. Then why was that even given to use in the first place? 'So I was transferred from the main branch to Yumeino just to record any strange activities.... sounds about right, covert surveillance, part of my job after all.....'

 

Then, I got caught in this mess.

Just my luck.....

 

'Luck....... Right, talking about these mysterious identities.... just when we solved one mystery.... the other two popped up..... are they really that important to think about right now? We could be wasting our time overthinking just like the last motive....' "Wait, that thing hasn't popped up yet.... right....?"

"That thing..... Monomyou, right....?" Taiga understood immediately. "No, haven't seen them since the morning announcement..... afraid that they will popped up with another motive....?"

"...... At this point, I'm considering shooting that damn thing in the face...." I clicked my tongue in annoyance. "I can't be even bother to care about the rules of hurting them...."

 

"Chill!!" Hisao grabbed the pillow underneath his head and throw it at my face. "If you die, then how will I die!? I don't want anyone here to kill me!!"

"Wha- You idiot!! What if I got sick because of you!?" I scowled and throw back the pillow. "I'm not gonna let you dragging me down using your own sickness!"

"Well then, we shall see what your immune system decides in the end!!"

"Ah geez, you two!! Stop fighting, this room is already as messy as it is!!"

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

After ceremoniously getting kicked out of the room, I fidget around with my ElectroID, 'Still have enough time to hang out with someone.... who should I hang out with.....' my eyes landed on Higura's door. 'There's a lot of things I wanted to know about him... besides his job.... the last time I asked him, he got really heated over it....' "It will be fine....." I rang the doorbell.

"It ain't locked, just come in!!"

True to his words, the door opened normally and closed it once I got in. Higura's room has rather beautiful portraits and water-colored landscapes hung up on the wall. He seemed to be working on something at his desk as well.

 

"What are you doing?" I peeked behind him. He's.... painting something. "Oh, you're a traditional artist as well...?"

"Hobbyist.... besides it's basically my foundation..." said Higura while focusing on painting. "Got too much time so you're gonna disturbed me? Better not touch anywhere on this painting or else I will fucking break your fingers..."

"Not planning to do that....." I nervously replied. "I've just realized something lately.... you have really sharp eye for details, huh? The way you designed our stage costumes, the stage itself, even color coordination is on-point with the theme of the play we did. It's like you can used your Ultimate Graphic Designer talent various of ways...."

In the end, I talked about it.

 

"Obviously, our job is to make sure everything looks pleasant and pleasing to the eyes and not scorching from the inside out....." said Higura, dipping the paintbrush into the murky water jar. "And those stage things are just from my extra experience...."

"Extra experience....?"

"None of your fucking business..." He hissed.

But you said it yourself.... "I just never see you as a.... um.... a fashionable guy... even with such a petite face like that....."

 

"Wha-!? Are you saying I'm cute something!?" He almost dropped the brush onto the floor.

"I didn't even say anything remotely close to that....." Is this some strange complex he's having? He doesn't want to be called or be compared to cute things? I guess it's normal for someone like him but he immediately went straight to the point. "If you really hate that then I won't say it again, okay? I'm sorry, I didn't know it would make you really angry...."

"That ain't enough!!!" He proclaimed. "From now on, any cute thoughts you've associated me with is now banned within my diameters!! Anything related to that and I won't hesitate to rip your hair off!!"

"Whoa, that's too extreme for someone like you...." I tried to calm him down. "Even as an accidental slip.... you can't say that to others without meaning to, that's really scary for them to hear....."

 

"Yeah? What's the big deal about that?" Higura huffed, leaning back onto his chair. "I don't care if people can't handle me and my loudmouth personality, that's their problem not mine...."

"There's a fine line between 'being yourself' and 'being unnecessarily violent while approaching others' ......." wow, that's rich coming from me. "I don't know what kind of reaction you were expecting when saying that hair-pulling stuffs..... but it did made me want to leave you alone after that....."

 

"Good, because that's the reaction I was expecting....."

"So you have low expectations about it, huh...." I decided. "Then I will stay instead..... I will just stay here and continue the conversation like it didn't happened. And maybe after a while, you wouldn't find me so bothersome by just being here....."

"God, people like you are so annoying...." he sighed in annoyance. "But if it makes this visit worthwhile for you then who the hell am I going to take away someone else's fun....."

Someone else's fun, I guess he's referring to painting being his personal comfort zone so I started talking about it instead. The conversation went smoothly from there, Higura usually answered with a short sentence or even a forced one but the more we talked about it, the more expressive and long his sentence is. I could even see a smile he has while painting.

In the end, he said that he's free whenever I decided to drop-by and learn about watercolor painting. I told him that maybe next time. 'I guess I can consider this outing to be a success.....'

 


 

"It's going to be nighttime soon.... well, it's good that today's not hectic at all...." I hummed to myself, sitting on my bed. "That's a relief.... we all needed a much more relaxed day..... unlike last time....."

Last time, we were on edge, constantly on our toes because of what believed was a time limit motive. Just like that, we almost exhaust ourselves in the end after the class trial.

'Even during the middle... we were really in deep thought about these whole events..... Hope's Peak Academy... The Tragedy... Ultimate Despair.... how are they linked with us? Why does the stuffs from the past even matter now, almost a decade later....?'

 

"Another mystery for us to solved in the end.... I guess I should just sleep in for no-" Something dropped down in front of my and I instinctively grabbed the nearby animal plush to try and hit it. Thankfully, I didn't swing it around as soon as I saw what it was, "M-Monomyou!?"

"Huh? You're gonna hit me with that plush?" Monomyou tilted their head in curiosity. "Strange choice of weapon but I warned ya'!! Violence against your host is strictly forbidden!!"

'You're definitely doing it on purpose....' I sighed, hugging the plush to my chest. "What do you want now? Seeing your guests personally can only mean one thing....."

 

"Nyahahahaha!! So you're accustomed to your lovely host's pattern!!" Monomyou laughed. "Unfortunately, it's not that!! I'm just here to deliver a reminder!!"

"A reminder?" For what?

"You've all visited my spectacular rose garden, right!?" Monomyou explained. "Inside that garden is the amazing labyrinth that was planned out by yours truly!! You can't enter alone and there's a gate there that will immediately deny you from entering!! And if two people that entered as a pair completed the mysteries of that labyrinth, you will be rewarded handsomely at the end!!"

 

So the labyrinth is the motive this time? It could be that, but I'm afraid that it might be just another distraction. "So what if we chose to ignore the labyrinth, what's the bad outcome?" I asked.

"Eh? Not really, no bad outcome at all!!" Monomyou replied cheerfully. "After all, as your delightful host, I feel sort of bad making you all go through those play preparations and set-ups before that didn't even end completely!! So I decided to gave you all a break for now!! But I can still get bored with being relaxed anyways so I may change my mind right away!! Nyahahahaha!!"

 

Figures that it's not going to be that easy for us. The way this day went on without any interruption makes sense now. This is the only time I feel glad for what Monomyou decided for us....... for now.

"I'm also here to fulfill a certain task of mine; your reward for completing the trial!!" Monomyou confessed, striking a pose. "As your reward, I may or may not answer your question truthfully about your past memories!!"

A 50-50 chance of getting the answer I wanted? This play way too well in our favor. Unless this cat wants us to ask a very desperate question so that they can give an half-ass answer, then it's best not to go in that direction, "Then where is Oshiro Eiichi right now?"

 

"Huh? A 'where' but not a 'what' or a 'who'?" Monomyou snickers. "That's awfully mundane of you, Ms. Investigator!! Why worry about such a trivial manner!! Are you wasting your opportunity over some student? What about the Ultimate Academy or your father!!"

"Mr. Iwao has nothing to do with this...." I snapped back, reminding myself to calm down again. Of course, the host did eavesdropped on us talking about the documents earlier. "And I don't think the Ultimate Academy is even related to this mess so answer me this, where is Oshiro Eiichi right now?"

 

"Nyahaha!! Your nyaness! Ackh- I stuttered!! My bold-sounding words have merged to match my own noises!!!" Monomyou silently cried. "But fear not, this student you're talking about is no concern of ours!! No significance because he's a nobody!! That's it!! He's just a nobody who's lucky enough to not end up in this place with you guys in the first place!! So, throw that concern away and think about yourself even more!!"

Again, lucky. If luck really is a talent, then what kind of luck is it? Avoiding catastrophe before it happened? Does that even exists? "Well, I'm actually satisfied from that..... it's not really for nothing...."

 

"Ackh!? You're actually satisfied from a vague-ass answer!?" Monomyou gasped. "It seems nothing can faze you even more, Ms. Investigator!! I'm a big fan of that!! Well, I will be seeing the others as well!! Nyahahaha!! Have a nice nightly rest!!"

I collapsed back onto my bed as soon as the cat host disappeared, sighing to myself, 'Saying that I'm satisfied is really off..... I got more questions from that instead...... but that's bound to happened. Every mystery we solved, there's going to be a lot more questions to sort through before we can make a complete story..... it's something everyone have to get used to......'

 

"....... Tomorrow....." If Hisao actually got better tomorrow, then maybe Taiga and I can tagged along, inspecting those three areas again. As usual, we might have missed something from our initial search, or Monomyou could have placed something discreetly overnight.

........

It's kind of scary that I have gotten used to that kind of routine or thoughts. Always expect the worst, troubling scenario I can think of. Can't be really helped, it's what I have to learn to deal about. 'Tomorrow.... please be a more serene-filled day as well....'

With that final wish, I closed my eyes and drifted off into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!!!

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, rise and shine!!! This is your daily morning announcement by the one and only, you lovely host, the Magnificent Monomyou!! I wonder how is everyone doing today? Feeling great? Slowly cracking down mysteries one by one? I wonder, I wonder!! Never knew I would enjoy such a thrilling mystery solving game instead!! Of course, I can't abandoned the killing game just like that, nyahahaha!! Have a myou-est of day!!!"

 

'They've been eavesdropping on what we've discussed yesterday as well, huh.....' I rested my chin onto the table. I woke up earlier before the announcement, dressed up (with my jacket this time) and went to the dining hall with Hiroshi and Taiga already present. Both of them are preparing our breakfast this time.

"With the way they said it..... it sounds like they're planning something....." Hiroshi remarked, placing the food onto the table. "Anyways, that host went into you guys' rooms, right? What did you asked them....?"

"Nothing too important...." I side-eyed. "Because I got a really half-assed answer instead....."

 

"I asked about the disappearance cases...." said the abseiler, sighing. "They said that we wouldn't know about it because we're just those type of lazy students back then..... and I'm not sure if that's true or not......"

"I didn't really ask them anything...." Taiga claimed. "I don't know, I just feel uncomfortable that they would willingly drop-by our rooms just to pull that on us. It just feels like a trap...."

It is rather strange, but it's not like they've never done it before. Monomyou did see us personally during the secret motives incident, and I'm not sure how is this any different than last time. But for Hiroshi's question, it does sounds like they're dodging that on purpose.

 

"Good morning, everyone!!" A cheerful voice rang out, Mitsuru, Higura and Hisao walked in, looking a lot more better than yesterday. "How is everyone! Hope Monomyou didn't disturbed you all last night!!"

"Furfuck barged in when I was painting....." Higura grumbled. "And let us ask them a question. Mitsun and I got jackshit when we asked them the same thing; who's the mastermind? Furfuck said we will be spoiling the game and it wouldn't fun anymore, whatever the fuck that means...."

"That's a vanilla-esque question you two asked there....." Hisao snickers. "Well, at least it shows..... that thing has no intention to answer us honestly, just messing with us once again......"

 

"And I was really excited too....." Mitsuru sat next to Hiroshi, followed by Higura and Hisao sat right in front of Taiga. "For once, I thought they would play nice but they only refer to our resting period as a 'nicest thing they have done for us'......"

"What about you, Sao? What did you ask them?" I asked, curiously.

"Hmm.... something that's been bothering me since the last trial..... as much as I hate that person...." Hisao pondered. "Is Nao really the fake player?"

 

Huh? Why bring that up after a day? "Why would ask that? She said it hersel-"

"But Monomyou didn't say anything about it....." he leans back in his chair. "If Monomyou is that much of a pompous host, they would take the chance and boast about it. you know? But nope, they were completely quiet about when Nao confessed. They didn't even move a muscle until it was time for her punishment......"

Everyone flinched at the last word, her last moment still burns in our mind. But Hisao does have a point. We never even had a verbal confirmation that she was the fake player. We just assumed she was at that moment, it was us who solidified that as a fact. So....... there's a possibility that the fake player is still around....? Give me a break....

 

"And of course, the host just said I wasted my chance on such a trivial question and left just like that....." Hisao sighed. "How cruel of them, and I was going to invite them over for a game of charade! I'm getting ignored a lot lately!!"

"It's probably for our best anyways...." Higura snorted.

"Ignoring that obvious slander.... Tai! Shino!! Wanna join me on an adventure!?" Hisao gleamed. "You guys had too much fun bullying me yesterday so I wanna have my revenge on you two now!! If you reject me then I will annoy you two all day until you accept!!"

 

That's pure torture, both the marksman and I looked at each other for a bit, before sighing in defeat, "Fine....."

"Good, good!! Hey, Hiro... we're gonna need to borrow the key as well!!" the conman pester the abseiler besides him. "I wanna see what's the fuss about that warehouse!! Who knows what we will find in there!!"

"A-Alright, stop poking my cheek with that fork!! You're gonna hit the wrong thing!!"

"Are you suggesting that I should poke you in the eye with this?"

"What!? That's the completely opposite thing I ask you to-!!"

 

"Good morning, everyone...." Hibiki and the other two people showed up, but they looked so..... sullen. 'Ren and Shou looked differently today.... no, no, not appearance-wise but the mood around them feels really odd....' the mortician looks like he was troubled by something while Shoma just walked by without a word towards others, not saying his usual catchphrase or anything. Hibiki noticed this too, as she uncomfortably shifts her position away from the other two.

"And so the rain clouds appeared....." Hisao was the first one to speak up. "What's the matter, mortician, biologist? You two are usually so buddy-buddy early in the morning? What's with the sudden cold shoulder?"

"Shut up.." Shoma snapped back. Renma just glared from afar.

 

'W-What's going on...? This is really unlike of them.....' Higura and I were alarmed by the sudden hostile attitude from Shoma. Did something happened yesterday? Or did Monomyou do something to riled them up last night? Even if it's like that, it wouldn't warrant a reaction like this-

"Well!! I think it's best to get going!!" Hisao walked over, grabbing both Taiga and I by the arms. "Adventure awaits, you know!! Nothing would be done if we're just lazing around so let's go!!"

"S-Sao!! Hands off!!"

"Whoa, you're surprisingly stronger now!!!"

 


 

"Sao, what's the meaning of-"

"Sorry, but I don't want my mood to be soured by some sort of lovers' affair!!" I can see Hisao pouted slightly. Is he talking about Shoma and Renma? "They also look more pissed off than usual from when I usually teased them. Renma is really vocal about his feelings so for him to be so quiet now is very eerie!! Plus, I don't want to be in the same room with very heated glares from two people I least wanted to hang out with!!"

"If you teased them everyday, then that's probably why they're more mad at you than usual....." Taiga commented, rubbing his wrist. "But it is kind of scary..... I mean, we really didn't expect them, out of all people, be really angry...."

 

'And I really thought Hinako and Taiga, himself, would be the scary ones.... Shou and Ren being silent of how they felt..... yeah, something's definitely wrong...'

"Let's stop by the warehouse first!!" Hisao exclaimed. "It's the first place we will passed by, right? Best to check while we're at it!!"

'It feels like I picked a really bad time to accompany these two..... while I do want to look for clues to find the mastermind but... Ren and Shou.......I hope they're fine nonetheless, I will try and see them later before nighttime hits.....'

 

Once we've arrived, Hisao unlocked the door with no problems and we started to inspect everything inside. The warehouse only has the front door, numerous shelves lined up horizontally with old spare parts. Hisao found something that he seems to be familiar with, "Ah!! This thing!! How nostalgic!!"

"What is...?" It looks like a small radio in his hands with a microphone attached to it. "What is that? It looks really antique....."

"Huh, I'm surprised you don't recognized it, Shino!!" Hisao turned the knobs around. "This thing here..... is every con-artists' must-have tool!! It's like a recorder, you know!! It's what we usually used when we're trying to send messages discreetly!!"

