For several extensive minutes Ryota's hand remained frozen solid, practically attached to that photograph permanently, and completely unable to let go no matter what the cost. He couldn't believe what he'd been seeing. Sure, he'd been aware of Yukizome's actions of lethally drugging Chairman Tengan and attempting to pin the said death of Munakata, but he never actually saw those events in actions.
This was different.
This was photographic evidence of his teacher gleefully murdering several lives, worse yet the lives of innocent children, was a horrible amalgamation of things that he couldn't even begin to fathom.
"This can't be right," Ryota's hand finally gave out and dropped the picture. "I can't believe this, there's gonna be some kind of misunderstanding, maybe this picture isn't real or something? What if Monokuma forged this picture to mislead us?"
He knew deep down that was a far cry from the truth, and the lie was hardly doing anything to make him feel any better about the matter, he subtly envied Naegi for somehow managing to stay in an optimistic mood. Gekkogahara cocked her head down to the picture, she looked back to the Ultimate Animator in concern. "Mitarai-kun…" she replied sadly.
All of a sudden, the nearest monitor turned on revealing Monokuma drinking a champagne glass in his usual shtick. On the plus side, that was at least enough for Ryota to snap out of his trance and join reality once more, though he couldn't figure out for the life of him what was worse. Finding out your teacher is a murderer or anything Monokuma has to say?
"Hey, bastards! How have you been enjoying your entrance into the new world? If you really like it, then stop everything and head on down to the nearest conference room on this floor! You'll love the next surprise that I have for you!"
"The nearest conference room?" Gekkogahara asked as Monomi tilted her head. "That should be somewhere on this floor, but I wonder why he would want everyone to gather together after we've already investigated this place."
"Knowing Monokuma, it can be anything good," Ryota gulped.
Without a second to spare, Ryota immediately made his way to the conference room (with help from Gekkogahara's navigation), partially because staying in Yukizome's office any longer made him feel more uncomfortable than he bargained for.
Upon entering the conference room on this floor, only a few quick glances were enough to tell Ryota this place wasn't inherently different from the same conference room where Monokuma initiated the killing game some time ago on the top floor.
From the look of things, all thirteen participants were already gathered together in this room, with Ryota and Gekkogahara being the last ones likely because of their extended investigation.
Before even given a second to react, Kizakura approached Ryota and started inspecting him with a sly smile. A gesture that only made the blonde animator feel more uncomfortable, "Looks like you sure took your time. Y'know, a little birdie told me you and Gekkogahara-chan had been hanging out an awful lot today. What's the story with that? You two an item?"
"What!?" Ryota shirked, his face flushing until it turned red. Thank goodness, Gekkogahara had been too busy talking with Asahina that she couldn't hear that, though he wished that Kizakura would stop making such juvenile remarks.
"I kid," Kizakura teased.
"We don't have time for that," Kirigiri responded in annoyance. "If Monokuma called everyone here, then he must have a hidden agenda behind it."
"What could Monokuma want from us now?" Kimura growled.
"Maybe, it's the next motive?" Naegi suggested out of the blue, Kirigiri followed his same train of thought by nodding. "Usually, Monokuma always creates new motives after every trial to keep everyone an initiative to kill each other."
Another motive? And after every trial no less, that didn't really sit well in Ryota's stomach, he already had trouble coming to terms with the first motive and how Monokuma went back on his promise because a loophole, he could only imagine how worse another motive could be.
All attention was brought to the center of the table where the infamous teddy bear leapt out, though was wearing something different than usual. Monokuma was again attired in a different exaggerated outfit; with a baseball cap, a chain around his neck, and fish tattoo on his right arm. "Yo! Yo! Yo! It's Nob-yo, in the hizzouse! What's good fam?"
Monokuma must've been expecting some kind of reaction from the participants, but they remained silent at a complete loss of words for exactly what was going on.
"I know I'm gonna regret asking this," Ando sighed. "What're you doing?"
Great Gozu blanked as well, trying to figure out what the meaning of this was. "I'm not quite sure I understand this. Is this the reason you called us here?"
"Your MC Nob-Yo has come to give ya'll the deets on what's happenin' crib!" the two-toned bear proceeded to answer.
"I'm not quite sure I'm following," Kimura blinked.
