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Super Danganronpa 2: Matsuda Yasuke's Battle of Despair and Wits

Chapter Text

“To cultivate the world’s talent and pave the way for the future... This is why we need someone like you.”

“...someone like me, huh?”

Yeah. I already know what to expect.

I’m just here to get used.


To say that Hope’s Peak Academy was a significant place would almost be a dire understatement. Hope’s Peak Academy has been a big name for as long as anyone could remember.

Their stated goal is to supposedly gather and nurture the world’s talent to become a breeding ground of sorts for what they call ‘hope’. A ‘hope’ that will lead the future for not only the nation, but for humanity at large. It’s that kind of place.

To be scouted meant you were the best of the best in your field, an Ultimate of whatever field that may be, and such was pretty much every kid’s dream. Even if you weren’t looking to better civilization or what the hell ever, to graduate from Hope’s Peak basically guaranteed you’d be set for life. If you could make it to Hope’s Peak, you could make it anywhere.

That’s where he stands on the matter.

It’s a snobby elitist school run by pompous hacks who just want to flaunt their superiority—but it’s a snobby elitist school with resources and connections that anyone would murder to get their hands on.

So, he supposes he’s lucky, then, to be scouted for a talent that was definitely going to be closely scrutinized and paraded about. Well. It’s nothing he’s unused to.

But here’s probably the best place for it.

It’s not like it matters anyway.

Neurological technologies have come far, but there are still aspects where they fall short. The last place he resided was nothing to sneeze at on its own, but compared to Hope’s Peak Academy’s supposed technological branch... There was practically a gulf in between that could’ve encapsulated an ocean.

If I want to get as far as I can, I’d have to come here. That’s all there is to it. That’s just the way this world works.

He doesn’t like it, but it’s not like that matters. It simply was what it was. He thinks that as he takes his first step through the gate, holding his breath as he does.

He thinks that. He thinks that. He thinks that, he thinks he thinks he thinks he thinks that, but

But—

B̵͔͗u̶̩̒t̷̜͠—̵̮̈́

B̶̛͖̝̅͜ ̸̹̜̍ŭ̷͙͎̘̽͗ ̵͓̮̱͂̕̚t̴̘͒͐—̷̺͍̟̝̇̇͠


It hurts. It really, really hurts.


When he finally comes to, he’s in a place that’s awfully strange. It’s a hallway—or isn’t it a hallway? But there’s a door up ahead. There’s a muffled chatter of people. A lot of it. It’s coming from the door.

His classmates, then? It must be his class. He should go, then.

It’s not like he really has a choice.

Ỹ̵̆̽ͅơ̷̥̞u̵̩͛̌’̵̞͉̅̆̓v̴̹̼͓͘̚e̵̴̢̬̯̟͒̄͢͠ ̶̷̱̭̱̞̏͗̈͛͢n̶͓̈́̎ẻ̶̷̛͎̠͔̑͢v̷̟̮̏͛̆e̷͚̺̤̐̏͘ř̷̸̫̬͔̳̈́̔͢͝͠ ̸͚͒̈́͒h̷̟̬̃ḁ̸̩̈́̀d̵̳̠̑ ̸̟̰̒á̸̺͍̈́̃ ̵̧̹̔̋͜c̴͉̤̀̿ḩ̴̝̃̅̏o̸̗͍̺͗̓i̸̦͎͋̄̕c̷̭͋̉ḙ̷̙̱̆̄.̶̺̘̹́

Matsuda Yasuke shoves the door open, and stumbling in blindly, face twisted up from a sudden bursting pain in his head. He didn’t even notice where he had ended up until he ran smack into someone’s back.

“H-Hey...!”

“Huh?”

“What is this?”

“Hey, that’s another person, isn’t it?! Then, doesn’t that make the number seventeen?!”

“But there’s...not enough desks...”

“What does it mean, then?”

“I was wrong, then...?”

“So who’s going to help the new guy out?”

“He doesn’t look like he’s in the best mood...”

“H-Hey, why weren’t you watching where you were going...? Who are you...?”

It hurts. It really, really hurts.

“Urgh.” Matsuda rubs his head, grumbling as he does. “Noisy... Too fucking noisy... Shut the hell up... All of you...”

“Huh?”

“Huh?”

Huh?”

Slowly but surely, he opens his eyes, blinking a few times as his vision strained to focus properly. A class. A class full of colorful characters, all looking at him with wide eyes. In particular, some chestnut-haired weirdo was looking particularly unnerved and stood directly in front of him.

This is who I ran into, then.

“You’re Matsuda-kun, right?” He perks up and the living embodiment of a messed up cotton swab is the one speaking. “You don’t remember how you got here either, do you?”

“What the fuck?”

“That doesn’t sound super promising,” someone remarked.

And then, the chatter reignited with a vengeance.

“Considering how disoriented he looks, he doesn’t seem to recall anything, either. This really is strange.”

“B-But... He really is looking rather worryingly pale... Um...”

“Are you okay, Matsuda-kun?”

“Hey, wasn’t the door like, sealed shut not two seconds ago before he came barreling in? What the actual hell?”

“To be sealed again... What kind of devil’s work is this...?”

“This just keeps getting weirder and weirder...!”

“So someone’s really trying to trap us?!”

“But who would do such a thing?”

“I can’t think of anyone...”

Waaaaaaah! Are we going to be stuck here until we starve?! Where are the teachers?! Where’s anybody?! What the hell is going on?!”

Urgh. Urgh.

His head really was hurting from all this, so he couldn’t help but snap.

“Everyone, just shut the hell up!”

Silence. Abrupt silence. His head was still throbbing but it was starting to subside. Wincing, he finally takes the opportunity to get a proper look around. A plain, ordinary classroom. With 16 colorful characters. All looking at him fucking weirdly.

Even without the literal pain, this is a migraine and a half. This kind of situation...

“There’s really no need to be alarmed.”

A new voice, entirely different from what he’s heard before. Sugary, disgustingly sweet, and before Matsuda could turn on his heel, something sprung from the teacher’s podium.

Said something was definitely—a thing. A round, pink, sparkling thing, flourishing a magical wand with fluttering little angel wings.

It was a rabbit. A bouncing, beaming stuffed rabbit that was waving around its fucking magical wand.

“Magical Miracle Girl ☆ Usami! At your service!” Another flourish. “Round, kyuute, made of felt, and full of wuv, wuv—I’m also your new loving teacher! Usami-sensei!”

What.

The fuck.

She curtsied, as if that made anything better.

“It’s wonderful to meet you all. Sensei will definitely do her bestest to lead you. It’ll be okay from now on. You never have to worry about anything again, including about Hope’s Peak.”

Never have to worry...?

“W-Wait, hold up,” Chestnut was scrambling to speak. “Just what...what are you saying? What do you mean don’t worry about Hope’s Peak?”

What, indeed?

“Not to mention all the other stuff—like gathering us here and the fact that you’re a stuffed animal that’s moving and talking—!”

“It’s fine! It’s okay!” The stuffed animal exclaims with nothing short of pure, unadulterated cheer and eagerness. “Sensei will do her best! For the sake of wuv, wuv, I’ll make sure everyone’s bonds of love and friendship blossom beautifully! Now, it’s time to depart!”

With a wave of her wand, just like that—

The walls fell down. Each of the four walls, as if the classroom had been nothing more than a contained diorama. And now, all of them were on a beach. A tropical beach with vibrantly blue skies and gently rolling waves. There were seagulls overhead and palm trees in the vicinity.

And with another wave of her wand, the remains of the classroom were gone. Poof. Now, everyone was just standing there, dumbfounded and standing in the sand. A crab buried itself nearby.

“Welcome to Jabberwock, the location that will be a wonderful, exciting, lovey-dovey heart-throbbing island adventure! Your field trip of comradery and communal living!” Usami exclaimed joyfully. As if this were a joyous occasion. “Please enjoy your stay and please, please get along wonderfully with one another!”

Thud. There went Chestnut.

And, great, some of them were screaming. More ranting, more whining, more desperate chattering and ceaseless worthless questions that only increased on Usami disappeared.

Because of course she just disappeared. Just dumped seventeen high school kids on an island and fucked off to Wonderland. Wait. What was this island’s name again?

The headaches only got worse from there.

“Everyone, everyone, be quiet.”

Silence. Stalled and awkward. Matsuda felt his head spin as he tried to make sense out of all of it. And then, he just couldn’t.

Even for a mass hallucination, that’s not how shit works. And if it were a dream, I would’ve woken up by now. I wouldn’t be so exhausted. Exhausted...

He yawns. The prattling continues.

“What we should do for now is investigate and gather clues,” drones on. “Be on your best guard. It is very possible that stuffed animal is being operated by someone. Anyone could be involved—but it would be best to split up for now.”

“Oh. Shouldn’t we introduce ourselves, or...?”

I’m really not in the goddamn mood. I’m really, really not in the mood.

Hell, Chestnut seemed to have the right idea, just passing out. With a sigh, Matsuda knelt down.

“Eh, Matsuda-kun...?”

He lied down, resting his head on his folded arms.

“M-Matsuda-kun?!

Rather miraculously, just like the miracle of being teleported from a classroom to an island, Matsuda Yasuke was out like a light.


He has a weird dream that’s more flashes than images. Flashes of white, flashes of sickly, subtle green, flashes of red, vibrant red, black—something, something

Sharp. Acrid. Beyond fucking unpleasant. In his mouth.

“Urgh...!” He flinched awake, gagging a little and registering that the tide had advanced, washing past his hands and reaching his knees, his fingers digging into clumped sand as a result. Both of his coat sleeves were pretty soaked, and grains of sand and salt clung to the underside of his nails. Shit. Shit. “Fucking hell...!”

“Oh, you’re awake!” An exclamation rung out, soft and surprised. Matsuda recognized it as the cotton swab creep who called him by name earlier. And sure enough, there he was in all his cottony glory, smiling in relief with still a conked out Chestnut lying on the sidelines. Asshole was probably only going to get his socks wet from this debacle.

That made Matsuda bitter to think as he braced himself against a merciless sun. What made him more bitter was the pale, offered hand, courtesy of the cotton creep. He took it anyway to help himself up, and it was like grasping the cold, clammy hand of death.

If only he could be so lucky.

Hey, why am I awake again? I can just go back to sleep. I can just fucking do that.

And yet, he just looked around again.

Wow. It sure still is an island. Oh look, there’s a security camera. And a monitor attached to that palm tree. Yeah. Okay.

“Um, are you alright, Matsuda-kun?” he’s asked it suddenly, and somehow, he didn’t immediately snap, even as he was being given a disgusting look of wide-eyed concern. “You still look rather pale and... Oh, those shadows...”

Such was how his face normally looked so Matsuda deigned to focus on more worthwhile things, like scraping sand off his skin, wringing water from his sleeves as he did. He almost scratched hard enough to draw blood.

So, think, Yasuke. How we ended up here—the situation leading to this point... Blackouts, teleportation, things that wouldn’t be out of place in a fucking anime but typically don’t apply to main life. What the rabbit said earlier. Is this a social experiment? Was this set up by Hope’s Peak? But what would the reasoning be?

Wait.

Wait.

“...the location that will be a wonderful, exciting, lovey-dovey heart-throbbing island adventure!”

The rabbit said that.

Lovey-dovey.

Heart-throbbing.

...breeding ground...

“Oh. Matsuda-kun, you... That’s an interesting color...”

Urgh.”

“Oh no!”


After throwing up, Matsuda decided he would need to do further research before making any proper diagnoses of the situation. Just. For his own sake.

Cotton Joe was still hovering around him worriedly and rambling about at least getting someone, at least until Matsuda flicked him. Like a dog with its tail tucked between its legs, he retreated back to watching over Chestnut. Matsuda glared longer than probably necessary before checking his electronic student handbook.

As expected of Hope’s Peak, this is state of the art stuff... But...

Well, that wasn’t exactly a clue so he swiped through the screens. There was a memo of rules. All pretty standard stuff. No violence. Get along. Don’t be a shithead and litter. The teacher will only intervene in student affairs if any of the rules are broken. Standard stuff, as expected for a typical school trip.

Although there’s not anything typical about this... I assume. I haven’t actually had a proper vacation that wasn’t just sleeping in, like, ever. Maybe stuffed animal robots are a new trend and I just didn’t notice. Would I notice that in-between the working and the dissociating?

His head hurt. That wasn’t an answer. So he kept searching through the handbook.

There’s profiles of everyone. Listing measurements, blood types, birthdays, even likes and dislikes... Okay that’s just fucking creepy. Is that why this kid knows my name?

No. He had been referred to by name before they received these things, right?

“Tch.” He glances back, scowling once more. The other perks up and smiles without a care. Gross. It’s like one of those fake-ass retail smiles, only without the incessant and pushy rambling about products and services. Still not much better. “Oi. Are you a stalker?”

Those wide eyes blink at him rapidly, and the owner tilts his head.

“Ah... Is that the impression I give off? I assure you that’s—not the case. Um. I’m just...a regular fan...of your work. I swear.”

Matsuda gave him an unimpressed look.

“Right... Because nothing says celebrity figure like some fucking doctor.” Seriously, unless you’re in the field, you wouldn’t know shit like that. Then again... “Ah. Knowing Hope’s Peak, they probably have my information posted on some public forum.”

“That’s correct!” the other exclaimed. “Every year, Hope’s Peak releases its roster for the upcoming batch. When I saw your name, Matsuda-kun, I really was delighted! The Ultimate Neurologist—in the same class as myself—just who would have thought?!” And then, a soft little giggle. “Although, aha, you really are as cool and cold as they say... But I understand this situation is...a bit much.”

“It’d be a fucking field day if you’re into shit like being abducted by aliens, I guess,” Matsuda retorted. “But unless they have neurological technological advancements here that I can make use of, count me very uninterested in the fuckoff island.”

“So serious and so diligent...!” the other gasps, awestruck. “To be within your presence...! Oh, I’m not even worthy!”

...huh.

“Even if you’re not a stalker, you’re definitely a creepy fanatic, huh.”

“T-That really isn’t my intention! But, oh, I really should introduce myself. Ahaha, silly me, um...” He gave a wave. “Komaeda Nagito. Ultimate Luck. Well, um, that’s my title, anyway.”

Matsuda only stared.

“Aha, um. You see, Hope’s Peak ran this lottery, right? Um, basically it’s the only other way to attend aside from being scouted...” Komaeda played with his hair, clearly a little anxious. “Whoever wins is given the title Ultimate Luck. And I won, so here I am. Of course, luck isn’t really a talent. But when I tried to tell them that, they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Something about needing to research it more thoroughly? Hope’s Peak really is an incredible place. Wonderful fit for someone like Matsuda-kun, but...not so much me.”

Komaeda laughs with the most pitiful smile, and Matsuda’s gaze sharply narrows.

The more I look at this guy, the more pitiful he looks. And it’s pretty clear that he’s unwell, with that pallid complexion and spindly hair. I’ve seen livelier corpses. Christ, he could probably disintegrate from a mild breeze. Even if luck were a talent, this guy looks more battered by life than anything. That’s some distasteful fucking irony, huh.

“Every deck needs a wild card, I suppose,” Matsuda mutters, shrugging it off. “Maybe this really is a weird-ass social experiment, then.”

“An experiment...?”

“Yeah. Something like that... Set up by a real fucking eccentric.”

With an appearance like that, he’s got to be sterile so I might’ve been wrong about my earlier assumption. Thank fucking god.

“Maybe they just want to see what happens, be it harmony or chaos,” Matsuda mused. “Likelier to be chaos, from what I can tell thus far. My bet is that at least four people are going to be dead before the week is over.”

“G-Goodness, so pessimistic!” Komaeda balked. “You really should have more hope than that, Matsuda-kun!”

Ew .

Just as he was about to get sick again, there was a low groan from the body Matsuda honestly forgot about.

Ah, right. Him.

Chestnut stirred awake, and Komaeda was quick to check on him.

“Hey... Hey, can you hear me...? Are you okay? It’s understandable if you’re still out of it—considering all that’s happened...”

All that’s happened. There’s still a lot about this that doesn’t make much sense. I’m not taking back what I said earlier—but there are supposedly stipulations in place to prevent any of that from happening. So what is the goal here? Are we really just expected to get along?

That was just plain ridiculous on numerous levels. He’s not the type of guy who gets along with others.

R̵̺͘i̶̥͙͆g̸͔͍͐͆h̸̨̑͊͜t̶̘́?̷̺̾

His head throbbed again as he grimaced.

Right... There’s no way in hell.

As he blankly watched Komaeda help up Chestnut, he couldn’t help but be sure of that.

I’m not the kind of person who makes friends.

Chestnut notices his staring and flinches, and he relaxes only a little as Komaeda cheerfully reassures him.

“Matsuda-kun is a little rough, but he’s a wonderful person! He’s the Ultimate Neurologist, you know...”

“Ultimate... Neurologist...? W-Wait seriously? Isn’t he, like, our age?”

Chestnut really does look so uncertain that Matsuda can’t help but scowl. Predictably, Chestnut freezes up at that, and this time, unsurprisingly, Komaeda’s reassurances do jack and shit.

If that’s really the intent, then this whole thing is all just a huge fucking waste of time.

Chapter Text

So, here were the kids that Matsuda Yasuke was stuck on the fuckoff island with.

First off—

“I’m... Hinata Hajime. My talent... Er... I don’t...actually remember... S-Sorry.”

He’s pretty sullen about this, so Matsuda kind of has to believe him even as the situation is a little hard to believe.

You would only forget something that specific due to trauma. Well. I guess this situation is pretty traumatic.

“You’re the fanatic, right?” he says, turning to Komaeda. “Then you do the introductions for him.”

“Actually, I have no idea, either,” Komaeda replies, just as sorry about the whole thing as Hinata seems to be. “I don’t remember anything about a Hinata Hajime on the forums. I mean, there was a lot of information, so I could’ve just missed something, but...”

“...a ghost, then?” Matsuda asked, to which Hinata got more depressed. “Tell me your secret. I want to stand out that little, too.”

“I assure you that it wasn’t my intention... That much I can remember...”

“Maybe that’s your talent, then?” Matsuda suggested, to which Hinata recoiled in distress.

“W-Who the hell would want such a depressing talent...?!”

“Now, now,” Komaeda says quickly. “I’m sure you’ll remember your actual talent with time. You likely developed acute amnesia due to the stress and chaos of the situation. That’s possible, right, Matsuda-kun?”

“Not really. But considering you passed out earlier, maybe that’s a factor. Maybe your talent is so obscure that you only discovered it recently. Or something.” Matsuda shrugged. “I’ll be honest, I can’t tell anything about you because of just how plain unremarkable you are.”

“...and you’re supposed to be a doctor, huh,” Hinata mumbles, expression rather blank.

“A neurologist!” Komaeda exclaimed. “If anyone understands anything about the brain, it’s him!”

“Anyway,” Matsuda goes on, ignoring both of those remarks. “When it comes to amnesia or repressed memories, all you can really do is hope for a trigger. In the meantime, eat healthily and live happily or whatever. I’m not qualified to give psychotherapy or anything like that so that’s really the best I can offer. Although, if you insist, I suppose I can just open up your head and confirm if it really is brain damage.”

Hinata shuddered.

“I-I think I’m fine...!”

“Good, because I don’t have any equipment for that and it would’ve been a real shoddy fucking job.” Matsuda huffed. “Not to mention what I would do first is get scans rather than jumping straight to a biopsy. So I was obviously joking, idiot.”

Hinata made a pained face.

“Don’t worry, Hinata-kun,” Komaeda said. “Just give it time. I’m sure you’ll remember soon.”

“Er...” Hinata hesitated but forced a smile anyway. “Right... Yeah... Let’s just focus on other things for now. Like about this weird island...”

“Right, right, we should investigate! The others have already gone on ahead!”

“...and him?”

Matsuda was playing with one of his scalpels idly, shooting Hinata a look that made him shrink in on himself.

“Oh, Matsuda-kun’s definitely coming, too!” Komaeda exclaimed. “You haven’t been around the island either, right? So I’ll guide both of you! I’ll do my very best!”

“T...Thanks.” Hinata was still hesitating.

“It’s not like it fucking matters,” Matsuda muttered.

With that, it was decided.


 “Souda Kazuichi, Ultimate Mechanic, and... Yeah, uh, those planes...aren’t going anywhere.”

“Are you sure?” Hinata asks worriedly.

“U-Uh...huh. Yeah, uh.” That garish beanie is pulled down further over even more garish pink hair. “If they were just broken that, um, t-that would be one thing... But they have no engines, see? No engines, no nothing. They...m-might as well...be props...”

“If Souda-kun says it, it must be true,” Komaeda supplies helpfully. “If there were a means of fixing them, the Ultimate Mechanic would know how, but...”

“But this just makes things creepier!” Hinata exclaimed. “Not only were we dragged here against our will, we’re also being confined here! No planes, no boats—doesn’t that strike you as bad?!”

Souda shuddered, but not because of the words.

“I-It’s not so bad,” he stammers, paling a bit, averting his eyes fearfully. “Being trapped, I mean, because like, the rules just state to get along and forbid violence...r...right...?”

“Can we really trust that?” Hinata asked, gritting his teeth. “That’s all coming from someone who basically kidnapped us.”

“Hinata-kun, you’re so pessimistic,” Komaeda remarked. “Shouldn’t you have more hope than that? Hope is essential to the human condition, you know...”

Gross.

“Y-Yeah so just...just...take it easy...and...um...um...” Finally, this was about all Souda could take. “W-Will you quit glaring at me?! None of this is my fault!”

“This is just my normal face,” Matsuda said. “I know none of this is your fault. You’re too...” He’s unmoved as Souda recoils from his scanning stare. “Yeah.”

“W-What? What?! The hell are you trying to say exactly...?!”

“Souda-kun, it’s fine! Matsuda-kun is saying that he doesn’t doubt you!” Komaeda hurriedly exclaimed, getting between them as Hinata grimaced.

“Can he pick a friendlier way of saying it?!” Souda shouted right back. “How the hell am I supposed to relax on vacation with someone like this?!”

Urgh, noisy bitch.

“Well, I’m not wanted here.” For now, he could only shrug as he rubbed at his temple. “Fair because I don’t really want to be here either. Especially since...” Another pointed look at Souda. “Yeah...”

“E-Excuse me...?!”

“Let’s not fight!” Komaeda pleaded. “Come on, Matsuda-kun...!”

He was dragged off, Hinata following with even more uncertainty than before.


“Halt! Draw no closer if you value your life!”

“...I don’t.”

“Fool! You speak in nihilistic ignorance! But, such gives you courage in the face of harsh adversity. That, I must recognize. So be it.”

“Oh! You managed to earn Tanaka-kun’s interest!” Komaeda chirped while Hinata looked to be at a complete loss. “Matsuda-kun, so impressive...!”

“Make no mistake!” Tanaka bellowed with a flourish as Matsuda stared on, eyes glazed over. “Ignorance is the truest of folly! Such bravado will ultimately be meaningless in the face of I—!”

“Tanaka,” Matsuda finished for him, unimpressed. “Of the Chuuni Kingdom. Because being fantastically swept away to an island by a stuffed rabbit just isn’t special enough for you.”

I thought I’d avoid this when I skipped most of middle school but of course shit can’t be that easy.

And of course, Tanaka’s eyes flashed dangerously.

“You dare mock me?!” he roared. “In your witlessness, you dare to invite death and destruction?!”

Death... Destruction...

D̵̡̩̱̫̟̺̲̄̓̈́̋͒̈͗͝e̷͙͇̺̺͆͝ŝ̸̡̨̮͔̲̙̭͖͆̓p̵͈͕̪̪̺̟̬͖̏̓̑̿̎̚ȃ̷͉̈̅̽̓̊͝͠͝i̷̘̘̜̝͑̕̚r̸̢̛̙̖̻͕̗̖͓̒͜

For whatever reason, this gave him even more of a headache than he would’ve expected.

“...Urgh, fuck.”

“Aha! You see! Already you face ramifications for your hubris!” Tanaka laughed victoriously and a little manically. “You should be grateful that this is but a merciful display of power!”

“Oh my fucking god, I’ve been having headaches from before I even heard you speak so shut up. You’re not special.”

“Sharp-tongued one, you truly are the most foolish of ignorant fools...!”

“Ah, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda flocked to his side worriedly. “Are you alright? You’re paling again.”

“Urgh...” Why the hell does it hurt so much...? “Noisy...”

“Hmph! You are no match for the Ice Kingdom!” There are squeaks in agreement from the hamsters that are perched upon Tanaka’s crossed arms and shoulders. Mixed with the more of the maniacal laughter, it was definitely beyond fucking maddening. “We shall grant relief for now, but mark these words as they are the words of Overlord Gundam Tanaka and the Devas of Destruction—!”

“Yeah, my headache is still very fucking present so shove that relief up your ass,” Matsuda snapped. “I’m going somewhere useful. This airport is shit.”

He’s definitely hissed at, but after hissing right back, Matsuda stomped off, to Komaeda’s dismay and Hinata’s exasperation.

“A-Ah wait, Matsuda-kun...!”

“...g-geez, that guy...”


Thank fucking god there actually is a fucking market.

The place was called Rocketpunch which sounded like something out of a manga, so Matsuda already liked it best out of everything he encountered with up until this point.

If it actually sold manga, it’d be heaven but first. Pills. Pills, pills.

He’s quick to check the pharmaceutical aisles and finds what he’s looking for. He takes one bottle and then without missing a beat he starts stuffing them into his pockets. As many as he can carry. He’s definitely going to need it.

“Isn’t that overkill?”

Matsuda looks at the asshole who deigned to speak to him, quirking an eyebrow as he did.

“...and who the hell are you again?”

“Y-You know who I am!” Hinata stammered, flustered. “God, you really do have such a shitty attitude...!”

“Excellent observation. Full points.” Matsuda popped the pill bottle open, spilling a few into his hand. He immediately tosses them into his mouth, face twisting until he manages to swallow all of them down. He clears his throat, coughing a little. “Yeah... That’ll do for now.”

“It is a wonderful thing that this place is so stocked,” Komaeda says cheerily. Just in case Matsuda had somehow managed to forget about him, too. There he was, smiling and laughing without a care. “We don’t need to worry about food or supplies, at least for now.”

“The stuff could be poisoned,” Hinata pointed out. “Actually, do we even know if the pills are safe...?”

“Give it at most a couple of hours, or at least twenty minutes,” Matsuda said, plucking up a bottle of water. “If I’m still standing, then they were fine. If not, well, while it wasn’t nice knowing you, I did know you. I guess.”

“...s-seriously?”

“I seriously guess...?” Matsuda twisted open the bottle, downing half of it without a second thought. “Pwah. God, I was so fucking thirsty. Seriously.”

“A-Are you even worried at all?!” Hinata demanded. “Doesn’t any of this seriously bother you?! Just look—”

Splash.

“Cool off a bit,” Matsuda snapped. “God, don’t you get tired of whining? Fucking obviously this shit bothers me, you nutwit. But we can’t do shit about a situation we don’t understand at all. So, for now, we’re investigating.”

Hinata shivered a bit, seeming to have gone into shock, dripping water that was lukewarm at best.

“Ah, oh, dear.” Komaeda wiped a bit from Hinata’s cheek. “I, ah, I’ll go get a towel.”

With that, he hurried off. Hinata continued to stand there, fists clenching and unclenching.

“...I honestly kind of needed that,” Hinata finally muttered after a while. “But you’re still such a fucking asshole.”

Matsuda just finishes his water without batting an eyelash. While Hinata was definitely pouting, Matsuda merely blinked up at the lights. Then, there was something weird and a little unsettling in the air. Matsuda perked up as Hinata flinched.

Ah. He feels it too.

Eyes lazily sliding over, he saw some girl staring at them. She was fiddling with her fingers anxiously, and Matsuda noted how she picked at her bandages. Just looking at her fidget made him feel weirdly itchy.

Outside of that—she gives me a real fucking bad feeling, but...

“U-Um...”

She was definitely trying to speak, but the miserable attempt could’ve been swallowed up by the low hum of the store itself.

“Y-You’re...a doctor...aren’t you...?”

Matsuda scoffed. “Did the well-worn lab coat give it away?”

But... By her appearance... The apron and blouse...

“Were you in your school’s healthcare committee?” he asked. “Lemme guess. That’s your talent.”

“H-Hue?! Oh, yes...!” She jerks, standing ramrod straight. “I-I... Um... Um...”

Since Komaeda still wasn’t there to explain and since Hinata was just plain useless, Matsuda had no choice but to fish out his student handbook to figure out the girl’s name.

“Tsumiki... Mikan. Yep. Ultimate Healthcare Committee.” He tosses his bottle and it hits the bin with ease. “Well, that’s not terrible.”

Although with this kind of aura... Hhhh... Not great.

“So is she like...a nurse?” Hinata asks, because he’s just plain useless. Matsuda doesn’t deign it with an answer so it’s up to Tsumiki to try and pick up the slack.

“W-Well... Um... I... You see... I’m...” She trembles and then she sobs into her hands, utterly startling Hinata. “I-I’m so sorry!!”

Oh man, we’re off to a fantastic fucking start.

“You sure have a way with words,” Matsuda noted, to which Hinata snapped back.

“I shouldn’t be hearing that from you!”

Tsumiki wails.

“W-Wait, no, please stop...!”

“Hinata-kun!” Oh, and there was Komaeda rushing up with a towel, looking utterly disappointed. “Did you make Tsumiki-san cry?!”

“N-No, I just...!”

“Uu... U-Uu...” Tsumiki’s shoulders were trembling. “I’m sorry... I’m sorry... I memorized at least five thousand conversation topics... But in the end my mind went blank! Wah...! Please don’t hate me...!”

...this hurts my ears. But just telling her to shut up will make her worse... Urgh...

“You really shouldn’t make girls cry, Hinata-kun,” Komaeda scolded Hinata. Hinata looked like he wanted to protest, but instead gave up on that.

Useless.

“You shouldn’t make her cry in particular since on the very likely chance I have more important things to do, you’ll be in her care if you get injured,” Matsuda pointed out. “You could die, in that case.”

“He’s absolutely right,” Komaeda said cheerily.

“I... O-Okay...” Useless as he was, Hinata still had no comeback, instead snatching the towel away from Komaeda to dry off his face and hair. “Just...don’t say that so merrily.”

Tsumiki did giggle at this, but before Matsuda could even blink, she was back to bawling for ‘laughing out of turn’ and apologizing profusely.

This is definitely someone you have to be careful around. And how much energy does she have to spend on weeping?!

A lot, it would unfortunately turn out.

God fucking


Ultimately, Matsuda just left those two to deal with the still sobbing Tsumiki because he ran out of patience. Even if he had been running on fumes to start with.

There really is a lot of stuff here. Military goods such as night vision goggles... I guess if you wanted to do nighttime exploring...? Come to think of it, what kind of animals are on this island? What kind of plants? With the way this fucking day has been going, I bet they’re sentient.

He keeps browsing, checking out the various swim gear and then eyeing the giant soda bottles with thinly veiled interest.

The folly and ultimate unfulfillment of gluttony... Will inevitably go flat before you can finish... But also I want it...

There was also a vending machine that seemed to take a weird currency. He was tempted to kick it, but with his sandals, that would be a bad idea. He wasn’t keen on having a throbbing foot after taking care of his weirdass headaches.

And someone was humming. When he checked the aisle, he could see that she was bouncing from one foot to the next in a very purposeful rhythm.

“Looking over here! Looking over there! What’s that I hear, what’s that I see—?!” Spinning on her heel, she gave Matsuda the biggest grin. “Yooo! It’s Mister Seventeen!”

“...pardon?”

“The seventeenth person! When there had been only sixteen seats! So mysterious! Uber mysterious!” She skipped up to him, pointing and prodding with wide, curious eyes. “Hey, hey, you just went off to Dreamland instead of introducing yourself! You’re not still asleep, riiiiight?”

Matsuda simply stares until she shudders.

“Brrrr! So cold it burns! Yow!” She rubs furiously at her arms. “So much negative energy! That’s a little scary! Kyaaaa! Brrrrr!”

When Matsuda turns away however, she squawks with protest.

“Wait! I demand a repeat! It’s not over yet, Seventeen!”

Urgh.

“...Matsuda Yasuke. Nice to meet you.”

“Yasuke-chan! Hi!” she chirped. “Mi to the o to the da to the I to the bu to the ki! From Mioda Ibuki! That’s me! Mioda Ibuki! Nice to meet’cha!”

“...”

“Brrrrr!” Mioda shuddered again. “This silence is so heavy it’s suffocating! Yasuke-chan, why are you so sullen when you’re in the most super of supermarkets anyway?! It’s like a rocketPUNCH to the gut!”

“Don’t punish me,” was his dry response.

“So, so, so downbeat it’s depressing!” Mioda exclaimed. “And from here, I can hear Mikan-chan’s sniveling! Nagito-chan and that other guy are having some trouble! That’s so sad! Ibuki, you gotta play something! You’re right, Ibuki!”

“...” Matsuda’s head tilted at that. “You can hear them?”

“Oho! Is that interest finally being heard when you heard my statement?!” Grinning, Mioda held her chin and pointy nose up high. “Yeppers, that’s right! As expected of a musician! Ultimate Musician! Gifted in the same ways as Schubert, Bach, and Beethoven!”

“Beethoven tragically lost his hearing,” Matsuda pointed out.

“Gifted in the same ways as Edison, Van Gogh, Pele, and Senna!”

“...right.”

Mioda winked at him, looking at him with expectant, sparkling eyes.

“...”

“...”

Another wink. And another. Sparkle, sparkle.

“...”

“...”

“...you’re really just going to leave me hanging, huh?” she asks. “You don’t even have a saucy remark, Yasuke-chan? Not any quips at all?”

Matsuda shrugged.

“I really don’t want to encourage you,” he replied, rubbing at his nape. “Especially when I’m just really, really tired from the last two people I had to put up with.”

“Oke-doke!” With a clap, she skipped off. “Then, I’ll bounce!”

And bounce she did with a sudden, startling noise that made both Tsumiki and Hinata shriek loud enough for the store to tremble a bit.

Matsuda snatched up a bag of chips on his escape out.


There were several cottages. Eight on one side—and then nine on the other, with one cottage awkwardly tacked in-between the last two on the end. Whoever landscaped did a pretty admirable job of keeping it symmetrical with the two rows of cottages but fact of the matter was that it still stuck out like a sore thumb. Unsurprisingly, a picture of his face was plastered on the thing’s mailbox.

...this whole thing really does feel awfully calculated. To the point where there’s even an extra house disrupting the flow and harmony to make up for the uneven number of students.

Matsuda’s lashes lowered in thought and he checked the cottage. It seemed no different than any lodging that’d be used for a tropical hotel. Quaint in every sense of the word with a seriously eerie undercurrent.

This whole place is set up for several people staying here for a prolonged period of time. But if I didn’t know any better, I’d call it any ol’ resort. Thing is, you typically don’t use a resort as your base for mass-kidnapping. Then again, if you’re rich enough, I suppose...

Matsuda paused for a moment.

Hope’s Peak Academy...does it really have that much money? Enough to plan and manage all this? There’s not even any staff from what I’ve seen. It’s isolated and uninhabited. Save for us. Save for whoever the hell is controlling that stuffed rabbit thing.

He thought it over, but shook his head for now.

Best to continue going along with it. Keep moving forward.

And so he does until he arrives back at the hotel clearly acting as the main building. He had to keep moving forward, and the hotel seemed to both recognize and mock that necessity.

“Hotel ‘Mirai’...because of course.”

“It’s like we really get to stay in the future after all!” came the responding chirp.

Matsuda turned to give Komaeda a sour look. Hinata, too, was giving Komaeda a sour look although he was quick to glare at Matsuda as well out of what had to be boundless generosity.

“Ehe... Hehe...” Komaeda scratched his cheek, rather sheepish. “Guess that joke fell flat. Can’t blame a guy for trying...”

“You two took your sweet time,” Matsuda grumbled. “But you’re dried off at least.”

“No thanks to you,” Hinata griped right back. “And my shirt’s still a little damp.”

“Oh no, how will you survive,” he droned. “That’s just so sad.”

“You’re such a dick...”

“But we’re all together again! I almost thought Matsuda-kun ditched us for real!” Komaeda exclaimed before giggling. “But looks like we caught up to you, aha. That’s good. I was worried you’d get lost.”

“...it’s not like I waited for you because I get lost easily or anything,” Matsuda muttered lowly. “That’s not it at all.” With a ‘tch’, he went on his way with the two flanking him. “Anyway. Let’s keep looking around. Hurry up. So slow. God.”

God,” Hinata echoed while Komaeda hummed.


Of course they had an outside pool, too, fashioned with several beach chairs, parasols, and looking very well-maintained. It looked like a good place to read, at least, but right now Matsuda was more curious if he could get away with drowning.

Unfortunately his curiosities were dashed because of the burly guy currently staring down at him.

“And who are YOU supposed to be?! And how are you FEELING?!” He’s booming, in such a way that Hinata is clearly intimidated by it. Matsuda picks at his ear, scowling, and the big guy goes on. “You both passed out earlier—and have yet to introduce yourselves!”

He passed out,” Matsuda replied with a point of his thumb, making Hinata flinch. “I just took a nap since the situation was so irritating that it was tiring. And I thought it would do something about the migraines. With the help of everyone here, it didn’t. I hope everyone is happy with themselves.”

Now Komaeda was the one to flinch.

“Aha... Matsuda-kun, so harsh...”

“Is that SO?!” was the roaring response of the other guy. “Have you been HYDRATING?!”

“Just did...” Although I’m still contemplating trying to drown in that pool. “So, you’re...?”

“The legendary Ultimate Coach.” Large knuckles are cracked, and then, he shouts. “NIDAI NEKOMARU!!!”

“Well someone’s an overachiever in the roll call.” Matsuda rolled his eyes. “Matsuda Yasuke.”

“Hinata... Hajime...” Hinata manages courageously. “Nice...to meet you.”

“SPEAK UP!” Nidai screamed, making Hinata yelp. “SHOUT FROM THE HEART!”

“H-Hinata Hajime!”

“Matsuda Yasuke.”

“GYAAAAH! YOU’RE NOT EVEN TRYING, MATSUDA YASUKEEEEEE!!! YOU BOTH CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER!! YOU HAVE TO GIVE IT ALL YOU GOT! WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE!”

“Hinata Hajime!” Hinata exclaimed, voice cracking courageously. “Nice to meet you!”

“AAAAAAAAAAND?!”

“Matsuda Yasuke.” Somehow Matsuda’s tone was even flatter and more unenthused than before. “Ultimate Neurologist. Done with everything.”

Nidai growled.

“Given that coat, you’re supposed to be a DOCTOR, right?! Don’t lives DEPEND on you?!”

Matsuda blinked, and then his eyes narrowed dangerously.

“Which is why I should only conserve my energy for the things that matter in this world, right?” he asks sharply. “Which is why I’m not going to bother expending more effort than necessary in mere platitudes and to indulge some oversized oaf who can’t even exercise volume control. You get me?”

“...hmph.” Nidai’s stern features twitched, and then he laughed brightly. “DULY NOTED! What a DIFFICULT person you are, GAHAHA!! But with that kind of attitude, you’re going to make kids cry!”

“Do you really have the ground to say that...?”

Nidai laughed even louder.

“HAHAHAHA! GOOD POINT!!!”

So he is aware of how he looks... Wish he could voice that awareness more quietly though.

Hinata still seemed a little dizzy and disoriented, even with Komaeda trying to steady him. Nidai just kept on laughing without a care.

Matsuda could only sigh and tug Hinata along to give the useless idiot time to recover.


In direct contrast to Nidai, this next guy was—everything that he wasn’t.

“Hey. Dipshit. Do you not know who I am?”

“Wow, someone’s fucking cranky.”

“The fuck did you just say?!” Oh wow. Now the infant looks pissed. “Do you have a fucking problem?!”

“C-Calm down!” Komaeda hurriedly said, waving his hand and pulling Matsuda back. “We’re just, aha, doing introductions, Kuzuryuu-kun!”

“Yeah, so fucking chill with your macho posturing,” Matsuda said. “That tough guy act really doesn’t—”

Komaeda covered his mouth with a smile.

“Both Matsuda-kun and Hinata-kun didn’t get to do introductions so can you please indulge us for a bit? Aha, sorry for the trouble...”

Between Matsuda just standing there with a hand over his mouth, Hinata instinctively inching closer to Komaeda, and Komaeda’s own pitiful, pleading smile... Well it was obvious in the way that Kuzuryuu scoffed that he was just going to go along with it.

“Feh. Fine. Kuzuryuu Fuyuhiko. But make no mistake—I have no interest in making friends.”

Matsuda pulled down Komaeda’s hand by the wrist.

“Matsuda Yasuke. Same.”

Ah, Komaeda’s so bony...

“W-Wait, Kuzuryuu...?” Hinata whispered. “As in... That Kuzuryuu?”

Oh riiiight. Kuzuryuu is the name of a yakuza group isn’t it? Well, that explains the attitude. With a family like that, you have to act like a tiger even with the face of a kitten. But if I mention that, I’ll probably lose fingers. I need those. Shit.

“I heard that ‘babyface’ is taboo around him,” Komaeda adds ever helpfully. “So be careful. You can never have too many fingers.”

Sure enough.

“O-Oh...” Hinata nodded in wide-eyed understanding. “Komaeda, you’re a lifesaver...”

“Oh, I wouldn’t go that far, ehe.”

Matsuda pulls away, glancing at Kuzuryuu. Kuzuryuu sneers right back.

“If you’re done then get fucking lost, dumbasses.”

I think I just heard his voice squeak.

Still, Matsuda waved his hands.

“...yeah. We should probably go.”

He’s trying so hard. We might as well pretend to respect that. It’s not like I’m terribly interested in making friends, either.

Well, whatever, he supposed.

Hopefully the next person is a bit easier to deal with.


“Hey! You two are the guys who passed out earlier!”

“I didn’t pass out, I just went to sleep.”

“That’s even worse!” Whoever this bitch was, she was fuming and waving her finger at them. “In times like this, it’s up to the men to protect the women! So you shouldn’t be so fragile—and you definitely shouldn’t be so lazy!”

“I...suppose?” Hinata seemed to be at a loss, but Matsuda got even more irritated.

“I don’t fucking think so.”

“Ooh, you’re one of those guys, huh?” she practically spits the word in disdain. “That’s just great. Not only are you useless, you might just keep us from leaving the island. You do know that, right?”

“Eh? How?” Hinata asked.

“In order to leave, we have to gather these things called hope fragments from everyone by becoming friends or whatever, and the field trip will end,” camera bitch explains, sighing.

“Wait, really?! So we can leave?!”

“That’s what I just said!” she exclaimed. “Geez, listen to other people when they’re talking! Otherwise, you’ll miss important details like that!”

“S-Sorry...” Hinata seemed to calm a little, until his face got all twisted up again. “But... Even if I have no idea what the hell Usami’s intentions are supposed to be, if that is the case... It might not even matter because Matsuda’s... Well...”

Both him and the camera bitch were giving him a withering, frustrated look.

Ah. I fucking see how it is.

“If that is the case, this is an unbelievably shitty way of doing it,” Matsuda pointed out. “Making friends is all fine and fucking dandy but to be forced into doing so is going to result in some dysfunctional relationships down the line, don’t you think?”

The other two were silent and contemplative for this, thankfully.

“But we don’t really have a choice if we want to get off this island,” Komaeda replied instead. “Out of all the other things we could be forced into doing, this isn’t so bad.” A carefree smile. “It’s nothing to panic over for now, at least.”

Pweh.

“I guess that’s true,” Matsuda muttered, crossing his arms. “Alright. Whatever. I guess it’s just like an obnoxiously large group project.”

Never mind that I’ve always done those solo when I could get away with it.

“Matsuda Yasuke. Ultimate Neurologist. Nice to meet you.... Miss.”

“You could afford to be a little less dry,” she sighed. “But whatever. I know unreasonable people when I see them.”

“Yeah, studies showed that species are good at recognizing their own.”

She glared at him.

“...Koizumi Mahiru. Ultimate Photographer.” She crossed her arms. “Not that it’s much of a talent compared to something like neurologist... Although, seriously? Neurologist? You’re like, our age and you have...that attitude...”

“Any other keen observations, Miss Photographer?” Matsuda asked.

“You look ratty!” Koizumi huffed, hands on her hips now. “And you’re so unkempt! Aren’t doctors supposed to be neat and tidy?! Do you even take your own profession seriously?!”

“...oh, wow, you’re really going out of your way to be a bitch, huh. Maybe our situation is more dire than we thought.” Matsuda bristled. “Sorry. Between the kidnapping, running around, and unreasonable people, I haven’t had time to do laundry.”

“Make time, then,” Koizumi groused, before snapping at the other two. “Anyway! Komaeda and... Hey! You still haven’t introduced yourself, guy.”

“A-Ack, sorry. Um...” Flushing a little, Hinata gives a polite nod. “Hinata Hajime. Er, nice to meet you.”

“Hinata,” Koizumi amended. “You and Komaeda are going to have to work extra hard to make up for Matsuda here. It’s going to be rough on you in particular, Hinata, because you’ve already proven yourself to be pretty unreliable. But I expect you to do better! Be more of a man! That goes for all of you!” Her eyes flicker back to him and narrow. “Even though you’re not going to listen at all, huh, Matsuda?”

“Can’t be bothered to listen in regards to something I don’t give a shit about,” Matsuda retorted. “So, hey, let’s compromise. Lower your shitty, unreasonable expectations. Try and keep your dopamine levels high and strong. Disappointment not only gets in the way of that, it’s also bad for your heart and immune system in prolonged excess. You’d be doing yourself a favor.”

Koizumi sighs, much more heavily and exaggeratedly than before.

“God, this is going to be rough.”

“That’s something we can agree on.”

“Can’t you be a little less dry?!” Koizumi snapped. “You could at least try to smile or something!”

Matsuda blinked. And then, he tried. Koizumi faltered in the face of it.

“Oh, wow, that looks painful. Never mind. Your scowl’s much more reassuring.”

“Glad we have that out of the way,” Matsuda said, unimpressed and scowling as before.

Komaeda giggled. “It’s good to come to an understanding, isn’t it?”

“If you can really call that good,” Hinata said, grimacing.


There was an old lodge nearby that looked pretty suspicious. And then even more suspiciously, there was a note taped to it with a locked door.

“Access Forbidden due to Scheduled Reconstruction!! Too Dangerous! Please go about your day differently! Love, love!”

The clumsily scribbled hearts across the bottom definitely inspired a level of seriousness to it.

“I bet I could break this door.”

“Let’s not,” Komaeda said with a laugh. “That’s likely against the rules, Matsuda-kun.”

“Pff. Whatever.”

“Why was breaking in your first instinct anyway?” Hinata asked.

“It wasn’t yours? God, how boring are you?”

“S-Shut up!”

They decided to just go into the hotel instead.


The interior was predictably large and on the classier side. Definitely an expensive-looking place, except creepier because there still wasn’t a staff in sight.

All these things carefully managed...and no signs of those who manage it. Technology, maybe? Like robots or something. Or...

A sudden agonizing flash. Not as bad as before, but... Matsuda still cringed, rubbing his head.

Urgh. It’s back. Shit.

He pops in another pill, swallowing it dry.

Gross.

“Matsuda-kun, are you alright?” Komaeda asked, eyes wide with innocent concern.

Groooooooss.

“I’ve certainly been better,” he muttered darkly. “But I’ve also been a lot worse so whatever.”

“I guess the hotel’s alright,” Hinata said almost stiffly, scratching his jaw. “If the situation were normal, this wouldn’t be so...bad, I guess.”

“You guess,” Matsuda echoed, letting his eyes sweep the area.

There are some cheap-ass arcade game tables that Komaeda was apparently impressed by. Him and some other chick that seemed fixated on the damn things. Whatever. There was some other girl who at least looked unoccupied, although she seemed a little rigid, arms tightly crossed and sharp red eyes staring straight ahead to one of the windows.

Sharp...red...?

Y̴̦̮̻͓̐͑̚o̴̡̮̪͚͇͇͖͛̏͒̿̓̈͘ͅù̵̲̰̣̮͚̭̣̍ ̴͎̹͗͂͂ẗ̸̬̜̖̃͌͝ĥ̷͓̞̒̾̋̽͗̒̂ì̵̠̦̰͍͗̇ń̴͕̱̼̰͉͔̀͝͠ḳ̸̫̬̹̙̰̃ ̶̛̮̏t̷̜̩̤͔͕̰̱̂o̸̢͖̖̜̹͕͉̐̈́́̎̒͝͝o̷̪̻̬̿̎̅̊̽̉̋͝ ̷̟̼̲̗͚͆̉̇̏͗̕͜͝m̶̛̩͎̟̳̱̩̈́̀͝ư̷͙̔̓͛͘c̸̡̫̘̲͂̈́̂̅̽̽̔͝h̶̪̰̱̍̿͂͂̆̍͘͝. ̵̧̬̣̙̝̻̤̪̉

Another painful flashing throb. The medicine couldn’t kick in sooner.

What the hell ever. She looks more open to conversation than the other one.

Not that he wanted to talk to either but he did want off this fucking island, and Komaeda would shove him in someone’s direction anyway, and... He doesn’t trust Komaeda to do so with a level of tact.

And Hinata—yeah, Hinata is still useless.

“Yoooo.”

She perks up, and her gaze sharpens. Thanks to the glasses, there was more of a glare.

“...can I help you?”

Yeah that’s the tone I was expecting.

“Matsuda Yasuke. Ultimate Neurologist.” He waved coolly. “That’s Hinata Hajime. Ultimate—Some Fucking Guy.”

“That’s not actually my talent,” Hinata griped. “I don’t...actually remember it.”

“So it could be Ultimate Some Fucking Guy; we’re just not sure.”

“...shut up.” Hinata quickly straightened up, realizing. “Oh, but, uh... Nice to meet you.”

“Hm.” She still doesn’t seem terribly impressed or even mildly amused. “Introductions, then? Very well. I am called Pekoyama Peko. Ultimate Swordswoman. It is an honor to meet you, too.”

Called...?

Something about this chick really set him off and he really, aggravatingly, had no fucking idea why. For fuck’s sake, like, out of everyone he met thus far, she was easily the least offensive.

Still something about her is just—

S̶̢̒̒̚t̷̝̪̦͎̒ȍ̶̭̳͔̲̯̔̂̅p̵̬̿̿͐͆̌ ̴̨͎̦̬̐͑̊͐t̵̰̏̓̄̇͋h̶̖͙͇̳͔͐̔̾̒̎̄̚i̸̖̳̓̀̍̈͘n̵̢̥̗̘̦̊͌͜k̶̢̘̞̼̼̜̏̉̈̏̍͋̌̄i̵̙̼̱̠̿̅̓ǹ̴̨̼͙̣͖͂̎̂̃̏ǵ̶̡̛͗̇̊̚.̶͖̬̬͑̏̍̿͆̑

Well, whatever. It doesn’t really matter.

Matsuda shook his head.

“Pekoyama, huh?” It really doesn’t matter. “That sure is...a name.”

It could be a code name but it doesn’t fucking matter.

“Mm...” Pekoyama’s expression was ever unchanging. “According to that bunny, we will be spending quite some time together from now on. Mutual understanding is essential, then, so that there is no ill will between us.”

“Ah. Wow.” Matsuda blinked a few times. “Someone reasonable...”

“I do not want to cut anyone,” she added. “My sword is wooden, but it can cause quite a bit of harm if used to strike in the right place.”

“...”

Yeah. By all accounts I should like her best.

But with that really ugly vibe he got, he...wasn’t really feeling it.

Fucking hell... Whatever. Whatever.


The other chick was still fixated on her game. In fact, Matsuda’s damn sure she had finished and just immediately started another one.

“Hey, Nana—”

“Alright, “Matsuda said, cutting Komaeda off. “Let’s just go.”

“Eh? You’re not even going to try to talk to her, Matsuda-kun?”

“Hinata can, if he wants,” Matsuda replies, shrugging. “But I’ve zero interest in talking to someone who’s clearly busy. That’s just fucking rude.”

“Oh... I suppose...” Komaeda trails off. “But, if it’s Nanami-san, she’s not going to stop playing.”

An otaku? Yeah because those make great fucking friends.

“That’s her problem and I’d rather not get involved. I’m going, but...” He turns to Hinata. “Hey, if you want to be the asshole who tries to talk to someone already engaged, then by all means.”

“Gh...!” Hinata bristled. “I-I’m not going to do that. Geez.”

“If you say so,” Komaeda sighs forlornly. “I guess I can’t convince you...”

“Y-You don’t have to sound so disappointed, Komaeda...”

“She’s probably a shit conversationalist anyway,” Matsuda says. “Most people glued to video game screens don’t really talk to randos.”

“...uhhhhn.”

Matsuda perks up. Blinks a few times.

“That’s not...wrong... I guess.”

She’s...talking?

She was still clearly focused on her game, but—yeah, no, her lips were moving and words were coming out.

“I have to try and mentally plan out everything I want to say, otherwise I’m not very good at it. Especially...if it’s with people I don’t really know. But I’ll try to...” She yawns loudly. “Mmmrgh. Tired.”

Is she for fucking real right now?

“Anyway,” she goes on drearily. “Nanami Chiaki. Um. I love...games. All kinds of games.”

This isn’t a real person. I refuse to believe it. She’s still not looking away from that shitty tabletop.

“...Nice to meet you.”

The fact that she’s allowed to do this when I don’t have any manga on me to do the same seriously pisses me off. That’s just not fair.

“Impressive, Nanami-san!” Komaeda exclaimed, back in high spirits. “All said while still dutifully playing the game!”

“...I guess that’s impressive?” Hinata shakes his head. “But, uh, yeah, nice to meet you too, Nanami. I’m Hinata Hajime, and this guy...”

Matsuda was still silently fuming. When Hinata elbowed him, Matsuda smacked him right back. His cheek was left stinging.

“...Matsuda Yasuke,” Hinata grumbles, wincing as he rubs his smarting cheek. “He’s, I guess what you would call, difficult level. Like, insane difficulty.”

“Insane difficulty,” Nanami mused. “Yeah... Okay.” Another yawn. She rubs at her eye. “It’s still nice...to meet him.”

Matsuda huffed.

“...yeah. Okay.”

Without another word, he turned on his heel and stomped up the stairs.

“Oi, Matsuda...”

“Be careful, Matsuda-kun! You don’t want to fall!”

It’s only when their backs are fully turned that Nanami’s gaze flickers in their direction.

“...Matsuda...kun.”

Her cheeks puff.


“You know, Komaeda,” Hinata finds himself saying. “Is it really alright to be around that Matsuda guy?”

“What do you mean?” Komaeda asks ever innocently. “Matsuda-kun may be rough around the edges, but he’s not dangerous. Just...” His smiles widens. “He’s just difficult!”

“At least you’re aware of that,” Hinata mutters, rolling his eyes. “But even considering the ridiculous situation, Matsuda’s beyond unfriendly. Doesn’t that bother you?”

“He’s not so bad,” Komaeda says. “And he’s clearly stressed. I would feel awful if I just left him alone. It’s the same with you, Hinata-kun.”

“Me and Matsuda aren’t anything alike!” Hinata hurriedly argued back, flustered. “Not in terms of personality!”

“Hmm... I wonder...” Komaeda gave him a knowing smile. “You both are rather tsun, don’t you think?”

“T-Tsun...?! What the hell...?”

Komaeda just laughs.

(“That’s why...you have to...”)

“I’m joking, I’m joking. Hinata-kun’s much more reserved, but... I do think it’s a good thing that Matsuda-kun incites you so much. With how you passed out, I was worried that you’d clam up or at least shrink back. But, you do have a lot of energy!”

(“...I see...”)

“That’s...not necessarily a good thing...” And yet, Hinata’s cheeks burned anyway. “I still don’t really like being around him... But I don’t think I like leaving him to his own devices anyway...who knows what trouble he could get in—”

Thwack.

Before he could even finish that thought.


Hinata and Komaeda immediately scrambled up the rest of the stairs.

“M-Matsuda, what the fuck did you do?!”

“Yoooo.”

Matsuda gave them a lazy wave, pulling out a scalpel from where it was embedded in the wall. Close by, one person, a small chubby fellow dressed appropriately, was trembling like a leaf, likely from shock, but...the other...

“I have not seen such superb blade throwing since my departure!” Her eyes were sparkling, hands clasped. “Oh, how wonderous it is to be welcomed by the same celebration that I was wished off with!!”

“I-Impressive...indeed...” The other was stuttering, touching his face. “But, um, you sliced my cheek a little on accident... It’s bleeding...”

“Oh, whoops,” Matsuda said, dispassionately as ever. “I’m not sorry, though.”

“U-Um...”

“How thrilling!” she squealed. “And so exciting! Oh.” She gasped. “But where are my manners? Good day to your three.”

“G-Good day, uh, Hinata Hajime, and...” Hinata quickly drags Matsuda back, gritting his teeth. “Sorry about him.”

“Don’t be,” she said. “It was a wondrous display.”

“...yes, quite...” The other rubbed his chin. “Ehe... Horrousing, you could say...”

“Horrousing?”

“Anyway,” he went on. “Hanamura Teruteru. My title is Ultimate Cook, but—Ultimate Chef is much more fitting, yeah? Much more sophisticated.” He winks. “Matsuda-kun, was it? While being interrupted is a bit of a shame, I do still appreciate some thrill. Just, um, some, that said. Still...a pleasure.”

Matsuda’s face scrunched up in clear distaste.

“...next.”

The young woman immediately perked, clapping her hands.

“Oh, goodness! I apologize for my tardiness!” She gives a friendly smile. “I am Sonia Nevermind from Novoselic. I am here in Japan as an exchange student, and... It truly is a wonderful pleasure to meet your esteemed acquaintance! May our friendship face a prosperous road!”

Hinata was a little dazzled, and Matsuda, still twirling around his scalpel, looked towards Komaeda expectantly.

“She’s the Ultimate Princess,” he explained cheerily. “Actual royalty. Quite dazzling, don’t you think?”

Matsuda blinked once. Twice.

“...isn’t this going to turn into an international crisis, then...?”

“Oh, goodness!” Sonia exclaimed, aghast at the thought. “I would hope not! I do not feel threatened at all!” She frowns, morose. “If it is not too impudent to admit, I am joyful to be here.”

“You are?” Both Hinata and Matsuda voiced that, but Hinata was the only one to get flustered about it.

“You see, in my own country, I had not one friend that was either my equal or my own age,” Sonia sighed. “And so, to participate in this bonding activity with everyone else as part of a group... It is most novel! Thus!!” With royal force, she decreed. “I applaud this situation! I applaud all of you!”

“O-Oh, um...” Hinata’s knees shook a little with the clear urge to kneel. “T-Thank you.”

Matsuda, meanwhile, had no idea how he was supposed to feel about any of this.

Is she just naïve...or a total freak? Well, whatever keeps us out of war, I guess.

He shoves Hinata off.

“Don’t start fucking drooling on me. Creep.”

“O-Oi...!”

“My, my, you really are snappish,” Hanamura remarked. “So sharp-tongued it cuts to the bone.”

“...hey, Komaeda, do you think that gaudy shark freak has an ice pick tool?”

“Oh, Souda-kun, you mean? He should,” Komaeda hummed. “Why do you ask?”

“I might need it.”

Hanamura jumped at that.

“G-Goodness...!”

“Oh, by the way, Hanamura-kun,” Komaeda went on without a care. “I’m not surprised you went here, first. How would you say the restaurant is? Does it meet the expectations of the esteemed Ultimate Chef?”

“Ha? Oh, yes, yes, it does...” Hanamura nods along, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “If I am to be honest, it very much does. While I prefer the urban feel of my home, this rural atmosphere is also quite très magnifique! It very much suits my very refined tastes!”

Liar.

“You really do make such sour faces, Matsuda-kun! It’s a shame!” Hanamura exclaimed. “I can share something juicy with you if you want. Pekoyama-san would likely be to your tastes, I think...”

The glare Matsuda gave was one vacant of light and mercy.

Disgusting.”

“O-Oh, dear...”

“Hanamura-kun,” Komaeda said, ever so cheerfully. “Please do refrain from such things in the future. You are still bleeding, after all.”

“Oh, goodness, that’s true! I better go wash up, then!”

With that, Hanamura scurried off.

“Whatever was that about?” Sonia asked curiously.

“Don’t worry about it,” Matsuda replied as Komaeda waved his hand.

 “...that felt dangerous,” Hinata muttered. “In more ways than one.”

“Be on your guard, Hinata,” Matsuda said darkly. “For not just your sake but for the sake of at least two countries.”

“R... Right...”


He really needed a pick-me-up after that shit, and thankfully, he did in fact find something.

This is helping. I don’t know how, but it’s helping. And I need all the fucking help I can get especially after all that shit.

“So do you like...animals, Matsuda-kun?”

“They’re better than people, that’s for damn sure.”

Right now, the chicken was pretty settled into his lap, docile as Matsuda petted its fluffy feathers.

“It’s a shame that you didn’t tell Tanaka-kun that,” Komaeda hummed. “Your introduction likely could have gone better.”

“...Yeah, I doubt that.”

Cluck, cluck.

“Uh...” Hinata seemed weirded out, likely from witnessing what was probably the best mood Matsuda had in months. Maybe even years. “So, like...this sure is...a farm. I’m glad you’re happy though.”

“Isn’t that such a wonderful thing?!”

The chicken fled from the sudden appearance of Usami, and Matsuda saw his calm shatter to pieces with the feathers fluttering to the floor. He could only stare.

“Oh, no!” Usami shrieked. “That wasn’t supposed to happen! I made a horrible mistake!”

“Your existence is a horrible mistake,” Matsuda said lowly, to which she sobbed.

“Uuu... Uu... I’m so sorry, Matsuda-kun...” Usami quickly waved around that stupid stick of hers. “D-Don’t worry! Sensei will fix this!”

“Please don’t.”

She flinches at that, still whining.

“Uuu... Uuu...”

“What the hell were you expecting to happen by showing up out of nowhere like that?” Hinata asked, aggravated. “Where did you even come from?”

“Oh, oh! That’s a special ability! With the help of my Magical Stick, sensei can appear anywhere and everywhere to check on any and all of her most precious students!” She waved it around happily. “Right now, sensei shall use her magic to improve Matsuda-kun’s mood!”

“Keep that shitty wand away from me,” Matsuda snapped, making her flinch again.

“U-Uuu... But... Um... Wouldn’t a bit of magic be good to see...? Make you happy?”

“...urgh.” Seriously what the hell is that face she’s making? “What kind of magic?”

“I’m glad you asked!” She bounced back so easily that it was infuriating. “Behold! As you look around you, there are all kinds of chickens...”

“Also a colorful bird that I’m pretty damn sure isn’t native to here,” Matsuda added, rolling his eyes. Hinata, noticing the bird in question, eyed it suspiciously.

“But no cows!” Usami exclaimed, undeterred. “That won’t do for a farm! So let’s fix that with magic, shall we?”

She twirled around, waving her stick, and then, just like that—

It happened.

The cattle mooed.

Hinata shrieked.

“Great success! Now we have a moo cow!”

“B... But how...?!”

“Smoke and mirrors, maybe?” Komaeda suggested as Hinata sputtered helplessly.

“It’s not a cow, though,” Matsuda said. “It’s a steer.”

THAT’S what you’re concerned with?!”

“I was told it would be a cow. I’m disappointed.”

Oi...”

“Goodness!” Usami gasped. “Sensei will remedy that, then!”

“That’s not the problem here...!”

But of course, Hinata went ignored.


Back to introductions.

“Yeah, so I don’t know like...any of you.”

“Eh? O-Owari-san... You don’t remember from the beach?”

“Haha! Sorry, sorry! I don’t. There was way too many of you to remember, so...”

“Ah, I see... Um. We can do them again, then, aha... It’s no problem...”

“Well anyway! Owari Akane! Nice to meet’cha!”

She gives a big stupid grin, and Matsuda’s brow furrowed.

This kind of person seems like...an idiot. A total fucking idiot.

“But she is rather impressive,” Komaeda rattles off. “Creative and magnificent when she puts her mind to it, as expected of the Ultimate Gymnast!”

“And when she doesn’t?” Matsuda asks, because of course he does.

“She doesn’t even bother showing up.” Komaeda kept on smiling.

Ah. So she’s that kind of person. Raw talent and arrogance. Well, she does look really fucking stupid.

Owari picked at her ear, blissfully ignorant. As one would expect.

It must be real fucking nice to have the leeway to not have to work that hard.

Hinata seemed to be looking at her weirdly, making a face. Matsuda elbowed him sharply.

“H-Hey, what was that for?!”

“You were staring too hard,” Matsuda sneered. “Creep.”

“W-Wha—no?!”

“Oh, so that’s the kind of body you like, Hinata-kun?”

“No! Don’t say that so loud!”

With those two squabbling, Matsuda turned back to Owari. And then, he noticed something odd.

“Oi.”

She perked up, friendly as ever.

“Yeah?”

“What the hell kind of look were you giving that cow?”

“Look? Well... Don’t you think it looks juicy?” she asked. “I haven’t had red meat in a while, so...!”

“...” Red meat bimbo should be her nickname. “Don’t eat that one. Earlier, when that dumbass rabbit was going on a cow transformation frenzy, she ended up inflicting it on a chicken I rather liked. So...if you’re going to eat any of them, pick a different one.”

“Ah, okay. Got’cha!”

“...”

Well that was settled pretty painlessly. Unlike with that stupid rabbit who ended up scolding me.

He’s honestly kind of surprised, but when he thinks about it, he shouldn’t be.

It must be nice...to be that carefree because you’re just too stupid and big-headed to know any better. That said... She doesn’t seem like a bad person. A potential pain in the ass, certainly, but... I guess she’s alright. That said...

“Mmgh.”

“Hmm?”

Just looking at her gives me a headache.


“Saionji Hiyoko! Nice to meet you, nii and nii! Nii-nii! One, two, three!”

With each syllable, she presses her thumb into the ground, crushing the thorax of ant after ant, with the rest scattering and scrambling to get away. No avail because she was relentless, counting each fatality in her rampage.

The image of childish innocence and traditional dance—yeah, he honestly wasn’t surprised at all. This is just what happens when a brat draws a likely dubious crowd.

“When you press down on their bellies in juuuuust the right spot,” she giggles. “It makes just most satisfying squish! Four, five, six!”

She gives Hinata an expectant look, eyes wide and bright. Childish innocence.

“Do you want to give it a try, Hinata-onii?”

“No, why would I?!” Hinata gawked at the idea.

“Awww, that’s a shame.” Just like that, her face twisted into a smug sneer. “Wimp.” Just like that, she bounced right back into chipper cheer when faced with Matsuda. “And you? You were in quite the bitchy mood earlier.”

Squish. Squish. Squish.

“Maybe something like this will help?”

Y’know, it’s weird. For whatever reason, this scenario feels—

Familiar...

Matsuda winced, rubbing his head with a grumble.

“It really could help!” Saionji chirped. “Try it! Unless you’re a big fat wimp too, teehee.”

“...mmgh...” His features twitch as he grimaces before his expression smooths back over. “Seems like a worthless way to relieve stress if you ask me.” He shrugs. “Not only are the deaths pretty meaningless since those are all mindless drones anyway, but when you crush an ant, it makes this acrid stink that I’m really not a fan of. It’s worthless, completely worthless.”

Something like that—

“It’s just such a shallow way of making yourself feel big.”

Saionji pauses, smile cherubic.

“...arrogant prick.” Just like that, she resumes. “You know what, I don’t think I like you at all, Matsuda-onii.”

That’s not what ṡ̶̘͓̂͜h̷̺́̾ḙ̴͚̊—

Urgh.

“...Can’t say I’m your biggest fan either,” he muttered.

Just being around her is so unpleasant—but in ways that are weirdly sickening. Why is that? It’s not like I actually give a shit about what this kimono gremlin says and does. How irritating.

He should stop thinking about it.

He needs to stop thinking about it.

For his own sake.


“Ah, Matsuda-kun, you’re looking unwell again...”

“Mmf. It’s probably because I’m not used to this much fucking sun.” Matsuda blocks the rays with his arm, but it doesn’t do much good. “It’s weird, though, isn’t it...I don’t think I’ve gotten a burn from it, yet.”

“Well, you have been ducking under the shade pretty often,” Komaeda says. “So maybe that’s why?”

“I gueeeeess?”

“You still shouldn’t take more of those pills,” Hinata said. “It’s not healthy.”

“I’m sorry, did Ultimate Who Fucking Knows just try to give me medical advice?”

“I-I could have a medical-related talent...!” Hinata exclaimed in the least convincing tone ever.

Matsuda only gives him a withering look, and he shrinks back.

“...I-It’s possible,” he mumbles lamely.

“I’m sure that even if it’s not medical that it’s a wonderful talent, Hinata-kun,” Komaeda said reassuringly, but voicing his own doubts in it being medical, albeit implicitly, did little to lift Hinata’s spirits.

“Mmgh...”

He really does get discouraged so damn easily. Is that just because he doesn’t remember his talent?

Well, it’s not like he really cares. He doesn’t care.

“...mmgh.”


The plucky trio continued exploring and observing, eventually coming across a bridge to another island. Hinata pressed a bit closer to Komaeda than necessary as they crossed. The new island was considerably more closed off, with several locked gates. Suspicious as hell, but...

Maybe that’s where the staff is...?

It seemed the only logical conclusion to make.

Unless I’m supposed to believe they’re a bunch of fucking ninjas. You know what, I’d believe anything at this point. Within reason.

Eventually, however, they found an open park. It was expansive, covering quite the amount of ground with carefully managed gardens between the paths of cobblestone, all surrounding one particular statue comprising of several animals and what seemed to be a warrior on horseback, holding their spear high in the air.

...the hell? That’s the kind of thing you see in a museum not in some park. That’s just so fucking much.

“Cool,” Komaeda said.

“Creepy,” Hinata said.

“Eccentric,” Matsuda said. “Just what kind of fucking weirdo owns this place?”

There’s still not any clear sign of danger—but I feel like I can’t let down my guard for a moment.

There’s someone else there, staring intensely at the statue as well, arms crossed. Matsuda blinks a few times. His staring is noticed.

...there’s something off about this one.

“What do you want?”

But that voice—this is the guy who was taking charge as I went to sleep. A big guy, huh? Literally and metaphorically. And he’s unfriendly, too. Pweh.

“Togami-kun,” Komaeda says, pulling Hinata along. Again, Hinata seemed pretty intimidated by any strong glare. While Komaeda was still speaking without a care. “Do you mind some extra introductions?”

Togami quirks a brow as Komaeda cheerfully ushers Hinata forward.

“Go on, Hinata-kun.” He gives Matsuda an encouraging nod. “You too, Matsuda-kun.”

“Um... Hey.” Hinata hesitates. “I’m Hinata Hajime.”

“...” Matsuda’s lips twitched. “Matsuda Yasuke.”

“...” Togami’s own twisted. “My name is Togami Byakuya.”

Matsuda had a feeling that Togami felt the same way about this situation as he himself did.

Well, I’m glad to reach an understanding with someone.

“Hinata, was it?” Togami then eyed Hinata suspiciously. “Your talent was not listed.”

“Ah, that’s...” Hinata faltered.

“What is it? Why were you scouted? Tell me. Now.”

“I... I-I don’t...remember...” Hinata avoided Togami’s gaze as if in shame. “Sorry.”

“His mind is in a mess from the shock of the situation,” Komaeda said helpfully. “So he’s contracted a bit of amnesia.”

“S-Sorry,” Hinata repeated meekly.

You really shouldn’t be that ashamed over something you can’t help. Stupid.

“Simpleton.” Togami spoke before Matsuda could voice that thought. “Then, that is all.”

Hinata looked as if he wanted to say something more, but knowing him, he probably had no idea what.

Useless...

“This conversation has finished,” Togami stated coldly. “How long do you intend to stand there ridiculously? Move it. That is what skinny people do, correct?”

Matsuda rolled his eyes, at that. “You don’t need to tell me twice.”

“Let’s go, then, Hinata-kun.”

“Y... Yeah...”

Thankfully, Hinata and Komaeda didn’t, either.

