The world stopped moving when that confirmation was made.
Another killer hidden somewhere among the group? Had it not been for that close margin that stopped them, they would’ve made another wreckless majority vote and have all been executed. Admittedly, Ryota reached a point in the case where he was practically stumped on how things were going to play out next.
He was completely certain that either Great Gozu died as the result of a suicide or Munakata somehow played a role in his murder, except there were so many holes in both of those claims to hold any real footing.
If that wasn’t the case...then who was the killer?
Monokuma made gazes towards the indecision between the participants, causing his half-slasher smile to seemingly get bigger in excitement. “Welp! Looks like you bastards have reached quite the conundrum of a crossroad. Who do you think dunnit? Was it Gozu-kun, or maybe Munakata-kun. You guys ready to cast your votes?”
“There’s no way we could be ready to cast our votes right now,” Kimura nervously stopped him. “It looks like there are still too many things that we need to talk about.”
“Yep, you can say that again. This case has already been going on for quite a while and there’s still some things up in the air that I hardly understand.” Kizakura commented, using his free hand to adjust his hat.
In exasperation the two-toned bear lazily fell back into his throne. “Fine, let me know when you’re ready to have somebody executed! By the way, if Mitarai-kun says anything wrong, then isn’t that a little conspicuous? Almost like he’s the killer of this case?”
“What!?” the Ultimate Animator gasped.
“You know how in some murder mysteries stories, the characters always spend the story searching for the identity of culprit?” Monokuma asked. “Then...whoop de doo! It turns out the culprit was actually the main hero the entire time. Who knows, maybe that same thing applies here?”
“Is Mitarai actually the culprit?” Izayoi questioned.
Gekkogahara sternly shook her head at him. “No, Monokuma’s just trying to confuse us again. If we’re gonna uncover who the culprit of this case is, then we’ll need to return back to the basics and retread the entire case once more.”
“Retreat? You mean after everything we went through...you want us to start right back to square one?” Sakakura asked in disbelief. “Then what was the point of everything that proceeded in this trial?”
“No, Gekkogahara-san is definitely right.” Kirigiri intensively interrupted. “Now that we’ve learned that Killer Killer was a lie and that neither Gozu-san of Munakata-san were responsible for the murder...we can finally get down to assessing the root of this case.”
“Which is exactly how Gozu-san was killed in the first place.” Gekkogahara finished.
Ryota spared himself the thought of having to picture the gruesome image of his deceased friend since he already remembered how the murder was initiated. “Well, Gozu-san was discovered with severe wounds on his face and found a knife in his back pocket and his bodies were suspended in the air with chains.”
“And the chains that tied up his body weighed a ton, I couldn’t lift them up from the ground and neither could Naegi and Mitarai.” Asahina pointed out.
“The only person who probably could’ve lifted up those chains were Gozu-san himself.” Kimura disheartenedly realized. “Except that would’ve been impossible to do himself, there had to have been someone that managed to chain him to the ceiling instead.”
“We can mull our options all we want, but the bottom line of it all is that there aren’t too many people that could’ve done something like this,” Kizakura shrugged. “If Asahina-chan and the boys struggled, then we can cross them off the list. I know I couldn’t have done it since my forbidden action only lets me use one hand.”
“Maybe it was Sakakura?” Ando suggested.
“I was in the damn hospital! How could I have restricted Gozu to those chains?” Sakakura demanded.
Ryota decided to tune out all the feckless bickering, that didn’t really matter at this moment. All the information had presented itself — the culprit was someone who managed to kill the Ultimate Wrestler by restrict him to the ceiling. With how heavy the chains were, it was nearly impossible for anyone besides that person to have successfully accomplished that with ease.
That person...who conveniently lacked an alibi for this morning or a forbidden action restricting them from pulling off a murder, someone who was the biggest individual in the Future Foundation, possibly even the tallest person that Ryota had ever met.
“Mitarai-kun. Did you find the answer too?” Naegi asked him. “There’s only one person that could’ve lifted up the chains to restrict Gozu-san.”
It was time to choose a suspect.
“...the killer is Bandai-san.”
Having to reveal that information hit Ryota more than anyone else could probably understand, it made him feel like some kind of cold blooded monster that was selfishly sacrificing someone else's life for his own purposes. Why did it seem like everytime Ryota befriended someone things always turned out worse for them? Meanwhile, he’s stuck with survivors guilt.
“What!?” Bandai gave an inevitable shriek. “W-What’re you talking about? I’m not the killer! I had nothing to do with the crime!”
“Mitarai, are you sure about that? Is Bandai really the one who killed Gozu?” Asahina demanded.
The Ultimate Animator anxiously bit his lip. “...I don’t want to believe that Bandai-san would be capable of murdering someone, but everything adds him. He’s the tallest participant in the game and the only person that would be strong enough to suspend Gozu-san into the air like that.”
“Also, Munakata-san and Gozu-san already have been cleared of suspicions of being the murderer of this case, and no one else could’ve been strong enough to lift up those chains that we know.” Naegi added on.
“There’s gonna be some kind of mistake to all this!” Asahina called out in desperation. It seemed convenient that the moment they finally find out who killed Great Gozu, she’s the first person to try and refute this claim.
“I’ll have to second that. Bandai-san has always been sweetheart, right? I can’t believe that he’d actually be someone responsible for betrayal.” Kimura skittishly defended.
