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March Towards Purification

Chapter Text

(Read Tainted by etheral_blue first as this is a direct continuation. Also because it's fantastic. Stalled Killing Game AU, not Love Across the Universe or Love Hotel.)

 

The scenario had been set. Saihara Shuichi had repeatedly slept with his classmate over the course of the past six months. In the morning after sleeping with Saihara, Monokuma erased the student's memories of their contact with the detective while leaving Shuichi's intact. This pattern increased in frequency until the weight of being perpetually abandoned broke Saihara. Then all it took was returning the repressed memories at the worst time to prepare the game.

The actors were ready. The emotionally devastated target, Saihara Shuichi, sat in the Ultimate Detective's lab as he prepared to kill himself. The terrified and broken hearted seekers, the fifteen Ultimates, stood in the gym and realized just how much they had harmed the man they loved and were informed of the situation they were in. 

The stakes were established and couldn't be higher. Saihara's life was hanging in the balance. If they found him, he lived. If they didn't, he would succeed at his suicide.

The final preparation was to fire the metaphorical starting gun and begin the despair-inducing festivities.

 

"Now, let Hide and Seek begin!"

Monokuma's shout echoed in the empty gym just moments after the Ultimates sprinted into the hall. He tilted his head to the right and brought his paw to his chin as he surveyed the room. "Eh? Where did they all go?"

"Hey, Pops wasn't done talking yet!" Monosuke yelled at the student's backs. "Is that a violation of the game?"

"Hell yeah!" Monokid shouted. "You bet it fucking is! Those bastards got what's fucking coming to them if they all get killed by us for breaking the rules! Let’s drag them all to hell!"

"Oh, I hope we don't have to do that." Monophanie squeaked in worry. "There would be so much blood. We avoided dead bodies for so long! Why don't we let them slide?"

"It's fine. It's fine." Monokuma waved his arm to get the Monokubs to settle down as he peaked at the vast amount of data streaming in from the Nanokumas. "The game only truly began when you dropped the TV, right when our little target chugged down a whole flask of poison! They have maybe four minutes before our Ultimate Detective becomes an Ultimate Corpse!"

"Hell Yeah!" "Oh dear!" "They'll finally treat us like a threat!" "We have an Ultimate Detective?" The Monokubs yelled with various levels of excitement.

Monokuma narrowed his glowing red eye as he watched the students scramble around the school, many in the wrong direction. The despair in their eyes and actions thrilled him. Truly invigorating after they had become so boring.

If this long-term plan resulted in a death, he would celebrate as their souls broke from the loss. Then follow up with some preparation for the next stage. Anguished people acted in all kinds of volatile ways.

Even if Saihara-kun somehow survives, further possibilities will open. Never underestimate a bear's patience!

"Upupupupu...." Monokuma roared with laughter along with his cubs as he focused on one of the students whose running was becoming labored. Then he split screened into two other highly important feeds. This will be an unbearably fun channel to watch!

 


 

Angie Cam

 

Angie sucked in another deep breath as she dashed up the stairs to the third floor as fast as she could, Gonta barreling past her faster than she had ever seen the entomologist run before.

Absolute fear was propelling her forward at speeds beyond her limits. Her ability to keep pace with Gonta this long was evidence.

She screamed internally for what felt like the hundredth time for wisdom from Atua. How could she process these events without the help from the divine?

It was all too much. The danger Shuichi was in. The hurt they, no, she had dealt to him. Uncertainty about where to search. Fear of what awaited their search. The forgotten memories of happiness. The cruelly stolen moments of intimacy.

Her absolutely unforgivable betrayal of the one she loved.

As she made it to the fourth floor, she grabbed her chest. Her heart was beating so hard it would soon rip itself out in the ultimate blood sacrifice. Angie ordered it to wait. She would make any sacrifice needed to appease Atua once Shuichi was found safe.

Found alive.

But her heart refused to obey and kept its riotous beating. Why did Shuichi always make her heart become rebellious? With only his kind words and concern her pulse would speed up. Every gift, each chosen so thoughtfully based on her interests, caused her heart to stop in appreciative shock for a moment. When he would hold her close and whisper her name in her ear, how could she ever have forgotten that, her heart would fill to bursting with warmth.

Now her chest beat without any of that warmth as she pushed open the door to her Ultimate Lab, desperately praying she would find either Atua's guidance or Shuichi.

The empty lab lacked both.

Angie staggered into the room and clutched her chest as her body screamed complaints about her sprint. Adrenaline was still pumping through her body, but her muscles struggled to keep up any further. She had passed her limits too many times. Perhaps I should have tried running with Shuichi like Maki and Kaito.

When Atua blessed her with divine will and purpose she didn’t lack in physical strength. The numerous sculptures that filled the room spoke to her capabilities with a chisel. But the divine spark wasn't with her. And Kami-sama never had an interest in sprinting!

As if pulled by an unseen force, her eyes fixated on a small object left near some of her hammers.

She had placed it there a few weeks ago after finding it sitting alone on her dresser as if it belonged there. 

Angie intended to throw it out, but Atua's energies swirled within so she kept it instead. Anything with Atua's blessing deserved shelf space at least. But without knowing its purpose or origin she brought it to her lab and left it to be forgotten again. Compared to her own creations it paled in value and so vanished from her mind.

With her memories restored, the item took on new importance. She stumbled towards the object she had forgotten twice.

She remembered now who gave it to her.

She remembered why a wooden ring sat on her desk that morning.

The light Monokuma unleashed on the class hadn’t been enough to immediately unlock all her memories. Even the highlights of her times in his room agonized her. But unfortunately, they weren't everything. That now changed. Holding the gift in her hand unleashed the floodgates on the rest of the memories she had repressed.

 

Shuichi's bashful but strangely tired face when he gave her the ring. His slight apology for not checking with her if they exchanged rings on her island. The way he encouraged her to carve anything Atua wanted into it, so their cultures would meet. The downplaying of the amount of time and effort he needed to make a wooden ring without outside help.

Shuichi asked to be Angie's husband.     

Shuichi became Angie's husband.

And Angie called herself Shuichi's bride.

Shuichi remained a shy boy and requested they didn't complete the full wedding ceremony of her people. Said he didn't want to share her with anyone besides Atua. A permissible request in Atua's eyes when asked of her priestess. Her cheeks turned pink at his admission. He was also pink, both his face and the color that defined him.

They shared their first married night together in his room. She hungered for his body and soul. The divine fervor inside his soul rose to match hers. And yet he also slowed and focused just on her.

That night wasn't anything like watching her peers' workouts, initiation rituals, or marriage ceremonies. Those had been energetic and chaotic. Bodies contorting every which way as lust hit its peak. The yells, laughter, and moans were always so loud that she heard them from her own home next to the ritual room. The sounds only quieted when the participants ran out of energy and collapsed in puddles of fluids.

But Shuichi took his time midway through. He moved her hand to his cheek and rubbed each of her fingers one by one across his lips. All while staring at her in a familiar manner.

"Bless these fingers and the works of God they create." He shined with the light blue of the heavens.

Shuichi worshipped Angie in that moment. It should have been heretical for him to worship her and not Atua directly. But Atua said it was fine. More than fine. His feelings were natural. As Atua's mouthpiece, worshipping her was the same as worshipping Atua. This made perfect sense to Angie.

Each time she entered his room for their supposed first time he treated her the same. He remembered that her fingers were especially sensitive and shined his attention on them.

But only once did he perform that action while she wore her ring.

She didn't understand his hidden intentions when he later asked her if she ever wore any rings. In that moment, her traitorous mouth said that rings had no meaning to her. Never knowing that one night before she extolled the ring as a phenomenal offering.

Shuichi had glowed with a deep dark purple as he nodded with a strangely artificial smile. For some reason, she never asked why his eyes grew watery.

 

 

Angie grabbed the ring from her table and held it close to her chest as her eyes began to burn. Shuichi's energy and even Atua's presence faded as she looked back on the past.

The poorly carved wood creaked under the pressure of her clenched hands.

 

His color changed many times as they spent time together. Each hue prompted the same revelation.

I'm learning a new side of him. A new piece of Shuichi. How divine!

Her damaged memories concealed the truth. Shuichi learned to switch his masks. He painted himself as a different color for her needs. His distortion obscured his pain while his original color fell to darkness.

Monokuma's screen had shown Shuichi's true form with all the artifice removed. The face with a broken smile and tragic determination in his eyes. Angie took one look at his features and only then saw everything.

His true color was a dark sickly brown.

Not a natural brown of the forest or earth. A brown formed from splattering overlapping colors onto the canvas time and time again. A mix of too many colors that failed to even reach the sadness but odd beauty of pure black. The original colors hidden by the sludge of layers upon layers of repainting.

He had been lost to her. To all of them. And she had been blind. Blind to his forgery.

Did he really want Angie to be his wife? Or did he only respond to Angie’s wishes and silence his own? Was everything to get proof I cared? What is the answer Shuichi!?

The weight of despair pulled her to the ground. She yelped as her legs gave in and she crashed next to a stack of paintings, the ring still held in her tight grasp.

She couldn't run anymore. Not towards her dying husband. Not from the horrifying emptiness of a world that manipulated her into forsaking her love and her god.

The Oracle of Atua had shattered every promise she made to Shuichi and to Atua. Was this Atua's judgment? Was Shuichi suffering because she broke her oaths?

Nothing answered her. Only the empty room greeted her. Perhaps forever.

For the first time in years, she cried.

The killing game hadn't been enough. Ouma's accusation that she was creating a cult didn't justify sadness. Even if the killing game began, Angie believed that Atua would protect their souls. Not even that hardship would cause her tears.

And yet her wailing was unstoppable. Because this was different. She was alone.

Just like she had left him.

"I'm so sorry Shuichi!"

Unable to move. Unable to save him. Unable to pray.

All Angie could do was weep.

 

 

Ding Dong, Dong Ding!

Her eyes opened in fear as the monitor nearby lit up.

 


 

Kiibo Cam

 

Not here.

Not here either.

Or... here. Hopefully, the others are having better luck.

               

"But I will push forward. My inner voice tells me to keep going a bit longer..." Kiibo said to himself as he stumbled into Iruma's Ultimate Lab.

Monokuma had told them that Saihara-kun was within the academy with a tone that implied only the academy building. But Kiibo refused to trust that implication. While most of the class ran to investigate upstairs or in the basement, he went outside with Amami, Shirogane, and Chabashira.

Together they decided to leave no stone unturned.

In five minutes he learned the frustrating part of looking in areas with a low chance of success. Low chance that he would find their missing classmate. High chance he would fail at finding Saihara-kun... a lot.

He only succeeded at the second part.

Some form of frustration was taking up ninety percent of his emotional processors as he stomped around Iruma's lab. Even his sadness and regret failed to get a full purchase on his thoughts.

If he had taken up Iruma or the others on their recommendations for upgrades everything would have been settled in record time. X-ray vision would have allowed him to see through the school and find Saihara-kun in moments. A jetpack would have allowed him to fly around the school to check the upper floors faster than anyone. Controlling drones would have allowed him to check multiple rooms at once. Even a basic physical upgrade could have allowed him to be stronger than a senior citizen.

Instead, he turned down every opportunity to improve his functions. Why? Because he hated Sci-fi with a passion. The "sci" part didn't bother him. He didn't have any qualms about science, he was the product of it and he was proud to be the Ultimate Robot. His problem lied with the "fi" part.

Fiction. I didn't want to be described as fiction. Humans aren't generally called fiction. Kiibo only used the word generally because Ouma's existence was half fiction and half robophobia. I wanted to be a human while also protecting my pride as something beyond.

So, he had declined most of the upgrades offered to him because of his pride and stubbornness. Even if they might have helped make it easier to stop Monokuma's plans or escape. With enough effort even single-handedly traversing the trapped tunnel and securing their exit might have been possible.

But no. He had rejected them all. And now he ran around with his below-average speed to try to save one of the few people who completely accepted him as a human while not disregarding his robotic capabilities.

He hated that his arrogance had closed off so many paths to better everyone's lives.

His search came up empty as he repeatedly called Saihara's name while walking around the room. The Ultimate Robot lab had also been empty and the huge building at the edge of the school had remained locked with an Exisal standing in front of it. He was out three for three.

I can only hope the others are having better luck.

"... Is that the one?" He stared at one of the cabinets in the back of the room and walked towards it.

There was a part of him that didn't fully believe Monokuma's explanation of the "repress light". A light somehow awakening the memories of people by stimulating nerves? He could imagine that. But the same system also being used on his own memories which were encoded through mechanical means? Doubtful.

If it did work, the device saw him as equally human. Normally he would like that. Now being unique was a blessing not a curse.

Only one way to be completely sure. With a gulp, one that was more an imitation than a physical process his design allowed him to recreate, he opened the drawer.

And there was his evidence.

Evidence that the memories were real.

Evidence he would turn down upgrades to help the group but would agree if they matched his selfish desires.

Inside the drawer were several attachments to be used in...

Kiibo preferred to use the words "physical intimacy" rather than how Iruma described it.

 

He had asked for Iruma to develop the upgrades late into his relationship with Saihara. In the beginning all his interactions with the detective were best described as chaste. Hand holding or letting their legs touch while sitting next to each other was far enough

The way Saihara's gaze and hand lingered on certain body parts hinted at an interest to do more, but he moved at a slower pace for Kiibo's sake. Another example of the detective's willingness to attend to other's needs.

The relationship was comfortable, but Kiibo maintained the suppressed wish for more.

Part of why Kiibo had acted so cautiously was because his emotions grew so strong when with Saihara. How many times had he ended up in Iruma's lab to check that his processors hadn't melted from overheating?

But the other reason had been fear.

K1-B0 was a robot. That reality was right in his title. And there were things he couldn't naturally do in his base state. He wasn't designed to cry, to eat food, or... to have sex.

It was infuriating whenever Ouma asked whether robots have private parts, but it was a serious question in a discussion about being invited to Saihara's room.

So, when Iruma asked for the fifth time whether he would allow her to finally build him a penis, he put all his nerves aside and accepted her help.

He didn't examine his uneasy feelings regarding Saihara's actions that night. His nerves often got the best of him and he was lost on how to proceed, but Saihara acted experienced. The detective had blushed and constantly checked to make sure that Kiibo was okay certainly, but he also served as the guide for the night.

Each time Kiibo faltered, Saihara instructed him on how to proceed. The detective prioritized Kiibo's comfort and only changed things up when his partner was ready.

Saihara never gave him weird looks about his metal appearance. Even with all the time Kiibo needed to set up Iruma's gifts he was patient and accepting.

Despite every reminder that he wasn't a living creature, Saihara had made him feel more human than ever before. All his fears and concerns about being an artificial intelligence disappeared.

But when they finished, and he stepped outside to report to Iruma, everything reverted.

He forgot feeling truly human. He forgot the work put into his requested upgrades. And when he woke up in his room, all his components had been returned to their previous week's state.

The second and third time he came to Iruma for help, each time thinking it was the first time, she already has the attachments ready. In retrospect her own memory must have been changed as she never brought up his previous times sleeping with the detective.

Iruma didn't know the meaning of tact. If she remembered she wouldn't have let it go. Ever.

 

Kiibo closed the drawer with a grunt of frustration and grabbed his chest. It was impossible to deny it any further. Even if his emotions wanted to believe that everything was a trick, he had enough evidence to prove that Monokuma really had taken their memories.

If there is a lie anywhere, it may be when Monokuma said that he used the repress light only after we spent time in Saihara-kun's room. He must have also removed memories when we interacted with others. Otherwise we would have realized that some of our classmates were also getting close to him.

He had loved Saihara, slept with him, and then forgot him. Monokuma's plan had worked perfectly.

The circuits inside his emotion centers worked to process his newfound hatred. He hated the situation. Hated his part in hurting Saihara-kun. Hated that he was so willing to change for pleasure but wouldn't to combat Monokuma better.

A change was needed.

Kiibo grabbed ahold of the memories of that night. Soaked his processor in the feelings of being a living creature regardless of his augmentations. Saihara had brought him confidence and warmth. Those feelings now buoyed him in the face of difficulties.

Saihara abandoned everything to match the desires of others. There was a lesson to be learned even in that tragedy. Sometimes a person needed to make sacrifices for the sake of others.

Robophobia is still awful, but I won't fear it anymore.

Kiibo's inner voice told him to believe in the future.

After thwarting Monokuma's latest plan he had decisions to make.

 

Ding Dong, Dong Ding!

The thought was interrupted by the nearby monitor turning on. Metal teeth clenched as he waited for whatever news Monokuma brought. He wouldn't give up his hope until the last moment.

 


 

Harukawa Cam

 

"Harukawa-chan!"

Harukawa only slowed by a fraction as the annoying voice cut into her thoughts. No matter the situation, Ouma's voice grated on her. They needed to hurry, she refused to be distracted by his games at such a critical moment. If Saihara was left alone...

"Wait a second!" The short boy reached out to grab her arm, but she swiped it out of his reach as the others ran past them.

A few of their classmates glanced at Ouma but paid him little mind beyond that. Everyone was locked too deep in their own thoughts.

"There is no time—"

"I know where Saihara-chan is! I need to tell you—"

She stopped running but prepped her body to move at top speed once the others weren't around. Thirteen students attempting to exit through one door in a panic had jammed the hallway.

"I know. Either my lab or his. Most likely his." Harukawa didn't allow her own fear to overtake her. Calm and rational thinking was needed. If Saihara was truly trying to kill himself, and she had no doubts about his aim, he would try a method with a high chance of success.

The guns in her lab could easily kill a person. They were built for that job just like her life had been structured around slaying others. But the lethality of self-inflicted wounds was dependent on what part of the body was in the path of the gun.

Her job taught her every fatal location. Saihara did not have the same background.

Poison required even less proficiency than a gun.

"He'll be in his lab. One hundred percent!" Ouma shouted. She heard the pain in his voice but still didn't completely believe it. His whole life was one giant lie. Ouma saying anything had a one hundred percent chance only made her believe she might have been wrong in her guess.

"Then make your way there." Leg muscles clenched to dash forward as soon as Gonta pushed through the passage. Yumeno and Hoshi were short enough to jump over.

"I know a shortcut to the fifth floor!"

 That caught Harukawa's attention. She looked over her shoulder at Ouma. Only five seconds before the path cleared. That was five more seconds than she would usually give him, but these were strange times. The tears he shed when their memories had returned seemed genuine.

She froze at his expression. Gone was the cockiness. His wretched smirk and "what did I do?" aura were nowhere to be found.

She was more aware than most of her classmates that Ouma always wore a mask to hide his intentions. A "perk" of her profession was a honed sense for reading body language and seeing through tricks. Ouma's usage of tricks and lies to keep others away was transparent to Harukawa. Even when he told the truth, he kept a part of himself hidden from view.

There was none of that now. The mask had shattered. Whether it was because he wanted her to believe him or was simply unable to keep it up, there was nothing to deflect from the raw pain and misery etched into his features.

For once he wasn't lying about anything.

Somehow that terrified her.

"At the top of the staircase to Momota-chan's lab!" He spoke at top speed, likely realizing that he only had moments to convince her of his true intentions. "I ordered Iruma-chan to install a button on the side of the stairs to open a passage to the fifth floor. You are the fastest here. Please!"

The shock from seeing his emotions on full display bought him extra time and attention. But if he is lying...

"Please save my beloved Saihara-chan!" He raced towards the door to the staircase and ran inside.

The crossroads laid before her. If she believed him, she might waste time over a well disguised lie. But if his tears were genuine, the hallway was a faster method.

Every second counted. She had no time to deliberate. So, she let her body decide.

               

Harukawa sprinted past Ouma as he made it to the first few steps. She didn't bother running up the stairs as it would take too much time. Her first jump brought her onto the railing and her second allowed her to grab onto the section above her. With a quick flip she pulled herself onto the next railing and shot upwards again.

With each jump she dammed her emotions further. The regrets about her actions and words were sealed. She needed to put her everything into this job without letting the past distract her.

And yet memories kept clawing their way through. The way Saihara rubbed her hand while they read a romance novel together. His slight smile that saw through her act when she tried to threaten him. His whispered voice in her ear as he reassured her she was more than an assassin.

The hopelessness in his eyes when I brought up a future

Her moment of hesitation almost lead her to miss grabbing onto the final railing. She growled in pain as her arm took on more of her weight than she intended.

I need to stop, she thought to herself. Deal with that after I save him! We'll have unlimited time then.

Her eyes widened in shock and suppressed relief when the button came into view. A twist of her hips pressed her shoe into Iruma’s creation.

The grinding of metal echoed behind her as the wall's secret passage slid open. Harukawa could see the side of the obnoxious devil-winged Monokuma statues through the thin passageway.

Ouma didn't lie this time. Relief threatened to overtake her, but she locked it and all her other feelings away again. Her mission needed to be completed first.

The mission. Her mind returned to that old familiar world of mindless task completion when she shut out everything else. In any other situation she hated that capability, but it served as an asset as she bolted through the passageway and landed on the fifth floor.

Harukawa became little more than a blur as she sprinted to the Ultimate Detective's Lab. Every part of her returned to the role of an Assassin. She had her target, her destination, and a limited time frame to complete her objective. All her training prepared her for just these scenarios.

But this time she dashed to save a life, not end one.

"Saihara!" The Ultimate Assassin yanked open the door to the lab ready for anything.

 

 Only one look at the boy inside shattered the shell of the Ultimate Assassin, leaving only Harukawa Maki behind.

 

Saihara's collapsed body laid on the ground next to an empty bottle. Vomit and frothed drool dripped out of his mouth in a puddle next to his head. The convulsions and darkened skin indicated a desperate need for oxygen. Unseeing eyes stared at the ceiling.

Harukawa recognized the poison without even reading the label. Previous victims had displayed the same symptoms. The poison was fatal without an antidote.

Alive, but for how many seconds!? She asked herself as fear filled her mind. Saihara had at best two minutes before perishing from such an acute reaction. Less than that before even an antidote wouldn't be able to reverse his state!

The poison cabinet's door was ripped off its hinges. There were too many bottles. Finding the right antidote would consume all the remaining time.

Where is it? Where is it!? WHERE IS IT!?

"CONGRATULATIONS. YOU-WON. HERE-IS-THE-ANTIDOTE."

She spun around and saw Monodam standing near Saihara with an orange bottle held in his hands. Did Saihara's state shock me so much I didn't even notice a Monokub was in the room?

None of that mattered. She propped Saihara's body against her chest to prevent him from choking on the antidote or his own vomit. With Monodam's present secured in her hands, she prayed to an abandoned god and poured the antidote into the Ultimate Detective's mouth.

There had been no time for distrust. It was possible that the antidote was fake or some other ploy to give her hope just to take it away. She knew that well but used it without hesitation. His death was only assured if she did nothing.

She didn't even care if this was an elaborate scheme to get her to finish Saihara off and become the blackened. She would deserve it for being unable to save such a wonderful man.

Only his life mattered.

Nothing else in the world came close.

               

...

Was she too late?

Did her moment of indecision kill —

All the shadows in her mind were blown away as Saihara sucked in a desperate breath and began coughing. And then took another breath. And another.

When he took his fifth breath her heart soared. When he took his tenth she felt her whole body relax. And when he was taking his twentieth breath and the blue tinge in his face began fading away, she finally let herself cry.

Relief, blessed relief tore through every emotional barrier. No thoughts. No words. Just pure relief that he was alive. The tears poured down her face as she hugged his unconscious body close.

She almost didn't notice when Ouma ran into the room until he began yelling questions at her.

She didn't know what he asked, unable to hear over her own crying, but her two words were all the answer he really needed.

"He's safe!"

 

Ding Dong, Dong Ding!

Harukawa's impromptu treatment stopped along with her heart. Monokuma had gleefully played that chime before during a "killing game drill." It was only supposed to be played in one circumstance.

The game is over, right?

Chapter Text

Ding Dong, Dong Ding!

 

Every Ultimates' attention was grabbed by the monitor's light. They each sucked in a fearful breath when the so-called headmaster appeared as if to taunt their efforts.

The video displayed Monokuma sitting in a posh chair while tilting a champagne glass back and forth. His smile widened,

 

"A body has been discovered!"

 

The world froze. Tears appeared in the eyes of many. They didn't want to believe it. Couldn't believe it. So many explanations they hadn't been able to give. So many things to apologize for.

For the first time, almost an entire school felt like the blackened. Every student contributed to the death of their most precious person.

Monokuma stared at the camera with a smile plastered on his face as he observed the breakdowns, screams, and crying that began around the school.

It would have to suffice to ease his lust for despair.

With a huff he tossed the champagne glass into the wall and glared at the camera. "Unfortunately, it's a live body because you all just keep finding new ways to disappoint me! Who do you think you are, my cubs?"

Momota swore as he looked up fast enough to give himself whiplash. Did that mean...?

Monokuma turned around while sulking. "You guys win this time. Everyone, please gather in the Ultimate Detective's lab. Or don't. I don't care anymore."

The monitors turned off, and the Ultimates let go of their held breaths.

One by one, they all concluded that Monokuma only screwed with them by holding a "body discovery announcement."

Their collective feelings on this turn of events were best summed up by Iruma.

"FUCK OFF YOU STUFFED PLUSH SHITHEAD!"

 


 

 

Each of the Ultimates displayed a different reaction when they entered the Ultimate Detective's lab.

Some screamed in shock when they saw Saihara's unconscious body. Others cried in relief after noticing his soft breathing. Iruma started a dirty joke when she saw Harukawa was holding him to her chest. The joke died in her throat as Ryoma stomped on her foot and hid his tear-stained face behind his beanie. Tojo administered extra first aid measures with Harukawa while also cleaning up the vomit that had soaked into the carpet.

Each time someone new entered the room Harukawa repeated the same line, "He's safe."

She would never grow tired of saying those words.

"I knew you could do it Harumaki!" Momota shouted with a stupid grin on his face as he gave the Ultimate Assassin a thumbs up. "I would have saved him myself, but I knew my sidekick would be able to handle it!"

"Thanks for the belief." Harukawa smiled lightly and decided not to retort. Hearing his voice filled with its usual bravado comforted her in its own way. A welcome shard of normalcy in the hellhole of a morning.

"But umm," Momota scratched the back of his head and gazed to his right. "Why is the green Monokub here? Did only I notice that?"

The attention of several of his classmates followed suit to look at Monodam who stood hidden by a chair.

"No... his presence has been known this whole time," Shinguji said without ever taking his eyes off of Saihara's unconscious body. Ouma wasn't sure if the anthropologist had even blinked since entering the room. "Harukawa-san has seemed fit to allow his presence... I admit I am intrigued by why this trespass was considered acceptable, but asking for details is reserved for a later time."

"Nishishi. Momota-chan did you feel special thinking you are the only one to notice something so obvious?" Ouma asked as spread his arms out to his side with an arrogant expression. "We haven't stooped down to a low enough intelligence level that an idiot like you would see that before us!"

"Hey, don't call me an idiot!" Momota shouted, eliciting a few chuckles from their classmates. He sighed and rubbed the back of his head as he brushed his annoyance to the side. "But seriously, Harumaki, why is he here?"

Harukawa looked over at the silent Monokub. The usual banter had been relieving, but now that Kiibo, Tenko, and Himiko's arrival had filled out their ranks it was time to focus again.

This wouldn't be an easy conversation. Everyone was just barely holding it together. The happiness from seeing Saihara alive was the only thing that was keeping them from falling back into their earlier despair from regaining their memories. When they learned just how close they were to losing him, many would be shaken.

But she needed to do it. The group had the right to know.

Harukawa looked over to the Monokub. "I allowed him to stay here since he gave me the antidote to the poison Saihara drank."

"Nyeh!? Why would he do that?" Himiko asked in complete confusion.

The rest of the group reacted with confusion besides Ouma who had surmised as much. While this news was shocking, some focused on the words "poison Saihara drank".

Not everyone had made the connection between Saihara's condition and why he was found in the lab.

 

"That's a great question!"

 

The room tensed as Monokuma dropped from the ceiling. He glared at Monodam and extended his claws. "Because I'd also like to know why my child interfered in the Hide and Seek game!"

Rise and shine, Ursine!

As if summoned, the rest of the Monokubs also appeared in the room.

"Yeah! What the fuck Monodam! Should I beat you up again? Was last time not enough?" Monokid asked while swinging his guitar around.

"......"

"Don't you realize we are supposed to be the terrifying Monokubs? Saving people isn't in our job description." Monosuke complained. "No one wants a nice Monokub!"

"......"

"Did you do—" Monophanie began.

"Quiet all of you!" Monokuma shouted as he backhanded four of his children into the wall behind him. "This is between me and my currently least favorite son! Explain!"

"Bet he decided you went too far this time!" Momota shouted.

"Quiet Space Case! Don't interfere with my parenting methods!" Monokuma roared back before focusing on Monodam. "My patience is waning. You have five seconds. Negative two...."

"Nyeh! He started in the negatives?" Himiko gasped.

Monodam raised his arms above his head. "I-GAVE-THEM-THE-ANTIDOTE-BECAUSE-THEY-WON. THE-RULES-STATED-THEY-ONLY-NEEDED-TO-FIND-SAIHARA-SHUICHI-ALIVE. THE-GAME-ENDED-WHEN-THAT-OCCURRED."

Monokuma stepped closer to his son while the rest of the Monokubs picked themselves off the floor. "But you didn't need to help them! You could have let them struggle to find the antidote themselves. It would have been far more entertaining to watch them win the Hide and Seek portion just to lose the actual prize due to their own incompetence."

Ouma narrowed his eyes at the horrifying idea. From Harukawa's reaction when he entered the room, that fate was only avoided by minutes, if not seconds. Still, he still didn't believe the argument in front of him was genuine. All of Monokuma's actions promoted his agenda. A hidden purpose existed somewhere.

"......"

"Oh me, oh my. Is my cute cub going through his teen rebellion already? They grow up so fast. Too fast! You don't get to inherit my position just yet bucko!"

"SORRY-FATHER. PERHAPS-I-WAS-AFFECTED-BY-THE-ULTIMATE-DETECTIVE'S-KINDNESS. AFTER ALL..."

 

"HE-CHOSE-TO-SPEND-THE-LAST-MOMENTS-OF-HIS-LIFE-WITH-ME-OVER-HIS-SO-CALLED-FRIENDS."

 

The room temperature plummeted. Shinguji brought his hand to his mouth in shock. Gonta burst into tears. Akamatsu paled and struggled to stand. Kirumi clenched her jaw as she stopped her first aid.

The wave of revulsion they each felt spared no one and emotional agony spread among them like a virus.

"Oh?" A vicious grin appeared on Monokuma's face. "Is that right? Feeling sentimental since our Ultimate Detective deduced that his only purpose was to be used by his classmates and decided to find comfort in the bosom of his former enemy's child? Did you want to give a fragment of friendship back to Saihara-kun after those who claimed they loved him tossed him aside again and again?"

"Shut up." Ryoma growled as he clenched his fist so tight that his knuckles turned white.

"Hmm? I'm sorry. You'll have to speak up," Monokuma brought a paw up to his ear. "I don't speak the language of 'people-who-made-their-fuck-toy-attempt-suicide' very well."

"Please stop this!" Kiibo shouted as he covered his ears.

"I'm so sorry Saihara-kun..." Shirogane stammered as tears rolled down her face at the merciless words.

"Don't engage with him." Amami patted Shirogane's shoulder as he tried to bite back his own rising hatred. "Monokuma failed to get the result he wanted and is trying to push our buttons."

"Upupupu. Even if you are aware, you can't do a damn thing about it!" Monokuma laughed before turning back to Monodam. "Least something came of this failed plan."

"......"

"Can you guess what comes next though?"

"NOW-THE-GROUP-CAN-BECOME-CLOSER-AND-GET-ALONG?"

Monokuma pulled out an air horn and let its blast of sound echo through the room.

He only continued once the students had removed their hands from their ears. "Wrong answer. No, next is to fulfill my part of the bargain. I'll remove Saihara-kun's despair as promised."

"That's what I'm talking about! You better fix him right up right now!" Momota smacked his fists together in an attempt to show dominance.

Monokuma ignored the astronaut. "I'll do it in an hour. I need to prepare a few things since I thought I would have a corpse now, not an unconscious teen. Wouldn't want me to be the bearer of bad news if you make me do a rush job and I failed. Even the best surgeries have only a fifty percent chance of success."

Chabashira wasn't willing to have any delay. "Typical degenerate male behavior to evade your promises!"

"Easy pinwheel. I'll get back to you all soon with your prize." Monokuma brushed all the comments away. "I only need one last answer before I ground my kid for the next year."

He spun around twice on one foot before pointing at Monodam.

"Buh buh buh. The million dollar question for today is... what did Saihara-kun say to you before trying to off himself?"

"Don't you already know the answer?" Harukawa asked. She had unknowingly agreed with Ouma. The longer Monokuma talked the more he hurt them. "Since he is a robot, you probably have the technology to listen in on what he says and does."

"That's robophobic..." Kiibo muttered to himself. Even he that conversation was low priority.

Monokuma turned so his back was facing Harukawa. "Maybe, maybe not. That's for me to know and you to shut up. I'm the one asking the questions here."

Monodam brought his fists close to his chest. "SHUICHI-ASKED-ME-FOR-ONE-LAST-FAVOR."

"A favor from Monodam? What did he request?" Amami asked with a serious expression. And why ask a Monokub for anything?

"I-AM-NOT-AT-LIBERTY-TO-SAY. IT-WAS-A-PROMISE-SOLELY-BETWEEN-HIM-AND-I."

"Oh?" Ouma sneered, gaining a few glares before even saying anything. "But don't you think sharing a super secret promise between the two of you increases the likelihood of us not getting along? Your silence breeds suspicion."

"......" Monodam stopped moving at Ouma's provocation.

Ouma's smile became far more vicious. I won't let you find new ways to hurt Saihara-chan. "You say you want us to get along, but you don't want to tell us something important like that? Don't friends share secrets?"

"......."

"Are you being a bad friend?"

"......"

Monodam's ears extended from his head as his head shot upwards and steam burst from his mouth. He spun in a circle twice before vanishing from the room.

"Hey now," Monokuma waved an arm in Ouma's direction as the Ultimate Supreme Leader's mouth became a thin line. "Don't bully Saihara-kun's only remaining friend."

"Yeah! That's my fucking job!" Monokid yelled.

"Saihara-kun is our friend. If you hadn't stolen our memories—" Kaede rallied herself to retort. The entire conversation had left her reeling. Only a fierce determination to see the conversation through prevented her from breaking down with each reminder of her failures.

"I've heard it all before. Are you trying to put me to sleep? Ooh, trying to see what mistakes I'll make if I remove his despair while asleep might salvage the night." He tapped his chin as if he was seriously considering it.

"Hmph... If you got what you needed then get out of here and come back when you are ready to help Saihara-kun." Hoshi's mature presence helped calm a few of his classmates. It was only a small mercy. His atrophied heart was awoken with restrained anger.

He needed Monokuma to leave for both their sakes and to prevent him from doing something dangerous.

"Fine. I'm tired of staring at your mugs. See you soon~. Upupupu..."

Monokuma disappeared from the room, his laugh still echoing eerily.

So long, bear well!

With their final sendoff, the rest of the Monokubs vanished as well.

"So, what do we do now?" Hoshi asked.

 


 

 

"Lay him on the bed carefully Gokuhara-kun." Tojo commanded.

Gonta nodded as he moved Saihara onto a bed set up in the Tojo's Ultimate lab. Tojo hadn't needed to say anything. Gonta will treat Saihara with the same care he shows baby bugs. Despite his sheer size and strength, his delicacy was almost equal to Tojo's.

Several members of the class sat down in the chairs already prepared in the room while others stood and watched Tojo make Saihara as comfortable as possible.

"So now what?" Amami asked. "We just wait for that damned bear?"

He sent the question to Tojo, the person who was running the show for the moment.

She nodded sharply. "Yes. We can only be patient. Please inform me if I can be of service to you." As long as she was in charge even in a temporary capacity, she would chart an optimal path for everyone. That was her decision when she took charge of the class.

 

After Monokuma's disappearance, the group had debated what to do about Saihara.

Harukawa explained to the assembled students that Saihara was likely in a light, but recoverable, coma due to the poison preventing oxygen from reaching his brain.

The class only calmed after repeating the words "light" and "recoverable" three times. While his continued comatose state concerned her, she had already taken measures to verify he responded to stimuli.

She would apologize for the light bruising on his fingers along with the other apologies she needed to give him.

On any other day, she expressed dispassionate acceptance of her knowledge and experience in murder. But on this occasion, she embraced her ability to reverse her knowledge and become a savior instead of a killer.

Shirogane had recommended bringing Saihara to the dorm, but Tojo vetoed the plan due to the distance and their lack of a substitute for a stretcher.

Nobody mentioned how multiple Ultimates blushed at the words, "Saihara-kun’s room". Despite their grief, they couldn't help thinking of the last time they entered it.

Shinguji also noted the shame and self-hatred on their faces that followed the embarrassment.

Next, Momota championed bringing Saihara to the infirmary. He was reminded, kindly by some and through being called a moron by others, that the school didn't have an infirmary.

It was Tojo who came up with the solution by revealing that she could configure her Ultimate Lab and simulate a bedroom. "A maid must be ready to serve their master in all locales of the home, the bedroom is no exception."

Iruma's, "I bet a maid like you really learned how to service their master in the bedroom if ya know what I mean," comment was answered with a glare so vicious she fled the room.

Now that Tojo's maid powers were at max, not even Ouma had any intention of going against her instructions. In a whirlwind of commands, the former prime minister organized the group to set up the room, prepare supplies to help treat Saihara, and carry the unconscious boy downstairs.

 

With a combined effort, they succeeded in the tasks needed to keep Saihara safe and comfortable in record time. Soon the whole class was together again.

But after the whirlwind of activity, everyone was listless as they loitered around the room. They were all too preoccupied with their own internal struggles to make small talk and the detective that brought them all together was still unconscious.

The atmosphere only grew more strained as time passed with nothing happening.

To make matters worse, the usual supports for the group were too busy with their own situations to get the rest of the group to talk.

During the lull, Shirogane examined her classmates as the silence grew longer.

Akamatsu was often the unofficial leader of the group and most of the time their guiding force. While Saihara worked in the background helping to mend relationships and resolve hostility wherever it arose, Akamatsu had always been the forward drive to oppose Monokuma and remind everyone to keep on fighting.

Now she stood paralyzed, unsure how to proceed or if she deserved to lead again.

Momota acted as a buffoon and acted entirely with his heart rather than his head, but his trust in others was a strength that helped pull loners like Hoshi and Harukawa into the larger group. The whole class was well acquainted with his yelled commands to persevere and fight on.

Instead, he was pacing back and forth with his eyes focused on the ground as a vein throbbed in his forehead. Shirogane could almost see the aura of irritation that surrounded him.

The aura grew stronger as it transferred to Yumeno and Chabashira. Kaito returned the latter's glare without care.

Saihara... well he was still doing his job of being the glue that held the class together. But, while unconscious, he couldn't placate the eccentric personalities that were losing patience.

Tojo and Harukawa had stepped in to fill the void left behind by the three but they focused their attention on being pseudo-nurses.

I wonder if Harukawa-san has noticed the irony that she is now actually serving as a caregiver? The thought should have made Shirogane laugh internally. It didn't.  How odd.

Her attention then flitted to Amami and Ouma. The silence and stresses were affecting both and Momota's pacing wasn't helping. It was only a matter of time...

"Why Monokuma not appear? Please help Saihara-kun!"

Shirogane blinked as Gonta reacted first. That both made sense and yet caught her by surprise. She really had lost her edge.

"Well if Gonta-kun is asking I guess I have to respond!"

A puff of smoke appeared in front of Gonta and Monokuma strode out. "Tada! The hero arrives at the last minute with the call of a pure soul!"

"Gonta-kun may be the closest a degenerate male can get to being a pure soul but there is no universe where you are a hero," Chabashira complained.

"Well tough tiddlywinks. I'm the best hero you got right now." He skipped to the center of the room. "You called upon me, I just responded. Now that you have summoned me, it is time to use the forbidden skill Super Despair Destruction ZX! Then Saihara-kun will be all better and you can go back to being boring people who don't murder each other for personal gain."

"That sounds like a high-level spell," Yumeno muttered. "Teleportation and anti-curse magics are difficult even for me. Monokuma's powers are vast."

"Wait. How exactly do you plan on making him better?" Harukawa narrowed her eyes at Monokuma. "You haven't described what you are doing."

"So suspicious, so suspicious." Monokuma whistled as he put an arm behind his head. "Are your assassin senses tingling? Think I'm gonna kill him somehow when he is at his weakest? How rude!"

"After what you did today, there is no way we can have any trust in any of your actions!" Kiibo shouted as he pointed an accusing finger at Monokuma.

Ouma stood by Saihara's bed with a dark look in his eyes and a deep frown. I really can't smile about this, even as a lie. Some things are off limits. "Lies of omission exist. You've proven yourself very capable of them."

"Even the prince of lies stands against me. What has this world become?"

Tojo moved in front of Saihara's bed with her arms raised in a protective stance. "I have a duty and responsibility to my patient. I will not allow you near him until you make your intentions clear and they prove acceptable to all those I serve."

"Ooh, acceptable to everybody is the requirement to get past you? Now that does make things interesting." Monokuma's nonchalance only increased everyone's nervousness.

He pulled out a flashlight and waved it in one of his hands. They all grimaced at the sight. None of them could forget the wave of horrible memories from the last usage of a flashlight-like object. This one though had a red handle and a square light at the end.

"I'm only going to explain it once so you better pay attention. This is a prototype of a more powerful repress light. I'll call it, hm, how about a blackout light? "

The name alone boded ill.

"Since Saihara-kun is too smart for a repress light we need to dig deeper. One shine of this little toy and he'll forget about all of his pains and emotional damage."

He smiled as he paused dramatically.

 

"Because it will erase his entire memory, despair and all!"

 

The rooms exploded in outraged screaming.

"Don't harm Saihara-kun!" Gonta switched back and forth between fear and anger as his whole body shook.