Matsuda recognized the name Togami, for the record. Wrapped up in his own business as he may be, he didn’t live under a rock. The Togami family funded some of the hospitals he worked at, and those places hadn’t exactly been on the modest side. The Togami corporation also had a hand in several other institutions. To call the Togami conglomerate one of the world’s richest wouldn’t be inaccurate.

A member of the Togami family, a member of the Kuzuryuu family, and actual fucking royalty from another country... To have been able to snatch up people like that would take some fucking balls. Did Hope’s Peak really set this up?

Komaeda was chatting with Hinata amicably, likely explaining all this to the useless idiot. Hinata still seemed to be reeling, and Matsuda clicked his tongue.

“That’s all of them though, right?” he asked. “Unless someone invented a new number in-between, that’s all seventeen students, including us.”

“Yes, that’s everyone,” Komaeda replied. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“...while it may not have been one of the worst fucking moments of my life, it’s definitely among the more tedious and exhausting.” Matsuda rubbed his temple, frowning. “I still really don’t have a good feeling about this whole fucking debacle but we really have no choice but to play along for now, huh...”

“Are you sure you can do that?” Hinata asked. “I don’t think I’ve seen you get along with...anyone since you got here.”

“I’m clearly not the only bitchy one here so if that is a problem, it won’t be just my fault.” He yawned. “But Christ, I’m bitch-tired. Why the hell couldn’t she make us do roll call while we were in that classroom instead of jumping straight to the fucking island? Urgh.”

“Are you not used to socializing, Matsuda-kun?” Komaeda asked. “It’s not that much more difficult than talking to patients, right?”

Matsuda thought about that.

“...some of you really pushed it.” Not to mention... “It’s different...talking to someone you who’s relying on you compared to some fucking rando that you would otherwise have nothing to do with.”

“Ohhhh, right.” Komaeda nods in understanding, but he’s the only one convinced.

“How?” Hinata asked, eyes narrow. To that, Matsuda gave him a nasty look.

“That’s the absolute stupidest thing you could have asked me. And it’s likely the stupidest thing I’ve heard all day. Congrats, maybe that’s your talent, the Ultimate Total Fucking Idiot.”

“I-I was just asking...!”

“Hinata-kun, have you never stayed in a hospital before?” Komaeda asked.

“I... Aside from like...the school nurse or checkups...?” Hinata thought about it. “I don’t...think so.”

“Really? You haven’t broken your arm or leg like a dumbass as a kid?” Matsuda asked, squinting at him.

“N-No... What about it?”

Hinata looked at him challengingly, but Matsuda just shrugged.

“I’m impressed, actually.”

“It’s pretty lucky,” Komaeda giggled. “But, that said... Matsuda-kun is right in that doctor-patient relationships are fundamentally different than those between peers. Doctors have an obligation to you, after all, but... Your peers don’t.” A pause. “But  here, we are obligated to get all along, and if Matsuda-kun can handle the responsibility of others’ lives... He can play nice with us for a little while so that we can escape this place. I believe in him.”

Matsuda scoffed.

“It’s stupid,” he muttered, digging his foot into one of the cobblestones’ crevices. “This is so fucking stupid. None of this is normal. And I’m not...”

“You’ve tolerated Hinata-kun and I for this long,” Komaeda pointed out. “You waited for us even after we got separated. So... I think you really are a kind person deep down, Matsuda-kun.”

...does he seriously—

“...you really think that?” Hinata was the one who asked that. All the same, Komaeda positively beamed.

“Of course I do!”

Wow. That’s just...

“Sad. That’s really, really sad.” Christ, I feel like nothing I could say would even faze this kid if he really truly believes pitiful and beyond fucking desperate shit like that. “Now I just feel sorry for you.”

Just, good fucking god.

Even Hinata looked worried for Komaeda, but Komaeda kept on smiling. Without a care.

Someone like this—it’s also unpleasantly familiar. In a way that is infuriating and painful.

“...g-geez...”

What the hell am I even supposed to do?

He thought about just running away, getting the hell out of dodge because with how sickly Komaeda looked, he probably had shit stamina, but then—

“Great going, everyone!!!”

Oh fuck.

When he turned, sure enough there was Usami’s stupid grinning face on one of the monitors.

“You’re all already getting along so very, very well! Sensei’s so happy...so proud...!”

In what fucking universe?

“To celebrate, I’ve prepared very special wonderful presents so that you all can be happy, too!”

Ugh.

“They’ll be waiting for you at the beach! Sorry for the trouble~!!”

Urgh.

“Let’s make hope sparkle together~~!!”

Oh my fucking god.

The monitor clicked off, and Matsuda already had his response.

Forget that shit.” With a ‘tch’, he buried his hands into his coat pockets, shaking his head as he did. “Count me out of that.”

“I don’t know if it’s safe either,” Hinata mumbled. “But...”

“But nothing,” Matsuda snapped. “I’ve already been forced to play along for too damn long. I need a break or else I’m going to lose my shit.”

“M-Mmf.” Hinata flinched. “Yeah it... Probably better if...”

“Haaaaah.”

Komaeda sighs loudly, arms crossing.

“Matsuda-kun, really? Is that how far your hope goes? That’s a little disappointing.”

Hah?

“Even if you don’t want to socialize, you’ve been curious about what’s been going on, right?” Komaeda goes on. Just like that, a smile flickers back across his lips. “Isn’t this a good time for our entire class to discuss our findings amongst one another? Wouldn’t that be the best option for figuring out the truth behind all this?”

Matsuda perked up at that, blinking.

“With everyone working together, we’ll definitely prevail, don’t you think?” Komaeda asked with nothing short of bright-eyed belief. “Even when it’s difficult, things are always easier when you have others helping you!”

“...”

“Let’s all go together,” Komaeda says. “So that we can figure out this mystery all together, too.”

“...”

...ah.

“We should at least take more precautions,” Hinata comments softly. “But...”

Shit,” Matsuda cursed, running his fingers through his hair. “You’re unfortunately not wrong.”

Even the stupidest people have their senses.

Komaeda beamed again, so goddamn radiantly that Matsuda honestly wished he could hate him at least a little.

This idiot in particular just made too much sense. So, let’s just roll with it for now.

Chapter Text

The first thing that happened once they were all gathered on the beach was Togami chewing them out for being late, which was the most stellar fucking way to start, with Matsuda seething as Komaeda politely apologized on their behalves.

But that was out of the way quickly, and they were soon talking about actually important matters.

“For some reason,” Pekoyama says. “All of the bridges save for one are blocked off. That’s worrying.”

“When I tried to get past them,” Mioda chirped. “That bunny showed up and said they were just there so that we didn’t get lost!”

Lost, huh?

“There’s five islands, right?” Matsuda asks. “So I guess it makes sense. There’s also that considering how carefully maintained that these two islands are... It’s likely that whatever staff is here is also working to prepare the other islands as well.”

Or they’re hiding.

“I see...” Pekoyama pondered it, but still seemed uncertain.

“It’s a theory,” Togami murmurs. “But what about everyone else?”

They continued chatting, talking about the stuff Matsuda had already seen for himself, such as the stocked supermarket, the fancy hotel, and the big farm. And then went on about making useless fucking comments such as the island looking like a resort and whenever Hanamura had anything to say. Togami seemed pretty unimpressed, too, but there was one thing Matsuda just had to ask because he seriously doubted it’d be brought up otherwise.

“That rabbit bitch said this place was called Jabberwock. Does that name not ring a bell for anyone here?”

He got mostly confused looks, but some of them were at least thinking about it.

“...it’s a monster, right?!” Mioda shouted first to break the silence. “Graaaagh, gaaaarrr, gyahahaha!”

“It burbled as it came!” Sonia exclaimed. “One, two, one, two! And through and through!”

“What beast of which do you speak?!” Tanaka hissed. “I, Tanaka Gundam, have not even heard of such a creature...!!!”

“Gyahahaha!”

“She chortled in her joy!”

“I don’t think that’s what Matsuda-kun meant,” Komaeda says, laughing lightly as Matsuda just stared until his eyes rolled far back enough to see pink.

“...” Should I be aggravated by that asinine response or impressed that the punkcore off her fucking rockers apparently knows her European classics? “This place is like, a resort, right? So has anyone at least heard of Jabberwock as a vacation spot?”

“Oh, no, I have not,” Sonia said. “Apologies.”

“Nope, nope!” Mioda chirped as Tanaka agonized.

“...I have heard a few things,” Togami speaks up. “For example, have none of you noticed the bronze statue?”

“We were literally in the same fucking park as you where it was,” Matsuda snapped. “So of course we did.”

“You, uh, mean the statue with all those freaky animals, right?” Hinata asked.

Togami nods to Hinata, and transparently ignored Matsuda.

“I have heard once of an archipelago within the Pacific, known well for its everlasting summer and scenic beauty,” he said. “Each of the five islands is supposedly protected by five respective animals. When I saw that statue—I knew the rabbit’s words of this place being Jabberwock to be true.”

Matsuda perked, thinking it over.

So that statue is a symbol of the island?

“However, there are a few concerns if that is the case,” Togami went on. “So I shall continue to investigate further and inform you all.”

Excuse me?

“What concerns?” Matsuda asked. “What about Jabberwock itself is a concern?”

“As I said...” Togami hmphed. “I need to investigate further.”

“That’s fucking stupid, there’s no reason to put off telling us right now—”

“What does it matter?” Owari asked loudly. “Who even cares? We’re gonna be living here for the time being anyway.”

“It’s not so bad,” Koizumi said. “It’s not like this place is dangerous or anything, so why not try to make the most of it?”

“Yeah, no school!” Souda whooped alongside Mioda. “Fine by me!”

“B-But...” Hinata stammered. “It’s...still...”

“Stupid,” Matsuda muttered darkly. “So, so stupid.” And then, his voice raises. “Aren’t you concerned about our kidnappers at all?”

“Well, it’s not like we have any means of escape,” Hanamura murmured, fiddling with his fingers. “And the island is nice... The girls are cute...”

“The island is nice, I like it lots,” Saionji agreed before snickering. “But the people are another story.”

“Look, I don’t fucking like anyone here either, but... You do realize that we’re completely at these fuckers’ mercy, right?” Matsuda pointed out. “Yes, right now we’re just expected to get along... But the people in charge could change their mind at any moment. By kidnapping us in the first place, they’ve already shown zero fucking consideration for consent. That sets a dangerous precedent.”

“T-That’s scary,” Tsumiki whimpered. “But... B-But...”

“There are also no means of communication,” Pekoyama said. “We do not have any radio signals, thus calling for help is incredibly difficult.”

“Well, we could swim,” Owari suggested.

“A-A raft is also possible!” Hinata hurriedly added. “Like we could just build one from the trees...”

“Except the rules wouldn’t allow that, right?” Nanami yawned. “So that might be a bad idea... I think.”

“S-Still...”

“Is it not the case that your fears have made you paranoid and irrational?” Tanaka asked haughtily. “To worry oneself with nothing more than mere suggestive possibilities is foolish.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, fucking forgive me for doubting the apparent good will of fucking kidnappers,” Matsuda hissed. “Do you seriously hear yourself right now or is your head shoved so fucking up your Chuuni Ass Crack that you fucking seriously—”

“Matsuda-kun.” Komaeda stopped him a bit more firmly. “While I understand how you feel, getting incited and arguing won’t help, either.”

Matsuda scowled. “Oi.”

“If we just collect hope fragments, it’ll be fine, right?” Nanami asked drearily. “Um, just by introducing ourselves, we all got one so... There’s nothing to worry about, I think. We’ll be able to leave soon if we just keep at this pace...maybe.”

Hinata groaned. “I don’t know if I can just believe that.”

“We have no choice,” Togami exhaled. “At least not right now.”

“But will we ever is the real question,” Matsuda said lowly.

“Oh, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda sighed.

“U-Uuu... Please don’t fight...” Usami sniffled. “Sensei really doesn’t have bad intentions; believe me. I would never endanger any of my precious students!”

“...”

“I just want all of you to have fun and make wonderful memories alongside wonderful new friends!” she went on. “Please, rather than worry, just enjoy your daily island lives to the fullest extent!”

“...”

Everyone stared.

“Butting in on the conversation is a shitty way of alleviating any concerns,” Matsuda said. “How fucking long were you even standing there?”

“O-Oh, not long! I wanted to give you all as much extra time to get to know each other as possible without any interventions!” Usami chirped before mourning. “And you all were getting along so well... Uu...”

When the hell was that?

“Where’s our presents, Usami-chan?!” Mioda exclaimed, moving onto more important things. “You said you had presents!”

“Oh right!” Usami once again bounces back. “Love, love! Here you all go!”

With more of those bounces, she plopped into the hand of each student a little charm.

Of herself.

“...”

...well I already knew that our kidnappers were up their asses considering some of the students here, but giving a gift that’s just the image of yourself is...

Matsuda pushed its belly. It chirped out a greeting in Usami’s sugary voice. Like the real thing. Only he could more easily eat it if he wanted to.

“They’re kinda cute, I guess,” Nanami says. “Um... I like how the ears look like rabbit ears.”

“It’s because I am a rabbit!” Usami explained cheerily before giggling. “Although yes, it’s very, very cute, isn’t it!”

“You’re so fucking full of yourself that it’s off the charts,” Matsuda said. “This is the kind of shit you just give to goodwill because you don’t have the confidence that it’ll sell on wahoo auctions.”

“E-Eh?”

“Worthless,” Togami agreed.

“So super majorly disappointing,” Mioda sighed.

“But, hey,” Matsuda went on. “At least this is suitable motivation for wanting the get off the island faster with crap merch like this.”

“I-I did prepare a ‘motive’...!” Usami squeaked. “For everyone to get along...!”

“What is it?” Komaeda asked, curious.

“U-Uu...” She whined at them. “You children are so horrible that I don’t know if I should...”

“If we’re so horrible then I guess getting along is impossible after all,” Matsuda sighed, making her freak.

“O-Oh no! Please don’t say that! No, no, no!” Flailing about, Usami finally pulled out too considerably large swimming bags from—her ass, supposedly. “We are by the sea, so it would be a shame if we didn’t make the most of it...! And we are all together so we should celebrate...!”

With that, she pulled out a swimsuit with flourish.

“Ta-daaaaa! Prepared swimsuits! Well, they’re school swimsuits, but...!”

“That’s already so much better than the other thing!” Souda exclaimed. “Hell YEAH!”

“Who the hell would just swim right here right now?!” Hinata demanded.


Unsurprisingly, the answer was most of them. Togami and Kuzuryuu weren’t terribly interested, of course, and Saionji decided the best use of her time would be chasing crabs. But as for everyone else? Gone to change.

Owari unsurprisingly had to be stopped from stripping and just going in the nude, and Nanami had to be dragged along despite claiming to be too sleepy for the activity, but... Yeah.

“So, what’s it going to be?” Komaeda asks the sulking chestnut on the ground. “It sounds fun, don’t you think?”

“How can we even have fun at a time like this...?” Hinata grumbled into his knees. “I just don’t understand it at all... Matsuda, you get me, right?”

“It’s really pitiful that you’d turn to me of all people for validation,” Matsuda said.

Unsurprisingly, that just seemed to depress Hinata further.

...hah.

“I’m not going to swim either way,” Matsuda continues, scratching his cheek. “Too much salt increases risk of stroke and heart failure. So maybe it’s better you don’t swim, Hinata.”

“Mmm...” Komaeda hums thoughtfully. “While Hinata-kun’s feelings are understandable, I don’t think it does much good to just fret. That’s unhealthy too, right?”

“...yeaaah...” Matsuda sucked in air, tasting bitterness and salt. “Still. It’s unsettling just how easily the others accept this kind of situation. Like a bunch of stupid farm animals.”

“It can’t be helped,” Komaeda said. “And things really don’t seem so bad.”

“I guess it must be nice,” Matsuda exhaled. “Able to just roll with something like that. Do you think they’ve just been fucking traumatized by worse shit? Or that they’re really just that naïve?”

Komaeda chuckled softly, but provided no answer. Which was fair.

“Well, in the end, it’s none of my concern,” Matsuda murmured. “Good for them. They’re able to enjoy their dubious as fuck vacation. Meanwhile, I...”

I have...so much more that I need to do...but I can’t, because I was trapped here. For that reason, I’m never going to forgive our kidnappers for this.

Hinata sighs heavily and gloomily.

“Yeah, I don’t think these are circumstances that I can be friends with anyone,” Matsuda finds himself saying. “But, then again, I don’t think those circumstances even exist.”

For whatever reason, the idea is like an interloper my brain can’t help but violently reject. Even if assistance is necessary at times, people can’t always be relied on. Right? It’s just too much trouble. Too much.

“That’s a shame,” Komaeda says so gently that it’s beyond aggravating. “But, you know, if you change your mind, you could probably accomplish wonderful things alongside the others, Matsuda-kun.”

Matsuda bit his tongue.

“Hinata-kun, feel free to join us whenever you like, okay?” Komaeda is giving Hinata that soft smile next, and Hinata does wearily meet his eyes. Komaeda brightens. “It would be really nice if you did. At least, I think so.”

With that, Komaeda departs as well with his swimwear. Matsuda and Hinata both watch him go.

“...maybe it’s wrong,” Hinata utters, so quietly that Matsuda almost didn’t hear him. “Maybe our understanding of this situation is—wrong or...misguided or...”

Matsuda bristled.

“If that’s what you think then fucking go with them,” he said harshly. “Just go. I can’t stand your whining. Go cool your head. It’ll do a hell of a lot more good than just moping like a little bitch.”

Hinata cringed but pushed himself up, wiping his hands on his jeans.

“...honestly,” Hinata huffs. “I really don’t want to be anything like you.”

With that, he hurriedly turns on his heel, dashing in the direction of the hotel.

“Komaeda!! Hey! Wait for me!”

Matsuda clicked his tongue and looked away quickly.

“That thing likely did not lie. There is no logical reason to do so.”

Matsuda twitched at the words.

“The funny thing is,” he replies, turning to Togami with a harsh glare. “People aren’t always the most logical of creatures. They can be capricious and fickle for no reason other then what the hell.”

Togami hmphed.

“You are quite the cynical one, aren’t you. Cynical and arrogant.”

“Hypocrite,” Matsuda droned, unimpressed.

“I wonder what it is,” Togami mused. “Is it mere cynicism? Mere arrogance? Or cowardice?”

Matsuda wasn’t going to dignify that shit with a proper answer.

“So why the hell are you sticking around with me?” he asked, jabbing his thumb in the general direction of Kuzuryuu. “I know he’s got his whole big guy act to hold up, but what about you?”

He’s pretty sure that if Kuzuryuu heard that, he’d be dead if looks could kill. But right now, he can’t begin to care, instead staring intently at Togami for an answer.

“I have no interest in the sea,” was the simple answer. “It is too salty.”

“Pffft.” Matsuda snorted. He shrugged. “Well, can’t argue with that.”


With a loud chorus of whoops, his classmates were having a blast jumping into the water. Between the shining sun and glimmering ocean, they were all cheering.

For what it was worth, it looked fun, Matsuda thought. But, from his spot under the shade, it was also irritatingly bright.

It must be nice, he thought, removing his sandals so that he could bury his feet in the sand.

Not too far off, Tsumiki was waiting with a first aid kit, happily offering her services to whoever needed them whenever. At least there was that.

Tanaka was cackling over some stupid sand castle he was building for his hamsters. Matsuda watched him coo over those rodents, and quickly averted his gaze elsewhere.

Mioda was definitely the loudest out of everyone, still tugging Nanami along, pushing her about in a floatie that came from who even knows. Nanami seemed half-asleep, because of course she did.

Sonia was kicking around the waves, giggling and getting ogled by Souda. Gross. But if Sonia wasn’t going to pay him mind, then Matsuda shouldn’t either.

Hanamura and Nidai were—oh. No, he’s not that curious. Moving on. Quickly. Quickly.

“Watch your step, Hinata-kun!”

Komaeda’s voice, clear and cheerful. Komaeda himself, who looked paler than a fucking bed sheet under all that sun, showing all that skin. Komaeda laughing like that, when a small wave could probably crumble him, with Hinata being the more visibly nervous one.

Visibly nervous, and yet with a smile twitching across his lips, as if Komaeda’s own was disgustingly contagious.

Usami sighs happily, clearly joyous at the sight that Matsuda watches with a dull gaze and a straight line.

They’re acting like a bunch of kids.

Koizumi was keeping a careful eye on Owari, and on that Matsuda wasn’t going to pay further mind. Hinata was still tense around the shoulders, and unsurprisingly worked up about getting splashed again. Pekoyama was pretty focused on her strokes, almost distracting Mioda from Nanami. There were ripples in the cheer, and yet, it remained a carefree image.

Like the kind of thing put on the back of a fucking postcard.

Like the one I was given as a souvenir before. By someone who—while I myself...

Matsuda picks at his peeling lips with his teeth. Kuzuryuu curses and complains, Togami observes coolly, and Saionji keeps on stomping after scurrying creatures.

For some reason, Hinata is laughing. Maybe at a joke? Maybe someone did something silly? Because he’s finally having fun after being a wound up basket case up until this point?

He doesn’t know. But he doesn’t really care. It’s not like it matters.

A hermit crab nudges his ankle. Matsuda pulls away before it pinches him, scowling.

...if I had a manga, it wouldn’t be so bad. Hell, it might even be nice.

He has to pluck the hermit crab up by its shell, because it keeps crawling towards him. Remembering Saionji, he tucks it somewhere more hidden and safe without thinking.

...it might even be nice, but... I’m not someone who can afford to relax. I’m not someone who can just make friends. I just...

He’s pinched for his troubles, and when he scowls, the crab just scuttles into the grass.

I just don’t have the time for this. Even if I did, would it really be alright? Really? After everything?

After everything I’ve d̷̛͚̼̟͆̄͜͝ô̶̯̗̹͉n̸̬̱̚͜ẻ̵͓̀̃?̷̫͓̅̈͂

...huh?

Matsuda perked up, blinking.

Something was buzzing. Something was ringing. The laughter and rolling waves are as though beyond a glass wall.

Ba-dump.

Ba-dump.

C̷̝͎̩͗͆a̵̮̔n̵̢̖̳̤͂ ̶̳̱͕̭̉̋͝y̴̤̬̑o̸̥̤̦̿̾u̷̢̟̩̎ ̷̠͌͂h̵͖̹̫̅͠è̶̥̬̓a̷̺̹͙̠̽ŗ̷̲̼̅̂̋͘ ̸̺͎̖͈̂̽m̵͕̭̝̖͘̚ê̵͕̮͋?̴̯͗͝

Matsuda stood up and stumbled a bit, steadying himself on the palm tree.

What...the hell?

What the hell?

What the hell?!

“H-Hey...” Kozumi speaks up worriedly. “What’s going on?”

Matsuda looks around. As though the very color had been drained away, the sky had gone from that vibrant blue to a dark, tumultuous gray. A great shadow is overcast, and everyone has ceased their actions to stare upwards.

And from somewhere imperceptible, a voice come up, resounding.

“Haah... Aaah... Testing, testing... One, two... Aah...!”

Matsuda blinked once.

“Can you hear me? Hello? Hello?”

Something about the voice sank within him deep, heavy, and cold. It was high-pitched, almost screechy, and the easygoing giggle was one of malice.

Everything was dark. Everything was cold. He remembered something so unpleasant that he felt his entire body twist and distort like gears rubbing one another raw. Screeching. Shrieking.

“̶̬̝̟̲̚W̴͔͋̃͜h̶̛̙̒̏ã̵͕͌̂͑t̷̺͇͛̾̈́̈́ ̸̰̫̬̖͗h̴͙̪̳̍̈́̃à̸̺̠̚v̵̧̩̣̹̔e̴̯͂̑ ̸̰͉͇̮͛̒͠y̸̫͙̓̿o̸̟̖̜̔̕u̴̧̦͇̥͒͆̕ ̶͓̑̎d̷̲̗̟̾o̴͔̪̯͆n̷͈̺͂͜͜e̴̛̔̒͒ͅ?̴͖͒͋̎̈́!̴̖̜̞̿͠”̷̼̭̗͚̋̍

“What...” Matsuda swallows. “What have you done...?”

What... What?

“Sorry to keep you all waiting, upupupu!”

Another blink.

“Well, time to put an end to this farcical sideshow...and as the star performer, I would like to bring you all to the proper stage!”

Usami had already rushed off, and without thinking, Matsuda found himself moving as if controlled.

“Everyone! Gather up at Jabberwock Park right away!”

Without even thinking, Matsuda burst into a manic sprint, heart hammering with each pounding footstep. There might’ve been a shout—maybe Komaeda or Hinata had cried out his name, but, but

For whatever reason, he just couldn’t even think, like his mind itself was racing too fast for even him to keep up with.

Y’know, looking back on all this, it’s really not all that surprising, huh?

Like how a marionette moves on strings, I can’t help even when they cut in deep, slicing through like a scalpel.

Digging in deep, like ice picks through the skull.

If he could see himself now, he’d definitely look like someone out of their fucking mind.

When you’re like this, you don’t even have a choice.

Something like that—is more than all the world’s hope and despair can begin to convey.

What are you supposed to do, then?

T#@t’$--


“...what I love about you. That you let yourself get used so easily. For what is nothing more than your own sake.”

“...”

“I really, really love you.”


He stumbles into the park, doubling over and panting, face flushed from exertion and sweat cooling on his nape. Somehow, his hands were shaking as he brushed back his hair as he wheezed, swallowing back saliva and bile he nearly coughed up.

“H-How dare you even come here!! Just what do you think you’re doing?!”

Usami’s yelling squeaks at points, but when Matsuda manages to raise his gaze, he sees that she’s fixed into a defensive position, wielding that silly stick of hers as any worthwhile weapon. Pointed towards—

A monochromatic bear. Propped up on the statue. Sitting and grinning down at all of them, the red bolt gleaming in a way that was near blinding in the cold dark.

“You have no right to be here!” Usami shouts, near shrieks. “N-No right at all!!”

“Ohhhh? Is that really sooo?” The bear’s position and expression don’t change at all. “And yet, here I am. Wild, huh?”

...what even the hell is all this?

Matsuda felt his insides lurch to the point of nearly doubling over, which definitely seemed like an overreaction to some beyond tacky mascot thing, but...

But for whatever reason, that thing really gives me the most twisted feeling.

He covers his nose and mouth as if the very air surrounding it were poisonous. He shivered, hearing his pulse jump and trip over itself.

It’s—

Someone calling his name. That tacky bear remains unmoved. Unchanged. There are rapid footfalls and several of them—the sound of everyone else’s arrival. That tacky bear still just sits there, but it seems almost smug.

“Greetings, everyone!” came the jolly exclamation. “I am Monokuma! The headmaster of Hope’s Peak Academy! A pleasure to finally meet you all! Sorry for the wait!”

What is it even talking about?

His head hurt. It seriously fucking hurt.

I’ve seen the headmaster of Hope’s Peak give speeches on TV before. Obviously this isn’t the same guy. What the hell is that thing? And, more importantly, why

“S...Stay back! Everyone, stay back!” Usami yelled. “This guy is very, very dangerous!!”

“Oh my, oh my,” the bear cooed. “Even so... You can’t seriously tell me you’re satisfied with this, right?”

The question is directed at them, not the fuming Usami.

“This whole sham! Lovey-dovey? Heart-throbbing?! The flip?! It’s flat and lukewarm like soda left out overnight that you still drink anyway just because it’s there! Booooring! So boring that it’s beyond despairing!” A gagging sound, and then a laugh. “Thankfully you have this wonderful, adorable, sexy furry little bear! Dis bear! To spice shit up!”

“N-Not if I have any say in it!” Usami shot back. “Despair in any form is not welcome on this island!”

Usami charges forward, and Matsuda can only stand there, baffled by the whole display.

The scene plays like something out of one of the old anime he liked to watch. How there had been an episode where the mascot tried to fight against the monster, and that ended as expected.

Usami tries to land a hit on Monokuma, and Monokuma dodges, and slams its paw into her face, sending her flying. She cries out in pain, and Monokuma crushes her stupid little staff under its foot. She cries out again.

“...w-what is this,” Matsuda mutters, stepping back. “Is this supposed to be part of some show?”

“It doesn’t feel that way,” Komaeda says tensely.

“Usami...sounds really hurt,” Nanami murmurs, with the pause having the slightest shiver.

“Oh it’s real, babe!” Monokuma exclaims, giggling as it does. “We’re at the end of the shit filler! So we’re in need for a revamp.” With that malicious gaze glimmering down at the trembling Usami, that malicious grin widens. “Starting with you, Monomi, my dear little sister.”

“L-Little sister...?” Usami seemed horrified at the idea. “W-What are you saying, you fiend...?!”

“That’s no way to talk to your big brother! Now! Let’s get you out of that unsightly plain garment and mold you into my perfect image! You should be thanking me! After all, pure white rabbits are just so out of fashion these days!”

When Usami started screaming again, she really screamed. So much so that Matsuda had to look away, flinching as the sound hurt both his ears and head.

“N-No!”

“Yes! Perfect!”

Matsuda opens his eyes, taking in Usami’s new appearance. Trembling, sniffling half-pink, dressed in a creepy diaper, she ended up sobbing. When she tries to flail at Monokuma, she just ends up getting hit again.

“W-What even the hell is up with this puppet show?!”

“It’s bad—it definitely seems bad.”

“Did she just get assimilated?! That’s super mega bad!”

“But—what is the meaning of that tanuki’s sudden appearance?”

Is that a tanuki?”

“Why is there another one? What’s going on?!”

“What exactly happened to Usami? She looks weird...!”

“What is th’s, what is th’s?! What’s goin’ on?!”

“H-How would I know?!”

Urgh. Urgh.

His head was hammering, and Matsuda felt his knees shake.

“Shut UP! ALL OF YOU, JUST SHAAAAAAD UP!!!”

The bear’s bellowing was so thunderous that lightning struck above.

 “Goodness gracious, what is with today’s youth?!” it exclaimed, shaking its paw at them. “First off! I’m a bear! Second off! My appearance is not weird! Most importantly! I, Monokuma, demand respect as your headmaster!”

Matsuda rubbed at his temple, grimacing as he did.

Respect... Headmaster... Fucking seriously? Is this thing for real?

“I don’t know what you are,” he spits out. “But I know damn well you’re no headmaster. You—whatever the hell you are...”

“I’m a bear!” Monokuma cut him off. “And you really shouldn’t talk back to your superiors, y’know? Shouldn’t you know that by now?! But...” Suddenly, it was smiling, easygoing and upbeat. “I forgive you. For now. There are more important things to talk about! Such as how it’s gonna be from now on. See, we can’t seriously expect the world to be happy with lukewarm hangouts. And so!” A twirl. “Starting now! Everyone get ready for the Mutual Killing Game, starring—all of you, but of course!”

...huh?

Something about those cheerful words plunged the atmosphere into a bone-deep chill. Cackling, Monokuma went on.

“That’s right! The highly rated, critically acclaimed Mutual Killing Game in which you have a fabulous time murdering each other! It’s to die for!”

“N-No...! I won’t let you!” Usami cried. “I absolutely—!”

He kicks her back down.

“Monomi, Monomi... You really don’t get your place, huh? You dumb bunny.”

“E-Even so...” she’s trembling, struggling to get back up. “I won’t... I absolutely won’t let you... I’ll protect them... I-I...”

“Ohhh? You...?”

That’s—

“That’s enough.”

Matsuda shut his mouth as Monokuma looked over, grin manic. But Kuzuryuu just kept talking.

“You show up out of fucking nowhere and just demand we kill each other? Just who the hell do you think you are?”

“I told you!” Monokuma bristled. “I’m Mono—!”

“We’ve let you go on talking for long enough,” Nidai spoke up next, emanating a crackling, defiant energy. “While I don’t like resorting to it, if you want VIOLENCE...”

“I’m ALL for a BRAWL!” Owari exclaimed, cracking her knuckles in agreement. “I could take a weird black-white bear, no problem!”

“An intent to murder should be dealt with by force,” Pekoyama added, readying her sword.

“T-That’s right!” Mioda shouted. “Our jock army isn’t gonna let you get away with this!”

“W-Wait!” Usami squeaked. “Everyone, please!”

Monokuma jumps back onto the statue’s pedestal.

“If it’s an army against an army...! Come forth, my Monobeasts!”

The statue begins to tremble and break. And the stone falls to pieces as mechanized creatures jump to the ground before Monokuma. Nidai is the first to block the others from coming closer, and Souda is the first to scream as Mioda gargles up foam. Meanwhile, Matsuda stands there, dumbfounded by it all.

The statue housed that? Shit you’d see out of a toy’s commercial cartoon? Just what the hell is all this?

Tsumiki was whimpering, Koizumi covered her mouth in fright, Saionji was laughing likely from nerves, Hinata was frozen, and Kuzuryuu stumbled back.

“So stunning it leaves you all speechless,” Monokuma sighs happily. “Yep, aren’t my Monobeasts just the cutest?”

Usami’s quick to get between them and the Monobeasts.

“G-Get away from them! I won’t—even like this, I won’t let you harm my students...!”

Just what the hell is all this? So much was happening at once that Matsuda felt almost dizzy. The day already started off so bizarrely, but it’s as if we waltzed into an action genre. Is this real? Is any of this real?

If it was a dream, it was far too drawn out. Usami was shaking like a leave, stubby arms still spread out. If it was a dream, it was too sensitive in the details, with Matsuda able to hear her little sniffle in the midst of other soft sobs, pounding hearts, and how Hanamura falls back onto his rump. If it was a dream, why, then, did it hurt so much to watch?

“What’s this, what’s this?” Monokuma cackles and then gags. “BLARGH! It’s nausea at your silly sense of justice and disobedience! Well, well, I suppose if you’re up to it, you can serve as an example for your bastard students.”

If it was a dream, Matsuda wouldn’t have flinched. If it was a dream, that same sense of rising nausea wouldn’t be so potent.

“...enough already...just...”

The flying Monobeast descends, and it readies a machine gun. It rumbles, and then it unleashes fire. The sounds are loud enough to be ear-shattering, and Matsuda shuts his eyes tightly, covering his ears. Trees still fall, and he could have sworn he felt the very slice of air, shortly after a sharp, sudden sting in his temple that was different from the throbbing. Something wet touches his fingertips, and his eyes shoot open, just in time to see a shredded bow flutter to the ground, right next to the remains of some stuffed animal.

Just like that. It was over.

But everyone was screaming again.

“W-WHAT’S GOING OOOOON?!”

“D-Did Monomi just get KILLED?! When it’s just the first day?!”

“W-What sort of devil’s work—or is it from the future—?!”

“Was that gun real?!”

His fingertips are damp with red. Matsuda stares down at it. He more properly registers the sting of what must have been a shallow laceration, but... Because it’s on his head, it’s bleeding profusely and he has to pull out a handkerchief to press against the wound to block it.

It’s not a dream.

“Satisfied?” Monokuma asks them all so cheerily. “Such beautiful looks! Y’all finally get it! There’s no opposing me unless you want to be blasted to smithereens for the seagulls!”

Everything was quiet, even any gulls there would’ve been.

“Well then,” Monokuma said. “With that annoying preamble out of the way, allow me to properly explain how things are going to be from now on. I do so hope everyone enjoys their trip!”


Even after Monokuma and those ridiculous monsters leave, there’s still a heavy silence in the air. It turned out that Matsuda wasn’t the only one sliced by the bullets, so after Tsumiki had bandaged him up, they and a few others split the work in doing the same for everyone else.

Hinata nearly collapsed when Matsuda was wiping blood off his cheek. Komaeda’s quick to steady him, but Hinata keeps on shaking.

“Just...what is all this...why now...after I finally got to Hope’s Peak...?”

He’s completely out of it. Matsuda looks about. Well, he’s not the only one.

Hanamura was muttering in denial, as was Souda. Nidai was shouting about those monsters. Koizumi was looking around wildly. Mioda was foaming at the mouth. Tsumiki, too, is trembling as she dresses Owari’s arm.

Nanami was standing there, looking quietly at Usami’s remains. Clicking his tongue, Matsuda makes his way over, and then checks it. He could somehow make out her face, but for the most part all that remained was shredded and singed fluff. He still has his gloves pulled on, so he reaches forward, feeling the radiating heat before deigning it fine to rummage through.

“...what are you doing?” Nanami asks him quietly.

“They’re both stuffed animals, right?” Matsuda squeezes handfuls of the fluff and is aggravated by it. “So, maybe they have the same tech. But I can’t find any machinery or wiring amidst all this...fluff.”

Nanami opens her mouth but shuts it before saying anything further.

“Hey, Mechanic,” Matsuda calls out. “Why don’t you look through this and tell us what you find?”

“A-Are you nuts?!” Souda sputters. “I’m not digging through a corpse!”

“It’s not a human corpse,” Matsuda snapped. “If it were, I wouldn’t ask for your help. I’d be fine on my damn own. I’m perfectly capable of autopsies.”

“W-What the fuck?! Did you seriously just say that?!”

“Quit being a fucking wimp and get the hell over here. You should be able to find some kind of programming that can better elaborate what the hell we’re up against.”

“B-But...” Souda tugs at his collar but stumbles forward anyway. “It’s... Ergh... Fine... I-It’s not like...it’s an actual body, right...?”

Matsuda pulls away so that he can do his job, although his hands are quaking.

“...mmm...” Nanami shifted from one foot to the other. “Mm...”

“Don’t just fucking stand there,” Matsuda said sharply. “You’ll be in the way.”

Thankfully, she moved.

At least she was moving, Matsuda thought sardonically. A lot of the rest of the class was still stationary save for the shaking. There was a clear, agitated air, like a wound up coil of anxiety and fear. Given the situation they’re now in... It’s unsurprising.

I kept complaining about these idiots not taking anything seriously and now... God fucking dammit.

He rakes his fingers through his hair.

I don’t like anyone here. I don’t want to get close to anyone, but...

“Make no mistake,” Matsuda finds himself saying. “We’re in a situation manufactured to make ourselves doubt one another. We’re faced with something that most people aren’t mentally equipped to handle.” And I doubt anyone here is all that prepared. “So, then...”

“If there no one kills,” Sonia murmurs. “There will be no killing, yes?”

“Still,” Togami said. “It would be naïve to expect that blindly in regards to strangers. We not only have that bear and those monsters to be guarded against... We also have to be concerned with every other person among us.”

Unsurprisingly, all of them look amongst each other, seeing the expression of fear and uncertainty time and time again. At least for this, everyone here understood. This situation. This atmosphere.

Full of people who can’t even say for sure whether or not they’d be unable to kill someone.

They had not only one another to fear, but themselves as well.

What a fucking mess.

What a fucking despairing mess.

Matsuda, without thinking, pops in a few extra pills. He’ll definitely need them.

Chapter Text

Souda hadn’t been able to find anything. He remarked that even if he did, the gunfire likely would’ve damaged whatever tech past the point of utility. On that worthless note of nothing, everyone just ended up parting ways for the night, likely mulling over what was to come from this killing game.

It was fucking ridiculous that things turned out this way.

Seriously what even the hell...

There was even a creepy nighttime announcement courtesy of that stupid fucking bear, and Matsuda ended up slamming his cottage door shut on his way in.

“Ridiculous, ridiculous...”

He finally gets a good look at the interior of his college and—

There’s the expected stuff. A plain bed, a television, another damn security camera, and a pristine wash room. There are also some posters—some depicting various diagrams of the brain, and one poster commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Comic PonPon.

(Hadn’t that been a g̴i̵f̸t̶?)

The cottage is also packed with bookshelves of various neurology texts and manga. There are several lab coats hanging up, and a spare pair of slippers. There’s also a work desk, the surface stacked with even more texts of those nature, slightly haphazard in a way Matsuda was used to. There were boxes of snacks that he always favored while eating, and Matsuda is quiet as he sits at the desk and shifts through the papers.

They’re files on strange people wearing animal masks, with medical information that was expertly recorded, if nothing else. The scans, too, are legitimate. The kinds of things that Matsuda absolutely kept on his desk.

He’s quick to shove them into the drawers, scowling.

“Is this some kind of fucking joke or what?!”

Who prepared this?! Usami? Monokuma?

Aggravated, he busies himself with shuffling through his pockets and slamming the pill bottles on his desk, one after another, until something clattered against the floor. Matsuda paused, staring down at the Usami charm before plucking it back up. He presses its tummy again. It makes an ugly chirp.

“...tch.”

He shoves it into the drawer with the other unsightly files, slamming it shut.

“Worthless.”


He pretty much passed out the second he hit the bed. It was so comfortable, it was despicable, and when he woke up, he felt so gross that he took a long bath, not bothering to fully dry himself off before getting dressed. Who even fucking cared about wet hair outside when there was a murder bear on the loose? He sure as hell didn’t. All the same, he didn’t feel much better when cleaner.

He had checked the new rules, and they were as expected. Monokuma had explained the whole trial aspect after Usami had been blasted. Some rules remained the same. No destruction of property, and of course, the only violence now prohibited was that against the ‘Headmaster’. Also unsurprisingly, a rule had been added that Monokuma could add any others in the future if he so wished.

When I had warned that the situation could change, I honestly wasn’t expecting it to happen this fucking soon. God dammit why the hell didn’t I keep my mouth shut?

Well. It’s not like it was his fault that a homicidal bear turned out to be part of the equation.

Headmaster... So Hope’s Peak is really behind this...? But that—makes no fucking sense.

He notes the camera, biting his lip as he does.

It’s entirely possible this whole thing is being filmed for an outside party. People who can see how we act when put in this situation. But, even so, a game in which we’re encouraged to murder each other is so fucking extreme.

He can’t imagine how it’d benefit Hope’s Peak at all if their students turned against each other for the lofty goal of escape. Perhaps Hope’s Peak had been taken over by a malicious force, then? Someone who likely had a fucking bone to pick with Hope’s Peak.

Well, shit, it could be fucking anyone, then, considering how many enemies that snobby fucking school likely made from getting so big it shaped society itself. There were plenty of people who’d be understandably bitter about that shit.

I’m not going to find out by theorizing alone.

Which meant he had to go outside.

Gross. Urgh.

He took a couple of pill bottles with him, sighing as he did.

On a scale of one to Mom’s fucking death when I was six, let’s at least aim for a seven.


Just in case he had any doubts that today was going to suck, he’s greeted to the sound of idiots screaming the second he walks out the door. Making the most intelligent decision he likely ever made in the last couple of months, he sneaks around the back to avoid them.

There’s something I have to see for myself.

At one of the blocked off bridges, there stood a hunkering Monobeast, digging its hoof into the dirt and on clear guard. A far more effective deterrent than whatever Usami had up.

So Monokuma doesn’t want us checking out the other islands either. A common concern with Usami. That’s not fucking suspicious or anything.

Matsuda grimaced, heading for the first island.

There might be something weird about the statue where the Monobeasts used to be—

“Matsuda.”

Before he had even reached the bridge, he jumped at the sudden call of his voice.

“At least make fucking noises when you approach someone!” he shouted, turning on his heel.

“I did,” Pekoyama responded calmly. “I called your name.”

Matsuda pinched the bridge of his nose, grumbling.

God, I’m not in the mood for this. But...

“Right,” he sighs. “Let me guess. The others are having a meeting, huh. You must have been assigned to look for any stragglers.”

“That is...” Pekoyama paused. “Correct. If you understand, then come quickly to the restaurant.”

“Urgh.” I really don’t want to, but that would just cause me problems down the line. “Alright.” That said. “How are the others holding up? You seem like someone with a sharp eye, so have you noticed anything particular?”

Pekoyama blinked a few times.

“...particular, meaning...?”

“Suspicious,” Matsuda said. “Like someone acting in a way you wouldn’t expect them to in a situation like this. Or just acting in a way that’s just plain off.”

“I have not,” Pekoyama replied. “But, truthfully speaking, I have not been paying that much attention to the others as I...should likely be.”

“Yeah, this is a situation where you more worry about yourself,” Matsuda muttered.

Pekoyama was quiet. In a way that was just plain off.

I get the feeling she wasn’t actually worried that much about herself. But I don’t get the feeling that I should be suspicious of her intentions. Even though something about her definitely rubs me the wrong way...

Matsuda scratched his scalp.

“If that is all, then I shall be on my way,” Pekoyama said, giving a quick bow. “I will see you at the restaurant.”

“Yeah... I’ll shamble on over there... Just let me check on one quick thing before I do.”

I can’t afford too many distractions right now.


Just in case he had any remaining doubts that today was going to suck, the first thing he was greeted to when he opened the door was shrill wailing and a fucking ass waving around in the air. Tsumiki was sobbing, her ankles somehow tied up with cables as she flailed. Their useless fucking classmates, including a few especially fucking worthless perverts, were only gawking.

“I-I can’t...” Tsumiki’s lips were quivering as she flailed. “I can’t get up...!”

“Oh for fuck’s sake, yes you can,” Matsuda snapped. “Use your arms.”

“I-I can’t reach...!” Tsumiki wails louder. “Please don’t look at me!!! I-I’m just...so ashamed...!”

We don’t have time for this.

“Push yourself to a sitting position and then undo the cords. Someone else can help you with the second part if you need it.” Matsuda noticed Hanamura inch closer and hissed. “Not you. Bitch with the camera, whatever your name is, you do it.”

“What did you just call me?!”

“Oh, right. Koizumi. Koizumi, you do it.”

Koizumi did glare at him, but with Tsumiki sniffling, she was quickly distracted. She helped Tsumiki sit up, careful as she undid the cords.

“How did you even manage to fall like this, Mikan-chan...?”

“U-Uu...”

That’s definitely someone to be careful around, Matsuda thought. But, again, we don’t have fucking time for this.

“You were quite late,” Togami huffed with a mouthful of chicken. He wasn’t the only one shoveling his face in with the food laid out on the table. There was a lot of food. “Do you have an explanation, Matsuda Yasuke?”

Look at all that fruit... How long has it been since I had watermelon? Too bad I’d have to cut it myself. Not worth the effort... Still...

“No, but I have a question of if that food is safe to eat.” Matsuda casted a glance in Hanamura’s direction. “Did that guy have a hand in it?”

“No,” Togami replied. “It was just here. Now as for whether it’s safe to eat...”

“It should be fine,” Matsuda says, plucking off a few pieces for himself. “At least, I’m much more willing to take my chances with it now.”

“...what was that?” Hanamura asked. “I must be mistaken by what I heard, for you see, Matsuda-kun, my cooking is simply divine! Far more delicious than...!”

Matsuda waved his hand.

“Hey. Did I give you permission to talk to me? If not, fucking shut the hell up.”

“Ahaha... My, my... You’re so lucky you’re cute, Matsuda-kun...”

“Stop talking to me.”

Hanamura sighed heavily, combing through his hair.

“Goodness...”

“Thing is,” Matsuda goes on, ignoring him. “If that creep didn’t make it, then was this prepared by that bear thing? Can’t plan murder on an empty stomach? Urgh.”

“I’ve checked it thoroughly for poison,” Togami says through a mouthful of food. “However, on that note, unfortunate as it is to disturb breakfast, we should begin our meeting now that you are here, Matsuda.”

He wipes off his mouth, and Matsuda looks around. Even now, a lot of them look just as exhausted and weary as they did last night, perhaps even more so. There were some strained smiles, and it wasn’t surprising. Matsuda doubted that most of them slept particularly well.

I probably only knocked out because of the pills.

Koizumi and Mioda were busying themselves checking over a giggling Tsumiki. Some of them were still eating such as Owari and Tanaka’s hamsters. Hinata looked pale, and he only twitched when Komaeda tried to reassure him.

“There is something I would like to discuss with all of you,” Togami says, lowly and setting his finished plate aside. “However, there is also something you should all see.”

“Oh,” Matsuda inhaled. “You mean that weird thing in the park, where the statue used to be.”

“So you’ve seen it as well.”

“That’s why I took so long,” Matsuda said. “That and a general disinterest in being around you people.”

“That second part was unnecessary,” Hinata griped at him.

“Still,” Komaeda said, clapping his hands. “So proactive, Matsuda-kun! You really are an Ultimate!”

“It’s basic fucking logic to try and look around for clues."

“Like in a mystery game,” Nanami mused.

Matsuda rolled his eyes.

Comparing this situation to a game just feels like a shitty joke, but what can I even expect from the fucking space cadet?

“Wait,” Sonia says. “What, exactly, did you see, Matsuda-san?”

Now he was getting a bunch of expectant looks. Gross. So gross.

God, how have you idiots even survived for this long?

“We should all go there,” Togami said, cutting in. “That way, everyone can take a look for themselves.”

There was a low whine from somewhere, probably Souda, but at least here, there seemed to be a general agreement.

Hmph.


The bear-shaped contraption loomed overhead, a fucking eyesore of black against the vibrant blues and greens. It was still beeping with each digit counting down.

21 Days Left. Until what?

“This was not here last night,” Togami said intelligently. “But when I had done my patrol this morning...”

“Here it was,” Matsuda huffed. “It’s counting down.”

“You mean it’s a bomb?!” Souda shrieked.

“Well, I wouldn’t know that,” Matsuda said, pointing at him. “So why don’t you check for us, Mister Mechanic Guy?”

“A-Are you nuts?! It could be seriously dangerous! W-Working with bombs is...!” Souda flailed. “No! Just—just no, no, no!”

“If destroying the island was the motivation, then why wait?” Togami asked.

“Well, it could work as motivation to escape,” Matsuda pointed out, to which Souda went deathly pale. “Buuuut it could also just be a timer. Maybe this isn’t the first time that freaky bear fuck set this up. Maybe it’s trying to break its record. We wouldn’t know unless someone, preferably the Ultimate Fucking Mechanic, checks it out and makes sure.”

“I-I TOLD YOU I’M NOT DOING IT!!!!”

“You might as well, Souda-nii,” Saionji said cheerfully. “Don’t you know? Huge cowards like you are usually the first ones to die.”

“H-Hey!”

“She’s right,” Matsuda said. “So might as well make yourself useful now so that we mourn you later.”

Souda started sobbing.

“Mm... Well.” Sonia speaks up. “As helpful as it would be to know for sure, it would be unfortunate if something befell Souda-san while he checked, correct? Monokuma could act, for instance. So it is rather risky.”

Somehow, that made Souda cry harder but Matsuda wondered if those were really tears of misery.

“Still,” Owari said. “I would like to know what, exactly the timer is for, be it a bomb or something else?”

“It really is quite strange, huh, huh...” someone replied, a certain someone—or something with a gratingly high-pitched voice.

“...”

“Oh, but what are you all doing here anyway, my precious students?”

“...”

Sonia screamed, and the stuffed rabbit screamed, too.

“W-Weren’t you like super ultra-mega dead?!” Mioda shrieked. “Kazuichi-chan even dug through your insides!”

“D-Don’t remind me!” Souda wailed. “Is she here to curse me?! AM I GOING TO BE CURSED?!”

“An undead being, risen from the very underworld!” Tanaka exclaims. “No fear, because I, overlord of the Ice Kingdom, shall train thee!”

“That’s a little inappropriate, considering I’m your teacher,” the rabbit says, before gasping. “Ohhh! Were you all worried that I died?!” She giggles. “Teehee! There was no need! Sensei would never leave you and sensei can’t ever die!”

“Well,” Matsuda said lowly. “You can’t really kill something that isn’t alive, I suppose.”

“Although you still have that appearance,” Nanami says, gesturing to the ugly coloring and diaper.

“U-Uu...” She sniffles. “Monokuma changed me so thoroughly... N-Now I really am Monomi... That’s so awful...”

Monokuma...and Monomi...

“Well, I guess it makes sense that there’d be spares,” Souda said. “Can’t exactly expect to get everything done with one little stuffed animal.”

“Spares... I don’t like the sound of that...” Monomi sniffles again, but she perks up at Matsuda’s gleaming stare. “E-Eh, um... M-Matsuda-kun... What’s... What’s with that look?”

“As long as there’s spares, then it’s fine,” Matsuda says. “Oi, Mechanic, earlier you said that because of how damaged her remains were, anything you could find would likely be unusable, right?”

“Do you even remember my name?!” Souda exclaimed. “And y-yeah, so what...?! What of it?!”

“We have an undamaged model right here,” Matsuda said, to which Monomi froze. “So, let’s cut her open and find what we can use.”

“H-Huh?!” Souda stammered. “W-Wait... Wait, seriously?!”

“It’s not like she’s alive, right?” Matsuda pointed out. “And she has spares, so it’s fine, right?”

“Oh, my!” Sonia gasped. “That is...”

“Wait, no!” Monomi hurriedly exclaimed once Matsuda pulled out his scalpel. “W-While I don’t feel like a human, I still feel with my maiden heart! A-And I swear! You won’t find anything but fluff!”

“We won’t know for sure unless we check,” Matsuda said. “And we might as well check.”

“P-Please no...” Monomi shivered. “Um, um, Matsuda-kun, as much as I appreciate your resourcefulness and as much as it warms Sensei’s heart to see you take on a proactive role, um... P-Please...have mercy... E-Even if I failed to protect everyone, I can still do my best to help you.”

“Alright,” Matsuda said. Monomi beamed until he added, flashing the scalpel at her. “Then stay still and don’t scream. It’ll be distracting.”

“N-NOOOOOOO!”

“Someone hold her down.” A pause. “Oi, red meat bimbo chick, I’ll give you the box of snacks in my cottage if you help.”

“W-WAIT, PLEASE...!”

“HOO-HAH!”

Monomi screeched as Owari dive bombed her. She quickly leapt out of the way.

“Oh no, no, no, no, no!”

“Get back here!” Owari exclaimed, drooling all the while. “I’m hungry!”

“Noooooo!”

“W-We have to fight back somehow!” Souda exclaimed, trying to tackle Monomi as well. “I-I don’t like this either, but what choice do we have?!”

Monomi dodges him, yelping as she does.

“GET BACK HERE!” Nidai roared.

NOOOOOOO!”

“YAAAAA! I’M GONNA GET’CHA MONOMI-CHAN!” Mioda squealed, clearly having more fun with this than she should’ve been. Saionji too, was laughing, but like hell if she’d help. Hinata stood there as if unsure of what he was watching.

As Kuzuryuu clicked his tongue, there was a flash of silver and Pekoyama had a squirming, flailing Monomi her arms.

“No, no, no, no, no!!” Monomi shook her head fervently as if being closed in by wolves. With the gleam of the scalpel, reflecting her terrified face, that wasn’t an inaccurate comparison. “W-Wait...! W-Wait, um... U-Um...! P-Please, no... Um...!”

Ummm...” Nanami drones. “Do you think Monokuma would allow this?”

“Hah?” Matsuda does pause, making a face at that. “You seriously think he’d give a shit?”

“Oh riiiiight, Monomi’s his little sister, huh?” Saionji asked. “A victim exclusive!”

“H-Huat?! I-I’m not...!” Monomi stops herself, whining. “But... U-Uuu... Um... I-I...”

“There’s not any rules protecting her,” Matsuda retorted, and then he thought about it. “Unless, because Monomi is the little sister, she’d fall under the category of ‘property’.”

“T-To be considered property by one’s own family...that’s so cruel...” Monomi sniffles, weeping a little. “So horrible... I-I’ll do anything to drive him away from this island...!”

“Should I release her, then?” Pekoyama asks, except she gives Monomi a squeeze, earning a small shriek.

Oi, are you enjoying this?

Matsuda shook his head, twirling around the scalpel. “Personally, I do think that we should cut her open to see what we find.”

“H-Huuuue...!”

“B-But Monokuma could blast us next for disobeying the rules,” Souda pointed out hurriedly, trembling. “A-And I wouldn’t be able to find anything because I’d be dead...!”

“Yeah,” Matsuda sighs. “That would be a problem if you died before doing anything remotely useful, huh, Mister Mechanic... Tragic, too...”

“You actually DON’T remember my name, do you?!”

Matsuda waved his hand.

“Well, whatever,” he said, crossing his arms as Souda fumed. “Urgh. Buzzkill. You keep finding new ways to disappoint me.”

“A-Awawawa...” Monomi seemed crestfallen at this. “Uuu...”

“Should I release her, then?” Pekoyama asked, squeezing her again and earning yet another yelp.

“Before you do, let me ask you something, Monomi,” Togami said before gesturing back to the contraption. “Do you have any idea what that is?”

Monomi blinked up at it several times, and shook her head.

“No, no. No idea.”

“Is that true?” Komaeda asked. “Do you really not know at all?”

“Um... Sorry... U-Uu... Because Monokuma broke my magical stick and took over... I-I have no idea what’s going on or what he’s planning...besides something really, really bad.” Her ears drooped. “Sorry... B-But! Even without my stick, I’ll do my best...! Let’s put our heads together, everyone!”

“If you really don’t know anything, then there’s not much if anything you can do,” Togami said, hmphing. “You might as well just leave us be.”

“Heh?” Monomi shivered. “But... Um... Eighteen is...better than...”

“Leave.” A pause. “That means you should release her, Pekoyama.”

Pekoyama nods and drops Monomi, allowing her to plop onto the ground. Sniveling and wiping at her eyes, Monomi scuttled away. Matsuda watched her go, unimpressed.

“I have to admit that I feel a little sorry for her,” Sonia said, frowning. “Perhaps we treated her a bit too harshly?”

“S-Sonia-san! May I call you Sonia-san?” Before Sonia could answer, Souda rambled on. “I don’t think you should sympathize with that rabbit too strongly! For all we know, she could be in cahoots with Monokuma!”

Truth be told, I don’t know if I could believe that so easily. It’d be convenient, yes, but their domestic abuse act doesn’t seem terribly calculated. Matsuda hummed, thinking it over. However. There is one thing that’s for certain. Usami—now Monomi, is the reason that we are even on this island in the first place. Even if she hadn’t planned for Monokuma to take over, the fact of the matter is that we were vulnerable in the first place because of her. That kind of incompetency—is unforgivable.

So, he had little sympathy. And overall, little interest in paying her anymore mind. After all, what’s important now is—


“What’s the deal with that timer?” Kuzuryuu asked lowly. “Where the fucking hell did it come from?”

“I-It’d be impossible to install something so large just overnight, right?!” Hanamura exclaimed. “S-So that means there’s no way we’re in reality!”

Urgh. Every time Hanamura spoke, he really did give Matsuda such a headache.

“There are other concerns, other incomprehensible events,” Togami said. “Such as how all seventeen of us ended up here in the first place.”

“We were likely drugged at some point,” Matsuda replied. “Which would explain the loss of memory, although in some cases, it was excessively so...”

“Drugged...” Tsumiki muses as Komaeda grimaces. “H-How scary...”

“D-Do you mean me?” Hinata asked.

“No dingbat, I meant that red meat bimbo—fucking obviously I meant you.”

“I don’t remember much, though,” Owari conceded. “Ohhh! But wait! What about my snacks, Tatsuya?!”

Urgh.

“...I’ll give them to you later. Not the whole box though since you failed to capture Monomi.”

“Awww.”

I’ll unfortunately have to figure that out later. But for now...

“There’s also the fact that Jabberwock is a famous resort,” Togami goes on. “However, it’s deserted. There are no staff nor tourists.”

“Void from existence and existence to void,” Tanaka muses.

“Civilization ripens and then rots, and falls,” Sonia murmurs. “The inevitable result of bureaucrats that only seek their own retention of power and crush any attempts of reformation. Such a tragic state of affairs.”

And have you been doing anything about that? Wait.

“Hold on,” Matsuda spoke up. “It’s entirely possible that the islands were rented out beforehand, hence the lack of tourists. As for the staff, there’s still the closed off islands, right?”

“Or the Monobeasts massacred them,” Saionji snickered.

“That’s...” Also possible. Shit. Except. “Monomi is still here. So some of them could still be alive.”

“Unless her and Monokuma really are in cahoots!” Nidai bellowed. “We do not KNOW for SURE!!!”

“Guuuh, that’s too many uncertainties too many!” Mioda whined.

“So many things we cannot be certain of,” Togami muses. “So many mysteries. However, one thing is clear.”

“Someone powerful must be at the reigns,” Matsuda said. “That’s where you’re going with this. After all, you’re one of the people here.”

“W-What are you saying?” Hinata asked.

“Isn’t it obvious?” He sneered. “Think about it.”

“Just the timer and Monobeasts alone, without even accounting for Monomi and Monokuma, would take a considerable level of resources and expertise,” Togami said.

“O-Oh, yeah,” Souda agreed. “Building shit like that would take a lot of time and money. You can’t just use scrap parts for...all of that... N-Not to mention all the security cameras...”

“There’s also those involved,” Matsuda said. “All of us are students of Hope’s Peak, which is easily the most influential school in the country. It’s not like we were just picked off the street in some red light district, but it’s likely that we were taken from Hope’s Peak at some point. That’s not an easy job to pull off.” Before anyone could comment further, he went on. “There’s also that among us, we have the heir of a mega conglomerate, an actual fucking princess, and the future head of a huge yakuza group. These aren’t people you target unless you know damn fucking well just what the hell you’re doing. And even then, to even be able to pull it off to this extent...”

“That is...quite unnatural,” Sonia said.

“It is clear that only someone of comparable power and influence as us is behind this,” Togami said.

“Or...it could be any one of us,” Kuzuryuu pointed out, eyes dangerously narrowed. “That’s also what you’re thinking, right, you bastard?”

“Can’t deny it,” Matsuda said, gaze averted. “It’s a possibility.”

“H-Hold up!” Souda exclaimed. “I’ve tolerated your ridiculous demands, but doubting Sonia-san is going way too far! Just look at her! She’s a beautiful princess and the rest of you are just plebeians!”

“Extras should keep quiet,” Saionji chirped. “We already know you’re compensating for a shallow personality. Doubling down on it isn’t going to raise your nonexistent chances of survival, y’know.”

“S-Shut up! At this rate you’re going to traumatize me for life!”

“Oi, Matsuda,” Hinata is looking at him warily, tense around the shoulders. “Do you really suspect them...?”

“I just said it was a possibility,” Matsuda replied. “But no, I don’t actually suspect them.”

“But, they are powerful groups...” Hinata hesitated. “So, it’s... It’s pretty possible...”

“But then, why be present? Why pretend to play along?” Matsuda glanced over them, eyes cold. “It’s sneaky and underhanded, unbefitting of the proud Kuzuryuu or Togami family. And putting one of their royal members at risk just doesn’t seem like something a country would consider. Like I said, it’s a possibility, but it’s unlikely.”

“Oh...” Hinata falters even more somehow. “I guess that’s true...”

“Only a specific kind of person would pull off something this twisted and bizarre,” Matsuda said. “Rather than just throwing out speculations, we need to investigate further and gather more information.”

“In times like these,” Togami says lowly. “What is most important is that we remain unified in spite of Monokuma’s efforts.”

“That’s right!” Komaeda exclaimed. “With Ultimates working together, there’s nothing we can’t do! We won’t lose to despair, and we’ll definitely, definitely escape! Right?”

“Pffft.” Saionji snorted. “Shouldn’t you be more embarrassed about saying something sooooo cheesy?”

Komaeda laughs, waving his hands.

“Well, I, um, I do mean what I say, so...”

It’s easier said than done, Matsuda can’t help but think. Although, knowing this particular idiot, he probably does really mean it. Still how are we supposed to work together, actually? People like this get distracted so fucking easily. Someone would have to take charge—

Oh.

Duh.

From that smug, self-assured grin on Togami’s face, he should’ve fucking known.

“To work together effectively, what we need is a leader.” Togami stands up tall, puffing out his chest. “And of course I, Togami Byakuya, will take on that role!”

As if it’d be anyone else.

“W-Wait!” Koizumi bursts out. “That’s a pretty sudden declaration! We didn’t agree to this!”

“Aren’t you the one always babbling about how men should step up and try to protect others?” Matsuda snapped immediately. “Which fucking is it?”

“I said men should be reliable, not pushy!” Koizumi argued back. “And that attitude is just too aggressive!”

“Koizumi-san, please wait,” Komaeda pleaded, raising his hands pacifyingly. “While Togami-kun is aggressive, considering the circumstances and what we’re up against, we probably need someone aggressive to unite and lead us.”

“That and there is no one more fitting,” Togami said. “I was born to lead.”

“Sonia-chan could also apply, then,” Koizumi snapped, but Sonia shook her head.

“Oh, no, no, I am more of a figurehead than a leader. Apologies.” She smiles pleasantly. “That, and to step forward and to seize this role displays a drive I find admirable and ideal for any leader.”

Koizumi frowns, hesitating. Matsuda would have said something harsh, but she then shook her head, smiling in return.

“Alright. If everyone really is alright with this.”

“Then, it’s decided,” Togami said, folding his arms. “As your leader, there will not be a single victim. That I promise.”

Promise, huh?

“New leader!!” Mioda exclaimed with delight. “Kyaaaaa! We’re saved!!!”

Well, if there’s anyone to follow... I guess this guy is our best bet after all.

Saionji jeers as always, but Togami hardly seems bothered by it. Komaeda really is beaming. Actually, Komaeda looks—really ecstatic.

“Let us concentrate on what we can do for now,” Togami says firmly. “Observe and understand to the best of our abilities, and if not, then just move forward. Follow my lead. That is an order.”

Squeals from Mioda and Saionji—but the others largely seemed content to follow suit.

“Yeah! Let’s do it!” Owari paused. “What are we doing?”

“Searching for hints or clues about our situation or the mastermind’s identity,” Koizumi supplied as Nidai laughed loudly.

“Entrust everything to the devas!” Tanaka boomed as the hamsters seemed to—flex? Or whoop? Or bounce? “Their malleability grants passage to even the most imperceptible!”

“Ooh! They’re adorable!” Sonia exclaimed, utterly charmed to Souda’s chagrin. “So cute!”

I wonder if they’re smarter than the average lab rodent...

He almost wanted to study them himself but he shook his head for now, simply taking in how the atmosphere had lifted, how everyone was far more optimistic than before. Even uselessly uncertain Hinata seemed in a better mood, although he was still blatantly insecure with how his head ducked, his gaze low.

Some of them were already moving out on Togami’s orders, but Hinata remained rigid. Just as Matsuda had opened his mouth, Komaeda was already there, patting Hinata’s shoulder.

“Matsuda.”

Matsuda would’ve had to pause anyway, and he turned to Togami.

“May I speak with you for a moment?”

Matsuda’s gaze flickers.

Hinata giving Komaeda a tired smile, Hinata following after Komaeda, the two carrying an easier air, Hinata even laughing a little.

It’s whatever.

“It’s whatever,” he said aloud.

Togami’s gaze is a seriously one, but there’s a peculiar glimmer in his eye.

“Right. This way.” He gestures with his chin. “Let us investigate together for now. Since we are often on the same page.”

“Mm... Kay.”

Chapter Text

With everyone separated, the two of them explore the park further for any extra clues. They don’t really find anything, which was predictably unsatisfying, but Togami seems to be mulling over much in his mind.

He took on a lot of responsibility. I guess at least some of that confidence had to be an act. Well. It’s not like I care as long as he’s keeping some peace.

He finds himself looking darkly at the timer again, biting his lip.

In this kind of ridiculously chaotic situation, it’s pretty essential, huh.

“Matsuda Yasuke.”

Matsuda perks, blinking a few time. Togami presses up his glasses. There’s an odd gleam there—something strikes Matsuda as off, but it’s not something he cares too much about pondering.

“If anything troubles you,” Togami says. “Then it is imperative that you rely on me.”

Matsuda blinks again, and his face pinches.

“Yeah. No thanks.” He snorts at the very idea. “Just because I accept your leadership doesn’t mean I’m going to turn to you for personal shit. We’re just working together. We’re not friends.”

Togami hummed, crossing his arms.

Besides, you’re acting a bit guarded yourself, huh? Great thing I have more fucking tact.

“You are very intelligent, Matsuda.” The words are low, rumbly. “Though your attitude certainly needs work, your mind is a polished one.”

“That’s how it should be,” Matsuda said. “I’m supposed to be a doctor, after all.”

“Hmph.” Despite that sound, a smile twitches at Togami’s lips. “Such a self-assured person you are. It is a shame, then, that you are so temperamental.” He meets Matsuda’s cold stare firmly. “Still, it is undeniable that you hold a great deal of potential. For that reason, I would like to be able to turn to you in times of necessity without worry, without fear.”

...excuse me?

You’re supposed to be the leader,” Matsuda snapped, irritated. “So what the hell?”

“No man is an island, Matsuda Yasuke,” Togami said. But Togami isn’t looking at him. Instead it’s at someplace far-off and uncertain. “Nothingness and isolation are—abnormal. If you have the wit, have the capability, then it would go to reason that there would be those that wish to rely on you.”

“That’s...their own fault.” He says it, but he feels a little sick when he does as if he’s experiencing something viscerally unpleasant. “That’s their own fucking fault for just—not feeling like they can pull shit off on their own...”

His eyes squeeze shut.

Christ... Everything about this makes me feel fucking awful. And that I have no idea why is so, so fucking aggravating.

“If something troubles you,” Togami says. “Then you should turn to me. It is imperative. Simply because such troubles could impair your judgement, and that would be a shame.”

Matsuda’s eyes open, and he’s just looking at his feet like a fucking child. He raises his chin and crosses his arms.

“We are both the most intelligent ones here,” Togami goes on to add. “Thus, I think a close partnership of sorts is logical.”

“Sorry,” Matsuda bit out. “Not interested.”

“Hmph.” A twitch in Togami’s smile. “You really are so difficult. It is almost worrying. Still... I am not too concerned. Behavioral issues aside, I will continue to expect performances befitting that polished mind of yours.”

“Right...” Gross. You almost sound like a teacher. “But I’ll expect a lot from you, too. Considering what’s at stake here, this better not fucking be a situation where you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.”

“Worry not about that,” Togami said. “I will play my role to the best of my ability.”

...there’s something about that. What he just said. Those words. The underlying meaning. But I already decided that such things wouldn’t involve me.

He trusted his gut feelings, but he knew when such things would only get in the way of more crucial moments. Such was the situation now, he was sure of it.

Of course, I know that I can’t believe people are who they say they are, especially not here, not like this, but... All the same...

For his own sake, and for the sake of everything else, he’ll still go along with it.

If this guy is willing to push it this far, then I should respect that, at least.

“...we should keep searching. To see if there’s anything left to find.”

Neither of them are really looking at the other, but the unspoken understanding in the air was potent nevertheless.

“Right.”


Unsurprisingly, things went wrong pretty quickly.

“It doesn’t matter to me if you dipshits want to work together, but leave me the hell out of it.”

Matsuda isn’t surprised at all.

“Even if you say that,” Koizumi huffs. “You shouldn’t just disappear. It’ll make people worry.”

“Heeeh? That’s such a shitty joke.” Kuzuryuu shook his head. “Like hell I’d even want to concern myself with eyesores like you.”

Matsuda rolled his eyes.

“Do we really have the time for a temper tantrum?”

“...what did you just fucking say.” Kuzuryuu straightened up, glaring at him dangerously. “That’s fucking rich coming from you.”

“Which is why I’m the one saying it,” Matsuda replied coolly. “This isn’t the time or place for that shit.”

Kuzuryuu snorted, and then he sneered.

“Even the fucking brainiac doesn’t seem to get it, so let me make this clear.” His chin raises. “As far as I’m concerned, Monokuma’s killing game is more my style than Monomi’s friendship farce. From where I come from, it’s kill or be killed.”

“...and?” Matsuda barely raised an eyebrow. “Soooo?”

“I’m saying!” Kuzuryuu’s teeth gritted before splitting into a grin. “I have no problems killing anyone if I have to.”

The effect of those words is immediate and expected. There’s a chill in the air, a sense of anxiety and solemnity and Kuzuryuu really does look like a little kid who won an argument.

It’s...

“Woooow,” he droned. “You’re a lot fucking stupider than I feared.”

Things went worse even more quickly.

Before Matsuda could even blink, Kuzuryuu had lurched forward, seizing up his shirt collar. It causes his lab coat to slip further down his shoulder, and Kuzuryuu’s grip is so tight that it probably hurt both of them. Someone shouts, and Nidai has an arm between them with Pekoyama’s hands on Kuzuryuu’s shoulders, clearly to hold him back, but not to pull him off.

“K-Kuzuryuu-kun!” Komaeda exclaimed. “Wait... Please, just a moment...”

Togami hushed him, clearly intent on observing this further and Matsuda could understand that, actually. Because with the twisted up face Kuzuryuu was making, it was clear there was more to discuss.

“You...” Kuzuryuu growls. “Do you want to fucking die, asshole?”