Those responses earned a sigh and headshake, courtesy of Munakata. “If you’re really inclined to believe that a person is incapable of murder due to their morality of all things, then you're truly lost. The truth of the matter is that Bandai killed Gozu in cold blood and that’s all there is to it—“
“NO! NO! NO! There’s gotta be some kind of big mistake!” Bandai hysterically cried out. “Gozu-chama was one of my best friends and I’ve NEVER EVER kill him!”
“Yes, and that convincing testimony of yours is definitely going to prove us otherwise.” Munakata replied sarcastically.
“Will you just shut up already!” Asahina barked at the Ultimate Student Council President. “Anyway, is it really true that Bandai is the killer...even I’m having so trouble believing in that.”
Kirigiri nodded, seriously. “Yes, and there’s likely a specific reason that Bandai-san could’ve killed Gozu-san in the first place...because he was infected with the Despair Disease as well.”
“Bandai-san had the Despair Disease as well, how can you be sure?” Kimura asked to make sure.
A few strands of lavender hair laced between her glove fingers before being pulled back to her ear. Her expression was much more confident than the rest. “Over the course of the past few days, there was something that dawned on me about Bandai-san’s way of speech. It was definitely more strange than off than his usual way of speaking.”
“NO! I didn’t say ANYTHING out of the ordinary!” Bandai hectically defended. Ryota could feel his heart sink when he saw the farmer was sweating tremendously. “I ALWAYS say phrases! They’re my own personal sayings! They don’t meaning ANYTHING ANYTHING!”
“Wait, did he just repeat the same thing twice?” Kizakura blinked dumbfoundedly.
“No, I’m not referring to your own personal phrases.” Kirigiri corrected the Ultimate Farmer. “For the past few days, your personal phrases have appeared to be much more logical than they usually are, like common proverbs.”
Ryota needed to think back to the past few days to remember some of the phrases that Bandai had been saying. They didn’t necessarily seem very harmful at the time, but now they really started to make sense, what Kirigiri said was definitely correct.
"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."
"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."
“And based on what you mentioned about Monokuma’s testimony, a change in personality was an official symptom of the Despair Disease.” Munakata acknowledged. “Isn’t that correct Monokuma?”
“Indubitably! The Despair Disease had a total of five victims in total!” the monochromatic bear giggled. “Those victims were Naegi-kun, Sakakura-kun, Ando-san, Gozu-kun, and Bandai-kun as well!”
“Yeah. We believed that Munakata-san was the fourth infected person, but in actuality it was Gozu-kun. Then, we didn’t know the identity of the fifth infection person, and that’s Bandai-san.” Gekkogahara earnestly summed up.
“Ergo, Bandai-kun is the fifth person infected with the Despair Disease no matter how you slice it!” Monokuma laughed.
“And now that you mention is, I don’t believe Bandai-san ever had a confirmed alibi for what he was doing this morning,” Gekkogahara recalled. “Mitarai-kun, Kirigiri-san, and me payed a visit to the hospital to check on everyone.”
“Then, there’s Kizakura-san who’s forbidden action would have prevented him from lifting up those chains, right?” Kimura questioned, the fedora wearing man nodded and flashed his bangle to them as part of the confirmation. “Izayoi-san didn’t have an alibi either, but I don’t think he was strong enough to lift those chains.”
“I can’t say I appreciate those diminishing undertones, but I will admit that lifting up the chains that suspended Gozu would have been a difficult task even for my expertise.” the Ultimate Blacksmith commented.
“That should also exclude the infected participants like Naegi, Ando, and Sakakura. Myself as well since I needed to fake the disease to keep up keep up appearances,” Munakata assessed. “Therefore, by process of elimination Bandai is logically the only person that could have killed Gozu.”
The farmer’s face started to well red with anger and the veins on his fist started to pop out. “SHUT UP! I’M NOT THE KILLER! BECAUSE...THE STRAWBERRY SEED ONLY SHOWS ITS FACE THREE TIMES! THE STRAWBERRY SEED ONLY SHOWS ITS FACE THREE TIMES! THE STRAWBERRY SEED ONLY SHOWS ITS FACE THREE TIMES!”
“Huh? Bandai-san what just happened?” Ryota gasped.
“It appears that we’ve found our killer.” Munakata deadpanned.
“No way! Bandai-san’s really the one who did this?” Naegi followed.
“Is this his true nature?” Ando questioned.
The Ultimate Farmer furiously slammed to the podium enough to cause a vibration. “‘YOU’RE NOT LISTENING! YOU’RE ALL LYING! YOU KILL ME! I NEVER NEVER KILLED GOZU-CHAMA! A CHANTING MONK DOESN’T KNOW HIS PARENTS, RIGHT? RIGHT? RIGHT? RIGHT? RIGHT? RIGHT? RIGHT?
For that moment, it almost felt like Bandai was hiding behind “shields” to protect him from this argument. And of course Ryota was going to have to break those shields down if he ever wanted to expose the truth of this case.
He didn’t want to have to do this, but there was absolutely no denying that Bandai was behind this case anymore. “Bandai-san. Please answer me this...if you truly are the killer, then how exactly was Gozu-san murdered?”
“Why do you keep assuming that I’m the one who did it?” the Ultimate Farmer whimpered. “I ALREADY SAID I DIDN’T DO IT! BOTH DOLPHINS AND DEER LIVE INSIDE PINE TREES! BOTH DOLPHINS AND DEER LIVE INSIDE PINE TREES!”
“This isn’t looking so good, if we can’t even get Bandai-san to admit how the murder was initiated then we’ll be in trouble.” Gekkogahara acknowledged.
