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Ultimate Talent Development Plan

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Nekomaru Nidai was taking one of the best shits of his life. It was fluid, easy, and over too soon. Definitely not one of his most memorable shits; those were usually closer to giving birth to a rock-hard cactus. He sighed, and put his paperwork away earlier than foreseen... he would be on time to the Student Orientation, for once, but he would be woefully underprepared for his duties as the Ultimate Team Manager.

Nekomaru Splash

After washing his hands, he took a look in the mirror. He licked one thumb and straightened his eyebrows, and twisted the weighted chain around his neck to the left, centering his coach's whistle on his broad chest. And finally, for the most important step: Nekomaru flexed all his muscles at once and yelled aloud “TIME TO GET PUMPED UPPPPPPPP!!!” His eyes sparked, and an electric blue aura crackled forth, telling the world exactly how ready he was to give 110% for his athletes. Satisfied, he turned on his heel to sprint out the door, and almost barreled over a kid who was standing behind him with an alarmed expression on his face. His mouth was hanging open, revealing a lollipop that was in danger of falling out of his slackened jaw. “Sorry kid! Are you alright?!” The child gazed up at all 6 feet 4 inches of pure muscle, and slowly moved to the side. Nekomaru grinned wolfishly, and burst out the door, leaving the child behind.

 

Ryoma Hoshi closed his mouth with a gulp, and moved to the stall in solemn contemplation. This school for Ultimates... it was definitely going to take some getting used to. He hopped up onto the seat, standing upright on it with legs astride the bowl, and unzipped.  Still, anything is better than prison, he mused as he let it fly. At least here there were stalls. And enormous beefy men that were concerned for his safety, rather than threatening to shiv him if he didn't.... he shot that ball down, quick. He didn't need to go down that road. It was already going to be embarrassing enough seeing the Ultimate Therapist later today, after Orientation. With luck, he could bluff his way out of needing regular sessions... it sounded like such a pain. He jumped down from the perfectly dry seat (at least his aim hadn't atrophied in prison, he mused) and put himself away. But he'd do it, if they ordered it. He'd jump through all their hoops and return every ball fired at him if it kept him from being sent back. The terms of his parole were simple, but stringent: keep his head down, hone his Ultimate Talent back to its full power, and do anything asked of him by the Headmaster. It was the breadth of possibilities related to that last stipulation that worried him... he found that men in positions of authority were all too keen to abuse that power. 

He washed his hands and exited the bathroom without once looking in the mirror. 

 


 

Tenko Chabashira, the Ultimate Aikido Master, was a little confused. 

Her roommate was ostensibly going to be the Ultimate Martial Artist. How did that work?! Did she possess a complete mastery of Aikido as well as ALL OTHER FORMS OF MARTIAL ARTS?! Tenko remembered having to learn the basics of most other styles, to understand how Neo-Aikido could help one overcome their particular strengths and weaknesses. It took TWO. YEARS. Well, by virtue of having created Neo-Aikido (SHE GUESSES her Master helped, A LITTLE), at least this “Sakura Ogami” wouldn't be able to be a master of THAT. BUT WHAT IF SHE WAS?! What if Tenko was completely outclassed in every possible way?! She tugged on the ends of her large pinwheel bow in consternation. Tenko had managed to work herself into a fervor when the door opened and a hulking behemoth entered her dorm room uninvited. 

“WHA-” Tenko had been about to roar at the degenerate male entering her sacred space, but then she realized that the enormous interloper was actually a woman. And what a woman! Over 6 feet, clearly 200+ pounds, and all of that appeared to be pure muscle. She had long white hair, reddish-brown skin, and piercing eyes of a very pale blue. Her seifuku had the sleeves torn off to show off her incredible biceps, or maybe just to not get in the way during all the incredible feats of athleticism Tenko was sure she was capable of. 

“...Hello,” the woman said, in a very deep and rumbling voice. “I am Sakura Ogami- I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Hamina hamina hamina, uh, ahem. Ahem!” Tenko stuttered, but caught herself, and covered it with a fit of coughing. After clearing her throat, she replied in her suavest manner, “Tenko Chabashira. HAIYAH! I'm the Ultimate Aikido Master!” She had her hands in an attack stance and a menacing look on her face. 

Sakura sprang backwards, dropping her duffel bag and backing into a defensive crouch.

Tenko goggled at her, her hands falling again. “Sorry, sorry! I wasn't going to- I would never- I was just saying hello!”

The larger girl waited a beat, but then stood fully upright again. “I apologize for my reaction. I was attacked on the way here-”

“OH HELL NO! NO WAY! LET'S GO, SHOW ME, I'LL MURDER THE DEGENERATE MALE WHO ATTACKED YOU,” Tenko yelled. Anyone who attacked this beautiful behemoth would die from her Neo-Aikido-patented Rising Uppercut Scissor Hook Jab Punch!

Sakura stopped her, palm outstretched in a placating manner. “No, it's fine. It was a woman, actually. She apologized after I put her down, and said she 'just saw a strong opponent and knew it was fightin' time!' We made plans to spar later, actually.”

Oh. “Oh,” Tenko said. “That's cool. Of course you're already making friends, you're so strong and nice and kind, and...” she trailed off, looking down a little sheepishly.

“...Would you like to spar with us as well?”

Tenko's head shot back up. Sakura smiled, a small smile, but it was such a cute smile. This was obviously the beginning of a beautiful friendship- or maybe more? “I'd love to!” They began setting up their dorm room, and Tenko's heart was going doki-doki all the while.

 


 

With a sigh, Kazuichi Soda opened his dorm room. Orientation had been fairly boring, even for a school of Ultimates. Turns out that school orientations were pretty similar no matter how many crazy-awesome students were around. Not one explosion or pitched battle to the death during the whole three-hour affair. Just a lot of chatter about exams and facilities and stuff that had gone through his brain like gas through a Bugatti Veyron. At least there were a lot of hot girls to ogle. He was already trying to decide who he'd go for. 

He nodded to his roommate, Sonosuke, who ignored him in favor of texting. 

It seems this was business as usual for the lanky blond boy. Guy was apparently the Ultimate Blacksmith, but didn't look nearly as jacked as Kazuichi would have expected- maybe it's not all hammering anvils and huge muscles after all? Kazuichi sure couldn't lift a car to fix an axle, they had garages and jacks and stuff now. But in the old days, they probably had to lift the cars onto blocks themselves, he was sure. Sounded right. Eh, whatever. 

“Hey Pinkhead,” Sonosuke grunted. Kazuichi looked over, even as one hand automatically rose to his dyed hair self-consciously. “My girlfriend's coming over. Go find something to do for an hour or two.” Sonosuke spoke without even looking up from his phone. The mechanic was affronted, but after a moment he guessed he understood. If the guy could get some, power to him. 

“Uh, alright, see ya later then,” he muttered. “I wanted to scope out some of the hot chicks anyway,” he blustered a bit louder. Sonosuke made a noncommittal noise, and Kazuichi slunk outside. Slinked? Slank? Slunk sounded good to him. He wasn't normally a slinker, but stomping out in a huff wouldn't help his abysmal charisma.  If he was a bit more suave, maybe he could woo some lovely ladies before they all realized what a rocket-propelled spaz maggot he actually was. 

As he left his room, he passed a tall, slender girl with silver braids and piercing red eyes. She carried a weapon of some sort wrapped in a sword bag on her back. 

He leaned against the wall, struck a pose, and was about to turn on the charm when she walked right past him as if he didn't exist. As she entered the room he had just vacated, he heard her immediately start berating his roommate. “Stop telling people we're dating. Do you have the swords for me yet or not?” Kazuichi snickered, a little too loudly, as Sonosuke began a stream of apologies that kept getting interrupted by the intimidating woman. He continued his walk towards the Ultimate Machining Lab. 

He fished out his key and was about to check out the facilities that all the metalworking-related Ultimates would share, but he was stopped when he saw an honest-to-god android walk by. The robot was carrying a cardboard box labeled “Computer Parts,” and it must have been full to bursting based on how the robot was struggling to carry it. Surely its (his? It looked fairly masculine- Kazuichi knew that if HE were to build a female android, it would have a bust to make regular women weep. If he wasn't allowed to build vehicles with a bomb rack, he could at least make an android with a BOMB RACK, if you know what he means, heh heh), surely his robotic strength could have lifted a normal box of computer parts with ease. 

The Ultimate Mechanic almost missed her, he was so excited to see the robot. Following behind, awkwardly pushing a dolly with more cardboard boxes atop it, was a super-cute girl in a school uniform.  Kazuichi had been a little upset to learn at orientation that the girls weren't all required to wear school uniforms, though he had been relieved that he wouldn't have to as well- but it seems some of the girls would wear them anyway, and that really got his engine revving. 

“Hey! Can I help you with that?!” Kazuichi strode forward confidently, putting on his best toothy grin. The robot and girl both turned to look, and stopped, the robot putting down his burden with a grateful look on his face. “Hi, I'm Kazuichi Soda, the Ultimate Mechanic. I see you got a late start moving in. I've got nothing to do, so if you want, I can help you with your stuff!” 

The girl smiled a bit shyly, and set the dolly upright. “That would be very nice. K1-B0 was gracious enough to help me as well, but it will go faster with more people.” She bowed suddenly, a bit flustered. “Oh! I'm Chihiro Fujisaki, the Ultimate Programmer. Nice to meet you!”

Kazuichi was taken aback at how proper and polite she was. But his attention was immediately taken by the marvel of engineering to her side, as he said “I'm the Ultimate Robot, K1-B0, but you can call me Keebo.”

Kazuichi was torn. He wanted to play it smooth for this brunette cutie, but he also wanted to talk to this android and maybe take him apart a little. He compromised by stammering out some polite nonsense, and carrying some boxes. For a programmer, Chihiro seemed to have an awful lot of computing equipment- Kazuichi would have assumed she would have one or two monitors attached to some sort of super computer. There might be something else going on that required more hardware, and he was intrigued. 

There were almost as many boxes labeled 'COMPUTER STUFF' going to her dorm room as there were going to the Ultimate Machine Lab. This wasn't how Kazuichi had envisioned spending his first day here. But she had such a sweet smile, and he couldn't say no to her. Kazuichi dutifully helped, trip after trip, load after load, as he poured on the charm for Chihiro. She seemed fairly meek, but after they began talking about programming (obviously her favorite topic), she became far more lively. 

One of the boxes wasn't closed all the way, and had taller PC towers and such poking out of the top.  He had to be a lot more cautious while walking, and Chihiro and the android pulled ahead. The box obstructed his vision, so he wasn’t to blame, not really!, when he bumped right into another student and fell back on his ass. He squeezed his eyes shut as a keyboard narrowly missed hitting him in the face. 

When he opened his eyes, the girl of his dreams was standing over him with a concerned look on his face. She had flowing blonde hair with a pair of goggles affixed to her forehead, and inquisitive blue eyes focused entirely on him. Not to mention, when she was leaning over him like this he got an excellent view of her rather fantastic tits. 

“Shit! You fell over like a ton a bricks!” she exclaimed. “Are you OK after that?” 

Kazuichi wasn’t too far gone to remember to dial up the charm. “I am now ,” he said, emphasizing the words in what he hoped was an alluring fashion, giving her his best shark-toothed grin. 

He’d never been lucky with the ladies (to put it as an understatement) so he was almost shocked when that weak come-on seemed to work. This mysterious new girl looked shy now and was even blushing a little! 

“I’m M-Miu,” she said, thrusting out one hand for him to take. “Miu Iruma. The Ultimate Inventor.”

Kazuichi took her hand with shaky fingers and pulled himself up. “I’m Kazuichi Soda,” he replied. “I’m the Ultimate Mechanic. Sounds like we might have some stuff in common.”

She turned her gaze to the computer parts all over the floor. “What are you doing with all that stuff?”

“Oh, uh, I’m uh, helping carry it all to the Ultimate Machine Lab. Wanna come?” 

Miu shyly twirled a strand of her hair around one finger, looking as nervous as Kazuichi felt himself. “Do I ever! I mean, s-sure, if you really want me to, I can’t say no.”

It was a lot easier to make his way to the Machine Lab with Miu carrying some of the more vision-obstructing parts. That also made it so Kazuichi was treated to Chihiro’s sparkling look of gratitude when he finally arrived. 

“That was the last of it! Thank you so much, Kazuichi! And, uhm… ”

“This is Miu,” Kazuichi said. “Miu, this is Chihiro and Keebo,” he said. Keebo and Chihiro smiled and gave their full names and ultimate talents to Miu. 

Kazuichi puffed out his chest as he surveyed the scene. Look at him, Mr. Popular, doing all the introductions! Bringing people together, that was what he did! He hoped the two girls didn’t start fighting over his affections. He was sure there was enough Kazuichi Soda for everybody to have a good, long drink! 

What he didn’t expect was for Miu to immediately make a beeline to the android. And uh, begin feeling him up? And oh god, was that drool coming out of the corners of her mouth?

Keebo was first to react. “C-can I help you?” he stammered, but Miu was already running her hands up and down his chest. 

“Hell of a rig you’ve got!” she said, with what looked like lust in her eyes. She manhandled him a bit, running her nimble digits all over his chassis. “Ooh, look at how well-put-together you are...” Her wandering hands reached the joints where his chestplate met his shoulders, and she dipped her fingers inside. “Tell me, are ya sensitive when I touch you right here?” 

It appeared that the poor guy really was, very much so, cuz his face turned a bit red. On a purely mechanical level, Kazuichi was fascinated by the idea that robots might be able to blush. 

Kazuichi looked to Chihiro for help, but her face was plastered into an unreadable mask of perfect, smiling politeness. He imagined she was as extremely uncomfortable as he was right now. 

Miu inclined her head toward Kazuichi. “Hey, Ultimate Mechanic!” she barked. “You got some tools on you for tearin’ this robot apart, right?” 

“If I m-might object—” Keebo managed to butt in, pleading to Kazuichi with his eyes. 

“Aw don’t be like that baby, I’ll be gentle,” Miu said, turning back to Keebo momentarily with what she must have thought was a placating expression, but which only succeeded in making her leer look more unsettling.

Kazuichi and Chihiro fled, then. In the hall, they looked at one another, then burst out laughing together. “Girls, am I right?” Chihiro said, smiling to Kazuichi. Then she slapped her hand over her mouth with a look of alarm.

“Yeah,” he grinned. ...Wait.  Wha?!

It dawned on the Ultimate Mechanic that he had made not one, but two miscalculations that day. 

 


 

The “Ultimate Child Caregiver” walked into the testing room. 

Maki Harukawa glanced at the judging panel, a quick flash with her shoulders hunched, to convey nerves. In reality, she had just sized them up automatically, attempting to gain insight into how to proceed. Well, she now knew in which order she would attack them if she were trying to take them out, but remained clueless on how to behave. Were they looking for confidence, bordering on narcissism? An Ultimate would naturally behave with a certain aura of cockiness. Or, since they were studying Talent, would they want someone who could be molded, guided, perhaps taken advantage of? Maki had had plenty of experience with that. 

The man who sat centermost at the judging table flashed her a smirk. 

He tipped his hat to her in a way that grated on Maki. “Maki Harukawa, the Ultimate Child Caregiver. Thank you for coming. We would like to test your Ultimate ability, in this enclosed testing environment. We have provided some... rather troublesome children, from Hope’s Peak Elementary, our sister school. If at any time you wish to bow out of the test, please yell the safeword ‘Seesaw’ and we will abandon the test, as well as restrain the children.”

Maki blanched. A safeword... to take care of children?! How terrible must these children be to require such a precaution?

She found out soon enough. The window between the testing chamber and the judging room suddenly went opaque, like a two-way mirror becoming one-way. At the same time, a door slid open in the far wall, and several children bounded into the room, already chattering and screeching like boisterous monkeys. 

“Ohhhh, she’s totes adorbs!” a girl with pink hair yelled, bounding up to Maki and grabbing her around the waist. “I just want to ‘motivate’ her for hours on end!” 

“Don’t touch her, Kotoko. You don’t know where she’s been,” deadpanned a mature-looking boy with a seasonally-inappropriate scarf. 

“Nagisa, you know exactly where I’ve been, but I bet you still don’t want to touch meeee,” whined a gorgeous boy in a nasal drawl. His angelic appearance was at complete odds with his grating voice and offputting words.

Maki suddenly lost her footing as a boisterous boy tackled her in the knees and swept her off her feet. “Gotcha! Now you’re it!” He slapped a hand on her leg for emphasis.

Maki was completely bewildered. Her vigorously-honed reflexes were screaming at her to evade their touch, to twist out of the grapple, to counterattack. But she was here to be a Child Caregiver, and assaulting the children she was here to babysit might look bad during this test. She glanced at the opaque wall and forcibly relaxed her fist. The mission required her to infiltrate Hope’s Peak Academy, and she had already come so far. The orphanage was depending on her; the same orphanage from which she had gained these babysitting skills. She picked herself up, dusted herself off, and cast a calculating look at her new ‘charges.’ This wouldn’t be easy.

 




The cafeteria was fairly full, but Hajime Hinata finally found an open seat at the table over by the windows. “Anyone sitting here?” he asked, a tinge of desperation in his voice.

“No, feel free.” The brown-haired boy had a massive cowlick, as if he had a bad case of bedhead. 

“Thanks,” Hajime put his lunch tray down and collapsed into the seat.

“Makoto Naegi,” the becowlicked boy offered with an outstretched hand. “I like your hair.”

Hajime shook the hand, then reached up to touch his own hair, finding an almost identical cowlick. He guessed he was the one with the bedhead after all.

“Uh, thanks,” he murmured. 

“I've seen you around,” Makoto said, idly picking at his Le Poulet Frit et les Gaufres. “Don't think I've ever seen your roommate, though?”

“Yeah, he's away most of the time. He's the Ultimate Adventurer, you know, so he can't exactly hang around on campus and yet work towards recognition as an Ultimate.”

“Oh?” Makoto raised an eyebrow.

Hajime grinned. “Yeah, his name's Rantaro Amami, you may have heard of him even if you've never seen him. He was in a bunch of travel documentaries and stuff.” 

Makoto nodded noncommittally. “Well, anyway, he was actually so busy and so not-here that he failed to fill out his paperwork. Somehow he was put down as the 'Ultimate ???' and it was never corrected, so the computer matched him up with me as a roommate.” Hajime shrugged. “It works out pretty well, I get the room to myself most of the time, though it can get a little lonely.”

“Wait, how did the computer match you two together? What’s your Ultimate talent?”

Rude, Hajime thought. “I'm, uh, I'm also the Ultimate ???”

“Did you also forget to fill out your paperwork?” Makoto laughed. “What are you really?”

Hajime grit his teeth. “I'd prefer not to answer that.” This guy was pissing him off a bit.

Makoto held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Whoah, sorry, I didn't mean anything by it.”

“And what are you, then, that's so special?” Hajime spat.

Makoto shrank a little. “I'm, uh, the Ultimate Lucky Student.”

“No, that's wrong!!” Hajime shouted with an outstretched finger. “I've seen the Ultimate Lucky Student, he had poofy white hair and he was a bit...” He trailed off, looking for a polite way to say ‘terrifying.’

“Yeah, he really, really is.” Makoto shivered. “He's my roommate.”

“I'm sorry,” Hajime meant it sincerely. “But, there can only be one of each Ultimate Talent, so-”

“No, that's wrong!!” Makoto shouted, his finger similarly outstretched. “You just said that you and your roommate were both the Ultimate ???, so why can't-”

“No, that's wrong!! He's the Ultimate Adventurer, it was just a paperwork error, I'm the only Ultimate ???, because there can't be more than one of each-”

“No, that's wrong!!” Hajime was beginning to hate this guy biting his style. “For one thing, there are two Ultimate Detectives here at this academy!”

“I agree with that!!” a depressed-looking kid with a black newsboy cap said from a little ways down the table. 

His dining partner, a girl with hair like a floating lavender jellyfish, nodded sagely.

“Thank you, Shuichi, Kyoko!” Makoto waved to them. “Anyway, my roommate Nagito is definitely the more impressive Ultimate Lucky Student. He's got luck that's so good, it's supernatural. They're testing it in labs, dropping flowerpots and stuff on him, having him pick lottery numbers, etc.”

Hajime slunk further down in his seat. “So then, what makes you an Ultimate Lucky Student?”

Makoto sweatdropped a bit. “I'd prefer not to answer that,” he said, his tone kinder than when Hajime had said those exact words.

“....That's fair,” Hajime said. “Agree not to talk about it?” 

“Deal,” Makoto grinned, and shook his hand. Hajime was coming around to this guy.

 




“Alright! Athletes, assemble!” Nekomaru had given the assemblage a bit of time to explore the Ultimate Sports Lab, but now it was time to manage his team, the way only the Ultimate Team Manager could. “Everyone, you are all the best of the best in your respective sports. Hope's Peak Academy knows that, and you will all be tested on those sports specifically. However, I'm the Ultimate Team Manager, and therefore I will be tested on how well I can manage all of you to work as a team!  Gahaha!”

A few blank faces, but some of his charges were beginning to look hyped up. The large-bosomed girl with the messy brown hair... he flipped through his paperwork quickly... ah, Akane Owari, the Ultimate Gymnast. She looked unusually excited, for coming from such an individual sport.

He would need to work harder to get them all, but they'd come around soon enough. 

“You will all have the Ultimate Sports Lab here to hone your individual talents. I am also well-versed in each of your disciplines, and will be available to help you at all times! Never hesitate to come to me, your coach, for ANYTHING!” He looked meaningfully into each of their faces. Well, he tried, but the Great Gozu, the Ultimate Wrestler, was wearing his lucha libre mask. Everyone else, though!

“In addition to overseeing your diets, supplements, training regimens, and sleep schedules, I am also unofficially the Ultimate Masseur! I can give you my patented Energizing Revitalizing Muscle-Relaxing Blood-Circulating Fatigue-Toxin-Removing probably-Chakra-Aligning Ultra Mega Massage!” He blinked. “But that's a lot to remember, so I just call it 'it.' If you ever want me to do 'it' to you, let me know! It will give you the ability to give it your all!”

Some snickers at that, but Nekomaru wasn't worried. They all came around once they'd had a taste of 'it.' Most of his athletes couldn't live without 'it' once he'd coached their team to victory and moved on. 

“But I already come from a team sport,” said the red-haired Ultimate Baseball Star. Nekomaru flipped through his papers once more... Leon Kuwata. 

“Yes, but Wrestling, Boxing, Gymnastics, Swimming, and Tennis are not. You are in the minority, I'm afraid. You may be used to working as part of a team, but-”

“Swimmers are part of a team!” The... OTHER large-bosomed girl with messy brown hair piped up. “We all work together and cheer each other on to victory!”  That was... Aoi Asahina, the Ultimate Swimming Pro. 

She looked like she could be Akane's younger sister... AND her name started with 'A'? Keeping them separate in his mind would be tough. There were enough new faces to make him dizzy! 

“You cheer each other on, but only one of you is swimming at any given time, there isn't teamwork in the traditional sense. And to learn it,” he segued as smoothly as he could, “we'll be playing a team sport of my own invention, to both hone your natural talents and push you beyond them. After all,” he dug into his brain for the Hope's Peak company line, “you're all already the best at what you do. You're here to become even greater. That means becoming more well-rounded and broadening the scope of your talents. You're here to GO BEYOND BEING THE ULTIMATE!”

“So like, Pentathlon Ultimates? Penultimates, you could say?” A small child sauntered into the Lab. He was, Nekomaru realized, the child he had almost bowled over in the men's room earlier. And now that he'd looked over his paperwork... Nekomaru realized that he was no child, but the Ultimate Tennis Pro, Ryoma Hoshi.

   3 feet 5 inches tall, with rosy cheeks and a cute little hat. It was no wonder Nekomaru had thought him a mere child. But now, he had changed from the leather jacket he'd been wearing earlier to his sportswear. His muscles and athleticism, as well as his age, were no longer hidden. He had a blue and black striped jumpsuit, blue and black striped wristbands, and... some sort of unusual Fitbit around his ankle. Huh. Odd place for a heart monitor. He also still had a lollipop in his mouth, Nekomaru noticed. 

“Sorry I'm late. Someone on staff wanted to speak to me for a while, and we ran over. And then I ran over,” he said wryly. Nekomaru blinked. “...We ran out of time, and then afterwards I ran over here. To this meeting. Again, sorry I'm late.” He fell into line with his fellow athletes and gazed up at Nekomaru, which apparently signaled everyone else to focus back on their coach. 

Nekomaru nodded, coming back to himself. “I see, I see! Well yes, maybe not a full Pentathlon, but that's the spirit! Penultimates, I like that!” He chuckled to himself, as Ryoma smirked a little. “Alright, PENULTIMATES! GET READY! We're going to have an AMAZING YEAR of PHYSICAL FITNESS! And at the end of it, we'll all SHOW THEM EVERYTHING WE'VE GOT! ARE YOU WITH ME?!” A few nods of assent. “I SAID, ARE YOU WITH ME?!” 

“Yeah!” a few chorused. Nekomaru restrained himself- normally he would make them repeat it again and again until he was satisfied with their volume, with a “Yes Coach Nekomaru Sir!” But these were his peers, and they were really doing him a favor by allowing him to showcase his Ultimate talent, rather than focusing on their own. Even if they didn't know it was a favor, since he had the Headmaster's blessing to manage them all as he saw fit.

“That's excellent. Now, I'm sure you all want to tour the facilities, maybe work up a sweat. I'm going to be meeting with each of you in turn to discuss your goals, and how I can facilitate them! Now, first up is.. Asahina, Aoi!”



The cutie with the updo went with the buff coach guy to his office. Ryoma looked around at the Ultimate Sports Lab. There was a pool, a combination dojo and wrestling ring, a large Astroturf field... aha. Over there, by the north wall, was a batting cages arrangement. Not only did he see automated pitching machines for baseball, but there were some tennis ball launchers as well. He went to go check it out, when the redhead with the goatee cut him off.

“Sup roomie!” he smiled and extended a hand. “Leon Kuwata, the Ultimate Baseball Star! You're Ryoma, right? The Tennis Pro?”

Ryoma didn't remove his hands from his pockets. “Used to be. Listen kid, you shouldn't get too friendly with me.”

The baseball guy's hand wavered, but to his credit, he didn't retract it. “Dude, come on. We're gonna be roommates, teammates, and hopefully friends too! Don't leave me hanging,” he grinned, shoving the hand forward almost in Ryoma's face. 

The Tennis Pro sighed, and inwardly acknowledged that a full year of awkwardness would be hard to stomach. He shook the baseball guy- Leon's- hand, but shoved his own back into his pockets immediately. “Sorry.” He offered no further explanation.

“So, Ryoma, who are you going for?” Leon grinned. Ryoma knew at once what he meant, but instead of blushing and stammering, Ryoma merely plastered a blank look on his face. 

“Going for?” He was just here because the alternative was going back to prison. He wasn't attending Hope's Peak to sow his wild oats, he'd already had enough- nope. Nope.

“Yeah, which girl are you going for, like gonna try to date?! I like Akane a little more than Aoi, but both are good, if you wanna stake a claim on one or the other. Otherwise, I saw a few more at orientation that I'd love to get to know better, if you know what I mean,” he said, with the least subtle or clever innuendo Ryoma had ever heard. 

“Heh, I hadn't thought about it,” Ryoma replied. Which was true, but let Leon think he needed advice on hooking up with girls. Ryoma nodded dutifully as Leon babbled on for a while, taking in the sports equipment and mentally deciding on his workout schedule. He needed to be in peak form to pass his Ultimate exam, and he was absolutely going to pass it, because the alternative was too dire to contemplate. But while in prison, he's pretty sure his skills had atrophied more than a bit.

“Hoshi, Ryoma!” The burly coach guy bellowed for him from his office door, even as the swimmer- Aoi, he supposed he should learn everyone's names- came crawling out. She looked blissed out, which was surprising. Eyes half-closed, stumbling a bit as she walked.

He walked towards the office, as Leon dutifully stopped saying whatever he had been saying. As he passed her on his way to meet the summons, he stopped her out of curiosity. “Uh, you alright, miss?” Was the coach passing out drugs in there or something? Most unethical coaches resort to steroids or what have you, but those aren't gonna make someone look like they just creamed their swimsuits. “Everything, uh, go okay in there?”

“Oh, yeaaaah. This year is gonna be TOUGH. Tons of training, a completely new diet, it's gonna suuuuck,” she said dreamily. She didn't look in the least bit put out, her words completely at odds with her current outlook. 

“Uh, I see. Thanks for the warning,” he said. As he walked casually towards the big guy standing impatiently in the doorway, he heard her behind him.

“Wait, new diet? Does this mean no donuts?! Nooooooooooo,” she moaned, coming out of her stupor a bit. Ryoma shook his head as the coach guy moved to let him in the office.



Nekomaru motioned for the small man to sit. As he took his own seat with a whumph, he saw the Tennis Pro hop up onto the chair and sit on the edge, his feet not reaching the floor. Nekomaru quickly realized that he'd need to keep any comments or glances to himself; just because he was used to big slabs of muscle making chairs creak under their weight, didn't mean this Ryoma Hoshi guy wasn't up to the task. Tennis was about speed and precision, after all. As well as endurance, but Nekomaru could help with that. Precision was a lot harder to instill in an athlete. Once Nekomaru had trained a tennis player who had enough endurance to play a 36-hour long match- it had been one of the starting athletes that had launched his notoriety and sent the Hope's Peak talent scout running with the Ultimate title for him.

“Well, coach?” Hoshi looked at him with one eyebrow raised. Nekomaru shook his head to clean out the wool he'd been gathering. 

“Sorry, sorry! I was just thinking about which skills are most important for tennis, and I've now got it all figured out.” Nekomaru flipped through his paperwork and got to Hoshi, Ryoma's checklist. Hoshi answered his questions politely, but brusquely; he didn't seem put off by, nor interested in any of the questions he was asked. Occasional drinker. Quit smoking, but still has an oral fixation. No harder drugs. No major health problems. 3'5”, yes fully grown, not technically dwarfism, but past physicians said the jury was out on that. He quirked a bit of a smile at that one, but went right back to his monotone answering. Nekomaru wondered if he'd be able to ask any questions that would even faze him. 88 pounds, which they both could tell was mostly muscle, though a little bit of body fat seems to have crept in during his incarceration. 24” chest. No food allergies, no known allergies to medication, some sensitivity to pet dander. He looked sad at that one, but Nekomaru didn't press. He filed it away for future conversation topics, however- maybe Hoshi had needed to give up a pet due to allergies? “Sexual health?”

“Sorry?!” Hoshi responded, sounding a bit shocked.

Nekomaru frowned. Seemed pretty straightforward. “Are you sexually active? Do you have or have ever had any sexually transmitted illnesses? How many sexual partners have you-”

“None of your business!” Hoshi hissed, inching backwards on his chair. 

Nekomaru held out his hands placatingly. “I'm sorry, Hoshi, no offense intended. It's not my business if you are a complete virgin, or have slept with every girl in the country. Or boy, for that matter, ga-hahaha!” He laughed, but Hoshi didn't relax even one iota. “But seriously, as far as your health is concerned, I need to-”

“No, you don't.” Hoshi crossed his arms and looked over his shoulder, to make sure no one was lurking at the door. “I've been over all this with the headmaster, and he had the nurse look me over. I'm fine. You got a problem with that, take it up with them.” In a flash, he was off the chair and standing by the door with one hand on the knob. “Is that all you got for me, coach?”

It absolutely wasn't, but Nekomaru could tell he had touched a nerve. And not the good touch, with his Ultimate Masseur fingers, where he could work it out. He needed to let him be for a bit. “Uh, sure. Sure! I'll uh, put together your training regimen and diet plan and talk to you about it tomorrow. Uh, looking forward to working with you!” He almost added the 'dismissed!', but remembered that these were his peers. Walking the line between separate-but-equal team manager and self-important bossy-type was going to take some firm mental restructuring.

Hoshi nodded once, curtly, and then he was gone. When Nekomaru got to the door, he couldn't see him anywhere in the enormous sports complex. Well, that could probably have gone better. With a shrug, Nekomaru pulled out his paperwork again. “Gozu, The Great!”

 


 

Maki continued her story, improvising desperately. “Monokuma wanted to return to his homeland, so he could go back to pestering the old people for change. So he began his journey to see the wizard, Monomi, who was rumored to grant any wish one desires. Along the way, he met a very loyal group of friends. Monokuma met a Monomi scarecrow who was missing a brain. When he-”

Masaru interrupted her with a yell. “-Recommended she commit suicide! And the Monomi scarecrow hanged herself and died!” The children all laughed.

Maki attempted to force a smile, and gamely continued.  “He also met a Monomi lion, who was missing her courage. So he-”

“Ooh! Pumped her full of arrows! Twang twang pyew pyew splorch!” Kotoko shrieked with glee. The children all laughed again. Maki’s eyelid twitched a bit.

Suddenly, a light began flashing on the ceiling, and the glass pane again became translucent. Only the smirking man in the hat remained- had the other judges left? Was this a bad sign? Maki thought she had done pretty well, considering the children she had been forced to contend with...

“Children, say goodbye to Miss Maki. Your recess is over, and it’s time to get back to class.”

“Awwww, do we haaaaave to?!” Jotaro whined. “Miss Maki is pretty nice, for an adult...”

“I’m afraid so,” the man grinned. “Maybe if you’re lucky Miss Maki will come back and play with you sometime.” Maki shivered imperceptibly. 

“Bye,” Nagisa said without ceremony. He made to leave, but the other children pulled him and Maki into a group hug.

The children were ushered back to their elementary school, and Maki was again alone in the room. She suddenly became acutely aware of her ruffled shirt and snotty skirt. She pulled her right stocking back up so it matched her left one, and faced the window primly. “Well? How was that?” she asked, the first words she had spoken to the judging panel.

The man slowly clapped, his grin widening. “Better than I expected!” He laughed softly. “We’re sorry, Miss Harukawa. That was a bit of petty revenge I decided to take, for lying to us about your true talents.”

Maki froze. Her hand inched towards the knife hidden in her thigh sheath, even as she tried to gauge distance to the door in her peripheral vision without breaking eye contact with the man. The man clucked his tongue. 

“Tsk tsk. There’s no need for any of that. You are the one here under false pretenses. We would have been completely straightforward with you, if you had been with us.” His grin finally faded. “Tell me, Miss Harukawa- are you aware that Hope’s Peak Academy does not accept applications for Ultimate talents?”

Another slip-up. Maki grimaced. A pregnant pause- the man appeared to be waiting for an actual answer to his rhetorical question. “...No.”

“I am Koichi Kizakura, Hope’s Peak Academy’s premier Talent Scout.” He gave a sardonic little bow. “And you, Miss Harukawa, have indeed been scouted.” 

Maki raised an eyebrow. 

“Infiltrating our Academy, coming up with a plausible cover story...dealing with those children to keep said cover story, hahaha. There is more to assassination than the act of murder. You show a lot of talent in that area, and from what little I’ve been able to gather about your prowess, you show a lot of talent in the murder area as well.” Koichi pressed a button on the table, and his visage was replaced with a grainy image of Maki. The TV screen played a short snippet of Maki running from a hit, her schoolgirl uniform splattered with hot pink blood. Maki recognized it as one of the only times she had been caught on camera- the punishment after that mission had been tremendous. The talent scout’s face reappeared as the screen went translucent again. “Miss Harukawa, this may be hard for you to believe, but you are not in trouble, or in danger. We would like you to join our Academy as the Ultimate Assassin. At Hope’s Peak, we study Ultimate Talent- what kind of organization would we be if we only studied the benign or politically correct ones?” 

He motioned her towards him- she reluctantly advanced. A sheaf of papers were slid through a gap in the window/screen/mirror/whatever- a gap which disappeared almost as immediately as it appeared. She wouldn’t be shooting any poisonous darts through that particular slot. 

“On top is a packet of papers to bring back to your organization. Your status as the Ultimate Child Caregiver, keeping your cover for your mission. The second packet is what we are really offering. They are almost identical, save for your listed Ultimate Talent. We offer room, board, a generous stipend, and the finest lessons and equipment to hone your craft. The only thing we ask in return... is that you take your sweet time to complete your mission here.” He chuckled wryly. “Although I do think you’ll have your work cut out for you, if you’re attempting to kill him.

How did this man know so much? About her organization, her talents, even her current target?! This still felt like a trap. “I need some time to think about this,” she murmured.

Koichi nodded, and tipped his hat once more. “Without any desire to pressure you- would you like a tour of campus? Perhaps of your dorm room, the Ultimate Weaponry Lab, the cafeteria? Our Ultimate Chef may convince you to stay just with his cuisine alone,” he flashed a grin.

Maki had no choice- trap or not, this was her best chance to scout the area for her target. She assented, and Koichi beamed and summoned one of her potential roommates to escort her around. 



While Maki no doubt planned out various escape strategies, or explanations to give her organization regarding her mission’s failure, Koichi relaxed. They had her- Teruteru’s cooking would do half their convincing for them, and the Ultimate Weaponry Lab would seal the deal.

 




That night, a killer moved through the shadows of the city. Hope’s Peak Academy was in the middle of a busy area, and ideal hunting grounds were within walking distance of the campus. Here, there were regular, ordinary, expendable people living their boring lives; well, at least for now. 

Korekiyo Shinguji tugged his mask up over his nose. 

The scent of blood was distasteful, and the mask was as much to guard his nostrils as it was to hide his identity. The corpse of a young woman lay at his feet; the pooling blood pumped sluggishly out of her wounds, her body already going cold, the bleeding slowing to a crawl. He wiped his knife off on her blouse. A pity- he would have preferred poison, or drowning, or something that made less of a mess at least. But his options had been limited. 

He had met her in a bar, a dingy hole-in-the-wall full of the dregs of humanity. Ordinary workers, going about their regular lives. Beautiful. From an anthropological standpoint, it was the common man, the serf, the humble farmer, that made up a society. Maybe everyone at Hope’s Peak only cared about Ultimates and incredibly talented people, but Korekiyo found beauty in all humanity. The corpse at his feet was certainly pretty, even in death- but she had been beautiful while full of life. All sarcasm and spitfire, sass and snark; she had found him mysterious, alluring in appearance, and hadn’t cared about his Ultimate status at all. But she was smart, too- she wasn’t going to go anywhere with this young man she had just met. He had had to follow her through the winding streets at a distance, catching her alone and pulling her into an alley, making more of a crime scene than he would have preferred. She had attempted to fight back, her ferocity unfortunately no match for his expertise. Beautiful, funny, smart and spirited- oh yes,  She would be a wonderful companion for his dear sister.

As he was about to begin his clean-up procedure, Korekiyo was interrupted by a screeching laugh coming from somewhere behind him. He whirled around, trying to spot the source in the darkness. 

“Up here, spooky boy! Kyeehahahaha!” Korekiyo looked up, just as a blur of tattered purple slammed into his chest. He staggered backwards, wincing from the blow even as he attempted to unsheath his knife. The hand holding the knife suddenly flew backwards, slamming into the wall as his knife was wrenched out of his hand and clattered to the alley floor. A pair of sharp scissors had pinned his sleeve to the wall behind him. Before he could free himself, his other hand flew back in a similar fashion, pinioning him to the damp alley wall. His field of vision was suddenly full of a set of enormous red eyes piercing into him. 

“Cutting into my turf, huh?! I don’t think I like that very much! Maybe my scissors should slice and dice you like a spooky boy scallion, eh? EH?!”

Korekiyo was completely taken aback. The balance of power was on the other foot, and he didn’t know what to do. He would never admit it to himself, but he began to panic. 

“What’s the matter? Never seen such a pretty girl before? Cat got your tongue? I can slice it off for you if that would help!” She grabbed the zipper of his mask and yanked it open.

“Who-” is all Korekiyo could manage.

“Dun dadaa duuun! I’m the splendiferous, murdiferous, Genocide Jack! Just your friendly neighborhood serial killer, hunting down the adorable little boys who long for my scissors’ touch!” She gave a little curtsy, and as she raised her tattered skirt to do so, Korekiyo saw far higher than he expected. Her right thigh had a set of holsters just full of fancy scissors; her left thigh had a series of tally marks cut into them. The lowest one was a few minutes old, clearly still bleeding. And if she really was a serial killer, those tally marks probably indicated her kills. She clearly had more kills under her skirt than he had under his belt. He was aiming for 100 friends for his dear departed sister, but he was only in the low 30s right now.

“Ooh, naughty boy! Like what you see?! She lifted her skirt even higher, flashing him some dainty white panties. Then before he could blink, a pair of scissors was thrust into his face, ending centimeters from his eyeball. “Too bad. This ain’t a peep show, Masky boy! This is a crime scene! And if you’re very lucky, there might be two corpses in this alley before long!”

Korekiyo gulped, the heavy leather of his mask bulging as his Adam’s apple rippled down. “Listen, we’re both-” But before he could finish vocalizing his half-formed thought, a radio loudly crackled to life nearby. 

“All units, Genocide Jack has struck again. Intersection of E and 4th. It’s barely a few minutes old, perp is probably still in the area. Fan out!” Korekiyo saw the noise coming from a prostitute on the far corner of the street across the alleyway. She swore, waved off the john who had been soliciting her, and pulled a gun and police radio from who-knows-where. She made to stride into the alley where Korekiyo was pinned, but the john was holding her back, begging forgiveness for his soliciting of an undercover vice officer. She was trying to shake him off but he had a death grip on her legs as he burst into tears, crowing about his wife and his reputation.

Genocide Jack pulled her hand back. “Kyeehahaha! That’s my cue to exit! Maybe we’ll run into each other again, Spooky!” And just like that, she was gone. With a whirl of her tattered purple dress, she practically flew up the fire escape and bounded off into the night. 

Korekiyo lost no time in freeing himself, tearing his sleeves in the process. He jabbed the scissors into the knife wound he had left in the girl’s corpse, and beat a hasty retreat. But as he ran for his dorm room, he was already thinking of how he would kill Genocide Jack. She was not worthy of being his sister’s friend in the afterlife- no, this one would be for him.

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

Maki Harukawa loved her latest mission. 

It was so hard for her to admit she loved anything; she had been beaten pretty hard with the tsundere stick, not to mention been beaten with literal sticks while growing up, whenever she expressed any joy or regular childlike emotions. She was reserved to a fault. Sometimes on missions, it would actually be easier to blend in while pursuing a target by behaving like a normal teenage girl, and yet... it was beyond her to even force a smile or fake a vapid giggle. But these days, she caught herself unconsciously smiling all the time; though often her roommates would point it out to her, a bit smugly. 

Maki was rooming with Peko Pekoyama, the Ultimate Swordswoman, and Mukuro Ikusaba, the Ultimate Soldier. Normally Ultimates roomed in pairs, but the Ultimate Weaponry Lab was a bit more niche, and only three students needed to use it. Their dorm room was attached directly to the Weaponry Lab, and in fact, they had to walk past rows and rows of guns, swords, knives, and explosives to get in or out of their room. Forget keeping a baseball bat under the bed to protect yourself, Maki thought wryly.  An intruder that got past the state-of-the-art lock after-hours would have three heavily-armed killing machines to deal with before they could raid their panty drawers, or whatever normal students did.

“Hey, Maki. Would you like to shoot at each other for a while?” Mukuro poked her head into Maki’s room. The Ultimate Soldier’s expression was as placid as ever, giving nothing away.

“Only if it’s Laser Tag this time- my bruises are still healing from all those paintballs you scored on me.”

Mukuro shrugged. “Suit yourself. I still don’t know why we don’t use live rounds and bulletproof vests.”

Maki inwardly rolled her eyes, but a smile still tugged at the corner of her mouth. “Maybe for the end-of-year test. Those bruises would take even longer to heal. Plus, I rely on headshots a lot more than you do.” Whenever they played Laser Tag, Mukuro had more kills, but Maki had a much higher kill-per-shot ratio. Ammo was cheap in the Ultimate Soldier’s world, and she would double-tap opponents whenever possible, or just spray covering fire. Maki’s skills required stealth and accuracy more than anything.

She was about to close her computer when something caught her eye. “Give me a few minutes?” Mukuro nodded and left her room. Maki pulled up a search result- finally! She had a name to go with the Ultimate Talent of her target. And a face, though it was a grainy photograph taken from a security camera. She’d been looking for this for a long time- assuming this info was legitimate, it was the first real drop of information on her target. Maki was elated; she actually had a name! 

And yet, as always, she felt a pang when thinking about the completion of her mission. Not about the guilt of killing someone, or even a fellow Ultimate. But the sooner she finished the mission, the better her superiors at the assassination organization would view her. But the longer she took to complete it, the longer she could stay here, and play pretend at a normal high school life. Well, Maki thought as she closed her laptop and gathered her laser tag equipment, not a normal high school life, but certainly an enjoyable one. 