Whether it would be a worthwhile discussion was yet to be seen.

“Shouldn’t I be asking the same?” Matsuda retorts. “Since the fucking yakuza so desperate to compensate doesn’t seem to understand, I guess I should explain it.”

“Why you—!”

“You know that this is all just a game, right?” Matsuda asked, cutting him off. “It’s a sadistic, twisted little game, designed to make its participants turn on each other and to suspect one another. There’s no power struggle, no seizing of control on either side, there’s just us, all equally susceptible regardless of background, and one fuckhead at the reins.”

He wonders, idly, if Kuzuryuu can feel his heartbeat or his blood thrumming. He hears the pounding, the ringing, and he wonders if it’s really just him.

“Acting tough isn’t going to protect you,” he tells Kuzuryuu. “It’s just going to paint a target on your back. Because. We’re all being pushed to kill one another if we have to. You’re not fucking special just for saying you’d do it. Do you really think that’ll scare us off? Why don’t you consider that this might drive someone to kill you, because they’ll feel even more that they have to? Or do you want to die?”

Kuzuryuu’s hands were shaking.

“Y-You...”

“And, let’s look at it a different way,” Matsuda goes on quietly. “Say you do kill someone. What then? You’ll have to hide it. You’ll have to get away with it, when we all already suspect you so much. And if you can’t do that, you will get executed. You will die. Is that what you want? I really should be the one asking—do you want to fucking die? If you want to kill yourself so badly, just a good fucking stab in the gut should be enough, I would think.”

You...”

Just as Kuzuryuu seems to be losing his fire, Togami speaks up.

“No one will die.” His tone leaves no room for argument. “Not Matsuda, nor Kuzuryuu.”

Pekoyama manages to yank him away from Matsuda, although Kuzuryuu harshly shoves her off of him immediately after. Matsuda rubs idly at his neck while Komaeda and Hinata flutter around worriedly, Nidai glancing between him and Kuzuryuu tensely.

“As long as I am in charge, there will not be any victims,” Togami said, even more firmly than before. Matsuda’s gaze flickers towards him, at that projected confidence and certainty. “As Togami Byakuya, I will not allow a single one of you to die. As Togami Byakuya, I can and will ensure it.”

Kuzuryuu scoffs, but—just like that, things are calm again. Tension still remains, and Matsuda is irritated with the new wrinkles in his shirt collar, but Kuzuryuu, despite stubbornly refusing to look at any of them, is quiet and pacified. Mioda and Hanamura are fawning over Togami, and Komaeda is giving Matsuda a strained but relieved smile.

“Togami-kun really is a wonderful leader,” he chirps. “He’s amazing.”

“Oi, Matsuda,” Hinata says, still clearly troubled. “Just what the hell were you thinking?”

“You really do have quite the fire!” Nidai exclaimed, because he was suddenly part of this conversation now for some reason. “Although I had been concerned about how far Kuzuryuu’s foolishness was going to take him.”

Koizumi and Pekoyama were both warily eyeing Kuzuryuu, as if he could lash out again in a moment’s notice. Owari, too, although she seemed disturbingly eager at the idea.

“I was just clearing shit up,” Matsuda muttered before looking upwards. It was getting late—the night announcement would be on them soon. Kuzuryuu really gave them such an annoying runaround. “It’s imperative that we all understand just what kind of situation we’re in. It would be bad if someone freaked out and lashed out with a fatal result, right?”

“S-Still!” Hinata nearly stammered. “Be more careful! Don’t just antagonize the yakuza!”

“If Togami-kun had not been here,” Komaeda said more seriously. “That, too, could have lead to disastrously fatal results.”

“...”

Actually... I don’t think that kid would’ve had the guts. All bark, no real bite.

“Please be more careful, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda said, eyes glimmering.

“...pfffft.” Don’t look so serious. Geez. I’m not the kind of person to just risk my life so recklessly. Shouldn’t you have more faith in me? Fucking hell... Why am I so irritated by this...? “Whatever.”

“S-Still!” A sudden, high-pitched squeak. “It’s good to talk things out! I-I’m really glad that turned out well!”

“...”

Matsuda groaned. Souda shrieked. Monomi shrieked right back.

“W-Why the hell are you here?!” Hinata demanded. “Were you spying on us?!”

“Oh, no! No, no, no!” Monomi shook her head furiously. “It’s just...! I-It’s dangerous for you all to be out here so late...! So as your loving teacher, I decided to check up on you... I was worried...”

“If that’s all, then you can leave,” Togami snapped. “You clearly have nothing substantial to provide.”

“U-Uu...” Monomi flinched, and pulled down on her ears. “I just want to help... But... I’m glad. You all seem to be doing well... I-I’m very glad!” She says that, and she’s definitely crying a little. “S-Sensei is just...so proud!”

“And Iiiiiii’m so boooooored.”

Shit.

Monokuma yawns, lounging on one of the palmtrees, in a place Matsuda was damn sure he hadn’t been before, scratching his ass as he did.

Now everyone really was on edge.

“I was getting pretty excited, too,” Monokuma said, observing his claws with a hum. “I was thinking, wowie! I might not even need to push you guys! But then, fshhhhh. Fizzled. That’s so despairingly boooooring.”

“T... T-That’s because they’re not going to lose to you!” Monomi exclaimed. “They won’t fall for your, y-your evil, evil game!”

Monokuma chortled at that.

“Heeeh? Little sister, you’re really asking for a pounding, huh? Haaaah. It’s funny, though, really, really funny that you’re the one saying this, when you’re the one who made this so easy for me.”

“E-Excuse me...?!”

“You’re excused, Monomi!”

“No,” Togami said. “What are you implying, exactly?”

“Is it just because Monomi’s the one who brought us here?” Matsuda asked, although he had a feeling. A really fucked up feeling there was more to it than that.

And it turned out—

“You weren’t drugged,” Monokuma chirped. “Your memories were very deliberately, very calculatedly erased, courtesy of Monomi.”

Monokuma bounces to his feet, whereas the rest of them are dead still, save for those casting wide-eyed glances to a rigid Monomi.

“Your memories all have this one commonality, right? That of when you walked through the gate of Hope’s Peak, you were hit with a sudden dizziness. Isn’t that too convenient? Isn’t that too coincidental?” Monokuma sing-songs. “That’s right! It was all planned! By that malicious, stinky Monomi!”

What?

“N-No!” Monomi gasped. “I-I... Stop! Please! I didn’t...!”

Monokuma knocks her out before she can finish.

“But I’m a much more honorable bear than Monomi, who isn’t even a bear,” he says, and raises his paws. “That’s right! I can return your memories! I’ll do so happily, in fact!”

“But there’s a catch, right?” Nanami hums, to which Monokuma nods happily.

“Yep! Yep! Just k-i-l-l someone!”

“T... T-That’s still so wrong!” Tsumiki exclaimed.

“Even if there is credence in your words, that is no excuse for murder!” Sonia shouted.

“We refuse,” Togami said, but his teeth are gritted. “We will not fall for such ridiculous antagonisms.”

“It’s not ridiculous!” Monokuma exclaims, feigning offense at the very thought. “It’s a very reasonable motivation! Just think about it—you don’t really know how many years it’s been. What’s happened since. To friends, family...”

...not to mention...

“There were also only sixteen students in your class when you enrolled.”

Matsuda snapped up.

“Didn’t you think it was weird that there were seventeen students and only sixteen desks?” Monokuma asks before clicking several times, somehow, in disapproval at Monomi’s shuddering body. “Geez, geez, Monomi, couldn’t you have made it less obvious that there was a traitor among them?”

Monokuma knows about that. So.... Have they really been working together from the start? How long—has he been here?

“N-No...!” Monomi pushed herself up. “Stop it! You’re just trying to confuse them! You’re the villain!”

“So am I wrong, then?” Monokuma asked, turning on her. “Are you going to say I’m lying when I’m not?”

“I...” Under everyone’s stares, Monomi shrinks, but she quickly claims, “I-I’m on your side, everyone...! D-Despite what Monokuma says...”

“So what he said was true,” Komaeda remarked, quieter than ever before. Monomi flinched, looking panicked.

“I-I won’t believe it,” Hanamura whispered. He looked considerably ill. “I refuse... I-It’s impossible... It’s...”

“I-If Monomi’s really in on it...and there’s really a traitor...” Tsumiki looked around them wildly. “Then—wh-who else? W-Who else?!”

“D-Don’t look at me!” Koizumi exclaimed. “I have nothing to do with any of this!”

“S-Such cowardly deceptions have nothing to do with I, either!” Tanaka hurriedly yelled.

“It’s impossible!” Nidai shouted. “What Monokuma said is IMPOSSIBLE!”

“But, but,” Monokuma says. “You’ve bared witness to quite a few impossible things today. What’s a little purposeful memory wipe compared to all that? Upupupu...”

Matsuda found his hands curled into fists.

“...hey, Monomi. Is it true or not?” He turns back to her, and just his glare is enough to have her cowering. “You just have to deny it outright. Is it true or not?”

“U-Um... Um... M-Matsuda-kun...” She pleads. “I... I-I swear I... I-It’s not what you all think...”

“Stop deflecting, you bitch.”

Monomi jumped, and she was silent. Dead silent. Silence that was resounding, until Monokuma laughed.

“Well, my work is done! Motive delivered! Suspicion sowed! All in a day’s work!” With one last smack at Monomi, he cheerily giggled at all of them. “You all beeeetter act quickly! If you wanna leave or learn the truth, that is!”

Just like that, he was gone. Monomi still remained, but it was only for a moment. Before anymore could be said, and Matsuda had plenty more to give, she quickly fled, apologizing all the while.

“I’m sorry! So sorry! B-But, um, what’s important is the future! Just keep facing the future!”

Aaaaand gone. Just like that.

“Useless.” And with sudden, vicious force, Matsuda wanted so badly to fucking hit something. “Fucking useless!”

“H-He was lying!” Souda exclaimed. “He was definitely lying! T-There’s no way any of that was true!”

“I-I can’t...comprehend any of it...” Mioda gargles. “It’s just too much.... T-Too much...!”

“He’s just fucking playing with us,” Kuzuryuu seethed. “He just fucking thinks that he can make us believe whatever bullshit he spouts...!”

There’s muted murmurs of agreement. It’s not as unified as before and the reason was obvious.

“It clearly is a ploy,” Togami said, but his fingers are digging tightly into his arm. “Memory loss, a traitor—such ridiculous fabrications should not even be considered.”

Matsuda nearly bit his tongue hard enough to bleed.

Whether or not it’s just a means to manipulate—fact of the matter is that Monomi couldn’t just fucking say it wasn’t true. That she didn’t do it. That’s reason enough to believe that she did.

His nails bite into his palm as his fists shake.

That bitch... That fucking bitch... Playing with a person’s memories like that—just who the fuck does she think she is?! What fucking excuse would she have?!

“It is not worth thinking about.” Togami’s voice was louder and more compelling than before. “For now...” He sighs. “For now...”

“Um.” Nanami chews on her lip. “What...should we do for now?”

“We should return to our cottages,” he says, and for what it’s worth, he doesn’t sound exhausted despite this beyond exhausting situation. “It is late. We should clear our heads with a good night’s sleep.”

“Y-Yes, we very much should,” Sonia agreed. “The cat has escaped to the frying pan, courtesy of Monokuma.”

“That...doesn’t make any sense,” Hinata said.

“G-Give her a break,” Souda snapped, though it wasn’t with any real potency.

“Good night, everyone,” Togami said, finished. Just like that.

Just like that.


Obviously, he couldn’t just sleep on that. Stress aside, he was so fucking angry that he found himself still pacing about outside, when everyone else had departed into their cottages.

Well, not everyone, as it turned out.

Hinata sat alone by the pool, hanging his head, looking all the more miserable under the light of several stars. Matsuda strongly, very strongly considered kicking him into the water.

The closer he came, the more that consideration fizzled into an irritating buzz. And it was then that Matsuda realized just how tired and distressed he really was. But like fucking hell he’d make that kind of shit obvious to Hinata, of all people.

In the end, Matsuda just nudged Hinata in the back with his foot. Hinata flinched, and upon looking up at Matsuda with those wide, anxious eyes, he didn’t relax so much as he slumped even further.

Without a word, Matsuda plops down next to him as Hinata hugs his knees. The water of the pool is shimmering. A clear, light blue that’s reflective in Matsuda’s downturned gaze.

It’s pretty obvious...what Hinata’s thinking about right now. Out of all of us, he’s lost the most memory. He sticks out the most with his unknown talent. If there’s any traitor—he’s the most suspicious pick.

Matsuda couldn’t picture Hinata manipulating his way out of a paper bag much less anything that grandiose.

It could be a gambit on his part. I guess. But...

Urgh. It gave him such a fucking headache that he ended up just popping pills.

“...ou...o...h...”

Matsuda swallowed, expression unchanged.

“Pardon? I don’t think that was an actual language just then.”

“Even you’re nervous, huh,” Hinata muttered, still muffled but at the very least audible. “All of this—every bit of it, it’s just... I-It’s just ludicrous... A killing game? Memory loss? A traitor?”

His voice squeaks a little on that last word. Hinata shook his head furiously.

“I-It’s impossible, just... Just impossible.” He says that, but he gives Matsuda a desperate sort of look. “D-Don’t you think so, too? Matsuda?”

Seriously? You’re looking towards me for validation?

Hinata really is useless. Looking at him like that, when he should be looking at someone more like—

“Oh. You two are still up and about?”

Speak of the devil.

“Ah... Komaeda. Uh... S-Sorry.”

“Whatever are you apologizing for?” Komaeda’s head tilts. The picture of innocence with a kind-hearted smile. He seats himself beside them, on Hinata’s opposite side. He’s cheerful as always, and Matsuda can’t help but notice that there’s sand caking his shoes, and that it’s a little damp around his calves.

Did he decide to have his meltdown on the beach?

Right now, Komaeda smiled like nothing was wrong at all.

Christ. This one’s just scary.

“I’m not surprised,” Komaeda goes on serenely. “Considering the situation, it’s pretty normal to be too distraught to sleep, huh? Togami-kun said not to worry about it—but obviously we can’t just forget about it.”

“Y... Yeah...” Hinata nodded distantly. “Even Matsuda’s bothered...”

“Don’t fucking talk for me,” Matsuda snapped.

“Am I wrong?” Hinata shot back. Matsuda bristled, but Hinata just huffed. “Yeah. That’s what I though. You were especially pissed earlier.”

He noticed.

Somehow, he was a little aggravated about that. But only just a little.

“It’s alright to feel that way,” Komaeda said. “We can’t all be as strong in our convictions as Togami-kun is.”

Matsuda harrumphed at that.

“It’s not a matter of convictions—I could care less about the traitor shit... That’s probably something Monokuma just fucking made up.” It’s true that the number of students is weird. But even if there is a traitor, we don’t know for sure if the traitor actually is working for Monokuma, Monomi, or if they’re just...wrapped up in this shit accidentally. It’s an obvious ploy to brew even more distrust than there already is. But... “The idea of someone tampering with my memories is what pisses me off to no end.”

Seriously... Just what gave them the fucking right? There’s no way in hell I’d agree to something like this.

“I-It’s creepy,” Hinata grumbled. “To think that—we all might be missing memories of...god, who even knows for how long?”

“...it couldn’t have been that long,” Komaeda said, but his voice is low. “If it had been that significant an amount of time, there would be certain...changes, right?”

Hinata blinks a few times, and then, as expected of the useless fucking idiot, he flustered.

“I-I guess that’s true...”

It still pisses me off, Matsuda thought bitterly, fuming.

Komaeda chuckled.

“We don’t know how long it’s been, if it’s true, and Monokuma is likely taking advantage of that,” he said. “As Togami-kun said, it’s still clearly a ploy.”

That’s obvious, but...

“Still,” Hinata hisses. “Still, it’s just...so much...all at once.”

“Hm, hm.” Komaeda hummed thoughtfully. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever consciously engaged with challenges and struggles that come with living. I simply...lived, day to day, managing without really thinking about any of it. It’s only recently that I’ve truly begun to look forward.”

Hinata makes some complicated sounds, but Matsuda mulls over those particular words.

Consciously. Recently.

“Just how much trauma have you been through?”

Komaeda simply smiles. And before he can even answer, Matsuda snaps.

“Never mind. Fucking forget it. Geez. That was tasteless even for me.”

Komaeda giggles, at that.

“I was right,” he said cheerfully. “You really do have your kinder side, Matsuda-kun.”

“Pweh. Gross. I could throw up. Right now. In this pool.”

“Please don’t do that,” Hinata muttered, as Komaeda laughed.

“Sorry, sorry! Please don’t, Matsuda-kun!”

“Never fucking say anything that sickening ever again, then.”

“Aww... Matsuda-kun...” Komaeda whines but even that sound is a playful one. “Ehehe... Hehehe... You know, I’m not worried. You all aren’t just random students... You’re Ultimates. Symbols of hope, trailblazers of the future. Just being around you reassures me. While one person can’t do anything significant on their own, with all of us working together... There’s definitely nothing we can’t do.”

“Bleeergh.”

“Don’t throw up!” Hinata shrieked.

“H-Hinata-kun!” Komaeda hurriedly exclaimed. “Don’t wake anyone!”

“A-Ack!”

Hinata covers his mouth just as Matsuda does the same, albeit for different reasons.

“Aha... Haha...” Komaeda falters. “Sorry. While I do believe in everyone, I’m definitely aware of my own shortcomings... I... I’ll do my best...” His gaze is gleaming, bright, even when it’s so dark out. “I’ll do everything that I can.”

“...you could get betrayed,” Hinata mumbled through his hand. “Maybe even killed.”

“If that’s inevitable, I’d rather it happen when I believe in everyone rather than when I’m doubting them,” Komaeda says, without even missing a beat.

...gross. So fucking gross.

And yet, Hinata’s so obviously awestruck.

“Y... Yeah... You know what... You’re right...”

“It’s easy to say that,” Matsuda huffed.

“That just makes Komaeda more impressive,” Hinata shot back.

“Oh no, no, I’m really not...” Komaeda waved his hand. “It’s because I don’t really have much else going for me.”

Not much else...?

Even now, there was a lot about this kid that was just—fucking weird. And a little concerning.

I feel like...I should keep a closer eye on him.

“Komaeda, you’re impressive to me,” Hinata said, and his cheeks are a little darker than they should be. “So, uh, be easier on yourself.”

“Ehe.” Komaeda does grin. “Hinata-kun, it’s getting pretty late. So you should get some rest.”

“That’s...” Hinata yawns, rubbing at his eye. “Honestly... Yeah. Sure. Thanks, Komaeda.” He gives Matsuda an unimpressed look. “Night.”

Pointedly ignoring him, Hinata waved Komaeda off before heading back in the direction of the cottages.

“You too, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda told him kindly. “Those are some worrying shadows under your gaze.”

Matsuda runs his fingers along the bags in question.

“Nah. That’s just how my face always looks. Can’t be helped.”

Komaeda’s lips pursed.

“Still,” he said. “Sleep is important.”

“What about you?” Matsuda asked. “All that gooey crock, and you’re just gonna stay up and mull over shit? Hypocrite.”

“You shouldn’t worry about me,” Komaeda said. “Someone like you—definitely shouldn’t worry about someone like me.”

Matsuda made a face.

“Oi, oi, that coy act might win over a loser like Hinata, but I’m not fucking buying it.”

“I really have no idea what you’re saying, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda said, and disgustingly, he sounds pretty sincere. His doe eyes are ever wide, ever innocent.

“Do you think a murder will happen?”

Komaeda’s lips are pressed tightly together. Truth be told, Matsuda’s not even sure where the hell that came from.

“...forget about it,” he grumbled. “Christ. I really am just...exhausted... The fucking situation... The fucking people... I only bothered with Hope’s Peak because I wanted to further my talent and...all this... Urgh.” Matsuda shook his head. “It’s all so worthless.”

“Flowers bloom more beautifully in the face of adversity,” Komaeda hummed. “Or so the saying goes.”

“Yeah that’s a lovely fucking sentiment in fiction, I guess, but real life isn’t quite so convenient.” Matsuda pinched the bridge of his nose. “Still...”

It’s not completely hopeless. At the very fucking least... There are people willing to step up. Still... This feeling... It’s not great.

“Matsuda-kun...”

He’s so...so exhausted. He’s so fucking exhausted that he nearly topples over, but Komaeda quickly steadies him, grunting a little.

“Ah, Matsuda-kun... You really should get some sleep, huh.”

“Pffff... I fucking guess... Trying to face this shit on zero sleep is...probably gonna get me killed. That would suuuuuuck. With how far I’ve come, I can’t... I can’t afford to die here...”

Komaeda chuckles lightly, and then he helps Matsuda to his feet. Matsuda still feels dazed, as if his mind is some distant place that he can only see, but never reach.

“Hnnn...”

“I’ll help you to your cottage, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda says, even though it’s clear he’s struggling a little to support him. “You, Hinata-kun, and everyone else—I’ll do whatever I can to help.”

“Ohhh. Don’t make us feel too special...”

Komaeda just laughs that off. Matsuda’s eyes are starting to droop.

“Komaeda... Hey, Komaeda... Something about you...really definitely rubs me the wrong fucking way...”

“Aha. I’m sorry to hear that.”

“But...” Matsuda yawns. “You’re someone that I definitely...definitely should keep an eye on. So, mm, don’t act out unnecessarily or else... I’ll have to tie you to the bed...”

...where did that come from? What...?

He’s tired. Just so tired. He’s too tired to really think.

“Haha... Aha... Whatever you say, Matsuda-kun.”

It must not have mattered too much, considering the way Komaeda just laughs him off.

Wait, no—isn’t that more reason to worry?

He’s tired.

So tired.

His eyelids fall. Everything just stops to the gentle sounds of struggling footsteps, and Komaeda’s quickened breathing.

Eventually, he opens his eyes and he’s already in bed. His coat’s been hung up, his slippers set aside in their proper place. Everything is as it is, except he’s on some weird fucking island under duress by a weird fucking bear.

“...urghhhh...”

Matsuda flips himself over, burying his face into the pillow.

What’s even worse is that I’m not the only one. Sixteen others—that’s a lot of fucking variables. Things could go in so many ways, and a lot of those ways aren’t great.

Still, Togami swore nothing would happen. And—Komaeda seemed assured that they’d succeed. Somehow.

But say we do escape...or get rescued...or whatever... What’s waiting for us? What happened in all that time? Was it...really recent...?

For whatever reason, the possibilities were so twisted and dark that Matsuda immediately blocked them out.

Face the future. What a fucking joke.

He just went to sleep.


Everything on the bookshelves was shit he knew he read already, which was annoying but tolerable. It included his favorites, including one manga that he remembered being so well-worn that the spine was pretty crumbled. This copy is practically pristine, but it wouldn’t be that way for long if Matsuda had a say in it.

So he grabs it, reading as he makes his way to the restaurant, and reading as he kicks open the door and steps inside. He only looks away to pile up food onto his plate and makes a beeline for one of the unoccupied tables. There seemed to be quite a few, which likely meant that not everyone was here yet.

Matsuda doesn’t bother checking, still reading as he chews on bread.

It was weirdly quiet. There was the occasional loud footsteps and shrill greeting, but sound suffocated quickly in an atmosphere this heavy.

“Mmf.” Not like I care. Right now Himitsuko has a bitch to cut. “Mm.”

“Good morning, Matsuda-kun.”

Matsuda swallows his bread and has to down lemon water so that he doesn’t choke.

“Kuzuryuu-kun isn’t here, yet,” Komaeda says, like the idiot hadn’t noticed a thing. Or maybe he was pretending so that Matsuda could feel a little bit better about himself. He didn’t.

“Who cares?”

“He’s probably dead,” Saionji said, making Mioda shriek.

“He is not dead,” Pekoyama stated simply. “However he informed me that he will not be joining us. That is all.”

“That’s all,” Matsuda said, tearing once more into his bread. “Mmf. So that’s that. Who fucking cares?”

“That guy could be plotting a murder,” Souda mutters, shaking a little. “That’s what it means to be a criminal.”

“Souda-san!” Sonia reprimanded sharply, making him flinch. “You mustn’t be so quick to doubt your peers!”

Himitsuko doesn’t fucking deserve this.

Grumbling, Matsuda turned back down to his manga. He was determined to not lose focus, and said determination was that of the Ultimate Neurologist. Like hell he’d lose.

“I won’t lose against you, Mara!” Himitsuko cries out, readying her wand. “No matter how strong your hate is, love will always win in the end!”

 “For now, we will have to carry on without him. We have much to discuss. Someone can pass on this information to Kuzuryuu later.”

“Love? That foolish fickle sentiment? You really are so naïve, Himitsuko. But that is part of your charm, I suppose.”

“What are we discussing?”

“Mara, please! I’ll give you one last chance! You don’t have to do this! I love you!”

“You should all rejoice. For I, Togami Byakuya, have decided that everyone is to take part in a party this evening.”

“What was that?!”

“A PARTY?!”

“I love you! I still love you! I’m sorry—I hesitated before, but—I’ve made up my mind! Even if you hate the world, and even if the rest of the world hates you, I’ll always, always love you!”

“Matsuda Yasuke,” Togami snapped. “You are paying attention, yes? When I said everyone, I did in fact mean everyone.”

“Are you really worried about convincing me and not the fucking midget mobster?” Matsuda shot back, irritated. “As long as the food is safe, it’s what the hell ever for me. Now back off, you snobby jawbreaker. Someone’s about to very tragically fucking die. God. Be tasteful.”

“I’ll be sure to keep it safe for work, Matsuda-kun,” Hanamura croons, to Matsuda’s immediate repulsion.

We’ll definitely need someone watching that guy for public safety reasons.

“...what the hell are you reading?” Hinata asked warily. “Isn’t that series for kids?”

“Isn’t that hairstyle for kids? What the hell is up with that purposeful antenna? You would’ve been better off donning a pair of sunglasses or goggles if you actually wanted to stand out. It doesn’t even look that good. The cutting is uneven, idiot.”

“S-Shut up!” Predictably, Hinata got flustered. “I don’t need to hear that from you!”

“Idiots,” Togami huffed. “But this is part of the reason why a party is necessary.”

“Monokuma is trying to turn us on each other,” Komaeda said, placing a hand on Hinata’s shoulder to calm him down. Somehow, that worked. “In times like these, it’s important to try and strengthen our bonds as much as possible.”

“I...” Hinata’s still pretty flustered. “I guess...”

“Not gonna lie, but I fucking hate parties. They’re noisy and chaotic, but that said...” Matsuda swallows, scratching at his scalp irritably as he shuts his book. “It’s more ideal to have everyone all in one place. Right?”

“It’ll also improve the mood!” Komaeda exclaimed. “Isn’t that right, Togami-kun?”

Togami stiffened a little.

“...it is as Matsuda said.”

“Those words seem to obfuscate a meaning of greater depths,” Tanaka hummed.

“Regardless. There will be a party.” A pause. Togami turned thoughtful. “However, the restaurant is no good. We will need a location more closed off, less likely to be disturbed by the likes of Monokuma.”

“A cottage would not work,” Sonia mused. “The space would be too cramped.”

“Cramped, you say?! I can make that work!”

“The easiest bone to break is the clavicle,” Matsuda droned. “But wrists and ankles are also quite easy to break as all you really need is a good harsh fall.”

Hanamura went quiet.

“I learned in medical school that I’m actually pretty good at breaking bones with sheer force alone,” Matsuda went on. “There’s something almost rhythmic about the snaps your finger bones can make.”

“S-Stop talking!” Souda screeched. “Dude, what the hell?! You’re almost scarier than the fucking yakuza!”

“I just thought it’d be interesting information to share,” Matsuda said simply. “I’m sure someone here is pretty attentive when it comes to bones.”

Hanamura nervously combed through his hair.

“Bones are...what add flavor...”

“Even if the bone is broken, it’s important to move the limb to combat atrophy,” Nidai said, crossing his arms and nodding. “You must take good care of your body, even when INJURED!!!”

“...yeah,” Matsuda replied, averting his gaze. “The screaming brick isn’t wrong...”

“I-It is pretty interesting,” Tsumiki murmurs, giggling. “The femur is actually the most painful to break, due to it taking the most force to do so...”

“...yeah,” Matsuda replied, voice even lower. “I knew that, too...”

That’s basic osteology. But that’s a rather complicated expression, huh.

“You make such gross faces!” Saionji hissed, making Tsumiki yelp. “At this rate, I might gag so hard that I’ll end up breaking bones!”

“O-Oh no!”

“And they’ll be yours!”

“Eek!”

“You’ll also definitely break your own,” Matsuda muttered. “Judging by your appearance, you don’t have a strong enough bite.”

“What was that, Matsuda-onii?”

“With Matsuda-kun and Tsumiki-san here, we don’t have to worry about injuries,” Komaeda chirped. “But this doesn’t really help with deciding the location. There’s an old lodge nearby. Why not use that?”

“That place looked super shabby,” Hinata said, eager to switch conversation topics. “Will that really be safe?”

“It’s the only place that’s closed off,” Komaeda pointed out. “As for the shabbiness, well, I think it wouldn’t be impossible to clean it up. It should work.” He hums. “The only real issue is that Monomi forbade us from going in earlier...”

“I can still break in,” Matsuda supplied.

“Oh that would be easy!” Owari exclaimed. “Even a roundhouse kick at half-strength would knock that door off its hinges!”

“T-That’s unnecessary! Utterly unnecessary!” Monomi hurriedly cried. Because. She was here now. “I-If it’s for the sake of strengthening friendship among my most precious students, I would be happy to open that door!”

“Were you watching us from the cameras?” Togami asked sharply. Monomi flinched at that, and at Matsuda’s harsh glare.

“No... I just overheard the conversation with my ears... Because... I’m a rabbit...”

“So Monokuma’s the only one in control of the cameras now,” Matsuda muttered, glare darkening as Monomi cowered. “Fucking lovely.”

“U-Uu... A-Anyway!” Monomi was desperately quick to bounce back. Because she was a rabbit. “I’ll do everything I can to help! So let’s enjoy that party to our fullest!”

“Are you going to clean it for us?” Nanami asked. “Can you do that?”

“O-Oh... No...” Monomi shakes her head. “Um... I don’t...have thumbs... And I don’t have my wings... B-But I can give good scrubs...”

“Actually don’t,” Saionji snapped. “You’ll just get all dusty and dirty and you’re already so gross to look at.”

“S-So kind...!” Monomi sobbed, and she fled the scene. “So kind I just can’t take it!”

...she’s a fucking mess. Matsuda thought, watching her disappear. It’s best to not associate with that bitch more than we have to.

“Even if the lodge has been decided, it’s definitely going to need some sprucing up,” Koizumi said. “It’ll probably be a lot of work...”

“You could do it,” Matsuda said.

“Ooh! I’ve never been faced with such labor before!” Sonia exclaimed. “How hella exciting!”

“She could do it,” Matsuda said.

“Absolutely NOT!” Souda roared. “A princess should never lower herself to such—!”

“I would say that you could do it, but you haven’t even washed your jumpsuit in days, have you?” Matsuda asked.

“WHAT?!” Koizumi shrieked. “Souda, you said that you would! It’s still all torn up, too!”

“I-I’ll fix it before the party!” he squawked. “Don’t worry about it!”

“I still would not mind cleaning,” Sonia said pleasantly.

“If you’ve never cleaned before, you’ll probably be shit at it,” Saionji said. “Well, I don’t want to clean either.”

“Oh...” Sonia seemed crestfallen. “Is that so...?”

“Rather than argue, we can decide things with a draw,” Komaeda said, pulling out handfuls of sticks. “Whoever has the red stick cleans. Just leave it to luck. That way, no hard feelings.”

“What the fuck,” Matsuda said. “Is it part of your talent to just prepare shit like that out of the blue?”

“Ahaha, I just had an inkling that something like this might happen,” Komaeda replied. “That’s all it is.”

That’s all it is?

“Well, whatever,” Matsuda sighed, drawing his stick. “Whatever gets shit done.”


He didn’t draw the red stick, so it didn’t really matter one way or the other.

No, instead the unlucky bastard was, ironically, Komaeda.

“I thought you had Ultimate Luck, Komaeda,” Hinata teased. “Maybe you should change your title.”

“Well, it’s not so bad,” Komaeda laughed. “I’m actually pretty good at cleaning. I even enjoy it a little.”

“Oh, so you’re a domestic kind of guy?” Koizumi asked. “Like a house husband? You definitely give off that vibe.”

“Oh...” Komaeda was weirdly embarrassed by that. “T-Thank you...?”

Hm.

“Just leave the cooking to me!” Hanamura exclaimed. “First, I must secure the ingredients, and then—you will all see and feast upon the ultimate cuisine!”

“...hey, Komaeda.” Matsuda tugged him aside. “Is that really going to be fine? Not only will you have to clean a lot, but you’ll also need to keep an eye on that guy.”

I at least trust Komaeda to do that second part, but the first...

“Don’t worry about it, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda said cheerily. “It’ll be fine.”

“Mm...gh.” Matsuda’s lips twisted, and his tone lowered. “Fine. But if it’s too much for you, just flutter your eyelashes at Hinata or something. I’m sure he’ll help if you ask.”

Hinata thankfully hadn’t heard that, but he did perk at Komaeda’s responding giggle. And he got flustered.

Yeah. That’s one whipped nut.

“It’ll be fine,” Komaeda said. “Don’t worry. I’ll definitely keep a close eye on Hanamura-kun, too.”

“I trust you,” Matsuda said seriously. “So don’t fuck up.” He turned to Nidai. “But if any heavy lifting needs to be done, you should pitch in. We can’t seriously expect a cotton twig to manage all that.”

Nidai laughed and boomed, “UNDERSTOOD!”

“I’ll go inform Kuzuryuu, then,” Pekoyama said. “With all that decided.”

“With all that decided,” Togami echoed. “We shall disperse for now to get preparations started.”

“Fucking finally,” Matsuda muttered irritably.

“Matsuda-kun.”

He paused for a moment, glancing back at Komaeda’s beaming face.

“Thank you. You really are a kind person.”

He snorted.

“...whatever.”

Chapter Text

Truth be told... I really don’t want to go. At like, all.

Unsurprisingly, Matsuda Yasuke was not the most adept at social gatherings. Even as he deliberately skipped out on student hangouts; when it came to work parties, he was often excluded for obvious reasons. It wasn’t just that he hated being around people—although, yes, he definitely fucking hated being around people—but also...

So much ruckus. So much shit going on. This is going to suck.

He already feels a little queasy and right now, he can only hope one of his idiot classmates sneaks in alcohol or something to make things a little more tolerable.

As long as it’s not from that fucking creepy cook. Although the fucking mechanic guy would probably have shit taste in drinks. Urgh.

He’ll have to soldier through. When it’s finally time to head out, his mood isn’t much lighter.

He’s dragging his feet and he knows it. So much so that when he spots Pekoyama, arms crossed with a troubled look on her face, he stops.

“...gangster gremlin not coming?”

“You should not call him that,” Pekoyama said swiftly. She soon sighed. “But, no, he is not.”

“Right...”

He’s dragging his feet and he knows it. He can already hear Mioda’s manic giggling and stomping footsteps. He can hear Tsumiki’s laughter, too, although she starts sobbing over nothing pretty quickly. The others are making their way over, save for one broody baby.

Matsuda trudges, and then, once he reaches the door, he pauses. The lodge looms, decrepit and ominous with only lights filtering through the windows as a welcome sign. If not for that, Matsuda would wonder if the damn thing was actually a test of courage in disguise.

Urgh. I can hear some of them, though.

It’s muffled, but apparent. When he went inside, it was bound to be really fucking loud.

...I still have a bad feeling about this. Inherent distastefulness of the situation aside, is this really going to be safe? Monokuma has fucking cameras set up. There’s no way in hell he won’t notice this.

“Urgh...” Tensely, he raked his fingers through his hair. “I can’t just ditch—not in a situation like this. Fuck... Fuuuck...”

“Uu... Are you not going inside, then?”

...aaaaaand that’s one fucking reason why I can’t just say fuck it.

Monomi was looking up at him pleadingly, beady eyes brimming with tears. Somehow, that pitiable face made his glare and snarl harsher.

“S-So cold!” Monomi exclaimed. “A-Awawawa... You’re really, really angry, huh?”

“What was your first clue?”

“U-Uu...” Monomi pulls down on her ears. “Um... A-Actually... I understand why... Matsuda-kun is mad...”

“Oh?” Matsuda’s tone is deceptively light, even when the heavy shadow of his gaze. “Do you?”

“While I regrettably can’t provide any answers, I do really want to help everyone, um...” Monomi perked up. “I-I can guard the lodge! From that meanie Monokuma! That would help, right?”

“...”

“Right...?”

Matsuda sighed.

...even though I really fucking hate her right now, she really is making such a face... She comes across as too dumb to accomplish anything. But more than that...

“You’re not exactly trustworthy right now,” he said lowly. “So it’d have to be with one of the others.”

“I can do it.”

Somehow, used as he was to Monomi’s antics, he didn’t have a fucking heart attack at Nanami’s sudden appearance. That said, he still wasn’t terribly impressed.

“At least fucking say hi before butting in on a conversation.”

“Hi,” Nanami said.

“Alright, it’s a start, space cadet,” Matsuda huffed. “Really giving me a boost of confidence, there, great work.”

“Thanks,” she said.

...like an alien from another fucking planet... I almost want to cut her head open to see what I find.

“Anyway, are you really volunteering to do guard work?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “You? Won’t you just fall asleep?”

“I’ll try not to,” Nanami answered. And then, after a pause, she added, “I think.”

“Are you serious about this?” he asked pressingly. “Or are you just looking for a reason to ditch?”

“...mm...” Nanami shook her head. “No. I definitely want to help. In some way. I’m pretty sure.”

“...” Definitely, she says. Pretty sure, she says. I would feel more assured with a drunk coworker. “If you’re definitely pretty sure, I guess I can’t fucking doubt you too much.”

I have nothing but doubt right now. But this zombie is probably on the better half of options. Oh god, we’re so fucking screwed.

“Still, might as well work with what we got,” he muttered to himself, riffling through his pocket and pulling out a small bottle. He places it in Nanami’s hand. “Here. That should keep you awake, at least.”

“...energy powder...?” Her head tilts. “Um... Okay.”

“Actually.” He pulls out another small bottle and hands that over as well. “Take two. No wait.” He pulls out another, and puts it in Nanami’s other hand. “Three. Perfect.”

“I-Is that safe?” Monomi asked shakily.

“If not, we’ll know in a few hours,” Matsuda said. “I know from experience it won’t kill her. At least it shouldn’t.”

“Okay,” Nanami said, utterly unaffected.

I’d give her a fourth but I need to keep at least something for myself.

“Just in case, drink plenty of water and avoid excess salt,” he went on. “If you get hematuria—well, if that should probably sort itself out.”

“...I’ll be fine,” Nanami said. “I think.”

“That’s the spirit.” This is what I have to work with. “Good luck, I guess.”

“Thanks. Matsuda-kun.”

He’s a little quick to go on ahead, grimacing as he feels Nanami’s unsettlingly blank gaze on her back.


“Matsuda Yasuke. There you are.”

“Hey—wow. Okay. Just gonna, uh, get right to it huh.”

Togami was thorough in patting him down, taking his scalpels and holding them between his fingers as he continued to check.

It, unfortunately, was not the most invasive thing Matsuda has ever been through.

“You done?” he asked tiredly.

“Do you have any more of these hidden on your person?” Togami asked in return, gesturing to his blades.

“Just one I store in my ass.”

“Please remove it, then.”

Togami didn’t even miss a beat.

Well, then.

“I’m joking,” Matsuda huffed. “Although if you’re going to check anyway, I’d at least like to eat first.”

Togami gave him a long look, and then with a exhale, he shook his head and went to store the scalpels in one of the duralumin cases at his feet.

He must’ve gotten those from the supermarket.

“You’re really serious about security, huh,” Matsuda droned. “You’re not gonna keep those, right?”

“You may have them back after the party,” Togami said. “But for now, yes. I said there were going to be no victims. I very much meant it. The other case is in the event of trouble.”

...huh.

While Matsuda could understand the need for meticulousness, there was something off. While he expected Togami to be serious, there was a rigidity to his shoulders and a guardedness to his gaze.

When he was the one talking about how everyone should rely on him...

“Hey,” Matsuda found himself speaking up. “Did something happen?”

Togami, for what it was worth, did not lose poise.

“I knew you would suspect something,” he said. “You really are too sharp for your own good.”

“Thought that had been well-established by this point,” Matsuda remarked, fiddling with his slipper. They still need breaking in.

“Nevertheless,” Togami snapped, taking the cases. “There is still much to be done. Proceed to the main hall and enjoy the festivities.”

“...” Matsuda just trailed after him instead, slouching as he did. “Soooo what else has to be done?”

“You need not concern yourself, Matsuda Yasuke.”

“What was that? Must be fucking mishearing things.” Matsuda picked at his ear. “Because that directly fucking contradicts what you said before about how we should work together.”

Togami was quiet at that, though he muttered something under his breath.

Something like, “too sharp for his own good” or whatever. Matsuda could hardly give a shit about that.

“Something happened,” Matsuda said, even more sharply than before. “And it turns out you really did bite off more than you could fucking chew. It really is a whole lot easier to just say that shit, huh? I should’ve known.”

Togami paused. He was still so noticeably tensed, and then, he sighed. He did not relax, even slightly.

“...if you insist, then you may come along.”

Matsuda snorted but he followed suit all the same.


“Before the food is to be served, it must be checked for any dangerous items,” Togami was saying, stomping as he did. “I did not check earlier—but we must be thorough now even if the time is short.”

“...you really did bite off more than you could chew, huh...”

Honestly, I can’t help but think that he actually has no fucking clue what he’s doing.

Matsuda bit his tongue for now, keeping his head down as they entered the kitchen.

“Oho! Togami-kun, Matsuda-kun! To what do I have the honor of welcoming two handsome men into my humble palace?” Hanamura was quick to greet, wiping sweat from his brow. Matsuda shuddered in premature disgust as Hanamura licked his lips. “Dinner is right on schedule—but are you perhaps looking to be prepared as well? Hon, hon, hon...”

At Matsuda’s harsh, piercing glare, Hanamura’s laughter died down.

“Aha... Haha... It’s just a joke, Matsuda-kun. Such a heartbreaker.”

Matsuda rolled his eyes, but jolted to attention at the sudden urgency in Togami’s shout.

“Oi, what is this?!”

Whatever Togami was indicating seemed to be on the food table, which actually looked pretty delicious for the record. Although Matsuda still wasn’t sure about it. For one moment, he wondered if Togami noticed any actual foul play within the food. For the next, he wondered if Togami was referring to the cutlery because he could believe that Togami was just that fucking paranoid now.

And before he could blink, Togami had snatched up each skewered bundle of meat, and was wolfing them down at impressive speed.

“W-What are you doing?!” Hanamura screeched. “That’s for the party!”

“It’s too dangerous for the party!”

Yeah, Matsuda thought sardonically. The red meat bitch would probably maul someone over that shit.

“Do you not see the problem here?!” Togami was still shouting. Hanamura was still flailing.

“D-Do you not like Churrasco?! Is that it?!” Hanamura stammered. “I-It’s just—it originated in South America, so, I, I just thought it’d be a good fit with the tropical mood...”

Oh wow, that actually sounds pretty good...

“It’s not the meat that’s the problem here!” Togami roared and in a few quick strides, Matsuda hopped forward and grabbed one of the sticks. Togami’s grip was stubborn but that didn’t stop Matsuda from taking a bite out of the meat while he had a chance.

“Mm...” Oh. That’s actually really good. “If it’s not the meat then it’s the skewers. You could really impale someone with these.”

“S-So I can’t use skewers?!” Hanamura cried, but then, his tone softened with glee. “By the way, Matsuda-kun, your expression just then was quite lovely. Please continue enjoying my meat to your heart’s content.”

Oh wow. There went my appetite. Amazing.

“So careless!” Togami scoffed. “It is a good thing we came in here. There are far, far too many dangerous weapons in here. Matsuda, start by clearing out the cutlery. We can make due with chopsticks.”

Sure enough.

“Rooooger that.”

“E-Eh? But, but...” Hanamura was fretting considerably. “My chef’s knives...my cutlery... my cooking utensils... I-I mean, I’m done with cooking and just need prepare for serving, but still...!” He sobbed and lurched forward, throwing his arms out. “Wahhhh, Matsuda-kun!!!”

“Do you see this fork?” Hanamura stopped, nearly stumbling over himself. Matsuda kept pointing the fork at him. “Pretty sharp, huh? I bet you could stab a whole hand through with this.”

“Which is why it must be confiscated,” Togami huffed, shoving handfuls of tableware into the case.

“U-Uurk...” Hanamura swallowed as Matsuda twirled the fork around his fingers. Hanamura exhales heavily, fiddling with his fingers. “While your tsuntsun attitude definitely lends itself to some inviting fantasies, it really is a challenge requiring a lot of work, huh... Hard to get, indeed.”

“You say that like getting is even a possibility in the first place,” Matsuda snapped. “It’s not. Fuck off forever. Unless you want to die.”

No one is dying,” Togami snapped back as Hanamura yelped when Matsuda threw the fork at him. It didn’t hit him, of course, instead lodging itself in the wall. Togami yanked it out, scowling. “But you are distracting us, Hanamura. Before you leave, however, there is a missing iron skewer according to this list.”

“O-Oh!” Hanamura touched his face instinctively. “Right, um.... I believe that was missing before I got here. While things were in better shape than expected, it is still an old lodge. Missing utensils isn’t a surprise.”

“There is nowhere to hide it, either, so I suppose we will simply leave it be,” Togami said, sighing and shaking his head before snapping back to attention. “However, we still need to do a thorough check. So you should leave, Hanamura.”

“Oh, um... V-Very well... Let me know when you two are done...”

Hanamura scampered out, and Matsuda continued rifling through the drawers. With the well-needed silence and focus, Matsuda gathered up everything remotely dangerous he could find and deposited them into the case.

They made a series of metallic clangs as he dropped them, and for whatever reason, Togami only gave a small nod.

“Thank you, Matsuda.”

Togami, too, drops what he’s found into the case.

Without another word, Matsuda checks over everything thoroughly, humming as he does. Togami consults the list to make sure everything is accounted for, and Matsuda idly dawdles.

...I’ve cleaned surgical tools with a more cheery atmosphere. This is for a party, right?

“Come to think of it,” he said. “You’ve been acting weird for a while now. Ever since you announced the party being a thing.”

He isn’t dignified with an answer, but whatever. He expected that.

“...I don’t expect you to tell me anything,” he found himself going on, despite all of that. “But it’s stupid as shit to handle something overwhelming all on your own. Especially if it’s something you don’t feel fully prepared for. Ambition is great, but you need proper support to back it up or you’re just going to get trampled.”

Although...why am I the one pointing this out?

What do I know?

Matsuda touched his forehead, wondering why it felt so warm.

Just what am I s̷̛̲̜̫̑̓̓a̶̰̮͑̋͜͝͝ÿ̶̢̭̩̣́̈́̇͊i̸͕͍̅̓̚n̴̟̉̒͛͘ğ̴̬͊͑?

Seriously what

“You really are too sharp for your own good.”

Matsuda blinked a few times, and that wave of sudden, rushing uncertainty abated so quickly that he wondered if he imagined it.

...sometimes I overthink shit, but...

Matsuda shook his head, turning back to Togami with a dry stare.

“Do you have any new dialogue? Why the broken record act?”

“Hmph.” It sounded like an almost chuckle, but there wasn’t any mirth behind it. Togami still wasn’t looking at him. “I seem to have fallen into an old, familiar trap. One I thought I escaped. One I had wanted to bury.”

...what normal person fucking talks like that? I know you’re an elite, but wow, that pretension...

“Uh, huh,” Matsuda droned, unimpressed. “Big fucking deal, you’re giving into paranoia and overzealous caution. Like hell if this isn’t the kind of situation that stews in that shit. Even if you weren’t like that in the past, it’d be pretty easy to lean into it now.”

Togami sucked in his breath, and then, he finally meets his gaze.

“Living like that, surrounded by people you could not trust, and people who refused to trust you in return... It is not easy, Matsuda Yasuke. It is hell. Pure hell.”

“That’s... I didn’t mean it like that...” Matsuda trailed off. “What I’m saying is that no one’s going to hold that kind of shit against you... At least, they shouldn’t...”

“...” There is an odd glimmer in Togami’s gaze just then. And then, those eyes fall shut. “In this situation, it is natural to suspect everyone. But I believe that can come in handy. When reasonably exploited, of course.”

Reasonably...

“Despite saying that, I do feel at ease,” Togami said, chuckling once more, so softly that Matsuda couldn’t register the tone behind it. “Perhaps I shall tell you more in due time. If we manage through these tumultuous days, maintaining harmony. In fact, I may have no choice in the matter...”

“You really don’t have to,” Matsuda replied, grumbling. “I’m not a goddamn therapist, after all.”

“...no, but you are something else.” Togami’s gaze bores into him. “Time will only tell what that something is, Matsuda Yasuke.”

So I could be an enemy. Well. It’s not like I can be all that surprised.

He shouldn’t even bother with this anymore. It’s not like he’s going to get anywhere. Besides

“We are done here,” Togami said with a flourish. “So, proceed to the main hall. We must not keep the others waiting. You are free to go on ahead. I implore you to do so, in fact.”

“...kay.”

Only time will tell, huh? So fucking eerie.


Treading through, Matsuda takes in more and more of the old lodge. It’s, unsurprisingly, pretty fucking old. The floorboards look as if they could break from one wrong step and there are numerous gaps leading into malicious darkness. The wallpaper is really, really tacky.

But, there’s a nice smell up head. And there’s also some brimming light from the main doors, too.

The party. Well. Best foot forward.

He pushes both onwards and on the doors, and he’s greeted with so much light and color that he ends up squinting like a cryptid that hadn’t seen the sun before. There’s a lot of chattering, as expected, a lot of whining about food and hurrying, and Matsuda already feels a little dizzy. He manages not to stumble and only barely avoids bumping into Komaeda.

“Matsuda-kun! You made it!” Komaeda’s beaming so brightly that Matsuda squints even harder at that. “I’m glad!”

“I said I would, what do I look like, a dirty fucking liar?” Matsuda growled, rubbing his eyes in irritation, blinking them a few times so that he could focus properly. “Even if I’m not going to enjoy it, I tend to do the shit I say I’m going to do.”

He glances around. Pekoyama is enjoying juice with Koizumi and Sonia. Saionji is bitching out Tsumiki for existing. Hanamura has the food set up, much to the delight of Owari and Mioda. Souda and Nidai seem to be getting along. Tanaka is laughing to himself and his hamsters.

But all things considered, the main hall looks pretty alright. It’s clean and tidy, with almost cute paper decorations and a carpet laid out to protect them from the shitty, rotten floorboards. The windows are covered up by fucking bunker steel plates. That’s a little weird. But all things considered, pretty alright.

“What do you think? Do you like it?” Komaeda asks. “It was quite a wreck when I started. It took all day just to fix up the dining hall. Oh. But I definitely kept an eye on Hanamura-kun, too.”

“You look like bird shit but you’re pretty much one of two semi-reliable people here,” Matsuda said, eyes half-lidded. “So thanks. I appreciate it.”

“That means a lot coming from you!” Komaeda exclaimed. “I’m really happy to hear it, Matsuda-kun!”

“Even though you could have worded it a bit nicer,” Hinata grumbled from suddenly close by.

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Don’t start with that,” Hinata snapped before softening his expression for Komaeda’s sake. “But you did work really hard, Komaeda. Sorry again I couldn’t help out.”

“What were you doing instead? Scratching your ass?” That’s what I was doing while reading. “I see you’re enjoying that juice...did you seriously zoom over here the second I showed up and Cotton Floss here started talking to me?”

“I wanted to check to see how shitty your mood would be,” Hinata sniffed, sipping at his drink irritably. “This juice is really good, though.”

“It’s good that Hinata-kun is enjoying himself,” Komaeda chirped. “And you really don’t need to worry about that. I lost the drawing fair and square, ehe. It’s my own fault for having such a fickle talent.”

Fickle, huh? Matsuda thought, eying the thin white wisps of hair and those skeletal, fragile-looking pale hands. Komaeda’s easygoing laugh. Hmph.

“So the juice is good, huh?” Matsuda takes the cup from Hinata, downing the rest of it before Hinata’s sputtering face. “Pwah. Oh. Yeah. That is good fucking juice.”

“G-GET YOUR OWN?!”

“I did. By stealing yours.” Matsuda head tilted. “So I guess you’ll have to get another one. Unless you want it back?”

“I don’t! Gross!”

Before Matsuda could say anything to that, Hinata marched back to the juice bowl, grumbling and cursing as he did. He fills up another cup, and then downs that just as quickly as Matsuda had downed his. He seems so steamed that his ears are all red.

Pffffft.

“You really do mess with Hinata-kun a lot,” Komaeda says. “Do you like him, Matsuda-kun?”

“Like, as a person? Not really.” He sees Hinata stiffen, weirdly, and his eyes narrow. His voice lowers. “But he is really easy to mess with, isn’t he?”

“He’s a bit frail, so please don’t push him too much,” Komaeda said cheerily.

...coming from the guy who would lose in a fight against a light breeze.

“You both have been pretty wound up,” Komaeda goes on. “Maybe enjoy the atmosphere while you can?”

“I...” Matsuda hesitated, and he felt his stomach churn a little. “I’m not a party guy. Shocking to hear, I know.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Komaeda looks so genuinely apologetic that it’s unbelievably annoying. “You can step out if you want.”

“And do what? Guard the fucking door with the spacy gaming otaku?” Matsuda cringed at the thought. “Yeah, no, I’m fine.”

That would go badly regardless of that weirdo does, be it trying to unnaturally converse, staying unnaturally quiet, or just fucking falling asleep and leaving me on my own to deal with the rabbit bitch and potentially that fucking bear, too.

“Brooding on my own with that dumbass wouldn’t be a productive use of time either,” he added for good measure. “I’ll stick around. If I can handle a hospital on red and black alert, I can handle a shitty party.”

I’ll be fine...absolutely fine...

“Don’t push yourself either, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda said. Still worriedly.

Maybe he’s a fairy in disguise. Or a ghost. Wouldn’t surprise me.

“Tch. Whatever.”

Like hell it matters.


It really is noisy. And a little disorienting. But it’s nothing he can’t handle. He’s pretty sure of it.

“You’re giving off a pretty scary aura,” Hinata observes warily. Souda is shuddering, too. “By the way, is something up with Togami?”

So I’m not the only one that noticed. Dammit, snob.

“T-That body search was just too much!” Souda exclaimed. “He even confiscated my screwdriver! The Souda Family screwdriver! That’s practically a heirloom, y’know!”

“You can mutilate someone pretty seriously with a screwdriver,” Matsuda pointed out, making him flinch.

“I-I wouldn’t dare...!”

“Speaking of that, how many scalpels of yours did Togami have to take?” Hinata asked, a smile twisting at his lips. “It was probably a lot.”

“I managed to sneak one in,” Matsuda said. A pause. “Joking.”

“Why are you so SCARY?!” Souda shrieked.

“Shut uuuuuup!” Saionji exclaimed. “Between yours and that pig puke’s whining, the party’s dangerously close to being ruined before it starts!”

Both Souda and Tsumiki sobbed.

Aw, geez.

“The party needs to hurry!” Owari complained. “I’m gonna starve at this rate!”

“There is no need to be so dramatic.” Finally, Togami steps in, carrying in the cases. “I have finished with preparations, so the party can begin underway. However there are still a few more factors to deal with.”

“YAHOO! IT’S THE STAR OF THE SHOW!” Mioda exclaimed, latching onto him.

“You took foreeeeever, porkfeet!” Saionji exclaimed. “Why are you so sloooooow?!”

“Apologies, apologies.”

Matsuda perked up, noticing that for whatever reason, Togami seemed a little more at ease. Even though he still had a tight grip on those cases.

That’s...a good thing, I guess.

“So Kuzuryuu has not shown himself?” Togami asks, getting back to business.

“No, he has not,” Pekoyama said. “He vehemently refused.”

“Nanami-san is keeping guard with Monomi,” Komaeda supplied. “So Kuzuryuu-kun is the only one unaccounted for.”

Togami scoffed.

“While this party’s attendance was compulsory, if it is just one person... I suppose I can let it slide. An individual cannot do much on his own, after all.”

You would know.

“By the way, where are you going to put those?” Matsuda asked. “Should we store them under the table or something?”

“One I will keep with me, but the other...” Togami holds it up, giving it quite the narrowed glare. “While it has been locked, I would like for someone to guard it.”

“Oh...” Matsuda swallowed. “Then...”

“I’ll do it,” Pekoyama says before he can even start. “I’m not a large group person, and can keep diligent watch.”

“Ooh! That’d make for a good song!” Mioda chirped. “Lonely Girl On Watch!”

“It is not a concern,” Pekoyama said, unmoved. “I will simply take my share of food with me into the storage room.”

Matsuda bit the inside of his lips, but kept quiet.

...well, it’s not like I wanted to guard the stupid fucking case...with my scalpels in them...

“Why don’t you take it to the office, instead?” Komaeda suggested. “I checked the storage room earlier, but I didn’t have time to clean it so it’s all dusty and dark. It’s so gloomy.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t sound healthy, either,” Hinata added, to which Matsuda bristled.

What do I care, anyway?

“The office it shall be, then,” Togami said with a firm nod. “The circuit breakers are also there, so please guard those as well.”

“Understood.” With that, Pekoyama took the case, giving all of them a polite nod of her own. “I shall be going. Please enjoy yourselves to your fullest.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Matsuda grumbled, waving his hand as she left.

“Do you want to go with her, Matsuda-kun?” Komaeda asked cheerfully.

“...no.” Matsuda huffed. “I’m fucking fine. No big deal.”

“I hate seeing her leave, but I love watching her go,” Mioda sighed dreamily. “Peko-chan is so evocative in how she coolly walks into the distance.”

“You can go with her,” Matsuda said, unimpressed.

“But then I’d miss Byakuya-chan’s party!” Mioda winked. “No dice!”

...she’s a heavy swinger, huh.

“Hey, HEY!” Owari shouted. “Can we eat now or not?!”

“You may,” Togami said. “There are no other problems.”

“SWEEEEET!”

“YAAAAAAAAAAAY!”

“WHOOOOOO!”

“MUAHAHAHA! LET US DIIIIIIIIIIIINE!”

PARTAAAAAY!”

“...ow.”

His ears were ringing, and Matsuda felt just a little more bitter than before. The others were shouting and whooping too, some even hooting. There were other shouts, calling for a cheers. Matsuda only raised his cup a little, still picking at his ear.

I can handle this. I can totally handle this.


“Alright everyone! Say cheese!” Snap. “Matsuda! You’re scowling again! Geez, you’re ruining the picture!”

“This is just my usual face, bitch.”

Geeeez.”

“Yoohoo! Mahiru-chan!” Mioda waved her arms frantically, bouncing on one foot. “Over here, over here,  oooooveeeeer—oof!”

She smacks into Tanaka. Tanaka screams a piercing yowl. Matsuda covers his ears, and Mioda just laughs that off.

“B-Be more careful, Ibuki-chan,” Koizumi reprimanded gently.

“Sorry, sorry!”

“The infernal portal has swiped the piercing steel of the hellhound!”

“Haha, whaaaaat?”

For fuck’s sake...

Owari is sobbing as she eats.

“I just can’t stoooop! It’s just so good!!!”

“But of course! It’s the world’s most delicious food, courtesy of the Ultimate Chef!” Hanamura said, preening as he skips off. Weirdly, he almost stumbles, but keeps his voice upbeat. “I’ll keep it coming! Eat until you burst!”

“M-Maybe not to that extent,” Tsumiki mumbled. “But, um, if you do, I can treat it...”

“I’m not going to expect Komaeda to clean it,” Matsuda grumbled.

My head’s starting to throb.

I really...don’t do well in parties.

It doesn’t help that despite Togami’s scolding and ordering, Nidai and Tanaka are screaming about stupid shit. Literally in one case, although Matsuda definitely wasn’t that curious about it.

This is just a mess. It’s a complete fucking mess.

He ends up retreating to the corner, rubbing his head as he does. He feels a little sick and he’ll be really fucking pissed if he ends up puking when he has decent food in his stomach.

Gross... So gross...

“Matsuda-kun?”

There’s a cold yet careful hand lightly touching his shoulder.

“Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda says, frown deepening. “Are you alright?”

“I...” Matsuda groans, making the fucking best possible case for his current state. “It’s whatever. I guess it’s just taking...a lot...of tolerating.”

There’s a lot of shouting and arguing. But there’s a lot of laughing, too. A lot of carefree chatter.

“Say cheese!” Koizumi exclaims cheerfully.

...it’s so exhausting.

“It’s nice, though,” Komaeda says. “Everyone was so troubled before, and they’re enjoying themselves now. It’s nice.”

“It’s noisy,” Matsuda says. “I wish this wasn’t so necessary for the sakes of not just our safety but also our sanity. This kind of contentment is—just way too fucking fragile.”

“...I suppose...” Komaeda seems wistful, at that. It’s strange. There’s a strange twist to his grin. “But I still want you to have fun while you can, Matsuda-kun. You deserve to smile, too.”

Matsuda attempts it, bitterly.

“That really does look so painful,” Komaeda laughs, but he seems exasperated.

“Hey, Komaeda.” Hinata steps in, waving his hand and still carrying a cup of juice. “Matsuda’s just going to snap at you if you keep bothering him.”

Are you trying to invite him?

“It’s fine,” Komaeda replies. “I’m just a little tired, too. I love seeing everyone happy, but... It is pretty noisy.”

“Oh... Yeah...” Hinata frowns, but he nods in understanding. “Alright, then.”

Is that disappointment? Matsuda’s glare sharpened. Are you seriously jealous?

Hinata wasn’t looking at him, but just at Komaeda.

“It’s fine,” Komaeda repeated, smiling gently. “Don’t worry about me, Hinata-kun. Please keep enjoying yourself. It’s so nice to see you at ease for once.”

“I...” Hinata hurriedly nods again. “A-Alright.”

Flustered, Hinata quickly leaves them be. Matsuda wonders if his heart is pounding. Komaeda’s smile remains still and serene. An eerie calm, with unshifting fog-green eyes.

...this guy...

“You really do bother me,” he griped.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Komaeda replied, and he does look sorry. That sincerity was bothersome. “This seems to always happen. I don’t know how to convey myself properly, and as a result, people get irritated with me. I am trying, but...” He trails off. “No, I shouldn’t bother you further with such menial whining.”

Menial?

Komaeda’s smile, then, was a self-effacing one. And then, it shifts into something unreadable.

“You know, noisy places with a lot of people bother me a lot.” Slowly, Komaeda’s arms wrap around himself. “Because—the more people, the more variables. The more possibilities. It’s quite daunting.”

Matsuda blinks, at that.

“...yeah?”

“You agree, don’t you?” Komaeda asked. “Part of why this situation is so frightening is because the copious amounts of unknown.”

Matsuda blinks again.

Ba-dump.

“Obviously...”

“Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda says, and his voice rakes over the syllables. “You’re really intelligent. You’re incredible, even among Ultimates. What...do you think is going to happen?”

Ba-dump.

“...do you have an answer? Or any ideas?”

“I have quite a few,” Matsuda said. “Because, as you said, there’s a lot of variables. A lot of possibilities. A lot of unknown.”

Komaeda’s smile twists.

Ba-dump!

“Can’t you behave like adults?” Togami griped.

“Over here!” Koizumi exclaimed. “Let’s just take a few more!”

“I-I can’t take much more of this,” Nidai groaned. “Shit... Shiiiiiit...”

“Where has that infernal portal lead?!” Tanaka hissed. “WHERE, confound it?!”

“Ehehe... Hehehe...” Tsumiki giggled. “T-This is fun...”

“You’re so gross,” Saionji snorted. “You’re so, so gross.”

“H-Hey, um, Sonia-san,” Souda stammered. “I, uh, wanted to talk about before...”

“Before?” Sonia asked. “I have no idea whatever you may be referring to.”

“So good!” Owari sobbed as she kept shoveling down food. “It’s just so good!!!”

“Mm...” Hinata hummed, a little exasperated and strained. “Aha... Haha...”

Matsuda blinked.

“...oi...”

He slowly turns. Without thinking, he reaches.

“Komae—”

Beep-beep.

There’s a weird sound, and then, everything goes dark. His hand closes around nothing.

Huh?

“Uwah!” someone shouts. “The power’s out!”

“I-It’s pitch-black...!” someone else cries. “What the hell?!”

What...is this?

Matsuda nearly stumbles in the dark, and his heartbeat picks up.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

“K-Komaeda?!” he exclaimed. His own shouting gets drowned out. “Oi!”

“It’s dark! It’s dark! I can’t see! Everything’s too dark!”

“Everyone, calm down! In times like this, you must remain calm!”

WAAAAAH! You stepped on my foot, you bully!”

“S-Shit...!” Matsuda cursed, fumbling around, hand braced on the wall. “Hey! Where the hell did you go?!”

It’s dark. All dark all around. He can hear the others panicking. His own heart is pounding.

Ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump!

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?! Stop!”

Togami?

“Ow!”

Komaeda?

Matsuda stumbled forward, and then—he was knocked down.

“O-Oof!” He hits the floor with a harsh thud. Someone yelps. It hurts. And for whatever reason, it’s hard to move. “Urgh...”

Just what—

“Someone turn the lights back on! Eating without seeing is hard!”

“H-Hey, everyone! Where are you?! The power outage—wasn’t just in the kitchen?!”

“Did someone flip the circuit breakers?”

The hell?!

More shouting. Frantic footsteps. It hurts.

“I-I’ll use the wall as a guide...! Don’t worry...!”

In times like these, all he can do is breathe and try to pull his hands in so that the don’t get trampled. If someone broke his fingers, there would be fucking hell to pay. A hell far fucking worse than this total darkness.

Seriously, Matsuda thought irritably, head throbbing terribly to make things worse. Just why?

The darkness provides no answers, of course. So, he lets his eyes fall shut. He counts. He goes over basic shit in his head to calm himself down.

Temporal is for auditory.

People were still panicking. There were still stomping foot falls.

Occipital is for visuals.

He keeps his eyes tightly shut, because like it makes a difference.

Parietal is for tactile and sensory.

Whatever was pinning him down was fucking heavy. And lukewarm.

And the frontal—reasoning. Motor skills. Higher level cognition. Expression.

Things suddenly went pink. The lights were on, so Matsuda’s eyes flew open.

He could see—and immediately wished that he couldn’t.

“I-I’m so sorry!” Tsumiki sobbed. “I fell again...!”

She also had her leg splayed over his fucking back, wrists tied together with sausage links with a plate of food propped up on her—oh for fuck’s sake.

“Perverts!” Saionji exclaimed. “Doing that in the dark!”

“Oh, my!” Mioda gasped. “Now that’s a scene!”

Hinata looked pretty flustered, fucking worthless—!

“S-Sorry,” Tsumiki hiccupped. “I’m so, so ashamed...”

“O-Oh, Mikan-chan!” Koizumi exclaimed, rushing forward. “C-Careful! You don’t want that plate to fall!”

Koizumi was quick to untangle Tsumiki, helping her up as Sonia checked on Matsuda.

“Oh, Matsuda-san!” Sonia frets as Matsuda mutely pushes himself up. “That position looked quite painful!”

“I-I’m sorry for being so much trouble,” Tsumiki sniffled. “I froze up when I felt you get pinned under me...”

So she had fucking noticed.

“...”

Matsuda dusted himself off, and then he takes a deep breath, hands pressing together.

“...y’know... I’m actually no stranger to that kind of shit. You’re not the worst I’ve had to deal with. By far. So, really, you shouldn’t worry about scarring me or whatever.”

“O-Oh...” Tsumiki perked up, fiddling with her fingers. “U-Um... M-Matsuda-san... I...”

“That. Said.”

“Y-Yes?”

“Don’t EVER fucking do that again.” Matsuda kept his tone level after that. “You’re supposed to be a member of the fucking healthcare committee, right? A would-be nurse? Then have more restraint.”

“Eek!” Tsumiki shrieked, and then she began to sob. “I-I’m so sorryyyyy!”

“Are you really?” he hissed, and she only cried harder.

“Hey! Don’t yell at her over an accident!” Koizumi hurriedly gathered Tsumiki into her arms. “You jerk!”

“I really don’t mean to cause so much trouble,” Tsumiki wept into Koizumi’s shoulder. “H-He’s right... He’s absolutely right... B-But I... I...!”

“Shhh, shhh... It’s okay, Mikan-chan... There, there...”

Koizumi really was glaring daggers at him, but Matsuda just turned away with a growl, focusing on more important things.

Where the actual hell is—?

“Looks like the lights are back on,” Souda says.

“Oh, did you flip on the backers?” Saionji asked. “Congrats! You managed to be useful after all!”

“Actually, I couldn’t make it to the office...” Souda tugs at his beanie. “No idea why they turned on.”

Ohhhh? So you’re still useless, then. That’s what you’re saying.”

“S-Shut up...!”

“Komaeda,” Matsuda hissed, grabbing Komaeda’s arm. “Just what the hell was that?!”

Komaeda seemed a bit startled, but also a little dazed.

“...what was what?”

“O-Oi, that’s enough!” Hinata exclaimed, taking Matsuda’s own shoulder. “You’ll hurt him!”

Matsuda growled, and his grip only tightened on Komaeda’s arm.

“Let go,” Hinata ordered. “I mean it, Matsuda.”

Matsuda’s expression twisted, and then, he sighed, releasing Komaeda. Komaeda rubs idly at where he was grabbed.

“Are you alright?” Hinata asks, pushing Matsuda further away none too gently. “That blackout was, uh, pretty sudden, huh.”

“Yeah...” Komaeda bites his lower lip. “Um. Where’s Togami-kun?”

Matsuda perked up and looked around.

“Heeeh? You’re right, where the hell did he go?” Nidai wondered, scratching his head. “Did he run off or something?”

“But, he should’ve been back if he went to the office too,” Mioda said.

“Unless he got scared,” Saionji huffed. “Scared little piggy. I’m gonna pinch his tushy.”

Matsuda looked around once more, and then, his gaze drifted.

His voice—wasn’t it in the general direction of...?

“...hey.” Owari’s voice was low. “I smell something...like blood.” She points in the same direction Matsuda is already looking. The table against the far wall. “Over there. Yeah. That’s blood.”

“W-What?!” Koizumi flinched. “H-How? Are you sure?!”

“I-I can’t tell,” Tsumiki stammers. “I don’t...smell anything...”

“I do not, either,” Sonia murmurs. “There is only cuisine in the air.”

Matsuda strides forward. He kneels before the table.

“W-Well?!” Souda shrieked. “Make sure there’s nothing there so that we can go properly search for Togami!”

“...shut the hell up. All of you.”

Matsuda trails his fingers down the creases of the tablecloth.

I can smell it now, too. It’s unmistakable.

He tugs at it, and he hesitates, feeling his stomach lurch and churn. He swallows, but his hand remains steady. It’s probably just because of the sheet. He’s unfortunately used—to sheets like this.

“Hey, Matsuda,” Hinata speaks up, uncertain and anxious. “What’s the hold up?”

Matsuda pulls the sheet. Carefully. But quickly. He doesn’t want to disturb anything. But still. He grimaces all the same, because of both the pungent stench—

“Aw, geez.”

And the teeming amount of blood, seeping into the woods and staining the back of the sheet. Togami lies there, face-down on the ground—like any victim in a cop show. It’s funny how much more surreal and how so much more sickening it is to be on the actual scene of something like that.

Matsuda reaches out, and he presses his fingers against Togami’s neck. His body is still warm, and his hair tickles against his hand. There’s no blood here, but that’s not much of a comfort when there’s still no pulse.

“...yeah.”

Matsuda pulls back, and he feels his lower back sting a little. Probably from being kicked earlier. That sharp pain threw everything into focus.

“Well, uh...” Matsuda turns back, and he doesn’t really look at their individual expressions—but he can tell it’s a melting pot of disbelief and trepidation. He does notice Komaeda’s face, however, and he finds himself talking while meeting that gaze, “Togami Byakuya is definitely dead. What time is it?”