Angie awoke from her emotional stupor as she heard her deity's voice for the first time since the repress light had shined. And that voice reverberated with the foreign emotion of anger. "Kami-sama is a forgiving God. But even Atua cannot forgive using that."

"This isn't what you promised!" Momota roared.

"Typical response. Listen up. The only people who have broken any promises are you all every time you said you wouldn't hurt each other while turning around and stabbing Saihara-kun deeper." Monokuma leaned forward as he extended his claws. "I told you I would remove his despair. I didn't say I would only remove his despair. You stabbed him too deep and too often for there to be any precision way of only removing the memories that made him suicidal."

"If... if I can examine the device used to repress our memories then my brilliant mind could... probably..." Iruma trailed off as she fell into the doubt part of her cyclical emotions. "Or instead I'll make a batch of sweet-ass drugs so we can trip balls and forget all this shit! Problem solved. I'm a fucking genius!"

"Iruma-san we talked about this! No drugs!" Akamatsu tried to calm the increasingly manic inventor.

"I hear your offer to look at my repress light and raise you... an absolutely not!" Monokuma growled. "It is only due to my benevolence I am giving you this option in the first place you ungrateful kids. It is a courtesy." His eye glowed red. "One I can retract at my leisure."

"You dare to act as if you show us kindness?" Shinguji was beside himself with fury and he wasn't alone.

Kokichi wasn't the only Ultimate being held back by a classmate. Harukawa was restraining Momota and Hoshi stepped in front of Amami without saying a single word. Himiko was likewise trying to calm Chabashira who looked ready to tear the bear into bits.

To Shinguji's shock, Angie joined them by grabbing his wrist as he stepped forward. The out-of-character action caught him off guard and he stopped in his tracks.

He looked at her face and started in surprise. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying. None of her normal vibrant energy could be seen in her posture. She looks almost as bad as Saihara-kun. In all the chaos, he hadn't noticed how quiet she was. Now he had an inkling why.

If even Angie was so emotionally compromised, and Kaede wasn't faring any better, they were in deep trouble.

"I don't care what a degenerate like you calls it! We won't let you destroy his mind!" Tenko took a deep breath as Himiko yanked on her sleeve again and stopped resisting. The tense.

Monokuma tilted his head. "Then you'll take responsibility if he tries to kill himself again and succeeds?"

The rising flames of their anger sputtered out and were replaced with cold fear. They wanted him to know how much he meant. To beg him for forgiveness. Give him all the assurances in the world that it would never happen again.

But what if that wasn't enough?

We only knew he planned on attempting suicide because Monokuma told us. Hoshi was one of the few who had considered the possibility from the beginning. He knew what it was like to find himself at rock bottom. Our apologies and treatment might not be enough to heal his emotional wounds. And Monokuma won't warn us a second time. He would rather accelerate the damage.

"What are you implying when you say responsibility?" Shirogane asked as she found her voice.

"Hm? Implying? I'm not saying that if he commits suicide, you'll become the blackened or anything." Monokuma said. "Just asking whether you are willing to take that risk and have that possibility on your heads."

"He... he wouldn't." Kaede's voice was barely a whisper.

"Upupupu. I bet you would have said that this morning too."

Kaede grabbed Iruma's arm as another wave of vertigo hit her.

"Now, while it would be hilarious to go round and round about this, even the best trials need a time limit or they'll tire out the audience," Monokuma said. "So let me give you one last piece of information. Ready? Go."

Monokuma pointed to Saihara. "Our little detective is too smart like I said. If he is awake, he might fight off the effects. So this device is only available while he is asleep and weak. I gave you the opportunity which is my side of the bargain. But if you wait too long, this limited time offer will vanish."

"As long as he is asleep," Harukawa repeated. "Tojo. How much longer until he might wake?"

Tojo frowned as she laid her hand on Saihara's arm and squeezed with little power. She noted his faint reaction and cross-referenced all the data she had from serving as a maid to a doctor. "I do not have an exact answer... but in my estimation, it will be within the next thirty minutes at earliest or tonight at the latest. It is possible that shouting may wake him sooner."

"A half hour at worst." Harukawa gnawed on her thumb. That wasn't enough time to discuss such a huge decision.

Ouma grit his teeth as he saw Harukawa's reaction. For him, the answer was obvious. Using the device to destroy Saihara's mind wasn't up for discussion. There was no way he would allow Monokuma to use the blackout light. If the time limit matters to these fools this could get ugly fast. They haven't dropped the idea of erasing his memory. The damn bear wants to exploit our distress by pitting us against each other!

Monokuma laughed with every bit of cruelty he had stockpiled for six months even as Ouma glared at him. He held the piece of technology above his head while making a video game sound effect.

 

"Now it's time to decide! Will you erase Saihara-kun's memories and destroy everything about him including his despair? Or will you leave him with all the pain and misery you subjected him to?"

 

"Destroy his mind or let him destroy himself? What. Will. You. Do?"

Chapter Text

Only moments after Monokuma's explosive query, one student declared his view of the class' intentions.

"We won't let you use that machine so toss it in the trashcan, Monokuma!" Momota yelled. Monokuma's question was pointless to him as the answer was obvious. Saihara would recover with their assistance even if it took extra care and a group effort. His sidekick didn't need any more help from the bear who had used countless tricks to bring about murders.

"Wait a moment Momota," Harukawa interjected, "you can't make that decision without consulting the whole class." Monokuma hadn't earned even a fraction of her trust, and even now his intentions had to be sinister. Because of those tricks though, treading lightly was needed. The best decision seemed on the surface to be rejecting the blackout light, but not sharing their motive videos almost brought about tragedy months ago. Every possibility needs to be considered before we act, otherwise Monokuma's traps will ensnare us.

"Harukawa-chan doesn't get it," Ouma said as he leered at the Ultimate Assassin with disdain. "Monokuma's 'kindness' always comes at a price even if it isn't initially evident. When we rely on camaraderie and discussion to combat his subterfuge we lose. Or does your assassin side find erasing a life so trivial that you'll accept killing Saihara-chan in mind and spirit?"

Anger flared in Harukawa's eyes as the temporary truce between the constant enemies shattered at his provocation. A knife appeared in her hand and a glare to shake the hardiest soul accompanied her catchphrase, "Do you want to die?"

"Harukawa-san and Ouma-kun, drop the hostility unless you want to give Monokuma what he desires," Akamatsu said as she stood between them. The irony was not lost on Akamatsu that she operated best when the two were moments from fighting. Until their fight, she had been powerless to influence anyone. Forcing them to stop fighting was the only clear decision in her mind since walking into the gym that morning.

"Harukawa-san isn't wrong though," Shirogane said while raising a finger in contemplative thought. "We shouldn't act recklessly. We should get everyone's opinions."

"I'm telling you there isn't anything to discuss!" Momota yelled with a raised fist. "Nobody wants to erase Saihara's memories."

"Nobody wants to… but it may be the healthiest option," Ryoma said. As Momota burned hotter, the tennis player grew colder. "You don't realize it… but life isn't always as simple as you make it out to be."

When Momota sucked in a deep breath to bellow a retort, Tojo stepped in between them.

"Stop this. I agree that it is important to hear the opinions of all sides regarding this crossroad," Tojo chided them. "But I will not permit shouting before the patient. Step outside to have this discussion."

"But Tojo-san need give opinion too?" Gonta asked.

The Ultimate Maid shook her head and continued treating Saihara. "My opinion is of no consequence. A servant may advise their master, but I should not be granted a vote. I will follow whatever path everyone chooses."

"Tojo-san, that isn't…" Amami began.

"Besides," Tojo smiled as she prepared a damp towel. "Someone needs to take care of Saihara-san." The others didn't always understand, but she truly gained satisfaction from helping.

"Good point from the maid." Monokuma said. "If you argue here, you might wake him early. Which would be funny in its own way… but I want to hear a full length argument! Passion, drama, getting pissed at each other, and holding grudges afterward! Delightful!"

"So I'm making an executive call right now as headmaster," he declared. "Everyone else out of the room. March to the area in front of the Ultimate Entomologist's lab. I set up an impromptu trial space. Nothing fancy, but it'll serve our needs."

"And why should we?" Ouma challenged.

Every student's Monopads let out a notification sound.

"Because I just added a new rule for this situation. Disobey at your own peril."

With no other options, all the students except for Tojo trickled out of the room, sparing one last glance toward their unconscious love.

We'll save you Saihara-kun, Shinguji thought to himself. He could only hope they were all on the same page about what constituted saving.

 


 

With no words, the group sat down in the circle of chairs the Monokubs had finished setting up moments prior. Ouma and Harukawa sneered and glared at each other respectively while their classmates were far more cordial.
When it became clear that no one knew how to begin, one voice broke the silence.

"To start, we should determine how everyone views the choice Monokuma gave us and maybe a brief explanation of the reasoning behind that decision," Kiibo said. The void of leadership and Akamatsu's unusual hesitation led him to take control of the proceedings. The predicament they faced was not one he would stay passive in. I shouldn't have taken a backseat so often. Hope needs careful attention and nurturing if it is to flourish in the academy.

Perhaps the remaining audience is getting bored with how little drama the past months had and now is pushing Kiibo to act with new vigor? Shirogane didn't expect Kiibo to step into the limelight or act proactive even now. She hadn't written him that way and his design shouldn't have allowed such growth even with the difficult situation. He would need to be monitored if the audience's frustrations led his "inner voice" to recommend extreme methods for solving their predicament.

Shirogane was not the only student to react to Kiibo's change in demeanor with suspicion. Ouma maintained his practiced grin, but inside he was reevaluating every Ultimate and moving pictures on his mental whiteboard. The robot was either a cameraman, an audience proxy, or programmed to serve as a backup plan if the killing game grew too boring. After everyone survived for several months I almost gave the bucket of bolts an iota of credit, but I won't let anyone mess with Saihara-chan.

 

"I'll start then," Shinguji said as he stood up, "I agree with Ouma-kun, we should destroy the blackout light. Saihara-kun's emotions were devastated by our actions, but even if it selfish I do not want him to forget the experiences we shared. I want to observe his recovery and apologize while he remembers the actions I seek forgiveness for."

"Gonta agree with Shinguji-kun," Gonta said. "Erasing memories seems scary and painful and Saihara-kun no be hurt more!"

Iruma's turn followed Gonta's as the group agreed to follow a clockwise pattern. "Y'know Green Giant, I get the concept that not remembering things is frightening. But shit, I'd forget parts of my life if I could, but any loss of information from my fucking brilliant mind would lead society to ruin! Bet Saihara-kun doesn't have that concern so he'd rather start anew than face these depressing thoughts."

Hoshi pulled his beanie down over his eyes and chose not to stand. "My reasoning differs from Iruma on several points… but I agree with the conclusion. Sometimes we harm people in ways they wish to never remember… and we aren't therapists."

Nobody was surprised by Momota's response to that statement. "Hoshi, we've talked about this before and I'll repeat myself until you listen. Talk to us, or at least me. The Ryoma Hoshi I respected doesn't run away from reality. Even if you feel like that person is dead, I know you'll become him again! Shuichi is the same way, he'll overcome these challenges and return stronger than ever."

Amami leaned forward and let out a long drawn-out sigh. "Or he dies from his next attempt because we weren't able to guarantee his safety during the time he needs to recover. If Monokuma wasn't around, I would take the risk, but this school is dangerous. Saihara-kun's life is precious and we can't have a repeat of today. If we use the device… I'll support him as a fellow amnesiac."

"Amami-chan I'm disappointed in you. I chose the seat next to you because I thought you wouldn't fall for Monokuma's con." Ouma's displeasure only expanded with each vote to erase Saihara's memory, to kill the detective he loved. Hoshi's self-destructive nature and depression excused his viewpoint, but the rest were falling out of his low favor at record speeds. "Or is your goal to mold Saihara-chan to your tastes and—"

Kiibo interrupted to stop the building tirade of sarcasm, earning a glare from the Ultimate Supreme Leader. "Save the discussion points for after we have voted. Moving on since I doubt you are going to switch sides," he pointedly ignored Ouma asking Iruma if she installed a pair of balls along with the dick. "My thoughts are like Ouma-kun's, we stand to lose everything if we accept anything from Monokuma. Hope won't appear through erasing our mistakes and giving up on Saihara-kun. We must persevere and trust each other. Your turn, Angie."

Kiibo's comment failed to rouse the artist from her silence. Her gaze had remained fixated on the floor from the start of the discussion to her turn arriving. The smock wrapped around her body looked oversized with her over-the-top presence having diminished.

"A-Angie?" Yumeno said as her concern for the artist overcame her internal deliberation on her own answer. Few, including herself, had realized how badly Angie was taking the events. Sure Angie had been unusually quiet, but this was Angie. The girl wore a smile ninety percent of the time so Yumeno assumed Angie would brush off this trial like everything else.

She had been dead wrong.

Angie pulled her feet onto her chair seat and wrapped her smock around her whole body like a blanket. After another minute, Harukawa lost patience and declared that Angie was stalling to give Saihara a chance to wake.

"Angie, if you could just say yes or no…" Kiibo said to encourage the artist.

"Kami-sama is out of the office on holiday and can't respond to questions." Angie stared across the circle at Shinguji, searching for something in his eyes. Whether she found what she was looking for remained unknown.

"So you are giving up on your vote then?" Kiibo asked as he laid his hand on her shoulder in a human display of sympathy via light physical contact.

"… No," Angie said as she clenched her knees tighter. "Angie will vote instead of Kami-sama. Angie loves Shuichi. The Shuichi I know means too much. I don't want him to vanish from my life. I'll be selfish if that is how you describe a decision made due to love without Kami-sama's guidance. Shuichi is too special."

The whole room quieted as Angie's words settled deep in their souls and grew sprouts. Until Angie spoke, most of the students tried to argue based on logic or consider Saihara's situation as a whole. The artist lived up to her craft and didn't stick to the rigid frameworks, instead creating a different view.

Pure honesty towards her love and desire to be with her Shuichi.

After a bit of uneasiness regarding how to proceed, Chabashira decided to take up the reins of the conversation and fill in the awkward air that remained after Angie's declaration. "I hate to agree with some many menaces… so I won't. But I will agree with Angie! Saihara may be," Chabashira hesitated as her instincts clashed against residual memories of his importance, "a man, and not perfect either. But he doesn't deserve to lose out on his life. He needs to remember. If that leads to depression I'll use my Neo-aikido to scatter all of those disgusting thoughts and rebuild his spirit!"

Chabashira displayed a mocking grin to the male blackout light supporters. "With that, we have the majority. Now the rest of us girls need to band together and—

Without a shred of compassion for Chabashira's confidence, Yumeno spoke. "Recovery is a pain and difficult to complete. Even my magic can't heal the dead so," she ignored the look of shock on her neighbor's face and continued, "I vote to use the light."

And so the turn moved to the Ultimate Cosplayer. Shirogane sank into her chair as all eyes, except for Angie and Chabashira's who were more focused on the ground and Yumeno respectively, turned to her.

"I… I… I don't know!" She yelled as her voice cracked and tears rose into the corners of her eyes. "This is all too sudden. You are asking me to make a onetime life-changing decision like using a Geass. I wasn't ready for so many flags springing up at once. Come back to me, please."

This is quite the bind I have found myself in, Shirogane muttered internally as Kiibo agreed that the next person should vote. Her comment was honest, both for her position as the Ultimate Cosplayer and the mastermind of Danganronpa. Which path leads to the highest chance of the game beginning? Pitfalls line both options.

That multiple participants were going off-script added to the difficulty in choosing a correct path to control and direct to a satisfying outcome. 

Angie wasn't designed to express sadness in any of the initial drafts, her faith in her "Kami-sama" was hard-wired into her psyche as an emotional backup. K1-B0 needed to remain passive so the audience's surveys had a stronger effect. Taking control of the proceedings would only alienate the viewers who wanted to use the robot as a self-insert. Ouma's entire arc was scripted to toe the line between truth and lies to boost internet arguments and character studies. Instead, he dropped the fiction he obscured himself with after Monokuma revealed Saihara's plight.

At least I've grown used to Ouma trying to derail the game. Being contrary to expectations has become expected. But the rest of the class is also deviating over this subject. Even Shirogane's expectation that the out of character occurrences would be bothersome didn't occur. Having her characters escape her control led to an unexpected depth that should have stayed hidden in a normal game.

This must be how authors feel when they say their characters write themselves. To maintain her role, she wiped away her tears and turned to her neighbor. "What do you think Akamatsu-san?"

"… I vote to use the blackout light," Akamatsu answered after a short pause.

"Why Akamatsu-san?" Gonta asked in confusion. The unofficial leader's vote stunned even the other students who voted to erase Saihara's memories. Everyone had assumed the optimistic pianist would side against a plan involving Monokuma.

"Because I broke my promise to Saihara-san." Akamatsu gripped her skirt as she looked at the floor. "He gave me a hint… just three nights ago. After I slept with him he… he said he didn't believe he could go on if it wasn't for others. How difficult it would be to live alone with only the crushing weight of feeling forgotten. I didn't realize why he brought up such thoughts. I assumed he was talking about something from before being brought here. So I promised him I would stay with him for the whole next day if he felt distressed."

"He…" She gripped her skirt tighter as tears rose in the corners of her eyes. "He joked and said if I broke that promise he might just shatter. So he would 'hold me to it,' if I was serious. After switching from that subject he then used it as an excuse to cuddle, but I could tell something was still eating at him. I decided to talk to him about it the next day."

"Then you didn't keep that promise after Monokuma came across you in the morning," Harukawa finished.

"And now he is like this. I broke so many promises, but Saihara-kun kept his." She wiped the tears from her eyes. "If you put an instrument through enough stress, it'll never play properly again. Or in the worst case, it will just remain broken. I don't trust myself to not keep harming Saihara-kun. Those are my reasons."

Shirogane hugged Akamatsu while calculating how to respond. This was another surprise. I wrote her to put a lot of pressure on herself sure, but the goal was to get her to commit a murder. Never expected it to impact her choices so deeply if she considered her actions to be failures. Still, it gave her a path to pursue assuming Harukawa acted as expected.

"I've made my choice now too. I will join with Akamatsu-san. Saihara-kun has gone through enough, we should remove his burdens."

"Thank you, Shirogane-san." Harukawa said. "I agree regarding erasing Saihara's memories." She ignored Momota's protest with only minor difficulty. "The traumas inflicted upon him will not heal without careful attention if at all. Rather than leaving him to suffer through these demons and self-hatred that led him to consume poison I think it's better to start from scratch. We can resolve how to proceed afterward."

"But… Harukawa-san…" Chabashira tried to catch up with the conversation. Why did half the girls embrace the wrong choice? Did that menace Amami brainwash them!? Then the bigger shock sunk in. "Wait, doesn't that mean we have seven for and seven against?"

"A tie in vote numbers, how shocking," Shinguji murmured.

"Then should we call in Tojo-san for the deciding vote?" Yumeno asked.

"No, I would advise against that," Kiibo said before anyone else could respond. "Tojo-san asked to not impact the decision and no single person should make the final call. We should convince the other side rather than aim for a simple majority when we are split down the middle like this."

"… Split?"

Monokuma shuffled into the room with a comical trail of fire following him. Before anyone could protest, he leaped into the air and landed in a tall chair that rose from the floor.

"Down the," Monokuma panted and held up a paw as he regained his breath," middle?"

"Is Monokuma interfering?" Gonta asked.

"No, of course not. I'm assisting!" Monokuma insisted. "Since you have a major disagreement, the Ultimate Academy is proud to present its very own morphenomenal trial grounds!"

Ignoring the group's incredulous looks, Monokuma pulled out a key and held it high above his head. Only when he brought it down in front of him did his enthusiasm wane.

"See? This is why you need to start the murdering kiddos. You'd get this reference then and be amazed by all my capabilities," Monokuma complained. "Kids these days don't appreciate the time and effort adults put in to craft the greatest experiences possible. Guess we'll save this for the first real trial." He pocketed the key.

"There won't be any trials, Monokuma," Amami declared.

"I wouldn't advise betting on that," Monokuma said as he shrugged. "At least move your butts so the yes and no votes are on opposite sides. Get organized." When no one looked willing to obey he smacked the arm of his chair. "If you disobey, I'll take away your right to decide and do whatever I want regarding Saihara-chan."

They weren't willing to call him on that bluff. With a clatter of chairs and a few mumbled comments Shinguji, Gonta, and Momota switched places with Iruma, Amami, and Hoshi respectively.

Monokuma nodded with a satisfied smirk as he observed the divided class from his high perch. "Then let the debate begin. Don't worry about me, I won't interfere."

"There is always a reason to worry about your designs," Chabashira said as she focused on Yumeno, the person she least wanted to see as opposition. A Neo-Aikido throw wasn't necessary to read the sadness and uncertainty in the mage's eyes. I have to reassure her that expressing and even overcoming difficult emotions is important for both her and Saihara-kun.

With fourteen different goals, divided into two camps, the debate began.

 


 

 

"Shouldn't we use it without worrying? What if Saihara-kun hates us for not using it when he wakes up? Thinks we don't care enough to believe he was worth saving? This is our only opportunity." Shirogane began.

"Gonta no agree! Saihara-kun never hate us no matter what we do." Gonta never saw anger towards the group even as Saihara's mental state declined. "We not throw him away because we care. A gentleman never change someone in their sleep even if opportunity."

 

"Why don't we just all lock up our emotions? Let Saihara forget and pretend all this was a bad dream. No need to waste energy on heartache," Yumeno said. "Otherwise it hurts too much."

"You are right, expressing our emotions can sometimes hurt, Yumeno-san." Chabashira rubbed Yumeno's shoulders to reassure the mage that was holding back tears. "Together though we can overcome that pain. Share it with me… us, and we will support you. You can be there for Saihara-kun when he cries too."

 

"Monokuma may use Saihara-kun's depression to cause another suicide attempt," Amami said. "If he pulls a new trick, then Saihara-kun might not survive. The bear has too many opportunities to set up traps to be trusted around a suicidal person."

"He would have that opportunity, regardless. In fact, working with a person who has lost all of their memories increases the chance of a murder occurring." Ouma said. "Monokuma will manipulate a 'new' person with ease and no doubt wants that outcome."

 

Akamatsu held back her tears and looked straight forward. "Saihara-kun must have been devastated when I broke my promises. He might try to destroy himself again as he hinted that night. Extreme measures can keep him safe."

"Then apologize for your mistakes and make new promises with Shuichi. We gotta enrich our lives to gain inner peace, not remove chunks. Even if you broke a few promises or oaths, we'll do a ritual of absolution together." Angie smiled for the first time in hours as she heard Atua's agreement.

 

"When shit goes down it's better to just forget everything and move on. Who needs to remember the anguish and abandonment when blocking it all out is an option? You losers don't understand how bad it is for even bigger losers… not that I know either!" Iruma unintentionally dropped hints regarding her own history.

Shinguji swept in to use the opening before Iruma babbled enough to derail the conversation. "Being forced to forget will remove everything we ever shared with him. If you don't wish to be abandoned, you must embrace the positive and negative repercussions of your actions. Unless you want him to interact with you without recognizing everything you ever meant to him. Do you seek that loneliness?"

 

"Loss is an inevitable part of my life. The light will speed up that unstoppable process. Saihara's emotional damage is immense… expecting things to work out on optimism alone is naiveté. Not everyone gets a chance to reverse the worst decisions of their lives… so don't steal this from Saihara." Hoshi's words carried a weight of experience that couldn't be matched.

"We aren't banding together to just naively hope things get better, but pledging to use the bonds of fifteen Ultimates to support our friend," Kiibo said. He had his own past of being reborn without memories, but that had been his past self's choice. "Regardless though, we can't take it upon ourselves to reverse his life without permission. That isn't fair to anyone. Even if we wish we could have the opportunity for ourselves."

 

"What occurred to Saihara can be described as catastrophic. No amount of training will brush away the pain he has suffered. When you are at your limit, the only way to overcome the past and all of its regrets is to suppress it, walk away from it or erase it." Harukawa did not speak of a girl she once needed to kill. "As long as he stays in this school he will constantly face the reminders of this tragedy. The third option is the only approach to survive."

"Seems we need to do more training Harumaki if you think it can't help. Of course Saihara-kun can overcome his past." Momota gave a thumbs up and a smile. "Don't underestimate my sidekick for even an instant, he'll shock you with his capabilities. Anyway, we don't want him to be in the situation we were in. Ya know, with one side hurting and the other lacking a memory."


"Shall I kill that logic?"

 

Harukawa's harsh statement tore through Momota's rambling statements. The Ultimate Astronaut flinched as he faced the full force of Harukawa's determination.

"Don't be so foolish. You see the best in people and in situations Momota. In some ways it's admirable. But it also leads you to fixate on some positives and dismiss the difficulties of others. I've been a recipient of your mindset enough times to recognize it. Things aren't that simple."

"Look, I don't know what everybody else did with Saihara-kun. What he said or what you said. I only know the time I spent with him." Momota frowned and clenched his fists. He didn't see it as dismissing the difficulties of others. He just was aware there were other things to focus on in life to avoid being wrapped in dark thoughts. "Like Akamatsu-san, I made promises that only caused more hurt. I was blind to his pain. Even if I was trying to bolster his confidence, I maybe came across as sarcastic or cruel. I can't say all my help was positive."

"Yet you ignore that and only look at pieces of the situation to match your worldview." It hurt her to tear down his mindset that had supported her many times. But her background involved years of resignation to her fate. Saihara hadn't been given the chance to adapt.

"Harumaki, you aren't looking at the whole situation either! Just think about it. My sidekick was virtually alone. Nobody stayed with him. Over and over he shared his love and body with us, getting nothing in return."

Harukawa waited for him to continue. Everyone was uncomfortably aware of these facts.

"And yet he still pushed on! For four months he endured every agony with no one by his side. Who else could do that? Even for a Luminary of the Stars it would be difficult. Over a hundred days he suffered but still got out of bed and smiled for us. Think about what that means! How much he has grown!"

Momota still remembered how often Saihara would express fear of his weakness or doubt in his capabilities. In the beginning, he spent most of his time hiding behind his hat. Discomfort with the world was clear whenever he spoke. If not for Akamatsu's constant attempts to keep him engaged with the group, he would have faded into the background. How many times had he put down his own success in solving a crime? Say he wasn't of any use unless a crime occurred and he was fine with remaining that way?

Saihara was weak, plain and simple. He needed someone back then.

"I wanted to spur Saihara forward. Be there for him, y'know? Make him know there is nothing to fear since a hero believes in him. That's why I picked him up as my sidekick after the mess following the first motive." Momota chuckled sadly. "I'm a little afraid to know what his impression of being a sidekick is now."
Momota now could remember a few occasions during sex when the whole sidekick thing stood out in a different light. In a much more sexual light. To make matters worse, the blasted bear also kept erasing my commitment to call him Shuichi. So I kept calling him by his first name only when we were doing it. What did he think about that? Please don't assume I only wanted a sidekick to have sleep with you. Please!

"And it stuck, at least for the early months. You saw how he grew stronger. How he was in the beginning, he wouldn't have managed for a week let alone months. With how strong he became he will just need a push to overcome this latest hurdle. We only need to help him focus on the good things like Tojo's meals."

"Not everyone has your endless positivity Momota." Harukawa remained unconvinced.

In fact, Momota guessed she was locking herself even deeper into her views. He needed a new tactic to shake her.

"A hero shouldn't show weakness in front of those they protect after all. But, if I'm being completely honest?" Momota glanced at Yumeno and then Hoshi. "I'm also hurt by all of this. I couldn't believe how much I'd hurt my bro. Feel like garbage even now." He had to get through to Harukawa. She was dismissing his views without listening. His usual bravado was working against him.

It sucked to show any holes in the armor of his heart. Even after he shared nights together with Saihara, no, with Shuichi, he had avoided saying anything about his own worries. His concerns were only supposed to remain in his own head. If not for Harukawa's stubbornness, it would have remained that way.

"I hate having this conversation. I want him to be content and pumped for training, not bedridden. Guilt isn't my strong suit… but I feel it."

"See, even you understand that much. What Monokuma subjected Saihara to was far worse and yet you want him to sink in that muck further? Let him rest!"

"You aren't listening! Yes, it was awful! Stop turning away from all the evidence that Shuichi can overcome this! There are differences between your perception and Shuichi's situation!"

"What difference is there!?" Harukawa shouted.

 

"Shuichi's life isn't yours!"

 

Harukawa's eyes widened at the shout echoing in the silent hallway. She tried four times to form a sentence, failing each attempt as she looked at Momota's expression.

The Ultimate Astronaut's clenched his teeth as he faced away from the group with his eyes closed. Red marks were visible on his palms where his nails had dug into skin. His breathing hitched as if he had been struck by the declaration, not his opponent.

"Wh-what are you trying to say Momota?" The viciousness Harukawa wanted to place in the words ignored her summons. She wanted to deny him, to prevent him from speaking further. Something deep in her consciousness told her she wouldn't be able to refute him.

But no denial or interruption came. In return for every scrap of kindness he had shown her, Harukawa couldn't push his words aside so easily.

"… Maki," Momota faced her once more with a pained expression. I'm sorry Maki. Please forgive me for saying this. "Shuichi's situation isn't yours. His past isn't yours. His struggles aren't yours. We are deciding the fate of the Ultimate Detective… not the Ultimate Assassin. I think you forgot that."

"I don't know your life," Momota continued, desperate to get through to the stone-faced girl across from him. "You've told me and Shuichi some stories and I know the general concept but I don't know what living as an assassin is like." He tried to avoid using the A-word when talking to her. It was part of his strategy to help Maki evolve her identity to be more than her career. "Had hardships I can't imagine, I'm sure. Was even more dangerous than going to space is. And that's plenty dangerous… for untrained professionals unlike me."

He glanced at Ouma. Despite his constant lies, the other boy held at least some true disdain for Maki's occupation. He sent a silent request via eye contact. Please don't interrupt. If I can shake Maki from her position, the rest might follow.

Whether Ouma picked up on the request or simply chose not to interfere of his volition, the room remained quiet. All eyes were on him. With Maki's inability to retort, both sides awaited his conclusion.

The way it should be for a hero. Just you wait, Shuichi, I'm going to save you and Maki this time. That'll be my atonement.

"But if I had to guess what was the worst part, I'm sure it wasn't the danger. I'd bet it was that you were alone. Because even you get lonely."

A wave of hostility radiated from Harukawa, leading Iruma to shuffle away and cower.

Momota met her raging aura without flinching. "It's nothing to be angry about. People need others! It ain't good to bear everything on your own! I've told you that time after time!"

"Naive. You don't understand anything about my situation or Saihara's."

"It's not being naive! It's paying attention and knowing he isn't alone!" Momota bolted to his feet, knocking his chair into the wall. "And neither are you, Harukawa! Nobody here is!"

Energy surged through his muscles as he stepped into the center of the circle. His voice became a roar as he addressed the hurts of everyone.

"You lost things in the past. Shuichi though, he has lost nothing that he can't obtain once again! We are all still with him! Fighting and struggling to save him! Everyone is alive and now everybody remembers. We can still laugh with him and train with him and eat dinner with him. Play dodgeball or watch movies or hang out by the pool, whatever we want!"

His determination hit its peak. Only matched by when he first applied for the astronaut exam. "No one will be left behind. Not Shuichi. Not you Maki. And don't think you'll be left behind either Hoshi!"

Hoshi looked away in embarrassment at being suddenly called out. The words were foolish. Yet I still listen…

"I don't care if you have amnesia or don't like expressing emotions or killed someone or want to forget or broke your promises!" Momota was on a roll as his tension gauge hit its max. "I'll take on all the burdens for you and stand by you! And even if I falter someone else will get up and join me! And we'll all stand up for Shuichi! He'll support us like he used to. Because that's what it means to be friends!"

"Shuichi managed on his own for months with no one. That'll never happen again so he'll recover! It might not be easy, but he's become the strongest person I know. I'll be there every step of the way. For him… and for you."

 

"So believe in the Luminary of the Stars!"

 

Before Harukawa could regain her composure, he acted on impulse and bent down to grab her hands. "Shuichi can overcome this no problem. You can too. We'll keep on training and keep on healing. I'll show you. I'll take your troubles and struggles far above the clouds where they can't touch you!"

All of his muscles grew tired as his built-up tension released. His throat also hurt from shouting at top volume for so long. Despite the difficulties, he never turned away from focusing on the black-haired girl in front of him.

She pushed off his grip and brought her hands to her chest. Without saying a single word she looked down at her legs.

Shoulders quivered as a repressed chuckle escaped her mouth.

"What kind of idiot are you?" Harukawa asked as she covered her reddening face with her hand. "Do you really think you can just make everything better if you believe hard enough?"

"Of course. Because I'm a hero!"

Laughter escaped from between her fingers again. "You aren't a hero. You are just an… impossible man. Absolutely impossible."

"Well, an impossible man can thus do anything! So I'll accept that!" He pumped his fist as she shook her head. "This impossible man will now save all of his sidekicks!"

"Well said Momota-kun!" Kiibo placed a hand on his shoulder and nodded. "I'll become one of your supports while you save everyone too."

"I hate joining forces with a man like you," Chabashira complained with a strained smile. "Still, I'll be on your side if you are saving a beautiful girl like Harukawa-san… and I guess Saihara-san."

"You are such a moron Momota. You can't save the world just with good thoughts," Ouma leaned in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head.

"What was that Ouma-kun? Don't call me a moron!" Momota raged at his usual target. "I'll show you when I save you from your need to lie all the time!"

Ouma slow-blinked in response. His smile grew at the snarl he had elicited. "Can't say you aren't interesting though. Perhaps I should recruit you for my evil organization after all. I'll even get your sidekicks as a package deal."

"You shouldn't invite a hero to join an evil organization. … And I feel like you gave me a backhanded compliment a moment ago."

"Ladies and gentlemen… he can be taught."

Before Momota could retort, Shinguij clapped his hands together once. "Beautiful. Such faith and overwhelming zealotry for your friends. Humanity truly is fascinating to observe."

The responses kept coming as others reacted to the display they had witnessed.

"Gonta will be there for you and Saihara-kun too!"

"Did Momota-kun go Super Saiyan for a moment there? His hair is spiky enough…"

"Kami-sama gives you permission to be a hero Kaito! We'll save Shuichi!"

"Hmph… getting told off like that. Guess I've got a long way to go…"

"Despite your ugly goatee that was weirdly sexy… didn't think the eggplant could get me wet!"

While ignoring Iruma as per usual, Momota kept his focus on Maki. Nobody could deny such a heroic speech right?

The Ultimate Assassin placed her hands into her lap and shook her head. The corners of her lips were barely raised. Momota considered that a victory.

"You're right. I was thinking about my history. The memories I sometimes wish I could wipe away. The life choices I regret. I wasn't considering how different the situation is for Saihara." The anger and self-hatred had faded to be replaced with her usual calm composure. She looked up at Momota with a slight blush. "This life led me to meet you and Saihara though. So it can't be all bad. If you'll keep having us as your sidekicks I'll… change my vote."

"I wouldn't let you off the hook even if you wanted to!" Momota said as he laughed in relief.

Amami raised a hand. "I'll go along as well. Ouma-kun and Momota-kun have convinced me."

"Real talk. Who still thinks we should brain melt Slutha—Saihara." In a rare example of forward thinking, Iruma caught herself before completing the word. Her preferred nickname would probably cause a commotion considering the situation.

No one raised their hands. The earlier debate convinced Yumeno, Iruma, and AmamiAmami. Shirogane's position was calculated rather than set in emotions. The remaining three, despite their more rational sides, had been overwhelmed by Momota's emotional appeal.

"Then that's that, Monokuma!" Kiibo declared. "We reject the use of the blackout light! We'll sort out our hurts… together."

Monokuma didn't respond. Once Momota started talking, a bubble of snot had appeared on the side of the bear's face. Upon Kiibo's second shout the bubble burst and Monokuma stood up.

"Nothing like a boring hero speech to help the hibernation process. So what'll it be losers?"

"We will not fall for your tricks, Monokuma," Momota said. "So you can just smash that blackout light and end this. We'll fix this mess ourselves."

"Soooooooo boring. Jeez, how does Saihara-kun put up with all of you? Oh right, he didn't'." Monokuma laughed for a few moments before shrugging. "He better be more interesting when he wakes. Waste of my Sunday."

"You better not try to cause him harm," Harukawa warned.

"Again, that's your job, not mine. My schedule says, 'watch my students deal with a suicidal teenager,' so I need to switch gears. Saihara-kun will be awake soon so enjoy the repercussions of your decisions. I'll be around if you regret this day~"

With that last foreboding comment, Monokuma spun like a ballerina on one foot as his chair sank into the ground. One last salute and laugh later and the Ultimates were alone.

"Now that the pest is gone, let's check up on Saihara-chan," Ouma said while already halfway down the hallway.

With some uneasy laughter at Ouma's haste, the rest of the class followed close behind with hope in their hearts.

 

 

Meanwhile, two hallways and a room away, Saihara Shuichi began to wake.

"T-tojo-san...?"

Chapter Text

"What if Saihara-kun hates us for not using it when he wakes up?" Shirogane argued as the scrum debate began.

Monokuma snickered silently at Shirogane's chosen stance. If only something as juicy and despair-inducing as that occurs. All this will be worth it then.

The self-professed headmaster knew the possibility was infinitesimal at best. Saihara was too forgiving, and now too broken, to express hatred in such an entertaining way. Whether Saihara was mentally stable when he woke was beyond even Monokuma's capabilities to predict. Either way though, self-destruction was far more likely than taking his hurts out on the Ultimates.

The debate was already proceeding swimmingly with emotional pain strewn in every direction. Even if the group came together afterwards, there would be exploitable wounds remaining. Too much of their viewpoints was wrapped in guilt and extreme emotions.

Far outstripping positive emotions, the blend of negative circumstances birthed exactly what the bear desired. They moved one step closer to a fatal resolution with each response.

Still, a certain maid also had a role to play after relinquishing her right to vote. True neutrality sounded impressive but remained a nonsensical impossibility. Her plotline hinged on failing in the face of extreme external factors after all.

Without being on the level of the debate, it still promised some intrigue. What drama will you present to me this time? Monokuma wondered as he split his focus to observe the Ultimate Maid's lab.


 

Tojo Cam

 

Ripples appeared in the water basin as a washcloth was pulled from the depths. After being squeezed thoroughly, the cloth remained damp without any pesky droplets which could irritate the recipient. The placement on the unconscious boy's forehead maintained an even distribution of weight to prevent extra pressure from building in the skin beneath.

Every action was performed with a finesse bordering on the inhuman. Stringent judges from the most prestigious organizations would fail in finding a single error in the care.

Yet Tojo's emotions were far from placid while continuing Saihara's care. If her heart resembled the basin, then the water inside was on the brink of spilling over.

With expert precision she unbuttoned Saihara's black shirt and adjusted his arms to remove the garment. His bare chest, the same one she once slept upon, rose and fell in small and measured movements. With a second washcloth she wiped the accumulated sweat from his arms and chest.

To think I've fallen this far and become so willing to abandon my ideals, she berated herself.

She was aware of the risks in cleaning his body. The stimulation could wake him from his shallow state of unconsciousness. If he woke early, then the debate regarding the blackout light became irrelevant. Her assertion, "I will follow whatever path everyone chooses," required her to remain neutral.

She was aware of the potential consequences of her actions.

Yet she continued.

No matter how she tried to repress her feelings — even if she focused on her pride as a maid — her wish guided her actions.

She wanted him to wake up. She wanted Shuuichi Saihara to wake from his slumber, no one else.

Frail and unsure, yet sometimes possessed by a powerful drive to assist others, those were the traits of the one she wanted to wake. Wanted to serve.

But when the opportunity arose to protect Shuuichi Saihara's mind, she thought she couldn't put her own wishes above the group's. Masters she served in the past weakened when she interfered too directly with their decisions. With a large group such as the school where she was for all intents and purposes serving multiple pseudo-masters, the difficulty of influencing without overwhelming rose.

Logic and experience determined her direction in the moment, but it wasn't without conflicts. Would it be better to advise during the debate and sharpen Momota-san's undoubtedly emotional appeals to powerful arguments? Several classmates are close to being overwhelmed by their feelings and needed support. I am connected to Saihara-san's state so I should contribute my thoughts because they may tip the scales from a bad outcome.

I must not leave them alone because I am a maid.

I should leave them alone because I am a maid.

Selfless devotion clashed with the need to serve everyone. While she maintained the attitude befitting a maid when she rescinded her vote, it was a decision she barely was able to make.

Disappointment pooled in her stomach as she wiped the sweat from Saihara's body. Lack of commitment to her own path now resulted in potentially tipping the scales.

Who was she to pretend to understand what he would desire? Perfect maid… the words dripped with derision now. If she was indeed perfect, then why did she never reduce Saihara's distress? How could she pretend to know his wishes when his suicide attempt caught her completely off guard?

Loss of memories was not an excuse she accepted.

She may not have understood why he acted oddly close and then subsequently increased his distance in a repeated loop. Emotional hurt bloomed in his eyes in reaction to certain words for reasons she was unaware of. Habits changed over time to incorporate less time around certain individuals which grabbed her attention. Her lack of awareness of the underlying issue was irrelevant. She still observed his transformation and recognized something was occurring with the Ultimate Detective.

It was her job then to ease his burdens. Make sure he was supported and taken care of. When he showed such kindness to herself and the rest of the class, she should have stood by his side.

Saihara Shuuichi. A special man who gave so freely of his own time, body, and soul without any requests for it to be returned.

Only a maid should follow those precepts, not someone like you.

Perhaps it was his own selfless devotion which first attracted her to him.

She could remember every time they slept together. Never before had she been willing to engage in sexual activities with a Master. It was one of her guiding principles and she had instructed Saihara on that point on numerous occasions.

And yet, she steadily gained the wish to be with him. Her feelings were wrong as a maid. She knew that better than anyone and tried to hold them back. But when he invited her to his room, she saw the look in his eyes and recognized the desire held within. Hidden within her own eyes, she sensed, was a similar emotion.