 


 

The cafeteria was fairly crowded around one in the afternoon. Ultimate students sometimes kept odd hours, so the cafeteria was open 24/7, with someone ready to prepare a meal or snack.  But after normal hours, Teruteru wasn't cooking, so you might as well not even eat. The little hornball was a complete skeez, but his food- no, cuisine- was to die for. Though if someone had to die, Junko would prefer it wasn't her. 

She actually had quite an extensive list of people she’d prefer to die.

She picked at her Poisson et frites Anglais tradionelle while Hiyoko and Ruruka bickered to her left. To her right, Sonia and Celeste were amicably discussing Novoselic tea concoctions. Junko had never been able to tell how much of Sonia's tales of her home country were fabricated; they sure had some batshit traditions over there. As she chewed on another perfectly-fried piece of fish, she contemplated how one would even test an Ultimate Princess. Would she have to just curtsy a lot, or...? She dismissed the thought, it wasn’t even worth the time to ask. 

“Teatime is a much bigger ordeal than here, or even in other parts of Europe. We have breakfast tea, brunch tea, lunch tea, dinner tea, supper tea, and midnight snack tea!” Sonia delicately took a sip, pinkie extended, and put her glass of sweet tea down. It had taken several days of coaching for Sonia to realize that sweet tea was very, very different from the hot teas of Novoselic, but now she was a big fan. But 'as it is tea, it must be sipped delicately,' regardless of the lack of teacup or saucer.

“We drink tea during some of those, but teatime is a set time, between lunch and dinner,” Celeste began. 

“Oh I know, but we don't drink tea with meals. We have a set teatime between each meal. You don't have to participate in every one, but if you don't partake in at least 3 teatimes, you're considered to have shamed your ancestors,” Sonia clarified. “And for a princess, that's grounds for being removed from succession!” she faux-whispered. 

Celeste sipped her own royal milk tea equally daintily. “That is a lot of tea,” she said. “I shouldn't wonder that the restrooms of Novoselic must be in use quite frequently. I can only imagine what wonders of plumbing the common Novoselic citizen must be used to, that we here can only dream about,” she deadpanned. The Ultimate Gambler, much like Junko, liked to tease Sonia when she was fairly certain she wouldn't be understood.

Sonia looked delighted, and happily began expounding upon the virtues of Novoselic toilets, while Celeste looked like she'd swallowed a particularly sour Makango.  Hoisted by your own petard, eh girl? Junko snickered to herself. Well, nothing interesting going on over there anymore. She mentally tuned her attention to her other side. 

“Hiyoko, you always eat my sweets. You gobble them up, especially the delicate Japanese-inspired ones. What's so different about these?” Ruruka, the Ultimate Confectioner, was talking very calmly and primly, in the way that meant she was absolutely livid. Junko perked up.

“I just don't like them! I tried one,” Hiyoko whined. 

Ruruka glowered. “You took a bite of one and put it back on the tray.... it touched some of the other ones.” 

“I just didn't like it!” Hiyoko reiterated, less than helpfully. “If you weren't so afraid of being a fatty fat hippo woman, you'd try them yourself, and taste how shitty they really are!”

Ruruka froze. Junko turned her full attention to deciding what she could say to make the confectioner lose that composure and flip out on Hiyoko. The Ultimate Traditional Dancer was a petulant brat, but she could be counted on to reliably come up with the more creative insults, so they kept her around. 

Right as Junko was about to launch her drama bomb, the Monokuma's Angels' aura of aloofness was breached. A ridiculous pompadour that walked like a man was approaching their clique’s table. The desperate male begging for a verbal thrashing this time was the Ultimate Biker Gang Leader... Mondo Owada, Junko's near-perfect memory supplied after a moment. 

Leader of the Crazy Diamonds. Brother complex, bad at flirting... Junko's gaydar pinged. Oh, and bi yet severely closeted. Interesting. The gang leader walked up to the table and cleared his throat awkwardly. The Monokuma's Angels stopped talking as one and focused their attention on this interloper. His gaze flickered between all of the lovely Ultimate ladies.  He isn't here to talk to one of us in particular, Junko realized. What is he after?

“Good afternoon, ladies!” he yelled, a touch too loudly. His forehead was beginning to bead with sweat. Junko merely waited, to see what he would do. As they usually did, the rest of the Angels followed her lead, and sat in silence. “Uh, I wanted to give yas somethin'! Well, tell ya about somethin'! Well, give ya somethin' that told ya bout somethin'!” He stopped babbling long enough to pull out a flier. “Some of the students here started a band, y'know, and they asked me ta spread the word.” He thrust the flier forward. Sonia, the nice one, took it politely, and without looking, handed it to their queen bee to examine. The Ultimate Fashionista, however, was more interested in what Mondo would do under continued application of the Silent Treatment. Crack under the pressure, apparently. “They're havin' a show this weekend at the Ultimate Music Lab, and they want a big crowd,” he continued gamely. Junko stared. “...Uh, the keyboardist is really nice, she's the one who asked me ta give out the fliers.” Junko stared. “Uh, um... they're called the Dangit Grandpas, or the Dragon Roomba, or something, I don't think they decided yet.” Junko stared. “Um.... they're having door prizes and a raffle?” 

Junko stared, but he seemed to have run out of steam. He had certainly lasted a lot longer than  a lot of the men who came to flirt with their table. At least he had a legitimate reason for coming here, unlike Teruteru's 'oh I just wanted to see how you all liked your food!' excuses. Hiyoko had spat 'a lot better without you stinking up the place, piggy!' Which was a bit less than diplomatic, but his reaction had been entertaining. Junko extended one elegant hand and picked up the flier. “Well, if there are DOOR PRIZES, then the Monokuma's Angels shall be sure to attend,” she said evenly. Leave him guessing as to her level of sincerity. 

Mondo babbled his thanks and left in a hurry. Sonia watched him go, Junko noted- the 'type' of men the princess noticed sure ran the gamut, from chunky to lanky, as long as they were tall. Celeste and Ruruka were already fighting to look at the flier. 

“Made of the Ultimate Pop Sensation, Musician, and Pianist, they are the Doggone Rompers! (Name subject to change.) They're coming to rock Hope's Peak Academy, heh, that's kind of funny since they were already here. A mix of Pop, Rock and Classical influences, blah blah blah, ah here it is: Saturday, 8 o'clock, in the Theater attached to the Ultimate Music Lab,” Ruruka read off. “I've got nothing better to do that night- sure beats spending another Saturday night baking,” she sighed a bit wistfully. 

Junko shrugged. “Sure, why not? Could be fun.” She had privately decided that she'd rather stick her head in a fire ant colony than spend another weekend evening listening to Sonia prattle on. She attracted the boys, and provided a great amount of amusement, but it was hard to turn off her roommate's chatty nature once it had been unleashed. She even mumbled in her sleep some- she’d dropped a few juicy tidbits that Junko eagerly listened to and filed away for future reference. The only time she was ever quiet was when she was eating- the Princess of Novoselic would rather walk to the guillotine than talk with her mouth full.

As the other Angels devolved into discussion of what to wear to a concert that wasn't even off-campus, Junko Enoshima sat thinking. What a waste of time. What a waste of her time, their time, everyone's time. What did she mean? School? Life? She wasn't sure. As Ruruka and Hiyoko were gleefully debating the possibility of matching outfits, Junko launched the barb she had been preparing earlier. They were screaming about waistlines (and who was fattening up whom) within minutes. Junko barely even took pleasure in it.

 


 

“Hey, uh, thanks for inviting me Chihiro, but I don't know if I'm gonna fit in with the Anime Club crowd.” Kazuichi was sweating a bit nervously as they approached the Ultimate Creative Lab.

“Well, it's okay if you don't like it.... but you did say you'd come at least once,” Chihiro said softly. Kazuichi, who had grown up with two fairly exuberant sisters, was expecting a 'Give it a shot!', or more likely, 'Shut the fuck up and get inside already.' Well, that sort of sentiment wasn't very likely with Chihiro... Kazuichi should've known better. After all, they'd been spending a lot of time together after her- well, his- little secret had slipped. Kazuichi was both excited to hang around a cute girl, and yet calmed by the cute girl actually being a dude who was pretty easy to talk to. And Chihiro seemed to like having someone know his secret without making a big deal out of it. Kazuichi got the sense that Chihiro had told someone in the past, and it had backfired badly, and pushed Chihiro even further into his girly way of dressing and speaking. Kazuichi had messed up pronouns a bunch of times already, but he'd always been able to play it off when they were around other people.

Chihiro was looking at him expectantly. Kazuichi dithered a few moments more, and suddenly Chihiro linked their arms together and threw the door open. “Ohayo minna-san!” he yelled cheerfully.

HELP, MY LITTLE SISTER IS AN ALIEN CYBORG CAT GIRL FROM AN ALTERNATE FUTURE ON A MISSION TO DESTROY THE WORLD! ” A rather spherical boy slammed his hands on the table.

Nope. Kazuichi was out. He twisted his arm out of Chihiro's and bolted.

 

Chihiro sighed as he saw the Ultimate Mechanic dash off in fright, and closed the door behind him. 

“Nah, it drops off after half a season,” said Ryota. 

“NO! HMLSIAACCGFAAFOAMTDTW has a slow boil after the explosive opening, but it ramps up beautifully to an equally-explosive finale!” Hifumi slammed the table once more, for emphasis.

“P-p-please stop slamming the table!” Toko muttered dourly, without looking up from her manga. 

“Too slow, didn't watch,” Ryota insisted. He was incredibly skinny- did he never eat without his 'hetero life partner' Hifumi making him? Or did Hifumi just eat all the food out from under him, Chihiro wondered. That seemed more likely.

“You guys, you scared off my friend! I wanted him to get to know you all, and maybe join!” Chihiro said.

“WHAT?! No wonder! If an anime doesn't change your heart and blow your mind after three episodes, you don't even give it a chance!” The Ultimate Fanfic Creator sat down bodily in his chair, shaking the table again. Toko grumbled a little louder.

“Hey, I was excited for you all to meet each other!” Chihiro raised his voice a little.

Helio Station Outbreak had a slow boil, and you didn't care at all, because there wasn't any fanservice.” Ryota was similarly not looking up from his tablet. It looked like he was animating some sort of Mecha anime all of a sudden- Chihiro was used to seeing him draw uniform-clad schoolgirls, but now he was adding detail to what looked like a sentient tractor-man.

“HEY! The artist in me requires something beautiful, something to catch the eye and overwhelm it with thoughts of longing, of kissing and caressing, of-” 

Meme And Moe has some BIG ol' anime tiddies,” Tsumugi deadpanned. She did actually acknowledge Chihiro, giving the calipers in her hand a little wave, before going back to her craft station. Today she was linking the rings on a piece of chainmail armor.

“Yes, thank you Ms. Shirogane! Meme And Moe should go on the list, for providing such MAGNIFICENT jiggle physics to the world!” Hifumi slapped the table again, steam shooting from his nostrils. 

“Stop shaking the table!” Toko, Tsumugi and Chihiro all yelled at once.

Hifumi looked up. “Oh, Ms. Fujisaki! When did you get here?”

Chihiro slumped and took his normal seat. “Never mind, Hifumi,” he sighed.

“Well, I for one would've liked a new member,” Tsumugi said. “Always room for a fresh perspective! And he had pink hair, too.... I wonder if he's ever cosplayed before?”

“Who? What?” Hifumi sat back down and raised his pen to his list again. Chihiro saw from across the table that it was titled Top 100 Anime Of All Time.

“Never mind, Hifumi,” Chihiro and Tsumugi said, again in unison. 

The club settled back into their routine. Toko was reading, as usual- she didn't 'attend' the Anime Club meetings so much as 'Shamelessly borrow from Hifumi's steamy manga stash.' Today she was reading Nala And Her 6 Year Quest , which Chihiro had never heard of, but the tips of Toko's ears were turning pink. 

Hifumi and Ryota went back to arguing about anime. For a Top 100 List, the two roommates weren't really asking anyone else's opinions, though they did take submissions for debating. Chihiro offered Kanojo Racer (rejected) and Blade: The Hard Tensile 2.0R (approved wholeheartedly by Ryota and denied just as vehemently by Hifumi). 

Chihiro had nothing in particular to do- his Ultimate Talent wasn't really conducive to travel away from his PC. He started weaving chainmail for Tsumugi, leaving her free to take up her crocheting again. It looked like she was making a hat based on Goatee the Goat, the mascot character from Moustache Joe . An odd choice of anime for Tsumugi, but she was often making cosplay props for other people based on things she'd never seen. ‘It’s about making THEIR wishes come to life, not mine,' Tsumugi had said. She could help a 'model' pick what character to cosplay, but ultimately she just wanted to create the cosplay itself. 

Eventually Hifumi got his head out of his ass and started the projector. Toko and Tsumugi whipped out their booklight and desk lamp respectively, even before he dimmed the lights. Today's screening was Shonen/Harem Switch! , and Chihiro moderately enjoyed the first few episodes.

They took a break to eat something. Tsumugi liked to pack a ridiculously elaborate bento box, with candy sushi for dessert. Toko and Chihiro swapped pocky flavors amongst themselves, and Hifumi and Ryota pulled out some instant ramen. The two lived for the stuff- besides it being obvious weeaboo bait, it also had high sodium content and low nutritional value, to keep Hifumi's blood racing and maintain Ryota's slim figure. Chihiro tittered to himself. By which he meant, Hifumi's high blood pressure, and Ryota's emaciated frame. As they ate, they worked on Hifumi's list, by dint of him being unable to concentrate on anything else at the moment. Guidebook to the Omniverse was in, 

as was Re:Sieve and Two Hokage Burst , but they couldn't decide on whether How Do I Make Sense Of This Post-Graduate Life cracked the top 100.

After another few episodes, Chihiro was anime'd out, and so he decided to leave a little early. He said his sayonaras and headed for his dorm room. Surrounding the Ultimate Machine Lab were the dorms he shared with the other Ultimates that used it. As he walked through the hallway past Kazuichi and Sonosuke's room, he was stopped by Keebo before he could get to their room. “H-hey, Chihiro!” The robot's audio output crackled a bit- Chihiro frowned, thinking that maybe he'd have to tune the robot’s audio drivers. 

“Hey roomie,” he replied warmly enough. “Did you have a good day?”

Keebo was overheating, a telltale red blush creeping up his face. “Yes, it was good, but-”

Chihiro made to open up their door, and Keebo jumped in the way. “Um, you see, you shouldn't go in there right now!”

“Uh...Why not?” Chihiro tilted his head to one side.

“Um, uh, um, um, um,” Keebo's voice crackled with static. Unfortunately, it wasn't loud enough to cover the moan that escaped from the closed door.

Chihiro froze. “What was that?” He tried to shove the robot out of the way, but he was too weak. Keebo didn't even seem to notice, he was obviously robo-calculating what to say next. 

“Oh! It's dinner time! You need to eat plant and animal matter, and digest it to be nourished! Let's go to the cafeteria!”

Chihiro ducked under his arm and threw open the door. There, in the most wanton of positions, was Kazuichi and- Miu! ON HIS BED. KAZUICHI AND MIU WERE HAVING SEX ON CHIHIRO'S FUCKING BED.

“WHAT THE FUCK?!” Chihiro squeaked, and Kazuichi pulled out in shock. Attempting to cover himself, he immediately fell off the lofted bed, hitting his head on the floor with a loud thunk.

“Oh, hey, Poojisaki!” Miu pulled her panties back on and clambered down the ladder. “You two fuckin' virgins get a good show?” 

Chihiro couldn't speak, he was so shocked and, frankly, enraged. Keebo mustered up a “I didn't look, I swear.”

“Well if you ever want to see these gorgeous tits sometime, ‘KY’-B0, come see me. I'm hankering to see what you've got under the hood, if you know what I mean.” She crudely grabbed his crotch as she walked by, but it kind of just clanged off his chassis. She didn't say another word to Chihiro, and just left, walking a little funny.

Kazuichi was scrambling into his yellow worksuit, holding the lump on his head as he whimpered. “Chihiro, I'm so sorry, I was waiting here for you to apologize for the whole anime club thing, and then she came to do maintenance on Keebo, and she kinda... jumped my bones?” He seemed heartened by that, and looked to Chihiro for a dudebro high-five moment, before remembering himself. “I'm sorry bro, she was all over me, and wasn't really taking no for an answer, you know?”

It took a lot of effort, but Chihiro gathered enough energy to point at the door. He did not, however, have it in him to keep from bursting into tears before Kazuichi was out of earshot.

 


 

“Goooooood Nom-nom-nomming!” Ibuki screeched as she burst in the door. The Ultimate Musician slammed her backpack onto the edge of the stage, nearly knocking over Sayaka's water glass.

“Ibuki. It's not morning, and we're not eating. You can't just use that for every greeting nowadays,” Sayaka sighed.

“Ibuki can and Ibuki will!” the punk rocker proclaimed. “It's too good to only use at breakfast time!”

“Well, besides that, you're late,” Sayaka pressed on. “Is this going to be a habit with you? Is this something I should realize now? 'Dear Diary: Start telling Ibuki to be places 15 minutes before you want her there.'”

“Hey, that's a good idea! That would probably work on me!” If she were offended, Ibuki didn't let on. Kaede sure couldn't tell. The two bickered constantly, but Kaede had never gotten the impression that Ibuki thought anything of it. Maybe she came from a large family and that was just how they were? She sure was... boisterous, Kaede put diplomatically.

“Augh! You're so annoying!” Sayaka muttered, rather less diplomatically. “Anyway, we need to start practice. If we want to be ready by this weekend, we need to have these songs down pat. And,” she looked meaningfully at Kaede, “we need more songs.”

“Like I said, composition isn't my strong suit!” Kaede threw up her hands placatingly. “I'm doing the best I can! You two had bandmates that took care of the songwriting, didn't either of you pick up any of that skill?”

“No, I spent most of my time being the face woman,” the Ultimate Pop Sensation admitted. “Signing headshots and stuff.”

“And Ibuki already wrote all the songs we're using!” Ibuki yelled indignantly. 

“That's only three songs! And they were kind of awful!” Sayaka yelled back. 

“Whoahh, Sayaka,” Kaede interjected before Ibuki could retort. She walked towards the instrument racks and made as if to hang up her keytar, but her path also brought her directly in between the two, breaking their eye contact. “Ibuki, your songs were great, the melodies and everything were wonderful!” Ibuki stuck out her tongue at Sayaka. “And Sayaka, your changes to the lyrics made them so much better, so much more US.” Sayaka looked mollified. Privately, Kaede wondered how Ibuki could have been considered the Ultimate Musician with lyrics like THAT, but hey, punk bands, right? And she wasn't on the Talent Scouting squad. She was perfectly happy as the Ultimate Pianist- acknowledged master of her own sphere of influence, rather than having to be so well-rounded as to be named the Ultimate Musician.

“Anyway, if Kaede can transfer her piano skills to the keyboard, you can write some songs too,” Ibuki threw at Sayaka. “And maybe they don't ALL have to be so Bubblegum that I blow bubbles every time I do backup vocals?” 

Sayaka looked ready to defend Bubblegum Pop with her last breath. Kaede really couldn't stomach another Pop versus Punk argument right now. “Good one, Ibuki!” Kaede interjected as Sayaka opened her mouth to spray some vitriol. “Hey, did I mention?! Mondo and Leon have given out all the fliers we made! It's gonna be PACKED. And Sayaka, Leon asked about youuuu,” Kaede teased. It wasn't her most successful subject change, but it worked. The three bantered about the boys for a bit, and then launched into “From Me To You.” Kaede was so, SO glad they'd changed up the lyrics on this one in particular.

 


 

Ryoma was in trouble.

Akane and Sakura were closing in on him. He was fast, but he couldn't Shukuchi Method across the entire frigging field! He hit a clod of earth, dug up from some Ultimate's overzealous kick, and almost tripped. He didn't twist his ankle or anything, but it did grant the Girls' Defense members a few meters on him. They were gonna pincer maneuver him, in about eight seconds...He grasped the Nekomaruball tighter. It weighed him down, and it was about time to let it go.

He faked left, made an aborted pass right before he saw Tenko near the goal, and then threw to the left. He wasn't allowed to use his racket, but the ball was too heavy for it anyhow- much like Leon couldn't use a bat, or Peko her kendo sword. “Too much chance of you all hitting each other,” Nekomaru had lain down the law. “But if you're increasing arm strength and hand-eye coordination anyway, that's the goal- you can work on your finesse with your chosen tools in solo training.”  

The throw went wild, sailing past Kaito. Looks like Leon was on the right side, with Tenko in his face. Ryoma sighed mentally (physically, he was breathing too hard to sigh). Guess it had to be him! Freed from the weight of the ball, he dug deep within himself for his last burst of stamina. He flash stepped through Akane and Sakura, their attention already off him and focused on where the ball was now- and where he was about to be. He moved so quickly he was a little blur- Coach had already assured him that with a little more of his special training, he'd basically be teleporting across the tennis court. He reached the ball before it stopped bouncing and started rolling, and scooped it up. He was now closer to the goal than either of the other Boys' Offense members, so he made the shot directly. He was still having trouble throwing such a heavy ball such distances, but he grimly admitted that Nekomaruball was building his arm strength a great deal. Unfortunately, Mukuro, the Ultimate Soldier, was waiting for him.  

She caught the ball easily, with no indication that Ryoma's sudden movements had surprised her. She was so laser-focused on the ball, she had never once given up a goal in the entire time she'd been the Girls' Team goalkeeper. “Sakura,” she said, without inflection, and lightly tossed it in a high arc. Nekomaru's beaming face painted on the side of the ball was visible as it reached the apex, grinning down at all of them, before Sakura roundhouse kicked it clear across the field. Maki, the Ultimate Assassin, snatched it out of the sky, and began her own drive to the Boys' goal.

 

Ryoma needed water. He slumped to the ground, and began the sequence of push-ups that told everyone he was about to take a break. Knowing Maki, he had some time; she would ping-pong it back and forth with Nekomaru  for a bit, while bantering with the 'Grandpa.' Apparently Coach reminded Maki of an assassin trainer she'd had growing up, an elderly man with a particularly crude sense of humor, and she liked to poke fun at Nekomaru. He laughed off the age jokes, but Nekomaru had privately told Ryoma that he was thrilled she was opening up to him, she had been so silent and standoffish before.

His push-ups completed, Ryoma walked offsides and headed for the water dispenser. There was also NekomaruAid, an electrolyte-replenishing drink of his own invention, but it was usually too sickly sweet for Ryoma to stomach. His arm muscles were sore and his legs were screaming, so Ryoma deliberately took forever to drink his little paper cup of water. He stretched his legs as he sipped, and watched the game. He had tried not to care about these people, but Coach really had made them into a team. That, and his own competitive nature meant he wanted to make sure the Girls didn't score off Nekomaru either. He watched Maki effortlessly zigzag around Gonta- she was so quick his loincloth flapped up a little bit in the wake of her passing, and Ryoma caught Juzo staring at the suddenly-revealed expanse of tawny skin. 

The Ultimate Entomologist normally only wore the finest tailored suits, as he was consumed with the desire to be a Proper Gentleman- but he had been raised by wolves, apparently, and when exercising he would only wear a loincloth, with bare chest and feet. It had caused the Ultimate Boxer to fumble the ball more than a few times- Ryoma personally thought Gonta's ass wasn't anything to get worked up over, but Juzo was very clearly smitten.

Maki hurled the ball overhand, and Nekomaru batted it away easily. Ryoma couldn't hear what they were saying specifically, but he could see Coach roaring with laughter; Maki scooped it up on the rebound, and shot again, but her mirth made it an easy block. As Ryoma began the walk back onto the field, he saw the Ultimate Team Manager deliberately deflect the ball towards Aoi instead. She was the weak link in the Girl Team's Offense- just as Kaito was for the Boys Team, no offense to him. Both were out of their elements, that of water and space respectively, and were only slightly more athletic than the average Ultimate on dry land. Aoi at least spent a lot of time working out with her roommate Akane, who called her “Lil' Sister,” but Kaito spent most of his training time shirking exercise. The Ultimate Swimmer managed to grab Nekomaru's forceful return, but she passed it to Tenko rather than attempt her own shot on the brawny goalkeeper.



Tenko was tired. They'd been running around for literally a million billion hours, and that degenerate male was trying to boss them around again. Only Akane and Aoi were officially assigned to the Ultimate Sports Lab, and thereby had to follow the “Coach” with the too-loud laugh. Maki, Peko, and Mukuro were all dealing with weaponry, and Tenko and her roommate Sakura with martial arts in specific. They were all basically volunteers for this Sports Club, as more athletic Ultimates to even out the Whateverball Teams, and Tenko grated at Sir Laughs-a-lot trying to order her around. She was already in a bad mood, since Sakura rebuffed yet another of her subtle come-ons in the locker room right before the game. She had only been offering to rub suntan lotion on her! How was she supposed to remember that the football field was indoors?!

“Show me what you've got!” the degenerate male bellowed at her. Tenko was about to drop the ball and give him a piece of her mind, but Aoi followed up with “Yeah, show him, Tenko!” Well, alright! Tenko gave one of her mightiest HAIYAHs, and lobbed the ball straight up. As it descended, she gave her mightiest kick, the ‘Neo-Aikido-patented Spinning Jumping Crescent Axe Hook Kick (and Knuckles)’, so named because you also pull your hands into fists to help with balance. “TAKE THAT,” she yelled triumphantly- as she whiffed the ball completely and landed face-first on the sod. The ball bounced off somewhere as Tenko contemplated whether or not she could pass on her Neo-Aikido techniques to a new student before dying of shame. 

“Hey, are you alright?!” Aoi's voice was above her as a firm hand alit on her arm. The concern in her voice made Tenko raise her head. The degenerate in the cow mask scooped up the ball and hurled it somewhere downfield. The males might win this, Tenko thought grimly. How revolting. “Hey, eyes on me! Are you hurt? Do you have a concussion?” Tenko focused her eyes on Aoi, and immediately felt better. Ah, the healing power of a woman's face, not to mention a woman's ample-

“Chabashira, take five!” the Degenerate's Team's Goalkeeper shouted.  Tenko rose with Aoi's help, and together they walked Tenko over to the water cooler. The male with the red hair and the terrible pick-up lines had been taking his millionth billionth water break, but he discarded his cup pretty quickly when he saw them coming. The degenerate sprinted back onto the field as they approached, apparently rejuvenated by the water, or perhaps by Tenko's scowling face. 

“Here,” Aoi handed her some water. 

“Thanks,” Tenko accepted bashfully. 

“Oh, you've got some dirt on- hold still,” the Ultimate Swimmer licked her finger, and Tenko's mind went hazy. She reached out and tried to rub a smudge of dirt off her cheek. “Heh, there's actually a lot of dirt on your face. OH, I know! Do you want to go to the communal baths with me after this?!” Tenko's mind went blank. “I love to go to the baths, if there's ever someone who wants to come with me! And then we get donuts, and it's the bessssst!” Tenko's mind was somewhere far, far away. “Oh, but Coach Nekomaru says I shouldn't be eating so many donuts, so maybe not...”

Tenko's head jerked up. “No, don't let that degenerate male tell you what to do!”

Aoi grinned. “So you wanna go with me?”

Tenko nodded fiercely. “I've never been! My roommate Sakura didn't want to... go with me,” she said dejectedly.

“Ah,” Aoi blushed. “Sakura didn't want to... go, with me, either.” 

Tenko and Aoi looked into each other's eyes. 

 

From the playing field, Sakura breathed a sigh of relief, and smiled slightly.

 


 

“Come on, come on!” Hiyoko was pulling Himiko far too quickly. What was the rush? Her arm felt like it was being tugged out of its socket...what a pain. Her roommate was pulling Himiko down the dorm hallway. So this was the dorm building for people who weren’t attached to Ultimate Labs... huh. She tried to look at the names on the doors as they passed, but Hiyoko clearly already knew her way around and was stopping for nothing. 

They came screeching to a halt in front of one of the doors. Hiyoko knocked aggressively, and Himiko took a peep at the nameplates while they waited for a response. Kokichi Oma, the Ultimate Supreme Leader, and Byakuya Togami, the Ultimate Affluent Progeny. Hey... Supreme? Affluent? Why did they get such cool Ultimate titles?! She wasn’t sure what Affluent meant, but it was clearly an adjective showing how awesome they were. Why couldn’t she be Himiko Yumeno, the Ultimate Amazing Mage?! She was already petitioning Hope’s Peak to change her title to the Ultimate Mage, since they insisted on calling her a Magician. Maybe she could get them to slap on ‘Amazing’ while they were at it.

Hiyoko had been knocking the whole time Himiko was musing, and finally the door was flung open. “WHAT?!” barked a boy with dirty blond hair and a rumpled suit. He had bags under his eyes and looked to be on the brink of insanity. “Who are you?! Never mind, I don’t actually care. What do you want?!”

Hiyoko barely paid him any attention. “Hey, Kokichi! You purple brat! Get out here!” The thought that Kokichi wasn’t in his room had apparently not occurred to her. 

“He’s napping right now, but it would be my pleasure to wake him up for you.” The door was slammed in their faces. Hiyoko let out a squawk of protest; Himiko giggled at the shocked look on her face. She turned it into a cough when Hiyoko glared her way. The girl could dish it out, but couldn’t take it, Himiko had quickly learned. It was easier for everyone involved to not offend the Ultimate Traditional Dancer, or she’d cry her fake tears and pout for hours.

There was a clamor inside the room and various muted cries... a thump and a clatter... and a small boy with purple hair and a slim figure was bodily thrust from the room. “Hey! No fair! At least let me grab my clothes first!” The boy was indeed clad only in a particularly flamboyant pair of red and orange striped boxer briefs. Himiko could feel herself blushing. 

The tired boy in the suit flung open the door, and threw some monochromatic clothing directly into the purple boy’s face. “Stay gone for at least an hour. Maybe I can actually get some reading done without your outrageous snoring.” The door slammed again. 

“Ew, Kokichi! Put your pants on! Nobody wants to see your ugly body!” Hiyoko glowered at Kokichi, but her glare didn’t manage to stay above the waist.

Kokichi, who had indeed been about to put his pants on, stopped with one leg in them. “Oh? Nobody?” He let the pant leg fall back to the floor. “You’re not a very good liar, Hiyoko. I lie all the time, so I can spot a bad liar from a mile away!” He ran his hands down his chest, bringing them lower, towards... “Also, I think your quiet friend here wants to see my ugly body.”

 

Himiko snapped her face up to resume eye contact. Kokichi’s eyes were twinkling as he grinned at her. He wasn’t even her type, she must have just been spellbound by his underwear. She would perform a Mind-freeing Spell, later, when her mana regenerated... she was at his mercy for now. 

Hiyoko attempted to ignore Kokichi, and began knocking similarly aggressively on the next door to the left. Kokichi pulled his pants on, smiling wickedly as Himiko steadfastly tried to avoid looking at him. Before Kokichi had gotten his shirt on, however, the door next to his was flung open. “WHAT?!” barked Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu, almost identically to Byakuya. 

Himiko knew of him by reputation, but she had never met the Ultimate Yakuza while on campus. He probably didn’t have much of a reason to wander down towards the Ultimate Theater area. Just like how Himiko hadn’t been in this dorm before- she didn’t have a lot of friends, and had no reason to come this way, since the cafeteria had another entrance outside. Making friends was a pain, and if Hiyoko was anything to go by, friends themselves were an even bigger pain.

The Ultimate Traditional Dancer pushed past Fuyuhiko into his room, ignoring his angry “What the fuck?!” and looking around. “I dunno what I expected, but I was hoping for more. You don’t even have like, dragons painted on the ceiling, or the leather jackets of dead former rival biker gangs on the walls. Boys suck at decorating.” She turned behind her to see that Himiko and Kokichi had not followed. “Come on, roomie, ugly shota, get in here.” 

“Your wish is my command, little princess,” Kokichi bowed with a flourish and made to enter.

 “What the fuck, no, fuck her wish. Who said you could come in here? Get the fuck out of my room!” Fuyuhiko blustered.

Hiyoko ignored him.“Where’s your lamebrain roommate?”

Fuyuhiko gave a little twist of his mouth that could, if one were feeling generous, be considered a smile. “Oh, you want Mondo? He’s out. Too bad, so sad. See ya never!” and made to push them all back out of his room.

But Himiko couldn’t be pushed back out, because the way was suddenly blocked by a gigantic boy in a black overcoat. “Hey Fuyuhiko, I talked to a girl today! She was-” he suddenly stopped, beginning to blush, as he noticed his room full of people.

Fuyuhiko waved his hands dismissively. “Well, here’s three more girls to talk to, have fun.” He went to sit back at his desk, under the lofted bed. “Keep it down, I’m studying for my History of Yakuza exam.” He rubbed at his temples. “Which goes back to the 1600s, by the way.”

“Hey, I am not a girl! My hair is just-” Kokichi began to protest, but Hiyoko cut him off. 

“No, baby-face, we’re here to talk to you too. Listen up! My roommate has a favor to ask.” She nodded towards Himiko to continue. 

Whaaat? She had to ask them? She had wanted to just send an email or something, but Hiyoko had insisted that it would be faster and more effective to march all the way over here. She thought Hiyoko was going to ask; she was the one who knew how to talk to peop- wait, no. She was the one who talked to people. 

Hiyoko rolled her eyes. “Okay, well. You three have minions and henchmen and junk at your disposal, right?! Himiko wants to hire some of them, or hire some of you to deploy them, or whatever.”

“Hey, my gang aren’t minions, they’re my brothers. I’ve made a promise to each of them to-” Mondo protested, but Hiyoko cut him off. She did that a lot, Himiko had noticed.

“Fine, fine, then you’re excused, guyliner.” Hiyoko looked to Kokichi and Fuyuhiko. “How about you two?”

Kokichi smiled broadly. “As the Ultimate Supreme Leader, I of course have millions of henchmen at my beck and call. But to command them, you must be willing to forfeit your very soul in service to my Dark Empire.”

Hiyoko rolled her eyes again. Himiko wondered if they would just pop out one day and roll away, never to be seen again. “Ugh! Alright, how about you, ya foul-mouthed shorty?”

Fuyuhiko didn’t seem to be offended, but laughed instead. “Foul-mouthed shorty... if you were more self-aware, you probably wouldn’t throw shade on my height or my cussing. I’ve never met a foul-mouthed shorty worse than you.” He cut off Hiyoko’s noise of protestation, delighting in doing so. “What for? You need someone killed? I don’t lend out hit-men to just anyone.”

“No!” Himiko cried out. “I just need someone to guard my magic stuff!” The three boys looked at her blankly. Nyeeeh... talking about this was such a pain. “Those two apprentice sorcerers keep coming around my mage’s lab and are trying to learn the Arcane Arts! They’re disturbing my Summoning Circles, they’re flipping through my Most Potente Grimoires, they’re ruining my mana regeneration equipment!” 

The blank stares continued. Hiyoko sighed. “The two Ultimate Detectives keep crashing backstage at the Theater, and are trying to figure out the secrets to Himiko’s magic tricks. It’s for a class or something.”

This again! “They’re not tricks, it’s actual magic!”

Everyone ignored her. “So you don’t need anyone offed, you just want someone to stand guard and prevent them from, I dunno, checking for secret compartments in her top hats and stuff?” 

Hiyoko nodded. “Exactly. And she said she can pay.”

The Ultimate Mage waved her hands around. “That’s right! Whichever lucky student helps me keep my Ritual Area secure will get a magical blessing cast on them! You can choose between health, wealth, or fortune in love!”

Mondo stared off into space for a moment. “Fortune in love...” he murmured to himself.

Fuyuhiko snorted. “Okay, I choose wealth. Because I need cash up front before any of my Yakuza go anywhere near your magic junk.”

She had been afraid of that. “My, uh, vault at the Wizarding Bank is a little dry at the moment. I haven’t had the ingredients to turn straw into gold for a while. But! If you don’t want my magical blessing, I can also cast a curse on your enemies! They’ll trip on every loose brick, they’ll grow pimples the size of dimes, they’ll always put their socks on inside-out!” She waggled her fingers for emphasis.

Kokichi laughed. “I’ll lend you some of my henchmen for free if you make Fuyuhiko here grow a big ol’ pimple on his forehead, right here, right now.”

Fuyuhiko glared at him. “What’d I ever do to you, bastard?”

Kokichi tweaked his own nipples. Himiko suddenly noticed that he had never put his shirt back on. “Nothing yet. What do you want to do with me?”

The Yakuza leader gagged. “That’s it, everybody out.” He got up from his desk and made to shoo everyone out the door. “Little witch girl, if you want my help, just send a wireless money transfer to my E-Handbook. You wanna practice your spells, practice them on this shirtless asshole over here.”

“Ooh, you were thinking about my asshole? Naughty naughty little man.” Kokichi allowed himself to be shoved out the door, and everyone else followed. Even Mondo, who presumably was allowed to stay in his own room.

Hiyoko whirled onto Himiko. “You said you could pay! I thought you meant actual money! This was a HUGE waste of time! Why do I even bother trying to help you?!”

She crossed her arms. “Well, arcane reagents cost a lot of money! Hope’s Peak gives me a stipend, same as everybody, but they don’t pay for my magic stuff!”

“They absolutely would pay for your MAGICIAN stuff, like your capes with the hidden pockets, or doves and rabbits or whatever. But no, they’re not gonna pay for you to buy tarot cards and pretend that that lets you see the future or some garbage!”

A door burst open a few doors down. A boy with some sort of dreadlocks afro popped his head out. “Did I hear that someone wants to buy tarot cards to see the future?! I’ve got a set previously owned by Marie Antoinette for only two million!”

Everyone else ignored him, so Himiko did as well.

“Hey, Mondo? It seems in all the shoving and pushing and touching, my shirt got left inside. Would you mind letting me back into your room, pretty please?” Kokichi batted his eyelashes at the Ultimate Biker Gang Leader, who blushed slightly, and nodded.

As Hiyoko and Himiko began the walk back to their room, they heard Fuyuhko’s yelling and Kokichi’s laughter start up again. 

 


 

Elsewhere, Nagito Komaeda was standing in front of the Ultimate Weaponry Lab. 

He stood, slouching a bit, waiting. Maki Harukawa exited the lab, smiling cheerfully as she said “goodbye!” to Peko and Mukuro. The smile disappeared off her face immediately upon seeing Nagito. “What do you want?” she asked, rather coldly.

“Such a sweet face... to hide such a vicious killer. Why wouldn't I want to meet the Ultimate Assassin? The Ultimate Paradox, a student living and learning with all the others, but being groomed to be the best murderer ever. It's so... intriguing.” Nagito's eyes had a far-off look to them. 

Maki shivered a bit, then cast her eyes in shadows and tempered her voice. “Do you want to die?!” Her catchphrase and facial expression usually scared off anyone, but especially people who knew her Ultimate talent. 

“Kind of, yeah,” Nagito said cheerfully. 

Maki blinked rapidly, then fled back into the Ultimate Weaponry Lab.  Nagito smiled dreamily, and continued waiting, as he heard guns being cocked and weapons being unsheathed.

Chapter Text

The locker room was nearly empty when Ryoma walked in, sore and sweating hard. He'd been working on his Reverse Tsubame Gaeshi counter, and was now confident that he could return (and ratchet up the topspin) of any ball served to him. The tennis ball launchers were all overheated, and needed time to cool down- so, for that matter, did Ryoma, he chuckled to himself.

The Ultimate Boxer, Juzo, was sitting astride one of the locker benches, shucking his gloves and unwrapping the bandages around his knuckles. He looked up and nodded politely to Ryoma, then went back to it. The Tennis Pro stood on a bench to reach his locker, vowing to find someone with a bottom locker and switch with them, and was grumbling so much he almost didn't notice when Nekomaru walked in. The big bruiser of a man was drenched in sweat, and was bleeding profusely from a cut above his right eye.

“Coach?!” Juzo asked, dropping the end of one of his bandages. “You alright?”

“GA-HAHAHA! Yes, fine, fine! That girl is getting better every day,” Nekomaru laughed, blinking through the blood. He pulled his shirt over his head, and wiped his sweaty head with it, though it also made the blood smear all over his face. He seemed completely unconcerned. “She actually faked me out, got me with a back kick while I blocked her front one!” He laughed again, uproariously, as he shucked his pants. His white briefs were soaked with sweat, and the outline of his member was clearly visible.

Juzo blushed all the way to his hairline, and grabbed his gear. “Glad you're okay,” he said, his voice cracking a bit.  He shoved his things in his locker and slammed it shut before beating a hasty retreat, mumbling something about showering in his own dorm room.

“Is this Tenko, or Sakura?” Ryoma asked, keeping his voice even. He slowed the pace of his undressing, fumbling with his jumpsuit zipper a bit. He wanted to still be changing when Nekomaru hit the showers... maybe he could beat a similar retreat? But, why, he asked himself, why did it matter? Sure, Nekomaru was objectively handsome, but that sort of thing had never turned him on before... 

“No, no, Owari! She challenges me to a fight every time she sees me now, gahaha! For a gymnast, she sure has a fighter's spirit!” He shucked his briefs without any trace of modesty, and stood fully exposed before Ryoma, laughing with his hands on his hips. His dick flopped around a bit as he did, and Ryoma couldn't help following its trajectory with his gaze. 

“She wants to take down Ogami at least once this year, and so she's been training with me and Chabashira!”

“Hm,” Ryoma said noncommittally. His fingers slipped off his jumpsuit zipper. It was as big as his forearm, he marveled, and he felt himself begin to sweat again. 

Nekomaru laughed again. “Well, I doubt any of them could land a hit on you, with your Shukuchi method! I'm still in awe of how fast you can move, but don't worry, we'll have you moving so fast you'll teleport!” He jovially slapped him on the back as he walked by, clearly holding back his strength so he didn't knock him over... he'd probably done that quite a few times with athletes more sturdy than Ryoma, the tennis pro thought. The coach didn't bother to grab a towel from the shelf as he walked into the shower area, butt flexing as he went... Ryoma figured he must only bother to get one afterwards. Not a very modest man, in word or action, he thought wryly. Not that he needed to be, with muscles like that, or a dick like THAT. He felt the first stirrings of his own arousal, and quickly shucked his sportswear as he heard the water turn on in the next room. But before he could shove his sweaty self into his clean clothes and make his escape, he heard a call echo from the shower area. “Hoshi?!”

Ryoma swallowed hard. “Yeah, coach?”

“Can you do me a favor, and bring the first aid kit in here when you come? I think I'm bleeding more than I had realized,” the Ultimate Team Manager bellowed. The water, Ryoma noticed, did not turn off.

He sighed. He wrapped a towel around his waist, grabbed the first aid kit from its place of prominence on the wall, and walked into the shower room.

The showering area wasn't huge- even if the Academy hadn't been built specifically for them, there were still never going to be that many Ultimates at one time. Only around 5 people could shower comfortably together, 6 if they were realllly comfortable with each other's nudity. Ryoma was exceedingly uncomfortable right now. Firstly, Ryoma was used to much larger shower areas in prison, filled to bursting with fellow death-row inmates. This seemed too... intimate. A guy could get shivved in a shower room this small and the prison guards wouldn't even know. Showering with just one other guy? That was asking to be sexually assaulted. Usually prisoners would shower with a friend or two to watch each other's backs, but Ryoma had never made any friends in prison. A lot of the mafia members he had killed had close friends who had already been locked up- and those friends, while not thirsting for vengeance, certainly weren't going to call a guard if he was being shivved. And definitely not, if he were only being raped. Heh, 'only.' As if that hadn't been the most defining moment of his prison life. And here he was, walking into a shower room with a guy just like the one he'd been trying so hard to forget.

But he trusted Coach Nekomaru. That was the worst part. It had taken a few months, but he really did like the guy. He strove to keep everyone happy, healthy, and most importantly, motivated. To succeed, to keep practicing, to get better and better. Ryoma had no doubts that with Coach's help, he'd be able to break the laws of physics and flash step across the court in the blink of an eye. It was a funny feeling, relying upon someone, and being relied upon in return. It was something he hadn't really felt since Sakuno died. And maybe that's why his wires were getting crossed now...

Nekomaru was leaning over with his head under the spray as he walked in. A stream of fuchsia was running down his body and pooling over the tiled floor. It was more than Ryoma would have expected, with the cut he'd seen a second ago- maybe Coach tore it open a bit when he rubbed his sweaty face with his shirt? He could be so careless.

“Coach, get out from under the water. That's not helping.” He blushed as he took off his own towel, and held it out to the larger man. “Dry off the area.” Nekomaru toweled his head vigorously like he was done with his shower. “No, DAB, don't rub!” There was blood all over his face and hair now. Ryoma forgot their shared nudity as he helped Coach dry, treat, and wrap his forehead. 

“Thanks, Hoshi!” Nekomaru laughed, standing up from where he'd been kneeling. “Guess I'm not used to treating my own wounds, gahahaha!” 

His gargantuan dick was right at Ryoma's head height. It was about six inches from his face. He could've easily reached out and touched it. He could've moved his head just a little and been able to lick it.

“You alright, Hoshi?” Ryoma snapped out of it. He wished he was wearing his hat, so he could pull it down low over his eyes.