“YOU KEEP SAYING THAT I KILLED GOZU-CHAMA! But, that’s just a lie. MY FORBIDDEN PROVES THAT I WASN’T THE ONE THAT KILLED HIM!” Bandai defended. His violently clenched fists lifted down the sleeve of his bangle and pressed the button that activate the red text. “LOOK AT THIS!”
“Involving Yourself in Violent Situations”
Ryota’s eyes scrolled across the the rotating red letters and witnessed something he never would have imagined. It seemed like that was the end, if Bandai’s own forbidden action prevented him from causing harm to another participate then there was certainly no potential way, except there still was one way he could’ve been killed...
“...If I can’t involve myself in violence situations, then there’s NO way I could have killed Gozu-chama!”
Great Gozu’s forbidden action.
“It’s over!” Ryota yelled. His words were powerful enough to silence any fruitless efforts Bandai was making to prove that he wasn’t the person who the killer, he retracted and started ridiculously a large amount of tears. The animator felt bad for having to do this, but if he didn’t than none of them would be saved. “There still one way that you could’ve killed Gozu-san without violating your forbidden action, by using his forbidden action!”
“What do you mean?” the Ultimate Farmer squeaked. He tried wiping some of the berserk tears from his eyes, but they only kept coming.
“Gozu-san has a specific forbidden action that would inject him with poison, being knocked to the ground for a three count,” Ryota answered. “Bandai-san, if I remember correctly you’re the tallest person in this room right now. Wouldn’t you have been able to effortlessly knock Gozu-san down for a three count with ease?”
“As a matter of fact that could be possible. I’ve got tabs on all the members of the Future Foundation, our pal Bandai stands at a whopping 213 centimeters which is about 7 feet tall.” Kizakura recounted. “He’s also 321 pounds, which is more than Gozu’s, meaning that lifting up those heavy set of chains wouldn’t be a difficult task either.”
“Then Bandai totally fits the bill to the crime.” Ando realized.
“No! No! Please believe me! I never killed Gozu-chama, I promise.” Bandai defended as the sloppy tears continued cascading down his face. The sincerity of his pleads were really convincing, it was like he was telling the truth. At least that’s what Ryota believed, he strongly wished he was simply telling the truth, but they were running out of fingers to point in this trial.
“It’s over. There’s no need to continue this trial any longer.” Munakata said coldly. “Letting this go on any further would be a waste of time, let’s proceed with the voting already.”
“Hold on just a moment,” Gekkogahara interrupted the group. “Before that, it’s best we clear all possible misconceptions by doing a closing argument over the whole case. Mitarai-kun, can you handle that?”
Ryota looked to the Ultimate Therapist with uncertainty and doubt. He thought back to the last case where Yukizome urged him to do the exact same thing during that trial before she died. Feeling there wasn’t much of a choice, he nodded in agreement.
“This case immediately started after Monokuma announced a new floor would be accessible to us in the building. Munakata-san had already taken the time to investigate the lower floor long before us, which explains why he wasn’t in the cafeteria alongside the rest of us. That’s when he proposed the idea of the second motive to Monokuma...that a serial killer known as Killer Killer had infiltrated the building. Later that day, Monokuma announced that very same motive to everyone else, but we weren't really convinced...that’s when he created the Despair Disease to forcibly have everyone participate in the game against their free will.”
“Five of our friends were all infected with Despair Disease — except Munakata-san who’d been faking the entire time. Later on Munakata-san would initiate his plan to take advantage of Gozu-san’s disease by manipulating him into thinking that he’s Killer Killer with many hints throughout the building. His increased depression gave him no reason to think otherwise, and Gozu-san attempted to commit suicide and pay his debt to society. While he managed to stab himself in the face with a knife, it still didn’t kill him. That’s when the killer...whom was also a diseased person...was added into the mix.”
“The killer’s forbidden action specifically prevented him from partaking in any violence, so they weren’t able to physically kill him and needed to set off Gozu-san’s forbidden action instead. Then, the killer used their strength to suspend Gozu-san ino the air with some chains only they could life. The killer’s forbidden action specifically prevented him from partaking in any violence, so they weren’t able to physically kill him and needed to set off Gozu-san’s forbidden action instead. What’s most ironic is that setting off Gozu-san’s forbidden action is what gave away the identity of the culprit. That’s the only possible truth behind this case...Bandai Daisaku the Ultimate Farmer is the killer.”
A dreary silence pervaded the room. Whenever something like this happened it always made Ryota that he may have screwed something up in the trial or potentially said something wrong. He genuinely wondered if they were following in his same train of thought, though they likely weren’t.
“So, Bandai really is the killer?” Asahina said blankly, then like a switch, all of her anger focused on the Ultimate Farmer in question. “Why, why would you kill him!?”
“Don’t start acting sympathetic like you didn’t just kill Gozu in cold blood. Save your crocodile tears for somebody who gives a damn.” Sakakura spat.
“There’s no need to antagonize Bandai-san.” Gekkogahara told the boxer. “What I’m more curious about is why he would have killed Gozu-san in the first place? That’s just about the only thing that still doesn’t seem to add up in this case.”
Bandai hiccuped and wiped a few tears. “Gozu-chama and I were buddies, I didn’t want to kill him, but I didn’t have any control of my actions under the Despair Disease. But, Gozu-chama insisted that I killed him and chained him to the ceiling.”
“What!? Gozu-san is the one who asked you to kill him?” Ryota gasped. That was definitely a new addition to the trial that none of them had ever heard before.