Never in any of their encounters did he shame her for going against her duties. In fact he was courteous to an extreme. Thoughts of the nights where he left himself at her mercy, not acting except to obey her requests, caused a blush to rise. The reversal of the expected master/servant dynamic made her hesitant but also empowered. Taboos and their practitioners were more relatable than she suspected.

During the nights where they maintained the normal balance, his words assured her of his desire to be with Tojo Kirumi, not just a maid. He always let her true feelings be heard and respected.

He was not the first client to speak of those concepts and ideals. More than a few had shown difficulties understanding the concept of selfless devotion she espoused. For a non-servant, it was understandable to be uncomfortable with a person giving up their own desires when society placed such importance on individuality.

But it was the intensity in his demeanor when he encouraged her to express any repressed feelings which stood out. Former masters requested she place her own feelings first, but the lingering wish to monopolize her for their own ends never vanished. This was how a maid and master's relationship should be balanced, so she directed no ill will to the natural behavior.

She simply recognized the subtle dishonesty in any request for her to express her true self. Some of it was jealousy, satisfaction with the current dynamics, or even fear. Her capabilities were well known and anyone she offered her services to jumped at the opportunity in a heartbeat. None of her masters wished to risk learning if her true desire was to leave.

 

Not so with Saihara-san.

 

Only he would turn down the opportunity to have Tojo serve him, even if temporarily, to pursue his own success and discover his own place in the world. He looked down on his abilities and had room to grow in all aspects of his psyche. But still he wished to grow on his own terms. Her respect only grew when she understood his dedication was more than plain words.

This was the type of man she wanted to serve, Tojo thought upon hearing his vow. The diamond in the rough who changed even the Ultimates around him if given the chance.

Only later she recognized the deeper truth. He was the type of man she would fall in love with and be accepted by despite her failings.

And she failed him.

She grimaced when the wet washcloth removed the concealer on his neck and arms. Even with her memories erased she had occasionally noticed the different colored marks on his skin. Now the full extent of the marks, and his sexual encounters with their classmates, were laid bare.

She loved him, but she was not the only one he loved. There was no doubt in her mind of the intensity of his emotions for his friends. If not, he would have never been pushed to these lengths.

How should she feel about the state of affairs? He loved others and had his own wishes and desires. In some ways she should be happy for him and support him in all endeavors.

On the other hand, she couldn't help feeling jealous. She wanted to possess him and have him only look at her with those eyes of desire.

But it wasn't to be. Here were the bruises left behind by… rope perhaps? There were kiss marks on his neck and chest. More were hidden on the underside of his arms and his inner thighs. The bruises extended on multiple parts of his body and some were not from rope alone. At least two classmates seemed to be more… enthusiastic than others.

She hadn't paid attention to any of it and now the situation had entered this stage.

What should she do in response to these revelations? The wish for him to wake up still filled her mind and overwhelmed all other sense. But Tojo Kirumi gained more experience in separating her emotions out than most people gained over the course of their entire lives. There was still a part of her mind which questioned how she should feel about being only one of Saihara's loves.

Was anger the correct outlet?

No, I want him to be happy and if his happiness comes from more than just myself, it must be empowered.

Sadness interfered with her duties in taking care of his bruises, but was it the answer?

Not sadness either since I should celebrate the increased happiness of all those I serve.

Life presented her with dilemmas without any proper answer so many times. Only a few hours earlier her greatest weakness was cutting konjac properly. Now she understood there were deeper emotional and mental quagmires which were outside of her abilities to solve. They were far closer to a weakness than a shameful display with preparing a particular type of food.

 

"What do you really want Tojo-san? You can embrace your own feelings."

 

His words echoed in her head and she smiled slightly. Then the smile was gone as the wave of emotions rocked her body and the cloth fell from her hands.

"I want you to be safe and together with me Saihara-san. Is that too self-centered of me to ask for?" Tojo asked and wiped her damp eyes. Even if Saihara couldn't see her momentary weakness, she would remove all traces of any further unprofessional actions. "As long as you are alive and can call my name I seek little else."

For years she had accepted a world where she focused on her duties and kept a separation from selfishness. Returning to that state was nothing she couldn't handle. If she was allowed to be by his side, then it was acceptable to return to a proper maid and master relationship. A weak and incapable person didn"t deserve better. If she—

 

"So believe in the Luminary of the Stars!"

 

Tojo glanced behind her after Momota's booming voice resounded through the hallway all the way to her Ultimate Lab. The lungs on the Ultimate Astronaut were as impressive as ever. Pressure and passion from his declaration, almost certainly about faith, struck her from rooms away. Seems that at least some of us are still maintaining their strength of will in this difficult time, she thought.

Soon his voice faded away again, and the room returned to its former quiet. Only Saihara's quiet breathing was audible while Tojo composed herself and wiped her eyes with a handkerchief. Stopping wasn't an option when so many trials remained for the class and for Saihara's health. A momentary lapse in judgment and composure was her limit before her maid duties replaced all other distractions.

Without the extra focus on emotions and her missteps as a caretaker, her attention sharpened many times over. All of his bruises were cleaned, his skin was wiped down, and she dressed him back in his usual outfit. Evidence of his attempted suicide only remained in his paler complexion and inconsistent breathing.

No, his breathing wasn't the breathing of someone sleeping. Realization struck her as she leaned forward to listen to his slow, steady heartbeat. He responded by squirming and sucking in a deep breath. His heartbeat sped up to a more natural pace and Tojo leaned backwards to avoid his sudden coughing fit.

The eyes of her beloved person scrunched up before another round of coughing overtook his body. There was the possibility he would fall back into his slumber, but she sensed he would win the fight to regain consciousness.

What did the rest of the class choose? If he wakes up now and they chose to use the blackout light, how will they respond?

In unison with Saihara, Tojo took a steadying breath and pulled the damp cloth from her patient's forehead. Whether he woke or not was an impossible question to answer. Patience and diligence were her only options. Perhaps some might blame her for influencing his condition if they decided on the blackout light. She would accept their criticism and endeavor to provide even greater service to all in the future.

Apologizing for preventing them from using the blackout light may be the most difficult action in that scenario.

After a minute passed and his eyelids began rising, she prepared for any possibility.

"T-Tojo-san?" Saihara said with great difficulty when his eyes opened and the maid came into view.

"Welcome back, Saihara-san," Tojo replied with all the poise her mind allowed her to muster. The urge to wrap him in her arms threatened to engulf her, but a steel will held out. There would be later opportunities.

 

"Where am… am I?" Saihara asked as his eyes tried to focus on the walls of the room.

"We brought you to my lab to keep watch over you."

"Keep watch…  watch?" The words did not seem to be penetrating his dazed mind. He repeated her sentence again as if to understand the purpose of her statement.

"Do you remember what happened today?" Tojo asked with only a brief pause. Behind a wall of calm lied her unvoiced concern. The next reactions would determine her next course of action.

Saihara scrunched up his eyebrows and groaned in pain. His hand instinctively grabbed his forehead and pressed on his temples to drive the headache away as his brain kicked into high gear.

"I was… I remember being in my lab and… Monodam," he stuttered before his words began picking up speed. "Monodam… I read a book to Monodam… because… because I wanted to share one last…  moment?"

His eyes snapped open and his breathing accelerated. "No, reading to Monodam was a whim to stall. It was secondary to my… main," he choked on the next word as panic began setting in. "My main objective. Only in my lab were there tools to—"

Tojo grabbed his hand and squeezed it to ground his senses. Signs of a growing panic attack continued in his movements, breathing, and staggered speech. The realization of his actions and what it meant to change locations to Tojo's lab hit him all at once.

"I'm sorry, Tojo-san," he cried as tears grew in his eyes. "I just wanted to, I'm sorry, I didn't, I'm sorry! So sorry!"

His words were interrupted by a startled gasp when Tojo's arms wrapped around his quivering upper body. "I am the sorry one, Saihara-san. We didn't suspect Monokuma-san was still planning to trick us or realize how we were hurting you. You can apologize if you need, but please listen for a moment."

The physical contact and introduction of a different topic were intended to distract him from the raging tempest of emotions and thoughts the panic unleashed. Little gestures and taps with her fingers helped further ground him in the present sensory moment. Left to his own devices, she feared his whirlwind of mental torment would overtake him.

Thankfully, the tactic worked as he attempted to piece together the meaning of her words. Natural inquisitiveness and a mind for details and analyzing situations served him well as a detective, and Tojo believed they also propped up his failing emotional state.

She only had a few moments to change Saihara"s mental state to a healthier form.

"Monokuma-san created a device called a repress light. When used, it has the ability to erase any memories the user chooses and return them later."

Saihara's eyes widened in shock as he attempted to understand the purpose of a tool with such a terrible function.

At least his breathing isn't getting worse. The wave of panic was at a temporary standstill where it neither grew nor diminished. It was the best she could hope for.

"Every time anyone in the class spent the night in your room, Monokuma-san waited outside to use the repress light in the morning. Our memories were removed of the time we spent growing close and the night we shared together. This happened every single time anyone stepped through your doorway."

He broke eye contact as the implications began to filter their way through his storm of thoughts. Knowing him, theories were already forming of possible outcomes and reasons.

She would not let him suffer by letting him assume any incorrect options.

"We love you, Saihara-san. Every single one of us wants you to be happy and safe. Only Monokuma's ploy kept us from expressing these thoughts."

He shuddered and pulled his hand out her grasp on an instinct he was unaware of. His eyes stayed fixated on his pants, suddenly unable to even look towards a friend who brought so much isolation.

"How did you find out Monokuma used this repress light if he hid its existence from everyone," he asked with a kernel of venom and distrust. He needed to know more information.

"Then please if you wish, let me tell you about the events the rest of the class has gone through today. I hope this will be enough to explain what occurred."

"… Please," he requested with his eyes still focused on his pants. Only his curiosity kept his self-destruction from resuming.

Why would Monokuma tell Tojo-san about his schemes if he wanted to bring about my misery?

 


 

Without concealing any facts, even her own failure in finding him in the bottom floor of the academy, Tojo explained Monokuma's plan to push Saihara to the breaking point. Since the plan hinged on further drowning Saihara"s lovers in grief and despair, she also gave a brief description of how it was overcome and Harukawa saved him.

It concluded with an explanation that their classmates were outside discussing how to help their friend.

A deadly game of Hide and Seek where I"m the target? Monodam possibly turned against Monokuma? Harukawa-san and Ouma-kun worked together on something!

It was almost unbelievable, but he did not doubt Tojo's story after momentary consideration. If Monokuma's goal was to disrupt and create a hidden motive, it stood to reason he would target the bonds and unity forged between the ultimates.

Nobody else was as close to the others as he was. Akamatsu would be an acceptable target but her willpower was unshakeable. I on the other hand am far weaker than her or Momota-san. Monokuma probably thought it would be child's play to throw me into a depression.

Still, his mind fought against the revelations. The pain of loneliness and being abandoned time and again wasn't going to be removed so easily. The explanation about the "discussion" outside felt lacking in details as well. It"s possible I am still being tricked. I could just be imagining a wonderful alternative to the reality I am just disposable. Compared to everyone else I really can't stand up as an ultimate can I—

"I told you Saihara-san, you are too hard on yourself and have trouble seeing your own potential."

Tojo's reminder sliced through his unspoken, destructive arguments and he looked into her eyes. Hidden within lay a pain and fear he never expected to see from the unflappable maid. How did she know what he was thinking?

"I failed you repeatedly by not recognizing why you were suffering," she said and grabbed his hand again. "But even I can still guess your thoughts with some intuition."

Saihara squeezed her gloveless hand, when did she remove it, and whimpered through clenched teeth. "But…  I"m worthless here. Some detective I am," the self-hatred rose within despite Tojo"s best attempts," can"t figure out who kidnapped or where we are. What use do I have besides being good in bed?"

 

"You are far more precious than that Shuuichi!"

 

Angie's yell startled Saihara who turned to the door. The shock reached a new level as the door burst open and an avalanche of bodies pushed their way through, all yelling rebuttals to his statement. Only Harukawa stood in the back sighing in defeat as Angie about teleported past her to appear next to Saihara.

Ultimate Detectives only have the ability to process so much at once. This was more sights, sounds, and emotions than he was able to handle.

Yumeno also dashed to his side and both girls enveloped him in a big hug before he said anything. Momota yelled some heroic-sounding statement which was overwhelmed by Gonta's loud sobbing. Iruma hid her tears while making a joke about Tojo trying to get the upper hand by spending extra time alone. Hoshi smiled from behind his beanie and gave a silent thumbs up with enough feeling behind it to be equal to Momota's yells.

Words failed him and he blankly stared at the outpouring of affection which crashed forward like a tidal wave.

He never expected a reception like this even before Monokuma, supposedly, started removing memories and inciting the class to abandon him repeatedly. Even Ouma and Harukawa smirked and glared at the other respectively for only a brief moment before switching their attention back to the detective. Normally one responded verbally in some way. It lent more evidence towards Tojo's story of the two allying to save him.

Not to mention the sheer number of apologies being thrown his way. They apologized for not seeing the signs, not reaching him faster, breaking promises, and leaving him alone. It was impossible to get a word in edge-wise to ask forgiveness for worrying them.

It should have been pleasant, but other parts of his mind rebelled. A still hurting part cruelly wondered why it took until his lowest moment for them to apologize, even when he knew the answer was Monokuma. A different, but equally dark, part curled up from the realization of how badly his suicide would have hurt all the wonderful people around him.

"How did you all know…?" Of course his first words would be a question. The thought caused him to want to laugh at the absurdity despite the mixture of happiness and sorrow inside.

"I would also like to know," Tojo added while trying to generate any semblance of calm. "I thought you were still debating."

"We were outside when Saihara-kun started waking up," Amami answered as he sat on the bed near the two girls who refused to let go of their lover.

"Some individuals wished to enter immediately and be there when you awoke. Harukawa-san instead recommended, by blocking the door, we wait until you had a few moments to adjust." Shinguji continued where Amami left off. "She worried excessive stimulation while recovering might be overwhelming."

"Thank you… Harukawa-san." Saihara was glad for her consideration. It was only Tojo's calm which prevented him from completely panicking far earlier. Now it was replaced with his mind picking apart the new knowledge. "Thank you as well, Tojo-san."

"Perhaps I was practicing my caretaker act," Harukawa responded with a small smile, "I just followed my instincts."

"I only did what is expected of a servant Saihara-san. I do not need any thanks for at best meeting expectations."

"But…" Not only did they tend to his needs, Harukawa administered the antidote after his attempt. I should be thanking her for saving my life as well.

Despite that thought, he still only thanked her for keeping the rest of the group out. The other words were not ready yet.

When a moment to breathe came, he looked around the room at the tired, happy, and concerned faces. Tojo-san isn't the failure, I am for making them worry like this. "I'm so sorry for causing everyone so much distress," he bowed his head to their shock, "I don't know what came over me. I…"

His mouth moved, but no sound escaped. Trying to explain himself only brought about memories and images which failed to be shaped into spoken sentences. His throat clenched and for a moment he was back in his ultimate lab, the poison beginning its work.

Another round of voices all expressed their apologies and explanations at once. Ouma seemingly decided he waited long enough and pushed Angie to the side to try to join in the hug. She pushed back lightly but stayed nearby as others also joined in to assure the stuttering Saihara.

"Everyone…" Tears rolled down his face as more of the group joined the hug pile. They should hate him for his selfish actions, but instead, they remained with him. What had he done to deserve their love like this?

And what is that creaking sound?

Tojo-san's eyes widened as she recognized the sound. She lunged forward to pull her patient out of the hug pile which included half the class.

She was only a moment late in stopping a crying Gonta from sitting on the bed to hug everyone at once. The creaking sound changed to a loud crack as the bed gave in against the weight of seven teenagers and a robot teenager.

With a chorus of yells, Amami, Saihara, Gonta, Kiibo, Angie, Yumeno, Momota, and Ouma came crashing to the ground in a pile. Only Ouma's quick decision to push Saihara forward prevented the detective from being crushed under the bodies.

Instead, it was the Ultimate Supreme Leader who substituted as the foundation of the pile. With a less enthusiastic laugh and inhuman escape artist abilities he pulled himself from the group"s midst.

"So, this is one way to start an orgy," Iruma commented, earning several groans from those inside and outside the pile. "Thought the bed would break after you finished fucking, not beforehand though! All you virg… you all have the order backwards!"

Something about Iruma"s commentary being crass as always hit Saihara deep in his heart. Some things never changed. Even with his suicide attempt, Monokuma"s brainwashing, and hints about some unexplained debate, he found a slice of normalcy. The sun would rise day after day, the seasons would rotate, and Iruma"s mouth would always be awful.

Before he knew it, he found himself chuckling at her words and how inappropriate they were for the current situation. The chuckling turned into a full-hearted laugher as the pent-up emotions all released. Soon, he wasn't the only one laughing and crying at the same time.

Maybe things were okay after all.

Chapter Text

Shirogane hummed a little tune to herself as she finished up the last of a series of outfits she had put all of her energy into. The outfits, all linked to some of her favorite anime and best connections to each student, had been her idea. "Something to distract us from this horrible day," had been her explanation when she pitched the idea to the rest of the Ultimates.

A fashion show and group cosplay was a great way to bring up different emotions that weren't related to the anxiety and crushing despair Monokuma's little game created. So many more emotions were invested in dressing up as someone else. Confidence or embarrassment, laughter or sighs of longing, so many delicious feelings were available with some thread, foam, prop materials, and lots of love and effort.

For the untalented, time was the sixth ingredient, but her skills surpassed that requirement. Thread flew through the air, her sewing needles danced through fabric, and visions became reality merely by thinking about it. After a paltry three hours of work, she was halfway done with the side project.

She smiled with glee as she finished Gonta's outfit. While she felt his body shape was well suited for a more warrior-like appearance, she knew the self-professed gentleman would be uncomfortable with that sort of attire. So instead she focused on a well groomed butler outfit to emphasize the qualities he would like to display the most. Sure the butler in the show was eventually shown to have supernatural physical abilities which allowed him to crush a person's spine or throttle opponents to death with ease, but he didn't need to know that.

Shirogane Tsumugi would never do something as attention-grabbing as giving someone a costume they didn't want.

Twisted emotions glided out of her mouth, borne on the wings of a long sigh she would pretend was of exertion.

There, of course, was no one around at the moment. With the nighttime announcement having passed hours ago, she was left all alone in her Ultimate lab. The rest of the group was either taking care of Saihara, sleeping, or using their own methods to calm down from the stresses placed upon them.

They will need all they can get, she thought to herself as she placed her scissors down and put away her remaining tools. It wouldn't be long before something new came up.

Now it was her time to find out what the next step was.

Without rushing or showing any hesitation, she stepped out of her lab and walked towards the stairs. Her gaze lingered on the Ultimate Detective's lab. One of Iruma's spur-of-the-moment inventions barricaded the door. A preliminary measure to prevent a repeat of the day's events. Shirogane had been shocked when Monokuma allowed it, not even citing the potential school rules violation. In fact, from the moment Saihara had woken up, none of the bears had appeared again. Even the nighttime announcement only displayed an empty couch.

Either way, the lab filled with poison was temporarily barred. No doubt it would take only moments for the electronic clamp to be removed from the door if Monokuma or some of the stronger students chose to break in. But, it gave some comfort which was paramount for everyone's sanity.

Placing the thought to the back of her head, Shirogane continued descending the staircases until she took a left into the girl's bathroom on the first floor. After she used it for its primary purpose, it was important to at least try to put up a pretense of acting like a normal student, she descended through the secret passage which led to the Mastermind's secret room behind the library.

"I'm here Monokuma," she said with a voice bursting with unrestrained glee and a hint of viciousness. Between opening the door and stepping into the room her appearance changed drastically. Her blue hair changed color and morphed into two ponytails with bear heart clips. Her dress uniform switched into a short skirt and a shirt which displayed prominent cleavage the "plain" girl would never show outside of a cosplay.

Because she wasn't a plain girl. She was now Junko Enoshima, the mastermind of—

"Put it away Smoogs. Not the time."

Monokuma popped out of the ground in front of her and landed with a twirl. The bear's expression was as neutral as his permanent grin allowed.

"Hmph, fine. Too soon?" Shirogane shrugged as she returned to her normal appearance in milliseconds. She glanced to the side of the room where Motherkuma stared blankly forward. Sometimes she would speak to both at once, but today seemed different.

"To think you would request an evening rendezvous with me. I'm getting beary nervous already about what messed up things you wish to do with poor defenseless me in the night." The joke didn't have the usual energy behind it. Treated more like a formality than an actual joke. "What can I getcha? Milkshake and fries? Some dead kids? The holy grail… no we haven't killed enough for that yet…"

"I want to know why I wasn't informed about this plan involving Saihara-san," Shirogane interrupted. While she loved a good reference, her focus was on getting answers before her irritation boiled over. She was not someone who liked being left out of the loop. "I could have acted more proactively if you had discussed it with me."

"Oh?" Monokuma tilted his head to the side. "What plan is this?"

"The plan to force Saihara into so much despair by erasing the student's memories. Did you doubt my acting abilities at this stage?"

"Oh, that plan! The plan that went so boring today I was trying to forget all about it!"

"Yes, that one." On a better day she would indulge the headmaster of the school with a few references or dramatic reactions. But she knew that pressing the issue was the quickest way to get the information she wanted. Despite running Danganronpa so many times, the AI, or human operator since she was never sure who was the puppet-master behind the scenes, remained weak when dealing with being asked the same question repeatedly. Most of the time he would either leave the area or give up the information after some extra prodding. "The plan that so plainly broke Saihara-kun."

"Why do you want to know about such a boring plan ahead of time? The only good things we got out of it was seeing the students guilt-trip themselves and put extra pressure. It really is amazing watching them all blame themselves despite their memories being removed! All you need to do is give someone a reason. Give the powerless a shred of belief they had control of their situation and they'll hang themselves with it." Monokuma grinned as a monitor dropped down next to Motherkuma. After powering on, the monitor displayed Kirumi apologizing to an unconscious Saihara. "I only needed to put it in their heads that if they were smarter, the repress lights wouldn't work on them. They did all extra self-harming without any intervention on my end. Hilarious. Remember, a reasonable lie is better than any truth."

He was delaying the answer to the question and sidestepping the information she sought. "Watching the class break down and be consumed by despair was quite the sight. One I would have enjoyed more if I knew to prepare for it ahead of time."

He scoffed and waved a paw dismissively. "Still on about that? Can't I call it a surprise for my lovely Smoogi-chan who has been my closest supporter?"

"… Did I do something to bother you?" Even with his accomplice Monokuma always remained crass and mischievous. But for a super fan of Danganronpa like herself, she sensed the extra hostility in his words. The sudden usage of '-chan' was a warning she didn't fail to catch.

"Do something? You? Of course not! Whatever would I be bothered by?"

He trotted forward, and she braced herself.

"Oh wait, maybe I do have something to be a little peeved by. Hmm, what was it?" He propped his chin on his paw and thought for a moment. "Oh right! I remember now. I AM LIVID THAT YOU WROTE US INTO THIS CORNER!"

"Me?" Her eyes narrowed at his words and she pushed her glasses up while hiding her face behind her hand. "Are you saying Saihara-kun's survival is my fault when you were the one to inform the class of your game?"

"The game is of little consequence. I got the lesser option of a hand that serves as a win either way." Monokuma didn't give her a chance to ask for more details. "What I am referring to is the degradation of this Killing Game to a putter around accomplishing nothing game! A situation you brought about with how you designed your two protagonists. Your tastes got mixed into the batch and became our Chemical X!"

That was a huge claim and one she would not accept without a fight. "We discussed the design of Saihara-kun and Akamatsu-san before the game started. The decision to switch protagonists was considered a perfect twist to give the game new pep without going full Kojima."

"But it didn't. Work. Did it?" Monokuma growled as he pointed to a screen showing the entire class eating in the dining hall. It then switched to two pictures of Saihara, one with his hat and one without. A pink arrow dripping with blood pointed from one to the other. "You failed with the detective. You didn't make him into the secret protagonist who would save the day during each trial." A huge red X appeared over the arrow. "No, you switched out our Killing Game detective for a protagonist from a harem porn game with sixteen routes!"

"The correct term is eroge," Shirogane said with a nasally male voice as she switched her oval lenses for round ones with a thick black border. They vanished again as she returned to her normal voice and glasses. "And who is the sixteenth route if there are only sixteen of us. Do I need to bring out Knox's laws to prove there are only sixt—"

She stopped as Monokuma reappeared wearing a clamshell bikini and posing "seductively" on the ground. Stupid question.

"I'm the secret route for killing game winners."

"Charming."

Monokuma shredded the bikini and jumped into the air with a roar. "Charming nothing! Your designs were too precise! Akamatsu-san isn't the only one who likes Rube Goldberg machines I think. As soon as the pianist chose not to use the shot put, we lost! Shinguji-kun won't move until enough girls die. Tojo-san was defused by a combination of the detective and Akamatsu's ability to keep the group together."

He paced in front of her with a gleam in his red eye. "I lost a good bit of my authority when I had to cancel the first motive which doesn't give me an opportunity to use alternative methods. Can't even cobble something together to give Harukawa-san enough of a reason to assassinate someone. And no one has a reason to trick Gonta into anything more tragic than showering the second floor with bugs."

He pulled out a large book with the title "Motives for Dummies," from nowhere and paged through it. "There were no backup plans for the low chance of Akamatsu-san not causing the first trial. Deaths of students who have no motive to kill makes them more tragic and sympathetic, but tragedy only pays the bills when it happens! We need death!"

She frowned but didn't defend herself. Six months was more than enough time to consider the situation herself.

Everything had been designed with care. Akamatsu would be pressured by her self-appointed position of leadership and her natural tendency to put extra expectations on herself. When push came to shove, she would even try to murder the mastermind to save everyone else, regardless of the consequences. That same willpower would turn into a curse and lead the group to weaken once she caused the first murder and showed them the reality of the situation: anyone can become a murderer with the right motive.

But at the last moment, she hesitated. The fated shot put remained in her bag and Amami walked out without a bludgeoned head. There had been other plans in case she faltered, but she indeed put too much importance on that one decision. Once the story left the linear path she had decided on, the rest fell apart.

Perhaps it had been an intentional design flaw. Even the original Enoshima Junko failed because of a one in a million chance. Despite going through the sequence of events hundreds of times, her only guess as to her failure was a subconscious bias towards getting despair from failing. To feel closer to the original.

As Monokuma said, that despair mattered little if it threw off every other plan. With the game stalling, it was a critical failure. Still surprised Monokuma hasn't punished me before.

Still, his words brought up a possibility she hadn't considered. In every analysis of her failure, she chose Akamatsu's willpower failing as the cause.

What if it was the opposite? What if the cause remained with the other person in the room at the time?

"Saihara-kun's personality was built to be wimpy enough to be shocking when he took over as protagonist. Make the detective brat a low-confidence loser so the piano brat decides she needs to do whatever she can to protect him. Instead it flipped around and his will to survive the game shook her confidence." Motherkuma explained with a level voice. "Our conclusion is that his personality profile was off from project parameters.

Now Shirogane understood a little more. Why Monokuma chose to torture Saihara instead of another student. Revenge. If confidence created his personality flaw, the last few months reverted him to pre-game values.

Still, her main question remained unanswered. "Even if it was my error, you should have informed of any attempts to fix the personalities. If I made a flashback light during this time without knowing—"

"Won't let it drop, huh? I thought it was obvious, but you have failed my low expectations." Monokuma gave an exaggerated sigh as Motherkuma laughed in the background. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Lack of self-awareness is half the reason this happened."

He gestured at the monitor again. The display of Saihara vanished, replaced by…

 

"Tsumugi! I'm about to—"

 

She flinched when the video showed her and Saihara in an extremely compromising position. Their bodies writhed on the bed with the cosplay outfits she made plastered to their skin by sweat. She knew the possibility of being videoed was high, but it was another thing to see it in person.

Control over her reactions remained steady as she watched the end of what must have been their third night of passion. She loved wearing the pink uniform top and enjoyed creating the school supply pocket-dimension in the skirt. While Saihara had trouble playing the perverted role of her lover, she admired his attempt.

Monokuma stopped the video right after Saihara took off her glasses and kissed her. She never found out why he picked up that habit. The video zoomed in on her composed face with a hint of a blush.

"There! That's why I prevented you from learning what was going on! Because I watched you fall in love with the detective six times with little effort. Each time ending with this expression on your face. Where you have to try to be neutral and can't react as 'Shirogane Tsumugi,' because if you did you knew your convictions would fail. That is when I knew you needed to be left out."

With repressed emotions, she stared at Monokuma without shrinking away. It was a bold claim and not one she agreed with. Following the tropes, she should plainly respond with a stutter and maybe a tsundere line or two. But they were discussing business, and she wasn't going to let his accusation go unanswered.

"I…"

He didn't let her even start. "I don't care about your objections. You were compromised by your own creation. You wrote him to have the capacity to make others fall in love with his protag pheromones and it worked too well."

"Even if I did fall in love, which I did not, it still would work for the story." After all, if you go by the side materials even Enoshima-san killed the man she loved." Her outfit switched to the one worn by the first mastermind during a particular novel. "Destroying the life of someone you love can create the greatest despair. The class almost broke because of it today."

He tapped his foot on the ground. "You don't get it. Willful denial maybe? Trying to have your wish fulfillment cake and eat it too? I'm only going to say this once."

"You aren't Enoshima Junko. You aren't even a mastermind yet. The ultimate antagonist only appears for Killing Games. Instead, you are just an observer of a slice of life series which went soap opera. Until a body permanently hits the floor, you are nothing!"

She scowled. This was not how most of her conversations with the mechanical bear went, even during the six months where nothing occurred. Had Saihara's survival put him on edge or was this the result of restraining himself through months without a murder. Either way, his words had a sense of finality to them she didn't appreciate.

"What then? Are you going to let me loose? Is this an end to our partnership? Am I fired from my role of Mastermind after building you one of the best rounds of Danganronpa last season?" She asked. He wouldn't. He couldn't. Her entire identity… years of fixation… thousands of hours of effort spent refining her craft… there was no way he would destroy it in an instant. Her breathing turned heavy and she became light-headed at the thought.

"No no no no." Monokuma waved his hand back and forth while spinning around. "I'm too genre savvy to do something like that. I'm not some foolish villain who separates with his teammates when the going gets tough. Nothing gained from tossing you to the side even if I'm annoyed."

Shirogane took in a steadying breath to calm her nerves down. Anxiety was shooting through her body and her nerves felt like they were on fire. The last time she had felt so nervous… yes, it would have to be when she was standing in this room with the shot put in hand. Waiting for the moment where she might need to finish the job.

How different things would have been if she had performed that one task.

More cautious than before, she eyed Monokuma to glean anything more from his mannerisms. "Then what is the plan if you distrust me so much right now?" She hated being the one to ask. All of her preparation had been to be the Mastermind. To run the show and control every student on her puppet-strings. They were her masterpieces so she knew every action to make them tick… was once the case. Now she needed the bear's help. Knowledge of the outside world's current state impacted the possible paths.

The moment it was no longer needed though, she would grab the reins again without hesitation.

"It is a simple job. Far simpler than before. Since you aren't the Mastermind, I need you to act full time as the Ultimate Cosplayer. Nothing more and nothing less than perfection for your act."

"Only act as the Ultimate Cosplayer?" Shirogane understood the concept, but the motive still eluded her. "So the same as I was doing before?"

"In action perhaps, but this will be much more bearable for your mind. I need you to only act on your knowledge as the Ultimate Cosplayer." He gestured at the screen and it changed to a sketch of Shirogane. She had made the sketch and surrounded it with numerous notes to determine her character before the game. "No thinking about Flashback lights, how to encourage a murder, or other Mastermind thoughts. Everyone will be more on edge and Ouma-kun notes suspicious movements. I need you to erase your thoughts, not literally," he added on at the look of concern which flitted across her face, "about the game and Danganronpa. Be a simple player until the group calms or someone dies. Perferabearly the latter."

Don't think about Danganronpa? How was that even possible? Danganronpa was her life and her everything. To the point she would die for it again and again. It shouldn't be…

No, it was easier than she wanted to admit. After months disconnected from the outside world, even being in her own Real Fiction was starting to affect her. Some days she didn't think about it much and enjoyed her time with the students. It was getting harder to even see them as her creations with how they were changing. The mock-trial highlighted their unpredicability.

Things were changing. For her, and for everyone.

"Upupupu, see, you can do it if you try. We need everyone to be as natural as possible right now for the sake of Stage Two. If you act rashly since you are trying for solution it might ruin the lovely surprises I have in store." His grin was as vicious as when he prepared to send a killer to their execution. "Just act natural."

So there was more to the plan than attempting to kill Saihara-kun in the game or erasing his mind with the trial. It seemed like a natural thing for any student to assume so she didn't erase it from her mind.

"Now, scram back to your room. We wasted too much time and the Ultimate Cosplayer doesn't get to be in the Mastermind's room now does she? No way she would know about any secret pathways. Far too plain for something like that."

"… I suppose we'll talk again when the first death occurs."

"The two of us that speak in this room, sure. But your lovable Headmaster will be around to support all of his beloved students whenever he feels like it. You'll see me again soon. After I chitchat with some of my cubs. Shoo. Or I'll cancel this season and make up for our lost investor's money by making an alarm clock app that just uses the sounds of you orgasming and conquer the pervert industry!"

Shirogane did not need to be told a third time. There were things you shouldn't even joke about. Without looking back she left through the secret passageway. With each step she repressed more of her meta knowledge of the school and the world outside.

Acting like she knew nothing was easy. The role she chose made it easy to be a background observer. She even was willing to be less useless than Owari from season two during trials if that helped.

But holding back her knowledge was far harder. Choosing not to analyze everyone's reactions and immerse herself felt… off. Like she was letting go of a rope connecting her to the docks. Instead she would be let out to sea with no knowledge of what the future would hold.

She didn't fear the future. Even if it came with her death, it would be exactly as she planned. For the sake of Danganronpa she would make any sacrifice.

No, her core that remained underneath the roles of Mastermind and Killing Game participant knew what she actually felt.

Unease.

Did I fall in love?

Without Danganronpa filling every bit of her mind, what would happen to her own motives when surrounded by her classmates?

Don't think. Just be. Embody the plain, yaoi loving, reference spewing girl you were meant to be.

That was all she could do now as she made her way back to the dormitories.

 


 

 

While leaning against Motherkuma's tank, Monokuma smiled to himself.

"Upupupu. All you need to do is give someone a reason. Give the powerless a shred of belief they had control of their situation and they'll hang themselves with it." He repeated the words he said to Shirogane before laughing with all of his strength.

Sixteen chibi dolls fell down around him, all hanging in midair by long red strings.

If improper preparation for unlikely outcomes was their failing on the first try, six months had been long enough to fix that flaw.

"Time for you all to learn what it means to fall apart."

 

 

Chapter Text

"I told you I'm all right, Yumeno-san. You can go back to your room."

"Nyeh," Yumeno responded with a frown and crossed arms. The silence that followed showed her catchphrase was the only response she was willing to spare the energy to express.

Saihara sighed to himself as he leaned back into his bed and stared at the ceiling. It had been worth a try to convince the mage to give him some space. Having her sit next to his bed was unneeded.

A part of him celebrated her refusal to leave. Whether he should embrace or reject that part was still unclear.

Even two days after his attempt, why didn't you lock the door you moron, the class remained on high alert around him. A whole entourage followed him around for the first day. At no moment did he have less than four people checking on his health, assuring him of how much they cared for him, and attending his every need. Treating him like he would break if left alone for a moment. Their fear was reasonable and he didn't fault them for their wariness

But despite their many, many reassurances, he still was not completely comfortable around his suddenly numerous lovers. Especially when it wasn't one on one. Bad enough to still have the stirrings or anger or fear, sometimes with no trigger. When in a group, the uncomfortable atmosphere between his classmates who were failing to balance their own feelings sent his anxiety skyrocketing. Problem solving and serving as mediator was impossible in his condition, so the awful feeling pressed from within and without.

One night wasn't enough to lock away every mental demon.

This is fine on its own, he felt at the time.

Fine in a certain sense of the word. Acceptable. Usual. Emotional pain was no stranger and pushing it deep within was a practiced skill.

The problem came when the more astute members of the class noticed his distress. Several discussions later, each which he was kept out of to his irritation, they are trying to help you, and they decided on a rotation for keeping watch over him.

An unnecessary and burdensome decision to be sure, but one he accepted. Of course he did.

Would you prefer to be alone? A traitorous part of him asked.

With a small turn of his head his vision focused on Yumeno again. Her hat was pulled down and she was fiddling with a pack of playing cards on her lap. Despite her concentration on her task, she occasionally made eye contact. Proving he existed every time their eyes met.

No. This is better than solitude.

Of all of his companions, wardens, Yumeno was proving to be among the best and worst. Her already limited amount of energy used for conversation dropped several notches and every attempt to make small talk petered out. Still, Saihara wasn't very intent on conversation either. Talking about his feelings tore a knife through his mind. Discussing anything else felt hollow and miserable. Shared silence became comforting in its own way.

With more minutes of silence fading into the void of time, Saihara made a final appeal to grant her the option to leave. "It's late. You can go to your room and I'll sleep." Even he wasn't sure which response he wanted when sleep was involved. Ten different needs battled within.

Without saying anything, Yumeno scooted her chair closer to his bed. Their eyes met again as she placed her playing cards on his bedside table. Neither looked away as he awaited her response. The silence grew from comforting to disturbing.

A blush crept across Yumeno's face while she maintained her stare. When the reddened skin reached her ears, she yelled out with more energy than he had heard from her all day and threw her hands up with enough force to knock her hat off.

The sudden, embarrassed shout caught Saihara off guard, and he flinched.

"Sorry," she stammered before leaning forward and placing her head on Saihara's chest so she nestled by his arm. "I'm sorry."

"Yumeno-san?" Saihara sputtered with his composure collapsing. Despite every night spent with his classmates, small gestures sometimes shook him. Because you only know how to fuck.

"…Sorry. I don't know what to say." The muffled voice shook with each word. Slight trembling transferred through his pajama shirt. "You look so scared when you ask me to leave. Can I stay like this for a bit? With you?"

"Sure," Saihara said with little hesitation. Her body was warm and the physical contact felt comforting in a way he didn't expect it to. Some of the others put him more on edge.

Maybe my face is displaying my unconscious thoughts in the absence of coherent…anything from my mind. Whatever the case, his body relaxed as he pulled her closer.

Without any more words, they stayed like that. It was already late in the night, the nighttime announcement was still bereft of any Monokubs or Monokuma, so he wasn't surprised when Yumeno's breath slowed and gentle snoring drifted into the air.

With nothing else to do, he continued to watch over her as she slumbered. The tension previously present in her face faded away. In her small body he knew she packed away tremendous amounts of emotion. The few times he was allowed to see beyond her lethargic facade it became apparent just how much she carried within. No doubt stress was eating away at her too.

With a small smile and a yawn of his own, Saihara ran his fingers through her red locks. Red strands slipped through his hand, but she only twitched in response. A tired sigh of contentment floated from her mouth as he stroked one finger down the back of her head down to her neck. Through experiments during their times together he discovered she was sensitive there.

"Shuichi…no," Yumeno muttered as he repeated the action. The tiny complaint brought a smile to his lips. It was so calming to pet her. Is this why petting animals is recommended for anxiety?

When he returned to playing with her hair, she snuggled deeper into his chest. The comforting pressure began to relax him enough that choosing to sleep became a viable option. The previous night he only passed out when exhaustion overtook his panic.

Saihara's hand rested on her back and he closed his eyes.

"Yumeno-san. Can I get your assistance quickly?" Chabashira's voice made its way through the open door.

After his… attack… the group had been adamant to keep his door open. "A simple precaution," had been Harukawa's explanation. A few classmates complained about the lack of privacy, Saihara included, but Harukawa was adamant. And nobody besides Ouma was willing to stand against an adamant Harukawa.

Yumeno moaned into Saihara's shirt in response.

"Yumeno-san?" Chabashira's voice came through again.

A frustrated sigh escaped him. Hadn't he learned that moments of peace never lasted?

Chabashira's voice gained a note of panic. "Yumeno-san? I'm not sure what's going on here! I think I found something magical, but I'm not sure! The degenerate males aren't any help either, as always!"

Yumeno's eyes snapped open at the hint of something magical being involved. Then her eyelids drooped down again. "Out of mana."

"Yumeno-san!" Chabashira whined in a desperate voice which put Saihara on edge. When she was like this, it was hard to dissuade her.

"Just check what she needs and come back," he offered.

Yumeno's frown deepened. "Need my sleep to recover mana. She should know better than to yell at night."

Still, she got up and straightened out her clothes. "Coming," she grumbled. "Wait right here Shuichi," she said with a small blush and none of the hostility she sent towards the Aikido master. "I'll be right back."

"Of course. See you in a few."

She stepped outside and then poked her head back in. "I'll be right back!" She said with more insistence.

"Looking forward to it."

"Good. Human warmth… aides with…nyeh, you know what I mean!" She vanished out of the doorway. The sound of heels clicking against the floor grew more distant.

"Magic is convenient isn't it?" Saihara asked the empty room with a shy smile. It wasn't the first time she said being next to him helped her magic.

The last time, wasn't that—

Every trace of happiness vanished from his face. Muscles tightened in his back and his breathing shuddered due to the sudden tensing.

Don't think. Wait patiently. Chabashira needed assistance.

Despite her assurances of needing mana, she didn't return immediately.

Only a minute or two has passed. Nothing to be concerned about.

But he didn't know when she left. For a detective, details were slipping away. So much time passed waiting, or was it almost none? He needed, desperately, to stay calm.

Everything is fine. She'll come back.

But how many times was he abandoned? Forgotten. The gentle smile from the mage vanishing behind a wall of emotional avoidance again.

Even Kaede lied, whispered a voice in his mind. The tone a mixture of Monokuma's and his own.

His breathing grew more labored and his heart pounded into his ribs. Grappling for control, he seized the thin shirt which felt like it was constricting him.