 

"Oh, that......" Now that he said it, the device does look familiar. Like I've seen it before entering here. "Like a tape recorder disguised as a radio, right? Because of these things' existence, it became normal routine check-up for us, investigators, to inspect through any radio that's present at the scene, even the culprit's or victim's house..... I'm surprised it can even faked that feedback noise when turning the knobs......"

"I feel like I'm entering a very dangerous territory here....." Taiga nervously laughed behind us. "How does it really work....?"

"Well, it just record your voice, that's it!!" Hisao exclaimed. "That audio will be buried under numerous other white noises until you find the right frequency to hear the message clearly!!! It's like a message layered underneath those miscellaneous noises!!"

 

"I'm amazed and that's one thing, but all of that seems really a haste to prepare......" Taiga commented. "It looks like that's the only device that's working in this warehouse....."

"Yeah, but the microphone is totally busted....." the conman tapped onto it. "I've been tuning it for a while now, to see if it picked up our voices but it didn't. No worries!! I will just fixed it up and it will be all good!!"

'Like a little child.....' "But it appears there's nothing else important left here....." I stated. "We've searched every corners and top of the shelves, nothing.The disappearance folder and information about both academies is all there is to it....."

 

While still holding the device, Hisao walked towards the far back of the warehouse as Taiga and I followed him. At the back, there's a door, there's a safety lock on it. "What about this one?" Hisao inspected closely.

"I'm sure you have eyes to clearly see it's locked....."

"Hmmm...... Let me try something....." The conman put down his device and he pulled out his pocket knife, sliding the blade under the loose safety lock.

"What are you-" He slammed down the handle and the lock immediately came off, falling to the ground. Hisao hummed victoriously as he twisted his knife around, "Tada!! Neat trick, huh!"

 

Taiga was clapping, being perfectly amazed and I almost instinctively followed along. I shook my head of that thought, "W-Wait!! What if Monomyou kept that lock for a reason!? If they realized we're breaking in then-!!"

"No worries!! They won't notice it!!" Hisao said confidently while opening the door. "This whole place was opened up for us to explore anyways!! That means this room here is part of it as well!! I'm sure they want us to check it out!!"

'I forgot how nerve-wrecking it is to have him around after a day of normalcy....'

 


 

Inside the small room was a singular long wooden table and more shelves lining against the dry paint walls that's already peeled off. We did our usual inspection of the shelves, one by one. "Nothing...." I said first, jumping down from the stool. "Got nothing at my side...."

"Same here......" Taiga continued. "Maybe there really is nothing at all...."

"Seriously!?" Hisao came up empty-handed as well. "What a waste.... that neat trick from earlier was all for nothing in then end!!"

'Did you really just drag us all the way here and break into a room just to show us that trick?'

 

"Well, at least it did impressed you two, so not everything is a waste...." Hisao folded his arms, frowning. "I'm still disappointed though. I thought we have outsmarted that feline host this time but it seems they have caught onto us yet again, huh...."

"What makes you so sure that they're hiding something here anyways?" Taiga questioned.

"Good yet idiotic question!!" Hisao answered enthusiastically. "At this point, we're really close to sorting out our school memories!! So this host of ours must make sure they wouldn't leave too much revealing information out in the open like that!! So, they would have to hide the more exclusive ones in a secluded area!!"

 

"In this case, they initially hid them here right before Hiroshi even discovered this place....." I tried to follow his reasoning. "But they changed their mind and has to hid it somewhere else. Sao, you're sure about a clue hiding here to begin with...?"

"Hmm..... truth to be told, I don't know!" At least he's being honest about it. "However, do you guys remembered the newspaper article about our supposed deaths found in the library's archive? Do you think it's really odd for Nao and Machi to discovered them a day later?"

"Why is that an issue.....?" Leading him on, I get what he's saying but I just have to make sure he's not going to leave it like that.

 

"I just find it odd, a really passionate librarian who's all about the hard-work turned a blind-eye to a possible mystery clue residing in the other room, without him noticing...." Hisao shrugged. "I always thought of him being a neat freak who likes to organised his stuffs, despite his effort being unnecessary....."

'So you're saying...... those articles weren't there initially when Nao and Machi discovered the library?' is another thought of mine but I didn't say it out loud. I thought it was unlikely but if Hisao suggest there might be a pattern in how we even found our clues then, "You're suggesting that some of the clues we found might be fake, right?"

 

"Haha! Shino, your deduction skills never fail to amuse me!!" Hisao grinned. "Though, that's still a theory, isn't! It's best to leave it like that then!! Who knows, I could be wrong as well!!"

There he goes again. But... he's acting really strange, somehow. While he's being energetic right now, he wouldn't be this loud and brash, and he would be bit more standoffish when receiving such a cold reply from others- "Sao-chin, don't tell me you're still sick....."

He immediately flinched when he heard it. 

"Are you kidding me..... Tai-chin, excuse us for a while....." I sighed heavily, taking his hand as I pulled him away from the room despite his protests. "I know you want to check out the crypt that badly but I won't allow you. You will get even worst than before with how the condition is down there....."

 

"Ugh, getting caught and lectured at the same time.... this is the worst..." Hisao sobbed. "I wanna be useful, ya' know! I can't do that while I'm stuck in my bed with no one else to talk to!!"

'Just say that you're lonely, you're making things difficult for yourself...' "Sao-chin....." I looked around to make sure it's just the both of us and we're out of the marksman's earshot. "..... You've done enough to help us so stop pushing yourself that hard...... It's kind of disheartening to see you're doing these sort of things, only to get shoved aside..... just get some rest, okay? Taiga and I will handle it on our own....."

"This sentimental talk again....." Hisao clicked his tongue. "You know I hate stuffs like this, Shino! It's boring to hear anyone being all mushy and sad over other stuffs! I can't function well enough around people like that!"

 

"Then would you really prefer for people to stop caring about you?" I stopped, staring back at him. "You wouldn't want that, right?"

He didn't reply but he pulled his arm away, to get away from my grip, as he pouted. "Fine... I will go back and rest till I'm all better. But!! Just so we're clear, you're not the one winning here!! I'm doing this just because I will get more sick hearing you like that!! When I fully recovered, I expect no mushiness and be prepared to be reaaal annoyed!!"

 

'..... Despite how he acts and said.... he's surprisingly overemotional yet really closed-off from others.....' I watched as the conman stomped away, fuming. '.... Hell, maybe I overvalued his feelings too much.... being tossed aside like that and not expecting any praises in the end.... is kind of cold..... but he choose not to be closed with others to begin with....'

"Hey, Sumi.... can I ask you something....?" Taiga snapped me out of my trance.

"Ah, sure... what is it....?"

 

"Hmmm..... I'm not sure if it's just me or I'm just imagining stuffs again but..... do you remember one of Monomyou's rules....?" Taiga asked. "About property damage or something?"

"Right, that rule; inflicting any damage towards hotel properties is strictly forbidden.... or something like that....." I said it like a mantra in my head. But the more I think about it, the more I started to feel off about it, "Then why didn't Monomyou showed up?"

"There's no cameras around this building....." Taiga looked around some more. "So, that's one thing why Hisao was so sure to break down that door but..... the bar most importantly.... remember the pool table that he and I broke...? Wouldn't that be something that would caught their attention right away?"

 

"But the cameras at the bar weren't even working properly....." I explained. "Even till now, they're still broken. Monomyou didn't even managed to fix them...." Could it be..... Monomyou cannot enter certain places for some reason.....? 'Wouldn't that contradict Hisao's previous theory then....?'

"Is it possible that someone might have tampered Monomyou....?" Taiga asked, but shake his head in the end. "N-No, forget about that one. There's no way that thing would allowed anyone to be near them....."

"It's still something to talk about......" I tried to cheer him up. "Maybe we can talk about it more with others.... they might gave us an answer or something..... for now, let's just... I don't know.... stroll around and clear our head for a bit from all that.......?"

 

"Oh!! I haven't seen that garden terrace thing that you mentioned yesterday!!" The marksman snapped his fingers. "I really wanna to see that place!! I'm a big fan of floral stuffs, ya' know!!"

"Good idea.... " I smiled. "Let's get going then.... I think it will be way more peaceful there than here....."

 


 

[ Free Time Event ]

 

The garden terrace is thankfully empty at this hour (almost close to evening, we really spent all that time at the warehouse). Taiga and I were sitting on the nearby bench, just appreciating the floral beauty before the marksman propped that question, "Hey, Sumi.... just curious about this but what's your type?"

"M-My type....? You mean like a lover....?" He nodded back. Out of all things he could start with, a relationship question is something I wasn't entirely prepared for. 'My type... probably......' "...... I have an answer in my head but I think I would just described my ideal sparring partner instead....."

 

"Haha! So you're not so sure about yourself as well!!"

"I don't really think about relationship that much.... I don't think I would even have any time for it either....." I laughed it off. Besides, I don't think I'm an ideal partner for anyone else. "What about you? It's only fair if you tell me yours....."

"Hmm..... someone who really cares, I guess....?" Taiga replied. "I don't know.... it depends really..... I don't know much about relationship but I always dreamed about it, you know!! Being a really loving relationship must have felt really great!! I've heard all kind of stories from my pops' friends!!"

 

'This is.... getting awkward.....' I hope Taiga didn't noticed he's talking about relationships next to the very person who solved infidelity cases for a living. "Y-You're really on-board with this..... but I think we're still too young for a real relationship...."

"Eh... really....?" Taiga blinked twice at those words. "I see.... because I remembered when I was hanging out my pops' army squad... they mostly met their match in a young age!! Mostly high-school sweethearts and stuffs like that!! That's why I really envied them! I wanna have that experience too!"

Could it be, I might be grasping at straws here but; "Tai, could it be you're looking for a companionship rather than a full-fledged relationship....?"

 

"What's the difference....?"

"No, it's just that..... the way you phrased it sounds like you wanted to be with someone you knew for a long time already....." I explained. "I-It's confusing, yeah, but that's what I thought you're looking for...."

"Hm.... yeah, it's pretty ideal if the person I really liked has been my friend for a long time but.... even my friends think I'm a scary person....." Taiga sighed. "They always said that when they asked what my ultimate talent is and freaked out immediately once they knew....."

 

As an Ultimate Marksman, it's tough not to get heavily judged for being skilled using a dangerous weapon at a very young age. Despite that, Taiga kept a very cheerful personality, making sure his friendly aura overshadowed that talent fact when talking to other people. But there's something about his talent that really bothers me......

"But at least your friends still wanted to hang out with you, right?"

"Nope, they immediately left once they found out about my ultimate talent....." That really shot down my attempt to lighten up the mood. "I mean, I knew they would do that but it still bugs me, you know? That's why I've been hanging around with pop's army friends all the time!! They've been kind enough to let me train alongside with them!! At least, they didn't shunned me away!!"

 

'Taiga has been speaking about his father's friends really fondly so he might have not that many friends around his age while growing up.......' I suggested, "Maybe... I can act as your practice partner...?"

"W-What?"

Okay, that sounds really weird when said out loud but-! "J-Just play pretend, I mean!! Like.... how would you act around your partner and something like that....." The marksman can come off as a little too strong for some people, as I remembered our first meeting. "Maybe with that, you can easily charmed anyone even with them knowing about your talent!"

 

"Are you sure you're okay with that?" Taiga looked worried. "I wouldn't want you to play some matchmaker role or even fake a relationship just so I could be comfortable with someone else...."

"Hmmm... now that you put it that way.... it's not a really good idea...." I pondered. "I guess it really can't be helped. But you don't have to lose heart over it. I'm sure you will find your match soon!! You're a really handsome guy, after all. Who knows, there might be someone out there who followed the same wavelength as you...."

 

"I don't know what that means but I hoped so too!!" Taiga became excited all of the sudden. "Heck, maybe one day, you might end up being my best man, after all!!"

He went even further 'till marriage!? He skipped an entire relationship building there!! "That's still too soon to decide! Why don't you just take it slow first!" I suggested, erratically. "Sometimes it won't last that long, you know!!"

'Taiga is surprisingly naive in nature and it's so easy to tricked him to do something dangerous. Yeah, that incident at the gym did proved that as a fact. I better keep an eye on him in the future or else people will take advantage of that naivety.....'

 


 

Taiga and I walked back to the hotel once the night arrived, talking about other things to fill the silence. It was when we're right in front of the hotel entrance that Taiga halted and pointed out, "Ren and Shoma.... are they fighting over there.....?"

Through the transparent glass door, the mortician and biologist looked like they were arguing about something, with Shoma being the most heated one over it, 'T-This again.... maybe I shouldn't have left them this morning after all-!!'

 

"I have to go and check on them...."

"Umm... alright, I will be right behind you if things got really messy afterwards...."

"Ren!! Shou!!" I called out to them loudly once I entered the reception area, heavy steps as I approached them. "What's going on? Why are you two fighting over here?"

"Sumi, impeccable timing...." Renma sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Please tell Shoma that he's being ridiculous with his plan.... he's been like this ever since last night....."

'Last night? When Monomyou came in...?' I turned to the biologist, "Shoma, what happened? Did Monomyou said or did something to you....?"

 

"This critter just asked a simple question.... with a more favorable outcome...." Never thought I would be really glad to hear him speak like that, if it weren't for the forceful tone. "With each trials, we, critters, get new places to swim through and more puzzles to our memories.... so.... if one of us, critters, could sacrifice to get our next puzzle-"

"Wha-!? Sacrifice!?" I didn't mean to cut him off, but what he's implying here is clearly not good. "Shou, that's not an option we can just go along with it. That's still playing into that cat's favor!!"

"But this critter suggest that I will be the one committing the crime, to myself...." he said solemnly. "In that way.... no one would get hurt, right...?"

"A suicidal move isn't the best option to make here!!" Taiga refuted, clearly bewildered by the biologist's words.

 

"Shou-chin, you've already made Ren-chin mad and everyone else worried about you two fighting this morning. If everyone found out about this, they will surely be against it. You should know that while there might be no culprit of this crime you're going to commit.... Monomyou would still bring in a substitute which could still be anyone of us....." I stated. "In a way, you've already indirectly hurt everyone else here with this decision to solve our missing memories... which could still be for nothing....."

"There's a difference between being a martyr and an idiot, Shoma...." Taiga continued, with a stern look on his face. "And it's still a huge gamble you're trying to make here..... especially when you guys are arguing here where Monomyou could clearly see and hear you..... they might have the idea and decided to mess with us again....."

 

Shoma didn't say anything, he looked away as if he's ashamed from even talking, clutching onto his other arm for comfort. A defense mechanism. He know he's being outnumbered here so he just stand back and stayed quiet, witnessing his own decision being scrapped in an instant.

"......Monomyou!!"

"Yes, yes!! Your lovely host is here to serve you!!!" The cat host appeared out of thin air, immediately trembled under the glares from two other people in the room. "W-What's the matter!? Got any complaints against me or something!?"

"Just a request....." I kneel down to meet the cat host's eye-level and asked. "I would like ask for your permission to have Shoma sleep in my room for tonight and Renma sleep in Taiga's room as well....."

 

"Eeek-!? A boy sleeping in a girl's room!? How scandalous!!!" Monomyou shrieked. "That's quite a high request, ya' know!? This ain't like your typical rom-com show, this is a thriller killing game show, we can't let that confused, ya' know!?"

"Stop saying that as if we're gonna do something unspeakable...." I sighed at their obnoxious imagination. "Think of it as rehabilitation..... Taiga and I will be monitoring them for a while..... even if this is a killing game.... it would be messy if things got out of hand....."

"Eh, fair point....." Monomyou replied. "Fine then, permission granted for the both of you!! But if I spotted some naughty stuffs going on then I won't hesitate to kick ya' asses!!! Well then, have a lovely night, dear guests of mine!!"

 

Just like that, the cat disappeared. I immediately got up and turned to Taiga, "I hope you're okay with that sudden plan..... sorry, I thought it up without asking you beforehand...."

"Nah, it's okay....." the marksman crossed his arms together. "I don't mind looking after another person this time.... especially when they've been causing trouble for each other behind our backs....."

 

"I apologized that our feud caused such a rift in our group...." Renma bowed. "It's partially our mistake for keeping this problem to ourselves...."

"Sorry, Sumi....." Shoma apologized as well. And I'm grateful that they're being considerate right now.

"I am upset that you two have been keeping this from us but it's not entirely your fault, alright?" I gave them a reassuring smile. "It's probably that host's fault for giving you that idea.... so don't beat yourself over it......" 'Higura's advice really did helped me in the end.....' "Let's just retired to our rooms for now.... Ren, Shou, if you want, you can call it truce now or even tomorrow morning once everything calmed down between the two of you....." 

