"So, that's how Mitarai-kun first met Enoshima-sama? Well, they say first impressions are lasting impressions, but I wish my precious student did a little better...his posture wasn't the best and he could've spoken a little more clearly…and it's not good to keep a lady waiting for so long."
"Oops, looks like I fell back into my teacher mentality again."
"I'm a little jealous that Enoshima-sama considered her meeting with Mitarai-kun was a fateful encounter. They say that fate is caused by being at the right place at the right time...maybe the same thing applied to Mitarai-kun and that's how the two of them met."
"Luck sure works in mysterious ways!"
Another day down the drain.
It probably wasn't a very good sign that those were the first words that Ryota dreadfully sighed the minute he woke up, it was hard to believe he'd been "participating" in this killing game for weeks and has hated every second of it, sure there were the occasional moments of hope with some of Naegi's optimism or getting pep talks from Gekkogahara, but that seemed vastly overshadowed by Monokuma and his many ridiculous antics.
The typical morning announcement that everyone dreaded practically flew straight over his head today, it was the first time he actually chose to simply ignore it, and after the seconds soon turned to minutes, he expected one of his fellow participants to wake him...but that never happened.
Before even given the thought of getting out of bed, a quick flash of what looked to be black and white popped out of nowhere and landed on his bed. His heart sank...already knowing what this was and what it would entail.
"Rise n' shine, Mitarai-kun!" were the first words that instantly popped out of the two-toned teddy bears mouth, leaving Ryota to recover from the shock (and also lose his desire to sleep any longer), if it wasn't already exhilarating dealing with Monokuma when he was awake, it happening when being asleep was a whole different level of irritation on its own.
The Ultimate Animator fell out of his bed and positioned himself further towards the corner, he clearly remembered it being against the rules to do anything that could potentially cross him and result in getting injected with the poison from his bangle. That said, they'd been here a while and Ryota still hadn't seen a single person accidentally activate their forbidden actions.
It seemed to have meant either one of two things; one: the forbidden actions were actually just a farce to get everyone to abide to Monokuma's rules, or two: everyone's been doing an exceptional job preventing their forbidden actions from being activated.
Ryota strongly believed it was probably for the best if he didn't learn which one was correct, he wasn't exactly waiting around to figure that out either. Whatever "using your talent" meant could instantly relate to his untimely death after all.
"M-Monokuma, what're you doing here!?" the meek animator gasped, in such a state of shock that he could've sworn that he nearly had a heart attack, or it at least semeed like he was about to have one.
"Why, I've come to wake up my favorite hikikomori, of course!" the teddy bear replied. "Being cooped up inside a dormitory room all day is no life for someone your age, you could accidentally go insane and chop off your ear like Vincent van Gogh."
Ryota clutched onto his blankets in an attempt to pull himself off the ground, "Is that all you came here to say?"
"Nope! I'm here as your personal alarm clock, it's time to haul your lazy butt down to Chez Monokuma for an important announcement!" the bear answered, now proceeding to whip out his claws and angrily threaten, "I refuse to tolerate any of you bastards being tardy on my watch! Even if I have to drag you guys out of bed..."
The teddy bears smiled noticeably started growing wider by the second. "OR, you could always remain here and have a taste of the sweet sensation of poison seeping throughout your body and slowly killing you by the second. I'd hate to have one of my precious employees be forced to do something...so the choice is yours!"
There hadn't been much of a choice in the matter, so the Ultimate Animator only reply by slumping his shoulders and sighing, "I get the picture."
Without any further objections on his ultimatum, that was surely more than enough of a cue for Monokuma to make himself scarce and finally leave the room back to some unknown location. The last thing he'd want is to accidentally cross Monokuma in any way possible, so he instantly grabbed a new black suit from his closet and rushed directly to the cafeteria before his fraught mind could start mapping out the potential "surprises" that could be waiting for him, and everyone else for that matter.
While he felt it was needless to say, there wasn't anything good to come from Monokuma.
Afterwards, Ryota proceeded to rush out of his dormitory in a hurry, mentally preparing himself for anything that Monokuma had planned with very little results. He was barely paying attention to his surroundings and as a result, accidentally slammed the cafeteria door in someone's face.
Before being given the chance to properly apologise for his actions, Ryota found himself dumbstruck when he looked to see that particular person was Sakakura of all people. A sudden surge of fear emerged into him instantly, almost like he just sealed his own grave.