“...It happened this morning. My body was feeling really woozy and I felt like I didn’t have any control over my thoughts and actions,” Bandai began to explain. “I got a knock on my door from Gozu-chama, his face was covered in blood the knife he used. He told me that he wanted to repay his debt to society for being Killer Killer.”
That last sentence really hurt Ryota. The fact that Great Gozu was ready and willing to end his own life to atone for a sin that he never committed was heartbreaking.
“...then, he talked about requesting me to end his own life for atonement. He wanted to be reunited with his wife and daughter one more time and requested that I kill him.” replied the weeping farmer after clearing his breaking throat. “I agreed.”
“It was the Despair Disease that made you agree, right?” Sakakura questioned.
Bandai restlessly nodded. “I didn’t want to kill Gozu-chama. I really didn’t wanna kill him, but the disease made it difficult for me to refuse.”
“Then why was he chained to the ceiling and why was the museum chosen as the place of the crime scene?” Naegi asked.
“Gozu-chama genuinely believed he was the traitor. He wanted me to chain him to the ceiling in act of humiliation, and he chose the museum because it was a new area made by exclusively by Monokuma.” Bandai said.
“There’s still one question that’s been jumbling around in my head. Why did Gozu ask Bandai to kill him in the first place?” Kizakura asked out of the blue. “What was stopping him from simply committing suicide. In the grand scheme of things; there would be far less casualties.”
“Maybe he was just trying to off somebody else in the game?” Sakakura brutally wondered. “That way if Gozu goes down, then at least he could take somebody else with him.”
“No. Even with the Despair Disease, I don’t think Gozu-san would have been the type of person to intentionally hurt someone.” Gekkogahara sadly corrected, even Monomi’s ears started drooping. “Maybe Gozu-san was too afraid to commit suicide?”
“You mean, deep down Gozu still wanted to live?” Asahina realized. “Even with the Despair Disease, he wanted to keep his promising of living on for his wife and daughter.”
Ryota dropped his head in defeat. “Why did this have to happen? Gozu-san and Bandai-san didn’t deserve a fate like this.”
“Everyone, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!” wept Bandai hysterically before even finishing the sentence. “I honestly never wanted to hurt anyone! I really didn’t...I-I couldn’t control anything that was happening. It looks like I only made things worse.”
“Sheesh all this crying and the majority vote hasn’t even made yet!” moaned Monokuma. “Alright, looks like you’ve reached a verdict! Then are we ready to cast our votes? You have a switch in front of you. Use it to make a selection! Who will be chosen as blackened? Will you make the right choice, or the dreadfully wrong one?”
“Oh by the way, like the last trial, voting isn’t optional!” the teddy bear threatened with his claws. “You can try to run, but you should be aware that I have a very particular set of skills. Skills I’ve acquired over a long career. I would find you and kill you!”
Ryota ignored the foreboding threats and pulled the level on his podium, unfortunately being forced to vote for his friend as the blackened again.
A roulette appeared on the screen and spun around for an extensive period of time before finally coming to a halt. In one of Monokuma’s awful attempts to shed light in another terrible situation, streamers and balloons fell from the ceiling and a congratulatory song played with the Ultimate Farmer’s face displayed on the jumbotron.
“Well, you heard it here first folks!” Monokuma cheerfully announced. “The culprit that murdered Great Gozu-kun was none other than...Bandai Daisaku!”
“Then there’s no way we can deny it anymore. Bandai was the one that delivered the final blow.” Kizakura sighed.
“If that’s the case, then there’s truly nothing more to talk about with this case as a whole.” Munakata nodded. “It’s over, the sooner we move further throughout this killing game the sooner we’re able end the game.”
“Munakata-san, what’re you saying?” Naegi gasped. “One of our friends was just killed and another is gonna be executed by Monokuma! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“Bandai and Gozu were impeccable comrades and I valued their contributions to the Future Foundation, I’m as distressed as you’re all to say goodbye to them.” Munakata retorted. “At the same time, this is simply the fate of this killing game. We’re all gonna die eventually. The one whom lives will be able to return to the outside world and become true hope itself, and I volunteer to take that role.”
“W-Wait a second! What did you mean by execution Naegi-chama?” Bandai shuttered as nervous sweat started dripping down his face. “I thought the execution was only for Yukizome. I didn’t technically kill Gozu-chama, right? I only set off his forbidden action, so that doesn’t count as murder."
“Say what?” Monokuma amusingly tilted his head. “When did I ever say that was a rule? Setting off a forbidden action still counts as murder no matter how you see it. I’m not the type of bear that just hands out freebies.”
“Wait, stop it! Bandai’s innocent, none of this is his fault! He shouldn’t be the one to get punished for this!” Asahina defended with her finger pointing towards the Vice Chairman. “Munakata’s the one who started all this madness, he should be punished instead!”
“Hmm...let me think about that! NO!” Monokuma denied before he could even accept. “Asahina-san, I wouldn’t expect a killing game veteran like you to believe that kind of anarchy exists in these walls. Punishment is only given to whoever committed the murder, not the person who instigated the murder.”’
An unhealthy amount of tears began pouring down Bandai’s face once more. “Please...I’m begging you! Don’t kill me, please! There’s still so much that I wanted to do...I never got the chance to help the Future Foundation or rebuild my farm!”
“Mercy? That word isn’t in my vocabulary.” Monokuma chuckled. “Now then, I’ve prepared a very special punishment for Bandai Daisaku, the Ultimate Farmer!”
The innocent farmer dropped to the ground and finally allowed the onslaught of tears to fall to the ground without hesitation and broke down crying his heart out. “NO! I’M BEGGING YOU! I DON’T WANNA DIE! PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE!”
