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This whole thing was bullshit. Absolute bullshit. Everything about this was bullshit.

Jabberwock was a nonsensical bullshit island befitting its nonsensical bullshit name, and he wanted no fucking part of it. He barely had time for idiots in middle school, why did he have to have nothing but time for idiots now?

Lovey-Dovey Heart-Throbbing Island Adventure. God. What was his life now, a shitty harem game? Ew.

He supposed with Usami here, it could be like the third movie of Heretic Angel ☆ Mochi Mochi Princess Buko—but Usami was too sugary saccharine even for Buko. She’d be at-place in a knock-off wannabe brand of S@nR*o, but nothing actually refined or respectable. He wouldn’t mind her too much—

“Matsuda-kun, uuu... You really should be making friends...”

If not for her insisting on this bullshit.

“That’s no good, Matsuda-kun! Friendship is very important and leads to a long, hopeful life!”

“Unless you’re dying of a brain disease,” Matsuda said bluntly. “Then friendship don’t do shit.”

“Awawawa!!!”

The sun was shining through the windows. The beds in the hospital were comfortable if anything else, and the hospital itself was very conveniently the quietest place here. And this idiot rabbit was flailing at him in distress. What a comical sight. Not as comical as his manga, mind you, and he really was extra pissy that the volume he’d be waiting for wasn’t in the library. Still, this hospital bed wasn’t half-bad to just lay on and the ceiling wasn’t half-bad to stare at.

If only his cabin could be this comfortable and quiet. But after being waken up the third morning in a row by a screaming punk rocker, he didn’t much care for it, so he made himself home at the hospital building instead. Read up on the texts there. Studied. Played with the scalpels. Threw them at Usami when she showed up.

“Matsuda-KUN!!!” He stared past her at the punctured holes in the wall that could be connected to create the tacky outline of a tacky rabbit thing. Needed more holes though. “Enough is enough! You NEED to go out and make friends!”

“I’m working to be a competent doctor, not a well-adjusted person,” he said. “So why don’t you take your tacky saccharine sweetness and spread it on some cupcakes instead of bother me?”

“H-Harsh! So harsh!” Usami whined. “Uuu, my darling student...so harsh...! You’re only seventeen, Matsuda-kun, you needn’t be so harsh...”

Matsuda’s brow quirked, and he pushed himself up.

“I do my chores,” he said. “And I study. You really shouldn’t expect more.”

“B-Bu...” Usami sniffled. “Matsuda-kun... You mustn’t be so...hopeless... Please won’t you make friends? If you collect enough hope fragments—they become stars that grant your wishes!!”

“Wow, sounds like bullshit.”

“Matsuda-kuuuun!”

“But you’re just going to keep on bothering me until I go out,” he said, running his fingers through his hair with a sigh. He slipped off the bed and slipped his feet into the hospital slippers. “Well, I have been getting tired of seeing your face, so... Maybe a new face to get sick of wouldn’t be so bad.”

“Yes!” Usami cried tears of hurt and relief. “Go out and make friends, Matsuda-kun! Love, love!”

“Yeah, yeah.”


...make friends, huh...?

He wasn’t sure where to start. Everyone here was a nutjob to varying degrees and in varying ways so how was he supposed to choose?

With the sun beating down on his nape, his irritation festered just a bit more.

Friends... Friends.. Friends...

For some reason, it just annoyed him more and more to the point of giving him a migraine, of all things.

“Urgh...” Matsuda rubbed at his temples, biting his tongue with a hiss. “Ah, geez, what even the hell?”

First thing’s first, he should go to the market and grab some extra medicine for his headaches. He had been popping pills more often for—some reason, and he had a feeling he’d really need it for the moments to come.

He made his way there in long, swift strides, glare narrowing and scowl deepening.

All this is temporary anyway. I don’t have to waste that much time, it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine

The doors opened as he stepped through. There was a low buzz in the air from the air conditioner, and Matsuda made a beeline for the pharmacy aisle.

Someone else was there and this would either be majorly convenient or majorly aggravating. Perhaps both. But, aah, well...

“Ah...!”

Fluffy white curls swept through the air as Komaeda turned on his heel, blinking those wide, gray-green eyes back at his dull stare. Matsuda’s frown deepened just as a smile spread across Komaeda’s thin lips—and why was he looking so hard at this guy’s face again?

“Matsuda-kun! Good morning! Fancy meeting you here!”

“Yo,” he said, raising a hand alongside his brow.  “I guess even headaches can get headaches.”

Komaeda laughed, backing away from the shelf.

“Aha! Sorry, sorry, was I in the way? I don’t...mean to cause you trouble, Matsuda-kun, of course not...!”

“You’re not in the way, you’re just there,” he said, stepping forward and plucking a bottle of the shelf. He pocketed it without a second thought.

“You’re right!” Komaeda explained. “Someone like me could only ever take up space with my worthless self! Ahaha, I’m so sorry, Matsuda-kun!”

...Urgh...

For some inexplicable reason, this just irritated him further.

...But, that said...

“Do you have any plans?” Komaeda flinched, almost cowering back in the sparkling presence of the shockingly pink ticket Matsuda held up. “If not, we’re hanging out.”

“M-Matsuda-kun...!”

Matsuda barely batted an eyelash. “We don’t have each other’s hope fragments, right?”

Never mind that I don’t have any hope fragments at all...

“A-Ah, well...” Komaeda’s cheeks enflamed. Gross. “If... If someone as amazing as Matsuda-kun is asking, then... I can’t refuse...!”

“Kay,” he said, placing the ticket in Komaeda’s hand. Immediately, it dissolved in a flurry of sparkles. It was as if he signed a devil’s contract. “Kay. Let’s get going. Hurry up or I’m going to leave you behind.”

“Y-Yes, Matsuda-kun! Right away, Matsuda-kun!”

With how long Komaeda’s legs were, it was almost irritatingly easy for him to keep up with Matsuda’s stride. There was almost a really weird sense of nostalgia to having someone follow him like a lost puppy—but thinking about it gave him a headache so he popped a pill and proceeded to just stop thinking about anything at all.

“So,” Komaeda chirped, fluttering every bit like a nervous bird. “Where are we going?”

“Dunno. Just started walking.”

But from the look of things, this was the direction of...the fourth island, right?

Ah, there’s an amusement park, there.

Well, that was a typical venue for dates, right? Better than sitting on his ass for hours while staring at a screen while picking at popcorn stuck in his gums. If he had to get up and “make friends”, he might as well be active. Or something.

At least the hospital slippers were comfortable for walking around.

“...um...” Komaeda’s smile twitched as he fiddled with his fingers. “So, we’re...going to the fourth island, right?”

“Sure looks like it,” he said and they crossed the bridge. Waves rolled underneath their feet. “How do you feel about amusement parks anyway?”

“I haven’t been to any since I was a kid,” Komaeda mumbled. “Um, Mioda-san wanted to go with a large group, but... She also wanted to ride the roller coasters and that’s...absolutely...not an option...for someone like me.”

“Someone like you,” Matsuda mimicked. “Well, I’m not one for being jerked around either. So it’s whatever.”

Komaeda laughed lightly.

“It’s...really more than just that,” he said. “It’s far too dangerous.” His breath caught and then his eyes began to swirl. “So many people can die in roller coaster-related accidents! For someone like me, someone like me...! It’s just...not an option...!”

Matsuda glanced at him as he wheezed, voice cracking, pitching, and distorting.

Without thinking, he reaches out and takes his cold, clammy hand, making Komaeda nearly choke.