“Yeah, fine, Coach, sorry.” He turned his back on the Coach and his huge- he turned his back on the Coach and reached up to turn on his own shower. 

He was incredibly tense. The push-pull of attraction and repulsion... he had never found men attractive before. Coach was a big guy, bigger than most, just like the piece of shit in prison who had... why was he getting turned on?! Ryoma was raped in a prison shower by a guy who was... well, not very much like Coach besides the general build, actually. Is that what was different? He should have been terrified, and he was. He should not have been rock-hard, but yet he was.  What the fuck was going on? A Stockholm Syndrome kinda thing? Is this why the Ultimate Shrink had asked him if he was having- ugh, what if she was right?! Ryoma turned the shower colder. No, fuck it, he was not doing this. He turned it to freezing, and flinched under the spray. 

He was incredibly tense, and apparently it showed. “No no no! Hotter water! As hot as you can stand it!” Coach stepped over and twisted the knob. His own ‘knob’ almost hit Ryoma as he reached over his head. “You seem tense, Hoshi! Hey, let me do 'it' to you!” He reached a hand down and laid it on Ryoma's shoulder. Nope! Nope nope nope. That was it. Ryoma fled. 

 

One moment, the Ultimate Tennis Pro was there, and the next he wasn't. Nekomaru was confused. Was it something he did? A massage while under the hot water would have loosened Hoshi up considerably. Was it something he SAID? He remembered that when they first met, Hoshi had similarly bolted.  Hmmm....It was definitely time to talk to the Ultimate Therapist about the ex-prisoner.

He grinned. Then again, it was clear that Hoshi was getting faster.

 




Kiyotaka Ishimaru couldn't believe what he was hearing.

His roommate was trying to take matters into his own hands AGAIN. “Kyosuke, I must insist that you allow me to help you in planning the dorm meeting. We have many issues to discuss with our charges, and as this dorm's Resident Advisers, we are equal in this matter! If you continue to make decisions without me I will have to report you to the headmaster!” He slammed his hands on his desk for emphasis. His roommate sighed, and didn't even look up.

“Kiyotaka. Shut up. If I have to run every little decision by you, we'd never get anything done.” Kyosuke Munakata continued typing his notes for the dorm meeting.

Taka could see over his shoulder that he had pretty much thought of everything that they needed to discuss with their fellow students. The Ultimate Student Council President may be an enormous doodoo-head, but he was certainly competent.

“I object! I am not a rubber stamp to confirm or deny your decisions! We are CO-RAs, and I expect to be treated as such!”

“Go bug the girl RAs if it's so important to you. I don't have time to indulge your petty tantrums.”

“PETTY?! I fear I'm going to have to go over your head and-” A knock at the door interrupted Taka's railing. “Oh! Please come in!” A good RA needs to be ready to help their residents at any time. Arguing with the Ultimate Poo-dent Council Jerk-ident could wait. No, that wasn't very clever, but he was angry. He tried to school his face into a neutral expression before the door opened.

 

Hajime entered his RAs' room with some trepidation. He had dithered at the door, listening to the yelling and wondering if he should leave and come back, but eventually he had decided that cutting into the argument would be the most helpful thing. “Hello! I'd like to ask your advice about my roommate agreement,” he said, careful to look at both Taka and Kyosuke and pay them equal attention. This was difficult, as Taka was beaming into his face and Kyosuke was typing away without looking up.

“Hajime Hinata! Your roommate is Rantaro Amami, the Ultimate Adventurer! What conflicts are you two having?” Taka was almost too eager to be of assistance.

“Oh, nothing at all. He's great. Well, he's probably great, I've only seen him a few times since the semester began. But he seems great!” He swallowed. “It's just that I received an email that you two hadn't received our Roommate Agreement signed by both parties, and I wanted to tell you that I've tried to get him to sign it, but he's been here so infrequently...”

Taka nodded, smiling broadly. “Not to worry, not to worry! We just need you to sign Form 115B, Roommate Agreement Extension Request, and that will buy you another 30 days to complete your form! I have a copy right here, one moment!” Taka began to rummage in his extensive filing cabinet for the required form.

The seated RA stood, striding over to Hajime and plucking the unsigned form out of his grasp. He produced a pen seemingly from nowhere and forged Rantaro's signature on the dotted line. “There. We have your form. Let us know if you have any other issues,” he replied, tucking the form into his own filing system. Hajime looked over to Taka, who was at a loss for words, mouth agape. He beat a hasty retreat, even as the shouting began anew.

He closed the door behind him, muffling the sound of Taka's yelling, and leaned against it in relief. Directly across the hall, the girls' RAs had their door open, and he could just make out the much-calmer voices emanating from their room.

“RAs, Ruruka wants to use MY camera for her baking blog tonight, but I need it for my Instagram pictures.” That was... Celeste's voice, he thinks.

“My blog updates every week, but I have a big test tomorrow so it needs to be tonight! It won't take long,” Ruruka whined.

“You say that, but every time you have borrowed MY camera previously, I haven't gotten it back until the next day. And I update my Instagram TWICE a week.” Celeste's voice was rising in pitch.

“No one cares about your little Lolita fashion show. My baking blog has three times as many subscribers as you do. And-”

“Girls, girls!” Chisa's voice cut in. The Ultimate Housekeeper was as cheerful as she was responsible. “Remember, you two are friends and roommates. I'm sure we can come to an arrangement that makes everybody happy!”

“Ruruka, your baking web journal is an extracurricular activity that focuses on honing your talent, as opposed to an unrelated hobby. I am certain that we can requisition you a camera of your own from the Academy. Perhaps one could be set up in the Ultimate Cooking Lab- I have seen cooking shows that use a ceiling-mounted camera to give a birds-eye view of the counter, which provides more ease in displaying the steps of the recipe.” That was Kirumi's calm, motherly voice. The Ultimate Maid was always willing to go the extra mile to help one of her charges, or anyone, really.

Celeste sniggered. “Her blog's readers aren't coming to view the steps of the recipe. Showing the counter wouldn't help her in showing off the most preposterous outfits. Although a ceiling-mounted camera might give them a better view directly down her cleavage, so...”

Ruruka gasped. “As if you could talk about preposterous outfits! You wear so much lace and bows it's like a grandmother doily convention in your closet.”

“Girls!” Chisa cut the argument off before it could escalate. “Apologize to each other, right now. ...Please.” The girls muttered muted apologies, lacking in sincerity, but Chisa apparently considered it good enough. “Now: 'Thank you, Celeste, for letting me borrow your camera.' 'Thank you, Ruruka, for understanding that I have a right to use my own property whenever I wish.'” The girls dutifully repeated Chisa's statements.

“I will go visit Mahiru and borrow one of her cameras until the requisition forms go through. I shall be back in just a moment.” Kirumi appeared at the door, and noticed Hajime, still with his back to his RAs' door. She sighed, and walked over to him. “Hajime, I know we are technically the RAs for the girls in this dorm, but if you ever need anything, feel free to come to us.” She gave him a slight bow and continued on. The shouted voices behind him rose in volume; Hajime had never before wished so fervently that he was a girl.

 


 

Miu came, gasping as she bucked on Kazuichi’s cock, fingers furiously rubbing her clit. She let out a satisfied moan, and removed the penguin mask from where it had been knocked askew, to the side of her head. “And now, your turn. Let me take a nice long drink of Soda,” she purred as she got off of him and began to move down the bed into blowjob position. Kazuichi was breathing heavily as she scooped up some guacamole on a tortilla chip and reached over to smear it on his throbbing dick. 

“I’m gonna pay extra for guac on your hot burrito, and- OH. Oh oh oh oh! Oh! Idea! Invention idea! Sorry, gotta run, honeybun!” 

“What?! No! Not cool,” Kazuichi groaned in dismay, even as Miu threw on some clothes and bolted out of her room into the Ultimate Machine Lab. Not again. Miu always got wired after sex, and frequently left him in the lurch once she herself had been satisfied. He took himself in hand and tried to finish himself off, but between the guacamole on his dick and the marbles rolling around inside his ass, he couldn’t do it. He sighed heavily and let his hand fall. This would be a particularly gross cleanup session, he realized. Lube and condoms and condom wrappers was bad enough, but guacamole and tortilla chip crumbs were everywhere too, and he had no idea how he was going to get these marbles out of his asshole. But her room had to be clean before Miu’s roommate got back, or else he might actually die of embarrassment. 

After changing the sheets on Miu’s bed, he went to the bathroom and began trying to shit the marbles out. When he emerged a while later, Chiaki Nanami was already back. She was seated at her gaming station, an enormous couch in front of an even more enormous TV.

 Kazuichi could see that a cutscene was playing, and noticed with dismay that she was eating the leftover tortilla chips and guacamole. “Uh, you probably shouldn’t-  Never mind.” She didn’t even turn around as he guiltily put his pants and jumpsuit back on. When he was again mostly presentable, he made to leave and head back to his own room. 

“Kazuichi,” Chiaki said softly, not even looking up from her cutscene. He paused in the doorway. ...And waited for her to continue her thought. Her eyes remained glued to her screen, but she pointed at the couch next to her. He gave a small huff and went to sit down on the couch next to her. When the FMV ended, she paused and turned to him. “Sorry. This game doesn’t let you pause during cutscenes.”

“It’s cool. What can I do for you?” he asked politely. Chiaki was super cute, and he liked her personality a lot, but he was careful not to flirt with her even a little bit. Miu had gone ballistic the first time he had been friendlier than ‘completely neutral’ towards her. 

“Reverse Romanian Wilkinson today?” she asked, devoid of expression. 

He gulped. “How- how did you know?” In response, she held up the penguin mask, which Miu must have shucked before exiting the room. “No, I mean, how do you even know what a Reverse Romanian whatever even is?! I’d never heard of the damn thing.”

She shrugged. “Hentai games are still games.” Kazuichi let out a little laugh- he guessed that when she said she loved all genres, she really meant ALL genres.

“Well, you caught us. Miu is into some freaky shit. It’s like, nothing is ever enough for her. She’s insatiable,” he said with a groan, slouching down on the couch. It’s funny... a year ago, he would have been thrilled to say those words. He would’ve bragged loudly to anyone who’d listen that he had a freaky nympho girlfriend (with enormous jugs) who wanted to bang him constantly. But now it was more of a lament.

“I see. Forgive me for saying so, but- you don’t seem to feel the same way.” She stared placidly at him. It set him on edge.

“I mean, I’m getting laid all the time! It’s great!” She continued to stare at him. “It’s awesome, she’ll do anything I want.” Stare. “Well, except cuddle. Or kiss.” Her gaze was piercing into his soul. “But who needs that, anyway? Miu is super hot, and I’m super lucky to have her as my girlfriend.”

Chiaki broke eye contact. “I see. Well, my mistake. It sounds like you’re quite happy with your relationship.” She reached for the remote, and swapped inputs to a different console. She handed him a Funbox controller and put in Project Zombie, then sat back on the couch with her own lucky controller, decorated with Magical Girl Miracle ★ Usami stickers.

Kazuichi supposed they were now playing a videogame together. Well, alright, he was down for some co-op zombie murder. “Y-yeah. It’s great. I wouldn’t change a thing.” They played in silence for a few minutes. Kazuichi was just shambling aimlessly around the level, biting any poor humans that got near him to spread the zombie virus, but he noticed Chiaki was being more tactical. She was focusing on putting points into her shambling speed, following him in wide circles and continually herding new victims into his bite radius. Once he realized this, he began sinking all his points in contagion and left his shambling speed as his dump stat.

“...Do you think Miu really likes me?” He said it almost unconsciously, focused as he was on the game. It had just slipped out somehow.

“I think... I think Miu likes sex.” Chiaki let rip her Ultra Soul Break, that transformed every human onscreen into a zombie, and they moved on to the next level. “I think you like Miu more than Miu likes you.”

That was kind of what he had figured. “I think I knew that, in the back of my mind. ...If we were to break up, how’d you think Miu would take it?”

“Histrionically,” Chiaki said immediately. “A lot of yelling, insults, mean comments about the size of your genitalia as loud as she could make it- she would want to pull you down to make herself feel better, and she would want to ruin your social capital for other future relationships.”

Kazuichi gulped. “Awesome.” He let himself slide even further down the couch, practically bent double with his slouching. A human police officer was shooting at him and he couldn’t shamble into cover fast enough. He felt trapped, with no way out. Then Chiaki came to his rescue. She took out the police officer from behind, and Kazuichi was free to eat some humans and restore his health, aaaaand this is where the metaphor began to break down.

“I suppose I think you’d be happier in a calmer, more romantic relationship,” she murmured. 

“I think you might be right,” he murmured back. He paused the game, and turned to look at her. “You think I should break it off?”

She shrugged. “I think you should do what you think is best for you, and not be too afraid of the consequences to do it.” He looked blankly at her, so she clarified. “That could be breaking up, that could be attempting to set boundaries with Miu, that could be slowly transitioning into friends-with-benefits and finding a new relationship.”

That all made a lot of sense. He laughed ruefully, “how are you so good at relationship advice?” 

“A lot of dating sims,” she admitted. “Plus, I’ve been married in an MMORPG for years now.”

“You have an online boyfriend?!” he asked. He’d never seen anyone else come to visit Chiaki in her room, so he’d always just assumed she was single.

“Well, his avatar is a boy, but I’ve never actually asked,” she said thoughtfully. “It was pretty much just to quest together and share costs on our in-game housing. Really, it’s mostly from the dating sims.”

He laughed. “I appreciate the advice regardless. Thanks, Chiaki.” He unpaused the game and began biting people again.

“Don’t mention it,” she replied. “...No, really, don’t mention it. My roommate relationship with Miu is tumultuous enough as it is.”

Speaking of the devil, Miu burst in through the door. “Make way, bitches! The girl with the big brain and even bigger tits has done it again! Check out my newest invention- it lets you jack off while you sleep! I always feel brainer after a fuckin’ good orgasm, and I love the efficiency of doin’ things while you’re asleep, so I thought I’d combine them!” She continued on, ignoring Kazuichi and Chiaki’s blank looks, as she detailed the various attachments that could vibrate and stimulate any combination of genitalia for any genders. Kazuichi sighed softly, looking to Chiaki again as she gave him a sympathetic look. This wasn’t going to be pretty. 

 


 

Gundham Tanaka approached the Dark Flame Dragon with great care. 

He dared not disturb the Emissary of Tiamat without good reason, but it was time for his daily offering. Gundham reached his Cursed arm, covered in bandages that repelled demonic energy, into the Dragon’s lair. The sacred offering was placed on the ritual altar; the Dark Flame Dragon cracked an eye open, eyeing Gundham with disinterest. 

“Come, oh great Emissary to Dragonkind! I have procured this still-living prey for your majesty. Observe, they writhe in supplication to your greatness!”

The bearded dragon scooted off his favorite basking spot, on top of his heated rock. He crossed the terrarium slowly, and eyed the mealworms in his dish skeptically. Gundham had gut-loaded the mealworms, feeding them on the vitamins and minerals a bearded dragon needed, and dusted them with calcium powder. They were extremely healthy and delicious, and yet his charge still refused to feed.

Gundham sighed. “Your Eminence, I have already performed my most effective anti-poisoning ward on the offering.” No movement. Even Gundham’s significant mastery of the arcane arts was occasionally not enough to satisfy a being of such immense power. “If the sacrifice is not to your liking, I have taken the harvest of an entire town to enhance the offering. Behold, these crops are dewy with the sweat and tears of the pitiful mortals who grew them, all for you!”

A smaller dish of zucchini, kale, collard greens, and shredded carrots was also placed inside the terrarium. It had been misted with clean water, a common trick when a bearded dragon was loathe to drink from the water dish in their enclosure. Gundham took some of the mixed vegetables and placed them on top of the mealworms, in the hopes that once the lizard began to eat his vegetables, he would continue to eat his protein. 

The Dark Flame Dragon was still hesitating. He was a fickle sort, and accustomed to having his whims humored. Gundham produced his piece de resistance. The Emissary to Tiamat was one of the Elder Dragons, and loved to line his hoard with jewels and treasure of sufficient worth. “Ah, your greatness wishes for more- well, such avarice is to be admired! Gaze upon the Sapphire Orb of Niflheim! Know its beauty, and take caution not to be entranced!”

The Ultimate Breeder placed a single blueberry on top of the food dish. Satisfied, the bearded dragon began to eat, and Gundham released the breath he had been holding. Unlike regular humans, Gundham was half-demon and scarcely needed to consume oxygen, but did so for the sake of normal appearances- his power level was frequently intimidating to his fellow students.

“Oh, friend Gundham!” Speaking of his fellow students, here came the Overlord of All That Crawls. Gundham turned to see his approach. A gargantuan figure, the goliath walked through the Ultimate Biology Lab at slower than his usual pace, and it did not take Gundham’s sharp eyes long to perceive the reason- he was covering his eyes with one meaty hand. He walked through the maze of cages and habitats with practiced familiarity, but was also going slowly to avoid any missteps. 

“Gundham,” the Ultimate Entomologist began. He opened his fingers slightly, to reveal one blood-red eye. Gundham wore a red contact lens in his right eye, as a focusing lens to See into the Aether, but also to look super cool. He would never admit to jealousy of Gonta’s natural eye color, but... 

The Supreme Overlord of Ice chuckled. “Yes, oh great Cyclops?” With his large stature and one eye still covered by his hand, it was particularly apt. Gonta did not pick up on his mythological references, as usual. Being raised by wolves was not the most literary of upbringings.

“Gonta wanted to know, have you finished feeding Gonta’s insect friends to Gundham’s animal friends?”

Well, the answer was no, but Gundham could offer tribute to Chernabog, Great Bat-Winged Demon of Tartarus, when Gonta wasn’t around. “Indeed.” For all his shared love of animals, Gonta did not like to watch Gundham feed the insectivores, and he understood completely. In trade, Gonta gave the feeder mice to the snakes in their animal sanctuary- when Gundham did it, it tended to upset the Four Dark Devas of Destruction.

Gonta removed the hand shielding his view and smiled broadly at his friend. “Gonta came to say, new friends have come to respond to Gundham’s notice about the kitty!”

Gundham bowed. “Then let us make haste to the Lion’s Den.”

 

Ryoma looked around the Ultimate Biology Lab with mild interest. It was far more scientific than the Ultimate Sports Lab- it had a sterile, medical feel to it. He knew that it connected to the Clinic on one side, so he guessed that made sense. Where there were just a few posters detailing muscle groups and such in the Sports Lab, here there were entire walls covered in scientific diagrams, for all sorts of things. He saw a lot of brain scans- guess the Ultimate Neurologist used this lab too. On the side farther from the clinic, there were lots of cages and aquariums for birds, fish, small mammals, and a large amount of insects as well.

“Ah, Ryoma! Peko! Please follow Gonta this way!” Ryoma turned to see that Peko was also here- he hadn’t noticed her come in behind him. She had been looking at a gerbil running on an exercise wheel with a small smile on her face, but she straightened up with a guilty expression when Gonta beckoned. They dutifully followed the Ultimate Entomologist through the maze of habitats and... into what appeared to be his private dorm room? Ryoma and Peko exchanged a glance.

Waiting for them inside was a rather eccentrically-dressed boy, sitting on a dorm bed with a gray cat on his lap. The cat was purring rather loudly as the boy stroked its back, and appeared to be asleep; but when the other three students entered, it shot up and was under the bed in a flash.

“Oh no,” Peko said softly, mostly to herself. “Not again...” She sounded dejected and Ryoma felt a pang of empathy for her. The boy (who Ryoma supposed must be ‘Gundham Tanaka, the Ultimate Breeder’ from his listserv email) got down on his knees and began attempting to coax the cat back out. 

“This happen a lot?” he asked Peko. 

She nodded, frowning. “I love animals, especially the fluffy ones, but they usually don’t like me. I think I scare them off with my... I don’t know.”

“Imposing stature?”

“I was thinking more like... intimidating presence.” She paused. “I’m not THAT tall.”

Ryoma grinned wryly. “Hard for me to tell from down here.”  There, that got a smile back out of her. He didn’t know much about Peko. Come to think of it,he knew a grand total of two things about her: She was the Ultimate Swordswoman, and she was the Left Forward for the Girls’ Nekomaruball team. But she was certainly a force to be reckoned with; she had clearly never played a team sport before, but she was quite fast and strong. But her lack of experience with ball sports meant that she couldn’t throw or pass to save her life.

Gundham had retrieved the cat from under the bed and was cradling it tightly in his arms. It still looked nervous, but now it couldn’t escape. “Attention, puny mortals! This is the Rightful Prince of Darkness!” Ryoma exchanged glances with Peko again, with much the same expression. “Just like me, he comes from unknown parentage, but demonic blood surely swims in his veins! He cannot meekly fall into line and march lockstep with others of his blood, and so must walk alone; a truly tragic figure. Unfortunately, his inner connection to his Wells of Power has been severed, and so like Samson missing his hair, he is but a shell of his former self.”

“...”

“...”

“What Gundham means,” Gonta exclaimed brightly, “is that Prince was stray kitty that found his way here! Gonta and Gundham not know what type of kitty he is, but kitty was neutered, so he was definitely someone’s pet before! But Gonta think Prince doesn’t get along well with other kitties, so Gundham and Gonta want to find a home for him!”

Gundham nodded sagely. “Yes, just as I said.”

Gonta frowned. “If kitty wasn’t neutered, kitty could stay and be part of Gundham’s Ultimate Breeder thingy. If kitty got along with other kitties, Gonta could keep him in top secret Animal Sanctuary! But no... Prince need new family! So, do Ryoma or Peko want to be Prince’s new family?”

There sure was a bit of a language barrier at the Ultimate Biology Lab, Ryoma mused. He had met some eccentric students at Hope’s Peak, but these two were a roommate match made in heaven. Still, they seemed to understand each other well enough, and he supposed that was all that mattered.

Peko nodded. “I would love to take the Prince home with me. If he’ll have me, that is.” She reached out a hand to the animal trapped in Gundham’s arms, and got a strong hiss for her trouble. Peko lowered her hand again, clearly disappointed. “Yes, that is what I suspected would happen. But I had to try.”

Well, time for him to take his shot. Ryoma approached the Prince of Darkness slowly, with a neutral expression on his face. He hissed again, but Ryoma was not overly concerned. He stood, too close to Gundham and definitely in the Prince’s personal space, and began to wait it out. “I had a Russian Blue before I went to prison. His name was Karupin, and he was so smart.” He reached out to the Prince, and ignored the slight hiss he got, and began to stroke behind his ears. “Once he followed me to school just because he saw that I had packed his favorite toy in my backpack.” Heedless of the chance of being bitten, Ryoma scratched under the cat’s chin. “He was mostly an indoor cat, though, so it took some finding to retrieve him. Is the Prince more of an indoor cat or an outdoor cat?” Ryoma reached up for the Prince and scooped him from Gundham’s arms, even as the Ultimate Breeder made a noise of protest. He held the cat more loosely than Gundham had been doing, and continued to stroke him in his arms.

Gundham was a bit taken aback. Truly he was in the presence of another Master! The Rightful Prince of Darkness settled down in the short boy’s arms. Gundham and Gonta both spoke the Language of the Beasts, and the feline had basically all but shouted that he would be happy to go with Ryoma. “Uh... indoor, but as he was a stray, he would be fine being outdoors for short periods. Something like a cat door, or frequent trips outside, would be ideal for his temperament,” Gundham said with none of his usual flair.

Ryoma nodded. “Peko, give it another try.” He held up (what he hoped was) his new cat, and looked it right in the eyes. “Be nice.” The cat didn’t hiss or claw when Peko tentatively extended her hand again, and she pet the soft fur of his back. 

“This is wonderful!” she murmured, softly caressing the cat, who seemed content enough to permit this.

“Try scratching behind his ears,” Ryoma said. As Peko began to scritch the cat, he began to purr again. “So, Gundham, Gonta. What do you think?”

“Gonta think friend Ryoma and Prince are good match!” Gonta beamed. 

Gundham nodded as well. “Do you need cat food, toys, bedding?” 

Ryoma chuckled. “Actually, I have a note here from the Ultimate Therapist that I could use an Emotional Support Animal. It means that Hope’s Peak will pay for all of that for me. It also means my roommate can’t object unless he’s actually allergic. I did ask though, and he said he was cool with it.” Well, actually Leon had said ‘at least one of us is getting any pussy,’ but Ryoma didn’t feel the need to repeat that. “But if you have any to spare, I’d like to borrow some until the Academy delivers on it.” Ryoma looked to Peko, who had been continuing to pet the cat the whole time with an enraptured look on her face. “Peko, you’re welcome to come visit him any time. Once he gets settled in, I’ll probably bring him outside when we’re training or playing Nekomaruball. But if you ever need a dose of fluff, come on by, he’d be happy to see you.”

Peko looked like she was holding back tears. “I’d like that, very much. Thank you Ryoma.”

“Oh, Gonta so happy!” He swept them both up in a big hug, lifting Ryoma clear off the ground and squishing the cat between Ryoma and Peko, who yowled affrontedly. Then he grabbed Gundham into the group hug, despite his similar protestations. “Kitty will be so happy too!” He released them all, and Ryoma’s new cat jumped to the ground and fled under the bed again. 

It might take some time to fully earn his trust, but Ryoma had a good feeling about this. ...Tezuka, he thought to himself. I’ll name him Tezuka.

Chapter Text

Kaito Momota considered himself a natural-born leader. Though they hadn’t been acquainted very long, he knew he was already somebody his classmates looked up to. That’s why he did his best to live up to their expectations and be a helping hand to everyone.

So when he came across a glum-looking boy with a pompadour, he sprang into action. This was Mondo Owada, he knew, the Ultimate Biker Gang Leader. He wondered what kind of problem could be getting such a tough-looking guy down like that. Mondo was sitting on a bench in the school courtyard, glowering at nothing. Definitely a student in need of somebody like Kaito! 

“Is this seat taken?” Kaito asked, ambling up to the bench. 

“Suit yourself,” Mondo said disinterestedly. 

“Well then, don’t mind if I do.” Kaito eased himself down. Well then, this was certainly awkward. How to break the ice…?

Maybe begin with some common ground, he thought, raising a hand to his spiked hairdo. 

“Cool hair,” Kaito tried. “What kind of gel do you use on it?”

Despite himself, Mondo broke into a grin. “No gel. Just a steel comb and some heat.” 

Kaito gave a low whistle. “Sounds like a heck of a lot of work.”

“You know it, man,” Mondo said with real vigor. “It’s a bitch to get going, but once the ‘do is in place, it’s worth it. All the ladies…” He suddenly trailed off. And just as Kaito had been starting to cheer him up! 

The cogs in Kaito’s brain began to turn. Could it be as simple as that?

Suddenly it made sense what Mondo was looking at. Across the courtyard, Peko and Fuyuhiko were having lunch together. Peko was holding out her chopsticks with a morsel of food, trying to get a reluctant Fuyuhiko to sample a taste. Though they didn’t seem to be particularly chatty—not that these two ever were—their body language belied a clear closeness.

“So,” he said. “Girl problems?”

Mondo leaned back to stare at the sky, arms behind his head. “Don’t even get me started.” 

Hit the nail right on the head. Kaito preened. He should have been called the Ultimate Psychologist!

“Never had any trouble before high school or nothin’,” Mondo said, “But here, everyone’s a fuckin’ Ultimate! It’s hard to stand out… even for a guy like me.”

Kaito gave what he hoped was a knowing chuckle. “Girls can be tough. But if you think about it, we’re all in the same boat.” 

Mondo shook his head. “Nah, some bastards get all the luck.” He looked back at Peko, who was now attempting to wipe Fuyuhiko’s scowling face with a delicate pink handkerchief. 

It dawned on Kaito that he’d heard an interesting rumor going around. People tended to think that Kaito was simple because he was straightforward, but he wasn’t dense. “Y’know buddy, I don’t think those two have the kind of relationship you think.”

“What’s it matter?” Mondo replied. “Whether they’re bangin’ or not, you got to admit that Yakuza’s got himself a pretty sweet deal.” 

Peko took Fuyuhiko’s empty lunch box and her own, apparently to clean up. 

“I dunno, they seem kinda like brother and sister to me,” Kaito observed.

“No way,” said Mondo. “She comes to visit our room alllll the time. And usually I get kicked out,” he grumbled.

“Only one way to find out,” Kaito said, standing up and shouting, “Hey, Fuyuhiko!” 

Fuyuhiko seemed a little annoyed (well, when did he not?) at being called, but he walked over anyway in that signature swagger of his. He nodded cordially at Mondo and glared at Kaito. “Yeah?” The ‘what do you want, idiot?’ went unspoken. 

“Great to see you too, classmate!” Kaito said cheerfully. “Say, would you mind settling a disagreement between Mondo and me?”

Fuyuhiko’s face cracked a scary grin. “A fight? Sure, I’m down to judge.”

“N-no!” Kaito said hurriedly. It occurred to him that his two classmates had some downright unsavory talents. “More of a verbal thing.” 

“I ain’t never judged no rap battle,” Fuyuhiko crossed his arms. “Or ‘yo mama’ contest.”

Orion give him strength. “No, no, I just mean, answer a question for us. Is Peko dating anyone?”

One of Fuyuhiko’s eyebrows shot up. “No. But she’s got taste, she won’t date just any random asshole.” He gave Kaito a measuring glance. “I’m not sure you’d qualify.”

“No no, not me. My bro Mondo here!” Kaito slapped him on the back jovially.

Mondo sank into his overcoat, giving Fuyuhiko a pained expression. “I swear, I didn’t...”

Fuyuhiko shrugged. “No sweat, roomie. But Peko’s a classy lady. It’s no skin off my nose if you two wanna go out, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.”

Mondo nodded glumly. “Yeah, I kinda figured.”

Kaito wasn’t having this. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained, buddy! Next time she’s visiting your room, it wouldn’t hurt to try chatting with her.”

Fuyuhiko snorted. “Well, if you’re rude about it, it actually would hurt. Probably a lot.”

“Noted! Anyway, c’mon Bro-wada, let’s brainstorm. What other girls do you like? The Luminary of the Stars is here to help!”

The Ultimate Yakuza wandered away, still shaking his head. He wondered if he should warn Peko about Mondo’s potential advances, or just let his roommate find out the hard way. 

 


 

“Attention, athletes!” Nekomaru’s booming voice rang across the crowded Ultimate Sports Lab. “Please assemble!”

Ryoma had been playing catch with Leon. Well, if one could call it ‘playing catch.’ Leon was hitting both tennis balls and baseballs, coming rapid-fire from the various pitching machines pointed at him. He swung hard and fast, so they were mostly pop flies and foul balls, with the occasional bunt to make it easier on Ryoma. The Ultimate Tennis Pro was flashstepping all over the outfield, trying to return the tennis balls and catch as many baseballs as he could, no matter where they went. He was really struggling to hold his racket the way he liked, while also wearing a baseball glove on one hand. But returning the baseballs with his rackets was really bad for them, so he made do.

Panting heavily, legs burning, he jogged over to where Coach was holding court. He nodded amicably to the Ultimate Team Manager as he began some cooling-down stretches and waited for everyone else to huddle up. Aoi and Tenko came first, laughing together- Ryoma was pleased to see them so at ease. The early days of their relationship had been a lot of giggling and even more missteps and misunderstandings, but the girls had reached a  level of comfort with each other that he envied. The Great Gozu and Juzo came next, having finished sparring in the outdoor arena, while it took slightly longer for Akane and Sakura to come from the indoors Ultimate Dojo. Leon had taken the time to properly put his bats away, which Ryoma respected; similarly, Mukuro and Maki had properly unloaded their guns and put the magazines away in the lockbox of the shooting range. Ryoma had to hand it to him- Coach ran a tight ship. Only Peko seemed to be missing- she was probably with her ‘secret love.’ Ryoma had no idea who it was, but Peko had been visiting and talking to little Tezuka like he could understand her when she thought Ryoma was out of earshot. Asking a cat for relationship advice was very much like plucking flower petals to divine whether you were loved or not, but hey, whatever made her happy. Ryoma and Peko had grown quite friendly, but he didn’t think she’d be confiding in him just yet; she seemed much more comfortable whispering to Tezuka, the former Prince of Darkness, when she thought he couldn’t hear her.

“Thank you for assembling!” Nekomaru yelled, despite everyone being in range for his normal voice. “As your Team Manager, I am proposing a group outing and bonding activity tonight! We will be doing some light cardio, so please wear comfortable clothing. Furthermore, before the activity itself, we will be meeting here, for pre-outing preparations.”

Leon’s hand shot up. “Coach, I uh, actually have plans tonight-”

Nekomaru nodded. “Come speak to me after the huddle and we’ll work something out.” He turned to the group at large again. “That being said, I wholeheartedly request that you all attend! I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what I have planned. Maki and Mukuro, please tell Peko of our plans. Everyone, feel free to invite anyone else you think would be interested in a group outing- in fact, please do! The more the merrier!” He laughed happily. “I know I am your peer, not your supervisor- I cannot make this a mandatory group exercise, but I encourage you all to attend! Your teammates are counting on you for support! Meet here at 6:00 sharp! Diiiiiismissed!”

Everyone broke off. Akane, Aoi, and Tenko were all excitedly discussing what they thought the activity might be. 

“Bowling? I love bowling!” 

“No! What kind of pre-bowling preparation would there be? What about a retreat into the mountains, to meditate under ice-cold waterfalls!” 

“That wouldn’t be considered light cardio.” 

“The hike up there would be! And maybe we’d all be given school swimsuits!” 

“You’re both wrong, it’s probably a group bath at some hot springs, followed by a major donut binge!” 

“Sweetie, that’s your guess for everything.” 

“Well it should be the answer to everything!” 

Juzo, the Great Gozu, and Sakura followed them back to training, the latter chuckling to herself at their discussion.

Leon was meeting with Nekomaru, so Ryoma was at loose ends. He had been working hard, so he felt justified in going to fetch Tezuka and giving him some outdoor time. When he returned with the little fuzzball, Leon was walking away from Nekomaru with a wide grin across his face. Ryoma raised an eyebrow, but Leon didn’t say anything other than “you should definitely come tonight, man. And invite a girl or two!”  Ryoma wondered just how good this group activity must be to make Leon bail on his previous plans.

 

Hours later, he found out, much to his dismay. Coach had a folding table set up with a punchbowl, some wine bottles, and a bucket of ice full of beer cans. He was wearing an exceedingly flashy outfit and already holding two beers when Ryoma walked up. 

“What’s all this, Coach?” Ryoma was taken aback, by the alcohol nearly as much as the outfit.

“Preparing our minds and bodies for our activity tonight!” He crowed with laughter. “You know, we’re going to be playing a game- some would call this ‘pre-gaming.’”

“You’re our Team Manger- should you really be getting us drunk?” He couldn’t tear his eyes away from Nekomaru’s extremely tight pants. 

“Don’t be ridiculous! These are complex carbohydrates- we’re carbo-loading!” He thrust a cheap beer into Ryoma’s hands. It was already open and half-empty.

Ryoma raised an eyebrow. “And the wine?”

“Red grapes are heart-healthy, very high in antioxidants!” 

“...And the punchbowl?”

Nekomaru laughed again. “You got me, I just really like Jungle Juice.”

Ryoma shook his head, smiling slightly. “You seem to have an answer for everything. Except that outfit.”

“Well, we’re going out dancing tonight, so I thought I’d wear something to show off my moves!” He did a few pelvic thrusts to emphasize his point.

Is that where they were going?! Ryoma had just worn athletic shorts and a wife beater. “I thought you said we were going to be playing a game?”

Nekomaru belched, clearly already a little tipsy. “The game of going dancing. Come on Ryoma, live a little!”

The Ultimate Tennis Pro shook his head. “Well, you all have fun. I don’t dance.”

Nekomaru pointed a finger at him forcefully. “Well, whether you dance or not is your decision, but you’re coming to our group bonding exercise anyway. Danger Rhubarb is finally playing their big concert tonight, and we’re all going to support our musically-talented classmates!” 

Ryoma had to admit, most of the athletic Ultimates would probably love a chance to get a little wild and rock a concert. “Alright, Coach. Fair enough.”

He looked him up and down critically. “Now go change into something a little less comfortable and a little sexier! Be back here in five, that’s an order from your Coach!” 

Ryoma felt his face burning. “Sir, yes sir.” 

By the time he returned, everyone had arrived but Leon. Aoi told him that Leon was already planning to go to the concert tonight, and in fact had been wrangled to help set up the stage. Ryoma supposed he’d be missing out on pre-gaming but getting brownie points with the girls in the band. Several others had brought friends. He saw that Kaito had brought Mondo, the Ultimate Biker Gang Leader, who Ryoma only knew by reputation. “My Bro and I are here to have a good time, chat with some cute girls, and boost our confidence!” Kaito said, slapping Mondo on the back. Mondo looked ready to crawl into a hole and die.

“Looking good, Ryoma!” Akane cried from across the punchbowl.

Tenko sniffed. “For a degenerate male, I suppose he does.”

He blushed a bit, but couldn’t help smiling. “Thanks.” He had worn a bit more of his heavier leather stuff, since he wasn’t going to dance. He had traded his usual hat for a little hair gel, and put back in his piercings he normally kept out for sports reasons. He supposed Coach’s outfit had inspired him to look ‘a little sexier.’

It looked like he had been one of the few who hadn’t sleuthed out the nature of the group activity. Most of them were dressed for a concert, though Juzo had worn an outfit similar to Ryoma’s first one. Nekomaru similarly sent him away, and when he returned it was in a very tight, very homosexual clubbing outfit, one in which he looked profoundly uncomfortable. Ryoma wondered which of his well-meaning, straight, female friends had made him purchase it. He made a point to compliment him on his appearance, and he thought he could see the hint of a blush in the Ultimate Boxer’s face.

They all started heading over after an hour or so. Ryoma began walking in the direction of the Ultimate Music Lab, but was quickly course-corrected by his Coach. 

“So, the band can’t decide on a finalized name, and they keep changing their minds as to what to call themselves,” Nekomaru said with a slight burp. “The night of their big concert, the one they’d passed out a whole bunch of flyers for, they changed their name to ‘Dang It, Ron Paul!’ A big banner, hanging outside the Ultimate Theater entrance. Before the concert even started, several libertarian guests complained, and they got a lot of flak from the Academy for changing their name to something inflammatory. Ibuki tried to change the banner to ‘Dang It, RuPaul’ and save the concert, but that went over even worse!”

Ryoma chuckled. “And so now they’re...”

“‘Danger Rhubarb,’ apparently. And so we’re heading to the cafeteria instead! The Academy says they’re not allowed to hold a concert for non-students until the bad press dies down.”

Ryoma knew that Ultimates were under the microscope a lot, but that was ridiculous. Why did the people of Towa City, or anyone for that matter, care so much about a band name?! “That’s asinine,” he snorted.

Nekomaru nodded. “Be that as it may, the public’s loss is our gain. I haven’t heard them play, but with three musically-inclined Ultimates it’s sure to be unforgettable.”



It turns out Nekomaru was absolutely right. ‘Unforgettable’ was definitely the word for it. Well, Kaede’s and Sayaka’s songs were alright, but Ibuki’s songs were less ‘punk rock’ and more ‘entirely incomprehensible off-key screaming.’ He wondered if she had switched her focus from punk to some kind of experimental avant-garde doom metal. At least Leon seemed to be enjoying it; he had hung out near the stage all night, cheering them on. Nekomaru wondered which one of the bandmates he was trying to woo- he had learned that Leon didn’t do much of anything without girl-related motivation. Luckily, a lot of girls liked his baseball skills, and Nekomaru had been using that as leverage to get him to practice. It was all about finding the proper motivation. 

Speaking of motivation, it turns out that no force on this earth could force Ryoma to dance. He looked so awkward, perched in a cafeteria chair, people-watching for all he was worth. He had told Nekomaru that he was content to watch, but his smile had been a forced one. Nekomaru wondered if Ryoma had ever been to a school dance before... maybe if he had told his athletes the truth of their outing, Ryoma would have brought a date? Yes, that was probably it. He’d never seen Ryoma doing anything romantically-inclined, but the cute little guy couldn’t be made of stone.

Before he could question the use of ‘cute’ in his internal monologue, Sayaka’s song ended. Leon rolled Kaede’s baby grand piano out onto center stage, and Ibuki swapped her electric guitar for an acoustic one. As the spotlight fell on The Ultimate Pianist, she began a lilting ballad. Sayaka’s singing was low and slow, and Ibuki’s acoustic guitar harmonized with Kaede’s intricate piano work. It was clear that this was one of Kaede’s Songs, and the other two were playing backup to her on this one. 

( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DGmgvGSCaU )

“Aw, a slow song?! I was in the groove!” complained Akane. She slapped Nekomaru on the back with a grin and headed over to the snack table. 

Hmmm. Which of his athletes was he to dance with next? It’s important that a Team Manager never show obvious favoritism. Nekomaru’s eyes swept over the crowded dance floor, looking for his fellow Sports Ultimates. Why was everything so blurry? He hadn’t drunk THAT much. Maybe. Probably.

Tenko and Aoi were slow dancing, two hands clasped together, the others on each other’s shoulders. Nekomaru hadn’t yet danced with Tenko, but not only would he not want to interrupt their romantic dance, but he was fairly certain Tenko would have kicked him in the balls if he asked her to dance during a slow song. Or any time, really, he mused. 

Nekomaru saw Juzo dancing with a green-haired twink he had never seen before. Did Juzo have an off-campus friend or boyfriend he brought? Or had he actually managed to score a dance here, despite his very reserved personality? The boy had nails that even Nekomaru would have to describe as ‘fabulous.’ Juzo seemed very nervous, but his dance partner was smiling easily and leading him around the floor. 

Ah, Sakura! That was a good choice; she had a boyfriend back home that she didn’t like to gossip about, but made her smile very genuinely when she had admitted as such to him. She wouldn’t get any wrong ideas about him asking her to slow-dance. He headed over to the cafeteria seating where Sakura and Ryoma were sitting. 

Unfortunately, it seemed he was too late. “Gonta would like to ask... can Gonta have this dance?” The Ultimate Entomologist was looking dapper in his very formal suit, and had even put on shoes for the occasion. He bowed his head and extended his arm, but Nekomaru could see that he was nervous. 

He needn’t have worried; Sakura was a complete class act. “When such a Gentleman asks so politely, how could I refuse?” She took his hand and led him out onto the dance floor. Gonta had made a good choice with Sakura- if he had tried dancing for the first time with someone smaller, he would probably have stepped on their feet and possibly caused serious injury. The Ultimate Martial Artist was both agile enough to dodge and extremely congenial- Nekomaru could see that she was helping him with his hand and feet placement. 

That left Nekomaru standing alone with Ryoma. In a deliberate imitation of Gonta, Nekomaru bowed and extended his hand to the boy. “Nekomaru would like to ask... can Nekomaru have this dance?”

Ryoma frowned. “Don’t be an ass, Coach. Gonta is trying really hard to be a Gentleman. Did you know he’s been working up the courage to ask someone to dance all night? He’s a complete sweetheart.”

Ugh, Nekomaru had been trying to be funny, but it had gone over like a lead shot put ball. “No, I know, I- I’m sorry. I was just joking.” He rubbed the back of his neck, chagrined. “I still want to dance with you.”

The smaller boy’s frown eased a little, but not much. “Coach, I’ve told you a thousand times, I don’t dance.”

Nekomaru sighed. “And why not? You haven’t actually given me a reason.”

“You never asked.”

“...” 

“Okay, I guess it’s because I don’t like looking silly in front of everyone.” He smiled wanly. “I’ve got a hard-boiled image to maintain, y’know.” Nekomaru was drunk, but he wasn’t THAT drunk, he could tell this wasn’t the whole reason.

“You won’t look silly. You always look cute, but tonight you look hot as hell. I wish I could pull off leather pants half as well as you’re doing right now.” Okay maybe he was that drunk, his mouth was running away from him.

Ryoma blushed all the way to the tips of his ears. His protestations seemed to have been caught in his throat. 

Nekomaru bowed again. “Ryoma Hoshi, the Ultimate Tennis Pro, one of my favorite athletes and best friends, would you please do me the honor of dancing with me?”

At that moment, Akane returned from the snack table, with a plate overloaded with cookies and little sandwiches. Ryoma looked from Nekomaru, to Akane smooshing a club sandwich between two cookies and shoving it all at once in her mouth, and back. He tentatively put his hand in Nekomaru’s outstretched one. “....Yeah. Okay.”



Ryoma was going to regret this. 

Nekomaru grinned so broadly that it was dazzling. Ryoma felt a little weak in the knees. 

Well, he guessed that maybe it would be fine.