Chapter Text

“As Togami Byakuya, I will not allow a single one of you to die. As Togami Byakuya, I can and will ensure it.”

“A body has been discovered! After a fixed period of investigation, please commence to the class trial!”

Well, Matsuda couldn’t help but think wryly. So much for that.

Unsurprisingly, it was difficult for his idiot classmates to answer a simple question when most of them were screaming, crying, both, or clammed up like a doe in headlights. There was more screaming, some stomping footsteps, and Matsuda looked about.

“Oh my, oh dear. So you’ve all met with a terrible fate, haven’t you? Upupupu...”

Like tinkling bells overhead, Matsuda’s gaze rose to meet with a grinning Monokuma, feet dangling over the chandelier. As he twirled around, the chandelier dropped with incredible speed but stopped just shy of hitting the floor. Souda screeched at that, and Nidai had already held an arm out, but Monokuma just hops off and the chandelier returns to its place as if nothing happened.

“How terrible! Terribly exciting!” he chirps, jumping and clapping his feet in joy. “The stage is set! The first murder for Jabberwock Island! And what buildup!”

...buildup...

“Are you just here to fucking gloat, then?” Somehow, he managed to speak up in this utterly bizarre and ridiculous situation. He can hear his heart pounding uncomfortably loud, and tries not to get distracted by Mioda foaming at the mouth on the floor. Sonia sobbing into her hands. Koizumi trembling and ashen. He can’t help but retain an accusatory tone. “Did you know this would happen?”

“K-Know?!” Nidai growled. “So you had something to do with this...!”

“Lil’ ol me? Oh no, no, no!” Monokuma shook his head, giggling. “If I were the murderer, that wouldn’t be fun at all! What kind of easy, lazy twist would that be?! It was one of you. One of you killed Togami-kun because the lost memories weighed on you so heavily that you juuuuuust couldn’t bear it!”

“That’s...”

“There’s...just no way...” Matsuda perks up at those words, lips pursing. His eyes narrow as Hinata shudders. “There’s no way that Togami was just—killed...just like that...” His knees buck. “T-That’s just—!”

Komaeda hurriedly steadies him before he can collapse then and there.

“Hinata-kun...! Hang in there...!” He says that, but he’s trembling, too. He seemed more lucid than before, at least, worried as he was.

“Hmmm, even though I made the announcement, Kuzuryuu-kun still isn’t here,” Monokuma just goes on without a care. “Well, whatever! There’s more than enough of you to do the investigation! You remember the rules, right?” A pause. “Well, if you don’t, you can look it up! The Monokuma file on your electronic handbooks should be updated!” For whatever reason, Monokuma looks at him and the grin is nothing short of smug. “It includes the time of death.”

So that’s how it’s gonna go.

“I... I refuse to believe this...” Sonia hiccups. “There is just... There is no way one of us would...k-kill...”

“Hey,” Saionji speaks in a tone that actually seems serious for once. “Like it or not, Porkfeet is definitely deader than a doornail. If we don’t find out who killed him...”

“We will be executed,” Pekoyama said. “Our lives are on the line, as regrettable as this situation is.”

“T-There’s just no way!” Hanamura sputtered. He’s shaking so badly that even the words crash into each other clumsily. “Togami-kun—Togami-kun can’t be dead! Not him! I-I... I refuse to believe it!”

“I don’t believe it either,” Komaeda murmured, and it’s almost a miracle that Matsuda managed to hear him anyway. “No one here is capable of killing Togami-kun.”

Speaking with such cold, hard conviction as the body’s heat fizzles. But... Honestly? Considering the circumstances... Well, regardless of the circumstances...

“We have to investigate,” Komaeda says, louder now, as if hearing those thoughts. He squeezes Hinata’s shoulders. “I believe in everyone, so I have no qualms. Our enemy isn’t each other—but this despairing game that Monokuma set up.”

“Kuma shock! You’re really gonna make a scapegoat out of me, huh?!” Monokuma flailed. “Even though I’m a bear! Goodness!”

“Shut it,” Matsuda hissed. “Your machinations are what’s responsible for all this. Don’t play fucking dumb. Don’t you have a shitty trial to prepare?”

“...” Monokuma hums thoughtfully, and then, “Hehe. Guess so! Well, then! Have fuuuun, everyone!”

With one last light-hearted giggle lingering in the solemn air, Monokuma skipped off. Monomi sobbed.

“I-It’s just...so cruel... It’s so horrible... So, so horrible...”

Yeah. Obviously. But it can’t be helped, right?

With that in mind, Matsuda stilled his shaking hands.

It’s only going to get worse, but the only path is forward.


“Alright,” he says, clearing his throat. “First order of business. Someone needs to help me move Togami’s body out from under the damn table.”

“W-What the hell?!” Souda nearly choked. “What are you saying?! Y-You seriously don’t expect someone to touch that, do you?!”

Matsuda just ignores him.

“When I said I’m perfectly capable of performing an autopsy, I meant it. But I still need someone to move the body so that I can properly examine it.” He clicks his tongue. “So can someone who’s not a fucking wimp step up? Ah, but...” He rifles through his pocket, grimacing as he pulls out a few disposable gloves. “Maybe wear these.”

“S-Seriously?” Souda looked paler than a sheet, but thankfully, Pekoyama and Nidai stepped forward.

“It is for the sake of survival,” Pekoyama said solemnly as she took one pair.

“It must be done,” Nidai sighed, taking another even as his teeth grit in clear distaste.

“U-Um...” Tsumiki stumbles forward, and shakily waves. “I-I can...as...as well...”

“Right,” Matsuda said, and just hands her a pair. “It’s best to have someone else corroborate. You can do that, right?”

“Y-Yes, of course...!” She looks like she’s about to burst into tears and is shaking so badly that the wrong poke could probably cause her to crumble—but she’s also nodding furiously. “O-Of course, of course...! H-Hic...”

Beggars can’t be choosers, Matsuda thought sullenly.

Nidai and Pekoyama manage to pull out the body, and Nidai gives a ‘heave ho’ before they push it onto its back. Its. That thing was alive not even five minutes prior. Togami’s face is twisted in such a garish way that many people hurriedly looked away. Matsuda’s stare only darkened as he went closer.

It was gruesome, no questions asked. The once pristine suit was soaked with blood, the bitter stench drenching the air with it. Matsuda swiftly undoes the blazer and undershirt to get a better look. As Matsuda drew even closer, he could tell that there were a multitude of puncture marks, spanning from the neck to abdomen.

“A-About 5mm in diameter,” Tsumiki whispers and then gasps as Matsuda quickly closes the shirt. “M-Matsuda-san! You look pale!”

“I don’t like gore,” was his only response before he shook his head. “But I’m not going to slack off just because there’s another semi-medical worker. Even if I’d prefer an actual nurse.”

Tsumiki flinches, but says nothing.

“When I saw the body earlier, his arm had been extended,” Matsuda went on. “There were other items under the table, yeah?”

“A knife and night-vision goggles,” Pekoyama answered. “Nidai and I did not disturb them.”

“But...” Nidai hums. “There’s weird paint on the knife handle. And the knife was splattered with blood, too...”

Matsuda blinks, and he checks Togami’s hands. Sure enough, one palm has particles of gaudy, neon green caught in the crevices.

So he was at one point holding the knife... But a stab wound would be pretty difficult to hide—so the blood on said knife is definitely his. It’s obvious. There was so much blood drenching the scene and an artery was clearly punctured, if his body is any indication.

“No sign of a struggle,” Matsuda droned on. “No signs of poison. The only thing of note is the expression—a common result of suffocation. He was likely choking on his own blood. If bleeding out didn’t kill him, that wouldn’t have helped.”

Nidai’s face twisted, and Pekoyama only looked away. Tsumiki muffled a whimper into her hand.

“It’s a pretty vicious sight,” Matsuda added. “Whoever did this—was probably real fucking pissed. Or anxious. You don’t stab someone this many times if you don’t have shit you’re trying to work out.”

“U-Urghhh...” Nidai hobbled a bit. “I’m...going to need...”

“Please,” Matsuda said. “Feel free.”

Nidai rushed out without further preamble. Matsuda continued his body search, fishing out two keys from deep within Togami’s breast pocket.

For the Duralumin cases, no doubt. Given Togami’s state when he died, the culprit couldn’t have put them there after committing the deed. There’s not enough space without rattling the table.

With all that said and done, Matsuda consulted the Monokuma file.

All the same information—killed around 11:30pm. Because of course that fucking bitch of a bear can’t even give me an accurate time. That said, it confirms another observation.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?! Stop!”

That was definitely Togami’s voice I heard. But—it’s best to have someone corroborate.

“A-Ahhh...what do I do?” Mioda moaned into her knees. “Look for clues? I’m completely clueless!”

“I’m not expecting much from you, either,” Matsuda said, and unsurprisingly, she just whined. “But, there is something I can and do expect.”

Mioda snapped up, sniffling. “Yasuke-chan, you really mean it? So you really do have a sweeter, chewier side!”

Is she hungry? That’s...weird. But whatever.

“You have sensitive ears,” he said, and to that, Mioda’s eyes sparkled. “Which means, you probably have a better idea of what happened during the blackout than I do. Because not only could you hear everyone’s voices, you could probably differentiate, too.”

“Yes! Piece of cake! Just like how Yasuke-chan is a luscious lemon cake! Even though strawberry shortcake is supreme!” She bounces to her feet and keeps on vibrating. “Just this morning, my cheeks were stuffed! Supremely stuffed! But I still hunger! This is definitely something I can sink my teeth into!”

Everyone has their way of coping with the aftermath of a brutal murder, I suppose.

“Yes, well, I want you to write and record what you heard,” Matsuda said, rolling his eyes. “And if you do...”

There’s no way she’s getting any of my fucking cakes.

“You can bite anyone of your choosing that isn’t me. You can bite them as hard as you want. Provided. It isn’t me.”

“Ooh! Okay!” She saluted. “Right away! I’ll write at the speed of light! So fast I’ll even write a song about it!”

“If you’re comfortable with being sued for causing further emotional distress, be my guest,” Matsuda said.

“Oke-doke!”

All things considered, she did write quickly, and her handwriting was legible. There were even notes scribbled on it, such as comments about how insightful her remarks during the blackout were. Truly, a genius for the ages.

But, it’s something I can work with.

“Thanks,” he said, not sounding terribly grateful. “Now go claim your prize.”

“Yeye! All hail Ibuki!” She whooped. “Three cheers! Hip, hip!”

Matsuda left, reading over the script a few more times as he did.


“Prize claimed! Chomp!”

“Ack! M-Mioda! Oi!” Mioda hurriedly scampered off in glee, leaving Hinata to stare after her at a complete loss. “What even the hell was that for?”

“You seemed pretty out of it,” Matsuda remarked, only because he was passing by. Hinata scowled at him but Matsuda blocked his view with the Monokuma File. “You’re going to help with investigating too, right? Hop to it.”

“Urgh...” Hinata groaned but he stands up, Komaeda still hovering close by. “Y-Yeah... Right...”

At the very least, he did get to work after that. Komaeda didn’t follow him, expression rather pensive, but when Matsuda glanced at him, he gave a wan smile.

Matsuda looked away, instead looking through the script once more.

Hinata still seemed rather ill, grimace deepening on his face as he ran his fingers through his hair, over and over. He was lingering around the body, and bit his lip hard enough to bleed. His gaze flickers to the Monokuma File, and his teeth grit.

“Togami...”

Pekoyama’s expression does not change, she diligently remains there guarding the body. Koizumi muffles a soft sob, but she seems to have the same idea, with her eyes darting about the scene for anything and anyone amiss.

“Why...?” Hinata whispered, voice trembling. “Just...why?”

“Hinata-kun,” Komaeda speaks in a hushed tone. “Let’s go look at the table.”

“R... Right...”

Matsuda did perk up at that.

The table... The place where he died... I should get a better look at it.

Hinata is trembling as he draws closer, even with Komaeda patting his shoulder. When Hinata pulls up the tablecloth to expose where the body had been, where there were still smears of blood coating the wooden panels and the back of the sheet, he recoiled violently.

“U-Urgh...!”

“Oi.” Matsuda let out a grunt as he hurriedly steadied Hinata as the other stumbled back. “Careful. Idiot.”

“I... It’s just...” Hinata tore his eyes from the place where Togami died, squeezing them shut. “Why did this happen?”

“Someone wanted to escape,” Matsuda said, pulling away. “Or they wanted Togami dead. We can figure that out later.”

Hinata grimaced, but Komaeda stepped in.

“I don’t think anyone here wanted Togami-kun dead, but... I do think we should investigate his death all the same.”

“Yeah, right,” Hinata agreed to that, nodding even with his features tense. “For Togami’s sake, let’s do all we can.”

...for his sake...

Matsuda scoffed and shook his head.

“We need a closer look at the crime scene, right?” He cut right to the chase. “Under the table there were a painted knife and a pair of night-vision goggles.”

“So the culprit used the night-vision goggles and stabbed Togami with the knife?” Hinata guessed but paused. “Wait... Where did the knife even come from? Was it swiped from the case...?”

“The knife isn’t the murder weapon,” Matsuda said. “The injuries don’t line up.”

“E-Eh? Then how?”

“Mmm...” Komaeda looks under the table to get a better look. “There’s packing tape hanging from the table’s underside. It’s painted, too. Oh, it’s glowing.”

Glow-in-the-dark paint? That’s...fucking tacky.

Matsuda frowned.

“...was the blackout planned, then?”

Come to think of it, earlier there was—

“B-But what killed Togami?!” Hinata demanded, snapping him out of it. “If it wasn’t the knife—!”

“Save it for the trial, nutcase,” Matsuda hissed, squeezing his face to shut him up. “Keep investigating. We’ll figure this shit out, I assure you. I have no fucking interest in dying to a situation like this.”

“R...Rrr...” Hinata scowled and smacked his hand away, rubbing his face with a wince. “R-Right...”

Hinata looks around the table, even as the sight and stench of blood has a visible effect on him. He distracts himself with the antique lamp sitting atop it for a while, but he hurriedly moves on when Matsuda impatiently clicks his tongue.

“I... Uh... Aside from the smears where the body was moved, the blood seems confined to under the table,” Hinata mumbles, almost lamely. “Was he really killed there...?”

“There’s no doubting it, with those wounds,” Matsuda said dully. “He was cut in a way that sprayed blood.” He swallows, clearing his throat. “The position is a bit weird, though...”

“What...do you mean?” Hinata looked a little dreading of the answer.

“I’m still mulling over it, so let’s move on.” Matsuda folded up the script, pocketing it for now. “There are other avenues we should be looking at in just this room.”

“Such as...?”

Matsuda glanced towards Koizumi, still with her arms crossed and her head ducked. Komaeda perked up, and then tugged at Hinata’s wrist.

“Hinata-kun, let’s just keep looking around. See what we can find.”

“Check the air conditioner,” Matsuda said, clicking his tongue again. “Before the blackout, there was some weird beeping. The only device in this room was that AC unit so there might be something weird about it. Get that dipshit mechanic to help if necessary.”

Hinata’s face pinched up, but he nodded tersely.

“R-Right.”


“Hey.”

Koizumi flinched and she glared at him but it was much weaker than usual. She didn’t even meet his gaze for long, squeezing her eyes shut and shivering.

“...I noticed,” Matsuda inhaled. “You haven’t been taking pictures, camera girl.”

“Wha—Who could take pictures at a time like this?!” she shot back, aghast. “J-Just what are you—?!” For what it was worth, cold realization quickly dawned on her face. “I... O-Oh... Right...”

So she noticed. Matsuda thought, watching her fidget anxiously.

“I...” Her hands are trembling as she takes up her camera. “I-I guess... I-I should...” She’s stammering, looking dreadfully pale as she does. “I-I... I could...”

“Nah, it’s fine,” he said, shrugging. “I have a photographic memory, and I got a good look at the body. Not to mention the Monokuma File reported the conditions pretty accurately.”

“...I-I see...” Koizumi sucked in her breath. “You really...aren’t too affected by this kind of thing, huh, Matsuda... Doesn’t it freak you out at all...? Togami was just here and now...”

He doesn’t answer that.

“One of us killed him,” Koizumi went on, voice steadying. “You realized that too, right? Who else could have done it...?”

He doesn’t say anything to that, either.

“I should have acted more calmly during the blackout,” she said. “I should have...”

“Yeah, I don’t care.” Matsuda shook his head. “Those should-haves and what-ifs are kinda useless right now. You don’t seriously think that if you kept your head a little that Togami wouldn’t have died, right? Because that’d be fucking stupid unless you’re meaning to tell me that you killed him in a panic or something.”

“I didn’t!” Koizumi shrieked. “I would never—! H-How dare you even accuse me of...!”

“Then don’t try and take any responsibility for what happened,” Matsuda snapped. “If it’s not your fault then it’s not your fucking fault.”

“You...!” Koizumi reddened in anger. “Geez, you’re impossible! Even at a time like this! Just—just forget I said anything!”

“Easy to do,” Matsuda replied. “Since you didn’t say anything important.”

“God, you’re such a jerk!” She manages to catch her breath, and she sighs. “But... I do want to help... And you approached me because I could, right?”

“Could what?” he asked, head tilted.

Koizumi rolled her eyes.

“You asked about pictures. You...” She bites her lower lip. “You wanted to ask about the pictures I took during the party, right?”

“Oh, wow, you figured that out...”

Koizumi scowled but when she looked down at her camera, her gaze hardened. She begins to swipe through them.

“Before the blackout—Togami hadn’t been standing near the table.” She hesitates. “That’s...weird, isn’t it?”

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?! Stop!”

“Hey,” Matsuda said. “Do you think you can figure out where everyone’s positions during the blackout had been?”

Koizumi pursed her lips.

“I can certainly try.” She met his gaze, stern and grim. “I also expect you to figure out what killed him. And who. You... Someone like you...even with that attitude...should be able to figure that out. Right?”

He waved his hand.

“Eh, probably.”

“W-What do you mean probably?!”

“Probably.”

“You really are impossible!” she exclaimed and then shoved him hard. “Just get going! God!”

He really didn’t need the extra bit of encouragement.


Continuing his check, Matsuda also found the duralumin case that Togami had. Opposite side of the room, far from the table where he died. Rifling through, Matsuda picks up a case for the night vision goggles and a key. There were other items, too, usually used for self-defense. A nightstick and a can of tear gas—huh.

Togami really was prepared for something, wasn’t he?

After checking a few other things, he puts the items back.

The key’s a perfect fit for this case, so it must be for the other case. So it’s probably still locked. Then what exactly killed him if it wasn’t the weapons in there nor the knife under the table?

He had a few theories, but without concrete proof, he could only shake his head and move on.

I still have more to do.

“Mm... Hnnnn...” A low groan, giving Matsuda an exasperated pause. “This...really isn’t good...”

Urgh. Fuck. She’s still here.

“It’s not good...” She’s shifting awkwardly. Her expression, however, is pretty unchanged from how it usually is. “Really not...good. But we have to stick together, right? Figure out what happened—and honor Togami-kun’s memory.”

“It’s about survival as much as it’s about sentimentality,” Matsuda huffed. “But don’t get fucking high and mighty about it. When the murderer is exposed in the trial, Monokuma’s going to execute them. Can you really call that honoring the memory of a guy who swore that no one would die?”

Nanami’s cheeks puffed.

“...I guess not.” She shook her head, but kept it ducked. “But... Still...”

Matsuda crossed his arms, bristling a little.

“I’ll still do my best, I guess,” Nanami said, keeping her head ducked. “Um... Hinata-kun and Komaeda-kun are trying, too.”

Matsuda looked over to where the two were currently being yelled at by Tanaka. Something about a piercing. Matsuda could not care less.

“I’m gonna look around, I think,” Nanami said, shuffling as she does. “Maybe the culprit used a cheat code or something...”

“Maybe they’re stuck in a wall,” Matsuda droned.

“Oh.” Nanami perked up. “Then I’ll definitely go check. That would be bad.”

Before Matsuda could comment further, she scampered off. Matsuda grimaced, but when he looked down, he pondered.

The wall’s an obvious non-issue, but... There are a lot of gaps here. He idly digs the tip of his foot into one of the crevices. You could fall through the floor if you aren’t careful.


“The air conditioner’s time was set at 11:30pm,” Hinata reported. “There’s also fire doors linking the kitchen and the hallway. Also... Tanaka is really distraught about an earring he lost. That’s what we’ve found. Is all this really going to help?” A pause. Hinata’s frown deepened. “You were right about the AC unit being suspicious... That’s around the time Togami died, huh.”

“It’s around the time the blackout happened,” Matsuda said. “So that makes it likelier the blackout was the result of foul play and not just an old-ass building having a momentary breakdown.”

“Just the air conditioner wouldn’t be enough,” Komaeda said. “So let’s keep looking around.”

Hinata, meanwhile, looked considerably more troubled.

“Foul play...meaning it was planned...”

“Probably,” Matsuda said. “But let’s keep investigating. Can’t hurt to be too sure.”

“...is that really alright?”

Matsuda blinked, and frowned.

“I’m sorry, do you want to die, then?”

“It’s not that!” Hinata shook his head furiously. “It’s more—surely you realize that someone’s responsible for this, right?”

“Yeah, obviously? Togami didn’t stab himself.” I already ruled that out. “What’s your point?”

Someone,” Hinata emphasized. “Which means it could even be any one of us.”

You’ve only just now let that dawn on you, Hinata Hajime?

“That’s obvious, too,” Matsuda said, unimpressed. “Do you think I haven’t accounted for that? It just means I won’t drop my guard even around you two.”

Komaeda hummed, frowning.

“Still... That just seems like such a shame.”

“It’s how it is,” Matsuda snapped. “But while we can’t let down our guard, being hampered by doubt is a shittier option. We won’t figure out anything if we aren’t willing to at least attempt working together in spite of this.”

Hinata shivered just a bit. Komaeda crossed his arms.

“Well... For what it’s worth, I definitely believe in you two,” Komaeda said, giving a smile. “Hinata-kun’s easy to talk to, and I feel that we’re very similar in the feelings we share and the kind of people we are.”

“I don’t think so,” Hinata muttered. “Komaeda’s...much better at keeping himself calm.”

He is, isn’t he? Matsuda couldn’t help but think.

“You certainly try, Hinata-kun,” Komaeda laughed. “Even when you’re clearly struggling and hanging your head, you certainly try!”

Hinata didn’t look all that reassured, but he did give a lopsided smile.

“...thanks... I guess.”

“Hinata’s too sensitive to stab someone multiple times and remain standing,” Matsuda added. “So I don’t think he did it, either.”

Hinata bristled but bit down on his lip, twitching a little with aggravation.

“Despite your harsh demeanor, you really are reliable, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda chirped. “With you here, I feel just so reassured!”

“He’s really not that helpful,” Hinata grumbled under his breath. “That said...”

“We don’t really have time for this,” Matsuda snapped. “So let’s split up again. We can clear up doubts at the trial, but we need information now. You two seem to have a good thing going, so I’m sure you’ll manage something.”

“Right,” Komaeda said, more seriously. “Let’s go, Hinata-kun.”

“Right...”

All that talk about suspicions, and Hinata nods along with only the slightest bit of hesitation.

Well, good for him. Myself on the other hand...

There was a place he absolutely needed to check on, and he was almost dreading it more than the execution. Grimacing, Matsuda pushed himself onward.

That fucking creep said that there was a blackout in the kitchen, too.


“Oh Matsuda-kun! Checking up on lil’ ol’ me! So there is indeed a sweeter core beneath all that spice!”

“...” The fact that I was told this by two different people a short time after a goddamn murder... “I really couldn’t care less, actually. I’m just gathering up clues.”

“So diligent!” Hanamura squealed. “As expected of a man in uniform! Oh doctor, I may be feeling a tad faint...”

“You should sit down, then.” Like a dog, Hanamura does that. Matsuda rolled his eyes. “Have you been hydrating?”

“I am a bit thirsty...” Like a dog, Hanamura pants. “A-And maybe I’d like a treat...?”

Repulsive.

“Read the fucking mood.” Matsuda directed his gaze elsewhere in disgust. He perks up at what he sees. “If you’re that hungry, there’s still plenty of food here.”

Including a huge slab of meat. Fuck. That bimbo would go feral if she saw this. It smells good enough to make me salivate but...considering what happened, I’m just going to get sicker. Dammit.

Hanamura laughs, and the sound is strained. He swallows hurriedly, but almost chokes.

“It really is such a waste, isn’t it?” he asked, voice light and high-pitched. “All that preparing, all that passion, and barely anyone had a chance to eat any of it! Haha... Haha...” Just like that, that forced smile dropped in favor of steaming anger. He’s shaking so hard from fury that his teeth are chattering. “I’ll never forgive that culprit for this...!”

“Understandable, I guess,” Matsuda droned, striding over and plucking up a clipboard he saw hanging up. As expected, it was the list of equipment from the kitchen. He read through it. “So the lights went out for you too, right?”

“O-Oh yes!” Hanamura snapped to attention. “I knew about it because that gas stove over there runs on electricity, you see...”

He directed Matsuda’s gaze towards it, and Matsuda acknowledged it with a nod.

“I thought it was just the kitchen, so I made my way out,” Hanamura went on. “But the corridors were pitch black as well! I was able to find my way over from using the wall and listening to everyone’s voices... And everything was still...so very, very dark...”

When he trailed off, there was a strange lull to his voice, as if he had fallen into a daze. Matsuda snapped his fingers, making him flinch.

“A-And that’s what happened! Haha! What wild night this has been! Don’t you think so, Matsuda-kun?”

I wouldn’t be in the mood for light-hearted banter even without a dead body in the other room.

“I just wanted your testimony,” Matsuda said. “I certainly wouldn’t approach you if my life wasn’t on the line. You’re too dangerous under normal circumstances.”

“So harsh...” Hanamura fiddled with his fingers. “But I am happy to help...”

“Hmph.” He’s hesitating a lot. “You can recount that testimony for the trial, right?”

“O-Of course!” Hanamura stammered but nodded hurriedly, as if that’d give the words more weight.

“Alright... But for the sake of insurance, you’re going to have to write it down.”

“R...” Hanamura really does hesitate, but at the click of Matsuda’s pen, he nods again. “Right.”


Hanamura ends scribbling down his number and Matsuda decides to just ignore that.

At least I got what I need. More evidence. Matsuda reads through the testimony and equipment list. Most of these I remember gathering with Togami before the party. What really sticks out are the iron plates, the portable gas cooker, and the frying pan for hot pots. The only thing on this list however that fits the description of the weapon is...

Matsuda paused. He shook his head.

There’s still the issue of the knife found at the scene. It’s not the murder weapon, but it was placed there beforehand without Togami’s knowledge. However—many elements still don’t make much sense.

So, with that in mind, he really should turn elsewhere for clues. Next up was the storage room. Just getting the door open was a bit of a struggle, and he definitely broke one of the rusted hinges. Whoops.

You can’t see the hinges from the camera and they were already shitty. Room for reasonable doubt. Moving on.

His pen had a flashlight function, which was great because Komaeda hadn’t been joking about the darkness. Or the dustiness. Or the gloominess.

It probably would’ve been more helpful during the party blackout. Fucking hell, me.

Matsuda peered about, frown deepening as he did. It certainly was a storage room, with various items haphazardly packed into boxes precariously stacked atop each other. Someone could definitely get crushed to death if any of those went tumbling down. There was, of course, both a security camera and a monitor in this room as well. The only remotely tidied part was the shelves with piles of folded up tablecloths. The cloths would’ve been clean if not for the dust.

If Komaeda grabbed anything from here, he would’ve needed to wash it. Ick. Look at all these fucking cobwebs. The smell too is stale, dusty, and—wait.

He smacked his foot on the wheel of the laundry cart and cursed colorfully. After steadying himself on it, pinching between his eyebrows and muttering angrily to himself for a couple of minutes, Matsuda took a deep breath and shined his flashlight inside.

One of the tablecloths had been hurriedly stuffed within, crumbled up and all wrinkled. Clicking his tongue and hobbling a bit, Matsuda pulled it out and examined. Sure enough, the light caught onto some familiar stains of red on white. Yeah. From the appearance and the smell, this was definitely blood. Given the copious amount, it had to be Togami’s.

This is what the culprit used to shield theirself against the spray. Well. Must have been quite speedy to run from the party to the storage, there and back again.

Matsuda drapes it back over the cart. Clicking his flashlight pen a couple of times for his nerves, he turns his attention to the other side of the room.

Three irons propped on an iron board. Unplugged, but still set up in a way that was likely deliberate.

“...Huh.”

Matsuda clicked his pen a few more times.

“Well, isn’t that strange.”

There didn’t seem to be anything else.


“Hey, Matsuda-kun!”

It wasn’t long after he left that he was being waved over by a certain someone.

“Oh, Matsuda-kun, did you check the storage room as well? The light was burnt out, so you need a flashlight.” Komaeda smiles as always. “Thankfully I carry one around.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Matsuda replied.

“Did you see the sheets?” Hinata asked, rather tersely. “I thought I saw them bloodied but Komaeda’s flashlight died before he could.”

“Aha, I should’ve replaced the battery sooner, but it was enough to see some plugged-in irons,” Komaeda chirped. “I unplugged them just before the light went out. It really was dark, so I couldn’t see what Hinata-kun was talking about.”

“I-It was definitely blood! I’m sure of it!” Hinata exclaimed, heated. “There’s no way it could’ve been anything else!”

“If that’s true, it’s definitely a possibility, I suppose.”

“I’m telling you...!”

“I hear you, I hear you.”

Matsuda said nothing to that.

“Oh, we checked the office, too,” Komaeda went on. “The weapon case was still locked. And while there were circuit breakers, they were too high for anyone to reach. But, I had checked Togami-kun’s body earlier and I didn’t find any keys to the case...”

“That’s because I took them,” Matsuda explained, voice low. “They were deep in his pocket, though. It’s pretty unlikely the culprit planted them.”

Komaeda blinks a few times. He nods in approval.

“Well, that solves that mystery.”

“Uh...” Hinata cuts in. “Actually, about the breakers... While they probably weren’t messed with, the remote control for the office air conditioner was set for 11:30. Same as before. That’s not a coincidence, right?”

“If I knew, we wouldn’t be investigating,” Matsuda snapped.

But... No. This is as good as confirmation as any about the blackout. There’s a pretty narrow pool of suspects, now.

“We’ve looked at the lodge pretty thoroughly,” Komaeda said as the other two were still deep in thought. “So, why don’t we check Togami-kun’s cottage next?”

“His cottage?” Hinata parroted as Matsuda regarded Komaeda coolly.

“Well, aha, it can’t hurt to check,” Komaeda laughs weakly. “It’s as good a place as any for any remaining clues.”

...come to think of it... Togami’s behavior... But also...

“You seem nervous,” Matsuda observed. Komaeda flinched as he went on. “You’ve been jittery for a while now. Well, considering the circumstances, I shouldn’t be too surprised.”

“Ahaha...” Komaeda rubs at his arm. “Those sharp eyes of yours really can’t be underestimated, Matsuda-kun. That’s another reason why I want you and Hinata-kun to go with me. I trust your instincts, after all.”

“You mean if something were to happen?” Hinata asked before Matsuda could. Matsuda keeps quiet, eyes narrowing as Hinata falters. “Komaeda... Are you scared?”

Komaeda smiled brightly.

“A little—but with you two I feel much safer. I believe in both of you, after all—and isn’t that way better to die with trust than to survive with doubt?”

...doubt...

“D-Don’t—!” Hinata balked. “Don’t even say that! It’s way better to survive than to die! That’s why we’re doing all this in the first place!”

“Hinata-kun.” Komaeda’s smile widened. “You really are strong. As expected of someone from Hope’s Peak.”

“Not...really...” Hinata falters, just like that. “What I said was obvious...”

“It sure was,” Matsuda sighed. “So, what the hell was that even about? Were you fucking testing us?”

Komaeda doesn’t answer, though that smile remains.

“Forget it.” Matsuda shook his head. “Togami’s cottage, right? Let’s go already.”


“To be unable to enter that which is incapable of being entered... To be unable to reach the unreachable depths where the portal lies...!”

“Yeah, um... This is looking pretty impossible... I think.”

Why the hell didn’t I expect to see this?

It’s a pretty comical sight, all things considered. The chuuni pawing at the wooden barrier between himself and the underside of the lodge, and that other one staring holes into it with her dull, vacant gaze.

“Yeah...” Nanami droned. “You’d definitely need cheat codes to enter through here...or maybe...you’d have to phase through the wall...”

“To pass through like a spirit—!” Tanaka hissed. “That is beyond even my abilities!”

“You have hamsters,” Matsuda spoke up. “All of them except the fat one could probably...”

“YOU DARE ATTACK THE DIGNITY OF CHAM-P?!?!” Tanaka screeched. “Fool of the sharp tongue! Your folly will mar the generations to come!”

“Okay, fine.” Matsuda held up his hands. “I don’t really give a shit about your stupid earring anyway.”

“Wait is that what this is about?” Hinata wondered, hopelessly confused. “The earring?”

“It is the HELLHOUND EARRING!” Tanaka bellowed. “I HAVE TOLD YOU OF THIS BEFORE!!!”

“A-Ack, sorry...” Hinata grimaced. “So, uh, you’re stuck trying to help find it, Nanami...?”

“It’s my own...investigating,” Nanami said with a slow enough blink to give a fly enough time to make friendly with her irises. “To see if the culprit could get inside from the outside... But it’s looking impossible without cheat codes or glitches, I think.”

“So it’s just impossible,” Komaeda chirped. “That’s good to know. It means Kuzuryuu-kun definitely couldn’t have done it.”

“That would’ve been fucking idiotic and stupidly convenient,” Matsuda huffed. “Oh, but... Speaking of the tiger kitten...”

“I saw him while guarding earlier,” Nanami said. “I think—he really wanted to attend but couldn’t bring himself to. Like...a lone wolf party member...only he didn’t join the party... Or maybe a lone wolf protagonist? He feels like he doesn’t fit in, and thus he stands alone... It’s a pretty common trope in RPGs. Especially modern ones.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Hinata said, glancing over. “But it does sound a little familiar.”

“Comparing me to the tough little guy is like comparing grapefruit to grapes,” Matsuda retorted. “Or the cerebrum to the cerebellum.”

“I don’t know what those are.”

“Christ and I even used the more dumbed down comparison I could think of.” He rolled his eyes. “What can I expect from a nutwit?”

“I-I got the first part!” Hinata stammered. Komaeda just laughed.

“Still, we’ve narrowed it down. We no longer have any reason to suspect Kuzuryuu-kun of foul play. Isn’t that wonderful?”

“We...” Hinata grit his teeth. “We still don’t know who the culprit could be...”

Komaeda seemed to think that over.

“...mm...”

“Mm,” Nanami droned in return.

“Hmm,” Matsuda hummed.

“E-Excuse me?” Hinata asked, exasperated.

“A seeming impossibility can hide a sliver of capability!” Tanaka boomed. “I shall not be dissuaded! The hellhound earring will return to my possession once more!”

“The gates don’t have any openings, though,” Nanami murmured. “So maybe, um, a secret passage? Entered by a secret code?”

“I haven’t seen anything like that,” Komaeda said cheerily. “This really isn’t a video game, Nanami-san.”

“Mm...”

Hmm.

Hinata grimaced.

“Are you two even thinking about the murder...?”

“Let’s just move on to Togami-kun’s cottage,” Komaeda said. “Right, Matsuda-kun?”

...huh.

“Right,” he said, nodding. “Let’s keep going.”

It’s true that I didn’t see any means of getting under the floorboards before... But let’s not write that one off just yet. Because if that is indeed possible—well....


Rattle, rattle.

“Locked,” Hinata said.

“Alright,” Matsuda said, ushering him aside. “Now’s the time where I can finally kick a door in.”

“What, no?!” Hinata, being the useless buzzkill he was, resists and pushes back. “You can’t do that! We’ll get in trouble!”

“Togami is dead, he’s not gonna care.”

“What about Monokuma?!” the buzzkill shot back.

“We can just ask him, in that case,” Komaeda said. The buzzkill balked.

What? No—!”

And then, Komaeda cupped his mouth, and shouted.

“Heeeeey, Monokuma!!”

Hinata shrieked as the bear bounced in from seemingly nowhere. Rather aggravatingly, Hinata ended up nearly barreling into Matsuda. Even more aggravatingly, Matsuda could tell that from this position and this location, a good fucking shove would likely result in Hinata’s head cracking on the wooden platforms.

Blood will get everywhere again, and I... I don’t have the stomach for more of that after having to have dealt with a corpse.

Actually, right now he felt considerably ill, and Monokuma’s presence wasn’t helping.

“Whoooo rang?!”

Nor was that screechy fucking voice.

“I did.” Komaeda was just rolling with it, at least. “Since we need to investigate for the trial, can’t you unlock Togami-kun’s door for us?”

“Oho!” Monokuma wiggled his arms. “The trial, eh? Of course, of course! Juuuuust be patient while I perform a special trick! Ba, ba, boom!”

With a clap of his paws, Monokuma let out a series of incantations, did a few twirls, and unlocked the door with a key. And with a ninja flourish, he disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

“How long has that thing been that fucking extra?” Matsuda wondered.

“How long has Komaeda been able to summon it?” Hinata asked.

“I just asked normally,” Komaeda said, twisting the doorknob and pushing it open with his shoulder. “Come on. Let’s go inside.”

Hinata nodded as Matsuda shrugged.

“Pardon for the intrusion,” he muttered to no one in particular before stepping inside.


Predictably, Togami’s cabin interior was elegant and rich with various texts on the bookshelves. Just as one would expect from a member of the esteemed Togami family.

It’s a waste, Matsuda thought as he stared at those shelves blankly. He’s not coming back here. All because he...

Those two idiots both looked rather sullen, so Matsuda just turned his attention to the strange envelope on the desk. It’s addressed to Togami, and no sender is listed. The handwriting—was god fucking awful.

It’s almost too easy. Just what the hell...?

He picks it up, all the same, twisting it to get a better look.

Who the hell would even send something like this?

“What’s that, Matsuda-kun?” Komaeda asked, eyes wide. Hinata jerked to attention as Matsuda pulled out the message.

“Lessee...” The note was crinkled up and folded, but Matsuda straightened it out so that he could read the words written down. He squints. “Wow.”

“W-What is it?” Hinata stammers out.

“This is...a really shitty fucking scrawl... Who taught this idiot how to write?”

“What does it say, Matsuda-kun?” Komaeda urges, wincing as he does.

“Watch out. The first murder will happen tonight. Someone will definitely get killed.” A pause. Matsuda grimaced. “At least I’m pretty sure that’s what it says.”

Komaeda peers over his shoulder and nods.

“Yes... Looks like it.”

“What?!” Hinata grabbed his arm, face pale as he read over the note himself. “What...the hell is this...? A threat...?!”

What, indeed.

A heavy silence settled on Matsuda’s shoulders. Hinata was trembling, and Komaeda had his mouth covered, gaze averted. A chill hung within that dead man’s cottage, clinging to every book spine and particle of dust.

“Who would send something like this?” Hinata asks, terse and tensed. “And why—wouldn’t Togami tell us?”

“I would like to be able to turn to you in times of necessity without worry, without fear.”

“You really are too sharp for your own good.”

Togami Byakuya, who took on the mantle of leadership immediately, who was serious and stern. Who swore up and down that there was not to be a single victim of murder under his watch. Who had a history of suspecting and mistrusting others—and yet he embraced that sense of responsibility above all else.

The answer was obvious.

“If something like this got out, people would panic,” Matsuda said, grip on the paper tightening. “Togami wouldn’t have wanted that to happen. In times like this, keeping everyone in line and under control is imperative.”

“Which explains the party,” Komaeda mused. “By keeping everyone in one place, by seizing any and all dangerous items, he really thought that he’d be able to protect everyone that way.”

“...”

Matsuda glanced.

“You really thought that through, huh?” Komaeda doesn’t answer, but he goes on. “Yeah. That’s probably how it was, why he acted the way he did...”

But, make no mistake, he definitely didn’t trust anyone—because that was the kind of life he lead up until his point. Despite that, he was desperate to keep his word and protect everyone and...likely in part due to taking this all on by himself...

He ended up dead. Under a table. Blood seeping through rotten floorboards. How the mighty have fallen.

...what’s worse is that—this is definitely what the sender of this letter wanted. For him to gather everyone together, for him to be driven by paranoia. If you’re planning a murder, you typically wouldn’t send a fucking notice. No, you’d only do that—if you mean to manipulate the recipient.

And suddenly, a lot clicked together. Unpleasantness piled upon unpleasantness. Despite the increasing clarity, things only seemed to get darker and darker. Something. Like that.

There’s still a couple of uncertainties, but things are becoming a lot clearer.

“Hey, Komaeda?”

At that, Matsuda perked up. Hinata fluttered about worriedly, a hand on Komaeda’s shoulder.

“Are you alright? You’re looking, uh, pretty pale...”

“Ahaha.” Komaeda waves his hand. “This is just my normal face, but—I do think I need to step out for a bit. Sorry, I need some time to myself.”

“Oh... Okay.” Hinata pulled away, hesitant. “Will you meet up with us later?”

Us?

“Of course, of course,” Komaeda laughs, but the sound is strangled and weak. “Hinata-kun, Matsuda-kun, I’ll be seeing both of you.”

“See you.”

“...yeah.”

Just like that, Komaeda leaves, and Matsuda supposes he should follow suit, with their group separating outside of Togami’s cabin.

Stars glimmered overhead, the night wore on, and there were still things to do.

I have to check back in with Koizumi, and then...probably get another look at the body... The body... The body...

Matsuda stumbled, to Hinata’s surprise.

“O-Oi, Matsuda, what...?”

“...urgh... I... I’m gonna have to throw up a little. Don’t...mind me.”

What?!”

For what it was worth, once Hinata realized he was serious, he reacted quickly when Matsuda hurled.

One of the things more bitter than the bile was the situation. The other was the waste of perfectly good food and nourishment.

Still, Matsuda threw up everything after holding back for so long. Once he was done, he was left panting eyes stinging.

Everything about this is fucking awful.

“So, uh...” Hinata patted his back awkwardly, the corner of his lips twisting. “Even you, huh...?”

“I hate gore,” was the only intelligent explanation he could give.

But with that, let’s just move on.

The trial was coming up on their heels, and fast.

Chapter Text

“Thanks for waiting, bastards! Without any further ado, the class trial shall begin shortly! Upupupu! Please make your way to the central island! There is an adorable rock sculpture in my beaaaautiful likeness! Its name, oh so creatively chosen, is Monokuma Rock! Once you reach there, proceed through the secret passageway! Upupupu! I’ll be seeing youuuu!”

Time had run out, and he didn’t have everything he needed for an open and shut case. He had, at least, managed to scrounge up a few last pieces of evidence.

Koizumi had drawn up her map, including the lamp’s cord. He had taken that with a stiff nod and no word of thanks.

He had looked over the body one last time, clarifying matters with Tsumiki and wrote down their findings.

He also ventured to the office for the other duralumin case, using the key to unlock and rifle through it, taking notes on what was there.

He had supposed, briefly, if he should be glad for all the shitty reports he wrote in school to prepare him for all this writing without getting his wrist cramped.

Now wasn’t the time for that.

He had checked with other students for testimonies and any additional observations—but nothing they provided seemed all that useful. Some of them weren’t terribly cooperative even when they had been mildly observative.

We’re dealing with untrained high school students after all. Still. Fucking hell.

And here they were for now, for better or worse.

Monokuma Rock towered over them, a blight blocking out the starlit night sky comprising of several tacky faces, all with the same goofy grin. It was hideous, so much so that it hurt to look at.

It hurt more when Souda screamed.

And the others were chattering amongst themselves yet again.

“Just what the hell IIIIIIS THAAAAAAT?!?!?!”

“No ordinary people could have constructed this, which means...”

“Togami-san... Now more than ever we need his intellect and leadership, and yet... He is no longer...”

“Byakuya-chan, Byakuya-chan, Byakuya-chan...”

Matsuda grumbled under his breath, rubbing at his temples, eyes narrowing sharply and sweeping across the crowd. Owari is snarling, cracking her knuckles. Tsumiki is shaking like a leaf, sobbing into her curled hands. Hanamura is trembling as well. Hinata is staring up at Monokuma Rock with disbelief. Tanaka has his arms folded with a victorious smirk at his lips.

Victorious. It made his gaudy face look even more obnoxious. Matsuda blinked, noting the gleam of an earring.

Huh.

“Um... Kuzuryuu-kun?” Nanami is looking around slowly. “I don’t see him, I think.”

“Must’ve ran away!” Saionji chirped. “Like the guilty coward he is!”

Yeah, I’m not surprised either that guy isn’t here yet. But I highly doubt it’ll take long for him to get dragged here.

He was right, as per usual. It wasn’t even a full two minutes before he heard telltale shouting and cursing.

“L-LET GO OF ME, YOU FUCK!!”

“Now, now, that’s no way to talk to your headmaster who’s just trying to include you!”

Monokuma shoves Kuzuryuu before them, cackling as he did. Kuzuryuu stumbles but admirably manages to retain his balance. He straightens up but is still visibly agitated as he burrows his hands into the pockets of his slacks, sneering all the while. He ignores Koizumi when she demands answers, which pisses her off more, and Komaeda is quick to try and defuse the bickering.

“I don’t have fucking anything to do with this,” Kuzuryuu spits. “I was in my room the whole damn time before I heard the announcement! So what if that supposed leader got himself killed! Who cares?!”

“How can you be so selfish and short-sighted?! The rest of us did more than just sit on our asses, you know!”

“K-Koizumi-san! Kuzuryuu-kun! Please! Now is not the time!”

Matsuda sighed, but he doesn’t have to say anything. The ground starts rumbling, and all of them have more important things to worry about.

More shouting. Cries. Shrieks of dread and terror. Even one of the heads of the Monokuma Rock opens its mouth as if to yell.

And an escalator is spat out from its depths, and more than a few people scream at it.

I’m not even surprised anymore. Matsuda scowls at it, all the same. This whole situation is already so fucking bizarre—but right now, I can’t be bothered to care.

His folded up papers weigh heavily in his lab coat pockets. All those observations. All those testimonies. All those findings. All that evidence to be used to expose the shithead who murdered the one guy willing to try and rally this band of hapless fucking idiots.

And anyone else—not even worth thinking about. Not right now.

“Well, if you’re not done arguing, you can dish it out at the trial!” Monokuma says cheerily, bouncing onto the escalator. When Matsuda follows him, he seems delighted. “Well! Someone’s already impatient! Upupupu! I’m really looking forward to how things turn out!”

“What the hell are you ugly slack-jawed morons still gawking at?” Matsuda snapped at the rest of them over his shoulder. “Hurry the hell up. We have a goddamn murder trial ahead of us.”

He takes in a couple of expressions. Souda’s bewilderment. Nidai’s gritted teeth. Hinata’s uneasy grimace. Kuzuryuu’s glare. Komaeda’s tense smile. Komaeda is the first to step forward.

“We really should get going...”

“Just uuuup the escalator and doooown the elevator!” Monokuma exclaims as the others shuffle on after him and Matsuda. “The trial awaits!”

He bounces into the darkness—and then once Matsuda enters the inside of said elevator, he finds that Monokuma is nowhere to be seen.

The others push past him, some of them muttering to each other. Snippets of conversations detailing disbelief and exasperation that Matsuda couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to. And then, the doors shut with a tone of finality, and everyone quiets as the elevator hums to life.

As it descends, Matsuda can only hear his thrumming heartbeat alongside the droning. In times like this, in this cramped as hell little space for sixteen people, it was suffocating and yet, all Matsuda could really think about was how it’s only slightly bearable because there was only sixteen. And not the full seventeen.

Because Togami wasn’t here. And he never would be. Because.

Someone here killed Togami Byakuya. And whoever that person is...

Matsuda rubs at his neck, popping a few joints and willing himself to still.

They’re gonna be dead, too, before the night is over. I’ll make sure of it.


The trial room is predictably fucking tacky, lit up with some truly ghoulish red lighting, with trial stands all in a circle. Seventeen of them to be precise, each marked with a name, only one marked by a portrait of Togami Byakuya with a tackier red X painted over that unimpressed yet still dignified face.

Monokuma’s chair is built more like a throne, and nearby, Monomi dangles helplessly in the air, tied up and sobbing. Matsuda only regards her coldly as he makes his way to his designated spot on one of the sides by the portrait.

It’s ironic, isn’t it. You had acted like I should be by your side before.

There are some voiced complaints, mostly from Kuzuryuu, but it isn’t long before all of them follow suit. Nanami Chiaki is on his other side, but Matsuda notes Komaeda steadying himself on his own stand, and Hinata doing the same, eyes sunken but determined.

Monokuma reiterates the rules from before.

“Find and vote for the true culprit! The culprit will be punished if voted correctly! However, if you’re wroooong, everyone except the culprit will be punished instead sooo—watch out! Upupupu!”

“So cruel,” Monomi sniffled. “Those rules are so, so cruel...”

“By the way, the culprit is deeeeefinitely one of you,” Monokuma went on cheerily. “Isn’t that sad? Well, no fear for this is a fair and unbiased trial! Aside from Monomi, there’s nothing worse than double standards and injustice!”

“Y-You really think I’m that bad...?!”

Matsuda rolled his eyes.

“Anyway! Let’s begin!” With a hit of the gavel, Monokuma announced brightly, “Trial is now in session! Fight, fight, with all your might!”

Clack, clack!

The smack of a gavel.

“So,” Sonia speaks firstly and calmly. “How shall we begin?”

“Rather than chat it out, let’s fight it out!” Owari exclaimed. “Whoever it is—we’ll just beat the truth right out of ya!”

“Do you plan on doing that all at once or individually?” Matsuda snapped. “Figure that out first.”

“H-Hey...!” Owari’s bravado dropped, just like that. “That’s not fair, I’m not any good at that!”

“T-Then how are you supposed to be any actual help?” Souda muttered, likely under his breath as to not unwittingly volunteer himself as the first for a truth-beating.

Idiots with their best foot forward.

“To truly start, we need to lay down the framework of what we know,” Matsuda said. “So, in layman’s terms, the basics.”

“Such as where Togami was killed, right?” Kuzuryuu asked. “That’d be the reception hall, where the culprit probably was.”

“Oh, sure, you’re just saying that so that we don’t suspect you,” Koizumi retorted.

“It’s got nothing to do with me,” Kuzuryuu shot back. “It’s your business not mine that Togami got fucking murdered.”

“Except you’ll also die if we don’t pin down the true culprit,” Matsuda pointed out, to rising anger in Kuzuryuu’s face. “Stop being a little bitch and pull on your big boy pants. We all need to cooperate if we wanna fucking get anywhere and not fucking die.”

“W-Why you—!”

“N-Now, now!” Komaeda hurriedly exclaimed. “Why don’t we just shift gears to other points of interest?”

“Points of interest?” Hanamura asked before lighting up and waggling his brow. “I have quite the interesting point...” He trails off when Matsuda glares at him, instead laughing nervously. “But, aha, I guess now is not the time for that...”

It will never be the fucking time.

“Points of interest being the location of the body, the state of the body, the time of death, and other potential venues,” Matsuda said. “In the case of the location, let’s be more specific than just the reception hall.”

“So under the table,” Komaeda said, humming thoughtfully. “That was strange, wasn’t it? How did Togami-kun end up there?”

“They could’ve moved it,” Souda suggested.

“To hide it!” Mioda added. “Like a dog embarrassed about its mess!”

“Most dogs don’t have the situational awareness to be embarrassed,” Matsuda cut in. “And there’s also no way that the body could’ve been moved. Did you forget about the blood, mister mechanic?”

“I-It’s Souda and don’t remind me of something so gruesome!” Souda yelped. “And w-what do you even mean?!”

“While there were blood trails,” Hinata mused. “That had been from Matsuda directing Nidai and Pekoyama to move it before so that he could get a closer look at it.”

“Key word being and, right?” Matsuda asked. “Because even though you’re the beefiest one here, you still needed help to move Togami, right, Coach Meathead?”

“Meat?!” Owari exclaimed as Nidai laughed.

“Hahaha! Ya got me! I wasn’t able to move him on my own, so I needed Pekoyama’s help!” he exclaimed, rubbing at his neck. “She really is a lot stronger than she looks!”

“It was still considerably heavy, however,” Pekoyama murmured. “So no one here is able to move Togami on their own.”

“So it’s pretty unlikely the body was moved by the culprit!” Koizumi said. “Good catch, Peko-chan!”

I was the one who pointed that out, y’know. Whatever.

“I was so sure I was onto something,” Souda lamented, to which Saionji giggled.

“Stupid, ugly, and boring! What do you even live for?”

“P-Praise...! I-I live for praise!”

Whatever.

“So why was the body under the table, then?” Mioda asks. “Why, why, how come?”

“Are you asking why there was a corpse under a table?” Matsuda retorted. “It’s because Togami was killed under that table. The only way Togami could’ve gotten there is voluntarily.”

“So Togami-kun went under the table of his own record,” Komaeda said. “But why would he do that?”

Matsuda glanced at him.

Hah.

“Why, why, how come?” Mioda repeated.

“To jump out and surprise us?” Owari suggested.

“I do not think Togami-san was the type,” Sonia responded.

“M-Maybe he just panicked and ducked for cover?” Hanamura suggested.

“That’s for EARTHQUAKES!” Nidai roared.

“Perhaps the reason does has more to do with Togami-kun’s actions at the time,” Komaeda said.

“...you mean like the knife?” Hinata wondered, just looking a little bit lost.

“Definitely the knife,” Matsuda affirmed. “Prior to the party, Togami had confiscated every dangerous item he could find from skewers to silverware. If he noticed that knife under the table, he would’ve gone to retrieve it.”

“While Togami had unyielded caution to be sure, how was he to have noticed the malicious glimmer of the blade?” Tanaka asked. “And so tardily in the dusk?”

“It’s malicious, alright!” Mioda agreed. “The kind of thing that just screams, I dun did it!”

“It didn’t,” Matsuda muttered.

“Togami couldn’t have known about it earlier,” Koizumi said. “If he did, he would’ve removed it sooner.”

“So maybe, um...” Nanami pointed to nothing in particular. “Maybe he noticed it then and there, like, maybe he saw someone...”

Someone...

“Impossible.” Pekoyama cut her off. “Because of the blackout.”

No, wait.

“Yeah! Way too pitch black!” Mioda exclaimed.

“Too dark to even see the food I kept eating in front of me!” Owari agreed.

“Thus, impossible,” Pekoyama affirmed.

“No, that’s wrong. It’s possible.” He made his voice loud and clear. “Pekoyama, you saw the night vision goggles under the table when I had you move the body. The hell are you saying, then?”

“Oh, those?” Pekoyama did seem a little taken aback. “I did not...”

“Hold on!” Koizumi exclaimed. “How do you know Togami used those goggles and not the culprit?! Wouldn’t that make way more sense?”

“It’d make even less sense,” Matsuda hissed. “Because those night vision goggles came from a duralumin case that Togami brought with him. And the case could only be opened from a key that was still on his person.”

“Wait...” Koizumi frowned. “Really?”

“I-I did see a storage case earlier,” Hinata added. “I didn’t know what it was, but the night goggles could’ve been a perfect fit.”

“Is that also where the knife came from?” Hanamura asked. “That’s... That’s possible, right?”

Truth be told, I did consider Togami using the knife for self-defense, however...

“There was packing tape dangling from the table’s underside,” Hinata said. “That was probably used to hold the knife in place.”

“As diligent and vigilant as Togami is, the table undersides were a blind spot, huh,” Nidai mumbled.

“So, then, he must’ve seen someone go under the table after all,” Koizumi said, frown deepening. “But... Who?”

“Indeed, who would be so underhanded and cowardly?!” Tanaka seethed. “That who will not expose thyself now...! Be warned!”

“But, is it not quite strange?” Sonia asked. “I apologize for diverging the topic, however—was Togami-san’s manner of preparation and precaution not quite meticulous? To think, he would go through all those efforts and the murderer was unimpeded. What kind of person would do such a thing?”

Komaeda hummed thoughtfully.

“Perhaps... Someone that Togami-kun may have been prepared for.”

“P-Premonitions?!” Tanaka gawked. “Was Togami in possession of the Evil All-Seeing Eye as well?!”

“He wouldn’t have been fucking killed, then,” Matsuda said, rifling through his pockets for his papers. He found the one he needed, unfolded it, passing it around. “Someone here can read chicken scratch, right?”

“I-I can,” Hanamura squeaked. “I’m quite proficient in all poultry-related manners, even the colloquial.”

Matsuda grimaced, but he had the notice passed around. He didn’t really want to handle it after it had been in Hanamura’s sweaty, grubby fingers, but he watched closely as Hanamura’s face paled even further.

“T-This is...”

“A threat,” Kuzuryuu snarled. “I saw it, too.”

“We found it in Togami-kun’s cottage,” Komaeda informed them. “It was sent by someone.”

“Like Monokuma, right?” Saionji asked.

“No opposable thumbs,” Matsuda said before Monokuma could speak. He fumes a little in the corner of his eye; Matsuda just goes on. “But regardless of the who, for now—isn’t that note reason enough for Togami’s behavior?”

“It was also likely why Togami-kun threw a party,” Komaeda recounted. “To gather everyone in a single place where we could all closely watch one another, so that any would-be culprit would be dissuaded.”

Matsuda said nothing to that.

“Even if it had been a stupid prank,” Hinata went on. “Togami had swore there wouldn’t be a single victim. He couldn’t take any chances. With Togami’s strong sense of responsibility—of course he’d take something like that seriously.”

And he couldn’t divulge what he was going through. Matsuda thought, lashes lowered. Because Togami, biggest dumbass of them all, was unable to truly trust anyone.

He raked his fingers through his hair, aggravated.

What would I had done if I had just known? Well... There’s no fucking point in wondering that now. Goddammit. There’s more to it than just that...

“If he let this known to everyone, it would’ve just thrown us into chaos,” Komaeda said, lamenting. “The responsibility he decided to carry alone as leader—is what led to his downfall.”

“W-Who the hell wrote the letter?!” Owari sputtered. “Who the fuck did it?!”

“Who else but the culprit?” Koizumi murmured forlornly. “Who else...?”

...mmrgh.

“Will thy discard their cowardice now?!” Tanaka bellowed.

“If they did that, why even murder in the first place?” Saionji snapped. “Besides to satisfy some disgusting form of guilt.”

Guilt...

It was then that Matsuda looked around at his classmates’ faces once more. Tumultuous. Consternation. Turmoil.

A lot of them just look like they’d rather be home right about now. I can’t blame them.

I bet the culprit feels the same way.

“There is something that negs me,” Sonia speaks up once more.

“O-Oh! Don’t you mean nag, Sonia-san?” Souda asked, grinning immediately like a freak. “But don’t let me interrupt! What was it?”

“It is the matter of the blackout,” she said. “Forgive me for adding onto the subject belatedly, but if Togami-san was the one in possession of the night-vision goggles, how, then, did the culprit prevail against the absolute darkness as well?”

“...” Matsuda thought that over. “It was by a means that none of us could have noticed.”

And considering how Togami was killed... I have a good theory, but... He clicks his tongue in irritation. I have to make sure everyone else can follow. If one damn idiot gets completely left behind, we could get potentially screwed.

“Maybe a landmark?” Nidai suggested. “Though I’m not sure how the culprit would be able to see it.”

Matsuda thought that over.

Wait... No... I think... I think I’m beginning to get a clear picture.

And it wasn’t a flattering one. Of fucking course it wasn’t. Togami died as result of this.

Shit... Shit, shit, shit... But we have to take this slowly. Carefully. Or this could potentially be more disastrous than a rushed, botched surgery.

Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

“The packing tape,” Hinata said. “It was coated in glow-in-the-dark paint. It...and the knife.”

The knife that Togami fucking grabbed. What the hell was he thinking?!

“Wouldn’t that mean, that... T-The culprit painted them in advance?” Tsumiki asked.

Matsuda bit his lip.

“If that’s true, then, wouldn’t that mean the culprit knew about the blackout in advance as well?” Koizumi asked.

Matsuda bit hard enough to taste bitter iron and nearly gagged.

Fuck...!

“They must’ve known,” Nanami affirmed. “They wouldn’t have used glow-in-the-dark paint otherwise, right? Unless they had future sight. Then, they wouldn’t have needed that, I don’t think.”

“So the culprit caused the blackout,” Saionji said. “Riiiight?”

No—

“R-Right! In fact...! In fact...! In fact, I think I know who it is!” Souda exclaimed.

Matsuda perked, tense, but when he saw who Souda had dramatically pointed at, he wanted to scream.

“Pekoyama! Right? It had to be Pekoyama! She was the only one in the room with the circuit breakers!”

“WHAAAA?!” Mioda shrieked. “The glasses girl killed the glasses boy?! We’re losing both pairs of glasses in one fell swoop!”

“I did not do it,” Pekoyama said simply, with the slightest twitch in her features.

“She said she didn’t do it,” Owari said.

“A-And you just believe her?!” Souda yelled. “You shouldn’t!”

“We shouldn’t just believe the impulsive ramblings of some idiot in gaudy fucking yellow either,” Matsuda pointed out, teeth gritted.

“E-Eep! I-Impulsive? I-It’s not gaudy...!” Souda almost looked ready to cry but, admirably or idiotically, he pushed on. “B-Besides, who else could’ve done it?!”

“If you just fucking waited until jumping the goddamn gun, you’d figure that out,” he snapped, glaring.

“H-Hey!”

“You don’t need to get so heated, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda said, waving his hands shakily. “Ahaha, even if I agree Souda-kun’s impulsive...”

“W-Why?!” Souda stammered. “What the hell, Matsuda?! Do you like her?! Is that it?”

“She’s not tall enough to reach the fuse box,” Matsuda said simply, not even deigning the inane shit with acknowledgement. “There’s no stools around, either.”

“S-So?” Souda huffed. “What’s your point?”

“My point is that there’s no proper explanation for your point, dumbass,” he seethed. “Your entire argument hinges on this and if you can’t provide proper explanation, it’s not even worth listening to.”

“B-But...!”

“There are other means of causing a blackout,” Komaeda quickly said. “You don’t necessarily have to flip the breakers, right, Souda-kun?”

“Well...” Souda deflated. “I mean...if you had a remote, then... I could probably build something like that easily...”

“Should I accuse you, then, Mechanic?” Matsuda asked darkly.

“I-I didn’t do it!” he shrieked. “I-I get it, I get it! I need more evidence! Get off my back! I-I’ll come up with something!”

“Maybe they damaged the fuse box?” Mioda suggested.

“Would that get them in trouble?” Nanami wondered.

“There could be other means of tampering,” Pekoyama mused.

“Perhaps of the power lines themselves?” Sonia asked.

“Maybe we just overloaded it,” Koizumi said.

That’s it.

“No,” Matsuda said. “There’s no maybe. I’m positive that’s what happened.”

Pekoyama was only ever in the office room, but outside of that...

“Someone plugged up three irons in the storage room,” he said. “And they also...”

“Set the AC for 11:30,” Hinata finished, eyes going wide. “And with those irons, and everything else...”

“Then a blackout was inevitable, in that shoddy fucking building,” Matsuda said. “The blackout wasn’t just known about beforehand, it was methodically planned.”

“11:30 was when Togami was killed!” Nidai roared. “So the AIR CONDITIONER was the trigger?!”

“I feel ashamed,” Pekoyama murmured. “I was unable to quickly reset the breakers at that time.”

“Both of them were too high to reach,” Kuzuryuu huffed. “So it couldn’t be helped.”

“All the same, this sure was planned out, huh?” Saionji asked. “They’re slick and slimy, that culprit.”

“While it’s definitely true this was the result of foul play...” Matsuda trailed off. “Let’s not overestimate the culprit.”

Because...

“There’s nothing to worry about, right?”

Matsuda perked. Komaeda’s smile was practically blinding.

“It’s just some murderer,” he said, voice alit. “Whoever it is—they’re no way any match for symbols of hope. There’s no way we’ll lose.”

Komaeda, just what...

“This incident is nothing more than a stepping stone! In the end, hope will win! I’m sure of it!”

The hell?

“What are you saying?” Hinata asked, almost a little too quietly. Somehow, Komaeda still turned to him, eyes wide.

“Hmm? What’s wrong, Hinata-kun?”

“Before, you said that no one here is capable of killing Togami.”

Komaeda blinked. Once. Twice. “Ah...”

“Except Togami is dead right now,” Matsuda said, gritting his teeth. “Someone did kill him. Let’s focus on that. Stay on track.”

But...

“But it’s just...odd...” Hinata faltered. “Komaeda, I... N-Never mind...”

“It’s fine!” Komaeda chirped. “Let’s get back to the important matter of hand... The incident!”

“We know now that it’s the result of foul play,” Matsuda said. “But how do we know—?”

“Who could have done it?” Komaeda guessed. “Well, that’s just a sticky question, isn’t it? Anyone could have set up the air conditioner or the irons.”

No. That’s not what I was about to say. That’s not what I was about to say and you fucking know it.

“W-What are you trying to say?” Kuzuryuu demanded.

What are you trying to do?

“After all that, we’re just at square one,” Saionji said, trembling. “We haven’t actually come any closer to figuring out who did it.”

Of course not. Because it’s not just one person who acted out of line.

“Unfortunately, that is so,” Komaeda said, sighing. “All this discussion, all this debate, and we haven’t found a single clue to the true culprit.”

But one particular person—

“Perhaps there isn’t even a culprit among us,” Komaeda went on. “After all, there’s no one here who would’ve wanted Togami-kun dead.”

—is being a serious fucking pain in the ass right now!!

“That doesn’t make any sense!” Hinata cried out. “Komaeda, just what are you saying now?!”

“Well, honestly, I’d like to make a proposition,” Komaeda said while Matsuda trembled in thinly-veiled agitation. “Isn’t this situation too hopeless? Isn’t having to doubt everyone around you too painful? Don’t you think—it’s better to die with faith than to suspect to survive?”

“A-Are you just saying we give up and die?!” Mioda yelped.

“Don’t even joke about that!” Hinata yelled. “We did all that investigating, together—and we got this far...!”

“But we didn’t get anywhere, right?” Komaeda asked, making Hinata recoil in shock.

“K... What the hell are you saying, Komaeda...?! What’s wrong with you?!”

“You’re rambling,” Matsuda said, lowly and dangerously. “Maybe you should just stop talking.”

“But I can’t stand this! I can’t stand any of this!” Komaeda exclaimed, expression breaking. “We’re just arguing and accusing one another and isn’t that nonsensical? Isn’t that just too awful?”

 “So what if it is?!” Matsuda shot back. “That’s just the nature of the situation!”

“It’s awful!” Komaeda’s voice rose. “Let’s just stop all of it! Is finding the culprit really so important that we tear ourselves apart over it? Aren’t we supposed to be a class?”

...a class...

“I-I...” Hanamura squeaks. “I don’t...like it either...I wanna go home...”

“I-It is awful,” Tsumiki whimpers. “I-I just...I want to go home...”

“ME TOO!” Saionji wailed. “THIS SUUUUCKS! I WOULD WAY RATHER BE HOME EATING CANDY!”

“S-Stop it!” Koizumi cried, trembling as her eyes welled up with tears. “I-If... If all of you, then... T-Then I, too...”

And just like that, chaos.

“H-He’s right—all this time and we ain’t found nuthin’!”

“We have discussed and discussed, and yet...!”

“The truth still eludes us!”

“No, listen to me...”

“I-I feel like I have even less idea of what’s goin’ on...!”

“Fuck...!”

“Can you all just settle down for one fucking...!”

“What are we even doing...?!”

Guys...!”

“I-I want to go home...”

“I wanna go home...”

“I just want to go home!!!”

“E-Everyone, please, just calm down...!”

“SHUT UP!”

Not a single person seemed to hear him, but one person's voice remained loud and disgustingly clear.

“We’re a class,” Komaeda said. “There’s no way any one of our fellow classmates would kill someone.”

“But Togami’s still dead!” Hinata yelled. “If that’s really true, then why—?!”

“Who cares why?” Komaeda sighed heavily. “It’s so tiring. Let’s just give up.”

You’re saying that—

“Shut up,” Matsuda snapped, heart pounding. “Just...shut up. For the love of god.”

You’re saying that—

Komaeda kept talking.

“After all...”

Hey—

“There’s not a single clue leading us to the culprit, right?”

Aren’t you painting a huge target on your back right now?!

“Mmm...”

Nanami hummed, and then, she tilted her head.

“It’s possible...to clear any kind of game as long as you don’t give up, right?”

“Eh, what?” Komaeda laughed, seemingly taken aback by that. “Nanami-san, what are you saying? This is real life, not a game.”

It hurts. Randomly, obnoxiously, it fucking hurts.

Matsuda grimaced, holding his head.

But...what’s worse is this rising dread. I need... I need...

“Well, I think Komaeda-kun is wrong,” Nanami said. “I think he’s wrong.”

Komaeda’s smile dropped.

“What are you saying?”

I need to regain control of this situation.

“We have a clue that points us to the killer, maybe. If not the killer, then someone who at the very least is suspicious. Right?” Nanami looks directly at him. “Right, Matsuda-kun?”

She’s putting me on the fucking spot. This bitch.

“Urgh...” Matsuda rubbed at his temple. “For fuck’s sake... We don't have time for this.”

Just like that, her gaze bores into me.

“Matsuda-kun,” she said. “Earlier—you were asking Koizumi-san about pictures. Right?”

“You overheard that?”

Her eyes narrow sharply. They’re cold and blank, like a judgmental doll.

Just what the hell is she going for? No, I know. I’m not stupid.

“I did,” he replied gruffly. “She drew up a map. Despite her unreasonable fucking behavior, she has good intuition.”

“The insult was unnecessary!” Koizumi snapped before it dawned on her. “Wait... That’s right... That’s right...! The map!”

“The map?” Hinata asked.

“Matsuda-kun,” Nanami said. “You have it, right?”

Fucking hell. You're really pushing it.

Shakily, Matsuda pulls it out, and unfolds it.

“I already looked at it thoroughly, and I already considered what you’re thinking,” he said. “It’s impossible. Utterly impossible. So let’s just skip it. There are other things to talk about.”

“Skip it?” Hinata repeated. “Matsuda, what are you talking about?”

“It doesn’t matter, all I’m saying is that it’s fucking impossible.” He spits the words at Nanami so that there’s no confusion. “So don’t fucking badger me. Let’s... I have a better idea of how to go about this.”

“Matsuda.” Koizumi’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Show everyone the map.”

“There’s no need to,” he bit back. “It’s irrelevant. It doesn’t actually tell us anything about the culprit. So let’s talk about something else. The murder weapon...”

“What the fuck are you getting so cagey for?” Kuzuryuu asked, growling. “Are you fucking hiding something?”

Matsuda doesn’t answer that.

“H-Hey, Yasuke-chan, you know you’re acting suuuuper suspicious right now,” Mioda said, frowning. “And your voice is carrying a loooot of discord.”

Matsuda kept his lips pressed closely together.

“Matsuda,” Hinata said. “I don’t know what’s up with you—but you really are acting weird, even for you.”

“D-Did he do it?!” Souda exclaimed.

“H-He couldn’t have!” Tsumiki exclaimed. “A-At least... I don’t think it’s possible... H-He was... Um... U-Um...”

“Um, what?” Hanamura asked, but Tsumiki was shaking her head fervently.

“Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda said cheerily. “I think maybe you should share with the class.”

Damn you.

“You fucking took the pictures, right?” he snapped, turning to Koizumi. “So shouldn’t you know already?”

Koizumi reddened with anger, and then, she takes her camera and flicks through its pictures.

“I don’t understand at all why you’re being so tight-lipped about this,” she gripes. “Even for you, it’s beyond aggravating. But, earlier, when I drew my map, I accounted for the lamp on the table where Togami had died.”

She passed the camera around, so that everyone could see. Hinata looked at it the longest.

“What about the lamp?” Owari asked. “You can’t use that during the blackout.”

“They didn’t use the lamp,” Hinata said, quiet and gaze hooded. “They used something else.”

“Eh? Something else?”

“Here’s the stupid fucking map,” Matsuda practically shoved it into Nanami’s face. Unaffected, she just passes it to the next person, who passes it to the next and the next. “God, you already connected the fucking dots. But as I said, it’s impossible.”