“M-Matsu...?!”

“No roller coasters,” he said. “Got it. Like I said, I don’t really care. I’m not one for being jerked around.”

Komaeda swallowed back saliva as though his throat ran dry.

“I... Um...” He blushed and hurriedly nodded. “Okay...”

With that, Matsuda tugged him along.


“Riding...on the mouse...is a must...!!”

“A must, huh...?”

“A must!!”

“Kay.”

Matsuda did not ride on the mouse but instead lounged on the unmoving carousel. He watched Komaeda straddle the mouse however and grip the pole as it rose and fell. For that brief moment, Komaeda looked utterly delighted and like a real little kid.

...ah, huh...

The music played on an on in a looping, saccharine melody. Komaeda giggled with glee. Matsuda was this close to falling asleep. In fact, his eyelids grew heavy and with time, slowly, but surely, they fell.

“Mm...”

“Matsuda-kun!”

Matsuda perked up, blinking blearily a few times. The merry-go-round wasn’t moving, and the music was no longer playing. Komaeda, however, was smiling brightly down at him, fingers clasped behind his back.

“I know I’m not the most terribly interesting company,” he said. “But, sleeping like this is bad for your neck, Matsuda-kun!”

Matsuda’s joints popped and scraped against one another in agreement.

“Not the worst position I slept in,” he yawned. He took Komaeda’s offered hand and helped himself up. “Did you enjoy yourself, at least?”

“O-Of course!” Komaeda stammered out. “How could I not?!”

“...I could think of a few ways,” he said but didn’t elaborate further on the topic. He stretched. “So, what else are we doing?”

“Eh...” Komaeda blinked at him dumbly. “What else...?”

“Yeah, what else,” Matsuda repeated, unimpressed. “Just going on one ride would be too half-assed even for someone like me.”

“But...!” Komaeda gasped. “Someone like me... Just one ride is more than I could ever ask for from someone like you, Matsuda-kun!”

Matsuda scowled.

“Are you saying you don’t want to go anywhere else?”

“It’s not about what I want...!”

“Then shut up,” he snapped and Komaeda’s mouth did indeed snap shut. “If you keep overthinking, you’ll overheat and that worthless brain of yours will end up melting. You’re already stupid enough so let’s not add further brain damage to the mix, Komaeda.”

Komaeda blinked up at him and then swallowed, nodding in return.

“Come on,” Matsuda said, gesturing him to follow with his shoulder. “I wanna try the Ferris Wheel next.”

“The... Ferris Wheel...?”

Matsuda stopped, spinning around on his heel.

“Yeah,” he said. “Do you have any problems with that?”

Komaeda’s smile twitched.

“I... A few... Like if it breaks...or stops...” Once again, his eyes swirl. “Or stops, breaks, and then rolls away.”

“What kind of shitty action movies have you been watching? You should be watching more worthwhile flicks—like Home Alone or something.”

Komaeda blinked up at him, eyes bright and shimmering.

“...I don’t watch action movies. They’re loud and uncomfortable. And voyeuristic. Not to mention I’ve been in those situations before...” he trailed off.

“I get it,” Matsuda said, huffing. “We can go on something else. There’s a train ride around here, right...?”

A train...

“Oh, no!” Komaeda gasped out. “No, no! If you want to go on the Ferris Wheel, then you can, Matsuda-kun! But...” He fiddled with his fingers. “It’d be such despair if something happened to you because a lowly worm like me was there, so...”

Like a merry-go-round, this conversation is going in irritating circles.

“Are we going or not?” he asked. “Yes or no?”

“W-Well, I...”

Yes,” Matsuda repeated, stressing out the word between his teeth in a hiss. “Or no?”

Komaeda flinched, hesitated, and then shakily he nodded.

“Um, um... Y... Yes. Yes, we’re going. Sorry, Matsuda-kun.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said coolly, turning back so they could resume going on their way. “Like I said, you just shouldn’t think further on the matter at all. Idiot.”

Komaeda shivered but soon enough skipped up after him with a giggle.

“Matsuda-kun, you’re sharper than a scalpel! Hahaha!”

Matsuda hmphed at that.


Komaeda looked up at the Ferris Wheel with the strangest expression, at each passenger car rising to meet the sky before descending, each pausing at the ground to potentially welcome someone inside.

Matsuda shrugged off his thoughts and the two of them stepped inside and settled on the cold plastic seats as the doors creaked shut.

“...it’s very different,” Komaeda murmured, looking out dazedly, shifting the slightest bit. “I never rode the Ferris Wheel before...” He smiled faintly. “I was too scared of it rolling away, but... It really isn’t so bad...”

“Yeah?” he droned. “I rode it once because...”

He stopped.

Ah... Huh...?

“Because...?” Komaeda frowned. “Matsuda-kun...?”

Matsuda rubbed his temples as they began throbbing again, this time more fiercely like there was a violent recoil inside his head.

“U-Urgh...!” He quickly fished out that bottle of pills, and swallowed another one dry. He groaned, rubbing as the pain dissipated. “Fuck... Christ... Do I have a fucking tumor or something?”

“A-A tumor?!” Komaeda paled with a look of utter horror. Irritably, Matsuda waved his hand with a sigh.

“No, it’s nothing, it’s nothing.” The words almost felt planted on his tongue. He couldn’t really explain it and—he felt the compulsion to just ignore it entirely. “Honestly with how ridiculous the whole situation is... Chronic headaches developing suddenly isn’t that weird.”

Even though deep down I know there’s more to it—

I feel pressured to just ignore it.

“Ah...” Komaeda faltered like a wilting flower. “Matsuda-kun... Please take good care of yourself...”

“Geez,” he grumbled. “I shouldn’t have you of all people telling me that.”

Komaeda smiled sadly and Matsuda averted his eyes from that sight to the one of the amusement park as well as the rest of the island spreading out before them. Matsuda straightened his posture as he stared out further, to the endless blue of the ocean and sky.

“...when the sun sets,” Komaeda spoke up suddenly. “This is sure to be quite the stunning sight, don’t you think, Matsuda-kun?”

“I guess,” he replied. Komaeda laughed.

“With how vibrant orange complements blue, it’ll really be radiant to see, I’m sure,” he said. “But... As it is now... This is...nostalgic to look at... I was worried but... This...really isn’t so bad... It’s calming, I think.”

Matsuda turned and Komaeda had a gentle, serene smile that seemed different from the rest of the calm, vapid smiles he’d toss around so carelessly.

...This is nostalgic for me, too, he thought. But... It’s still really different.

Their car creaked as it continued to rise. Komaeda suddenly shivered.

“A-Aha...” He wrapped his arms around himself. “Ah, ah, um, sorry... Sorry... I don’t know why, I really was fine but then—!”

“Oi,” Matsuda said, voice lower. Slowly, he began to move. “Komaeda, are you...?”

Komaeda shook his head furiously.

“I-It’s just! We’re so high up! So high, so high! If we got stuck here—or if we fell with no way of protecting ourselves—that would just be the worst, wouldn’t it?!”

His breath hitched.

“That makes this really dangerous, doesn’t it, doesn’t it, doesn’t it—!”

And then suddenly, the wheel stopped and Matsuda toppled forward. Komaeda yelped.

And then, Matsuda’s hand smacked against the other end of the car, his knee hitting the seat and making him shudder, all while Komaeda’s nose was crushed against his chest.

“...Ow,” Matsuda cursed colorfully, wincing as he pushed himself away. Komaeda’s eyes were wide like dinner plates, and Matsuda plopped back down on his seat. Both his hand and knee seriously ached right now.