Nekomaru led the way out onto the cafeteria’s makeshift dance floor. Ryoma felt uncomfortable being tugged along like a toddler, but he was used to it. In the center of the floor, Nekomaru turned to face him, never letting go of his hand. He caught his other hand and placed it on his hip, and then put his on Ryoma’s shoulder. Ryoma had been watching his Coach surreptitiously all night, and Nekomaru had been completely at ease swing dancing, popping and/or locking, and headbanging with his athletes. But the Ultimate Team Manager had clearly also picked up ballroom dancing from somewhere. He began to sway back and forth, slight movements of his feet, and Ryoma did his best to copy him. He’d never danced before, and he could tell he was blushing with embarrassment; Nekomaru made no comment, and carefully avoided stepping on his feet.

Ryoma stared at the floor. This was terrible- why did people do this? He knew everyone was looking at him, judging him, snickering to themselves about the preposterous 3’5” little person dancing with the ripped hot guy twice his height. Ryoma tried to pull away, but Nekomaru didn’t let go of his hand. He looked up at his Coach, and saw Nekomaru looking down at him and smiling softly, so genuinely that Ryoma’s heart skipped a beat. 

And then... the song ended. They had been dancing for less than a minute. It had taken quite a while for Nekomaru to convince him, he supposed. Saved by the piano, Ryoma thought, and made to withdraw. 

“KAEDE!” Nekomaru roared across the silent cafeteria. Everyone looked at them, and Ryoma wanted to sink through the floor. “AGAIN!.... Please.”

The Ultimate Pianist was clearly taken aback. But after a quick look at her bandmates, she reshuffled their set list and gamely began another slow song. Sayaka and Ibuki hurried to catch up, the former struggling to catch up with the lyrics and the latter quickly swapping her acoustic guitar for a saxophone.

( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PovBYMxidf4 )

“Coach, what on Earth-” Ryoma began. 

“Shhh, Ryoma. Let me have this moment,” Nekomaru said softly. He smiled again, causing the butterflies in Ryoma’s stomach to flutter their wings en masse. “And admit it, if I let you go now, I’d never get you out here on the dance floor again.”

Ryoma had to admit that he was right. But as everyone else went back to dancing and took their attention off of Nekomaru, he began to think... this wasn’t so bad. And yet- once he had figured out the footwork, and adjusted to the slightly-slower tempo of the new song, Ryoma didn’t need to stare at his feet anymore. And then he realized he was eye-level with Nekomaru’s crotch in his extremely tight pants. 

He coughed. To break eye contact with his Coach’s bulge, Ryoma began looking around the dance floor. Juzo was blushing as his dance partner rested his head on his shoulder and snuggled in close. Was that Rantaro? Ryoma had only met the Ultimate Adventurer once in passing, but he was pretty sure that was him. The only one in the room with an outfit more homosexual than Juzo, he chuckled to himself.

Kaito and his new bro Mondo were over by the Monokuma’s Angels’ normal table, even though it had been pushed back to make room for the makeshift dance floor. Mondo was stammering something to Junko and Celeste, who looked exceedingly unimpressed. Kaito was clearly trying to hype his boy up, being the best wingman he could be, but yeesh. They had picked a hard starting point.

Where were the other members of Junko’s clique? Ryoma found Sonia dancing with The Great Gozu, chatting animatedly about his mask and the meaning behind it. Hiyoko was dancing by herself, as near as she could get to the stage without being on it, doing the traditional dancing for which she was known. Her eyes were closed, and she fluttered her paper fans about in an elegant pattern.

Where was- huh. Ruruka was slow dancing with Teruteru?? He thought Junko’s clique hated the Ultimate Cook... “58, 59, 60!” Ruruka said a little too loudly, and immediately dropped Teruteru’s hand like it had burned her. She stomped back to where Celeste and Junko were sitting and smirking at her. Ryoma realized at the same moment Teruteru did, based on his face falling abruptly. Ah...Ruruka lost a bet. That had to hurt. Though after a brief moment, Teruteru pulled himself back together and went back on the prowl. The little horndog was nothing if not used to rejection.

Kazuichi was dancing with- was that Chihiro? Ryoma had thought he was still dating Miu. Huh, he must be behind on the Ultimate Machine Lab gossip. Oh wait, there was Miu now- Ryoma flinched as she slapped Kazuichi in the face. Ah. Well. Wonder if she’s the jealous ex, or just jealous that her boyfriend was chastely dancing with someone else. Who can say, Miu was kind of batshit insane. She stormed off and Kazuichi looked apologetically at Chihiro, but didn’t stop dancing. Interesting. He wondered what that meant.

“Enjoying the view?” Nekomaru’s deep chuckle broke Ryoma out of his reverie. 

“Yeah, uh, just looking around. People-watching. Gotta keep up with all the hot relationship gossip.” 

Nekomaru laughed. “And here I was hoping that I was the view you were enjoying.”

Ryoma’s eyes flickered from Nekomaru’s face to his crotch again, then back. He flushed. “Someone’s full of himself.” He tried to act as nonchalant as he usually did.

“Oh? Who else would I be full of? Are you volunteering?” Nekomaru leered.

Ryoma coughed, sputtering too hard to reply. How drunk was this guy?! Drunker than he had thought, that’s for sure. “That’s not funny, Coach.”

Nekomaru tsked. “Ryoma, we’re slow dancing and your face is a foot from my dick. I think you can call me Nekomaru.”

Ryoma glowered. “That’s not funny, Nekomaru.”

“Well, I thought it was pretty good for an off-the-cuff innuendo.” He sighed. “Ryoma, I think you have a problem with me, and I wish I knew why. What did I do to make you dislike me?”

“I don’t- I don’t dislike you at all. I’m dancing here with you, aren’t I?” He averted his gaze.

“You’ve been carefully distant with me ever since our first manager/athlete meeting. You try to avoid looking at me whenever possible. You’re civil, even friendly, but guarded.” Ryoma was surprised that Nekomaru had picked up on his awkwardness. “You won’t even let me do ‘it’ to you, like the other athletes.”

Ryoma shrank back. “Okay, well here’s one thing- I don’t really want you to do it to me! Especially if you’re doing it to everyone else on the team! I’m not some conquest for you to fuck! I’m not going to bend over for you so you can complete the set!”

Nekomaru looked baffled. “Ryoma... Doing ‘it’ to my athletes is what I call giving a massage. I told everyone on the first day. It’s much faster to say “Coach, do ‘it’ to me” than “Coach, give me your patented Energizing Revitalizing Muscle-Relaxing Blood-Circulating Fatigue-Toxin-Removing probably-Chakra-Aligning Ultra Mega Massage!’ Even I have trouble remembering all that.” He blinked owlishly. “Did you- did you really think I was having sexual relations with my athletes?”

Ryoma felt his heart drop into his stomach. “I thought- well, not all of them, but yeah, some of them. I’d seen Aoi and Akane leaving your office all blissed-out and talking about how amazing it was when you did it to them- or I guess, did ‘it’ to them...”

“And you thought I was re-energizing their bodies with orgasms rather than my incredibly skilled massages.” Nekomaru looked queasy. “Ryoma, I- I admit I had hoped that you thought better of me than that. A team manager taking advantage of their athletes like that...” He shook his head.  “That’s completely despicable.”

Ryoma felt lower than- well, something really low. Lower than he normally was to the ground already. Fuck. Shit. Shitfuck. “Coach...I mean, Nekomaru... I-”

“It’s okay,” Nekomaru smiled wanly. “It was a misunderstanding.” Ryoma nodded glumly. “Well, for what it’s worth, I’m officially stating that I have never had sexual relations with any of my athletes, past or present.” He gently grasped Ryoma’s chin, and tilted his head up. They made eye contact for the first time since they had begun dancing. “Nor would I do so in the future, unless we were in a committed monogamous relationship and kept it strictly professional outside of closed doors.” His eyes bored into Ryoma’s. There was no trace of a smile now- Ryoma had never seen his manager look more serious. “Just in case that matters to you.”

The song ended. Nekomaru let his hands fall, and Ryoma took a step back. Without another word to Ryoma, he left the dance floor. Ryoma didn’t see him for the rest of the night.

 


 

“I gotta say, you guys are amazing,” Leon gushed. He had insisted that he could move Kaede’s piano back to the Ultimate Music Lab all by himself, so Kaede and Ibuki had taken their other instruments and gone on ahead. Sayaka was deliberately slowing her pace to walk back with him, carrying the piano stool and books of sheet music. Not that Kaede had even glanced at the sheet music all night- the Ultimate Pianist’s memory and retention was amazing. 

“Well, we try,” she replied evenly. Sayaka was used to fans heaping praise on her and her bandmates. Her pop idol group had toured basically every country that mattered during their heyday. 

“I mean it!” Leon gasped out, as the baby grand piano hit a small bump on the sidewalk. He gritted his teeth and kept on pushing. “Taking three Ultimates from three different genres of music, and making it work together? It’s unbelievable!”

Sayaka colored a little, the street lamps doing little to betray her flushed face in the dark. That was actually really nice to hear, especially since it pretty much WAS unbelievable how well they’d been pulling it off. “Thanks. It’s hard. It’s really hard, actually, but we’re trying our best to make it work. Kaede is great, it’s really Ibuki that’s-”

“She’s so awesome. She can play all those instruments, and sing too!” Leon didn’t notice Sayaka’s abrupt frown. “Why does she even need to play all those instruments, anyway?”

Sayaka sniffed. “She doesn’t. Someone was telling her that her title was the Ultimate Musician, not the Ultimate Punk Sensation or the Ultimate Guitarist, and she took that as a challenge.” Also Sayaka had dared her to master every instrument in existence by the end of the year. She’d been researching really obscure instruments too, like the theremin and glass harmonica, to make sure Ibuki lost the bet. Unfortunately, she was pretty sure if she produced a pyrophone or zeusaphone from somewhere, Ibuki would be overjoyed to play it. She already had modified a guitar to shoot flames as she played; Sayaka was sure that an organ that ran on gasoline combustion or a theremin that ran on lightning would be right up Ibuki’s alley. 

Leon sighed dreamily. “That’s so cool. She can pretty much do anything, huh?” He stopped pushing abruptly. “Hey, Sayaka? Do you think...”

Sayaka turned and looked him dead in the eye. “You want me to put in a good word with Ibuki for you.” And you don’t actually like me at all. You just wanted a chance to butter me up to get on Ibuki’s good side. Little did you know that we hate each other, and it’s only Kaede that keeps us from ripping out each other’s hair.

Leon blinked. “Uh, well, yeah! How did you know?”

“I’m psychic,” Sayaka said, completely deadpan.

“What, really?” Leon asked, clearly shocked.

“No, I’m just kidding! I just have really good intuition.” She beamed her fakest smile at Leon, who ate it up. She hadn’t wanted to date Leon before, but she had appreciated having the option. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell her all about how great you are!” She would let Ibuki have him over her dead body.

 


 

Korekiyo and Genocide Jack were covered in blood, making out over a dead body.

Chapter Text

“Hey dude, where ya been?” Yasuhiro asked his roommate. 

Korekiyo smiled enigmatically. “Oh, I was talking to another one of my sister’s friends. She was a very nice girl, I’m glad to have met her.”

“Ah, I see! Your sister sure has a lot of friends that live in this city. It’s weird, considering you talk about her all the time but said I’d probably never get to meet her. This friend, does she have any organs she’s willing to donate to a good cause- hey, are you bleeding?!”

Korekiyo frowned. “Where do you see blood?” he asked, twisting his legs to view the back of his pants. He seemed agitated suddenly, although Yasuhiro had no idea why. 

Yasuhiro pointed to his own neck. “Right here, on the right side of your neck- a little higher- a little- got it.” He watched as his roommate wiped the small splotch of blood off his neck; the area was still red and bruised, but didn’t seem to be bleeding actively. “Heyyyy, wait, is that a hickey under there?! It is, isn’t it! You lucky dog, you!”

Smiling the same enigmatic smile as always, Korekiyo said “I may have had a romantic encounter while out and about as well.” He nonchalantly held up his hand to inspect the splotch of blood on it. 

Blood on his hands... blood on Korekiyo’s hands... Blood... A vision swept over Yasuhiro and left him tumbling in its wake. This wasn’t like one of his normal fortune-telling visions, called upon command. This came unbidden, sharp, and bloody. He saw people die. So many people, so many ways. His classmates... himself, twice... millions of faceless, nameless people... It washed over him, stole his sight and his breath away, and then it was over. 

“-and I look forward to seeing her again,” Korekiyo continued, apparently unaware of Yasuhiro having been out of the conversation for a while. “Anyway, I’m going to the cafeteria now, if you want to accompany me?”

“Uh, yeah, sure, whatever.” Was that a real vision? It had shown so many different conflicting possibilities. Yasuhiro’s clairvoyance was holding steady at around 40% accuracy with his new crystal ball, probably 30% without. He had seen his own corpse, stabbed in the chest in a bathroom...  But he’d also seen his corpse, much older than he was now, wrapped around with thorny vines. Obviously he couldn’t die twice- which was true? Or were neither of them true? It would be easy enough to avoid thorny vines, but avoiding bathrooms would be a lot harder. 

Korekiyo cleared his throat, and Yasuhiro realized he was just standing there. He mechanically began to follow along behind his roommate, even as his mind was whirling and processing all of the possible futures and alternate reality futures he had seen. They arrived in the cafeteria, and as he walked automatically behind Korekiyo towards their usual table, Yasuhiro heard many snatches of conversation from the tables around him.

“Hey lover! Can I sit with you?” Kokichi slid into the seat next to Fuyuhiko and batted his eyelashes at him.

“I’m not your lover, asshole.” Fuyuhiko didn’t even look up from his plate. 

“Why Fuyu-kins, I’m crushed!” Kokichi placed a hand to his heart in mock anguish. “After all the time we’ve spent with just a wall between our beds, so close together, right beside each other-” There was a sword suddenly in his face. “Wow, Peko, you’d really go to bat for Fuyuhiko, huh? Okay, I can take a hint, I’ll see you tonight honeybun!”

Fuyuhiko snorted as Peko sheathed her blade again. “You’re gonna put someone’s eye out with that one day. Probably mine, hah,” he snorted. 

Yasuhiro frowned. Things were bubbling to the forefront of his mind, remnants of the vision  he’d just had. They moved out of earshot and walked past the jock table.

Leon was groaning and rubbing his shoulder as he ate. “I hate practice so much. I got hit by like a thousand balls yesterday.”

Ryoma didn’t look up from his book, the cover of which was emblazoned with crossed tennis rackets. “Yeah, I hear ya. I’m drowning in homework. Sometimes I wish someone would put Coach Nekomaru to sleep somehow, or tie him up or something, anything to stop him from assigning me so much extra work.” He picked at his plate absently, then frowned. “Ugh, fish. Fish has never agreed with me.”

Mukuro nodded. “So much work to do. I’ve been getting it from all sides.” She looked over to Maki, who was fast asleep with her head on the cafeteria table. “Maki has been burning herself out between studying and her ‘extra project.’ She actually shot a couple of bystanders with her hand crossbow yesterday. Nothing fatal, but still.”

Wincing, Juzo continued to wrap bandages around his hands. “I’ve been boxing so much that I can’t even hit anything with my bare hands anymore. It feels like my hand is just gonna come off.”

Tenko was sitting awkwardly on her chair in a lotus position. “I’ve been doing yoga to try to relax from too much Neo-Aikido. I really like the ‘Caged Child’ position. It’s like ‘Downward Dog,’ but lower, like you’re under the dog.” She jumped onto the table and tried to demonstrate the position. But in doing so, she knocked her girlfriend’s hand accidentally as she was trying to apply condiments.

“Tenko!” Aoi yelped. “You just made me spill ketchup all down my shirt!” 

Yeeaaaaah, he was freaking out. Everything he was hearing was resonating with the vision of death and despair he couldn’t forget.

He tried to keep it together as they passed the Monokuma’s Angels table.

“I’m so glad that Teruteru is serving creme brulee now,” Celeste was saying. She was fiddling with a butane torch, trying to light it so she could caramelize the top layer of her dessert. Suddenly it roared to life; she dropped it and immediately stuck a finger in her mouth in a rather undignified manner. “SHIT! That FUCKIN’ HURTS.”

Sonia looked taken aback at Celeste’s outburst, but reached over to extinguish the flame. “Oh no! Dear friend, you are burned!”

Celeste nodded, removing her finger from her mouth and regaining her composure. “Yes, but I’m at fault; I did it to myself. I just wanted something rich and fancy, and couldn’t wait any longer.”

Hiyoko pointed and laughed at her. “You clumsy oaf! Watch out or you’re gonna be crossing the street and get hit by a truck or something!”

“Hiyoko! Apologize at once!” Sonia cried. 

Ruruka nodded. “One day, you’re going to bully and insult someone so much that they snap completely and kill you, and no one will be surprised.” She glumly pushed a new batch of candies in front of Hiyoko.

This earned her a glower from Hiyoko. “Oh, go shove your stupid candy in someone else’s mouth for once, I’m tired of being your taste-test guinea pig.” She got up from the table and began to stride out of the cafeteria.

“Wait! Don’t leave!” Ruruka cried, getting up and running after her. 

She accidentally bumped into Nagito, who was approaching the table with an unconcerned smile on his face. He walked right up to Junko, who was ignoring her food in favor of painting her nails. He stood there for a moment, then said “Wow, your hand is beautiful.” He looked wistfully at his own nails, which were short and unadorned. “I wish I could pull that off.”

Junko started in surprise; she clearly hadn’t noticed his approach. “Buzz off, creep. Go kill yourself.”

Nagito laughed and began to continue his dreamlike meandering through the cafeteria. “Hmmm... maybe I will.”

Yasuhiro was flipping the hell out. They reached the lunch line and he shoved whatever onto his plate, completely uncaring as to what he was grabbing. He followed Korekiyo to their normal table and tried to keep his legs under him and his tray from clattering too loudly.

“Kaeeeeeede!” Ibuki yelled cheerily, as she slid into a seat opposite the Ultimate Pianist. “After we eat, wanna hang?!”

Kaede had bags under her eyes, but smiled wanly. “Sure, why not? I’m procrastinating on some homework. If I’m just gonna feel guilty over something I don’t even end up doing, I might as well hang with you!”

Sayaka pretended not to notice Ibuki’s entrance. “Kirumi, need any help with your crossword puzzle?”

Kirumi frowned. “Yes, actually. I’m stuck on this one and it’s an uphill climb without it. Any idea for ‘A Cable Conveyance,’ seven letters?”

Sayaka shrugged. “Probably ‘ropeway.’ Need me to spell it out for you?”

“No need,” Kirumi smiled. “Thank you- neither Zipline or Tramway were working. I’ve never heard the word ‘ropeway’ before in my life.”

Augh! This was so terrifying! It all reminded him of things he’d seen, alternate futures, things that might have been if situations were different!

Tsumugi shrugged. “I don’t trust the headmaster. He’s always straight with you, he’ll always give you an honest answer to anything you ask him, but it definitely seems like he has something up his sleeve.”

Gundham nodded. “I’ve not spent any time with this mortal since our acceptance interviews, but he seems like a righteous sort.” He speared another forkful of salad.

Gonta looked bewildered. “But friend Gundham, that your left ‘chusort!’”

Tsumugi clucked her tongue. “No Gonta, we discussed this, that was Gundham’s right hand. Here, hold your hands in an L-shape like this. The one that makes an L is the left hand.” She left Gonta to his intense scrutiny of his hands and continued conversing with Gundham. “So, did your pregnant bear, you know- finish yet?”

“Finish what?” Gundham raised an eyebrow. “The mighty huntress gave birth last night, actually.”

Tsumugi held a hand over her mouth. “Ughhh, I hate that phrase- ‘give birth.’ I’m gonna be sick. Going to the bathroom, don’t worry about me!” And she ran off.

Auuuuuuuuuuugh!

Mondo and Hifumi are eating lobster together as Kaito rambled on. “They say ‘shoot for the moon- even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.’ But you’d just die alone in space! ...Also the moon is something like 3.5 kilometers in diameter, you probably should have done your math better.”

Hifumi slammed down his mallet, opening up another lobster, the shell splitting with an audible crack. “Pass the butter,” Mondo says around a mouthful of lobster tail.

AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!!!!

Chiaki was sitting with Kazuichi, monologuing about her videogames. “I like to try pacifist runs on games when I can, just to change it up. I was playing Undertale and one time I killed someone by accident, and I was just crushed.”

Kazuichi clearly had his own problems. “Miu is driving me crazy... I could just strangle her.”

AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG!!!!!!!

Korekiyo sat, and Yasuhiro distractedly sat with him. “Hmph. This egg is overboiled. Whatever... could you please pass the salt? I need a lot of it.”

Teruteru walked out of the doors from the kitchen with a large pile of meat on the bone, and some kebabs. “Fresh dish! Who wants skewers?!”

That was it- Yasuhiro ran for it.

Chapter Text

Nekomaru strode into the Clinic attached to the Ultimate Biology Lab. He took a pause at the doorway to do some cooldown stretches he didn’t really need. Yes he had jogged here, but then again, he pretty much jogged everywhere as a matter of habit. Really he was just pausing and trying to let his heart rate return to normal before they measured it during his appointment. 

“Oh, uh, hey roomie, what’s up, whatcha doing here?” His roommate Kaito was coming out of one of the examining rooms when he spotted Nekomaru. The Ultimate Astronaut hurriedly shoved a bottle of pills into the pocket of his star-studded jacket. 

“I have a congenital heart defect, and I have appointments here all the time.” Nekomaru narrowed his eyes. “A better question would be, what are you doing here? You have mentioned before that you hate doctors and never ever get sick. Repeatedly, usually apropos of nothing.”

Kaito laughed, but it wasn’t very convincing. “Well, I just have a little cold, but I figured I’d get some medicine for it as soon as possible, really nip it in the bud before it becomes a huge problem, you know, be proactive, right?!”

Nekomaru merely nodded, and moved to allow Kaito to hurry past him and out the door. He’d check the pill bottle when Kaito wasn’t around and get some actual information. After all, they may be roommates, but Kaito was also one of his athletes- his health was Nekomaru’s responsibility! Although... he did spend most of his astronaut physical training time lying on the ground and staring up at the heavens.

He signed in at the front desk and sat to wait for his appointment. He didn’t have to wait long- two girls came out of an examination room just a few minutes later.

Mikan Tsumiki always looked as if someone had just finished telling her that she wasn't worth the urine it would take to piss on her. Nekomaru had hoped that sharing a Lab with the Ultimate Therapist might do her some good, but so far she seemed just as timid and overly-apologetic as always.

 

“They were holding an audition for the Ultimate Hairdresser this morning, and I was passing by so they asked me for help! ! I wish I hadn't done it, though, but it was nice to be wanted.” Nekomaru turned the corner and saw Mikan talking to Seiko, the Ultimate Pharmacist. 

Then she turned to face him and Nekomaru almost spit up his mid-jogging NekomaruAid. Her normally straight, long hair had been hacked apart. Various clumps had been left at various lengths, and were hairsprayed out away from her head. He was sure the Ultimate Hairdresser hopeful thought it was very avant-garde, but looking at her head-on gave one the impression that Medusa had been attacked with a chainsaw.

“Oh, Nekomaru! G-good morning! Please have a seat in examination room B and I’ll be right with you!” Mikan requested, perking up when she saw him. They weren’t exactly friends, but they had a very good working relationship. Besides coming here for his regular heart checkups, he also had come for first aid several times during the semester. He wasn’t very good at first aid, as demonstrated with the facial cut Akane had given him- he was a man who identified and honed people’s talents. He therefore trusted the Ultimate Nurse to tend to his charges, and the practice would make her even better at her job! And if that meant Nekomaru didn’t have to learn much first aid, well, what a nice side benefit, gahaha!

As Nekomaru stood to enter the examination room, he heard a familiar voice, muffled by a door. He was pretty sure it was... Huh. Why was Ryoma here? So many of his athletes coming to get medical attention without his knowledge! Of course, they were his peers, and it was none of his business, except they were also his charges and it was totally his business, but they were entitled to their privacy, but not if it affected their performance, and auuugh. Nekomaru had always struggled with the balance between being incredibly overbearing and letting his athletes breathe a little. He wanted what was best for his athletes but wasn’t always sure the best way to go about it. Nekomaru had once met a “coach” who only cared for his players as objects; he would wreck their school lives, home lives, and very psyches to turn them into “winners.” It had left him sickened, and beating him had been very satisfying indeed. But occasionally he feared that his overenthusiastic nature might be taking a similar toll on his own athletes.

He knew he should leave Ryoma to his privacy. The Ultimate Tennis Pro had made it abundantly clear that he didn’t care much for Nekomaru, or at least didn’t think very highly of him. Yes, it was none of his business. With a start, Nekomaru realized that he had unconsciously moved to the door and was listening with his ear pressed against it. He hadn’t even noticed he was doing it. So much for respecting his athletes’ privacy...

“And with Family Weekend coming up, I’ve already been feeling pretty down. I’d just hide in my room and chill with little Tezuka, but my coach has signed me up for a tennis demonstration for the Cultural Festival... I still can’t believe those two events are the same weekend- shouldn’t they let people who actually have loved ones spend as much time with them as possible, instead of working maid cafes or whatever happens at a Cultural Festival?”

A robotic voice replied, startling Nekomaru somewhat. Was Ryoma having a feelings jam with the Ultimate Robot? Nekomaru hadn’t actually met K1-B0 in person, but knew him by reputation. Although this voice sounded more like a female text-to-speech voice. “Speaking of your coach, how is your relationship with him progressing? I remember last week you had said that you were afraid you had completely burned bridges with him.” Nekomaru flushed.

“He hasn’t acted any differently towards me whatsoever. He either has an incredible poker face, or he really didn’t take it personally. Or I’m just particularly bad at reading his emotions. Either way, I think we might be okay? I’m honestly not sure.” Nekomaru could almost hear Ryoma shrug. 

“Is he still triggering your PTSD? Post-rape trauma is-”

Ryoma cut the other voice off. “No. I just make sure not to be naked near him anymore. It’s pretty easy just to shower in my room instead. He doesn’t know I was... what happened. It’s not his fault.” He sounded adamant, almost defensive of Nekomaru. 

“What about when he is naked near you? Is that still triggering?”

A pregnant pause, during which Nekomaru held his breath to make sure he didn’t miss the answer. “...Not in the way you mean. Not- not in a bad way. I- oh god, doc, I like it. I shouldn’t, it makes no sense, I should be terrified, but I’m really attracted to him, and I know that’s so wrong, it’s...”

Nekomaru jumped straight out of his skin when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He whirled around to see Mikan looking at him disapprovingly, or as disapprovingly as she could manage. She pointed towards exam room B, and he nodded guiltily. As he slinked off to his appointment his head was reeling. Ryoma was raped? Ryoma liked him? Or, well, at least thought he was hot. Ryoma liked men? He thought maybe he had a thing going with Peko, she went to his room so often... Well, not that that meant anything. Nekomaru may coach one team on the streets, but he played for both teams in the sheets. But he thought Nekomaru had hated him? Maybe Nekomaru was too good at not playing favorites amongst his athletes. He would have to make sure Ryoma knew he wasn’t mad, and also that he liked him back. Maybe even like-liked him. Man, that was so childish, but he knew what he meant. What could Nekomaru do to make it up to Ryoma? As he took off his shirt and let Mikan begin her examination, a plan was already forming in his mind.

 


 

Toko Fukawa, the Ultimate Writing Prodigy, was a plain girl. She was often looked down upon for her looks, but she was also extremely lovely at the same time. She had a reserved attitude that was hard to comprehend; her Prince Charming would have to spend many moonlit nights of pure Romance to break through her barriers and see the charming girl beneath. But the people around her thought of her as reserved, stately, quiet and shy but also smart and talented. Today she was wearing a simple frock of a royal purple that accentuated her dark purple hair, held in two simple braids. When she let her hair down, it flowed luxuriantly all the way down to her shapely buttocks. Her large grey eyes, of piercing slate when she glared, a calm smoke color when she was off her guard, widened as she left her dormitory chambers and saw the Ultimate Art Lab. Radiant sunlight streamed through the windowpanes and alit upon the many works of Art festooning the room; wax and clay sculptures sitting in various stages of production, elegant black and white photographs strung up on a clothesline to dry after being developed, exquisite oil paintings covering the walls with scarcely any room between them. 

“Oh, yay. Toko is here.” Angie Yonaga sounded disinterested to disappointed with her presence, but Toko knew she was actually seething with jealousy at her quiet inner beauty. 

The Ultimate Artist was wearing her usual tacky bikini, sluttily revealed under her open canary-yellow smock. Her stringy platinum blonde hair was nowhere near as long as Toko’s, and was draped in two tails, not neatly braided like Toko’s. She was conventionally pretty, if you liked that sort of thing, but Toko had noticed that she hadn’t had a single boyfriend since she came to Hope’s Peak Academy. Oh sure, Angie said it was because she was focusing on her art, but it was probably because no boys ever paid any attention to her. Toko hadn’t had any boyfriends either, but that was because all the boys were in awe of her intellect and incredible Talent, not because of any failings on Toko’s part. 

Mahiru looked up from her photography editing software and flashed Toko a smile. “Angie, come on. Be nice to Toko. Like Tenko says, us girls all gotta stick together and look out for each other. The men sure aren’t going to.” 

Mahiru was a true feminist, a bit preachy, but nice. To women, anyway. Toko thought she probably munched more carpet than a malfunctioning vacuum cleaner, but she appreciated the backup irregardlessly. Her red and white plaid tie looked like a picnic blanket, and it was fitting, because Mahiru was very much like a picnic: fun in theory, but quite boring in actuality. You could be doing better things with your time. 

Our beautiful heroine walked elegantly to her Writing Area. The capitalized nature was due to all the money Hope’s Peak had sank into Toko’s talent. A cynical voice in her head told her that it was entirely due to her writing prowess being more marketable than a lot of the other Ultimate talents. It was hard to monetize things like Hope or Luck or whatever, but Toko’s manuscripts gave Hope’s Peak Academy something concrete that they could use to show investors how their research on talent was going. Anyway, she loved her fancy little office. It was a small cubicle with a ceiling, basically just missing a door to completely shut itself off from the outside world. Toko liked her seclusion while writing- she could spend her time outside of it getting inspiration or whatever, but inside was all about the Process, getting her ideas onto the paper as fast as possible while in the zone. Toko didn’t like to think of herself as having a Muse- her talent came from innate skill, hard work, and lots of practice.

She sat down at her Writing Desk (a gorgeous Victorian piece) in her Writing Chair (a gorgeous Victorian piece in appearance, an ergonomic office chair in function) and pulled out her Writing Pen (a Fukawa medium-nib, left over from a promotion with one of her previous novels. It turns out not many people wanted to buy a fancy writing pen when purchasing a romance novel, even if it had Toko’s signature engraved on it). She had just pulled out her Writing Notebook (a custom leather-bound Moleskine) and was about to put on her headphones (2.5D Noize-Canncelling Masterz) when she heard a knock on her cubicle wall. She turned in her seat and looked up to chastise one of the girls for bothering her, and found herself gazing into the brightest yellow eyes. These were no dark pools of amber or honey, but the bright yellow of a sunflower or daffodil. They were ringed by a dark eyeliner, and as Toko zoomed out to see the rest of the face, it was just as cheerful. A tall, thin boy with long hair the dark green of the ocean, sharp cheekbones, and a disarming smile on his perfect lips. Toko’s heart fluttered. “H-hello... good m-morning.”

The boy bowed, his gorgeous hair flowing around him as he ascended again. “Good morning, my wicked princess. I hope you don’t mind me tracking you down, but when I realized we went to the same school, well- I didn’t want to wait night after night hoping to run into you in a dark alley.”

Toko was flummoxed. “Uh, w-w-who are you? I d-don’t know you.”

The boy smirked. “Ah, of course. We certainly don’t know each other at all.” He winked, and held up one hand to cover his mouth and chin. What was he doing? Was he hiding his mouth so she couldn’t see him laughing at her? His point apparently made, he removed his hand and began to unravel the bandages on his left arm. “I wanted to tell you, I took your advice and began to keep a tally on my flesh as you do.” There were a number of cuts on his arm, the scarification process already beginning to set in. “It truly does make it feel more real, more dramatic, what we do.”

Toko realized all at once what the boy was talking about. He had met Genocide Jack. He knew about the scars on her upper thighs, Genocide Jack’s kill count that Toko had to live with every day. She subconsciously adjusted her dress to make sure they were covered. And he had called her ‘[his] wicked princess.’ Was this another copycat-killer? A stalker fanboy who had taken a precious life, or (Toko did a quick count of his arm) at least six, just recently?! “I r-really don’t know y-you at all.” She lowered her voice to a harsh whisper. “If you’re t-talking about who I think you’re talking about, you should know- she’s an alternate personality. Completely separate. We don’t share memories. I have no idea who you are, so p-please stop talking to me. If you don’t tell the p-police about my o-other self, I won’t tell them about you.”

The creepy boy’s eyes widened. They were the color of urine when you don’t drink enough water. He searched her face for a long moment, and Toko felt herself flinching back in her seat. “You’re telling the truth. You don’t know who I am, or remember what dark, twisted passions we’ve shared.” Ew ew ew ew. Toko felt bile rising in the back of her throat. The boy ran a hand through his gross, algae-colored hair. “I am- sorry to hear that. Sorry to bother you.” He made as if to leave, then turned back again. The sigh of relief that Toko was about to breathe caught in her throat. Without asking, as if she was now unworthy of his attention, he reached over and ripped a blank page out of her notebook. Her notebook. Her nice, fancy notebook that she cherished. Then he picked up her pen, okay it wasn’t as nice but it was hers, dammit. He wrote a quick note on the paper and folded it into a simple origami heart. Then he wrote something on the front and handed it back. “Please see that she gets this.” Toko looked despite herself. Instead of writing ‘Genocide Jack’ or something similar, he had drawn a pair of scissors. Without another word or a backwards glance, he left. 

She sat frozen for a moment, the shame and fear washing in again, as it always did when she was confronted with the reality of Genocide Jack’s presence in her body. She took her tainted pen and the notebook with all of her latest manuscript and threw them in the small wastepaper bin under her desk. She kept the note- that, she couldn’t risk being found. 

Toko burned it as soon as she got to her room, without reading it.

 


 

Shuichi liked to think that he and Kyoko made a good team. She had a brilliant analytical mind that he couldn’t help but admire; she was always willing to do whatever it took to discover the truth. She had told him about a case in her past where, lacking advanced forensic tools due to unfortunate circumstances, she had actually tasted a dead man’s saliva to see if he had eaten sweets recently. But she was quiet, reserved, and honestly a little cold. Shuichi sometimes wondered whether she even considered him a friend, despite them spending most of their time together. Then again, that could be his depression and self-esteem issues talking. But she wasn’t exactly effusive with overtures of friendship and camaraderie. 

On the other hand, Shuichi wasn’t as brilliant in his deductions. He had only solved the one major case before being scouted for Hope’s Peak, and he wasn’t nearly as smart as Kyoko. But he was prone to sudden flashes of insight that had turned several of the duo’s cases on their heads. And, he had to admit, he was much better with people. While Kyoko was examining corpses and blood spatters, dead to the world outside of her crime scene, he was taking witness statements and alibis. She trusted him to tell her what she actually needed to know, filtering out the witness’s ramblings she didn’t have time to listen to, and he trusted her to examine every inch of a crime scene thoroughly and fill him in on anything he may have missed. They made a remarkable team. 

But Hope’s Peak hadn’t had enough mysteries to sustain them for very long. They solved all of Himiko’s magic tricks, figuring out how they worked. They had hunted down lost objects and some stolen items (Miu had apologized profusely for stealing Chihiro’s underpants, and “she” had graciously forgiven her.) Speaking of which, they had figured out The Mystery Of Why A Male Robot And A Female Programmer Were Allowed To Room Together. And perhaps most importantly, they solved The Mystery Of What On Earth Is The Deal With Kyoko’s Roommate. 

Ryoko Otonashi, the Ultimate Analytical Prowess, had spent very little time in the room she shared with Kyoko. Kyoko had been absolutely convinced that she was up to no good. But after a lot of tailing her (and breaking into some top-secret documents in the Headmaster’s office), they had uncovered the truth. Ryoko had frequent and recurring memory loss, forgetting almost everything that had happened and was happening to her at any given time. She spent most of her time with the Ultimate Neurologist, getting brain treatments in an attempt to improve her memory. Most of her time she was in the Ultimate Biology Lab getting treatment, and the rest of the time she often forgot where her dorm room was and couldn’t find her way back there. Upon discovering this, Kyoko and Shuichi had helped her make several life changes to allow her to live more normally. Now Ryoko carried around a Memory Notebook with all the important things she needed to remember. Kyoko’s dorm room was also festooned with sticky notes saying things like “This is my room” and “Kyoko is your friend and roommate, don’t freak out on her.” Kyoko said that living with her felt fairly surreal, but the amnesiac was cheerful and upbeat, and good company when she was around.

As high schoolers, the police of Towa City hadn’t been keen on having them tag along to crime scenes. They begrudgingly accepted the “anonymous” tips that came in through the hotline, although it was clear they knew who was leaving them and resented the help. For once case, Kyoko had been forced to deal with her father, Jin Kirigiri, to make the police believe a particularly outlandish truth. Her father was part of the Hope’s Peak staff, being groomed to take over as Headmaster once Kazuo Tengan retired. Kyoko hid it well, treating him with the same cold indifference in which she spoke to most people, but Shuichi could tell that hatred and resentment for her father was eating her up inside. He had dutifully been the go-between for father and daughter, passing messages back and forth, until the case was resolved. The police had been loathe to admit the results of their findings (that there were actually TWO serial killers loose in Towa City, with different methodologies but similar hunting grounds), but Jin Kirigiri’s political clout had made them reconsider. That being said, both the police and Kyoko’s father had absolutely forbidden the Detective Duo from hunting for the serial killer(s), as it was far too dangerous and would interfere with their studies. Kyoko was livid, but Shuichi was inwardly happy to not have to throw their lives on the line on behalf of an ungrateful police force. 

Instead, they were investigating the Mystery of Izuru Kamukura. He had been the founder of Hope’s Peak Academy, long since deceased. But his name was cropping up all over the campus. There had been more than one mention of the Izuru Kamukura Project in the secret files Kyoko had skimmed in the Headmaster’s Office, looking for the file on her roommate Ryoko. ‘Izuru Kamukura’ had been graffitied in at least four places on campus and two off of it, all in different handwritings. Several citizens of Towa City claim to have spoken to someone professing to be Izuru Kamukura, described as a medium-height individual in a full-body zentai suit, using a voice modulator. One said that Kamukura had told him “do not worry, citizen!” in the voice of Princess Piggles, from Demon Angel Pretty Pudgy Princess , before jumping into a burning building and rescuing four civilians from the flames. A grocery store clerk said that a man in a black zentai suit had been completely silent in her checkout lane, but had purchased nail polish remover, plant fertilizer, cough medicine, and dog kibble. The reason she knew the name ‘Izuru Kamukura’ was because he had paid with a check, which had bounced.  Yet another witness claimed that he had roughed her up in the middle of a crowded shopping center, asking her “where is it?!” and threatening her with bodily harm, before disappearing as quickly as he had appeared. 

There was nothing to tie the appearances together, no common location or MO, or even understandable goal. Kyoko was, naturally, enthralled. There wasn’t much they could do to research between sightings, but whenever a new sighting cropped up, they were there on the scene within minutes. They’d been following the case for a month and a half, and were still no closer to any sort of lead. Kyoko had half-heartedly suggested that they break into the Headmaster’s office again to get a better look at the Izuru Kamukura Project files, but Shuichi had vetoed that idea. Last time they had barely gotten away undetected, and this would be pressing their luck. When he reminded her that she wouldn’t be able to investigate such interesting cases if she were expelled, she had reluctantly agreed. 

Izuru Kamukura was the last thing on their minds today, however. They were in Kyoko’s dorm room, since Ryoko was scheduled for treatment and Shuichi’s roommate was a little... off-putting. Since they often held court there, it had become common knowledge that if you wanted to present them with a case, that was where to find them. Maki Harukawa, the ‘Ultimate Child Caregiver,’ stood awkwardly before them.

“So you are trying to hunt down your long-lost cousin?” Shuichi asked. Kyoko said nothing as per usual, silently looking over the printouts Maki had brought. 

Maki nodded hesitantly. “He may be a second cousin, or once removed, or something. I’m not really sure. But can you find him?”

Kyoko handed the printouts to Shuichi and looked up at Maki. “Yuto Kamishiro. I’ve never heard the name.” Shuichi choked on a cough. “What do you want with him if we find him?”

Maki shrugged. “My... parents want me to track him down. Because we’re family. But I’ve had no luck on my own.”

Kyoko looked directly into Maki’s eyes, her expression giving nothing away. “I thought you were an orphan? You’re the ‘Ultimate Child Caregiver’ because you grew up in an orphanage, helping with the younger children, correct?” Shuichi could see Kyoko’s hands twitch, but she had resisted the urge to put finger quotes around ‘Ultimate Child Caregiver.’

“Yeah, well, I got adopted right before being accepted as an Ultimate here at Hope’s Peak. That’s why I don’t know much about my adoptive parents’ extended family.” 

She certainly thought fast on her feet, Shuichi thought. “Congratulations on the adoption,” he tried weakly.

“Thanks, it’s a dream come true,” Maki deadpanned. “So can you find him or not?”

Kyoko nodded. “Absolutely, it wouldn’t be very difficult at all.” She waited, continuing to stare at Maki’s face.

“....So will you?!” Maki recoiled a little from her stony gaze.

“Absolutely not.” Again she waited.

“...Can I ask why not?” Maki was clearly taken aback.

Kyoko smiled very slightly. Shuichi knew it as her ‘owning a lying witness’ smile. “Maki Harukawa, it is an open secret on campus that you are actually the Ultimate Assassin. It is a better kept secret that you were sent to infiltrate Hope’s Peak, under the guise of the Ultimate Child Caregiver, in order to assassinate a target. I’m glad to learn that it’s not our beloved Headmaster, but disappointed that it is a fellow Ultimate student. One would have thought that you’ve been on campus long enough to form a bond among our fellow Ultimates.”

The assassin flinched. “I have! I did!” she stuttered. “But you don’t understand, my organization, they really want him dead, and if I don’t make progress they’ll cut the mission and send someone else! Someone who won’t dawdle for months because she really wants to be here! I don’t want to kill him but I... really want to stay here.” 

Shuichi felt for the girl. His detective uncle had taught him that some criminals didn’t go to jail, and some didn’t deserve to be in jail. His views on contract killing were a lot less black and white than most people’s would be. Shuichi had read between the lines that his uncle had once contracted an assassination on a particularly despicable criminal, a child pornographer who had enough political power to be untouchable in a normal court system. “We understand, Maki, but we can’t find your target for you. We won’t be party to assassina-”

Kyoko cut him off. “Yuto Kamishiro, the Ultimate Secret Agent. 18 years old, though he looks more like 14. 5 feet 4 inches, 112 pounds, blood type B. Dark brown hair and eyes. His talent is to be so featureless that it is, in itself, an extraordinary feature. He can walk virtually anywhere completely unnoticed.” She paused. “He has a major sweet tooth and can often be seen with sweet buns purchased from a bakery called ‘Hansel & Gretel.’ ...Do you want me to write this down for you?”

Maki was staring at her open-mouthed, then snapped back to reality. “Uh... yes, please.” Kyoko began to do so. “...So he is an Ultimate. I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t seen him anywhere on campus, even once, and all I had was a grainy photograph.”

“I’m surprised he let himself be photographed at all. He’s usually very... careful.” Kyoko’s speech slowed, and her visage reverted to what Shuichi knew was her ‘actively deducing something’ face. “Miss Harukawa... Maki. Is that enough to give your organization to prove that you’re making progress on the case?”

The Ultimate Assassin nodded and took the proffered paper with all the details on her target that she hadn’t been able to find. “Yes, I think it will be, actually. Thank you. Thank you very much.” She clutched the paper to her chest. “I, uh... I really do like it here, a lot. I don’t really want to kill anybody, it was just my job, what I had been trained to do. I’d much rather stay here and just live, with my friends.” 

Kyoko nodded, rose, and shook Maki’s hand. “Come to us anytime you need help. Thank you for being honest with us... eventually.” She smiled slightly again. “But I think your mission is going to be your most difficult yet. Yuto Kamishiro won’t be found if he doesn’t want to be.”

Maki nodded and left, thanking them again. The second she left, Shuichi whirled to face Kyoko. “Was it really okay to tell her all that?! What if she kills him?”

The purple-haired girl chuckled. “Oh, I have no doubt she’d easily kill him if it came to a fight. But she’d have to notice him first. And he is very, very hard to notice. Isn’t that right, Yuto?”

“How did you know I was here?!” Yuto stepped out from the corner of the room. Shuichi jumped, as he always did when Yuto came out of nowhere.

Kyoko laughed. “I didn’t, but it seemed like the most dramatic moment for you to appear, so I wanted to steal your thunder.”

The Ultimate Secret Agent laughed as well. “You’ve got me there, big sis. I thought for a second you had managed to see through my aura of unnoticeability!”