 

"This critter needs more time for himself....." the biologist suggested. "This entire noon..... this critter has been going through some heavy current that I could hardly breathe....."

"Ah, you're still stressed out? Then tomorrow it is then..... are you okay with that, Ren-chin?" Renma gave a affirming nod. That settles it. I'm glad that I actually reached out to them this time unlike earlier morning. I wouldn't want to blame Hisao for being too forceful just now but at least they haven't done anything drastic yet. "Alright.... it's going to be nighttime soon, let's just go back to our rooms now....."

 


 

"Did this critter made Sumi really angry.....?" 

"Huh....?" I've just got out of the shower and changed into my night wear when Shoma asked all of the sudden. Drying my hair off as I placed the towel over the chair, I replied, "No... I'm not really that angry..... I'm just worried about you two, you know? I thought something happened to you guys while I wasn't paying attention.... and I really don't want that to happened again...."

 

"Nothing happened.... it's just this critter's doing....." Shoma pouted. "Hmn, this critter doesn't want to be hated by Sumi and Ren..... this critter just wanted to offer a solution......"

"From my viewpoint.... it's a terrible solution....." I refuted, without trying to sweeten my words. "And you knew that too, Shoma..... we can get our memories back without relying too heavily in some coincidences that Monomyou set up for us. It's just a bait, at this point. And like Amane said before, we can't be easily swayed by sweet promises....."

Slowly learning, huh. In the end, I took everyone's advice by heart. Seeing Shoma making a similar mistake from before must have made me remembered those words.

 

"I wanna apologize Ren properly tomorrow...." He sprawled all over the bed. "Then... there will be no more fighting between the three of us!! We all swim in the same ocean all this time.... we can't be separated!!!" 

"Glad you came to your senses...." I chuckled at his words. "Alright, it's your turn to use the bathroom...."

"This critter will just swim early in the morning....."

"Wha- that's not good, Shou-chin!! If we're going to sleep on the same bed, then I suggest you should take a bath first!!"

 

...

............

...

 

'Geez, he keeps on refusing and talking back a lot but at least he did it by himself....' Shoma is sleeping soundly right now, as I just sat next to him. The nighttime announcement just played few minutes ago and the biologist immediately fallen asleep once his head hits the pillow below. 'I wonder how Taiga and Renma are doing...? Knowing Taiga, he probably asked the mortician some spiritual stuffs.... I hope he can sleep well enough tonight.....'

'Today wasn't the serene-filled day I was hoping for... we got more questions popping up about Monomyou's intentions right now..... even if we don't do the next motive thing..... there's still something going on about them.... is this what they're aiming for....? Were they expecting for us to turn against each other....?'  "..... it's best to keep our guards up...." I said to no one in particular, and drifted into slumber. 

Chapter Text

"Sumi, this critter deeply regrets his actions....."

"No,no, Shou-chin, what you did wasn't really a big deal, you were asleep most of the time so please get up from the floor....."

 

To say I wasn't used to waking up with a company was understandable, especially since our first slumber party before, I was the only one who woke up late and alone. So, imagine my shock when I found a certain biologist's arm sprawled across my neck without a care, pushing me down onto the mattress.

The morning announcement played out as usual, an annoying morning greeting by the host who reminded us about the labyrinth, I didn't give that sentence too much thought as I was too focused on the pressure around my neck.

If my slight screaming didn't wake Shoma up immediately then my overreaction of pushing him off the bed certainly did.

 

And now he's on the floor (still laid out like a starfish) apologizing profusely for something he did in his sleep that's not even harmful. Not gonna lie, I feel like the biggest idiot here for reacting so strongly to it.

"Like I said, it's not a big deal and I'm the one who should be apologizing!" this kind of banter seems familiar, the same old banter right before hell breaks loose. "Shou-chin, I'm really sorry for pushing you off so please get up!!"

"If Sumi-critter insists...." Shoma gets up without a problem, still looking a bit sulky. "That surprised me.... for once, this critter was really in peace for the entirety of the night..... so to only be woken up by force....."

 

"I'm..... really sorry......." I've been saying that a lot to him for the past few days. "Anyways.... it's already morning so I will take a shower first, okay? It won't take long...."

"Can this critter finally swim in the pool for a quick cleanse after this?"

"Shou-chin, if you value your skin, then I suggest not to do that...."

 


 

The biologist knew by now the being resistant is a futile attempt and so he took a proper bath, got dressed into his scientist-like getup after me. Drying off his hair with a towel (to make up for pushing him) one last time, I realized he's been staring at me intensively, "What's wrong?"

"Hmmm, this critter has been wondering for a few days now....." Shoma started. ".... Sumi's like a mother to everyone else, huh....."

"A mother- well, I'm trying to look out for everyone...." I commented, a mother, huh? Truthfully, I never see my mentor as my parental figure so I wouldn't understand this parental vibe that Shoma's getting from myself here. "I don't know what else to say about that......"

 

"It reminds this critter of their own older species, always clinging to the young ones.....!"

So, Shoma's parents always dotes on him. He must be an only child then. A successful son to a nuclear family. Must have been nice. "It's just a simple way to show kindness. Anyways, you hair is dried enough. I think it's fine if you want to dip-in and dip-out of the pool now..." or even dip-in and spent the entire afternoon in the pool for his case.

"Yay...!"

Even in that tone, it's still a very enthusiastic reply.

 

"We should get going now...." I opened the door, waiting for him to get up. "You need to apologize to Ren-chin before you can officially start your day, right?"

Shoma nodded as he stood up, filled with vigorous energy as he walked away from the bed and into the hallway outside, "Ren needs a proper apology from this critter here. What should this critter do to present it? Should I bare my form as I beg?"

"I don't think you have to be naked-"

"Ah."

 

The moment that line came out of my mouth, the other door opened up and two other people revealed themselves, Mitsuru and Higura.

Ah. Crap- Wait, why are they together?

"Ahahahaha.... what kind of situation is this...?" Mitsuru tries to laugh it off. She tries to, but she probably already interpreted that last line in a very different way. "A-Also, good morning, you two!! Shoma, you looked pretty well today! That's good!!"

Immediate deflection.

 

"Okay, since no one's gonna fucking talk about the elephant in the hallway here so I will be the one starting it...." Higura sighed, glaring at the both of us. "Why are you guys together and what the hell were you guys talking about? Have you two been fucking?"

Crude as usual. "No, clearly not. Why would that be the case when I've just talked about 'not being naked'?

"Hmm, I don't know, some kinky stuffs you guys are into? Guess it's just you guys being fucking weird as usual....." I'm getting used to hearing that. "So why was Shoma in your room?"

"Rehabilitation......" I gave the same answer from last night talk with Monomyou. "Taiga and I managed to work through their argument, the reason why they were acting really cold yesterday. But taking one step further, I decided that both of us watched over them for one night only, just in case something bad might happened to them...."

 

"Ah, so Sumi and Taiga are acting as wardens for Renma and Shoma overnight!!" Mitsuru seems to get the clearer picture now. "I got it! Phew!! At first, I thought something serious must have happened!!"

That's..... already the serious part?

"So what's the problem?" Higura asked, not bothering to correct the other's statement. "What's with this urchin's head that made the other ghostfucker so heated?"

"That's......" My eyes wandered off a bit, to Shoma's direction. Indifferent, it doesn't look like he's being bothered by it anymore. In fact, he's allowing me to give them a more proper explanation, "Shoma asked Monomyou a question.... that whether or not we would get more clues to our school memories if more locations opened up.... and unfortunately that gave him the wrong idea...."

 

"This critter would like to apologize to everyone...." He bowed down. "Critters such as Ren and I have been causing problems for everyone but we, critters, didn't meant to..... our bad nature have been spread and affected everyone else....."

"As cryptic as you are, at least you apologized for whatever shit you're trying to pull......" Higura brought up an accurate point. "As long as you're not physically hurting anyone else here, we're not gonna gang up on you...."

Almost. Shoma almost planned that.

"Does this mean you and Renma are all buddy-buddy now!?" Shoma shook his head and this made Mitsuru pouted. "Come on now, I will be your support!!!" The cosmetologist got her headstrong attitude on and dragged the biologist with her by the hand. "I'm gonna make sure you two fully understand each other, no barriers! No take backs!! No miscommunication!! Just full disclosure!!"

 

And just like, she spouted more encouraging words with Shoma dangled right behind her, wishing for the other to slow down and wanting her death grip on him to loosened up a bit. The scene goes on until the elevator doors closed after them and it's just Higura and I left in the hallway.

"Mitsuru never fails to amaze me....." I said, placing my ElectroID inside my jacket. "Her enthusiasm is quite contagious....."

"But that idiot has no boundaries....." the designer counters that positive point immediately. "No matter what you tell her or trying to prove her wrong, she never gives up about that brimming with positivism bullshit....."

 

"I sure hope you know the meaning of that word you're using there....." The cutting-edge words that Higura used has become dull enough to notice sooner. "Now then, care to explain why you two were together as well?"

"Why are you interrogating us as if we're the ones doing something awful? Bugger off, would you?" Tough defenses for someone who threw out obscene accusations first. "Just see it as whatever you want, I'm tired of explaining this shit all over again....."

"I thought it would be fair if you tell us your situation since we tell you two ours but if it's that personal then I would end my prying nature there....." I told reassuringly. "Because, we have more serious matters to worry about; the labyrinth....."

 

"Finally, a more serious conversation I can get behind....." Higura throw his hands up. Both of us entered the elevator as we continue our chat as it descends, "So, what's your verdict this time, 'Ms. Know-it-all'? My guess is that you want us to ignore it....."

"I'm not sure if that's wise enough to do... or even consider it as our only option...." I claimed. "Someone and I mean, someone, will take that chance while we're not looking..... even though we swear to each other we won't......"

"So.... no chances to ignore this shit...." he sounded so resigned to this idea. "But can't blame ya'..... what I've learned so far in this fucked-up killing game is that people can be scummy liars, even those you considered to be your friends......"

 

"Are you still mad?" I asked.

"I don't know, aren't you as well ever since?"

I was referring to Oozora Saku. He was referring to Ishimoto Nao and Takara Homare.

In the end, both of us were being lied to horribly.

Can't say for sure we were in our similar darkest moments before as well.......

 

A noise sounded off and the elevator doors opened. Higura and I silently made our way to the dining hall. His silence is enough proof that he's getting comfortable around someone else. If he doesn't like anyone, he would just bring up random topics just to fill the awkwardness or even spout more insults just for them to go away.

But, to even say we're getting along to anybody else does seem a little bit of a stretch.

The dining hall, however, has gotten a lot more merrier than yesterday-

"Say it again! Put your entire feelings in your own words!!!"

"This critter would like to apologize to Oki Renma!! For being selfish and inconsiderate of others!!"

"M-Mitsuru, I can assure you the initial apology was enough to forgive him!! There's no need to make him shout with all his might-"

Thankfully, Shoma ditched the 'bare form' plan and the usual 'dogeza' pose has been chosen instead with some help from Mitsuru for his word choice. Not sure if this made Renma easily forgive him or just made him scared of what he's gonna do next if he doesn't.

"Aaaannnnd it became hectic......" Higura said with a dejected sigh.

"I think... that's a given already...." I said with a playful smirk. 'It's more better than a gloomy morning after all.....' "Renma... are you satisfied with his apology now....?"

 

"Ah...! Sumi...!" Renma looked grateful that I'm here. "I wouldn't say I need to be satisfied for me to forgive Shoma but it's really unnecessary for him to do something like this-!"

"Nonsense!! The only way you can forgive someone is to publicly embarrassed them for their wrongdoings!!" Mitsuru triumphantly laughed. "From there on, there would be no consideration of betraying a friend's trust anymore!!"

Oh, so that's what she's aiming for....

 

Besides the scene beholding in front of us with its three actors (Shoma, Renma and Mitsuru), the rest were seated at the dining table, being amused by what's in front of them. Taiga and Hiroshi, side-by-side, were carefree laughing. Hisao and Hibiki continued with their chat as if nothing major going on around them but I do see them breaking character once they heard something amusing.

"Ah, Sao-chin, are you well enough......or......" I brought my hand to his forehead once he turned around to see me. It was a sudden action, he almost try to slap it away but didn't, "Okay, you're actually better now...."

"Yeah, yeah, I don't want Shino to keep on teasing me about my own weakness so I actually recover some HP to finally beat down anyone who talks shit about me!" Good, even his attitude came back unfortunately. I sat next to him as he continued, "Also, what's the sudden skin contact! You're getting bolder when I wasn't around!! I heard that you and Shoma slept together!"

 

"Stop making it sound like we're doing something indecent...." As if that's not already somebody's (Mitsuru and maybe Higura) job to do so. "It's for safety reason..... and Shoma has been stressing out since yesterday morning so he needed someone around to vent at....."

"We've heard from Mitsun that you and Taiga helped to solved their own issues....." Hibiki adds in. "How admirable that you two were dedicated enough to help them......"

"It's more like Taiga got dragged into this mess and forced to handle that responsibility....." the marksman just gives me a thumbs-up as if saying 'It's no problem at all!'. "But I'm glad we got to work it out before it turned into something disastrous....."

 

"It's not that serious to begin with. And I don't think people like Renma and Shoma would have the will to continue this feud in silence anyways, they're too soft-hearted for that....." Hisao said dismissively. "But more importantly!!! Did everyone hear what that cat host said! About the labyrinth again!"

Once again, the cat brought up that place to get our attention, so that we could start considering about it seriously. We're trying really hard to resist, ignoring it for the meantime until we get a definitive solution.

"I say, we should send out two people to go and investigate!!" the conman suggested.

 

And.

It's not that terrible of an idea, but we just don't know who to even consi-

"And that will be Shino and I since I'm too lazy to wait for you lambs to come forth!!"

- Never mind then, it makes perfect sense why he would even suggest that idea.

 

"Aren't you being too forceful here?" Hiroshi asked worryingly. "I mean, you did the same thing as yesterday and you barely gave Sumi a choice right now-"

"It's okay... I wanted to investigate that place as well....." I replied back, before Hisao can even make a snarky remark to get everyone else mad or feel guilty. A common pattern I see that conman is trying to make. "I think it's a safe choice that Sao and I should go ahead and see to this....."

"Well, you heard it from her!!" Hisao exclaimed. "Shino is agreeing to this! So don't tell me later that she's not on board with this idea to begin with!! I don't wanna get the blame if something bad happened, ya' know!"

 

"We can still blame you for suggesting that idea though....."

As if nothing happened, Hisao freely paraded around as usual. Making decisions that's often risky and ridiculous, but this time, it looks like he has a plan that he's trying to do here.

Breakfast came and went by, Shoma and Renma made up and now talking together as usual with bright smiles on their face. Everything went on as usual, as if nothing happened. After that, Hisao and I wasted no time and immediately went to rose garden park, leaving others to their own devices.

 


 

"Eh... so this is the garden thing, huh....." Hisao spins around, taking in the beautiful scenery before him. "It's flashy alright!! And quite deceiving as well!! I bet that Monomyou introduced this just to caught us off-guard!!"

"So were you serious about the labyrinth?" I asked, crossing my arms together. "Because you're planning to go the crypt as well, right? So which one do you want to go-"

"The crypt, of course!!" He loudly exclaimed. "I want to see this mysterious door with my own eyes!! Maybe I can get some inspirations from it!!"

 

'With the word hope being used, it might be related to some sort of an organisation', I remembered that's what he said before when I told him about that place. Another strange theory he came up with. Yet again, he knew a lot more than I do here so it's not my place to say he's just as clueless as everyone else is. I guided him towards the crypt, down the spiral staircase and into the chilling environment of the underground passage.

"Well, it does feel like we're touching history!! But they don't look that old!!" was the first thing he said when he saw it. "Now, now, we're here for the door so I'm gonna go ahead and inspect it closely!!"

"Don't touch anything or else it might trigger something....."

 

There's nothing much for the conman to see and study something From what we discovered when it first opened, it's just that, that's all there is to it. Nothing special, nothing to it anymore. Even the Latin phrase doesn't hold any significance-

"Remember Monomyou's rule about ending the killing game? That, there should be left with two people still standing?"

"Huh...?" The rule they've stated.... since we first got here?

"The phrase you've said before.... matches that rule so maybe... this is our way out supposedly....." Hisao stopped for a while, before trialling on. "But that's just an assumption! Who knows, maybe this is just a decoration, a desperate attempt to make us think there's a way out!!"