“Let’s give it everything we got! It’s...PUNISHMENT TIME!”
With his always dependable gavel already in his paw with complete and absolute anticipation, Monokuma didn’t spare a mere second to slam down on the big red button. The bottom of the button displayed a pixelated clip of the aforementioned teddy bear dragging Bandai Daisaku to his death with a noose.
BANDAI DAISAKU HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY.
TIME FOR THE PUNISHMENT!
At first, just about everything appeared mostly pitchblack beyond belief and silent beyond comprehension for the Ultimate Farmer. And then, suddenly everything started to hit Bandai like a bullet train — the lights had instantly turned on and the sound became inherently more clear and concise.
When he came to his senses, Bandai opened his eyes and found himself standing alone in a large and expansive green house, there wasn’t a single place on Earth more befitting of his status as an alumni of Hope Peak Academy — it had ever succulent and delectable plants and vegetables, a beautiful sunlight, and fresh air and green grass as far as the eye could see, there wasn’t a single place in the world with more beautiful scenery.
After everything that happened, Bandai could feel puddles worth of fat tears oozing from his faces, not even a single second into the execution and he was already feeling an insane amount of despair.
It almost seemed like he didn’t even need to face a punishment since the guilt of killing his friend was already bad enough for him.
That is until a group of identical Monokuma robots dressed strawhats and denim overalls with chewing straws in her mouth began to brutally attack and followed up by vigorously tying his body with corn stalks and standing him upwards in a scarecrow position, effectively restricting his entire body from being able to move. An action that almost felt like payback for the murder than he committed himself.
The sleuth of autonomous teddy bears started tightening the corn stalks around Bandai to the point where his blood circulation was painfully cut off, with his arms and legs shriveling up and slowly turning into an unearthly pale blue color.
His body slowly started getting severely weaker, his body no longer being able to move a single muscle, the only thing his eyes could make out were the always sinister laughter coming from Monokuma who thoroughly enjoyed his despair.
The Greenhouse Defect
The ever gleefully and sadistic teddy bear pushes a button on some remote control device, allowing the greenhouse temperatures to increase and the overall room to become noticeably more hotter, which doesn’t do anything to benefit or lessen Bandai’s current predicament.
As sweat emits from forehead of the Ultimate Farmer it soon dawned on him there were zero options on what he could do next. The same group of Monokuma robots arrived once again and started throwing lit matches, which effectively started burning the farm and Bandai as well.
The real Monokuma was gripping a long hose in his paws and wearing a firefighter hat.
It was like a stroke of luck — a light at the end of the tunnel. Bandai’s eyes opened wider when he saw the two-toned bear was going to put out the fire before he was burned alive.
Except, this was Monokuma he was talking about and there no was no he’d make things easy for anyone . The bear’s sadistic slasher smile grew wider and turned the faucet of the hose, allowing not water — but gasoline out, successfully spraying Bandai and immediately causing a massive explosion in the entire greenhouse.
As the mushroom cloud died down the result of the explosion was less than stellar. The lush and extravagant greenhouse looked like a wasteland that just suffered a massive nuclear explosion.
The only remains left was the disembodied head of Monokuma that managed to survive the explosion.
“Only you can prevent barn fires!”
There was nothing more left to be said...the horrific event had already come to its closing...Bandai Daisaku was dead.
“Ahahahaha! And another one bites the dust!” Monokuma started laughing charismatically like nothing had ever happened. “Finally, I was getting real tired of trying to make sense of all that incoherent crap that Bandai-kun kept saying!”
Ryota could hardly pay attention to what had been going on with his fellow participants, his mind had drifted further away with every passing second and more fixated on the fact that he felt like a complete and total failure. All they had been trying to do was prevent another murder from happening, that way they could no longer repeat the tragedy that happened the last time — except they forgot the “golden rule” that despair is highly unpredictable and won’t simply conform to your trivial desires.
An infectious virus until the very end.
Throughout it all, Great Gozu and Bandai Daisaku were the good hearted moodmakers while the killing game had been happening, always lightening the mood with their optimism or oddly confusing phrases. Ryota could never forget the encouraging words that Gozu provided to him about focusing on the present and not baseless futures that haven’t yet played out, or the time he talked about his deceased wife and daughter and his desire to end the Tragedy for them to finally rest in peace.
Then there was Bandai, someone who Ryota didn’t really get to know all to well and still regarded as a friend that could help establish a brighter side in situations. Both were honorable men that lost their lives over a foolish defamation.
Things didn’t fare better for the remaining survivors either — Naegi and Kirigiri were trying to a weeping Asahina, Kizakura stayed composed on the outside and started downing what was left from his flask in stress, even Ando and Izayoi were silently respectful for the most part — needless to say, no one was really taking it easy.
“Why’re you guys so quiet?” Monokuma innocently questioned. “I was expecting you bastards to be awestruck by such an amazing punishment, but instead you haven’t even said a word. Sheesh, you guys must be fun at parties!”
“Is this some kind of game to you!?” Kimura barked.
“You really intend to keep this killing fiasco going on for much longer?” Izayoi narrowed his eyes.
Monokuma happily nodded. “Didn’t you forget what I mentioned in the rules? The killing game will last until there are only three survivors left and if you want to escape sooner then I’d suggest that you better start killing now. Now that the trial is over...it’s an all you can kill buffet again!”