“M... Matsuda-kun...” Komaeda looked around, and then wheezed out a laugh. “I-It stopped! It completely...utterly...stopped!”

“I noticed,” he said, frown deepening. “Well that’s just fan-fucking-tastic.”

Komaeda burst out laughing.

“I-I knew it! I just—I just knew it!” he gasped, giggling manically as his fingers tangled into his hair and pulled. “I knew this would happen and now we’re stuck here—someone like me got someone as wonderful and amazing as the Matsuda Yasuke-kun in this despairingly unlucky situation! I really am the worst! Just—the worst! The lowliest, most disgusting, most deplorable—!”

Matsuda’s hand smacked over his mouth, silencing him.

“Komaeda,” he said lowly and sternly. “Shut the hell up. None of that is even accurate. I was the one who said I wanted to be here, right?”

Komaeda quivered, his breath hot against his hand. Irritably, Matsuda shoved his hand against his mouth harder to utterly muffle any possible sound.

“I’m taking complete responsibility for this one and you’re not to fucking take that from me,” he said firmly. “This whole thing is the result of my dumbass decision making. Got that?”

He pulled his hand away to run his fingers through his hair with a sigh.

“...That fucking rabbit bitch better get our asses down soon,” he grumbled. He noticed Komaeda was staring at him with sparkling eyes and glared. “What the hell’s with that stupid look?”

“Matsuda-kun, you’re...even more tsun than Hinata-kun!” Komaeda gasped. “It’s incredible! Amazing! There’s no way Hinata-kun’s talent can be Ultimate Tsuntsun Hair when you exist!”

“...well you’re back to a level of acceptably stupid.” Matsuda sighed. “Geez, you... So what’s wrong with you anyway?”

“So many things!” Komaeda exclaimed cheerfully. “I’m wrong just by being here!”

“You know that’s not what I meant,” Matsuda snapped. “The way you talk, the things you say, the way you act—it’s all creepily familiar to someone I knew.”

It hurt, a bit, both in his head and in his chest.

Komaeda’s face fell, and he laughed softly.

“...Matsuda-kun’s the Ultimate Neurologist,” he said. “I kind of figured...you’d just know.”

“So you’re tight-lipped now, huh?” Matsuda rolled his eyes and folded his arms. “Well... It doesn’t matter... If I’m right, then I’m right.”

“Right,” Komaeda agreed, smile twitching at the seams.

“And if I’m right,” Matsuda went on. “I’ll be...seeing a lot more of you after all this is over. That said, I’m still keeping a close eye on you. You’re my responsibility now, too, Komaeda Nagito.”

Komaeda’s smile widened.

“Matsuda-kun.”

Matsuda perked up, and then he was almost blindsided by how bright Komaeda’s smile seemed in that moment.

“Please take good care of me.”


“M-Matsuda- kuuuuun ! Sensei is... Sensei is so sorryyyyyy ~!”

“Yeah, you better be.”

Usami wailed to his annoyance. At the very least, Komaeda was in a good mood afterwards, laughing without any worries whatsoever.

“Well, this thing should be working properly from now on,” Souda said. “Probably... It looks like it should.”

“Do you really think that?” Hinata asked. “A Ferris Wheel is...much more complicated than anything that can be worked on in a shed, right?”

“Hinata-kun, you’re talking to the Ultimate Mechanic!” Komaeda scolded. “If anyone knows, it’s Souda-kun!”

“Yeah, what he said!”

“Didn’t you just say probably?!”

Usami sniffled.

“S-Students... Please... Please don’t fight... We should all be happy that Matsuda-kun and Komaeda-kun are okay...”

“And it’s all thanks to Souda-kun!” Komaeda gushed, making Souda preen even more.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

“Hey, uh... Matsuda...?”

Matsuda perked up, Hinata shrinking back a bit under his unimpressed stare. Averting his gaze, Hinata rubbed at the nape of his neck.

“Are you, uh...feeling alright...? Komaeda seems fine, so...”

“I’m fine,” he said. “That wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me. Compared to being kidnapped without warning by a freaky rabbit to some freaky island in the middle of fucking nowhere... The Ferris Wheel getting stuck is hardly a misfortune worth writing home about.”

Usami and Hinata both flinched.

“I...see... Well, I’m glad both of you are doing alright...?”

“Yeah,” Matsuda said. “Yeah...”

He idly dug his hand through his pocket. His fingers grazed through something warm and smooth. Polished like a gem. He paused, and he glanced towards Komaeda, laughing and smiling and perking up at his stare and brightening in response.

Matsuda’s hand closed around the hope fragment and squeezed until it dissipated.

“Matsuda-kun, I really did have a lot of fun!” Komaeda chirped. “Next time, let’s go someplace like the beach! Hopefully my luck won’t bring a tidal wave raining down on us!”

Matsuda just gave a thumbs-up in response.

“Souda-kun, come to think of it, we were supposed to gather materials!” Komaeda exclaimed, making Souda perk.

“Oh yeah, now that ya mention it...”

“We should get going!!” Komaeda ushered him without further discussion on the matter. “Go, go, go! If Sonia-san hears you’ve been slacking off, she’ll be very disappointed, Souda-kun!”

Souda didn’t need much ushering after that, and with one last wave from Komaeda, the two of them ran off.

“How diligent!” Usami cooed.

Matsuda blinked a few times, unimpressed.

“...well, I should probably...”

He was only half-prepared to head back, honestly, so he shouldn’t have been surprised.

“...wait. Uh, Matsuda...?”

He stopped, and he wasn’t oblivious to Usami practically twinkling with delight. For now, he ignored her and focused on that hideous pink ticket that Hinata was holding out. Hinata himself looked awfully flustered.

“It’s...still early enough in the day,” he mumbled. “And we haven’t really...hung out at all since we got here.”

Matsuda just blinked.

“If you can make Komaeda that happy, then you must not be so bad, right?” Hinata asked with a wince. Come to think of it, Matsuda’s knee was probably going to make one ugly bruise. “So, uh...what do you say?”

Usami’s sparkly, expectant gaze was burning holes into his back.

Matsuda sighed.

“...Sure thing.”

What the hell.

“Love, love!” Usami chirped oh so happily. “Then I’ll leave you two be!”

Matsuda took the ticket and both it and Usami dissolved into another flurry of sparkles. The devil’s contract claimed more of his soul.


They went back to the hospital on the third island so that he could grab some ointment for his knee. It throbbed as he walked which was a literal pain, so the ointment helped a lot. And that was a good time for Hinata to just...look around his makeshift bedroom in slight awe.

“You, uh...really, uh...” He swallowed, glancing at the haphazard stacks of manga and textbooks on the table and a few neat stacks of various snack boxes. “You really made yourself at home...in this patient room...some of this is from your cottage, isn’t it...?”

“A couple of the books from the bookshelf, others from the library,” Matsuda said, and rummaged through one of the boxes for a few packages of rice crackers. “I wasn’t allowed to take the television and Usami most certainly whined at me, but y’know I don’t...give a shit...so it’s whatever.”

“It’s pretty quiet out here,” Hinata mused, looking out the window. “Even though the music venue’s on this island too, you can’t hear it at all from here. This hospital is...actually pretty isolated.”

“Yep,” he said. “Hence why it’s my preferred place of stay.”

Hinata nodded along. Matsuda tossed him a rice cracker and he caught it with a jump.

“Er... Thanks...” He pocketed the snack, swallowing as he did. “So you... Do you actually talk to anyone? Besides Komaeda, obviously, uh... What about Tsumiki?”

