"Leave me alone," she hisses for what seems like the millionth time.
"No!" he barks back for what is surely the millionth time. "I'm not leaving until you come out. You have to be there. Otherwise - "
"They're not going to trust a murderer like me."
"What if I want them to learn to trust you?"
"Are you dumb?" she hisses, and finally yanks open the door. Her hand tightens around the doorknob. "You'll just get yourself killed if you're so willingly to show them that you trust someone like me."
He grabs her by the wrist before she can close the door. She glares at him.
"No," he states firmly. "I'm not letting go."
"Momota - "
"Listen, Harukawa - "
"Momota Kaito," she barks. He falls silent. "You let go of me, or you die."
"Then I'll die," he replies instantly, and her fingers twitch with annoyance. "There's no way you'd actually kill me. I don't believe you're that kind of person."
He's seen right through her. Yet, she can't let this facade go. Everyone else will see she's weak. She's just a girl, with nothing special. That she doesn't deserve to be called an Ultimate.
And that she hates herself for it.
"And what do you think you know about me?" she hisses.
"I know you're Harukawa Maki. I know you're the Ultimate Assassin. But I also know that you wouldn't kill us. If you wanted to, you'd have already escaped. You would've killed us all and left. But you're not that kind of person."
Her breath catches in her throat, and Momota flashes a thumbs up at her.
"Look, just come with me. If they don't believe in you, fine. At least I believe in you. I'm sure Shuuichi will believe in you too."
That day, she gives into the feeling of his hand on her skin, the warmth of her hand brushing against his skin as he pulls down the stairs of the dormitory and to the dining hall.
~ / . / . / ~
Finally, the door opens, and Momota stares back at her with bleak eyes.
"Harukawa?" he mumbles. "What are you doing here?"
She crosses her arms. "Why else would I be here?"
"I told you, I'm fine," he mutters back. "I'm just… tired, and probably catching a cold."
Harukawa sighs, and then asks, "So, are you coming to training today or not?"
"I… uh…" Momota covers a cough with his arm. "No, probably not…"
Harukawa gives him a glare, and he coughs again.
"My bad," he murmurs. "Tell Shuuichi I'm sorry."
Harukawa frowns. "Why me?"
He tilts his head. "Aren't you going to training?"
"You just pestered me into going last time. Besides," she turns her back to Momota, "you shouldn't trust me to be alone with Saihara. What if I kill him?"
"You wouldn't," he responds immediately. She glances over her shoulder, and then looks at the ground, sighing.
"I don't understand why you still trust me," the mirror in her speaks for her, reflecting every murder she's committed, every assassination request she's taken on, all the things she's dirtied her hands with.
The nighttime announcement sounds from the monitor in Momota's room. She makes her way to the door, touching the door handle with her hand.
"Because you're a good person," he responds. "Because I know, even though you say you're a horrible person because you're an assassin, you're a human being. You have a heart. And you care for people. I'd say you'd make a great leader if you tried."
Harukawa tightens her hand around the doorknob. "No, I wouldn't." She looks through the peephole to Momota's door, and then sighs. "Saihara's coming. I'm going out."
Momota grunts, stumbling to his feet. She pulls open the door, and they act like nothing has happened between them.
~ / . / . / ~
"...I have them in my room," she murmurs.
"What?" he looks at her strangely.
"Salt, baking soda, and ammonia. To wash out blood stains."
He stares at her before giving her a grateful smile, and Harukawa pushes open the door to the dormitories. He walks in slowly, and then sheds his jacket and button-up shirt, both flecked with blood.
"Thanks, Harumaki," he mutters. "Do you mind… washing a few more for me?"
Harukawa frowns, but shakes her head. He laughs weakly, and then climbs the stairs to his room. He fumbles with the key, but manages to slip it into the keyhole of the room's door knob and push open the door.
He stumbles, and Harukawa catches him deftly, lifting his arm over her shoulders. He covers his mouth with his hand. She can feel him trembling, and shoves open the door to the bathroom. He launches himself at the toilet, and Harukawa goes to close the door to his room.
As she leaves the bathroom, she hears him vomiting. She shuts the door, staring at herself in the mirror attached to the back of Momota's door, before shaking her head. Now's not the time to be thinking things like this. Even if she is a horrible person… Momota needs her help now.
As she turns to go to the closet, she's hit with the smell of blood, sickness, and something else. She knows it's the smell of a corpse, of someone dying, but Momota's not dying. He can't be. He's, he's -
Harukawa walks into the wall beside his closet. She swears, and Momota asks weakly, "Something happen… Harumaki?"