Maybe, if he were lucky then the Ultimate Boxer would only let him off with a slap on the wrist, a literal one to be more specific. "S-Sakakura-san...I'm so sorry! I wasn't looking where I was going and didn't even notice you standing there…"
Being one of the Future Foundation's strongest subordinates members, Sakakura was more than capable of doing a number of terrible things to Ryota; punching, kicking, and probably a whole plethora of other boxing techniques that he's probably never even heard of. Among all things Ryota expected, the taller man simply placed a hand on his frail shoulder and smiled.
"Hey, don't worry about it!" the Ultimate Boxer assured with a smile. "Just try and be a little more careful!"
That was strange...Sakakura hadn't laid a single blow to Ryota, or even lifted a single finger for that matter, but he could've sworn he just had the wind knocked out of him regardless, albeit for a completely different reason. Why was he acting so polite and friendly? Was this some kind of sarcasam? The last time that Sakakura slugged him in the stomach, he began by providing a snide remark about his chivalrous tendencies.
Maybe, this was a similar instance?
And what was even more strange was his smile, it was certainly something new, Ryota clearly remembered never witnessing Sakakura give a smile that wasn't out of some kind of malice. Yet, right now the man was actually giving a genuine smile and displaying acts of kindness.
Ryota's only possible explanation is that Sakakura was probably trying to trick him into letting his guard down or something, that way he could attack the meek animator when he was least expecting it. There was no way of knowing that was true, so Ryota merely exercised caution when he passed him on the way into the cafeteria.
As part of his normal routine, Ryota sat on the farthest side of the room and mainly took a minute to catch his breath now that Monokuma wouldn't be threatening him anymore. After a few seconds, Gekkogahara approached him, with Monomi looking as energetic as usual on her computer screen.
"Good morning, Mitarai-kun!" she greeted, programming her two-toned rabbit to give him a short wave. "It seems like you're the last person to arrive here. Is everything alright?"
Ryota twiddled his thumbs, contemplating on if he should explain to her the strange thing that was happening with Sakakura's cheerful demeanor earlier, and whether or not that was actually a prank or not. "Good morning...Im fine, just a little tired after this morning, and I'm just a little nervous about the surprise that Monokuma could be giving us."
A quick gaze upon the other Future Foundation members showed that they were probably just as worried as Ryota was, and even Gekkogahara expressed her aloof anxieties with a slow nod and even slower typing on her keyboard compared to her usual brisk pace.
"You're right. I wonder what Monokuma could possibly be announcing to us this time. Haven't we already been giving the motive already?" she asked rhetorically.
Ryota swallowed, without even hearing what Monokuma had in store he already found himself paranoid about what's to come. With them being restircted to a single floor there weren't far too many options on what Monokuma could potentially do next, but that only made him nervous since the bear is notorious for being morbidly unpredictable and going against a "normal" way of thinkning.
He wondered if Monokuma was ever this merciless in other killing games or did he step his game up because it's his self-proclaimed "final killing game".
"You guys heard about Monokuma's announcement too?" Asahina stepped forward, getting the attention of the two, who both nodded in unision. "I wonder what it could be this time. What would Monokuma even be planning?"
In spite of how strange it sounded, Naegi was blissfully smiling at her response. "You shouldn't be worrying too much, Asahina-san. There's no point in letting anything that Monokuma says get to us, everything that's happening to us right now will only become a stepping stone to create an even greater hope."
"What? What're you talking about Naegi?" Asahina gasped.
"Hope?" Gekkogahara simply blinked, Monomi carried out her gestures by curiously tilting her head. "What do you mean? What does hope have to do with our current situation?"
What's happening? If Ryota's suspicions were correct, then there's no doubt that Naegi too has been acting strange this morning as well, and those those speech patterns and mannerisms were a weird amalgamation of creepiness of nostalgia. Ryota definitely remembers knowing someone who used to say weird stuff like that all the time.
"Umm, Naegi-san, are you feeling alright?" Ryota asked out of concern. "You're acting different...than usual."
"Of course, why do you ask?" the Ultimate Hope nonchalantly replied. That was clearly a lie, there was definitely something wrong with Naegi, but Ryota just didn't know what it was.
"What's it matter if anyway if Naegi is feeling alright or not?" Ando simply waved off. "Whatever's happening to him doesn't even matter since there's no possible outcome of things turning out okay regardless, something terrible is bound to happen."
Maybe he'd just been overthinking things, a possibly testament to his constant perturbation, but he could've sworn that Ando was talking much different than usual; her words were less articulated and appeared to sound extremely downbeat. After further examination it appeared that wasn't the only thing different, the outfit that she was regularly attired looked like it lazily put on and less refined than usual, almost like she didn't care.
"Huh? I'd never expect you to say something like that Ando-chan," Asahina gasped. "Don't tell me...are you acting weird too?"