That bitch?”

“Urk...” Matsuda looked so incredulous then that Hinata couldn’t help but falter, the corner of his lips twitching. “Well, she’s not like...an actual licensed doctor like you apparently are, but... She’s the Ultimate Health Committee Member and that...counts for something, right?”

“Hardly,” Matsuda huffed, affronted. “That’s like putting a hall monitor on the same level as a police officer. Oi, I may have skipped ahead a few years, but I did not suffer through grueling medical school to hear this level of bullshit.”

“...ah, sorry...” Wincing, Hinata ducked his head in apology. “I didn’t...mean anything by it.”

Matsuda waved him off with a sigh.

“It’s fine,” he grumbled. “Ms. Bitchtits Health Committee Member actually is more qualified than the typical idiot with a first aid kit. Sometimes she stops by, but... Well...”

He trailed off, thinking of crying and wailing that left his ears ringing for hours.

“...we’re not exactly amicable.”

That said, Tsumiki Mikan was someone who seriously, personally bothered him so much so that he tended to steer clear of her, metaphorical allergy to her sniveling aside.

“Yeah,” Hinata said, giving him an unimpressed look. “I’m not surprised to hear that. Tsumiki is...” A pause. “She’s...fragile. And you’re kind of a complete asshole.”

Oh, honey.

“Fragile and disturbed,” he quipped. “And you know it.”

Hinata flinched, and then his frown deepened.

“...Asshole,” he huffed back.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Hinata Hajime...really was an unremarkable oddity. Painfully average but still among the talented and still one of the talented—urgh, his headache was starting up again like there was something intimately wrong with those words—then again, being typical in an atypical crowd technically flipped things around, right?

Though not knowing your own talent—that was just plain weird.

Then again... I feel like my memory’s not the best either. A lot of things are...a blur...and a headache.

He might need to take another pill soon.

“...Um... So...”

Ah, Hinata was talking again. And Matsuda remembered.

“Right,” he said. “Our date. Alright, let’s get going. I think I can walk.”

Hinata, eying him ever warily, nodded in response.

“I... Yeah...”

“Yep.”

Once again, the two of them were off.


He shouldn’t be surprised; thus, he shouldn’t be disappointed, but... Still...

“We...were on the third island anyway,” Hinata muttered lamely as Matsuda’s eyes narrowed. “A-And hey, the movies here actually aren’t too bad.”

Well, he told himself. It’s not like I’m with Hinata because I sought him out or anything.

“You take all the boys here, huh?” he asked. “Wow, you really are a manwhore.”

“Shut the hell up!” Hinata screeched. “You didn’t have to come!”

“Yes I did,” he retorted. “That’s the point of this trip, right? Collecting hope fragments. It’s okay. I’m used to being used. Let’s just make this quick and painless.”

Hinata flushed so red-hot that steam poured from his ears. Ever nonchalant, Matsuda shrugged it off.

“Y-You...” Hinata shook his head furiously. “You just...say whatever the hell you want, don’t you?”

“Yep.” He wouldn’t deny something that obvious. “This trait is hardly exclusive to me though so if you’ve been whoring yourself out as much as I know you have, you should be used to this kind of shit now, right?”

“I haven’t been...!” Hinata choked on air before he could even taste the word. “You... God, you’re beyond insufferable. I don’t have any idea how Komaeda could stand you.”

“Komaeda could also stand sucking my dick and it's a mystery to me too,” Matsuda said without thinking.

Hinata’s mouth fell open, eyes going blank. He did not speak. He did not even breathe.

“...joking,” Matsuda said, and Hinata wheezed.

“O-Oh my god, just fucking go!” he hissed and shoved Matsuda further. “G-Go... Go pick out a seat or...fucking something...!”

He very nearly shoved Matsuda into the glass door and...

He...definitely deserved that.

Honestly.


The inside of the theater smelled like salt, butter, and mistakes. He did rather like the font they used for the neon signs reading Ticket and Screen . Fucking brilliant. A real arthouse.

Already, rather eerily, there were snacks for selection and no one at the table. Usually this kind of situation would go horribly badly, but—this whole trip started with a talking magical stuffed rabbit thing. He’s probably not going to be poisoned or cursed if he eats the popcorn.

Not that he even wants any popcorn or anything.

“Popcorn’s a must, right?” Hinata asked as if he read his mind. Gross.

“I think... I’m good with my own snacks.” Aah, but... “I’ll grab a drink. I’m fucking thirsty.”

He grabbed the large cup and went straight to the soda machine. Thankfully, they had the good brands like Dr. Hopper. Actually pretty pleased with that, Matsuda filled his cup.

“Right,” he said and sipped his straw. “So, Hinata, what movie were you thinking of taking me to?”

Hinata froze, hand hovering over the hotdog he was prepared to grab. Seeming to think better of it—thank fucking god—Hinata dropped his hand.

“I don’t really know,” he admitted. “I didn’t actually think you’d go with me.”

“Ooh boy,” Matsuda sighed and took another sip.

“B-But there are all kinds of selections!” Hinata exclaimed hurriedly. “Like, uh... Horror?”

“Pass. I hate gore.”

“I, oh, but aren’t you—never mind that.” Hinata shook his head. “Uh, what about an action flick?”

“Action...” He paused, thinking about it. “Ehhhh, no. I’m not crazy about that either. Those can get pretty violent, too.”

Hinata gave him a withering look.

“Um... M... Mystery...?”

Poor thing looked completely lost. He really should spare some mercy.

Nah.

“Most mysteries about solving a murder case, right?” he asked. “Again. Not a fan of gore. Even if it’s only a little bit.”

“Then what do you want to see?!” Hinata demanded, sputtering.

Matsuda gave another pause and popped his lips before taking yet another sip.

“Mm...”

What I want, huh...?

He thought about it.

Well, if I was going to sit on my ass for two hours and stare at a screen, what I’d want to be playing on the screen would probably be...

“Anime.”

Hinata blinked once, twice, and seemed to have aged ten years in ten milliseconds.

“...anime,” he repeated.

“Anime,” Matsuda said. “Preferably one of the Ponpon movies. The fourth one is objectively the best but the seventh one is my personal favorite.”

“I’m not familiar with that series,” Hinata replied blankly.

“Aw, really? That’s a shame.” He sipped. “It’s a mainstream classic, y’know.”

Hinata once again just blinked at him. At least this time, he inhaled, exhaled.

“Anything...stand-alone?”

Matsuda hummed.

“...The Tale of Princess Kaguya.”

Hinata straightened up at that, perking.

“...Kaguya...?”

“Don’t tell me you don’t know who Princess Kaguya is,” Matsuda sneered in disgust. Hinata quickly waved his hands.

“No, no! I do...! I just... That’s...” He bit his tongue. “Never mind. Let’s go see if they have it. Maybe they will? I... Hopefully they will, yeah...”

Hinata hurriedly scampered off to find the film reels. Matsuda went with him since he might as well, but he didn’t really need to be there. Hinata found the film reel he wanted, and the two of them could just go into the theater and take a seat without any problems.

Matsuda refilled his cup when he had the opportunity. He would have just taken a seat without any problems... But, Hinata, of course, made him go to the bathroom before they sat down.

Jerk.


Well... That went as expected.

Hinata seemed rather dazed as they walked out. Satisfied, Matsuda tossed his empty cup.