“Clarify your words, sharp-tongued one,” Tanaka growled.

“I shouldn’t have to hear that from the fucking chuuni dumbass using overlord speak.”

“I don’t know what Matsuda means,” Hinata says, and once he receives the map, his grip on it is tight enough to bleed wrinkles into the page. “But... I get it, now. The culprit didn’t use the light, they used the cord.”

Matsuda folded his arms, fuming.

...I have to regain control over the situation. But I might not be able to stop this ball from rolling.

“You can use the cord as a guide,” Hinata explained. “There were two people who stood by the cord. One of which was Matsuda.”

“S-So Matsuda—?!” Souda gasped.

“T-That’s impossible!” Tsumiki wailed. “B-Because...! Because...!”

I was pinned under that bitch at the time of the killing.

“H-He was, um...” Tsumiki stammers, looking truly ashamed and yanking at her hair. “H-He was with me...d-during the blackout.”

“What?!” Hanamura shrieked.

“Grooooss! Don’t remind me of such a sickening display!” Saionji screeched. “You disgusting slutty sow!”

“I-I’m not a slutty sow!” Tsumiki sobbed.

Fuck... Fuck...

“Just shut up,” Matsuda muttered darkly. “All of you need to stop jumping to conclusions.”

“No,” Hinata said, swallowing. “Given Matsuda’s position with Tsumiki, he definitely couldn’t have done it. So that leaves...one other person.”

“P-Position?” Hanamura whispered.

“Shut up.” Matsuda’s voice rose. “And listen to me...”

“...Komaeda.”

Finally, Hinata raised his head, and met the other’s gaze, one desperate and pleading as the other goes wide.

“It was you, wasn’t it?”

Komaeda stood there, frozen.

“If it wasn’t Matsuda, it had to be Komaeda,” Nidai said lowly.

“Aha, that...” Komaeda waved his hands, smile twitching. “T-That’s just a coincidence...!”

Oh, come on, Matsuda thought bitterly. You can’t even think up a better lie?

“Komaeda-kun,” Nanami said. “Didn’t you also have a chance to set up the knife beforehand, too?”

“That’s right,” Hinata agreed with little enthusiasm. “You were cleaning for most of today since this morning. You had more than enough time to stow away the knife. To set up everything.”

“Coincidences,” Komaeda managed weakly.

“You were the one who set up the drawing for who cleaned,” Koizumi said scathingly. “Was that coincidental, too?”

“One is one thing, but three is another,” Nanami said dully. “It’s pushing the bounds of luck, for sure.”

Komaeda jumped, face twisted up.

“Was that strange act of yours also planned?!” Nidai demanded, to which Kuzuryuu looked steamed.

“You fucking asshole! You were trying to bring everyone down so that you didn’t get found out!”

Oh for fuck’s sake!

“Your cowardice knows no bounds!” Tanaka booms. “There is nowhere to hide, now! The truth has been revealed to my All Knowing Eye!”

“Is that it?!” Koizumi screamed. “Is that true?! Tell us! Right this instant!”

Komaeda’s entire body shuddered, a jolt from his spine to his brain stem. His face contorted even further, with a distorted, strangled noise.

“Oi...” Matsuda felt exhausted just looking at him. “Komaeda...”

“If you object to any of this, go right on ahead, let’s hear it!” Hinata exclaimed, voice trembling just the slightest bit. “H...Honestly, I don’t want to believe it, either. We investigated together, and you’ve been kindly helping me from the start... I don’t want to think you’re the one who killed Togami...!”

“He isn’t,” Matsuda cut in desperately. “Look, I know it looks that way, but...!”

“Matsuda.” For once, Matsuda is stopped by just that tone in Hinata’s voice. “I want to hear it from Komaeda.”

Ah... Fuck.

“Komaeda,” Hinata tries again as Komaeda’s fingers get tangled up in his hair, as Komaeda wheezes. “Please. Please. Just... Say something!”

“...gh...hhh...nngh...”

Komaeda made some pitiful as hell noises, and they kept getting more strangled, more agitated.

Truth be told, I want a damn explanation, too. But I didn’t want it under these circumstances.

He really felt stupid. Thinking he could avoid this. Komaeda convulsing, Komaeda shaking.

“Nngh... Ggghh... H-Hhhhngh...”

In times like these... In times like these...the best thing to do is just...

“Hhh...hh...ah...”

Just...

“Aha...”

Huh?

Blinking, Matsuda now paid close attention to Komaeda. Still curled in on himself. Holding himself together. And shaking.

Shaking with laughter.

“Ehe... Hehe... Hehehehehe...”

And he when he throws his head back, the laughter becomes more boisterous. And more broken.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!”

That wheezing, wailing laughter grew more and more, Komaeda’s body shuddering as if it’d shatter from having to contain it, and indeed, there was a crippling chill sinking into the atmosphere, making Matsuda shudder.

His heart skipped a beat, and Komaeda was still cackling as he stumbled, brushing his hair back with heavy, happy pants. His face flushed with exertion, and then, his eyes are wide, swirling, piercing.

Komaeda has to catch his breath. In that moment where he looks ready to collapse, he still looks utterly euphoric. In that moment, Matsuda feels dangerously close to collapsing instead. But he stands firm.

And Komaeda’s eyes are sparkling at the fact.

“The Ultimates standing tall, banding together and facing off against the despair of their friend’s death,” he murmurs, wiping a line of drool from his chin and cupping his cheek. “Wonderful... Beautiful... Absolutely splendid...!”

“K-Komaeda...?” Hinata squeaks, sounding way smaller and way feebler than he had any right to.

Matsuda could only stare, almost as if disgustingly captivated, like a moth to the malicious blue light.

Komaeda’s eyes, indeed, were glowing. Darkness upon darkness, pulpy and intense swirling miasmas, wild and turbulent. That grin splitting his face was downright ghastly, and right then, right there, Matsuda could only think—

What it looks like when both hope and despair—are both smothering and suffocating one another.

“Your conclusions are correct,” Komaeda giggled manically. “Yes. Absolutely right. I’m the one behind everything.”

Matsuda opened his mouth to argue, but for once, he stopped himself.

No... Let’s see where this goes and what he says. Now that this is all out in the open, this is absolutely something I mustn’t tear my eyes from.

He really had so desperately wanted to avoid this, but of fucking course the cards wouldn’t be in his favor. Why would they be? Well, whatever.

All I can do is somehow push on ahead, no matter what this idiot throws at me.

Chapter Text

“The chord, the knife, and of course the blackout... I’m responsible for all of that,” Komaeda said, in a much cheerier tone than when Matsuda himself had realized. “I hadn’t predicted the night-vision goggles, so seeing Togami-kun was quite a shock! Such a fine play! And, well, you all saw the result.”

He doesn’t want to think about that right now.

“W-What the hell is all this?!” Souda stuttered.

“T-Talk about a meltdown,” Mioda stammered.

“Is... Is this really what you’re like?” Koizumi didn’t seem to be asking just Komaeda that specifically, and she was still quaking. “I-Is this for real?”

“Komaeda, were you just...deceiving us?” Hinata managed. He was trembling, too. “F-From the start...?!”

“Oh! No, no!” Komaeda shook his head furiously but remained heinously giddy as he wrapped his arms around himself. “I wouldn’t dream of it! I could never deceive all of you!”

Matsuda noted the way he twitched, and the way that manic grin of his twisted so much that it looked as though it risked tearing at the very seams.

“I’m nothing special at all,” Komaeda says happily. “I’ve already made peace with the fact that I’m a lowly, unimportant nobody. Yes, nothing more than despicably, irredeemably lowdown, rubbish, idiotic scum that can’t even begin to compare. To harbor hopes or dreams would be insolent. To strive for more than what I’m worthy of would be beyond impertinent. That’s just the kind of pointless, valueless, and inferior being that I am! No matter what I do, I’ll always and forever be just—useless and incompetent! So I shouldn’t dare presume! Not now! Not ever!”

Hah.

There was a lot to unpack there. So Matsuda just decided to throw out the whole suitcase.

Everyone else was screeching if they weren’t in shock. Poor Hinata looked sick, but between Mioda’s crazed ramblings and Sonia’s sparks of twisted intrigue, Matsuda couldn’t afford distractions right now.

“The letter,” he said. “With the handwriting. I already figured it’s yours.”

“Indeed it is!” Komaeda chirped. “Who else would have such wretchedly hideous penmanship!”

Wretched. Twitchy. Manic. Rabid. This is probably the worst fucking time for it.

“There is one misconception Is should clear up,” Komaeda hums. “The drawing—I didn’t rig it.” He grinned. “I have Ultimate Luck! Why would I need to? But, ehe, as for everything else...”

“Komaeda-kun suggested the lodge,” Nanami murmured tensely.

“He also suggested the office,” Pekoyama hissed. “Between that and the letter, you lead us all into a trap.”

“Yes!” Komaeda beamed. “It really was wonderfully lucky—Hinata-kun had teased me and Matsuda-kun even showed concern but things were going exactly the way I wanted them to!”

...not exactly.

Someone like this—Matsuda finally had the last piece he needed.

All this time, the one thing that I couldn’t figure out was why. It didn’t matter, it wasn’t important, but it was the one thing that eluded me. Now I think I have a good grasp on everything.

“E-Enough.” Hinata sucked in his breath. “I don’t care about that. I just... I just need to know why.”

I only needed to know why.

“I don’t care about any of that,” Hinata rambled, still shaking in both his voice and hands gripping the podium. “I just need to know—why Togami?”

Komaeda’s face does fall at that.

“Togami-kun was such an inspiring and wonderful leader, wasn’t he?” When his smile returns, it’s crooked and strained. “Someone like him getting killed—it’s despairing, isn’t it?”

Matsuda had a headache, but he still paid close attention.

“Such a despairing, tragic death—makes for a wonderful stepping stone! For a means to make the symbols of hope shine even brighter, even more brilliantly!” Komaeda sighed dreamily. “Yes... All for the sake of everyone...for hope... That’s why I did all of it.”

So that’s it. So that’s—

“S-SHIT... I DON’T UNDERSTAND SHIIIIT!” Nidai screams. “JUST STOOOOOP!!!”

“JUST START THE VOTE!!!” Kuzuryuu shouted. “LET’S FUCKING KILL THIS CREEP ALREADY!”

“PLEASE, MONOKUMA-CHAN!” Mioda sobbed. “GET IT OVER WITH!!!”

“W-Wait...” Tsumiki gasped. “No...”

“Since you know,” Komaeda said gently. “Let’s all start the vote.”

“W-Wait, please...!”

Thud.

All of them quieted at the sudden noise. Tsumiki’s breath hitched as Matsuda spoke up, voice a low, unimpressed drone.

“Shut the hell up, all of you.”

Thud.

“And just fucking LISTEN to me for once.”

Matsuda kicked his stand hard enough the second time to cause it to rattle. Monokuma, of course, was fuming.

“Don’t just abuse property! That’s grounds for punishment, Matsuda-kun!”

“M-Matsuda-kun!” Monomi cried. “You really mustn’t resort to physical acts of violence, even against objects!”

That seemed to snap some of those other idiots out of it.

“What the actual fuck is your problem?!” Kuzuryuu demanded, seething. “Are you really going to get in the way between us and a goddamn psychopathic murderer?”

“Don’t use that outdated term around me, dipshit,” Matsuda hissed. “I know you idiots get swept away in your own inanity so damn easily that the goddamn ouroboros would tell you to take it down a notch, but consider that this situation is too delicate for that.”

“Y-You were the one trying to cover for Komaeda earlier!” Souda accused. “Why should we listen to anything you say?!”

“Matsuda,” Koizumi says, much more sternly. “You were acting really uncooperative before...”

“Did you not hear what I was saying at the time?” Matsuda asked, unimpressed. “Or are your brains so fried by your unchecked, unruly temperaments that you don’t fucking remember? Did you even register the words?”

Nanami frowned, puffing her cheeks.

‘I already looked at it thoroughly, and I already considered what you’re thinking,’ you said. ‘It’s impossible. Utterly impossible. So let’s just skip it.’” She recounted. “That’s what you were saying when I asked you about the map.”

Unsurprisingly, that pissed him off more than it pleased him to hear.

“If you fucking understood me, then why the fuck did you keep pushing it, you obstinate fu—!”

“You also said,” Hinata cut him off, loudly and pressingly. “That it was irrelevant. That it doesn’t actually tell us anything about the culprit.”

“Wait, so you’re saying...” Saionji’s face pinched up. “That this super sloppy freak knows the actual culprit?”

“W...What?” Hanamura squeaked. He then swallowed. “But... But Komaeda-kun...already confessed.”

Komaeda smiled innocently, to which Matsuda scowled.

“He’s definitely the root of a lot of bullshit, and his morality is dubious like hell, but... There’s no way he could’ve done it. Which is what I was trying to fucking tell all of you before you ganged up on him like monkey-brained schoolyard bullies and he just went along with it like the demented little duckling he is.”

“Duckling?” Komaeda murmured, while Hinata mouthed the same word.

“So, I...really don’t understand,” Owari said, picking at her ear. “Why are you so sure about it?”

“T-There’s no reason to be!” Souda exclaimed. “N-No reason—!”

“A-Actually, um...” Tsumiki fiddled with her fingers, raising her voice a little. “There’s, uh...a-a very, very good reason, I think...that Matsuda-san would be aware about...”

“Spit it out, you skanky bitch!” Saionji hissed, making her yelp. “We all already know you want to jump his dick! It’s so unbelievably gross!”

“I-I’m not...! T-That’s not why...!” she sniffles, cowering. “I-I’m so sorry!”

“We should hear out the timorous one and the sharp-tongued fool, all the same,” Tanaka admits. “There is, after all, a domain which they share.”

“Domain?” Hinata wondered, useless idiot he was until finally, fucking finally it hit him. “Wait, you mean—!”

“We’re both in the business of healthcare,” Matsuda said coolly. “And we both reported and collaborated a thorough examination of Togami Byakuya’s corpse.”

“A-And, um, based on our findings...” Tsumiki trembled, still sniveling. “W-We... We found that...”

“The knife found under the table wasn’t the murder weapon,” Matsuda said before sneering at Hinata. “Which I fucking told you. Over. And over. And fucking over again.”

Hinata flinched.

“Oh... T-That...” He jolted. “That’s right! Because...the actual murder weapon was...”

“5 mm in diameter,” Matsuda said as Tsumiki tearfully nodded. “I don’t expect you dumbasses to be all that great at calculations, but you should at least have the basic idea that...”

“That’s way too thin to be the knife!” Mioda exclaimed. “So it definitely wasn’t the knife!”

“If you two are making this shit up, I’ll fucking harvest your organs and ship them on the black market!” Kuzuryuu yelled, making Tsumiki shriek in utter terror.

“Don’t threaten Mikan-chan like that!” Koizumi shouted.

“I see I’m fair game,” Matsuda grumbled, rolling his eyes. “But what the hell ever. Pinprick here doesn’t even have the fucking guts to carry that kind of threat through.”

“I’LL KILL YOU JUST FOR THAT!”

Matsuda stuck out his tongue before going on.

“Anyway, even if not for that, there’s another noteworthy reason why it couldn’t have been Komaeda.”

“I-I don’t know if it’s a reason, per say,” Tsumiki murmured. “But... U-Um... I did notice Komaeda-san l-looks...too nice...”

“You think I look nice?” Komaeda asked, perking up. “That’s so kind of you, Tsumiki-san! Even my own mother never complimented my appearance!”

“T-That’s not...”

“That’s not it,” Matsuda cut in, unimpressed. “Remember the state of the body underneath the table. It was a bloody fucking mess. When Togami was stabbed, arteries were pierced, causing a copious squirting spill of blood.”

“Y-You don’t need to go into so much detail...” Souda groaned. “I-I’m gonna hurl...”

It’s much worse having to see that shit up close and personal, I assure you.

But he absolutely couldn’t get nauseous now. Because.

“If that’s the case, then Komaeda should be covered in Togami’s blood,” Hinata said, grimacing and looking ill as well. “He’s not. He’s completely clean.”

“For the record, there is a bloodied sheet in the storage room that the actual culprit used,” Matsuda said. “However, the distance between that and the dining hall is considerable. There’s no way he would’ve gotten to and back so quickly without anyone noticing.”

There’s also the state I found him in after the blackout—but let’s keep that to myself. We can’t overcomplicate this for the sake of the simpletons.

“W-What’s up with THAT?!” Nidai asked, utterly startled.

“I believe...the answer is simple,” Sonia said, head lowering. “It is as Matsuda-san and Tsumiki-san assert. Komaeda-san...couldn’t be the culprit.”

“B-But...” Hanamura stammers.

“It’s possible that they’re correct,” Komaeda chirruped. “That I’m not the one who murdered Togami-kun.”

“A-Are you saying you didn’t do it?!” Koizumi yelled.

“Matsuda-kun’s certainly adamant on it, isn’t he?” Komaeda asked. “It’s quite something. So much more than I deserve!”

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

“Hey asshole, I’m going to say this as considerably as I can,” Matsuda said. “I’ve already figured out exactly what the hell you’re trying to pull and lemme tell you, it’s far more frustrating than encouraging. So for everyone’s sakes, can you keep quiet unless you’re willing to be upfront about what really happened under the table?”

Komaeda opened his mouth, and then he shut it, still smiling.

“What really happened?” Saionji parroted. “What, you’re not even going to tell us?!”

No, that’s what I expected. Matsuda huffed. It’s what the hell ever. I already have a means of dragging the truth out, kicking and screaming.

“Punkcore chick,” he says. Mioda perks up, eyes wide and bright. “Think back to the blackout.”

“The blackout? Huuuuuh?” She seemed to think it over, concentrating really hard. “Oh! Eyes crossed and everyone doubled! Now there’s two of you, Yasuke-chan!”

“Lives are on the line!” Souda yelled.

“Whose?!” Owari asked.

“D-Did you seriously forget?!”

Matsuda ran his hand down his face.

No. No. I will fucking work with this. Even if I have to twist truth’s head at a 180 degree angle.

“It’s not about what you had seen,” he hinted.

“Nothing could be seen,” Komaeda added wistfully. “The truth dwells in darkness. Ehe. It’s a metaphor, for...” He quiets when Matsuda glares at him, and covers his mouth dutifully. “Mm!”

He’s not wrong, that said. Even if punkcore looks as obnoxiously clueless as ever. Urgh. No. I will push through.

“The truth dwells in darkness,” Matsuda repeated. “But it’s not about what couldn’t be seen, it’s about what could be heard.”

With that, he takes out the script.

“Here’s all the chatter heard and recorded by our resident punker over there. I had her write it down, because I was worried she’d end up forgetting about it.”

“Ooh, right!” Mioda said. “I did kinda forget!”

“I would ask if you felt shame but considering the way you carry yourself... Hhhh.” Matsuda groaned and passed the paper around. “Anyway, get a good damn read.”

For what it was worth, they read over the paper thoroughly. Komaeda in particular, still covering his mouth, somehow lit up further with sparkling eyes. He made a muffled happy noise. Probably would’ve said something along the lines of,

“As expected of the Ultimate Musician! To perfectly distinguish voices is incredible!”

Or whatever.

...god, I’ve caught on so quickly that I’m sure about shit like that. The trial is a circus of depressing as hell revelations and developments.

“Is this really what you heard, Ibuki-chan?” Koizumi asked, to which Mioda gleefully nodded.

“Yeppers! I didn’t remember but—this is definitely my beautiful handwriting, so it must be true!” She winked. “And my hearing is god tier!”

“Considering the how everything else about you is shit tier, I guess it’s only fair,” Saionji said.

“Yowch! Stabbed by a good sharp point!”

“More importantly, pay attention to the words exchanged between Togami and Komaeda,” Pekoyama said, arms folded tightly as Hinata squinted at the paper.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?! Stop!”

“Ow!”

“For what it’s worth, when I was straining to hear, I picked up on that exchange as well,” Matsuda said, raising his hand. “Doesn’t sound much like a murder, does it?”

“It sounds more akin to a counterattack,” Pekoyama agreed.

“Fucking hell,” Kuzuryuu cursed. “Wait, so doesn’t that mean...?”

“Mm.”

Several eyes were back on Komaeda, who still had his mouth covered. Matsuda’s own gaze in particular narrowed sharply at what was definitely a sound of agreement.

“I checked Togami’s hand earlier,” he said lowly, going on since it seemed Komaeda was still being stubborn. “There were specks of paint in his palm. I imagine that if he wrestled it from someone else, there’d at least be lacerations from the knife...but there weren’t. Komaeda—did you even get to the knife before Togami shoved you out?”

Hanamura jolted at that.

“W...What...?!”

That’s a shock to hear, isn’t it.

“Togami had the night-goggles on, and he can move pretty damn fast,” Matsuda said, running his fingers through his hair. “My guess? He saw this dumbass cottonweed making his way to the table and reacted so quickly that Komaeda Nagito barely had time to blink before he was rebuffed.”

“Is that the truth?” Sonia asked, brow furrowing. “Komaeda-san, is Matsuda-san’s guess accurate?”

“Mm.. Mmhm...” Komaeda’s eyes shifted to the side before shutting as he pulled down his hands from his mouth, allowing a burst of laughter to escape. “Haha! You really are incredible, Matsuda-kun! With just a few keen observations, you were able to piece the mystery together beautifully! As expected of the Ultimate Neurologist!”

“W-WHAT ARE YOU SAAAAAYING?!” Nidai boomed, making Matsuda’s ears ring a little.

Don’t you get tired of fucking shouting all the damn time?

“Matsuda-kun’s correct,” Komaeda chirped. “It’s exactly as he said!”

“T-Togami-kun really...p-pushed you?” Hanamura stammered, to which Komaeda gleefully nodded.

“When I slipped under the table, I was confronted by Togami-kun. It was quite the shock and before I registered what happened, he shoved me away! Out from under! Just like that!” He sucked in his breath, likely because he rambled so quickly that he had begun to wheeze. “My plans for murder fell apart then and there. I really am so drearily, disgustingly incompetent—a total failure who couldn’t even manage to touch the knife I so carefully set up! It’s exactly, exactly as Matsuda-kun says!!”

Matsuda pinched the bridge of his nose, inhaling and exhaling deeply.

I’ll have to more formally deal with him, later, but for now...

“After that, I was just stuck in the darkness with everyone else,” Komaeda went on. “I lost sight of the glow-in-the-dark landmark, and I couldn’t tell where the cord was either. Then, the lights came back on, and well, you all saw the rest...”

When I finally managed to get to him after the lights returned, Matsuda thought. He did seem to be in quite the daze. So that was what it was.

“S-So you’re saying you didn’t manage shit?!” Kuzuryuu hissed. “That you have nothing to do with Togami’s death after all?!”

“We’re just back at square one again!” Saionji whined. “What even the hell?!”

“AFTER ALL THAAAAT?!” Nidai screamed. “W-What do we even do noooow?!”

“Ooh, don’t lose hope quite yet!” Komaeda exclaimed. “You mustn’t give up! You’ve all come so far, showcasing such brilliant faith and determination! So keep on fighting! As symbols of hope, you can recover and rise up again and again no matter how many times you get knocked down!”

“T...The reason why we got knocked down in the first place was because of you,” Hinata burst out. “I just...don’t understand, I really don’t...”

“But now that we’ve gotten that gong show out of the way, this means you all are ready to hear me out, yeah?” Matsuda asked coolly. “Hey. Are you all ready to for fucking once to listen to me or what?”

“Why do you always have to talk like that?” Koizumi griped.

“But we should hear Matsuda-san out,” Sonia said. “Especially if he has more to say.”

“Lay it on us, Yasuke-chan!” Mioda exclaimed excitedly. “What is it, what is it?! Ears perked!”

“You’ve probably pieced a lot together, huh,” Nanami droned.

Don’t look at me like that. It’s seriously creepy. But. But...

“Before, I only mentioned it briefly to clear up doubts, but the bloodied bedsheet in the storage room is a really important clue,” he found himself saying. “As said, the distance between the dining hall and the storage room is considerable. It’s not just Komaeda—I don’t think anyone could transverse that entire distance twice in the darkness.”

“Yeah, that’d be pretty difficult to miss,” Souda said. “Especially since you’d have to do that without accidentally knocking someone over.”

“There’s another thing,” Matsuda said. “Someone would’ve noticed either way, even if you managed to not brush up against anyone. With a sheet that bloodied—that rabid meat chick would’ve smelled it.”

“Did someone say meat?!” Owari perked up immediately. “Where’s the meat?!”

“No, he’s just referring to you, Akane-chan,” Koizumi said, exasperated. “You do have a good nose, after all.”

“Ooh... Yeah, that’s true. I probably would’ve...” Owari picked at her nails. “I don’t think I did, though.”

“This is also something that bothered me for a while,” Matsuda added. “The injuries on Togami’s body.”

“Y-Yes, those,” Tsumiki stammered. “T-There were, um, several, spanning from his neck...t-to his abdomen...”

“There wasn’t a lot of room under the table,” Matsuda said, shaking his head. “And to inflict injuries like that without causing a serious rattle, taking also into account that they’d have to get past everyone in the dining hall in complete darkness without getting noticed at all—that’s almost impossible.”

“When you put it that way, it does sound all pretty difficult to do,” Hinata said, pursing his lips. “So, then, the question becomes how.”

Nanami hummed.

“Maybe...”

“The simplest explanation in this case is that the culprit didn’t kill Togami from under the table, but from somewhere else,” Matsuda said.

“The table’s underside is undeniably the place where he perished,” Tanaka pointed out.

“Pay attention to the actual wording,” Matsuda snapped. “I know that. Discounting the fact that we established that shit earlier, the blood underneath the table is all the evidence you need for that being where Togami died.”

“No, what Matsuda means...” Hinata looked pensive, cupping his chin in deep thought. “Togami and the culprit weren’t in the same place when the culprit stabbed him...right?”

“How is that supposed to make any sense?!” Mioda demanded.

“Perhaps a place under the table, but not directly under like Togami-kun was,” Nanami suggested. “Right, Matsuda-kun?”

If you know then you can’t just say it yourself? Oh, what the hell ever. Now’s a good time to finally get the ball rolling with something I’ve been meaning to ask about for hours now.

“Oi.” With a point, Matsuda directed his next statement to that particular person. “You argued earlier, but you’re the one who should be damn fucking aware that there’s another possibility for the culprit’s location.”

“You dare challenge me, snappish fool?” Tanaka asked, lowly. “Do you wish to invite death?”

“For the culprit, yeah,” Matsuda said with a shrug. “But it’s not a challenge. I’m making a point. About your earring.”

“The hellhound earring?” Tanaka asked.

“Your earring.”

“The piercing yowls of the hellhound earring beckons you?”

“...”

God if there’s another murder, I hope he’s the victim. Especially for making me do this.

“Earlier, you complained about losing your piercing within a shadowy portal that you could not reach.” A pause. “Apparently, that changed because you’re wearing it again. Or is that a spare?”

“How dare you!” Tanaka seethed. “The hellhound earring is not a mere mass-produced trinket! It is one and the same!”

Christ even when I try to talk like the guy, I just cause more friction. Whatever.

“Whatever,” he said aloud. “What I’m asking is how the hell you got it back, O Obnoxious Fuckhead.”

“Stay thy tongue, snappy boor! Especially when divulging the dark lord’s secrets!” Tanaka thundered. Then, he laughed. “For it is as you imply! I, Tanaka Gundam, have reached the end of the elusive shadowy portal through my very own passage of chaos, the entrance to the floorboards’ underworld hidden by the babel’s tower of boxes within the storage room—discovered by none other than the Crimson Steel Elephant, Maga-G!”

There was a hamster that climbed atop Tanaka’s shoulder, sniffing the air and washing its face. Matsuda assumed that was Maga-G, there for acknowledgement and praise.

If I bet him and tell him good job, though, I’ll definitely just get bitten. So I’ll just think it really hard. Good job, Maga-G. Wish you didn’t come...with all that extra.

“Why couldn’t you put that a little more normally?” Saionji asked, unimpressed. “You raise rodents.”

“They are not mere rodents—!”

“But they really are so wonderfully impressive!” Sonia squealed, to Souda’s dismay.

They are impressive. Matsuda thought. Because that’s exactly what I needed.

“The bloodied sheet was also in the storage room,” he pointed out. “With an entryway to beneath the floorboards and damning evidence in the same place—isn’t that a little suspect?”

“That’s super suspect!” Mioda exclaimed.

“H-He should’ve mentioned something like that sooner!” Souda yelled.

I tried. Shut the hell up.

“It makes an earth of sense!” Sonia exclaimed. “That passageway must have been used by the culprit as well!”

“So the culprit, wrapped up in the sheet, could’ve accessed the secret entrance to under the floor, made their way to beneath the dining hall, and stabbed Togami, right?” Hinata asked. “That... That definitely...makes the most sense. It wouldn’t be that far a walk either, according to the map Koizumi drew. So...it definitely makes the most sense.”

“Mm.” Komaeda hummed serenely. “Does it, though?”

Matsuda clicked his tongue.

Haaah. Seriously?

“I-It definitely doesn’t make sense!” Hanamura argued. “Walking all that way in the dark is like making eggs benedict without any eggs! A-And even if someone could do that, w-who could it possibly be?! Kuzuryuu-kun, maybe?”

“What the FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY?!?!”

“A-Aah!”

...that... I’m not going to describe that sound but I’m gonna need brain bleach after this.

“That’s impossible, there’s no way to get under the floorboards from outside the building,” Matsuda said instead, quick to move the conversation along.

“Indeed, the droning one and I had that confirmed,” Tanaka hummed. “We had checked thoroughly, and it is a certain impossibility.”

“I also saw Kuzuryuu-kun earlier while on guard, so he never got into the building,” Nanami said, yawning. “I don’t...think he sneaked past...”

“You don’t think?” Souda repeated, raising an eyebrow.

“H-He didn’t!” Monomi squeaked. “He definitely didn’t! Sensei was there, too...!”

“Hush, Monomi!” Monokuma snapped. “The children are talking!”

“E-Eep...”

“I-I already told you this had fucking nothing to do with me,” Kuzuryuu grumbled. “Christ, involving me out of nowhere like that...”

Hanamura giggled as Matsuda’s gaze lowered.

“...considering the blackout, it wouldn’t have been that hard to slip away in the chaos,” he went on. “Even without getting noticed.”

“While I find Kuzuryuu’s loitering suspicious, it’s true that we were all in an uproar,” Koizumi said. “It wouldn’t have been that hard, as Matsuda said.”

“S-Shut up about me...”

“It was pretty startling, huh,” Hanamura laughed nervously. “It happened in the kitchen, too...”

“The hallway, too,” Souda huffed. “It was a mess.”

“I didn’t notice from my guard post,” Nanami said. “Sounds rough though, I guess.”

“We’re getting a little off-topic,” Matsuda snapped, clapping his hands to get their attention. “Back on track, back on track. There was a certain other matter we need to address before pointing fingers.”

“Navigating the darkness under the floorboards,” Hinata said, brow furrowed. “Is that really so impossible?”

“Not if you also have night-vision goggles,” Saionji pointed out.

“Or a cord,” Nidai added.

“Or just, y’know, a light,” Owari said, shrugging.

Bingo.

“A broken clock is once at least twice a day,” Matsuda replied, unfolding the next couple of papers he needed. “Some people carry around small flashlights like yours truly and the fluff-ball basket case over there.”

“Which reminds me that I really should replace the battery, ehe,” Komaeda hummed. “But whatever are you getting at, Matsuda-kun? If there had been a light, don’t you think Souda-kun would’ve seen it?”

Matsuda huffed.

While I definitely doubt the guy’s capabilities, he’s not so blind he wouldn’t notice that. It’s true. However.

“Are you playing stupid to be cute? You and that guy already known damn well how the culprit would’ve avoided that.”

“That guy?” Komaeda parroted.

“...the fire doors.”

Thank fucking god, Hinata got the hint and perked up.

“The fire doors would’ve blocked out any light,” he said, louder than before. “They were between the kitchen and the hall so, that would work, right?”

“They just need to be closed,” Matsuda said. “And past those doors lies a sharp turn in the corridor, so even if you didn’t have a lot of time, you could make it through unseen while leisurely jogging if you wanted.”

Of course, the culprit would’ve been rushing.

“Ooh!” Komaeda lights up. “Impressive observation! As expected of the Ultimate Neurologist and Ultimate... Oh.” He pauses, humming thoughtfully. “You still don’t remember your talent, do you, Hinata-kun?”

“T-That’s not important right now...!”

Don’t make such a desperate face at a time like this. Especially when...

“Komaeda, you are being rather confrontational,” Pekoyama observed coldly. “Why is that? It was proven that you could not be the culprit.”

“Aha, you don’t need to sound so cross,” Komaeda laughed, waving his hands. “If you feel your blood pressure rising, then inhale and exhale...”

Kuzuryuu slammed his hands on the podium.

“How about I fucking shut you up for good instead?! That’ll fucking be a goddamn relief!”

“Hey now, outside the trial is the place for violence, not in it!” Monokuma called. “And all this back-and-forth is getting exhaaaausting! Just pick a culprit and get it over with!”

“C-Can we really do that?” Souda asked, grumbling. “Anyone could’ve just been carrying a small light around.”

“Although why the hell no one showed that off during the blackout is another mystery we should solve,” Saionji hissed. “Preferably with punishment!”

“I had other things on my mind, you goblin, it happens,” Matsuda griped.

Because Komaeda had disappeared at the time, and there was all that shouting... Still, urgh, if I had remembered, then perhaps this bullshit could’ve all been avoided. God, I’m a fucking idiot.

But, well, now wasn’t the time for what-ifs. Now...

“I can probably make a good guess at this time,” Matsuda said, crossing his arms. “After all, we’ve narrowed things down considerably.”

“If that’s so then I suppose it’s time for this red herring to pass the baton,” Komaeda chirped. “From this failure to the real killer.”

“Ku, I’d say you’re still at fault for all this,” Nidai growled.

“If that’s what you truly believe, I don’t mind,” Komaeda said. “I intend to embrace whatever conclusion reached because as long as it’s one every Ultimate agrees on—I’ll accept no more, no less.”

“...” Obviously one particular Ultimate is still going to put up a fight. Also. “Let’s not make something this distasteful sound so grandiose.”

He shook his head, inhaled, exhaled, and then presented the kitchen equipment list.

“One of the items listed here is a portable stove, one that contains its own fuel container and can be easily transported. It is my belief that if the culprit lacked their own light, then this would’ve easily sufficed.”

“A stoooove?” Mioda echoes.

Matsuda saw that particular person twitch.

“This is just a theory, mind you, not proof, however, it’s one of many answers to the problem.” He sets down the list. “But, if the culprit were in the dining hall with us, it still would have been far too difficult to navigate their way towards the storage room. Thus, my belief is that the culprit was not initially in the dining room when the blackout took place. So, there’s only one person I truly believe could’ve killed Togami.”

A pause. The tension in the air is palpable. Matsuda’s gaze rose, and he spoke lowly yet clearly.

“Hanamura Teruteru. It had to have been you.”


“W-What... What are you saying, Matsuda-kun?”

Hanamura’s legs were shaking. He was sweating copiously. He couldn’t look more red-handed if he tried.

Tch.

“Did I fucking stutter?” he asked, expression impassive. “If you have a counter, I’d love to hear it.”

“C-Counter?!” he shrieked. “H-How can I possibly—none of what you had is conclusive...and yet you’re treating me as a killer...!”

It’s true I couldn’t exactly dust for fingerprints, footprints, or what the hell ever, but...

“It’s what makes the most sense,” Matsuda said coolly. “If anyone has any other ideas, please share with the class.”

“B-But Matsuda-kun, that’s just...!”

“Now, now, Hanamura-kun,” came a smooth intervention like a scalpel smoothly stabbing him in the side. “Losing your temper will be so unsightly, so unbefitting for the Ultimate Cook.”

Hanamura stiffened at that, gaze helplessly darting to Komaeda. Matsuda also glared at him, but Komaeda only looked at Hanamura meaningfully.

Somehow that’s the thing he’s done today that’s pissed me off the most.

“C... Chef,” Hanamura only corrected weakly. “I’m the Ultimate Chef.”

“All the same!” Komaeda exclaimed, undeterred and determined. “If you succumb to pressure before such outlandish false charges, who will carry forward the avant-garde of cuisine? You must face these accusations head-on, not only for your sake but for the sake of the entire culinary world!”

“T... That’s right. That’s right...!” Hanamura fell for it, hook line and stinker. “F-For the culinary world’s future, I-I will...do just that...!”

“Komaeda, why the hell are you butting in?” Hinata demanded.

“Did you just fucking call me outlandish, you prick?” Matsuda seethed. “Seriously?”

“Because, Matsuda-kun, there was one factor you didn’t equate,” Komaeda chirped cheerfully. “Say everything went as you said prior, that by using the stove or whatever with the fire doors acting as a shield, once they reached the crawl space beneath the floor, what then?” He beamed. “If they still used any sort of light, they’d definitely get spotted under those circumstances, wouldn’t they?”

“Y-Yeah!” Hanamura agreed. “That... That’s a good point!”

Matsuda cursed lowly, but then he shook his head.

“Yes, it is,” he said, sighing. “I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to investigate this personally.”

But... Someone else did.

“T-Tanaka!” Koizumi exclaimed. “You’ve been there! What was it like?”

“Void, save for a phosphorus luminescence within the vicinity of dripping lifeblood,” Tanaka rumbled. “Nothing of the culprit’s possessions seemed to have remain.”

“Luminescence?” Mioda repeated. “So like, light?”

Perfect.

“It was likely more akin to a glow,” Matsuda said, pointing his finger. “From the painted knife and tape. If you’re aware of the glow-in-the-dark paint, you could just aim at any movement you spotted near it.”

“So then, the moment someone took hold of the knife, the culprit would strike,” Sonia said. “Correct?”

“That someone being Togami, who had remnants of the paint in his palm,” Matsuda replied, nodding. “That’s it.”

“So was that why Togami-kun was killed?” Komaeda asked, strangely curious. “Because he took the knife I painted?”

“If that is true, then, did the culprit know about Komaeda-kun’s plan?” Nanami asked, head tilted.

“I... I didn’t...!” Hanamura sputtered. “I didn’t know about no plan...! A-And, um, that still doesn’t prove anything...”

No, however...

“Another question,” Komaeda said cheerfully. “If Hanamura-kun were guilty, he would’ve been in the storage room during the outage. However, according to Mioda-san’s script, she heard Hanamura-kun at the time, no?”

“I do remember seeing Hanamura’s name listed,” Pekoyama replied, tense.

“Doesn’t that prove that Hanamura-kun was with us at the time?” Komaeda asked.

“Y-Yeah!” Hanamura exclaimed. “That—that proves my innocence!”

Matsuda’s expression didn’t change.

No, ironically, it does just the opposite.

“You definitely said something like that earlier,” Matsuda said, sighing as he unfolded Hanamura’s testimony. “You supposedly made your way from the kitchen by using the wall and listening to everyone’s voices.”

“T-There’s no supposedly!” Hanamura argued.

“It’s at least possible,” Nidai harrumphed. “But something doesn’t seem right.”

“The floorboards are riddled with cracks and the crevices are wide enough to drop pens through, not like I’ve done that or anything,” Matsuda said simply, setting down the testimony. “If you were under the floor, you could just shout and everyone would just assume you’re in the room none the wiser.”

“A-Ah...huh?” Hanamura jolted, and he began to hyperventilate. “H-Hey, hey, Matsuda-kun...this really isn’t funny...”

“Just keep taking those deep breaths,” Matsuda replied, shrugging. “It would be awkward if you passed out and someone would have to revive you before you get executed.”

“Executed?! Y-You—ya really th’nk I d’d ‘t?!”

He’s starting to slur his words. He’s really panicking.

“Deep breaths,” he repeated dully.

“B-B...BU, BU, BU...!” And then, Hanamura screamed. “BUT I D’DN’T DO ANYTH’N! I W’S D’RE N TAT ROOM W’D EVRY’NE ELSE!!!”

“That’s a pretty strong accent, were you hiding it all this time?” Saionji asked, eyes wide. “Just like you were hiding being a dirty rotten killer?”

“YEW H’V NO PROOF!”

“No, I do,” Matsuda said. “Because of your slipup way earlier.”

“S...” Hanamura deflated a little, but his voice was still gratingly high-pitched. “Sl’pup...?”

“Does someone remember not seeing Hanamura-kun when the lights came on?” Nanami asked.

“I... I’m not sure,” Koizumi mumbled. “Was he?”

“He felt as though he were there,” Sonia said uncertainly. “And yet as though he wasn’t, perhaps...?”

“He couldn’t have been,” Matsuda said. “Because—this is Hanamura we’re talking about.”

“W-Wattaya mean?!” Hanamura slurred. “W-Wh’r yer proof...?”

“Earlier, you made a comment that gave yourself away,” Matsuda said, albeit considerably more irritated than before. “Do you remember the reason why I couldn’t possibly be the killer?”

“E-Eh...why...?” Hanamura seemed flabbergasted. “Wha?”

“That’s right—there was a particular event that cleared Matsuda earlier,” Hinata recalled. “Something like that—there’s no way Hanamura wouldn’t have taken notice.”

“O... Oh...!” Hanamura perked up. “Y-You mean, um...something involving... Tsumiki-san?”

“I-I’m sorry!” Tsumiki sobbed. “I’m still just so ashamed!”

“You should fucking be,” Saionji hissed. “Why do you and Matsuda-nii keep flaunting that shit?!”

“Earlier, when that got mentioned, you seemed pretty taken aback by it, Hanamura,” Matsuda said, ignoring her. “In fact—you acted as if that were the first time you heard about it.”

“E-Eh...?” Hanamura fiddled with his fingers. “N... No... I... You two were, um, together...”

Urgh. The fucking fact that what happened is my goddamn decisive evidence. Just oh my god, why is this my life now?

“You mustn’t give up, Matsuda-kun!” Komaeda cheered. “Push on and on! Showcase more of that beautiful hope! I want to see—will it shatter Hanamura-kun’s own?!”

It’ll certainly shatter my dignity, as is usually the case with having to tolerate this guy, but—

“Just a vague description isn’t going to cut it,” Matsuda found himself saying. “What I want is specifics. As in, what specific position were the two of us in?”

“P... Position...?” The repetition of the word was far more squeaky than before. “I... I... I-I...”

“It’s you,” Matsuda snarled. “If anyone would remember that moment with picture perfect clarity, it’d be you.”

“W.. Well...” Nervously combing through his hair, Hanamura hurriedly laughed. “Um... I-I forgot...! Simple as that.”

“Like hell you did!” Hinata exclaimed.

“There’s no way you would...!” Koizumi agreed.

“A...All the same...!” Hanamura swallowed. “I... I-I...” Then, he pleaded. “K-Komaeda-kun! Won’t you say something?!”

“Mm?” Komaeda blinked once. Twice. And then, with a sigh, he shook his head. “No, Hanamura-kun, I think now is the time you just give up.”

Hanamura flinched, eyes comically wide.

“G... Give up?”

“I’m just as disappointed as you are,” Komaeda said, brushing his hair back as his frown deepened. “It’s such a shame when someone so talented reaches the limits of their hope. In a way, my own dreams feel just...crushed.”

“What the hell is wrong with you, Komaeda?!” Hinata yelled, incited. “You go from supporting the culprit to throwing them under the bus so quickly! Is this really what you’re like?!”

That doesn’t matter right now.

“I’m not the culprit!” Hanamura whined helplessly. “I-I t’ld yu...!”

“What does your word matter now?” Komaeda asked, unimpressed. “The cat’s out of the bag now, wouldn’t you say?”

“Ooh, so that’s the saying!” Sonia exclaimed to which Hanamura screeched.

And what came out next was fucking garble.

“THE CAAAAT AIN’ OWDDA NAW BAAAAAG!!! MOIND ‘EE YEW HABB’N GOT NUN ON THE MOIDURR W’P’N!!!”

“God, his accent’s like sandpaper through a meat grinder!” Saionji yelped, covering her ears. “I can’t take it!”

“I-I can’t even understand it!” Souda cried.

 Matsuda raised his hand.

“Right, well, do we have translator?”

“Ooh!” Monomi immediately perked up. “It seems to be a rustic way of you’ve yet to explain the murder weapon!”

“You understood that?!” Mioda exclaimed.

“EEF ‘M D’N XPL’N THE W’P’N!!!”

“If he’s the culprit, then explain the weapon!” Monomi chirped happily before sniffling. “Boo-hoo...that’s so sad...”

“Ooh! I can play music, then!” Mioda seemed more excited by that.

“Perhaps later,” Komaeda said with a laugh. “But more importantly, does the weapon really matter? I think we’re at the stage we can just forget about it.”

“NURRR! ‘ELL NURR! ‘EE KAANT JURST FURRGIT AB’RT EET!!!” Hanamura screamed, fuming.

“His position is that you can’t just forget about it,” Monomi supplied.

“I got that,” Matsuda replied, crossing his arms. “So you want the weapon, then? It’s an iron skewer.”

Hanamura made a distorted, complicated noise that even Monomi couldn’t translate. He even seemed to be foaming at the mouth.

Just don’t pass out before you die.

“I checked through the case with all the weapons,” Matsuda explained. “The only one that could’ve made those injuries was the iron skewer. Conveniently, you claimed one was missing when Togami questioned you about it.”

“T-That would fit the description perfectly!” Tsumiki exclaimed.

“So that’s that!” Owari huffed, pumping her fists ready to pummel. “Where’d you hide that skewer, Hanamura?!”

“Hhh... H-Hhhh...” Hanamura’s fingers yanked his pompadour free. “AVR’LAHV’NGE!”

Avril Lavigne!” Monomi translated cheerily.

“He’s just trying to confuse us with total fucking nonsense!” Kuzuryuu yelled. “He just dumped that skewer somewhere on the island!”

“No, no,” Monomi said, shaking her head. “Littering is against the rules. If you littered, loud sirens would go off all around the island.”

“B-Bit harsh for littering, don’t you think?!” Souda stammered.

“That’s whatever,” Matsuda said, crossing his arms. “Because it’s not like the lodge is devoid of several potential hiding places. But, knowing this creep, if I were him, I’d hide it either up my ass or in that large slab of meat on the table.”

“W-W-W-W-WWW?!?!”

“And that was a bulls-eye, wasn’t it?” Matsuda asked simply before his eyes narrowed harshly on Hanamura’s quivering frame. “The meat. Of course you’d hide it in the fucking meat.”

“The meat?!” Owari gawked. “C-Can you even do that?!”

“I...I ain’t saying nuttin...” Hanamura mumbled pitifully. “N-No...way...”

“It was overlooked before, but that’s not going to be the case now,” Matsuda said sharply. “You’re the one demanding proof, so let’s hop to it then. Someone—I don’t fucking care who—retrieve that meat!”

“Mmf, mmf. Already...chewing on it...”

Mioda and Owari both shrieked at the sight of Monokuma munching on the meat slab in question, looking pretty damn pleased about it.

“A-A bear eating meat—?! Wait, no, that’s normal!!”

“DAMMIT I WANTED TO EAT THAT!!!”

“N-NO!!!” Hanamura screamed. “NO, NO, NO!!!”

Matsuda only watched as Monokuma perked, realizing it not too long after.

“Ooh? What’s this?”

With a yank from its place, Monokuma brandished the iron skewer, holding it up proudly. Hanamura fell to his knees as the bear cackled.

“Hilt of bone, scabbard of flesh,” Tanaka mused. “A sword of destruction that brought upon death.”

“Most impressive, Hanamura-kun!” Komaeda exclaimed. “This weapon is a work of art, befitting the of the Ultimate ‘Chef’!”

“N...o...”

Hanamura shook his head fervently.

“No, no, no... No, that’s wrong... I... I would never...k...k...”

He couldn’t finish that sentence, which was unsurprising. It was the end of the line for this guy.

“You knew about Komaeda’s plan, and you prepared a weapon in wait for it,” Matsuda said quietly. “When the lights went out, you immediately sprang into action, grabbing the iron skewer and using the portable stove to navigate to the storage room. Once you were before the entrance to the crawlspace, weapon still in hand, you wrapped yourself in a sheet and made your way under the floorboard. You saw the glow from the paint, and once you saw the knife move, you struck. Over. And over. And over. And over. Were you that angry? Or did you just want someone dead that badly?”

“I... I-I...” Hanamura choked on a sob. “I-I didn’t...”

“Even if you didn’t mean to kill Togami, he’s still dead as a direct consequence of your actions,” Matsuda said coldly, with a gaze that reflected no light on Hanamura’s now tear-stained face. “Don’t you think it’s time to answer for that, Hanamura? Don’t you owe him that much?”

With that, Hanamura could only let out one last whimper.

“Alright everyone! Time to cast your ballots! Upupupu!”


The votes were unanimous.

“And you all hit the jackpot!” Monokuma cheered, throwing out confetti. “Hanamura Teruteru-kun is your killer! Congrats! Woohoo!”

Hanamura was still quiet, still likely in shock. Well, he wasn’t the only one.

“O-Of all people...!” Kuzuryuu gritted his teeth. “It really was him?!”

“Y...You got it...wrong...” Hanamura swallowed. “Y-You’re wrong...”

“What do we got wrong?!” Nidai demanded, fist clenched. “You killed Togami, DIDN’T YOU?! Why?!”

“I-I didn’t mean to—! It...” Shaking his head, Hanamura hurriedly pointed a shaking finger at Komaeda. “I-I was just trying to stop him!”

“You were trying to stop Komaeda?” Hinata asked as Matsuda’s gaze darkened.

“I-I was trying to save everyone!” Hanamura stammered. “When... When... When I was making preparations... I hear someone laughing from the dining hall—a-and it was Komaeda-kun! I saw him set up the knife, set up the irons, the air conditioning, everything! When I confronted him, he said was going to start the killing game, no matter what...!”

Hinata blinked and turned his gaze to Komaeda, narrowed and intense.

“What exactly did you say?”

“Mm, how to put it...” Komaeda just smiled like it was nothing. “It’s akin to reading a good adventure story, where you watch the protagonist grow stronger and stronger as they learn to adapt to the volatile environment and dangerous people they are often surrounded by...”

“You really mean to imply that shit’s the same as this?!” Kuzuryuu hissed.

“Isn’t it?” Komaeda asked childishly. “Trials and tribulations build strength and character. Sure, a killing game for ordinary people would be a disastrous massacre but Ultimates are different. For people such as yourselves, this is a means of achieving even greater feats than before.” Brightly, he went on. And on. “Of course I have no intention of surviving—but if it means serving as shaping the very foundation where you all rise, then there’s nothing more worthwhile of my pitiful existence! It’s so wonderful—so very wonderful to just—have the opportunity to take place in that! The development of the brightest, strongest hope that’ll overcome any despair!”

“...so that’s truly what this is about,” Matsuda said blankly. “So that’s why.”

“I-It makes no sense!” Koizumi yelled as Souda looked ill and terrified. “So it’s just a game to you?!”

“Goodness no, it’s more than that,” Komaeda laughed. “It’s not as if I planned on surviving to the end or anything. It’s not a mere game, it’s an invaluable matter that I’m more than willing to die for.”

...to die for.

“You planned for Hanamura-kun to see you, didn’t you?” Nanami asked. “You wanted this killing game to start so badly that you baited Hanamura-kun into it by letting him find out about what you were to do.”

“Mm, yeah. I did admit I had high hopes,” Komaeda sighed. “I even told him about the hidden door to beneath the floorboards...”

“He’s off his fucking rocker,” Souda murmured in disbelief, backing away. “He’s... He’s completely fucking lost it...”

“T... That’s completely right, see!” Hanamura exclaimed desperately. “Komaeda-kun, he—he was way too dangerous to just leave be! So that’s why, I... I-I had to stop his plans! Guys, you gotta understand, I was doing it for—hhck!”

His words were cut off by a strangled yelp when Matsuda yanked him upwards by his red handkerchief and shirt. His stubby legs kicked helplessly as Matsuda raised him from the ground, hands gripping the fabric so tight that his knuckles were bone white.

“Is that really your excuse?” Matsuda hissed, so infuriated that it just made Hanamura’s eyes brim with even more tears. “More damned lies after everything?”

“M... M-Matsu...”

“You watched Komaeda set up the knife, the irons, the fucking AC—and you didn’t think to do anything about any of that? Komaeda fucking told you that he wanted to start the killing game no matter what—and you didn’t think to fucking tell anyone? You killed Togami, the one fucking guy that stood the firmest against all of that—and you have the fucking audacity to say that you did that for us?”

“I... I-I didn’t...”

“Didn’t mean to?” Matsuda parroted icily, glare sharpening. “And what did I say to that before? Togami’s dead. Because of you. You had every goddamn opportunity in the day before that stupid fucking party formally began to pick any other option. And when you realized you killed the wrong guy, rather than coming clean, you willingly put our lives on the fucking line as you tried to cover your fucking ass over the crime you did. The innocent you killed. And you then say you did it for us. You call Komaeda crazy, but what the fuck does that make you?”

“I-I...” Hanamura sniveled. “I-I... I just...”

“Do you really not have an answer?”

“Matsuda!” Hinata exclaimed, taking his shoulder. “That’s enough. Let him go.”

Matsuda noticed his hands were trembling. Hanamura was trembling, too, eyes watering and nose running down his face. In that moment, Matsuda could be sure that this was one of the most pitiful faces he had ever seen. And considering he worked in hospitals—that was a pretty impressive thing.

“Let go,” Hinata ordered, much more quietly and in a much more strained voice than before. “I mean it, Matsuda.”

Matsuda drops him, giving him a look of disgust. Hanamura yelps when he lands on his rump with a harsh thud. His necktie is considerably wrinkled, but the normally self-conscious Hanamura doesn’t seem to have the energy to try and smooth it out.

“Hanamura-san,” Sonia spoke softly and tentatively. “Are you alright?”

“I... I’m not...!” Hanamura’s fingers dug into his hair. “Komaeda-kun was supposed to be the one who grabbed the knife! So why was it Togami-kun?! Why him?!”

“...” Matsuda squeezed his hands, feeling the joints pop. “Togami—was dead set on making sure no one died under his watch. He swore an oath to protect everyone.”

“Togami-kun would’ve wanted to protect Komaeda-kun,” Nanami murmured. “He said as much.”

“With the night-vision goggles, Togami would’ve been able to see that you were trying to kill someone,” Matsuda said, not looking at Hanamura anymore. “Someone that he swore he’d protect. He couldn’t let that happen.”

“Even though Komaeda-kun was trying to kill someone, too?” Koizumi asked. “Why...?”

“When you promise you’ll protect someone, you’re not going to think of the logistics, you’re just going to do it.” Matsuda’s lashes lowered, dazed. “There’s no second thoughts, no hesitation, no choices—even if it means having to put your own life on the line. If you’re that devoted to someone...”

Ah... Hah...

He felt so frustrated in that moment that he could cry. How beyond annoying. The goddamn headache didn’t help.

“Aah, Togami-kun...” Komaeda exhaled. “I really hadn’t expected that... Giving up his own life to keep his word—and despite his efforts, this is how things turned out.” He chuckles breathily. “Well! We mustn’t let such a tragic sacrifice go to waste! Overcoming this tragedy will only make everyone stronger!”

“Wha—is that really all you can think about?!” Hinata gritted his teeth. “After all that?!”

“It was quite a lot, wasn’t it?” Komaeda giggled, wheezing again. So much so it sounded a little painful. “It went beyond expectations and I even got to live through it! Seeing the aftermath of Togami-kun’s death, and Hanamura-kun’s strength and determination... And everyone else...! It really would’ve been such a waste if I just left the whole matter alone. I didn’t mind trying to help him escape safely, and I told Hanamura-kun as much.”

Really? Him of all people?

Hanamura hiccupped, wheezing as well. It was a considerably less happy sound.

...seriously...?

“In the end, the others prevailed, especially you, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda went on before perking right back up. “But that’s okay! Face your death with dignity, Hanamura-kun! It won’t be in vain, everyone will continue growing stronger and strong—mmph!”

Matsuda’s hand was definitely a little clammy, but he kept it firm over Komaeda’s mouth, keeping the other from speaking further. He had heard more than he really needed to, after all.

“Haven’t you said enough?” he asked lowly. “Haven’t you gone far enough? Aren’t you tired?”

Komaeda blinked at him, eyes wide and lacking any true understanding.

“Just...” Even if Komaeda wasn’t tired, Matsuda sure as hell couldn’t say the same for himself. “Just shut up. Be quiet for a bit. Someone died for you and—the least you could fucking do is mourn them quietly with your head ducked. At least for a little.”

Komaeda blinked again.

You really don’t get it, do you?

“We... We can’t just leave that crazy fucker alone,” Kuzuryuu growled. “We should just kill him...!”

“You shut the fuck up, too,” Matsuda snapped, only mildly irritated. “Saying that shit when someone died so that no one would get killed is so goddamn tasteless.”

Kuzuryuu flinched at that, but he did falter, cursing.

“Besides,” Monokuma sing-songs. “If anyone’s gonna die, it’ll be Hanamura-kun. Using someone else’s murder scheme against them—being desperate enough to risk the lives of everyone else—yep! Someone like that deserves a most exquisite punishment!”

“Hanamura,” Koizumi urged. “Why did you even choose to kill someone in the first place?”

Hanamura’s shoulders hunched, and they quaked more violently than before.

“I... I-I just wanted to go home...”

Just like that, the tears began to flow. And flow. Undeterred, unabashed.

“Mama’s waiting for me. Back in our old country home. She’s all alone at the Hanamura Diner, struggling day to day, waiting for me to graduate and hurry on back.” His breathing hitched as he blubbered. “I swore to her I’d return the Ultimate Chef so that she wouldn’t have to work so hard no more... She’s tired... She’s just so tired... I-I don’t even know how much longer she can last... That’s why I had to go back... I had to...!”

Mom...huh?

Matsuda flinched, feeling his insides twist. His head doesn’t hurt, but his heart does. And he absolutely doesn’t want to think about that.

“A-And then...my memories were taken,” Hanamura sobbed. That ache got worse. And worse. “How many years passed since?! I-I have no idea! What happened to the Hanamura Diner? What happened to my mom?!”

“Y-You said you didn’t believe that story,” Souda pointed out, voice shaking.

“I still don’t! I-It has to be a lie, it has to be! But...” Hanamura sniffled. “That’s why I had to go back—I had to see it for myself...”

“Even if it meant returning home with your hands covered in the blood of so many people?” Matsuda asked, grimacing.

“E-Even then! E...Even then... Oh... Oh god...” Hanamura nearly choked. “O-Oh god...what...what did I even do...? I didn’t want to kill Togami-kun, but when I heard about Komaeda-kun’s plan... Something inside me just...snapped. Something so...vile... I killed Togami-kun... And I said Komaeda-kun was crazy, but—it’s me. I’m...the one who went crazy...”

Ba-dump.

“Then... What did happen?” Matsuda turns his gaze to Monokuma. “You said it yourself—you’d return our memories as the first motive.”

“Please!” Hanamura yelled, tears still running unhindered. “Tell me what happened to Mama—to the Hanamura Diner—to everything! I won’t ask for pardon, but... I have to know—!”

“Weeeeeeell.” Monokuma shrugs. “It’s not like I said I’d return your memories immediately, right?”

What?

“W-What?!” Hanamura choked out as Matsuda stiffened. Hanamura sobbed out, “No...!”

“That’s enough of that weepy sentimental crap!” Monokuma scolded. “It’s time to get the execution ball rolling!”

“Y-You can’t!” Monomi cried. “You mustn’t—!”

Wham.

“Shut the hell up, Monomi!” Monokuma yelled as Monomi was left crumpled on the floor, clutching her cheek. “Don’t get in the way! Instead, let’s get down to business! Execution business!”

“I-I won’t believe it,” Hanamura whispered. “I-I won’t, I won’t, I won’t, I...”

“A special punishment has been prepared for the Ultimate Cook, Hanamura Teruteru-kun!”

“I-I... I, I, I... M-Mama... Mama...”

“Iiiiiit’s punishment time!”

Hanamura was still screaming for his mother as he was dragged away, and everyone else could only watch.


It had been—beyond words.

Hanamura quivering. The helicopter. Him being yanked away. All of that...

Matsuda was damn sure that Hanamura was still screaming as he was dropped into the lava, and when he was pulled out, fried like a tempura, Matsuda ended up finally falling to his knees and coughing up bile. There hadn’t been anything in his stomach, but he still didn’t think he’d be able to eat for a while.

“Urgh... U-Urgh...”

“H-Hanamura-san,” Tsumiki gasped, shaking. “N-No...”

Matsuda wiped off his mouth, looking around at the others. He wasn’t the only one that got sick. Pretty much all of them were horrified.

“Chins up, everyone!” Monokuma chirped. “The murderer has been punished! You should celebrate!”

“It’s YOUR fault he even became a murderer in the first place!” Koizumi cried.

“Y...You... You even tricked us!” Hinata exclaimed. “You made us think we’d get our memories back if someone was killed—but you went back on that!”

“Hey now, the proper term is delayed!” Monokuma huffed. “I’ll return your memories! Just give me time! Sheesh!”

“That’s so dirty!” Owari yelled.

“Don’t fuck with us like this!” Kuzuryuu screamed. “We have a right to fucking know what happened!”

“As I said! Give me time! Gooood, you kids are so impatient! Who taught you manners?!” Just like that, Monokuma bounced back. “But, whatever! Gyahahaha! I’ll decide whenever! I am the adult here after all! Toodles!”

With that, he was gone, and Monomi scurried off after him.

“S-Sorry... Sensei has...urgent business!”

“Hey, wait!” Mioda groaned when the two disappeared. “Sheesh, those two just ran away...!”

“Hanamura, you idiot!” Koizumi sobbed into her hand. “Playing right into such—such a villain’s hands!”

Urgh... Matsuda managed to straighten himself, swallowing back extra bile. There’s unfortunately a more pressing matter right now.

“Such a despairing outcome... Yes, despairing of truly hopeless proportions...” Wrapping his arms around himself, Komaeda took in a deep breath, smile twisting and straining at the ends. “But, it’s okay... Everyone will only get stronger even from this...”

“You bastard, smiling at a time like this!” Owari seethed.

“W-What a real freak!” Mioda yelped.

“Aha... Hahaha, oh, no, don’t get me wrong. I’m just as saddened by this as everyone else.” Komaeda’s arms tightened around himself, and he wasn’t looking at anyone in particular. “As the symbols of hope, I love each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. I couldn’t possibly rejoice at the lose of one such symbol.”

“Cut that out or I really will fucking kill ya!” Kuzuryuu demanded.

“Then go ahead,” Komaeda said easily, making the other recoil. “I’m open to being killed whenever. In fact, I’d be happy to be a stepping stone for any one of you.”

“Y-You...”

“G-Give it a rest...”

“How twisted are you...?!”

“If anyone is going to kill me, I would however prefer to be consulted first,” Komaeda went on ever so cheerfully. “I’m happy to offer assistance, after all. There’d be no greater honor than that as fodder to further elevate your greatness!”

“So grandly you declare your willingness to assist in your own destruction,” Tanaka murmured.

“That could just be his strategy,” Saionji grumbled. “Like making culprits think there’s some worthwhile reason to keep him alive.”

You really don’t have any value in your life, do you?

Even after Togami died for it.

Matsuda pressed his lips together.

What can even be done about you?

“Let me just punch him!” Owari yelled, cracking her knuckles. “It’ll do us all a favor to give him one good right hook!”

“That’s enough,” Hinata said, sighing. “I just... I’ve had enough violence for today. And I don’t want to hear someone like that talk anymore.”

“...eh?” Komaeda blinked, smile falling. “Hinata-kun, do you hate me now, too?”

Hinata didn’t answer, but he did give Komaeda a pained look of what was absolutely heartbreak. Komaeda’s frown deepened.

“That hurts a little. I thought we were kindred spirits—two similar souls who admired Hope’s Peak.”

“I’m nothing like you,” Hinata shot back venomously.

“Are you sure?” Komaeda asked innocently. “As Monokuma pointed out—it’s not like we know anyone’s true nature, and with those missing memories, can we even truly know ourselves? Isn’t that more especially the case for you when you don’t even remember your talent?”

Hinata’s fists tightened. Owari, too, cracked her knuckles.

“Owari, actually...”

“That’s enough.” Matsuda stepped between them, holding up his hands as Owari tensed. “There’s been enough violence today. Come on. What we all really need is to leave this shitty, tacky trial room.”

“I-Indeed,” Sonia muffled a sob before holding her head up high. “We should not fight each other. We must find our resolve. Let us return to above ground and get some rest. Tomorrow, we—we shall stand together once more.”

“S-Spoken like a true princess!” Souda exclaimed.

“Do you even have any other plan?” Kuzuryuu asked, to which Sonia shook her head.

“Regrettably no, but as the saying goes—a thing is better than no thing!”

“Oh my fucking god, I’m surrounded by idiots.”

“Spoken like an idiot in denial,” Matsuda mumbled to which Kuzuryuu glared.

Watch it. Don’t say shit like ‘too much violence’ and then fucking antagonize me, got it?”

“Both of you are idiots,” Koizumi sighed.

“But it will be alright, I think, even if we’re not sure, maybe,” Nanami said, most encouragingly. “Let’s just do our best not to hurt each other anymore. If we just do that, then...”

“I’ll do my best!” Owari exclaimed.

“The future may be concrete, however we forge the path,” Tanaka said, arms crossed.

“We’ll fight to the end like REAL MEN!!!” Nidai boomed.

“Y... Yeah... That’s...” Hinata swallowed. “That’s right. L-Let’s all escape this island together...”

It was a pitiful attempt at self-encouragement, reassurances, and cheer. A fragile peace had been put in place, but there was still one thorn in its collective side.

“No matter what,” Komaeda murmurs, more to himself than to anyone else. “I’ll always be on the side of hope.”

Matsuda keeps an eye on him as they all exit the trial room, and he lingers after the group largely disperses on the beach. Hinata had rushed in the directions of the cabins, along with everyone else, but Komaeda lingered on that beach.

He kept smiling at the stars, and—for whatever twisted reason, Matsuda felt like they were smiling back.

Creepy. Fucking creepy.

But in that moment, Matsuda couldn’t help but surge forward, taking Komaeda’s arm and squeezing.

Komaeda perked at that, turning to him with wide, creepily expectant eyes.

“Matsuda-kun?”

A smile touches his lips. The stars reflecting in that mossy green gaze twinkle back at him. Expectantly. Maliciously. Matsuda’s grip tightens. Just a little.

Not too much to hurt.

Never that.

Not in this situation that’s so painful for him that he wants to scream like he did when he was six. Scream and scream until his mom finally heard him. Because. He thought perhaps that’d reach through to her, even if the main bridge of the hippocampus was rotted. It could’ve happened. It was possible. She always hated hearing him scream.

He knows that for a complete stranger like Komaeda, that won’t do any good, but he’ll push on all the same.

Togami died for this person—it’s stupid fucking luck that you’re someone I need to protect, too.

“Let’s meet up in the morning. At the old lodge. Can you remember that?”

“Ooh!” Komaeda’s eyes sparkled. “O-Of course, Matsuda-kun!”

“I’m not going to kill you,” Matsuda huffed, irritated with how Komaeda’s face falls in confusion. “There’s just—a lot of shit we need to discuss.”

Let’s see just how bad you really are, Komaeda Nagito.

Chapter Text

“There’s this idea that you do anything if you put your mind to it. That is you just do your best and try your hardest, there’s nothing you’re unable to do. Even when you aren’t told this directly, the world around you carries this idea in its media, both fictional and otherwise. This supposedly hopeful sentiment is imparted as though it were a life lesson, but—it’s not the truth at all, is it?”

“...”

“It’s easy to see it’s not the truth, and yet... People refuse to believe it. Normal, average, underwhelming people who try, over and over again, all because of that lie, even when they fail, continuously. People like that—are worthless trash, without a doubt.”

“...”

“Because! There are two kinds of people in this world—valuable individuals and worthless trash, determined at the moment of birth. A lowly nobody will never become a somebody regardless of the effort put forth—to pretend otherwise is to partake in a horrendous and harmful delusion. The world isn’t that accommodating. Would you tell a penguin that it could fly if it just tried hard enough? Would you tell a purse dog that it could grow to the size of a guard dog if it just believed? Of course not! And it’s the same with humans. You can’t become gifted and talented. People are born with all their abilities, capabilities, and potential from the start.”

“...”

“Such is the case with everyone here, right? Which is why I admire all of you so much! Oh, but perhaps admire isn’t the right word. You typically desire to be more like an object of admiration, right? I’m not that self-serving, of course. So it’d be more accurate to say—I revere all of you. How to explain? It’s not self-serving, I promise, it’s more—pure. A selfless, unconditional love, perhaps?”

“...”

“Ehe. Hehehe. You’re looking at me like you would trash. Or perhaps the way you’d look at bugs scurrying on the ground. That’s okay. That’s alright. It doesn’t matter if my feelings remain unrequited because as long as everyone here does their very best, shines their very brightest, that’s more than enough for me. I don’t mind dying for the sake of others—but I want to do every measly bit that I can! As a stepping stone to greatness, my own hope is that you make the most out of my death. Regardless of who perseveres, killer or survivor, I anticipate the absolute hope that’ll blossom from such an intense clash. It really would be so lucky! Which is why—I’d like for you to reconsider.”

“...”

“If you of all people were planning to kill me, it really would be the highest honor, so... Won’t you reconsider? Shouldn’t you look more towards your future? If it’s you, if it’s Matsuda-kun, then, I’m sure that...”

“...”

This is a fucking headache and a half.

“Don’t fucking badger me, Komaeda Nagito.”

“A-Ah!” Komaeda waved his hands frantically. “Oh no, no! That wasn’t my intention, Matsuda-kun! I would never dream of pressuring you down an unsightly path, although... I do think you should think about your own sake and for the sake of everyone else, of course.”

“I took an oath, you dimwit. While I won’t hesitate if the other person is a threat, I have no interest in the business of getting numerous people killed for my own benefit.” Matsuda scowled. “Just what kind of doctor would that make me?”

“I... Oh.” Komaeda blinks at that, humming thoughtfully as he does. “Matsuda-kun’s so respectable. But, you know, this situation is rather extreme. Wouldn’t it be better for one person to escape than for all of us to stay trapped here and rot, thus wasting all our lives?”

“Was that why you helped Hanamura?” Matsuda made a face. “Although really? Fucking Hanamura? That’s who you decided should be the one to escape? Even though he was the worst? Or was that also a factor?”

Even so—he didn’t have to die. He shouldn’t have died, but he shouldn’t have killed someone, either. I can’t do anything for him anymore, short of escaping and checking that diner myself. But, the reason why he died is because of this fucking guy. This guy who...

“Do you really think yourself so meaningless that all you can provide us with is your death in a ditch effort to help someone—anyone escape?” Matsuda asked, narrowing his gaze. “Or do you just really, really want to die and this is just the best opportunity for it?”

“I am meaningless, but I just want to support everyone in whichever way I can,” Komaeda said fervently. “If that means dying, then, happily, I’ll...!”

“You’re deluded.”

“Ah. Haha. You’re so blunt, but that’s okay, regardless of how I’m treated.”

...treated...

“Hey.”

“Hmm?”

“How long have you been sick?”

Komaeda blinked. Once. Twice. And he beamed.

“Aha...! As expected of the Ultimate Neurologist! So keen! I received the diagnoses just before being accepted to Hope’s Peak, but of course, with our lost memories, who knows how long it’s been. Which is why I really should do all I can quickly! If I just stick around, I’ll become even more worthless than I already am. Something like that.”

“Hmph. So for the sake of clarity, what was the diagnosis?”

“Frontotemporal dementia. And stage 3 lymphoma.” Komaeda’s smile remains bright. “But I assume I’ve gotten treatment for the latter, considering I’m here despite being told I had about a year. Or that’s just my luck! One can’t ever be sure about what they don’t recall!”

“Pretty spry and energetic, in spite of that,” Matsuda mumbled, brow furrowing.

“I hurt all over and have very little stamina! But for the sake of hope, that means nothing!” Komaeda exclaimed, and Matsuda could practically see the spinning flowers in his aura. “For the sake of the Ultimate Hope, my meager body’s meager limitations are a mere trifle!”

Matsuda clicked his tongue irritably.