Doesn't make sense. They've left me a hundred times now. This is normal. Things work this way. Why is my tolerance low now?

The room shook. Did it really? Everything was spinning. Are you sure of your own eyes?
They lie.

All Monokuma's fault. …And mine. Not theirs.

Already lost them enough.

Monoku…

His fist slammed into his stomach to reset his breathing. Human bodies weren't computers though. The pain only amplified the terror and caused him to gag.

Don't be so weak. Not now. Can't even put up with a minute alone? I'm stronger than this, aren't I!?

Clawing at his skin. Something was clawing inside. His hands, or something else?

I'm wretched. No one would want to see someone so worthless. They left for good reason if I'm this pathetic.

Shame spilled out along with mucus filled drool. Breathing was replaced with hacking.

Why am I here to feel like this?

What's the point!

His body was moving outside his control. Observable by the motions of his arms and legs. Only observed. Sensation was lost in his body. Foreign to him.

Everything fell away, leaving him only with a vague sense of reality. Even the fear faded away along with his senses. Am I disassociating? The term 'felt' correct. A mystery he read had the killer blame his actions on it. Something about a reaction to trauma where the world fell away into nothingness.

For a reason beyond his comprehension, awareness of the book he read in the past was higher than the room in the present.

The thought completed, Saihara found 'himself' on the ground, hands digging under the bed. Some autopilot determining 'his' motions as 'he' searched for something under the headboard. Out of his control. From some high above vantage point he watched his own actions as if from a tv screen.

With tears pouring down his cheeks, the body that wasn't his grasped its target.

Audience to 'his' actions, Saihara's scream never escaped 'his' mouth. Only staring was allowed as 'he' grabbed the tool.

 


 

"This way Yumeno-san!"

Yumeno suppressed a variety of nasty things she wanted to say in response to Chabashira's yell. Since the Aikido master wasn't in the center of the dormitory, the only possible location was somewhere outside. The exact opposite of the place she wanted to be.

"Coming, this had better be important," she said in an exaggerated voice which didn't reach the point of a yell. So far the situation didn't warrant enough energy to yell.

After the chaos of Shuichi's near suicide, she hoped nothing would ever warrant that energy again.

She pressed the thoughts further into her mind and opened the door outside. Never again did she desire to see him so weak and lifeless. The moment she saw his body, every complaint of exhaustion had fled her mind to be replaced with pure terror.

Powerlessness was all she had that day. If not for Harukawa, he would have died. From the bottom floor where she had searched, there was nothing she was capable of doing. No resurrection magic would have saved him.

Then came the argument over whether to use the Blackout Light. Weakness filled her there as well. While Momota and others were so adamant Shuichi could overcome his hardships, she wanted to push it all away. If she had been given the choice, she would have accepted using it on herself as well. Better than the alternative of remembering every horrid detail of how she treated him and what state it put him into.

She exited the building and knit her eyebrows in frustration when Chabashira wasn't standing directly outside. ~~Why must she be such a pain all the time? ~~

Another regret to put on the pile. It wasn't fair to think about the other girl like that. Sure Chabashira's sense of boundaries was off and she was a bit too obsessive about her hatred of men, but she was never cruel to Yumeno. Overly nice? Absolutely. But she was still kind and thought about her feelings more after a few talks.

None of that let her forgive having to go outside in the cold though. Especially after she had been so comfortable with Shuichi. With the new rotation system, time with him was precious. It might be a week before she sat next to him at night again.

"Over here!"

"Okay."

Even if her memories were full of mistakes and moments where she failed to do anything, was it okay to enjoy being so close? Even if it was probably a horrible memory for Shuichi, she still felt a warmth inside when thinking about the nights they spent together over the past months. Shuichi was a wonderful cuddler and would give in to whatever whim she had. Resting was already a perfect activity, but doing so wrapped in his arms only amplified the wonderfulness. Nothing beat being pet after a long day of practicing her spells either.

And when we went a bit beyond, he was always a gentleman…

Heat suffused her face to block out the cold of the night and she walked a little faster. It isn't the time to think about his breath against my skin or the way his face blushes when he takes his shirt off or—

She pulled her hat down over her head to squish the thoughts away. It wasn't fair on him to expect those days again and it only made her desires increase to think about them.

Her job was to be with him for the night. Not with him.

A job she would gladly return to once she—

"Right here Yumeno-san!" Chabashira's voice rang out in the night once more.

But not from her mouth.

"Isn't it magical, I turned into Monokuma!"

The wretched bear started laughing. As Monokuma stood with his arms crossed over his chest, the laughter steadily morphed from Chabashira's voice into the hated "Upupupu." Yumeno swore she would hear it in her nightmares for the rest of her life.

"Nyeh, not funny at all," she growled and turned around. A complete waste of time, and one where she needed to see their tormentor. "Don't mimic her voice."

"But I do it out of love for you, Yumeno-san." Somehow Monokuma managed to make the night even worse by copying Shuuichi's voice as well. "After all, who else would be there to give you everything you want so you can keep leeching like a parasite!"

"Stop it!" Any reaction would only encourage Monokuma but she couldn't help it. With Angie recovering from her own breakdown and Shuuichi so fragile, Chabashira was the only one she could rely on. It highlighted how much she relied on others to feel better. The word leech didn't feel completely inaccurate at the moment.

"Not a fan of impressions huh? Thought you magicians were all about that trickery." Monokuma said in his normal voice followed by a laugh.

Yumeno began to confront him over calling her real magic, 'tricks,' before a different part of her mind spoke up.

Why is Monokuma out here?

Her blood turned to ice.

There was only one reason he would call her away from her post.

"Shuuichi!"

Without waiting for a single word from the demented bear, Yumeno sprinted back into the building. Her vision narrowed. Each foot landed for only a moment before pushing forward in a series of unbalanced hops.

Monokuma. The Killing Game. Ultimates. None of it mattered.

Dread weighed her steps down until she staggered into Saihara's room.

"Shuichi!"

The detective swiveled his head in her direction, leaning to the side from the extra momentum.

No sound escaped his lips despite his mouth's staggered contractions.

Saihara was perched on his knees next to the bed. His left arm was extended in front of him on the top sheet while the other held a large pair of rope shears.

Blood splatter covered the bed sheet in a patchwork pattern around his left arm.

Still staring with unfocused eyes, Saihara yanked the shears out of his forearm. Blood dripped out of the numerous self-inflicted stab marks. With frequent interruptions as if he was a drunkard, he swayed and raised the cutting implements again.

"Don't!" Yumeno screamed. Paralysis impacted her legs and she only watched as her words forced him to pause for a moment. She called his name, but it only seemed to slow his motions again.

Nothing reaches him! Yumeno panicked further. Charisma was Momota's job. How to stop him?

The moment of panic was enough to return Saihara to his task. The scissors swung down and the tips pierced the skin below his wrist.

His pained grunt woke her system from its shock. "Stop it! Can't you hear me?" Yumeno's gripped his right arm in desperation, slipping a little on his sweat covered skin. "Shuichi, please!"

If her words reached, he made no indication. Without regard to her screams and objections, he continued the attack.

Why is he so strong and I'm so weak? Even after almost dying I can't stop him physically! Both hands pulled on his arm to keep him moving to no avail. Another wound opened in his arm.

"Listen to me!" The rooms were close to soundproof, but the open door might allow someone to hear her distress. Tears rolled down her face as she yelled. Word didn't penetrate his unfocused daze.

A flash of inspiration appeared. If this didn't reach him… "I came back! I still remember our time together! I kept my promise!"

The shears stabbed through the sheet into the mattress beneath.

Saihara's eyes filled with tears once again. Did I reach him?

"I—I thought," he began. His back shuddered and the tears overflowed down his face.

And then the screamed apologizes started.

Yumeno rushed forward and wrapped her arms around him. Every fiber of her focus was on not being overwhelmed by the disgust and horror which crawled through her. The barely controlled feelings escaped through her tears.

The shears clattered out of Saihara's slackened grip and bounced off the sheets before landing on the floor. Curled into a hyperventilating ball, he made no move to grab the improvised weapon or fix his bleeding arm. With his body turned away from Yumeno, he attempted to hide his injuries among the numerous pleas for forgiveness.

"Tojo! Angie! Chabashira! Anyone!" Yumeno screamed. Saihara shuddered in her grasp at the names, attempting to pushing her away with a sudden burst of strength. But the exhaustion from his near-death experience left him unable to move her more than a few inches. She tightened her hold on him while continuing to call out until her throat burned.

Even when running footsteps drew near her screams continued.

Harukawa, as usual, was the first to arrive. Chabarshira followed on her heels with a piercing yell of her own. Doors slammed open and someone knocked on the rooms of those who weren't awoken by the commotion immediately.

Yumeno gripped Saihara tighter. He didn't want a single member of the class staying with him overnight. Waking the whole class might make his panic worse.

"It's okay Shuichi. We want to help you," she whispered into his ear before attempting to wipe her tears and snot on her shoulder. Spells chanted with her tiniest voice were all she could do.

He didn't respond to her whispered comment. No, she didn't hear anything from him after his last burst of energy.

"Shuichi?"

Harukawa assisted in shifting his shoulders to reveal his face. His eyes were closed and his breathing slowed to a crawl. He fell asleep? While I held onto him? Sure, she whispered a few spells to calm him down, but she didn't expect her magic to do anything. More likely he ran out of energy and passed out. But tonight she needed something to attribute to herself which wasn't a mistake.

The group got to work fixing the situation. Tojo performed first aid on his many cuts. Gonta retrieved buckets of water to wash his skin and bed. Harukawa assigned simple tasks while Momota tried to keep those who had nothing to do calm. Most of the class had to sit back and wait, the dorm rooms were too small to fit all sixteen Ultimates.

Yumeno obeyed Tojo and Harukawa's instructions without complaint or excuse. When asked for an explanation she explained the entire situation from hearing Chabashira's voice to meeting Monokuma and then the state she found Shuichi in.

At the mention of Monokuma, Amami and Momota went into a rage. Korekiyo stood against a wall silently observing until the discussion of the rope shears began. His explanation of providing them to Shuichi months ago raised more questions than they answered, but Yumeno didn't care.

She hugged the unconscious detective with all her strength. This time wasn't Korekiyo's fault, or Chabashira's, how can she blame herself for her voice being duplicated, or even Monokuma's. It was her failure to leave him alone.

"I'm so sorry Shuichi."

 


 

Gonta set down the third bucket of water and winced at the loud clang from wood and metal colliding.

"Gonta sorry!"

Tojo shook her head and raised a finger to her lips. "It is fine Gonta-san. Just be more careful next time. For now, we have enough water though."

"Gonta understands," he replied far quieter this time. Shuichi didn't stir from either the sound or his loud voice. Like a big, hibernating bug he continued to snooze in Yumeno's hug.

He shuffled to the corner of the room and rubbed his hands together. Providing buckets of water was a nice simple chore. A perfect job for him. If it made Shuichi feel better he would provide another ten buckets happily.

But it wouldn't make Shuichi happy. What can I do to help him? Even the smart people don't know what to do. A gentleman should make a hurt person feel better. But how would I do that?

He despised being ignorant of what to do. Everyone praised his strength and relied on him to move things or find small details in the Academy. But his strength was only physical. Not mental like Ouma or Shuichi.

He also didn't have the medical knowledge Harukawa and Tojo provided the group. Iruma created crazy inventions and Momota brought people together. Yumeno and Angie even picked up people's spirits through their talents.

What about my talents? Is there a bug that makes a person no sad? Can I find one?

His fists clenched. If they chose to fight Monokuma, he would happily put his life on the line. But they had lived in peace for months without a fight. He didn't want to lose his friends in a battle against the Exisals.

Soon the chaos died down with Gonta left standing without a purpose. Ouma, Iruma, and Akamatsu left to have a discussion outside with a few others. From the inside of Saihara's room, even Gonta's perfect eyesight was blocked from seeing where everyone stood in the dormitory.

"This is why I said the Blackout Light was the better option…" Walls didn't stop Gonta's ability to hear Hoshi's voice. "We aren't equipped to give proper care."

"The decision has already been made. Better to think of ways to solve the dilemma than regret." Now Amami spoke. " We can't let the Mastermind win."

"You say that… while looking like you hold the greatest regrets. Got to keep fighting… I guess I still have a long way to go."

Gonta snorted and rubbed his eyes. He wasn't alone in feeling worthless. Maybe whole class feels bad thoughts. Different ones than Saihara-san.

If a bluebird that brings happiness exists, was there a beetle which brought joy? …Ladybugs?

After several months he had come to grips with the sad fact that most of the class didn't love bugs. He never understood. His lab was a giant house for thousands of friends! Why did they recoil in fear?

He didn't have an answer, but he kept from pushing his interests too hard. Akamatsu, Tojo, Amami, and Saihara were the only ones who would happily spend time with him in observing the bugs.

Ouma had been stricken from the list due to his lies.

But maybe if I find an unusual bug… like the ones Gonta sometimes barely saw around the campus.

Thoughts of his favorite thing in the world were interrupted by his favorite person in the world moaning in his sleep. Tojo let out a long breath and put away the bandages sealing the last cuts. She had already assured the whole class that the injuries, while numerous and bloody, were surface level only. Not enough force was placed into his self-inflicted attacks to permanently injure.

A stroke of inspiration led Gonta to return to his room after getting Tojo's permission. He returned in a few moments with an extra blanket. Years of experience in the wilderness made the bed an unnecessary, though comfortable, addition to his room. Yumeno and Saihara needed it more than he did.

Both were fast asleep by the time he finished wrapping them in the blanket. Tojo frowned at their faces, maybe at their tear stains and drying snot, but did little else. While their rest was troubled by occasional whimpers and murmurs, they continued to support each other by snuggling into their partner each time it escalated.

Gonta found it adorable.

"Gonta-san. A word?" Tojo indicated she wished to speak outside. Gonta followed her and Harukawa into the open area.

"Harukawa-san and I were speaking while you were getting the blanket," Tojo continued while crossing her hands in front of her dress. "We would appreciate if you take the morning shift with Saihara-san."

"Gonta surprised," Gonta responded after a moment of thought. "I thought Akamatsu-san next shift."

"Yes, well…" Tojo looked to the side while placing a finger to her mouth. "We decided…"

"Akamatsu isn't suitable for comforting him right now," Maki followed up without a hint of emotion. "We think you'd be the best support for him."

"Gonta accept!" he exclaimed happily. Being given a role was more than he expected. "Still, why?"

Tojo smiled and Harukawa glared at both of them. "Does the reason matter?" Harukawa snapped. "If you are going to do it then I'm going to sleep. We have things to discuss tomorrow."

And then she vanished into her room, leaving Gonta confused.

"You didn't do anything wrong Gonta-san," Tojo answered his unspoken question. "We wanted a positive person with a strong heart to sit with Saihara in the morning if he still feels awful. Harukawa-san decided you were the best fit but got embarrassed about saying it."

Gonta considered her words for a moment before breaking out into a wide smile. His hand clapped against his chest. "Gonta do his best!"

  

Four hours later, Gonta sat with his back to the wall next to Saihara's doorway, ready for whenever Saihara awoke! With the sun beginning to rise, he was certain Saihara would be waking soon.

 

After two more hours of sitting, and watching most of the class make their way to the cafeteria, he remembered that the Ultimate Detective and Mage were among the last to wake most days.

Still, he remained happy. His goal of being a positive gentleman had been acknowledged by Harukawa and Tojo! The journey was far from over, but he celebrated the step in the correct direction. It was enough to convince him that strength wasn't his only skill.

 

When another hour passed, Gonta began to become concerned. The morning announcement, still devoid of Monokubz, had long passed. The rest of his classmates never returned from their trip to the cafeteria and nobody walked in or out of Saihara's room.

Want to provide privacy for Yumeno-san and Saihara-kun. But are they awake?

The door remained open according to the policy the group had decided on. He had suppressed his hearing to avoid eavesdropping until this point, but his worry was getting the better of him.

I'll say sorry if private moment. As quietly as he was able, he leaned to the side and turned his head to look in—

 

Before bolting to his feet and stepping inside.

 Saihara's head whipped towards Gonta.

A moment later, Monodam's followed suit.

 

Gonta crossed the room in three huge steps, aided by his massive height. After wolves raised him, and with further practice from chasing down insects, his speed was among the fastest in the school. Even a robot wouldn't have the time to touch Saihara before Gonta caught him.

But when he reached the bed, he stopped and paid attention to the full situation.

Yumeno was curled up next to Saihara and still fast asleep. Her head poked out from under the blanket Gonta last night and the little visible clothing was wrinkled but intact.

Saihara's eyes were bloodshot and he developed bags under his eyes from the stress and trouble sleeping. However, he also didn't seem to have any new injuries. His back was against his bed's headboard and he was sitting up under his own power. The bandages on his arm were stained with old blood but remained expertly wrapped. Tojo's work never showed flaws.

On the other hand, it was Monodam who looked far worse. The robot's left ear was smashed in, part of a larger dent to the side of his head. One of his teeth was also missing and his right hand gained a variety of scratches and divots.

"Monodam hurt?"

Saihara caught up to the situation faster than the frozen Monokub. "Wait, Gonta," he started. "He only checked up on me and provided some new bandages. Nothing more."

"YES. I—ONLY—WANTED—TO—SEE—HOW—SAIHARA-KUN—IS."

Gonta's hostility vanished. Saihara wouldn't defend Monodam if he was being bad. Monodam was the nice…r Monokub. 

Perhaps unsure if Gonta accepted the explanation, Monodam followed up with his catchphrase. "EVERYONE—SHOULD—GET—ALONG."

Gonta's fist relaxed and he brought his hand to his chest. "Gonta so happy. Putting smiles on faces is right. Monodam good person. Maybe one day a gentleman as well!"

Monodam didn't respond. Instead, Yumeno opened her eyes halfway due to the noise in the room.

"Shuichi? Gonta?"

Monodam spun around twice and vanished through the strange ability the robots possessed. Gonta was a little sad to see him go. One beautiful day Monodam said he liked insects. Though Ouma-kun taught me not trust who just says they like insects, still Monodam good. Didn't explain hurt though.

"Morning Yumeno-san," Saihara said with an attempt at a smile. One side of his mouth rose, but the other remained stuck in place. Nor did the usual warmth reach his eyes. Gonta gull… gillb…

not understand easily, but know that not real smile. "Sorry. Last night… I'm just…I," his voice broke and he no longer lifted even one side of his mouth.

Tears appeared at the corners of both their eyes. Yumeno stuttered something about her fault and Saihara tried to cut her off.

Gonta didn't know what to do. So he relied on the one asset he had: his big strong body.

"Don't cry! Friends do their best! Yumeno-san and Saihara-kun not fault." In one motion he pulled both of them into a massive hug. Holding them close, but not enough to hurt, so his warmth reached them.

Angie taught him all he knew about supportive hugs.

After a minute or two of whimpering, the two returned the hug. Together, their short arms were able to wrap around Gonta's upper body and return the hug.

"Thank you Gonta," Saihara managed with a real smile this time. Tiredness still plagued his body, but his face was no longer as pale. Warmth was helping!

"Nyeh… soon you'll be a true gentleman," Yumeno agreed and blinked away her remaining tears.

"Gonta glad to hear. Saihara-san give lesson on how to be a gentleman many times in room. Help Gonta learn things so Gonta understand more!"

Gonta was amazed by the power of a huge hug. Both of his friends were getting even warmer. Their faces were almost red with warmth!

"Shu-Shuichi…"

"Terms! He didn't know the words but knew…I…"

To Gonta's great confusion, Saihara began laughing. Soon Yumeno did as well, but far quieter. Gonta didn't know why there were doing so, but he joined in. Friends smiling is best!

"Let's just get some breakfast," Saihara said with a sigh once his laugher faded. "I need to reassure some people."

Gonta was absolutely okay with Saihara's plan. Tojo's food would fix everything. He was sure of it.

Chapter Text

"Upupupu. Why the long faces everyone? Didn't you miss your bearloved headmaster?"

Chabashira's jumped into an aikido stance as she fought to keep control of her emotions. The morning had been going far better than the previous night. Tojo prepared a massive breakfast with everyone's favorite foods with extra portions for those who stayed up through the night. Chabashira had been among them so she greedily bit into her meal once it was delivered.

She had wanted to be there for Yumeno and to a maybe lesser extent Saihara this morning and requested as such to Harukawa and Tojo. But both turned down wishes and instead elected Gonta as the pure soul to help the two recover from their ordeals. Once again she was kept from supporting Yumeno in a moment of need, but at least Gonta was chosen instead. Of all the males, he was the only other non-degenerate one. She accepted, if a bit begrudgingly, to allow his positivity and strong heart to take care of the two.

The group had wondered where the three were with breakfast almost over. Kiibo had been preparing to leave with Iruma to check on them when the vile bear arrived with four of the Monokubs. The green one was nowhere to be found.

"The heart grows fonder in absence, so why—"

"How dare you use my voice and trick Yumeno-san you degenerate!" Chabashira shrieked, interrupting the bear.

"Oi, watch t toots. Pops is talking," Monosuke yelled with an equal amount of anger. But Chabashira wasn't backing down to any of them today. The energy released when she stood up knocked her chair to the ground and sent her pigtails whipping around.

"I don't care. I'll shatter you before you do something like that to Yumeno-san again!"

"She's right! You aren't going to mess with my sidekick anymore!" Momota joined her in marching towards Monokuma who didn't seem to register their actions. While he could be the worst of the lot on a bad day, Chabashira admitted it was good to see him equally angry. He did lose points for forgetting about the trauma Yumeno dealt with as well though.

They only got three-quarters of the way, not close enough to throw or punch a bear, before others intervened. Interception duties for today consisted of Angie, Hoshi, and Akamatsu who made a human wall in front of the two.

"Tenko, play nice. We have to all find peace within ourselves and this school. Atua says violence is prohibited in a peaceful academy life." Angie "reasoned" in her flippant tone.

However, this time was a little different. The normally unflappable Ultimate Artist's gaze was harder than normal. Tiny signs of anger escaped past her smiling features. Did Yumeno and Saihara's pain make her angry? After the breakdown Angie went through following Saihara's attempt, Chabashira was unsure on how much of Angie's facade should be believed.

"Through Atua, judgment will one day be dropped on those who encouraged breaking Atua's wonderful teachings. Earthly followers need not act."

Shivers coursed through the Monokubs, and Momota, at the hostility laden in every word.

In comparison to Angie's God-given directives, Hoshi said almost nothing. The world-weary teenager chewed on his fake cigarette and glared at Momota. "Don't," he said with a note of finality.

Akamatsu clapped her hands together in desperation. "Calm down you two. I know you are angry, I am too," she said and took a deep breath. "Fighting them is what they want though. He is provoking us."

"Oh, Akamatsu-san gets it? Who knew she could see through the mastermind's provocations. Thought you liked being wrapped around Monokuma's fingers." Of course the true worst of the bunch would say something. Ouma never knew when the time to shut up was. Chabashira fought back the the urge to staple his lips shut.

"Don't you dare talk to a girl like that!" She turned around and shouted at the worthless gremlin. Momota also yelled something, but her focus was overtaken trying to pay attention to Akamatsu's hurt expression, Monokuma laughing in the background, and Ouma's awful face. Who should she deal with first?

"What do you want, Monokuma-san?" Kiibo asked to break the stalemate. "You don't appear for no reason."

"Hmmmm, you are…" Monokuma paused and crossed his arms.

"Wait, are we here for a reason?" Monotaro asked.

"I think so? Maybe daddy forgot?" Monophanie responded with a hint of confusion.

"Hell yeah, we are here to bring misery with our very presence! Make them suffer the hells of the school with every bite!"

Monosuke facepalmed and shook his head at his siblings.

Monokuma uncrossed his arms and karate chopped each of his children individually. "I'm being dramatic! Stop interrupting!"

All four collapsed facedown from the vicious attacks. "Now bear was I…" Monokuma returned to his previous stance. "You are…"

"Completely correct!" Monokuma pulled out a large placard somehow hidden behind him.

All of Chabashira's focus shifted back to the headmaster as she read the words.


New motive.

Ouma bit his thumb as he examined the situation. It was within expectations for a new motive to appear after last night's fiasco. That they were given two whole days to recuperate from events following his beloved's attempted suicide had been more than expected. Three days would have been far too boring for the drama-starved audience. No, the game was now alive and well again.

How should he respond to it? Nothing Monokuma said could be trusted. Provocation and manipulation were the bear's strong points. The number of near misses with previous motives showed how dangerous things were. Only miracles lead them here with no casualties. Most of the group was too stupid and emotional to respond without issue. 

Just this morning he needed to interfere to keep Moronta from fist fighting the robots who had access to tanks. Why couldn't they learn to keep their emotions in check?

What will the motive be this time? Something to do with Shuichi no doubt. After failing to threaten us into killing and being unable to use our pasts to trick us, only something present in the moment will work. If I can figure that out, then Monokuma is fully aware of these facts.

If it's based around Shuichi… Ouma's concern intensified. Emotions were running far too high. Stopping rash actions would be far harder than usual… even worse if Shuichi found out.

He cursed internally. Of course, Monokuma waited for most of the group to be together, but without the detective. Keeping him from finding out about the motive was going to be part of the challenge.

"Now, we are at an interesting crossroads here," Monokuma continued. "You see, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would still have sixteen students. Impressive. And infuriating!" Monokuma stomped on his fallen cubs and then bashed his head into a wall. "You have driven your headmaster to bearly hold onto sanity. Look what you've done!"

Where is Monodam? Ouma questioned while Monokuma continued the worthless rampage. Monokuma's, or his controller's, anger at the situation was genuine, but the show being performed only served to build extra tension by avoiding the conclusion. The audience must be eating it up and Momota looked ready to explode again. Something to deal with later.

Unlike the obvious reasons behind Monokuma's delays, the fifth Monokub's actions required further scrutiny. No matter how he considered it, Monodam's decision to give Harukawa the antidote didn't serve Monokuma's designs. Ouma accepted the possibility that outside intervention had occurred. Maybe the audience decided they wanted drama with Shuichi alive, but even then… Monokuma didn't seem to be lying when he interrogated Monodam.

Was this part of the show? Or are elements not following the script? Is Monodam absence to instill doubt in me and the three other people with a brain cell to spare?

When he returned to his room, his whiteboard needed to be updated. Sure it would give a clue to his mental state, but the mastermind would consider it out of character if he didn't. He had a facade to maintain by pretending he didn't know about the cameras.

Monokuma stopped flailing around and jumped onto the table in the middle of the room. "Despite your cruelty, I am a fair bear. So along with the motive, I'm going to give a bit of a rule change. Otherwise, you'll never have the will to kill."

Not a good sign.

"Badaababa! The new rule is… if the blackened survives a murder trial without being declared guilty, the whole class will be punished except for Saihara-kun!"

Shit.

Along with the crushing realization that he had hurt Shuichi, it had been a bitter pill to accept that he now needed to share. He wanted to monopolize the detective, the only person to try so hard to dig through his lies and find some of the truth within. Knowing that some of the love and energy would go to Shinguji or Angie was sickening. Who wanted to share anything with those two?

But for the past two days, he had comforted himself with the hope that mutual love would prevent any killings. No one wanted to condemn the person they loved.

So the mastermind twisted that same mutual love to make it easier for a murderer to kill for the sake of their loved one.

If anyone fixates on being Shuichi's one and only, they just got their opportunity!


Is this what it's like being a true participant? Shirogane brought her hands to her mouth to simulate being shocked by the bombshell Monokuma dropped.

Internally though, she was fascinated by the repercussions of this decision. The last time there had been an exception made to the blackened rules was many seasons ago. Sure there was the first blood offer in this game, but Akamatsu, if she did her job, never would have taken it. This change would affect the trial throughout.

Not knowing what Monokuma was going to offer sent a thrill through her reminiscent of when she first started watching the show. What will the motive be? Who will respond? Who will promote unity without the protagonist? How will the group be affected? The "Ultimate Cosplayer" had no idea and would be horrified by the thoughts.

Actually, would "Tsumugi Shirogane" think far enough ahead? No, she is too plain. She'll recognize this is bad but wait for direction from smarter classmates.

She spared a glance at her other classmates, turned in such a way that Ouma was unable to see her face. He already found her suspicious. Hoshi stiffened, Harukawa was eyeing her classmates suspiciously, Akamatsu was nervous, Chabashira was still on the warpath… nothing too unusual.

But this was only round one. Monokuma described this as a simple rule change. The actual motive was still coming.

With the rule change, she had an idea of what the motive would be. It would fit with Monokuma's actions from the previous night.

After this, she would return to thinking as the Ultimate Cosplayer only. But just once more, she wanted to see the motive thrown their way as an unknowing Danganronpa fan.

"Now before you engage in pandamonium, let's get to the actual motive."

Here it comes… Externally she was fearful. Internally though, she was shaking in anticipation.

"The winner of the next trial will be given access to another blackout light!"


"So setting off Saihara-kun's trauma was for the sake of today's motive," Korekiyo surmised. 

His voice was almost overwhelmed by the shocked yells and expletives thrown Monokuma's way. Only two days had passed since the group had unanimously shut down the plan to use the blackout light. But it was hardly an easy decision.

Some in the class are already questioning their reasoning after seeing Saihara-kun self-harm. Hoshi certainly, but at least one other as well.

Monokuma put his white arm behind his head and blushed. "Who me? You think I can be so dastardly as to plan something like that? You flatter me. I simply wanted to show Yumeno-san my new voice mimicking technology! No hidden agendas or anything to be found."

So my assumption is understood even in this din.

"Bullshit, you want us to question our decisions!" Momota shouted. "But we made a vow to work together with Shuichi and overcome any issues. He is too str—"

"Enough!" Monokuma shouted with his head heating up from anger. "I listened to this drivel once before. I don't need to hear it again. It ain't up to you right now so knock it off."

"What do you mean by the winner of the next trial?" Tojo asked. "Clarify further."

As expected of the calm and collected Ultimate Maid, she refused to let Monokuma leave extra ambiguity in the rules. Korekiyo respected those qualities.

"Thought it seemed pretty simple, but okay," Monokuma sighed. "You see—"

"Psst. How long are we supposed to be on the ground?" Monotaro asked in a loud whisper.

"Quiet, Pops is talking," Monosuke whispered back equally loudly.

"Oh no, daddy is getting angry," Monophanie cried when Monokuma's claws extended. "I don't want to be like Monodam!"

Monokuma picked up each of the Monokubs and chucked them over his head into the wall of the cafeteria. "Pick yourselves up!"

"Yes, Papa Kuma!" Monokid shouted. "It's all Monodam's fault we didn't know to stop talking ya know!"

"This has been derailed too much so let's summarize," Monokuma complained. "If the blackened wins the trial, they will be given a blackout to use or not use on Saihara-kun. Or even themselves, but it's one use only! If the rest of you boring non-murderers win, then whoever has the largest contribution will be given the blackout light to use at their leisure. Use it, stomp on it, trade it, I don't care. But it won't be back into play until one of you has bearied your comrade six feet in the dirt!"

How deplorable. This motive pushes the group from multiple angles. The more self-destructive may get themselves killed to give Saihara-kun another chance of being saved from his trauma. If the group manages to find the blackened, Iruma-san may be able to reverse engineer the technology to make her version of the repress light. The worse Saihara-kun's mental health gets, the higher the pressure for a trial to happen.

And of course, there was the most dangerous, and likely possibility. With the rule that Saihara survives regardless of the trial's conclusion, and with a blackout light in hand, it would be easy to be Saihara's one and only.

Saihara would never love someone who killed all his classmates. But if the memories of everyone else are erased, that doesn't matter.

It was a dangerous gamble.

But he knew better than anyone the extent someone would go for their loved ones.

He already had planned to do just that in this school how many times? Already his sister had so many friends from his endeavors. If he took this opportunity, he would get more friends for his sister and Saihara.

Korekiyo scrutinized the rest of the class. He wouldn't do it. Not yet at least. His sister kept requesting more friends, but her voice grew quiet. His love's voice growing more distant terrified him, but he would not be the first to kill. Until he saw the setup of the trial, he would not take the extreme risk of a first kill.

Could he say the same for everyone else?

"Will you inform the other three at a later time of this new motive?" Amami asked in the ensuing quiet.

"As you all have been so quick to leave Saihara-kun in ignorance over the Blackout Light, I've decided only to inform you thirteen. Let's see how many secrets you can pile up. How many lies will you wrap yourselves within to try to 'help' him?" He mimed the extra quote marks. "I didn't think you all had a fetish for breaking promises but the past months have certainly proved me wrong!"

Korekiyo's temper flared further. His hand twitched with the desire to rip Monokuma limb from limb. If a robot lacked nerves, then tearing apart its wiring would be acceptable. He knew it was another provocation, but the insult still registered deep within.

"Have fun thinking it over," Monokuma declared. "I have a trial room to dust off. Just in case." He popped into a hole in the ground and vanished from sight.

"Wait for us Daddy!"

""""Bye-Kuma!""""

And then only the Ultimates remained.

No one said anything in the tense cafeteria. Momota looked over to Akamatsu for assistance, but she remained in stoic silence. Her behavior has been unusual since discovering Saihara. He poked her with his elbow to get a response, earning a hiss from Chabashira, but she didn't respond.

"Ignore him!" Momota yelled with a clenched fist. "Shuichi had a bad nigh,t but he'll get over it. Monokuma is only trying to bait us, but I'll be there to keep Shuichi from feeling sorrow. We'll train until he is one hundred percent better."

"Maybe some of us aren't comfortable leaving everything to a moron," Ouma replied with a grin. "I think I should get all the time instead if that's on the table. You couldn't take care of someone even with a guidebook."

After having previously listened to Momota try to fix Hoshi's depression and Ouma's jokes about everything, Korekiyo decided neither should be left alone with Saihara for long.

"Nyahaha. Through Atua's guidance, Shuichi will find peace and salvation. By dropping his excess desires and focusing on only blessed activities, everything will get better."

"Don't try to take him for yourself, you fucking cultist. He needs to remember my banging body exists and—"

The squabbles were already resuming. Without a unifying force, the cracks in the temporary alliance would shatter over how to execute their many ideas. Most days I would elect to observe, but perhaps I should get involved.

Before Korekiyo stepped forward, Gonta's booming voice came from the hallway. "Saihara-kun is awake and well."

Since Kiibo was standing closest to the door, he raised a finger to his lips and walked outside to greet the three latecomers.

"Oi, you only have a dick because of moi. You can't get the jump on me," Iruma growled as she followed behind.

"We should leave the conversation here," Tojo recommended. "Let us discuss together at an appropriate time when Saihara-kun isn't near."

The plan was reasonable, and the rest of the group agreed with only minimal complaints.

Feelings wouldn't go away without being spoken though. Pressure would only build if the methods to help Shuichi weren't discussed. Suspicion regarding the more selfish members of the class would only rise without an opportunity to diffuse it.

Clever timing, Monokuma. We best not underestimate you.

 


 

Knock Knock Knock.

Akamatsu pulled her face out of her pillow and groggily looked towards the door through half-lidded eyes.

She hadn't intended to fall asleep when she returned to her room, but the stress from the previous night and Monokuma's new motive overwhelmed her. After a few minutes of yelling into her pillow, she had collapsed into a fitful nap.

The knocking came a second time, and now she knew she hadn't dreamed it. "Coming in a moment," she called while attempting to pull herself together. She glanced at the mirror in the bathroom and grabbed a comb from inside to return her hair to its regular appearance. Her nap pushed strands to poke out every which way. Presentation was important for performances and in continuing to show herself as holding together even when she felt further from that state than ever before.

With her hair in a reasonable state, and her eyes devoid of any remains of her tears, she opened the door.

And felt her heart drop.

"H-hi Kaede," Saihara said with a strained smile. Akamatsu tried to keep from looking at his freshly bandaged arm or the bags under his eyes, but to avoid both required staring at his neck.

His throat was red and had marks from repeated scratching at the area.

"Shuichi, good afternoon," she said and put on one of her big smiles. The usual question of 'how are you' felt inappropriate in his current state. What answer could he give that wouldn't worry her? Asking would put him on the spot to craft a fake answer. "Did you enjoy Tojo's brunch?"

"H-huh?" The question caught him off guard, and he stumbled on his words. "Yes, her cooking was perfection itself." Shuichi was easy to satisfy in terms of food. After months with the group, he had gained a taste for a variety of cuisines. Still, she knew Tojo made only his favorites for today's brunch, even waking up in the middle of the night to begin preparations.

Akamatsu saw it first hand by waking with her to assist.

"Make sure you tell her. She'll say it's expected of a maid of her skill, but you know she'll appreciate the compliment," Akamatsu said, trying to talk like she used to. Where she would lightly tease the detective and encourage him to speak up to others and get close to their new friends. Who knew he would end up getting so close…

He laughed a little, but without the force he had a few months ago. Guilt at not noticing his decline pained her for the hundredth time. "That's what she said when I thanked her."

"Tojo-san still stands on formality a lot."

"Yes, far too often in my opinion."

With the topic coming to an end, they stood awkwardly in her doorway. Akamatsu tried to grab for a continuation. What should she say to him? What did she deserve to say after everything? Even one hundred apologies would be insufficient.

"Um, can I come in? I'd like to… talk," Shuichi said, breaking the silence.

"Oh…sure. Come on in." Akamatsu stepped back and pulled the door open so he could follow her in.

He stepped into the room and sat down on her bed, eyeing her pillows for a few moments longer than she liked. His detective instincts must have noticed my crumpled pillows. The curse of falling in love with an Ultimate Detective was that he picked up on small details at insane speeds. Is it even going to be possible to hide the Blackout Light from him?

"Been awhile since I've sat down in here," Saihara commented without addressing the pillows or her unorganized clothes left on the ground behind her bed.

Neither said the unspoken thought that she spent her time in his room. Many times

"A few weeks I think. Sorry for the mess. I didn't expect company." Be cheery; be cheery.

She sat next to him, only realizing afterward that the space between them was too noticeable. Even when they weren't in love, she often sat close to him and occasionally held his hand to give him strength. This time she kept more distance than she would with many of their classmates. If she moved closer now though, it would be even more noticeable. What should she do now?

Shuichi said nothing and left her to the internal panicking. A minute passed as Akamatsu gripped at any subject to discuss. Her mouth opened, but no words came out. The longer the silence stretched, the more she became self-conscious and her mind clamped down further. Saihara remained silent with his head bent down to look at the sheets instead of her face.

Then he spoke,

"Akamatsu-san, do you hate me for having sex with so many people?"

The question blasted past her expectations. Sometimes Saihara would go from being silent to drop a bombshell of logic out of nowhere. But this time, she didn't understand how he came up with that judgment.

"How could I ever hate you!" The strain of her emotions made her voice louder than she wanted it to be. What Shuichi didn't need was her yelling at him. "Sorry, I—"

"Then why have you been avoiding me?"

His whisper was filled with pain as he clenched his hands around his legs and scrunched his eyes. His arms quivered and his breathing grew shaky.

"I," Akamatsu started before finding herself blocked by her own words again. Why hadn't she considered how Shuichi would be affected by her actions? She didn't feel like she deserved to be near him. Not after breaking her promises, voting to use the Blackout Light, and almost falling for Monokuma's scheme in the past. So many people looked at her for leadership, but she failed them all. Shuichi deserved the love of the rest of the class more than hers.

But he wouldn't see it that way. The same boy who was so introverted I needed to drag him around to meet people. Someone who panicked at small things would assume I was angry. Or upset at his suicide attempt. I didn't give any indication as to why I was avoiding him.

Disgusting. She was a disgusting person to prattle on about friendship while harming so many already. "I'm sorry Shuichi," she managed through a clenched throat. "I'm so sorry. I didn't intend to make you suffer." Traitorous tears appeared in her eyes unbidden once again. How many times was she going to cry this week?

"Akamatsu-san? Are you okay? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you." And now he was even more worried. Why did she keep screwing up?

There was nothing to be done. She needed to look him in the eye and speak her feelings. She wasn't like Ouma who lied as easily as he breathed or Yumeno who suppressed her feelings, or even Tojo who relied on her confidence and ability as strength.

He once told her that her ability to communicate so easily with others was her strength. Now she needed to match his expectations.

"You weren't wrong Shuichi; I have been avoiding you."

"So I was right…" Saihara said with a downcast expression. His whole body slumped at her words.

"But it wasn't because of anything you did. I'm the one I'm angry at right now."

"Huh? What have you done wrong?" His head lifted an inch.

"I hurt you so badly, so many times Shuichi. I didn't listen to you when you tried to confide in me about how bad things were getting. You tried to tell me about your fears and each time I'd say that we'd fix things together. I made assurances that I would be there for you. I promised I'd speak with you the next day…" The tears continued to leak out her eyes. "And I never listened when you warned me that something like this might happen. I was so caught up in my belief that everything would be fine and that I was doing the right things I didn't even give you a chance."

"Akamatsu-san…"

"And then you hurt yourself. You almost died Shuichi!" She clasped her hand over her mouth and curled inwards. "And it would have been my fault! You confided in me. You believed in me. So many people said I was the leader who would solve our problems and yet I've never managed anything when it counts."

"Hey, that isn't true," Shuichi grabbed her by the shoulders, fresh tears rolling down his face. "You kept the group together during the first motive. You kept us organized when—"

"I was going to try to kill the Mastermind!"

She said it. She said it. After all this time, she let slip the words she had hidden inside herself for so long. Her ultimate shame.

"…What?"

Nothing to do except charge forward. "When I was in the classroom with you as we waited for the signal from the cameras… I had a shot put in my backpack. I was the one who turned on the flash to the camera that Amami-kun found. I needed to lead him over there.

"But how would you have managed to kill him from the second floor?" He asked the critical question, but she saw the way his eyes focused. Inside his beautiful, brilliant mind he was going through all his memories of that harrowing day. Recalling what she said. Their setup of the room analyzed in an instant. She wiped her tears and waited for him to come to his conclusion.

"It can't be…" Saihara gasped and met her gaze. She sniffled and waited for his judgment. "You were going to roll the shot put down the vent in the classroom."