They hadn’t really spoken during the movie. If anything, they were almost obscenely quiet to the point where even when Hinata nibbled on his rice cracker, the sounds were as soft as crunching could be. And then, Hinata cried. And he tried in vain to hide it by rubbing his eyes until they swelled up more. Matsuda just watched the credits as Hinata shifted and squirmed.

Then they went to the bathroom, and Matsuda headed out of that quickly so Hinata could “discreetly” wash his face in peace. And now they were both here, standing in the lobby and not really looking at each other.

“...that was really good,” Hinata said finally, tugging at his tie. “It was...uh...really good. Really...pretty...”

“What can I say?” Matsuda asked. “I may half-ass a lot of things, but my taste is as refined as can be.”

“Uh...huh...” Hinata swallowed. “But, yeah, I actually really enjoyed that. Thanks.”

“This movie date was your idea,” he pointed out. “So, shouldn’t I be thanking you?”

“...uh.”

What is that shit over there.”

“H-Hey, wait!”

Too late, Matsuda had already made a beeline for the table in the corner.

“What...is this?” Matsuda squinted as he picked up the tote bag, and he grimaced at the sight of a cutesy pick outline of Usami’s face in the corner. “Are they prizes or something...?”

“Oh, yeah, they are,” Hinata said, rubbing at the nape of his neck. “You’re supposed to get a free tote bag after your first movie, so uh... Guess Usami left one here for you.”

“Free shit that I’ll never need. Amazing.” A pause. “Well... Actually, a tote bag has a lot of use. I guess...this isn’t so bad, then...”

Hinata snorted. “Yeah, it’s not.”

“...These stickers, though...” There was a neat little stack of them, and Matsuda could almost feel Hinata grimace with how quickly the mood dropped at the mention of them. “Gross... Aren’t these of that creepy bear thing?”

“Urgh, yeah. Just...ignore those. Everyone else does.”

Matsuda wanted to, but he couldn’t help but see the text.

I’m sorry, I was born stupid.

“Wow. Charming.” Not that he didn’t have any room to talk and—urgh looking at the damn thing was giving him a major headache. How much of an eyesore could one tacky sticker be? “Mmgh...”

“Are you alright?” Hinata asked, suddenly worried. “You got...really pale for a moment there, Matsuda...”

“Did it...?” He winced as he rubbed at his temples. “Urgh...”

What even the hell is this?

“We should, uh, probably go back, right?” Hinata asked and for some reason, Matsuda felt his headache worsen, his vision blurring, Hinata’s very

figure

flickering.

What?

“O-Oi, Matsuda?!” Hinata seized his arm, and his focus snapped to attention with a recoil that left him stinging. Matsuda very nearly shuddered, and Hinata squeezed his wrist. “H-Hey... Can you hear me? Are... Are you alright, Matsuda...?”

Matsuda’s eyelids fluttered and he shook his head furiously.

“I...”

“Come on,” Hinata pulled at him. “You’re really not looking so good—I can go get Tsumiki...”

“No.”

Matsuda stood his ground, resisting the pull for now. Scratching irritably at his neck, he shrugged.

“I think... I just need to lie down for a bit.”

“I... Are you sure?” Hinata frowned. “If something’s really wrong...”

Hasn’t something been really wrong from the start?

He shoved that thought away.

What the hell ever.

“It’s whatever,” he said. “Just take me back to my room. Specifically, my room at the hospital, but saying take me to the hospital doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence that I’m fine or whatever, huh?”

“Not really,” Hinata agreed and sighed. “I... Alright... Come on, Matsuda. L... Let’s go back.”

“Yeah, yeah...”


It was starting to set and—it really was as radiant as Komaeda said it would be, with everything awash in a vibrant orange and pink.

Matsuda popped in one of his pills and took a swing from one of the water bottles he had stocked up.

“...long day,” he said, cracking his shoulders. “It seemed to go by so quickly.”

“That usually happens when you spend time with people,” Hinata said before pausing and adding, “I...think so anyway. I guess it depends on the person you’re spending time with.”

Well, he couldn’t disagree with that.

“...hey, Matsuda...?”

Matsuda perked up. Hinata seemed sheepish, almost tense as he averted Matsuda’s cool blue gaze.

“How are you feeling?”

Huh?

“You’re still worried about me?”

Hinata reddened considerably, scowling.

“Of course I am,” he snapped. “You acted really weird all of a sudden. It’s normal to still be a little concerned about that...”

Huh...

“Well, I’m fine,” Matsuda said. “So you don’t need to worry, yeah?”

“I see...” Hinata exhaled as if in relief. “Well, that’s good. Just be careful alright? Take it easy, or at least...try to...”

It’s almost like you actually care about me or something.

“Mm...” Matsuda set his water bottle aside to grab and toss Hinata another bag of snacks. Hinata once again caught it. “Here. Why don’t you take something for the road?”

Matsuda could see the gleam of a hope fragment with the snacks in Hinata’s grasp. With a squeeze, Hinata pocketed them both.

“...Thanks,” he said, still not looking at him. “For agreeing to go with me, and... That movie was nice. So...thanks for that, too.”

“You’re welcome,” Matsuda replied. “Thanks for taking me in the first place. You’re not so bad to hang out with... I guess...”

Hinata smiled wanly, the edge of it twisting.

“That’s something,” he said, laughing just a little. “Then... I’ll be seeing you later?”

“Yeah,” Matsuda said, raising his hand. “See ya.”

Hinata waved back, heading out, shutting the door with a soft click.

Matsuda plopped onto his bed.

...geez...

Well, that was something.

What even was that, anyway—

“Matsuda-kuuuun, you did so well, love, love!”

Whoosh, thwack.

“H-Huuuuuuueh?!”

Despite that initial freak-out, Usami’s ears drooped with resignation as she turned to see the familiar scalpel stuck in the wall. Another dot for the connect-the-dots outline. “U... Uuuu... Matsuda-kun... Why do you always throw knives at me?!”

“Shut up,” he chided. “Don’t show up without warning at a weird fucking hour. That’s rude. At least knock on the fucking door like a regular person.”

“I-I’m...!”

“Right,” he recalled. “Not a person.”

“I may not be human but I have the heart of a maiden!” Usami whined. “P-Please don’t think badly of your teacher... Uuu...”

“You’re too pitiful to think badly of,” he said. “So if you’re worried about that, you shouldn’t be. You’re just weird in a lot of ways—such as weird in that you’re afraid of a little tiny scalpel.”

“Yaaaaay!” Usami cheered, and Matsuda could only turn away and stare into the void.

...this is my bullshit life now.

“I am really proud of you, that said!” Usami went on with a chirp. “Are you feeling more hopeful now, Matsuda-kun?”

“That is one of the stupidest, most inane things you could have asked me.”

“U-Urk!” Usami flinched but admirably, kept on trying with that sugary, pleading smile. “Then... How do you feel now that you’ve deepened your bonds with a couple of your classmates, Matsuda-kun?”

She tilted her head. Matsuda pushed himself up, brushed past her, and reached out to pull out the scalpel from the wall. He observed the sheen of the blade, his reflection.

“...nostalgic,” he said. “Haunting.”

“H-Haunting?!” Usami squeaked. “Matsuda-kun, that’s such a worrying word to use! W-What’s wrong?! How can teacher help?!”

“You can leave,” he said. “Your squealing is making my headache worsen.”

“U-Uuuu!” Usami shrank in on herself. “Matsuda-kun... I really do just want to help...”

...I can believe that much. It’s just the method that I can’t help but question.

Something really does feel...incredibly wrong about this.

Urgh, and he kept getting headaches. It really was irritating.