"I'm no genius, but there's definitely something wrong with Naegi and Ando-chan, they're definitely acting out of character," Kizakura randomly said. In spite of previously stating that he was a genius, Ryota realized that he made a pretty valid point.
"And not just them either, I saw that Sakakura-san was acting strange this morning as well. I'm not quite sure what it could mean or what's happening either," Ryota replied. "Did they come down with kind of sickness or something?"
In order to prove Ryota's arbitrary hypothesis, Kimura dashed right over to Sakakura who was closest to him at the moment and briefly rummaged through her bag to grab her first aid items, it hardly even took a few seconds before there was something very concerning about the Ultimate Boxer that she noticed.
"Sakakura-san's body temperature feels extremely high...it seems like he has a fever!" the Ultimate Pharmacist gasped.
"A fever!?" Great Gozu exclaimed.
"And are you sure that it's truly a fever?" Kirigiri asked rigidly.
Kimura reached back into her bag, grabbing a digital thermometer from inside and slid it under his tongue, after a few brief seconds the beeping went off, and she went to check the temperature and if her previous diagnosis wasn't proof enough, then her eyes widening was conclusive proof. "His temperature is...102 degrees fahrenheit, that's really not a good sign, it's actually very serious."
"That's not true, believe me...I feel fine!" Sakakura smiled. Part of this felt very worry, but also exceedingly jarring to witness Sakakura behave in such a strange way, largely in part to how Ryota knew that the normal Sakakura would never let anyone touch him, and even a women like Kimura would be no acception to his mentality.
"Mitarai-kun, check the other two's foreheads and see if they have a fever as well!" Gekkogahara urged. "If so that may be able to answer our question."
"Okay!" Ryota nodded and went over to the Ultimate Hope and Ultimate Confectioner, individually placing his hand on both of their foreheads. "No...this can't be right. It looks like both Naegi-san and Ando-san have fevers too!"
"Then there's definitely something wrong with them all." Kimura announced to the group. "It appears they all have come down with severe fevers, my only hypothesize is that it's was potentially caused by a psychogenic fever, which is usually caused by stressful situations. For this instance, it's difficult to pinpoint a potential cure, perhaps maybe a ibuprofen."
"Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! There's no cure!" Monokuma angrily yelled, popping out of nowhere in his regular routine. "Cures just don't grow on trees y'know! If I created a cure, then I'd never be able to make profit off the treatment!"
"Monokuma!? Don't tell me you had something to do with this." Gekkogahara said, with Monomi appearing more stern than usual.
"Maybe, I did. Maybe, I didn't. Buuuut, since you were kind enough to ask, I suppose I can spill the beans for my ugly, worthless, shameful, repulsive, boring, unfunny, disgraceful little sister!" the two-toned bear teased.
His slasher smile grew wider. "Today, I decided to hit you bastards with a throwback motive. I present to you...the Despair Disease!"
The Ultimate Therapist didn't give his response any second thoughts and went straight into typing at her keyboard. "I'm not your sister. And why'd you use so many adjectives?"
Ryota blinked nervously. "Um, Gekkogahara-san. I think you're kinda missing the point...what did Monokuma mean when he said Despair Disease?"
"And what did he mean by throwback motive?" Kimura gasped.
Kirigiri turned to the Ultimate Pharmacist. "Despair Disease was a motive that Monokuma used on the Remnants of Despair while they were inside the Neo World Program. They were microscopic insects that gave them large quantities of despair."
"As usual, you're correct!" Monokuma giggled. "But, I had to change up the method of infection this time around. Insects that give you despair could only ever exist in a video game world after all."
"What do you mean?" Great Gozu asked.
"While all you bastards were fast asleep like babies, I administered a new drug temporarily into your bangle with neither your awareness nor consent. Don't fret, they'll be removed once the motive ends," Monokuma explained. "The drug increases the despair inside of a person and will activate at completely random."
"But two motives at the same time?" Kizakura raised an eyebrow, giving off his usual smirk. "Isn't that a little overkill?"
Monokuma started sweating. "Well...you see...it's kinda actually a funny story. Remember the Killer Killer motive? Well, it was never actually my idea to begin with…"
"Wait! You weren't the one who created the Killer Killer motive, then who possibly could've done it!?" Great Gozu demanded.
The small bear giggled. "Upupupu...I guess I've probably said a little too much. Anywho, since I'm the Future Foundation's beloved chairman, I can make any new rules at my discretion!"
"What're we gonna do about the others?" Asahina asked in distress.