She walks away from the wall, rubbing her forehead. "Nothing." Harukawa pulls open the closet, and spots the dirtied ones immediately. They're covered in blood, ranging from a few dribbles to blood stains that run down the front of his shirt and along his pant legs. She picks out a clean outfit for him, and lays it on his bed before bundling the different bloodied outfits in her arms and over her shoulder.
There's the sound of her classmates entering the dormitories. She hears footsteps on the stairs, and they near Momota's room before taking a right. A door opens, and then closes. Another one does the same on the lower floor.
The toilet flushes, and Momota limps out of the bathroom.
"I knew I was right to trust you, Harumaki."
The words catch her off guard. "What?"
He wipes his mouth. "Why don't you like people trusting you, Harumaki?" he questions. "You…" a bitter look goes over his face, but he keeps talking. "You remind me of how… Saihara used to act."
Harukawa ignores the sudden change in Momota's eyes, the hardened tone when he's spoken Saihara's name compared to the warm way he used to call him Shuuichi, all because of this last trial. She makes her hands and eyes busy by folding Momota's clothes as she thinks on what to say.
"I'm an assassin," she says bluntly, because it's the best she can come up with. "I'm an assassin in a killing game."
"You haven't killed anyone."
"There's always a possibility," she snaps back bitterly, and then regrets it. "...Forget it."
She stacks his clothes together, staring at the dried blood on each of them. With an angry sigh, she pats them down and glares at him. She sees herself in his eyes, reflected back at her like a mirror. She curls her lip in disgust.
"Just… don't overdo it."
"Harumaki…" he murmurs. "You know, Harumaki… you really would make a great leader."
"You told me that. And I still don't think you're right."
Momota purses his lips, and coughs again. Her head shoots up, but he waves it off. "It's okay. There wasn't blood this time."
She relaxes, and he licks his lips before meeting her eyes.
"Don't," she advises. "I don't need to be a leader. We already have one." She looks over at him. "A stupid idiot of a leader, but a leader nonetheless."
Momota chuckles weakly. "I guess. Sorry, Harumaki."
She doesn't say anything; just scoops up his bloodied clothes and kicks his door open, barely managing to hold back her instinct to kick his mirror instead. He rests his hand on her shoulder when she goes to leave, but doesn't say anything when she turns expectantly. He just shakes his head, lets go of her shoulder, and closes the door behind her.
A distant cough sounds from his room as she makes her way to her room. She pauses, and tilts her head. It's not important, she decides, and so continues to her room, where she spends the rest of the night scrubbing clothes with cold water, salt, ammonia, and baking soda.
~ / . / . / ~
"At least Saihara gets it," she mutters under her breath, watching the detective leave her research lab. She shoves the black crossbow case onto the shelf and looks over her lab. She touches a hand to the area below her bra strap, and then looks at the strap hanging from a hook.
With a sigh, she pushes her shirt up. With practiced fingers, she hooks the strap around her body and attaches a sheathed knife to the strap.
It's a habit, to keep a weapon on her at all times. It's saved her more times than she can count, and yet, in the presence of her… well, of Saihara and Momota, she finds herself willing to cast it away. She wonders why.
The door opens, and she starts, hurriedly pulling her shirt back down. It hangs baggily around her, showing no sign of a concealed weapon.
"Sorry, Harumaki! You weren't in your room, so I came to get you!" Momota smiles, and then his face turns solemn. "You put it back on."
"You knew?" she asks in surprise.
"Shu - Saihara… told me. He observed it some time ago."
All of a sudden, that annoyance flares back to life in her, and she purses her lips before staring into his eyes.
"Why can't you just… get along with him again? It's so annoying, watching you two skirt around each other like you're strangers again when just a few days ago, you were willing to leave your life in Saihara's hands."
Momota averts her eyes, but she grabs his cheeks and forces him to look at her.
"Answer me," she growls between gritted teeth.
"I - " he takes a deep breath, and then sighs. "It's just… how could he? I thought he knew better than to trust Ouma. How could he side with a guy like him? Sh - Saihara knew! He'd never trusted Ouma until then! So why then!? Even for the sake of the truth! He doubted Gokuhara, for the truth!"
"Momota," Harukawa says, letting go of him. "Momota, listen to me."
He falls silent, although the anger seething in him doesn't disappear; she can see it in his eyes.
"Saihara's weak. He's always been, especially after Akamatsu's death, but he's even weaker now. He doesn't have you, or anyone to lean on. You need to make up, soon. Otherwise, he'll just collapse again. And we're all relying on him for these investigations and Class Trials."