“...it wasn’t bad,” he said, sighing. “Hanging out with people like that...wasn’t so bad.”

Usami lit up.

“Yay!” She positively beamed. “Just keep at it, Matsuda-kun! Strong bonds lead to a stronger heart!”

Not always.

Aah, that really hurt for some reason.

He looked towards the window, at that setting sun, at wine-dark ocean waves rolling underneath.

It really was nostalgic...and haunting.

But...not so bad, he supposed.

“Love, love!” Usami chirped. “A bright and shining hopeful future awaits on this lovey-dovey heart-throbbing island trip!”

“...if you say so.”


The birthplace of hopeful and shining futures—Hope’s Peak Academy. Revered and admired by the world at large, cradling the world itself at its fingertips. Yep, Hope’s Peak Academy was one hell of a place.

Nothing like a paradise built on the backs of the disenfranchised.

Matsuda couldn’t care less for this damned place at this point—by all accounts he should care even less for what was to become the Ultimate Hope Marionette in a sea of puppets where HPA cheerily pulled the strings.

And, yet.

He finds himself in the madman’s basement, scowling at the fucking cryptid in the middle of the room, atop the neatly made bed, staring at nothing with the creepiest pair of blood-red eyes.

“God, what are you—a fucking lamp? Or a houseplant?”

The cryptid perks up, red eyes gleaming in a way that totally wasn’t creepy or just plain fucking weird at all. Yeah, right. Seriously why the hell did they do that?

“Matsuda Yasuke-kun,” he acknowledges, cool and smooth. “Hello.”

Gross.

“Yo,” Matsuda said, raising his hand and shoving the cart forward. It only rolled ahead two feet. “Three guesses as to who the fucking idiot in charge of your daily examination is today and the first two don’t count.”

“It is you.”

“It’s me,” Matsuda replied, waving his hand. “Good, you’re still able to pick up on basic context clues. You need to exercise your brain to prevent atrophy just like with any of the other muscles in the body.”

“False.”

“Wow, do you hear that? It’s the sound of an input I didn’t fucking ask for. I’m taking off marks for that shit, no flower circle for you today. Nor a gold star, if that’s what you prefer.”

Blink. Blink.

“How boring.”

“I can’t believe the fucking lamp has the audacity to say that to me. That’s it—you fail the course. Try again next semester, you little shit.”

“You seem to be in a worse mood than usual,” he simply observed, shifting the way he sat ever so slightly. “Things have been harsher on you as of late, haven’t they?”

“Ew, did you just ask a question out of concern? Fucking stop that.” Matsuda pushed the cart a little more. “If you really want to know, Kamukura, it’s because I really don’t want to fucking be here right now.”

“You may leave, then,” Kamukura said. “You know as well as I do that this procedure is unnecessary.”

“It’s protocol you fucking idiot savant, necessity isn’t the issue here.” Somehow, he managed to push the cart enough that it was in the necessary vicinity. “Even if I did just leave to tell them there were no issues, I’d still have other shit on my plate I’d have to put up with. What I need is a break from fucking everything.”

Sighing, he started with the examinations, taking Kamukura’s temperature and checking his heartbeat.

“...Actually,” Matsuda found himself saying and almost couldn’t believe it himself. “A break sounds great. How about we go out for a bit?”

Blink. Blink. At least he didn’t have to worry about those creepy fucking eyes shriveling up anytime soon.

“We?”

“Look,” Matsuda sighed, pulling away. “Hinata used to have this healthy tan. You’re pallid like a goddamn corpse. It’s beyond creepy. For the sake of my sanity, you need to get out of this shitty lab every now and then and do fucking something.”

“...how dull...”

“It can’t be worse than sitting in a dark, empty room all day, right?” he snapped, pointing at him accusingly. “Well, whatever. I can’t actually make you do anything. Tch.”

He resumed the examination.

“After I finish with this,” Matsuda said. “I’m gonna postpone all other plans and leave campus for a bit. I’ll be waiting at the front gates for five minutes exactly. If you want to go, there’s your one and only window of opportunity. Got it?”

No response. Kamukura didn’t even seem to be looking at him.

With a scowl, Matsuda knocked him with the back of his fist. Even for a normal person it barely would’ve hurt, so, of course, Kamukura didn’t so much twitch. But, he did glance at him.

“Goooot it?” he droned. “Do you understaaaaaaand?”

“...Yes.” Kamukura nodded blankly. “Of course I do.”

“Good,” Matsuda huffed. “Geez, you’re so fucking obnoxious.”


The examination went as expected. He did his reports as expected, not so much as batting an eyelash at the leering and sneering from a bunch of gross older men whose faces blurred into a series of wrinkles. The same shit as always. What was he supposed to do at this point besides dish the usual salt and spite?

In the end, he was still under their thumb.

Theirs and hers.

For a place called Hope’s Peak, I’m being crushed, aren’t I? Ha. Ha.

Aah, what even was the point of it all?

He could ask himself that endlessly, but regardless of what answer he came up with, it’s not like he would live any other way.

Which is why a break wouldn’t just necessary, it was downright optimal. If he continued down this path without taking any breaks, he might end up snapping and trying to strangle the fucking Class Rep or something.

Yeah, that’d be...bad.

So no hard feelings about just fucking off today. None whatsoever.

The sun was as merrily bright as ever, the sky a sickeningly vibrant blue, and Matsuda had never been happier to just fucking leave this hellhole.

But he told himself he was going to stick around for five minutes, and he actually set a timer on his phone to make extra sure.

That asshole wouldn’t even appreciate this level of dedication. Then again, his brain didn’t even have room for appreciation with all that supposed talent stuffed in.

Why am I even doing this, then?

The situation was the same with the last question.

“Gross,” he grumbled. “Am I a fucking softie deep down after all?”

Were those reserve girls right about me? Ew. Ew.

“Urgh, I need to stop thinking about it...”

He checked his timer, and then...before he really realized it, he was watching it count down.

He might not even show up.

He might not even bother.

So why should I?

Why should I

Beep, beep, beep.

“Matsuda Yasuke-kun.”

Matsuda perked up, and, sure enough, there Kamukura stood, broody nonchalance as expected, right on the dot.

“...Could have showed up earlier, asshole.”

Unsurprisingly, Kamukura ignored that remark.

“Where did you plan on going?”

“Out,” he said. “Of here and this place. At least for a bit.”

“That is vague,” Kamukura replied. His expression didn’t change but Matsuda could just tell the guy was unimpressed.

“You’ll figure it out,” Matsuda scoffed and held out his hand. “Now, come on. Let’s hurry so that we don’t miss the train. We’re holding hands so that I don’t have to risk you wandering off, i-di-ot.”

Kamukura reached out and took his offered hand. He squeezed it once and then went limp like any doll would. Still, he followed Matsuda’s stride when Matsuda tugged him along.

And, really, wasn’t that the only thing that mattered?

I should just stop bothering with the whole thinking thing altogether.


He bought them both tickets, and he really shouldn’t have been surprised that with all the empty spaces on the train, Kamukura deemed appropriate to sit right next to him.

“You could have at least tied your fucking hair back.”

“Boring.”

“Urgh, you’re worthless at conversing.”

“False. One of my talents is Ultimate Conversationalist. I simply have no interest in exercising it.”

“...you’re worthless in general.”

No response to that. Kamukura just sat and stared at nothing as he always did.

Matsuda only sighed.

“This is your first time leaving the nest,” he said. “The least you could fucking do is fidget or something.”

“Boring.”