 

I hate thinking about Monomyou who would actually do that to us. Dangling one last hope before us and then just snatched away without mercy. Just for us to fall into.... despair? ... Is that it....? Like Nao did...? Wait...

Something clicked within me. Something from the last trial... suddenly came back to me.

"Hisao, you lied......" The words made it out easily. "You knew about the Ultimate Despair, didn't you?"

 

A huge gamble I've taken when I asked that, because Hisao is armed, he armed with the pocket knife that's he clearly skilled at using it. While I can fight, it's limited if I'm trying to be careful about my injury.

"Huh? What do you mean, Shino?" He asked. No innocent tone, no playful masks, just a serious face with a genuine tone.

"You said it before when we discovered our student profiles.... you've only heard of the title, Ultimate Despair... yet once Nao was found guilty.... you've said something about Ultimate Despair and their followers having no morals and isn't human. That was before we were given our memories about the graduation..... so how do you know that about the Ultimate Despair, Hisao?"

Reverted back to using his first name with no cutesy twist to it must have left him in quite a shock. Days of playing around with name combination have become norm to him so Hisao must have had a hard time trying to think properly now.

"You don't have to be concern about that, Shino!!" His sweet tone is back. "Besides, doesn't it seem pretty obvious that that's what despair is all about! You know, being batshit insane with no purpose?"

"I.... wanted to believe you but........" But? But what? What's stopping me now?

 

"Ah, I see....." Hisao sighed, his frame relaxed a bit. "I'm disappointed, I thought for once you would listen to my words this time.... but I guess even you have limits to dealing with crooked people. That's too bad!! I really thought we could be partners, for like, forever, ya' know!!"

"It's not that-"

"Shino, you're curious about me, right? You want to know if there's more to me than just someone with bad jokes and outrageous actions, right!" he said. "Well, here's a fact that you might have already noticed like you always do, something that has to do with someone like Nao, that accursed thing...... I can't stand people playing the victim, same goes to you as well, Shino......"

My heart sank immediately, something about what he said.... doesn't sound like a lie.

"Take it as what you wanted to see it as. The labyrinth inspection wasn't part of my agenda today actually... I only want to come here and probably discuss it with you but.... I guess you lost interest in me already....." he commented, looking disinterested. "But I'm sure you would be really grateful soon that I'm the one who said that to you first....."

And like that he left, without a word about the labyrinth or anything, he just left.

 


 

"Eh? Sumi, where did you came from?"

"Huh... oh, you two....." I don't know how long I spend time alone at the crypt, trying to recollect my thoughts and regaining my composure back. With a sinking feeling inside, I forced myself to walk back and met up with Mitsuru and Higura, "I... just got back from inspecting the crypt once more...."

"Huh? What happened to the labyrinth plan? Did that fucking conman ditched you at the last minute again?"

I balled my fist, nails digging deep until it leave reddish marks on my palm, "No... we changed our mind.... we decided not to inspect it....."

Higura's eyes narrowed once I've said that, like he was suspecting something else is going on. But he decided not to push it, "Well, not like we wanted you two to try and do anything stupid.... it's probably just a shitty reward anyways......"

"Yeah, Monomyou is tricky like that, huh....." Mitsuru pondered. "But I'm sure it's nothing!! As long as we're all alright, then it's a-okay!!"

As long as we're alright, it doesn't matter.

 

"I guess so....." I chuckles. "So what are two doing here? It's quite a romantic scene to see you two here in garden...."

"Wha-!! Don't get this whole thing mixed up, Sumi!!" Mitsuru denies it straightaway while Higura just gives up early. "We're just having a lovely discussion from one friend to another!!"

There's no use teasing them about it, "I'm just joking around. I will be going now. I wanna sleep in for today....."

"Alright then.... take care....." Higura sounded weird for a moment there. No, it's not weird at all. That's just concern in his voice clearly showing. He knows but he wouldn't want to bring it up in front Mitsuru. Because this is Hisao we're talking about and Higura wouldn't want her to face him.

 

Right after that person left, I seriously thought about what he said to me and what I did here for the past few days. Yet, it keeps on bringing me to that time before Nao's trial. When I blamed myself for Amane and Machi's deaths. The conman agreed with my statement at that time...... so was he actually pissed at me for taking the fault here....?

"I don't understand....." I muttered. "I seriously don't understand what he meant by that......"

"Understand what, Sumi-critter?"

"Ah, Shoma..." I halted, in front of the hotel entrance. While I wanted to be alone for a while, it doesn't hurt to have a small and short talk with a friend, right? "I see you really did plan to dip-in for the afternoon, huh?"

 

"Just for a while!!" Shoma grinned, pushing himself up as he exited the pool. At least he took off his coat this time, "This critter is planning to meet up with Ren for more investigation time!! This time, we're inspecting the crypt again! Would Sumi like to join us...?"

It's been a while since I've last hang out with them. Since I've been busy with solving the mysteries of this place. So.... a little hangout wouldn't hurt, even though I'm going back to that place. "Sure, you're planning to change out of your clothes, right?"

"Hmm...... these fabric will dry up once we go there, no?"

"Shou-chin, you will catch a cold..... I will go get your clothes and you can just change in the hotel's restroom......"

 


 

'Thank goodness for Shoma inviting me out here at least..... even for a small talk... I need to take my mind off of that conversation really badly.....'

Shoma and Sumi start to talk about miscellaneous stuffs, even though the biologist keeps on talking about sea critters as usual about his..... experiments, "It's quite fun playing with them.... especially during dissection....."

Right, because Shoma's interest is collecting live specimen- "That's quite cruel for someone like you, Shou-chin. Although, it's quite weird you would call everyone as 'critters', especially to people who you're closed with, when you're known to do those kind of stuffs to them...."

"We're not that much different, are we, Sumi.....?" he asked curiously. "After all..... we are all one living organism......there's no reason to treat them any different....!"

 

Is he suggesting.... that he might be alright with dissecting people while they're alive as well?  No, no, no, that's absurd. Shoma's eccentric but he's not that mad enough to do it. While he did assist Renma at the mortuary but that's different! "I-I see.... but you do have some that you would keep in your aquarium, right! Like a pet or something?"

"Ah no, I'm not interested in keeping critters as pets. They're too bothersome to take care of......" And he actually lost me there. 

The familiar sight of the rose garden entered our view, Mitsuru and Higura were already gone and probably went somewhere else. 'Guess my comment from before really got through their head, huh....? Must have them too embarrassed to stay there any longer.....'

Shoma already went ahead towards spiral staircase as a thought struck me, '.... Why the crypt again...? Why is Renma so interested in that place that he has to visit them twice in a row.....? Did he find something interesti-'

My thoughts were cut short when I heard a scream, a scream from below, "Shoma!?"

 

Sprinted off, I skipped a step or two as I descended down quickly to the source of that scream. 'Hurry, hurry, hurry!! He's in danger, I must hurry!!'. Once I made it, I saw Shoma was on the ground, sitting upwards, hands on his chest as if he's clawing his lungs out, "Shoma, what happen-"

I looked to where he's staring at-

........

I wanna stop dreaming-

Am I dreaming?

When did I passed out in the middle of the afternoon?

Please, I wanna stop dreaming. This has to be a dream, right? I wanna wake up from it. Please. Please. Please. Stop it-

 

"Renma......"

Small steps forward as I collapsed onto my knees, next to Shoma who can't get his words out at the sight before him; Renma lying down on the floor, facing the ceiling, something wrapped around his neck leaving long streaking line. His face contorted in pain, eyes wide open and his skin turned bluish-purple.

.......

I wanna die vomit.

Why did this happened?

 

I hear footsteps behind me but I was so focused on the body in front of me to the point I didn't even flinch when someone pulled up the hood of my jacket and used it to cover my entire head, "Why....."

"I'm sorry, Shino.... I overdid it......" That's.... Sao-chin. He's actually here.....? Did he actually hear Shoma scream...? How....?

Hisao sighed, placing his hand on top of my head and the other is rested on top of Shoma's. Despite his reluctant nature to get along with the conman, he didn't snapped, moved away or told him off for it. He doesn't care about his presence here right now.

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Ladies and Gentleman!! It seems like we have a new murder case!!! Please gather around in the catacombs to start clue hunting!!"

 

"It will take the others maybe ten minutes to get here so...." he started to patted our heads simultaneously, as an act of comfort. "If you guys need to let it out, then now it's a prefect time to do so....."

In an instant, Shoma breaks down. He brought his hands to his face as if to stop himself from crying in front of others but failed, hiccuping through his silent sobs. Droplets of tear fell to the dirt ground below. Hisao stepped back as if to give us space, he has no experience with comforting others at their toughest moments. And so he did what he always do, stepped aside and observed. 

"Shou-chin......." I heard my voice wavered and immediately I started heaving.

 

I cried. I actually cried.

I've never once cried in front of anyone else. Not my caretaker, not my mentor, not even my sister. I never wanted to show this side of mine to anyone else.

But this....

This......

.......

 

Slowly, I huddled closer to Shoma, hugging him closer, bringing his head close to my chest, an engulfing warmth. "I'm sorry......" I don't care how repetitive it is. I wanna say it. I wanna say it until this guilty feeling of mine just vanished. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry......."

Who am I asking for forgiveness from?

... Renma? (for not getting here sooner?)

... Shoma? (for forcing him to do such a minor thing? For delaying our time?)

... Hisao? (for taking the blame again?)

 

I don't know.

That's all I know what to say; I. Just. Don't. Know. 

Chapter Text

The moment everyone arrived, Shoma and I immediately recovered, we stopped crying and tried to put on a brave face, even with puffy, red eyes. Hiroshi and Hibiki were the first ones to arrived, then Taiga and then, Mitsuru and Higura for last. The designer was about to say something vulgar before he looked at us, and he immediately shut his mouth.

With everyone already arrived, that's when the damned cat appeared, "Wahooo!!!! What a fantastic development!!! Exceptionally myaverlous!! Eek-!! I stuttered!!!"

Same tone, same speech. I'm getting sick of it, "We don't have time listening to your speech about this. Just give us the thing and then leave...."

 

"Haaaah!?" Monomyou showed off their claws as they spatted, "You got a lot of nerves for talking back to your host like that! Ya' know, being an absolutely smartass who think they could do whatever they want against their host's wish can be seen as an actual crime here so don't be too surprised if I decided to execute you and the blackened after the trial!!"

"Maybe I wanted you to do that....." Everyone's eyes widened, including Shoma and Hisao. I cleared my throat as I continued, ".... But I will bite my tongue for now. If you want us to entertain you so badly... then it makes sense for my part to act villainous towards you, isn't?"

"Nyaaargh!? It seems the conman and the investigator has swapped personalities all of the sudden!?" Hisao looked away once our eyes met. "Guess this is the true heated battle between two geniuses!! Alrighty then!! Here's the Monomyou Record File No. 4!! Everyone! I will be looking forward to this trial!! The true climax to the story!! Nyahahaha!!"

 

I wasted no time to wait for the feline host to disappear, I immediately went to inspect the body. Renma's body.... 'Oki Renma, the Ultimate Medium... also known as the Ultimate Mortician before...... is truly dead.........' "I hope you're resting somewhere in heaven, Ren-chin..... may we be able to avenge your cruel demise....."

Renma said that to Homare and now I've said it to him. Because I'm gonna make sure his will be the final death of this fucking killing game....

"Time of death is 1:15 pm in the afternoon. Unknown place of death....." I began listing what's on the record file. "Cause of death is asphyxiation, there are no other external or internal injuries....."

 

"Another unknown place......" Mitsuru pointed out the glaring point in the file. "So, it's possible he's not killed here.....?"

"No.... no, that's impossible...." Hiroshi furrowed his brows. "Because I was outside the whole time, taking an afternoon jog around the place, from the warehouse to the hotel.... and not once I've seen Renma passing by any of the places....."

He never passed-by Hiroshi....? That's already a problem. "Is there anything else you've noticed? Anything strange?"

"I've been guarding the warehouse as usual after I had my breakfast....." Hiroshi explained. "The warehouse is still securely locked and I still have the keys with me this morning so there's no way anyone could get in there. Then I went on an afternoon jog and never encountered anyone, except for Higura and Mitsuru who got back from the garden!"

 

And with that, I took note of Hiroshi's account. That's when I noticed Hisao taking his leave, "Sao-chin, where are you going?"

He stopped, "..... I've decided to leave this case entirely in your hands, Shino. I feel like I will get cursed by Renma if I meddled in too much..... But I'm sure you will get your answers without my help!"

"You will end up being a suspect, you know?" I told him, honestly. "If this is about just now then.... just so you know, I'm not angry at you.... but if there really is some external force that forbids you from investigating, then I won't stop you....."

"You're too kind, Shino!" His playful tone is back, I almost let out a sigh of relief. "Your first sentence might be truthful yet you're saying that last sentence as if you're wishing that it wasn't me!"

"Is that too much of a hopeful wish?"

 

"....... I wouldn't cling onto hope too much if I were you, Shino. You will be disappointed instead....." that's all he said before he left the catacombs, for good. The rest didn't budged or even protest that he should stay, or even anything else. Everyone was okay with him leaving this case entirely.

"Hibiki.... you have something to say about Hisao. right?" She immediately flinched. Bingo. She was making that face, wanting to speak up but couldn't. Because of a certain person of interest still present. "He just left so you can say what you've been meaning to....."

"Just..." she trailed off. "Last night, a bit after the nighttime announcement..... I was checking the kitchen since I will be in charge for breakfast just now..... and I saw Hisao leaving the front entrance and heading somewhere else......"

 

" I see.... thank you, Hibiki, for telling us that...." Hibiki's account might offered us a bit more insight of Hisao's overall plan. A plan. There's no way that person would easily leave without having a little bit of involvement. "How about everyone else? Did anyone noticed anything strange happening this afternoon...?"

"Nothing useful at our side....." Higura started. "Right after your tease about me and Mitsun, we left to hang out at the bar... though only for a while before I leave to go and rest in my room..... but considering that rock-climber's statement, we never even run into Renma on our way there....."

"I can back that up!!" Mitsuru nodded. "We haven't seen him since breakfast. I was at the bar this whole time after Higura left.... although, I did hear some weird noises inside that place but I couldn't find the source of it anywhere......"

 

Mitsuru and Higura's accounts, still with that consistency about Renma's absence. So how on earth did he ended up here....?

"This critter......" It's Shoma's time to speak now with his voice now hoarse, "This critter saw the conman went to the mortuary before noon.... he looked distressed...... while submerged in water, this critter sees him take the elevator to the mortuary....."

"Renma went to the mortuary as well....." Taiga added in. "While him, Hibiki and I were the only ones left at the dining hall when everyone else's gone, he left saying that he will be in the mortuary before heading elsewhere..... and I think he left around 11 am....?"

Another info about Hisao. I bit my thumb nervously as I took note of Shoma's account, 'So he went to see Renma... before that time of death..... no, that still contradicts the previous two accounts, neither Renma or Hisao was seen heading towards the garden right after I left. Hell, I don't think I even seen them leaving from the hotel elevator either....'

 

"S-So.... no one really knows what's going on then....?" Mitsuru addressed the issue here. "Everyone's accounts almost matches but like.... no one have actually seen Renma left the hotel this entire time....?"

"I think it's safe to assumed that fucking conman might be the potential culprit for this case....." Higura grumbled. "Even though it might be too obvious for it to be him......"

"We still can't rule him out like that....." I corrected him. "About him leaving the hotel last night did seem suspicious.... but I wanted to be sure......"

Taiga took the chance and inspected the body as well. Once he saw the lines around Renma's neck, he frowned, "The culprit must have used a rope to suffocate him...."

 

There was a piece of fabric wrapped around the neck, the marksman removed it and said, "This isn't enough.... even though it's long and sturdy enough to not ripped.... the lines are much more thicker than this one here....."

"Hold on!!" Mitsuru cuts in. "That fabric.... isn't that the fabric from the costumes at the theater house!? The ones for the Faust play!!"

"Let me see that...." Higura grabbed it from Taiga's hand, as he clicked his tongue. ".... It fucking is. It's the same fabric that I even planned for others to have and woven from. Why the hell would this find its way here....?"

 

"Then, the theater house......" No one's at the theater house at that time, right? But almost everyone have an alibi.... leaving Hisao and Renma. 'What on earth....? Why does it always go back to those two...? Is it really that simple....?' "Hibiki, Mitsuru, mind if you check the theater house....? Hiroshi.... I think you should check the warehouse one last time.... I have a feeling something's there...."