"Do you plan on keeping up this charade or do you intend to answer why you brought us all here?" Munakata strictly asked, having already lost his patience after the short banter.
That was enough for the bear to look downcast, proceeding to yank off his hat and chain, and scratch the fish tattoo off his arm in a flash. "Geez, how despairingly disappointing. I spent hours trying to write that comedy routine for my beloved employees and in the end it doesn't even matter."
"We don't care. Tell us why you called us here?" Ando sassed.
"And you better hurry and start talking before we lose our patience," added Izayoi in his typical stoic demeanor, he obviously wanted to retrieve a weapon from his coat to further the threat but already knew the consequences.
"Well now! In order to commemorate the beautiful deaths of our dear friends Tengan Kazuo and whatsherface, and the hard work you bastards did during the first trial...I've decided to provide you with guys with the second moral of The Final Killing Game!" Monokuma happily declared.
"How is the hell is the motive a reward?" Sakakura deadpanned.
"This isn't good, a flower bouquet shouldn't show it's wings before night. You're really gonna give us another motive?" Bandai asked in dread.
"Duh! What would the killing game be without any motives?" Monokuma responded.
"What do you have planned this time?" Asahina barked.
"Killer Killer!" the two-toned bear joyfully answered, without any context or background on what he was referring to. "That's your second motive for the killing game. Killer Killer!"
Ryota wasn't quite sure what Monokuma was talking about, the name had a familiar ring to him though he could only vaguely remember what it was, the same couldn't be said for his fellow division leaders who already looked well aware of what he was talking about.
"Killer Killer?" Naegi blinked.
"Yep! Somewhere in this building lurks a dangerous, deadly, detrimental, dastardly, evangelist murderer named Killer Killer. Any of you bastards who kills this person in the next three days can leave this building faster than you can say passionate killings!" Monokuma announced.
"Killer Killer? I've heard about that man before, if I remember correctly he's someone who kills other murderers for the sake of passion." Great Gozu recalled, "That man was also a member of the Future Foundation."
"And he was a member of my division." Sakakura clarified.
"But wasn't he dead?" Kimura asked.
"Yes, that's correct. The man that was Killer Killer, one Hijirihara Takumi, is indeed dead," Kirigiri began to explain. "Some time ago, Hijirihara was found dead after jumping off a building in an act hypothesized as suicide, he was joined by a woman reported as Asano Misaki."
"And you can here all about the story of Hijirihara-kun and more in the story of Japanese manga, Danganronpa Gaiden: Killer Killer!" Monokuma explained. "A thriller riddled with parasite monsters and Asano-san somehow surviving a decapitation, though I won't bore you bastards with all the details."
"If Killer Killer really is dead, then how can he be lurking in this building?" Naegi raised an eyebrow.
"That's because Killer Killer isn't a single person, it's a title that's been owned by different people in the past.'' Kirigiri explained.
"Which means the Killer Killer than Monokuma is talking about is a completely different person?" Gekkogahara asked, as the lavender haired woman responded with a nod.
"I don't care who it is, there's no way I'm getting involved in something like that again," Sakakura growled. "Besides, there's no way I'm falling for more of Monokuma's shit after what he pulled the last time."
Kizakura nodded. "I'm gonna have to second that. If you fool me once, then it's shame on you. If you full me twice, then shame on me."
'"I think Monokuma's already made it explicitly clear by now that his unfair motives aren't actually gonna get us out of this building!" Kimura hissed.
"As tempting as the motive sounds, I'll have to pass!" Ando nonchalantly waved off. "You would have to think we're pretty dumb to fall for the same thing twice?"
"I don't plan to make the same mistake twice, asshole!" Great Gozu roared in determination, once again flinging his blazer off, and clenching his fists in the tightest way possible. "We've already lost two of our comrades, and I don't intent to lose anyone else!"
"Yeah, now's a better time than ever for us to work together!" Naegi reaffirmed, with his head raised high in perseverance. "We're all together and on the same page, and we all want to put an end to what you started."
Ryota didn't really have the confidence to stand up to the bear just like everyone else, he seemed to only form that in small bursts. Nonetheless, he felt a sense of hope, the deaths behind Tengan and Yukizome were terrible, though they were at least able to unite the Future Foundation together again and have everyone share the one common goal — defeating Monokuma.