With that, the two-toned bear made his regular retreat back to some anonymous place and left them alone at the hands of despair once more. For Ryota, it felt like everytime Monokuma would disappear into some random place only then would they understand the true weight of the situation they’re in.
He could only look over to Asahina pitifully, seeing that she was still sobbing over the matter. It wasn’t fair, and she definitely didn’t deserve to be left in such a tormenting position. None of them deserved that.
“It’s all over,” Munakata had the nerve to announce. “After all that has happened, I can now confirm that I’ve gathered everything I needed to know in order to survive this killing game. I have learned how easy it's become for you to fall into despair, and for that reason I need to eliminate all despair, even if that means I’m the only man standing in this room by the end of it.”
In a blind fury Asahina sadness turned to anger and she swung her hand towards Munakata in attempt to smack him, though he effortlessly dodged her attack with his own agility. “You heartless monster! How could you just play with Gozu and Bandai’s lives like they’re toys and kill them!?”
The man blankly looked to her. “No, you’re wrong, I didn’t kill either of those men. I may have played a pivotal role in this case, but at no given moment was I ever involved in the death that commenced this trial. No matter how you look at things, I’m not the murderer.”
“Who cares!? Murder is murder! You killed both of them!” the Ultimate Swimmer argued back in tears.
“There’s a big difference between what you mentioned.” Munakata aloofly corrected. “Neither Gozu or Bandai were killed because of the murder, they were killed because they succumbed to despair and sealed their own fates. It’s as simple as that.”
He inhaled before continuing. “Don’t misunderstand me, even I never wanted to resort to this. It was necessary to eliminate despair, and for that reason I will make despair pay for forcing me to vanquish such treasured allies.”
“You bastard! You’re just trying to justify your actions to sound more sympathetic!” Ando barked.
“Munakata-san, your way of thinking is insane! You keep saying that your intentions are to spread hope, but what kind of hope could have possibly been spread through this!?” Naegi called out. “There’s no such thing as hope that requires despair.”
“What you consider hope is nothing more than collateral damage. I have already made my point clear and no longer see a need for the two of us to compete in a mental sparring match anymore.” Munakata scoffed.
Gekkogahara stared at him gravely. “Your ideals aren’t making the situation any better, they’ve only been making our current circumstance worse.”
“True, they may not at the moment, but my ideals will pay off in due time.” Munakata retorted. “I’m sure out of everyone here, Mitarai will agree with collateral damage being important since he too wants to spread hope like myself.”
“What’re you talking about?” the Ultimate Animator gasped.
“We’re the same, you want to spread hope just like I do. Surely you would believe that a Naegi’s feckless ideals haven’t been getting us anywhere, yes?” Munakata reminded him. “After witnessing your actions in these past two trials, it’s dawned on me that you would be of adequate service by helping me in my goal.”
It felt like Ryota had just hit a crossroad. Exactly who’s idea of hope was he supposed to chose? Any sane person would pick Naegi’s ideals since they’re safe and peaceful, yet have failed to lead them to the right path yet. And Munakata’s ideals are far more cruel and despicable, yet they did bring up the point of platitudes not being of value in these situations.
“What will it be, Mitarai? Whose vision of hope will you join?”
Ryota shook his head and stared at Munakata dead in the eye. “Maybe Naegi-san’s hope hasn’t helped us escape the building yet...but I’d never betray him like that, after everything that’s happened he’s become my friend! I want to get out of this awful building just like everyone else, but I’ve never join forces with you, especially not after what you did to Gozu-san and Bandai-san!”
The Ultimate Hope was palpably touched by this and smiled warmly. “Mitarai-kun, thank you.”
“Munakata-san, after getting expelled from Hope’s Peak Academy, you helped me out tremendously and I admired you a lot for years,” was what Kimura found herself sadly admitting. “But, what you did was unforgivable.”
“Well, I can’t really say I’d follow somebody that would go through this amount of trouble.” Kizakura commented, not even able to make an obligatory quip about something like that.
“You’re lucky that we’re trapped in this dumb killing game, otherwise I would’ve had Yoi-chan put a knife between your eyes by now!” Ando hissed.
Asahina wiped her tears before giving him a look of cold anger. “You get out of here...now!”
Munakata gave a cold stare before nodding. “Vey well. I’ve already made peace with the fact that I have become the most hated man in the room in just a few shorts days. Regardless of your opinion on me, I will continue my plan of surviving.”
Sakakura was the only person that was oddly silent throughout the whole excursion, considering that he’s Munakata’s best friend it only seemed normal that he would be the first to respond. Ryota saw that he looked to be in such a deep state of shock to even process what was happening. According to hearsay, he was “willing to get his hands dirty for Munakata” no matter the cost and yet found himself shocked by what just unfolded.
The muscular boxer awkwardly tried to shake things off and walked over to Munakata. “Alright then, I’ll always have your back big guy to the ends of the Earth! The two of us are gonna have to stick together and—”
He glared back at Sakakura with cold and murderous eyes. “I don’t recall ever stating that I needed your assistance anymore.”
“What?” Sakakura blinked. He couldn’t even get out another word because Munakata had already made his exist towards the elevator, once again leaving the courtroom after making another impact on the remaining participants.
With the curtains closing on this excursion, they finally reached the end of the road for this case. All preconceptions and misconceptions were fully cleared and all questions in the case had finally been answered in ways none of them wanted, true to the saying “the truth hurts”.
After being forced to awkwardly board the exact same elevator with the man who caused so much pain. True to Monokuma’s word the upper floor was once again opened up after a murder occured, but it felt undeserving, if Ryota knew the floor would only open up after a murder he would’ve been content on staying here for longer.