"Alright, I will surely be thorough in this investigation!! For Renma's sake!!" Hiroshi gleamed. "Sumi, Shoma... you guys take care as well, okay? I know this must have been.... hard for you two....."

"We will be fine....." Renma wouldn't want us to sulk around for too long, we have to figure whoever did this..... even though there might be only one suspect in this case. 'But would Hisao.... do this....? What kind of ulterior motive would he even have....?'

"Shoma, Taiga...." I feel really bad for dismissing the biologist like this, but I need to be sure nothing is left undiscovered. "Check the mortuary, there might be clues that Renma or Hisao might have left from this morning..... Higura and I will have to stay here and inspect the body more......" Shoma is the only who would know how to enter the mortuary and Taiga might be helpful in identifying the weapon used in this case.... guess everyone has to be paired up in this situation.

 

"Yes, ma'am..." Taiga mimicking a soldier's salute. "Come on, Shoma.... it's quite a distance from here to the hotel so we shouldn't waste any time....."

Shoma nodded, approached me slowly as he took my hand into his, looking down as he said, "Please be safe, Sumi....."

"I will....." I watched as both of them left the catacombs, waited for at least they're out of the building before speaking to Higura next. "Higura, we better get going as well....."

 

"Huh? Going?" Higura raised a brow. "Thought you're going to inspect the body more??"

"There's nothing else like what the record stated....." I waved around the file in my hand. "There's only markings around his neck and that's it. There's nothing on him that could bring us closer to figure out the culprit's identity..... so we only have that place to rely on......"

"That place....? So the labyrinth.....?" Higura's eyes widened. "So you dismissed everyone just so you can go to the labyrinth....? Are you fucking serious!? You should know that shitty place is a death trap set up by Monomyou, right?"

 

"What other choices do we have right now.....?" I reminded him. "I didn't just dismissed everyone for that reason, I do believe there are others mysteries left in certain places....... it's just that the labyrinth has been such a sore subject ever since the last trial....."

"I-I get that, you don't want that to be ruled out and actually want to know what's in there... but you needed two people to enter that place, right?" Higura crossed his arms. "So why did you dismissed Shoma AND Taiga...? It wouldn't have been better if you have a smart person or a survivalist helping you out in this...."

"Shoma would be against this.... even Taiga as well....." They were both adamant on playing into Monomyou's games. Admirable, but in this situation, it's just not the time. It's not the time to play safe anymore. "As much as I don't want anyone to hear this coming from me...... but I trust you more than everyone else here, and I mean it....."

 

And that's just the selfish truth from me. While Higura isn't the brightest person, his skepticism matches mine and almost above Amane's level. Despite being foul-mouthed and ill-tempered, he has some good parts he usually showed during class trials or in-person. And.... it just feels like I can only trust him for now.

"That's a really high and mighty statement coming from you.... and everyone would really lost their shit if they heard that....." Higura commented. "But, alright, I get it. Everything is a mess and you can't believe anyone's words that quickly..... so yeah, I can be your partner, just in this case. Just.... if that conman bastard or that urchin-head starts coming after me, I will be cursing you from hell....."

"Thank you, Higura.... we should get going now......"

 


 

In front of the labyrinth is the sign that not only mentioned the 'Ultimate Reward' it promised, but a few rules that were listed underneath it;

 

RULES FOR [ THE MONOMYOU'S LABYRINTH MYSTERIES ]

 

  1. Two people must participate to enter the labyrinth at anytime!
  2. You can only enter the labyrinth once! So try your best and solve the mysteries!!
  3. Violence isn't allowed so do not try and bring any dangerous weapon in the labyrinth!
  4. Once you completed the mysteries, you're not allowed to go back in again!
  5. There are three available prizes so the first pair can immediately get the grandest of all grand prizes!!

 

"Just a puzzle maze then...." Higura concluded once he examined all the rules. "I don't know what the hell is that thing thinking for coming up with stuffs like this but it sounded like a drag....."

"Even so... this 'Ultimate Prize'..... seems to be given only to the first people who tried this place....." The moment Hibiki mentioned Hisao going out really late last night, I can only think about this place. "So if we tried it out and got the second place, then the culprit must have been here already....."

"I can't imagine what the fuck would the 'Ultimate Prize' be....." Higura shivered. "I can't help but imagine in worst possible ways....."

"We will be alright, I promised- What is that...?" I spotted something near the gate to the labyrinth. I bend down and picked that object up, "..... Hisao's pocket knife.... so he was here last night......" Since the labyrinth forbid any weapons, he has to leave it out here and possibly forgot about it.

"This.... is not looking good for his case......" the designer sighed. "If he's the culprit or is helping the culprit then..... I'm gonna fucking shank his ass and no one's gonna stop me....."

"Be my guest...." I stood up, "Let.... try out and hope for the best then....."

 

With only wits and confidence, we stepped into the green labyrinth willingly as the gates closed behind us.The spacing between the bush walls weren't that wide, it's only enough for one person to go through. It wasn't until we're halfway there into the maze when we reached a small empty space filled with pots of different colored roses. "Guess this is like a... resting point....?" said Higura. "There's four possible ways we could enter so..... now what....?"

"I will try and go ahead......." I volunteered. "And if I didn't managed to find my way then.... I guess we will take turns instead....."

 

I decided to take second path that descended downwards into the maze, passing by a strangely sticky greyish substance that painted the bush wall, 'What the...? What is this....? It smells really putrid... yet somehow familiar....?' Continuing my descend that later turned into a L-shaped path, I found my way from where I started using the same path, "Back to the resting point again.... Higura- Hey, Higura!?"

"Come here quickly!!" I heard a voice coming from the fourth part and I immediately make a run for it. Higura didn't ventured too deeply, he was just standing around, waiting for me, "Apparently, this mystery is a lousy one.... but we gotta stick together or else....."

 

"Meaning....?" He didn't say anything else, he grabbed my hand as I followed him behind closely, the path descends down similarly and formed into an L-shaped path. There's also that odd grey substance the painted the wall but the designer stopped once he saw it, "Okay, now go back...."

"B-Back....?" He pushed me backwards until I finally do what he said and once we did, the resting point wasn't there but was replaced with another long path, "Wait, what!?"

"The paths shifted, that's all......." Higura explained. "I went in here as soon as you did just to test it out and I don't want to be fucking useless..... when I passed by that nasty-looking stain, I found myself back so I decided to test out what would happened if I go back instead of passing by that thing..... this is a different path for sure and I will tell you where to go if we're going down the same old path or not....."

'Eidetic memory...... I almost forgot he has the exceptional skill.... really unintentional to have him helping me instead.....'

 

"But, what's with that stain anyways...? It's so goo-ey and stinks so badly!! Even paint fumes aren't even that bad!!"

"Which means someone else's has been here......" But that didn't mean they succeeded or not. We can only know by completing the labyrinth. And so we went down the long path and once we saw the stain again, we went backwards until a different path showed up, 'So the maze isn't really big, the paths just rotates once we made a sharp turn.... but it doesn't feel like it shifted.... Monomyou just wants to screw with us until we give up-'

"Oh... we're at the end.... well that was quick......"

 

Right in the middle of the maze, a small jewel-covered box stands on the podium. I went ahead and opened it which reveals a..... diagram of some sort, "This.... I..... I can't really make it out... or even know what's it supposed to be....?"

"I would have said it looks like a flow chart or someone's poor attempt to mimic some bizarre spiderweb shit but even I don't know what the fuck's going in this one....." said the frustrated designer. "So this is it? The Ultimate Prize is just some poorly attempted at designing chart-"

 

"How dare you!?" Monomyou appeared right behind the podium and landed on it, stomping their feet angrily. "I will have you know that you dearest host worked all day and night with this prize!!! At least show a bit of appreciation for some hard work, you 'nya!!"

"I would rather get dumped into a landfill full of garbage rather than admitting something like this to be even considered 'good'....." Higura sneered. "So we got the second prize then? The first prize was won by another pair...?"

'Right, we were only given this cryptic diagram... so the other grand prize is....'

 

"Nyahahaha!! That's right!! You guys were really slow into deciding whether to solve this labyrinth mystery or not!!" Monomyou exclaimed. "But I'm shocked myself!! I thought the first pair would be the lovely pairs like 'Hisao and Sumire' or 'Mitsuru and Higura'!! I thought about this place's theme to be 'the power couple's chance to shine their way to victory', ya' know!!"

That's oddly specific. Why did Monomyou made up two random pairs just like that...?

"Also, I feel sorry for Ms. Investigator here!!" Monomyou snickers. "If only you've been here earlier, you could have gotten that grand prize!!! But alas, the grandest prize falls onto the most ill-fitted pair I've ever seen!! I even designed that prize to tailored to your need as well!!"

"What are you talking about?"

 

"The grand prize.... was the document about three certain students being transferred to the Yumeino Ultimate Academy!!! Nyahahaha!!"

My heart almost stopped when I heard that. So the important document that Hisao was talking about being moved from the warehouse.... was here all along!? "Then who's-!!"

"Whoops!! I've said too much already!! Besides..... your investigation time is up!!!" they announced as they jumped into the trap door on the ground. With that, a familiar tune played out;

 

Ding Dong! Bing Bong!

"Ahem! Your investigation time is up!! Alright, little detectives!!! It's time to move forward to the exciting 'Class Trial' event!! Please head your way to the northwest of the hotel immediately!!

 

"I can't believe it....." I sighed in disbelief. "To think the answers that I've been looking for..... was at a place that I told everyone to stay away from....."

"Like I've said, that furfuck loves to mess with people's head....." said Higura. "But.... it should be obvious who've gotten the grand prize, does it...?"

Yeah, it's Hisao.... and another person. Another accomplice? No, there's no way that conman would even need an accomplice or even think about murdering someone else..... unless he's trying to find out who's the supposed fake player-

"Let's move out.... the others will get highly suspicious if we idle too long...."

"..... Yeah, we shouldn't keep them waiting....."

Once we made our way back, our paths were thankfully shortened once we got out of the gate. I quickly take the pocket knife being left behind near the place to as an evidence for later. And with that, we left for the class trial.

 


 

To even think that once we would get there and we will be greeted with a more calmer scene is almost foolhardy. The moment I saw Shoma and Hisao in front of the elevator, that will take us to the class trials' ground, as the biologist have a scalpel out and clearly in his hand, I panicked, "W-What the hell is happening here!?"

"Ah, Shino!! Thank goodness!!" Hisao's smiling, hand holding against his left cheek that's profusely bleeding. "I'm getting worried that you won't arrived in time!! If you didn't, we would have to solve another murder case so soon!!"

Taiga have the biologist in a head-locked position but Shoma's struggling against his restraint, his face looked too determined and wanted to hurt the conman even further.

 

I decided to pay more attention to Hisao's bleeding wound before settling down Shoma, "H-Hey, stay still....... thank goodness the cut isn't that deep.... here, I have a napkin with me, just apply a lot of pressure to your wound and it will stop bleeding....."

The conman accepts the gift and did what I told him to do, "Awww, Shino is worried about me!! That's a relief!! And I thought I have already made everyone in this place finally hate me for good!"

"It's impossible for me to hate you so don't get your hopes up if you're waiting for it....." I admitted. "Not with everything you have done for us so far....." With the way we're talking right now, it feels like that conversation at the crypt didn't even happened at all.

"That sounds like a challenge!!" Hisao exclaimed. "Alrighty then, even though I don't want to participate in this case, I will be rooting for Shino at 100%, the rest can go eat dirt for all I care!!"

"That's it, I'm gonna shank his ass right now......"

 

Leaving Hisao and Higura to their 'fight', I tapped onto Taiga's shoulder as a gesture to let Shoma and he did. Shoma massaged his neck as he placed the scalpel back into his coat, "... Sorry.... this critter got really mad.... because of something unnecessary......"

'What happened while I was gone....?' "It's okay, Shoma but...... don't do that..... Renma wouldn't be happy if you hurt anyone else even as an act of revenge or anything...." It's unfair for me to use his name in this situation but what Shoma did was extremely risky and dangerous. "We will find the culprit for this case.... you will have your revenge....."

That calmed him down, it's almost frightening that I have use those words to ease down the biologist. "Taiga.... did you two find anything at the mortuary...?"

 

"The frayed rope that might have been used in Renma's case and I think there was a struggle happening there, his parchment charms were all discarded on the floor ..... and I remembered seeing that kind of rope from the warehouse...." Taiga stated. "Which is weirder because......"

"The warehouse was secured and guarded since this morning!!" Hiroshi continued from where Taiga purposely left off. "And it's also impossible since the locks weren't even tampered with!! And when I got in, I noticed that the rope is missing and possibly the culprit knocked over some metal screws while taking it!! But I still have no idea where could they've entered from and then left!!"

"We even check the theater house!!" Mitsuru added in. "Hibiki and I checked on all of our costumes!! It seems Sumi's costume is the one that's heavily shredded into pieces..... and that's all we've found!!"

 

Keeping everything recorded inside my head, this case is a lot more similar to the first and third one. Where everyone's present yet no one noticed. But there's are multiple evidences that came from different places that were highly guarded. 'Whoever this culprit is.... did they really take advantage of that labyrinth prize.....? It feels like they've received more than the supposed documents.....'

Taiga called for the elevator as the doors opened and everyone immediately poured in. And because there's only eight of us left, the elevator descended way faster and the creaking noises were less obvious. 'Hisao knew.... he must have knew about that labyrinth prize being link to the documents we found in the warehouse..... and he probably did managed to solved it since he refused to go there with me earlier this morning..... so I guess that conversation we had was probably for nothing.....'

The elevators door opened, 'Which means he went there with a partner last night... and that partner might be our culprit in this case... but if that's the case.....'

We went to our podiums, staring at the deceased portraits. Homare's fencing swords, Hinako's paw print, Amane's composer baton and Nao's quills, all formed a bloody X-mark on their faces. '..... Would Hisao even let that culprit to take advantage of that grand prize to commit a crime just like that....? Or was he the one who actually committed it?'

 

"Ohohoho? Suddenly my beloved guests are being quiet and obedient children!?" Monomyou teased. "Especially when someone was about to get murdered for a third time!? My, my, you can't just ever die. huh, conman!? I'm getting tired seeing you survive all those unfortunate circumstances!!"

"Trust me, even if I wanted to, there's always a delay or something!!" Hisao laughed. "But I gotten way too tired to deal with this over and over again so I'm leaving the spotlight to my good friend, Shino!! Hope you're fine with that, dearest magnificent host!!"

"Nyahaha!! If you do that, you would be punished for not participating!! But if I do punish you, that would ended up giving you satisfaction!! So no! I decided not to punish you and let you suffer through this despairingly long trial!!!" stated the host.

"Ugh, no fair!!" Hisao whined, slumping over his podium. "I don't want to stand all day and hear so much ridiculous shit from these folks!!"

 

"Why the hell are you two conversing as if we're not going to damned another person's life to hell...." Higura sighed. "This is why I can't stand these fucking weirdos and their messed up conversations....."

"Hey, Monomyou.... it's alright to start now...." Shoma started. "This critter is well-prepared to find out who is the culprit in this case......"

'Shit, he's really mad right now.....' I gulped down the fear that's stuck in my throat. 'We shouldn't let this trial to get derailed by emotions so.... even with Hisao not seriously participating.... Shoma's strong emotions may even falsely placed the blame on him instead.....!'

 

"You don't have to remind me, Mr. Biologist!!" Monomyou loudly announced. "I've been waiting for this trial and as your host, I am determined to give you the best entertainment you would ever get from yours truly!! We can now officially start the Class Trial!!! With your wits and strength on this exciting yet daring trial!! It's time to refute with all your might!!"

'Is this really another case of an accomplice behind the scene...? Or is just someone taking advantage of the whole labyrinth prize? How on earth did the culprit managed to commit this crime and went unnoticed? This culprit took the life of our dearest friend.... but.... I won't fall into despair.... or lose any hope..... It doesn't matter which, I won't let them get away with this!!'

Chapter Text

[ Class Trial - IN SESSION - ]

 

"As everyone already know by now...." Monomyou started. "This trial will determine on who's the culprit behind the death of Oki Renma, the mysterious Ultimate Medium who later turned out to be the Ultimate Mortician in such a magnificent twist!! Alas, such a poor soul joining the rest of his kinds!! Nyahahaha!! I wonder how everyone will uncover the mysterious circumstances behind his death!! My heart just keep on pounding with excitement!!"