“Well if you end up overheating and passing out, while it’s more work for me, the others would probably prefer you be out of commission to out in the open. Still, carrying you back is going to be a bitch, just letting you know.”

“It’d be the perfect opportunity to kill me for sure, Matsuda-kun! Although if I’m unconscious I won’t be able to help you much past dying. But for someone like Matsuda-kun, my help could be unnecessary anyway!”

Despite saying that, Komaeda was looking at him expectantly. Almost like a dog begging for the ball to be thrown. With that kind of desperate, manic gleam, it wasn’t surprising that Hanamura had gone for it.

I’m better than that.

“Not a chance.”

“So resolute! Even if it is disappointing to hear!” Komaeda squealed. “Matsuda-kun, you’re so cool. I’m so lucky just to be in your esteemed presence.”

Komaeda stepped closer, and reflexively, Matsuda stepped back.

“It is a shame,” he murmurs, almost breathily. “Someone like you—you deserve far more than to be trapped here. Are you sure you’re alright with that?”

“Of course I’m not.”

“Then won’t you reconsider—?”

“I won’t.”

Komaeda’s responding bout of laughter is more wheezy than joyful. When Komaeda meets his gaze, his eyes are that dark, swirling muddle from before. Like this, when both of them are in the old lodge, where someone had died to protect this person—someone like this who lacked the mental capacity to even comprehend the weight of that...

“While your resolve is admirable, I worry it may be misplaced.” Komaeda chuckles lowly. “You’re such a shining, talented individual. It really would be such a waste to let you rot away here. Matsuda-kun, please do reconsider.”

“Aren’t you being presumptuous right now?”

“Presumptuous! Oh, dear, that’s not my intention! I speak out of concern and love, Matsuda-kun—no more, no less!”

“Oi.” Matsuda sucked in his breath. “Is there really no convincing you to live?”

You even set up that whole scenario so that you would die. And when you weren’t the one murdered, you kept seeking death until it was clear that Hanamura Teruteru wasn’t going to get away with what he did. Seriously, someone like this—

“Well, if I have no choice!” Komaeda guffawed, and he wipes the spittle from his chin. “I suppose it is still splendid to be alive if it means getting to witness everyone’s hopes firsthand, even if I’d hate to mourn the loss of more valuable individuals. Above all else, I just want everyone to push forward and overcome obstacles. But I want to help. More than anything. Please. Let me help.”

Despite Matsuda leaning away from him, Komaeda still stumbled closer, hand pressed against his own chest in a despicably desperate plea.

“There’d be no greater value that I can achieve besides that of being your stepping stone! As long as the most can be made from my death, then—what more can I even live for? Matsuda-kun...”

Jesus Christ. Is this real right now?

“Matsuda-kun...are you hesitating?”

“...”

“Hey, Matsuda-kun...?”

Haaaah.

“Matsuda-kun?”

Well, for starters.

“Ma-tsu-da-kun?”

Thump.

Matsuda perked up and covered the other’s mouth.

“Shut up for a second. I heard something.”

Komaeda’s breath was hot and humid against his hand. Fucking gross, but for now, Matsuda turned to the doors and focused.

Ack! What’s—?”

Matsuda’s sharp gaze narrowed. Pulling away from Komaeda, he strode towards the doors. Curious, Komaeda trailed after him. He let out a soft gasp when Matsuda yanked the door forward, and Souda tumbled to the ground, hitting the surface with a thud and a low grunt.

“You know,” Matsuda said, voice higher. “It’s rude as fucking hell to eavesdrop. Don’t you know you never learn anything good when you snoop?”

“U-Urgh. Ow.” Souda rubbed his chin. Matsuda could already tell that was going to bruise especially how red it remained even as Souda’s face paled considerably. “E-Eek!”

“Souda-kun!” Komaeda chirped, peering over his shoulder. Then, he noticed the other one there, tense and rigid on standby. “Nidai-kun! Good morning!”

“It’s way too early to be good,” Matsuda griped. He noted Nidai’s hands hidden behind his back. If the guy had been less beefy, he’d be able to see whatever the other was holding, but considering the situation, he could make an educated guess. “Something about the old lodge caught your eye?”

“We...!” Souda pushes himself back to his feet, still wincing as he rubs his chin. “We had important business!”

“That’s just going to make it hurt more,” Matsuda pointed out, unimpressed. “Seriously, stop messing with it. It’s basic fucking logic.”

“W-Well!” Souda grumbled, but with great effort, he pulled his hand down and shuffled them into his jumpsuit pockets. Shoulders hunch and yet he makes a clear attempt of forming at least a mildly intimidating scowl. “Basic logic would also be keeping a safe distance from that fucking nutcase.”

“Oh, me?” Komaeda asked innocently, pointing at himself. “Goodness. I would never dream of endangering Matsuda-kun! The opposite, in fact!”

“If you mean by me killing you, that would endanger me, dumbass,” Matsuda snapped. “If anyone figured it out, I’d get executed.”

Souda immediately shuddered, and Nidai, too, gritted his teeth.

“Matsuda,” he said, low but still booming. “You should not say such things even lightly.”

So you do know how to control your volume. At least a little. All the same.

“Why?” Something about those words pisses me off. “It’s my way of telling you not to worry about it. Don’t tell me you’re actually worried?”

“It is not you who we distrust,” Nidai replied, growling.

“M-Matsuda, step aside,” Souda ordered, the waver in his voice exposing the cracks in his already poorly maintained bravado. The rotting floorboards beneath their feet were more stable. “You got your interrogating out of the way, yeah? Let us handle the rest.”

“How much did you two hear?” Matsuda asked coolly.

“E-Enough!” Souda exclaimed, pointing a trembling finger at Komaeda. “Especially with that creepy fucking laughter!”

“So nothing outstanding?”

“It was just crazy rambling! What was there to hear?!”

“...”

They missed out on the two important things said, sandwiched between all that nothing. That’s stupid fucking luck for you.

Well, it’s not like he was in the interest of spreading such information anyway.

“There wasn’t really anything,” he affirmed. “It was a whole lot of crazy.”

Strangely, I’m not bothered as much as I should be. I largely feel numb. Any annoyance that’s there is mild at best.

Well, it makes sense I’d be desensitized to this kind of thing.

R̵̻̳̣͚̲͊̏̒͛ī̶̝͖̠͛g̵̢̛͇̝̙͖̊h̴̲̠͚̥̋̕͝ț̷͇͚̲̿̊?̸̛͎̺̘̞̆̆͘

It was still a headache, all that said.

“He’s crazy—fucking crazy!” Souda exclaimed ever intelligently. “He’s way too dangerous to just leave be! D-Don’t you think?”

“Obviously I do,” Matsuda said quietly. “It’d be beyond stupid otherwise.”

“Then, we should ACT!” Nidai yelled, discarding the volume control finally. “For not just ourselves but for the MEMORY of Hanamura and Togami!”

...memory...

Matsuda looks about. Togami had died in this room. He had known that when he picked it as a meeting place, perhaps out of some misplaced effort to grasp onto the spirit that guy had. Which was such a childish fucking notion that he almost feels ashamed to think about it now.

But, when he had stepped inside, all traces of the corpse were gone. Wiped clean. No bloodstains, not even discolorations in the wood. It was as if no one had ever died here. It was as if the previous night never happened. That should’ve been impossible.

Komaeda had the same smile he always did. Komaeda was watching all of them intently.

All this talk about memory—and right now reality felt fractured. Distorted, even. Matsuda couldn’t help but doubt his own perception, but there were a couple of things in clear focus when his gaze darted over.

The bruise on Souda’s pitiful face.

The rope in Nidai’s vice grip.

No pretense—the intent was blatant.

It’s clear. It’s clearly—fucking stupid.

“I’m going to have to ask you two knuckleheads to reconsider.”

Souda jumped.

“W-What was that?!”

“Did I stutter?” Matsuda huffed. “I guess I could be clearer. I don’t agree with this course of action. It’s stupid and dumb and you should feel stupid and dumb.”

“H-Hey!”

“Komaeda is a DANGER!” Nidai exclaimed. “You AGREE with this!”

“Obviously, but the funny thing is that it goes both ways,” Matsuda said. “We’re as much a danger to him as he is to us. He’s trying to get himself killed and can only accomplish that with someone willing to kill him. Like how Hanamura had been.”

“If it hadn’t been for that guy, Hanamura wouldn’t have killed someone!” Souda yelled. “And he wouldn’t have had to die!”

“If it hadn’t been for Monokuma’s game, neither of those things would’ve happened.” Matsuda’s glare harshened. “You’re not letting this idiot distract you from the actual threat again, are you?”

“Actual?! Like Komaeda’s not as much an actual threat?!” Souda hissed. “For all we know he could be the traitor Monokuma was talking about!”

“I don’t remember anything of the sort,” Komaeda spoke up. “I truly do only act in everyone’s best interests.”

“SHUT UP?! Y-You’re deranged and should just stay the hell away from all of us!!”

“He’s stuck on the islands with us,” Matsuda hissed, side-stepping so that he was more properly in between Komaeda and the fuming Souda. “It sucks but this is what we have to put up with because of our kidnappers. Now’s not the fucking time to get all worked up about it. Our number went down. A precedent has been set.”

“Because of him,” Souda snarled, pointing at Komaeda. “If it weren’t for him—!”

“Really? Do you know everyone here well enough to make that kind of call?” Matsuda cut him off frostily. “You didn’t know Hanamura well enough to consider that fucking creep taking the bait.”

“Matsuda!” Nidai’s tone was stern, almost aghast.

I’m not in the goddamn mood to be scolded by someone with fucking rope in their hands with this kind of idiotic plan in mind!

“Consider that just tying him up and leaving him somewhere isolated is going to come with its own series of complications,” Matsuda growled. “Both of you are fucking stupid so I doubt you planned that far ahead. Is someone going to be here to make sure he doesn’t die of starvation or dehydration? That he doesn’t get fucking sick or drown in his own vomit? It takes at most six minutes. As little as four to cause further brain damage. Did either of you consider any of that? Do either of you even care about any of that?”

When Togami died just to protect him... Was that just forgotten about? Or was it not important enough? You said this was for his memory...

“T-That—that’s for us to worry about!” Souda exclaimed. “So don’t concern yourself, Matsuda! We’re doing this for the group!”

The group. Hah.

“Funny. Where have I heard that before?”

Don’t fucking bullshit me so soon when I’m still in a bad mood about last night.

“Get your head out of your fucking ass. You’re just doing this because it’s fucking easier, not because you thought all that fucking hard about it and decided it was the best option.” Souda flinched, tensing as Matsuda glared. “Did you even fucking think about how this just makes Komaeda easier to kill? And that if he did die, everyone would suspect you?”

“H-He...” Souda stammered, much meeker than before. “I-I... We...”

“How fucking stupid are you? Both of you!” Matsuda reared on Nidai next. “A major fucking reason why Hanamura and Togami both got themselves killed is that they acted on their own without telling anyone! Let me guess—you also didn’t even fucking plan to tell anyone afterward. If anyone did ask about Komaeda, you’d just say something along the fucking lines of ‘don’t even worry about it’ or more heinously, ‘we have nothing to do with it’! Followed shortly after with ‘we did nothing wrong’! Am I wrong?”

Nidai’s face contorted so that Matsuda half-expected to get throttled. He stood his ground.

“Disgusting. Pathetic. For the group my fucking ass. If that were truly the fucking case, you two wouldn’t look so guilty right now.”

“Ah, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda murmured. “You really...”

“Shut up!” Souda snapped. “S-Shut up, shut up, just shut up! This is all your fault! What the hell can even be fucking done about you?!”

“What are we supposed to do?!” Nidai demanded heatedly. “Can you even ANSWER that?!”

“Leave him to me.”

Both of the idiots sputtered in disbelief.

“Wha—huh?!”

“WHAAAAAT?!”

“Leave him to me,” Matsuda said easily, without hesitating. “We can’t leave Komaeda to his own devices, but isolating him completely will just muddle matters further. And as I said, he’ll become an easier target. So someone needs to watch him. I’ll do that.”

“Why?!” Souda yelped, utterly flabbergasted. “Why would you even want to?!”

“I don’t want to, but it’s necessary,” Matsuda retorted. “And the solution is better than fucking tying up the guy and leaving him alone in this shitty lodge for an indeterminate amount of days.”

“W-What we should do is tie him up and leave you here to watch him!” Souda hurriedly pointed out.

“Well, yeah, that’s an option. But I have no interest in stepping aside and passively watching as you do that.” Matsuda shrugged. “So you’ll have to knock me out, first.”

“Y-You can’t be serious,” Nidai muttered.

“I absolutely am.” Matsuda clicked his tongue, arm thrown out to keep Komaeda from drawing closer, even unthinkingly. “If this is going to be how you dumbasses treat problem children, then you better fucking commit to it. I’m not going to play along if this is how you’ll run things.”

“F-Fine...!” Souda stammered. “Then...”

“Go the fuck ahead.” Matsuda tapped his cheek. Both Souda and Nidai clenched their fists. “I’ll even give you a freebie. I won’t pass out after one hit, I assure you. You think this is the first time I pissed someone off so much that I got punched?”

You—!”

Unsurprisingly, Souda did take the bait that time, lurching forward and slamming his fist into Matsuda’s jaw.

It fucking hurt like hell, Komaeda gasped sharply, and though Matsuda didn’t lose his footing, having been braced for it, Komaeda still took his shoulders as if meaning to steady him.

“Matsuda-kun...!”

Damn. For a wimp, the guy has a hell of a hook when worked up enough.

It seriously stung, and he can already feel the swell as he tenderly touches his jaw. Wincing, he grimaces as he tastes blood.

“Cut the inside of my cheek a little. But that wasn’t bad, I guess.”

Strangely, Nidai is now holding Souda back. Matsuda’s cold expression does not change.

“Is that it?”

You—!” Nidai tightens his grip on Souda, with Souda’s expression twisting as he yelled. “Y-You’re a fucking freak in another way!”

“Souda, that’s ENOUGH.” Nidai yanked him back. “While a spar is all well and good under the right circumstances—we must not resort to violence against our allies!”

“A-Allies?!” Souda nearly shrieked. “You seriously think that fucker’s still on our side?!”

Nidai is quiet, gaze rising to meet Matsuda’s. Matsuda quirked an eyebrow, head tilted but his returning glare resolute. Nidai grimaces in return, be it from sympathy or turmoil, and then he turns away.

“Let’s just go. While Komaeda is villainous, this is not right.”

“B-But...!”

“Matsuda had been instrumental in the trial. If he SAYS he can handle it, then I see no reason to doubt him.”

“Mmgh.” Souda still glares at them, but he clearly had the wind taken out of his sails with that fragile alliance crumbling then and there, so he wrenches himself free from Nidai. “Fine! What the hell ever! But—if that fucking creep does anything—it’ll be on that jerk’s head!”

“That’s fine,” Matsuda said simply. “That’s what it means to take responsibility after all.”

“F-Fine!”

Souda stormed off, Nidai following closely after him with one last tense glance, and then. The door slammed shut. There were two remaining. Two and the rope left behind, discarded and abandoned.

Just like that.

“...fuuuck.”

Matsuda finally sunk to the ground, much to Komaeda’s dismay.

“Christ, it actually seriously fucking hurts,” he groaned. “I deserved that at least a little but God. And I think I can smell fucking grease. That shark-faced freak doesn’t wash his hands, does he? Ew. So fucking ew.”

“Ah, Matsuda-kun...” Komaeda trailed off. “Why...no.” He shook his head. “It’s nothing. But that injury does look rather worrying. Shall I get ice?”

“If you can find any in this shitty old building, please do.”

“R... Right!”

Komaeda scampered off. Matsuda was too busy grumbling to watch him go. Thankfully, it wasn’t too agonizingly long before Komaeda returned with a bag of strange-smelling ice wrapped in a clean handkerchief.

Beggars can’t be choosers, so Matsuda just nodded idly as he accepted it. His eyes watered a bit as he pressed it to his jaw, the sting irritating him even more.

“You really are headstrong,” Komaeda giggles at his own bad joke. “Perhaps a little overly so.”

“The hell ever,” Matsuda muttered, rolling his eyes. “Since we so eloquently discussed all that—thanks for keeping your shitty commentary to the minimal, by the way—I’m gonna hope you understand how things are going to be from now on.”

“Mm?”

That’s such an ambiguous fucking sound it really pisses me off.

“I have no intention of leaving you alone, but I don’t trust the others to handle you properly, either,” he grumbled. “So it falls on me. From now on, from the second you leave your cottage in the morning to when you retire for the evening, I don’t want you out of my sight, got it?”

“Under these circumstances, if I did get killed, Matsuda-kun would be the first suspect,” Komaeda remarked. “How troubling.”

“The reason you’re even caught up on the whole dying thing is because you want someone to escape, right?” Matsuda asked coolly. “Lemme ask you—what the hell makes you think Monokuma’s gonna keep his word on that?”

Komaeda’s smile stiffened.

“Whatever do you mean, Matsuda-kun?”

“I mean, what’s stopping that birdshit bear from just declaring whoever has the majority votes as the culprit, regardless of if they’re guilty or not?” Urgh. I hate the cold. “He’s bullshitted us so much already. When do you think he’s going to return our memories? I sure fucking doubt it’ll be soon. It’ll at least be until he gets bored of watching us squirm, which, considering his personality, will take a fucking while. Someone like that probably wouldn’t want the game to end quickly, either. He’d probably prolong it by any means, even if it’s under false pretenses.”

Komaeda doesn’t respond to that.

“We can’t rely on him,” Matsuda rambled on. “We have to rely on ourselves. On our capabilities. So, rather than hoping some freak furry with a despair fetish will follow through on words we have no reason to believe... Let’s just figure out a means of escape ourselves.”

Still no answer.

“Wouldn’t that be more hopeful?” Matsuda asked, wincing and scowling as if his own words put a far more bitter taste in his mouth than the blood did.

“...ehe.” Komaeda giggled into his hand. “Matsuda-kun, you really are incredible! You might be right! But... I still would much rather die for everyone else.”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “I figured.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy, but...

Matsuda let his eyes fall shut.

It’s something, at least. I’ll manage, all the same.


“So, you get it now, right? I don’t want you leaving your cottage until I come to get you. And I don’t want you returning to your cottage if I’m not there to walk you back. Understand? If you stray too far for even a second, I’ll put you on a leash.”

“A leash, huh.”

“Push your luck even further and I’ll fucking lock you in said cottage and seal your windows. So don’t fucking push it.”

“That’s a little scary!”

“Right? So don’t. Fucking. Push it.”

“I guess I have no choice, ehe. But if it’s Matsuda-kun, I can’t mind it too much.”

“Don’t make it weirder than it needs to be.”

Tiredly, they finally arrived at Komaeda’s cottage, and Matsuda shoved him towards the door, still holding the ice bag against his cheek.

“I want to get an extra couple of hours of sleep after that fucking gong show. After that, I’ll get you. So your first test is to stay put until then. Do whatever. Just don’t leave your cottage until I come get you. Understood?”

Komaeda nodded, smiling as he always did. Matsuda couldn’t imagine a single other person having that kind of easy response. Somehow, he resented that smile even more.

“Do you really understand your situation right now?”

Without really thinking, he took Komaeda’s bony shoulder and squeezed.

“You’re not going to be alone anymore. You know what that means?”

He squeezed tighter.

“It means you don’t have to act out on your own. It means that you just have to rely on me. Don’t worry about anything or anyone else. Just me. Only me.”

He dug his fingers in deep enough to take root.

“So don’t do anything like that ever again, got it? Never. Again. You’re not alone anymore, so, so...so...”

“Matsuda-kun.”

Matsuda perked up, blinking a few times. Through the dispersing haze, he took in Komaeda’s steady yet curious gaze.

“You’re hurting me.”

Ah.

Matsuda blinked again, and then let go.

Just what the hell was I—?

“Right. Go on, then.” Matsuda shooed him away. “Get, get. Back in the cottage, demon.”

Just like that, the other laughs like nothing went amiss. He really was—eerily fucking good at that.

“Ahaha! Okay, okay! I’ll be seeing you in a bit, Matsuda-kun!” Komaeda opened the door, waving as he did. “Have a nice nap!”

And with that, Komaeda shut the door behind him. Not before Matsuda briefly caught a glimpse of him gripping his shoulder.

Hah.

Matsuda stood there, stare boring into that door before he pulled himself away.

I’ll manage.

There was a weird glimmer in distance. And a blur of pink in the sky. Matsuda blinked once. Twice.

I do need that nap, though.


He did end up conking out after putting a bandage on his cheek along with some ointment for the bruise. Rather fucking annoyingly, however, he’s woken up to someone banging on his door.

Oh my fucking god can I trust anyone to act normally in the aftermath of two deaths for one fucking second?

Matsuda griped as he pushed himself up. Drearily, he made his way to the door, yawning as he answered the knocking.

“If it isn’t important, go away.”

“Matsuda.”

Matsuda groaned even more loudly, opening the door a sliver, glowering at Pekoyama’s ever calm visage.

“I was wondering if you were going to join everyone at the restaurant.” A pause. “Komaeda politely declined. Kuzuryuu adamantly refused.”

Well, there’s that.

“I don’t have much of an appetite after last night,” he mumbled. “And I don’t fucking want to deal with more of those boisterous idiots in the morning.”

“I see.” Pekoyama blinked, and her crimson gaze narrowed. Matsuda’s grimace deepened. “That injury. Did something happen?”

“That’s personal,” he bit out. “Don’t even worry about it. No one tried to kill me if that’s what you’re worried about. So butt out.”

“Very well.” And yet, she remained there. “I will inform the others.”

“Kay. Don’t bother me again.”

With that, he slammed the door shut.

Something about the way that chick looks at me really does aggravate me.


He has a nightmare about crimson flowers, the color of freshly split blood, and the smell of dust. When he breathes, he coughs. He can hear smacking lips, soft purrs, softer giggles, the sound of someone gnawing on something meaty.

Distantly, it hurts. He can see blood-red ribbons of what looked like sinew.

Something smells disgustingly burnt. So much so that he recoils.

And just like that, he wakes up nauseous.

Oh, sure, that’s how it’s going to fucking be.

His head is still buzzing, but what’s worse are the pangs—fucking hunger pangs even though he still feels so goddamn ill. He still had snacks, of course. But all of them were the rice crackers he favored. Which were crispy.

He wasn’t in the mood for crispy. And likely wouldn’t be for a long while. Three days tops.

But I need to eat before then. Now more than ever, I have to be alert. I can’t do that on an empty stomach.

Matsuda sighed until he ended up yawning. He slipped into his slippers and pulled on his wrinkled up lab coat. He notes the bloodstains on the edge of his sleeve. He touches his still bandaged jaw gingerly. The ache was dulled—he’ll heal soon.

It’s a good thing that shark freak vented out some level of frustration. Bottling one's emotions until you burst could prove fatal here. Still. I’m a little fucking pissed.

He can get over it. If he had to. For now, there were more important concerns, like eating and babysitting.

“Look alive,” he drearily muttered to his feet. “Stay alive, too, preferably.”


“Hello again, Matsuda-kun!”

Annoyingly fucking perky as ever.

“Did you leave your cottage?”

“After you left? Not until now.” Komaeda grinned. “Do you suspect I did?”

Matsuda shook his head.

“Nah. Pekoyama said you didn’t go to the meeting and I can’t imagine what else would lure you out. Save for a stroll, I suppose.” He gave Komaeda a Look. “If you have to go out and you don’t at least run that by me first, I’ll sever your Achilles tendons.”

“Scary!” Komaeda still laughs. “I understand, Matsuda-kun!”

“Right. We’re going to the restaurant, then.” Matsuda gestured for him to follow with his shoulder. “Come on. There probably won’t be anyone there but there should still be some food. If not, we’ll pick up something from the supermarket, I guess.”

“Yessir.”

For what it was worth, Komaeda was fairly attentive in following his lead and even seemed to be in a good mood. In terms of babysitting, he got a pretty undemanding job on the surface level.

If not for his behavior before, I would’ve suspected that it was a misdiagnosis but... Factoring in that, his shitty filter, his appearance, and even his crappy handwriting—there’s at least some wires crossed. Even if it’s not a physical ailment of the very brain, it’s evident he needs to be supervised for everyone’s sakes, not just his own.

He’s done some care work in the past. It was years ago but the memories are fresh enough that he doesn’t mind it now. While the circumstances are significantly different, the situation akin to a perpetual lockdown, he can handle it. He has to.

I didn’t come this far just to get fucked over on a fuckoff island in the middle of nowhere.


They arrive at the restaurant and it’s pretty quiet. Not even Owari is loitering, but evidence of her gourmandizing remained. So the others had left recently.

There must have been something else to grab their collective attention. We’ll have to look into that later. For now.

“Urgh.” Matsuda grimaces at the food. It’s the same selection as before and all of it was so—solid. With how sick he still felt, he would’ve preferred something lighter. Maybe soup. The ingredients were there, at least. For now, he was just going to take what he could. “You, too. You also need your energy. Low stamina, right?”

“Right, right.” Komaeda prepares his plate. “You shouldn’t worry, though.”

“If you pass out, it’ll cause more problems for me, so shut up, it’s a concern. Don’t bitch so much.”

“Ehe. Hehe. Okay.”

They ate in awkward, slightly tense silence. Matsuda had to swallow back bile a couple of times, washing it back with juice. He wondered if he should start carting around nausea pills in addition to the headache medicine.

Let’s just try to tolerate it for now. I’ve eaten in the aftermath of plenty of gruesome experiences.

But.

Nothing had been quite like that.

I should just be grateful I saw it from a screen. It could’ve been worse. Him dying was inevitable but—to be taken out like that...

Matsuda’s hands tightened into fists.

So that’s the kind of freak we’re dealing with. If another person kills, we’re going to have to watch more of that.

He wondered what Togami would do or say. He then thinks, sardonically, that he doesn’t actually want to consider if Togami would still stand firm if he were alive after things went crashing down the way they did.

That guy was putting on an act anyway. Just an act. But wasn’t that what the others needed? Sometimes a comforting deception is better. I don’t think that, though.

Matsuda sighed, sipping irritably at his juice. It stung his throat a little, but he managed to not choke. Komaeda had barely eaten his plate—and he hadn’t picked up much.

“Hey...”

“You really should eat!” A sugary voice yips the words instead. “Wuv, wuv.”

Oh great.

“It’s you,” Komaeda said simply but still a little unimpressed. “Why are you here?”

“Y-You’re using such a cold tone!” Monomi yelped, shrinking in on herself. “I, um. I noticed that you two weren’t here before, so I thought I should catch you up on what happened. After all, with everyone on the same page, you can better work together. Love, love...”

“Hm.” Matsuda bit into his mango. “And? Yeah?”

“I defeated one of those nasty Monobeasts! So! You may explore the next island to your heart’s content!” Monomi beamed. “This can help you find the means of building a happier life here, right?”

“I have no interest in that,” Komaeda laughed. “But if it’s open to exploring, we definitely should. Aah, what surprises await? I’m excited!”

So before was her fighting the Monobeast. But I’m not that curious about this side-plot.

“Hmm.”

Still, to put it like that...

“So the staff isn’t on that island,” Matsuda mumbled. Monomi flinched. “Are they on any of the blocked off islands?”

“T... There’s no one else here!” she squeaked. “So don’t worry about that!”

No one else...? Well, I suppose it’s possible. Unlikely, but possible. There are other means of maintaining control even if it’s not on the islands themselves. Still, so much about this is weird, especially with...what that bitch just said.

“Do you really think we can live happily here after all this?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “Who the hell would want to? A suicidal thrill-seeker?”

“U-Um. Well...” Monomi’s ears drooped. “Once we defeat that meanie Monokuma...”

Huh.

“Even now, you’re dead set on us staying, aren’t you?” He really couldn’t understand it. He could understand Monokuma’s twisted fucking logic, but this? “What the hell is your game here?”

“It’s not a game!” Monomi protested. “I just want everyone to get along and live happily together! I-I swear! I want what’s best for my students.”

“...”

So many people who think they’re acting in the group’s interest—all while locking the group out of the loop. It’s beyond aggravating.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “Monokuma spoiled everything. No one’s going to want to stay even after he’s taken care of. We all want to escape and can you blame us?”

“U... Uuu...” Monomi whines. “The others said that, too, but... Escape isn’t possible...”

“Why do you say that?” Komaeda asked.

Rather than answering, Monomi instead squealed when Matsuda grabbed her by the ear.

“M-Matsuda-kun! Please no!”

“Calm your diaper. I’m just making sure you don’t run off.” Matsuda tightened his grip, inwardly marveling at how squishy it was. Shockingly soft, too. Monomi’s shrieking was far less pleasant. “Shut up. It’d be irresponsible to say something like that and then disappear without further explanation.”

“U-Uu...!” Monomi sobbed. “I-I don’t mean to be irresponsible...”

“Your field trip of friendship got hijacked by a killing game. You’re already a huge failure.” She wept at that. Matsuda clicked his tongue. “The least you can do is try and help us better understand our situation, right? Sensei?”

“I-I... I suppose...”

Despondent as she was, she at least seemed a little more complacent than before.

It could be an elaborate act. But, for some reason, I doubt it. I don’t care to question why right now. There are more important questions to ask.

“Why exactly is escape impossible, be it by boat, rescue, or other means?”

Monomi pushes her little paws together since she lacked fingers to fiddle with.

“There’s...not a lot I’m able to tell you... But...” Able? “No outsiders can find this island. Even Monokuma must’ve been...sneaked in, s-somehow. But I have no idea how...!”

Snuck in? Matsuda blinked. By someone else here? Who?

“Oh, Matsuda-kun, your face...!” Monomi gasped sharply. “What happened?!”

“Don’t worry about that right now.” It took her so long to notice. Whatever. “What about the people you answer to?”

Monomi blinked at him. Once. Twice.

“Or are you alone?” he asked. “Is there no chance we can be rescued? Is there no one out there even trying to save us?”

She immediately snapped up.

“Oh! No! Someone’s definitely working very hard to save you! It... It’s difficult thanks to that meanie Monokuma, but they’re trying! If we all band together, we can prevail!” Monomi tried to muster up a confident front but it looked pretty damn pitiful. “So don’t lose hope!”

“What can you tell us about this someone?” Komaeda asked, eyes wide.

Just like that, Monomi fizzled.

“Um. N-Nothing. I can’t really tell you anything. S-Sorry.”

Matsuda dropped her and she landed with an oof.

“T-That doesn’t mean you should be discouraged!” she hurriedly yelped. “I-It may seem bleak and disheartening now, b-but, it’s going to be okay...if you just stay together and continue getting along... S-Sensei knows this...!”

“Looking at you worsens my mood, actually,” Matsuda snapped. “So get lost.”

“U-Uwah...!” Monomi sniffled, and she rushed off. “G-Good luck...! Hic!”

She was gone in the blink of an eye, leaving Matsuda with even less of an appetite than before and food that had gotten cold.

Komaeda hummed.

“She is quite astoundingly useless, isn’t she?”

“Yeah,” Matsuda sighed. “She gave us some pretty worthwhile information, but it’s not going to be any help right now.”

Her refusal to elaborate makes her worse than Monokuma in a way. At least Monokuma’s openly self-serving.

“She said someone on the outside is trying to save us when before that she claimed no outsiders could find this island,” Komaeda said, pondering it over. “Which is it, then? Does she mean her creator?”

...her...

Suddenly a burst of searing agony that nearly had him fall to pieces. Gasping sharply, Matsuda’s hands clamped over his ears as he broke into a cold sweat.

“—tsu—kun?”

It hurt so much that Komaeda’s voice sounded far-off and distant. He almost couldn’t make it out at all. It hurt. It hurt.

He doesn’t register someone gripping his shoulders, either, as his fingers entangle themselves into his hair and yank as if in the hopes that the screeching of his scalp would cancel out the pounding in his skull.

“—tsu—! Breathe!”

 Matsuda sucked in air and nearly heaved.

Wrong. This. This is—wrong, wrong, wrong—

Ĭ̸̠ ̸͕̎d̴̰͒*̶̣́d̸͈͘n̸̻̊'̷̢t̸̤̿ ̸̺͝w̴̮̔a̶̲̮͑͛̈́̚͘͠ñ̵͕̭t̵̛̻͓͆̂͜ ̵̨͊͋̏̋͌̓͑@̶̨̛̫͈̑n̶̩͎͙̂̐͝7̴̧̛̃ ̶̜͎͇̈́̇9̴̳̙̿̀@̵̹̲̬̩̉̔̆ȓ̵̨͎̬t̶͉͔̦͗ ̸̡̣͗̈0̵̻͖̠̼̿͌4̵̹̜͙̋͠ ̶̱̈́̈́ť̴̬H̸͔̗͇͋͌͝ͅ1̵͕͐̋̉̀ͅͅ5̸̘̩̅

Matsuda scrambles for the pills in his pocket. His hands are too clammy to open the bottle, but somehow, something cold pops them open anyway. He wastes no time spilling several into his hand and downing them with juice. That chill rubs his throat as he swallows.

“...there, there, that’s it...”

He shuddered, and then, blinking a few times, he realizes.

“Get. Your cold fucking hands away from me.”

“Ah, sorry!” Komaeda yanks himself away, hands in the air. “I really am sorry, Matsuda-kun!”

“Urgh...” All that extra sleep for fucking naught because Matsuda feels more exhausted than ever as he rubs at his eyes. “No. I have no idea what the hell that was about. Uh...”

He blinks. Slowly. Confusedly. He looks around. It’s just the restaurant. Empty except for them.

“What...were we talking about again?”

“Do you not remember?” Komaeda asks, head tilted and voice low.

Matsuda blinks again.

Do I...? What?

His mind feels weirdly blank and his eyes squeeze shut as he tries to focus on—something pink? The back of his eyelids, probably, but also—oh. Right.

“That rabbit...right.” He nods drearily. “That, uh—there’s not much point trying to ponder what she was talking about because there’s so little information and what was there...isn’t going to help right now... Did I say that already?”

“It’s okay,” Komaeda said cheerfully, avoiding his question with the grace of a dancer tripping during a performance. “For now, we should go investigate the new island opened up.”

New island...right. Yeah. I haven’t forgotten about that.

“Sure thing.” He wipes his hands down. “Let’s go.”

Whatever the hell that was about—it might be better to just move past it for now.


Walking a bit alleviated some of the drowsiness, but not the sweat. He still felt ridiculously fucking gross and the tropical sun overhead was not helping matters. Urgh.

So Matsuda ended up pausing, gripping onto Komaeda’s sleeve so that the other didn’t go too far ahead.

“Hmm?” Komaeda turns to him, frowning a little. “Are you feeling sick again, Matsuda-kun? You are looking rather pale.”

Says the demented bedsheet.

“S-Shut up.”

Says the brilliant fucking brainiac babysitting said bedsheet.

“Mm...” Komaeda, who was fucking a-okay with trying to cover up a goddamn murder, looked unsure and uncertain. “That’s not much of an answer.”

“Shut up,” he snapped more firmly to compensate.

Someone was humming. Two pairs of footsteps were in unison. Matsuda perked up, just as the steps paused and someone exhaled.

“Oh. There you two are.”

“What are you gross freaks doing together? Don’t tell me that you were together this morning, too?” A snicker. “Wow, Matsuda-nii’s a pervert and a manwhore.”

I’m both blessed and fucking cursed for this distraction.

“Koizumi-san, Saionji-san, good morning,” Komaeda greeted pleasantly as Matsuda turned to the two irritably, scowling as per usual. “We weren’t together, aha. Please don’t get the wrong idea. Someone like Matsuda-kun with scum like me is simply just—!”

“Hey.” Koizumi thankfully cut Komaeda off, face pinching up at the sight of Matsuda’s face. Matsuda’s scowl deepened as her brow furrowed. “Your face. What happened?”

“It’s whatever,” he grumbled, touching the bandage on his jaw. “I’m not exactly in the mood for talking.”

“...” Koizumi bit her lip as Saionji blinked a few times.

“I’m just surprised you haven’t been punched sooner,” Saionji said innocently and Matsuda noticed, then, that she was clasping Koizumi’s hand and squeezing. “But wow, that’s fucking pathetic, getting punched by Souda-nii, of all people.”

Matsuda quirked an eyebrow.

“Souda was...pretty irritable when someone mentioned you,” Koizumi explained, albeit lamely. “I did find it strange—but to think he punched you. What in the world happened?”

“He was being a fucking impulsive idiot,” Matsuda snapped.

“Oh, no, it was just a disagreement,” Komaeda said. “Matsuda-kun, you really should make things up with him soon. It’s no good to have symbols of hope bicker!”

Haaaah? I was the one that got punched and he was the one being an unreasonable fucking idiot, why should I take responsibility here? Just because I’m more mature?” He huffed. “Yeah. Not going to happen. I have nothing to apologize for.”

“Aw, Matsuda-kun...”

“Mmgh.” Koizumi sighed. “You’re being so childish. I’ll talk to Souda later.”

Matsuda perked up at that.

“Mahiru-nee, don’t even worry about them!” Saionji exclaimed. “Let those losers kill each other! What does it matter?”

“It’s better that someone be mature around here, Hiyoko-chan,” Koizumi said tiredly, smiling just a little. “And as unfortunate as it is, you can’t expect that much from boys.”

Just as Matsuda opened his mouth to comment, Koizumi spun on him, aggravated and scolding.

“Seriously! You look like a mess! Have you showered?! Before meeting up with the others, you should at least make yourself presentable! Hiyoko-chan and I just came back from the public baths, so it’s just right that way! Go, go!”

“Christ, what are you, my caretaker?”

Komaeda just laughs.

“Koizumi-san’s keeping you on a tight leash, isn’t she?”

Saionji’s response was to childishly cling to Koizumi.

“Back off, creep!”

“Oi, you really think I’d be into...?” Matsuda pauses at seeing the flash of a slightly exasperated smile across Koizumi’s lips. He clicked his tongue, and then yanked on Komaeda’s sleeve. “Whatever. Showers are healthy, unlike being forced to socialize. Come on, you.”

“A-Ah! Okay, Matsuda-kun!”

Komaeda nearly stumbles, and Saionji, too, pulls Koizumi away. Matsuda does glance back briefly and notes how the two are both rather cheery.

They’ve gotten close rather suddenly, huh. Well, if it pacifies that gremlin, we really should be thankful.

“Matsuda-kun?” Komaeda’s grin widens. “Are you jealous?”

“Are you five? What kind of loser would be jealous of that?” The mechanic guy, probably. Maybe Hinata, too. “But I guess it’s a good thing those idiots can still make friendly despite...last night.”

“The symbols of hope really are a force to be reckoned with!” Komaeda chirped. “The power of friendship—incredible!”

“Oh my god. You’re five.”

Well, they don’t call it babysitting for nothing.

Chapter Text

Just as Monomi said, the second bridge was open. Several huge buildings protruded upwards on the next island, one in particular was completely overtaken by plant life.

“The feel is a bit different from the main island, isn’t it?” Komaeda asked cheerily.

“Tch.” He clicked his tongue. “Let’s just go. The others are already investigating, but it won’t hurt to get a look for ourselves.”

“We can trade notes!” Komaeda chirped. “Just like we did at the beginning!”

When Togami was calling the shots. This guy really has no awareness of his situation.

It couldn’t be helped, so Matsuda just moved on.


The first place they looked at was the most standout one. Huge and looming, flanked by small plateaus and infested with various vines and small trees, growing from its sides and roofs. The material seemed to be crumbling cobblestone, but—the shape of the structure was...familiar. Annoyingly so.

“It kind of looks like Hope’s Peak, don’t you think?” Komaeda asked. “What interesting ruins!”

There’s no doubt from the state of things that these are ruins... But it also really does have a shape so similar to Hope’s Peak that it’s uncanny.

Matsuda huffed and tugged Komaeda along.

“Come on. We’re getting a closer look.”

“Right away, Matsuda-kun!”

Komaeda seemed more and more excited as they drew closer, eyes widening and taking in the forlorn, almost melancholy beauty of the crumbling buildings and thriving, parasitic greenery crumbling them further. Matsuda grimaced, covering his mouth and nose with his sleeve.

It even smells old and dilapidated. Just what’s up with this place? Why does it feel so—strange?

The blue sky overhead almost seemed to blur into gray, as if the building was a drain on the very light rays.

Matsuda squints, and for a second, he can see the sky darkening, dyeing into a hue more akin to—

“Ummmm.”

Aaaaaand gone. Back to dull-ass tones and blue. All thanks the dull-eyed girl standing before them, staring at them.

“Nanami-san!” Komaeda exclaimed. “So, you were here, too?”

“Yeah... I was investigating.” Nanami pursed her lips. “Neither of you two were at breakfast this morning. Souda-kun was pretty agitated when asked about you, though... I think.”

“Yeah,” Matsuda huffed. “We heard already. It’s whatever.”

“Your jaw’s bandaged,” she pointed out intelligently. “Is that also whatever?”

“Did I fucking stutter?”

“Anyway!” Komaeda cut in. “What discoveries have you made, Nanami-san?”

Nanami just stares at him more, which irritated Matsuda further. After a while, her head tilts, expression unchanged and so insipid that it made the ruins look lively.

“I’m still investigating. So, you should go.”

“At least let us get a proper look around,” Matsuda snapped.

“You should check in with the others, probably. I think that would be better.”

Seriously?

“The building is rather peculiar, though,” Komaeda mused. “I would prefer a closer look at it. After all, the shape’s pretty appealing, ehe.”

Just because it looks like Hope’s Peak? Although...

“I get a weird feeling about it,” Matsuda said. “Like there’s something...off. Something that I...”

He ends up trailing off, and he can almost swear something about the ruined buildings is distorting. Twisting. Was that a door? Hey—

Wait.

Have I been here before...?

“Matsuda-kun?”

He quickly snapped out of it, feeling strangely faint and disoriented.

“You spaced out a little there,” Komaeda said worriedly. “Maybe we should leave this to Nanami-san for now.”

“Yeah, you should go,” Nanami said. “The others are wondering about you. So, go. I’ll handle everything here.”

“...” Blinking a few times to reorient himself, Matsuda grumbled as he rubbed his temples. “Just what the hell are you so pushy about anyway? Is it something about this place?”

“I guess you could say that. It kinda feels special.” Nanami paused. “I guess.”

“You guess,” he repeated, unimpressed. “Except you’re acting so fucking weirdly about it.”

The last time the space cadet was like this was during the trial—when she fucking knew I was trying to cover for this dumbass to keep the trial from derailing and she kept fucking pushing.

“It’s a pretty weird feeling,” she replied. “I guess.”

She really, really pisses me off actually. Honestly, something about these ruins and her do feel—similar.

What the hell is that about?

“Nanami-san can be sharp sometimes,” Komaeda said cheerily. “Meanwhile, Matsuda-kun is almost too sharp for his own good.”

Urgh. Again with those words. It was either an unfortunate coincidence or the universe’s idea of a shitty fucking joke to have those words thrown back at him. Togami had said it. During that damn party.

People really are so fucking useless sometimes, especially when they’re trying to do everything.

Nanami didn’t look at him the way Togami did. Not expectant, not suspect, not even with a sliver of restrained interest. Nanami’s gaze remained unstirred, and it really was beyond fucking creepy.

“She can also be narcoleptic,” Matsuda pointed out, averting his gaze with a huff. “How are we supposed to trust that she won’t just fall asleep and die choking on dust after we leave?”

“I won’t do that,” she said. “Probably.”

That’s not very reassuring.

“She said she won’t,” Komaeda said. “Probably.”

What was I expecting again?

“I still have some energy packets,” Nanami went on. “If I take them, will you hurry up and leave?”

“Urgh.”

“Let’s go, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda said. “We’ll look around later.”

He’s clearly not going to get anywhere.

“Mmgh.”

Nanami’s cheeks puffed.

Do you not want us looking around at all?

“Whatever,” he grumbled. “If both the zombie gamer and the demented dandelion say it’s fine, I guess it’s fucking fine. We’re going, then.”

Komaeda nodded, skipping after him after waving goodbye.

“Good luck, Nanami-san.”

He glanced back only briefly to see if Nanami waves back. She doesn’t. She just stands there and stares.

He ended up looking away quickly, turning his gaze forward.


“Ooh! A library! What a magnificent size, too!”

“Yeah...magnificent. I’m glad this stupid fucking island has a goddamn library next to the weird-ass ruins.”

“The selection must be vast! From mystery novels to medical texts to manga!”

“Then what are we waiting for? Hurry up. God, you’re so slow.”

“A-Ah, I’m hurrying, Matsuda-kun!”

The library almost looked like a university-level one. It must have been old, although compared to the ruins... Really, he just questioned the placement of it being so close by. Maybe it’s for when people were investigating the ruins and they needed somewhere close by to store their findings?

Or something.

When Matsuda pushed open the door, Komaeda immediately skipped in, delighted with everything he saw.

“It really is marvelous! It’s even bigger than the one at my parents’ house! There’s so many books, Matsuda-kun!”

Not as many as I expected, actually, Matsuda thought. No protruding shelves. Just desks and that stupid fucking security camera. The interior of this place really is weird.

For what it was worth, there was a shitton of books, each one slotted into the wall. There were two floors, only for the sake of being able to shelf more books on the wall from the looks of it. The second ‘floor’ was more of a pathway. The interior of this place was really fucking weird.

They also weren’t alone. Sonia seemed engrossed in some magazines and Pekoyama glanced at both of them, mostly at Komaeda. Unsurprisingly. Matsuda looked at him as well, grimacing as Komaeda cheerfully gallivanted about.

That dumbass seems happy, at least.

Matsuda paused when he noticed the eyesore of a proud Monokuma statue atop the pedestal...and also the smashed statue of Usami before she was Monomi on the ground. Scribbled on and in pieces, it almost looked more pitiful than how the actual thing turned out.

And this didn’t get cleaned up? Guess the fucker considers it an accomplishment.

It wasn’t the only statue like this. There were at least four statues propped up, each with a cocky Monokuma standing tall over a broken Usami. Great. Even the fucking library was tainted by bullshit.

“They even have cooking books!” Komaeda exclaimed. “I wonder what else... Oh! A travel brochure!”

Cooking books might be helpful for later, but right now...

Matsuda exhaled, going over and peering at said brochure over Komaeda’s shoulder.

Welcome to Jabberwock Island,” he read dully. “You guys are welcome! Weird how I don’t feel the slightest bit of gratitude.”

“It’s in English,” Komaeda remarked. “I guess that makes sense, considering the namesake. But...” He flips through. “It says this place is a popular resort among the rich. Togami-kun mentioned he heard of it earlier—is this why? A lot else fits the description he gave.”

He was also being cagey about it. I wonder if there’s more to it.

“Hmm?” Komaeda perked up, reading it over a couple more times. “What’s this?”

“Hmm?” Matsuda pulled the other closer, trying to get a better look. “What’s what?”

“A-Ah, Matsuda-kun! Careful!”

Matsuda snatched the pamphlet from his hand. He scanned it quickly.

Welcome to Jabberwock Island.
You guys are welcome!

Jabberwock Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean.
It is worthy to be called the island and the scenic tropical paradise.

Around the small island where is central in the Jabberwock Island;
it is an archipelago consisting of five islands around it.

The five islands are developed as a resort area shared.
There is the big building where administrations gather in the central island.
A bronze statue representing the island is put on the top floor.

Matsuda blinked. Once. Twice.

“...there wasn’t any administrative building on the central island. What the hell is up with this false advertising?”

“Yes, I thought it was strange myself,” came the soft remark behind them. A pause. When they look back, Sonia softly gasps. “Oh. I do apologize for intruding. Matsuda-san, Komaeda-san, it is good to see you doing well.”

“Greetings, Sonia-san,” Komaeda returned cheerily. To Sonia’s credit, she retained her polite smile. Matsuda, grimacing, flipped through the pamphlet himself. “So you’ve seen this, too?”

“It is strange, isn’t it,” she said, pursing her lips. “In addition to the lack of administrative building, there are other discrepancies.”

She’s right. It also mentions the use of a ferry service to travel between islands instead of bridges. In fact, according to this, the construction of bridges was explicitly prohibited due to potential damage of the environment.

“I thought perhaps it was an old pamphlet,” Sonia murmured. “But...”

It looks recently printed.

“Matsuda-san, Komaeda-san,” she says, sterner than before. “Monokuma had told me something quite odd when I and Hinata-san inquired."

Hinata was poking around earlier? I would hope that hapless dumbass didn’t need a princess to read.

“What did he say, Sonia-san?” Komaeda asked.

“He said that if it were the work of that certain group then even artificial islands would be possible.” Sonia’s frown deepened. “A certain group rivaling in power to...”

Novoselic royalty, the Kuzuryuu Gang, or the Togami conglomerate. Earlier we pondered about that. Obviously, Monokuma would’ve eavesdropped.

Komaeda hummed. “So like Palm Jumeirah?”

“Exactly like Palm Jumeirah!” Sonia exclaimed. “Komaeda-san, you’re aware of it as well?!”

“Ah, yeah...”

If it were artificial, that would explain the absolute sense of control on display. However, there are still many ways that doesn’t make any sense. For example, why Jabberwock Islands? Why not an entirely new location?

Thinking this hard about it gave him a headache.

“Monomi also said that she had this library built for the sake of studying,” Sonia went on. “Is that not also strange?”

...that fucking rabbit said a lot of things.

“Is that so?” Komaeda asked cheerfully. “This is quite a curious situation, isn’t it?”

“It is quite the hefty inquiry,” Sonia sighed. “But, considering those involved, perhaps it is best to not ponder too deeply.”

“That might be true, but it’s still something to keep in mind,” Komaeda chirped. “After all, it’s not very hopeful to keep your eyes and ears closed to every bit of information just because the source is a little suspect. As Ultimates, you’ll discover the truth, I’m sure of it.”

Just like that, Sonia’s face fell and twisted with discomfort. Matsuda elbowed Komaeda sharply, earning a light yelp. Komaeda, of course, was just confused about that, but he had an accepting smile all the same.

He didn’t say anything wrong per say, but given the circumstances of what happened recently, he’s not the one who should be wording it like that.

“Let’s take it with a grain of salt for now. If we find any evidence supporting the claim, we should look a bit more into it,” Matsuda said. “Sometimes, things just need to be temporarily put on the backburner to move forward.”

“Oh, yes, I agree!” Sonia perked right back up. “Let us move on for now! Onto more cheerful topics!”

That’s not really moving forward. But, actually...

He did notice something—odd about the magazine in Sonia’s hands. She had been reading it before butting in on their conversation, presumably. The language, it was—

Is that...Spanish?

Well. He shouldn’t be surprised a princess was multilingual. He shouldn’t be surprised something like that was in this library, considering Jabberwock was a resort. Still—the cover was rather off-putting, with blurred pictures of strung up bodies. He knew some level of Spanish, not much. However, if he had to guess, one particular phrase was—

Mysteries of the Occult? The dedicated section of this issue is... Series Assessment? No, assessment wouldn’t work.

“Ah.” Komaeda swallowed and cleared his throat. “Sonia-san... Is that issue about...serial killers?”

The fact that Komaeda seemed kinda uncomfortable spoke volumes.

“You could tell! I just knew we shared this interest, Komaeda-san!” Sonia squealed. “Fascinating, isn’t it?! Ooh, can you read it?!”

“A little, but not much...” Komaeda trails off. “But I’ve heard about Genocider Syo in the news, aha. I recognize their handiwork on the cover.”

“Right! Isn’t it fascinating?!” Sonia exclaimed. Komaeda was looking towards Matsuda as if pleading for aid. Matsuda just stared back, unmoved as Sonia grew more frenzied. “A praiseworthy symbol of our current generation! Supposedly, they wear the sailor uniform of either a high school or middle school girl! So do be forewarned!”

“Ah, yes, I see.” Komaeda nodded feebly. “You have quite...distinct tastes, Sonia-san.”

I know one high school girl we should probably avoid from now on. Shame, too, she was one of the more tolerable ones before, but... Yeah.

Someone who got excitable over true crime—maybe not the kind of person he should let his guard down around.

“She was babbling about it earlier to Hinata, as well,” Pekoyama said, almost sympathetically. “I suppose she does not have many people to...share her interests with.”

“Oh. Really, now?”

Considering how Pekoyama also butted in without making a sound up until now, he shouldn’t let his guard down around her either.

Sonia was now ranting about someone called Kirakira-chan, something about masks, something about justice, just so much that just made Matsuda wish he could be relaxing and reading manga in this damn library rather than—whatever the hell this is.

“It is rather unsettling, isn’t it,” Pekoyama murmured. “Even Komaeda looks disturbed.”

Komaeda was still smiling, nodding along politely, but he was paling more and more by the second. At this rate, he was going to collapse. As funny as that would be in terms of irony, it’d be a hassle for him, so...

“We’re going to keep investigating,” he finally cuts in, pulling Komaeda back by the hood. Sonia blinked at him several times—the picture of abject innocence.

“Oh. Right.” She smiled brightly with so much poise that it was a little terrifying. “Continue on. I did so enjoy this conversation. We should do it again, Komaeda-san.”

“Maybe not,” Matsuda said, covering Komaeda’s mouth before he could answer. “I have to keep an eye on him at all hours the second he steps outside. I’m really not that into your serial killer fetish. Try someone else like...that gremlin in the kimono. She might be interested.”

“You really think so?!” Sonia seemed so hopeful that it was almost disgusting. “Then I will discuss this with Saionji-san as soon as I see her!”

Right. Best of luck.” He shuddered at the hot puff of air against his hand and pinched Komaeda’s cheek in irritation. “We should be going.”

“Oh. Wait.” Sonia held up a hand, expression now much more serious than before. “I deeply apologize. I got caught up and did not ask before, but—Matsuda-san. How did you get hurt?”

Pekoyama shot him a meaningful glance from over Sonia’s shoulder. Komaeda was quiet. Matsuda grit his teeth.

“What of it?”

“As a class, I would like for us to all get along,” Sonia said serenely. “More so now under these—circumstances. If there is quarreling amongst our peers, especially if it results in acts of violence, I do not think I can simply turn a blind eye.”

“How gallant!” Komaeda exclaimed. “As expected of the noble Ultimate Princess!”

Sonia’s lips twisted and twitched, but she focused her stare on Matsuda, so intent that he couldn’t really snub it.

That’s... Ultimate something, alright. Still. You weren’t willing to step up before. You’re shaking a little, princess.

“It was a disagreement, but it’s been settled now.” Koizumi’s already going to scold him. He’d probably die if the fucking princess joined in. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Really?” Sonia’s brow furrowed. “I do remember Souda-san acting...rather strange this morning.”

He’s definitely going to die. Hope that doesn’t constitute as trial worthy.

“It’s been settled. Don’t worry.” With that, he yanks Komaeda away. “Well then. See ya.”

“Oh, yes. See you two.”

Komaeda waved cheerily. Sonia was probably waving too, just to be polite. Pekoyama—well, Matsuda could still feel her boring stare and he decidedly still didn’t like it.

Urgh.

“Sonia-san really is kind, isn’t she?” Komaeda chirped. “She’s so kind!”

And despite that...

“Her interests are unconventional and honestly kind of alarming, but,” Matsuda had to sigh. “Yeah. She is.”


Upon seeing the pharmacy, Matsuda immediately perked up. It looked tacky but—a pharmacy. The island had a pharmacy.

Ah. Right.

“You don’t have your medical records on you, do you?” Matsuda asked, biting the inside of his cheek. “Of course not, who would just carry that around...”

“I do have the medication that I was prescribed before coming here,” Komaeda said serenely. “I know what to look for.”

Oh. Huh.

“That’s...really good, actually, even if I’d also like some paperwork.” Still, what would be really ideal is being able to run tests myself. The brochure did say there was a hospital—but it wasn’t on this island, was it? “Mm.”

That rabbit...can she really take down those Monobeasts without any powers? On the off chance it really isn’t an act and she is trying to work against Monokuma... Urghhhh. I hate having to ask incompetent things for help, but...

Matsuda hissed.

“Matsuda-kun?” Komaeda pokes his shoulder curiously. “You’re making a rather scary face but seem to be in a lot of thought!”

“Yeah, standing here and mentally agonizing over matters isn’t going to help,” Matsuda sighed. “Especially since that asinine lapin just shows up whenever the hell she feels like it.”

“What are you talking about, Matsuda-kun?”

“Nothing, nothing.” He waves Komaeda off before finally dragging him into the building. “You said you know your prescriptions? Go grab them so that I can take a look.” He shoved him forward. “Hurry up.”

Komaeda stumbled but obediently nodded.

“Sure thing, Matsuda-kun!”

There were rows and rows of the expected products from medicine to ointment to even detergent. Well-stocked, if nothing else, with a light neon blue glow about the place. There was a low hum from the vents and heavy breathing from the girl ogling the various needles.

Oh great.

“Uwah.” Tsumiki giggles, giddy and euphoric as she cups her cheeks. “Uwawawawa.”

“You seem to be in a good mood, Tsumiki-san,” Komaeda observed, showcasing the preservation instincts of a stupid, half-suicidal chihuahua.

“Y-Yes!” she gasped. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”

Matsuda moved towards Komaeda quickly, eyeing Tsumiki warily but keeping a straight face.

While I can trust someone like this to collaborate during a murder investigation where both of us are at risk... She’s still someone to keep an eye on.

Especially since Tsumiki seemed to be getting really worked up.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yesyesyes!”

To the point where her face was turning almost as purple as her hair.

“Deep breaths, you,” Matsuda muttered. “Inhale, exhale.”

She breathed in deeply and wheezed.

“I-I’m sorry, I started hyperventilating.” She swallowed, and she was still panting, hands clasped and fingers tense. “I-It’s just... To be acknowledged...when before I’m used to being either neglected or disdained.”

“Oh, I could never!” Komaeda seemed affronted at the idea. “For menial, wretched, rancid trash like me to even think of treating an Ultimate so cruelly—!”

“N-No, it’s okay,” she stammers and looks near tears. “I-I really am negligible and gross and unsightly and creepy and—”

“That’s untrue! I’m the one who’s base, despicable, repugnant, contemptible—!”

The sleeping pills here were much stronger than the ones at the supermarket.

That was just a thing Matsuda happened to notice.

The painkillers were top-notch, too, for better or worse. There were varied bottles of medicine, some with far bolder labels than what was usually seen on the market. Imported, probably.

Those two were still fucking going at it.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry—”

“Someone like me—”

Do both of them need muzzles?

“I thought I told you to grab some things,” Matsuda cut in, covering Komaeda’s mouth to silence him. “Did you fucking forget? Hop to it before I carve reminders into your hand.”

“M-Mm!” Komaeda nodded and Matsuda not too gently pushed him off in the necessary direction. “Right, right!”

“Grab some things?” Tsumiki blinks a few times, showing her teeth in dismay. “Why? I-Is Komaeda-san...sick?”

There was a gleam in her gaze that sent very untrustworthy shivers down Matsuda’s spine.

“That’s confidential,” Matsuda said simply, waving his hand. “As in a need to know basis and you don’t need to know. I’ll be handling it. Don’t worry about it.”

“O-Oh. I... I see. Then...” Tsumiki picks at her bandages. “H-He really is sick.”

 “You’re not a nurse but you seem to know your way around,” he remarked coolly. “Well, that’s an Ultimate for you.”

Of course, I had no delusions that I could get away with lying to someone like this.

“I... I’m pretty knowledgeable I think. N-Not that I’m bragging to someone like you, of course!” She trembled, pulling at her hair. Matsuda grimaced briefly before the expression quickly dropped as Tsumiki rambled on. “I-I... I’m pretty familiar with most injuries...various treatments... B-Because I’ve been hurt...in all sorts of ways.”

“That’s...unfortunate to hear even if it’s convenient for us.” Ever brutally honest, Matsuda shrugged. “Still, it’d be unreasonable to expect so much from someone who’s never been to medical school.”

Tsumiki makes a distressed whine.

“Um, but... B-But... I-I can be...really helpful.” She doesn’t look at him as she insists. “I can administer many kinds of treatments... O-Oh, and shots! Lots of shots!”

“Shots, huh,” Matsuda droned. “So that makes you more licensed than any basic idiot with a first aid kit, at least.”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, flushed. “S-So even if I’m me, you should still...r...rely on me... Especially...if you get into scrapes.”

Now that she was staring at him, her gaze was as intense as it was hopeful. Like a desperate child begging for a playmate. As much as Matsuda would love to relax, he really, really couldn’t.

“Right... If I get a paper cut or into another scrape, I’ll think about letting you know.”

“Aha...” Tsumiki swallows before she laughs into her hand. “Actually... Your bandaging work, Matsuda-san...a-and the confidence you speak with about these things... It’s elegant...and admirable. I-I know I must disgust you, but... I-I really, really do think that, and, um... Um...” She trails off, vibrating like glass before it shattered. “I... I... I also...r...re...”

Ooh, this is dangerous.

“All I really care about is professionalism and competency, nothing else, so...” Matsuda thinks it over for a moment before waving his hand. “Let’s not worry about the other shit.”

I may be a neurologist, but I would make for a shitty fucking therapist.

“O-Okay.” Tsumiki weakly nods. “Still, um. If you get injured in a place that’s hard to reach...or need any shots... I’m here.” She does smile at that, tittering. “I-I’ll give you all the care and shots that you need, promise. A-And if you need any help with Komaeda-san, then...”

“I just fucking said not to worry about that.”

He didn’t even miss a beat. She blinked at him owlishly, eyes growing ever wider. The tension in the air was palpable and Matsuda wasn’t even looking at her.

“Why are you so slow?” he seethed, his attention now elsewhere. “Oi, dumbass, we have other places to be.”

“Sorry, sorry!” Komaeda chirped, skipping to him with arms full of medication bottles. “It was a bit tricky but I think I found everything.”

“We can come back later if you haven’t,” Matsuda huffed. “I’ll carry what doesn’t fit in your pockets. Let’s hurry.”

“Right, right, oh, but...” Komaeda smiles past him at her. “Tsumiki-san, don’t let Matsuda-san’s harsh words get to you! While he works on furthering his talent, you work on yours! The others really are blessed to have both of you!”

“Um...” Tsumiki nodded, albeit hesitantly. “Okay. Sure.” Her mind seemed to be elsewhere. “Actually, it would be better, wouldn’t it...to not worry about the things that Matsuda-san worries about...”

“Come on,” Matsuda urged, grabbing Komaeda’s hood. “You’re so fucking slow. I said to hurry.”

“Sorryyyy, Matsuda-kun!”

“You’re not even being sincere, you prick. Don’t apologize with such an inane fucking smile.”

“Ahahaha, sorry, sorry!”

“Urgh, you don’t listen at all, do you...”

Tsumiki silently watched the two banter on their way out. She busied herself once more with the drugstore inventory, giggling quietly as she did.

Matsuda glanced back briefly but quickly shook his head.

I have enough on my plate.


“It’s about lunchtime, don’t you think?”

“We had a late breakfast, didn’t we?”

“What’s your point?”

The next stop was a diner with a spinning tacky sign of a stylized pig next to it. Matsuda could just feel the smell of the grease and he couldn’t deny being a little interested. Although the parking lot was a bit of a strange addition. He hasn’t seen a single automobile since he got here.

And that’s—a little shady. Shadier than a random-ass diner on nowhere island inhabited by mostly jobless high school students and two shitty mascots.

Still. He’s craving a burger.

It can’t be worse than hospital food.

Except of all fucking people, Kuzuryuu was already there enjoying a burger with fries. Kuzuryuu was also eyeing a picture with a rather troubled expression.

The interior of the diner was classy and agreeable. But when Kuzuryuu noticed them and glared, snarling at them, Matsuda decidedly felt unwelcome.

“Can’t a guy fucking eat in peace?! Get lost! Just looking at both of you makes me fucking ill!”

Komaeda laughed quietly.

“Kuzuryuu-kun looks murderous,” he says, sounding less disproving of that than he should’ve been. “We probably ought to leave him alone.”

“Oh wow, sometimes you do have good suggestions,” Matsuda replied, eyes slightly wider. “Impressive. Keep up the basic survival instincts, Komaeda Nagito and things might not be the absolute worst.”

“What stupid shit are you yammering on about?” Kuzuryuu grumbled. “Also, what the hell...are you fucking babysitting that freak?”

“Rather curious, aren’t you?” Matsuda asked, turning to him. Kuzuryuu balked, but Matsuda just continued, “You’re not worried, are you?”

“Get fucking real, like I give a damn.” Kuzuryuu snorted, shrugging his shoulders. “If you want to limit your chance of survival by associating with that fucking lunatic, then go right on ahead.”

“Matsuda-kun really shouldn’t concern yourself with me, you’re right,” Komaeda agreed easily. “But Matsuda-kun is rather stubborn and driven.”

“Is he?” Kuzuryuu quirked a brow. “He’s also really fucking stupid, evidently.”

Right now, Matsuda was a little unimpressed.

“Because nothing says intelligent like making toothless threats and acting like a lone wolf pup,” he snarked. “Great. Wow. So enlightened to hear your educated thoughts on the matter.”

Kuzuryuu’s eyes flashed dangerously.

“You want a fucking welt to match the other side of your face?” he growled. “Is that it? Are you fucking suicidal? Is that it?”

“H-Hey now,” Komaeda waves his hands, frowning. “There’s no need for that...”

“You’re the one more concerned with maintaining a tough guy image over all else, even when it makes you a liability,” Matsuda pointed out. “How many times do I have to say it? Are you just dense?”

Watch it.”

“Both Togami and Hanamura ended up getting themselves killed in part because they kept shit to themselves, y’know.”

No,” Kuzuryuu shot back. “It was because those two were fucking stupid enough to concern themselves with other people instead of minding their own damn business. As I said, you’re putting yourself in danger right now by being around that fucking guy.”

“If I left Komaeda Nagito alone, that’d make it real easy for you to kill him.” Matsuda saw Kuzuryuu stiffen, and his cool blue eyes narrowed sharply. “Isn’t it better to keep an eye on him so that doesn’t happen?”

Komaeda hummed as the two glared at each other. Sparking friction in the air with enough heat to cause a sudden fire right there in the diner. Komaeda looked between them, and then, a breeze fluttered through the open window and swept away the picture in Kuzuryuu’s hand.

Kuzuryuu immediately jolted, but Matsuda was quick to catch it before it flew out the door.

“Give that back,” Kuzuryuu hissed, furious beyond words.

Matsuda glanced at it idly. At the image of a golden-haired girl sticking her tongue at the camera with an annoyed Kuzuryuu beside her. He hands it over wordlessly and Kuzuryuu snatches it.

“You have a sister,” Matsuda said, unaffected. “She looks a lot more capable.”

“Not another fucking word.” A pause. Stuffing the picture back into his pocket, Kuzuryuu then huffed. “She is more capable. So, I’m not fucking worried about her or anything like that.”

“Huuuuh.”

“Even if I don’t return, the Kuzuryuu family will manage without fail because she can take charge,” Kuzuryuu went on, nose in the air. “That’s fine by me. I don’t need to be relied on—and I don’t need to rely on others, either. I can do fucking whatever on my own.”

Matsuda said nothing and when Kuzuryuu looked at him, his stare darkened.

“Just seeing your fucking snobbish face really does make me sick,” he snapped and then pushed past, elbowing Matsuda sharply as he does. “Never mind all that. I lost my appetite.”

Matsuda grunted a little in pain, rubbing his stomach as he bitterly watched the other stomp off.

“The weight of the yakuza is a heavy one,” Komaeda said, lightly as always. “And pride can be such a precious thing.”

“Coming from you,” Matsuda retorted. “Doesn’t make it less of a hassle to deal with.”

That guy—hopefully, reputation alone can keep his ass from getting killed.

His stomach growled, and he noted that Kuzuryuu’s burger was largely unfinished. Well, it was just bad practice to waste food. But also, ew. Fries. He wasn’t in the mood for fries. Too—deep crispy.

“Oi.” He waved Komaeda over. “You take those. I don’t want them.”

“Oh, thank you!” Komaeda beamed. “I do rather like salty food!”

“Of course you do.”

For now, perhaps the two of them could enjoy the remnants of a meal in some semblance of peace.

But not likely for long.


“They have sodas here, too. Guess we should grab one while we’re here.”

“A drink would complete this meal, wouldn’t it? Aha.”

“Right. Any preferences? And don’t fucking say ‘I’m fine with whatever’, ‘don’t even concern yourself with my meager needs’, or anything of the sort. Or else. I’ll twist your ears.”

“Scary!”

“Do you have any preferences or not?”

“Mm... Do they have Blue Ram?”

“The anti-energy drink?”

“It calms me down! Right now, I’m way too excited, Matsuda-kun! I could end up having a panic attack! Haha!”

“...”

Matsuda retrieves the soda from the fridge without another word. For himself, he grabbed an actual energy drink. He sets the Blue Ram in front of Komaeda, popping open his own can with a scowl. He poured an energy packet into it and downed it along with some pills.

“Mm...” Komaeda sips almost demurely. “Matsuda-kun, you’re quite the distinct character, aren’t you? Such a standout. The complete opposite of someone like me.”

“You should probably take your pills, too,” Matsuda recalled, standing back up. “I’ll get you a cup of water. Or take them with your soda. Who cares, I don’t.”

He says that but he fills a cup anyway. The temperature is lukewarm and it smells stale in the way only dispenser water could. He places it on the table and sits down. He tosses his can in the trash with a flick of his wrist.

Komaeda smiles amiably, opening one particular pill bottle and taking them with the water.

“Vitamins might not be too bad either,” Matsuda muttered. “But they don’t really help when taken with soda.”

“I’m aware, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda replied. “I’ve been sick for a while, even if it hasn’t always been to this degree.”

“Yeah. Alright.” I don’t doubt it. That doesn’t make me less annoyed. “You know—things are only going to be more difficult for you from here on out.”

“Hmm?”

Komaeda perks up, eyes bright and inquisitive. It really, really annoyed him.

“The others fucking hate you and it’s not just because of what you did and what happened.” Although those are major factors. I still kind of hate you for what you did and what happened even though I know damn well it wasn’t your fault nor even your intention. For the most part. “Both Hanamura and Togami sealed their fates by choosing to act a certain way but they’re dead and you’re still here. That makes you the easiest scapegoat.”

Komaeda’s smile just widens. Matsuda growls.

“Of course—you invited their fucking disdain. Because you’re that self-destructive and self-loathing.” For all of the smiles and calm and easygoing laughter, he can still tell that Komaeda is unhappy with their current arrangement. Komaeda’s fingers are tense and sometimes he fidgets. Sometimes the edges of that soft smile were straining. Other times Komaeda seems antsy enough that he’s a hair’s width away from just bolting. Matsuda sighs, shaking his head. “It’s not going to make things simpler on them, you know. It’s a distraction. From the real singular enemy.”

“I certainly don’t mean to distract anyone!” Komaeda chirped. “I want to support everyone in whatever way I could! And, well, if that results in me being hated, that’s alright. It’s more than what I deserve either way. That said...” He trails off, pursing his lips. “A distraction—that really is a problem. I don’t want that. I really should hurry up and get killed.”

Matsuda sighed again, much harder and heavier than before.

“Tough luck there. I’m not going to let you get killed by anyone or anything.”

He has half a mind to whap Komaeda with a book and almost does. But that’d be counterproductive. Hitting Komaeda would be like hitting a dog or a kid. It could have been satisfying, but still completely and utterly unhelpful.

And even if I did, I would just feel like shit afterward.

Komaeda still laughs. Lightly. Brightly. Innocently. Ignorantly.

“Mind you,” Matsuda cuts in, aggravated. “Shit was already going to be fucking difficult. Everyone on this island is a goddamn yahoo.”

Case in point, there was a scream somewhere outside. Neither of them even flinched.

“Ah. Was that Mioda-san?”

“Punkcore? Probably. Must be practicing.”

“She sounded distressed, Matsuda-kun.”

“That’s just how all heavy metal sounds.”

“Hmm.” Komaeda sips once more at his drink. “I wonder if it is.”

“Finish your damn soda.”

“Mm, kay.”

Matsuda did look at the monitor wedged into the upper ceiling corner of the diner. Tacky fucking yellow clashing with the cosmopolitan.

He gave it a few minutes, listening to Komaeda gulp and then pull back likely because drinking too fast made his throat sting.

Gulp.

Gulp.

Gasp.

Gulp.

Gulp.

Pwah.”

Nothing from the screen.

Thank fucking god.