All the participants went their separate ways to deal with the two losses that transpired in their own possible way. For Ryota personally, he was just going to return back to the dormitory and sulk in bed until he fell asleep. Sleeping felt like a coping mechanism to him, after all it wasn’t like the cruel reality that was despair could harm him while sleeping.
He probably wasn’t doing the best job of keeping his despondency a secret; Gekkogahara noticed right away and tapped into her inner-therapist and suggested they return back to her office to have a session together.
After all that happened, Ryota was candidly not in the right mood to participate in a therapy session since the deaths and trial were still quite fresh in his mind. She appeared to understand and was kind enough to suggest they simply watch a movie or something, recalling how the DVD for Spirited Away was on the coffee table and the two decided to watch together in attempt to calm his anxieties.
His mind was obviously so engrossed in other places since he was able to watch the scene where Haku gives Chihiro the riceball without even flinching. It was around that time where Gekkogahara realized that out of the corner of her eye, proceeding to reach for the remote to pause the movie.
“Mitarai-kun, what’s wrong?” she asked despite already knowing the answer.
“Is it really right to be doing this?” the Ultimate Animator asked. “Two of our friends just died and we’re just sitting her vulnerable, shouldn’t we be mourning their loss?”
“We are mourning,” the blue haired therapist corrected. “It’s important to remember that everyone mourns differently, that doesn’t mean we care less about losing our friends. The important thing is that we continue to carry our resolves, we need to move forward and end this killing game for Gozu-san and Bandai-san’s sake, and the Chairman too.”
“But, how can you even be certain? Maybe what Munakata-san said is right, we’ve been here for weeks and still don’t haven’t found in luck in escaping.” Ryota reminded her.
Even the Ultimate Therapist found herself in deep thought about that before randomly darting her eyes at the one of the nearby flowers on her desk. “Hey Mitarai-kun, do you see that flower over there? Well, there’s actually a pretty interesting story behind this flower.”
“An interesting story?” Ryota gasped. “What do you mean?”
Gekkogahara smiled from underneath her scarf. “It’s called a gerbera daisy. It’s a flower that’s deeply associated with things that symbolize peace, such as serenity or innocence—or for some, maybe even hope.”
He never heard of that type of flower before, but still questioned the overall relevance to this case. “What does the flower have to do with what’s happening to us right now?”
“Not much really,” Gekkogahara admitted. “But, the flower started off as nothing more than a seed before being cultivated and nurtured, and in due time it sprouted into a flower. That’s how hope starts, while things may seem slow at first, it’s only a matter of time before something amazing happens.”
A bittersweet smile found its way onto Ryota’s face, that maybe there was still a ray of hope somewhere within all of this. “Um, Gekkogahara-san…I didn’t really get the chance to say this before but, thank you for helping me out, there’s no way that I would’ve managed all by myself.”
The Ultimate Therapist was caught off by surprise and promptly hoisted her scarf to cover a portion of her face to hide the fact that she was blushing. “You’re welcome, but you don’t really have to make a big deal out of it. We’re friends, right?”
Just then, at the most unexpected time, Gekkogahara heard a ringing sound coming from her computer. Ryota was confused as what exactly what was going on until she pressed some buttons on her keyboard and changed the screen from its usual Monomi avatar back to the androgynous boy with the green school uniform, whom he recognized from before.
“Hello Mitarai-kun.” the artificial intelligence happily spoke once again.
“You’re Alter Ego-san, right?” Ryota recalled, patiently waiting for him to nod again. “What’re you doing here, did you have any luck on access the main computer and find out where we are?”
Alter Ego’s smile progressively turned into a frown, feeling sad that he couldn’t give a thrilling announcement as such. “I’m sorry, but it’s gonna take a little longer before I can do that. I called Aunty Miaya on her computer because Togami-kun wants to speak with you.”
He remembered Togami from the last conversation they had together, he seemed pretty astute and knowledgeable about their current situation during that talk, so maybe he found out some new information that could benefit them in the killing game?
“Okay, can we talk to him?” Ryota asked. Alter Ego nodded and disappeared off the screen, to what he could only assume was him initiating a conversation with Togami. His speculation was proven correct after seeing that the Ultimate Affluent Progeny appeared on screen with tea cup in hand.
“Oh, it’s you Mitarai,” the former Togami Heir said frankly. Not to most polite way go greet someone, though he expected that much from the man beforehand and didn’t bother questioning things. “Where are Naegi and the others?”
“They’re not here right now.” Ryota hesitantly answered. “We just finished another big trial and two of our friends were just killed — Great Gozu of the 12th was murdered this morning and Bandai Daisaku of the 11th Division killed him and was executed by Monokuma.”
Togami nodded. “I see. You’ll have to explain that in further detail some other time, for now I have just received new information regarding the forces I would be sending to track down your current whereabouts and rescue the division leaders.”
Right about then Ryota had nearly forgotten that the last time they contacted Togami he mentioned that some forces would be tracking their current locations. The exact method of finding them without any known leads was a mystery to him, but at least there was a small ray of hope that they could still leave this building in peace. “Who are these forces anyway? Are they the Elite Task Force of Future Foundation?”
“No,” Togami answered. “For a dilemma of this calibre, a different kind of assistance was necessary. These people are already connected to the 14th Division and certainly stand the better chance of tracking down your current location.”
Ryota found his mind blanking at who these people could be. After all the stories he heard about the Ultimate Task Force successfully rescuing many people due to the Tragedy he was positive they would stand a good chance at saving them from this madness. Togami seemed pretty confident about this other group of people that could help them. If it wasn’t the task force, then who could it be?