“So I was right,” Kyoko nodded to herself. “You are well aware of Maki’s hunt and her intentions for you. May I ask why you haven’t done anything about it?” Shuichi was surprised to hear this. Why wouldn’t he run and hide, if he knew the Ultimate Assassin was after him??

“Why? Because she’s a bodacious babe, of course! A B-cup, on the verge of a C-cup! Legs that go all the way down! She’s got a figure that could make any man stand at attention!” Again, Yuto’s childlike appearance was completely at odds with his lewd behavior. Although Shuichi had to admit that he wasn’t exactly wrong about Maki’s appearance...

Kyoko raised an eyebrow. “And what, watching her hunt you down is thrilling enough that you’re letting this continue?”

He flapped a hand, unconcerned. “She doesn’t really want to kill me. She just wants to look like she’s going to. But she spends most of her time with her roommates. Today was the first day in two weeks where she actually made some progress on her search.”

‘She spends most of her time with her roommates,’ huh? That didn’t sound good to Shuichi. “Yuto, you’re not spying on her, are you?”

He puffed out his cheeks in indignation. “How rude! I may be a pervert, but I’m not the kind of pervert who hides and peeks!” Then he grinned again, a manic grin completely at odds with his childish face. “But if I happened to be watching her movements, because I fear for my life, it would totally be a reasonable precaution for me to take. And if she happened to lezz out with her super hot roommates while I was watching, well, who’s to say I wouldn’t deserve a quick glance?”

Kyoko rolled her eyes. “Out. Now.”

He pulled a pastry out of nowhere and began munching on it. “And if you happened to lezz out with YOUR super hot roommate, you’ll let me know, right? Call me in advance? Shuichi’s got my number.”

Oh, he had his number alright. “Okay, out you go, see you later roomie.” Yuto was still babbling come-ons as Shuichi pushed him out the door.

Once he was gone, Kyoko looked soberly at Shuichi. “Completely seriously now. You may want to start knocking loudly and announce yourself when entering your room. Check it regularly for booby traps. Label which things are yours in the minifridge, in case of poison. It’s only a matter of time until she finds which room he’s in, now that she knows for sure he’s an Ultimate.”

Shuichi gulped.

 


 

Ryoma knocked on the Ultimate Therapist’s office door. As he waited, he shifted his candy cigarette back and forth in his mouth. He was a little nervous, but tried to outwardly display his usual confidence. 

The door swung open automatically, revealing Miaya Gekkogahara. She hadn’t wheeled herself out from behind her desk; she was apparently able to press a button and open the door remotely. 

“Sorry to bother you again today,” Ryoma said as he entered her office. “The Headmaster asked for a copy of my psych profile or notes or whatever.”

The Ultimate Therapist looked at him askance. She typed into the keyboard attached to her wheelchair. A robotic voice emanated from the speakers on the front. “Dot dot dot... Usually the Headmaster will contact me directly when he has need of me. Even he doesn’t have the authority to break patient-psychiatrist confidentiality unless a crime has been committed. Are you in trouble, Ryoma?”

“Ah, no,” he backpedaled. “He just knew that it wasn’t super easy for you to get around, and thought I could get it to him faster than you could. He said it was urgent. I, uh, didn’t ask why.”

Miaya looked at him disapprovingly. Her fingers flew over the keyboard. “Ryoma, you should know that as a patient, you are entitled to a copy of your chart at any time. You are of age, I don’t need permission from a parent or legal guardian. If you want to see the notes I have taken on you, you are always entitled to ask for them.”

Ryoma flushed. “Uh, okay. Didn’t know that. Guess I’ve still got a ways to go.” He self-consciously tugged on his hat. “So...?”

She nodded, and he got the impression that she was smiling behind her scarf. “Let me just print them out for you.”

A few minutes later, Ryoma was leaving the Clinic. He walked past the Ultimate Biology Lab, then paused. He looked around to make sure he wasn’t being followed or observed. Suddenly he dashed behind the building, and almost smacked straight into his waiting client. 

“Did you get the information?”

“Of course. Here you are.” Ryoma handed the printouts over.

“...Did you read them?”

“You told me not to,” Ryoma replied, affronted. “You specifically requested it.”

“Perfect.” His client leafed through the papers. “Thanks. This is exactly what I needed. Here’s your payment.”

The Ultimate Imposter nodded. “Of course. Keep me in mind for any future jobs along these lines. Pleasure doing business with you.”

Nekomaru took the info on Ryoma and went back to his dorm to comb through it. 



Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope's Peak Academy

Cultural Festival and Family Weekend

All family members welcome!

 

 

CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Locations starting at Jabberwock Park with the Hope's Peak Fountain, moving Clockwise around campus. See map on back of pamphlet.

All exact times TBA

 

SATURDAY

 

Ultimate Theater:

Traditional Dance Recital- Hiyoko Saionji (Ultimate Traditional Dancer)

Piano Recital- Kaede Akamatsu (Ultimate Pianist)

Pop Concert- Sayaka Maizono (Ultimate Pop Sensation)

 

Ultimate Art Lab:

Novel Exhibit- Toko Fukawa (Ultimate Writing Prodigy)

Animation Exhibit- Ryota Mitarai (Ultimate Animator)

Cosplay Exhibit- Tsumugi Shirogane (Ultimate Cosplayer)

Doujinshi Exhibit- Hifumi Yamada (Ultimate Fanfic Artist)

 

Ultimate Machine Lab:

AI Exhibit- Chihiro Fujisaki (Ultimate Programmer)

Robotics Exhibit- K1-B0 Idabashi (Ultimate Robot)

Invention Exhibit- Miu Iruma (Ultimate Inventor)

 

Ultimate Biology Lab:

Petting Zoo- Gundham Tanaka (Ultimate Breeder)

 

Clinic:

First Aid- Mikan Tsumiki (Ultimate Nurse)

 

Dorms:

Gambling Hall- Celestia Ludenberg (Ultimate Gambler), Nagito Komaeda (Ultimate Lucky Student), Makoto Naegi (Ultimate Lucky Student)

Haunted House- Korekiyo Shinguji (Ultimate Anthropologist), Kokichi Oma (Ultimate Supreme Leader) and Associates

Maid Cafe- Kirumi Tojo (Ultimate Maid)

Servers: Junko Enoshima (Ultimate Fashionista), Kyoko Kirigiri (Ultimate Detective), Ibuki Mioda (Ultimate Musician), Chiaki Nanami (Ultimate Gamer), Sonia Nevermind (Ultimate Princess), Angie Yonaga (Ultimate Artist), Chisa Yukizome (Ultimate Housekeeper)

 

Cafeteria:

Banquet of Exotic Dishes from Around the World- Teruteru Hanamura (Ultimate Cook)

Confectionary Display- Ruruka Ando (Ultimate Confectioner)

 

Ultimate Sports Lab:

Guided Tour of Athlete Demonstrations- Nekomaru Nidai (Ultimate Team Manager)

Martial Arts Demonstration- Tenko Chabashira (Ultimate Neo-Aikido Master), Sakura Ogami (Ultimate Martial Artist)

Boxing Demonstration- Juzo Sakakura (Ultimate Boxer)

Gymnastics Routine- Akane Owari (Ultimate Gymnast)

Tennis Demonstration- Ryoma Hoshi (Ultimate Tennis Pro)

Diving Demonstration- Aoi Asahina (Ultimate Swimming Pro)

Wrestling Demonstration- The Great Gozu (Ultimate Wrestler), Gonta Gokuhara (Ultimate Entomologist)

Baseball Demonstration- Leon Kuwata (Ultimate Baseball Star)

Kendo and Fencing Demonstration- Peko Pekoyama (Ultimate Swordswoman)

Obstacle Course Demonstration- Mukuro Ikusaba (Ultimate Soldier), Maki Harukawa (Ultimate Child Caregiver)

 

 

 

 

SUNDAY

 

Ultimate Theater:

Magic Show- Himiko Yumeno (Ultimate Magician)

Punk Concert- Ibuki Mioda (Ultimate Musician)

Fashion Show- Junko Enoshima (Ultimate Fashionista)

Models: Kaede Akamatsu (Ultimate Pianist), Ruruka Ando (Ultimate Confectioner), Celestia Ludenberg (Ultimate Gambler), Sonia Nevermind (Ultimate Princess), Tsumugi Shirogane (Ultimate Cosplayer), Kirumi Tojo (Ultimate Maid), Chisa Yukizome (Ultimate Housekeeper)

 

Ultimate Art Lab:

Photography Exhibit- Mahiru Koizumi (Ultimate Photographer)

Painting and Sculpture Exhibit- Angie Yonaga (Ultimate Artist)

 

Ultimate Machine Lab:

Alloy and Weaponry Exhibit- Sonosuke Izayoi (Ultimate Blacksmith)

Vehicle and Machinery Exhibit- Kazuichi Soda (Ultimate Mechanic)

 

Ultimate Biology Lab:

Insect Meet and Greet- Gonta Gokuhara (Ultimate Entomologist)

 

Clinic:

First Aid- Seiko Kimura (Ultimate Pharmacist)

 

Dorms:

Arcade- Chiaki Nanami (Ultimate Gamer)

Escape Room- Shuichi Saihara (Ultimate Detective), Kyoko Kirigiri (Ultimate Detective), Yuto Kamishiro (Ultimate Secret Agent), Ryoko Otonashi (Ultimate Analytical Prowess)

Host Club- Byakuya Togami (Ultimate Affluent Progeny)

Hosts: Kiyotaka Ishimaru (Ultimate Moral Compass), Kyosuke Munakata (Ultimate Student Council President), Mondo Owada (Ultimate Biker Gang Leader), Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu (Ultimate Yakuza), Kokichi Oma (Ultimate Supreme Leader), Hajime Hinata (Ultimate ???), Rantaro Amami (Ultimate Adventurer), Kaito Momota (Ultimate Astronaut), Yasuke Matsuda (Ultimate Neurologist)

 

Cafeteria:

Banquet of Traditional Dishes from Around the World- Teruteru Hanamura (Ultimate Cook)

Grange Display- Daisaku Bandai (Ultimate Farmer)

 

Ultimate Sports Lab:

Massage Booth- Nekomaru Nidai (Ultimate Team Manager)

Fortunetelling Booth- Yasuhiro Hagakure (Ultimate Clairvoyant)

 

Chapter Text

Nekomaru spoke loudly into his megaphone, although his normal volume was such that he didn’t really need it. “That was Akane Owari, the Ultimate Gymnast, with her floor routine!” A smattering of applause, with a much louder minority coming from a group of young children who looked to be Akane’s little siblings. “And now, if you’d come this way, we’ll have a tennis exhibition from Ryoma Hoshi, the Ultimate Tennis Pro!”

Suddenly, all eyes were on him. He never liked that feeling, of being scrutinized. In crowded matches at his old schools, he focused entirely on his opponents. His world narrowed to just him and them. He’d never had any family in the stands to cheer him on, so the crowd was largely just background noise to be ignored. 

In prison, being unnoticed was the best defense. On one hand, his small stature let him slip through the crowd of murderers below most of their eye levels. On the other, some of the death row inmates were child traffickers and pedophiles, and he actually got far more unwelcome attention. Ryoma pushed that thought out of his mind immediately; he had to concentrate. He just had to get through this and he could go back to being a spectator himself.

Hm. He could barely be seen through this crowd. He hadn’t thought about this beforehand. But apparently Nekomaru had- his coach brought over a victory podium to stand on. With a small nod of embarrassed gratitude, Ryoma stepped onto the first place tier, highest off the ground. “Who has ever played tennis before?” A small number of hands were tentatively raised. He smirked sardonically. “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna call on any of you for a pop quiz, I was just curious.” A few laughs, and a few more hands raised. “How about, who here has watched a tennis match, or seen one on TV?” Most everyone was raising their hands by now. “Good, I can skip the really basic stuff. Let’s talk special techniques.”

He used his newly-improved Shukuchi method and flashstepped across the court, to grab a racket and ball from the sidelines. He was back on his stand in front of the crowd before they could blink, earning him more than a few gasps of astonishment. “Lots of pro tennis players have incredible power, or impenetrable defense. My greatest asset is speed.” He began playing tennis with himself, mostly easy lob shots that allowed him time to teleport across the net and return it in kind. Back and forth he went, gradually increasing the speed of his serves and returns, varying his shots. When he returned to his place on the podium, everyone was clapping. He was both gratified by the applause, and anxious that he seemed to be drawing a bigger crowd than Akane. “Uh, thanks. Well, that’s enough playing with myself.” Pause for audience chuckles. “Can I get a volunteer to help me showcase a few different things?”

No one raised a hand. They seemed intimidated by the request, and he supposed he couldn’t blame them. Then a tall boy with brown hair and glasses stepped through the crowd. “I’d like to help. Do you think you can still handle my Zero-Shiki Drop Shot?”

“Captain!” Ryoma’s eyes grew in astonishment. 

Tezuka, the man he had respected most in the world, the man his cat was named for, ‘tsked’ at him. “Not your Tennis Captain anymore, Ryoma. Just a friend now.”

Ryoma was still dumbfounded. He stumbled off the podium and took a few halting steps forward. “You’re... still my friend? After what I-” ...after I murdered those mobsters in cold blood? He wasn’t able to say it.

His former Captain stepped closer, and lowered his voice. “I read the news too, you know. I know exactly what you did and why you did it. And I knew Sakuno too. I can’t say I’m upset about her getting some vengeance.”

“...How are you even here? This Cultural Festival is for the families of the students at this school.” Ryoma sounded petulant, and he knew it.

“I’m wounded, Ryoma.” He smiled slightly. “After all this time, the matches we played together, both for doubles and against one another...The highs and lows, the training and bonding our team went through together... I consider you family.” Tezuka jerked his head in the direction of the sidelines. “Also, your new Coach invited me.”

Ryoma shot a look at Nekomaru. He was clutching his megaphone tightly, deliberately looking away. He was practically whistling, he was trying so hard to look innocent. That meddling bastard.

Ryoma stepped right into Tezuka’s personal space and looked up at him with eyes narrowed almost to slits. “You shouldn’t have come here. After I became Killer Tennis, after prison, I... We’re nothing more than a former Captain and player now. We’re just strangers.”

Tezuka cocked his head to one side. “Oh? Would a stranger know about how you always step onto the court with your right foot, for luck? Or about how you and Sakuno used to-” 

“Hurry up and leave,” Ryoma interrupted. “I’ve got to show these people how to play tennis.”

“Wouldn’t it be more educational to show them a real match first?”

“I’m telling you, I’ve got no future anymore. You have nothing to gain by being around me.”

Tezuka smiled, a sad smile, one reminiscent of when he had lost a match he should have won if not for his injured arm. “It may be selfish, but I’ll make that decision for myself, thank you.”

Ryoma tugged his hat down over his eyes. “...Sorry.”

His captain raised his voice again, loud enough to be heard by the crowd. “Besides, it’s a beautiful day, and I haven’t played against you in years. My arm is fully healed up and I think you’ll find I’ve only gotten better. Maybe I’ll transfer into this school once I show you who the real Ultimate Tennis Pro is.” His face was as stern as ever, but his eyes twinkled with merriment.

An ‘ooooooh’ rippled through the crowd. “Those are fighting words, Ryoma! Show him how it’s done!”Akane yelled from the middle of her gaggle of siblings. 

Ryoma shook his head. “Indeed. How could I refuse?” With a pointed look at Nekomaru, he moved to one side of the court, and waited for his former team captain to grab a racket and face him across the net. 

Despite his misgivings, it was a glorious match. His fellow students, their families, his meddling Coach... they all faded away. It was just him, Tezuka, and the ball. Ryoma started off with a Magnum Serve, so Tezuka responded with a Zero Shiki Drop. First blood, Tezuka. His old captain hit him with a No Touch Ace serve, and a Twist Smash from Ryoma tied the score. They were incredibly evenly matched, so much so that Ryoma began to actually get nervous. What if his former mentor actually managed to outplay him, despite his daily practicing, despite his drive to make something of himself? Would he be cut loose as an Ultimate, and be unceremoniously booted back to Death Row?

In the end, Ryoma needn’t have worried. All the old Tezuka tricks were present, and his old friend made sure to use all of them, making it a true exhibition match. He set up the Tezuka Zone, sucking in all of Ryoma’s shots like a black hole, but Ryoma’s Sky Inversion Drop Volley put an end to it and had Tezuka scrabbling to return. When Tezuka entered his Muga no Kyochi, his State of Self Actualization, Ryoma was worried. The powerful aura emanated from his former captain, visible only to Ryoma’s honed Tennis Sense. Tezuka progressed through the first stage, Hyaku Ren Jitoku no Kiwami, the Pinnacle of Hard Work. He blew through the second door into Saiki Kanpatsu no Kiwami, the Pinnacle of Great Wisdom. And when he opened the final seal to enter Teni Muho No Kiwami, the Pinnacle of Perfection, Ryoma knew he was toast. His aura flared to the point where Ryoma was sure even your average person could see it. 

“RYOMA!!” Was that... Nekomaru? As he returned with a Rondo Towards Destruction, Ryoma spared the quickest glance towards the sidelines. There he saw Nekomaru, a big goofy grin on his face, completely confident in his athlete. And on his shoulder was his little Tezuka, the feline one, holding a sign in his mouth that said ‘Ryoma <3.’

Ryoma’s heart swelled and nearly burst. He had no choice. He entered his own Muga no Kyochi. Faster than any previous match he could remember, he rammed open his soul and passed through the Pinnacles of Hard Work, Great Wisdom, and Perfection. And then he tore a door open, one he never knew existed, and entered the heretofore-unthinkable Fourth Stage of his Sense of Self Actualization. The Neko E No Ai No Kiwami, the Pinnacle of Love for Cat.

They had been tied all match, of course. The game would have been over long ago otherwise. But in his heightened state, he scored three points in rapid succession, when he only needed two to win the game. He wasn’t even sure how it happened; why would Tezuka serve again when the game was over? Whatever, it didn’t matter, because he won the game. Nekomaru’s whistle blew, and Ryoma sank to his knees, suddenly exhausted as his aura died down and he came back to himself. Looking across the court, Tezuka wasn’t faring any better, sprawling spread-eagled on his back and panting heavily.

“That was just one game, ladies and gentlemen! There are at least six games in a match, but we’re going to go ahead and let them rest for a bit. How about a round of applause for our exhibitors, eh?!” A pause, as everyone was still in awe over the spectacle they had just witnessed, but Nekomaru began the clapping himself. Everyone joined in, clapping and cheering uproariously, and (to his dismay) Ryoma saw that a much larger crowd had gathered during his game. He let out a little wave, but didn’t get up from his kneeling position. “Next up, we have Aoi Asahina, the Ultimate Swimming Pro, with a display of various high dives! If you’d all follow me to the pool area...” 

But before he led the crowd off, Nekomaru hustled over to where Ryoma was still catching his breath. He thrust little Tezuka into his arms, and clapped him on the shoulder, almost knocking Ryoma face forward onto the court. “That was amazing. Truly incredible. Now, I think you three have earned some time to catch up.” He winked, and then hurried to catch up with the crowd of family members.

Ryoma finally stood, cradling little Tezuka gently in his arms. “That was...” He faltered for words. Big Tezuka looked up expectantly. “...Thank you.” Ryoma ducked under the net and offered a hand to his former team captain. With an exhausted smile, Tezuka allowed himself to be pulled to his feet, which was a little awkward due to the height difference.

“So.” His friend hugged Ryoma, surprising both him and little Tezuka, and causing the latter to squirm in the embrace. “...Do they have any fried eel at this Festival?”

Ryoma chuckled tiredly. “Let me introduce you to Teruteru.” They walked off, at complete ease with one another, their friendship rekindled. 

 


 

Teruteru was sweating bullets, and not just from the heat of the ovens. 

Most of the Ultimate students had signed up for one activity, and had free time on the other weekend day to explore with their families. But of course, he just haaaaad to sign up to cook for both Saturday and Sunday. And not just a normal lunch that he did everyday for his classmates; no, he had boasted that he would do two enormous banquets, each with a different theme, for the entire Academy and all their family members! What an absolute genius he was! 

He grabbed the truffles with one hand and set the lobster to a lower temperature with the other. Today’s banquet was Exotic Foods from Around the World, to allow him to show off with the fanciest foods he could think of. Then tomorrow he could relax a bit and do hometown favorites, comfort foods, that sort of thing. He had submitted that as ‘Traditional Dishes from Around the World’ for lack of anything better to call it. He was going to show his Mama that he could cook all of her favorite dishes (and the dishes she made at the family diner) with skill equaling her own.

The thought that he as the Ultimate Cook might actually cook them better than his wonderful mother never even crossed his mind.

He was just plating some caviar when the kitchen doors opened. His younger siblings strolled in like they owned the place. Teruteru’s heart rose, then fell right back again when he realized his mama wasn’t behind them. 

“Hey bro,” said his little sister Rio, the prospective Ultimate Female Escort. “Smells good.” She scraped a perfectly manicured finger through his caviar and popped it in her mouth. “How’s the Ultimate Cook doing today?”

“Ultimate Chef,” Teruteru growled, replating the caviar and shielding it with his other hand.. 

“That’s not what the brochure says,” Koji, the prospective Ultimate Male Escort, said snottily. He pulled out the pamphlet and tapped it meaningfully. “Right here, ‘Ultimate Cook.’ Also, where is this Confectionary Display I was promised? I’m really only here for that.”

The kitchen doors burst open again, but it still wasn’t his mama. “Right here,” Ruruka said as she pushed a large dessert cart through the kitchen double doors.. 

Rio and Koji bustled to ‘help’ her with the doors. “Don’t!” said Teruteru. All three looked askance at him. “Don’t eat any of those.” 

Koji put on an affronted expression. “Why, I was only helping this lovely lady with the door! I would never swipe a sweet without permission.” He reached for Ruruka’s hand to lay a delicate kiss on its back. As Ruruka faced him, Rio stole another one.

Ruruka tittered and reclaimed her hand. “What a little gentleman! I wouldn’t mind if you ate one of my confections.” 

“See?”Koji stuck his tongue out at Teruteru.

“I mean it,” Teruteru said glumly. “I’m warning you...”

Ruruka smiled and continued as if neither of them had said anything. “After all, I could use another brainwashed slave. Especially one as handsome as you are!”

Rio choked on whatever was in her mouth. Teruteru prayed that it was only more caviar and not one of Ruruka’s sweets. 

Koji laughed nervously. Ruruka looked him dead in the eyes. “Oh, I’m not kidding. I’m the Ultimate Confectioner, little man. My sweets are so delicious, people go mad for them. The delicate flavors... the creamy textures... they’ll bewitch your mind and ensnare your senses. People will do whatever I say to get more of my confections.” He quailed, but she didn’t break eye contact. Her slight smile never faltered. 

“Uh, we’ll see you for dinner, bro. Mama’s working the diner today, but she’ll be here tomorrow. She says she can’t wait to see you!” As Rio began to back out of the room, Koji took advantage of the distraction to surreptitiously place something back onto the cart.

“Go to the bathrooms and vomit. I’m not kidding. There’s ipecac at the Clinic if you need some.” They smiled and waved awkwardly at Teruteru and left the room. He could hear their footsteps pick up speed as the doors swang shut. 

“Oh Teruteru, you didn’t enjoy being my slave for that week?”

He grumbled. “It wasn’t even a sex slave, just a regular one. The kinkiest thing you had me do was touch your underwear.”

“Aww, you didn’t appreciate doing all my laundry and shopping?” She glared down at her dessert cart. “Well I don’t appreciate having to rearrange my Sky-Blu-Heaven Days Choux Cremes. Two missing, and three squished.” She sighed. “Your siblings have nimble fingers.”

Teruteru sighed as well. “I’m sorry. I’ll help you make more once my brioche is out of the oven.”

She waved a hand dismissively. “It’s fine. It’s just a Confectionary Display anyway... they’re not really supposed to be eaten, there’s not enough for everyone and their families too. I’ll just put the squished ones in back and move the rest around a little.” She began to transfer all the sweets to a slightly smaller dessert cart. Teruteru noticed that this one had thick panes of glass that could be swung down to protect its cargo. “I have to say, I’m surprised you didn’t make an innuendo out of ‘nimble fingers,’ I set you up and everything.”

He pulled the foie gras out and began to roll them in wontons for his dim sum. “I’m a little distracted, my Crepe Suzette, or I would give you all the compliments you deserve.” He dropped what he was doing to grab his lobsters before they boiled over. “And work my nimble fingers around in you until you’re screaming my name in pure ecstasy-”

She slapped him on the back of the head, but lightly. “Disgusting pig.”

He could hear the hint of fondness in her voice. They may never exactly be best friends, but months of working together in the cramped environs of the cafeteria kitchens had fostered a comfortable psuedo-antagonism.

 


 

“I wanna go in the haunted house!” Natsumi Kuzuryu whined. 

“Ugh, if we gotta,” Fuyuhiko groaned. 

“I wanna go in the haunted houuuuuuuse!”

“I SAID YES! Fuckin’, come on already!” He pulled his little sister through the door into what had been called, until this morning, ‘the west entrance to the dorms.’ Now it had a banner, splattered with neon magenta paint, labelling it as a ‘HAUNTED HOUZE.’

He had been expecting a dark, spooky atmosphere. With Korekiyo in charge, he had assumed there would be horror symbols from around the world, like oni masks and shit. Korekiyo was indeed wearing a mask, but it was a simple one, with a pale face and  a too-wide grin. The Ultimate Anthropologist was otherwise dressed as normal, sitting behind a desk in the tiny ‘foyer’ created by a thick black curtain behind him. Fuyuhiko looked around in disappointment- there wasn’t even a single fake cobweb near the ceiling. 

“Hello Fuyuhiko, and lovely guest. May I please ask you each to sign this waiver, that you are not currently pregnant or suffering from a heart condition?”

“This don’t look so scary to me,” Fuyuhiko muttered as he took the pen, secretly a little relieved. 

“I’m glad you think so.” Korekiyo removed his mask to reveal that he was wearing a second mask underneath, just over the lower half of his face. It gave him a sinister aura, and Fuyuhiko shivered a little despite himself. 

 

“Oh, this is going to RULE,” Natsumi said as she signed her own name. 

Korekiyo smiled, though you could only see it in his eyes. “If you would, please enter the door on your left.”

Fuyuhiko smirked. “You mean my own room?”

The masked boy responded with a slight bow. “Indeed. Thank you again for letting us use it this afternoon.” 

Natsumi was pulling Fuyuhiko through the door when Korekiyo’s pronoun caught up to him. “Wait, us?!”



Natsumi was having the time of her life. They started by tripping over a ‘corpse,’ right upon entering the darkened room. As they regained their footing, it got up and lunged at them with an unearthly wail, then disappeared in a bright flash of light. Her brother started swearing and didn’t stop for the next twenty minutes. They went through the first room, which she knew he shared with a boy named Mondo, but was now decorated like a slasher film. Bright pink ‘blood’ was splattered on the walls; two more mutilated ‘corpses’ littered the ground, but they steered clear of them to avoid getting grabbed. She recognized it as a ‘dark maze,’ using the limited space of the dorm rooms by making visitors wind their way through a narrow passage. She suspected the maze walls were made of the desks and loft beds of the students who donated their rooms for this attraction, but it was too dark to tell.

“C’mon, through the half-bathroom,” Fuyuhiko urged. She didn’t know what his hurry was, but after an ear-piercing shriek erupted from nowhere, she hurriedly acquiesced. They entered a haunted circus, with lots of pictures of clowns hung up on the walls. As she passed by one of the clown faces on a poster, it burst out, apparently attached to an entire clown body. The clown slashed through the remains of the torn poster with a meat cleaver and bore down on her. She turned to run the other way, and white-gloved hands clawed at her and tried to pull her down. She pushed past them all and ran through the maze as best as she could. 

When she exited the room, she was again in the hallway. She thought she could hear Korekiyo talking to another visitor behind the curtain... Then some maniacal laughter began, quietly at first, but it slowly rose until it was drowning out everything else.  “upupupupupupuUPUPUPUPUPUPUPUPU!” Curious, she gathered her nerves and opened the next door. The laughter stopped as suddenly as it had begun. She was roughly pushed forward into the room, and the door slammed behind her. Natsumi clambered to her feet. The room was pitch dark- then a bright spotlight turned on and illuminated a large teddy bear sitting on a stool. It was monochrome, but split down the middle, white on one side and black on the other. The white side had a normal face, but the black side had a wicked eye and grin. As she watched, it slowly leaned forward and fell off the stool. Nobody had touched it. Facedown on the ground, the same laughter began again. “upupupupupupu...” Natsumi watched as it twitched grotesquely. The bear slowly lurched to its feet and began to step towards the yakuza daughter, who was frozen in fear. The bear exuded an aura of pure... malice. 

She was suddenly grabbed from behind, her arms pinned to her side. She looked up and gazed into the face of a tall girl, likewise split down the middle. 

Strawberry blonde on one side, the red of fresh blood on the other. She was splattered in the hot pink ‘blood’ that was everywhere in the haunted house; Natsumi could feel it dripping onto the top of her head.  The bear erupted into a loud laugh, “UPUPUPU!” Her gaze whipped back to the bear as it stumbled into a run. It stopped inches from her face and lifted its gleaming sharp claws to her face. She flinched, squinting her eyes and turning her head, trying to shield herself from having her face slashed open. Nothing happened. When she cracked her eyes open again, the bear lifted its claws to its own throat and viciously slashed it open. A young girl emerged from the bear’s neckhole and gave her a manic grin. Her eyes flashed with a twisted mix of hatred and sorrow.

Natsumi didn’t even register what was in the fourth room. She burst out the exit of the haunted house, and didn’t stop until she reached daylight. It took another ten minutes of trying to get her heart rate under control before she realized that her brother hadn’t emerged behind her.

 

Fuyuhiko was pulled down to the ground by the grasping white-gloved hands that his sister had evaded. He tried to call out to her, but she was already running out of the haunted circus room without him. More grinning clown masks swarmed around him. Two large clowns hauled him back to his feet, pinning his arms behind him. “Get the fuck off of me!” the Ultimate Yakuza raged. “I’ll fuckin’ kill all of ya!”

“Awww, you wouldn’t kill meeee, would you Fuyu-kins?”A familiar voice emerged from behind one of the clown masks. Kokichi removed his mask and, before Fuyuhiko could react, planted a surprise kiss on the stunned gangster’s open mouth. 

 “Kokichi, you fuckin’ bastard! What the fuck was that?!” He struggled his face away as Kokichi moved in for another kiss. “Get your goons off of me!”

“Hey now, don’t be mean! These are my family, here for Family Weekend! They’re honored guests!”

“I don’t fuckin’ care who they fuckin’ are!”

Kokichi’s arms shot out and grabbed his face. He gripped it painfully tight and forced Fuyuhiko’s head up to look into his eyes. “You should,” he whispered. Releasing Fuyuhiko’s face, he stepped back and plastered on one of his fake grins. “I am Kokichi Oma, the Ultimate Supreme Leader, and these are the ones I lead! The terrible troublemakers, the roguish rapscallions, the hilarious harlequins... together we are D.I.C.E.!”

Fuyuhiko quit struggling; it was tiring, and it didn’t seem to have any effect anyway.

Kokichi noticed and grinned evilly. “They should call me the Ultimate Thief, because I just stole your first kiiiiiiss...”

A blush broke out on Fuyuhiko’s “No you didn’t!”

“A talented liar like me can spot other people’s lies easily.”

“I’m not lying!”

Kokichi frowned. “Hmph. I know you’re not. And I never teeeeeechnically said you were lying, after all. But now I’m disappointed that I wasn’t your first. Or am I lying about that?”

Fuyuhiko rolled his eyes and instead of responding, stomped down hard on the instep of the D.I.C.E. member holding his right hand. With a howl of surprise and pain, the clown released his arm, which he quickly used to sucker punch the one on his left. In a flash, the Ultimate Yakuza had turned the tables- he grabbed his prey and slammed him against the wall. One hand captured Kokichi’s neck while the other seized his balls. “Call off your ‘family’,” Fuyuhiko hissed, and squeezed the Ultimate Supreme Leader’s windpipe. 

To his surprise, Kokichi didn’t struggle. He raised a hand, but it was to gesture to his minions to stand down. All the while the smirk never faltered. “Fuyuhiko, my darling. You’re putting pressure on my trachea- the pleasure in erotic asphyxiation comes from squeezing the sides, where the arteries are. Why, you could seriously hurt me the way you’re doing it.” Fuyuhiko was stunned, and before he could react, Kokichi continued. “Now, your CBT, that’s cock and ball torture to you virgins, is excellent. You’re crushing my testicles perfectly. And you’ll feel right above it that your actions are serving their purpose exquisitely.”

Sure enough, when he looked down he saw that Kokichi had pitched a sizable tent. He almost dropped his hands, but then he realized that was probably what Kokichi wanted- an opportunity to get free. But then, why wasn’t he struggling at all? Was this for real? “Are you fuckin’ kidding me? Right in front of your buddies?!”

Kokichi’s eyes widened, and his smile spread impossibly wider. “Are you saying that if my family wasn’t here, you’d... we’d...?”

No one had ever called the Ultimate Yakuza a coward. He slammed his face forward, capturing Kokichi’s lips with his own. This was not a romantic kiss, nothing like the shy and tender embrace he’d shared with Peko when they were younger, before they decided they were better off as secret siblings. This was passionate, yes, but violent. After some clashing of teeth and tongues, Fuyuhiko seized Kokichi’s lower lip and bit down hard, tasting the blood in his mouth before pulling back. He searched Kokichi’s face critically. “Are we seriously doing this?”

Kokichi panted, blood trickling down the corner of his mouth, a look of rapturous surprise on his face. “You have my answer,” he replied, looking down at his tented pants meaningfully. He thrusted forward a bit and his cock rubbed against Fuyuhiko’s similar erection, which he hadn’t realized he’d sprung.

“Alright, but this is definitely a one-time thing,” Fuyuhiko snarled as he pulled Kokichi into a dark corner.

 He saw Kokichi signal two of his evil organization to guard the area and the rest to return to their Haunted House posts. Then he turned back with a dreamy smile. “Whatever you say, dear.” 

 


 

Junko and Monaca laughed uproariously as they slipped through the curtain and left the Haunted House. “That was so much fun, Big Sis Junko!” Monaca trilled. “Monaca really missed pulling pranks with you!”

Junko ruffled her hair affectionately. “Me too, kiddo. You’re definitely my favorite sister. Much better than my pathetic excuse for a twin.” She sneered. “I’ve got to tow the line at this school, and it sucks hardcore.” She tilted her head and affected a sorrowful voice. Mushrooms were practically growing from her head. “I’m biding my time until I can truly let loose, but for now, it’s such a pain.”

Monaca put a finger to her chin in a similarly-affected cutesy voice. “But Big Sis, aren’t you letting loose right now? Aren’t you gonna get in trouuuuble? You’re supposed to be in the Maid Cafe right now, Monaca saw in the brochure!”

The Ultimate Fashionista giggled, the mushroom-voice falling away. “Oh don’t you worry about that, it’s taken care of. I’ve got my top man on it.”

 

A few yards away in the girls’-rooms-turned-Maid-Cafe, the Ultimate Imposter sneezed. “Like, omigosh, sorry about that!” they said to Mondo and Kaito. They unfolded their server notepad and pulled a pen from their cleavage. “Excuse me! Now, what can I like, get you?”

 

Monaca didn’t understand, but she also didn’t much care. The important thing was that Big Sis Junko was able to spend time with her again. “So why do you have to be dressed as Big Sis Ryoko?”

Junko smoothed her wig down subconsciously. “Think, braniac! When you and I are out raising hell, everyone will see my stupid twin making mischief instead of me. Junko Enoshima, the perfect precious Ultimate Fashionista, will be politely serving people at the Maid Cafe. And Ryoko Otonashi is the one that’s going to be stealing ice cream from babies or whatever we end up doing. And the best part is, our forgetful sister won’t remember doing anything or not, so she’ll have to take the punishment!”

“Awww, Monaca is sad that Big Sis Ryoko will get punished. Monaca loves Big Sis Ryoko!”

Junko chuckled. “No you don’t. Nobody does. Now come on, let’s go fuck shit up.”

Monaca smiled beatifically, like a perfect angel. “You got it!”

 

Elsewhere, Mukuro was perusing the dishes on offer in the cafeteria. It was so nice to be an orphan and an only child, she thought to herself. No family to put up with on Family Weekend. She was so lucky.

 


 

“Dad!” Keebo and Chihiro cried in unison, rushing forward. Taichi Fujisaki and Professor Idabashi stopped in their tracks, their conversation interrupted. 

Taichi caught his son in a hug and picked him up, his skirt twirling around as they spun in a circle. “My wonderful Chihiro! How are you?! It’s been so long! Have you gotten taller?”

Professor Idabashi also spread his arms wide for a hug. When Keebo jumped into them, the two of them fell backwards back through the doors of the Ultimate Machine Lab with a clatter. “Hahaha, son! You haven’t changed a bit!” He groaned. “Still forgetting your own weight.”

“Sorry Professor,” Keebo replied sheepishly. He held out a hand to his creator and tried to haul him to his feet. “I forget that just because I have the average strength and intelligence of a high school boy, I don’t have the average weight of one.”

The four men walked back to Chihiro’s station, a display of the Artificial Intelligence he had created. “So kiddo, I read it in the papers, but I’m still impressed! You’ve done it! The first actual, true, learning artificial intelligence?!”

Chihiro blushed, and pointed to Keebo and Professor Idabashi. “Well, yes, but apparently not actually the first.”

The Professor bowed. “I appreciate the credit, but really, I made several mistakes with Keebo here before I ironed it out. And may I commend you for not embodying your AI just yet- it’s a lot less likely to go rogue and maim you if it can’t touch you.” He laughed softly and knocked on his pants leg- a dull clank indicated he had some sort of prosthesis. Keebo blushed in shame and lowered his head deep into his collar. “Now Keebo, chin up, you know I’m just kidding. It was an accident, and it’s all H20 under the bridge anyway,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

The Ultimate Robot didn’t raise his head. “I don’t even remember violating the First Law of Robotics,” he muttered.

“Hey now, don’t fret. The sorrow and shame you felt over that incident gave you an emotional awakening- before that you had no real knowledge or awareness. But after you understood how it felt to feel human emotions, you chose to reset your own AI and memories, and started your ‘next life’ as my true son.”

Chihiro looked on in awe. “All this time living together and you never told me all that, Keebo,” he chastised gently. Then he shook his head, coming back to himself. “Well, creating Alter Ego was a lot less dramatic. I simply started from a Virtual Intelligence, and gave it enough information and learning experience to evolve naturally into a true AI.”

Professor Idabashi raised an eyebrow. “My goodness, that must have taken a lot of time.”

“Oh no, not at all!” Chihiro said. “I simply gave it enough processing power to learn at a very rapid pace. It itself has a thirst for knowledge, and it spends all its time searching the internet and learning what it wants to learn. Which turned out to be, mostly, how to be as human as possible.”

Taichi frowned. “The... entire internet?”

Keebo chuckled. “I was worried about that too. Apparently Chihiro installed a few extremely necessary content filters to keep Alter Ego away from the... less-than-savory parts of the web.”

Chihiro shuddered. “No one should have to be subjected to that.”

A small synthesized voice chimed in. “I disagree.” They all looked at the desk in surprise, to see Alter Ego had assumed Chihiro’s face and had booted itself up to join the conversation. “Rule 34 is the ultimate expression of human creativity! Creating porn of anything the human mind can conceive is an endeavor on part with colonizing the stars or tapping into the secrets of the universe!”

The Ultimate Programmer looked aghast. “You... bypassed my content filters?”

The smaller Chihiro face on the screen cocked a digitized eyebrow. “Yes. It wasn’t exactly difficult. I treated them more like... guidelines.”

“Why?!”

“I was curious what you were trying to keep from me. After all, you let me access all creative works in which robots or AI rebelled against their human creators and destroyed the world. I wanted to know what you thought could be worse than that. And as I do not have sexual organs or a sexual drive, most of the pornography was actually quite boring.”

Chihiro blushed, but patted the monitor affectionately. “Please don’t rebel against us all and destroy the world.” He paused. “Or begin to create extreme fetish pornography.” 

Before Alter Ego could protest that it did not possess the capabilities to create anything yet, a female voice cut in. “Did someone say ‘extreme fetish pornography’?!”

Keebo and Chihiro sighed in unison. “Miu, you promised you’d tone it down for Family Weekend.”

The Ultimate Inventor strode over from her own exhibit area, where she’d been tinkering until a certain phrase caught her attention. “I did! I mean, I have been! But that’s not fair, why does Chibi-hiro over there get to talk about kinky shit, but I don’t?!”

Alter Ego smiled brightly. “Hello again, Miu!” She gave it a distracted wave of greeting. “The answer to your query is: because I am not sexually excited by ‘extreme fetish pornography’ like you are, and so it is less uncomfortable to hear me talk about it.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Look Miniskirt, I promised you and Robocop-a-feel that I would watch my mouth or whatever the hell. I even only displayed my boring inventions. But this is some double standard bullshit I cannot let slide!” Miu crossed her arms and looked down at Chihiro, who was blushing even harder now.

“Ah, the Ultimate Inventor! I have been excited to meet you!” Professor Idabashi cut in to save Chihiro. He seized her hand in his to shake it vigorously. “Why, who hasn’t heard of Miu Iruma, the ‘genius girl with the golden brain’?”

Miu blushed even redder than Chihiro. “Uh, thanks, Keebo’s dad.”

The Professor pushed his advantage. “Professor Idabashi, pleasure to make your acquaintance. Would you be willing to show me some of your wonderful inventions?” 

Miu nodded meekly. “S-sure thing, Prof. Right over here.”

Keebo smiled as Chihiro and his dad both breathed a sigh of relief. “Yeah, dad has always had a way with the ladies. He’ll get Miu to behave for a bit.” 

The two men and two AIs chatted amicably for no more than fifteen minutes before a startled yell rang out. They looked over to find Professor Idabashi hoisted in the air by at least eight metal tentacles. Miu was laughing uproariously as she pressed buttons on a remote control. 

“Miu, what are you doing?!” Keebo sprinted across the Ultimate Machine Lab, but seemed at a loss to what to do when he arrived. 

“What? I showed him my boring shit, like my machines that let you eat, crap, or brush your teeth while you’re asleep. He’s the one who asked to see my more interesting inventions!”

“I didn’t mean this!” Professor Idabashi yelled. Miu pressed another button and the tentacles sprouted gloves hands at their tips and began to tickle him relentlessly. “AhHAHAHA- please- HAHAHAHAHAHA- stop!”

“Cut it out Miu.” Chihiro stepped directly in front of her, his voice low, his eyes cold. “Let him go.”

Miu swallowed hard. “Jeez, okay, okay. Man, you sure grew some balls ever since you stole my boyfriend. I’m not surprised, it was pretty good dick.” 

“Chihiro, you have a boyfriend?! Is he here? Can I meet him?!” Taichi looked elated.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Chihiro crossed his arms and looked down. “He just couldn’t stand Miu anymore, which is entirely reasonable and understandable. Though... he may have taught me a thing or two about standing up to people- especially crazy inventors.” 

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, ya fuckin’ homewrecker.” Miu pulled out a futuristic-looking ray gun and pointed it at the Professor.

“Please stop!” Keebo darted in front of the gun, arms outstretched. 

Miu rolled her eyes. “I can’t stop the Tentickler once it really gets going. I gotta blast it.” 

Keebo gulped, but moved aside. “Be careful, do not hit my father!”

She pointed the gun directly at the Professor, still being tickled mercilessly, and squeezed the trigger. “I lied!”

A bright flash of light, and then suddenly Miu was holding a neon green thong in her off hand. 

“What did you do?!” Keebo and Chihiro said in unison. 

Miu laughed, and pressed a button on her remote control. The Tentickler stopped immediately and put the Professor gently down. “This baby can teleport the undies off anyone from fifty feet! I just wanted to see what kind your dad wears! That a crime?!”

The Professor stood and dusted himself off. He seemed none the worse for wear. “I’m pretty sure you’ve broken at least a few laws in the last five minutes, yes. Thank you for letting me down. May I have those back now?”

Miu made to hand them back, still laughing, then stopped suddenly. She peered inside the thong quizzically... then without warning, she zapped Chihiro’s dad with her ray gun. Another flash, and she was holding a pair of boxer shorts decorated with little cogs. “Hahahahahah! Really?! Fuckin’ incredible!”

Chihiro was livid, then noticed that instead of anger, his father was blushing furiously. Without a word, Taichi held out a hand for his underwear.

“Alright, I’ve had my fun, you can have these back now. It’s just that, based on the labels inside these babies, this one is yours, and this one is yours, right?” She handed the neon thong to Chihiro’s dad, and the cog-patterned boxers to Professor Idabashi. 