'I'm sure you're just waiting to see another successful punishment that will happen in the end....' I clicked my tongue. "We need to be clear about everyone's placement, from early morning until the afternoon..... from there, we can determined who's lying and who's telling the truth here....."

 

"L-Lying....?" Mitsuru stammered. "W-Why would we lie at a time like this!?"

"I'm with Sumi in this one, while all of our stories matched up...." Taiga explained. ".... It's too perfect that nobody even noticed that something's up....."

"Unless there's some spooky shit interfering our 'poorly-described and shitty excuse of' normal everyday lives that Monomyou would have told us....." said Higura. "It's too damn suspicious for everyone to have no part in this....."

 

"Rest assured, I have nothing to lie or hide for everyone's sake...." Hibiki sounds confident, her tone suggested that she isn't guilty. "Right after breakfast, I was with Taiga the entire time and saw Renma went into his mortuary a little bit after....."

"And that's probably the last time we even saw him alive...." Taiga continued. "We were in the dining hall the entire time.... right until the body discovery announcement....."

"I was on an afternoon job and on a look-out as well!!" Hiroshi admitted loudly. "I've only encountered Mitsuru and Higura on their way back from the garden. And that's all! Nothing after that!!"

 

Mitsuru and Taiga were together for a bit at the bar and then Higura left to go rest in his room. The cosmetologist was alone the whole time yet that's still doesn't fit the whole narrative. No one approached the mortuary except for that person.

"I believe we could benefit a lot from asking the witness first.... isn't that right, Mafuyu Hisao?" As if by a miracle, Hibiki initiate the question first.

"Huh, me?" the conman faked his surprise. "Eh, I'm sorry, everyone but I already gave my words to my two most beloved people that I would stay away from this case as far as possible!! So, unfortunately, I can't help you guys with this!"

"This critter thinks you're hiding something....." Shoma glared. "This critter suggest giving up.... as your secret weighs nothing compare to the punishment you're about to receive from this critter after....."

 

"Shoma, stop it....." I'm getting irritated if this keeps going on. I understand his rage, but throwing away empty threats wouldn't help us to get to the answer we needed.

"Ahahaha! Guess you really need Shino to put you into your place, huh, Mr. Biologist!" Hisao just laughed off his seething expression. "I don't blame you! Shino is pretty scary when she's mad so maybe for once I will give a clue!! Because all of you will go nowhere if you're focused on everyone else!! Now, solve the mysteries of the labyrinth and you're good to go!!"

"What does that place has to do with the case here....?" Hiroshi asked. "It's just some weird-on that Monomyou decided to mess with us with its existence....."

 

'The reason why Hisao brought up that place.... it has to related with the case, right? But if I present it to everyone.... how will they react....?'

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"The Labyrinth has a strong significance to this case than you all think!!" exclaimed Hisao. "Try to solve it at least!!"

"You say that......" Mitsuru pointed out. "But we didn't even know what's the mysteries behind the labyrinth!!"

"No one's been in that place when it was first introduced...." said Taiga. "We all stayed away from that place....."

"Is this your attempt to steer us away from the the case?" Shoma asked.

 

( BREAK! )


 

"That's not true.... someone else has been to the labyrinth before this....." I surely hope I don't regret mentioning this. "It's Hisao himself... due to the rules of the labyrinth, Hisao has to leave his pocket knife at the start of the labyrinth, where Higura and I found....."

"Oh! So Shino and Higura did actually investigate the labyrinth!!" Hisao whistled with a carefree tune. "And they even knew the rules of that place as well!! Which mean you two actually went through its mysteries as well, right!"

I knew this is why he brought that place up again, for us to admit it, "Yes, we did. We even know why you do it as well. I sure hope you will share what you've won with us after the trial...... if we get that chance......"

 

He flinched, even for a brief moment, he visibly flinched. He doesn't want to do it. 'Mafuyu Hisao, what are you hiding.... this isn't about the mastermind or anything, so why are you reluctant to show us that....?'

"You guys.... tried the labyrinth.....?" Taiga's eyes widened. "B-But that was the motive for this case, isn't!? Isn't too dangerous for you guys to try it while in the middle of an investigation!?"

"Relax, it's just some lame-old maze game with a shitty graphic art reward...." Higura grumbled. "Sumi and I managed to solve it without a problem and didn't get jackshit. Just some weird old art design from the looks of it....." He took out the said art piece from his pocket, a bit crumpled around the edges.

 

"That's......" Mitsuru looks uncertain. "..... does it supposed to look like something else....?"

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"Well... it does look like some kind of spider-web thing... but....." the cosmetologist offered a theory to the abseiler's question. "What if we're supposed to look at it as something else.....?"

As something else? Like, not as a surrealism art? "If it is not what it's perceived to be.... are you saying the case came from the true intention behind this piece, Mitsuru...?"

"Just a thought but that's how I see it as anyways....." Mitsuru ended her speech.

 

'Something that isn't what it seems.... is there any possibilities.... that it could be something else....?'


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"Try to think as something else!!" Mitsuru suggested. "It might helps us solve the mystery behind this case!"

"Now that you mentioned it....." Higura's face beame pale. "... don't tell me this is like a fucking map or something!?"

"I-I'm sorry but I really can't see it....." Hiroshi stated. "I think it's just one of Monomyou's tricks or something....."

"If it's a trick then Monomyou wouldn't even bother including it in the labyrinth in the first place...." Taiga pointed out.

 

( BREAK! )


 

"Higura... you might be right..." I can't believe we've been so fucking oblivious this entire time. "This might have been a map.... a map of the entire place....."

"So my initial guess when I first saw this thing was correct all along!?" Higura yelled, so he also have that idea but has some doubts about it. "The this is.... this is the underground passage map!! This thing shows how every buildings are connected!!"

"W-Wait.... if that's the case....." Taiga trailed off. "Then.... Renma's location of death might have been....."

 

'Thanks to this newfound discovered, the locations of death have gotten more clearer.....'

..................

...........

"The mortuary, without a doubt.... the reason why we didn't even see Renma or the culprit heading towards the catacombs is because the culprit made use of the map, killed Renma as they transported the body underground....."

 

"The only people who knew about the map's existence are Higura and Sumi, who discovered recently and......" Hibiki stared at the conman across her podium. "Hisao....... do you have any rebuttal against that?"

"Huh? I mean, sure, it's a coincidence...." He's not afraid to admit. "I do saw it but I never gave too much thought about it!! After all, I'm not one for decorative papers, you know! I wouldn't even care if there's an underground passage or something!!"

"Wha-! Don't screw us around like that!!" Hiroshi yelled. "You knew about this obviously and you clearly took advantage of it murdered Renma right under our feet!"

 

The accusation started already but we don't even know Hisao's actual motive to kill in the first place. I don't think he wouldn't want to kill Renma as well. It's too coincidental, too perfect for anyone to easily believe in.

"Not only that.... this critter clearly saw..... you were heading towards the mortuary....." Shoma exclaimed. ".... There's no witnesses and you have the knowledge of the map itself...... you're clearly the culprit here......"

"Now, hold on there, Shoma......" This is the first time I heard Hisao referred to him by his name. "I'm fine with everyone no believing my words but jumping from words to actual actions.... you're making the biggest gamble here....."

 

"Everyone, don't get too hasty!!" Taiga gulped. "E-Even though Hisao has not much of an alibi... it's too early to vote for him to be the culprit!!"

"But it's not that far-fetched...." Hibiki mentioned her part of the story. "I saw him leaving last night.... he clearly was going solve that labyrinth's mysteries.... and once he get that map, he went on to do his own murder plan this afternoon....."

"When you put it like, it makes sense but......" Higura interrupted. "I don't buy that explanation at all. This fucking conman may be a bitch to handle but he's not going to pull some absurd shit right under our noses for no goddamn reason!!"

"Ummm..." Mitsuru looked uncertain. "W-What should we do now? Everyone's a bit divisive in this situation-!!"

 

"Hold it right there!!"

 

"It seems everyone's fighting each other with words right now!!" Monomyou laughed. "Ya' know, at a time like this, this host would obviously want you all to fight in a more extravagant way!! Ladies and Gentlemen!! Your amazing host would like you all to proudly participate in the luxury hotel's exclusive morphenomenal trial grounds!!"

"This again....?" I said that but internally, I'm glad this popped out now. With this, we can easily shoot down any argument and contradiction in everyone's words. We can't be derailed by any false claims.

"This is really unnecessary but whatever, let's go on with it!!" Well, Hiroshi looked really excited to do this.

 


( Scrum Debate )

 

( Question - "Should we vote Hisao as the culprit?" )

( "Vote for Hisao!" - Shoma, Mitsuru, Hiroshi and Hibiki )

( "Don't vote for Hisao!" - Sumi, Hisao, Higura and Taiga )

 

"That critter used the underground passage for his murder plan!!" exclaimed Shoma.

"There's a possibility that someone else besides Hisao knew about the underground passage as well!" I refuted.

 

"Shoma said that he saw him going to the mortuary where Renma was last seen right....?" Mitsuru asked timidly.

"He said 'he saw' but that still doesn't confirmed that he did go to the mortuary, didn't he?" Higura replied.

 

"Would it possible he forced our attention to the labyrinth so that we would purposely voted wrongly?" Hibiki suggested.

"The labyrinth and its purpose serves the most important factor in this case, not the other way round...." Hisao fights back.

 

"The mysteries behind Renma's death should have been already cleared up, right?" Hiroshi asked.

"There's still mysteries behind the intentions of his murder to begin with!!" Taiga answered.

 

( BREAK! - "This is our answer!" )


 

"This is still not over yet!!" I loudly claimed. "Even with Hisao's knowledge about the labyrinth's prize and the map to the underground passage... there's something about it doesn't add up....."

"Doesn't add up....?" said Shoma. "Sumi... what doesn't add up? There's no other ways to it..... Hisao had the opportunity to murder Renma, that's it.... are you defending the conman based on an incomplete story motive...?"

"I-I'm not....." He backing me up into a corner now, isn't he? "There's still other mysteries about the warehouse and theater house being included into this case.... why would Hisao went through all the trouble into making such a mess when he could have done it cleanly?"

 

"Would it be to throw us off....? If the conman purposely laid off a bunch of unrelated things from different locations...." Hibiki stopped for a while before deciding. "I think we shouldn't put too much thought on it, it's merely nonsense....."

But it's not, I desperately wanted to scream that out loud. I don't want to believe it. I just don't want to believe in a narrative so narrow-minded that it became our definitive answer. 'Are they.... really okay with this....? Deciding with that person.... just because he was there......'

"And so you guys don't believe my words.... typical....." Hisao sighed. "Well, I guess that's what I get from fooling around too much.... sort of a sad conclusion for me-"

 

"Shut up....." I snapped. I. Snapped. "I said, shut up with your monologue. Do you even hear yourself speaking right now? You're okay with us voting for you to be the culprit, you're okay with us voted wrongly and all of us will die for nothing. Are you trying to make us feel sorry for you? For not believing in everything you've said? What do you actually want from us? Why can't you even help us properly?"

Hisao became quiet, he looked.... scared. A genuine fear showing on his face. But he's not the only one. Everyone else became scared all of the sudden. From my outburst of emotions.

".... All of you must be really tired of hearing this all over again...." I said with bitterness in my tone. "But making decisions in such a haste is not a goddamn solution. Deciding things on emotional response is such a shitty way to go. I wanted to get this over with as much as everyone else but.... if we can't even properly solve the mystery then what's the point? If everyone is so willing to pin the blame onto one person then why even have a class trial to begin with?"

 

Trying to steady my breathing, I can feel myself shaking from anger. I've never been this furious on anyone else but all the stress from yesterday just builds up until it exploded . And it came out at such a worst possible moment. "If all of you really wanted to find the culprit for real.... then please just listen..."

Everyone was silent, they don't know what to say. They were all avoiding eye contact with me.

Until....

 

"Alright, I will confess......" Hisao decided with a heavy sigh. "However, it's too cruel for you to use your emotions in this trial to manipulate us, that's such a low-blow coming from you, Shino. I'm pretty much upset about that but, because this poor fool here actually have a heart to admit, I don't want to see a friend of mine fallen into despair too soon....."

"H-Huh..?" A friend.....?

"As you all know, I hate liars....." he exclaimed with an expressionless face. "So everything that came from my mouth will be nothing but the truth. And it's the truth I expected everyone to work it out from there. It's also something that you needed to come into terms with yourselves. Here's the first truth; Renma and I promise not to kill anyone or even each other before the second trial ever happened...."

 

It's the partnership, the spiritual bond they said they made during that talk at the reception area? That still went on, even until now....? So the two of them were actually serious about it...?

"The second truth is that it was his idea that I should try out the labyrinth in the first place....." That one really shocked me to the core. "I was against it as much as everyone else..... but thanks to his meddling, I ended up trying it out...."

"Renma did.....?" Shoma found his voice. "B-But.... why....."

"He said it's a 'spiritual calling' or whatever it was....." his tone still suggest he isn't lying, or... he just doesn't want to lie in this case at all. "But that will be revealed at the end of this trial, the reward I got from solving the labyrinth. And the third truth... well.... it should be obvious but..... I didn't kill Renma.... yet it was partially my mistake for letting him get killed as well....."

 

"You got him killed......?" So he's indirectly involved in Renma's death. That's what I'm afraid of; that we wouldn't know about it and just voted him out. "So it's true.... you're just a bystander while all of this happened...."

"I'm not sure what you all see in that medium friend of yours but he's quite a trickster himself....." said Hisao with a grimace. "I'm shocked to find out how little everyone knew about him. I guess this proves that everyone just barely scratched the surface of everyone's true facade, huh? Renma doesn't mean harm but that doesn't mean he's afraid to emotionally hurt the people closest to him...."

.... I don't like what that sentence is implying. If that is the actual truth, not some poor attempt for us to reach to the conclusion, then no one in this case would be satisfied about it. ".... Thank you..... for at least being honest with us for once....."

"Eh, no big deal..." Hisao huffed as he rested his head on the podium. "A few extra pointers, that's all. You're not the only who wouldn't want this trial to be derailed by some petty excuses as well, Shino. But I thought this would be the perfect time for you to scold some misbehaving children....."

 

In the end, he gave me a little push that leads me to that outburst. And combined with what he said, it should be enough to convinced others that Hisao isn't the culprit for Renma's case. 'How horrible, both of us deliberately lashed out on them.....' "Everyone.. I hope you understand why I can't accept that Hisao is the culprit here... because we're forgetting about this one other important rule of the labyrinth....."

 

'That one important rule that Monomyou have specifically mentioned to everyone when the place first opened up was.....'

................

........

"There must be two people who can enter the labyrinth together.... to only accuse Hisao while dismissing the partner themselves.... is just false judgement...."

 

"Because of that... if we couldn't even solve that part of the mystery...." Taiga winced. "Then that would have done great disservice to Renma's memories instead..."

"If I've stayed a little bit longer last night..... when I first saw Hisao leaving the hotel...." Hibiki looked away. "I would have seen his partner that helped him during the labyrinth as well....?"

"So the only way we would know about that... about who did Hisao went to the labyrinth with...." Hiroshi suggested. "It's to find out who doesn't have an alibi that night....."

"Pretty sure everyone's in their rooms during that time!" Mitsuru objected. "I did went to check on Higura for a while and not once did I saw anyone leaving their room or anything!!"

"I can backed her up.... she was really annoying, barging into other's room for no good reasons....."

 

'Their statement either contradicts each other.... or there might be a lie hiding in there.... I have to listen carefully.....'


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"No one else left their rooms....." Shoma started "Except for Hisao and Hibiki......"

"I can assure everyone that I didn't even go with him to the labyrinth!!" Hibiki quickly defended herself.

"Okay the way you said that sounded really damn suspicious there!!" Higura yelled. "But it should be damn obvious who would even leave to side with that conman over there!!"

"You mean, Renma is Hisao's partner for that night....?" Hisao asked. "... to solve the labyrinth mystery....?

 

( BREAK! )


 

"That's impossible...." I quickly interjected. "Renma has an alibi for that night.... he was with Taiga's the entire time, like how Shoma was with me for the whole night....."

"I can testify that, I was put on watch over Renma for a night only...." Taiga explained. "He didn't leave my room or anything after nighttime. I installed special locks on my doors so that I would know if anyone, inside my own room, have went out or not...."

"T-That's scary...."

"It's a safety precaution I'm willing to make...." Taiga shrugged at Mitsuru's concern. "But with everyone confirming their placement that night.... the list narrowed down to only Hiroshi and Hisao.... who doesn't have an alibi for that night......"