"I know, Harumaki… I just don't know if I'm ready to talk to him again just yet. Damn, I'm a coward…" Momota swears, and then looks up. "But, I think he'll be fine without me. He has you, doesn't he?" He gives her a small smile.
"I doubt I have the patience to listen to him when an idiot like you is taking up all my time."
"Don't call me an idiot!" he yelps, but chuckles a bit. She just stares at him, and he meets her eyes before jumping back. "Don't look at me like that, Harumaki…"
"Huh?" she blinks, and then starts. "Oh… sorry."
"It's okay, Harumaki. It's probably a habit for you, yeah?"
"...Yeah," she murmurs.
Out of nowhere, he takes her hand in his. His fingers are trembling a bit, and Harukawa wants to pull out of his grasp and tell him to back away, to stay away from her, but his hands are warm, comforting, and feel like another half of her that she doesn't have.
So she doesn't pull away, and instead tightens her grip a bit. It's warm, and it's nice to feel a hand that's not calloused and covered in scars.
He squeezes her hand. She remains silent, staring at their hands.
She hates them, she realizes. Not his or theirs - just hers, covered in horrid scars and disgusting scabs, like her. She hates them, and herself.
His hands go cold and sweaty all of a sudden, and she looks up at him. His eyes widen suddenly, and he covers his mouth with his other hand. Harukawa lets go of him with startled realization, and he doubles over, coughing heavily into his hand. Blood dribbles down his hand, and his chest heaves as he pulls away and looks at his fingers, assessing how bad it is.
"...Momota," she murmurs. He glances up, a panicked look in his eyes.
"I - I'm fine, Harumaki, I promise. I just - "
"You should go back to your room before someone sees you with me," Harukawa murmurs. "Get some rest. Maybe you'll feel better then."
"Oh, okay… then I'll see you tomorrow, Harumaki."
He hobbles off, and in his absence, she stares at the scars she determined she hated, and realizes that she hates them more than she ever thought, in comparison to his perfect, unblemished hands.
~ / . / . / ~
In their place, she finds a Flashback Light. She picks it up, and feels the smooth handle of it. It's definitely real.
Slowly, she sets it back down and, with renewed fortitude, turns on her heel and walks away, one goal in mind.
She wakes Shirogane first, simply because her room is the closest. Her face is full of despair and unwillingness when she opens the door, but somehow, Harukawa manages to convince her to freshen up and meet in the dining hall.
"Thank you, Harukawa-san," she murmurs, and Harukawa doesn't say anything as she climbs the stairs to Yumeno's room.
Yumeno looks so sad, unhappy, and full of despair, but Harukawa knows that Yumeno will agree; she does eventually, although reluctantly. Harukawa gives her a gentle pat on the head and a small smile before leaving.
She walks across the dorms, and pauses right before Kiibo's room. She stares at Momota's door, his little pixel portrait staring back at her. Shaking her head, she heads to Kiibo's room. The robot might not understand everything, but he certainly seems unwilling to do anything. After a bit of pestering, he agrees.
"Harukawa-san," he calls out as she makes her way to Saihara's door.
"Why is it that you kept going to the dining hall after we learned the truth?"
"...Because Momota would have done that," she replies. Kiibo tilts his head, and she turns away. "Just go."
She goes down the stairs, and then stands in front of Saihara's door. Kiibo goes ahead of her. She almost doesn't notice.
Last she had seen Saihara, he'd been in such disbelief that it'd seemed like he'd gone deaf. The only thing that seemed to get through to him was insults, like the time she'd insulted him after Momota had been taken away.
She hits his doorbell several times, and the door opens, creaking as if it hadn't been opened in hundreds of years.
"You look terrible…" she comments bluntly at the sight of him.
"H-Harukawa-san?" Saihara mumbles. His hair is tangled and messed up, with heavy bags beneath his eyes.
"Go take a shower or something. Anything to help your face. I'll be in the dining hall with everyone else."
"...Everyone?" Saihara questions softly.
"...I'll be waiting, so hurry up." She turns her back to him and leaves.
With a sigh, Harukawa goes back to her room for a brief moment. Her eyes are bleary, and so she turns on the faucet with a little more force than necessary and cups the cold water in her hands before splashing her face with it. She takes a deep breath and, for one of the first times she can remember, she looks directly into the mirror at her reflection.
"I'm really doing it…" she whispers. "Momota…"
She scrubs her face, and looks at herself in her cracked mirror. Even through all the lines and splits, she can make it out - she's different now.