With all the rebelling against him, Monokuma sighed and turned his back away from everyone. "Okay, you guys can have it your way…buti'lljusthavetotrapyoubastardsonthisflooruntilyoukillsomebodynow."
"What?" Munakata raised his eyebrow.
"I said—buti'lljusthavetotrapyoubastardsonthisflooruntilyoukillsomebodynow," Monokuma mumbled.
"Enough with the bull crap, start speaking louder!" Ando replied.
The monochromatic bear cleared his throat. "I SAID, but I'll just have to trap you bastards on this floor until you kill somebody now."
That time it was evidently more clear and concise that before, and that's what made it far more threatening to hear. Of course, just when Ryota began to think things were looking up, Monokuma just had to drop a huge, sinister bomb to quickly turn things around to play in his favor.
"'What?" Ryota's heart almost stopped.
"You're trapping us on this floor?" Kimura gulped.
"Couldn't stand the thought of us one-upping you, huh?" Kizakura teased.
"Trapped is such a harsh word. Think of it as, you're chance to explore the beautiful aspects of the new world I presented for you," Monokuma explained. "Don't worry, you bastards won't even miss the floor above, it's not like there was anything valuable or important up there to begin with."
"No, that's wrong!" Ryota denied, finally gathering enough temporary courage to speak up. "What about that big door in the lounge room with your face on it?"
Naegi followed suit by nodding. "Yeah, Mitarai-kun's right, we still haven't found out what R06LLS is even supposed to mean."
"Upupupu...that's the idea, Naegi-kun!" Monokuma giggled. "If you bastards found out what that silly jumble of digits actually meant this early in the game, then there wouldn't be any real surprises to keep anyone on their toes."
Like every other time, Monokuma simply made his exit before anyone was given the chance to properly respond to him, once again leaving them with a whole lot to discuss and an equal amount of despair inflicted on them. Being trapped on a single floor for the rest of the killing game was pretty bad, but in the back of Ryota's mind was the serial killer than Monokuma mentioned before.
Killer Killer. He's heard about that person before from some of his fellow 10th Division members, though he never really knew too much in detail, being far too engrossed in his duties or animations to really give it much thought.
Then there was the motive itself that was stuck on his mind. He couldn't figure out whether or not Killer Killer actually existed, or if Monokuma was only lying to initiate another murder. Despite everything that Monokuma had done to them, he still hadn't given them any reason to mistrust anything he said, since the truth seemed to cause more despair than lying would.
With the new information about the first motive and their living conditions taken into account, Ryota was now again forced to live with the restriction of being trapped on another floor in the building, he could tell that Naegi and the two participants of the Hope's Peak Academy killing game were probably the most devastated about that news, probably even more than he was.
The blonde haired animator took pity in them, knowing they had already been involved in an a mutual killing game and had to deal with so much, not to mention the trouble they went through trying to save his classmates, and now they're involved in another game that's worse than the before.
He saw that Naegi retained his high spirits and determination to leave this building, a feat that never ceased to surprise the animator, most especially after seeing that rub off on other individuals like Great Gozu and Kizakura, who were as determined to persist no less than the Ultimate Hope himself.
As terrible as being stuck on this floor was, there were some advantages to their predicament; after yesterday's fiasco, Monokuma retooled one of the cafeterias into restaurant named "Chez Monokuma", with the twelve surviving participants there seemed to be plenty of food that didn't looked tainted by Yukizome in the slightest,
After the fiasco from yesterday, Monokuma retooled one of the cafeterias into a restaurant named "Chez Monokuma". While investigating the kitchen, Ryota found himself compulsively double-checking the areas just to make sure all the food was safe for everyone to eat, and to make sure there weren't any vents present where sleeping gas grenades could be slipped.
All the commotion nearly made him forget about the promise he made with Gekkogahara last night, proposing the two have daily therapy sessions together every night at 10 pm, and that the two would work together to survive this killing game with the rest of her friends.
He'd still been nervous about the last part, especially when the Killer Killer motive was taken into account, despite this he made his way to Gekkogahara's office, believing the therapist has not lead him astray just yet.
As he continued to meander throughout the dark halls for an extended period of time, Ryota finally buckled down and stopped at Gekkogahara's office, it wasn't like there'd been anywhere else he could go. He wasn't exactly in a hurry to see Munakata again, Naegi and his classmates were busy discussing their efforts of escaping, and the other participants were mostly trying to manage being on another floor.