"H-Hold on, everyone!!" Hiroshi's face paled. "T-There's no way I could have killed Renma, you know!! I was outside the entire time when the murder happened!!"

 

'Could Hiroshi.... have done this...? No, no, there might be something else that doesn't really suggest that.... didn't someone seen Hiroshi outside as well?'


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"I didn't kill Renma!!" Hiroshi loudly exclaimed.

"But you're the only one who doesn't have an alibi for that night...." Taiga pointed out. "... and for the afternoon as well....."

"We critters were all in separated buildings with company....." said Shoma. "... it's only you who were left alone....."

"J-Just what other evidences could you guys use to prove it was me!?" Hiroshi asked. "I never even left my room at that night!!"

 

( BREAK! )


 

"No, that's wrong.... Hiroshi has an alibi for the afternoon...." I mentioned both Higura and Mitsuru's accounts. "Coming back from the rose garden, they bumped into Hiroshi on his afternoon jog, rounding around the hotel till the warehouse....."

"That's right!!" Mitsuru clapped her hands together. "We did bumped into him on our way back!! He also guarding the warehouse even!! I mean... if he did used the secret passageway or something... then we wouldn't bumped into him..."

"That... still doesn't answered it...." Shoma frowned. "This critter isn't convinced by that line of reasoning..... there's still enough time for Hiroshi to commit a crime, wouldn't it...?"

 

"L-Like I've said....." Hiroshi is trying to find his words now. "I didn't do it!! You guys have to believe-"

"Shino, what are the things that our dearest host said to you once you've completed the labyrinth?"

"Wait, what....?" I was taken back by Hisao's sudden interruption. Even the abseiler didn't get to finish his defense. "What do you mean.....?"

"Well, it feels like I'm dying over here, watching everything going back-and-forth so.... I will give you the final clue to this case....." Hisao just looked at everyone with a serious expression. "What did Monomyou said when you and Higura finished the labyrinth mystery?"

 

What did Monomyou said to the both of us? That the mystery was tailored to my own interest? That it gave someone else a chance to commit murder and managed to get away with it without a scratch? Or was it-

I stopped.

I almost stopped breathing.

The thing he wanted us to remember..... was also the same reason why he wouldn't want to help us solve this case. And I was right in the end- no one would be satisfied with solving this case.

I thought about that last thing Monomyou said to us to be nothing less than a joke but now that Hisao put much more emphasis onto it, it's the clue we were already given from the start.

 

"S-Sumi... what's the matter....?" Shoma asked worryingly. ".... did something happened at the labyrinth...?"

".... No... nothing happened..... in fact.... I remembered something really important...." I explained. "Everyone remembered right? The body discovery announcement happened when three people were present at the scene? Hisao, Shoma and I were present so from the start, we were already acquitted from being the potential culprits. But this culprit knew about the underground passage... so it has to be someone else who went with Hisao to the labyrinth and that labyrinth has a very special rule that was mentioned to us at the end of it...."

 

'That certain rule was given much emphasis by Monomyou and that was....'

...........

......

"While only two people can enter the labyrinth.... Monomyou mentioned about it as a 'couple's motive', they clarified us that it has to be a boy and a girl in a pair......"

 

The room became silent, no questions or anything, Everyone have figured out by the process of elimination. "N-No... shut the fuck up....." Higura snapped. "Shut the fuck up!! Are you fucking kidding me!? There's no way that's possible!!!"

"I'm sorry, Higura but.... if you remembered everything that person said..... it became more obvious, isn't it?" This is the truth we've concluded. ".... The timing and everything.... it all makes sense now........"

 

'The person who has the chance to kill Renma without any witnesses... and with that opportunity is.....'

................

.......

"Asami Mitsuru...... you're the true culprit of this case, right....?"

 

Mitsuru flinched, her eyes keep wandering around, away from other's gaze, "I don't know what you're talking about.... there's no way... no way I would kill Renma in cold blood!!"

"She's not the type to kill!!" Higura yelled out. "You're just basing that off some assumption that furfuck gave without a thought!!! Did you seriously see her as the type who would kill without a reason!?"

"Oh.... oh.... so that's the type of image you're projecting on everyone else, huh....." Hisao shake his head, disappointed. "Looks like I'm at my limits, Shino... there's no way I could willingly help these useless bunch if that's where their mindsets are glued onto..... guess this is where you're gonna pick your side.... like I've told you before, which one is more important to you and everyone else here? The truth behind a close friend's death or the potential loss of another one?"

 

"Mi-Mitsun....." Shoma quivered in fear. "Y-You're....."

"That's wrong!! You've got it all wrong, Sumi!! I'm not the killer!!" Mitsuru's begging for me to take back my words. "Please, you gotta believe me!!"

'Believe... reasoning..... I've said it before, didn't I? I won't forgive anyone who would commit this murder but... if it comes to this..... if it has to then....' I let out a deep breath, solidifying my final verdict. "There's no other way to it.... you're the culprit of this case, Asami Mitsuru, the Ultimate Cosmetologist...."

 

 

 

Class Trial - INTERMISSION- ]

Chapter Text

[ Class Trial - RESUMED - ]

 

"What a twist!!" Monomyou laughed out loud. "It seems we have already identified our culprit for this case!! Or did we!? Could this be another pitfall that our beloved guests would potentially fall into!? Accepting such an energetic soul to be the killer of a gentle soul sure is despairingly awful!!! Well, let's cut to the chase, shall we, everyone! I'm dying to see how will they overcome this revelations!!"

 

"There's no other way to it, I'm sorry, everyone......" It pained me to say it out loud. But this is the conclusion I have reached at the end. "Asami Mitsuru, the Ultimate Cosmetologist, you're the true culprit of this case, are you....?"

"Sumi.... I didn't do anything.... I didn't kill Renma!!" Tears streaming down the other girl's face as she desperately tries to reject it. "Please believe me!! I have no reason to murder anyone here!!"

"You-!!" Higura decided to defend her as well. "You better back up your claims or else I will fucking obliterate you for accusing her without one!! Mitsun's not the culprit and that's it!!"

Shoma and Taiga looked at each other for a while before the marksman goes on, "Can Mitsuru proved it then........ I..... I'm sorry, Higura but..... we won't believe she isn't one unless she can prove it herself....."

"Why- How could you guys....." Hibiki stared at the duo in disbelief. "Don't you even heard what she said!? She doesn't even have a motive to kill anyone!!"

 

I balled my hand into a tight fist, '..... This is too painful to hear. Everyone immediately jumped onto the accusations that's pointing towards Hisao but once Mitsuru became the potential culprit..... she suddenly has someone fighting for her innocence.....'. I desperately don't want to acknowledge the bias-talk for said person that's clearly showing here but it's too damn obvious.

'Hisao isn't going to say anything after he gave away his last clue.....' Even though he's looking away from other, it's clear to see that his face is showing a tint of sadness behind it. '..... He's also emotional after all.... there's no doubt he's crushed after witnessing such strong defense of someone else.....'

 

"Mitsun-critter....." Shoma's hand is shaking. "If you're not the culprit then please prove it. Higura-critter, if Mitsun really didn't kill him, then please convinced us..... please prove your innocence that you didn't kill a friend of Sumi and I...."

"W-Why are you dragging Higura into this-"

"Fine, we will fucking give our reasoning then!! Listen up shitheads', you will regret for backing us up against the wall!!" Higura replied back without letting Mitsuru finishing her sentence.

 

( DUO ARGUED: Asami Mitsuru & Mochizuki Higura - "We will fucking obliterate you!!!" - )


 

"You got a lot of nerves for throwing those accusations around like that!! We will make you regret it!!" Higura sneered.

"W-We didn't mean it by force or anything but...." Mitsuru followed after. "I didn't do it!! Please believe me!! Please believe our words!!"

'I want to believe your innocence, Mitsun but....' Unless these two can provide a more concrete argument then there's no way Shoma and I can just turn away from this with a blind-eye.

 

"Didn't you just hear what she said earlier?! Mitsuru clearly has an alibi and I backed her up saying she was in my room moments ago!!" said Higura. "Are you fucking deaf or something!?"

"I was with Higura before nighttime!!" Mitsuru claimed. "And then I went straight to my room after the nighttime announcement happened, that's all!!"

 

"Then what about her alibi after nighttime?" I suggested. "Did you see her out to her room? Did anyone hear her entering her own room? Unless we have a witness who really did saw her not going to the labyrinth, then we can't rule her out like that!!"

"Is Mitsun-critter telling the truth...?" Shoma asked. "You didn't went along with sketchy critter before nighttime as well? Maybe before the siren could caught sight of you two?"

 

"Even so-!! This afternoon...!!" Higura fights back. "She was at the bar the whole time, there's no way she can be at the mortuary and not be seen as well!!"

"There's no way that's possible!!" Mitsuru replied.

 

( CUT-IN! - "We will cut through your delusions!!" - )


 

"Higura.... I know you saw the map and memorized it quickly.... and I know you're ignoring the most important key on it....." I can see him twitched when I brought up the map. "On that underground passage map, there's an underground passage that directly connects the bar to the mortuary as well...... so it's most likely that she....."

"You fucking-!!" Higura gritted his teeth. "I won't believe it!! No matter what you say or prove, I won't believe Mitsuru to ever be the killer for anyone's case!!!"

"Then.... there's one thing I would like to confirm with Mitsuru....." I turned to the cosmetologist. "When we first discovered the body..... how did you know about the fabric?"

"W-What fabric....?"

 

'The fabric... that was found at the crime scene... the one thing that bothers me when Mitsuru pointed it out was.....'

.................

......

"That fabric you said that came from theater house.... how exactly did you know that? It could have been anything.... yet you said that it came from that place.... and it's exactly it...... so how did you know it's from that specific place if you're not the culprit?"

 

"I-I...." Mitsuru stammered, trying to find her words. "I-I don't know....."

"You... don't know....?" Hiroshi rephrased it. "Mitsuru, please... if it really isn't you then please convinced us...."

"Of course, she isn't the culprit!!" Higura yelled. "Right, Mitsun!? You know it yourself, right!? That you're not the killer!"

"I don't know!!" Mitsuru screamed, holding her head by both sides as she kneel down. "I don't know what to say! I can't think of anything!! I can't think of anything else to make you guys believe me!!"

 

"Mitsun...." I clutched onto front part of my clothes, as if to stop my heart being ripped out from my chest. "I wanted to believe you but... I- we can't risk anyone.... we all wanted to live, I know-"

"Then, how about I just give up my damn self and leave Mitsun alone...." Higura cuts off. "It's a fair trade, isn't, Monomyou!? A life of an innocent little shit for a life of a potential culprit?!"

"Huuuuh!? A sacrifice!?" Monomyou jumped in their seat out of shock. "T-That's the first!! In so many trials I've hosted and participated, no one in their right mind would even want to fill in for the culprit's cruel demise!!! Not even a nya-stander!!! Ackh- I stuttered!!"

"So it's not completely out there then.....?" Higura sighed. "..... If it's fine then I-"

 

"No!!" Mitsuru interrupted almost immediately. "No, I won't allow that!! I definitely won't allow that, Higura!! I won't let you throw away your life away just like that!! Sumi..... you wanted proof, right...? Proof that I did it so... please, I know you have plenty more evidences you wanted to be sure of so.... please present it to us....."

"..... Understood...." The way she said it, it's already a definite proof. "Then.... we shall go over it.... one final attempt to prove your innocence, Mitsun..... I hope you're ready...."

Because I'm not, I kept that within me.

 


( Non-Stop Debate )

 

"What else are you gonna talk about..?" Higura sounded tired. "... How much longer are you gonna keep this up!?"

"Please present one more evidence...." Mitsuru pleaded. "I'm sure you have a question regarding Renma's death....."

"Renma's death... is by asphyxiation......" Hiroshi recalled. "So did you really use that fabric from the theater house....?"

"That's already proven impossible....." Hibiki countered. "It was already said that it was used by a more thicker material...."

 

( BREAK! )


 

".... Hibiki's right.... from what Taiga and Shoma found.... there's a frayed rope found in the mortuary... that's used to suffocate Renma to death....." Crushing his windpipe, I tried to get that image out of my head. "The rope came from the old warehouse and.... even though the warehouse is locked by Hiroshi..."

"It's still accessible.... if you knew about the secret underground passageway....." Taiga continued solemnly. "So the mess that Hiroshi said was at the warehouse... was caused by you, Mitsun....?"

Mitsuru doesn't want to say anything, but we're getting somewhere closer to our answer. As much as we don't want to. "Mitsun, if you have to say something to say then-"

 

( ARGUED: Asami Mitsuru - "Your words have no radiance!!" - )


 

"You're holding back, Sumi!!" Mitsuru shouted, still crying but now with a determined look. "I know you're holding back!! So please, convinced everyone!! Lead them to the correct answer!!"

"Mitsun..." Now that you've been found out, you want to ensure everyone voted you and not anyone else? You're so selfless, Mitsun.... "What am I holding back then? What is it that I purposely left out?"

 

"Like you've said before, only a pair of boy and girl can enter the labyrinth, right!?" the cosmetologist asked. "How can you be sure it was me!? It might have been Hibiki for all we know! She's also one without an alibi that night!!"

"Hibiki was with Taiga for the entire morning....." I answered truthfully. "Even if it was her, she wouldn't be able to get into the mortuary with him around, witnessing her. And I'm sure it was you who entered the labyrinth with Hisao because of the certain clue you left!!"

"W-What clue!?" Mitsuru demanded. "Don't think of me as someone who would litter!! The rules also stated that we could bring any weapons in so you can't accuse of me by that!! What kind of clue could I possibly left the labyrinth itself!?"

 

( CUT-IN! - "My words against yours!!" - )


 

"When Higura and I first entered the labyrinth.... we found this strange sticky grey substance that's tainting the garden walls when we're trying to solve the mysteries...." I can't believe it took me this long to figured it out what it was. "... That was your doing, right? I recognized that smell of hair dye from anywhere and carried by a certain someone. You used that to as a guide to solve the maze puzzle of that place....."

".... Yeah... that sounds about right....." Mitsuru smiled, looking relief that I managed to solve that part. "Thank you, Sumi.... for piecing it together for everyone else....."

'Please don't say that right before we're going to do something so cruel towards you.....'

 

"Mitsuru... you didn't even fight back!!" Higura yelled. "W-Why didn't you-!!"

"Higura, it's over already......" her voice is stern, even when trying to reassure the fuming male across her. "It's over.... everyone's doubts and denials have already been answered. You can stop fighting now, for everyone's sake....."

"...... You're the fucking worst....." the designer let out his final statement.

"I know..... and I'm sorry...." Mitsuru can only laugh at it.

 

"I....." I feel like an ass for ruining that moment between Higura and Mitsuru. But it's almost time before that will happen. "I will go over it once more.... and once everyone's truly convinced... we will proceed with the voting.... no matter how painful it is....."

"Take your time, Sumi..... you've done well...." Mitsuru tried to cheer me up. "You always pull us through... you're truly our savior, Hoshino Sumire..."

'Please stop saying stuff like that....' "You say that but.... in the end, you're the one who helped us out.... you and Hisao...... as fucking absurd that it is right now to say, we're grateful for you guys... for helping us so much in this trial......"

Both of them return those kind words with a smile. Hisao, who have been silent ever since the reveal, actually gave a genuine smile. That alone gave me slightly enough willpower to go through this trial a bit more, "Here's the complete story....."

 


 

( Closing Argument )

 

"Ever since Monomyou brought our attention to the 'labyrinth's mystery game', Hisao, prompted by Renma, decided to try it out with the culprit that night where's there no witnesses.... save for one; Hibiki, who just saw the conman leaving the hotel. In front of the labyrinth's gate, Hisao was forced to leave his pocket knife at the starting point due to its 'no violence' rule and soon forgotten about it. Because they've met the requirements of the game, Hisao and the culprit entered the labyrinth with no problems....."

 

"The mysteries of the labyrinth is just a puzzle maze with certain paths changing and connected to several other so the culprit decided to marked the wall they passed using hair dye to remind them that they've passed through it before. And just like that, Hisao and the culprit solved the the labyrinth mystery and won the grand prize. For Hisao, he was just targeting for that certain prize and didn't pay much attention to the map of secret underground passageway that culprit now knew.... and took advantage of it...."