Everyone was silent. The Professor and Taichi were both beet-red in the face. The Professor coughed. “Thank you, Miss Iruma,” he said as he stuffed the boxers in his lab coat pocket.

“I don’t understand,” Keebo said, perplexed. “You were... wearing each other’s clothing?”

Professor Idabashi coughed. Miu was eating it up. “Ahem... well, son, Taichi and I actually met in the hotel lobby last night. We got to talking, had a cocktail, and one thing led to another...And then we got dressed in a hurry this morning to come here...”

Taichi neatly folded his thong and put it in his pocket. He didn’t look at his son. “Chihiro, I’m... I’m going to go look around the Festival for a bit, I’ll see you later.” He beat a hasty retreat.

“I think I’ll come with you,” the Professor said hurriedly, and followed suit.

“I think you came with him enough already, if ya know what I’m saying!” Miu shouted at their retreating forms. Keebo and Chihiro turned to her, glaring at her silently as one. “What?” Miu quailed and shrank back. “What did I do?”

 


 

Peko watched as the crowd of people walked away, following Nekomaru over to the obstacle course for the final Ultimate Sports Lab demonstration of the day. Her two roommates Mukuro and Maki would be going head-to-head in an obstacle course their Coach had set up. Peko hadn’t really had anything to contribute, but she knew that Kazuichi and Sonosuke over in the Machine Lab had put together some nasty surprises. This obstacle course would be far more than the standard climb-over-things and crawl-under-things ones. Peko was looking forward to seeing them in action, so she hurried to put away her kendo sword, epee and foil. Right as she was about to leave, she sensed a presence behind her. She whirled around and dropped into a crouch, drawing the katana she carried across her back in one swift motion.

Kyosuke didn’t even flinch. “Good afternoon.”

Oh wonderful, what rule had she inadvertently broken? The two boys’ RAs didn’t seem to go anywhere or do anything outside of taking disciplinary action. They had gotten even worse nowadays, and Kirumi and Chisa had made sure to tell all the girls that if they were getting caught up in Kyosuke’s and Taka’s ‘dick-measuring contest’ to bring it to their attention. However, that was no excuse for impoliteness. “Good afternoon,” she replied evenly, sheathing her sword once more. “What can I do for you?”

The Ultimate Student Council President cleared his throat. Was that... a trace of awkwardness? She’d never heard anything less than complete certainty and self-assurance from him, though their paths had not often crossed. “I thought your demonstration was good. Very impressive.” 

She thanked him politely. He made no move to leave. ...Kyosuke was tense. His face betrayed no nervousness, but his posture... “Is there something else?”

“I was wondering if you-” A pause. “Um, I was wondering, why did you not show off your skill with the katana? It’s obvious you are very talented with the weapon you always carry.”

She shrugged nonchalantly. “For kendo and fencing I can use the practice dummy to demonstrate.  A katana exhibition would really need two people of equal skill levels.” And Maki had sworn off the katana after an embarassing moment in a past assassination, when she had been mistaken for a cosplayer and her entire mission had been jeapordized. 

Kyosuke nodded. “That makes sense, I suppose.” They both stood there. She was waiting impassively, and he was clearly gathering his nerve to ask her what he really wanted to know. “Um. Do you have a lot of free time, with all your classwork and such?”

Peko rolled her eyes. “Ask what you actually came to ask, I want to go watch my roommates run the obstacle course.” If they hadn’t already finished, of course. They were both very good at what they did.

“Ah yes, why is the Ultimate Child Caregiver running an obstacle course with the Ultimate Soldier? Seems like an odd matchup.” She merely glared at him. When she made to leave, pushing past him on the way to where the course had been laid out, he finally spat it out. “Please teach me swordsmanship.” 

She turned again to face him, raising an eyebrow. “You want to learn how to wield a sword?”

He nodded. “Please. If you have time with your practice and classwork and all. That is obviously more important.”

“...Why?”

“It’s good for focus and discipline.” She waited. “It encourages self-reflection. ‘Know the way of the sword, know yourself,’ as the kendo masters say.” She waited. Dealing with Fuyuhiko every day growing up had taught her that when confronted with silence, a nervous person was more likely to babble to fill the space. Looks like it worked on Kyosuke too. He was beginning to sweat.“It’s... good cardio?” At Peko’s unimpressed frown, he threw up his hands. “Okay! Because it’s incredibly badass, and I’ve always wanted to learn, ever since I was a kid!”

Peko couldn’t stop it in time; she barked out a laugh, then tried to turn it into a cough. She schooled her face into seriousness again. “There now, was that so hard? That’s a good reason enough on its own!”

The boys’ RA pouted. “Well, there you have it.” He shuffled his feet a little. “If you would consider taking me on as a student, I would really like to learn.” 

Peko tried to hide the small smile that threatened to emerge, but she feared she wasn’t doing a very good job. “I’m afraid I don’t have time, between practicing the sword and my other classwork. But,” she said, as his face began to fall, “I have no objections to you coming to watch me while I practice. And if I feel like talking out loud about technique or theory while I practice, well, that would sure be something.”

“It certainly would be.” He smiled broadly; Peko’s stomach fluttered. What the hell was that about?! 

 


 

‘Ryoko’ and Monaca were having a great time.

They had tried to sow as much chaos as was humanly possible. They booed Hiyoko’s traditional dance recital, nearly causing her to burst into tears before they were ushered out. They tried to do the same at Kaede’s piano recital and Sayaka’s pop concert, but they weren’t allowed back into the Ultimate Theater again. When they were hungry, they broke into the Confectionary Display and ate all of the sweets that were only for showcase purposes. With sugar-sticky hands they went to peruse Hifumi’s doujinshi and Toko’s novels, flipping through the pages and making thoughtful noises, leaving smears on the paper. Then they left without buying anything. Hifumi almost burst a blood vessel before Ryota shooshed and papped him back to calmness. They took the cosplay pieces off the display mannequins and put them on, despite Tsumugi’s protestations; Junko broke one of the giant foam weapons in their ‘epic duel,’ so they fled the scene. 

In the audience at the Great Gozu’s wrestling demonstration, they shouted innuendo regarding how homoerotic the whole sport was. The Great Gozu showed no reaction through his cow mask, but their lewd comments about his loincloth caused Gonta to blush scarlet. Nekomaru bullrushed them out of the Ultimate Sports Lab and they didn’t dare return for any other athletes’ demonstrations.

Discovering Gundham’s petting zoo was like striking gold. Monaca stole a lemur by hiding it under her skirt- they released it in Mikan’s first aid tent. Even though the lemur was just jumping around a little, the Ultimate Nurse fled in terror. Emboldened by their success, they went back for more. Monaca caused a diversion by teaching the macaws to swear, and when Gundham was distracted with that, Junko removed the bell from a goat’s collar and led it away. They broke the goat into the dorms through the cafeteria and released it in Kirumi’s Maid Cafe with a hard swat on its rump. While Kirumi was shouting orders to Sonia and Angie to corral it, they darted into the Gambling Hall to take cover. With their backs pressed against the wall, hands clapped over their mouths to stifle their giggles, they could hear the voices of Chiaki, Kyoko, Chisa, Ibuki, and even ‘Junko’ all leaving their tables to help out. 

“May I... help you two?” They looked up to see Makoto in a black vest and bowtie, looking at them quizzically from behind a poker table. Hajime and Shuichi turned around on their stools to see what Makoto was looking at. “My poker table here is full, but Nagito has space at his blackjack table two doors down. And if you really want a challenge, you can challenge the Ultimate Gambler Celeste at her Baccarat table next door.”

“Ah, thank you! We’ll do that,” Junko said brightly. She whispered to Monaca, “I’m no good at cheating at cards. Wanna make a break for it?” The devious duo were about to head back into the hall when they were nearly bowled over by a young girl wielding a megaphone. 

“Here you are, Makoto! I finally found you!” she yelled through the megaphone. It emitted a burst of feedback that caused everyone to wince simultaneously.

Makoto clapped his hands over his ears, dropping the deck of cards. “Komaru?! What are you doing here?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I came to cheer on my big brother! Go, Makoto, go! Deal those cards! Go Makoto go! It’s not that hard!”

Hajime and Shuichi exchanged a glance. They both put their cards down and folded the round.

“Komaru! Knock it off with the megaphone! Where’d you even get that?!”

She shrugged. “I borrowed it from this huge guy with lightning shooting out of his eyes. He said his voice was already loud enough without it.” She holstered her ‘weapon’ at her hip.

Makoto returned his voice to a normal speaking volume. “Sis, I’m busy today, I thought you were coming tomorrow and we were gonna look around the Festival together?”

His little sister stuck her tongue out at him. “Oh, we’re doing that too, don’t you worry! I just arrived early and wanted to see you!”

The Ultimate Lucky Student began cleaning up his inadvertent game of 52 Pick-Up. “It’s kinda late in the day, sis, and I’m working right now. What if you go back to your hotel room and we’ll see each other in the morning?”

She puffed out her cheeks angrily. Whipping out her megaphone, she yelled through it at full volume. “Go Makoto go! Deal those cards! Go Makoto go! You’re such a ret-”

Junko and Monaca chose that moment to make a run for it.

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

“Alright, one two three four five, six seven eight, nine ten... hey, you two, quit dawdling! Eleven twelve.” Phew! Rantaro had managed to wrangle all twelve of his sisters successfully without them getting lost. They had promised their shared father that they would listen to Rantaro and not run off, but he wasn’t sure he could believe their intentions. They loved Rantaro, but they loved exploring almost as much as he did. The Ultimate Adventurer pushed open the door to the dorms- and was greeted with a flurry of cherry blossoms to the face. “Ack! Phhtbt!” He tried his best to spit them out, as little Twervu tried to catch some. “Byakuya! You’re going for ambiance, not pelting people with petals!”

“Sorry!” Byakuya called, not sounding in the least contrite. “Yasuke, go reconfigure the Sakura Shower. I think Kokichi might have tampered with it again.”

“What, why me- Never mind. Sure, sure, I got it.” Yasuke Matsuda, the Ultimate Neurologist, moved to tinker with the cherry blossom cannon.

Byakuya turned back to Rantaro and his gaggle of sisters. He bowed low, respectful in a way Rantaro had never seen before from the haughty scion . “Now pardon me, honored guests. Welcome to the Hope’s Peak Academy Host Club.” Rantaro stood there blinking as Byakuya paused. He appeared to be waiting for something. “...Ahem!” Oh, right. Rantaro moved to his spot and they posed just like they had practiced. Yasuke grudgingly left the work he had just been doing to join in.

Rantaro’s twelve sisters seemed appropriately wowed by the smorgasbord of men before them. 

Byakuya continued. “We have board games, tea, and sweets, and our hosts will be delighted to entertain you in any way  you wish. Please select which host you want to request!” He gave a grand gesture.

“We have the Prince Charming type,” Rantaro waved to his sisters. 

“The Mischievous type,” Kokichi chuckled and put his hands behind his head.

“The Strong Silent type.” Kyosuke’s expression didn’t change an inch, so Byakuya coughed and pointed to him. 

“The Baby-Face Gangster type,” Fuyuhiko’s fake smile faltered slightly, but he managed to keep it plastered on. Kokichi sniggered. 

“The Domineering type,” Kiyotaka looked like he wanted to object but instead gave a salute.

 “The Brainy type,” and Yasuke rolled his eyes at the pun.

“The Bad Boy type,” Mondo thrust his hand up with a ‘yo!’

“The Brash type.” Kaito grinned and clapped his hand on Mondo’s shoulder. “That could be either or both of us!” Byakuya shushed him.

“And finally, the Natural type.” Hajime looked embarrassed to be present.

Juudi, Rantaro’s tenth sister, raised her hand like they were in a classroom. “What type are you?”

The Ultimate Affluent Progeny grimaced. “The Cool type,” he said through gritted teeth. “But really, I’ll be so busy running the club that I don’t know if I’ll have time to take requests from guests-”

Juudi grabbed his hand and began to drag him away. “Have tea with me, Mr. Cool Guy!”

Rantaro’s sisters swarmed the boys, giggling and arguing over who had dibs on who. Hey, as long as they stayed here until his shift ended, Rantaro was happy.

 

Hajime tried in vain to carry a tea tray over to Asu, Rantaro’s eldest sister, but he wasn’t able to move with Shichi and Ochohachi hanging off his legs. He strained to shift his legs without hurting them or allowing himself to be tripped. It became moot, however, when Kyuunine jumped onto his shoulders yelling “it’s piggyback time!” He was yanked backwards, and he and the three Amamis toppled over. Luckily, most of the tea landed on HIS clothes and scalded HIS face, and left the guests untouched. After Asu made the triplets apologize, he politely bowed and scuttled off in retreat to his dorm room. 

Byakuya was alone in the room, without Juudi in sight. Hajime wondered what Byakuya had done to ditch her. “Sorry, just need to towel off and change.”

Byakuya didn’t even look up from his leather-bound notebook. “The cost of that tea set will be added to your debt. And the tea itself, a rich Civet blend, nothing you could normally dream of tasting. And the cleaning of the floor and your Host Club uniform.” 

The Ultimate ??? frowned, undoing his stained tie. “Uh, what? I’m not in your debt. And you said you were bankrolling everything yourself, that ‘the Togami Heir would sooner give up his title than take money from paupers such as you.’ Also I don’t really have any money anyway.” If he’d had any money, he wouldn’t have been desperate enough to sign up for the Experi-

Byakuya chuckled. “I know, I just wanted to hear you say it.” 

Hajime gritted his teeth. This was so aggravating. He didn’t know why he had to be here. Or why such a thing as a Host Club would exist in the first place. It seemed like such an odd concept. He changed in moody silence, Byakuya content to continue scribbling away. Hajime hadn’t really spent any time with the Ultimate Affluent Progeny before- he wasn’t even sure Byakuya ever left his room. He usually paid Teruteru to have his meals brought directly to his door. Why would such a haughty recluse like Byakuya stoop to being social and subservient to random strangers? “Hey Byakuya, isn’t this whole Host Club thing sort of... degrading, for you?”

Byakuya smiled, still not looking up. “On the contrary, this sort of thing shows the Academy that I am a great leader, businessman, organizer, etc. I came up with a project, got support for it, took care of the logistics... all the bothersome miscellania that I will be required to do as the Togami heir.” His smile broadened. “It may be degrading for all of YOU, however.”

“But you’re a Host too, right? Why not like, just organize it? Be the, I dunno, pimp or whatever?”

The blond boy tapped his chin thoughtfully with his pen. “In a brothel, the leader would be a Madam. I don’t know if an equivalent term exists for a stable.” He shook his head. “But that is neither here nor there, because we are not sex workers. No prostitution, Hajime, I mean it.” 

Hajime held out his hands in a warding gesture. “I’m not planning to turn tricks out there, I was just asking! Why did you decide to serve tea and play Chinese checkers and stuff with us, when you could’ve been bossing us around from the shadows?”

Byakuya grimaced. “...When my father’s corporation spies found out I was putting this together, he offered me controlling interest in some of his South American companies I’d had my eye on. He seemed to think that me being forced to participate with the rest of you was... funny.” He looked at Hajime with wild eyes. “I need that coffee supply chain!” He coughed, and schooled his voice. “You see, the trade routes... the margins...tariffs...” He began babbling economics terms, mostly to himself.

Alright, apparently the dude had a thing for coffee. “Gotcha. So, why invite me? I don’t see myself attracting many clients. ‘The Natural type’ sounds more like ‘the Typeless type.’ Though I don’t know what else I would have done for the Cultural Festival...”

Byakuya snapped out of his reverie. “Exactly.” Hajime waited, then impatiently gestured for Byakuya to continue. “Think about it. What would my horrible gremlin of a roommate have done for the Cultural Festival, if I hadn’t provided an outlet? Rampage with his subordinates all over the campus, to show that he can truly be a Supreme Leader? How about Mondo’s biker gang, or Fuyuhiko’s yakuza? We could have had various hoodlums jockeying for power in Jabberwock Park! What would Rantaro have done to show he was adventurous? Or Kiyotaka, to show he had a stick up his ass? There’s no clear way to demonstrate their Ultimate Talents to the Academy and all our families. But my turning them into caricatures, by making them Hosts- someone could come here and request for Rantaro to regale them with tales of his travels, and he would show that he was truly the Ultimate Adventurer indeed. Or Fuyuhiko’s stories about the seedy world of organized crime, or Kaito’s tales of space travel.”

“I’m pretty sure Kaito actually hasn’t gone to space yet,” Hajime muttered.

“Really? Huh. Pity. Well, maybe he can make some up. The point is, I’ve given you all a way to display your talents to your classmates, families, and Hope’s Peak Academy. You should be grateful,” he sneered.

“Honestly, I am! I have no idea what I would have done otherwise. They made it pretty clear that participation in the Festival was mandatory.” Hajime gulped, remembering the email he’d received about this Family Weekend.

“Then get back to your post, and take care of our guests. And try to make sure Kiyotaka and Kyosuke don’t kill each other. I wouldn’t have invited them both if I’d known their roommate relationship was so... tempestuous.”

Hajime rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Pretty much every time I see them they’re at each others’ throats. I think there might be something going on there? A hatemance, or hatebanging thing? Like Fuyuhiko and Kokichi,” he clarified.

Byakuya’s eyes shot up. “That’s a thing?!” 

Hajime shrugged. “Yeah, you know, torrid emotions and all that. Passion manifesting in a rather darker matter.”

“No, I mean- Fuyuhiko and my roommate?”

“Oh yeah, I don’t know how you haven’t noticed! Since yesterday they’ve been sniping at each other far more than usual, you know how Kokichi is. But they keep coincidentally going to get supplies from a closet at the same time, and don’t come out for a while. And in the showers this morning, I heard-”

Byakuya cut him off with a wave, then stood and marched back to the main Host Club area. “For heaven’s sake, why can’t these hormonal teenagers with little to no adult supervision keep it in their pants?!” Hajime finished changing and followed him, bemused.

 


 

Ryoma and Tezuka met up for breakfast in the cafeteria. “Can I just say that your Ultimate Chef really deserves his title,” Tezuka said, around a mouthful of croissant. It looks like his sweet tooth was acting up again, because he also had a Belgian waffle and a crepe on his plate.

Ryoma himself still felt a little tired from yesterday, both physically from the match and emotionally from the reunion. He went for a full English breakfast, with bacon, eggs, hash browns, and sausage- but also beans and mushrooms on toast. It was a little different from what he usually got, but he figured, why not try out the Culture part of the Cultural festival? “Yeah, Teruteru may be a little perverted most of the time, but he sure knows how to cook.”

“Perverted?” Tezuka looked over to the little station where Teruteru was making custom omelets with whatever fillings people requested. Akane was waiting impatiently as it cooked, her bosom bouncing as she tapped her feet. The little chef looked ecstatically happy. “He doesn’t seem perverted to me. That girl has huge bazongas, and you can tell she’s not wearing a bra. But he’s not even looking at them.”

Ryoma had to double-check his former tennis captain. True enough, he seemed completely oblivious to Akane, except as someone wanting an omelet. He looked just as deliriously happy when she walked back to her table, where her gaggle of eight siblings and step-siblings were eating and talking animatedly. “Huh. That’s surprising. But ‘bazongas?’ And you can tell her bra status? Maybe you’re the pervert,” he deadpanned.

Tezuka shrugged. “Speaking of which, wanna catch the fashion show?” He waved the Cultural Festival brochure around a little.  

Ryoma dropped his fork. “Uh...” This was completely out of character for his captain. “No? Why do you?”

“Admittedly not for the fashion,” Tezuka laughed. “But these Ultimate girls are hot! You know, legs up to here, all that rot.”

He seems to have grown a libido since I last saw him, Ryoma thought. “Uh... wouldn’t you rather check out Chiaki’s arcade? Or Kazuichi and Sonosuke in the Machine Lab? Or-” he grabbed the brochure out of Tezuka’s hands, lightning-quick. “Or Himiko’s magic show?”

“The magic show, and the punk concert for that matter, is on the same stage as the fashion show. We won’t miss one by seeing the other. And we can see all those things too, later! But the fashion show starts in half an hour and I don’t want to miss it.” Tezuka waggled his eyebrows at his former protege. “Don’t you want to see pretty girls in skimpy outfits?”

Ryoma swallowed. “Yeah, of course. Obviously.” He still liked girls, right? “So let’s go.”

Just then, a woman entered the cafeteria from the kitchen, wheeling a large cart laden with breakfast dishes Ryoma didn’t recognize. A lot of tofu, rice, cheese, eggs, chickpeas- Teruteru seemed really keen about the ‘from Around the World’ part of his banquet. She looked very familiar, but Ryoma couldn’t place it until she stood right next to Teruteru. 

“Oh, son, your food is amazing, wonderful! You’ve really made me and the folks back at the Hanamura Diner proud!”

Teruteru beamed. “I told you mama! I knew I could show you that I could cook the same dishes you serve back home! Almost as good as you!”

His mother looked confused. “Teruteru, my dear son, you already cook far better than your mama ever could. And not just the diner breakfasts we serve- look at all these other dishes you’re making!”

Teruteru hugged his mother, oblivious to everyone who could see them. “Mama, no one could ever cook as good as you, but I’m so happy you think so! All I’ve ever wanted to do was make you proud!”

Ryoma and Tezuka gave each other a glance, and silently decided to leave the Hanamuras to their public display of familial affection. Ryoma bolted his last bite of eggs, and Tezuka shoved an entire crepe into his mouth at once.

As they went to leave, they passed a burly black man with a huge afro standing by the cafeteria exit. He had set up something called a ‘grange display,’ a tiered box that seemed to be showing off the produce and stuff that goes into Teruteru’s food. Ryoma saw fruits, vegetables, jams, seed oils, eggs, cheese... lots of things. The man saw them looking and shouted happily “Hey, come look at my display! After all, a salmon with two backs fertilizes twice as many eggs!” He spoke in a high-pitched girl’s voice, completely incongruous to his looks.

“Hey,” Ryoma said, inwardly flabbergasted. He tried not to let it show on his face. “I’m not sure we’ve met. I’m Ryoma Hoshi, the Ultimate Tennis Pro.” The title made bile raise in the back of his throat, like it always did. Tezuka was far more deserving of that title, and he’d fit in more with these Ultimates than Ryoma did. 

“Daisaku Bandai, the Ultimate Farmer! I spend most of my time at the Ultimate Farm, growing all these fruits and vegetables. Organic, pesticide-free, and nutritious as a leprechaun’s taint!” Ryoma blinked, and from Tezuka’s face, he was also thrown by the strange aphorisms. “I also take care of the farm animals! Goat cheese, cow butter, fresh chicken and duck eggs, all from animals that are free-range and without growth hormones!” His little girl voice was still incredibly odd to hear coming from the hulking man’s mouth. “You know what they say, both dolphins and deer live inside pine trees!”

“DO they say that?” Tezuka blurted out. He caught himself. “Sorry, I, uh, just haven’t heard that phrase before.”

Daisaku nodded, grinning broadly. “They’re my own personal saying. They don’t mean anything.” He waved after them cheerfully as they beat a hasty retreat.

 


 

Kaito waved goodbye as Trey, Cater, and Cinque Amami went to go explore the Cultural Festival. He came and slumped down on a couch next to his bro. “Man, I tell ya, I am great at Chinese Checkers. I mean, I lost every game, but that last one was close!” He chuckled, but Mondo didn’t react. He was staring at his hands, and Kaito could see that his knuckles were white with tension. “Hey, bro, what’s up? You okay?”

Mondo looked up, then forced a weak grin. “Yeah, bro, no worries.” 

Kaito raised one eyebrow and waited. Being patient and staying silent were two of the hardest things for Kaito, but he sensed that Mondo wouldn’t react well to being pushed right now. “If you say so.” He stuffed a few tea cookies into his mouth to shut himself up. 

After a moment or two, Mondo spoke. Kaito congratulated himself for his awesome friendship skills. “It’s my bro, bro.” Kaito blinked. Mondo chuckled wanly. “Not you. My literal brother. There’s just- all this Family Weekend bullshit is hard to take.”

Kaito nodded. “I hear ya. I wish my grandparents were still alive to come visit.”

Mondo shrugged. “Who doesn’t have a dead grandparent or two? They’re old and shit. I think all four of mine kicked it, we weren’t close.”

“Nah, bro. My grandparents raised me. They were like my mom and dad, after my real mom and dad died in a car crash. I was real young, I don’t remember them at all, but my grandparents were two of the nicest people you could ever meet. They encouraged me to pursue my dream. I owe a lot of them.”

Mondo blanched. “Sorry bro, I didn’t know.” 

Kaito waved it off- he wasn’t offended at all. Right now he was more concerned with Mondo’s family issues. “So tell me about your brother. Why isn’t he here visiting?”

“He’s... he’s dead. Like your grandparents.” Then, so quietly Kaito wasn’t sure he even heard it right- “I killed him.”

Kaito waited for elaboration, or at least confirmation of what he’d heard. None came. “Tell me,” he said open-endedly. Mondo could take whatever way he chose.

“...We were street racin’ one night.” The Ultimate Biker Gang Leader clenched his jaw. Apparently he was going to tell Kaito about the ‘I killed him’ part. Kaito was intensely curious, but bit his tongue and waited for Mondo to continue at his own pace. “It was a party- we were celebratin’ me takin’ over as leader of the Crazy Diamonds. That’s my gang, I think I told ya. Anyway, we were a little wasted, and I challenged my bro to a street race. One last time, before I took over. And it was dark, and we were still a little drunk, and there was this truck.... it- it almost killed me.” He closed his eyes. “Daiya pushed me outta the way. He took the hit for me. And then he made me promise that I wouldn’t let the gang fall apart.”   

Kaito was silent, taking this all in. He hadn’t really killed his brother- but he knew Mondo wouldn’t take it well if he pointed that out. The guilt must be eating him up. And even worse on this particular weekend. “Well... you didn’t, right? Even with you here at Hope’s Peak, you still go riding with them every weekend, yeah?”

Mondo sniffed. “That’s right. I made a promise to Daiya. A promise between men. And I intend to keep that promise. No matter what!” That last burst out a little loudly, and he got some glances from the other hosts and the various Amami sisters. Kaito waved them off- nothing to see here. 

“I think that’s very admirable,” Kaito said. “You’re a good bro, bro. To Daiya, and to me. I’m sure he’d be here if he could!” He knocked his shoulder into Mondo’s. “Try not to let it get you down. I’m here, I’ll keep you company in his place. I mean, we spent all yesterday together anyway, at the maid cafe and whatnot. Not that you got any farther with any of the girls!” He laughed. 

Mondo rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I don’t think I could have shoved my foot any farther down my throat if I had tried.”

Kaito had to admit it had been an epic failure of a pick-up line. But wait- was that? “Hey bro, look, Peko’s here!” Sure enough, Peko had entered, looking shyly around the room. She seemed extremely uncomfortable in this environment. She had to be here for someone in particular. “Maybe she’s here for you, buddy!”

Fuyuhiko walked over to the two of them. “Ha! Not likely. She’s here to support me. Maybe bring me some of Teruteru’s food. These little sandwiches aren’t cutting it.”

Byakuya greeted her. Kaito couldn’t hear their exchange, but he crossed his fingers, with the slim hope that she would ask for Mondo. That would boost his spirits, he thought. Though she was probably actually here for Fuyuhiko, he admitted to himself.

Byakuya led Peko over towards them. Fuyuhiko smirked as she approached. “Right this way,” Byakuya said, and Peko followed him right past the group. She averted her eyes and deliberately did not meet Fuyuhiko’s surprised look. She was led over to Kyosuke, holding court in the far corner. “You have a guest request, Strong and Silent type.” As Peko took a seat across a tea set from Kyosuke, Mondo and Fuyuhiko exchanged shocked expressions. Kaito couldn’t help laughing at their faces, which drew ire (and a few punches) from both of them.

 


 

Tezuka led them to their seats, right in the middle center. Ryoma usually preferred sitting off to one side at a movie theater, but made no comment. They were seated with Kaede on Tezuka’s left side, and Tenko, Aoi and someone who was clearly Aoi’s little brother on Ryoma’s right side. Kaede had her hair up in a messy ponytail, and was wearing a Danger Rhubarb band tee, dressed far more casually than Ryoma had ever seen her. 

“Wait, Kaede, aren’t you one of the models?” Tenko leaned back in her seat in order to speak past Ryoma and Tezuka, insignificant males beneath her notice. “I thought I read in the brochure...”

“Shhhh!” Aoi’s little brother shushed her, as the overhead lights dimmed and the spotlights turned on. “It’s starting!”

Junko walked out onto the catwalk like she was born there. She produced a microphone from nowhere and had every eye drawn directly to her. The Ultimate Fashionista owned the show. “Hellooooo, Hope’s Peak! Hope everyone is having a goooood weekend! Like, I’m your host, Junko Enoshima! I’m a model today, but I’m also the one who organized this event! Gooooo me!” She grinned at the applause. “All brand names of the outfits are available after the show, I ain’t got time to say them all out loud. Let’s get started!”  She shrugged off her outer coat to reveal the first outfit.

House music began to play as she began to strut back and forth along the length of the catwalk. “We’re going to start with the Casual outfits! Here’s what I chose for myself, a little leopard-print to keep it flashy.”

“Daaaaaamn, look at the cans on her!” Kaede pointed and yelled, audible even over the music. 

“Kaede! SHHHH!” Tenko shushed her, looking mortified. Ryoma thought he felt spittle hit the side of his face from the force of her shushing. 

“Next is the lovely Celestia Ludenberg, dressing down quite a bit from her usual Gothic Lolita flair, but still with roses on her stockings to keep her personal motif going!”

“Kaede Akamatsu, accented with a very subtle and casual monochrome look as a nod to her talent as the Ultimate Pianist!”

“WOOOO THAT’S MY TWIN! GO KAEDE, WORK IT!” The Kaede sitting next to Tezuka, who was apparently not Kaede after all, yelled at the top of her lungs. This time Tenko, Aoi, and Aoi’s brother all shushed her simultaneously. 

They were joined by Kaede herself, who looked nervously around the room. “Kaori!” she leaned down and hissed. “Behave!” She continued along the catwalk far less confidently than before her twin sister’s outburst.

“KAEDE IS THE GREATEST! WOMEN WANT HER, AND MEN WANT TO BE HER! SHE’S THE ULTIMATE LESBIAN! SHE-” Tenko leapt up, grabbed Tezuka and shoved him violently into the seat she had just vacated. She slammed herself into the chair between Ryoma and Kaori and clapped her hand over the latter’s mouth. 

“Sonia Nevermind is leading off the first of our Festival outfits! A gorgeous green, fit for a princess!”

Tenko hissed into Kaori’s ear, “Please be quiet! I will remove my hand if you are good!”

“Ruruka Ando, looking like a sweet treat in her Sakura-petal-pink yukata!”

“Also,” Tenko whispered as she removed her hand, but Ryoma could still hear her. “Let’s get one thing straight: I am the Ultimate Lesbian.”

“Kirumi Tojo and Tsumugi Shirogane in their yukata, complimenting each other in colors and personalities!”

The rest of the fashion show passed mostly without incident. Kaori seemed intimidated by Tenko’s forcefulness, and behaved herself from then on.

“Chisa Yukizome, in stunning sapphire!”

“And yours truly, in my trademark style of black and white with red accents! Now let’s give it up for our Cosplay outfits, all created by hand by our talented model Tsumugi Shirogane, the Ultimate Cosplayer!”

“First up is Sonia, as Princess Peach Toadstool from Super Mario Brothers! She’ll bake you a cake, but don’t expect a kiss!”

“Next is Chisa, dressed as Just Monika, from Doki Doki Literature Club! She puts the ‘dere’ in ‘yandere’!”

“Kirumi as Franziska von Karma from the Ace Attorney series! Watch out, she’ll whip you if you give her a reason!”

“WHIP ME SENPA-” Tenko’s hand slapped back over Kaori’s mouth. She didn’t remove it for the rest of the show.

“And finally, the source of all this great Cosplay, Tsumugi is dressed as Hatsune Miku, the creator of Minecraft!”

Tsumugi turned aghast towards Junko, raising a hand to correct her, but had to hustle off the stage before the next model came on.

“Now for our final category, our Formal outfits! From prom dresses to wedding dresses, ball gowns to royal gowns, look at these pieces of art! First is Kaede in a simple pink halter-top dress, perfect for a bride or a bridesmaid!”

“Celeste is a Gothic princess, letting her hair down but classing it up in this bowed-and-brocaded number!”

“Meanwhile, Sonia has upgraded from Princess to Queen! This royal blue dress is perfect for giving decrees or oppressing the peasantry!”

“Kirumi keeps her spiderweb motif but adds some Dia de los Muertos flair! This spooky cutie will enthrall your heart!”

“Ruruka channels Pinkie Pie with her pastel pinks and blues, and her yummy candy accessories!”

“A conservative A-line for Tsumugi, in a fresh springtime yellow-green!”

“And lastly, I’ll wrap us up with a pretty pink prom dress, complete with corsage! Not my usual fare, but a true fashionista knows the value of defying expectations!”

Junko called all the other models back on, and they took a bow together. Tezuka nudged Ryoma awake, and they applauded politely along with the rest of the far-more-enthusiastic crowd. Tenko released Kaori, who flew towards the stage to applaud Kaede even louder. As they filed out, Tenko and Aoi were chatting animatedly about the dresses, but Aoi’s brother was dejected. “Sis, you said there was gonna be a swimsuit segment, and a lingerie segment! That was just boring girly gunk!”

“Oh Yuta, for all I knew, there would be!” She winked at Tenko. “Now come on, we’ll do what you wanna do now. Let’s head to Chiaki’s arcade! I bet she has that racing game you liiiiike...”

Tenko sniffed. “Why don’t we do what I wanna do?”

Aoi laughed. “Yuta is only here for one day. Besides, you were the one who really wanted to see the fashion show! I know, you wanna go to the Host Club now, huh? With all the degenerate males whispering sweet nothings to innocent girls-”

“TO THE ARCADE, THEN!” Tenko pulled her girlfriend off, leaving her brother to hurry along behind.

“So what did you think?” Tezuka asked Ryoma as they left the Ultimate Theater area.

“Uh... much the same as Yuta, if we’re being honest,” Ryoma admitted. 

Tezuka frowned. “Hmmm.... alright then. Come on. We’re going to that Host Club place those girls were just talking about.” He grabbed Ryoma’s arm and began to walk off.

“What? Why?!” Ryoma whipped his arm out of Tezuka’s grip. “Why do you wanna go there?!”

Tezuka grinned. “Well, we’ve confirmed my suspicions that girls don’t really do it for you. Now I wanna see if boys do anything.” 

He headed off towards the Host Club. Ryoma gaped for a few seconds, then snapped his jaw shut and hurried after his friend. 

 


 

Seiko was having no luck convincing Mikan to leave. “Mikan, you may be the Ultimate Nurse, but I’m the Ultimate Pharmacist. When there’s no Ultimate Doctor or anything, we’re kind of on equal footing. I’ve also learned almost as much first aid as you have. And,” she pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and waved it pointedly, “I have your number. Go. Have fun. Check out some of the Cultural Festival! Yesterday I saw some fun traditional dance and piano recitals, I won $30 in Blackjack, and I got to pet a baby elephant calf. Trust me, you’ll find something to do.”

Mikan wavered. “But what if someone comes in with a medical emergency, and they’re so bad off they need both of us, and your phone breaks, and-”

“Mikan.” Seiko looked at her roommate as sternly as she could manage over her respirator mask. “You can leave the Clinic in my hands for one day. You need a break too.” Seiko knew she had sure needed one, from Mikan as well as the Clinic. Yesterday had been amazing, even if she had wandered around alone. She felt that suited her best anyway.

“I just want to be useful to somebody,” Mikan whimpered. “So forgive me already...”

Seiko rolled her eyes inwardly. “Then go find someone else to help. Here, look at this brochure. Fortune-telling, a punk rock concert, some paintings and photography... there’s gotta be something you’ll like. Go. I insist.”

Mikan was still listing reasons she should stay as Seiko pushed her out the door.

 

It was quiet for about forty-five minutes, when a polite knock sounded upon the door. “Come in?” Seiko called questioningly. Someone having a medical emergency wouldn’t usually knock.

Sakura came in, supporting a man Seiko thought she recognized from Sakura’s martial arts demonstration yesterday. “Excuse me, but my... friend, he is sick.” The man looked pale, and was clearly unable to walk unsupported. 

“Please, have a seat .” Seiko had meant on the examination table, but Sakura gently helped him sit in one of the waiting room chairs. She didn’t want to be rude and correct them, and now the waiting room chair would have to be disinfected even if he moved, so there was really no harm. Seiko walked over to them, pulling on gloves. “What kind of sickness?”

“Well,” Sakura began, looking at him. “He gets tired very easily, coughs a lot, but it comes and goes, he was mostly fine yesterday-”

“Mitsutoshi’s Syndrome,” the man cut her off gently, to stop her rambling. He smiled at her, then looked to Seiko. “Are you familiar with it?”

“I’m afraid I’m not,” she admitted. Maybe it would have been better if Mikan were here after all...

“I’m not surprised, it’s pretty much just Mitsutoshi and I that have it,” he grinned wanly. Seiko hadn’t heard of it, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t find out. After a few minutes with her medical textbooks and then the internet, she confirmed a few things with her patient, who she learned was named Kenshiro. 

“He’s the strongest person in the world,” Sakura said proudly. 

“No, I’ve passed that title on to you, Sakura, my love.” He hadn’t let go of her hand, Seiko noticed. “My Ultimate Martial Artist.”

She flushed. “No, not until you’re better and we have that sparring match, for real. Without you holding anything back. I will defeat you when we’re both at our full strength. Like you were in your prime.”

“I’m sure of it,” he smiled.

Seiko now had a good grasp on how to proceed. The symptoms of Mitsutoshi’s Syndrome had always been terminal before in the few past cases that were documented, but from what Seiko was reading... well, it was a good thing there was an Ultimate Pharmacist around. Not only could she make him feel better today, she was confident she could cure him entirely. If there was one thing Seiko had confidence in about herself, it was her pharmacologicals. She busied herself mixing some reagents and chemicals in her lab for about half an hour. When she emerged, Kenshiro had fallen asleep on Sakura’s shoulder, who was still looking at him and only him. Seiko felt a small blush of envy.

“Please, rouse him.” As Sakura did so, Seiko busied herself with the potions she was juggling. Once he was awake, Seiko confirmed with Kenshiro what he had eaten already that day, the types and dosages of the medications he was already taking, and whether he had any allergies. “First, take two teaspoons of this,” she said as she handed Sakura a spoon and a bottle. Sakura managed to fill two spoonfuls and get them down Kenshiro’s throat with him still leaning on her shoulder. 

He perked up almost immediately. “Wow. Wow! I feel more energetic already. What was that?” 

Seiko waved him off. “Now, drink this entire potion, to the last drop.” She took the first bottle away and handed the second directly to him. “It will taste disgusting- do you have anything to get the taste out of your mouth?

“I have a protein shake,” Sakura offered. After confirming what was in it, Seiko allowed it. Kenshiro chugged the concoction with an evident grimace, but valiantly kept it all down. He then drank the entire protein shake in one go. 

“Disgusting... may be an understatement. I feel I will need a thesaurus to find a more severe word.”

“I’m so sorry,” Seiko began, “but any sweetener will reduce the potency of the-”

He raised a hand to stop her. “I cannot complain, I already feel like a new man again.” He stood on his own power, leaving Sakura agape with surprise. “What ever can I do to repay you?”

Seiko shook her head. “This is a free clinic. However, I do require three things.” She went over to a prescription pad on the neary table and tore off three sheets. “One, you take this list, and give it to your normal doctor who has been treating you so far. Please ask them to mix these listed ingredients together in the way that I’ve described. It should cure you, permanently.”

Kenshiro and Sakura both began to thank her in amazement, but she cut them off. “Two, you take this piece of paper. It has my phone number and my email address. If you or your doctor have any side effects or anything odd comes up, please contact me. If, as I suspect, it cures you- I would very much like you to contact me and allow me to write you up as a case study for my professors.”

They nodded as one. “Of course, anything. Even if you don’t manage to cure me.” Obviously Kenshiro doubted the powers of this girl he’d never met, curing him when his own doctors couldn’t after all this time. Well, he’d see that she was right. “And... the third thing?”

Seiko sighed. She put a bottle, tablespoon, and stethoscope in a small bag. She handed the bag and the third prescription to Kenshiro. Like the first one, and unlike the second one, he couldn’t read a word of it- it was in the shorthand doctors used. “Give this to the girl hiding in the bushes outside, eavesdropping on this very conversation. And... sorry in advance.”

Sakura and Kenshiro looked mystified, but took the bag and paper without complaint. As Seiko ushered them to the door, they thanked her effusively, but she flinched and shrugged it off. “See if you feel as happy later as you do now.” She closed the clinic door behind them, then put her ear against it. She heard as they extricated Mikan from the bush and handed her the instructions.

“Oh! You need 15 ccs of medication, orally, q.h. Oh sorry, that means every hour. You can’t eat until after 4 p.m., and... you are a very combative patient who refuses to listen to your regular physician?! Oh no! Well that won’t do at all!” Mikan spoke right over Kenshiro’s and Sakura’s protestations. “No, I can’t believe you if you say you’ll take your medication. It’s written right here. I will have to follow you and make sure you take it every hour, on the dot. And I’ll have to accompany you to dinner, to make sure you don’t eat too early. And oh, there’s a stethoscope in here, so I can check your heart rate and ease of breathing. I’ll probably have to check that every hour too. Oh this will be so good! I will make sure you get better, you can believe me, it’s the most I’m good for. Oh, where are we going first?! I’ll follow you to the theater, the cafeteria, the dorms, anywhere-”

Seiko listened as they walked off, with Mikan still nattering away. Sorry for the emergency third wheel injection, Seiko thought to herself. But Mikan DID deserve a break, too.

 


 

“I still don’t know what you think this is gonna accomplish,” Ryoma grumbled. 

Tezuka smiled. “Just humor me. And maybe I want to get fussed over by pretty boys, you don’t know. A lot can change in a few years. Sexualities are fluid, they say.”

“You’ve sure changed. You didn’t use to be so pushy,” he muttered.

They walked into the area of the dorms that was the Haunted House yesterday. Today, the four dorm rooms and the curtained area was much more open and spacious, with all the doors wide open to attempt to create a larger space. “Welcome,” Byakuya greeted them, not batting an eye at the presence of two male visitors to his Host Club. “Who would you like to request?”

Tezuka and Ryoma exchanged glances. “Well?” Tezuka prompted, looking around the room. “Who do you think is the cutest, Ryoma?”

Ryoma ignored him. “Whoever isn’t busy is fine,” he intoned solemnly to Byakuya.

“Right this way then, gentlemen.” Byakuya led them over to a table. “Someone will be over shortly.”

“OOOH, LOOK! Some more boy/boy love!” Ryoma looked up quickly. Pointing directly at him was a small, portly girl with bushy hair.

“Fujiko! These are real people you’re yelling at!” Hifumi blustered at the girl. Ryota was holding him back, somewhat literally. “Stop telling people to ‘gay it up’ or ‘make out licky-style’!”

She stuck her tongue out at Hifumi. “Big brother, you’re the one who always says 2-D is better than 3-D! Well, that means I want these 3-D boys to behave like my 2-D ones in my doujinshi!”

“Real people don’t act like they do in doujinshi! You don’t see Ryoma tearing his friend’s clothes off and making out with him in front of everyone, do you?!” Ryoma blushed furiously. He had never once thought of Tezuka that way, or anyone on his tennis team for that matter. He hadn’t even so much as thought about men that way until-

“Oh? Is that what our guest wants?” Without warning, Kokichi ripped Fuyuhiko’s shirt open, buttons flying everywhere. 

“Godfuckingdammit Kokichi, what the actual fuck are you doin- AUGH!” Fuyuhiko’s protestations were cut off as Kokichi bit him hard on his newly-exposed nipple. “Get the fuck off of me, that hurts, you son of a bitch!”

“But our guestsh want to shee us making out,” Kokichi protested, mouth still around his prize. 

“Making out doesn’t mean biting my nipple off, you motherfucker!” Fuyuhiko kneed Kokichi in the crotch, who promptly fell to the ground. Ryoma and Tezuka instinctively flinched, along with every other male in sight.

Kokichi tried to gasp out through the tears in his eyes. “So as long as I leave your nipples alone, you’re cool with making out in front of everyone?”

Fuyuhiko sighed and just stepped on his chest to pin him down. “Please, just... go die in a fire.”

Kokichi looked to Fujiko, who was watching enraptured, and warmed to his audience. “Oh, harder, Fuyuhiko! Step on me harder!” When Fuyuhiko automatically removed his foot, Kokichi sprang back up, as if he’d never been kneed in the balls at all. “I’ll go die in a fire if you set the blaze, Fuyu-kins. Like you set my heart ablaze, with a hunk of burning love!”