She nodded and tried to smile through her tears. "As expected of an Ultimate Detective. I wouldn't have been able to hide my crime from you for long." She went through the particulars of her plan piece by piece. How she was going to lure the Mastermind and use the books to direct the shot put out from the vent. The timeline for when she decided on such extreme measures.

Saihara said nothing for a long time. Retreated into his mind to organize all the facts, no doubt. Akamatsu grabbed a tissue and wiped up her nose.

"I was so willing to kill. Even if it was for my friends, I was willing to toss away all my words and assurances to do things my way. I decided to use you without telling you what I was planning and almost killed Amami-kun in the process."

"But you didn't."

"Only barely! I resolved myself until the last moment. And then when I thought about how disappointed you would be. How much I didn't want to leave you right then. Even if we only knew each other for a short time, my heart overtook my mind. I faltered. If my will had been a tiny bit stronger, I would have killed one of my friends and been executed for it!"

"You didn't though." His voice was barely a whisper, and yet it hurt so much.

"I told you I'd stay with you. We'd find a way out together. Just another promise I was intending on breaking. And then when I realized how badly I had failed from the very beginning once Amami-kun proved his innocence, I vowed to be there for you. To not hurt you in the way I almost did that day if I left you alone by being executed. And the Mastermind still managed to influence me again. I abandoned you. I broke my promises. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Shuichi!"

The crushing guilt forced her head to her knees. Even if he gave forgiveness, she didn't deserve it. Even now as she faced her biggest regret and mistake, she was still hiding things from him. Her 'leadership' almost led her to kill. Her 'regrets' made her vote for erasing her love's mind. And now the guilt pushed her to hide the deepest feelings.

"Akamatsu-san…"

She gripped her skirt and shook her head. Nothing he could say would make things better, nor should it. Punishment was what she needed.

"Thank you for not using the shot put. You saved us all."

Saved you from a fate I almost put you in. How perfect.

"I wish you had told me long ago, but I understand why you held it in."

She didn't need to hear his kind words.

"I didn't want anyone to know of my pain either. I held it within. The guilt and shame ate away at me. I felt worthless every day. Like someone who only existed to serve the sexual needs of others. A whore so dirty I ruined all my classmates."

Despite the objections of her mind, she sat up straight and faced him. He was looking to the side with his eyes closed and tears dripping down his face. His hand over his chest was clenched so tight it was in danger of tearing the shirt underneath.

"That's not the case at all Shuichi. You didn't dirty anyone. We fell in love with you."

"I manipulated your likes and interests for my ends. I seduced even innocent people like Yumeno-san and Gonta-kun. Made them stay with me this morning because I needed to be with someone. Slept with everyone because I wanted to be important and needed by someone for even one night. Even when I knew I was too worthless to deserve it."

"Don't attack yourself like that, Shuichi!" She grabbed him by the shoulders as he had done with her.

"Then don't do it to yourself either."

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close before she had a chance to register his actions. His lips pressed against hers and she gasped a little before pulling him close as well.

She didn't deserve this, and yet still held on. A miserable would-be murderer shouldn't have him hold her like this.

They deepened the kiss, both grabbing the other with a need born of sorrow rather than lust. For a brief moment, the rest of the school didn't matter. Akamatsu let every sound of Saihara's body envelop her. Hearts beating in unison helped seal the cracks her self-hatred had carved into her confidence.

Thoughts of whether or not it was healthy for Saihara to kiss anyone in his state were brushed away as she listened to his breathing. He needs this as much as I do, doesn't he? Choked up and desperate for love, he gripped her even tighter even as their lips separated.

It hurt, but she would never admit it even under pain of death.

Their noses pressed against each other as they both struggled to control their breathing. Beautiful grey eyes filled with love met her own.

"Maybe should have wiped our faces first," Shuichi commented after regaining his breath. With a hollow chuckle, he wiped the snot and tears off his lips.

What was she supposed to do besides giggle at the minuscule complaint? A person who planned a murder was sitting in front of him, and his focus was on a tear-filled kiss. Never change, Shuichi.

"Kaede, please stop carrying this pain. Your plans failed because you didn't go through with it. Kindness and care for me, for the class, made you assume you needed to save us all." Their hands intertwined on the bed. "We, I especially, put too much pressure on you as the leader. I forgive you for becoming reckless and hiding your intentions."

She sniffled. How can he put aside such an awful thing so easily?

"I also forgive you for the last few months. None of us knew about the repress light or what Monokuma planned. Instead of hating you, I want to thank you for loving me so many times."

Observation was Shuichi's skill, but Akamatsu considered herself fairly talented as well in reading people. The tilt of his head to the side and his inability to match her gaze anymore spoke volumes.

"But you won't forgive yourself for being hurt in the first place."

He flinched and withdrew. Only his held hand stayed in its place.

"Shuichi…I'm…"

"I'll try harder."

Melancholy still pervaded his lowered shoulders and deep frown, but he tightened his grip on her hand.

"Shuichi…"

"I'll need help though. I think we all will." His lopsided smile spoke of his difficulties in being happy. "But, will you help lead us again? Unity would be nice right now."

She truly did not deserve this man's love.

"Together then," Akamatsu agreed and pulled him close. Even if they remained in the killing game and Shuichi now had numerous lovers, as long as she had moments like this… I'll be satisfied. Being part of Shuichi's life is where I belong.

…Would the rest of the class be mad if I stole one more kiss though?

 

Beep beep

She stiffened at the sound of their Monopads beeping. Why now of all times?

No, thinking for an extra moment made her realize the obvious answer. Because now would be the worst time for Saihara.

Kind, dutiful, and focused Saihara of course grabbed his Monopad before she said anything. After a momentary lapse, she followed suit, though she had a sinking suspicion she knew what it would say.

Her worst fears were confirmed.

 

[Ultimate Academy Regulations #15: Update for rule #4. If the blackened cannot be identified, or if an incorrect student is identified as the blackened, all students except the blackened and Saihara Shuichi will be punished for their crime. The blackened will receive any extra rewards at this time.]

 

"What the hell is this?" Saihara exclaimed with disgust. "Why am I suddenly in the rules? And what's this 'extra reward' mention?"

"It must be a new motive to encourage killing now that everyone has their memories back," she said as if she didn't know the reason. "Since nobody will want you to be hurt."

"And why…"

She turned and looked at him. He was staring intently at the school regulations, no doubt trying to deduce Monokuma's goals. Already focused on finding a way where nobody needed to die.

He glanced towards her, and in that brief moment, she shivered. His eyes narrowed and his gaze sharper than she'd ever seen it before.

 

"Why didn't it come as a surprise to you, Kaede?"

Chapter Text

No way Monokuma introduced a new rule without harassing the class first. If bringing out misery is one of Monokuma's goals in this death game, then seeing our responses is neeeded. So why add a rule now?

Akamatsu's stuttered response only added to his suspicions. So many concerns weighed her down. Was knowledge of this rule change part of why she became so distraught?

When would she have learned about it though? Before I woke up? In the past two days?

Most likely he informed them this morning. He thought back to the morning. Iruma's awkward encouragement to skip breakfast. Shirogane's glances around the room when he asked about how everyone slept after the chaotic night. Momota was the embodiment of aggressive positivity, but even he acted off.

His shoulder still hurt from how many smacks on the back he earned.

Trust was hard to earn in the killing game. Too many obstacles stood in the way of being truthful. But he thought, after everything they went through together, they wouldn't hide anything more from him.

Akamatsu had already crushed his naïve hope by admitting to her failed plan against the Mastermind. But chaos, defined those first few days and he let it slide.

Under the assumption that lies were over between the lovers.

But when he read the new rule, feeling his gut clench in despair, something shifted in his mind. The pain faded away to be replaced by the focus he relied on in his detective work. Perhaps a mental defense mechanism to avoid the rush of feelings.

At that moment, disconnected from the storm of emotions, he saw Akamatsu only glance at the rule and flinch. Not displaying surprise or confusion. Just dread.

"Monokuma told everyone during breakfast today didn't he?" There was still a possibility he saw patterns where they didn't exist. Everything depended on Akamatsu's reaction.

"No, I—"

"I don't want to live in lies anymore. I want the truth." Even if it hurt and tore through him.

She paused and grabbed her elbow while looking away. Tears were already forming in her eyes again.

His worst fear confirmed. Everything was worse than he realized.

"Did he also give a new motive?"

To his disgust and horror, she flinched and stared at him in shock. Her mouth opened, but no words escaped. Most days he found her shocked expression cute. Not today.

Now his theories held weight. Monokuma spoke to everyone in the cafeteria while Gonta-kun and Yumeno-san supported me. He explained the rule change and a hidden motive. Am I the subject of both? Is that why Kaede isn't saying anything? Or is there even more hidden?

Anger boiled in his gut. Why does it always have to be me? Why can't I be left alone? Is my fate to keep being yanked around by Monokuma and the people I love?

His anger defied reason, the remains of his logic protested. But telling his heart to stop being angry didn't help in the least.

"Fine then," he said and stood up. Akamatsu started to make excuses, but he didn't want to hear it from her. "I'll ask around until someone explains. Maybe Kaito will decide not to lie to his 'sidekick,' or perhaps that's wishful thinking."

He stomped to the door, fury enveloping him. Why would she stop explaining if not for a big secret? After everything, was he still not worth the truth?

When he opened the door, he saw Yumeno wandering around while looking at her Monopad. "Yumeno-san, have you—"

"Saihara-kun!" she yelled and ran over to him. Of the Ultimates, she was one of the worst at hiding her thoughts despite her best attempts. "What does this new rule mean?"

Innocent then. More evidence that they discussed the rule during breakfast.

"I intend to find out. Akamatsu-san keeps being tight-lipped." Using her last name instead of 'Kaede' was a subconscious decision, but one he stood by right now.

"Akamatsu?" Yumeno looked behind him.

Whatever she saw must have been disturbing. Panic increased by a notch, accompanied by shaking across her whole body.

"Let's find the answer together," he declared. More proof was needed to draw a complete conclusion. The scope might be broader than he realized, or Monokuma targeted Akamatsu alone. No pause until he discovered the truth.

In a strange twist to the natural order, Akamatsu now followed him on a journey to find his classmates. How long would his determination hold out? The pain of his suffering remained in the back of his mind, suppressed by his detective instincts. It seemed possible he would shatter whenever the dam failed.

The next 'witness' stood outside, unaware of the storm bearing down.

"Kiibo-san, what's the new motive?"

"Nyeh?" "Shuichi, please calm down!" Ignore the background noise.

"Huh!? Uh, um… well… uh… that is…"

Bullseye.

Seconds passed, and the Ultimate Robot became a stuttering mess. Kiibo glanced from Saihara to Akamatsu and then back again. Raised hands were no defense against Saihara's investigation.

After pressing closer to Kiibo, Saihara gave him another shot, "Kiibo-san, did Monokuma provide a new motive today?"

"Um, you see. I'm sorry! I just don't remember!"

"Can't remember?" Did he seriously think he fooled anyone?

"I really forgot! I'm sorry."

A blast of bright light accompanied Kiibo's yell, blinding Saihara. The yells behind Saihara informed him he wasn't alone in dealing with sudden pain.

"Sorry, sorry!" Kiibo shuddered under Yumeno's angry complaints.

Kiibo might be the worst liar in the school. If he knows he screwed up the attempt to distract me, I wish he'd give up and answer.

"Then find me someone who does remember. Maybe going back to the dining hall will help jog your memory." Bitterness infested his words, and he didn't even care. "Or you can call Iruma to fix your faulty memory banks via another maintenance session. "

Kiibo gasped at his uncharacteristic outburst. "That's robophobic!"

Without an apology or glance back, Saihara pushed past Kiibo. The next target was in sight exiting the dining hall.

"Saihara-kun? With your injuries, I advise you to stay in bed for more time today. For your safety—"

"Tojo-san, did Monokuma deliver a new motive today?"

That stopped her advice in its tracks. She glanced at the group forming behind Saihara.

"You should first have your arm checked out before we talk."

Final confirmation delivered to him. Perhaps due to the look in his eye or the growing group behind him, Tojo didn't even try to defend herself or lie.

He should have been happy she at least had the decency not to deceive him.

Instead, it added to his anger. None of them were willing to explain the situation to him. Was he supposed to go back to his room, get healed up and obey all instructions like a good little boy? Wait until everyone else's worries were assuaged before his own fears were addressed? Or was the motive so upsetting she wanted to prevent him from moving before he found out?

Paranoia overwhelmed him. Every possibility made him more fearful until the fear transformed into a wave of unquenchable anger.

Breathing heavily, he gave his answer.

His fingers dug into the meticulous bandages wrapped around his arms. Without breaking his gaze with Tojo, he ripped the top half of the bandages from his arm. Torn skin and half-formed scabs opened up new injuries. It hurt enough to bring tears to his eyes, but he refused to back down. Unflinching, he clenched his jaw and stuffed his fingers, wet from the blood dripping out of his opened wounds, under the next line of bandages.

Tojo-san said nothing. Her composure, a trait he admired, remained intact. Only an increased rate to her breathing and the way her hands twitched betrayed any emotion. Neither of them said anything more. After it became clear that Tojo would neither intervene nor explain, he walked past her, leaving a faint trail of blood droplets in his wake.

"I'm going to sit in the dining hall. If anyone wants to update me, I'll be waiting there until nighttime. Even through the nighttime hours if I must." The rules dictated that the dining hall closed during the nighttime hours, but it didn't specifically prohibit the Ultimates from staying overnight if they chose. A loophole left for nefarious means he assumed.

"Wait, Saihara-kun," oh now she has something to say, "you may be punished if you don't leave at night!"

He turned and gazed back at the group. Yumeno looked ready to burst into tears as she stared in horror at his arm. Kiibo was running back to the dormitory, perhaps to complete Saihara's request, in a panic. Akamatsu grabbed the ripped bandages off the ground while Tojo-san looked more distraught than he had ever seen.

"Then I guess you better explain before I bleed out or get punished."

"This is all my fault… if I hadn't left last night none of this would have happened. What have I done?" Yumeno asked between sobs. Now guilt managed to worm its way through his wall of anger. If he understood the chain of events, she didn't hide the motive from him. Last night horrified her. Now I'm making it worse. Retribution for a crime she didn't commit wasn't fair.

"… Himiko, you can help tie up my arm if you want. Use whatever spells you need."

"Y-yes," she stuttered and ran next to him. She raised her hands in her approximation of a determined stance. "I… I'll do my best!"

"Okay. The rest of you better get the class together before I decide to act really rash."

 

Fifteen minutes later, he sat at the dining table and looked out across the assembled class. Yumeno sat next to him, holding her "ice magic" she grabbed from the freezer to his arm.

Even with the mental and physical pain, he overlooked the frozen peas label to let her keep some pride.

The urge to start with some sarcastic pleasantries crawled within. But Saihara abandoned it. He wasn't Ouma or Monokuma. He wanted answers, not to mess with the class any further. "Someone needs to explain to me what the new motive is. What did Monokuma tell the class today?"

"Shuichi… I know you are upset, but you need to calm down," Momota began. "Things aren't as bad—"

Saihara pulled a knife he swiped from the kitchen out of his pocket and put it on the table in front of him. The message was clear.

"Saihara, I won't let you use that," Harukawa objected with a dark look and an icy tone.

Intimidation from her might have worked on a typical day. Deep into what he now registered as another dissociative panic attack and a complete emotion collapse, he stared her down. "I don't want to use it! Extreme measures are all I can use right now when everyone remains tight-lipped. Ouma-kun already revealed the group decision to hide the facts from me, so if you all need to decide together to reveal it then do so now. I don't have all day."

A complete bald-faced lie. Ouma remained noticeably quieter than usual when he sprinted into the empty dining hall before the rest of the group. No jokes or taunting passed between them. Still, with Ouma's awful reputation even if he tried to deny it someone would fall for it.

"Fucking gremlin, why did you reveal it?" Iruma shouted before Ouma had a chance to defend himself. The glare he sent her way could curdle cheese.

"So you did have a group plan to hide something from me. Thank you for confirming it." His energy was fading fast. Yumeno managed to staunch the renewed bleeding, but he still lost blood twice in twenty-four hours. When he said he didn't have all day, he meant it. How much time remained before he collapsed?

Iruma's mouth dropped open. Ouma's next bitter insult caused her to screech unintelligibly, but the damage was already done.

"In what manner do you want it described?" Shinguji asked from the entranceway.

Now that he thought about it, this was the first time he talked to the Ultimate Anthropologist since he recovered from his attempt. And Shinguji wasn't the only one. A few of his… lovers…  kept a wide berth. Akamatsu had been obvious, but half the class met the same criteria.

Was it due to being uncomfortable with their memories, or due to something more?

"Start from the beginning. Don't leave a single thing out. If there is anything I'm in the dark about, speak now. If you all continue hiding things," he paused and grappled for an appropriate threat. Perhaps he didn't need one. "I honestly don't know what I'll do."

"Can you give us a—"

"After Harukawa-san saved you, and before you woke up, Monokuma appeared in front of us," Amami interrupted Shirogane. "He offered us the option to use a Blackout Light. The motive today is also based around the usage of the Blackout Light."

Blackout Light? If it's power resembled the Repress Light, this conversation was only getting worse.

"Hey you menace, weren't you the one pushing to keep Saihara-kun in the dark about it?" Chabashira yelled.

"At the time it seemed like the appropriate decision. You had gone through so much. More issues on top of your trauma might have broken you," Amami admitted, uncomfortable with being called out in front of the class. "That was a mistake. I'm sorry Saihara-kun."

"What is this Blackout Light?" The final piece would determine how he would transition from this point.

If he was honest with himself, the answer terrified him. The entire class seemed nervous. Very few were looking at him, and most of them were more focused on trying to console him or apologize. He blocked out their white noise. He wasn't going to miss the explanation he desperately needed.

"The Blackout Light is a modified Repress Light," Amami explained, fulfilling Saihara's worst fears. "But instead of holding back a few memories from the target, the Blackout Light removes all memories. Leaves the person affected without any memories for their entire life though they still will have basic knowledge like motor control and speech."

The addendum "according to Monokuma at least so we aren't sure," didn't sink in.

There was an opportunity to erase every memory? All the pain and suffering he went through could be erased in one shot?

No memories sounded horrifying, but holding onto the knowledge he gained from months of hell brought him so little comfort.

"And," he started while keeping his voice level, "how were you introduced to this mechanic of the killing game?"

Harukawa stepped closer, her eyes remaining on the nearby knife. "After I gave you the antidote to the poison, Monokuma appeared and offered us the opportunity to use the Blackout Light on you. But it had to be a group decision, and he implemented a time limit. If you woke up, he said the light wouldn't work just as the Repress Light would have failed due to your observation skills. We had to decide while you were asleep."

The Repress Light didn't work because of my observation skills? It doesn't work one hundred percent of the time. So if anyone else paid closer attention, they might have recognized the missing memories? Is that why Tojo-san and Akamatsu-san apologized for never noticing?

Because there was a chance to stop my suffering if they tried harder?

"Which side was everyone on?" The anger which echoed through his words vanished. Instead, every organ in his body turned cold. Fire receded from his emotions leaving him empty and alone. Even Yumeno's presence by his side felt miles away.

"Does it matter? We shot it down because you obviously can recover on your own. You are strong Shuichi even if you don't realize it. So we chose not to use it." Momota tried to make peace.

The laugh that escaped from his mouth was so bitter it even shocked him. "With everyone hiding stuff, I have no choice but to recover on 'my own.' Don't sidestep the question Momota-kun."

Luminary of the Stars or no, Momota did not expect to be reduced back to last name status. He gaped at Saihara before anger started to rise in his expression.

"I'll explain then," Ouma began.

"Someone not Ouma-kun, thank you. I don't have the energy to deal with your bullshit."

"I ran the preceding argument, so I remember very well," Kiibo explained. He walked forward closer to the table, hesitating until Saihara inclined his head to allow him to walk forward. Only those who answered his questions were going to be allowed near. The rest he wanted to stay away. "Angie, Gonta-kun, Momota-kun, Shinguji-kun, Ouma-kun, Chabashira-san, and I voted to discard the Blackout Light. Yumeno-san, Iruma-san, Harukawa-san, Amami-kun, Akamatsu-san, Shirogane-san, and Hoshi-kun voted to use the Blackout Light."

"You missed Tojo-san."

"She chose to take care of you and stay out of the proceedings. Someone needed to keep watch in case Monokuma tried something while you were unconscious."

So she sat back and let everyone else decide. Whether that pissed him off more or less was beyond him.

Kaede… He looked straight at the girl he kissed only an hour before. An hour ago, he cried for her. Concerned about how much she attacked herself for her decisions in the past. Wanted to hold on to her and heal her ills.

"Guess I couldn't have mattered that much if you were so willing to erase everything I am. Don't want feelings of grief and self-destruction in your fuck toy?"

The words were cruel. Crueler than anything he had ever said about Monokuma. Worse, they were unfair. The one who desired them until becoming a nymphomaniac was him. If not for his spiral into depression, they never would paid attention to his feelings of inferiority. Not due to their failings, but because he contented himself with being needed at night.

He invited them in, and suffered the known consequences when they left. Yet he blamed it on them! Disgust at his worthlessness battled against the dark feelings within.

He wanted to smack them. Let them hurt for even considering erasing his memories. For being so willing to delete 'Saihara Shuichi.'"

And yet… AND YET…

"Saihara-kun, didn't all feel that way. Gonta believe in your strength. Would miss best friend if no memories!" Gonta cried out.

"Feelings suck and are difficult to overcome," Yumeno tried to explain. "You were hurt so much. Wouldn't it have been better to forget it all and live without that? Why I chose the Blackout Light, at the time."

"But don't worry, I set her straight! Only a moment of weakness for all of us, especially the degenerates like Amami-kun."

"More girls were on the Blackout Light side though," Shirogane pointed out unhelpfully.

"Nyahahaha, but I love Shuichi. I would never accept losing you for anything in the world."

 

"You should have!"

 

His fist punched the table for a third time before he recognized the action. Blood dripped from his cracked knuckles and the wounds above his wrist. He didn't care. Didn't care about the stabbed flesh or the pain in his hand.

"Do you think I want to live with this agony every day? To spend my time as a sex-obsessed freak? After last night, do you still see strength in the mind you all broke? "

This wasn't reasonable. He was the whore here. But the anger wouldn't stop.

"How many days did I cry until late in the afternoon, unable to even eat lunch because trash doesn't need food? How many bruises did I need to cover up because I needed to avoid worrying you? Smiles… I had to practice them because I had no reason to smile naturally! I don't want to remember any of that."

He hated them. Hated the ones whose love was so weak they would be willing to erase him. Nor did he want to hear the voices of the ones who chose to let him suffer because they wanted to love him.

"Fuck you all!" he screamed without restraint. Their words didn't matter to him. His hadn't mattered to them for so long! "I'm just your little sex puppet so stop pretending otherwise. I've got to keep everyone happy. That's my punishment for being such a needy bitch!"

Momota was by his side yelling something. Probably more useless platitudes about strength or support. The urge to spit venom to break Momota's aura of confidence rose.

But the Ultimate Astronaut was faster in placing a hand on Saihara's shoulder.

Just like he did many mornings. With that same damned smile. Moments before—

Revulsion pumped through his veins with every heartbeat. A million internal cuts opened at once in his mind and soul. "Don't touch me!"

Only the shock must have kept Momota from failing to dodge the telegraphed wild swing to the jaw.

A fragment of rationality rose to the surface for a moment. I punched him. I punched Kaito. What's wrong with me? Isn't it unfair to hate both sides who tried their best for me?

Those that wanted him to forget the pain and were scared of his depression.

Those that didn't want to lose him and fought to support him.

Why couldn't he see it that way, instead of seeing them as a room full of users?

"I hate you all! You should have all been rotten and considered me worthless if that's what it took to remove all these memories." He needed to get out of the room. "I don't want to be abandoned anymore, but if that isn't an option then fuck it!" All he did was harm them further. Yumeno sobbed next to him. Gonta yelled over the din. More were doing the same. "I'm disgusting and wretched, yes." The words overflowed no matter what he tried. "Didn't think I was so worthless you'd toss me aside though." Nothing made sense, least of all him.

Someone stop me.

"You might as well forget me once again! Leave me in that room forever!"

The urge to vomit turned into a need to run. To escape.

Too many eyes. They were crying.

I'm sorry.

Before he said anything more, before he shattered what little remained, he bolted to the door. More words tore from his burning throat, so quiet compared to the yelling inside his mind. What he said remained a mystery even to himself.

Maybe something he said slowed his pursuers. Or the shock and horror paralyzed them. Whatever the case, he sprinted across the courtyard to outrun the voices and thoughts. Escape was his only priority.

He burst through the door to his dorm room and slammed it behind him, barricading it with his body in the fetal position. Only then, blocked from the outside world, did he try to catch his breath.

No knocks on the door. The doorbell remained untouched. In the quiet, only his retches and sobs accompanied the buzzing in his head.

Look at that. I am that forgettable. One breakdown and they leave me alone. A toy tossed aside.

Laughter. Maniacal laughter he expected from Monokuma echoed in the room which exuded emptiness whenever he was its sole occupant.

He asked for this. Options existed to ignore Akamatsu's slight of withholding information. Prying into it got him here with nothing but destruction in his wake. Why did he pretend to be higher than a disgusting wretch who only fulfills his classmate's fantasies for his sick needs?

Worthless. Pointless. Forgotten. Abandoned. Every mistake was his and yet he blamed it on them and only proved the scorn right.

There was no way to speak to them again. Word couldn't encompass his regret or allow him to apologize enough. Emotions turned on and off accompanied by fireworks in his head. Anger, sadness, euphoria, and disgust all blended until only one word surfaced.

 

So this is despair.

Why didn't I lock the door and die when I had the chance?

 

"SAIHARA-KUN—ARE—YOU—OKAY?"

When did Monodam enter his room? Was he there the whole time? He shook his head. Nothing would ever be okay again. He spat in the face of those who loved him and hurt them deeply. No point in caring about being okay anymore.

"I—WONDERED—IF—YOU—WOULD—READ—ME—ANOTHER—STORY."

Even the Monokubs understood he existed to be used by others.

"BUT—DO—YOU—WANT—A—HUG—INSTEAD?"

His brain blanked. There was no reason for Monodam to ask. Monokuma must have gotten what he wanted. Leaving him alone to his own devices would be more than enough.

"Please."

The green Monokub's arms extended and wrapped around Saihara's midsection. With their size difference, Monodam's legs floated off the ground to complete the hug.

The metal was cold and soothing against the inferno within. But, it also stood out compared to the scorching heat of Yumeno and Gonta pressing against him.

Only a few hours earlier, they cried due to his breakdown. Gave their time and warmth. And he tossed it aside.

Tossed them aside like Monokuma made them do to me.

Everything broke. The world fell away and Saihara's vision blurred. His limit, far exceeded from multiple panic attacks, came crashing down.

The crescent smile plastered on Monodam's face was his last sight before unconsciousness took him.

 


 

"Can't you work faster you cum dumpster!?" Ouma screeched.

"C-cum dumpster," Iruma stuttered with drool dripping down her face. Regaining her sanity, she wiped off her mouth and went back to work. Once this is over I'm replaying this moment in my mind. "Don't rush genius cuckichi! I'm working as best I can under these conditions."

With expert precision only present in an Ultimate, Iruma finished her latest invention. Part of Kiibo's arm was temporarily recycled to convert the dining hall's broadcasting screen into a tv she controlled.

Only a few minutes had passed since Saihara sprinted out of the room. Ouma and Hoshi had intended to follow behind and stop him before he made it too far. In his condition, being alone was the worst possible scenario.

But the Monokubs had other designs. Before he reached the courtyard, the red Exisal dropped in front of the doors, barring the exit. Through the gaps in the machinery, they saw the green one step in front of the dormitory doors right after Saihara barreled inside.

Now they needed information. Shuichi's dorm room shouldn't have anything unsafe in it now. Tojo-san made sure of that. But what if he used his lock picking skills? Why did the gremlin even teach him to break down doors?

She adjusted the frequency and homed in on Saihara's room. Risks existed in building this technology in plain view. A secret she held with Ouma was a suspicion that there were small cameras around the school. Mostly because she made a few herself while bored and realized if she had the technology, the Mastermind should have similar.

She didn't need an excuse to be in the mood for some "schlick-schlick" at all times, but boy did she get one that day.

If she intercepted the transmission from one of Monokuma's cameras rather than the one she put in Saihara's room, she would blow their cover and have a lot of questions to answer.

Synched with a camera, the tv displayed Saihara's room from a view above his closet: one of her cameras. Fuck yeah, Iruma Miu in the house. Perfect as always.

Kiibo's temporary sacrifice of part of his perfect, beautiful body would not go to waste on her watch. Even her jaw dropped when he immediately offered his electronics after she complained she didn't have enough parts on hand. For someone who despised being non-human and hated sci-fi, the desperate situation changed his internal calculus.

"There he is," Akamatsu cried out when the picture stabilized. Yumeno and Akamatsu were being hugged and supported by Chabashira. Both were moments from crumbling. Better not be doing something stupid, Shuichi. We can't take much more.

Saihara was curled against his door, laughing with tears running down his face. With the distance between the closet and the door, they weren't able to hear what he said. Still, he was alive for now.

"What is he doing there?" Shinguji asked. Monodam had appeared out of nowhere and walked towards Saihara.

"Better question, the fuck happened to him? Looks like he went through a wood-chipper. Is that how the pricks get off?" Iruma yelled. The robot was wretched. Dents and ripped sections of paint were all over his outer shell.

"Gonta remember. Monodam look that this morning. Bad things happened by Monokuma?"

"That's possible. Perhaps he threw a tantrum since Monodam helped Harukawa-san with the poison antidote?" Shirogane guessed.

"But he is blocking the dormitory now. Doesn't that make him against us by keeping us away?" Hoshi asked, still trying to find a way to slip through the Exisal blocking the exit.

"I don't know. Monotaro, what are your plans right now?" Kiibo asked. For whatever reason, Kiibo had gained the best connection with the red Monokub, second only to Iruma herself. He was daddy to her mommy roll! A mommy at her age, like in her dreams. If only he were a flesh and blood kid with Shuichi instead.

But she'd get that in time. Somehow.

Please?

Don't break down. Don't break down. Focus on the inventions.

"Hi, daddy!" Monotaro cheerily waved from the Exisal.

"… Monotaro, why are you blocking the way?"

"I'm blocking the way?" He looked down his exisal cockpit. "Why am I blocking the way? I don't remember."

"This is getting us nowhere," Hoshi sighed.

"Did Monokuma set you up to do this?"

"Other daddy? No, I don't think so?" Monotaro's constant bouts of amnesia were getting more frustrating. Meanwhile, Monodam wrapped Saihara in a hug. That's my spot damn it.

"Now Saihara-kun won't be able to attack for at least two turns," Shirogane noted 'helpfully.'

"Then was it Monodam who asked you?" Kiibo managed to ask despite his irritation.

Monotaro stopped and considered it. His extended "hmm" drove more of the group into a frenzy, but Iruma focused on improving the quality of the monitor's picture. Inventions wouldn't betray her. Genius made her above the rest of the dumbasses surrounding her.

Monotaro clapped his hands together. "Right, Monodam asked me to park my Exisal here."

"So it is the green punk after all," Iruma grumbled. Something was going on between the Monokubs, but whatever the hell it was, she had no clue. She'd leave that type of theorizing to Shui… fuck. "Sweetie, would you please move the Exisal somewhere else for Mommy? And then get the green one to move out of the way. Some of us need to get into the dorms for their beauty sleep."

"Sure, Mommy!" The Exisal groaned as it stepped back from the dining hall and made its way towards the dorms.

"Perfect. As expected of the amazing me. You all should be licking my toes in thanks for my grand help."

She shrieked when Akamatsu started bending down to do as requested. The sub bitch might actually do it! Now my vagina is super confused!

 


 

Harukawa ignored the yells and complaints near her and remained laser-focused on the tv screen. Saihara passed out against, no doubt from his exertion and panic. While asleep, he was safe from his worst impulses, for now at least.

Of course, a murderer would find it easy to remove me!

Every word burned deep inside. An accusation like that was expected from a cretin like Ouma. He said as much during the debate over the Blackout Light. But coming from Saihara's lips proved different. From the same voice which supported her and expressed faith in her capability to be more than an assassin, the cruelest sentence flew. 

She wouldn't cry. Tears were not going to reverse his words or heal his pain. With half the class sobbing at some point today, she needed to remain hardened and emotionless. Someone had to focus on the critical steps they needed to take to secure Saihara's safety.

But she wanted to sob. Desperately wishing she lived a life that allowed her to break down.

"Why do you have a camera in Saihara-kun's room, Iruma-san?" Tojo asked. A fair question. The implications weren't pretty.

Now the deviant was blushing and holding herself. "I wanted some fuel to play with myself later. And what better than a video of myself and Suckichi doing his name proud!" How the hell did she take pride in that?

"So you were like 'I'm in your room, snapping your lewds?'" Shirogane asked. Why encourage her?

"Plain Jane gets it!"

"Did you ever use that when you weren't the one staying with him?" Shinguji's darkened glare and extended hand looked ready to start the first killing game. He remained on her list of most dangerous people in the school. His aura indicated a familiarity with harming others.

Iruma squealed in fear at the hostility thrown her way and curled in on herself. "I didn't even remember I put it up there until the Repress Light! I need my nerves to build my projects, don't take them!"

"What's the plan now then? Saihara-kun hates everyone and everything," Harukawa asked. This was outside all of their areas of expertise, but they needed to decide on something.

"Jokes on you, he doesn't hate me. I voted for the Blackout Light, and he wanted his memories erased. Told you he'd rather that!"

Yumeno glared at Iruma and wiped away her tears. "Idiot," she growled between sniffles, "he said he hates us too since we were willing to destroy him. How are you so smart and so stupid?"

Iruma deflated in an instant. Did she… not understand that before?

"We need to talk to him when he is calmer," Kiibo declared. It was still strange seeing him be so involved. "I'm sure he didn't mean everything he said. My databases say that humans sometimes yell cruel things when they are in a panicked state while wishing the opposite. Maybe if we reverse everything he said, we can find his true feelings?"

"Bit more complicated than that Kiiboy," Ouma drawled. "Can't say I'm surprised that a robot only understands things in binaries though."

"Ignoring the robophobia for the moment…" He was getting better at handling Ouma, and/or focusing on the important things. "Still, someone needs to talk to Saihara-kun. Make sure he knows we support him. Keep him from being rash."

"I'll do it!" Momota declared because anything else would have been out of character. "My sidekick just hit a rough patch. After a good night's sleep and some food, he'll be right as rain. He just needs to remember not to give up on life. It's stupid to throw everything away, and I know Shuichi isn't stupid. Right Harumaki?"

Hoshi's eye twitched, but he said nothing.

On a typical day, he might be right. But this was a delicate situation. Kaito isn't known for his subtlety or tact.

Still, no one else volunteered. It was worth a shot. She'd do it herself…

Of course, a murderer would find it easy to remove me!

He said it at the end while at his worst. His eyes were unfocused; like watching a drunk or someone on drugs. Did he consciously throw the cruelest insults at her, Amami and Kiibo? Found each of their weaknesses and dug into them?

Either way, she couldn't bear to hear them a second time.

"Fine. Wait until later tonight though. We'll monitor from here."

 


 

The Case of Momota Kaito:

 

*Ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong*

*Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang*

*Ding dong ding dong ding dong*

"What the hell do you want Momota-kun," Saihara asked after the umpteenth knock on his door. He opened his door enough for Momota to get a good look at his face.

Momota grinned. I knew Shuichi would eventually open up to me. "Shuichi, can I come in? I wanna clear some things up about today."

"I'm busy reading a story to Monodam right now."
That… wasn't expected. Even if Shuichi didn't want to train why would he spend his time with a Monokub of all things.

"Then when you finish, let's go out and train. Work out some of these negative emotions. Bet you feel awful but—"

"I have enough energy to do one more thing tonight before I go curl into bed again. I'll risk my time with Monodam."

"Come on man. You're my sidekick." He chuckled because he needed to clear the heavy atmosphere somehow. "Are you going to pick Monodam over me? I'm not angry about earlier you know. Stress makes people crazy. You're my bro, and I love you man."

"Must be nice to get over things so easily. I wouldn't know." Saihara closed the door another notch as his arm tensed up. "One of you has promised the literal stars and left me only with shame. The other wants to read a story. I'm making the right decision."
Now that was a slap in the face. His hand curled into a fist, and his eyes narrowed. "I was helping your confidence. You needed to buck up more, or you'd remain stuck."

"Kaito."

He calmed down and waited. If Shuichi is calling me by my first name, I must have gotten through to him.

However, his eyes were anything but understanding. Never before had his eyes looked closer to black instead of grey. Hopelessness radiated from his slackened shoulders and bitter expression.

"Right now my room is 'safe' in your eyes. But I'm sure Monokuma would be thrilled to give me something from my lab again if I requested it."

"Wha—"

"The longer this conversation goes on, the more I am considering it. Let me get back to reading this book. I'd recommend you don't knock on my door again."

The door slammed shut. Fury and fear mixed and Momota's hand raised towards Saihara's room to demand an explanation.

But the despair in the Ultimate Detective's eyes made him stay his hand.

"Harumaki was right… I'm out of my depth."

 


 

The Case of Ouma Kokichi

 

One day after Momota's attempt crashed and burned, Ouma stood outside Saihara's door. Late in the night, proper sleeping hours for wild Shuichis.

He took out his lock picks and got to work feeling for the tumblers inside. Such primitive locks were nothing to the incredible skills of an Ultimate Supreme Leader like himself. With a smug smile, he pushed the second tumbler into place and, why is the door opening already?

"In the batch of events you don't seem to remember, we once talked about leaving my door alone."

Ouma gulped but maintained the smile as he dropped the lock pick and placed his hands behind his head. "But that's so boring to request entry all the time. Sometimes I want to see my beloved sleep." Against his nature, he added a bit more truth. "Make sure you are safe. Because I'm… worried about you."

"So breaking into my room during a death game is supposed to make me feel secure?"

Moronta was right. Shuichi's distance has increased a couple of notches. "My love, I timed it for when you normally are asleep. It is late in the night."

The glare on Shuichi's face didn't abate. If anything, the scorn intensified. "Monodam woke me up when he noticed someone messing with my door."

For a robot who proclaimed a wish for everyone to get along, it was doing a fabulous job making him hate it. "How cruel! Am I so untrusted in this school! I demand to talk to my manager about this egregious treatment." Argh, why is being straightforward so hard?

"I made it clear earlier. I want you all to leave me alone. Didn't think I needed to say that includes when I'm sleeping."

"You need to eat something."

"Monodam will bring me food if you leave it out."

So the aim is to keep him isolated as long as possible until someone snaps and kills to get a blackout light. There was no chance the Monokubs could be on the level even if they faked injuries. "Shuichi, we need to talk."

Saihara's eye twitched. "You aren't the type to talk when you enter so I'd rather not. Need to sleep, not listen to another bunch of lies." He gritted his teeth. Was he preparing himself for a joke response?

Then he'd be honest instead! "I'm sorry, Shuichi. If I didn't make mistakes in the past…"

"Kokichi. Our one-night stand ended the moment you left."

His words thrown in his face. The biggest regret of his life. Ouma's air of calm cracked and he lunged forward. "Please listen—"

Saihara's door swung shut with all the detective's strength at the same moment. Ouma stumbled backward with pain lacing through his injured nose. Amid his attempts to regain control of his breathing, blood dripped down his face. It probably wasn't intentional, but the combination of his lunge and the door's momentum left him with a broken nose.

Real tears leaked out of his eyes. "All I'm good for is hurting you, huh? About all I'm ever good at."

Still nursing his broken nose, he staggered up the stairs to the second floor and into his room.

 


 

"Mom! My nose is busted. Fix it please!"

Tojo sighed. Maintaining a regular stream of meals was critical to create some semblance of order, so she did so despite her mental exhaustion. Her duty was to the whole class, and she fulfilled it to the highest level she could. Part of said duty included answering any other requests as well.

Still, Ouma grated on her nerves. Even more than usual when he called her mom.

She turned to look at the short student, expecting a clown nose or something despite the delicate position they were in. "A way to lighten the mood," he'd say.

But no, his nose was broken. The telltale signs of dried blood on his lips and the tissues shoved within his nostrils told the story.

"Understood, I'll prepare an icepack immediately."

She opened the freezer to procure the supplies while keeping an ear open to hear of any developments in the dining hall. Shirogane, Hoshi, and Iruma composed the "Shuichi-watch" now that almost a full day had passed since Saihara locked himself in his room. Their depressed lover had yet to wake up according to their latest report from watching the monitor.

"Now what is going on here! Tampering with school property?"

Monokuma! Ouma's antics didn't inspire a tenth of the ire their "headmaster" did. With a makeshift icepack in hand, she stepped back into the dining hall where Monokuma was smacking the monitor.

"I didn't see a request to modify the monitors on my desk. Thought it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission?" The bear extended his claws with his head turning red. "I want an explanation."

Iruma gulped and wilted in the face of Monokuma's anger. "H-hey i-it doesn't say in the r-rules I," she stopped and rallied her spirits, "I can't improve school equipment. It still shows the announcements. I just gave it a new extra job!"

Monokuma's anger calmed, and he scratched his chin. "Doesn't interfere with the announcements huh?" He pulled out a remote and pointed at the monitor. It instantly flipped to an image of Monokuma wearing a clamshell bikini of all things.

 

[Beep beep beep. This is a test of the Ultimate Academy's broadcast system. For the sake of the health of all students, please take the following advice into mind.

KILL SOMEBODY.

This has been a test of the Ultimate Academy's broadcast system. Have a bearrific day!]

 

"Fine, I'll allow it for now. Didn't think I'd get an opportunity to show that particular video. Puhuhuhu, don't fall in love with me now that you see how hot I am! Saw how well that worked for Saihara-kun!"