 

"The next day, the culprit made sure everything gone smoothly and without causing any trouble that drew suspicion while hanging out with Higura. Once the designer left them alone at the bar, it was during that time they decided to strike. Using the secret passageway, they made their way to the theater house first to cut up one of the costume as a act of diversion for their crime later, using the tools of that place. Then, the culprit made their way to the old warehouse to get the rope, the actual weapon of this case, and accidentally knocked over some material while leaving the place.

 

"They must have been in such a hurry that they didn't bother to clean up their mess, because nobody would be able to figure out how would anyone get into that securely-locked warehouse without solving the labyrinth mystery first. Around this time, Hisao and Renma must have already met and discussed about something important before the conman left the mortician alone. At the moment, the culprit sneaked behind him.... and strangled him using the rope. Renma must have struggled a lot until his protection charms he kept with him were scattered all over the floor.

 

"After making sure he took his final breath, the culprit decided to transport the body from the mortuary to the crypt, leaving the mess and the frayed rope behind. It was only the matter of time someone else would discover the body as the culprit went back to their original placement at the bar, Hisao, now alerted by Renma's sudden disappearance, just figured out about the secret passageway that the culprit left and went through.... and met with Shoma and I as we discovered Renma's body at the crypt, triggering the body discovery announcement...."

 

"This is the true answer to this twisted mystery of this case, that can only be done by you, Asami Mitsuru, the Ultimate Cosmetologist!!"

 

( BREAK! )


 

In each stories I've ended at every trials, that heavy feeling always came back, worsening my thoughts every time. Now, it just came back in an instant and without any mercy. There's no satisfaction of winning or anything, just an overbearing guilt.

"Hmmmm!!!" Monomyou doesn't sound too happy for some reason. "Well, can't say I didn't expect this kind of outcome!! A little melodramatic for my taste!! I like my trials with brutal honesty and no tears shed, nyahahaha!!!"

'Like Oozora Saku's trial....' With that thought, I brought my attention towards Higura who's keeping it together. I can see tears threatening to fall from his lashes. '..... He's strong.... he's definitely stronger than all of us.....'

 

"Hold on now, dear guests!!!" Monomyou snickers. "It's too early to applause at a sad finale since now it's the time!! Ladies and gentlemen!! It's the satisfying conclusion to the trial that you've been waiting for!! It's Voting Time!!"

As usual, the voting panel appeared before me and I immediately tapped onto Mitsuru's icon without sparing a glance. The longer I linger on the screen, the more alluring it is to vote for someone else instead. 'It's the answer we've reached.... it's the answer we all decided to accept..... hopefully....'

Everyone have cast their votes and the big monitor showed up, setting up the roulette system with only eight people left showing on the wheel. My breathing slowed down as the arrow approached and landed on Asami Mitsuru, the word 'GUILTY' lightened up, confirming our answer and fear.

 

"Well, well, well!!" Monomyou jumped down from the throne, looking dissatisfied. "Can't say I'm shocked about the results but I have fun seeing my dearest guests thrashing each other and showing their true colors at last!! That's at least the fun part of the trial!!"

After seeing the results on the monitor, Higura immediately went and stepped between Mitsuru and Monomyou, "I fucking dare you, you furfuck... I won't let you-!!"

"Haaah!? Still being disobedient!?" Monomyou hissed. "My, you're testing my patience here, you little designer boy!! If you really want to die with her like some tragedy of some star-crossed lovers, then fine by me!! I've been itching to see some duo punishment for a long time!!"

"Higura, please stop it... you're being selfish-"

 

"Selfish....?" Higura stepped back, looking at the cosmetologist in disbelief. "I'm being selfish here? Hah, I must be fucking deaf because I can't believe what you've just said!! After going through this trial!? You're still calling me that!? I don't think you have any rights to say that... after keeping that labyrinth rendezvous as a secret from all of us...."

Mitsuru winced from hearing that last part, "That... I can't explain myself well for that...."

"Then, I will just say it in her place...." Hisao cuts in, finally saying something. ".... This will surely brought up more questions than before... it was Renma who sent her to meet me at that labyrinth that night....."

 

"Renma!?" Both Shoma and I exclaimed in shock. Just... what on earth is that person's thinking...? What is he scheming...? Is this what Hisao have been referring to about his shift in attitude....?

"It was an unfortunate coincidence.... you can say it like that...." Hisao still kept his disinterested tone on but his face still filled with regret. "Mitsuru and I solved it, got our prizes.... we didn't think too much of it until....."

"The grand prize was the documents about Sumire and the other two mystery students.... but there's more....." Mitsuru clarified. "If we had another class trial soon after someone already won the first prize, then another piece of information will be given by Monomyou as a promise...."

"You guys were baited by that kind of promise...?" Taiga asked. "That's almost similar to the last trial-"

 

"It's not... at least, that's what Renma told us....." Mitsuru interjected. "It's something not to be treated lightly or as a minor thing... we could potentially solve the mystery behind our reason to be here.... unless......"

"Unless there's a class trial...." Hibiki continued. ".... we wouldn't solve the mystery behind our lost school memories.... and why we're here in the first place....."

"Then.... Ren....." Shoma suddenly came into realization with how the story played out. ".... that critter..... offered himself to be the victim of this case....."

There it is, the answer that no one would be satisfied to hear about it. "So... this isn't just a murder case.... it's a case of a one-sided sacrifice......" That sounded too familiar and the biologist just figured it out why as well.

 

"This critter.... had that idea before...." Shoma admitted. "This critter.... gave him that idea..... unforgivable...... I-I can't forgive myself for that....."

Higura, Hibiki and Hiroshi gasped at his confession, seeing that they didn't know about the true reason why Shoma and Renma fought two days ago. I kneel down and comfort the biologist, whispering 'It's okay....' repeatedly as Taiga just rubbed circles on his back.

"Higura...." Mitsuru turned to the designer, face-to-face. "... I'm sorry, you were right, I was being selfish. I didn't even think about others and how they will handle my involvement.... when all I care about was making sure you all can leave this horrid place be. This place is too tainted, you know? Tainted with horrible moments of betrayals and deaths.... I don't think anyone want to remain in a place filled with memories that brings nothing but despair..... that's why, it's my wish for everyone to escape this place... so please forgive for being a bit selfish here....."

 

"..... No..." Higura answered. "No, I won't forgive you... I won't ever, ever forgive you! 'Forgive and forget', you're trying to pull that tactic on me now, huh!? Guess what!? I will never forgive your selfishness......so I will never forget about your existence either! No matter what, I will always remember it, clear as day, I met the most selfish person ever graced this fucking land.... and I will never forget her..... never ever....."

"Awww..... you're.... actually being sweet for once, Higura...." Mitsuru bitterly chuckles. She took her hairpin and clipped the designer's front bangs to the side with it. "As a memento, something to keep you going.... looks like I can't be with everyone else, keeping their spirits up and all that...."

 

"..... Fine, I will take up that mantle then....." He stepped backwards, wiping the tears from his face. "I will give them the wake-up call they fucking deserved! I'm not gonna say some sickly sweet shit just so they don't get all depressed!! People will remember you for your kindness so I'm gonna be the one who will be remembered for their brute honesty!! ... So... don't even think that we can't move forward without you.... I had you and the others have me now.... and I will keep everyone up with high spirits no matter what, I could be better than you for all we know!!"

"...... Ha... ahahaha...." A laugh, a really strained laughter. "That's strange..... that's really, really strange...... for a moment there, my heart stopped and immediately starts beating like crazy...... Haaah... guess this is such a pitiful moment for me, huh? To think, I like you even more now..... This is my punishment from you, right? Like with Saku before...."

".... Yeah, this is your punishment, showing kindness before going off.... except this time....." Higura smiled, a single tear rolled down his cheek. "This fucking hurts me a lot more than the last time I did it...."

"Hah, figured you would say that, you sensitive little shit....."

 

"Urgh-!!" Monomyou pulled out tissues from their pocket and blew their nose. "E-Even such a sharp-cutting farewell-!! This moved your dearest host's heart like no love stories before!! A-Alright!! I applaud for everyone's attempt to make such a ridiculous love story...!! But now, it's your magnificent host's turn to entertain everyone with my special program! Ladies and gentlemen, strapped yourselves back!! It's the moment you guys have been waiting for!!.."

"All of you!!!" Mitsuru said her last words. "You all better leave this shithole place!!! Get out and make new memories... memories filled with hope, okay? You guys can do it!"

"It's Punishment Time!!!"

 

[ ASAMI MITSURU HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY ]

[ LET US COMMENCE THEIR PUNISHMENT ]

 


 

[ Ultimate Cosmetologist, Asami Mitsuru's Execution ]

[ Special Saloon Treatment!! A Chelating Reaction! ]

 

Mitsuru was strapped to the massage chair, sweat rolling down profusely as she waits for something to happened. And then, multiple copies of Minimyou wearing colorful aprons appeared, stabbing her body with sharp scissors and leave it buried deep within the figure, so that she wouldn't run and wouldn't just bleed to death.

 

She opened her eyes slightly and in agony, soon widened once she realized the scissors were coated with something, presumably a dangerous chemical substance. She struggled against the bind until it finally came off, removing the scissors next, wincing each time she took it out of her body. She tries to get away from the room, banging on the wall desperately as the nauseating affects kicks in.

 

A strange white smoke suddenly filled the room, Mitsuru audibly gasped yet closed her mouth with one hand once she realized what it is. She continuously banging on the wall with her free hand. Slowly as the smoke engulfed her and her hand just stopped, sliding down the wall, the fire sprinklers in the room turned on as the smoke dissipated, leaving the body on the floor and not moving, incredibly pale.

 


 

"A slow and reactive punishment after such a quickly-solved trial, just perfect!! Nyahahahaha!!!" Monomyou mocked the situation that happened before. "I gotta say!! Looks like she still have a bit of strength within her that wanted to escape really badly!! That's so despairingly magnificent!! She sacrificed herself but deep down, she wanted to live as well!!!"

'She convinced herself it's the right thing to do but... she knew deep down, she doesn't want to die.....' An instinctual fear of death, that's why Mitsuru acted like that. '...... Why does it always end up like this.....'

 

"..... Are you done now? Doing this stupid monologue so that you can see that fucking despair shit that's been throwing around now...?" Higura sneered. "... She's gone... we know that. But... that doesn't mean we're going down without a fight either.....which is why-"

"Wha-" The designer grabbed both Shoma and I up, "What are you-"

SLAP!

 

It took me a while to register the stinging pain on my cheek, the moment I touched it again, I winced back reflexively. Higura did the same thing to Shoma as well, who looked just as shocked as I am.

".... Listen, I don't know what's going through your head right now but....." Higura firmly grabbed the both of us by the shoulders. "If you two are blaming yourself for Renma's death or anything again.... then I'm gonna fucking knock some senses into your head. He chose his own demise just so the two of you can live, and he doesn't want to the two of precious people have fallen into the despair because of his own decision. So, do him a favor and don't make him fucking regret his decision in the afterlife. It shows.... that he really care about you two...."

'Renma wanted us to escape peacefully... because of that.... he has to....' "... care about us....."

"... If you wanted to see it as that way, if it helps you..... then live... live a little longer... he would have wanted that for everyone...." said Higura. "So don't you dare disrespect a dead-man's wish like that....."

 

That wish for everyone to survived and escape. The same wish that was passed down from Homare, to Hinako, to Amane and Machi and then to Renma and Mitsuru. Even Saku, Kiharu and Nao, they all wanted the same thing, they all wanted to live. ".... When there is life, there is hope .........." I bitterly laughed, so that writing we found in the crypt did matter until now. "That's what those words said, right.... our only way to freedom...."

".... This critter still... feel a bit troubled but.....!!" Shoma grabbed onto Higura's arm in response. "If it helps everyone... it helps this critter repent for his wrongdoings against everyone!! Against... Renma... then I will swim with everyone else a bit longer!!"

"Gah, thank fucking god, we're not losing you two so soon....." Higura sighed almost collapsing onto the both of us. "I'm so damn tired... talking my ass off..... if this is what a leader supposed to do everyday then shit, maybe I'm not cut out for it....."

 

"You... did a good job carrying Mitsun's wish....." Hibiki chuckles. "No doubt.... she would be proud of you....."

"Yeah, I wanna prove her wrong for saying that I'm such a downer or anything!!" Higura huffed out a reply. ".... I won't let anyone fall into despair, not when I'm still around here!!"

"Ohohoho!! You sounded particularly familiar but I'm gonna let that slide!!!" Monomyou snickers. "You guys are being so merrily happy that you have forgotten the most important thing!! After all, wouldn't this call for a reward of a successful class trial!?"

 

"The labyrinth mystery reward...." Taiga gasped. "You're.... gonna give us the other half of it.....?"

"Well, I was supposed to give it IF the first winners of the labyrinth survived the class trial!!" the host pulled out a familiar-looking folder, similar to what we found from the old warehouse. "I think it's about time for you all to have your answers but fair warning!! This knowledge would only be given to the first winner!!"

"Really? Well then, I don't need it anymore....." Hisao sighed, his tone of boredom is back. "I'm tired of this game already now that I know everyone's true color. I thought I would have the chance to change everyone's opinion of me but it turns out there was never even an option to do that since the beginning. So yeah, just give that away to others, I'm not longer interested in it!"

 

"Hisao, you-" I jumped back a bit once one of the Mini-myous appeared right before me, holding the said folder. I hesitantly took it from its hands before it ran off.

"Y-You're giving up that easily...?"

"Hah?  Well, it's really easy to give up on helping people like you guys...." Hisao spat at the abseiler's question. "So I decided to do my own thing from now on. I will find my own way to strangle the life out of that mastermind myself......"

"By yourself- that's a fucking suicidal move!!" Higura yelled. "That wouldn't help you a bit!!"

"Funny, because no one really help at all finding the mastermind so where's the loss here?" Hisao glared at the designer. "You guys finally have the chance to get rid of me so why are you fighting back now? Are you seriously going to play the 'good guy' part now? Not convincing!! Your act is simply not convincing enough for me to not do it!!"

 

"What are you talking about-" I was scanning through the documents while listening the conversation going on in the background. The documents contained information about the teachers and staffs of the Yumeino Ultimate Academy that aided in the Missing Students' Case and alongside the other three students from Hope's Peak Academy. There are four notable staff members, who are also known alumnus of their own academy, that are active in this case;

 

Nishida Fuji, Former Ultimate Physician

Ohori Haru, Former Ultimate Journalist

Koyasu Ryuko, Former Ultimate Counselor

 

The first three people doesn't ring any bells, or even triggered any repressed memories hidden deep in our mind. Taiga was also looking over my shoulder, reading through it and once the both of us reached the last name, our heart sank;

 

Mafuyu Hisao, Former Ultimate Psychologist And Homeroom Teacher Of the 50th Class

 

As clear as day.

The name we're familiar with was paired with an unfamiliar title.

Mafuyu Hisao... the Former Ultimate Psychologist?

Then who is this person standing before us?

 

"Sao-chin.... no, that's not it.... that's not your name at all....." I kept the folder closed to my chest, afraid that it will be snatched by an unexpected hand. ".... Who are you...? You're not Mafuyu Hisao at all....? Who the hell are you!?"

"W-What....?" Higura stared back with confusion. "Sumi, what the fuck are you talking about!? What's in that thing-!!"

"Ahahaha, that's what I feared the most!!!" 'Hisao' ceremoniously laughed. "That thing really contained the answers, huh!! The answer to everything that will lay out for you all after this!! And I will be watching from the sidelines as you pieced together the puzzles left by the mastermind and me!!"

 

Mastermind and him.

He said... that.

"No way.... are you kidding me....?" I stepped forward until I'm upfront, facing him. His figure loomed over me but I don't care, "You're the fake player this entire time!?"

"Bingo!" the conman laughed. "Quite a twist, isn't it? I'm happy that you and Taiga played along with my role, ya' know!! I was getting worried that you might find out but!! To think you two have a heart to try and bring the goodness out of me, is quite admirable!! Isn't that right, Monomyou!"

 

"You got that right!!!" Monomyou laughed, standing besides him. "Hah!! This might not be a bad trial after all!! With the reveal of the fake player from the previous trial finally come to light and not just some mimicking doll!! The real fake player of this entire killing game is the person who you all know him as Mafuyu Hisao, the Ultimate Conman!!!"

"So how do you like that revelation!" the conman asked. "Are you satisfied now? Do you hate me now? I'm getting more interested to know how much you detested me right now!! I've been working on it since the very beginning, you know!!"

"...... No....."

 

"What?" the conman frowned when he heard that. "What do you mean 'no'? Geez, you're really stubborn, huh? Little miss... Shino... Hoshin