While it was usually difficult to make out what Gekkogahara was thinking from under her long scarf, her icy blue eyes began to narrow. "If what Monokuma said is actually true and there's no cure for the Despair Disease. We need to keep everyone infected with the disease safe, if we let them roam the building they could potentially commit a murder."
Ryota sighed. "You're right. I really don't wanna have to do that, but it's probably our only means of preventing another killing from happening."
To his response, Ando merely gave him a pessimistic head shake and shrugged her shoulders. "It could work...but probably not. Aren't we just biding our time, Monokuma said things won't end until there are only three survivors, so we're just gonna die anyway."
"Don't say things like that Ruruka, of course we're all gonna survive!" Great Gozu assured her.
Then, suddenly...something happened that Ryota never wouldn't predicted, Munakata stepped forward in the center of the group, Ryota was certain that he was about to say something except he began to start heavily breathing. "I...I...can't recall..." and right before everyone's eyes the Future Foundation's Vice Chairman immediately collapsed on the ground.
"Munakata-san!" Ryota yelped, quickly rushing to the aid of the fallen Ultimate Student Council President with everyone else falling him in a circle. "What happened...was he infected with the disease too!?"
"This isn't good, we need to get them all to an infirmary and fast! An apple a day keeps the doctor away after all," Bandai responded.
"You're right, what if Monokuma leaves them to die in this state?" Kimura followed in anxiety.
"That won't happen. Monokuma's already well established at this point that none of the participants are permitted to die unless they are murdered or activate their forbidden actions." Kirigiri sharlpy corrected. "During my investigation on this floor, I found a small hospital and quarantine on the floor. It should provide us with any necessities for treating everyone."
Ryota's mouth quivered into a small smile, a hospital meant there was still a ray of hope, even if it was very small. "That means all we have to do is take them to the hospital and—"
He couldn't even manage to finish his sentence, the words struggled to simply escape from his mouth after seeing Monokuma run out the room and back dressed with a stethoscope around his neck and a clipboard saying: "Leave everything to me, Dr Killgood!"
"Dr. Killgood?" Ryota repeated in disbelief.
"We gotta get these patients to the Monokuma Hospital ER and get them under 24 hour—WAIT a second...I've already made this joke before! Geez! Looks like I'm running out of new material!" Monokuma sighed.
"Your ridiculous rules and forbidden actions mean nothing to me, if you do anything awful to Ruruka I'll kill you." Izayoi threatened. His remarks were so threatening that even Ryota started to back away out of fear.
The two-toned bear smiled and happily saluted. "No problemo, Izayoi-kun. These bastards are safe with me, cross my heart and hope you die!"
And just like that, before they all knew it, the four diseased individuals were suddenly whisked away from everyone by Monokuma, carried out of the cafeteria one-by-one in stretchers and transported to the hospital located on the opposite side of the floor before they were hardly able to have any further objections.
The minute they all were taken away, Ryota felt the urge to begin rushing to the hospital to see how they were doing in this condition and above all, make sure they were safe from Monokuma, it appeared that everyone's else's minds thought alike since the others were making their way towards the hospital as well.
Ryota didn't have the foggiest idea what the Despair Disease could possibly entail for them, but he knew he couldn't just let them be under the care of Monokuma since there's no telling what the bear could do to them. Perhaps the disease means they'll be a much easier target for murder? Or maybe, that means Monokuma will no longer consider them participants of the game.
No. Now definitely wasn't the time nor place to have such awful and negative thoughts, if they couldn't be cured then there was no telling how this would further affect things.
Ryota felt that he was running as fast as his legs could carry him, possibly even faster, and while he was quickly outmatched by Asahina and Great Gozu in terms of speed, he still managed to make in time to see all his diseased co-workers being placed in the intensive care unit.
Things weren't looking very good for both sides of the spectrum, the diseased participants hadn't appeared to be in the very best condition and were seemingly getting worse by the second, especially Sakakura, who's fever wasn't really getting any better.
Of course, Monokuma wasn't the slightest bit concerned, evidently something like remorse or mercy were words he couldn't even begin to comprehend. "I'm sure you bastards are probably worried about what's gonna happen to your co-workers, but rest assured. Dr. Killgood's treatments are always 65% successful!"
"That's exactly why we're worried in the first place!" Asahina yelled.
"And wouldn't that mean the other 35% would result in them dying?" Kizakura asked amusingly, taking a quick swig of liquor between his sentence.
"I agree with Aoi on that," Great Gozu followed up. "Is it really a wise decision to leave our comrades in the hands of someone like Monokuma. After all, he's the reason they're infected with this disease right now."