Is it possible to sew a robot's mouth shut?

"Still, we can't have this become a habit. So, I'll allow your aggressive spying without consent in the dining room. And no staying here overnight! I heard what the school whore threatened yesterday. The dining hall is closed at night which means get the hell out." Monokuma's red eye glowed with menace. "Keep picking at loopholes in the rules, and I'll take it as a request to reduce your options further."

Aggressive spying without consent. The group had discussed that the monitor served that role. Another secret kept from Saihara. After seeing how hiding the Blackout Light went, they agreed if he found out to explain instantly. Akamatsu spent most of the night crying about how stupid she was to lie about the Blackout Light and get Saihara so worked up.

Tojo wasn't sure if doing so would have changed what followed. Saihara's emotions were out of control from so many stimuli.

If she could, she'd take care of him one-on-one. Not involve the others who might aggravate his condition more. In her experience as a maid, she dealt with emotional outbursts from clients, children, and the mentally damaged. If she turned off her emotions and focused only on providing the perfect service for Saihara alone, she might manage to calm him.

However, the rest of the class would suffer without her maid duties. And create suspicions that she only wanted to monopolize him. A charge I would have trouble defending considering it is true…

With Monokuma present, there was an opportunity to gain more information about the situation. While she busied herself with Ouma's broken nose, the others took point.

"Why is Monodam spending so much time with Saihara-kun?" Shirogane asked. "You said the Monokubs weren't supposed to interfere much."

Monokuma turned and displayed his back to the group. "Sometimes kids go through phases where they don't want to listen to their parents. If he wants to be the prodigal son and break my heart," Monokuma sniffled and moaned, "then he can do so. Dad will always be waiting."

"Then he isn't under your control? These are his own decisions?" Hoshi asked with his fake cigarette gripped in his hand.

"Each of my children has their unique personality. What they do with free will isn't my problem. You got a beef with the traitor you deal with it. This talk is making me depressed. I thought I was a better parent by leaving them to their own devices."

With that, the bear vanished before Hoshi asked another question.

"Most kids who are thrown off cliffs to fend for themselves usually become problems for their parents. Especially if they make a deal with the devil," Shirogane explained in what had to be another reference which flew over Tojo's head.

"Hey, Tojo," Hoshi rarely addressed her, or anyone for that matter, so she snapped to attention. The depressed prisoner pulled his beanie down over his face. "I have a plan to handle Saihara's situation."

"You do?" This was a surprise. After gaining a surface-level understanding of Hoshi's inner demons, she assumed he would advocate leaving things alone. His fear that they weren't equipped to heal Saihara's torment proved true. "What are the chances that it will work?"

"Tough to say," Hoshi said and popped the cigarette into his mouth again. "Depends a lot on him. Think I understand where he is well enough. Might be able to do something about it. But I need to do some preparations."

Despite his words indicating the possibility of failure, he spoke with a confidence she rarely heard. Almost always when he prepared to put himself in harm's way somehow.

The last time was when she… almost made a wrong turn in life.

"What do you need from me?" Second only to Saihara, Hoshi's wishes were her commands.

"Keep the rest of the group here in the dining hall today. If what I try works… then I need everyone here. I still have a long way to go… but if nobody interferes, I think it'll work. Even if I once had no more dreams or wishes… Saihara ain't like that."

Ouma looked ready to object, but Tojo pressed the icepack against his nose to stop his comment. Hoshi's determination was real. "I'll do what I can."

"Thanks."

 


 

The Case of Hoshi Ryoma

 

*Knock knock*

Saihara growled into his pillow. Who was it now? Why didn't they get the picture that he was an awful human being? A pathetic wretch who should only hide in his room and insult everyone. The faster they gave up on him, the happier everyone would be.

But, they didn't want to leave him to rot as he deserved.

This time he only opened the door a crack. He wasn't going to hit someone with the door again. His disgust at doing so to Ouma still filled him. Along with a wave of anger at the attempted intrusion he couldn't calm.

"Leave me alone." Fine way for a worthless person to start a conversation.

"Saihara."

"Hoshi-kun?" Not who he was expecting. One of the ones who advocated erasing his memories.

Perhaps the one person he felt a connection with at the moment. Also lacking hopes and dreams. An awareness that he tossed away everything good in his life by his actions. Yeah, he would give Hoshi a few extra moments. Then he would close his door and return to his life hidden away in his room.

"Wanna play some tennis?"

A beat passed as he tried to contemplate the request. They only played once before, and whatever progress they gained vanished soon after. Even Monokuma would have erased his memory due to a night spent together, the Tennis Pro playing again so… what changed.

Curiosity always was his greatest strength and weakness.

"… What did you say?"

The response would determine whether he returned to isolation or not.

 

 

Chapter Text

Hoshi kept Saihara in his sights as the Ultimate Detective digested his words. Unlike Momota and Ouma's attempts, he didn't decline or make an excuse. A good sign, but not proof he would agree either.

"Would you like to play tennis?" he repeated without pressing further.

This was the only card he had. For the first few months in the Ultimate Academy, he refused all requests to play tennis. In the beginning, he decided someone like him didn't deserve to hold on to a racquet after changing a piece of equipment into a vicious weapon. He had explained as much to Momota and Saihara on several occasions. Saihara accepted after the first explanation and never pressed, though he never dropped the interest in seeing Hoshi in his former element.

Momota never seemed to comprehend how being asked to play tennis affected Hoshi and kept needing reminders.

That all changed when Saihara pushed through Hoshi's every attempt to isolate himself. To measure Saihara's resolve and bolster his own, they played until they collapsed on the floor. The excitement returned whenever Hoshi recalled it. The Ultimate Academy brought misery unto the class, but in a quirk of fate he benefited. By crossing paths with Saihara, someone impossible to meet in prison, he rose beyond his former self.

But karma rebalanced itself, and the first game became the last. He made a decision to decline more until they left the Academy to preserve his resolve. Before he could inform Saihara, Monokuma made sure Hoshi forgot the game and the promise. Now that his memories were restored, he understood the mixed messages he gave.

"… Why? You seemed content to never play again. What's the catch?" Saihara asked, suspicion sinking into his voice. Still, he didn't push Hoshi away.

"I want to encourage you to leave your room. It isn't healthy to stay in there… for the rest of your natural lifespan."

Saihara's eyes narrowed. The expected hostility rose towards an attempt to spend time with any of his classmates.

But you still are interested despite yourself. Even with the anguish of speaking, your curiosity won't die. You want to know what a new game would be like.

The opportunity to offer a new activity to entice Saihara was powerful. Since Saihara had spent time and, probably, learned all the secrets his other lovers had, Hoshi guessed he was in a unique position.

"I won't force you to leave if you refuse," Hoshi added. If Saihara's mindset resembled his former one, it was imperative he didn't push. Grant the opportunity and leave a path to refuse. "Tojo is preventing the rest of the class from leaving the dining hall. Figured you might… not want to see anyone."

Saihara's grip on the door handle tightened. His arm shook from the pressure and suppressed emotions.

I'm sorry Saihara, I didn't want you to live a life like mine. So I won't let you if I can help it.

"No, I don't want to see anyone else. If this is a trick for some intervention…"

"Then I'll once again prove my capacity for violence and force them to leave." The words were a promise to Saihara and himself. Solemn determination to prove his devotion to the boy. Even if it resulted in breaking his vows and reliving the worst period of his life. Saihara mattered more than temporary pain.

Saihara's eyes widened. "You…" his eyes scrunched together and his body shuddered, "don't need to go that far for me."

"If Tojo does her job, I won't need to. I only wish to have a match."

Saihara hesitated and then turned around. "Give me a moment to think."

"Of course… difficult times need extra thoughts."

Saihara closed the door. Now we wait and see whether Saihara can overcome his pain.

True to his word, a few moments later Saihara stepped out of his room wearing a new shirt. "Let's go."

"… Thanks."

With no other words passing between them, they walked into the school.

 


 

"Pipsqueak got big balls to contrast his height!" Iruma yelled. "But it worked!"

"But now we don't know what is happening," Ouma complained. "I wanna see Shuichi more."

"Nyahahaha! Atua says Ryoma shall bring Shuichi one step closer to enlightenment. He will become a bronze rank in no time."

"Why does Atua's reassurance make me more nervous?" Momota muttered.

"Have faith in Hoshi-kun," Harukawa instructed, helping Tojo prepare lunch. "He can connect with Saihara right now."

"Hold on to hope," Kiibo said as he fidgeted with the covering on his disassembled arm. For whatever reason, it gave him a sensation similar to being "itchy." "I'm sure things will be better if we remain positive!"

Not everyone shared his evaluation of the situation, but no one argued. The situation was out of their control.

 


 

The Ultimate Tennis Pro Lab was already set up when Hoshi and Saihara entered. Hoshi spent the whole morning cleaning the tennis court and setting up the net he planned to use. Months of disuse didn't harm the high-quality lab equipment. It made the room dusty though.

"Here's your racquet, Saihara-kun."

"Thank you, Hoshi-san." From the moment they stepped outside the dormitory, Saihara's nerves had been on full display. The dark-haired student's head whipped around when they entered through each door as if he expected Ouma or Akamatsu to come charging over. Hoshi feared he would turn around and flee in the entrance hall.

But for whatever reason, he stayed and followed Hoshi to the second floor. When he saw the lab cleaned and prepared for a match, he visibly relaxed.

Trust isn't high right now. Not that it should be after all the things we hid.

"To start, I figure you should get used to some basic volleys. I know you played matches with Kaito before, but that wasn't enough practice."

He didn't mention the one game they played before. The elephant in the room would be addressed in time, but for now, he wanted to focus on practical matters.

"Right," Saihara said. Nodding to himself, he whipped the racquet in some practice swings. To Hoshi's trained eyes his form was awful. An injured arm and poor eating habits had deteriorated the strength he built from Kaito's training. But it was adequate to hit a ball placed in the correct spot.

"Control your elbows more. They are moving too much. The motion will make the ball fly erratically if you keep twisting." It had been ages since he had advised anyone. A whole other lifetime ago when he couldn't yet call himself a killer. Before he gained the title of "Ultimate Prisoner" for his crimes and mistakes.

"Now your form looks reasonable. We can have a good match if you remember that advice," he said once Saihara mastered control of his elbows. Hoshi grabbed his own racquet and stepped to the opponent's side of the court. With a small smile, he bounced a tennis ball off the edge of the racquet over and over to demonstrate total control of the ball.

He confirmed that Saihara was ready to duel. Saihara nodded and entered a stance which allowed him to run to the left or right.

Not that he would need it. Not yet at least. Hoshi lobbed the ball over with superhuman accuracy.

Saihara's eyebrows narrowed in confusion as the projectile fell in a perfect position for his own lob back. Even a child with no experience in tennis could return Hoshi's serve. Hoshi relied on it during his club days to train the hand-eye coordination of the inept.

Hoshi stepped sideways to intercept Saihara's return.  Once again he sent it right into Saihara's zone.

"Why go easy on me?" Saihara smacked the ball back harder the second time.

"Warming up," Hoshi said. With little exertion, he returned the ball before it even bounced. The extra energy had decreased Saihara's control, and it would have been out of bounds without his interception.

Saihara growled when the ball landed right in his range again. This time he aimed better to send it into the corner.

Not a bad swing. Hoshi sprinted to the edge and once again returned it before the ball even touched the ground. But you still have a long way to go.

"Are you not going to take this seriously?" Embers of determination appeared in his eyes.

"Hmph, you need to make me serious kid."

This time the tennis ball landed outside Saihara's range. But the detective was prepared for the change-up. He smacked it right at Hoshi.

The Ultimate Tennis Pro made short work of the sneaky strategy and sent the ball back into Saihara's corner, once again just far enough that Saihara needed extra effort to make contact.

Back and forth they went. Every ounce of Hoshi's attention fixated on keeping the ball in play. No matter what tricks Saihara tried, he responded with an appropriate countermeasure. And when the ball flew over the net, it always dropped in a place where Saihara barely managed to return it.

His methods were grasped after a few back-and-forth swings, but Saihara didn't give up. Instead, he dug deeper into his stamina and attempted crazy techniques. Most sent the ball careening in a random direction, sometimes even behind him, but Hoshi still hit it back.

In a regulation match appearing behind your opponent to prevent a ball from going out of bounds would be worth a penalty, but neither mentioned it. Focused and immersed in the world of tennis they kept up their onslaught.

Despite Saihara's returns becoming wilder, Hoshi gave a set of instructions with each volley.

"Relax your shoulders."

"Drop your stance."

"Start running when you see the impact."

Saihara obeyed without question. Without the time for stray thoughts, his form solidified into a worthwhile opponent. If he remembers half this advice later, Momota will get a surprise during their next match.

Now came the tricky part. This will make or break any opportunity to support Saihara.

With Saihara immersed in "the zone," Hoshi reduced the difficulty of his rallies.

"Let go more."

"The stress impacted in you… it needs to flow out."

"Accept what you are capable of with every move… not what your fears say is your limit."

Saihara trembled as Hoshi's instructions continued unabated. The tennis ball's arc was more straightforward, but Saihara grew sloppier with each swing.

"Address your feelings… or they'll ruin your form."

Saihara shot Hoshi a tear-filled glare. Most likely he had caught onto the plan. "I can't do that, Hoshi-kun."

His swing sent the tennis ball careening to the right, nowhere near the net. Hoshi used his Shukuchi method to catch it before it landed out. With so much momentum packed into the ball, he didn't have a chance to return it gracefully into Saihara's range.

But Saihara still hit it back with another wild swing. Aggression filled Saihara's movements. No longer was he playing tennis for sport. Instead, he bludgeoned the ball out of anger.

"You didn't deserve what happened."

Saihara choked on his own breath and brought his arm to his eyes to hide his tears. He twitched when the tennis ball bounced off his limp racquet. Dropping his arm, he focused back on Hoshi.

"But you feel you do," Hoshi continued. Once again he rebounded his own rally off of Saihara's unmoving racquet. "If you had followed along and not rocked the boat… you'd still be with them."

The dark-haired teenager froze in place. Only the arm holding the racquet moved with each returned swing.

"Because you tossed away everything you cared about… you need to keep everyone away." Hoshi pressed on. This was his only chance to get through to his lover. "Your regrets are endless and yet… there is a part of you that blames them. And more than anything within your soul… you hate that section. Because you don't deserve… to have any wrath after committing your crimes."

"Don't compare it," Saihara growled through a clenched jaw.

"Then you tell me what happened. How you felt when you scorned us. When you fled to your room with a vow to never leave. So sure this was your new reality. Whole focus on not accepting anything else. Even if that meant being the villain."

"Shut up Ryoma!"

Saihara swung his arm back before sending his racquet careening into the ball. It flew straight at Hoshi's face who stared it down.

*Bam*

Pain spread through Hoshi's jaw. It wasn't the first or hundredth time he'd collided with a tennis ball. Never learned to consider it a pleasurable sensation. Also didn't care to fuss about it. The body count attached to his record served as a permanent reminder of the deadliness of steel counterparts. Compared to that a rubber ball meant nothing.

"I-I wasn't trying to, I, the racquet just," Saihara covered his face with his empty hand. The tears dripped down the side of his face.

Rubbing his sore jaw, Hoshi chuckled mirthlessly. "'Course you were trying to… I provoked you to cause this reaction."

Whatever he said next needed to surpass the speed of Saihara's impending breakdown. "But when you lashed out… you wanted to be the one to suffer and bleed instead. Not an option in a tennis match… so you instinctively targeted someone else. Hostility and self-hate needed somewhere to escape and express themselves and I'm the closest target, as I intended. Better I have a sore jaw than you destroying yourself."

The emotional floodgates opened. "I'm wretched, perverse, and all I do is bring misery with my existence. I don't matter, I can't matter, every fragment of this unclean, miserable plague I hold inside needs to vanish!" The spiraling breakdown accelerated, and Saihara slammed the racquet to the ground. His voice cracked from the exertion and lack of oxygen reaching his lungs. "I can't keep being sex-obsessed, but I don't deserve more." The intense sorrow snapped into anger. "You need to go away and leave me alone, how dare, dare you try to trick, trick me into talking! Did you think I'd invite you to sleep together if I confessed my pain?"

Ryoma's clenched his fist to steady his nerves. "I'm not here for sex; you should know me better than that." Why does he still have so much energy after an intense match? At this rate, he'll panic again and then I'll—

"You know you shouldn't bother with me besides fucking! Why are you still here!?"

An opening unlike any he came across in a tennis match. He strode around the net and gripped Saihara's arm. "I don't intend on throwing our relationship away, Saihara. And I won't let you, either."

Saihara… stopped.

Midway through another passionate scream, his body tensed and the yell petered to silence. He stumbled and regained his balance; vision focused somewhere above Hoshi's head.

"You said those words to you me… when I pushed against you," Hoshi continued. "Despite Monokuma's attempts to mess with our minds, I now remember. Hate that I forgot for even a second… they meant a lot. So much so that I didn't want another match until I completed the path… I resolved myself to. Until I picked up what I dropped."

Saihara turned away with his hand on his chest. "I spoke in ignorance… about how much you suffered."

"Yeah, and I needed to hear those words to put away my own traumas. So now, I turn them back on you, Saihara. Because you are," he winked, "still a bigger idiot than me." Standing on tiptoes, he patted Saihara's hand in what he hoped was a hard-boiled manner. Hard to act cool when on tiptoes.

"I… don't want you to hurt you anymore."

"Then speak your mind and purge the demons."

Saihara fought against the instruction and shook his head. The second time he asked, Saihara stomped his feet and sniffled into his hands. But on the fifth calm attempt to coax the detective, he made a breakthrough.

"Let's get back to the game then, and you can speak to the tennis ball. Whatever words you say here will belong to the court, the ball, and the racquets. Speak through action… that's the language of sports and athletics."

Saihara nodded and caught the ball Hoshi tossed over the net. "My serve this round?"

"Whenever you are ready to begin." The Tennis Pro squatted down to prepare for a wild swing or another shot at his face. Looks like the scheme worked… preparing these plans takes more energy than a tournament. Need to reevaluate the efforts therapists put in to reach clients.

Saihara stared at the tennis ball for three solid minutes in contemplation. Tension filled his shoulders and then receded in waves with each attempt to swing. Something was shining in his grey eyes, a forming determination if Hoshi read it correct.

And when it solidified, and the ball rocketed into the air—

"I don't want to be forgotten!"

The game escalated from there. Saihara screamed, muttered, and spat out his every thought from months of emotion disrepair. Once again, Hoshi put the entirety of his being into keeping the tennis ball airborne no matter how wild the trajectory. If it bounced too many times, the spell would shatter, and Saihara's thoughts would end early.

Hoshi's ears burned from hearing the suffering and worthlessness Saihara embodied for months. Even his worst expectations for the teen's mental state paled compared to the full picture painted. How he went so long without snapping is a testament to his will. Compared to… No, he wouldn't compare suffering or loss without reason. Saihara gained and lost over and over; that was all he needed to know to support him.

Bit by bit, Saihara's motions calmed, and the madness present in his eyes calmed. The fierce battle developed into a proper match as Saihara attempted to trick Hoshi into missing a few well-placed rallies.

"Keep it up, and you might manage a single point," Hoshi barked out.

And Saihara… smiled.

"I'm not done yet!"

The resurgence of energy and excitement sputtered out a few minutes later, but when Saihara fell over on the court, it was with a smile.

Hoshi staggered over and laid down near Saihara. Close enough that Saihara could touch him if he wanted while maintaining space.

"I'm sorry… about how I acted with keeping secrets."

With Saihara's head turned, he couldn't read the expression on the detective's face. Still, he pressed on to clear the air of any lingering malice. "I didn't understand how deep your troubles ran… and acted for the short-term. We all wanted you to find an ounce of peace… didn't realize keeping quiet only made your pain worse."

"It's fine."

"No isn't, not after your screams and tears. Don't pretend you are fine when the pain crushes you."

A chuckle. "Ryoma, anyone ever call you a hypocrite before?"

"Akamatsu once asked if I was the 'edgiest of edgelords' and said I sulked too much. Does that count?"

The laughter emanating next to him soon changed into wheezing. "Kaede has no issue with carving into the heart of someone's problems."

"Think that's her best point… and her worst flaw."

"Yes, she saves and hurts in equal measure," Saihara paused and then sighed, "what should I do?" Resignation replaced the anger and sorrow present when last he asked.

"You don't need to talk… this conversation was with the court. It won't leave here without your permission," Hoshi reassured. The worst thing to do was cause another panic and force Saihara to another stressful class meeting. "Just… don't convince yourself to throw away everything. You opened my eyes to the possibilities that stretch before me, so don't avoid your own."

"… I'll try."

Better response than yesterday, Hoshi accepted the attempt with a nod. He stood up and reached his hand towards his companion and lover.

Hesitation crossed Saihara's face, but he banished it with a shudder and grasped the offered hand. The height difference diminished the help Hoshi provided, but it was the thought that counted.

"Let's take our showers and then I'll escort you to your room." The accompanying thumbs up should have showed that things were fixed between them, but Saihara fidgeted.

"Umm… Ryoma… if we did that," Saihara stuttered with a blush across his whole face.

Oh, OH. How stupid was he to invite Saihara to the showers, even if he meant separately, after everything? He chided himself for the uncool action. Even the memory of sleeping together twice didn't help him register that someone else would find him sexually attractive. To this day he still didn't understand how his fiancé became enamored with his tiny, squat physique. Saihara's tastes baffled him further since there were many handsome and beautiful Ultimates.

With all the pain sex brought Saihara, he should have expected an increased sensitivity to potentially sexual scenarios. The horrors of prison should have taught him.

"If you are more comfortable showering in your room, I'll bring you back. Not a problem to wait a few minutes. Little sweat never killed anyone."

"That isn't exactly… I mean… yeah, let's go back."

Saihara squeezed droplets of sweat from the shirt plastered to his body and rushed to the lab's door.

"I still have a long way to go," Hoshi sighed.

 

"You… have what you need?" Hoshi asked from outside Saihara's room. Once again, asking if he was "all right" felt inappropriate.

The nerves Saihara displayed on the way to the tennis court reappeared the moment they stepped outside. Only now in the safety of his room did they calm. Thankfully none of the class disobeyed his directive, or displease Tojo as was more likely. He didn't want to keep his promise of violence.

"Monodam brings me Tojo's meals, and I still have books to kill time," Saihara confirmed. As if on cue, the green Monokub stepped out of the closet with a book in hand.

"Gotcha," Hoshi said, eyeing the robot warily. The jury remained out on whether or not the Monokub presented a danger for Saihara. Despite Hoshi's general pessimism, he remained hopeful the bear was on their side.

Or, barring that, on Saihara's side.

"Any messages to give the group?"

"Yeah," Saihara shuffled his feet around as he considered the words, "tell them I need space."

"Can do." It was his intention even if he didn't request it. Having everyone banging on his door didn't work earlier. Isolation wasn't a healthy coping measure either though.

"I'll try to handle things better. You… reminded me of my own words about throwing things away. Won't keep trying to push everyone away forever, but it still burns inside." His breathing sped up, but only a minuscule amount. Either better control or sheer exhaustion prevented a new panic attack from forming.

"Rest up then. Come get me if you need assistance or an open ear. I'm carrying you on my back as well… don't forget."

"I won't, never again."

Before Hoshi closed the door, Saihara glanced around the room and then strode forward.

With a moment of hesitation, he yanked the fake cigarette away and kissed Hoshi on the lips.

"Thanks for the match, Ryoma!"

And then the door closed.

Blushing in an uncool manner, Hoshi yanked down his beanie over his face. Trust the detective to pull another twist at the end.

He supposed it wasn't a bad idea to go without his signature cigarette… if only to remember the feeling of his lips.

 


 

 

Angie placed her paintbrush in its container and surveyed her work. The amorphous blob of grays with sparks of strong primary and secondary colors shifted and spun when she tilted her head back and forth. Another perfect piece of artwork granted to the world by the mercy of Atua.

She returned to the dining hall, painting in hand, from her makeshift art studio she created in the kitchen after badgering Tojo. When her God's inspiration struck, she was to have her privacy to to complete her works in peace. If Hoshi and Tojo demanded they stay in the dining hall, then they were responsible for her barricading the kitchen for ten minutes.

Humming to herself, she skipped to the edge of the table and sat down next to Yumeno and Chabashira. "I return with great tidings."

Yumeno sleepily praised her work without staring too intently; a wise decision even if she didn't know it. The magician, exhausted from the trials presented during the week, returned to a fitful slumber. Atua's guidance, present through Angie, helped heal the devastated girl and pull her mind closer to enlightenment again. "Soon the tribulations will end, and Shuichi will return to health." These words sustained the petite girl.

Chabashira, on the other hand, stared at the artwork with terror. As she swayed in her chair to view the transformative properties applied to the work by the chosen color palette, the Aikido Master turned green. Oh Tenko, if you continue trying to grasp its true form you'll faint from overexposure to Atua's divine will.

Which suited her fine. The visual representation of Saihara's breakdown should inspire unease and trembling. Only then could it match the trauma the real-world events applied to others. Angie was immune, she understood deeper where their path laid now that she was clear-minded again.

Despite seeing the outcome ahead for the class, and the result if Chabashira kept staring, she said nothing. Tenko tends to lash out against Angie's advice and peace is paramount. All the ill intentions and desperate scrambling should be confided to artwork, not to life.

With the artwork complete, she realized one more student joined the room.

"Hoshi-kun, is Shuichi safe?" Momota growled, his stress managed by relentless pacing.

Hoshi nodded to the Ultimates who surrounded him the moment he returned. Angie waited as well for answers, but with less trepidation. The result was obvious by seeing with the Mind's Eye Atua granted.

"Saihara is resting in his room with fewer burdens, but still not out of the woods. We played a tennis match until he was exhausted before returning."

"He agreed just like that?" Ouma pressed, a fake grin plastered on his face. Angie saw straight through him.

"Took convincing, but I have my ways to encourage him. Needed to give him an opportunity to blow off steam… and channel frustration into positive action."

Hoshi continued his explanation to his confused and suspicious classmates, but Angie only listened to the beginning. She learned what she needed. Saihara agreed to isolate himself less but only meet individually. The specifics of the discussion that lead to that result remained private for Hoshi and Saihara's sake. 

The whys and hows obsessed over by Harukawa, Amami, and others didn't concern Angie. How fortuitous that Ryoma overcame the wall of Shuichi's depression with his talent.

The subsequent discussion likewise didn't catch her attention. So many rules, strategies, and discussions when led by the others! Her island understood that love should be free and flexible in body and soul. Chaining yourself to schedules only increased hardships and misunderstandings.

In fact…

 

The Case of Yonaga Angie

 

"Yahello, Shuichi!" Angie shouted.

From the sliver of Saihara's face visible through his open door, Angie saw discontent and nervousness. Nothing an apostle of Atua wasn't used to. Suspicious glares wouldn't deter her for a moment.

"Is this about Ryoma? It hasn't even been half a day."

Ooh, back to a first name basis. Japanese is too difficult if it means not addressing Shuichi as "Shuichi." Having to earn first name familiarity was too troublesome for her.

Angie tapped end of her paintbrush to her chin. "Suspicion is so strong in you, Shuichi. I wanted to see my love, so I walked over to greet you this day."

"Do you have to right now? I'm busy today. Tennis took it out of me."

"Seeing your face and hearing your voice has fulfilled me," she admitted. Going days without a conversation with her husband didn't sit right. Especially in the face of her new revelations on their conflict. "But does it do the same for you?"

He shuffled his feet, eyes on a spot behind her. "Not really, makes me feel guilty and ashamed of myself."

"Nyahahah, you fixate too much on the negative Shuichi. Be more positive and you will be rewarded with peace and fulfillment, Atua says."

"Kinda hard to when…" he trailed off, eyes fixated on her left hand. "Why are you wearing that?"

Angie smiled and gestured to flaunt the wooden ring he made before. "Because it's proof that you are my husband in the eyes of Atua and your culture."

"… I assumed you tossed it." His breathing sped up, and his eye blinked faster to hold back tears.

"Never. Don't you understand, Shuichi? Atua conveyed the answer in a dream! The simple truth of our marriage."

"Stop it," he growled, hand gripping his chest.

"Even without memories my love will not die. I didn't know what this ring was, where I got it, or why I kept it, but I still protected it. Because even Atua cannot destroy our connection as husband and wife."

She said it without fanfare or exaggeration. Her confidence, shaken by believing she broke a solemn vow, was now stronger than ever. The first person to ever scold her was fated to be with her until the day she died.

"If Atua is so powerful, then why did he allow all this to happen!" His anger resurged. His aura danced with fiery reds, the now-familiar sickly brown, and a morose blue.

She knew the answer though, and wondered how someone so clever missed it. "Because after the hardships, you now have fifteen people who love you to the point of devotion!"

"And endless pain!"

Before he shrieked again, she took advantage of the door he opened in his fury and pulled him close to her chest. He protested, but she held on without excess force.

Wrapped in her embrace, she found the center of her spiritual connection and how to reach past her husband's pain. "Atua watches over us Shuichi," she cooed. "Seeing how tremendous your love is, a difficult trial befell you to overcome and earn a matching reward. Now you have fourteen lovers and a wife to heal you in their own ways."

"No, it's not that simple…"

"Blasphemers will be cursed, but do you believe our love is a curse? Do you wish you wish we never loved you at all?"

A sudden shove forced her out of the doorway. The door shuddered on its hinges in the aftermath of Saihara forcing it to shut with tremendous power.

"Nyahahaha, Shuichi is so embarrassed," she concluded. "I didn't hear a yes. In a few days, I'm sure you'll be able to accept the love you treasure and fear."

 


 

The Case of Chabashira Tenko

 

Chabashira paced in front of Saihara's door and continued her muttered argument with herself.

Neo-Aikido is used to calm the inner world and reject nervousness and excess passion. Through her training, she obtained greater control and composure compared to her youth. It was her pride that she only beat up those she quarreled with — even the degenerate males who deserved more broken bones — sometimes rather than every day.

So it should have been a cinch to pound on Saihara's door, drag him to the dojo, and continue her instruction to purge the unclean from his maleness. The Neo-Aikido which was her pride and joy would lead the way from beginning to end, allowing even extended contact with a male, right?

WRONG!

This wasn't just a degenerate male. This was a boy who pulled the wool over countless girls eyes. Lust poured from him in droves and led every girl in the school to have sex with him! Precisely as her Master described! Who was she to spend any time with a brainwashing expert like him?

But… but… it's also Saihara-san! The boy even I fell in love with. The one who flipped my world upside down by making me aware my own Master is male.

"But he touched Yumeno and took some of her purity away, not that she isn't pure, still lovely and adorable and sweet with her powerful magic and–"

"And he also touched me. Spent time in… guh… bed with him and undressed and…  but it also was exciting, and I didn't even try to say no! How is that his fault… unless he is a brainwasher!"

Years of martial arts training did not prepare her for this situation. Saihara was everything she despised and also someone she desired at the same time.

Because no matter how she shoved and stepped on her own thoughts, she still loved Saihara. She wouldn't deny those feelings; it wasn't in her mindset to hold back anything. She strove to teach Yumeno to do the same. It would make her a liar if she then abandoned her own wishes.

But… still… everyone else… and…

"ARGH!"

*WHAM*

"Get out here Saihara-san!" Her shoulder throbbed from shoulder tackling the door, but her heart reassured her it was the right decision. She needed to calm down by releasing this energy.

Saihara peeked his head out of his door with a nervous expression, far from the terror he sometimes displayed because of her yells. She accepted it as evidence his willpower had strengthened, not that his emotions were crushed and unresponsive.

"What do you want Chabashira-san?"

"We are going to the dojo to train!"

The idea came from listening to Hoshi's explanation about his tennis match. He hid a lot of information, but she understood the core concept from her own training. Converting emotional energy into physical practice kept the mind from exploding. Just like she did by slamming into his door! See, I'm already practicing what I need to convey to Saihara.

"… Why?"

"Must degenerate males always question—" she slammed her mouth shut and took some steadying breaths. The instinct to pounce was unneeded right now. He is emotionally damaged and suffering in ways I can't comprehend. As his master, I need to reach my calm, peaceful state to protect him.

"Though you are an initiate in Neo-Aikido, you are still someone who studies under me. As fellow disciples, I must help you through your struggles and purge the unclean feelings within."

That wasn't her best word choice. He was already closing the door before the last words exited her mouth.

"Wait!" Her kick lodged her foot in the doorframe, preventing it from being closed. "Hear me out! I want to help you!"

"And you don't need to do so," Saihara responded. "I'm a degenerate, filthy, sex-obsessed, disgusting man as you said. I tricked and seduced girls to sleep with me, even you one night! Why would you want to approach me ever again?"

His words were so close to her own thoughts she worried he also had mind-reading powers. "I don't know," she admitted and grabbed onto the edge of the door. Prying it open despite his complaints, she sighed. "I don't even understand my own emotions, let alone what your pains are. I'm not smart like others, so all I can do is use my physical skills to learn. Since I don't know who you are anymore, I want to train."

She dropped her foot from the doorframe. She wouldn't force him if remained resistant. Then his anger would only have justification to rage again. Despite her removal of the obstacle, Saihara hesitated in closing the door.

"All I can offer is Neo-Aikido and my Master's teachings. Through them, maybe we can both understand who you are… and what you need?"

Saihara stared at the floor for a long time. Chabashira waited by meditating in place. Hoshi proved there was a way to reach their companion and lover. Could she repeat his success after the failure of others?

"I want to know too," Saihara whispered, so soft she nearly missed it. He looked up and spoke louder, "Do you want to start now?"

"Of course!" I did it! Yumeno-san! Watch, I'll help return him to normal, and we won't need to hurt any more. "Martial arts is eternal and present in every action and decision. Our training started as soon as you agreed."

Saihara's weak smile raised her hopes, though his next words polluted it somewhat. "I'll inform Monodam that I'm going out."

Her displeasure at the reminder of the green Monokub's presence must have shown on her face since he frowned. "He isn't that bad. I don't think he cares for Monokuma's plans at all. Would you prefer he doesn't bring me meals?"

She recoiled in shock at the idea. Some of Saihara's trained musculature from Kaito's nightly training sessions and her Neo-Aikido practice vanished throughout the last few weeks as he spiraled. He was nearly as skinny as when they first met. More weight loss was not encouraged.

"As long as he doesn't harm you in any way I'll tolerate him," she said without holding back her grudge towards the Monokub. "I can't promise more."

"I suppose that's the best I expected…"

To switch the topic, she hurried him to the dojo. Unlike with Hoshi's tennis match, she didn't order the class to stay in the dining hall. The possibility of a fellow Ultimate coming across them was low, but not impossible.

To combat this, she picked Saihara up the moment they left the dormitory. She ignored both the part of her that screamed due to touching a male and the quieter happiness from holding Saihara.

With a battle cry echoing from her mouth, she sprinted towards her dojo at top speed. No need to worry about others if she didn't give them a chance to talk!

"Hold on a second, Chabarshira-san!" Saihara yelled as they burst into the dojo. No one spotted, my plan was flawless!

"No waiting for even seconds Saihara-san," she yelled and deposited him on the center mat with more energy than might have been necessary. "We need to train your heart and purge the demons that infest you!"

"I still can't figure out whether we are training our heart or our bodies," Saihara grumbled as he stood up.

She tapped her foot until he entered something akin to a stance. "The answer is, YES! HIYAAAAAA!"

To her shock, he ducked under the kick she aimed next to his head. She didn't plan on landing the attack anyway, but she also didn't foresee him dodging. "You remembered the first dodge form!"

"No, you telegraphed that attack with your tapping foot…"

"But will you see this one coming!"

"Listen for once!"

She didn't intend on listening to his complaints. In this moment he was invested in her training regiment, and she would pound peace and tranquility into him! "If you refuse to undergo a sex change, then we must destroy the degeneracy inside! Only the useless males complain and question every action. Move without thinking, Saihara-san, and put your passion into your heart strike."

His narrowed eyes and stony silence told her he was still overthinking, maybe even about something rude! But she would not punish him for criminal thoughts until she was one hundred percent sure.

"Hyaaah!" He shouted as he prepared his attack. Not a bad release of energy.

And then performed the heart strike as she taught during their last training session… into her breast.

"…"

"…"

Even her hands turned red from her flush.

"Wait, but that's the atta—"

"AUGH," Chabashira wailed, grabbing Saihara's arm and yanking him straight off the ground. "Pervert!"

The floor vibrated as she completed the one arm toss, launching him straight into the mat.

 

Instantly, shame crept through her heart.

The way his body tensed from the throw, the reaction upon colliding with the ground, and the muffled grunt as he landed; each of them told a story to her.

One of resignation and a desire for self-destruction, present in how little he struggled. The internal anger and hurt that transferred to the physical through his grunt. Even his bitterness was visible to her by using the throw to communicate.

But what hit her like a truck more than anything was the most overpowering emotion of all.

Pure, unrelenting shame.

What am I doing? For the first time that day she was back in full control over herself. All the panic, confused energy, and overconfidence receded, replaced with sadness.

Tears slid down her face as he massaged his injured arm. She already learned that they hurt him when the Repress Light's effects were reversed, but only on a superficial level. Injuring people sometimes seemed like her role in life, especially to stop males from harming girls. While it wasn't something she always prided herself on, depended on the opponent, she accepted it as part of her training.

This was a different situation though. Saihara's mental damage exceeded anything she experienced from being isolated or disliked. The regret encompassed all his actions and even his life.

And her words only served to build greater shame within. Calling him a pervert… or a degenerate… or a brainwasher… wounded him. After the way he had treated the class, they weren't simple insults to him.

Why is he staring with his jaw dropped like that? Is it weird to cry when experiencing agony? Low tolerance to pain was one of her weak points. If she confronted what he held within, she would break in an instant.

"Chabashira-san, are you—"

"I'm sorry, Saihara-san." She didn't wipe her eyes or turn away. She wouldn't hide her passions, pleasurable or painful, from the one she loved.

She sat down next to him. When he didn't retreat, impressive considering her consistent aggression, she wrapped her arms around him. The split reactions she had since regaining her memories united into one direction.

"I know who Saihara Shuichi is now," she started and eyed his reaction. He shrunk in her hug as if he expected to be hit. "No, I remembered who I met, trained, and connected with beyond all others. There was never anything new to learn, even after everything you are still you."

"… Then who am I?" Such heaviness existed within the words that she fought the urge to cry more.

She ran her fingers through his beautiful hair. "Saihara Shuichi is a kind, caring soul who strives to understand others. At the same time, he doesn't seek to be understood, often hiding from the world that has shown cruelty to him. Despite being born male, he holds a great fear inside of hurting others, and wishes for compassion. Someone who will struggle and fight to never abandon those he connects with. Even in the face of hardship, or being thrown around like a rag doll," she regretted her reaction when he first reached out," he perseveres."

He shook his head with tears leaking from his eyes, not ready to hear the words he needed.

"Yet he doesn't believe his actions reflect those intentions. Someone with a shocking amount of love, but no trust in his reasons." She squeezed him tighter to calm his squirming. "You think you are worthless for 'seducing' me, don't you?"

His crying continued unabated. Barely able to open his eyes due to the outpouring emotional stream, he nodded.

"But it tears you apart because you still desire us, don't you? You hate your love and wish to silence your wishes forever. All to silence the pain they brought you."

His muted nod was all the answer she needed. She wrapped him closer to her body and knocked on his head with her chin. "You don't need to feel ashamed of the class loving you. But if you are willing," she hesitated in continuing. The question she wanted to ask would explain more of his mindset, but it also was something making her nervous. Not that something so trivial would ever silence her. "Would you tell me why you invited me to your bedroom?"

It only happened once during the months they spent in the Ultimate Academy. During the discussions about how to help Saihara, it became clear he slept with the rest of the class multiple times. Her instinct was to blame him for being a male who wanted to be fifteen for fifteen. But Saihara didn't deserve a close-minded guess.

In fact, she knew it had to be more complicated. During their training sessions a month ago, she had sensed the agony and worthlessness hidden behind a fake smile with each throw. The depths of his unknown darkness scared her, and she placed more effort into relieving some of his burden through martial arts. However, for every step forward in the afternoon, he took two steps back by the next day.

As they spent more time, she grew to care for this injured soul and ceased seeing him only as a "man." His determination to succeed, compassion, and patience fought against the mental burdens he never shared. And through it all, he helped her become aware of her own limitations. Attraction towards the boy rose before she recognized it, so fixated on his silent suffering. Until the day he invited her to his room…

"I almost didn't want you to agree," Saihara admitted. "Neo-Aikido brought us together, and I grew interested in your mindset towards martial arts. Since I kept calling upon Kaito or Maki at night when I wanted to feel respected, training with them practically ceased. Couldn't keep a schedule when I slept with someone new every night and, didn't know at the time, the Repress Light confused them. So I only had you to work out with. I accepted our status as training partners and nothing more." His furrowed brow and staggered breaths compelled her to rub his back. "But then I got paranoid that the whole class only saw me as a sex object… except for you. I knew I was a whore, but I wanted to believe I wasn't so vile as to even tempt you. So I invited you to my room to prove to myself that someone would stop me."

Saihara-san why don't you talk with people? How could anyone understand such a twisted motivation! Naturally she understood why he told no one, the Repress Light did its job, but still!

"But you said you will let me do anything I wanted. I gave up wishing for you to push me away and returned to my usual habit of needing to please others to be worth anything. Still holding onto a lingering hope you wouldn't be so offended by me not respecting your sexuality that you retreated."

"Saihara-san…" Chabashira vowed to tear Monokuma to itty bitty shreds when they escaped the school. Saihara's regrets and expectations were beyond the capabilities she assumed men had.

"Then when you rejected the offer to train the next day, I knew I overstepped. Because all I do is taint my classmates."

"Saihara-san, get up."

His eyes regained their focus and lost their faraway stare. But still he shuddered as he obeyed, barely holding back the fear in his posture.

Face with his continued terror, Chabashira gave him an outlet and reassurance at the same time. "Now throw me!"

"… Huh?"