It was a little after breakfast when they first received the call from Togami on their laptop — specifically one given to them by Naegi and his two classmates to monitor the progress of awakening the ten comatose students — it had remained severely untouched for the passing months after the aforementioned Ultimate Hope carefreely assured them not to worry about the Future Foundation trying to capture them and that he would take care of everything.
After getting the call from the affluent progeny, they all promptly gathered around the laptop provided to them in the Mirai Hotel and listened closely to all that Togami had told them about the gang thus far. “...another mutual killing game?” were the first words that came from Hajime’s mouth.
His green eyes blinked and he began double taking. It felt strange that he was now able to talk about something as grim as murder without even flinching. Even stranger that he could even put his finger on why this was the case. A remnant of his former self? A testament to all the suffering he endured in the Neo World Program? Both? Either way, it was something he couldn’t figure out.
Togami pushed his glasses to his nose, nodding. “Yes. As we speak, the leaders of the Future Foundation alongside Naegi and another student from the 78th have been imprisoned inside a replicated building reminiscent to the original one and forced to kill one another by Monokuma.”
Soda gripped his beanie and sighed. “Damn, that crazy bear started another killing game, why won’t he ever give up?”
“Hold on a second,” Kuzuryu interrupted. “If Monokuma really started a mutual killing game, then who’s the one controlling him this time? Haven’t Ultimate Despair activities been way too silent to start the Mirai Holocaust?”
“According to what Naegi mentioned previously, Monokuma doesn’t have any handlers in this circumstance, he’s a more independent unit with an AI inside of him.” Togami answered and proceeded to take a sip of his tea. “The group itself that is behind this conundrum are The New Revolution, and one of their members are said to be a double agent working for the Future Foundation as well.”
“You mean they are like a traitor?” Sonia asked worriedly.
“Precisely,” he nodded. “Naegi and the others have had their memories of the events leading up to the killing game erased, therefore they don’t have any leads on where they are currently being held or the identity of the mastermind, however, I’m sure you all at least have some ideas, correct?”
Sonia placed her fingers to her chin in a pondering manner. “If it is not the Ultimate Despair, then I am not sure who could be masterminding the killing game. As for their current whereabouts, I am afraid I would not know the answer to that either.”
“Maybe they’re at Hope’s Peak Academy, like the killing game that came before ours ?” Owari guessed.
The Ultimate Affluent Progeny shot that idea down instantly with a head shake. “No. Troops were already sent to scout that area and learned that nothing was found there. Frankly, it seems like that would be an easy place for them to be found and this perpetrator undoubtedly wants them kept hidden.”
As the former students of Hope’s Peak found themselves in a deep state of shock trying to figure this out, they all fell short. “Can we at least get a minute to think about it?” Soda nervously chuckled, obviously having no idea who the perpetrator could be.
Togami gave an amusing poker face. “Very well, you have approximately sixty seconds to negotiate. Don’t waste my time.”
Soda flinched at Togami’s strictness and proceeded to follow the others, gathering away from the screen to properly discuss the matter. “Everyone, we are going to help them, are we not?” Sonia asked. “Let us not forget that Naegi-san once helped us escape the Neo World Program in our time of need.”
Owari had been too busy picking her ears that she almost missed the conversation. “Man, I don’t really get most of what Togami was talking about,” she said before excitedly cracking her knuckles and donning a sadistic grin. “But if you’re sayin’ I finally get to beat the crap outta Monokuma, then you can count me in!”
Kuzuryu sighed. “Well, even if we do help them, it’s not like we have any leads on where a Future Foundation killing game would be held.”
Being that Togami only provided them with an entire minute to start speculating where the killing game would be held and the identity of the mastermind there wasn’t very much time to spend the day thinking about the possibilities, after all, someone from the Future Foundation could be getting betrayed or murdered this very instant.
For some bizarre reason, in the depths of his memory, it felt like Hajime had already known the answer of their whereabouts. No, these weren’t his memories, they came from his time as a Remnant? “...I think I might know where the Future Foundation’s being held.”
“What? For real?” Owari gasped.
“If you knew than why didn’t you say that in the first place?” Soda followed.
“How should I know!?” Hajime asked, looking at his palm in confusion. “It’s probably because these memories belong to Kamukura, but even then, these ones are hazzy to remember.”
The five students gathered back in front of the computer where Togami had been waiting for their answer. Evidently, it was Hajime who stepped stepped forth to provide the information. “I have an idea on where the Future Foundation might be.”
Togami nodded. “It’s best not to disclose of this information over the computer, the mastermind appears to have some extensive knowledge on all major events of the Tragedy and may even be listening in on this conversation. In any case, I’ll send a representative to 14th Division to pick you all up.”
“First, there’s still one another thing that we need to do,” Hajime prefaced, turning his attention to a monitor. “Hey, World Destroyer, can you hear me?”
On the nearest monitor adjacent to the walls appeared an entity that could only be described as human; looking seemingly cut from the same cloth as Hajime except dressed in a black suit with piercing red eyes and a stoic. “Yes, you summoned me?”
“How has the progress with awaking all our comatose classmates gone?” Hajime asked.
The World Destroyer followed up faster than expected. “The Neo World Program recently managed to successfully retrieve the backup data for all the deceased avatars. The restoration of the ten comatose students may proceed whenever you are all ready.”
Hajime nodded. “Begin immediately.”
SURVIVING PARTICIPANTS — 11