“We really should check on Mioda-san,” Komaeda said once he was finished. “Just to make sure.”

“I guess.” He really didn’t want to. “Mmgh.”

Komaeda giggled.

“Come on, Matsuda-kun.”

“Ugh.”

He still went, leaving the nicely air-conditioned sanctity of the diner.


There was a billboard that read Chandler Beach and a tunnel that supposedly lead to it. From that tunnel limped someone haggard and bloodied but radiating a wicked energy.

Owari Akane, grinning like a maniac and ironically dropping that smile the second she saw Komaeda.

Urgh, who the hell invited you?”

“We were all trapped on this island against our will,” Matsuda said, unimpressed. “Did you forget that part? Wouldn’t surprise me if you did.”

Owari scoffed.

“You seem rather roughened up,” Komaeda observed, unaffected by her darkened glare. “Nidai-kun, perhaps?”

“H’d ya know...? Yeah, yeah.” She nodded all the same. “It was him. Kicked my ass real good, yeah. Damn near knocked me out.”

“Doubt he knocked any sense into you,” Matsuda muttered. “Lemme guess—you started it.”

“I lost real bad this time, but next time...!” Owari chuckled to herself again, cracking her knuckles. “I’ll win for sure. Until then.” She pointed at Komaeda. “Stay the hell out of my way. Just looking at your mug puts me in a bad mood.”

“Ehe, understood.”

She hardly seemed happy with that response even as she did perk up.

“Oh, yeah. Also Katsu?”

Matsuda quirked an eyebrow.

“If ya wanted to get into a scrape, ya should’ve asked me!” she exclaimed. “I would’ve been more than happy! But you definitely would’ve gone down in one punch. Still.”

That’s the most innocuous way someone has told me they wanted to hit me.

“Tsumiki’s back at the pharmacy, y’know building right? It’s after you pass the diner. She’ll be happy to treat your injuries,” he said, waving his hand. “Get going. The salt in the air’s going to make them sting.”

Owari grumbled.

“...not gonna give up...won’t ever give up...”

With that, she pushed her way on through, pumping her fists and nearly falling over. Matsuda watched her go coolly before indicating to Komaeda that they needed to keep walking. The two of them crossed the tunnel and it wasn’t too long until they reached the beach.

Mioda was still fluttering about Nidai, eyes wide as he rubbed his hand. Nidai looked considerably exhausted compared to Mioda bouncing about. And then he immediately tensed as Mioda yelped.

“KYAAAAAA! It’s Yasuke-chan and crazy Nagito-chan!!”

“Hello to you as well, Mioda-san,” Komaeda greeted. “And Nidai-kun.”

“He’s GREETING me?! Like a normal person?!?!”

“Oi, oi, you’re the one fucking screaming like a nutcase,” Matsuda griped. “And without even saying hi. That’s just fucking rude.”

“Oof! Yasuke-chan’s sharp enough to go stabby-stabby!” Mioda did give Komaeda a quick and uneasy glance before looking back at Matsuda, eyes wide and pleading. “While that could increase compatibility, mmgh...”

What is she talking about now?

Nidai was very pointedly not looking at either of them. Komaeda kept on smiling like an idiot. Matsuda grumbled, scratching his scalp.

“I’ll be keeping a look on Komaeda Nagito from now on. You haven’t heard?” He shrugs as Mioda’s jaw dropped. “Well. Now you know.”

“Yasuke-chan with his piercing words and eyes has agreed to tame a beast! Ooh!” Clasping her hands, her eyes glittered with stars. “That’s so cool! The perfect protégée to our dearly beloved, departed Byakuya-chan!”

That did get Matsuda stiffening.

“...it’s nothing like that.” He almost didn’t hear himself. “It’s not...anything like that.”

While I do care that Togami died to protect this guy, my motives aren’t that inspired. And I’m nothing like him. I’m not someone who’s going to put on a self-assured act because I have nothing else going for me. I’m not going to make grandiose promises I can’t fucking keep to people I barely fucking know. While I definitely need to control these idiots, I’m not cut out to be a leader.

That just wasn’t his character. Someone like him rallying the others? Even if it was under false pretenses, even if he could bullshit his way to victory—there’s just no way he’d bother.

“Awww, so tsun!” Mioda cooed. “Kyaaaa! You might fill in Byakuya-chan’s shoes after all! Yasuke-chan does already have pretty big feet actually.”

And that was one good step on his last nerve.

“Get the hell away from me.”

“Okay!” She saluted. “I’ll leave you to brood! Tame the beast! You’ve got the power and the potential! Just like Akane-chan!”

Finger-gunning, Mioda ran off at that, leaving them all in incredibly awkward and heavy silence. Save for Komaeda, smiling and waving back.

Save for that.

She’s about as deluded as he is. Funny.

Weirdly, the one that was reasonably skeptical was—

“The fact that you were quiet that entire time was so fucking weird.” Nidai almost jumped at being addressed. He was still pointedly looking away as Matsuda’s glare narrowed. “What? No screaming encouragements or any blaring commentary at all? How uplifting.”

“That’s unsightly for the Ultimate Coach!” Komaeda exclaimed. “Nidai-kun, are you quite alright?”

Gritting his teeth, Nidai did meet Matsuda’s gaze for what it was worth.

“So, you really were serious, huh, Matsuda? And you’re sure?”

“That’s such a stupid question,” he snapped. “Just how hard did that bimbo hit you?”

“Ku... Pff.” Nidai rumbled low but somehow still booming laughter. “Owari may not have the technique, but she sure as HELL has the spirit!”

“And you doubt both my technique and spirit?” Matsuda asked scathingly.

Nidai grimaced but it broke into a grin after not too long.

“You KNOW WHAT?! That’s a GOOD POINT!!” He straightened up, rubbing his forehead with a laugh. “If you say you’re sure, you’re definitely sure! That’s the kind of guy you are!”

Matsuda only scoffed.

“I have to say, seeing you exhibit drive and seeing Owari exhibit potential really is all a guy needs to make it through!” Nidai went right back to laughing raucously as he usually did. “It’s SOMETHING ELSE! Gets the adrenaline PUMPING!”

“...right...”

“How exciting!” Komaeda chirped.

“That doesn’t mean I won’t keep an EYE on you,” Nidai hissed, turning to him with nothing short of unbridled fury. “I’ll trust Matsuda but you? Not ONE bit.”

Komaeda kept on smiling.

“Trust between Ultimates is such a beautiful thing. With such wonderful conviction and confidence, there’s no way despair will triumph!”

Nidai gritted his teeth, but that expression relaxed a bit when Matsuda pinched Komaeda’s cheek.

“A-Ah, Matsuda-kuuuun!”

“Don’t make shit so fucking weird. When someone looks at you like that, you should keep your trap shut.”

“Aah...!”

Nidai swallows, rubbing at his nape before shaking his head. He flexes and squeezes his hand.

“Souda should be at the beach house. Hinata’s probably with him. If you’re going to keep investigating and haven’t been there yet... Well.”

“Hinata-kun—ow!?”

“Got it,” Matsuda replied, still tugging on Komaeda’s cheek, making him whine further. “Thanks for solid advice for once.” He paused. “Maybe go ice that hand of yours at the diner or something.”

“Gyahaha! Considered!” Nidai does grin again, even if the edges are still a little stiff. “But I’m not the one with his hands full.”

Matsuda snorted, finally letting go so that Komaeda could rub his now reddened cheek.

“Guess not.”


The beach house was likely to be their final stop on this island. Last but not least. Hopefully.

As soon as he opened the door, he ran smack into Hinata and the two went tumbling down. They were off to a great fucking start.

“A-Ack! Matsuda?!”

“Oof.” He manages to push himself up and off of the other. “Who the hell doesn’t notice when someone else is opening the door?”

“Matsuda-kun, Hinata-kun,” Komaeda said, worriedly offering his hand. “Are you two alright?”

Hinata immediately went rigid, and someone yelped. Matsuda glared at Souda but took Komaeda’s hand without a second thought.

“What are you two idiots gaping at? It’s not like we’re doing anything weird by getting our own look around so there’s no reason for those dead fish faces,” he grumbled, letting himself get pulled back to his feet. “Especially from you. You already fucking knew the situation. My cheek still hurts a little by the way.”

“S-Shut up! Just why did you even...! Ugh!” Souda crossed his arms, fuming. “You’re ruining the atmosphere!”

“What’s he talking about? Is this why he didn’t show up to breakfast?” Hinata asked, swallowing. “Oi, Souda, did you seriously hit him—?”

“S-So what if I did?! He asked for it! And he fucking deserved it—sticking up for that fucking psycho over there!”

“I definitely deserve being hit for my attitude but in that situation, you were the one being a fucking idiot,” Matsuda shot back. “Let’s not mince words here.”

“S-Shut uuuup! Seriously why did you have to come here now?!”

“Q-Quit arguing, both of you,” Hinata managed. “I don’t know what’s going on but whatever it is—”

“Ah. Hinata-kun.”

Just like that, Hinata’s throat ran dry.

“Do you also need help up?” Komaeda asks him worriedly. When Hinata finally looks at him, it’s as if all color drains from his face and Komaeda’s frown deepens. “Hinata-kun?”

Hinata scrambles to his feet, recoiling as he did. Matsuda stops, as does Souda.

“L—Let’s just go.” Hinata’s shaking voice rose just a little. “I don’t want to be here anymore either.”

Hinata shoves his way past Komaeda, not looking at either of them. Souda hurriedly chases his lead.

“Y-Yeah! Let’s go!”

Souda slams the door shut behind him...and that was that.

That was that. Things were quiet in the beach house now, sunlight filtering through the windows, dark shadows cast, and Matsuda scratches his bandaged cheek.

“Oh.” Komaeda exhales. “Hinata-kun really does hate me.”

“The first cut is the deepest,” Matsuda muttered, rubbing at his nape. “It can’t be helped.”

He gets a look around the interior now that there aren’t any distractions. There’s not much to look at. Nor much going on.

There were shelves stocking drinks, including water and canned coffee—but also a bunch of nasty shit that the diner mercifully lacked. A trashcan. Riveting. A bench. He kind of dug that even if the placement of it between the drinks and storage closet wasn’t the greatest. The chair and table wicker set by the window was a lot more convenient.

Whatever.

There also was a shower room. A broken shower room.

So, aside from the drinks that are inferior to the diner’s selection and getting out of the sun...this place is pretty much worthless.

“I guess the only plus this place has is its location by the beach,” Matsuda muttered. “Shame because it actually looks pretty nice. I like pattern on the wall and the potted plants, but I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of there being another chandelier...seriously what’s up with that...”

He trails off after a while, noting that Komaeda seems pretty disinterested and—maybe even a little distracted.

“Yeah, there’s really nothing else here.” Matsuda snapped his fingers and Komaeda jolted, wide-eyed but attentive. “So, uh...what now? Any ideas?”

“The others have likely finished investigating by now,” Komaeda said, lips quirking seemingly without a care. As if he hadn’t cared about anything at all. “But if that’s really everything, well... There’s not much left for us to do on our own, is there?”

Matsuda shrugged.

“Guess not.”

The idea of dealing with all of them in one place is a headache. I can barely handle them in increments. Seriously, that Togami willingly took on that duty...even if it was self-serving in addition to altruistic...

Thinking about that wasn’t doing him any favors either.

“...”

Komaeda’s expression hadn’t changed. He was still smiling blankly.

“You know you actually did a pretty shitty idea of looking around,” Matsuda huffed. “Are you just expecting me to do all the work? Really?”

“No, of course not.” Komaeda shook his head. “I’ll look around some more, then! I really don’t mind!”

With an easygoing face and a bounce in his step, Matsuda didn’t doubt it.

“I’m going to look around outside on the beach,” he said. “Don’t leave this spot until I come back, got it?”

“Understood!”

He really didn’t doubt it.

Urgh.


Just what am I going for, again?

The fresh air outside provided no answers. The rolling waves and blinding sun were similarly unhelpful. Matsuda really fucking doubted that anything out here would tell him what he needed to know.

He almost wanted to do something childish and impulsive. Like scream or throw something into the ocean. Something stupid and worthless. Something that proved he really was at the end of his rope already.

But the thing was—he knew he could handle it. That things could get much fucking worse and he would just deal with it. That no matter how much he didn’t want to or how much he hated it—he would manage.

Somehow, that was really what angered him. Just the knowledge that this was something he prepared to deal with. Something like this—an utterly thankless and chaotic situation with no obvious end in sight.

I’ll tolerate all of it...and to what end?

Probably spite, he couldn’t help but sardonically think. It’s what got him this far.

...

...

...

Wasn’t it?

“Mmmm. Matsuda-kun.”

Just as things were blurring together, that drone snapped everything back into aggravating focus. Cursing lowly, Matsuda glanced over his shoulder.

Nanami stood there, hands gripping the straps of her backpack, expression as dull as ever.

“Finished investigating, huh?” he asked, unmoved. “So, does this mean I can get a look at the ruins now?”

“I found something,” she said. “Let’s all look at it together. I already called everyone else...except Komaeda-kun.”

“He’s doing one last sweep of the beach house,” Matsuda replied. “I’ll get him later. Don’t worry about it.”

“Don’t worry, you say... Okay.” She nods. “I guess I won’t, then.”

She says that—but there’s an odd shadow cast over her gaze. It’s strange. And off-putting. For that among other things, Matsuda just scowled.

“You can go now. We’ll catch up.”

“Mmmm.” Nanami does not leave. Instead, she pops her lips. “You seem to be upset with me, Matsuda-kun.”

He twitches. Just a little. “Is that what you really think?”

“Yeah.” She doesn’t even miss a beat, even as her stare is bleary. “I guess I do.”

You guess. He bristles, but huffs, running his fingers through his hair. His eyes sweep down and then back up. Her demeanor really doesn’t give anything away. It’s creepy.

Finally, he just sighs.

I’m not so childish as to hold a grudge over someone giving me a hard time, especially during a high-stress situation. However, someone like this—the fact that I just can’t tell what she’s thinking or feeling is aggravating.

 “...mmgh.”

Because of how that guy was, even if she hadn’t said anything, what he did would’ve come to light sooner or later. Be it him constantly drawing attention to himself—or Hanamura hurriedly throwing it out as a last-ditch effort to dodge suspicion. I can’t blame her too much. Maybe she was aware of that, too—or maybe she fucking wasn’t.

The fact that I just can’t be sure is what really annoys me.

Still.

Still.

“What about you?” he just goes out on a limb and asks directly. “Are you upset?”

She just stares at him.

“It could be about anything,” he explained, irritated. “Like, the trial?”

“The trial,” she says, in a tone that was nothing. Not inquiring, not even probing.

“...” This is looking like a hopeless endeavor. “You could tell that I was covering for Komaeda Nagito. You didn’t seem to approve.”

Even though you yourself said you didn’t think he was the culprit.

“Obscuring information isn’t right,” she said simply. “In trials, we need to seek the truth.”

“Yeah... That’s not actually true.” Matsuda shook his head. “Our priority in those trials is to survive, which isn’t exactly exclusive with having to know everything. Maybe that’d be the case if this were a shitty video game, but it’s not. Thus, if it keeps us off-track even the slightest bit, we don’t need to pay any attention to it.”

Her frown deepened. It was as good a reaction as any.

“That’s how it works in real trials too, y’know,” he went on. “Both prosecutors and attorneys only care about building the best possible case for themselves regardless of the actual situation. Truth, reality, who’s really to blame, if it doesn’t feed into the case, it gets downplayed, ignored, or obscured. The truth doesn’t matter; self-interest does. Such is the case here, too. If the ‘truth’ gets the others confused, disoriented, and even risks total derailment, then is it worth shit? I don’t think so.”

Nanami hums. Her grip on her backpack straps tightens.

“That’s a cold way of looking at things.”

“It’s better than just charging forward recklessly with the flow of information,” Matsuda pointed out. “If Monokuma had listened to those hysterical idiots crying to cast the vote early, wouldn’t that have been the worst-case scenario?”

“That didn’t happen, though,” she said without batting an eyelash. “Matsuda-kun and Tsumiki-san lead us to the actual truth, and Komaeda-kun couldn’t do anything to lead us astray anymore. Shouldn’t we consider that a win?”

A win. A win. Seriously? When someone still had to die?

“Christ, you’re really detached from reality, aren’t you?” he asked, groaning and rubbing at his temple. “Just talking to you gives me a migraine. Do you really not get what I’m saying?”

“Matsuda-kun, I think you’re misunderstanding me.”

“You think?” he repeated. “Are you sure?”

If that’s the case then give me something to work with. Something. Anything.

Her expression did change. Her lips pursed. Her cheeks puffed.

And then, she fucking said, “I think you really should play along better with others, Matsuda-kun. We’re a class. We should work together. Right?”

Seriously? Did she steal that from the fucking rabbit? Of all things?

“I’m just trying to keep everyone alive,” he said sharply. “If you know that, then shouldn’t you work with me?”

“It’s not just about surviving,” she replied. “It’s about getting along, too.”

“Yeah?” He wanted to laugh. “Right, then. Run that by the others in regards to the deranged dandelion puff. Let’s see how far it fucking goes.”

“Komaeda-kun is a separate matter,” she said.

“Right. Right.”

She gives him a meaningful look, which annoyed him. Despite that.

Despite that.

“Look,” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Just this morning, I got into a fight because of two idiots who thought it’d be a great fucking idea to tie that demented troublemaker of a classmate up and leave him for dead. If that’s the kind of camaraderie you’re vouching for, then forgive me for being less than interested.”

I can’t be sure, but all the same...

“I’ll keep the others alive to the best of my ability,” he huffed, looking off towards nothing in particular where only blue was in sight. “From now on, you can just leave everything on that front to me. Anything else—I don’t care.”

“You would say that, huh,” Nanami droned. “How ironic.”

Huh?

“What was that?” He turned back to her; his brow furrowed.

“I didn’t say anything.”

It’s an obvious lie. But the way her eyes bore into him makes him recoil anyway.

Just what the hell?

“Oi, seriously?”

“Seriously,” she replied, unflappable. “Anyway. Um. We should discuss this later. Everyone else is going to be waiting at the ruins. So, you have to come, too.”

Matsuda growled, but, honestly?

“Fine. Sure. We’ll catch up.”

As agitated as he is, he sure as hell isn’t in a mood to just leave shit be.

“Let’s grab Komaeda-kun, then,” she said.

“Sure. Fine.”

Let’s hear what she’s actually fucking willing to talk about.

Chapter Text

Unfortunately, when they got to the ruins, there was something else going on.

“It was uncouth of you to lie about such an incident!”

“I-I didn’t mean to lie, Sonia-san... I-I’m sorry!”

“In a situation like this, isn’t it better to be upfront when you boys get into fights?! What was it that you disagreed about anyway?!”

“Whatever it was... Matsuda was pretty pissed about it.”

“U-Urghhh.”

“It was about how to deal with Komaeda. Souda and I had thought to...”

“H-Hey! Shut up! They don’t need to know about that part!”

“What part?”

“I-It’s not important!”

“Not important? Reeeeeeally? Then why are you sweating so much over it, creep?”

“The perspiration upon thy brow does seem to tell a weightier tale than the fragile words tumbling from the cretin’s trembling lips.”

“B-Because I’m being yelled at over nothing...!”

“You had reacted violently. That is not nothing, Souda-san.”

“S-Sonia-san, I swear! I... I didn’t...”

“Oi, oi.” Matsuda snapped his fingers a few times as they walked up. “What the hell is all this?”

“It’s a fucking ruckus is what it is,” Kuzuryuu griped. “If this is what I got fucking badgered for, someone’s going to fucking die.”

“Oh, no,” Nanami yawned. “It’s not about that. Although arguing like this isn’t good, I think.”

Souda sniffled, pulling down his beanie as if that would consume him and spare him the shame.

“I-I’m the victim here... I swear...”

“The matter’s been settled,” Nidai rumbled. “Right, Matsuda?”

“Yeah, it has.” Matsuda could still see Koizumi giving Souda a stern look, not to mention Saionji snickering at him for sulking. But Sonia perked up as he waved. “I get that everyone’s fucking wound up, but there are more important things.”

“It’s no good to be distracted by trifles of the past,” Komaeda said. Saionji gagged. She wasn’t the only one to be unhappy with him talking with Hinata even blatantly avoiding having to look at him. Admirably, he still went on cheerfully. “Matsuda-kun and Souda-kun’s disagreement was about quite the insignificant matter after all!”

“You were somehow involved,” Pekoyama murmured, eyes narrowing. “Which is not surprising. However, if all involved parties agree that it is no longer worth concern, we should move on.”

“Like to what Chiaki-chan found!” Mioda chirped. “Could it be an escape rooooute?!”

“Um.” Nanami thought it over. “I don’t...think so. It could be. Maybe. But I don’t know.”

“Wow, that’s so fucking helpful,” Matsuda deadpanned. “Great fucking job, space cadet.”

“You don’t need to be like that,” Hinata grumbled. “I guess you’re still in a bad mood. Then again you’re always in a bad mood.”

He glances at Komaeda briefly but before Komaeda can blink, he hurriedly looks away again.

“E-Even if it’s not an escape route,” Hinata adds, stammering now. “It could still help us figure out the deal with this island.”

I guess there’s that.

The others were pretty curious about the ruins, some of them chattering amongst themselves. Koizumi and Sonia were both pondering the shape of it, Saionji and Souda were more interested in asinine shit such as bathing and swimming, and Tanaka was laughing about anguish.

Now that he had the opportunity, Matsuda pushed forward to get a better look at it.

It’s shaped like Hope’s Peak—but more than that, there’s something—

“Something about the building,” Nanami murmurs. “It’s almost unnatural. Dissonant. Like adapting a mystery novel into a side-scroller. Like that.”

“What an interesting comparison, Nanami-san,” Komaeda replied. “Although Hinata-kun still seems confused.”

Matsuda didn’t hear how Hinata responded to that, but by this point, he wasn’t paying attention. He was face to face with a strange door.

Huh?

Big and dusted over so most details were masked, with rotted vines dangling over the sides, even with all that—the shape and design of the door clashed with that of the ruins.

“What is it, Matsuda?” Koizumi asked. “Is that how we get inside?”

“This is not my field, but... I don’t think ruins typically have entryways like this,” Matsuda replied, squinting at it. “With all the dirt and vegetation though, it’s pretty fucking hard to tell what’s up.”

“There is something rather strange about it,” Komaeda agreed. “But it’s just so dusty.”

“If we clean it off, it’ll be more obvious why it’s abnormal,” Nanami said. “At least, I think so.”

“Then why the hell not?” Souda muttered. “What have we got to lose?”

“Let us clean to the most whole!” Sonia exclaimed. Mioda cheers with her. Weirdly, Tanaka’s hamsters also seem enthusiastic about the idea.

“Yeah...” Hinata nods along. “Sure.”

With several hands working on it, it wasn’t long until they uncovered the door completely, wiping away all the grime and pulling out the wilted plants.

What they were left with was a huge metallic door with gleaming blue lights among other contraptions and components.

“That looks more sci-fi than ancient,” Komaeda observed as Matsuda ran his hand over the lettering. “That’s quite unnatural. Literally.”

“Something like that shouldn’t even belong in ruins!” Hinata exclaimed. “What the hell?!”

“W-What does it read?” Tsumiki asks. “That—there’s an inscription on the door. U-Um, is it...?”

“Future.” Matsuda’s brow furrowed. “It looks like it says future. But—it also looks like an insignia.”

“Who even cares about that?!” Kuzuryuu barked. “Is there any way to get inside?!”

Matsuda did see the LCD panel—and he also saw the gun.

“It needs some kind of keycode.” He peers closer, wary of the weapon. “It uses numbers. I can’t even tell how many digits it’s supposed to be. Oi, mechanic guy, can’t you crack it?”

“I’m not a hacker!” Souda yelled. “And quit asking me to do weird shit!”

“It’s not weird, you’re just useless,” Saionji said. “Why do we keep you around again?”

“S-Shut up.”

“If it’s a keycode then all we need to do is guess,” Komaeda chirped. “But that’s not terribly exciting, is it?”

“We could get the jackpot that way,” Kuzuryuu said, but he paused. “Except—is that a fucking gun?”

“I-Is it?!” Mioda gasped sharply. “Whoa, it’s a super cool gun though! Too cool!”

“If that is indeed the case, it means there may be defensive measures in place for those that try to trespass,” Pekoyama said. “In other words, if the wrong code or even the wrong person enters it—the firearm could go off.”

“That is true,” Komaeda agreed. “Even if you have the correct code, if it asks for voice or facial recognition, you’d still be toast!”

“Which means you, in particular, should stay the hell away from it,” Matsuda snapped. “Even if you guessed right, there’s no guarantee you won’t still get shot at.”

“Too bad, I would’ve liked to see that,” Saionji snickered.

“If someone got shot the bits the first thing I’d do is smear their blood on your kimono,” Matsuda replied, making her shriek.

“G-GROSS! The fact that you’d even joke about that is seriously fucking sick!”

“You really shouldn’t joke like that!” Koizumi scolded.

“Puh, puh.”

...but with all that said...

Matsuda bites the inside of his cheek in thought.

This place—there really is something about it. Future. The hotel was also named after the future. Is it connected or a coincidence? I have a weird feeling.

“It is peculiar,” Nanami said. “But it also feels—pretty significant. Like, important.”

“But what’s so important about it?” Hinata wondered.

There was a bounce. And Matsuda didn’t even have to look to know who arrived.

“Um... Mm...”

“Um... Hm...”

Both Monomi and Monokuma stood there, staring up at the door to the ruins with unreadable expressions.

“Is there nothing for you two to say?” Pekoyama asks as Owari smacks her fist into her palm.

“It’s obvious both of ya know something! Hurry up and tell us!”

“N-No.” Monomi was agitated and anxious, not looking at any of them. “S-Sensei doesn’t know a thing. N-Not a thing...”

“Monokuma doesn’t know either.” Monokuma sniffed, turning away. “Nooooo idea.”

“Y-You should focus on other things,” Monomi stammered. “Like strengthening your hopeful bonds...”

“SERIOUSLY?!” Souda yelled. “Like hell we should and like hell you don’t!”

“There was an awful lot of dust,” Saionji remarked. “Were either of you behind that?”

“W-Was it purposeful?” Tsumiki wondered. “I guess...that would make sense...”

“Heeeeey, what fucking gave trash like you the idea that you should comment?” Saionji whirled on her with a cold glare. “Do you need to be put in your place? If not, say sorry!”

“S-Sorry!” she yelped, whimpering. “I-I’m sorry!”

“I can’t heeeeear you!”

“S-SORRRYYYYYY!”

“Hiyoko-chan, she’s sorry,” Koizumi sighs. “Cut her a break.”

Saionji harrumphed as Tsumiki whined into her hands.

“It could be a shelter for the other residents,” Nidai suggested. “That would explain the heavy artillery and defenses.”

“If that’s the case, isn’t it more dangerous for us?” Koizumi asked worriedly.

Thing is, there’s no one else on the island according to Monomi. Matsuda cupped his chin in thought. But something like this—maybe it could lead to the outside world somehow? It’s not impossible. There could be some means of escape.

“Upupupupu.” Monokuma giggled. “The possibilities are endless, aren’t they? But it’s pretty much impossible to confirm any of them. That door’s a bit too thicky. It’s quite sticky for me. Not just physically, upupupu! You’d have to be a real stiffy to counter it!”

“The hell does that even mean?” Owari asked, unimpressed.

“Well, y’see,” Monokuma said. “Neither I or Monomi can squeeze through that door.”

“W-Wait, you too?!” Monomi gasped. “S-So, then...!”

Monokuma silenced her with a harsh wallop to the face. She hit the ground with a cry and was left quietly sobbing.

“With the little sister silenced, allow me to continue. Ahem.” Monokuma coughed a couple of times before belting out loud, uproarious laughter. “Even me and Monomi have no idea what’s beyond that door! Maybe a god mod could, but we’re merely mascots. It truly is Jabberwock’s biggest mysteryyyyy! Try your hardest to solve it, bastards! I have nothing but the highest most unhealthy expectations!”

So, neither of them know.

“Isn’t there already someone who knows?” Kuzuryuu asks, smirking. “Someone this rat already told us about?”

“...rat?”

“You mean about some traitor?” Saionji asks, humming. “That’s what the raccoon said, right?”

“Raccoon?” Monokuma faltered. “H-Hey, while miscalls are cruel, that’s not going to be enough to effectively bully me.”

“Is that so, kitty cat?” Mioda asks.

“U-Upoo...boohoo!”

“Wah, he’s upset!”

“Anyway, if there’s someone who knows anything, it’s gotta be the traitor!” Kuzuryuu asserted. “Like how to open this door—how to escape...”

“Maybe they could lead us to whoever’s behind those two,” Koizumi suggested.

“B-But...” Tsumiki swallows. “Is there...really a traitor?”

“There HAS to be!” Kuzuryuu yelled. “So come the fuck out, you goddamn coward!”

Matsuda rolled his eyes at that.

“T-There’s no traitor!” Monomi cut in desperately. “I-I swear Monokuma just said that to trick all of you—ow!”

Monokuma kicked her harshly.

“It’s reeeeeally cruel to slander your blood, you know.”

“Why don’t you just tell us who it is?” Kuzuryuu asked. “How about that, ya rat?”

This time, Monokuma giggled.

“Is there something humorous you wish to share?” Tanaka asked warily.

“It’s just, upupupu—I wanted to know. You bastards ever heard of The World Destroyers?”

Matsuda perked.

“World Destroyers?” Komaeda echoed.

“Don’t change the fucking subject!” Kuzuryuu exclaimed heatedly. “We’re asking the fucking questions here!”

“Well, I get why you’re so embarrassed, pffft.” Monokuma snorts and keeps on giggling. “I mean, World Destroyers? Seriously? That’s lower than even toddler levels of creativity! But it does exist and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

“So what is it?” Pekoyama asks. “And does that name entail, exactly?”

“It’s self-explanatory,” Monokuma said simply. “The World Destroyers are the ones who destroyed the world. Easy as that.”

“D-Destroyed?!” Tsumiki gasped sharply in horror. Komaeda just blinked.

“It’s not an exaggeration, by the way, it’s super literal,” Monokuma chirped. “So like, the title, as cheesy as it is...is also pretty suitable, yeah? Sometimes simplicity is key.”

“So are they akin to terrorists?” Pekoyama asked as Sonia swallowed a hard lump.

“Terrorists is something you’d reserve for villains, right?” Monokuma’s head tilted. “If someone’s not a villain but a hero—would you still call them a terrorist? I really wanna know! This is deeeeeep stuff!”

“You’re not making any sense!” Koizumi exclaimed. “Just what do you mean?! Are they the ones behind this situation?!”

“Are either Monomi or Monokuma a part of them?” Nidai pondered. “Or—their creators?”

“That’s a question for another time,” Monokuma said. “All I can clarify is that both the planting of the traitor and the setup for bringing you bastards to this island—both are the fault of the World Destroyers, not me!”

Not your fault, huh?

“WHAT THE HELL’S THAT ABOUT?!” Souda screeched. “What the HELL did we do to deserve that?!?!”

“He can’t possibly be telling the truth!” Pekoyama hissed. “Both this and the nonsense about missing memories—this is pure absurdity and nothing more!”

“The time for attentiveness towards jests is not yet nigh,” Tanaka hmphed. “That shall wait until the end is present.”

Monokuma flinched.

“A-All that...? And all I get is being invalidated! That’s harsh!” He growled. “Keep that up and every part of my body will be inflamed! You don’t get it?!”

“I-I don’t want to,” Hinata answered, making him screech.

“It’s TRUE! It’s beary much the truth! The World Destroyers are the true mastermind! More to that—one of them invaded your group!” Monokuma’s voice rose the more heated he got. “That why! You gotta! Kill them! Before it’s too late!”

“Oh.” Komaeda exhaled. “So you want them dead.”

“S-Stop that!” Monomi cried. “Don’t listen to a word that fiend says!”

Monokuma yanked her by the ears, snarling as she squirmed.

“Name-calling and undermining are grounds for harsh punishments!”

“Y-You’re going to pull them off! Stop!”

Monokuma dragged her off before anyone else could say another word. Just leaving it at that. With confusion and consternation so thick in the air it was suffocating.

It was likely intentional, considering everything else.

Another mess to deal with.

“D-Did anyone understand any of that?” Souda asked, teeth gritted. “I-I didn’t.”

“I did not, either,” Sonia replied forlornly. “Not truly.”

“It’s getting late,” Nanami said before yawning. “Let’s not overthink this.”

“It was quite a bit,” Komaeda chirped. “Best to rest up for now.”

“Are you really saying that?” Saionji asked before perking up. “Actually... Matsuda-nii, you didn’t say much of anything during that spiel! You feeling well?”

“O-Oh, you aren’t sick, are you?” Tsumiki asks. “I-If you are...”

“No,” Matsuda snapped quickly. “I’m fine. I just thought it’d be better to let the ball roll no matter how much stupid it crashed through.”

“So even you were fucking confused by all that, brainiac?” Kuzuryuu scoffed. “Fucking figures.”

“Monokuma says much to manipulate us,” Pekoyama said. “It is best to not consider his words too strongly.”

“But it’s not much good to completely discard everything.” Komaeda smiled. “Right?”

Sonia hesitated as Owari groaned.

“Why the hell are you still allowed to talk when you’re just as bad? Shut up before I hit ya.”

“Indeed, you are just as prone to discord and disorientation, fortuitous one,” Tanaka huffed. “Thus, you have no sphere in which you are permitted to speak.”

“And you’re much better when your dialogue is that?” Matsuda retorted. “Just fucking say basic shit like ‘you have no room to talk’. Who the fuck uses the word ‘sphere’ like that?”

“Is that another challenge, sharp-tongued boor?”

“Cut it out,” Koizumi griped, irritated. “It’s going to get dark soon so we really would be better off retiring for the day.”

“Indeed,” Sonia laughed sadly. “I do feel that would be better for our health. So, let us disperse. I wish you all a good night.”

“Yeah,” Nanami agreed. “Night, night.”

There wasn’t much else to say, with many of them trading uncertain looks if not outright avoiding meeting any stares. Hinata in particular while his eyes met Matsuda’s briefly, it flickered away just as quickly as Komaeda drew close. There wasn’t any chatter as the group separated, with even Komaeda rather silent.

Most of the information learned that day only made the situation more muddled and frustrating.

Somehow, Matsuda isn’t even surprised. That doesn’t make him less annoyed. He’s just—unsurprised.

“Goodnight, Matsuda-kun.”

The calm way Komaeda wished him well after being dropped off at his cottage was also annoying. And Matsuda had so much more of that in addition to the frustrating mysteries to look forward to.

Fan-fucking-tastic.

There are other concerns to deal with, too. Such as the other people on this island.

Great. Just great.

He was going to go to bed early, but as fate would have it, his sleep that night just wasn’t the best.


Thing is, I already knew shit was going to be needlessly convoluted. Monomi’s too tight-lipped for her own good and Monokuma will twist whatever information he has to his advantage so much so that the truth is near unrecognizable. Neither of them is to be trusted. But—it’s not like I can’t work with this.

If he thought about this logically—whatever Monokuma wanted them to know and whatever Monomi didn’t want to know... Either way, shit was bad and dire for all of them.

Think of it like a flipped chessboard. Why does it benefit Monokuma to say all that? Well, the answer to that is obvious. He wants us to be more driven to kill. Monomi is the real sticky point. Why is this such a problem for her? What’s her motive? What’s her goal? Is it really everyone getting along? No, it feels like there’s more to it. Much more.

Matsuda bit his lip, flipping through his manga. He was still groggy, but Ruriko’s hijinks were at least moderately calming. Although Michiko looked about as done with all this as he still felt.

Monomi said someone on the outside was trying to save us. But she was unable to say much. If she shows up again without Monokuma, I need to see what else I can get out of her. And if not that—there could be more clues on the islands that are still closed off.

He set aside the manga to head to the bathroom. Once there, he ended up removing his bandage and there’s a bit of a yellowing bruise. It’s not much. Hell, it healed a lot faster than he expected. Funny, that.

“None of this is going to matter if I can’t keep the group from tearing each other’s throats out,” he muttered to his reflection in the mirror. “Of course, that also means I can’t fucking antagonize the others all the damn time, huh.”

“Shouldn’t that be obvious?” He can practically see the disapproving scowl on his face as Togami scolded him. “You really are too sharp for your own good, Matsuda Yasuke.”

Matsuda groaned, running his fingers over his eye-bags. Still dark. Still pronounced. They’d only get heavier the longer he was stuck.

I wonder if I could cover them up. Look like less of a wreck. Didn’t s̸̨̺̬̦̟͊̃͐̀̐̕h̷̨̺̖̙͗͋̈ȩ̵̹͕̱̟͓̑̂̔̒̅̂͠ used to say—

“Ow, ow, ow! Fuck!” His head felt like it was twisting itself into knots and Matsuda very nearly banged it against the sink. “Jesus Christ, fucking seriously?! Now?!

He nearly tore off his pill bottle, cursing before throwing caution to the wind and starting his morning off using the heavy shit. If he passed out later as a result, well... Well.

Should I shackle Komaeda Nagito to me before that? Ha. Ha. God. Maybe.

He smacked his cheeks a few times to snap himself out of it. With time, the ache dulled and faded. Once it did, it was replaced with—confusion.

“When did I...?” He touches his uncovered bruise, brow furrowed. He blinks once. Twice. He sees the pills bottles and his eyes go wide. “Are these...messing with my memories?”


The morning announcement hadn’t gone off yet, so there was no one else outside as Matsuda pondered on his porch, staring down at his pill bottle as he did.

Considering the delicacy of the brain and the stress of the situation, memory loss and forgetfulness are pretty likely to happen, especially when used in conjunction with shady fucking medication.

He reads the labels over a few more times, however, and scowls.

It could be because of this...but it also could just be a vitamin deficiency. It could be hypothyroidism. It could be stress. Depression. Anxiety. He touches his scalp briefly before just running his aggravated fingers through his hair. It could even be the result of past head trauma. Maybe the remnant effects of whatever drug or method was used to remove our memories in the first place. Without the means of getting a proper brain scan and being unable to do any tests in general, I can’t know for sure.

He clicks his tongue and the back of his head smacks against his door as he groans at the sky.

The chronic headaches may be more of a problem than I thought. Shit. If I get compromised, I might as well just throw my ass into the ocean.

Of course, he’s being facetious. Like hell he’s in any position to just give up and die like a little bitch.

There might be a hospital on one of the islands. If I can just stick it out until I have the means of getting there—I can manage. I survived primary, medical school, residency, and a fucking murder trial full of dumbass teenagers that was run by a sadistic stuffed bear.

“...”

Truth be told, my worst fear right now is turning out like her. If that disease of hers was genetic—what am I going to do?

If that were the case—it was already over. There was no point. His future would be gone.

What could I even do?

Ba-dump.

Ba-dump.

Matsuda pockets the pill bottle for now. His arms cross tightly. There’s a light breeze, the sun shines merrily as ever, and the setting remains that of an idyllic island amid eternal summer. It’s not long before he hears the cheery morning announcement in Monokuma’s saccharine tones, and he grips his sleeve, squeezing.

“Alright. That’s enough sulking. If it’s that big of a deal, I can get a damn stress ball.”

He gets to his feet, smoothing out the creases in his pants and coat sleeves. He adjusts his tie. He should look semi-presentable which by his usual standards was downright pristine. He ends up yawning anyway.

His classmates are already shuffling out with one exception. Huffing, Matsuda strides forward. He’s not in the mood for striking any conversations—and quite frankly, most of his male classmates shared that sentiment at least. The only other potential exception, Nidai, was speeding towards the hotel, so he wasn’t a concern.

However, one guy did pause, and Matsuda paused too when he saw that Hinata Hajime was staring at him.

Frowning and without breaking eye contact, Matsuda raps his knuckles on Komaeda’s door.

“Coming!”

Hinata froze up like a deer in headlights. The sound of the door opening allowed his flight instinct to kick in, and Hinata sped off as Komaeda stuck his head through, cheerful as ever.

“Good morning, Matsuda-kun! So are we going to breakfast with everyone else?”

“Yeah,” Matsuda answered, still looking off in the distance. “Seems like it, huh. Though can I ask a question first?”

“Hmm?” Komaeda’s head tilts. “What is it?”

“Earlier, wasn’t there a time when I suddenly lost track of what was happening? As if my head blanked?”

“Yes, why?” Komaeda frowns as Matsuda’s face pinches up. “Matsuda-kun, do you think you’re ill?”

Matsuda just shakes his head.

“Enough about that. Let’s go.”

“Mm. Okay.”


They’re the last ones to arrive and—well this seemed familiar.

“—so anyone figured anything out, yet?”

“It’s only been one night, y’know.”

“It was difficult to sleep on, as well.”

“I-I still don’t know what to believe about any of it.”

“Good morning to all of you, too,” Matsuda said loudly. “Geez, y’all are a bunch of impatient fucks, aren’t ya? Can’t be bothered to wait for the stragglers. I see how it is. See if I’m considerate of your slow attention spans and limited brain spaces ever again.”

“Morning!” Nidai just greeted.

“Morning, I guess,” Nanami echoed.

“Do you have to start with that?” Koizumi asked, haggard. “You just got here.”

“B-Besides! We were discussing important stuff!” Souda exclaimed huffily. “You’re the fucking know-it-all, right? Maybe you can be the one to tell us something about the World Destroyers, traitors, all that jazz.”

“Haaaah? How am I supposed to know anything? What were you expecting? That I’d get a prophetic dream where some dragon goddess explains the plot to me?” Matsuda shrugged. “I’m just as bewildered as everyone else. I’m a genius, not a seer.”

“Still it’s a good thing to ponder early on!” Komaeda chirped. “Good on Souda-kun for being proactive!”

Souda blanched.

“So even Yasuke-chan’s stumped, huuuuh,” Mioda whined. “And I even screamed until my head spun for answers! No luck at all! Everything just ended up black instead! Until it was suddenly morning!”

In other words, she passed out. Thank god we didn’t hear all that.

“I had searched the abyss for which the luminosity continued to elude me,” Tanaka said. “And this morning, all I sensed were the lingering souls of affectation and constituent. Perhaps the earthlings shall grant them the invocation of passage.”

Oh. Well, then.

There was a wave of melancholy—and a fresh bit of glaring done at Komaeda.

“This food isn’t as good,” Owari muttered darkly as she chewed. “Even if it’s still good.”

“That’s good to hear,” Komaeda replied and she ignored him purposefully.

“Right,” Matsuda said, unsurprised but still unhappy. “Aside from prayers, candles, and lanterns, there’s not much we can do there. I’m keeping the troublemaker under close watch. Please don’t make this more difficult on me then it needs to be.”

“So it’s true,” Hinata muttered lowly. “You really agreed to...something like that.”

Komaeda beams but sweet merciful heaven, he didn’t have anything to add. Miracles did happen.

“...still.”

Unfortunately, the state remained tumultuous.

“If there is a traitor,” Souda said, pointing a trembling finger. “Isn’t Komaeda the likeliest culprit? Can we trust him to be out and about at all?”

“An insignificant nobody like me isn’t the traitor,” Komaeda replied. “But, that’s not the most substantiated argument, is it?”

“It only makes you more suspicious, yeah,” Saionji answered. “But, truth be told, that you’re that creepily upfront makes me wonder.”

Fucking seriously?

“Seriously?” Kuzuryuu rolled his eyes. “Just how fucking inane can you be? Komaeda’s a crazy fucker, but he’d make a shitty traitor. Way too obvious. You’re just cornering him because he’s an easy target.”

At hearing the words that he wanted to say from someone else, Matsuda just blinked.

...huh.

“B-But doesn’t it make the most sense?!” Souda stammered. “And even if it doesn’t—that guy is seriously dangerous!”

“But that’s why Yasuke-chan is watching him, right?” Mioda asked. “So if he is the traitor, then—we got nothing to worry about! Oh wow, that’s an ultra-relief!”

“We don’t have any proof it’s him or even that there’s a traitor in the first place other than Monokuma’s word and we all know how reliable that is,” Koizumi pointed out. “Regardless, just throwing out accusations isn’t productive.”

“B-But even if it’s Monokuma,” Tsumiki murmured. “I-Isn’t it better to consider worst-case scenario?”

“Worst case scenario...” Komaeda pondered. “Well, I do agree with Koizumi-san. But I also have to wonder—is traitor-san really an evil force?”

The atmosphere shifted, more intense and denser than before. For both better and worse.

“There’s a theory,” Matsuda said, clicking his tongue. “Considering it’s Monokuma, he could very well be misrepresenting others’ intentions. Wouldn’t it be more convenient for him if we were sidetracked by what appeared to be the larger foe?”

“It is true that it would be to Monokuma’s advantage for us to believe anything he says,” Pekoyama agreed with a stiff nod. “Thus, we should question any and every bit of information he provides.”

“I do understand,” Sonia said, hesitating. “However, I do not feel—right in simply leaving it at that.”

“R-Right?!” Souda swallowed. “What he said—I don’t feel like all of it was just made up!”

“Mm, well.” Komaeda hums. “There is a saying. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. You know?”

“Oh, yes.” Sonia nodded, to Souda’s horror. “What a complicated saying, but it is one with value.”

“S-Sonia-san, what are you saying?!”

“What I’m saying is that in regards to this supposed traitor, Monokuma seemed pretty impassioned about wanting them dead,” Komaeda said cheerily. “Perhaps, then, they are an unsung hero of sorts? A prevailer of hope?”

“Shut up! Shut up forever!” Souda snapped. “If you’re really the traitor then you sure as fucking hell aren’t our friend!”

“I’m not the traitor, but I am suggesting...”

“It would be advantageous of the traitor to talk up the traitor,” Saionji said. “Whichever it is, you really should keep your trap shut. It’s not like anyone wants to hear you talk.”

Komaeda, still smiling, does close his mouth. His eyes shut and his head ducks. Even with that easygoing expression, he looked like a meek fucking dog.

“That’s better,” Owari said, words muffled through her food. “It’s way easier to eat now.”

You weren’t having any trouble before. In fact, it was fine. It was goddamn fine.

“Oi.” There’s no getting around it. He’s a little fucking pissed right now. “Do you idiots actually have any fucking room to say shit like that?”

“Hmm?” Saionji smiled childishly as Souda got defensive. “Whatever are you so upset about, Matsuda-nii? Don’t tell us you’re sticking up for that creep?”

S-Seriously,” Souda growled. “Do you even remember what he did?”

“You mean trying to get himself killed?” Matsuda rolled his eyes. “Yeah, it was pretty reckless, wasn’t it? Fucking aggravating to deal with, too. Not helped by the dumbass’s broken filter. A real pain in the ass.” He glared. “However, he’s suggesting something that could ease our fears a little if considered. It’s better than just being an unpleasant bitch and picking at every little comment. It’s better than being a paranoid shitbag accusing others recklessly and fretting so fucking much that everyone just gets more anxious.”

“B-But, he’s...!”

“He’s got a fucking point, unlike you jerks,” Matsuda cut Souda off harshly and coldly. “And regardless. The situation is still that we don’t know anything. In times of uncertainty, it’s healthier for the mind to be at least a little fucking optimistic. And I know that’s difficult if you’re stupidly wrapped up in your own bullshit—but you could still afford to try rather than snap at everyone like a rabid dog.”

Souda trembled, flustered.

“That... T-That’s just not fair!” he burst out. “Just because you’re smarter than most of us...!”

“You are still talking about him, y’know!” Owari shot back angrily.

“E-Everyone, please,” Sonia spoke up quickly. “Perhaps we should consider Matsuda-san’s words!”

“Wh—WHY?!” Souda wailed. “He’s a complete fucking asshole, Sonia-san! Don’t you see that?!”

“While Matsuda’s abrasive and aggrandizing, I... I would rather not have to suspect anyone more than I already do...” Koizumi trailed off, grimacing. “Isn’t it bad enough that we’re in a killing game? That two of us died already?”

“N-Nagito-chan’s a major creep, but... Byakuya-chan wouldn’t want this...” Mioda whines, agitated. “A-And this whole traitor-chan stuff gives off all kind of bad vibrations!”

“Togami had said before that there likely is NO TRAITOR!!!” Nidai boomed. “Isn’t THAT what we should believe?! Monokuma is just trying to TRICK US!!”

“I-I don’t know!” Tsumiki sobbed into her hands. “I-I just don’t know...what to think!”

“Then just don’t think, if it’s that fucking difficult.”

Tsumiki flinches, uncovering her face meekly. Everyone else is eying him warily. Well, most of them. Komaeda only looks curious. There’s an odd gleam in his gaze, and Matsuda just shakes his head.

“If it’s so fucking disorienting, then let’s just not even think about it. We barely have any information, and what information we do have is hardly credible in the first place.” He waves his hand, grimacing. “Until we have a more solid grasp that this is something we should worry about... Why not just put it on the back burner for now? Everyone being in an uproar over this—it only benefits Monokuma, y’know.”

“S-So what?” Souda stammered. “We’re just supposed to do nothing?!”

“I’m saying we wait until we have more to work with because working ourselves into a goddamn tizzy over shit,” Matsuda hissed. “As things stand now, there’s no way we’ll come to any satisfactory answer. Because we don’t fucking know anything. Think. Has the situation really changed from before?”

“The situation...” Hinata trails off. “Um.”

“We’re still in the midst of a killing game. We’re already in a situation where we suspect each other’s intentions. And Monokuma wants us to lose ourselves, he wants us to fucking snap and lash out and dwindle our numbers further.” Matsuda’s head tilts. “Anyone disagree with what I’m saying?”

Souda trembled, Hinata hesitated, Sonia’s frown deepens, Koizumi gets more agitated, and overall, there was an uncertain silence, however...

“No,” Nanami said. “Matsuda-kun hasn’t said anything wrong.”

“While the fog of ambiguity remains settled on the horizon, those core elements remain,” Tanaka said lowly. “Thus, the sharp-tongued one’s assessments are undisputed.”

“So when I say we should wait until we try and make any judgment calls, you get where I’m coming from, yeah?” Matsuda asked, cocking an eyebrow. “We’re under enough stress as it is. So until we have a solid reason to worry about it, until the situation’s significantly changed in a way we can all agree on, let’s retain focus on the baseline.”

“You’ve said something like this before. And I still agree that it would be for the best,” Sonia said finally. “As troubling as Monokuma’s words are—we have already lost two classmates.”

“Not thinking about it is fine by me,” Owari agreed. “This crap is too complicated to keep up with, anyway.”

“M-Maybe...it would be better,” Tsumiki whispered. “I-I... I don’t like thinking about it anyway. E-Even if... Uu...”

Souda falters, grimacing and scratching at the back of his head.

“Urgh... I-It’s really unfair.”

“So that was a waste of fucking time, then,” Saionji huffed. “Geez. I could’ve used my time so much better.”

“But it’s nice to have settled things,” Koizumi said. “Seriously though, Matsuda, you’re a smart guy—if you just changed your attitude...”

“Aaaaand there goes my patience.” Matsuda hmphed, turning away. “I think I’ve reached my threshold of idiocy I can tolerate this morning. I’m going to grab breakfast to go.” A pause and he gestures towards Komaeda. “Oi. That means you, too. Like hell I’m leaving you here. Those idiots will just tie you up.”

“Y-You said you’d watch him so you better not!” Souda yelped.

“Don’t get into another argument,” Koizumi snapped. “Let’s just try and relax a little! Think about the future!”

“D-Do we even have one?” Tsumiki asked, to Koizumi’s dismay.

“D-Don’t think so negatively like that, Mikan-chan!”

“S-Sorry! Sorry! I shouldn’t have said anything, I’m so sorry!”

Kuzuryuu sighed.

“It really is pathetic, seeing all this snapping and simpering,” he huffed. “Is this really how it works? One snide comment and you’re all at each other’s throats? All that fucking babble about amity and working together—it was just a fucking load.”

“It is just difficult,” Pekoyama said. “There is no need to further antagonize.”

“What the hell ever. Brainiac’s right about how exhausting this shit is. I’ve had it, too.”

Kuzuryuu stomps out as Matsuda gathers up food. Komaeda looks after him, eyes wide where Matsuda’s own narrow.

“So difficult,” he mutters, biting into an apple before shrugging it off. “Can’t be helped, I guess.”


Komaeda doesn’t bring much to eat. Just some toast and a milk carton. Matsuda has half a mind to badger him about it, but he just lets it be for now when Komaeda’s nibbling so quietly.

“Y’know,” he mutters, finishing up his juice and moving onto the rest of his fruit. “You can talk now.”

“Oh, can I?” Komaeda asks, eyes wide.

“Yeah,” he sighs. “You weren’t even saying anything bad back there. Sure, I think it’s fucking asinine to assume the traitor is a good guy based on Monokuma wanting them dead, but... Whatever.”

“You think it’s asinine, Matsuda-kun?”

Urgh. He was probing. He wasn’t even being coy about it with how expectantly he looked at him.

“If the traitor is allied with Monomi, then they’re complacent in our memories getting erased,” Matsuda said simply. “Considering how shit I think Monomi is for pulling that, I definitely can’t say I think highly of this traitor either—if they exist. But...”

...the thing is. There could very well be someone here that we should be wary of. Komaeda knows this. Thankfully, he did keep that to himself. Should I be grateful?

Matsuda was silent, eyes dark as he tore a chunk from his apple with his teeth.

Monomi said that Monokuma was sneaked in somehow. That’s—far more concerning than any of the shit Monokuma said about World Destroyers and traitors. It could have been done so from the outside—but I can’t just discard the possibility that someone here did that.

And he really, really fucking doubted that person and the supposed traitor were one and the same. He had a strong feeling that wasn’t the case.

“I’m not worried,” Komaeda says suddenly. “I’m absolutely not worried. Everyone here is a symbol of hope. Regardless of what Monokuma says to confuse, you all will triumph, all the same. There’s a beautiful hope on the inevitable horizon!”

“If you choke on your milk because you got worked up, I’m going to be pissed,” Matsuda muttered darkly. “Deep breaths, asshole. Eat your damn crumbs.”

“Aha...! Hahahahaha!”

He laughed until he started coughing, to which Matsuda smacked his back a couple of times before coldly offered his bottle of water.

Komaeda does drink, and Matsuda rubs his temple as he does.

Difficult.

And yet, it wasn’t the worst. Compared to before where all remaining fifteen of them were in a room—this was nothing, honestly.

Funny how that worked. He wonders just how deep it went.

The ocean waves tumble over each other. The beach is spread out before them. Matsuda is a little dissatisfied with the food that he’s inhaled half of. He finishes up the apple but there’s still more. He had thoughtlessly picked up some sprouts and rice and he’s not sure what he was thinking at the time.

Komaeda finishes the water with a pwah, wiping off his mouth with his sleeve. He still has half a piece of toast left. Matsuda’s half-tempted to shove it down his throat. Instead, he thoughtlessly flicks away some crumbs caught in Komaeda’s hair. Komaeda stiffens, and there’s fluid dripping down his chin.

“Gross.” Matsuda scowls in disgust, nearly slapping Komaeda in the face with a napkin. “Here. Use this.”

“Right...” Komaeda does take and use it for its intended purpose. “Mm, mm.”

You really are a bit of a mess, aren’t you?

Matsuda sees his shoulders tense, and rather annoyingly, Komaeda was pretty blatantly avoiding his piercing stare. Matsuda frowns before he huffs, turning away and respecting those wishes.

It’s difficult—on all of us, probably.

It was more so now with two people dead.

“Uh... H-Hey.”

Komaeda reacted first, head raising and Matsuda’s gaze only slid over lazily.

“Yo,” he droned, eyes sweeping up and down.

Hinata stood there, shoulders tense and expression complicated. With how his arms hung and how his hands fidgeted, all with that altogether agitated posture—it was pretty clear he was about a hair away from either collapsing or bolting.

As per usual.

Except for this time, where the normally useless idiot had actually mustered up the guts to speak.

“Hinata-kun!” Komaeda exclaimed, in a lilt that could have completely stomped those guts to the ground and send Hinata several hundred steps back. Or at least far, far away.

Thankfully, Hinata still remained where he was, even as his knees buckled a little.

“I...” Hinata swallowed, brow pinching and grimace twisting. “I wanted to talk to Matsuda, not you. I don’t want anything to do with you.”

“Oh.” Komaeda only falters for a second. “Understandable! Matsuda-kun, I’ll wait here then.”

“We can’t go too far, it has to be somewhere I can still see him,” Matsuda said dully. “I can’t exactly trust this dumbass to not get distracted by a bug or something.”

“Aww!” Komaeda laughs it off as he does with everything. “Harsh!”

Hinata’s face almost contorts further. He shakes his head quickly before just nodding.

“Yeah... That’s understandable. It won’t be long, anyway. I just...wanted to ask you stuff.”

Stuff, huh? Sounds pretty serious.

“Sure. Alright. But it also has to be somewhere shaded, too.” Matsuda pinches at his fringe. “Thankfully there are a lot of palm trees for use.”

“Uh.” Hinata didn’t seem sure of how to respond to that. “Yeah. Uh. That one over there could work.”

He gestured at one that was particularly droopy and sad-looking. Matsuda decided not to comment because he didn’t want to feel sorrier for him.

“In the meantime, you try and eat the rest of my food,” he said, shoving it towards Komaeda. “I don’t have much more of an appetite. So you deal with it.”

“E-Eh?” Komaeda frowned, dismayed. “I’m not hungry either, Matsuda-kun.”

“Tough fucking luck. If you don’t at least attempt I’ll have to force-feed you. Alright.” He stands, stretching his arms and popping his neck. “Let’s get going, pinhead.”

“You don’t have to call me that,” Hinata muttered but he does relax a little as Matsuda follows his lead. He tensed right back up when he glanced at Komaeda, forlornly picking at rice and sprouts before sighing and popping a small portion into his mouth.

Hinata now looks more disturbed than before, so Matsuda snaps his fingers to get his attention. Hinata flinched and soon sighed.

“I bet you already know what this is about, huh.”

“I can make an educated guess,” was his only reply.


With the two of them under the sad palm tree and Komaeda nothing more than a puff of wild cotton in the distance, Hinata comes out with it.

“So you really agreed to just—just watch him?”

“Obviously. It took you this fucking long to realize that?”

“N-No, no, I heard before, but...” Wetting his lips, Hinata tried to meet his glare levelly. “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think anyone would just—agree to that.”

“Yeah, no one else would be that charitable. True.” If I wasn’t here, Komaeda would just be tied up and left for dead in the fucking lodge. “Aren’t you so grateful that I’m here, then?”

“I...shouldn’t answer that.” Hinata coughs into his hand. “I... I just...”

“Was that all you wanted to ask?” Matsuda made a face. “You can’t be that dumb, right?”

“No, that’s wrong!” Hinata yelped. “There were other things!”

“Yeaaaah?”

Yeah!”

“Then out with it.” Matsuda pulled out his book, flipping through it idly. “I’m a very busy man.”

“Are you serious—?”

“Patience level dropping to zero in three, two...”

“Are you really serious about Komaeda?!”

A pause. Matsuda blinked a few times. Hinata’s face was all red, but he seemed all shades of anxious. Twitchy.

Matsuda regards him coolly.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“B-Because! Because...” Hinata falters, trembling a bit before pushing forward. “Aren’t you worried? Or even scared?”

“Of what?” Matsuda’s frown deepened. “That idiot attacking me?”

“...” Hinata bit his lip, averting his gaze.

Bingo.

Matsuda could only sigh, shutting his book.

“I’ve sized Komaeda Nagito up pretty well. Enough to know I could easily overpower him if need be. Even if he came at me with a weapon, I’ve gotten the training to disarm him and if he thrashes, it wouldn’t be that difficult to incapacitate him.” He slips his manga back into his pocket for now. “Just a jab in the right bundle of nerves or even a few seconds without air, if I had to go that far, would be fine.”

“Oh.” Hinata exhaled sharply. “I-I see. I guess there’s uh, nothing to worry about after all.” Hinata rubs at his nape, but he still hesitates. “You’ve thought this through.”

As if I wouldn’t?

Matsuda’s lips parted, but he thought against his impulse response and instead mulled matters over.

Even if I just tell him not to worry—well, it’s obvious that won’t work. Hinata Hajime doesn't want to concern himself with this shit in the first place.

For obvious reasons.

...even so...

“You think I’m unused to the situation of someone being unstable and dangerous? In my line of work?” He runs his fingers through his hair, remembering the various instances. “When people can’t think properly, they tend to act dangerously. You always have to be prepared for that, even when they’re in your care. But the thing is... When someone is like that, they’re always more in danger of seriously hurting themselves than they are of hurting you. Always. Every time. Without fail.”

He takes a deep breath, keeping his voice low.

“Even if you have to defend yourself, you must never allow yourself to get so conceited as to forget that you’re not the one suffering most in that very moment.”

Hinata jolted at that, and he opened his mouth as if to argue.

“That’s my experience,” Matsuda snapped. “So obviously that’s how I think. If you have a well-thought-out problem with it, I would love to hear it.”

Hinata’s mouth shut, even as he gritted his teeth, shoulders tensing. He then shook his head.

“No. I don’t understand this well enough to make a decent counter.” His frown deepens. “But... I do want to know if you at least felt betrayed or even angry when you found out the truth.”

The truth? As in what he did or his very behavior? Either way.

“I wasn’t going to put that kind of trust in someone I just met,” Matsuda said flatly. “Especially not in that kind of situation.”

“...yeah. I guess that’s...” Hinata exhaled, sucking in his lips as he only looked more distressed. “That’s obvious, huh... Someone like you wouldn’t...”

“I was a little pissed, I guess,” Matsuda went on, rolling his eyes back. “Definitely annoyed. Aggravated like hell when that dumbass was deliberately drawing attention to himself in the trial. That was frustrating as fuck, not going to lie. So much bullshit to sort through, made worse by the uproar those other idiots got into.”

Hinata flinched.

“When you figured out...that Komaeda was trying to murder someone... What did you think?”

“That if that were the case, he probably had a reason to. And I was going to chew his ass out later.” Of course, the truth was more complicated. And more troubling. I’m not in the mood to talk to Hinata about that, but... “His inability to be reasoned with definitely complicates matters a little, but...”

...but...

“He’s now someone I can’t disregard. Not just because he’s dangerous, but because...” Of a lot of things. His condition, my obligation, the whole situation, Togami dying to protect him, and just the fact that. “I have no interest in sitting on my ass, ignoring if not outright avoiding a problem and naively thinking I won’t have to deal with it if I do. That’s not just idiotic, it’s fucking incompetent. And there’s nothing I hate more than incompetence.”

Hinata blinked at him a few times. Then, Matsuda noticed his eyes gaze past him, at Komaeda still waiting patiently for them to finish. Matsuda glanced, too, and saw that Komaeda, hopefully having finished his fucking food, was busying himself with drawing in the dirt with a stick he found. Komaeda noticed their staring and he waved at them cheerfully.

Hinata winced. He made the most pitiful, twisted-up face before he just heaved a sigh.

“Even if I did approach him, I have no idea how I’d even go about trying to understand him. But you’re right, huh? He’s too dangerous to just...disregard.”

“Mercifully, you don’t even have to worry about it,” Matsuda said. “I’ll be the one handling him from now on.”

Hinata strangely didn’t look all that reassured.

“...if you say so...”

“Yes, that is what I said. Should I repeat it?”

Hinata shook his head.

“That’s about all I wanted to talk about,” he grumbled. “There’s nothing more to add, save for, well, good luck. I guess.”

Matsuda snorted.

“Wow. Thanks.”

“Just try and get along better with the others,” Hinata snapped. “Souda whined about you a lot. Even if I agree that you’re terrible, I’m not exactly in the mood to hear about it.”

“So you’re friends with the mechanic guy now, huh?” Matsuda quirked an eyebrow. “So, like, is he a rebound, or...?”

“I-It’s nothing like that!” Flustered, Hinata steamed. “I’m going now!”

“Don’t need to get so bitchy about it, there’s nothing unmanly about heartbreak, y’know...”

“Shut up! Goodbye!”

Hinata stomped off, Matsuda watching him go with a dull expression.

He really does get worked up so—so easily.

And yet, Hinata did pause, looking back one last time before sprinting away. That could mean all sorts of things but Matsuda wasn’t keen on looking into it. If there was a problem, it was Hinata’s to deal with.

At least I would hope that’s the case. I have enough to worry about already.

He trudges back to Komaeda, regarding him neutrally as Komaeda greeted him cheerfully.

Komaeda didn’t inquire anything about that conversation. Either he maintained some level of tact or he just didn’t want to know. While he was obligated to this idiot, this was not in his area of expertise. Just not talking about anything was fine. Not even thinking would be better.

Too bad there’s too much going on. How nice it would be...to just relax a little.

As Matsuda stared outward at the island sunlight fragmented through the palm trees, imagining a world where he was just expected to bask and lie there, stretched out and at ease... It was such a ridiculous fantasy that he snorted.

Yeah. That was just impossible from the start. Hell, he was already tired of the sun on its own merits, with how he perspired and sweltered in its heat.

“Do you want to go to the library? Or do you mind me just retiring to the cottage?” he asked Komaeda. “I need at least somewhere with air conditioning.”

“Whichever you prefer, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda replied sunnily.

Fan-fucking-tastic.

Chapter Text

“Emergency, emergency!”

It was late at night and he has woken from an unpleasant dream thanks to the even more unpleasant blare of a siren.

“Get your asses to Jabberwock Park, NOW! This is not a drill! I repeat: this is NOT a drill!”

Matsuda covered his face with the pillow, halfway close to just smothering himself on the spot as it did little to muffle the noise.

“The first one here will be treated to special homemade curry rice! So please, hurry!”

“It’s way too late for that you piece of shit—!”

“HURRY UUUUUUUUUP!”

Matsuda groaned loudly, contemplated drowning himself in the pool, and rolled out of the bed. He hit the ground with a low thud. Untangling himself from the sheets was even more of a chore.

But.

He managed.

Can’t have one easy night of sleep, but it was already ruined early on. Maybe I should have one of the beefcakes on this island knock me into a coma. Surely mechanic guy can make an alarm clock strong enough to wake me up afterward.

He shouldn’t put his faith in others like that. Instead, he should just get his shit together.

“Urgh.”

Alright. Let’s just hope there’s not a torture machine or something.


“Truth be told, it’s been a while since I’ve had curry rice. I’m curious to see what Monokuma cooks up!”

“Even if there is rice, that rabid meathead is going to eat all of it.”

Komaeda laughs far too brightly for the hour. Matsuda misses his shitty cottage bed all the more. Grumbling, he rubs the sleep from his eyes and yawns inelegantly.

Jabberwock Park, of course, is bustling when they get there.

“First one here!” Owari bellowed, as predicted. “Now where’s that rice?!”

“What kind will it be?” Sonia wondered cheerily. “I am most curious!”

“What’s the term for when you start feeling real hungry at hearing the words ‘curry rice’?!” Mioda gasped. “Does anyone know?!”

“That’s just having an appetite,” Matsuda griped, stomping his feet as Komaeda skipped without a care. “The real question is why the hell you fuckers are so perky when we were wakened so rudely.”

“Rudely?! Do you really think that of Lil ol’ me? Boohoo!”

Monokuma laid draped over an arcade machine, blowing dramatically into a tissue.

“Hic! And here I was sharing something special!”

“What the hell is that?” Kuzuryuu growled. “Is this some kind of fucking joke?”

“You better not have been joking about the food!” Owari exclaimed. “I was the first one! I have a right to it! You already took the meat from me!”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah.” Monokuma slid off the machine, landing on his front paws before pushing himself back into the air to land upright. He seemed to expect applause, and when he didn’t get any, he pouted. “I’ll treat you bastards tomorrow evening, as promised. I’m a bear of my word after all.”

“Are you?” Folding his arms, Matsuda bristled. “We’re still lacking the memories you promised.”

“Impatient, are you?!” Monokuma huffed. “You really ought to show more respect to your elders! Ah, well, I guess you don’t know my age. And it’s rude to ask a bear his age.” He snickered. “But! When I say tomorrow evening, I mean tomorrow evening! One fresh plate of Monokuma Curry! Made with mystery meat, mystery rice, and mysteriously half-dead vegetables!”

“Then it’s not exactly fresh,” Koizumi murmured.

“Bad curry’s hard to make!” Mioda exclaimed. “It’ll be fine!”

“Words of wisdom indeed,” Tanaka rumbled. “However this is nothing more than squandered time. Explain your true reasoning for bringing us here at such a dire hour—and if you bore me, the Devas of Destruction shall feast upon bear.”

It’s a stuffed bear, you fucking idiot. Besides—

“That should be obvious,” Matsuda griped as Monokuma lit up.

“Yep, yep! Suuuuper blatant! Guess your All-Seeing Eye seems a little busted!”

Tanaka growled, but Matsuda turned his attention more properly to the arcade machine. He wasn’t the only one. Nanami was stepping closer, eyes sparkling and fingers twitching. Without missing a beat, Matsuda reached out and yanked her back by the hood.

“Oh, careful!” Komaeda chirped. “You really should be gentler with girls, Matsuda-kun! Although... Hm. That arcade... Is it really...?”

Matsuda yanked him back by the hood too.

“Do either of you have any sense of caution?” he snapped. “If it’s a device made by that tacky mascot, it’s not to be trifled with.”

“Tacky?! Boohoo!” Monokuma still twirled around, gesturing to the machine with a flourish. “This magical piece of technology is to be the start of you bastards’ recreational activities! With its library consisting of quite the treasure of a game! A personal masterpiece, if I do say so myself!”

“If you made it, it’s definitely not safe,” Hinata remarked.

“With all due respect, please pardon our lack of enthusiasm,” Sonia said.

“You really don’t see!” Monokuma exclaimed. “It’s a sequel! A long-awaited sequel!”

“Wow, you want us to play a sequel to who the fuck cares?” Saionji asked. “If it’s an arcade, then it’s just a lame beat ‘em right? If I wanted to do that, I’d just find more ants and crabs.”

“Maybe you should play the game instead, it’ll be healthier,” Matsuda said. “Besides, maybe it’s Tetris or Pacman. Although it doesn’t look it.”

“It’s Twilight Syndrome, you uncultured swine!” Monokuma screeched. “Full title: Twilight Syndrome Murder Mystery!”

“Wow, it requires thought?” Saionji mused. “I guess that’s impressive, lame-o title aside.”

“It’s an adventure game series, first published in 1996,” Nanami rattled off. “The story revolves around a group of high school girls investigating various urban legends at their school... There were several sequels...”

“The first one is really good, actually,” Komaeda said. “It might as well be a time capsule from how it perfectly captures the youth and language of the era. I recommend it, Matsuda-kun!”

“Ew, both of you are nerds.” He released them, huffing. “Either way, it’s not exactly difficult to ruin a good series with a crap sequel and I don’t exactly trust Monokuma with maintaining any acceptable level of quality.”

“T-That’s beary shocking to hear, Matsuda-kun!” Monokuma yelped.

“As if there’s any joy to get from such a leisure activity!” Nidai snorted. “Not to mention such a fossil!”

“Hey, it’s not that old!” Monokuma yelled. “And it’s more than leisure! Making a video game is hard work, especially without the budget! That’s why the developers need as much support as they can get!”

“While I suppose I can sympathize, you are using this for nefarious means,” Komaeda said. “And that feels like not only an insult to Twilight Syndrome but to all video games.”

“I was such a huge fan of that series,” Nanami lamented. “And now it’s been ruined.”

“What should be ruined is your face from tears of joy!” Monokuma growled. “See, this is to make up for earlier!”

“Earlier?” Matsuda repeated, just as quite a few of the others perked up.

“Oho, got your attention now? Upupupu... This game has a certain theme. Of forgotten connections. If you want to know more, then play, play, play! It won’t be the same as remembering for yourself—but it’ll still be one hell of an experience!”

...so that’s it.

“You’re saying this contains some of our lost memories,” Matsuda said, narrowing his eyes sharply. “And what’s the catch? How do we know you didn’t put false information in there to mislead us?”

“You’ll see for yourself if you beat it,” Monokuma explained.

“That’s definitely a trap!” Koizumi exclaimed. “No way are any of us going near that thing!”

“Y-Yeah, if that’s supposed to motivate us to kill, we’re better off not playing!” Souda added to which Nidai laughed.

“Gyahaha! I see no other OPTION!!!”