It was a misfortune like no other; the well-known and esteemed Future Foundation — universally recognized for determinately bringing peace and combating despair— fell completely powerless at the hands of despair itself.
He proceeded to knock on Gekkogahara's door and got back an immediate response to enter, which he considered a vast difference from how he'd been acting yesterday when the blue-haired therapist entered his room. The moment he stepped inside, all the tension from his shoulders were abruptly lifted, thanks in large part to the beautiful fragrant of lavender that intoxicated the room.
"Mitarai-kun, you're a little earlier than I expected," Gekkogahara gasped.
The blonde animator was beginning to take a few steps back, contemplating whether it was a good idea to regroup with Gekkogahara right now, "I'm sorry...was this a bad time? I didn't mean to disturb, if so I'll—"
"No, that's fine," she found herself saying through Monomi before he could exit the room, returning presumably back to his room. "I don't really mind having any company. We're a little earlier than I expected, but feel free to sit anywhere you like and we can begin in just a few minutes."
"Okay," Ryota simply compiled, taking a seat on the nearest couch he could find and nearly sinking into the furniture at a moment's notice, working wonders on him and almost making him forget about Monokuma's motive, he assumed that Gekkogahara wasn't called the Ultimate Therapist without having a good reason.
For several minutes, he could only hear the sound of light tapping from Gekkogahara's keyboard as a means to break the silence of the room, and completely out of the blue, his green eyes scrolled down to the coffee table in front of him. With all the commotion from earlier he barely noticed some of the books of DVD's that were spread across the table.
Most of these books and movies were mainly targeted towards small children, knowing that Gekkogahara does occasional therapy sessions with small children as well, therefore, he could see plenty of Doraemon, Cased Closed, and Crayon Shin Chan, shows that he remembered fondly as a child himself and even considered them one of the reasons he began to love animation so much.
Above anything else, there was a specific DVD that really caught his eye, almost like finding a needle in a haystack.
"You have Spirited Away!" Ryota inappropriately gasped, though successfully getting the attention of Gekkogahara.
The Ultimate Animator was a little embarrassed that exclamation, though truthfully he'd never actually seen besides himself own those DVD's before and it made him excited. It seemed like Gekkogahara had taken notice of that as well, she stopped typing on her keyboard for a brief second.
"Yeah, the video was something donated to the 7th Division about a year ago," the blue-haired girl nodded as Monomi scratched her white ear in a pondering fashion before speaking. "I don't usually watch animations myself, they're mostly used to calm down any younger clients during appointments."
Just before Ryota had the chance to respond, he could already hear the brisk typing from Gekkogahara's keyboard. "But, a couple of months ago, I watched Spirited Away in my spare time here, and I instantly fell in love with the movie. And just between you and me, the rice ball scene made me tear up a little."
"I can understand what you mean," Ryota laughed subconsciously, something he hadn't done since the killing game began, or even before the killing game for that matter. "In the 10th Division, I've tried to spread culture to different parts of the world by showing different kinds of animation films, especially to kids."
Gekkogahara rose her eyebrows. "That's right, if memory serves, isn't that what your goal was before? The desire to create an animation that would spread hope throughout the world."
Ryota gave a small pity laugh; followed by a slow nod. "Yes, but I'm not too sure how a talent like that could even be useful. It's not like I could spread hope with a piece of animation."
"I don't think that's entirely true," Gekkogahara kept her poker face.
"What do you mean?"
Although her red scarf concealed part of her face, it was obvious that Gekkogahara was smiling underneath. "I mean, we're proof of that. You and I both just had a conversation about animation, and I'd say that hope was spread."
The animator snorted. That wasn't necessarily what he meant when he said spreading hope to the world, but he knew Gekkogahara was right about that. With the awful state that the world was currently facing, it was nice to find something that could still cultivate hope in people.
The two continued talking about animations for a longer amount of time, with Ryota even going as far to acknowledge her Monomi avatar that she constantly communicates to bears a resemblance to an anime character, an instant cue for the therapist to childishly tell him it's Magical Girl Usami—not, Monomi. Upon further explanation, she stated the avatar was a gift from her late friend Fujisaki Chihiro before his passing and that her avatar apparently has an identical "twin sister" that helped Ryota's classmates in the Neo World Program.