~ / . / . / ~
The door falls off its hinges. Harukawa already knows the sight that will greet her - death. Unrelenting, unforgiving death.
What she doesn't expect are the tears that fall with it. No one moves, so she does.
She steps into the spaceship, and stares at the body lying on the floor. The spaceship smells like corpses and sickness. She doesn't care. Monokuma cackles in the distance, and her classmates yell back. She doesn't care. She just lays a hand on his face, gently brushing her fingers along his jawline. She ignores his blood, smeared along her fingers now, and her tears, mixing into a sickly red that falls, in droplets, off of Momota's cheeks.
She's distinctly aware of the newly revived Monokubs disappearing, of the bright Flashback Light Monokuma flashes in their eyes, of her classmates stumbling away. She doesn't care.
Gingerly, she pulls him out of the spaceship. He collapses onto the floor. She doesn't have the heart to move him, and so wraps her arms around him, feeling her shoulder press against the metallic side of the spaceship that sent Momota to his doom.
She presses her face against his hair, breathing in his familiar, reassuring, comforting scent. She doesn't pay attention to the fact that his hair is soft and smells like blood when it's usually stiff with gel and sticky with sweat. She ignores the deathly smell of a corpse coming from him.
His body is ice cold even though it shouldn't be - she supposes it's because of the extreme temperatures he must have been experiencing. She just holds him tighter, her fingers curling into his shoulder and the small of his back. Her nails dig into his skin. It leaves marks that she's too scared to let disappear.
Maybe it's because of the cold body turned warm in her grasp, or the comforting smell of Momota even though he's dead, or the gentle feel of his clothes, like a blanket, that she falls asleep and her eyelids feel heavy when she opens them again.
The world is sideways when Harukawa wakes up, and she lifts her head to realize that she's laying on her side on a completely clean class trial floor. She sits up, even though her body cries in protest.
There's no blood, no crashed mess of a spaceship, no body. Just sixteen trial stands, like it always was when they exited the elevator.
She touches her hand to her uniform, where she had let Momota's corpse rest his head. It's cold.
She stands unsteadily, and on barely awake feet, manages to stumble to the elevator. The rackety old thing opens for her, and she falls in. It closes behind her and begins its journey upwards as she lays, stretched out, staring up at the single dim light in the machine.
She stretches out her hand, carefully blocking the lightbulb. She stares at her scarred and stabbed hands, covered with wounds and calluses. They're just like her.
A sudden jolt ends her thoughts, and she uses the walls of the rickety elevator to push herself up. She takes a deep breath, and then pushes herself out of the elevator and into the Shrine of Judgement.
A dark night greets her as Harukawa stares at the stars, and then at her hands, and it's as if she can see the constellations he so loved imprinted on her hand and along the lines of her palm.
She curls her fingers into a fist, and murmurs, "I understand now, Momota… and though you might have been wrong to trust me… I'll try to trust myself for your sake. I'll try to lead everyone… for your sake."
~ / . / . / ~
"We're just characters?" she whispers. "Everything I've known… is a lie?"
She shakes her head in disbelief, but the action doesn't dispel it.
"That can't be true."
In her mind, she replays the video of Momota's audition, or whatever it was, replays Shirogane's words of how they created her feelings for Momota, how they implanted Momota's disease. The truth begins to sink in. Her heart feels heavy, like a stone.
"It… It can't… I…"
Memories float to the top of her mind. Memories of the orphanage, of her training as an assassin, of her application into Hope's Peak Academy, of her recruitment into the Gopher Project, of her running away, and then being put into cold sleep and forced into this killing game.
It's not real. It's all a lie. She wants to give up. No, she needs to give up -
But there's something else pounding in her heart, screaming and yelling, tearing against her need and urge to give up.
She doesn't want to believe in it, though. Her feelings have already betrayed her so many times, she doesn't know what to believe. But she knows she can believe Momota.
The urge in her heart is whispering in Momota's voice, and it's telling her to keep going. That the impossible is possible, as long as she makes it so. That she can finally believe in herself, because she fell for a guy like him.
The killing game needs to end. She feels it in her heart, and she needs to believe in her own feelings.
"I won't trust," she whispers. "I'll believe. I'll have faith. I'll lead. That's what you would have done. So…"
With a determined look in her eyes, she shouts in agreement with Saihara.
"I will believe in myself!"
In that moment, she slams her hand through the mirror that reflects the monster she is, or was. The pieces of glass fly out and scatter everywhere. She casts the ruined shards a final glance, and finds that the demon they used to show her is gone.