“Yeah that’s what I figured.” Another sigh. “Then just keep lookout, alright? I don’t want anyone who knows me to see us together. Can you do that?”

“I can.”

“...will you?”

“Boring.”

Matsuda’s eye twitched.

“...Taking that as a yes, you braindead talent gorilla. Consider yourself lucky.”

“Correct. I have Ultimate Luck as well.”

Matsuda stared into the void.

I might just be a masochist after all.

“False. You are more likely a mere sadist.”

“What the actual FUCK did I tell you about reading minds, you fucking fuckwit?!”

“Not to do it.”

THEN DON’T DO IT?!”

“Boring.”

At this rate Matsuda was going to strangle him. And that would just go badly for everyone involved, he just knew it. Especially if it turned out he did have a sadistic streak, like Kamukura suggested.

Urgh. And Kamukura’s fucking hair was in his face. Urgh.


In the end, one of the first things he did after reaching their destination was buy a hair tie. He had to pull Kamukura’s hair back himself, and, unfortunately, he had enough experience with this kind of bullshit to actually pull it back into a pretty neat ponytail.

Gross.

“Wow, now you actually look like a human and not that fucking creepy-ass ghost bitch that apparently enters via TV,” he said, pulling away. “Too bad you’re never going to feel human. Despairing.”

Matsuda’s face twisted a bit at the taste of that last word, but, of course, Kamukura didn’t comment on it.

“...Right. Let’s keep walking.”

The city was bustling as ever, several people just walking about and minding their own business. Flashing billboards and traffic lights, cars rushing by, skyscrapers that really matched the name... It was noisy and obnoxious and he felt better already.

Kamukura stuck by closer than he had to, but Matsuda overlooked that for now.

“Let’s see,” he hummed. “What to do, what to do... Hey, Kamukura, one of your talents is Ultimate Tourist, right?”

“Yes. That said, I do not care.”

“Man,” Matsuda whistled. “You really are such a waste of science and space that it seriously pisses me off sometimes.”

But, at this point, I’m just resigned to it like I’m resigned to all the other shitty stuff in my life.

“Let’s just go around and do whatever meets my fancy,” he said. “Since you’re worthless, I’ll have to pull both our weights. I won’t hear any complaints.”

Kamukura said nothing to that. Good.

The talent gorilla could listen after all.


True to this word, they just did whatever he felt like.

The walked around for a bit to observe different buildings, and he did some shopping for new slippers and sandals. Kamukura followed him around like a dutiful dog, but remained rather quiet and largely disinterested even when Matsuda wandered around a museum to stare at various sculptures and paintings. Or when Matsuda dragged him to a rather high-end restaurant. Kamukura only seemed interested in nibbling on bread. But, when Matsuda ordered him a soup, he was more focused on ‘fixing’ it with spices than actually eating it.

It really, really was to be expected. But, at least Kamukura did eat it all. No reaction, though. At least, on his face.

“The food at Hope’s Peak is vastly superior to this. So why eat here? Is it just for the experience?”

“Of course it’s for the experience, you dumbass.”

They still got ice cream at one of the stands afterwards.

“I’m getting strawberry, and you’re getting...?”

“I don’t care.”

“Vanilla, then. Got it.”

Kamukura finished his ice cream as swiftly as the soup. Again, no reaction, and this time, not even so much as any additional commentary afterwards.

And so it went.

“There are various shows at the theatre,” Kamukura said after they passed the theatre in question. “Do you have no interest in that?”

“Do you?”

“...No, I do not.”

And went.

“This city doesn’t have much, but even here there are binoculars,” Matsuda muttered as they waited in the glass elevator, watching the city go lower and lower as they got higher and higher. “I wonder if that’s a must-have for any big city... Or something like that?”

“How boring,” Kamukura replied. “So boring.”

Matsuda snorted.

“At this rate, you might upgrade from lamp to animatronic. I guess that’s impressive in a despairing way.”

And isn’t that what the researchers want? Ultimate Hope Puppet.

Either way, Kamukura gave no further verbal comment. Matsuda sneezed.

“Urgh.”

They arrived at the highest floor. People were more scattered and there was a lot more space to walk without having to avoid brushes of accidental contact. Matsuda made a beeline for the binoculars mounted on the stalk. Kamukura followed, ever dutiful, and for a moment, Matsuda paused to look out the wide windows showcasing endless blue. There were barely any clouds in sight.

“Alright, let’s see what fuckers are jaywalking.”

“You would really waste money and time on such a worthless activity?” Kamukura asked.

Matsuda merely flashed the yen coin before slotting it in.

“Of fucking course.”

He had plenty of coins and plenty of time to kill even now, so why the hell not, right?

“Hey,” he said after a few attempts. “Try this. I want to know how many you get. My record’s fourteen.”

“How boring.”

“Fucking do it, Kamukura.”

Kamukura rolled his eyes but he did step forward, poised and ready. Matsuda entered the coin and sucked in his breath.

Kamukura only moved as fast as the binoculars would allow him but it was still pretty fast. People were even staring. This might’ve been a bad idea.

Aah, to hell with it, Matsuda decided, rubbing at his neck. It’s only for what, two minutes and a half?

“Seventy-seven.”

“Wow. What the fuck.”

“I could sense hundreds more,” Kamukura said. “But with these binoculars I could only explicitly observe seventy-seven.”

Matsuda nodded, unsurprised yet mildly impressed. Not that he’d ever show it.

“Do you think you could observe more if I slot in another coin?”

Kamukura’s eyes narrowed.

“That would be a waste of time and money.”

“I’m doing it.”

Matsuda didn’t even skip a beat and slotted in another coin.


Before he knew it, the sun was setting, and they’d definitely need to get going. Well, shit.

“Time really flies,” Matsuda sighs. “I guess it’s a matter of what you’re doing and who you’re spending your time with. Or something.”

“Time passes as it always does,” Kamukura said. “It is merely your awareness of it that shifts.”

Matsuda gave a harder, heavier sigh.

“We really should hurry back,” he said. “It’s risky for you to be gone for this long although, I’m sure you can circumvent any issues that arise.”

“I can.”

“It must be nice,” Matsuda went on. “Having no worries and no feelings whatsoever.”

Suddenly, Kamukura stopped in his tracks. Matsuda paused as well. Others continued to bustle about, the world continued turning. Matsuda, however, did not turn back.

“You got something to say?” he simply asked.

“I...” Kamukura paused. “It is not nice. It is merely nothing at all. It is boring.”

“Is that it?” Matsuda asked, turning to him with a raised brow. “You’re really disappointed about us not having time for the theatre after all, huh? It’s your fault. You took so long to eat your damn food.”

Kamukura said nothing, his lips drawn in an impassive line.

“Maybe next time,” Matsuda said. “With any luck—which I know you have—there’ll actually be something decent playing. Or something. We could also try an amusement park or something. They might have a Ferris Wheel, which would probably be better for jaywalker-spotting. That might be something.”

One of the first rides I ever went on was the Ferris Wheel because that bitch dragged me onto it.

Still, no response.

“C’mon,” Matsuda said, gesturing with his shoulder. “We got a train to catch, remember?”

He walked back and took Kamukura’s hand to pull him along.

“God, you really are so fucking hopeless.”


There wasn’t anyone else in the train car with them on the ride back. This time, at least, Kamukura sat across instead of right next to him. With the orange, dulling light, Matsuda felt his eyelids flutter. He yawned and began to slump.

“Mm... Wake me up when we’re nearing our stop... Mmgh...”

“Matsuda Yasuke-kun.”

Matsuda perked up blearily, squinting with confusion and irritation.