Out of nothing but sheer accident, Ryota looked at the nearest wall clock and saw that an entire hour had actually passed since the two began talking, Gekkogahara saw his eyes focused on the clock as well, albeit, only subtly surprised at how much time passed.
"I'm sorry Gekkogahara-san," he quickly apologized before too late. "I got a little sidetracked and forgot why I came here in the first place."
The Ultimate Therapist waved a hand, expressing her denial in the need to apologize. "There's no need to be sorry for something like that, besides, I had my fair share of talking in the conversation so that just makes me as guilty as you are."
Ryota took her consideration to heart, straightening himself up from the couch in preparation, though also swallowing his heart in some aspects. "I've never really had a therapy session before, so how do we begin one of these? I wouldn't even know where to start."
"Well, that's commonly normal for most clients, but it's not necessarily for me to say. Mitarai-kun, we're free to talk about just about anything on your mind," Gekkogahara consoled.
There'd been a surge of many things on his mind, and many things he wanted to talk about. His parents divorce, his childhood bullying, losing his fourteen classmates to despair, or even just the murder of Chairman Tengan and the betrayal and subsequent Yukizome. Where could he possibly begin with something like that?
Fortunately for Gekkogahara, she could already read Ryota's facial expressions and could identify that he was visibly struggling to find a topic to discuss. "How about I pick something for you? Yesterday, when we were talking, you asked why you couldn't be like Naegi-kun. Can I ask why you said that?"
Of all the things she could've asked him, that one definitely surprised Ryota the most. Admittedly, when he lamented about his jealousy of Naegi, he said it rather subconsciously, though in the heat of the moment it was something that escaped from his mouth.
"I guess that I've never really had the chance to talk about it much, but I guess I've always been a little jealous of Naegi-san," the animator admitted. "He's so brave and confident, and always can spread hope to himself and others like there's nothing to it."
"Can you remember when this began?" Gekkogahara asked, as Monomi tilted her head in slight anticipation.
It barely required less than a minute for Ryota to answer that question, "It must've happened a little after Naegi-san found the Remnants of Despair and attempted to revert them back to their original state before they met Enoshima Junko."
"And do you think that's what caused your envy?" Gekkogahara asked him.
Ryota nodded. "Naegi-san did something that I never could've done, and may well have even succeeded in it too. And meanwhile, I was the person who created the Remnants of Despair in the first place and caused everything that happened."
Gekkogahara froze. "Created? I'm not quite sure what you're talking about, Mitarai-kun. The Remnants of Despair were initiated by Enoshima Junko."
Before answering he bit his lip with hesitance, contemplating if he should actually say anything to the Ultimate Therapist. No, he couldn't just keep secrets like this, especially from someone who trusts him to this degree. "Because...back when I first enrolled into Hope's Peak Academy, I met Enoshima one day, and the two of us became friends."
Monomi let out a small and subtle gasp. "You were friends with Enoshima Junko?" Gekkogahara gasped.
"Yeah," he had the displeasure of nodding. "Things started off slow at first and Enoshima was a strange person, she was very charismatic and friendly, and she even formally introduced me to all fourteen of my classmates, and for a while things seemed great."
Gekkogahara looked to him with a serious expression, already aware of the unfortunate inevitable of this story, "What happened after that?"
Ryota grimaced. "It was all just a facade. Enoshima had been lying about beings friends with me from the beginning, she only used me to get closer to the rest of the 77th Class. She spent all that time secretly manipulating my classmates behind my back until they craved despair as much as she did."
"Mitarai-kun, something like that wasn't your fault," Gekkogahara clarified. "Something like that was far beyond your control and you could do anything about it—"
"No, that's not true. Before the Tragedy even began, I had the perfect chance to end this right then and there and potentially stop Enoshima from everything that she was doing," Ryota muttered, his head was lowered to the ground in shame. "But, I was too afraid to do anything about it, and all I could do was run."
The fact that Ryota mentioning running proved to be a cruel irony that he constantly faced throughout his life, quite possibly even the has the unfortunate pleasure of being the poster child of all the despair he quite possibly had to face, even on the day his life was ruined, running seemed to play a major factor in things.
"What's going on!? Who're you people!?"