"But, we don't really have any other options, right?" Ryota asked, all but hoping that someone would give him an optimistic response that would tell him otherwise. "If there's really no cure, then shouldn't our best bet to be finding a way to get passed this motive without a murder?"
"Then, who should take care of them?" Kizakura asked. "I'm not even close to being a doctor, so whenever I'm sick I always drink a little whiskey to straighten things out."
"Well, Kizakura-san...somehow I don't really think that's gonna work for this instance." Ryota awkwardly shot down.
"I'll take care of them!"' Kimura volunteered in a heartbeat, rightfully so with her medical experience, and Ryota remembered how she was very skilled in performing an autopsy on Chairman Tengan when he was killed. "I'll save them all and make sure they're cured from this disease!"
"Wait a minute, Kimura-san, are you actually sure you wanna do that?" Ryota gasped.
"Sheesh, can't you bastards take a hint already?" Monokuma grudgingly moaned. "I specifically said there was absolutely NO cure for the Despair Disease! NO way, NO how, NO where! If you think there's a cure then you're definitely wasting your time."
"That doesn't matter! Even if there's no available cure...I'll find one! I'm gonna make sure that I save everyone." the Ultimate Pharmacist declared. Ryota was astonished that the 4th Division Head would still want to continue supporting everyone despite what Monokuma previously told them, she clearly determined to save everyone no matter what the cost was.
In some way, it almost reminded him of the way he used to be when working on his animated films...or perhaps the way he still was.
"Should we be worried about you, Kimura-chan? What if you get infected with the Despair Disease too?" Asahina asked out of concern. "I think Naegi and Kyoko-chan said that happened with one of the Remnants of Despair too."
The pale pharmacist shook her head and began compulsively rummaging through her medical bag. "Well...there shouldn't really be a need for that. There are lots of stimulants in my bag that could probably help counteract that. If things become dire I'll take some acetaminophen and digest plenty of fluids."
"Not that I'd be a problem anyway. I'm gonna take a wild guess and say this version of Despair Disease is only injected into our bangles, so they shouldn't be contagious in the slightest," Kizakura noted. "Then again, what's a guy like me know?"
"And you guest right! If I were to simply reuse the same version of Despair Disease from the Jabberwock Island killing game, then things would've been way to boring and easily predictable!" Monokuma replied. "So, I happily decided to change the effects. This time around, it's a self-contained disease and isn't contagious in the slightest!"
"That's a relief, right?" Bandai gasped. "If the Despair Disease isn't contagious, they'll all be cured soon enough! Then, we'll be together again like two peas in a pod."
"Would it really be that easy?" Asahina gasped.
"Hold on a second! I said Despair Disease isn't contagious, BUT I never said it'd be less easier to catch! Where's the fun in that?" Monokuma warned them. "There's still another way to catch this disease simply from your bangle!"
"There is? Then, what is it?" Ryota blinked.
Monokuma started giggling to himself once more, which was only feeding to how antsy everyone was about this motive. "You guys have heard people say the mind is everything, right? How stressing over something can lead to that happening? Wellll...that's no different for the Despair Disease."
"Then, you're saying that our friends got the Despair Disease because they were the ones feeling despair at the time?" Gekkogahara realized, made apparent with the lightbulb that appeared from above Monomi's head.
And to the surprise of Ryota...he looked to see Monokuma do something that he never would've imagined, the two-toned bear practically answered all of his questions in one fell swoop. That means the diseased participants only received the Despair Disease because they were the ones feeling despair at the time?
Sure, the easiest to decipher would undoubtedly be Munakata since everything that happened during the last trial from Chairman Tengan's death to Yukizome's betrayal and subsequent execution as well.
On the other hand, there were Ando and Sakakura who Ryota also didn't have the slightest clue on how they possibly could've been infected with the disease, he barely knew anything about them before the killing game started and has knowledge about them now hardly scratches the surface.
And then there was Naegi, who Ryota found the most peculiar and strange to be included in the aforementioned category. Out of everyone that undeniably seemed the most out of place to him...the renowned Ultimate Hope responsible for defeating Enoshima Junko was affected too? Ryota never would've guessed for him to becoming a victim of Despair Disease as well, especially not after all the motivation that he'd been giving everyone since the killing game began and persevering even after everyone lost his trust.
If the Despair Disease was really caught by anyone that was feeling despair at the time, then it begged the question of why Ryota wouldn't have been affected by the disease either. He was positive that if Munakata was given the disease because of Tengan and Yukizome's death, then the exact same thing should've happened to him, but hasn't felt any disturbances in his personality, or at the most a fever.