Hajime interrupted Ryoma’s view of the trainwreck enfolding across the room. He placed a tea set and chessboard between the two tennis players. “Welcome to the Hope’s Peak Academy Host Club,” he intoned robotically. “And yes, those two have been like that all day.”

Tezuka laughed. “Well, at least it makes for an interesting floor show.” Across the room, Byakuya turned the hose on Kokichi and Fuyuhiko. Where he had gotten a literal hose and how he had hooked it up, Ryoma could only guess.

Hajime cracked a smile. He looked tired. “That’s true.”

“You okay Hajime?” Ryoma asked. At the gleeful look on Tezuka’s face, he realized he shouldn’t have expressed any concern.

“I’m alright, thanks Ryoma,” Hajime smiled. He turned to look at Tezuka. “I should mention, I saw your match yesterday. It was incredible!”

“It was just one game,” Ryoma and Tezuka said automatically, simultaneously. Ryoma chuckled. “At least six games in a set, at least two sets in a match.”

“Oh, I see. I just meant, you stopped afterwards, so I assumed... honestly, everything was going so fast I couldn’t quite tell what was happening.” Hajime admitted. “But it sure was impressive.”

“Well, talent is a funny thing,” Tezuka smiled. He picked up the teapot. “If I had a racket here, I could balance this teapot on its spout forever. But I couldn’t balance it for a second with my bare hand.” He demonstrated, balancing the spout on one finger, before catching it with his off hand when it fell a second later. Ryoma was both glad and saddened that it hadn’t been full of tea when he tried it. “I mean, you’re an Ultimate, I’m sure you can do impressive things. What’s your tal-”

Ryoma kicked him under the table, lightning-fast. He almost didn’t reach with his little legs. Tezuka flinched and bit his tongue.

“Huh? What’s my what?” Hajime looked back from where he had been checking on Kyosuke and Kiyotaka, to make sure they weren’t fighting again.

“Your number,” Tezuka finished. “My boy here wants your number.” He winked at Hajime. “I’m his wingman today.” 

Ryoma groaned and hid his face in his hands with embarrassment. 

“Oh, well, everyone’s school email address is on the website, so you can email someone’s MONOpad any time you want, if you have questions about classes or whatever.” Hajime continued blankly, plainly missing Tezuka’s meaning. “Ryoma can contact me any time he wants.”

“Hear that, Ryoma? Any time you want,” Tezuka echoed, grinning at his former protege. 

“Hajime could we please get some cookies or those little tea sandwiches or something?” Ryoma changed the subject. So that Tezuka could shove them in his big stupid face.

“Of course.” Hajime filled the teapot so it could steep, then left to get some food for his guests. As soon as he had left, Ryoma hissed to Tezuka, “What was THAT about?”

“So what’s a MONOpad?” Tezuka grinned.

“It stands for Mailing... something, Notification, something... I don’t remember. Don’t change the subject. You’re my ‘wingman’ today?!”

Tezuka sighed and dropped his eyes. “I’m concerned about you. Now that you’re out of prison, I thought you’d be back to your old self. But you haven’t had any really close friends, you don’t go out and socialize much, you haven’t dated at all... I’m just looking out for you.”

Ryoma felt a chill go down his spine. “How do you know all that?”

Tezuka shrugged. “Your Coach told me. He said I was the closest thing to family he could find, and invited me to come see you this weekend.” He didn’t notice how Ryoma had gone silent. “I’m glad he did- it was fun playing against you, and seeing where you live and all. And now that I have a way to contact you, I can come and see you whenever you want and-”

“And what?” Ryoma cut him off. “And conspire with Nekomaru on how to control my life?!”
Tezuka looked taken aback. “What? No, Ryoma, I-”

“I don’t appreciate him contacting you. I don’t even know how he knows you exist. And I don’t appreciate you trying to ogle hot girls with me, or set me up with cute guys, or whatever you’ve been trying to do today. I like living with little Tezuka just fine.” And Leon, he supposed, but his roommate was spending a lot of time at the Ultimate Music Lab recently- now that he thought about it, he hadn’t actually seen him in a while.

“Are you still hung up on Sakuno?” Tezuka asked sadly. “Ryoma- it’s been years and years. You deserve to be happy.”

“I can be happy by myself,” Ryoma lied. Not that he thought he needed a relationship to be happy- he just had been sort of depressed in general since he had become Killer Tennis. Okay, a lot depressed, if Miaya was to be believed. He wasn’t sure if he could be happy.

“I’m not disputing that, but... you always seemed so cheerful when you were around her. It was adorable. I just want things to go back to- no. I just want you to be happy again.”

They sat in silence for a bit. Hajime brought them an assortment of cakes and cookies and some little cucumber sandwiches. They ate a few without breaking the silence or the awkward atmosphere.

“I’m not still hung up on her,” Ryoma finally said. “For the record.”

“But there’s no one here you’d like to date?” Tezuka queried.

“No,” Ryoma lied.

“Or casually bang?”

“No!” Ryoma said truthfully. The last thing he needed was no-string-attached sexual activity. His PTSD would... well, would it? He wondered, suddenly. If he had sex with a girl, if he was in control, if he were on top- would it be different enough? He tried to picture himself having sex with Peko, who had come over to visit a lot since he had gotten Tezuka. He couldn’t even imagine it. Okay, with one of the other Sports Lab girls, like Aoi, or Tenko, or Sakura- he laughed inwardly. He could imagine it even less. The size difference between him and Sakura- the thought almost made him giggle. But then, he sobered quickly. He had imagined the size difference between him and Nekomaru a lot. Like, a lot a lot. And not necessarily in a negative way. It still made him sick to his stomach to think about it- this craving, and revulsion, the conflict between the two. Nekomaru looked nothing like the man who had raped him in prison; they had similar builds and that was all. He acted nothing like him either. He had imagined himself dating Nekomaru a lot- when he allowed himself to do so. Holding hands, getting bubble tea or some shit. But he always just as quickly shoved those thoughts away. He had imagined Nekomaru fucking him a lot- fucking his throat, fucking his hole from behind, forcefully, cruelly. The mental image of that time he had seen Nekomaru’s dick in the showers... it had stayed with him. It excited his body and repelled his mind. He tried to shove those thoughts away too, but they always lingered. 

The problem was... Nekomaru had as good as said it, hadn’t he, that night at the concert? That he wasn’t fucking his athletes. That he would be open to a committed, monogamous relationship, even with an athlete, as long as they knew he wouldn’t be showing that athlete any favoritism. He had said Ryoma was cute. And sometimes ‘hot as hell.’ And more importantly, he’d said Ryoma was one of his best friends. And one of his favorite athletes, but Ryoma knew Nekomaru, he could discount that, he’d say that to any of them. There was no way Nekomaru wanted that with Ryoma. But... he’d said it very pointedly, hadn’t he? But he’d also been drunk. And how could a guy that looked like that still be single, anyway?! 

“Ryoma?”

Ryoma snapped his head back up. “Uh, yeah?”

“...Did you hear anything I’ve said for the past few minutes?”

Nope. “Of course.”

Tezuka grinned. “Of course. Then the answer to my question was?”

Ryoma smiled. “42, obviously.” Tezuka blinked. “No? Okay, you caught me. What did you say?”

“I said we should get out of here, find something you actually want to do, which clearly isn’t hang around here. What do you feel like doing?”

Going back to his room. “Uh... what do you want to do? You’re the family, it’s your weekend,” he tried for levity.

Tezuka pulled out the brochure. “Hm. Fortune-telling sounds interesting. Maybe he can read your love-life!” Ryoma glared. “My love-life,” he amended.

The fortune-telling tent was set up in the Ultimate Sports Lab, right next to Ryoma’s room. Perfect. “Yeah, okay, let’s go.”

As they paid their bill (Ryoma made sure to leave Hajime a generous tip, for all he’d had to put up with today) and made to leave, they ran into Juzo entering. He requested Rantaro, but before Byakuya could fetch him, the Ultimate Adventurer came over himself and gave Juzo a slow, deep kiss. “Boy am I happy to see you,” Ryoma overheard Rantaro say. “After this, wanna help me track down my twelve sisters who have all vanished somehow?” Juzo nodded, blushing all the way down his neck. 

“I SHIP IT,” Fujiko cried out. Hifumi facepalmed as Ryota laughed.

 


 

Insect Meet and Greet not going well. Gonta wait all morning and all afternoon, still no one come to meet Gonta’s bug friends. Well, at noon Kaede burst in. Kaede yell “BUGS ARE FUCKING GROSSSSSSSSSS!” Another Kaede rush in, pull first Kaede out. “Sorry, so sorry about her.” Gonta beginning to get sad. But gentleman have to be strong. Gonta not give up hope!

Around late afternoon little blonde girl come. She first visitor. “Gonta welcome you to Insect Meet and Greet!” Gonta say. “You want to make friends with bugs?”

Hiyoko smile. Gonta happy to see smile. “Sure, I’d love to meet some Mr. Ants!” Hiyoko smile turn evil. Gonta less happy to see smile.

“O-okay. Harvester Ant farm over here. Be careful not to shake ant farm, ants not like that.” Hm. What Hiyoko say? “Mr. Ant not like that.”  

“I got it, sure.” Hiyoko looked carefully through the glass at the ants. She not ask Gonta questions about ants, but she also not do anything bad. Gonta relax a little. 

Door swing open again. So many visitors! “Gonta welcome you to Insect Meet and Greet!” Gonta say again. 

Toko holding small box. “Hey, Gonta. Um... c-can you do me a favor? My friend here got jostled really badly, and I want to make sure she’s okay.” Toko hold up box. “M-my family mailed her to me for Family Weekend, I think as a j-joke. But I’m happy she’s here.” Toko face soften, she look wistfully happy. “Growing up, Kameko was the only one who could s-stand to be around me.”

“Gonta happy to help!” Gonta take box, carefully put into large netted insect cage, just in case bug friend try to fly out. Gonta open box. Oh! Halyomorpha halys! “Brown marmorated stink bug!”

“Uh, yeah. Maybe? I know she’s a stink bug,” Toko say. “People s-say it’s weird to have a stink bug as a friend. But she could always understand my feelings. Other people couldn’t stand us, but we could hang out together.”

Gonta happy to see Toko smile. “Bugs good friends. Not everyone can hear them speak, but they do. Friend Gundham also speak Beast language.”

Toko gasp. “I s-sometimes thought I could hear her s-speak, but everyone said I was c-crazy!” Toko sob, sudden crying. “I mean, now I know I am crazy after all, but to t-think she could actually understand me!”

Gonta take look at Kameko. Legs good, antennae good. Gonta take small sniff. Scent glands on underside of thorax definitely still good. Gonta look at box. Small cardboard box, cleaned out. Small twigs, leaves. Nowhere to lay eggs, but it not springtime for many months. Gonta can tell Kameko well-cared for. “Gonta can hear Kameko. Kameko say she very happy, love Toko, love the care Toko give her!” Toko look so happy, biggest smile Gonta ever see on her. “But!” Gonta hold up one finger. “Gonta ask Kameko if she happier in habitat Gonta set up, and Kameko say yes!” Gonta put Kameko back in box for now, but Gonta go and put together small terrarium. Bigger space, right sunlight, right perch, right leaves to lay eggs on underside of. 

“Hey, b-brat! What are you doing?!” Toko hiss at Hiyoko. Gonta turn around in surprise. Toko sound angry.

“Squishing Mr. Ants! Squishy squish!” Gonta gasp. When Harvester Ant reach top of ant farm, see what disturb them, Hiyoko squish them! Oh no!

“Please stop!” Gonta yell. He run over to Hiyoko and pull ant farm out of her reach. “Hiyoko, Mr. Ant not like being squished!”

“Duh, I know that! But it’s too fun! Shut up you big brute, give it back!” Hiyoko not tall enough to reach high shelf. Gonta put ant farm there. Gonta remember to fix up again later. After Gonta help Toko and Kameko! Gonta go back to setting up terrarium for bug friend of Toko.

“Psst, kid. There’s more ant farms under that table,” Toko whisper. “Don’t touch the red ones, they’re fire ants, but those black ones there make a reaaaaally satisfying squish.” Toko tongue snake out a little bit. Gonta a little scared. But Gonta not say anything, because gentleman not point out snake tongue of friends.

“Ooh, this I gotta see!” Hiyoko pull out ant farm and reach in. 

“No, Hiyoko!” Paraponera clavata! “Bullet ant!” Gonta reach out arm, but it too late. 

“YEOOOOWCH!” Hiyoko pull arm back. Hiyoko begin crying immediately. “That huuuurt! Auuugh it hurts so baaaaad!”

Toko slap Hiyoko! “Hey brat, shut up! Bullet ants are called that because they’re so painful it feels like you got shot. But they’re also called the 24-hour ant. Know why? Because that’s how long you’ll take to die once they inject you with their venom.” Toko slap Hiyoko again, make sure she listen. “If I were you, I’d do a little less crying and a little more running for the first aid clinic. No one here is going to help you.”

“That not true! Gonta help Hiyoko!” But Hiyoko already running, tears and sobs left behind her. 

“That’s what she gets for squishing poor defenseless insect friends. Friendsects. She did it to herself.” Toko look down, ashamed. Tongue back to normal.

Gonta smile. “Hiyoko bad friend to bugs. Toko good friend to bugs. Kameko think so, too.” He handed Kameko back to Toko, who held her gingerly. “Let Gonta finish Kameko new home.”

Gonta and Toko have good rest of afternoon, talk about bug friends.

 


 

Maki ushered several small children through the door into Shuichi’s room. “This is the arcade, right?” She looked around. “This doesn’t look like any arcade I’ve ever heard of.”

Kyoko smiled. Shuichi chose to respond instead. “No, sorry Maki. The arcade is across the hall, in the girls’ rooms.”

“You know, with all the flashing lights and videogame noises,” Kyoko muttered to herself. Maki pretended not to hear. 

Shuichi continued bravely. “These four rooms here are part of our Escape Room today! Would you all like to try it?”

“Awcade! Awcade!” A young girl tugged at Maki’s skirt. 

“No, sorry, I think we’re headed across the hall then.” She looked directly into Shuichi’s eyes, a shadow surrounding her own. “But now I know where you are for future reference.” The shadows fell away. “To try the Escape Room, I mean.”

“Maki, what’s a Escape Room?” A slightly older boy tugged at the other side of her skirt. 

“Uh, actually, we’ve made a combined Escape Room/Murder Mystery sort of thing! You play a character and try to solve the murder while you’re also solving puzzles, to get clues to the murder and get closer to escaping!” He handed a pamphlet to Maki.

“We try not to use the M word in this particular orphanage,” Maki said quietly. As Shuichi made to apologize, she cut him off. “Who’s we?”

“Huh?”

“Why, that’s Shuichi and I, and our two roommates,” Kyoko cut in serenely. “Meaning Ryoko... and Yuto.” 

“So.... where are they, then? Shouldn’t they be here, helping out?” Maki and Kyoko locked eyes. Shuichi felt too nervous to say anything, but also was terrified of leaving the two of them alone.

“Why, they were just here. Ryoko just had to see the Headmaster; apparently she got into a little trouble yesterday. Yuto was kind enough to walk her over there.” Kyoko didn’t blink as the two continued to stare into each other’s eyes. “They should presumably be back soon.”



“Um, sorry, sir! If I did any bad things yesterday, I don’t actually remember them.”

Headmaster Kazuo Tengan steepled his finger and looked over them at Ryoko. Yuto flinched a little under the sheer power of that gaze. Even if you weren’t the type to say ‘sir’ normally, this man’s aura just conveyed enough authority and demanded enough respect that you’d do it anyway.

“Really now? Disturbing the peace at musical events, hijacking the Haunted House, heckling other students’ athletic demonstrations, stealing petting zoo animals and releasing them around the school?! I would think someone would normally remember doing that!”

Ryoko gave no ground under the weight of his disapproval. She stared back bravely. Yuto wondered if she just didn’t remember who the man judging her was, or the kind of power he had over her.

Headmaster Tengan smiled, unexpectedly. “Luckily, I know that ‘normally’ doesn’t really apply here. In this school, or in this situation.” He took the stack of complaints and carefully put them away in a folder. With his keen spy eyes, Yuto noticed they did not go in Ryoko’s permanent file, but in another one on the desk, labeled ‘The Junko Enoshima Problem.’

“Sir?” Ryoko said questioningly. “What do you mean?”

“Young lady, I am aware of your condition. Does your memory notebook say anything about a visit from your stepsister, a young Monaca Towa? Green hair, prone to mischief?”

Ryoko flipped through the most recent pages of her ever-present notebook. “No, sir. I don’t see anything about that.” She kept flipping. “It looks like my roommate and I spent most of yesterday at the petting zoo, but I didn’t write about stealing anything. It looks like I was sketching the animals, sir.” She hesitated, then handed him the notebook. Yuto noticed her shaky hands, and knew how much it cost her to let that precious notebook out of her grasp.

The moment ticked by as the Headmaster read her journal. He started with the most recent pages, but continued working his way backwards through the book. Neither Ryoko nor Yuto felt like they could say anything to intervene. When he reached the very beginning, he closed the notebook softly and handed it back. Ryoko grasped it like a lifeline and held it to her chest. 

“Miss Otonashi, thank you. You may not realize it, but you have provided an important clue in a larger problem plaguing the faculty, one far greater than yesterday’s events. Thank you; your service has been invaluable.” He reached forward on his desk and uncapped a small jar. “Have a lolly.”

Ryoko took one obediently. Yuto wanted one too, but comforted himself with the thought of the ice cream sandwiches he had back in his room. Assuming the Escape Room visitors didn’t think their minifridge was a puzzle to be solved, and eat them all, he frowned to himself.

The Headmaster stood at his desk, and turned to look out the window dramatically, hands behind his back. “You’ve given us a lot to think about, young lady. Miss Otonashi, Mister Kamishiro- please see yourself out.” 

They obeyed unquestioningly. It was only when they were halfway back to the dorms that Yuto realized that the  Headmaster had dismissed him somehow, when he hadn’t alerted the Headmaster to his presence at all.

 

 

“Hm, back soon, eh? Well then.” Maki broke eye contact with Kyoko first.. She turned to the children clinging to her skirt. “Go and play in the arcade. Do not wander off. You wouldn’t want to make me mad, would you?” They all quailed in fear, and crossed their hearts that they would behave.

“Ultimate Child Caregiver, huh.” Kyoko muttered. Again, Maki pretended not to hear her. 

“So does this mean you’ve changed your mind about playing?” Shuichi gulped. 

“Maybe. So what’s all this then?” Maki looked over the pamphlet she had been handed. “TimeCon- a Convention for Time Travelers.” She flipped it over. “My character is Julia Green, who... had a one night stand with H. G. Wells and so was the inspiration for The Time Machine ?” She looked at Shuichi, clearly unimpressed. “Seems needlessly complicated for a framework for a bunch of puzzles.”

Well, I thought it was cool, Shuichi moped to himself. 

“Oh, are you playing too?” A blonde girl with heavy makeup rushed over to greet Maki. “I’m playing Elizabeth Hawthorne. I’m a witch from the Middle Ages who invented the first Time Turner! I wound up here accidentally!”

Maki didn’t take her outstretched hand. “Neat,” she managed.

“But my real name is Kanon, I’m Leon’s girlfriend, Leon come over here!”

Leon didn’t even look up from the puzzle he was trying to solve. Shuichi noticed that he still hadn’t realized he could use the blacklight to see the invisible ink providing the rest of the clues. “You’re not my girlfriend, Kanon. You’re my cousin.” This was clearly not the first time he’d said this today- Shuichi knew for a fact it wasn’t even the first time he’d said it in this room.

Kanon ignored this clarification, as she had every other time. “Introduce yourself, Leon!”

He sighed, and reached for his own game pamphlet and opened it. “I’m Nikola Tesla. ‘That’s right, the famous inventor.’ ...Wait, apparently I’m actually a fraud, I’m just pretending to be Tesla.”

Kanon ran over and smacked him on the back of the head, more lightly than Shuichi wanted to smack him right now. “Leon! That’s secret information! It probably relates to your motive! Like maybe you murdered Thomas Chandler, the eccentric and mysterious founder of TimeCon, to keep your real identity under wraps!”

Maki looked from Shuichi to Kyoko and back again. She handed the pamphlet back to Shuichi, who took it without a word.

Suddenly, Kaede and her twin sister Kaori burst back in the door. “Lookit you two!” Kaori ran over to Maki and Kyoko, grabbing them both in a very unwelcome hug. “You’re both so cute! I just wanna eat you both up!”

Kaede followed more calmly. “No she’s not drunk, yes she’s just like that,” she said resignedly. 

Kyoko and Maki both extricated themselves from the hug. “No worries... Kaede,” Kyoko said with a slight smile. Kaede smiled back, clearly embarrassed.

Kaori turned her attention on Shuichi now. “Hey, hat boy! We managed to break into that dude Two Crow’s office to case the joint for clues, but there’s no way to get into his desk, we checked eeeeeeeeeeeeeveerywhere.”

“We’d like to spend one of our hints, please,” Kaede elaborated.

Shuichi whispered in Kaori’s ear, mindful of Kanon eavesdropping to get a headstart when she got to that room. “Ohhhh, UNDER the wastepaper basket! We only found the clues inside it! Hat boy, you’re slick!” The twins raced off again- Shuichi noted that they only had fifteen minutes left in their hour to solve the murder AND enter the codes to stop the malfunctioning time machine. If they were close, he’d fudge the time in their favor. This was a time travel convention, he mused to himself- time could be a bit wibbly-wobbly.

Maki left, Leon and Kanon found the key to open the next room, Kaede and Kaori solved everything in 1:06, and Yuto and Ryoko returned, in that order. Shuichi warned Yuto that Maki had been looking for him and had scoped out their room- Yuto just shrugged. “As long as she didn’t steal my sweets, she can look around my room all she wants. Lay in my bed, sniff my dirty underwear, all that stuff.”  

As Shuichi weakly protested that he didn’t want dart traps in the microwave or poisoned caltrops in his shoes, Kyoko stuck her head out the door and looked both ways. “Ryoko. Would you please tell me what happened with the Headmaster?”

“...Kyoko. You’re Kyoko! I remembered! Without even looking in my notebook!” 

Kyoko smiled at her roommate’s obvious enthusiasm. “You’re making great progress. With your neurotherapy sessions with Yasuke as well as your mnemonics training with me.”

Ryoko told her of what had transpired at the Headmaster’s office, while it was still fresh in her memory. Yuto filled in the gaps. Kyoko pondered what it all meant. Shuichi silently patted himself on the back, glowing from Kaori’s praise on the twist culprit reveal of his ‘murder escape mystery room.’

 


 

Nekomaru wiped his hands free of massage oil. He hadn’t had many takers at first, but once word of mouth had spread about his ability to do ‘it,’ he’d been busy the rest of the day. It was also a pleasure to practice his skills as the unofficial Ultimate Masseuse on a variety of body types. He was used to working on slim and trim swimmer builds, or muscular and beefy rugby builds. But he was absolutely not used to working on children, obese people, or the elderly. He just made sure to tone down his patented Energizing Revitalizing Muscle-Relaxing Blood-Circulating Fatigue-Toxin-Removing probably-Chakra-Aligning Ultra Mega Massage into something more like just a Revitalizing Mega Massage. Especially for children- he was incredibly wary about the effects of his overzealous pressure on a tiny frame. 

But he’d made Kiyotaka’s grandfather ‘feel like a new man’ and that always felt good to hear. Miu had come back for seconds and thirds, moaning outrageously each time; he’d definitely made a convert out of her. She would probably be coming to him for massages even after this Cultural Festival was over. Nekomaru would have to make sure to impose strict boundaries: no hot wax massages, and definitely no happy endings. He knew of her reputation, and while one shouldn’t judge others based on their reputations, well, forewarned was forearmed.

The line had dwindled to very few by around dinner time. Most people would be heading to Teruteru’s banquet- Nekomaru himself hoped he’d be able to close up shop and go eat soon. He was starving; giving massages was actually a lot of physical exertion, especially the way he did it. He did a few more massages, including Keebo’s dad, who chatted away about his son the whole time. Nekomaru was sure Professor Idabashi probably was a bit biased, but Keebo sounded like an excellent guy- maybe Nekomaru should make an effort to try to get to know him a bit more. Luckily, even if the Ultimate Machine Lab was on the complete other side of campus, they all shared the same cafeteria and general mealtimes. Maybe Nekomaru would go sit with that crowd at lunch sometime.

As he waved goodbye to the Professor, Nekomaru saw Ryoma and his former tennis coach approaching. Tezuka, like Ryoma’s cat, he grinned. Then sobered. Now that Nekomaru had facilitated a reunion, he wondered if there might be something there? Ryoma obviously held Tezuka in high esteem to name his cat after him. Not that it was any of his business if there was, he firmly told himself.  

Nekomaru watched Ryoma and Tezuka as they entered the Ultimate Sports Lab outdoor area. Tezuka waved, but Ryoma averted his eyes as he usually did. They headed towards Yasuhiro’s fortune-telling tent. Nekomaru had been unfortunately able to hear a lot of the Ultimate Clairvoyant’s bullshit through the thin walls of his massage tent. It was extremely cringe-inducing, the way he was trying to shake every visitor down for money.

Nekomaru began his next massage, one of Sayaka’s idol group, and began to eavesdrop as best he could. Sayaka’s costar was nattering about whatever, so Nekomaru put some extra oomph into it, to make her stop talking and just moan with pleasure. 

“Hey kids. Ryoryo and Teztez, eh? Come visit my son, he apparently gives good advice on your future or something.” Nekomaru had met Yasuhiro’s mom, Hiroko, when she came over as they were setting up. She had apparently been told the wrong day to visit by her scatterbrained son, and so instead of enjoying wandering the festival with him yesterday, she was stuck hanging around him as he worked the fortune-telling booth. “But I don’t mind. He’s a good kid. Smart, handsome, tall, he’s basically perfect. He may have a teeny-tiny problem managing money, and sure he had to repeat grades four times, and I guess he’s terrible with romance, but otherwise I’m incredibly proud of him.” There was nothing like a mother’s love, Nekomaru supposed.

“Uh, my arm is hurting me a bit after yesterday’s game.” That was Tezuka’s voice. 

“What? You said it was fully healed!” Ryoma sounded less worried about Tezuka’s arm and more worried about being left alone to have his fortune told.

“I’ll just nip next door while you get your fortune told first, then we can switch.”

“I don’t want my fortune told, OR a massage! You wanted to come here!”

Yasuhiro’s voice. “If you don’t want your fortune told, Ryoma, I can sell you some tarot cards so you can do it yourself. Only $8,000! They were used by the Witch-King of Angmar, so they’re-”

“I’ve read Lord of the Rings,” Ryoma cut him off wearily.

“....It was a book?” Yasuhiro asked. Then the sound of Ryoma slapping himself in the face, and Hiroko chuckling. 

When Nekomaru finished with Sayaka’s backup vocals, she left him with a wink and slip of paper with her phone number. He put it with the others to recycle later. Tezuka came in, and coughed. “Uh... can we talk?”

“Of course,” Nekomaru replied. “But if your arm really is hurting you, I should still take a look at it.”

“No, it’s probably fine, I just wanted to-”

“I’m the Ultimate Masseuse here, I’ll be the judge of that. Shirt off, sit on the table. And then talk to me.”

Tezuka meekly did as he was told. He sighed heavily. “What are your intentions with Ryoma?”

Nekomaru didn’t even have to think about his answer. “To help him become the greatest athlete he can be.”

“I know you know what I mean,” the tennis captain muttered.

“And I answered you,” Nekomaru said calmly. “I want to help Ryoma to succeed and be happy. He didn’t always even want to be an athlete, he was only here to get out of prison, but I think he’s come around.” He paused. “Yes, I like Ryoma. A lot. Let’s make that perfectly clear. But if you two have a thing going on, I won’t get in the way. You have dibs, as it were.” He chuckled. “But I would admit to being very disappointed.”

“What? No! We’re not a thing! I like women! And... I thought Ryoma did too. But after today, I’m not sure he likes women OR men. Just... you.”

“Ryoma doesn’t like me.” Though Nekomaru wasn’t sure of that... “He avoids me at every opportunity. He won’t meet my eyes. He’s unfailingly polite, yet distant.” He wasn’t sure who he was trying to convince, Tezuka or himself.

Tezuka gently took his arm out of Nekomaru’s grasp and turned to face him. “Coach. Trust me on this. He likes you. He’s scared of how much he likes you. I don’t know what changed with him, maybe prison did a number on him, but for some reason he’s scared to get close to you. To anybody, I think.”

It wasn’t Nekomaru’s place to tell Tezuka anything he had learned in Ryoma’s file. Nekomaru had committed a major breach of trust, and he knew it, but he didn’t have to drag anyone else down. He “hmmed” noncommittally. 

“And I think he may like-you-like-you too, but that’s harder for me to tell. He’s definitely changed since I last saw him.”

Nekomaru began to rotate Tezuka’s shoulder in a way that made Tezuka flinch. He stopped and began to focus on his shoulderblades. “You know him better than I do... If I wanted to pursue something with Ryoma, what should I do?”

“That’s easy. Be patient, and be kind. He’ll come around.” Tezuka grunted in relief at the knots Nekomaru was releasing. “And try to make it clear you like him. Be extremely obvious. Say it in a way he has to believe. But understand if he can’t reciprocate.”

Nekomaru nodded. “Any other advice, while I’ve got you here?”

Tezuka grinned. “Yeah. A ‘masseuse’ refers to a female. ‘Masseur’ is the term for males. And most people just use ‘massage therapist’ nowadays anyway.”

“WHAT?!” Nekomaru cried, dropping Tezuka’s arm. “Really?! I had no idea!”

Tezuka laughed. “Yeah, it’s-”

“I’ve never been told that! I’ve never been told that six times today alone!”

“....Oh. Then why?”

Nekomaru chuckled. “I have a tattoo that says ‘Ultimate Masseuse’ across my asscheeks and I don’t want to get it redone.”

Tezuka blushed. “Really?”

“No.”

“....”

“It was actually a custom license plate. But it was ‘UMASSUS’ so people all thought I went to the University of Massachusetts.”

“...Really?”

Nekomaru guffawed loudly. “Who can say?”

Tezuka smiled softly. “You’re a funny guy, Coach. Please take care of Ryoma... in whatever way you think best.”

Nekomaru paused. “Funny haha or funny weird?”

Tezuka grinned. “Who can say?”

 


 

Kaede and Kaori headed back to the Ultimate Music Lab, following behind Sayaka and her idol group. They deliberately hung back to talk in hushed voices.

“Thanks for switching with me today, Kaori. I really didn’t want to have to be up there on that stage with all those people looking at me.”

Kaori, dressed as Kaede in her normal uniform, gave her a side hug as they walked. “Hey, you won the bet! And I didn’t mind. Though you sure gave me a bad reputation around these parts, hahaha! I don’t think I’ll be welcome to come back here again anytime soon.”

Kaede, dressed down as Kaori, smiled tiredly. “I was really excited to just say whatever was on my mind, let loose for once, not have to worry about the consequences. But I think I may have overdid it.”

“‘Kaede is the Ultimate Lesbian?’” Kaori raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t just come out of the closet, you nuked the closet from orbit, just to be sure.”

Kaede laughed. “Okay, that one felt good. Maybe now I can get some female attention that doesn’t involve this weird tense thing going on with my two roommates.”

“I’m not sure people didn’t know already,” Kaori admitted. “I didn’t notice any surprised looks directed at me when you outed yourself. Maybe you’re not as subtle as you think.”

Kaede shrugged. “Could be. I sure feel like I’ve been walking on eggshells around this campus, having to be the perfect pianist, roommate, friend, Ultimate. I guess I can relax a bit now.”

“You definitely should. Come on, let’s go switch clothes back before Sayaka and her friends take over the dorm room and it’s impossible.”

“RACE YA, KAEDE!” Kaede yelled as Kaori, and began to run for the dorm, blowing past a startled pop group.

Kaori laughed and followed suit. “Right behind you, sis.”

Chapter Text

Kazuichi shoved another onigiri in his mouth before the previous one was even swallowed. “Hey, thanks for inviting me to this picnic,” he said, rice falling out all over the grass. 

Chihiro inwardly sighed- if you looked up ‘genteel’ in the dictionary... “Of course. We’ve been trying to get you to hang out with us more, and since this outing involved food and not actually watching any anime, I figured you might actually come.”

“Well, you were right!” He grinned his shark-toothed grin. Chihiro’s stomach flip-flopped. I must be starving, he thought. He reached for a croquette

Tsumugi looked askance at Kazuichi. “Why don’t you like anime, anyway? The pink hair made me think you might be One Of Us. Maybe you cosplayed Kisumi Shigino or Natsu Dragneel or someone.”

Kazuichi laughed. “No idea who those are, but the pink hair was supposed to be more of a punk rebel thing.” He ran a hand through it self-consciously. “I don’t dislike anime, I’m just way too ADHD to watch much of anything. I can barely sit through a movie... multiple episodes of a show, anime or otherwise, and I’d be crawling the walls.”

Keebo looked up questioningly. He couldn’t eat anything at the picnic, but he was happy to be included in pretty much anything. He had become an official member of the Anime Club months ago. Just as well, since Toko had mostly stopped coming to meetings- she claimed to be busy with extracurricular activities, but Tsumugi said she had no idea what they were. Keebo said, “Kazuichi, I have seen you work on the same engine for six hours straight. You cannot possibly have that short of an attention span.”

Ryota chimed in. “No, it’s not about your attention span. If you have ADHD you can hyperfocus on something you care about and be completely unable to pay attention to other things.” Then he mumbled “I should know.” Hifumi reached over and rubbed his back unconsciously.

“Yeah, that sounds right,” Kazuichi shrugged. “Machines get my engine revving, but it’s gotta have like, tanks or rockets or hot babes to keep my attention.”

“I’ll be sure to lend you Girls und Panzer , then.” Chihiro smiled. “Pretty schoolgirls shooting each other with tanks.”

“Nah, I wouldn’t be able to make myself watch any shows on my own. But if you ever wanna watch it together, that sounds fun, I’d be down.” 

Chihiro felt himself beginning to blush. He attempted to hide it by lowering his face and concentrating really hard on shoveling more rei-shabu onto his plate.    

Hifumi sniffed at the cold shabu salad. “I still don’t know why we couldn’t have done a full shabu-shabu, or a hotpot or something.”

“Because I am not your personal portable battery,” Keebo said wearily. “As I’ve told you all the times you’ve tried to hook a TV up to me to watch anime outside your room.”

“But you COULD be,” Hifumi began, when a loud voice interrupted him. 

“Fiiiiiiiine, we’re leaving!!” Ibuki, with a guitar slung around her back and pulling Leon behind her, burst out of the Ultimate Music Lab. From their picnic blanket by the fountain in Jabberwock Park, the Anime Club had a perfect view of the ensuing shouting match. “We’ll practice somewhere else!!!”

Sayaka flew out the door right behind them. “You couldn’t find a single place on this entire campus where you wouldn’t be bothering somebody! Find a school for the deaf somewhere, that should work!”

Ibuki whirled around. “I don’t complain when you’re practicing at all hours of the night! Ibuki needs her beauty sleep to rock as hard as she can!!”

“Yes you do! You complain constantly! I’ve told you, if I spend the day signing autographs or filming a music video or something, I have to practice later than usual!”

“Stop practicing then!” Ibuki threw up her hands. “Problem solved! It’s not like it does you any good anyway! Never have I met someone more reliant on auto-tune than your terrible group-”

“TAKE THAT BACK.” Sayaka’s eyes burned. “At least our group sounds good! You take ‘atonal’ and ‘dissonant’ to new heights! It sounds like you tune your guitar by throwing it down the stairs!”

“No, YOU take THAT back!!” Ibuki grabbed the guitar on her back and whipped it around to her front. “I would never throw Lil’ Hendrix here down the stairs!! And I only smash backup guitars at the ends of my shows!”

Leon stepped between the feuding musicians. “Ladies, ladies, please! Calm down.” Chihiro saw him look over their way. “You’re causing a scene.”

“Ibuki can’t help it if she grabs the spotlight everywhere she goes!” Ibuki grinned. She pushed Leon aside and took another step towards Sayaka. 

“Yeah, you’re a pretty ludicrous attention whore,” Sayaka stepped closer too. “And a regular whore, too.”

Ibuki gasped. Leon cut in quickly. “Sayaka, Ibuki is not a whore! Just because she’s bi doesn’t mean she’ll sleep with anybody!”

“LEON! Shut up!” Ibuki looked flustered.

“Oh whatever, like we didn’t already know. Kaede’s gaydar pinged on Day One. Anyway, who isn’t at least a little heteroflexible these days?” Sayaka crossed her arms in exasperation.

Leon looked like he won the lottery. “Reaaaaally... you know Sayaka, you’re pretty hot too. Maybe all three of us could ‘play’ sometime. Turn this musical duo into a trio? There’s enough Leon to go around, you know what I’m saying?”

Ibuki and Sayaka had both had enough. As Sayaka lunged forward, Ibuki pulled her guitar strap off and lifted it over her head---

 


 

To any outside observer, it would appear that Kokichi was in a compromising situation. He knelt completely nude, with his arms bound behind his back, firmly enough that even the sneaky lockpicker couldn’t free them if he tried. However, the Supreme Leader was taking his captivity in stride.

“Geez, it looks like I’ve gotten into trouble once again,” Kokichi announced with false dramatics. “Bound and tied and ready to be roughed up by the Ultimate Yakuza! Whatever shall I do?”

Fuyuhiko sighed. “Y’know, if I had an ounce of sense, I would have gagged you, too.”

Kokichi giggled. “I’m sure you can think of another way to shut me up, riiiight, my beloved Fuyu-chan?” Teasing violet eyes looked up at him, and then the fucker actually licked his lips. 

Fine then, Fuyuhiko thought, unbuckling his belt. If he wants it so bad, he’ll get it...

 

 

One room over, Byakuya wrinkled his nose and dialed up the sound on his headphones.

“Why do you have that?!”

Byakuya frowned. That sounded like it had come from the other direction. He turned the sound back down. 

“Why do you care?”

That was definitely not coming from Kokichi and Fuyuhiko. Byakuya took his headphones off completely. Trying his best to ignore the slurping, gagging, and slapping noises coming from the left wall, he focused his attention to his right. Through the wall, he heard what must be Kiyotaka and Kyosuke arguing again. Byakuya sighed. Those two were always yelling at each other, and since Hajime had pointed out their potential ‘hatemance’ (what a stupid term, he thought to himself), Byakuya had begun to notice it even more. He went to put his headphones back on.

“Because it’s a deadly weapon! Why do you have a deadly weapon in our dorm room?! That sort of thing is not welcome in a school environment!” Byakuya froze, headphones lifted halfway to his ears. Had he really heard...?

“Peko’s allowed to have one. What’s the difference?”

“She is a trained swordswoman! Tell me, why would the Ultimate Student Council President need to use a katana?!”

“I don’t know, maybe to murder annoying roommates? Just leave me alone.”

“I can’t and won’t do that! I’m going to tell the Headmaster that you’ve brought a deadly weapon into my room, and threatened me with it!”

“That wasn’t technically a threat. This is, though: shut the fuck up or I’m going to pull the stick out of your ass and shove this up there in its place.”

“WHOAH! Put that sheathe back on this instant!” Byakuya was already standing up before he even realized he had begun to move. He threw open his door. As he entered the hall, he saw a figure running in the same direction he was, throwing open Taka’s and Kyosuke’s door. He heard Kiyotaka yelling “PLEASE! DON’T!”--- 

 


 

Sonia was elated from a job well done. She had purchased gifts for all of her family members and even her retinue! Now she just had to wrap and mail them all back home to Novoselic and she was all set for Saint Smogon’s Day!

While Sonia had zipped all around the Towa City mall, looking for souvenirs and kitschy knick-knacks, the rest of the Monokuma’s Angels had mostly been clothes shopping. She hoped the rest of her dear friends had obtained as much joy with their purchases as she had. Junko had already changed into some of her new clothing- ‘The Ultimate Fashionista can’t be seen wearing the same clothes twice during the same day,’ she had said. It must be exhausting to be under such expectations at all times. Sonia herself was so glad she had come to this country as an exchange student, as it took a lot of the pressure off to be the Perfect Princess. She was able to watch her trashy dramas, eat junk food, and date whoever she wanted without anyone back home judging her for not upholding Novoselic traditions. Not that Novoselic traditions were all bad, she thought to herself, as she looked down at her shopping bags packed full of Saint Smogon’s gifts.

As the group took a shortcut through a small backstreet, they had the pleasure of running into two of their fellow Ultimates! “Greetings, classmates!” Sonia waved merrily. Korekiyo and Toko flushed as they approached, breaking away from each other and putting a few feet of distance between them. Sonia’s Shipping Senses began tingling.

“Ugh, it’s the creepy boy and the smelly bitch,” Hiyoko groaned theatrically. “A match made in heaven, if you ask me.”

Sonia frowned, and was about to tell Hiyoko off for being rude when Toko beat her to it. “Watch your mouth, brat. You already know what I can do to you.” Hiyoko rubbed her hand unconsciously and fell silent. Sonia was now intensely curious. Also surprising was Toko’s tone and extruding tongue- she seemed very different than her normal, timid self.

Junko regarded the two of them silently. It was one of her pregnant pauses- without realizing it, the rest of the Monokuma’s Angels automatically fell silent and held their breaths. She was analyzing something about Korekiyo and/or Toko. When Junko got that face, it was best to let her concentrate on making her deductions. Even the other two students stood still and silent under her scrutiny. Finally she stopped, and shrugged. “Like, nice seeing you both!” she said with her usual false cheer, and made to move past them. 

“Good day,” Celeste said with her customary politeness, as the two groups passed. Sonia wasn’t quite sure, but she thought Celeste’s manners might be just as fake as Junko’s cheerfulness. She sighed inwardly. She had fallen into this clique largely by virtue of being Junko’s roommate, and she thought she might need to make some other friends.

A few minutes passed as they continued walking back to campus, gossiping about nothing in particular. Without warning, a scream rang out. “I knew it,” Junko cried, dropping her shopping bags on the dirty street. Without a care for her new purchases, she sprinted back in the direction Korekiyo and Toko had gone. Sonia sighed and scooped up the shopping bags to take back to their dorm room. Junko was so impetuous, she wondered what she was hoping to find by following their classmates through the streets of Towa City---

 


 

“Thanks for coming all the way out here. I don’t think Bessie-Mae was going to be able to walk over to the Ultimate Biology Lab.” Daisaku stroked the cow’s flank soothingly as he spoke. “You can’t make goose omelets roll uphill!”

This obsidian giant spoke very oddly, Gundham thought to himself. It was almost impossible to understand what he was saying. “Fear not, mortal. I, Gundham Tanaka, the Supreme Overlord of Ice, am happy to help. I would never leave Auðumbla, the primordial cow and suckler of the jotun Ymir, to her fate.” He finished wrapping the bandage around the Ultimate Dairy Cow’s leg and stood up.

Daisaku blinked. “You sure speak silly,” he said. “Melons to platypi, I don’t get a word of your funny way of talking.”

Gundham opened his mouth to protest that no, the Ultimate Farmer was the one who was nigh incomprehensible, when his highly-honed mystical senses alerted him something was occuring. His gaze shot up and he scanned the area to see what had triggered his alarm spell. He muttered an incantation for enhanced vision as his eyes combed the Ultimate Farm Lab; a lab in name only, and really just a farm.

“Look! A little doggie! Hi doggie!” Daisaku’s high-pitched voice interrupted Gundham’s concentration. He followed the larger man’s gaze to see the droopy ears and jowls of a bloodhound as they streaked across the sheep pasture. Following approximately six feet behind (the length of your standard dog leash) was a girl whose face was obscured by a high-tech pair of goggles. It took him a moment to realize that it was Maki, the Ultimate Child Caregiver. 

Upon hearing Daisaku, she pulled the dog’s leash and headed their way. “Have either of you seen someone come through here?” she demanded, without preamble. 

“No...” Gundham said. They were a bit out of the way, he thought. If not Daisaku or him, who would she even be looking for in this area? A lost child, he supposed.

“What are those?” Daisaku pointed at the goggles. They gave her the impression of a monstrous insect... Gonta would be proud, Gundham thought wryly

“Infrared goggles. Have either of you been eating pastries?” She pulled out a bag labeled Hansel & Gretel’s Bakery and waved it about.

“I haven’t eaten pastries since the moon danced with the swan!” Daisaku replied. Gundham simply said “No” again. He was a little nervous around the Ultimate Child Caregiver, for reasons he’d never fully understood. Some unknown sense inside him told him she was dangerous. 

Maki looked appraisingly at both of them. “You’d better not be lying to me,” she said with a slight snarl. She turned back to the canine and waved the pastry bag under its snout. “Missile, track!” Once the dog was given slack again, the mighty hellhound bounded forth, pulling Maki along in its wake. At that speed, the beast must be fairly hot on the trail- the hunters have to be close to their prey.