With each and every passing step the Ultimate Animator found himself growing far more hysterical by the minute, he wouldn't dare to turn around in fear of how closer to the crowd would be catching up to him. From the few small glances that he gave, they were only normal teenagers that looked no different than he did, albeit attired in black suits — he recognized those uniforms from the Hope's Peak Academy Reserve Course.
There was something undoubtedly not right about them, in their hands were wooden stakes and knives among many things. Whoever these Reserve Course students were, they weren't simply trying to hurt Ryota. No, they were genuinely actually trying to kill him. That was far more than what any school bully had ever done to him.
After one minor misdirection in his steps, Ryota found himself tripping and painfully tumbling across the hard concrete flooring, it hurt but that was clearly the least of his problems. The scariest part was that all the Reserve Course students somehow managed to surround him in only a few seconds flat, instantly cornering him in one big circle.
This had to be the end for Ryota, he was completely surrounded by more deadly people that he could even begin to count, and was never the most physically active person, being in a situation like this made his outnumbered, outmatched, and outclassed.
"Oooooh! Mitarai-senpai!" hollered a familiar voice, in almost perfect synchronization the dozens of students all stopped what they were doing, lowering their weapons and allowed the owner of the aforementioned voice to make their entrance. Now, under any normal circumstances this would be like an angel from heaven, rescuing Ryota in the nick of time from being killed.
This was anything but an angel.
Although he wanted to erase her face from his memory more than anything, her strawberry blonde twin-tails, platform boots, and red fake nails were permanently entrenched in his brain no matter how much he tried to forget.
Enoshima Junko the Ultimate Fashionista made her abhorrent entrance towards the crowd, as Reserve Course students were practically worshiping the girl and waiting on her hand and foot like they were personal slaves, holding umbrellas for her and always making sure she had an ample space to stand in the crowd.
"What're you doing here, Enoshima-san?" Ryota managed to pick himself off the ground, though it was hardly an improvement considering his current status, and he couldn't exactly figure out why he continued to use proper honorifics with her, considering everything she's done.
"Well I came here to find my favorite upper classmate, duh! You just up and vanished before the best part of the show!" Enoshima cheerfully explained, "And we haven't even said our final goodbye before things got out of hand."
"Our goodbye?" the Ultimate Animator muttered, he quickly blocked his hands over his eyes, attempting to anticipate any kind of punishment the strawberry blonde would start inflicting on him, but after a few seconds nothing happened.
The Ultimate Fashionista dropped her head in the utmost despairing way a human possibly could, crocodile tears poured from her eyes and mushrooms started inexplicably coming from her head. "How sad, I'm appalled Mitarai-senpai, even after we became best friends thicker than blood you'd really think I'd kill you."
And instantly came back to her senses in the blink of an eye. "Nah, killing a person like you this early in the story would be too predictable for my tastes. If I was gonna put you down, I would've already done it by now!"
The impenetrable army of Reserve Course students looked vulnerable at the moment, though for some reason Ryota's arms and legs couldn't move a muscle no matter how much he tried to budge. He could only stare at Enoshima in fear and horror, completely powerless at her hands.
"But I really have to thank you for everything you've done, Mitarai-senpai. It's because of your cooperation that your dear classmates will become the catalyst for everything I have in store!" Enoshima eagerly exclaimed. "Your classmates have already been plunged into a deep, deep, deeep, deeep, deeeeeep! Despair, and are just like yours truly! Well, not entirely, but you get the gist."
"L-Like you…?" Ryota shuttered, that alone was enough for him to nearly begin to start tearing up once more. "No...t-that can be...I won't believe it, there's no way that could've happened to m-my classmates…"
"Awww, he doesn't believe me. Ain't it precious?" the fashionista responded sarcastically. "Oh well, I guess actions speak louder than words!"
Ryota hadn't the foggiest idea what Enoshima was planning to do next, he'd been busy trying to process far too much and couldn't even read her by expressions and mannerisms alone. It just went to show that the embodiment of despair itself was unpredictable and impossible to follow. He expected the strawberry blonde to do many things, though she only snapped her fingers.
And before him appeared, fourteen people that instantaneously emerged from the crowd, almost no different than the Reserve Course students — they were the 77th Class, his own classmates. There was clearly something much different about them compared to before, their piercing red eyes they all donned.