"You heard me. Since I threw you, now you throw me! To make up for the days Monokuma stole, we'll train twice as hard!" Her shout coincided with a shoulder charge, a primitive technique unfit for Neo-Aikido, towards the confused detective.

Instinct overwhelmed his hesitation. He grabbed her uniform by the shoulders, rolled backward with his foot placed on her stomach, and tossed her behind him.

"Too much daylight between our bodies, you need to stay closer!" She leaped to her feet and lifted him off the ground before slamming him back onto the mat. "New throw this time!"

Staggering to his feet, he obeyed the order by mimicking the first throw she ever used on him.

"Strike when the opponent is on the ground, or they'll retaliate!" She drilled into him by chopping his thigh. In a battle, she'd strike the shin, but she needed him functional to practice.

Maybe her classmates would find other practical measures to benefit Saihara, but she only had Neo-Aikido. Isn't there a saying about hammers and nails?

They exchanged a few blows, his far weaker than her onslaught until she launched her fist at his chest. "Toss me now!"

Without questioning her methods, he mimicked her earlier throw. His form needed tremendous work to reach perfection, but Chabashira deemed it satisfactory.

"Eh?" He let go of her arm and stepped backward. "What is…?"

"Hmph, you understand now, Saihara-san?" Reacting that way could only be for one reason! "Do you understand a fragment of my heart?"

"I… how does… all I did was throw you and yet," Saihara fell silent while staring at his hands.

"Do you understand now?" Chabashira asked. She brushed off her uniform and grabbed his hands. However, this time she had no intention of throwing him. "Don't be ashamed of yourself. I don't hate you, so please don't hate yourself."

She pressed on over his objections. "It still boggles my mind and I wonder if I need new instruction but… I won't change my path. Please don't reject this… emotion."

"…"

"I… I love you! There, I said it! I actually said it!" No turning back now, even as her head spun from the admission.

They were the words she didn't utter the night they slept together. Once it would bring her shame, but she refused to insult Saihara.

"You seriously love someone like me… even though I'm a man?"

"Why must you ask an awkward question when I chose not to waver?" She shrieked, back in her guarded stance to control the frustration from his rudeness.

"It's just… aren't you…" he sputtered his final words," a lesbian?"

"I told you to stop with the difficult questions you problematic detective!" Problematic isn't an insulting word compared to degenerate right? Still, I can't ignore or pretend any longer if I want his honesty. "I… find girls attractive and maybe I want to hug and kiss them… a lot," she stopped to contain her nerves. "If that means I'm a lesbian then I guess I am." Labels weren't something she liked applying or admitting to herself. Perhaps now was her best opportunity to verbalize her attraction though, with the one person who won't judge her.

"I assumed as much considering your reactions to Himiko and Kaede."

"But after spending time and training with you… I guess I found an exception in a male also practices Neo-Aikido! It brings you halfway to being a girl if you take a man and remove half their twisted soul!"

"I don't think it works like that," Saihara muttered with a trace of a smile.

"So that's why I l-l-love you, Saihara-san without regrets! Well, what are you going to say to someone who bared their heart to a former mortal enemy!"

"… I love you too, Tenko."

Lovestruck, it was the only word to describe her state if one sentence made her tingly inside. Why must he be so pretty and kind with hint of unstoppable will? I can't even keep my eyes open I'm so embarrassed.

"But, aren't you in love with Himiko as well?" He blushed and looked away from her. "Is that going to be a problem?"

Is he trying to make me retract my confession… wait he hates himself, maybe he is! "I wish she wasn't involved in this… but she smiles, hums and is so excited to be with you." She faced him and waited until their eyes met again. "As long as she is happy, then I am content with your relationship. But if you hurt her I'll 'train' you until it's impossible for you to hurt any girl ever again."

He looked down at his open hand beside his hip with a sadness she couldn't fathom. "Why can't you all understand, causing my loves pain is my greatest fear? My anger tore Kaede apart and Himiko suffered from my breakdown. That's bad enough, but what if left on my own I become a perverse menace as you first feared? I didn't want to insult Harukawa-san or Kiibo or anyone, but I become disconnected from my own body and things happen outside my wishes. How can I stop myself when I can barely control my thoughts?"

He seems to think that's a difficult worry, but the answer is obvious. "If you fear falling back into debauchery and becoming a menace, then rely on me!" Chabashira declared. "There is no one more experienced in defeating degenerates and protecting girls than I."

He placed his hand over his lips, considering the offer.

She pressed on to strengthen her argument. Akamatsu-san told me Saihara takes in large volumes of information before reaching a conclusion. "If I approve of your relationship with the other girls, then you are safe. No need to be ashamed with a hero of justice on your side. Still, remember to keep that last part a secret."

"A second opinion then," he whispered, nodding to himself. He removed his hand from his face and held it out with an awkward smile. "And what about the guys?"

Scorn and derision crossed Chabashira's face before she could stop it. "What about them? Their degeneracy is their problem."

*Pfft*

"What?" Chabashira threw up her hands in shock. Out of nowhere, Saihara convulsed with laughter. Crying had become such a standard for him, the sound was unfamiliar.

"It's just so… you," Saihara managed through his laughs.

"You better not expect me to care or protect any males besides Gonta-kun." Falling in love with Saihara needed enough miracles.

"No, in fact it's reassuring if you don't. That's how I know to trust your perspective and not worry Monokuma altered your mind for a motive."

"Good, then let's finish our practice. We have more habits to purify!"

Another fifteen minutes passed. Chabarshira accepted Saihara's request to end the session when his legs gave out. Overwork with a malnourished body would only result in injuries.

She carried him back to his room without crossing any of their classmates. All the Ultimates must have been inside the school or their dorms. Monokuma better not be harassing the class again.

"Thank you for everything Chabashira-san."

She stood outside his door, he still wouldn't let anyone step over the threshold, and smiled. Some shame and frustration bubbled within after many throws, but the mass shrank to half its previous size.

"This won't be the last time. I'll make a master of Neo-Aikido out of you yet!" After a few kicks in the air to demonstrate her point, she pushed the tips of her fingers together. "Hoshi-san said you didn't want him discussing details of what happened. Do you want me to do the same?"

"Please, I don't want Kaito banging on my door again. I don't know how to apologize for trying to push him away. I was especially vicious to him."

"Eh, the degenerate deserved it." He ignored her brilliant deduction. "Still, keep talking to the others. Even if you need my support or, I guess, Hoshi-san." Even if he was a dangerous male, whatever he did calmed Saihara somewhat. She'd acknowledge the result if not the person. "Some things can only be fixed through conversation."

"… I need more time."

"That's fair, but remember I'll support you if you strive to be a better person. Especially if you decide to get a sex change!" If Saihara were a girl, it would fix so many problems for both of them!

He laughed. "I'll take that under advisement. Thank you, Chabarshira-san."

"Rest well, Saihara-san."

He closed the door and left her on her own. The stress of keeping calm despite the raging emotions and hormones within reached a fever pitch.

She sprinted back across the courtyard to her dojo. Now she needed to complete her own training to stop all her impure thoughts.

Chapter Text

Iruma drummed her fingers across Kiibo's reconnected arm. The cold metal sent chills through her sensitive fingertips. Perfect workmanship as always.

"I-Iruma-san, please let go," Kiibo stammered. Whenever her breathing became husky, he blushed in his adorable way. She ranked him second in cuteness across all her male classmates for a reason.

Today she'd let him off with minor teasing. "Kiibo, I built your penis and kickstarted your sex life. Call me Miu, or your beautiful boobalicious majesty Miu-sama!" She cackled with glee when he apologized to "Miu."

"Are you sure we no longer need the monitor Chabashira-san?" Shirogane asked. After my work setting it up and disassembling it, does it matter? No take backs in the glorious house of Iruma Miu's spying agency.

"Saihara-san is still struggling with shame and sorrow, but I think he is safe now. Spying on him will only make him angrier later if he discovers we never trusted him. Ryoma-san and I will take care of rebuilding his willpower until he is healthy."

Two days had passed since the Neo-Aikido master returned to training her apprentice, five days since Saihara's breakdown in the dining hall. Outside of rare conversations through his door frame, only Chabashira and Hoshi managed to encourage Saihara to leave his room. It was a strange conversation considering Chabashira's hatred of men, but Iruma chalked it up to Saihara's ability to perform social miracles. In some ways it almost made him dangerous if he could sway even the ball-buster extraordinaire, but it was the danger that excited Iruma.

"Miss Andry and Shortstop are taking over the training now too?" She asked with a cackle that shot spit across her clothes. "Man, Resting Bitch Face, Momoron and Cockichi got cucked hard this week!"

"Do you want to die?"

"Shut the hell up about my sidekick."

"Dunk your head in a toilet where it belongs and keep flushing until you drown."

"Hiiiieeeeee!" Iruma screeched and hid under the table to avoid the rush of hostility that emanated from three furious Ultimates. Even Ouma didn't hide his disdain and fury behind a smile. If she awoke without a kidney, she knew who to blame.

This alone wouldn't deter her from her goals of the day though. She had plans, big plans, all centered on her favorite detective and his health. Not that anyone else knew, she kept her secrets held close to her amazing tits, literally. Sure, Amami and Harukawa would be pissed when they found out, but their unofficial leaders accomplished nothing so far. Too passive and worried to make the bold moves necessary to get Saihara to escape his room. On this subject, she agreed with Ryoma and Chabashira's methods and expected others did so as well. If she hesitated, then someone would get the jump on her, probably Angie if she read the artist right.

In her head, she listed the inhabitants of the school from dangerous to least dangerous regarding gaining love points with Saihara. Angie remained at the top regardless of how her brilliance organized it. Foreigner bitch flaunts that fucking ring like she is a princess or the main wife. Being a concubine sounds sexy, but I won't let you get to spend time with Shuichi before me!

Today was the best opportunity to do so after she disabled the monitor and repaired Kiibo's arm. Since it had been Chabashira's idea, nobody suspected her glee at the prospect of disabling the camera. Without a direct view into Saihara's room, she could move with few limitations.

Now for the next part of the larger scheme. "Kiibo, can I talk to you outside about some of your upgrades?" she whispered into the robot's ear with the pretense of checking his range of motion.

Being the good boy he is, he nodded and soon they were outside, forgotten by the bickering Ultimates. After pressing him against the wall and sexually harassing him a little, she pressed a small flash drive into Kiibo's palm. "Don't look away, focus on your cock creator since she needs love! I got all kinds of things I want to insert into you later today now your arm is fixed and ready for basement adventures."

"Iruma-san, I… gotta go," Kiibo shouted and sprinted away down the hall, still holding onto the flash drive.

She had to hand it to the Panta goblin, the script he wrote was brilliant in disguising her intentions to the outside observers. Now if Kiibo had any sense, he would insert the flash drive into his system and download the plan she devised for the group's next steps. Since she wrote it using a cipher, only Kiibo could understand the contents using the decoder she installed when repairing his arm. And with Ouma's script hidden among his nonsensical blueprints, then Monokuma will have a few surprises coming his way if everything succeeded.

"Now back to personal matters," she said and dropped the subterfuge. If the audience found out about this next part, it didn't deter her in the least. "Monotaro sweetie, Mommy has a request for you please," she cooed outside the dormitory.

"Hi Mommy," Monotaro said as the red Monokub made his appearance with a little fanfare he dedicated to his parents.

She wanted to hug and squeeze her adorable son but restrained herself. "Would you mind spending time with Monodam now? I think he stayed cooped up with Saihara-san too much. He should spend more time with his siblings so you get along better, don't you think? Let me know when you manage it, all right?"

"Hmm, okay," Monotaro accepted and then disappeared into the depths of the school again. Relying on Monotaro's memory was a risk, but one she was willing to take. She grinned when Monotaro returned with Monodam in tow. The idea to frame the request to "get along" worked like a charm for the one-track minded Monokub.

"Enjoy yourself, kids," she sang as she walked into the dormitory and stood in front of Saihara's door. Now the fun begins.

 

The Case of Iruma Miu

 

Now in front of Saihara's door, her nervousness jumped several notches. This plan of hers depended on her understanding of physiology and Saihara's motivations. She had a fair amount of confidence in her knowledge of both, but Saihara hid his true self for months. If she failed at reading his mindset and pushed too far… she might get yelled at in an unsexy way.

"Deep breaths, Miu, you are a brilliant augmented human," she said to avoid psyching herself out. "You are a beautiful goddess who anyone would want to wank off to, and your boobs grant you entry!"

She reached under her uniform and pulled out the invention she stuffed under her breasts after waking up.

"Ready… aim… fire!" She shouted, activating the Commando Gun on her panties.

The sudden chill around her groin told her the package was inbound to its final destination, Saihara's bed. "And now we wai—"

The door creaked open, and Saihara stepped outside before she finished the declaration. "Should have expected this when Monodam left, what do you want Iruma-san?"

She shuddered under his gaze and wiped off the drool dripping down her chin. Ten days passed since they last spoke, and then banged, in his room. That time he was inviting and considerate with the hint of aggression which made her wet. Today he had the latter without the former mindset.

"I wanted to give you a present since you've been cooped up! Bet your dick is all plugged up if only the shorty, the ball kicker, and the green bear are visiting. You need real deal action!"

He sighed and grabbed the door handle, "Why did I bother? Can't keep a straight conversation with you on better days."

"W-w-wait," Iruma stammered, desperately clinging onto the door. Her knees buckled, and she held on for dear life. "I'm serious here, Shuichi! I wanted to visit you because you deserve some action too, right?"

"Are you…" he glared with an intensity which pushed her closer to the door, "requesting me for a fuck session?"

"S-sorta, kinda…" she said through her tight chest and panting. How did the others deal with him when he became scary like this? "But I don't want it for me; I want it for you, Shuichi, I swear it! Please let me in!"

"Sex got us into this mess, and you want to encourage it. Typical," he finished and tried to close the door with her fingers still grasping the edge.

"Sex isn't your enemy, Monokuma's plot is! Don't blame the sexy times for the emotional manipulation."

Whatever the reason was she wouldn't learn, but he opened the door a fraction wider. The frown vanished, and he looked down upon her with curiosity instead of hostility. He indicated with his chin to continue her explanation.

Describing the benefits of sex was a talent she was proud to own. "From having sex every night you switched to celibacy out of nowhere! Your body might attach your traumas to sexual attraction unfairly if you keep yourself held back. The loneliness and fear of worthlessness is separate from sleeping together. I want you to have sex for your health, not because I desire it!"

He considered her words and denied nothing. Her confidence regained, she stood up and released one button on her shirt so her cleavage was on full display. Her brilliant brain deductions revealed his tastes might be tan older ladies with big tits, but she tanned a little in preparation, and her boobs fit the qualifications. Two out of three ain't bad for a hormonal boy like Shuichi!

"Then what if I said I would rather have sex with Tojo-san if my health is the reason?"

"Augh!" She shrieked at the sudden twist. Her hair twisted like scared serpents at his rejection. "Are, are my boobs not good enough for you? I'm sorry I didn't tan enough or wear a maid outfit. Is that what you want? I'll obey whatever kinks you want, so don't abandon me!"

"Didn't say that, I just would feel more comfortable having sex 'for my health' with Tojo-san who I can trust has pure intentions. I'm having trouble believing your reasons considering your sex obsession is almost worse than mine."

"Hey, don't pretend she doesn't like sex either from her demure act! Bet she is kinky in her own ways and pretends when in public. At least I'm honest about my desires!"

When he didn't deny the insinuation towards the Ultimate Maid, Iruma's curiosity overcame her fear. Ohmigawd, does she have a Master and Servant fetish? How do I win against that if my inventions aren't enough to make him horny?

"Well, what's your answer?"

"Guh, well…" she brought her hands over her skirt and sunk down. She wanted to bang him and be reassured he found her sexy still. The fear of being rejected now he had multiple lovers terrified her to the point of insomnia. Spending a day together in bed would shut off the worries. But, "As long as you have sex, I'll be content. If it has to be maid play, then okay. I meant it when I said I don't want you to reject sex entirely." Days with no sexual partners screwed up his hormonal balance, she believed. A giant rush of dopamine might help calm his mind and prevent more panic attacks. "I get it, I'll go away and leave you to blast all your little sons inside her pale ass!"

He grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her back before she sprinted away. "Calm down Iruma-san; I wanted to be sure of your intentions. You can come inside and explain your viewpoint more."

Happiness blossomed inside her heart, and she placed her hands on her hips. "D-dummy! Don't play with a girl's heart like that! If you intended on letting me inside the fuck cave the whole time then be nicer!"

"Iruma-san…"

"I'm acting rude again aren't I," she asked, shrinking down under his glare.

"Yes you are, but I suppose even Akamatsu-san can't teach you how to talk without ridiculous comments…"

She tiptoed into his room, excitement rising in her mind and groin. Now she needed to seal the deal and make today a fucking great day!

"Hmmhmm, I bet your sexual frustration became overwhelming with all that training. All the testosterone needed to make your muscles clench, flex, and rise! Hard not to think with your lower head when pressed against Cunt-fu in a throw or watching the sweat dripping from the midget's face!"

He didn't deny the accusations which only encouraged her. Shuichi takes every joke seriously; he'll deny anything he dislikes but won't admit the truth either. Got to get his body to give me the juicy details. Her eyes focused on his groin, and she shook her hips with each step towards his bed.

"Bet it took all your willpower to not sport a hard-on during training. And even more when my panties teleported into your hand!"

"You mean these?" He asked and grabbed the dark underwear lying on his bed.

"Yes, the best present a guy—AUGH!" Her attempt to be sexy fell apart when he brought them to his face and sniffed them. She moaned and tried not to grab anything sensitive. She was supposed to be seducing him, how was he so casual with her panties? "Y-you… when did you become such a normie, d-doing something so unlike you? Wh-who gave you the right to move faster than your goddess."

"I'm pretty sure the culprit is the 'goddess' who encouraged I use them to replace my hat."

Shit, he's flawless when he wants to be. Think Miu, think, how do you get him to be invested and squirm like old times? Despite his indifferent attitude, actually because of it, she didn't feel he cared about banging. Every action seemed forced and calculated. Like he was following a script to appease her and tick boxes on a checklist.

If she didn't turn the tables, only she would enjoy it.

"They still would be better on your head than the dopey hat," she agreed, unable to calm her blush or heavy breathing. "But right now shouldn't we be talking about removing clothes, rather than putting them on?" She sat on his thigh, shivering when his pants rubbed against her uncovered, sensitive bits.

But his reactions didn't mimic her lust and desire. His dick rose, but it had been harder in the past. Despite sitting in her embrace, he remained distant.

"This isn't working, Iruma-san," he sighed, placed his hands behind him, and leaned back. "Sorry, this room drags me down when I remember the mornings after."

What could she possibly say to change his mind, or even heal his turmoil? Without inventions or sex appeal, she had nothing to give. Spacecase inspired, Bakamatsu charmed, and Cockichi came up with plans. As for her…

"It's scary, isn't it?"

He blinked and stared at her. A traitorous trickle of tears ran down her face. Stupid fears plagued her and she sniffled to hold together.

"You don't have anything to give but your body. If you don't use it, you're abandoned and no longer needed. No talents or skills reach the one you want to hold and adore. This is the only thing you are good for, and if that isn't enough then what is next? The terror doesn't end!"

She wanted to stop the blubbering, laugh at a crude joke, and brush off the vulnerability. Maybe her estimation of why he hurt didn't match her fear. With her track record, she expected to increase his depression.

Jumbles of words flowed from her mouth in a torrent. "Don't abandon me, Shuichi, and I won't leave you either! Even if someone else takes care of you, and makes you chocolate, and wears the outfits you like, and trains with you, and dances in the rain or whatever other date you want. Please don't leave me alone, stay by my side at least a little! I'm only good for inventions and fucking and you don't want either, but I'll find a new talent. If offering myself isn't enough then—"

Arms wrapped around her torso, he pulled her close. She eeped at the sudden movement and clung for dear life. Not willing to let him escape to somewhere beyond her reach.

"Yeah, it was scary. Every day I woke up, stayed in a miserable ball, and went through the day until you all 'needed' me again. Only time I managed a scrap of worth. Even when I hated it, I remained scared that you'd all leave me if I didn't give myself again."

"I don't know about the others, but I'll never leave you! With or without sex, here or anywhere in the world! I want to be connected forever!" She pressed her lips to his, overwhelmed by the wish to forge an unbreakable bond.

He reciprocated and placed his hand on the back of her head. Iruma's desire rose and she thrust her tongue in his mouth. After exchanging saliva for a few minutes, they separated to catch their breaths. Flushed and panting, she placed her head on his shoulder.

"If you don't want to have sex, I'm not going to force you. Whatever you want, I'll do. But, was the sex itself so bad?" His silent assent to her guesses about getting excited during training told her he had a small sex drive.

"Sex was enjoyable," he admitted, "when I let go."

"Did you enjoy hearing my moans and whimpers?" The question might be seen at dirty talk, but also as a legitimate question. "When I wrapped my legs around you and squeezed, begging you to let me cum? Or did you prefer motorboating my tits and—"

His hard-on lives!

"C-can I keep going or s-should I," she stuttered. Her damned nerves posed another obstacle after their make out session calmed her down. "Is it okay now?"

"Maybe because I connected with your worries the mental block diminished?" He hypothesized while blushing. "I mean, thinking about m-motorboating wasn't enough."

"No thinking why! Don't scare it away, just let go and enjoy! D-o you want me to keep going?"

Ten seconds felt like an eternity. And then he nodded.

She bounced her left leg so it brushed against his erection, eliciting a groan from him. Blood rushed to both his heads, and she cheered inside. At least he didn't push her or order her to stop.

"Can you feel how w—eep!" He derailed her sexy talk by nipping on her ear with more force than normal. "U-unfair to take advantage of my—"

"Have I ever told you I like to see you squirm?" The words were still forced, but far more relaxed than earlier.

"Th-think you are hot shit since you fucked the whole class? I bet I can grant you a night unlike any other!"

"Oh?" He brushed his lips near hers but didn't make contact. Even after making out, the heat of his breath millimeters from a proper kiss flatlined her brain function for a moment. His teasing would be the end of her.

She wrapped her arms around his back and pulled him close to establish an illusion of control. She leaned in and kissed his ear. "Yes, I want you to do everything you want to my body."

"H-huh?" His facade slipped for a moment, showing the Saihara she knew and loved. The one who cried with her. It took a long way around, but she now had an opportunity to put the final stage of her plan into motion. Getting him to be ready for sex was the hard part. She won if he didn't use that complicated brain of his.

"Whatever kink you have, I'll fulfill it. Don't care about mine for an instant. Take your aggression out on me," oh his dick responded to that one, "throw me around, have me slap you, whatever you desire."

"M-Miu, I," he stuttered and gulped. His hand on her back twitched.

"You cuddled with the fake mage, wore cosplay for Plain Jane, and were a perfect gentleman to Bakamatsu. With me, you teased me until I lost my mind and tormented me as you pleased. I thought it was as you pleased at least," she finished, and licked under his ear.

If she surprised him, she couldn't tell. She investigated his sexual habits with a few of the girls to understand his tastes. Too many variations on banging to come up with a conclusion though.

"Sweet of you to tailor your lovemaking to our needs, but what about your needs Shuichi?" She didn't bring up the shared fear of being useless if not matching another's needs. Now was sexy thoughts time.

Her free hand unbuttoned his pants and slid into his boxers. "I'm here for every dark desire you've ever had. Anything you've been ashamed of or wished someone would do to you. Use my body as your personal toy… or I'll do the same if you are as a sub as your wardrobe hints."

He panted when she changed the tightness of her grip. Any restraint he had faded fast, and she saw a hunger growing in his eyes when she pulled back from the hug.She licked her lips and unraveled her top's bow. 

"I'll do it," he ordered, sending a shock through her body. The aggression was back, but now it held sexual energy which made her even hornier than before. Never did he look at her with such… passion and energy.

He ripped her top off and tossed it into a corner of the room. The surprise reveal of her lack of a bra only made him chuckle as he examined her breasts with his fingertips. "Now take mine off."

"Yessir," she moaned and obeyed, stuttering when she saw the scars along his arm. In her haste to entice her lover, she forgot about the evidence of his self-harming tendencies.

"I didn't say stop," he murmured into her ear. "You said I could do whatever sick desires and dark wishes I want, right?"

She was putty in his hands and stroked faster, anything to get him to keep looking at her with those eyes of desire.

"Sure, no matter what I'll take it. Let me accept every inch of you, Shuichi!"

He unhooked her stockings and danced his fingers over her belly, never going far enough south to relieve the itching inside. Teasing and tormenting her until she lost her grip on reality and only knew the bed, his body, and her unquenchable arousal.

"Then prepare yourself!"

 

 

"A-are you okay Miu?"

"M'fine," Iruma slurred, face sinking deeper into the drool-soaked pillow.

With the little energy she had remaining, she rolled her body so her hidden camera got a full view of the results of their banging.

I bet I look like those bitches in all the pornos. The thought made her giggle to herself like an idiot.

Semen dripped from between her legs and down her chin. Her hair, never in control anyway, was every which way from Saihara rubbing his fingers through it, yanking it, and using it as handlebars in the most exhilarating moments. Blood joined the dripping fluids from a few scratch marks on her back.

"But your butt is glowing red and those scratches… I'm sorry."

"S'good pain, don't apolo-apoly-apo, say sorry," she scolded him, brain still basking in the delicious afterglow.

Saihara made good on her request to do whatever he wanted. Throughout their three rounds, he was forceful and almost violent, then sorrowful, and finished by ravishing her every which way.

"Happiness is Shuichi losing all inhibitions," she hummed to herself.

"I think you're verbalizing your thoughts again… I shouldn't have gone that far though," he said and regained his blue aura.

"No! Don't be ashamed of a single moment, it'll make things weird since I enjoyed it! Be glad you have a personal…" she was going to say fuck toy, but he didn't like that word," lover who'll let you be you!" Yeah, that seemed more like something he'd accept.

"I… all right, let's leave it at that." He laughed to himself which only increased her curiosity. "Keep being told that by people."

"Then you should fucking listen!" She yelled and pushed herself into a sitting position, not minding how sticky her groin was. "You're a guy, course you wanna do whatever when presented with a hot piece of ass like me! The world would hate you if you turned down the opportunity to have your way with me!"

He laughed again, and she turned nervous. "D-don't laugh at me, I'm being honest here. I'm hot enough that every Ultimate is jealous of me, no, the universe is jealous of me, r-right?"

In response, he leaned in and kissed her. Nothing like the overwhelming ones where he explored her mouth with his tongue, this one was far more chaste. Yet it also made her melt just the same. "You are extremely hot, don't you worry."

"Hahahaha, I'm the hottest piece of ass here of course!" Confidence restored, she sighed in happiness. "Didn't expect your dark fantasy to still be acting as a dom though. Took you as a sub or into like, weird formal shit."

"… Well, it wasn't my dark fantasy exactly."

FUCK.

"T-then why did you? To appease me? I-I thought you were enjoying it!"

He fiddled with his hair and blushed. "I'm not sure I have a deep dark fantasy. Maybe I did once, but after all these nights, I can't remember. But when you said I was allowed to do anything, I had an instant desire to have sex without focusing on my partner's likes every moment, whatever form it took."

"Then why be so dominating? N-not that I'm complaining!"

"Because I still wanted to do something you liked. I don't want to have sex in a way you don't enjoy." He ran his hand through the air as if to grasp his thoughts. "So I started out aggressive but also wanted to see where I ended up. It's like, because I chose the way I wanted to have sex for myself, even if it was because you also enjoy it, it felt different? I wasn't focused on not screwing up or being needed. I decided to start off aggressive but also, enjoy the moment?"

She didn't get it, but he looked happier. Somehow his brain took having a choice to be its happy spot, rather than the particular king. Not her place to judge. "And so once you started out aggressive you saw my beautiful peach butt and couldn't help spanking it!"

Wrong choice of words. He slumped and looked ashamed. "W-well, I let my feelings dictate my actions. Things were exciting and I enjoyed doing whatever I wanted. But then out of nowhere, I kept having these waves of anger… hate… anguish…at everything and it… since I already acted aggressively it felt right to take it out… God, I'm awful."

"Please make slapping my ass your first instinct when you get agitated then," she requested, as serious as she ever got. "Then you won't get angry at the group and become all mopey later, and we'll have amazing sex until you're better! Dopamine rules, I could get addicted to this shit!"

"Some people do…" Now he's going all mopey again! This wouldn't stand if she had anything to say about it.

She staggered to her feet, almost falling over because of her trembling legs, and stood in front of him in her birthday suit. "Stop thinking and enjoy the moment," she declared with all the world's ego. "As the person who fucked you the most since you stopped being a virgin, I'm expertly equipped to be yours!"

When he started counting on his fingers, she pushed onwards. Better be number one! Who the fuck would beat me? "I'll even build more inventions to spice up the bedroom if you get into more kinky stuff!" Would she even survive? Today alone almost killed her with pleasure. Or would he switch to a different role next time if she encouraged him to explore other possibilities?

"If everything doesn't reset the moment you leave…"

"Then we'll leave this room together," she yelled and pointed her finger at his chest. "We'll walk outside and bask in the sun and go to the dining hall and make the rest jealous and then I'll lick some weiners and popsicles and it'll be hilarious, yet sexy!"

"I agreed with maybe half that sentence," he laughed in the way he used to while shaking his head. "I'd hope there is a step where we get dressed?"

"If you didn't rip my shirt when you tore it off. Might keep going commando though, it's exciting!"

He picked up their thrown clothes, how did his pants end up on the lamp, and wiped off his sweat. "Might need a shower too. Don't want to meet anyone smelling like this."

In her opinion, the smell of their shared musk emanating from her body was a pro, not a con, but she agreed. A grin appeared on her face, and she ran into the bathroom like the wind. She turned on the shower and shivered as the hot water rolled down her scratches and sensitive skin.

"Miu?"

When she heard him turn the corner, she squatted so her butt cheeks, now equipped with his handprint shook. "Want to share it?"

A moment of silence passed between them as she continued to swing her butt back and forth.

And then she gasped as a force pressed her against the shower wall. A long, hard, hot length pressing into her lower back told her all she needed to know.

"Ready for round four?"

 


 

Thank you, Miu.

Saihara shook his head at his lover's ridiculous boasting as they dressed, only half-listening.

He expected no one to realize he still had sexual desires. It came in spurts out of nowhere, but it overwhelmed him when it did. The urge to hold someone close, feel their breath in his ears, and rub skin on skin remained. After being such a whore, returning to normalcy seemed like a pipe dream. He planned to kill the urges and tell no one.

But she understood and accepted him. Accepted the wretchedness inside and let him be real. Did she understand how much he appreciated when she admitted her fears of abandonment? How it shook him inside to hear the words he repeated in his head until he lost all reason spoken by another? The freedom to choose, and the pleasure and light pain from sex, pushed away a piece of the shadows in his heart.

Shame still lived within from losing control. But Ryoma, Tenko, Miu, and, in a way, even Angie told him to no longer be ashamed. The regret churned within, but smaller and more compact.

It wasn't nighttime when she entered his room. She invited herself. They spoke of their fears. He chose the role of his own desires. And now they'd walk out together.

The script that wrapped around him like a noose shifted a little. A new conclusion awaited him, he hoped.

I can't mope in here forever. Not when everyone is as scared as I am.

Too many words to say to convey the gratitude he had for his classmates. From Ryoma saving him on the day, he contemplated ending it all to Tenko's attempts to wash away his guilt. Even if he grew furious with Kaito and Kokichi, they were trying their own methods to protect him. Angie also spoke to the love he held and rejected in equal parts. Accepting her words was too much now, but he took a step closer.

"Shuichi, are you listening?"

He stopped and shook his head. Before she complained or freaked out, he pulled her close and planted a kiss on her lips. I pray you understand how you helped.

 


 

"Hey to all the fucks!" Iruma screamed upon entering the dining hall.

A collective groan greeted her words which made Kiibo sigh. Iruma wasn't as bad as portrayed by the class, but she would manage better if not for her stupid comments. Unfortunately, turning off the dumb or perverted comments reduced her conversation by three-quarters, so he wasn't sure how to advise her. If they understood her passion towards technology, the drive to improve life for millions, or even her sorta-concealed emotional issues she would have a better time.

At the moment though, she seemed content with the derision thrown her way. In fact, he couldn't remember the last time she looked so gleeful. Her skin was shining, her grin stretched from ear to ear, and he almost perceived a golden glow around her head. Is an invention shining a light around her?

"Goddamnit you slut, what did we talk about earlier?" Ouma yelled, but Kiibo didn't know regarding what.

"I thought a visible afterglow only belonged in anime," Shirogane commented, still not giving an understandable explanation.

"Hahahaha, I'm so perfect I'm almost fictional, you heard it here!" Iruma cackled and smacked the wall in hysterics.

"Is Shuichi all right? If you hurt him I swear I will make you regret it." Akamatsu yelled, already at boiling point. "He is too fragile to mess around!"

"Calm your tits, Bakamatsu. He even thanked me for giving him some loving. And it was genuine and everything." Iruma's comment calmed Akamatsu down by a notch, but the Ultimate Pianist remained stressed.

"Please quiet down, Iruma-san," Tojo requested with a long sigh. "Do you need to rub it in when you have a good time, despite our requests for no one to sleep with Saihara? You took a dangerous gamble."

"Heh, well if it means all the boys need to do their own rubbing, sounds perfect." From laughing, she switched straight to being pissed and jerked her hand into a thumbs down. "But shut up with all the complaints, I got a special guest with me today bitches."

"Miu, stop antagonizing the class."

Glasses clattered and heads whipped around at the voice they all knew intimately. Kiibo's processors spun to top speed as he realized where the conversation was going.

Saihara stepped in from the hallway while pulling his hat down. He scanned the room and took a deep breath.

"Shuichi!" Saihara-kun!" "Beloved!" Different voices rang out from around the room all with their own form of address. Saihara's eye twitched at the attention but stayed stable.

Iruma interrupted the group by standing in front of Saihara with a lewd expression. "Now, now, his real name right now is Sexhara don't you know! Oh wait, only I get to call him that now, sucks don't it!"

Before the agitation rose another notch, Saihara glared at Iruma and spanked the Ultimate Inventor.

Kiibo's jaw dropped in shock and he wasn't the only one. Even Harukawa and Tojo seemed stunned by the uncharacteristic action from the passive detective.

Iruma turned scarlet and stuttered with drool dripping down her face in response to Saihara's punishment. Following his request, she staggered to the table and crashed into a chair.

"I…" Saihara looked around the room and clenched his fist. Beet red and unsure of what to say, he sat down next to Iruma without prompting.

"Saihara-kun, I'm glad you are out of your room, I—" Amami stopped when Saihara raised a hand to silence him.

He covered his mouth and looked from Amami to Akamatsu to Ouma. After taking another deep breath, he switched his attention to Momota, Harukawa, and Shirogane. The others were off doing their own things. Nobody expected to see Saihara outside of his own volition.

"Miu offered some of her… time… to help me feel better. It worked, but I don't know for how long. So as long as the pain stays at bay, can I pretend things are normal? That these past few awful months were a terrible dream I woke up from?" The desperation in his voice made Kiibo hold back tears. Saihara was still hurting, but he met them anyway.

"If that's the case…" Momota stood next to Saihara placed a hand on his shoulder, "ready for tonight's training, bro?" The sheer volume of Momota's shout made Saihara wince. It didn't take a state-of-the-art processor to understand that the Astronaut was trying too hard to act casual.

But it was what Saihara asked for. "Sure thing, Kaito," he said with a big smile, "you better count your pushups this time though. Maki will make you do double if you slack again."

Harukawa's eyes widened at being included so naturally, but she smiled. Since Monokuma revealed the Repress Light, her smiles became almost mythical. Must be a giant weight off her mind.

Saihara spoke to each of his classmates and they tried to act like in the past. For Kiibo, he offered a chance to discuss jobs for when they left school. Their discussion about robot idols occurred months ago, but he accepted the olive branch with a smile. Trust Saihara to remember all the details of their lives.

Then Iruma dropped her other bombshell, "Oh yeah, I told him about the camera and monitor after we fucked."

Harukawa's smile vanished and her ponytails whipped around by the sheer force of her hostility. Kiibo agreed with the sentiment as he tried not to snap at Miu. He didn't spend days with an inoperable arm for her to reveal the secret on her own. The fact he contributed to protecting Saihara was reward enough, any action he took to improve their lives erased guilt over his decision to avoid using his capabilities earlier, but still.

"I'm glad she did," Saihara admitted before a riot broke out. "And I understand why you did so, and why Ryoma and Tenko didn't inform me. I was beyond reasoning with and a danger to myself. Natural to want to verify my safety."

"Shuichi…" Akamatsu whispered.

"Just, can you please stop keeping secrets from me? I apologize if they make me angrier, but finding out the hard way infuriates me. Even if it's reasonable, it… it," his fist clenched until his knuckles turned white, "makes me paranoid and I go somewhere dark inside. So, if anyone has other secrets, will you let me know?"

Kiibo had one that might count, but Iruma requested he kept it hidden until he finished her task. Since it's about the school and not Saihara, I should be okay to hold it inside, right?

As had become common though, he received no answer from his inner voice. Whatever its view was on the secret plan, it left him in the dark.

"… If it's private, you can tell me later," Saihara finished and pulled down his hat to avoid his blush. Despite everything, being the center of attention in a silent room still embarrassed him. Kiibo found it adorable. "So, what's for dinner? I'm starving."

"After our free-time activities, I bet you are!"

With Iruma embarrassing Saihara and making a few individuals jealous, they had a calm meal together.

Once I finish these tasks, let's have many more beyond this. Kiibo intended to do all he could to make a pleasant thought a reality.

 


 

The Case of Amami Rantaro

Saihara's room only had a door to close the distance between the bedroom and the rest of the dormitory.

Gonta would tear apart something so small and fragile if they needed him to. It wasn't much of an obstacle considering Ouma's ability with lockpicks either.

So why then did it feel like an impenetrable barrier for Amami?

"I need to do this. It's gone on far too long without resolution or discussion," Amami muttered to himself. Standing in front of the doorway, he tried to psyche himself up and knock.

How difficult it is to raise a hand and hit a door. I should praise Ryoma-kun and Chabashira-san for even reaching out, let alone persuading him to step out.

The all-encompassing guilt burned in his stomach. Despite the conversations where Saihara convinced him he wasn't the Ultimate Useless Big Brother, now he felt like his new title should be Ultimate Useless Lover.

So many lies and omissions from the Repress Light, to the rotation of watchmen, to the room monitor. Amami tried to bring a remnant of order to the chaotic class without Akamatsu's leadership. What did he accomplish though besides infuriate Saihara and lead to an almost deadly breakdown? He couldn't even resolve himself to talk about their relationship, instead, he brushed it off and acted like a "Big Brother" the few times they spoke.

It was unfair to their relationship and cruel to Saihara as a person.

He sucked in a deep breath. If there was any time to improve his habits and step forward as a person, the opportunity was now. Saihara's words echoed in his mind for over twenty-four hours. "So, if anyone has other secrets, will you let me know?"

He had those in spades and avoided involving Saihara even when they grew close. Pushing him away even when he desired to talk.

When Saihara sat in the dining hall, he wanted to reveal his secrets and open Pandora's Box. But there was the possibility he would ruin that night's training session for Harukawa and Momota. After the bad vibes between the three, they needed a night of peace without other complications.

If he didn't speak now, the revelation might shatter the Ultimate Detective later. He needed to reveal the dangerous truth… and maybe gain some more guidance.

He knocked on the door and waited for the response.

"Yes?" Saihara answered after a few minutes. "Ah, Amami-kun, how are you?"

The various activities with the other Ultimates must have been improving Saihara's emotional state. Compared to the scorn, fear, and disgust he displayed during the week, a simple greeting was a massive improvement.

Amami still sensed a distance between them. Saihara's unnatural smile and clipped words showed discomfort in Amami's presence. Understandable to hate a ringleader.

"Been better," he admitted with a casual shrug. "I wanted to discuss a few topics if you are available."

Saihara didn't decline, but he didn't accept either. They stared into each other's eyes as Amami silently pleaded to be friends again.

"… I'm sorry, Monodam is visiting right now. Let's take a rain check?"

Translation: I don't want to tell you to go away, but I also don't want to talk.

There was a possibility his nerve would fail if he needed to wait longer though. It was low, but informing Saihara of the truth was too important to risk. Calming himself, he placed his thumb on his chin and turned to the side. "What if I told you… I have secrets to reveal?"

Saihara's eyes flashed at the hint of something hidden to unpack. Last time Amami saw that expression, he conceded and told Saihara all about his lost sister. Saihara's empathetic inquisitiveness demanded satisfaction, and every Ultimate had a story of how he pressed to learn more. For many, it was that process of the truth being revealed that brought them closer.

He prayed the opposite wouldn't occur today.

Saihara placed his hand over his mouth and hummed to himself in thought. It was a newer habit, one he picked up from Akamatsu. I wonder if he gained any habits from me? The idea was so trivial in the face of his big reveal, but love acted illogically. Like Iruma stated in private, everyone wanted a trait they could claim ownership of. After more humming, Saihara answered, "All right, what is the secret?"

"I'd rather not talk in the hallway," Amami responded with a gentle smile and a raised hand. "Closed door subject, privacy might be best."

"Your room then."

"My room?" he asked to confirm Saihara's statement. They hadn't entered his room for a long time. If Saihara hadn't offered though, he would have. The second Monopad resided under some boxes in his room. Bringing it outside was too risky after being caught once before. "Works for me, but is it prying to wonder why the change?"

"My," Saihara blushed and tried to pull down his hat, forgetting he wasn't wearing one, "room has an odor issue."

Still smells like sex then, Amami thought. He wondered how many times Iruma and Saihara had sex if the smell persisted and Iruma still staggered around a whole day later. Not the problem here, focus on Saihara's health, not his lips and beautiful body. And I made it worse, typical.

"My room works fine, though you might have a different odor issue," he said to disperse the awkwardness with a joke. Pots with plants from around the world, all collected during his travels, lined his shelves. The smell soothed him when his overanalyzing went too far.