~ / . / . / ~
Saihara glances up, and then burrows his face in his arms, his face barely brushing the table scattered with documents before yelling, "Fuck!"
Yumeno starts, accidentally dropping a plate. It clatters to the floor, and she crouches to pick it up. Harukawa feels her chest being seized by a coughing fit, and stands, hurrying to the bathroom. Saihara lets out a startled yet strangled yell, but she ignores him and pushes open the door to the bathroom right before she collapses to her feet.
She feels guilt, an immense burden on her shoulders when Saihara comes up behind her and sees the tiled floor stained with puddles of red, and lines of it coloring themselves down Harukawa's chin. She feels guilt for having kept it from Saihara for so long. She feels guilt, from everything she's done.
Yet, Saihara doesn't scold her. He just apologizes for his vulgarity and asks, softly and hesitantly, "Can I do anything?"
"Yes," she responds, wiping her mouth with her wrist. "I need some water. Also some painkiller." She coughs again, pain seizing her chest and the coppery tinge of blood tainting her mouth. She glances at the mirror, and winces at the sickly woman that it reflects back.
As Saihara dashes off, a worried but determined look in his eyes, she thinks that she doesn't deserve someone like him as her friend.
She doesn't deserve a companion like Yumeno either, she decides, after the girl scrubs away the bloodstains Harukawa left in the bathroom and manages to make a surprisingly hearty stew that leaves Harukawa content and drifting into a slumber.
Her eyelids are sticky with sleep, and it's silent except for the sounds of Yumeno slurping and Saihara scraping his bowl. She shifts slightly, and the blankets rustle. Saihara looks over.
"I'm fine," she grumbles, and closes her eyes.
None of them bring up the fact that she's wrapped up in a purple blanket, wearing one of Momota's old shirts to sleep. It's the first time they've touched a memory of the killing game so vividly.
Harukawa just notices that she sleeps much sounder that night, dreaming of constellations, stars, and the vastness of space that Momota never got to see.
They keep a close eye on her - Saihara and Yumeno. Saihara accompanies her out whenever she has to go get groceries or withdraw money. Yumeno is at her side whenever she needs anything in the house and collapses into a coughing fit instead.
"It's contagious," Harukawa murmurs. "You should stay away."
They both refuse, like Harukawa predicted they would.
She begins to understand why Momota said he was fighting, because it's definitely a goddamn fight to stay alive after a few weeks. She fights to eat, fights to walk, and soon fights to talk.
All Saihara and Yumeno can do is watch her weaken, watch her rot away into a former shell of the woman named Harukawa Maki.
She's not a monster now. She's just helpless.
She hears them crying one night, and then the night after that. She finds it hard to sleep at night after that, knowing that she might never open her eyes again.
"You should get some sleep," they urge one day after seeing the bags under her eyes, but she shakes her head and tells them she can't. They don't bother her after that. She knows it's because they're the same.
"It's hard to breathe," she reveals to Saihara one day, when he serves her dinner.
Saihara pauses, and then lays the tray of food down on the bedside table. "You're losing time," he murmurs.
"I know I am," she snaps, then closes her eyes. "I'm sorry… I'm just…"
"I know," Saihara responds. "Come, eat your dinner."
"Why do you bother?" she asks tiredly.
"Because you're my friend. If Momota-kun's not here to look after you, and you're not going to look after yourself, I might as well."
The mention of Momota's name might have once sent Harukawa into tears, but it doesn't this time. She just smiles and accepts the bowl of rice and vegetables Saihara offers her.
When he leaves and shuts the door behind him, Harukawa falls asleep for the first time in days. Just like last time, she dreams of Momota, the stars, and the feel of his hand in hers.
She wakes up the next day with a sickly tinge in her mouth, and coughs up more blood than she usually does.
Her strength is fading. Her lungs are failing. Her throat is burning.
Saihara attempts to change her blanket. She refuses to let him.
"I'm going to die today," Harukawa murmurs. "Don't bother."
"But Harukawa-san - "
"It's okay, Saihara," she murmurs. "It hurts too much to live. Just let me go."
So he lets her go, and reminisces to her about Momota and their somehow peaceful times together in the killing game as he waits for her time to come. At some point, she closes her eyes.
All she can think of in the end are her hands of scars and calluses embodying what she was, that shattered mirror, its shards unable to reflect who she thought she truly was, and the one person she threw herself away for, the one person she loved more than anything in the world.
The one person she became in too many ways.