"We have been incredibly blessed, thank you very much, Mitarai-san!" a blonde haired princess thank him with the utmost and sincere gratitude. "I'm so grateful to have met Enoshima-sama, now I will be able to make my country a bloodshed one, with many wars!"
"I'm with you all the way!" a pink haired mechanic promptly retorted.
"Hmph, it should be taken into account, all of this was started because of Mitarai," a dirty blonde and overweight affluent progeny remarked. "In that vein, I pledge to bring the world into a new area in the name of the Togami Family."
"My hot passion for cooking is off the charts!" a short and plump chef cheered, "I'm ready to bring my cooking into the beautiful art of fasting!"
"Hell yeah!" a curvaceous gymnast with tan skinned followed, "Now that means I'm gonna starve till' I drop!"
This wasn't right, not by a long shot. Why are they talking about something as horrendous as despair in such a casual define manner, as if the concept of despair was something completely normal to their mindset. What on Earth did Enoshima do to them?
"Kyahaha! Three cheers for Ryota-chan! If it wasn't for him we never would've met Junko-sama and be introduced to the delightfuldeviousdamagingdangerousdeplorabledepressingofdespair — owww! I bit my tongue," yelped a energetic musician with long black hair and horns.
"Yeah, I guess a lameo like Big Bro Mitarai was actually good for something after all!" said a girl with blonde ponytail and orange kimono. "Now I'm gonna make Japan a terrible place with my traditional dancing!"
"I'll be sure take plenty of despair-inducing pictures, Hiyoko-chan," a girl with short red hair and a single-lens reflex camera in her hands said before flashing the lens at Ryota. "That goes for you too, Mitarai. Smile and say cheese~just kidding!"
"W-W-What's going on?" the Ultimate Animator stammered, "I...I never asked for this...I didn't want—"
"THAT'S INEXCUSABLE!" interrupted an overly muscular man, "Your performance to convert us was tremendous! Show some pride in your work, Mitarai! You were THE SHIT!"
"Feeling sorry for everything that happened is completely useless Mitarai-san, there's nothing to be afraid of anymore," a nurse with choppy purple hair cooed, giving quick glances to the fashionista and growing more elated by the minute. "Our beloved...my beloved...Junko...she'll take the pain away, she'll love and accept us like she always does."
"Damn right. That self doubting shit is really taking its toll," a baby faced yakuza scoffed. "Now that we've finally graduated, I've got my own agenda. I'm enhancing the gang and am gonna lead our people down the path of despair."
"I'm prepared to lay my life on the line for young master, and the lives of others," a silver haired girl with glasses and a shinai coldly followed.
"I shall give credit where credit's due, Mitarai Ryota. You proved yourself quite adequate for no less than a mere mortal, and with these extended powers from the Netherworld itself, I am invincible!" a serious man with a long purple scarf said. "No being, human, god, or pact, will be spared by the Tanaka Empire!"
The last person, an androgynous man with white frizzy, pitifully staring at his palm and smiling. "I normally wouldn't want to involve myself in something like this, even now I'm still weary about joining forces with the person I hate...yet love so much, but it doesn't matter how much despair is inflicted on the world because hope will always win, regardless."
Ryota again tried to stand up, but his legs were virtually frozen solid, he could only continue to helplessly watch his classmates act like shells of their former selves, he quickly turner back to Enoshima who devilishly smirked at him. "W-Why...why..are you doing this?"
His olive eyes were practically swelling with tears, his face progressively turning a pale blue in full hysteria. "I...I...I didn't know….I didn't know that you would…"
" — You didn't know I would take advantage of your dear old classmates insecurities, weaknesses, fears, and just about anything else that makes them tick, so they could join the winning side?" Enoshima finished his sentence. "And now you're gonna walk out on me and play the sympathy card? It takes two to tango, Mitarai-senpai!"
"N-No...I...I...It wasn't my fault...you never told me...I did know...I…"
"Right, none of this was your fault!" Enoshima laughed sarcastically. "It's not like you couldn't have called things quits at any given moment. None of this was actually your fault, right? Everything here was just caused by 'mean old Enoshima', you guys are all just innocent people who could have never done a single thing wrong around here, because EVERYTHING is my fault."