“...what is it?”

“Tell me,” Kamukura said. “What was your true motive for all of this? Leaving campus, insisting I go with you, dragging me along to all these mundane locations, subjecting me to unremarkable experiences... Would you truly have done all that if you were alone?”

“Aah, what’s this? The supposed savant of everything actually asking a question he doesn’t know the answer to?”

“It is not like that,” Kamukura replied, almost snappily. “I merely wish to hear your answer in your own words.”

“...does that matter to you?”

No initial response.

“Answer my initial question,” Kamukura demanded coldly.

If he were anyone else, he most certainly would have been intimidated. But, he was himself, so he didn’t really care. With a sigh, Matsuda leaned his head back and sighed.

“...seeing you sitting despondently in that empty lab, all day, every day, really seriously pissed me off. I wanted to drag you out of there if only for a little bit. But, as you know, I can’t exactly force you to do anything...”

“Why?” Kamukura asked when he started to trail off. “Do you have a personal reason as to why you had such a desire?”

...a personal reason...

Matsuda’s gaze narrowed sharply.

So that’s what this is about.

“...back when I was a kid, my mom died from sickness,” he found himself saying. “Her condition had been so bad that my dad, the fucker, had packed his bags and fucked off somewhere. When she finally died—unsurprisingly, I didn’t take it well.”

But I wonder if you already figured all that. It’s on my file.

Did Kamukura care enough to read that?

It didn’t matter.

“I didn’t leave my house for over a week. I barely left my room if I could help it. I mostly ate snacks, pissed in some bottles, spent most of my time sleeping or...lying around reading manga...” Matsuda laughed softly and dismally. “It got so despairing that even that stupid, dumb cheap bitch got worried.”

How long ago was that...? What day was it? What was even the season?

He didn’t remember. He knows that the sky must have been the same, at least.

“If that idiotic childhood friend of mine didn’t take matters into her own hands... If she hadn’t dragged me out then...and again...and again...when I otherwise would have been content to just wasting away like any other corpse...” Matsuda shook his head. “Well, even now I’m a dead man walking...all thanks to that girl. So I guess...seeing you like that... I couldn’t help but interfere.”

And Kamukura merely sighed.

 “...I see,” he said. “So you had an underlying compassion after all. How boring. I predicted this.”

“Now don’t get the wrong idea,” Matsuda said, just as coolly. “It’s definitely not like I’m a good person for doing all this, y’know?”

With the harshness of the orange, the shadows looked so much darker. The world looked all the duller under such vibrancy.

“A good person wouldn’t have helped make you.”

Without even a pause.

“...I know this.”

“Good,” Matsuda huffed. “It’s best not to forget something like that. After all, my childhood friend—she is, without question, the worst person to ever live.”

“...you’ve told me as much before,” Kamukura said, quieter than usual.

With that, Matsuda let his eyes fall shut.


It was starting to get dark when they returned to the gates of Hope’s Peak Academy.

“Aah... Wow, it’s...late.”

“Yes.”

Matsuda scratched at his scalp, grumbling.

“Wow, I seriously wasted a day like that... Pretty impressive for a waste of space.” A pause. “Sorry. Two wastes of space.”

“You seem proud of yourself.”

“I’m a pretty proud waste of space,” Matsuda said. “That’s all there is to it.”

Kamukura hummed noncommittally.

“Before you go and become one with the fucking night like I’m sure you’ve always wanted to do,” he went on. “Remember what I said, alright? Don’t stay in that dinky empty lab all the damn time if you can help it. Even if I’m not there to take you somewhere, it wouldn’t hurt to just...go for a walk by yourself.”

There was a rustle from the cold late breeze. It really was quiet, save for the hooting of some owl he’s sure tamed by the creepy wannabe goth freak from the class opposite of his.

“You never know what you’ll find, even if you just stick to here,” he found himself saying. “There are all kinds of colorful characters at Hope’s Peak Academy.”

“How boring.” Kamukura’s look seemed to darken—or maybe that was just the shadows. “I could not care less for the lesser talented individuals frolicking about.”

“I figured you wouldn’t,” Matsuda sighed. “But I think it’s best to not limit the faces you see to the ugly mugs of the researchers and mine. That’ll definitely make your brain molder.” He waved his finger. “And if nothing else, blue skies and green grass are more stimulating than gray floors, gray walls, and that gray as fuck ceiling I’m sure you memorized by now.”

“I have,” Kamukura said.

Matsuda snorted. “Of course you have; so you see my point.”

“Yes,” he replied. “But I could offer an easy counter.”

“Well, don’t,” Matsuda scowled. “Instead just listen to what I have to say. Let the words fucking soak into that overstuffed brain of yours.”

Kamukura stared back, and in this increasing dark, those crimson eyes were the only source of light save for the scattered stars above.

Fucking. Creepy.

“I’m done talking,” Matsuda said. “So go...disappear off into the fucking night like a goddamn ghost. I won’t keep you waiting.”

And yet, Kamukura waited a little while longer.

“...today was not unpleasant,” he said. “When do you predict we will be able to do this again?”

Matsuda blinked.

“...Aah, what’s this?” he asked. “The supposed savant of everything actually asking a question he doesn’t know the answer to?”

“...I am not omniscient, Matsuda-kun,” Kamukura said. “You know that. You know me better than anyone or anything.”

...do I...?

Another rustling breeze.

Do I really?

...

When you put it like that, it’s almost like we’re friends or something.

Disgusting.

“...Kamukura, I...” He stopped himself, ducking his head. No... “I don’t know. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Good night.”

Kamukura reached up and pulled out his hair tie, shaking his head and letting his hair fall freely. He returned it quietly, and Matsuda took it back.

Of course. The researchers would question if he suddenly had a hair tie on him.

Matsuda squeezed it, and by then, Kamukura was already long gone.

It would be a cold, lonely trip back to his dorm. But it was alright.

Tomorrow would be another bright and shining day at Hope’s Peak Academy—and it would be hell as it always is.


Bright. Shining. Hopeful.

“This is an announcement from Hope’s Peak Academy’s School Trip Executive Committee! Good mooooorning, everyone, love, love! It’s another hopeful, shining, tropical day! Everyone, do your best and give it your all! Love, love!”

Hell.

“Urgh... Too early for this shit...”

Matsuda threw an arm over his eyes with a heavy sigh.

I’m in charge of collecting materials today, right? Troublesome.

Considering he tended to get partnered up with one of the aggressive athlete meatheads, he’d risk the door keeping knocked off the hinges if he took too long to show up. And then he’d have to ask that simpering neon shark-face mechanic to fix the damn thing.

For fuck’s sake... I don’t want to do that.

And so, Matsuda pushed himself up.

...But I need to keep collecting hope fragments, huh...?

“Mmm...”

I need to keep a closer eye on Komaeda out of principle... And Hinata... Well, he’s...

...also someone I feel the need to be close to...for whatever reason...

Ugh. It was way too early for a headache.

Matsuda scowled as he popped in some pills and swallowed.

“...making friends...” He sighed. “Geez, I’ve never had friends before in my life. What makes that rabbit bitch think I could possibly make friends?”

After mom died... No, even before that... I’ve never been close to anyone before...

...right?

“Ugh...” His head really was throbbing, but the medicine would kick in soon enough, and he would, rather blissfully, just stop thinking. “Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter.”

He slid his legs off the bed and stood, going straight to the window, showcasing what really was, for all intents and purposes, an island paradise.

“Another vacation day in hell,” he muttered sardonically, and yanked the curtains closed.