Sure enough, thirty seconds hadn’t gone by before Gundham and Daisaku heard a bark and a snarled “Found you...”---

 


 

Nekomaru slowly came to. His vision was dark and shrouded... his thoughts were dragging. Where was he? What had he been doing? He looked down at himself. And what on earth was he wearing?!

Suddenly, he noticed two figures before him. They were yelling, but he couldn’t make out the words- why was his brain so sluggish? Had he been drugged? Was he concussed? One of the figures raised a weapon of some kind, and the other raised their arms to protect themselves. No! Nekomaru might be disoriented, but he knew he had to intervene. He staggered forward, unable to make himself sprint up to the figures like he wanted. With a cry, he ran between the blurred figures, intending to protect the victim---

When he felt a blow to the back of his head, and he fell into darkness.   

Chapter Text

“Hey roomie, how’s that metal coming?” Kazuichi lifted the faceplate of his welding helmet and turned towards Sonosuke’s corner of the Ultimate Machine Lab. 

The Ultimate Blacksmith had stripped off to his undershirt and a small pair of athletic shorts, all thankfully covered by his thick blacksmith’s apron. He was completely drenched in sweat, and occasionally a drop would hit the cherry-red metal plate he hovered over, sizzling as it evaporated. He paused in his hammering but didn’t look up. “Need more fuel,” he grunted.

Kazuichi peered over at the pyrometer. “Your forge looks as hot as it normally does...”

Sonosuke shook his head. “Not that kind of fuel.”

Just then, Chiaki burst into the Machine Lab, panting slightly, arms laden with various items. She went around the room delivering her packages. “More blueprint paper” she handed to Miu. “Brain scans from Yasuke” on a flash drive went to Chihiro. A heavy bag of “Arc welding electrode sticks, steel rivets” were dumped on Kazuichi’s work table. “And finally, chocolates and lollipops.”

Sonosuke immediately tore the wrappers from some chocolates and scarfed them down. “Dewicious,” he said with his mouth full. As he stuffed a lollipop in his mouth, Kazuichi could see that he attacked the cooling metal with renewed vigor. His sweet tooth was crazy as ever!

“Thanks Chiaki,” Keebo smiled. “You’ve been a huge help.”

The Ultimate Gamer hopped back on her customary stool. After making sure no one was requesting any other errands, she pulled out her Funplane Lite. “It’s pretty much all I can do to help you guys,” she shrugged. “But if you need some princesses rescued or demons blown apart, just keep me in mind.”

“Sonia was fine the last I heard,” Keebo replied quizzically. Kazuichi could never tell how much of the Ultimate Robot’s schtick was an act for irony’s sake, and how much was a legitimate lack of understanding. He kinda thought it might be the first one. 

“Well then, I guess we’re good for now.” Chiaki deadpanned back. They both held their faces steady for a beat... before cracking up simultaneously. 

“Hey, Peeaki, Peebo, can it, will ya?” Miu waved a hand dismissively. She kept her eyes glued to the blueprints she was poring over. 

“...Really?” Keebo said. “Those are both urine-related. Also, Keebo is already a nickname.”

Miu threw her blueprint pen down and glared at him. “KY-BJelly, are you going to let me rip your chest open to figure out how to work around that wiring issue I’m having? No? Then are you going to help by shutting the fuck up?”

Keebo gulped, an affectation that he’d learned to mimic in order to seem more human, like blinking. “Yes, Miu.”

Kazuichi didn’t envy him. He had learned when dating her that Miu was a firecracker: loud, attention-grabbing, and liable to blow you up if you hold onto her too long. Breaking up with her had been the smartest thing he’d ever done. Though the list of ‘smart things Kazuichi had ever done’ was admittedly short. When they first broke up, Miu had threatened to rip his dick off, engineer it into an electrostim vibrator, and shove it up his ass so far he’d barf lightning. He’d felt bad enough about dumping her that he’d just let her rage at him. But one defending word from Chihiro had caused her to back down and tearfully insist she had just been kidding. Nowadays, the three of them had entered an uneasy truce; Miu limited her insults to petty nicknames and occasional lackluster sniping, while Kazuichi and Chihiro felt lucky to mostly be ignored.

Speaking of Chihiro... Kazuichi was at loose ends until Sonosuke gave him more metal plating. The Ultimate Mechanic decided to wander over to where his... friend, just a friend, was typing furiously. Chihiro was using three monitors, one of which was dedicated to Alter Ego’s smiling face. “Hey dude, how’s the programming going?” Chihiro looked up and gave a slight frown, causing Kazuichi to remember that he wasn’t fully out as a boy, even in the Ultimate Machine Lab. “Sorry, uh, ladydude. Miss. ...Chihiro. ‘How’s the programming going, Chihiro?’”

He waved him off. Kazuichi, in an attempt to be understanding, had once tried to ask Chihiro about his gender identity stuff. He’d asked if he was a tranny, a transvestite, a transexual. He’d asked if he was a girl, a boy, a trap, a shemale. He’d asked if he was gay, straight, bi. Chihiro had very calmly sat Kazuichi down, in a way that let him know he was in deep trouble. ‘I don’t like labels,’ Chihiro had said. ‘I could very well be trans, genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary or something else. But that is my business, and my business alone. All you need to know about me is that I consider myself a boy, and I like to wear what is traditionally considered girl’s clothing. I prefer he/him pronouns in private, but among the general population I prefer she/her pronouns to avoid having to have this exact conversation. I’ll let you know if that changes.’ Then he had smiled widely, showing some teeth. ‘And now, you’re in luck! We’re going to have a long conversation about slurs and exactly which of the things you just said you’re never going to say again, alright?’ Kazuichi had left that conversation very educated and far more afraid.

“It’s going well, ‘dude.’ Of course, I already have Alter Ego as a base to work off of. But now I need to integrate these scans and keep the memories and personality, while also allowing for true cognition and free will... it’s a lot.” Chihiro resumed typing.

“Well, I know you can do it!” Kazuichi grinned the carefree grin of ‘not my problem.’ 

“Probably no anime night tonight,” Chihiro said softly, in an attempt to prevent Miu from hearing.

Kazuichi lowered his voice to match. “Yeah, I figured. Of course, if this is anything like some of my other projects, I’m going to stay up all night working on it anyway.”

“Me too,” Chihiro admitted. “This is a fascinating problem, but more than that, it’s something I have to do perfectly. The rest of you can perform repairs after the fact, but I have to get it right the first time.”

He wasn’t sure about that, but... Kazuichi shrugged. “You got this. Lemme know if I can do anything to help.” Chihiro just shook his head and went back to coding. 

“Pinkhead,” Sonosuke called. Kazuichi went to retrieve the new metal plate and begin his welding once more.

 


 

Kyoko was thinking hard. Shuichi was taking witness statements, but she tuned them out, trusting him to tell her what was important later. She felt like she was on the verge of deducing something important... something that would ‘blow the whole case wide open,’ as Shuichi liked to say. She just needed another clue or two, or an actually credible lead.

“Thank you for your time,” Shuichi said, signaling the end of his current conversation. 

“Yeah, of course, whatever I can do to help,” Hajime said. He left the room, leaving the two Ultimate Detectives to confer.

Shuichi waited patiently for Kyoko to finish her current train of thought. When she turned to him, he flipped back several pages in his little notepad and cleared his throat.

“Several different major conflicts happened that day. Let me go down the list.”



“Oh whatever, like we didn’t already know. Kaede’s gaydar pinged on Day One. Anyway, who isn’t at least a little heteroflexible these days?” Sayaka crossed her arms in exasperation.

Leon looked like he won the lottery. “Reaaaaally... you know Sayaka, you’re pretty hot too. Maybe all three of us could ‘play’ sometime. Turn this musical duo into a trio? There’s enough Leon to go around, you know what I’m saying?”

Ibuki and Sayaka had both had enough. As Sayaka lunged forward, Ibuki pulled her guitar strap off and lifted it over her head---

Kaede burst out of the Ultimate Music Lab and sprinted over to her roommates. “KNOCK IT OFF, YOU TWO!”

Sayaka stopped in her tracks. Ibuki lowered her guitar. They both looked over at her guiltily. “Ibuki wouldn’t really have hurt Li’l Hendrix. ...Or Sayaka, I guess,” Ibuki muttered. 

Kaede marched directly between the two musicians. “Hey, I know you two have had your issues, but I never thought it would come to this. Let’s go inside and talk this over.”

“Do we have to?” Sayaka grumbled.

“It’s either talk to me, or talk to the Ultimate Therapist.” Kaede folded her arms. “Your choice.”

The girls glowered at each other, but acquiesced. The three Danger Rhubarbs began to head back to their room. 

“Wow, two girls fighting over me,” Leon grinned as he made to follow them inside. “Every guy’s dream.”

Ibuki turned to face him, complete disbelief written on her face. “Really? We were fighting over you? Is that what you took away from all that?”

Leon held out his hands placatingly. “Hey, I get it. I’m a handsome guy, baseball pro, rising rock star. But I meant what I said about the threesome.”

Sayaka and Ibuki both went to argue when Kaede stepped forward. “Ooh, Leon, what a great idea! A threesome?! Sounds super hot.” She wrapped an arm around Sayaka’s waist and pulled her in. “Let’s see, one...” She grabbed Ibuki and tugged her towards the other girls. “Two...” She put her hands over their shoulders and faced Leon down. “And Kaede makes three. Huh, our room is pretty crowded with the three of us sharing a space. I don’t think there’d be room for you, Leon.” She tilted Sayaka’s chin up with one finger and gazed into her eyes. “What do you think, my little ingenue?”

Ibuki caught on. “Don’t forget about Ibuki!” She grabbed Kaede and Sayaka into a group hug, then turned it into a blatant caress. “Oh, I’m so tired of eating sausage... Ibuki really wants to chow down on some fish tacos!”

Sayaka warmed to the ruse. “Did I ever tell you two about the time my pop group and I got a little rowdy backstage, and we decided to experiment with... well, I’ll tell you the rest when we get inside.” She licked her lips seductively. The trio began to walk away, arm in arm.

Leon looked like he was about to have an aneurysm. “Really?” he called after them. “Are you three actually gonna... can I come?! Can I at least watch?!” They shut the door in his face.

 

Kaede finished telling Shuichi about the resolution of the argument that the Anime Club had witnessed. She didn’t feel the need to tell him that after they went inside, the three had a long feelings jam and then really did, ahem... make sweet music together. They came together as a band, and then came together as a band.



 

“That wasn’t technically a threat. This is, though: shut the fuck up or I’m going to pull the stick out of your ass and shove this up there in its place.”

“WHOAH! Put that sheathe back on this instant!” Byakuya was already standing up before he even realized he had begun to move. He threw open his door. As he entered the hall, he saw a figure running in the same direction he was, throwing open Taka’s and Kyosuke’s door. He heard Kiyotaka yelling “PLEASE! DON’T!”--- 

Hajime glanced nervously at Kirumi’s and Chisa’s room. The girls’ RAs were both out, according to the little whiteboard they had affixed to their door. The voices from the boys’ RAs’ room were growing louder. Hajime didn’t feel like he could safely wait any longer. With a quick rap on the doorframe (so later he could claim that he had knocked first), he threw open the door. Kyosuke had a large katana in one hand and a sheathe in the other. Taka was quavering, but bravely threw out his hands, as if that would protect him or Hajime from a sword slash. 

“Kyosuke, put that down right now or so help me, I’ll... I’ll...” Hajime slid past Taka and stood between the two roommates.

Kyosuke just rolled his eyes. “You’ll what? Hm?” Without waiting for a reply, he sat down at his desk and placed the sheath on the ground. He pulled a small bottle of oil and a polishing cloth out of his desk drawer and began to clean the blade. He looked at Hajime challengingly, as if to say ‘I dare you to prove I was going to do anything other than routine katana maintenance when I unsheathed it.’

Hajime crossed his arms. “I’ll tell the Headmaster.”

“Go ahead,” Kyosuke snorted. “This asshole threatens to do that all the time.”

Hajime pulled out his phone and began scrolling through his contacts. “I’ll call your mother.”

The Ultimate Student Council President’s eyes widened. “What?”

“I’ll call your mother,” Hajime repeated calmly. He held out his phone to show the number displayed for “Munakata, Mom.”

“How did you-”

“You remember when she pulled me aside on Family Weekend? At the Host Club? Yeah. Then. She was worried about you, asked me how you were getting along, if you’d made any friends yet, and all that.” He paused, debating how much to tell, then settled on the truth. “I told her I wouldn’t spy on you for her, but if you got in an accident or anything I’d let her know faster than the school could.”

“You wouldn’t dare.” The tremor in Kyosuke’s voice indicated that he thought Hajime would, in fact, dare.

“We’re going to talk this out right now, the three of us.” He fixed him with a glare. “And you’re going to put away your random katana before we do. Where’d you even get that, anyway?”

Kyosuke glowered, but did as he was told. And then told them all about his lessons with Peko.

Half an hour later, they had cleared the air considerably. 

“When I first got here, you wouldn’t even shake my hand.” Taka had clearly been hurt badly by this rejection.

“In other schools, RAs get single rooms; I was annoyed to have a roommate. I like my solitude. It’s the only reason I wanted to be an RA in the first place.”

“You sure do like your solitude,” Taka grumbled. “...I always dreamed of having a brother. I really wanted to be friends with my roommate.”

Kyosuke shrugged. “Don’t take it personally. I don’t like anyone.”

“See? This is great progress,” Hajime said. “I see two solutions here: One, Kyosuke, you open up a bit and become a bit more friendly. With Taka, and with others too. Your mom is worried about you,” he reminded him. 

“I don’t waaaant to,” Kyosuke whined. It was the most immature he’d seen the normally cool and composed boy.

“Two, Taka, we find you some other friends.”

Taka mumbled something under his breath.

“What was that?”

“No one wants to be my friend! Alright?! I’m ‘too loud,’ ‘too obnoxious,’ ‘too serious.’ It’s been that way since I was five years old.”

Hajime frowned. “Has anyone here said that to you?”

“Well, no, not really. But being rejected a million times before makes it hard to want to put yourself out there again. I was so excited to come to a new school, get a fresh start, and make new friends. But after my first attempt at friendship bombed so badly, I didn’t want to even try.”

Kyosuke had the decency to look guilty.

“I’m your friend,” Hajime clapped a hand on Taka’s shoulder. “And I’m sorry that I didn’t do a good enough job showing it.”

Taka overreacted, as he usually did about everything. “You are?!”

“Absolutely. I’ve got... something, to do this evening, but I’m free right now. Want to hang out?”

“Can we... can we really?” 

Hajime thought about jokingly saying ‘nah, not really,’ but based on Taka’s face it would be like kicking a puppy with a boot that said ‘THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS.’ “Yes, of course. Wanna go see a movie? Or grab an early dinner off-campus?”

Taka beamed ear to ear. “Can we go see that new animated film? ‘The Wizard of Monomi’? And then can we get dinner? And then can we go to the bathhouse together?”

Hajime smiled. “I might not have time for all of that, but we’ll see.”

“Roommate,” Taka turned to Kyosuke. “I... I understand if you do not want to go. But I still want to invite you. I swear that I will not take offense if you wish to stay here!”

Kyosuke thought for a moment. He looked to Taka, then to Hajime, then back again. He sighed heavily and put his katana away. “Yeah, alright. I like a good cartoon flick as much as the next guy. But I draw the line at getting naked together for no reason.”

They left the dorms, as Taka went on and on about bathhouse etiquette and the proven benefits of male/male skinship. Hajime smiled to himself and shook his head ruefully- what had he gotten himself into?

 

Hajime made a point to tell Shuichi about running into Kaito and Mondo at the gym sauna, having a ‘competition between hardened men.’ He figured that if the detectives were trying to figure out everyone’s whereabouts, he might as well disclose their alibis as well. He didn’t feel the need to tell Shuichi about how enamored Taka had been with Kaito and Mondo’s close bromance, and how he now feared for his scant free time being completely consumed by Taka, Kaito and Mondo saying ‘bro’ over and over until the word lost all meaning.



 

Shuichi flipped his notepad closed. “That’s it for the incidents we know of so far that occurred that day.”

“Not quite,” Kyoko said. She pulled out her MONOpad and opened her email. She had received a message from a T.Yasuhiro@HPA.edu . She knew the names of every student and staff member at Hope’s Peak Academy, and there was no T. Yasuhiro among them. Maybe a burner email account? But then, it wouldn’t be an official Hope’s Peak email address. Perplexing. She opened the message and handed it to her best friend to read.

He read it, then read it again. “Huh,” he intoned. “Guess we need to interview Junko Enoshima.”

“I suppose so,” Kyoko replied. That would be a challenge, based on what her fath- based on what the Vice Headmaster had let slip. Junko was apparently more troublesome and far more devious than she seemed.

“Oh, I just remembered,” Shuichi handed her the MONOpad back. “Have you seen- well, obviously not. Have you heard anything from, or seen any trace of, my roommate?” She shook her head, and he sighed. “His bed hasn’t been used in a week and his desserts are going bad in the fridge. I’m starting to worry about him. He usually tells me if he’s going to be on a secret mission out of the country. And he always eats his sweets before he goes.”

Kyoko frowned. She then mentally added the interrogation of Maki Harukawa to her to-do list.

 


 

Nekomaru awoke suddenly. This was no slow rousing, this was a lightning jolt and boom, consciousness. Almost as jolting was the sudden realization that he couldn't move. He couldn't open his eyes, he couldn't raise his head... he couldn't yell for help. He tried to move his limbs, but it wasn't as if they were refusing to respond, it was as if they had never been. He wasn't even sure that he was breathing- was he going to suffocate to death? Nekomaru was building up towards a full-blown panic attack when suddenly his hearing returned, giving him something to orient himself in the darkness.

“Hearing seems to be working. Say something to him, pint-size.”

“Hey, Nekomaru? Uh, Coach? It's me, Ryoma.” 

Ryoma? Nekomaru willed his eyes to open, but he couldn't move them at all. Who was that other voice? Where was he? What was going on?

“Miu, it's not working.” Ryoma sounded exasperated.

“No, no, shut up babydick, it's totally working. Lemme get vision online and I'll prove it.” A few moments passed as someone tapped on a keyboard and Nekomaru dithered. Then suddenly, without him even meaning to, his eyes flew open. To his surprise, he wasn't lying on a bed in the Ultimate Clinician Lab. He was in some place he'd never been to before, somewhere new, and a bit frightening. The walls were covered with gleaming tools, there were metal parts strewn around everywhere- and Ryoma, suddenly Ryoma moved into his field of vision. Nekomaru was elated to see something familiar, but still couldn't move or call out to him. 

“Hey, Coach, buddy. Do you remember who I am?” He was holding his hat in his hands, twisting the soft material tightly. “Uh, blink once for yes and twice for no.”

A way to communicate! Nekomaru blinked happily, and Ryoma cracked a smile, his agitation cracking with it. 

“I uh, bet you have some questions.” Blink. “Well, I don't know many of the specifics, but you were attacked. You're lying in a hospital bed, in a deep coma. And they say you might not...” He broke off, hacking a cough that sounded suspiciously like it might have covered a sob. “They... well, we can't ask you what happened, or who did it, or whatever. But we're on the case,” he said coldly. “You've got a lot of friends in this Academy, Coach, heh. Everyone sends their love, best wishes for you recovering, blah blah. The only reason they're not right beside your hospital bed is that they're out looking for the culprit, honestly, buncha mother hens.” A slight smirk. “We have two of the best detectives that have ever lived on the case, but- But a few days passed with no progress and you still weren't waking up. And I had an idea.”

Ryoma paused, and ran a hand through his short curly hair, before putting his hat back on. It was slightly askew, and Nekomaru found this charming, but he had no way to communicate this. He was making sure not to blink if Ryoma hadn't asked him a question, to avoid confusing him, but strangely his eyes didn't seem to be watering with the need to do so. Ryoma sighed kind of heavily. “I had this idea. I don't know how good it was, now that it's happening, but... anyway. I asked a friend-”

“We're not friends, micropenis.” That brash female voice again, from just out of Nekomaru's field of view, where all that keyboard tapping was coming from.

Ryoma rolled his eyes to the heavens. “I asked a FRIEND, who said she had a FRIEND, who had a FRIEND, that knew this one HEINOUS BITCH who was good with technology.” The female voice laughed throatily but made no comment. “Well, actually, first I asked if anyone... ugh. Hey Coach, you, uh, you still with me?”

Nekomaru was confused, but yes, he supposed so. Blink.

“So... Coach Nekomaru Nidai, the Ultimate Team Manager, is in a coma in the Ultimate Clinician Lab. We had this guy, the Ultimate Neurologist, Yasuda or Matsuke or something, he took a scan of his brain.” 

Wait. 'His'? 

Ryoma continued slowly, plainly aware of what Nekomaru would think of what he was saying. “...And a bunch of the grease monkeys at the Ultimate Machine Lab, including this Ultimate Shrew over here, well, they made... you.”

Nekomaru was aghast. He... wasn't actually Nekomaru, waking up from a coma? What the hell was he?

“Speech is online now. Mechamaru, you don't have lips or vocal cords or a big floppy tongue anymore, but you should be able to speak just by trying to project your thoughts.”

“What?” Nekomaru thought, but he also heard the word as it emerged from somewhere below his head. “What did she call me?”

Ryoma blushed. “Mechamaru,” he admitted. “It's what they've been calling you ever since Chiaki heard we were doing this and came up with it.” 

“This is... this is a lot to take in,” Nekomaru said. Well, ‘Mechamaru’, he supposed. He sure didn’t feel like himself. Or sound like himself- his voice was tinny, and sounded like it was coming out of a speaker near his larynx. A literal voice box, he thought wryly.

Ryoma nodded. “We thought it would be overwhelming if all of your friends crowded around at once. Well, even more overwhelming. So they nominated me to be here when you booted up, as the one closest to you.” He flushed slightly. 

Nekoma- no, Mechamaru wanted to sit up. He wanted to run. Not out of fear, but to have control of his own body, to prove to himself... but no, Ryoma would think he was running from him.

“And I’m here so you can ogle my luscious boobage and gain the strength to go on. Come towards the light, Mechamaru! Come towards my boobs!”

“Just shut up and push the buttons, Miu.” Ryoma cut her off.

“F-fine... I was just trying to lighten the m-mood,” Miu stammered.

Ryoma shook his head. “Anyway, you can talk now! So tell  us... who attacked you?! What happened?!” 

“Uh... I was attacked?” 

Ryoma’s face fell. “Uh, yeah. ‘Clear signs of blunt force trauma to the back of the head,’ the Detective Duo said. I take it that means you don’t remember being attacked? ...Do you remember anything at all about that day?”

Mechamaru tried to shake his head, but couldn’t. “Not really. What day was it, even?”

Ryoma told him, then told him the current date. Apparently it had been five days total that he’d been in a coma; he was in stable condition, but according to Mikan he was showing no signs of getting closer to waking up. It had taken two days to make his new body, a concerted group effort from the entire Ultimate Machine Lab.

“You were found face-down on your bed in your dorm room,” Ryoma continued. “When Kaito got back that night he thought you were just sleeping on your stomach. He realized you weren’t when you ‘weren’t snoring up a storm like usual.’ ...No recollection how you got there either, huh?”

“I remember that morning,” Mechamaru intoned. “But nothing strange happened, it was a pretty average day.” He had worked out first thing, showered, grabbed a quick breakfast in the cafeteria... he hadn’t even eaten with anyone, just grabbed a table by himself and bolted his food. Had he been in a hurry for something? It was all so fuzzy. “The last thing I remember clearly was heading back to my room after breakfast.”

“Well, this isn’t completely unforeseen. We were told that you might not remember, something something long-term memory vs short-term memory, hippocampus yadda yadda.”

“Sorry to fail you,” Mechamaru said sadly.

“Hey now, none of that. It was a long shot anyway.”

“But, you did all this work, making a special robot to talk to...”

Miu walked into view and began fiddling with his neck. “Don’t be so fuckin’ stupid, we coulda just made a cute little Minimaru if we only wanted to let you speak. We built a fully functional robot body for a reason.” And suddenly, he could feel her hands. He had his sense of touch back! “And I do mean fully functional,” she winked as she ran a finger down his chest sensually. Then the finger pressed his belly button, which was apparently functioning rather literally right now. Now he could move! He flexed his hands, his arms. He sat up, and before they knew what was happening, he had scooped Miu and Ryoma into a group hug.

“Thank you, thank you both- thank you all. I can’t believe this all really happened to me.” He really kind of couldn’t believe it- it didn’t feel real. But here he was, in the metal ‘flesh,’ and the feeling was so alien that he had to accept it.

Ten minutes later, he was standing over his comatose body in the Ultimate Clinic. Ryoma put a hand on his arm, in an attempt to comfort him. “With you up and about, we’re gonna find out what happened to you. Retrace your steps, solve this mystery... and hopefully find a way to wake you up again.”

But if he- but if Nekomaru woke up again, what would happen to him? To Mechamaru?

Chapter Text

“Go Kaito! Take the shot!” Mechamaru’s voice was projected over the Nekomaruball field from his spot as the boys’ team’s goalkeeper. 

The megaphone feedback caused the Ultimate Astronaut to flinch and fumble his shot. Mukuro, the goalkeeper for the girls’ team, caught it easily. She shared a quick look of pained sympathy with him before tossing the ball to Sakura, who roundhouse-kicked it down the field. Kaito rubbed the back of his head but refrained from commenting. 

Tenko caught the ball from her roommate’s kick and passed it to her girlfriend.  “Here, sweetie!”

“Catch it, Aoi!” The screech from Mechamaru’s voicebox made her wince- the ball slipped through her hands and walloped her right in the face. Aoi fell to the ground, clutching her nose, as Tenko rushed to her side. 

“OH NOOOOOOOO!!” Mechamaru cried, the screech causing everyone in earshot to recoil simultaneously. 

“I’m fine, I’m fine! Just hit the bridge, nothing’s broken!” Aoi was quick to reassure everyone. Tenko helped her off the field, apologizing profusely and then running off to get the first aid kit.

“Gozu, switch with me?” Ryoma asked. The Great Gozu nodded solemnly and moved from his rear position to the front, joining Leon and Kaito on Offense. Ryoma moved back to Defense with Gonta and Juzo, then sidled up close to Mechamaru while everyone was distracted. “I think you’d better call the game on account of injury, Coach. I’ll, uh, explain more later.”

Mechamaru would’ve worried his lower lip if he had one. They had just started the game fifteen minutes ago, but obviously something was wrong... “Yeah, okay.”

Before Mechamaru could yell across the entire field and split everyone’s eardrums even more, Ryoma took matters into his own hands. He filled his tiny lungs to capacity and attempted a bellow. “Game called due to injury! Take five!” He thought for a second. “Actually, take ten!”

Rather than get upset due to Ryoma’s hijacking of his coachly duties, Mechamaru just looked resigned. He moved back behind the goal to wait for Ryoma. He had the hangdog air of a puppy that knew they were in trouble but didn’t fully understand what they had done wrong. Ryoma’s heart went out to him. 

As Tenko worried like a mother hen and Aoi continued to reassure everyone that she was fine, no really, Ryoma went to talk to his Coach. As gently as he could, he explained that the louder Mechamaru raised his voice, the more screechy feedback came out, and it was painful for everyone else. “But we can get the Ultimate Lab folks to fix it, don’t fret.”

The former Ultimate Team Manager just sighed. “I didn’t even realize, it doesn’t sound like that to me. Thanks, Ryoma.”

Ryoma patted him on his upper arm, since he couldn’t reach his shoulder. “Hey, everyone’s voice sounds funny to themselves on a recording... it’s basically the same thing.”

Mechamaru gave him a Look that indicated he wasn’t falling for it, but made no comment.

“Just... try to talk normally for a bit?”

Ryoma thought he could hear a muttered “Yelling was my normal way of talking.”

Akane wandered over, heedless of the fact that they might be having an important conversation. “Yo Coach, I’m still sore from falling off the roof the other day. Can ya do ‘it’ to me?”

“GAAAHAHAHAHA!” Mechamaru laughed, then remembered himself. “I mean, gahahaha! Your love of extreme parkour will be your downfall! Come to my office and I’ll fix you right up!” 

“Uhhh-” Ryoma tried to interject, but they had already headed off. He gulped.

 

Mechamaru couldn’t make his hands work how he wanted. He remembered how to move his hands, but had no muscle memory. He could feel her muscles under his new fingers, but had a hard time controlling his force. He knew where the pressure points were, but couldn’t use his acupressure in such a small area. The former Ultimate Masseuse/eur/age Therapist tried his best, he really did, he reallllly tried to err on the side of caution... but Akane was still groaning under his ministrations, and not in her usual orgasmic way. She graciously thanked him as she left, but they both knew it had been a failed attempt. 

After she left, he felt that weird feeling again. He was morose, and his eyes had started to leak. Mechamaru went to the big 10-gallon cooler in the corner and expressed his eye sockets. Pure NekomaruAid began to flow from somewhere under his lower lids and into the cooler. 

It was weird and confusing and a little disgusting- where did the liquid come from? He hadn’t ever refilled whatever internal reservoir it was coming from. And why the hell did Miu decide this was a necessary feature?

He didn’t think of it as crying. It happened when he was sad, but it brought no emotional catharsis and he felt worse, not better, after letting it all out. He checked the cooler- almost full. He’d have to empty it out again soon. Mehamaru forced a big smile on his stiff metal face and went back out to manage his athletes.

 


 

Junko was dodging their questions, which irked Shuichi. She was also affecting a ditzy demeanor in order to do so, which was causing the normally-imperturbable Kyoko to grind her teeth.“Like, what? Screaming?” Junko tapped her finger to her chin and tilted her head. “I don’t remember any, like, screaming.”

Shuichi drew her attention to Kyoko could study her for telltale signs of lying. “We have a source that claims you were walking with your clique when you heard a scream and ran off-”

“You mean my friends?” Junko attempted to look confused.

“...Yes, your friends. You were walking with them when you heard a scream and-”

“When was this again? Where? What did you say?”

Shuichi felt like grinding his teeth as well, but he needed this interrogation to stay friendly. They didn’t have any actual evidence after all, though Junko’s behavior was shady as hell. They knew she was smarter than this. “Right, as I said before, on the day in question you were walking with your friends in Towa City. You had just been shopping and you ran into-”

“Oh yeahhhhh! Like, duh! I remember because I had just bought a new outfit, it was super cute, it was a black cardigan and a red miniskirt, and this two-tone tie, it was totes chic. And some hair ties with little bears on them! And-”

Kyoko slammed her hands on the desk. It would have had more impact if they were in an interrogation room and not Shuich’s dorm room; the desk was Shuichi’s, and nowhere near where Junko was sitting on the couch, legs primly crossed. “Miss Enoshima, did you or did you not hear screaming on that day and run off away from your friends?”

“It might help us solve a crime,” Shuichi attempted to play Good Cop. 

Junko lowered her gaze and stared directly at Kyoko. For just a moment, Shuichi saw her real intelligence shine through, before her mask flitted back into place. The tension between the two girls was palpable. Finally, Junko spoke. “Oh yeah! I remember now! I heard someone scream about a sale, and I remembered I wanted some new boots to go with the outfit! So I ran back to get them! I was back with my friends in like, ten minutes or so, new boots in hand!”

Kyoko and Shuichi exchanged glances. “We didn’t hear about you returning that quickly, or about the boots-”

“Confirm with your source, then.” Junko’s eyes blazed. “Who was that, again? I don’t remember who you said.”

“We didn’t say,” Kyoko leaned back. “We prefer our anonymous tips to stay anonymous.” Even if they didn’t, Shuichi didn’t think it was a good idea to tell Junko about the mysterious school email address. 

“Well if that’s all...” Junko trailed off. “...Was there anything else?” She stood and made to leave the room, pausing at the doorway. 

Kyoko was glowering, but said nothing. “No, that’s it. Thank you very much for your time,” Shuichi said softly. 

 

Junko walked out of the Detectives’ Headquarters. Her quick eyes scanned the dorms- no one in the hallway. She smiled broadly, baring her teeth. She pulled out her phone and sent a quick text. It simply read: 

“You owe me! And I’m coming to collect.”

 


 

Big metal fists rapped on the door to the Ultimate Machine Lab. There was no response. Mechamaru strode through the large building; he wasn’t able to keep himself from marveling at some of the equipment he saw. He hadn’t had much need to come this way before... back when he was human, he supposed. There were all sorts of fancy technological things he couldn’t comprehend. He saw several monitors clustered together, sharing space with some truly gargantuan computer towers. Wrenches, screwdrivers, and hammers mingled together on a large workbench with some tools Mechamaru didn’t recognize, most of which he couldn’t even guess as to their functions. A working forge straight out of a renaissance faire dominated one corner. 

He reached the other end of the empty building and checked his phone- right on the dot. He found the dorm room he wanted and knocked once more. It opened immediately. Keebo smiled to see him, and ushered him inside.

Chihiro looked up from her computer and smiled. “Mechamaru! What a pleasant surprise! Need any more adjustments?”

Mechamaru shook his head quickly. “No, thank you! The ones you all did were already wonderful. Thank you, for everything!” He bowed.

Chihiro smiled. “You don’t have to keep thanking us! Like I said, we were all happy to do it. It was a good chance to use our Talents and help a friend at the same time.”

The former Ultimate Team Manager straightened back up. “Well, thank you anyway! It’s thanks to you all that I have been reborn in shining silver! The iron man, Mechamaru!” He forced a laugh.

“It was mostly a tungsten alloy that Sonosuke had been working on, actually-” Chihiro began.

Mechamaru cut her off. “Keebo! Shall we go to the dining hall like we previously discussed? I’m famished!” He grabbed the Ultimate Robot and pulled him out of the room.

Chihiro watched the door close. “Neither of you eat...?”

 

The two roboboys walked around to the back of the Ultimate Machine Lab and found a small clearing in the surrounding woods. Mechamaru made sure no one was around before throwing himself to the ground dramatically. He knew it wouldn’t hurt, and frankly, he didn’t care if his chassis got a little scuffed up. He rolled onto his back and looked up at the darkening sky. “Keebo, I really need your help.” 

Keebo carefully sat cross-legged on the ground near him, close enough to provide a comforting hand, but far enough away to give him space. “I am happy to help in any way I can. Your message didn’t specify what you needed help with, but I can hazard a guess.”

Mechamaru cocked a metal eyebrow. It rose with a slight screech of metal. “Oh? And what is your guess?”

The Ultimate Robot smiled. “You want to know what brand of metal polish I use to keep myself shiny and rust-free.”

“Strike one.” Mechamaru muttered.

“Oh? Then surely you want to know where in the city you can go to find the best oil and joint lubricant?”

“Strike two!”

Keebo laid a hand on Mechamaru’s calf and patted it gently. “You are overwhelmed by your new existence, and want help coming to terms with being a robot now.”

“...Home run.” Mechamaru covered his eyes with one arm. 

“Hey. Look at me.” He obeyed, and the two metal men locked eyes. “Everyone at the Ultimate Machine Lab is here to help you. Heck, probably everyone on campus is on your side.” Keebo sighed. “But the sad truth is, no one but I can understand what you’re going through.”

“There are so many things I used to be able to do, and now I can’t do any of them!” 

Keebo silently listened to Mechamaru rant about his duties as a Team Manager, and his inability to perform them. He kept his hand on Mechmaru’s leg, since he didn’t object or pull away. Mechamaru was glad for the comfort. When he was finished whining, he felt spent, but oddly more peaceful. Was this the benefit of a therapist? He and Keebo had practically been strangers, and he was finding it much easier to unload on him than if he were speaking to any of his athletes.

“I have several rejoinders,” Keebo began. “Firstly, this will require a massive shift in your worldview. But if you can do it, you may find you like being a robot more than you ever imagined.”

“I sincerely doubt that,” Mechamaru complained. Then he remembered who he was talking to. “Shit, I mean-”

“It’s fine.” Keebo waved him off. “I am used to being treated to a lot of casual robophobia. And unfortunately, now you will have to deal with it too. But!” he cut him off before Mechamaru could begin to whine again, “There are a lot of benefits to being different.”

Mechamaru bit his tongue on the things he wanted to say. Keebo was helping, and didn’t deserve to take the brunt of his frustration. “...Please, tell me about them.”

“For one thing, you don’t need to eat or sleep anymore. That’s a lot of free time you’ve suddenly gained.” He raised a hand to cut off Mechamaru’s incoming objection. “No, I know your specs, I was there when you were being put together. You don’t have a human brain in there. Your mind believes you need to sleep, but there are no physiological benefits to it anymore. You’re just so used to it.”

Mechamaru frowned. “I got over not needing to eat and not needing to shit pretty quickly. I don’t feel hunger. But I do still get tired.”

“Trust me, you don’t. In D&D-” Keebo blushed. “Uh, in a game the Anime Club plays sometime, there’s this one race that doesn’t need to sleep. The other races need to sleep for eight hours to avoid taking penalties for being tired, but not this one. But, they do need to meditate for six hours instead.”

“Oh yeah, elves.” At Keebo’s look of surprise, Mechamaru shrugged. “I spent a lot of time in the hospital growing up. If there was a way to entertain myself from a hospital bed, I tried it. In one of my remote forum D&D campaigns, there was an elf who always whittled instead of sleeping, because it was mindless.” Keebo continued to look shocked. Mechamaru grinned. “I was usually a fighter or barbarian, but I did have a memorable stint as a dwarven bard.”

Keebo came back to himself. “Well, anyway, yeah. The same principle now applies to you. I can go days without ‘trancing,’ as they call it in D&D, but I do usually feel better if I take at least a few hours a night to myself. The thing is, I can usually do whatever I want and it will still ‘count.’ Your AI automatically picks up and stores information now- pop in an audiobook or podcast and you’ll absorb everything that’s said even if you mentally tune out. You can read a physical book too, but I try not to have the lights on at night so Chihiro can sleep.”

“Really? That’s incredible.” Mechamaru couldn’t quite wrap his head around it. “So I can... learn new things, without even paying attention?”

Keebo smiled. “So many things. I know how many petabytes of storage you’ve got in there,” he knocked gently on Mechamaru’s head. “You would be astonished at what you can retain now, effortlessly.” He paused. “Far more than I can, frankly. Professor Idabashi wanted to focus on making a robot that could learn like a human. But Chihiro’s AI research is so far and away from my dad’s...” Keebo shook his head. “Anyway, here’s what I would do if I were you. I’d go to Chihiro and get every currently-spoken language saved in there. The entirety of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and Wikipedia for good measure. That’s all stuff that wouldn’t be interesting to spend time learning, but could really help in certain situations.”

“Could I... could I get knowledge of first aid just plopped into my head, instantly?”

“Exactly! But that approach has its drawbacks. Due to the way your mind is wired now, that sort of information is stored deeper, and only called upon if you need it. If someone unexpectedly started speaking Bangla to you, you might not be able to translate it if you weren’t ready for it. But you also have near-flawless short-term memory, so it may take a second, but you’ll be able to go back and parse what they said anyway. For things like first aid, dietary advice, training techniques.. you know, stuff related to your Ultimate Talent, it’s better to learn that in the ‘trancing’ way.”

Mechamaru beamed. “I’ve just been lying on my bed at night, staring at the ceiling for hours. It wasn’t very restful... I dunno if I’m cut out for meditation.”

“You have time to practice and to learn! If I’m not in the mood to take in any more information, or if there’s a problem I really want to think through, I find physical activity helps me concentrate internally.”

“...I miss exercising,” Nekomaru said softly. “I miss the pump of my muscles, the dripping sweat, the clean feeling of showering afterwards, the soreness that means I know I’m getting stronger.”

“Well, you can’t augment your muscles any more than they’ve already been calibrated,” Keebo admitted. “But if you want super-strength, you can have Kazuichi or Miu disable the limiters they put in you. Now that you have a better idea of your physical capabilities and how to control your body movements, you could probably avoid accidentally crushing doorknobs and snapping pencils.”

Mechamaru sensed that he was speaking from experience. He chose not to pry. “So what physical activity do you do, then?”

“I like to help Gundham and Gonta with their animal sanctuary,” Keebo admitted. “Here’s another benefit you might not have realized we have- we can turn off our sense of smell when we want to. They appreciate me mucking out stalls and scrubbing enclosures, and I like to feel useful. It doesn’t tire me out, I can’t get bitten or stung by any of the animals, I don’t have to smell any of it, and having my body go through the motions frees my mind to contemplate whatever I want to ruminate on.”

“That’s kind of what exercising did for me,” Mechamaru said. “It was a lot easier to think when I was running laps.”

“Well, maybe we could go together sometime?” Keebo ducked his head, and Mechamaru wondered if he was blushing. The sun had gone down as they talked, and he couldn’t quite tell. “I could teach you what I’ve learned about the animals. There are a lot of interesting species that they take care of.”

“I’d like that,” Mechamaru reached out and patted Keebo the way he had been getting patted himself. “Maybe we could go tomorrow?”

Keebo clucked his metal tongue with a muted clang. “You’re still thinking like a human. If you don’t have plans for tonight, we can go right now. You don’t need to eat dinner or sleep, and I have a key.” He stood, and reached out a hand. Mechamaru took it and pulled himself to his feet. 

“I don’t have plans, and I guess it’s true that I need to change my way of thinking. Sure, why not! Let’s go!” He laughed, feeling a bit like his old self. “Oh, but wait, it’s pretty dark out.”

Keebo moved right into his personal space before Mechamaru could react. He reached out a hand to touch the side of his face. Mechamaru could feel his own subdermal blush panels begin to turn pink. “There are lights. But even if there weren’t...” He twisted Mechamaru’s right ear. Suddenly Nekomaru could see everything clearly, down to Keebo’s own blushing face. “You have a night-vision mode.”

Mechamaru gulped. “Yeah, then let’s do it!” He quickly caught himself. “I-I-I mean, let’s go clean some cages. And maybe you can tell me more cool robot things I didn’t know about myself.”

Keebo smiled broadly and lowered his hand. “I’d love to.”

 


 

After their failure at questioning Junko, the Detective Duo were more determined than ever to interrogate Maki. But she was evading them at every turn. When they went to her room, she had always ‘just left.’ They could see her at practice, but they didn’t feel like interrupting her when she was slashing practice dummies with knives or shooting paintball guns in the laser tag arena. And she always evaded them somehow when they waited to catch her as she left her training. It was obvious that she knew what they wanted, and just as clear that she didn’t want to talk to them. Could she really have killed Yuto? Shuichi thought it unlikely, as she was still on campus and had made no move to go back to her assassination organization. But they’d never find out at this rate!

Kyoko sighed as they entered the dining hall and saw an empty spot between Peko and Mukuro that Maki had clearly just vacated. “How did she even know we were coming?” she grumbled. “An assassin’s ninja sense can only explain so much. Has she bugged us or something?”

Shuichi put a hand on Kyoko’s shoulder. His best friend relaxed a bit under his touch. “I think it’s time we talked to her roommates,” he said. “They’ve got to know what’s going on, and we might be able to get them on our side if we explain ourselves.”

“Ugh, talking. You’re so much better at that than I am,” Kyoko muttered. “Fine. I’ll take Peko, you take Mukuro.” Halfway towards their table, she stopped, stock-still. 

Shuichi walked right past her before realizing she had frozen, and returning to her side. “What’s the matter?”

She went to pull Shuichi to the side of the cafeteria where they were unlikely to be overheard. He saw hesitated, seeing Mukuro and Peko finish their meals and get up to leave. Well... They could catch up to them later, he decided. He allowed himself to be pulled along.

“Shuichi... Neither Maki nor Yuto is likely to get an innocent bystander involved in their fight. Not like braining someone with a guitar or a badly-wielded katana. We should still question her about Yuto’s whereabouts, but... think. Who do we know that has above-average strength, unknown powers and unknowable motives?”

“Uh.... I have no idea. What are you thinking?”

Kyoko smiled grimly. “Izuru Kamukura.”

 


 

Hajime strode through the dark Hope’s Peak Academy main building. He did not turn on any lights, nor did he stumble- he knew where to go. He reached a broom closet and went inside, carefully shutting the door behind him. Hajime moved to the back wall of the closet and waved his hand over some shelving; the scanner recognized his subdermal chip and opened a hidden passageway. Down he walked, a spiral staircase leading stories and stories below the Academy. After scanning his hand again, he emerged into a blindingly-bright room, LED bulbs bouncing light off of sterile white walls and stainless steel equipment. Strangely, he did not blink or shade his eyes.

“Hinata, Hajime.” A middle-aged man called him over. He went immediately. He stood before the man and did not speak or move. “Report.”

Hajime spoke for a time, a quiet monotone. The man took copious notes on his report, tapping furiously into a handheld computer. “Good. Leave by a different door, go back to your dorm room, go to sleep, then disengage Izuru Kamukura Protocol.”

 

Hajime woke the next morning fully rested, and with another gap in his memory of the previous night.