"I...I...I...I...I...didn't know —"
"And since NONE of this was anyone's fault to begin with, besides mine, that means you can hightail your keister on outta here and nobody would even think twice about blaming you!" the fashionista cheered, she walked closer to Ryota making him feel more uncomfortable and knelt down to his view.
As the two met face to face, the Ultimate Fashionista would utter the words that would stay with Ryota for the rest of his life. "Run. Run away and never return, because that is your despair."
Yet, he did the single most cowardly thing a person could probably do in that particular instance, and decided to run away. Not just away from Enoshima, his classmates, or the Reserve Course students, but away from the Hope's Peak Academy campus in general without taking a single moment to look back.
Of course, he really wanted to save his classmates from their fate and finish what Enoshima Junko started more than anything, but he was far too lacking in the overall strength and confidence to do anything remotely heroic, anything he tried to help someone things always made a turn for the absolute worse. With every bush he passed through in complete trauma over everything that happened, his own insecurities literally blinded him until he accidentally tripped and fell into a muddy bank, falling on his face.
Perhaps a fitting end for someone like him?
No...it couldn't just end like this. He couldn't let the Ultimate Fashionista treat his classmates...his friends, like they were her own personal puppets and continue to manipulate them into being a psychotic as she is.
"I...I've gotta...go...back! I've gotta save them..." Ryota muttered, he tried to muster up more courage though it mostly sounded contrived from his perspective. His arms struggled to even move, he couldn't figure out whether or not it was because of pain, or because his body was just too hesitant to ever see Enoshima again. The first part didn't make sense to him, any brave person would've rushed back to aid their friends in a heartbeat. But why was it so hard for him?
"C'mon Ryota, get up! Just this once be brave!" he began giving some meaningless gestures of encouragement in attempt to finally stand up, only ending in disappointment as his body utterly refused to stand up again. "Dammit! C'mon, get up! Please! Please!"
It didn't matter how much he encouraged himself, his efforts were downright futile. As he now realized the current status of his situation, warm tears bursted from his eyes and his confidence was shattered into many pieces. Mitarai Ryota was never the most picky person, truthfully he only really wanted three things out of life: to create a great animation, to have true friends, to spread hope and make others happy.
He was so close to have all of that, potentially even more, but Enoshima Junko took everything that he cared about from him in one fell swoop and forced him to leave him with the guilt that everything could've been easily prevented if he just opted for a life of a loner than merely spent his time doing animations by himself in a dorm room.
That's right, he had an epiphany the day. None of this would have happened if he just didn't interact with other people, perhaps maybe it was better to stay reserved than interacting with others, that way he would never have to deal with losing another friend again.
"Why am I such a weakling?"
"—and after that my classmates became the Remnants of Despair, and the Tragedy started, but I wasn't there to help them, I wasn't able to help anyone," Ryota finally finished, the topic alone was already enough to bring tears to his eyes that he tried sucking back in. "I let her get too close to my classmates, and now it's all my fault."
"Mitarai-kun, you're being too hard on yourself," Gekkogahara said. "There are some things in life that are just far beyond our control, but that doesn't mean things won't get any better."
"But how can that happen? I don't have strength like Naegi-san to move forward with blind optimism," Ryota replied.
Before she finished speaking, her fingers scrolled across the keyboard putting together one final sentence. "Mitarai-kun, hope isn't something that belongs to just one person. It can be found everywhere you look, not only subjected to one thing or one person, it can be found in anything or anyone, even things we wouldn't normally expect them to appear from."
And just like that their conversation came to its closing. After everything they discussed, there was no denying that Ryota had much to think about, however, what really struck the Ultimate Animator's interest the most were those final words that Gekkogahara gave him.
Hope can be found even in places you wouldn't normally expect? What could that have meant? Did she mean that even someone like Ryota has the potential to spread hope just as Naegi?
Gekkogahara Miaya certainly was more than what meets the eye, while visually appearing as merely a shy and quiet girl only reserved to her computer, in reality she proved herself of having one of the biggest hearts in the Future Foundation.
He couldn't really comprehend why her, or anyone else for that matter, would have ever decided to take a chance on a person like him, regardless, Ryota couldn't be more thankful for not only having someone he'd consider a great therapist, but a great friend.
Perhaps one day, the Ultimate Animator would be able to find some way to properly thank her for all the help that she's provided.
All things considered, Ryota felt he grew a little closer to Gekkogahara.