"I think we'll be fine." Saihara informed Monodam they would leave the room and then stepped outside. Amami held back the urge to grab Saihara's hand and smiled instead. He didn't deserve small pleasures now, perhaps only if Saihara forgave him later.

"So… hot and heavy with Iruma-san, huh?" Amami started the conversation with friendly banter.

Sitting on the edge of Amami's bed, Saihara blushed and fidgeted with his hair. "I guess, she offered herself and wanted to make my 'fantasies' come true. Revealed her insecurities too. I didn't intend to, but in the heat of the moment things escalated."

Amami maintained his own hollow smile and chuckled at the comment. He never thought of asking Saihara about his fantasies, so laser-focused on Saihara's pleasure alone in the positions he chose. He hated to admit it, but it was another way his classmates passed him. Falling behind Iruma was a personal insult though. He didn't expect her to have a rational thought for social skills.

"I didn't expect you to spank her though, you might be an adult but public displays of affection like that might be better left private," he advised.

Saihara's blush deepened and he sank down, "She told me to spank her whenever the anger grew difficult to control. Use her as an outlet instead to avoid shouting."

"Did it work?"

"It made me feel ashamed, embarrassed, and full of regrets that I even considered her idea," Saihara admitted.

"I'm not surprised, didn't think it matched your personality to sexually harass her in public." Amami sighed with relief at the new revelation. Saihara's kinks weren't as drastic as he first feared. "Better to find creative outlets to stabilize when in this school."

"… You're doing it again, Amami-kun."

"Eh?"

Saihara looked down at his hand with a sorrowful sigh. "You're pushing me away, acting like a 'big brother' who needs to give advice. Like you pretend we weren't closer than that."

He sees right through to my personal concerns. The deep understanding made him happy and depressed in equal parts. It wasn't mutual, and his mistakes proved he didn't take Saihara's desires into account enough.

"You got me there, I'm just stalling. You aren't here to discuss your sex like with Iruma-san." He walked over to a group of boxes and pulled out a Monopad hidden within. "What you want to know is in here."

"Your Monopad?" Saihara narrowed his eyes before accepting the thin device. "We all have Monopads, what's special about yours?"

"Because this is my student Monopad," Amami responded and pulled his Monopad from his pocket.

"Huh!?" Saihara eyes widened and his grip on the Monopad slipped. In a panic, he grabbed the fallen piece of technology and glanced between the two. "Since when did you have two Monopads, Amami-kun?"

"From the moment I woke up in this school."

Silence descended upon the room. Saihara's mouth remained open mid-question, eyes darting around the entire room. His synapses must have been firing at full speed as he contemplated the new piece of the puzzle presented.

"Before you think about it too much, I think you should look at the contents of the Monopad. And I have one other piece of information to give you. I remembered my Ultimate Talent a few months ago, but didn't share it with anyone."

"You finally remembered it? Is it like Ultimate Traveler or is it…" he trailed off as he examined Amami's tired frown. There wasn't even the impetus to fake a smile anymore. Amami gave up trying to pretend with the dark news. "It's connected to all these secrets isn't it?"

Brilliant Saihara figured it out in seconds. The Ultimate Detective lived up to his title once again by following the evidence presented. "Check the Monopad first, then we'll talk."

With gritted teeth, Saihara turned on the Monopad, bracing himself for the reveal.

"Survivor Perk. Is this a map of the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles?" Saihara said in shock as he switched to the display of the entire school. "It even has the rooms that Monokuma unlocked when we proved we would not start the killing game and avoided each motive. Was it filled out from the start? And… hang on… isn't this the room hidden in the library?"

Amami couldn't help the pride growing inside him as Saihara tore through every implication of the survivor perk. Within moments, he saw through the reason Amami tried to enter the hidden room during the first motive.

The lie he spun months ago was a flimsy one. After being confronted by the class because of Akamatsu and Saihara's trap, he lied and blamed a similar situation being used in an escape room. Since the stories of his travels involved many crazy scenarios, the lie worked for most. When the motive failed, suspicion increased over his involvement, before cooled as more motives came out disconnected from him. The lie became a reality in the school for all but two specific individuals.

"Hm? What's this…?" Saihara tapped the message icon at the bottom of the Monopad. Here comes the reveal and the shouting.

"A clue to end the killing game!?" Saihara shouted. He read the full message aloud to memorize the exact wording. "The mastermind who is behind the killing game is hiding somewhere within the academy. Your best chance of exposing them is when Monokuma needs a spare. At that time, the mastermind will go to the library's hidden room. To prove this hint is accurate, I will predict something. The first thing you will remember is the Ultimate Hunt. Only share this information with people you know you can trust. How you determine that will mean your life or your death. ……Amami Rantaro!?"

"That message was the first thing I learned about this school before I even knew what a Monokuma was. I didn't believe it at first, but the map proved accurate and I decided to trust it."

"So you were serious when you declared you'd end the Killing Game," Saihara concluded. "You knew the mastermind's plan and wanted to confront them."

"Didn't work, unfortunately. You and Akamatsu-san entered the room when your signal triggered. Monokuma canceled the motive with some excuse about still following the letter of the law of motives and we survived. But the game continued and Monokuma never needed spares again. Without a reason to battle one of his bodies and risk punishment, we hit our stalemate."

"How many…?" Saihara asked, hands shaking as he turned off the Survivor Perk.

"How many what?"

"How many people know about the Survivor Perk. Why do you have it, and what did you learn in your Ultimate Lab?"

Amami sat back in shock at the sudden interrogation. With a single clue, Saihara predicted the other withheld information and where he found it. If only I lived up to my Ultimate trait half as much.

Despite his shock, he explained the moments following being caught in the library so long ago. "Ouma-kun pickpocketed the motive from my pants when he offered to 'strip search' me. I think he assumed it held the card key to enter the mastermind's room. Gonta-kun also knows I own a second Monopad since he was in the AV room when I was searched. Ouma-kun pulled it out of his pocket to inform me where it vanished to. Gonta-kun never saw the contents though Ouma lied to distract him. Shinguji-kun may also have suspicions from standing guard during the second search. His power of observation can't be underestimated, and I think the lies failed. I never confirmed this though."

"Ouma-kun stole it before we even agreed to search you for the card key? That's why it wasn't found during the first search!"

After falling for Akamatsu and Saihara's trap, the boys split into two groups by drawing lots. The first group searched Amami together and found nothing of value. Then the second group of Ouma, Gonta, and Shinguji checked both Amami and the first group to prevent any collusion. The plan seemed foolproof, but no one checked the second group. Since Ouma already took the Monopad beforehand, he and Amami eluded detection.

Saihara rubbed his temples and flopped back onto Amami's bed with a groan. "Why must his talent involve hiding things? Imagine the progress we'd get if he put that kind of effort into something productive."

"But it was productive," Amami protested, but Saihara waved a hand and explained he didn't mean it that way. The revelations were difficult to take in. They aren't getting better soon. "Because he inadvertently protected me in his attempt to gain leverage, I gained enough freedom to investigate my Ultimate Lab. And discover what my talent is."

Saihara sat back on the bed and nodded at him to continue.

"I'm called an Ultimate Survivor… because I already survived one Killing Game."

"This isn't your first Killing Game!?" Saihara jumped to his feet, all pretense of calm washed away. Thankfully the dorm rooms were soundproof, with an exception for Iruma's hidden cameras.

Now it was time to gamble on Monokuma showing leniency and following the rules. The motive video said to not share it with anyone, but he wasn't sharing the video. Only the information contained within, and even then not every line. There wasn't a punishment listed for revealing the secrets, so he chose to consider it as advice from his past self, not an ironclad instruction. Since Ouma unlocked Amami's lab, opened the puzzle lock, and watched the video weeks ago, he felt safe in taking the risk. There had always been the possibility of Ouma spreading the second Survivor Perk at any opportunity.

"According to a video I found, no it isn't. Before you ask, I can't show it to you. It may still be in my laboratory, but there is a high chance Monokuma will break the laptop as soon as you approach. Maybe did so the moment I invited you into my room to discuss secrets. I was warned not to show anyone."

"… The video," Saihara hesitated and placed a finger on his chin. He stayed in that position for a few minutes, making Amami uncomfortable in the awkward silence. What conclusion would the detective come to? "Was the person recorded on the video, you? Just like how the Survivor Perk's message is signed with your name?"

They'd escape this school. Amami was now sure that revealing his secrets to Saihara was the correct decision. If he had chosen the dangerous route earlier, perhaps they'd already have found a way around Monokuma's schemes. He was too intelligent to be left ignorant of the hidden motive.

"Yes, in the video I sat in a chair and introduced myself… to me. I explained that my title was the Ultimate Survivor and this was my second Killing Game. I also brought up the original Survivor Perk and how I expected to use it to end the game early."

"And you don't remember recording that conversation? So Monokuma used the Repress Light on you before you entered the school. Then set up the Survivor Perk and this other video to find when your lab became available. If the school opened more after each motive failed, maybe we were only supposed to find it when a few people were already dead?"

"Beautiful, I didn't need to explain anything and you cracked the code already," Amami praised. The remaining details were better left alone. The red buzzer and the focus on the game only ending when two people survived seemed important, but irrelevant to their current situation. Bringing them up risked bringing Monokuma's wrath down upon them even faster. He didn't know why he thought that, but his instincts screamed to leave the subject alone.

"Then you never had a chance to end the game in the first place."

"Huh? What do you mean by that?" Amami narrowed his eyebrows and spread his arms to his sides.

In comparison, Saihara was the picture of calm. After noticing Amami's agitation, he raised his hand as if to physically present his conclusion. "It's just, if Monokuma allowed to you to write this note why would he put himself in a position where you could end the game early? It stands to reason he wouldn't give you an opportunity to breach the mastermind's room."

"I imagined the same possibility, but never came to a conclusion why the perk existed then if not to spice up the game by risking an early completion. If I followed the advice and the door never opened, then what was the purpose?"

Saihara gasped and clutched his chest. Fear passed through Amami and he grabbed the detective by the shoulders. "Hey, are you having another episode? Do you need to sit down? Talk to me, Shuichi!"

Regardless of his pleas, Saihara remained unresponsive. His mouth formed silent words and his eyelids twitched from how hard they squeezed together.

"Damn it, I need to get Tojo-san and—"

"To kill you," Saihara forced out.

Once again, Amami was thrown for a loop. The surprises ping-ponged between the two and he hated being on the unstable footing. "Huh?"

"I didn't intend on revealing the secrets I've learned, but this is important," Saihara forced out. His breathing sped up, but he pressed on. "Kaede confided in me she intended to use the flash on the cameras in the library to bring the culprit to the camera. A shot put ball was supposed to roll down from the vent in the classroom, roll down a book ramp, and crush the skull of the mastermind. Somehow I managed to shake her confidence in the plan, and she abandoned it before running downstairs. Monokuma must have somehow known she would plan something like that. Understood her mentality enough to make sure you used the Survivor's Perk to be in the right place at the right time. That wasn't a perk, it was a motive to kill you!"

Amami's breathing hitched at the intensity Saihara displayed. With Saihara's finger pointed towards the Monopad, Amami imagined a bullet firing through the tablet for an instant.

"Then… my attempt to end the game was flawed from the beginning. I was eating out of Monokuma's palm before the game started. Only luck saved me."

Saihara clenched his fists. "It's worse than that, we only barely avoided multiple murders! If Kaede killed you, we would have lost our leader. Assuming we survived the subsequent trial, Tojo-san might have followed through with her plan to kill someone during the Kubs Pads motive. She admitted that the urge was so strong, only Kaede's determination that we would escape together and the extra time I spent with her kept her in check. Then who knows what might have happened with the money or secrets motives with four fewer classmates."

They escaped a checkmate scenario by a whim and a miracle. Amami didn't want to regret every choice in his life, but the revelations pummeled his self-esteem to ruins. "All I did was make things worse, some Ultimate Big Brother in training I am."

"Amami-kun, no, Rantaro…"

The bitter laughter unnerved himself. "Might as well keep with Amami-kun. Not like I've done anything of value for the class, you, or whoever I needed to overtake in the previous Killing Game. I'm screwed up from head to foot, lacking memories is the least of my worries."

"Then you need to fix your main flaw." Saihara leaned against Amami and intertwined their fingers. Unlike during his breakdowns, no, unlike during any moment since he attempted suicide, Saihara's voice exuded calm. More like when they first fell in love, before Monokuma's world split them apart.

"Hey, I was intending on comforting you, not the other way around."

"And that's your flaw, Rantaro," Saihara said and gripped tighter. "You take all the responsibility on yourself and try to act alone. With the Survivor Perk, finding your sisters, ending the game, and taking care of me, you fight alone. Only when you lack an option, do you entrust your fears to others."

"…"

"You aren't alone in this either, Kaede also tried to solve everything. Neither of you trusted us enough to fight together. I understand though, this game encourages distrust and conflict. You must have been scared holding onto a perk which put a target on your chest. Not knowing who to rely on or stand with."

He had him pegged. What was there to do besides accept the criticism? "Yeah, those first days without memories or purpose, holding onto a lead that raised more questions than it answered, sucked. When I told you, I might have a talent like Ultimate Serial Killer, I wasn't joking. The possibility terrified me that I had done something awful to earn the Monopad, the name being Survivor Perk just made it worse. The video confirmed my worst fears, that I escaped one fate at the cost of others, and then stepped into a new match. But while Ouma-kun calls me an ally, we never trusted each other."

"Sorry I wasn't able to be trustworthy enough," Saihara slumped down and focused on the ground again.

That wasn't what he meant! "I wanted to tell you about everything, I even intended on doing so. After we slept together, I was going to tell you the next day. Someone I trusted enough to love, to hold on to, I didn't want to leave in the dark."

"And then Monokuma appeared."

"I hate that bear more than anything in the universe."

"Funny, I think the same."

They chuckled at the macabre humor of their existence in the walls of the Ultimate Academy. What were they when faced off against a system designed to build misery and despair?

"… I need to think about all these secrets a bit longer," Saihara admitted with a sigh. "Now that I'm learning more, Monokuma's influence is greater than I expected. Multiple killing games? Predictions of your movements to devise a worthless murder? I'm not sure what to make of it all." He placed his finger on his chin again. "Maybe that's why Monokuma also used the Repress Light so much, if I got even closer without the wipes, I might become a hub for everyone's secrets. Kaede also intended on telling me but was stopped by the lights. It'd be more difficult to manipulate the class if I knew Ouma's, Kaede's, or your stories."

He came to the same conclusion after learning about Akamatsu's plans. His reason to use the Blackout Light was to stop Monokuma's manipulations, but it would have prevented these discussions. "… You are right, Saihara-kun. I tried to fight a battle on my own when I should have worked with others. I wanted to protect you by running off on my own so you didn't get hurt by me… and almost caused another tragedy twice now." He clasped Saihara's hands to his own chest and felt their warmth against his heart. "I'll talk more, to you and everyone. Even if one of them is the mastermind behind Monokuma, I'll manage more by working as a group than trying to go at it solo. Ouma's been complaining about it too."

"Ouma, no I need to stop with the last names. Kokichi knows a lot about your situation, right?"

"I think he has gathered more clues than any of us. For sure, he works with Iruma-san on a few projects. I think you need to talk to him, Saihara-kun." He hated sending his lover away, but the game was more dangerous than he realized. No doubt Monokuma and the mastermind were preparing a new motive now that no one killed to get a Blackout Light. "He won't admit it, but you crushed him with your avoidance. He didn't leave the dining hall until the nighttime announcement for days on end. I think he blames this mess on himself."

Saihara nodded and rubbed his eyes. "Who doesn't at this point? That's been my background noise for months. I can't imagine you are doing better. Kaede burst into tears when I accepted her apology."

Placing his hand on the back of his head with a chuckle Amami countered, "I might do the same."

"I forgive you though?"

"I can't accept that, not yet."

"Why?"

"After you learn what Ouma discovered, come back and tell me if you still forgive me. My conscience hurts too much to put all these failures aside."

Saihara looked reluctant, but accepted after more prodding. "… Fine, but it won't be today. Too much to consider right now. My brain wants to explode and is screaming about twenty topics. It's taking everything I have to not snap." Now that he mentioned it, Amami realized that Saihara's behavior was unusual. It wasn't just that he was proving supportive, he also lacked the drive to do anything else. The calm before the storm.

"Then rest up Saihara-kun. You'll need it to deal with Ouma-kun later."

"Once I figure out where to confront him."

"Oh, that's easy," Amami responded. "His lab's entrance is hidden in the entrance hall. Show him what a detective does when he catches a culprit!"

Chapter Text

Lightning sparked through a mental storm filled with theories, questions, and concerns. Despite the intensity, Saihara bore the weight of his own chaotic mental state with all his effort. Again, and again he ran through his conversation with Amami. Reexamined every theory and reveal they came to a consensus on.

Nothing ever remained simple in the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles. Bad enough to be within the awful death game which weighed on every student constantly, now he needed to consider the possibility of more than one death game. Part of him wanted to give up and return to his room. Go back to the shadows of his mind and sink down into the depths of his soul where no one would ever reach him again. The energy he held when with Amami dissolved the moment he was alone again. In its place, the pain and anger at his classmates started to seep in again.

This time though… I won't allow regrets to overwhelm me.

Mistakes surrounded him from the decisions he made before and after his breakdown. Monokuma's influence ran deep and the state of the school remained in his vicious paws, but Saihara still made choices which could have revealed this darkness earlier. Those were the results from his long self-examination of his worth.

But he also recognized that he was a biased judge of his own actions. Depression and trauma wormed its way through his mind and tainted his world view. The time came to acknowledge he might be wrong about his failures and mistakes. Being an Ultimate didn't mean he had the capacity to solve every problem in the world or even the ones among his closest friends.

Embracing that ambiguity, the all-encompassing doubt on his own judgment, left him without the "stability" received from evaluating every action as a failure. He was a detective; trying to find the truth, separate black from white, and come up with a solitary answer remained his nature.

Replacing the malicious stability though made smiling a tiny bit easier.

Saihara sucked in a deep breath until the air pressure hurt his chest before stepping through the front door of the school. Gratitude towards his friends — lovers — poured in with the excess oxygen. I need to thank Hoshi and Tenko again for letting me vent. Miu for seeking her own methods to relax me. Rantaro for trusting in our bonds and revealing his secrets.

He shook his head and rearranged and expanded the stray thoughts. Every person in the school stood by him through his breakdowns and depression. Everyone reached out to him in their unique way with affection, devotion, and love. Nobody wanted him to suffer or wished him ill.

Despite every insult he threw at them, they still returned. Appeared at his door so many times he grew sick of it during his worst moments. Back then, he hated their persistence and only considered pushing them aside to make them suffer or to stab himself deeper for his sins. Only two options appeared in his mind during those moments: you are the mistake, or they are cruel.

In this moment of clarity by embracing doubt, he'd push forward to a different option which moved beyond the binary. Everyone is hurting and nobody is to blame. We all tried our best in the face of insurmountable odds.

Would this focus last for even a full day?  How long until his negative emotions clawed through his optimism to tear him asunder again? Without an answer, he took advantage of the opportunity Amami opened for him. His fingers found the moveable section of the floor and opened the hidden passageway.

A faint smile ghosted across his face as he climbed down into the hidden tunnel. Even Saihara appreciated the fitting irony of relying on doubt and ambiguity to go talk to Ouma.

Maybe this was the best opportunity to comprehend the liar and his many masks.

 


 

Ouma Kokichi Cam

Ouma clicked his tongue and remained alert as he stared at the doors to his Ultimate Lab.

Every time he stepped out from his underground shelter, he placed a slip of paper into the space between the two doors. Camouflaged by the door's coloration, only someone aware of his habits would recognize the small detail. It was a rudimentary trap to prevent him from being ambushed or have his lab pilfered without his knowledge. If someone opened the door, they would disturb the trap and leave evidence of their highly illegal entry.

That very same piece of paper was sitting on the ground next to the door. Who would enter without informing me?

To his knowledge the only person aware of his lab, besides the wretched Monokuma and his pathetic cubs, was Amami. The amnesiac Ultimate Survivor promised to never enter without Ouma's express permission and had obeyed until now. With Ouma's plans moving forward day by day, his suspicion cranked up a notch. ~~Did Amami-chan trick me, or did someone else discover the trap door? Better not be Harukawa-chan.~~

With the stakes so high, he couldn't spare any patience for the murderer. Also, if he pissed her off too much, she might strangle him to death somewhere without an audience to calm her down. Death by strangulation needed to wait!

If the culprit was Yumeno though his temper would change to amusement. Would be just right for a magician to notice a door in the floor. He'd tease her about her magic spells for the next week at least.

With the best and worst case established he opened the door. Can't find out what he's up against sitting around being useless!

From his head to his toes, his whole body flinched when he looked inside. A familiar black plus more black blob sat on his throne with a book in hand. He cursed his previous analysis of the situation. He didn't prepare for the best and worst option. The person he desperately wanted to catch a glimpse of who also represented his biggest challenge.

Saihara looked up from the large book and stared straight at Ouma with a blank expression.

"Afternoon Kokichi."

"Saihara-chan joined my organization finally? Or has the detective decided to capture the perpetrator wanted around the world once and for all?"

Why must I be like this?

 

Saihara's face twitched into either a smirk or scowl, Ouma was too far away to verify, before returning to the blank look. A better response than Ouma deserved considering his personality and the last time they talked. Just thinking about the anger Saihara displayed when he tried to pickpocket the dorm room brought pain to his healed nose. Internally he heaved a sigh of relief when Saihara didn't walk out due to the jokes. Shuichi is so delicate now if I push too hard, he might snap in my hands.

Ouma didn't know how to be comfortable around delicate people. The possibility of hurting them was too high unless you focused and controlled every thought and action. While analyzing every word in a conversation was a standard affair for the Ultimate Supreme Leader, repressing the impulse to tease others was difficult.

In the past, Saihara accepted his instinctual jokes and riddles with a steady interest and occasionally a retort with his own wit.

Now the distance between them triggered an erratic heartbeat and sweating underneath his modified straitjacket.

"I wanted to see you," Saihara answered without revealing his emotions.

Ouma suppressed a squeak of excitement and fear. Saihara's depression made it impossible to pick apart the intentions behind the powerful sentence. For what purpose did he want to meet? To express his anger and dissatisfaction or, he didn't dare hope for the possibility, because of the bond they once shared.

"So, this is a romantic ambush then!  Don't you know the villain is supposed to be the active one? Detectives must be reactive and wait for the criminal to cause chaos before appearing too late. I haven't even started my master plan… unless I have, and you don't know." He snickered at Saihara and screamed inside. Why was the playfulness getting worse when he wanted to focus?

Intentionally or unintentionally, Saihara saved him from the mental chaos. "You are almost correct since I'm here to learn about your master plan. I intruded on your lab after having a talk with the Ultimate Survivor."

Ouma's eyes widened and he raised a finger to his lips to disguise his stream of thoughts by appearing mysterious. "So Amami-chan decided to spill the beans, did he? Had a nice heart to heart about my criminal accomplice when he took a plea deal?"

Saihara didn't answer with words or complaints. The book in his hand closed, and he exited the floating chair. Without another word, he walked across the room until he loomed over Ouma. Even though several students dwarfed Shuichi, he still stood almost a full head length above Ouma. Shuichi's habit of looking at the ground and pulling his body inwards didn't make it as obvious most days. Ouma's habit of standing further away so taller people didn't need to tilt their head down to look into his eyes also diminished the height difference.

Now Shuichi took full advantage of their respective heights to down on Ouma. Now Ouma was sure he recognized the difficult emotions in Saihara's face. The tensed muscles around the eyes and throat from trying to keep his face blank. Saihara was fighting against something and attempting to hide it.

"Kokichi."

His actual name again. Shuichi is willing to call me Kokichi again! His smile widened without his consent. A few days ago, he admitted to Amami he would have done almost anything to hear the word from Saihara's lips again. Just the recognition of a fragment of what they once shared made him willing to do whatever he requested.

"I want to hear from the real you."

Never mind, his first name wasn't worth this.

"I'm tired, Kokichi. Exhausted from all the pain, loss and frustration. I understand you enjoy your jokes and perhaps you hide behind them to push the conversation in the direction you want. I tried to be respectful of this before. …But, right now, I need truth and seriousness. The secrets of the school are too important to play around with. And I," Saihara paused and clenched his fist. "I want to know where we stand. Where the lies begin and end, starting from when we slept together. Somewhere within all our conversations and interactions, there is a truth… please stop hiding it."

Ouma's tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry as a desert. Shuichi is trying to overcome his pain. Despite all my failings, is he willing to give me another chance to fix things? Even when I broke his heart so many times and triggered all his subsequent pain? Whatever others assumed, Ouma accepted his own failings and mistakes in his life even if he pretended not to. His was not one that deserved to be fixed.

Ouma tapped a finger to his cheek and tilted his head to avoid revealing his emotional turmoil. "Can I at least be dramatic in my answers?" He said he preferred playing games on hard mode, but narrating his actions without some pizazz was too much.

Saihara blinked like an idiot for a few moments before squinting his eyes and chuckling. My jokes still make Shuichi laugh when he isn't expecting it! A minor victory in this awful war over truth.

"Shuichi-chan, I'm being as serious as possible~" Ouma whined to keep Saihara's spirits up. "I don't wish to offend my beloved detective by explaining the plan my organization has been chipping away at for weeks."

Saihara sighed and scratched his head. "As long as you tell the truth and keep the embellishment to a minimum, enjoy yourself."

"No take backsies then, Shuichi-chan!" He skipped past the detective and leaped onto his throne. Adopting the posture of a malevolent tyrant, he extended a hand towards the monitors on the wall. "Then let me reveal my plot."

Saihara turned his undivided attention to the computer screens. While Shuichi's was distracted, he grabbed the bug vacuum and started to suck up the small cameras floating in the room. Monokuma already discovered portions of the plan, but every bit of security was necessary to ensure success.

"The first part of any plot is… we silence the witnesses!"  With the "bold" declaration, he turned the bug-vac on and swept over the areas around the two of them.

"Is the room… too dusty?" Saihara asked in confusion while obeying Ouma's instructions to raise his arms and stomp his feet. Only the final request to do a "cha-cha" slide received a glare.

"Nishishi, we ~~are~~ underground, Shuichi-chan," he answered with his trademark teasing. "But no, this device is used to suck up the teeny tiny cameras floating in the air around the school. The 'bugs' Gonta-chan encountered but couldn't find. There are actually, bum da bah," he energetically filled in for life's lack of sound effects, "tiny cameras and recording devices everywhere."

"Oh, I see," Saihara nodded without the surprise and horror Ouma was aiming for.

"Come on, it's not exciting if you react like Harukawa-chan."

"Oh no, who could have guessed that Monokuma tracks us!" Better response, but very forced. Ouma chose to accept it though. His beloved was trying to patch up a relationship with a louse. Even a small response was a massive improvement.

"Nobody except a brilliant supreme leader like I. Discrete tracking and hidden cameras are the nerves of a criminal empire to keep the lackeys in line. Monokuma's ploy was seen through within a week of our arrival. I commissioned Iruma-chan to make me some devices to disable them temporarily. I have an even stronger, and more thorough, device for the big operations. This should suffice to prevent audio from being tracked even if some sit in the ceiling to film our conversation."

Saihara nodded and motioned to grab the bug vacuum. He tried to look into the seemingly empty bottle with furrowed brows. Ouma explained the tiny size of the cameras and how normal human eyes couldn't track the tiny cameras.

"So Miu is also involved with your project," Saihara asserted after using the device. "Who else is involved?"

Ouma leaned forward with his fists in front of his chest and sparkles in his eyes. "Is that a request to join us?"

Saihara didn't wait for Ouma to ask another question or let loose with the barrage of "benefits” he intended on offering. "Yes, whatever it takes to tear this game around Monokuma's ears."

Ouma's lazy smile faltered at the viciousness in the response. This was the most adamant he'd seen Saihara about… anything. Not a single trace of doubt existed in his mind. Which by extension meant he both hated Monokuma that much and… trusts me to be able to deliver.

Deep inside his heart, Ouma loosened the fear which restrained every action. Maybe he didn't need to celebrate every success and kindness Saihara showed him while expecting the worst to happen immediately after. Even if he trampled on what Saihara offered to him before, he had an opportunity to make something new. This was the most important sale pitch of his life, selling his plan to break the Killing Game and his own leadership capabilities.

"Final rule before I begin, you can't inform bossy, loud, or violent people like Bakamatsu, Moronta, or Harukawa-chan." Only problems existed on a plan involving those three, especially Momota. Great target to tease, but a person to rely on? Not even once.

A response came without any hesitation. “Of course I wouldn't, they have their own roles."

"Then, without further ado, let me present the wondrous group you have sold your body and soul to. Don't worry, I'll be gentle as your leader and guide everyone under my banner to life success."

He stood on top of his throne and raised his left hand in front of him. "Saihara Shuichi-chan, welcome to the KGB."

Saihara's eyes narrowed at the infamous acronym for the Russian organization.

The announcer wasn't finished hamming it up though. With a bit of focus, his smile turned into its most sinister state without going into "Devil Ouma mode”. He saved the other creepy faces for important moments when he wanted to unnerve others. "Better known as…" He added even more guttural reverberations into his voice to complete the sinister effect.

 

"The Killing Game Busters!"

 

"The… what?" Saihara asked with a raised eyebrow. His step back when Ouma lunged forward highlighted how unnerving the situation was for the detective.

"The Killing Game Busters!" Ouma shouted without minding the request to repeat it. He savored the opportunity to toss around the term. "Every evil organization needs its own name and proper organization. This time is no exception." He grinned "naturally" and placed his arms behind his head, all the malevolence vanishing in an instant. "The Killing Game Busters strive to break apart this nonsense Monokuma forced upon us and create an exit for the class."

Saihara nodded and considered the description. Inside his beloved's brilliant mind, Ouma was certain an array of thoughts reorganized themselves and were considered one by one. "A name like… Killing Game Busters seems to be a weighty title. Is this organization worth the mantle you bestowed on it?" Saihara's poker face paled in comparison to Ouma's and a trace of a smirk ghosted across his lips.

Ouma's heart soared at Saihara's acceptance of the premise. Ever since he created the group, he feared that Saihara might reject the idea or refuse to take him seriously. "I'm glad you asked, Shuichi-chan. While it is difficult bearing the expectations and wishes of an entire class, I can assure you my skills are sufficient to force the world to tremble before me. Only my long-term strategies have kept me unknown, for I would tip the balance of powers by flexing my tactical genius." A bit corny and pretentious of a boast, but who was he to argue if Saihara decided to play along.

Saihara's attempt reminded him that people don't always get second chances to remove their regrets.

"Then where are your peons to bring about this global reckoning?"

"Across the school busy performing the tasks I assigned to them. A Supreme Leader can't accomplish everything solo even with my impressive skills. Did you think I would explain my plan without having initiated its next steps?"

"You keep skirting the topic Kokichi," Saihara retorted with a smile. "Are you going to reveal your associates, or will I need to interrogate you? I promise to grant a merciful sentence if you comply with my investigation."

"Nishishi, I wonder if your investigations can reach the depths of my mysteries. Still, due to your interest, and in consideration of our bond, I'll reveal the team."

He struck a pose and pointed to his left. "Serving as the muscle who remains clueless of our aims, I present Gonta Gokuhara!"

With a hop, skip, and jump he pointed to his right. "Our local spy gives his notes on enemy movements and habits to encourage our subterfuge. Give it up for Shinguji Korekiyo!"

No rhyme or reason explained his sudden change into a show host besides a wish to entertain Saihara. It wasn't his normal manner, but he wanted to shake things up. Anything to distract from the gut-clenching panic he suppressed while revealing his inner thoughts and objectives.

Saihara's jumped at the inclusion of Shinguji's name. He expected I tricked Gonta-chan but didn't realize Shinguji-chan was involved. Proves his knowledge on the situation is limited. Since the reactions to his extravagant reveals were muted, Saihara showed few expressions when thinking deeply, Ouma calmed down. Boredom crossed his features to create a new mask and he examined his left hand's fingernails as if they provided more interest than his explanation. "The bag of fetishes is our technology officer who ranges from effective to worthless depending on the day. Not sure how or why, but she managed to rope Kiiboy into the group this week."

"Miu and Kiibo are involved? Your group is bigger than Angie's temporary student council?"

Ouma practiced his gagging noises. Pouting, he raised his fists in front of his chest and tapped his feet. "Please don't put our groups in the same bucket. That cult nonsense accomplished nothing besides inflaming the group and ratcheting up the tension. Our goals look beyond this cage, not making everyone complacent."

"Right, I forgot how much you hated the council idea."

"Hate or think it's moronic and counterproductive, you choose the wording."

"Then what's Rantaro's role?"

"Amami-chan is our double agent who brings me intel regarding the secrets of the killing game." This one topic brought discomfort to Ouma. He still had no idea what Amami told Saihara. Did he reveal the Survivor Perk in its entirety?”

“Makes sense, considering he’s been through this once before.” And just like that, Saihara answered his hidden questions.

All expression vanished from Ouma’s face. Without breaking eye contact from Saihara, he nodded. “So Amami-chan revealed the perks to you then.”

“He didn’t tell me every detail about the video, but he showed me the second Monopad and the general information from the recording. The detective sighed and shrugged with a tried expression, “But there was something he hid, wanting you to inform me. No guesses as to the topic or his reason. Anyone else in the Killing Game Busters?”

Ouma scoffed with a trace of annoyance in his voice. “Who else should I involve? The mass murderer or Moronta? With six people we are approaching capacity. It can’t be a secret organization if it encompasses half the school. Let’s not be unreasonable leaders.”

Saihara nodded while deep in thought. Closing his eyes, he faced Ouma head on and took a deep breath before speaking, “Then there is still room for a seventh?”

Ouma’s heart swelled to bursting. Was he allowed to assume his beloved meant…

“Ooh, Shuichi-chan, is that a romantic proposal to join in bliss with a gang of rebels and their dashing leader?”

“Yes.” Not even a single moment of hesitation.

Ouma froze in the middle of his “excited” pose, unable to comprehend the simple declaration. Normally Saihara waffled with his words or refused to take him seriously, (for good reason usually), not instantly accept his half-truths. “…You mean it?”

“I told you, I’m tired of the lies, mixed messages, and complicated schemes. I understand you have your reasons for playing tricks on the group and complicating Monokuma’s motives even when they make you seem like a villain. But I asked you to be sincere about your plans and… I believe you want this Killing Game to cease. And I want to tear this school apart and get my revenge on Monokuma.” Despite the malicious intensity in his words, Saihara’s grin seemed angelic in Ouma’s eyes as he extended a hand.

“…”

Was he allowed to settle his debts and reconnect with his favorite person? Do I deserve to be forgiven and trusted without showing that trust to others?

No answer came even after wracking his mind and approaching the problem from every direction. Doubts crept through his mind and cracked the artificial mask of calm he maintained. The possibility of a trick or trap appearing, maybe some new twisted motive, interfered with his movements. The stuttering of his arm movements made his hand twitch.

So Saihara met him halfway. Lacking any of the dignity of the Ultimate Supreme Leader, their hand connected and shook on the new addition to the Killing Game Busters.

“Nishishi, now my beloved is the top subordinate. I’ll give you the title of second-in-command, so be ready to obey every order I give! I’ll work you until you collapse and beg for rest!” The trickster sneer reappeared on his face as he tried to regain some face.

Saihara’s paused for a moment, hand halfway to his side as he considered the words.

Then, a seductive smile appeared in return to combat Ouma’s fading smirk and he took a small step forward to reduce the distance between their bodies. “Is that a promise you intend to keep?”

Ouma’s mind filled with incoherent screeching and he fought to keep a blush from rising up his neck. If it stayed localized below his face, his neckerchief would hide the obvious tell. Critical to any semblance of control was preventing Saihara from learning how flustered he got versus straightforward seduction.

Saihara chose not to press forward and instead changed subjects. “I still can't believe you found a way to utilize your talent here. You are truly incredible." Pride bloomed in Ouma's soul at the heartfelt praise. "So, does this mean you have an idea who the Mastermind is? If almost half the class isn’t involved, do you suspect the culprit is within the remaining nine?”

“Silly Shuichi-chan, you misunderstand,” Ouma said with a shake of the head. “Just because someone is part of the Busters, doesn’t mean I trust them. Trusting anyone in this game without question leads to betrayal and trickery.”

Contrary to his expectations, Saihara didn’t reject the cynical worldview. Back to contemplating with a finger on his chin, he indicated Ouma could continue.

Not sure how to continue the conversation but who am I to deny a chance to talk more. “Since you are my new second-in-command, let me give you some pointers on how to handle a Killing Game filled with lies and betrayals. Doubt every piece of information you are offered.”

He picked up the book Saihara had been reading when he entered. “Like this book, the ‘History of Hope’s Peak’ declares itself as the most accurate book written on the subject. Well then, I’m the best researcher of the moon landing and I declare it didn’t happen! Because apparently, we should accept the research is accurate because someone said it is. This is why polio is still a problem. Anyone can claim to be accurate, but maybe my lab allowed me to print this book out. So then tell me, Shuichi-chan,” he waved the book around, “is this book fiction or reality?”

“…I can only trust it to a certain extent,” Saihara admitted.

“Exactly. You can’t be sure of anything in this school you didn’t personally observe. The school doesn’t make sense when labs are sprouting out of the ground or flying out of the sky like spaceships. Monokuma uses giant robots and one of our classmates is a robot who is weaker than an old man. Take any of that one hundred percent? No thank you. People are worse when it comes to being untrustworthy. Gonta-chan acts gullible but maybe it’s to avoid suspicion. Miss Assassin lied to us about her talent for two weeks. Even my KGB is suspicious, and I only give assignments I can’t accomplish personally. Amami-chan was the most important member to start and I still don’t trust his tale one hundred percent.”
“In his case, I do trust he isn’t working for Monokuma,” Saihara interjected with a raised hand.

“Why’s that?”

“Because Kaede almost killed him when he investigated the library’s hidden door.”

Ouma gasped in shock at the sudden statement. “W-what?” Nobody told me this detail!

At Ouma’s pestering, Saihara explained everything he learned from Akamatsu and Amami about the night the first motive failed. Ouma’s eyebrows contracted in irritation at the end of the story. “In a less complicated case I might agree this absolves Amami-chan, but he is too involved for me to give a blanket exoneration if the situation is a double-blind. But this proves my point! Bakamatsu tried to convince the group to avoid fighting and avoid starting the killing game, only to plan a murder herself. Saint or sinner, everyone and everything must be doubted. First step to see through a lie is to not close any possibilities.”

Unsurprised by the strong condemnation of Akamatsu’s actions, Saihara tilted his head. “You really think we should doubt every aspect of this school? Refuse to trust any classmate, no matter their history or help?” His frown deepened and a spark flashed in his eyes. “Then under your worldview should I have avoided reaching out to you? Continued acting independently and cut myself off from the class?”

“You are allowed to work with others,” Ouma explained with a sigh and a “isn’t this obvious” expression. “I rely on the rest of the Killing Game Busters for tasks and I want to trust your explanations. Holding onto doubt keeps us safe though. Absolute trust shouldn’t be earned. Even now, you don’t know which of my stories with DICE are true or false right? It’s because they are all true… or maybe I want you to think that to introduce doubt in my true motives… or maybe its all a triple trick to teach you a lesson.” He put his hands behind his head with a smile and shifted his weight between his feet. “Which do you feel is the truest answer.”

His eyes flashed with wickedness to complete his ‘lesson.’ “Or is the truth or lies irrelevant either way?”

 “…”

“Are you truly in my laboratory after joining my secret group? Or are you in a room I bought from Monokuma with Monocoins and proceeded to trick you into revealing important evidence by offering membership of a group which doesn’t exist? Is my name Ouma Kokichi or have I been using an alias this whole time? These are the questions I hope you rely on as one of the few people with brains here.”

Saihara nodded three times after Ouma’s rant ended. Truthfully, Ouma was proud of the tirade. Saihara’s trusting nature was something he admired in the detective, a trait he never found possible to emulate. But that same trust and lack of doubt lead him nearly to his death. Maybe with less trust, Saihara wouldn’t have been hurt so often without asking for clarification about his nightly escapades.

He was a hypocrite, he knew that and hated it. A self-serving mindset that only served to attempt to give an excuse for his own failings. As if recommending distrust would forgive his own lies.

Saihara grasped his heart at the bitter words. Instead of rejecting the twisted opinions of the liar-in-chief, he instead caved into himself more.

Shit, I went too far. “That’s a lie though! You don’t need to remember any of that drivel my beloved. I wanted to see your reactions if I pretended to distrust—"

“Then Kokichi,” Saihara’s voice dropped to almost a whisper, filled with pain, “should I also doubt the words you told to me that first morning… when you told me you were leaving before I became attached?”

Ouma’s stomach dropped into the earth’s molten core. The question he dreaded more than any other. His greatest crime he ever perpetrated.

“I—”

 


  

Somewhere Else:

Gonta let out a grunt of exertion as he dropped the large box down in front of him. Iruma’s request to bring it down the stairs confused him greatly, but he obeyed it without question. With so many people trying to help Saihara in their own ways, he appreciated that his strength was useful for anything. Otherwise, he remained too incomplete as a gentleman to reduce his love’s suffering. Need to get more lessons from Shirogane-san for good gentlemaning.

After checking the note he scribbled down with his awful handwriting, Iruma made a point to recommend he write it personally for some reason, he knocked on the box three times. Job complete, he climbed back up the stairs, walked out of the building, and sat down in the grass.

On such a beautiful day, the instruction to “sit and relax for half an hour” was fantastic.

In the back of his mind, he wondered what the point of the task was, but he dismissed the worries. His classmates knew what they were doing.

 


 

Exactly sixty-nine seconds after Gonta knocked on the box, a metallic leg kicked through the shoddy construction and sent fragments scattering across the ground.

Eyes glowing with a dark blue light and weapons primed for battle, Kiibo dashed forward.

Time was truly of the essence.