“B-But...” Tsumiki stammered. “I-I wonder if...we’ll be allowed to do that.”

“Well, it’s true I can’t force any of you,” Monokuma chirped. “If that’s your plan, then fine by me. But I do have to ask if it’ll be all that effective. Can you trust everyone here to not act out? Like you did last time?”

Matsuda did flinch at that, and there was a chill settled on the shoulders of Jabberwock Park. He sighed, then, pinching his nose before speaking up.

“No, that’s a good point. We should discuss matters further instead of passively praying nothing happens.”

“That and I don’t trust Monokuma to be content just waiting around for something to happen,” Komaeda said. “So let’s put our heads together, everyone!”

“With someone like you, that would be a calamitous action to take,” Tanaka murmured.

“K-Keep your fucking head far away from us!” Souda hissed. “We shouldn’t have to do shit if we don’t want to!”

“I-I just don’t want to think about it,” Koizumi stammered. “It’s...clearly a trap, so we definitely...shouldn’t...”

“I hate all this thinking, it’s just gonna get real fucking aggravating,” Owari harrumphed. “Hey, Matsuda, maybe this is just another situation where we shouldn’t think. Ever thought of that?”

The fact that she of all people would say it—

“Y’know, resolve is a powerful thing,” Monokuma cut in. “While all of you are wringing your hands, shillyshallying and dillydallying about what to do, someone could swoop in, unlock the secrets of the game and come up with a plan to take all of you out! Initiative! Could be a real game-changer and a real crowd-killer!”

“The hell are you saying?!” Hinata demanded.

“I’m saying what I’m saying! All of you are enemies! And at the end of the day, you can’t trust anyone! Do you seriously want to be on the defense all the time? That’s just so lame! But!” Monokuma blew a raspberry. “Not much I can do! But suggest you reeeeeeally reconsider! Toodles for now!”

He bounced away after that, Matsuda twitching with irritation.

“I do believe it would be better to simply wait,” Sonia utters, raising her voice admirably. “Let the matter settle and...decide later.”

“Simply approaching this game without any kind of strategy may be a mistake,” Pekoyama agreed.

“But we can’t expect everyone here to respect that,” Saionji pointed out. “Any wannabe culprit can use this thing against us as leverage and we’ll be totally helpless.”

“D-Do you think that?” Hinata managed.

“Obviously,” Kuzuryuu huffed. “She’s completely right. In a game like this, it’s kill or be killed. And like fucking hell I’ll end up like those other pitiful fucks.”

“You say that like this is a game we can win if we play,” Matsuda retorted. “It’s naïve to think everything will end with one victor. It’ll end when all of us are dead.”

“Fucking hell, you really are a coward,” Kuzuryuu snapped. “You’re no better.”

With those spitting words, Kuzuryuu left, shoulders hunched as Matsuda’s glare bore into his back.

“I-Insults aside... Kuzuryuu-san isn’t...completely wrong.” Tsumiki trailed off.

“So what are you saying?!” Owari exclaimed furiously. “Are you gonna kill someone, then?!”

“N-No, of course not!” Tsumiki sobbed. “I-It’s just—can we actually be safe like this?!”

Koizumi opened her mouth to answer, but she ended up hesitating.

“Geeeeez.”

Matsuda let out a heavy sigh.

“It’s way too late for this shit and your hapless chatter isn’t helping. I don’t think anyone’s gonna fucking do shit about it now, so let’s put a pin in this discussion until morning.”

“Regardless of what conclusion we come to, whether the game is played or now, we absolutely can’t continue this killing game,” Nanami said firmly. “I won’t stand for it.”

“And what are you going to do, again?” Matsuda snapped. “While those sentiments are nice to just say, they don’t assure us of anything.”

“I’m feeling a little assured, actually,” Mioda chirped. “The way Chiaki-chan said that was cool.”

Right...

“Showing a steadfast position is a good thing!” Komaeda exclaimed. “Bravo, Nanami-san!”

Nanami puffed her cheeks as a few choice others scowled.

“As long as you’re kept under check, we only have to worry about one guy,” Souda muttered darkly. “So let’s not worry. See y’all tomorrow.”

“It might be better to mull things over,” Koizumi murmured. “But no matter what choice I make—I’m never going to kill anyone. Never.”

“M-Me neither,” Tsumiki agreed. “N-Never...!”

“With all that settled,” Nanami yawned. “It’s late... Mm...”

She does still look intently at the arcade, to which Matsuda spun her around by the shoulders and shoved her.

“Then back to bed, all of you. Don’t forget. We’ll be deciding what to do in the morning.” Although I already have so much to worry about. “I’ll write up some plans, probably.”

“Such initiative,” Komaeda swooned. “Befitting a symbol of hope!”

“You, too,” Matsuda hissed, pushing him as well. “You, in particular, need to get back to bed.”

He noted Hinata glancing at them, but everyone else was content to retire, to try and make up for time lost thanks to Monokuma. The evening announcement afterward only sealed it.

But, the thing is...

“Goodnight, Matsuda-kun!”

“Yeah, night.”

As he slammed Komaeda’s door shut, he found himself still drawn towards the direction of the park. Of that stupid arcade machine.

It’d be nice—to just go back to bed and worry later. But.

Sighing, Matsuda stomped back irritably.

I need to make sure we’re safe for at least one measly fucking night.


“What the fuck?! Seriously?!”

Matsuda groaned lowly, rolling onto his side. The position wasn’t much more comfortable, with the angle promising a sprained back and spine, but he flailed his arm in the general direction of that indignant squawk.

“Too...fucking early...go away.”

“Did you fucking sleep here?! Like this? Like a fucking hobo?!”

“Mmmrr.” He covers his face, but it’s not doing much against the sun, to his growing irritation. His head is throbbing. As is his neck. His ass. His arms. His everything. Because no human fucking being was designed to sleep propped up against a damn arcade machine. Especially outside on a tropical island.

“Seriously, what the actual hell,” the other hissed, indignant. “How fucking stupid are you?”

Matsuda yawned and, honestly, his vision was blurring so he was having difficulty focusing.

“If you wanna play, it’ll cost at least uh....thousand tokens...no, a mill... Bill... Trill...” He rubs at his eyes, grumbling. “Fuck, stop multiplying...”

“Oh my fucking god.”

Smacking his cheeks, Matsuda finally managed to drearily meet the gaze of a fuming, furious Kuzuryuu.

“Mmm.” He pops his lips. “Yeah, uh... A trillion tokens, your firstborn, and five packets of melon bread.”

Kuzuryuu’s response was to kick him in the side. Hard. Hard enough to wake him up completely.

“Argh, you bitch!”

“I should be saying that you fucking shit—! God, you really are just—so damn infuriating! It’s like you want to die!”

“Right back at you, dumbass!”

“You—!”

“Ahem.”

Pekoyama cleared her throat, having appeared from just beyond the draw distance.

“You must not fight,” she said simply. “It is almost time for breakfast.”

Kuzuryuu, rather than looking at either of them for a moment longer, just stormed off. Matsuda cursed, curling in on himself and rubbing his bruised side.

The second I get off this island, I’m fucking suing the school.

“Ah... Are you alright, Matsuda?” Pekoyama kneels before him. “I can go fetch Tsumiki if your pride would allow it.”

Matsuda ran a hand down his face, grimacing as his joints popped.

“While being kicked wasn’t pleasant, it does distract me from the soreness everywhere else,” he replied, rubbing at his neck. It was still aching considerably. “I’ll be fine. I can bandage myself again if need be.”

“I see.” She nodded. “So... You did not go to your cottage after last night?”

“With everything I said, I found it didn’t actually sit well with me just leaving this thing alone.” Matsuda straightens out his legs, rubbing them next. “Good thing I did, because that dipshit couldn’t be bothered to wait a day.”

“Have you played it?” Pekoyama asked with eyes narrowed sharply.

“Nah, that wouldn’t do me any favors.” It’d damage my credibility to just act like that without telling anyone. “If it’s going to get played at all, it shouldn’t be done individually...in groups, maybe? Ahhh, but convincing anyone other than Komaeda Nagito and the space cadet is probably gonna be a hard sell...”

Nor is it the most reliable party of quirky characters.

“For the time being, it would be best for you to go eat breakfast and possibly lie down,” Pekoyama said. “You are quite diligent, Matsuda, but... This does not seem to be healthy. Pardon me.”

“Weren’t you paying attention?” he griped. “I can’t leave this stupid thing by itself.”

“I can guard it in the meantime if that truly concerns you so,” she said. “Will that be satisfactory?”

He makes a complicated noise.

“I do wish to make up for the party,” she went on. “In spite of my guarding—I was not able to prevent any of the events that transpired.”

“That’s not your fault,” he retorted. “But, I guess that’s not the most reassuring statement.”

Although... He eyed her expression warily. Stoic, with intense crimson eyes that had him shudder from cold—familiarity.

...everything hurts. I can’t exactly guard anything in this state.

Pekoyama offers him her hand. Matsuda hesitates for a moment, but he ends up taking it and she pulls him to his feet with ease.

“You should eat something, at least, Matsuda.”

“Yeah, probably.” He scratches at his scalp and it feels disgusting from oil, sweat, and dirt. “It’ll be unfair to just leave you guarding this indefinitely so I’ll write up a schedule for others to step in, maybe? Like, say, a couple of hours from now?”

Pekoyama nodded. “Very well.”

“I’ll also try and gather up a group to take a look at the game, but I expect that to take at least a day.” Matsuda sighed. “That...among other things.”

I have a rabbit to interrogate to be sure. A lot to do. And I won’t be cutting any heads open. Boo.

“Very well,” she repeated. “I shall guard diligently for as long as need be.”

“Thanks, it means a lot.” He yawned. “But, if you get tired of doing it, don’t hesitate to holler or intimidate someone else into taking over.”

“That will not be necessary.”

“It’s fucking sweltering out, I promise you’re going to feel disgusting after a while so I insist,” Matsuda huffed, scowling. “Not to mention Miss Photographer is going to be all up my ass if she finds out you’re overworking yourself. For both our sakes, at least try to take care.”

Pekoyama was quiet, expression unmoved. Of course, that bothered Matsuda even more.

“That not-nurse will cry, too, so... Think about it. If I had to guess, you’re probably the kind of person who gets uncomfortable with others fussing over you, so to avoid that...” He trails off, feeling irritably flustered. “Yeah.”

“Understood.”

Said with that same straight face. Well, I guess that’s that.

He waved her off without another word, groaning from pain as he walked off. His back, neck, and head hurt something fierce—but he also needed another shower. He felt almost slimy.

Pekoyama’s boring blood-red gaze on his back didn’t help, but he wasn’t going to take it personally.

That chick can be reliable at least.


The first order of business is the damn arcade machine. Now that I know pinstripe baby has his eye on it, I have to at least arrange it so that someone’s watching it at almost all times. The plan and biggest hurdle after that would be...

“As much as I like games, that arcade machine that Monokuma-chan made gives me maaaaajor bad evil vibes! So I’m just gonna noooooot! Ooh, but I can be a guard, no prob! I’ll SCREAM whenever someone even looks at it! That’ll scare off any ne’er-do-wells!”

“Well... I guess that’s more than I expected from you...”

“A sugary compliment from the ice king! Waaaah, my heart’s aflame!”

“Urgh.”

...

“I’ve got no interest in arcadia whatsoever, but I’ll guard ‘em fine. I won’t forgive any wanna-be killers! But I’m going to get bored just...standing there so like...eh.”

“I’ll give you more food. Also, I guess I could get Coach Meathead to watch with you since he’s not much for video games either.”

“Did you just say meat?!”

...

“The gales do not sing today—I pray that such silence is not an omen of ill.”

“Yeah, whatever, anyway... I wanted to ask...”

“About that meager game, correct? Is that what brings you before me?”

“Yeah—”

“I’ve no time for such frivolities! For you see! That which you call a game lies a realm created by lesser beings! Mwahahaha! It is put a farce! A pitiful attempt at God! But you see! This is not just a farce but a mimicry! Because you feeble-minded fools can only imitate our grandeur!”

“...”

“Heheheheh...what is the matter? Does the truth sting?”

“Why the actual fuck did I even bother talking to you.”

...

“He—”

“I-I see that look in your eye and I don’t like it at all! Back the hell off! I’m not doing anything weird for you like hacking that weird machine or dismantling it! I’ll definitely get punished if I do!”

“...”

“If you want to get yourself killed, then...well that leaves us to deal with that nutcase, huh. S-So! You shouldn’t do anything risky either, got it?! Even if you are a total asshole, that’d be an even bigger pain!”

“...”

“Stay the hell away from me and stay the fuck away from Sonia-san! That’s all I gotta say!”

“...huh.”

These fucking people...


“So you want to look into the motive, after all, Matsuda-san... Hmm.”

“I mean...it’d be better to amass a group of people to look at it with me, but... Not a lot of people are willing to give it a shot.” Matsuda shrugged. “And, honestly, Twilight Syndrome does sound like...your kinda thing, princess.”

“Please, just Sonia is fine.” She gives a gentle smile that contrasted harshly against that wicked twinkle in her eye. “And while you are correct that the premise Twilight Syndrome is very within my interests... Because of Monokuma’s involvement, my enthusiasm has...wilted a bit, you could say.”

“Yeah, that’s understandable.”

Hell, I’m not exactly trusting either but... We can’t counter what we don’t fully understand.

“That said,” Sonia went on. “I do wish to avoid further bloodshed, so... I think I will join your celebration, Matsuda-san. I am much honored to be here!”

“Party, you mean party.”

“Why yes! It will be quite the revelry! Monokuma shall soon face his dom!”

“I... Okay. Sure.” He should just be glad he has one volunteer. He should just be glad he has one volunteer. “Then, we’ll meet up later tonight. After the last person’s done guarding for the day. I’ll try to get more people but...aside from the gaming otaku and Komaeda, I’m not expecting much in terms of results...”

“Komaeda-san, huh? I suppose it would be better that way. I agree with your strategy.” Sonia nodded. “Matsuda-san, I shall try to rally support as well.”

“Good luck with that,” he said, rubbing at his neck. “Speaking of which, I should probably grab Komaeda and get some breakfast...”

“You always do eat so terribly late! Is that healthy?”

“Probably not. But it’s whatever.” He waved her off. “Anyway, good luck again. You need doubly good luck.”

“You really are so generous, Matsuda-san!” she exclaimed after him and—urgh, he needed another shower to wash that off.

Except, his cottage was too far and Komaeda’s was right there. So he just knocked on the door and waited for it to open with an even more disgustingly saccharine face to greet him. He, unfortunately, was not disappointed.

“Good morning, Matsuda-kun!”

“Yeah, morning.”

“Oh!” Wide eyes. Soft frown. A slight tilt of the head. “Matsuda-kun did you get any sleep at all?”

Twitch. Twitch.

“It’s whatever.” Also too late in the day to go back to bed. We have shit to do. So. “Enough chatter. Let’s get going.”

“Okay!”

Success with that, at least.


“H-Hyuu! Uuu! Wah!”

“Goooooal.”

Ah, the otaku’s busy playing a game again. Figures.

That Tsumiki was also there was something to take note of. Especially with how desperately she fiddled with the controllers, and then when it was over, she burst out laughing, flushed and sparkling.

“Another round?” Nanami asked, ever stoic and unaffected. In such a contrast, Tsumiki nodded happily and excitedly.

“Yes, yes, yes!”

So that’s what her actual smile looks like...

It’d be rude to interrupt, so Matsuda tugs a humming Komaeda along and up the stairs to the restaurant.

“Mahiru-oneeeeee... It spilled...!”

“Ah, you overfilled it. But that’s okay, Hiyoko-chan. Better too much than too little! Let’s quickly wipe up what fell!”

“Okaaaaay!”

“Ah.” Matsuda popped his lips, tightening his grip on Komaeda’s sleeve. “You two.”

“Saionji-san, Koizumi-san!” Komaeda greeted, unaffected by the way the two returned his cheerful grin with less than enthusiastic grimaces. “Good morning to both of you!”

“Ew, it’s the pests,” Saionji sneered, pressing closer to Koizumi. “You’re finally up and taking the pest pet out on a walk, Matsuda-nii?”

“You wouldn’t answer your door, Matsuda,” Koizumi griped, unimpressed with both of them. “Are you taking this situation seriously?”

“Sorry, I was too busy with other things.”

“Like what?!”

“Things. Anyway. Food, food. Come on.” He pulled on Komaeda’s sleeve. “It’s brunch time.”

“I-If you’re going to be watching over that guy, you could at least wake up at a reasonable hour!” Koizumi exclaimed, exasperated. “Sheeeesh, you’re making for a crappy caretaker!”

“Yeah, at this rate, he’s gonna starve to death and we’re gonna end up in anoooother trial,” Saionji sing-songs before snickering. “But that’d probably be a good thing. It’d be really funny to be sure.”

“So kind to show such consideration!” Komaeda lit up. “And for someone like me!”

“Yeah, yeah, get some food and stop paying gremlins any mind.”

“G-Gremlins?! So mean, Matsuda-nii!”

“Matsuda, seriously...”

What?

Matsuda scoffed at their antics, gathering up food for his plate. Koizumi was bristling, but she remained focused on her task. She was packing a bento carefully, something Matsuda couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at.

“It’s for Peko-chan,” she said as if reading his mind. “Because someone just told her to guard a dumb machine for hours in the heat.”

“She offered,” Matsuda shot back. A pause. “I’m surprised that candy brat is helping you out, though.”

“The sooner Mahiru-onee finishes, the sooner she can walk me to the supermarket to buy all kinds of sweet treats!” Saionji exclaimed. “It’s simple as that!”

Sure, sure, of course, any generosity you show would be entirely self-serving.

“It’s still such a nice gesture,” Komaeda chirped. “Ah, Matsuda-kun, you’re just piling a bunch of miscellaneous things together on your plate again.”

“Should I make you lunch, too? It’d be a problem if you made yourself sick, doctor,” Koizumi griped.

“I mean if you want to, camgirl.”

“I-I don’t! And don’t call me that!”

“Yeah, doctor pervo, don’t be a fucking sicko to Mahiru-onee!”

“You really should be more tactful, Matsuda-kun...”

“Puh, puh.” It’s not that big of a deal considering the crowd. “Puh.”

But I really shouldn’t get too distracted.

“Anyway, since you already know about the current arrangement with the chick of the blade, I guess I should just cut to the chase.” He does set down his food but turns to Koizumi all the same. “Are you gonna help guard the thing?”

“I’m a little busy but I can certainly make time for it,” was her easy response.

“So reliable,” Komaeda cooed as Saionji glowered at him.

“Right.” Matsuda nodded. “In addition to that...”

“Are you going to ask me to play it?”

Koizumi wasn’t looking at him, but Saionji’s glare sharpened significantly. Matsuda makes a face, but the latter snaps before he can respond.

“Her Royal Heinous was asking around for people to rally for that stupid thing, it was so nauseating, but of course you’re responsible for that, Matsuda-nii.”

“Oi, oi...”

“The thing is,” Koizumi spoke up, raising her voice. “I do—get it. We can’t just avoid it forever, but...whenever I look at it, I’m stuck with just...a really, really bad feeling.”

Even turned away, Matsuda can see her shoulders quiver and tense, fingers digging into her palm, nails leaving behind indents. She does still manage to safely wrap up the bento, taking in a deep breath before exhaling just as much.

“I just... I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all...”

She sounds unsettled.

Komaeda hummed.

“But, Koizumi-san—you know that simply adverting your eyes won’t resolve anything, don’t you?”

She flinched as Komaeda giggled, offering a simple smile even as her expression twisted up painfully.

“You can only find hope by confronting despair. The best thing to do would to be proactive and face it on your own. Riiiiight?”

Koizumi trembled, knees buckling.

“I...” Her voice nearly broke. “I-I...”

...hm.

It was only due to Saionji abruptly clinging to her that she didn’t collapse then and there.

“Back off, you fucking creep!” Saionji spat out venomously. “Like hell I’ll let you mislead Mahiru-onee the way you did Hanamura!”

“Hi...” Koizumi swallows, regaining a bit of herself. “Hiyoko-chan...”

“Aha, that wasn’t my intention! I was just saying...” Komaeda waved his hands, smile now straining. “Oh, dear, you do look quite pale, Koizumi-san...”

“Whose fault is that?!” Saionji barked. “Come on, Mahiru-onee! You’re done here right?! Let’s go! Let’s get treats to wash out that nasty sour taste! Sour is the worst!”

“R...Right. Yes.” She nodded. “Let’s hurry and deliver this to Peko-chan... You’re right.”

“Sorry about him,” Matsuda said in a tone that wasn’t terribly apologetic. “He’s a work in progress.”

“Well work harder!” Saionji seethed. “You quack!”

“Now that’s going a bit too far...”

He said that, but it was obvious that Saionji wasn’t interested in listening any longer. Koizumi was the same, with both of them hurrying out although Matsuda did note them going hand-in-hand, one squeezing tightly and the other reciprocating. An exchange of stability, which was invaluable in a situation like this.

Komaeda had the decency to give him a slightly apologetic smile when they were gone.

“Sorry, Matsuda-kun, it looks like I chased her off, aha...”

“I kind of knew neither of them would go for it, but you really just...shouldn’t talk to people. Let me handle conversations.”

“Eh? But you’re so uncouth sometimes... Not that I doubt your Ultimate capabilities! It’s just...you know.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “But you’re you.”

Komaeda just laughed.

“I suppose that’s true.”


“Are you going to play the game? I’m going too, right? I think I should.”

“I assumed you were.”

“H-Heeeeeh?! So then what Sonia-san said...! U-Uuu...” Tsumiki sniffled. “Matsuda-san... You really are brave. Just looking at that arcade gives me a horrible, horrible feeling.”

She’s not the only one. That’s...peculiar, isn’t it?

“What kind of horrible feeling?” he asked.

“Is that appropriate to ask?” Komaeda wondered, to which he was ignored.

“Well...my stomach churns...and my ears ring a little. I-I think it’s just dread.” She fiddled with her fingers. “B-But obviously I’m not going to stop anyone...who wants to play it.”

“We’ll be fine, Tsumiki-san,” Nanami said. “Probably.”

“P-Please do be fine, I-I want to play more games with you, Nanami-san!”

“Oh. Then... Definitely.”

“D-Definitely!”

“Friendship sure is wonderful!” Komaeda exclaimed while Matsuda furrowed his brow.

As happy as Tsumiki looks—the space cadet’s face hasn’t changed at all...

“That’s all I wanted to discuss,” he just said. “Goodbye to both of you.”

“I’ll see you later tonight,” Nanami replied. “If you need to see me sooner—you know where to find me.”

“M-Me too!” Tsumiki exclaimed. “U-Um! Even if I can’t stand guard myself... I-I can check on those who are. Make sure no one passes out from...heat exhaustion...or anything like that.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Matsuda said as Komaeda cheered.

Alright now onto other things...

“To have such talented Ultimates with us,” Komaeda swooned as they walked even as they were long out of sight for the girls. “We really are so, so lucky!”

Well, right now—

“...oi, Komaeda. It’s pretty hot out, huh.”

“Hm?” Those doe eyes blinked at him. “Well, yes, I suppose.”

Despite the twist in lips, Matsuda could see that Komaeda Nagito’s face was red from the heat. That there were sweat-slick ivory strands stuck to his forehead under heavy, fluffy fringe. In contrast to the garish light of day, this guy really did look like an old-ass bedsheet dug out of storage from the attic.

But if he feels uncomfortable, he’s not going to say so. He’s that kind of fucker.

“Do you have anything you want to do while we’re out and about?”

“Oh, no! Anything you want to do, Matsuda-kun! You’re watching me, after all.”

“Hm.”

This fucker.

“I’m getting tired of your face and I really would rather look at a manga right now.”

“Oh!” Komaeda’s eyes went wide. “Would you like to go to the library, then? Or back to your cottage?”

“I like to read and walk but I don’t like having someone breathe down my shoulder as I do.”

“I see! You don’t want to deal with me at all right now! Ahaha, that’s completely understandable!”

Komaeda’s bout of cheerful laughter dulled Matsuda’s mood even more.

“The manga I picked up at the library was beyond mediocre, so I’m going to exchange it for something else. You can grab something else there if you want, I don’t care.”

“We don’t have any library fees and yet Matsuda-kun’s so responsible! As expected of the wonderful Ultimate Neurologist!”

Komaeda beamed even more. This time, his mood lightened a little. But not by much.

“...it’s just common courtesy,” he muttered, looking away with a huff.

Komaeda’s responding giggle, despite being much softer, was a lot more sincere.


He did exchange his manga. And Komaeda grabbed quite a few novels, humming as he did. That good mood remained even when they split up for Komaeda to go back to his cottage. Komaeda cheerfully waved, reiterated their meeting for tonight, and shut the door behind him with a click. A pretty gentle scene, something that wouldn’t be out of place in a simple high school slice of life. Just. On an island.

And on that same island, Monomi landed face-first against a palm tree after being swatted away by the snake Monobeast.

It was about as jarring as going from a guy whining about baby’s first case of athlete’s foot to someone who coughed up a handful of damaged lung tissue. In fact, Monomi did cough up a bit of stuffing and Matsuda was admittedly curious as to what that would constitute as.

Bile, blood, saliva...organs? The possibilities are endless.

“U-Uuu... Too tough... Sensei needs more strength... Oh no!” Monomi shrieked at upon noticing that the branch that had broken her fall was now in pieces. “My... My weapon! Ohhhh nooo... Now what will I do?”

“It’s a stick,” he informed her. “There are plenty of those on these islands.”

“M-Matsuda-kun! Ooh! Did you come to cheer sensei on?!” With that stitched-on mouth stupidly agape, those beady little eyes were also sparkling with...sea water...surely. “S-So kind! I won’t let you down!!”

I can’t imagine being more disappointed than I already am by this thing. But not too long ago I wouldn’t have imagined being in this situation. The possibilities are indeed endless.

“I wanted to ask you some more questions,” he said. “That is if you’re up to answering and don’t need someone to stitch you up. I’m sure someone on this island knows how to sew.”

“Ah, no, it’s fine! I’m only a little roughened up, but I’m as sturdy as I am cuddly!” Monomi puffed out her chest. Indeed, she wasn’t torn up, but she was roughened up more than just a little. “What does my dear pwecious student want from me?”

“I wanted to know more about the islands and what our situation was supposed to be before Monokuma showed up.”

“...ah.” She deflated like a balloon. “I-I... Um. W-Well, we were supposed to go on a lovey-dovey heart-throbbing...”

“That part I remember. But how did we get here?”

“M... Magic, of course! I-I may not look it now, but sensei was a magical girl you know!!” She tried to puff up again, but it was a sad, sad attempt. “I’m channeling up my energy as we speak... I can regain my original form for a whole half-minute now! It takes a long time to channel it up again after that, but—But I’ll take that meanie Monokuma down in no time!”

No, that’s going to take a lot of time. Time that desperate high school students aren’t going to be happy with. Especially like this.

“That information is useless to me,” he said, making her stumble as if smacked down by the words. “What actual explanations can you give me to better understand what we’re dealing with?”

Monomi trembled, sweating like bullets. Except that was also seawater. Probably. Had to be. She reeked of salt and sand.

“U-Um.” She fidgeted, pressing her paws together. “Well... As long as you all work together with hope in your hearts, you can overcome any obstacle. I truly believe that. Even if the times are dark, as long as you can find the light within one another and yourselves, you’ll always be able to pull through.”

“...huuuuuh.”

“I believe in all of you...with all my heart!”

“...”

Matsuda averted his gaze, expression impassive.

It’d be nice if I could believe, too.

Because she had gotten him into such a mood, he couldn’t help but think of Komaeda Nagito. Stupid, smiling, self-destructive Komaeda Nagito.

“You really can’t say any more than that?” he asked, scowling. Monomi snapped up and cowered a little, saying nothing as he went on. “Is that because of how you were programmed? Or is that the result of the person controlling you?”

“U-Uuu...”

Can’t say? Then, how about...?

“Is the traitor working for you or Monokuma?”

“T-There’s no traitor!” Monomi squeaked, high-pitched and unconvincing. “T-That meanie Monokuma said that to trick you!”

“So no one here is working with the outside force responsible for at least some of this shit happening?”

“I-I... Um... All of you are classmates...” Monomi went right back to fidgeting and sweating. “You should...believe in your classmates...not doubt them...”

He nods along as unimpressed as ever. He thinks of Komaeda Nagito again and grumbles as he pinches the bridge of his nose.

Interrogating this rodent is irritating. I can only infer based on responses this vague and flimsy. Nothing concrete. The absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. But—there is one thing I should get a firm answer on if nothing else.

“Is there a hospital anywhere on these islands?”

“Oh!” Monomi immediately straightened up, relieved. “Yes! Of course! It’s on the third island!”

“The third...island.” His head tilted. “As in the island you were trying to gain access to.”

“Yes!”

Well.

That settled it then.

“What are you slacking off for? Get your ass back in the fray.”

“H-Huh? Huwah!”

Matsuda snatched her up by the ears again. She kicked her feet to no avail as she was carried along like a rag doll.

“M-Matsuda-kun...! P-Please be gentler!”

“The snake Monobeast is just over there,” he muttered, eyeing the thing slithering and coiling. “All you have to do is get rid of it and we’ll have access to the hospital, right?”

“Y-Yes, but I... I need a weapon!”

Scoffing, Matsuda picked up a random branch and shoved it into her hands.

“H-Hiiii?”

“Go make your students proud,” was his last remark before he flung his teacher back into the fray.

“W-WAAAAAAAH!”

Chapter Text

They hadn’t managed to get past the snake Monobeast before night began to fall. Clicking his tongue in irritation, Matsuda abandoned Monomi to continue her attempts and made his way to the first island. To check on that stupid arcade machine and dismiss the last person to guard it for the day.

He was actually expecting Pekoyama, but instead it was Koizumi, staring at it with her arms crossed and shoulders hunched. It was easy to imagine some kind of troubled expression on her face, but when she jerked to face him, her eyes were wide with alarm. She relaxed a little, only a little. Her gaze was still wary.

“Ma...tsuda. Right. Right.” She brushes her hair back, looking down at the dirt between them. “You’re here earlier than expected. I don’t see Sonia-chan or Komaeda with you.”

“I’m doing an initial survey and maybe hoping for stragglers.” A pause. “So, are you considering it?”

“I... Um...” She flinches, gripping her arms tighter as if that feeble barrier would obscure his prodding stare. “I... Sorry.” Her head bowed further. “I don’t think I can.”

You don’t have to look so guilt-ridden—unless there’s more to it?

He thinks of pressing the matter but shakes his head.

I’ll keep an eye on her for now.

“Then you’re just making yourself an eyesore,” he ended up saying. “What happened to Pekoyama anyway?”

“I told her she needed to take a break...” Koizumi trails off, her nails digging more into her arms. “Even with everyone else pitching in, she was overdoing it. I think. And I’ve been feeling pretty useless.”

“You’ve tamed that kimono-wearing goblin. That’ll be pretty helpful down the line.”

“You know.” She bites her lip. “You really shouldn’t talk about people like that.”

“And you shouldn’t beat yourself up over perceived flaws.” Matsuda huffed, and then he muttered, “The others here are pretty fucking useless, too. Just keep doing what you can. Try not to lose sight of yourself, regardless of what this unreasonable situation throws at you.”

“That’s not much of a reassurance, but that’s to be expected from you.” Koizumi sighed but managed a small smile. “I think I’ll take some pictures of the ocean. Maybe that’ll cheer not just me up.”

Matsuda shrugged.

“If you get swept up by the tides, that’ll be a problem for everyone, so...be careful.”

“I will. I... Thanks.”

With that, she shuffled past, uncrossing her hands but still fiddling with her fingers, head still ducked. Matsuda watched her go, frown deepening.

She didn’t raise her voice once. That’s...troubling. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask the princess to check up on her later. Considering how useless I am at that sort of thing.

Still, he couldn’t help but feel a little concerned. Just a little.


The evening announcement went off, but he could barely hear it over—

“Matsuda-saaaaan!”

“Ma-tsu-da-kun.”

“Matsuda-san, Matsuda-san!”

“Matsuda-kun, Matsuda-kun, Matsuda-kun, Matsuda-kun.”

“Shut up, I heard both of you.”

“Oh.” Nanami paused. Sonia put a hand to her open mouth. Nanami tilted her head. “You look unhappy.”

“Who wouldn’t be?” Matsuda grumbled as he rubbed his head. “But that’s beside the point. No one else is showing up?”

“I apologize.” Sonia bowed so deeply that it almost hurt to look at. “I could not rally the people. I am better suited for a figurehead after all. However! I shall not lose to this—machine!”

“There are a couple of people still loitering, but,” Nanami hummed. “They’ve probably made up their minds. Maybe.”

Made up their minds. Those others would be worthless like that. But Koizumi looked anything but certain about it. Surely there is at least someone else...

“Oh, should I have also retrieved Komaeda-san?” Sonia asked. “I thought he was with you.”

“I’ll be grabbing him, don’t worry. I was just deep in thought.” Matsuda clicked his tongue. “Thanks for showing up, though. Both of you. I’ll be quick.”

“Very well.”

“Okay.”

It’s good to have two volunteers. They can keep each other in check. And both of them aren’t exactly the sneakiest.

Still, he wondered about everyone else.

I haven’t seen pinstripe all day—did he really give up on the arcade from seeing someone guarding it? Somehow, I doubt it. But he’d have to threaten one of them and that’s an unreliable method, to say the least. If he did that and a murder happened afterward, getting sold out would be difficult to avoid.

He best remain on his guard. As Nanami said, there were some dalliers. Pekoyama and Nidai talking; about what Matsuda wasn’t curious. Souda chuckling to himself. Mioda fussing about. Koizumi—taking pictures of the waves as she said she would.

Matsuda paused only briefly but quickly hurried ahead—only to smack into someone.

“A-Ack! Matsuda! Watch where you’re going! Wait... Matsuda?”

Matsuda dully met Hinata’s wide-eyed stare.

“I... I uh, I thought you’d be at the arcade,” Hinata managed clumsily. “Because, Sonia...mentioned...something about that.”

“I’m getting Komaeda Nagito. Obviously.”

“Obviously...” Hinata grimaced. “You really think that’s safe?”

“It’s better than him playing in secret, right?” Matsuda frowned. “And I’ll be keeping an eye on him. Like I said. Unless that’s not good enough for you?”

Hinata opened his mouth and hesitated.

“Wow. I see how it is.”

“T-That’s not...!” Hinata flustered. “I-I just... Actually... Let me...go with you.”

“Still got it bad, huh.”

“Shut up. It’s because Komaeda scares me. You’re scary, too, but... Y-You get what I mean.”

Matsuda rolled his eyes but let Hinata trail after him, not missing a beat. If Hinata couldn’t keep up, it was what it was. Surprisingly, Hinata matched his pace even as he looked more and more towards the ground the closer they got to Komaeda’s cottage.

Once they were on his porch, Matsuda gave Hinata one last look. Hinata shrank under it. Without looking away, Matsuda rapped his knuckles against Komaeda’s door in a familiar rhythm. It opened soon after.

“Good evening, Matsuda-kun! Shall we get going? Oh!” Komaeda annoyingly lit up even more when he noticed the extra company. Hinata nearly jumped like a rabbit. “Hinata-kun! Did you decide to join our party?”

“I... N-No. I’m just...checking on you with Matsuda,” Hinata growled, averting his gaze angrily. “Since I can’t trust you at all.”

“Ah. I see. Then.” Komaeda smiled without a care. “You can just be on your way, then. Unless you don’t trust Matsuda-kun either?”

“W-Wha?!”

“Is that so,” Matsuda said, dull and unimpressed. “I see how it is.”

“It can’t be helped,” Komaeda sighed. “Although I am a bit sad for Matsuda-kun. Despite asking around, so few of you stepped up. Is that really Ultimate behavior?”

“Shut up.” Hinata’s fists clenched. Matsuda perked as Hinata gritted his teeth, growling. “Just shut up. I’m not going to let you trick me the way you tricked Hanamura.”

“Oh, Hinata-kun...”

“Oi, oi, aren’t you getting too chatty?” Matsuda griped, covering Komaeda’s mouth. “That princess and space cadet are waiting. Isn’t it fucking rude to keep people waiting?”

Komaeda made a surprised sound but allowed Matsuda to pull him along, didn’t even protest Matsuda kicking his door shut.

“Anyway.” Matsuda cast Hinata another briefer look. “We’ll be on our way, so don’t concern yourself anymore. Have a nice night.”

Hinata made a face, but Matsuda quickly turned and lead Komaeda away so that he wouldn’t have to see this.

Several steps ahead.

“W-Wait!”

Shit.

“Both Sonia and Nanami are going to be there?” Hinata was stumbling after them, panting. “You really couldn’t get anyone else?”

“Is that such a shock?” Matsuda shot back. “This class is full of cowards, idiots, and both. A lot of them are content to sit on their hands and pretend nothing’s fucking wrong. Whatever. Good for them. Like hell I can exercise that level of negligence. Especially when I have this dumbass to constantly look out for.”

Komaeda blinked up at him innocently.

“T-That’s...” Hinata stammered. “I guess...not, huh.”

“Yeah. So if that’s all you’ve got to say...”

“I... I’m coming with.” Quickly, he added, “N-Not because of him! Or you! It just...wouldn’t feel right to leave Sonia and Nanami to this. It’s...uncool. Yeah.”

“It would be quite uncool!” Komaeda chirped, to Matsuda’s fury.

“I stop covering your mouth for one damn second—!”

“W-We should hurry,” Hinata cut in. “Because, ugh, those two are waiting.”

Matsuda hissed, but with Komaeda beaming and Hinata’s hardened stare, there wasn’t room for disagreement.

This should be considered a victory—but for some reason, I just feel more on edge. Of fucking course I do.


There was a low buzzing sound. An eerie zap, one that only seemed to get louder and louder. And the princess and space cadet were crowded around the arcade machine as if transfixed by its humming glow.

“Oi, oi, what the hell? You two couldn’t wait?!”

“Oh, Matsuda-san! Komaeda-san! And... Hinata-san?!”

“We’re just on the title screen.” Nanami paused. “But no, I couldn’t wait. I just got way too excited.”

She says in the most unexcited way ever, Matsuda thinks, souring.

“That’s our Ultimate Gamer for you!” Komaeda laughed. “But we’ve amassed a decent party, haven’t we?”

“I don’t want to hear you say the word party ever again,” Hinata muttered. “I’m just here to make extra sure nothing goes awry. I might be—a little curious, too, but if it’s dangerous, I’m calling an end to it.”

“I really am so glad you joined our revelry, Hinata-san!” Sonia squealed. “Now—let us get this game on the road!”

“Calm down a little, don’t forget who made this stupid thing,” Matsuda griped, pushing his way forward to the arcade. He blinked at the title screen, displaying a rather older version of Hope’s Peak, if the emblem was any indication.

“Ooh!” Komaeda clasped his hands. “That’s how Hope’s Peak looked in the 90s! Just shy of two decades ago! What a historical marvel!”

“Maybe it takes place in the same year as the original Twilight Syndrome?” Nanami wondered. “So that’d be—1996. A while ago. That’s um...a little after some of us were born, right? Yeah...that’s...how math works, I think.”

You only think?

“But I do not know what the purpose would be to show us something from so long ago,” Sonia commented. “Unless Monokuma’s creator is rather...old-fashioned.”

“Maybe,” Hinata agreed.

Matsuda irritably pressed start, blinking at the message that popped up.

Attention:

The events, characters, and organizations as depicted in this game are non-fiction.

Any similarities to individual people, living or dead, is entirely deliberate.

This is all based on a beary true story!

Matsuda stiffened, and he felt the atmosphere grow tense. There wasn’t any further commentary, so he pressed start again.

Now... Who Would You All Like To Play?

Matsuda blinked once. Twice.

“Is this some kind of a joke...?”

Laid out before him was a list of characters. Characters. As if he could glean any personality much less names. In reality, there were just five girls, differentiated by nothing more than a letter.

“Oh, it’s multi-player,” Nanami remarked. “There are five girls. Five of us. So we can all play, it looks like.”

“How lucky,” Komaeda hummed.

“How convenient,” Hinata huffed. “And we’re sure this isn’t a trap?”

“There is only way to find out,” Sonia said. “We each select a girl and see how things turn out.”

“...space cadent,” Matsuda said lowly. “You go first. I’ll go last.”

“H-Hold on!” Hinata exclaimed. “We don’t know if it’s safe, so...! I-I’ll go first instead. I’ll pick Girl A.”

“Worried about Nanami-san, huh?” Komaeda asked cheerily.

“It makes no difference to me,” Nanami said. “I’ll pick Girl B, then. I hear that when in doubt, guess B.”

“Girl C for me,” Sonia said. “Since we seem to be going in order.”

“Then I guess Girl D is the next one,” Komaeda chuckled. “Which leaves Matsuda-kun with...”

“Girl E.” Matsuda wrinkled his nose. “Right, then. I shouldn’t even be surprised. Although how the hell are all five of us going to play with only one set-up?”

“We’ll figure it out, probably,” Nanami said. “So, let’s start.”

Hinata grimaced but he selected Girl A. Nanami selected Girl B. So on, so forth. Matsuda felt the chill of the night sink into his nape as he picked out the last girl, Girl E. The screen glowed at the final press of start.

And then

Game

Dull

S̨̤̠̔͗̈t͈̜͕̞̂̅̓̈́a̯͌͒͂͟ͅr͚̫̾̕t̪̋͟


When Matsuda came to, he was standing in an old school hallway, leaning against a pair of double doors. He was trembling bad and could barely hear anything over his own harsh breathing.

Wh...at...?

There was a small laceration on his wrist that itched like maggots were crawling around under the skin. He scratched it furiously, watching it turn red before the skin finally split and beaded with blood. That snapped him out of it, along with the call of—

“E-E-san, did something happen?!”

Matsuda perked up, feeling unnaturally cold as the others ran up to him. Girl A through Girl D each played by their respective actor.

So that’s how it is.

Hinata, as Girl A, looked even more pale and worried, and Matsuda was quick to grip his injury to obscure it. For some reason, he didn’t want this person in particular to notice.

“I-I have no idea,” he stammers out. “I was just passing by the music room—and then I heard glass shattering.”

Why am I...lying?

“Is there someone inside?” Sonia asks, fidgeting restlessly as she looked towards the door. Matsuda shrugged helplessly but Nanami was quick to check it. She rattled the knob and clicked her tongue in irritation.

“It’s locked. We can’t get in.”

“Is it locked from the inside?!” Sonia exclaimed. “Are you sure there’s no one in there, B-chan?!”

“Quit your damn squealing, C-ko!” Nanami bit back with u̴͈̓̔̍͊̃́͊̈́̅̚̚͝ṇ̵̢̛̮̜̩̠̳͊̅̔͂̄͘͠͝characteristic venom. “If there is, they clearly don’t want us inside!”

“Um...” Matsuda swallowed. “There should be a key in the staff room. We can use that.”

But...why? I don’t... I don’t...

I don’t want ĥ̷͈͈̆̐͠͝͝e̸̛̱͙̾̌͑̂r̸̜̄̈́̾̀ to see this...

“I’ll get it,” Komaeda said, to which Matsuda’s heart skipped a beat. He quickly turned on his heel. “The teachers surely went home by now—so I shouldn’t get caught. I... I just have a bad feeling about all this...!”

A bad feeling, huh...? Haha. Hahaha.


The lock clicked open, and Komaeda pulled back.

“Alright, let’s go.”

“You heard D-nee. Lead the way, A-ko,” Nanami snapped, to which Hinata recoiled.

“H-Hueh?!”

“Get in there, you smelly sow!”

Hinata yelped when he was shoved in, stumbling and just barely avoiding a harsh tumble as the others followed in shortly after. On instinct, Matsuda looked to what he knew they’d all see.

Ba-dump.

Ba-dump.

The only light in the room is from the broken window. He remembered that, and it strikes him that it’s now close to sunset. The sky is dyed soft orange, particles of dust dancing in the air and rays caught on the slumped girl propped against the wall.

Ba-dump.

“T-There...” Hinata swallowed and shuddered. “There’s someone lying on the floor.”

Nanami is the one who approaches her, kneeling before the girl with her lips pulled into a straight line. Her eyebrows raise, jaw going slack and rosy cheeks paling.

“She’s not just lying here. She’s dead.”

“D-Dead?!” Komaeda gasped, aghast.

“H-How,” Matsuda made himself choke out. “W-Why...?”

How and why did things turn out like this?

Hinata screamed, fingers tangled into his hair.

“Shut UP!” Nanami screeched. “What if the killer’s still here?!”

Killer...?

“I mean—she’s not just dead, she’s clearly been killed!”

“KILLED?!” Sonia shrieked.

“I said shut up, you idiot!”

“B-But what should we do?” Komaeda asked softly. “Why—who would even do this?”

Matsuda just looks at the broken window. He’s not the only one.

“That’s probably how the killer escaped,” Nanami said as Hinata cowered. “That sound from before must’ve been the culprit smashing the window to crawl out.”

“T-They could’ve just opened it,” Hinata pointed out meekly.

“They must’ve been in a panic,” Matsuda said quickly, directing their attention to the busted aquarium. “Look. It got knocked over. It might’ve seemed safer to just jump from the window than to go through the hallway and get caught by anyone wandering about.”

Hinata seems hesitant but the others are satisfied with his explanation.

Matsuda’s heart is pounding as Nanami nods along in agreement.

“It...” He swallows again, and he feels sick. So, so sick. “It must’ve been that creep who stole my swimsuit earlier.”

Hinata’s eyes went wide.

“I haven’t been able to find it for days now,” he went on, trying to not grit his teeth. “I have a suspicion that the same person who did that...”

“A perverted thief AND murderer!” Sonia gasped. “W-What a twist!”

“I bet she got dragged in here, and then...” Nanami trailed off with a disgusted scowl averted from the corpse to the broken window.

“We...we should get out of here,” Matsuda said, raising his voice. “I don’t want to get involved in something like this.”

“Me neither!” Sonia yelped. “This is bad! Bad, bad, bad! We should just run away!”

With that, she spun around her heel and fled. They all watch her go. No one stops her.

“B-But...”

Hinata’s quaking voice is barely about a terrified whimper.

“Shouldn’t—shouldn’t we report this to the police?”

“No way!” Matsuda couldn’t even stop himself. “Didn’t you just hear me?! If we report it, we’re going to be suspected since we found it first! I don’t want to deal with that! Let’s just go, it’s none of our business!”

“Yeah, if we lock the door behind us without disturbing anything, it’ll be like we weren’t ever here,” Nanami agreed. “It’s best we just forget about all of this.”

Komaeda hesitates, so Matsuda pleads.

“C-Come on, D-ko. We’re going.”

He pushes his way through, Nanami trailing behind and Hinata scrambling after them.

Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

It takes a while for Komaeda to join them.


“Finally! You’re so fucking late, pig barf!”

“I-I’m sorry...! I’m sorry! Please don’t be mad!!”

“We’re not mad; it’s alright. B-chan, A-chan, let’s not fight, okay?”

“Whatever!”

“U-Uuuuu.”

Matsuda watched them banter, Sonia humming anxiously beside him, rocking back and forth on her heels. He’s agitated, almost wants to snap at her to shut up, but he shouldn’t lose his cool.

I can’t lose my cool, he thinks, watching as Komaeda gives a reassuring smile. His mood ends up souring when Hinata finally stumbles forward, meeting his gaze despite his pathetic quivering.

“Um, s-so E-san, what was it you wanted us to all speak about?”

“Shouldn’t it be obvious?” he snapped, nails biting into his palm.

“Ugh! Typical stupid, slow A-ko! It’s about today’s newspaper!” Nanami yanked Hinata by the sleeve.

“This, this!” Sonia exclaimed, smacking the desk where the paper in question laid. “Tadah! The evening edition!”

Matsuda looks it over, the boldly printed text, the wrinkles and tears from when it had been handled too roughly. He still wants to crumble it, but instead he lets the others read it over. Again. And again. As if doing so wasn’t death by a thousand cuts.

But it says—the police believe someone broke in. That someone snuck in. Aha. Hahaha. It’ll be over soon.

“It really got into the papers,” Nanami whined.

“But it’s just as we thought,” Matsuda said, trying not to smile.

I feel relieved. Huh.

“Uwaaaah! In a different world, this could’ve been us!” Sonia yelped. “Scaryyyy!”

“Is this really okay?” Hinata whispers, his terrified stare on the paper. “I-I mean—we found the body first...”

“So what? We didn’t do anything else.” Nanami scoffed, and Matsuda quickly agreed.

“Yeah, it’s not a big deal.”

“S-Still!”

“We’re all well-aware of how masochistic you are, but I don’t want any part in a murder investigation! I didn’t come all this way for that!” Matsuda turned on his heel, turning to her—to Komaeda with an expectant smile. “Right, D-ko?”

“I guess so...” Komaeda didn’t even muster up eye contact, much less a smile. Instead, he’s fiddling with the camera around his neck.

“What’s up?” Sonia asked. “D-chan, you don’t soooound super sure of yourself!”

“Actually, there’s something I need to tell all of you...”

Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

“I took pictures of the scene. If the police did question us, I thought it’d help...”

Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

“You what?”

He can barely hear the words over his pounding heartbeat and the chaotic static in his head. Like the world was turning to goop and he was sinking, sinking, sinking until all he saw was black, black, black, redredred

“D-san, where are those pictures now...?”

“They’re just right here, see?”

Komaeda has the pictures in his hand. Of the broken window. The broken aquarium tank. Her broken skull, dented and stained with red.

Sonia screeched. Hinata yelped too.

“K-Keep it away! We’re going to get cursed! CURSED!!!”

“C-Cursed?!”

“Shut up! Curses aren’t real!”

He isn’t even in control of himself now. All he sees is his—Girl E’s hand reach out and snatch away those photos. He sees a flash of alarm and betrayal in Komaeda—in Girl D’s eyes.

I didn’t betray her. I didn’t betray anyone. This isn’t my fault. This—this wouldn’t have happened if, if, if—!

He rips them up into pieces. Sonia cries out about stupid fucking curses, but he only looks at Komaeda, dead serious and voice low.

“Delete any digital copies. I’m going to burn the rest.”

Komaeda nodded, expression stricken and helpless.

“Aren’t you being overly defensive?” Nanami asks her, almost scathingly. She’s pissed because of that look on Girl D’s face. He knows that. He knows that.

I don’t want her to look like that either, but—!

“Let’s just forget about it! All of it! We never saw anything! That murder—that murder—we have NOTHING to do with it!”

Maybe he can scream that louder, convince himself, herself, and the dead girl with the malevolent glare.

“C-Come on.” He pleads with the shadows. “Let’s just head home. It—it’s getting late. We should go before it gets dark.”


Komaeda—Girl D tells him later to meet up. Despite everything, he goes because—

I want to see her.

“Hey, D-ko! Sorry, sorry, haha! You weren’t waiting long, were you?”

“No, I wasn’t.”

“What’s up~? Don’t tell me you’re finally going to confess~?”

Normally, she would laugh. Normally, she’d smile. Komaeda’s carefree face is instead marred by a solemn frown. He shuffles his feet uncomfortably, so much so that Matsuda, too, feels unsettled.

“What’s wrong?” he asks. “Don’t, um, don’t tell me this is about the other day. Look, I definitely went a little overboard. I’m sorry.”

Komaeda shook his head, instead pulling out another photo.

“It’s not that, it’s—it’s this.”

It’s of a vase in pieces. Matsuda remembers smashing the very same one. He stuck a bandaid on his arm from getting cut. He told everyone it was from his club activities. He breathes out and in that moment, and feels like suffocating.

“When it happened, I checked the classroom next door,” Komaeda speaks slowly, tentatively.

Fearfully.

“I took the picture without even thinking. E-ko, what do you suppose this means?”

“...”

“E-ko... If you threw this vase to the ground with enough force...”

“...”

Komaeda stares at him, pleading.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Komaeda bites his lip. He looks down. As if disappointed.

“What the hell is this about, D-ko?”

Red in creeping in again. Red and shadows.

“It’s okay,” Komaeda said softly. “I made sure to clean everything up.”

Matsuda blinked. Once. Twice. Bright. The sky was still a bright, brilliant blue, and Komaeda was smiling sadly.

“I mean, we’re friends, right? If someone found out about that vase—who knows what would happen?”

Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

Komaeda hands over the photo.

“E-ko...”

He takes the photo.

“When something happens, you should tell me.”

Matsuda wanted to laugh at such pleading sincerity.

“Hypocrite. You—did you think I didn’t know?”

That pitiful smile on his best friend’s face drops.

“That girl—she had been bullying you for a while, right? Ha. She was making you fucking miserable.”

Those eyes go hopelessly wide.

“She attended the same photography club as you in junior high. I bet she was so jealous of you it hurt. But that’s not fair. It wasn’t fair. Why—why didn’t you tell me? Then I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t have...!”

No. No. It’s not her fault. It’s not, it’s not, it’s not.

“E-E-ko... You... You didn’t...?”

“What choice did I have?!” he burst out. “Because of her stupid fucking parents, that bitch thought she could do whatever the hell she wanted! How could I take that? Take what she was doing to you?! A-At first, we were just gonna talk! I was just gonna tell her off! But she just said that she’d do the same to me if I didn’t shut up and I was just so fucking angry. Something took ahold of me.”

Something vicious. Something dark. Something poisonous. Red. Shadows.

“I was just going to yell at her, I didn’t—I didn’t mean to start strangling her! And when she lost consciousness, all I could think is about how much better things would be if she—if she never woke up...”

Komaeda—no, Girl D was stepping away from him, trembling and horrorstruck.

“It’s not your fault, D-ko,” he insisted. “It’s not my fault, either. It’s her fault. It’s all her fault!”

He says that—and then he runs. He hears Komaeda call out after him and it twists and distorts. He can’t even make it out—he just knows it’s a name.

A name...?


The photograph is thrown away in a rush. It isn’t torn. It isn’t burned. But as he flees, Matsuda does see a flash of someone—familiar. He bumped into a boy. A familiar boy.

Huh?


Huh, huh, huh, huh, huh, huh, huh?

“Urgh, it’s so late. Why does it always take so long to change? I wish I could just do archery in my regular uniform. Urgh. Everyone else is already gone. Guess I’m making the trip home alone. Ha. Haha.”

No, seriously, what the actual hell?

“Ahhhh. Hah. Didn’t that happen around...this time? Argh, stop! Don’t—don’t think about that... Just forget it! Forget all about it!”

“I won’t let you forget.”

Matsuda jumped. He looked around the same vacant hallway he first woke up in.

“I won’t let you forget.”

That voice—I know it.

“What...?” He turns. “Where...?”

Someone stands here in shadow. There is only gleam in the bat—and in that hateful glare.

“N-No...” Matsuda nearly stumbles over his own feet. “W-Wait...”

“I won’t let you won’t let you won’t let you won’t let you—”

“D-Don’t hurt me... Please...” A half-choked whimper. “P-Please forgive me.”

“Never.”

He tries to run. He does run, but the hallway is endless.

“Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never—”

It’s endless, stretching out into the darkness and he trips, falling flat on his face. He cries out but he can’t see anything through watering eyes and long, dark bangs.

“I’ll never forgive you.”

He doesn’t even get out one final plea before everything bursts into dark red searing agony.


He stands in another classroom, feeling more—detached.

He doesn’t have time to mull over what the hell just happened.

The door opens. Someone screams. He sees the others, Komaeda in particular rushing towards—and through him. And then, he heard that distorted call.

“Wait.”

There’s another scream about curses. Now there’s sobbing.

“Don’t look.”

She’s sobbing.

“Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look, don’t look—!”

He sees the girls. One of them on her knees, two of them standing and staring in disbelief and horror, and her wrapped around and sobbing into the shoulder of a corpse.

“S̶̨͔̗͕̙̖̬͚͖̈́͆̈́̉̆̓̏ȧ̵̟͇͇͚̫́̒̋͐̎͗ţ̷̢̛̛̫̯͙̬̯̩̬͉̘̫̹̭̣͆̂̃̇̾̈̂̀̈͘̕ǫ̴͉͕̮͚̬̟͔͕̱̥͔̪̾̆̐̄̓͒̌̃̎̅ͅụ̴̪͚̫̭̣͚̰̪͙̌͊͌͆̾̕!̴̢͍͙͔̲̣̄̐͗̓́! O-Oh, god, S̸̰͕͓̺͚̐̂a̴͕̜͍͖̤͙͒̓̕t̵̩͖̩͗͜ớ̷̡͕̰̺͊̈͌͝ȗ̵̩͓! S̸̛̛̟̹̑̈́Ą̶̖̺͍̎͗̕T̴̛͈̫̤͑͜͠͝O̸͕̻͆U̷̳̳̿̉͘!̷̢͚̟̣̓̔͒!̷̣̱͛̊!̴͚͚̝̎͊”

It’s awful. It’s so fucking awful just to see her like this.

“M...”

He calls out to her in vain.

“M̷̦̓͆a̸͚͗h̵̖̱̕͝i̷̠͂ŕ̶͍ȕ̶̦̮...!”

He screams.

“M̴̻̈́a̶̻̖͛̉HIRU!!!”

...hiru...

Koizumi... Mahiru?

Matsuda snaps up, and he sees Girl E slumped on the floor, sobbing and screaming into the ground, fingers tangled into her hair. Her long, dark hair was stained with something dark. The other girls are still crying, with Koizumi Mahiru clinging to the dead Girl E and weeping.

“...ou... Satou...”

Matsuda blinks.

The game—

Was over.

Start again?


“Ma—su—!”

“Matsu—!”

“Matsuda-kun!!”

His head was fucking killing him as per usual, and he let out a low groan as he came to. There was a light gasp above him and a sharp intake of breath. Immediately, he opened his eyes to Komaeda’s disgustingly cheerful grin.

“Matsuda-kun, you’re back! You were the last to wake up—that was pretty concerning! We almost thought you died with Girl E, hahaha!”

Girl E’s slumped corpse was displayed proudly on the screen with a low, unassuming buzz. The words Game Over were printed in sickening red. Matsuda scowled at it, and Hinata just sighed.

“While I’m glad Matsuda’s fine, that was just...a total waste of time.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Komaeda hummed. “It was because you picked such an unremarkable character to play as, Hinata-kun.”

“I... Girl A was pretty pitiful, huh. Maybe I should’ve gone for Girl B, although she was...” Hinata’s face pinched. “Unpleasant.”

“She was alright, but I don’t think she was that important of a character either,” Nanami droned.

“I had gotten that impression with mine as well,” Sonia mourned. “I should have chosen Girl E. Though she died, she seemed at least interesting.”

“I...” Matsuda shuddered at remembering said death. “No, I don’t—I don’t recommend that. Avoid her route.”

“Then—Komaeda?” Hinata’s stare narrowed. Komaeda kept on smiling innocently as Hinata asked, “What about your route? You haven’t said anything. And hell I—I missed entirely on what happened on the third day.”

“Girl D and Girl E just had a quaint little chat. If you want to know, you should play,” Komaeda chuckled. “You have to play through all a game’s routes to learn all its secrets, right?”

“Right, yeah,” Nanami agreed. “Okay, round two everyoooone. I’m gonna be Girl E now.”

Matsuda sputtered.

“D-Didn’t you just hear what I said?! No! I—I actually felt myself die, you know! It was fucking awful! My head still hurts like some asshole actually did whack me with a damn baseball bat!!”

Nanami blinked, lips formed into a circle.

“Oh. Is that why you took longer to wake up? Huh. Yeah. That might be an issue, then.”

“T-Then let’s not do it! We’ll just play Girl D’s route and hope to learn from that,” Hinata groaned, shooting Komaeda a dirty look. “Or, y’know, you and Matsuda can just tell us what happened.”

“I...” Komaeda kept on smiling without a care as Matsuda swallowed. “I think—I need some time first.”

“Seriously?”

“If you were hurt, then I do not think we should push it,” Sonia said. “Besides, it is quite late. Perhaps sleep and more time to mull over what had happened would be more beneficial.”

“I...guess,” Hinata huffed. “But I don’t trust Komaeda with information we don’t have.”

“He doesn’t know anything I don’t know,” Matsuda responded dully and tiredly. “So can you trust me instead?”

“It’s true! Matsuda-kun probably knows who killed Girl E!” Komaeda giggled. “I certainly have no idea! I’m excited to learn, myself!”

“What the actual hell is wrong with you?!”

“Ah, it is just a game, Hinata-kun!”

“S-Still—!”

Matsuda rubbed his head, tuning out their banter for his own sake. Sonia helps him up, and Nanami glances over towards him, cold and indifferent. He scowls back.

“I really would just rather sleep right now. Enough with this shitty fucking game. Let’s just go.”

No doubt about it—Girl D was Koizumi. I had no idea who the hell Girl E was. Satou? For fuck’s sake, there are over a hundred goddamn people named Satou in just this prefecture! But at the same time—the game was stated to be nonfiction. So all that—really happened.

“Mm, mm,” Komaeda hums. “How exciting.”

Hinata still glowers at him, but Sonia and Nanami just courteously nod. Matsuda hurriedly grabs Komaeda’s wrist and drags him along. They all walk back in relative silence until Matsuda thought to ask something.

“Before everyone else met up with Girl E in the beginning—what exactly happened?”

“It really wasn’t anything,” Hinata remarked. “My character was late, and then Komae—Girl D took a picture when Girl B started scolding her. The sensation was weird, like I couldn’t control my own body and didn’t even really have my own thoughts.”

“The same was for me,” Sonia recalled. “In fact, everything was quite noisy. I could barely focus on anything at all.”

“I thought it was pretty quiet,” Nanami said, to which Hinata looked confused but nodded along. “But I did feel—weirdly short, I guess.”

Huh.

“But when Girl B started terrorizing Girl A, there was that crash,” Komaeda said. “And then, well, we all met up! And that’s where the humble murder mystery began.”

“Did you really enjoy that?” Hinata asked with a gripe.

“I mean, I thought it was okay,” Nanami said. “Bit short with not much interaction, though... It was okay, but not much of a game.”

“It was a visual novel, which counts,” Matsuda snapped. “Don’t be fucking elitist.”

“For Monokuma’s creation, it was not as dangerous as I feared,” Sonia spoke up. “It was simply—what it was.”

No. There’s more to it. The guy who killed me; killed Girl E—that was Kuzuryuu. Why? What was that girl to him? She did look familiar. His sister...maybe?

“We should play it again, maybe punch in some codes, like, the Konami Code,” Nanami suggested, to which Hinata made a face.

“Huh, what’s that?”

“Hinata-kun, you’re really that uncultured?” Komaeda sighed, shaking his head. “Look, even Nanami-san’s disappointed with you.”

“Shut up!”

“Mmmmm.”

“W-Wait, Nanami, are you actually upset?!”

Sonia giggles softly. But it’s strained and uneasy. He can commend her for that level of awareness, at least.

“Tomorrow,” Nanami spoke up, cheeks puffed. “We should definitely check it out more as soon as we can, I think.”

“Nanami-san, we have plans tomorrow,” Sonia said kindly. “So it will have to wait.”

“Plans?” Hinata wondered quietly. Sonia’s smile was a bit wider than before, but Nanami remained stoic.

“Oh yeah. Plans. Um. I still want to return to the game as soon as possible, though.”

“That’s Nanami-san for you,” Komaeda chuckled. “Have fun on your plans.”

“I have other things to worry about too,” Matsuda muttered. “So whatever.”

If I really had to guess about the girl who died... Should I...confront Kuzuryuu?

No, he didn’t picture that going well. That wasn’t the effect of the stupid fucking game. Definitely not. No way.

He still shuddered.

There definitely is—someone I should talk to.

Chapter Text

“Matsuda-kun.”

It’s not him. It was someone else. Someone else.

“May I ask something?”

Urgh. I guess I should be glad he waited until the next morning.

“Shoot.”

“I would never—well at myself maybe, ehe...” Matsuda raised an eyebrow at the shitty joke, staring Komaeda down until his inane laughter died. “Mmm. Well.” Komaeda clears his throat. “Did you really feel what it was like to die?”

“Yeah, it was like getting knocked out so hard that everything is just nothing. I even had a bit of an out of body experience but I blame that on the stupid game.” He rolled his eyes. “Reportedly death has always been nothing. Pretty fucking boring, huh?”

“I suppose,” Komaeda agreed. “Admittedly I have experienced nothingness before...”

That doesn’t surprise me.

“Anyway,” Matsuda said, waving his hand. “You know the truth about Girl E. That she’s—one culprit, at least.”

“Yes, I do,” Komaeda replied. “I also have an idea as to the truth behind the game. If I’m right, it’d make for quuuuite the motive! But even though we played through it, nothing really happened.”

“Monokuma didn’t even show up, you’re right.” He can’t imagine the mascot was too intimidated—but he also can’t imagine it being too happy with them, either. Still, there was nothing. After the shock of dying, waking up to find the game just done with no further fanfare was underwhelming. Matsuda’s glare narrowed. “Did he just not have anything to say? That’s fucking hard to believe, too...”

“My memory of the pictures taken is actually quite fuzzy,” Komaeda said. “I do wonder about them, though...”

The pictures... Camera girl...

“Oh, Matsuda-kun, at this rate we’ll be late again. Ehe.”

“Yeah... Yeah.” Matsuda hurriedly nodded. But as stupid luck would have it, he saw a flash of red in the distance. With that, he held his arm out and kept Komaeda from going forward. “One second. Stay here for a bit.”

“You’re going to talk to Koizumi-san? Really? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

And what the hell is up with that tone?

Annoyingly as per usual, Komaeda’s eyes were inquisitive but there was an unsettling twitch at his smile, showing just a sliver of teeth.

“It’s an idea, one I can’t exactly trust you to not screw up. It’s nothing personal, I don’t trust anyone.”

“I understand!” Komaeda raised his hands. “Someone would have to be pretty special to earn Matsuda-kun’s trust!”

Don’t put it like that.

“Just stay here, alright?”

“Alright!”

Waving his finger at him a couple of times, Matsuda made a few threatening gestures just in case. Komaeda giggled even as he got flipped off, although his smile was slightly scolding. Since he was supposed to be talking to Koizumi, Matsuda hurried off on his way so that he wouldn’t reach his threshold for the day.

To his surprise, Koizumi jumped and spun around to face him before he even had the nerve to call out either her name or her moniker. He was still mulling on which to go with when she gritted her teeth.

“Don’t—sneak up on me like that!”

“You think that was sneaky?” He made a face. “You’re really on edge, huh? You didn’t play the game, did you?”

“N...No, of course not!” She shook her head furiously. “I-I mean. I was actually going over to guard it, but I wasn’t...going to play it...no way...” A pause. She didn’t look at him, keeping her trembling gaze on the dirt between them. “Y-You played it...right?”

“Yeah, I did.” Thing is, it’s obvious she’s not being entirely honest. So how much can I push it? Haa. “Do you want me to tell you about it?”

“I...” She hesitated. “Are you—here because I’m involved?”

Ah.

“How’d you know?” he asked coolly.

“No reason. I just had a feeling.”

She spoke quickly and in a rush; it couldn’t have been a more obvious falsehood if she tried. Clicking his tongue, Matsuda shrugged.

“Then, let me just ask a few questions.”

Koizumi flinched. She looked near tears almost.

“Uh.” Matsuda frowned deeply. “You know anyone named Satou?”

She blinked up at him, and thankfully she seemed more confused than distressed.

“You’ll have to be more specific. That’s a really common name. My elementary school teacher was named Satou. So was this boy in junior high.”

Junior high...

“So you weren’t friends with a Satou? At any point?”

“Friends?” Just like that—a change in her expression. Eyes growing wide, a flicker of recognition, jaw falling to leave her mouth slightly ajar. “I...I mean if I was, I wouldn’t be...surprised... But...”

Her features twist. She suddenly winces, rubbing at her temple.

“U-Urgh... Ugh...”

Koizumi covers her mouth as if she were sick, but quickly shakes it off.

“Sorry, I just—had a sudden migraine and bout of nausea.”

“Huh.” Matsuda nodded. “So, no dice?”

“On what? What were we talking about?” Despite her irritability, Koizumi did get a little flustered. “Head hurts too much to even think right now.”

Matsuda stares at her, at how she shrunk and hung her head. How her face scrunched up and how she paled. She really, really did look so, so sick.

“That’s alright.”

He talks without thinking, rustling through his pocket and pulling out the pill bottle.

“Here. You can take a few of these. I got them from the market and...I can say they’re fairly effective.”

“I...I could’ve gotten these myself, but thanks.” She takes it, not meeting his gaze with her pale cheeks a little pinker. “But, seriously, weren’t you asking me something important just then—?”

“Nah.” He waved his hand. “Not really. Be sure to return that bottle later, alright? After you grab your own from the market.”

“I might just keep it,” she huffed before shaking her head. “No, I’ll return it later. Thanks. I guess.”

“You’re welcome. I guess.”

She nods this time. Her lips twist a little at the corner. There’s an uncertain bobble in her throat, but whatever she’s considering, she decides against. She turns on her heel. The pills rattle. She waves good-bye with one last glance, and heads on her way.

“See you,” Matsuda intoned, and there wasn’t a response.

...so that’s how it is. No, I still don’t know for sure but I’m pretty damn convinced now.

It wasn’t just memories of our days at Hope’s Peak that got removed.

Gritting his teeth, he returned to the smiling Komaeda. Komaeda’s eyes were dark with disappointment.

“You didn’t interrogate her, Matsuda-kun. Do you really think that’s helpful?”

“I figured out something more important,” he scoffed. “And in that situation, you can’t just push until you get what you want.”

“I just worry!” Komaeda chirped, hands raising. “Diverting your eyes from the truth—avoiding it—neither of those are particularly hopeful!”

“Neither of us know the truth, at least not the entirety of it,” Matsuda pointed out. “And let’s not forget said ‘truth’ is compromised to begin with, considering its source.”

“Ah, yes, that’s true... Still, I’m frustrated.” Komaeda is still smiling but it strains a little. “You took the initiative to question Koizumi-san and then fizzled. That’s so unlike you! Are you sure you weren’t overly affected by that game?”

Was I? Surely I wasn’t that shaken by a stupid fucking game, right?

But when even Komaeda looks unconvinced, he can’t help but shudder. His head hurts a little, and he runs his fingers through his black hair, messing with it even more than usual.

“If she doesn’t remember, does it really matter?” he found himself asking. It all sounded like a weak excuse, but he kept with it. “I mean, even with what she may have did in that game—it was bad, but it wasn’t that bad.”

“True, it was a marvelous, admirable thing! Protecting her friend! Such loyalty!” Komaeda laughed, but any sense of humor dropped with the cock of his head. “But it’s not just Koizumi-san we should be concerned with.”

Matsuda said nothing.

“You saw who killed Girl E, right?” Komaeda asked darkly, eyes wide and inquisitive. Swirling chasms of miasma and murk.  “Was it someone you recognized, Matsuda-kun?”

At his continual silence, Komaeda just giggled.

“If the person who killed Girl E is also on this island... I do wonder if they’re satisfied? Monokuma has certainly given them an opportunity to ponder. Aah, I wonder what hope will come from this?”

Matsuda grabs his face to silence him, but he still remains quiet. Komaeda blinks at him expectantly and innocently. Matsuda released him with a sigh.

“You might have a point. We won’t know for sure if we don’t look into it.”

This is a dangerous situation, especially with how Kuzuryuu’s been acting. I have to take control. I have to take control. That. Said.

“I still want you to let me handle everything and stay the fuck out of it,” he told Komaeda seriously. “Because I can’t trust you.”

“That’s a shame, but I’m more than happy to believe in you, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda replied.


“2:30pm, alright? You got that? 2:30pm! At the supermarket! Don’t tell a soul!”

“Why? What’s going to happen?”

“You’ll see, you’ll see!”

Despite that intense declaration of bromance, Hinata looked less than thrilled by it. Souda was grinning widely in contrast, his shark teeth gleaming. He holds a hand to the side of his mouth, whispering the next words that were still loud enough to hear.

Hinata nods along, eyes rolling as he did. He stilled only when he met their gazes from across the lobby. Mostly Komaeda’s, Matsuda assumed.

“Hinata? Hey, Hinata? Got it? Got it got it got it?”

“Got what?” Komaeda asked cheerfully. Souda screeched.

“Such enigma!” Tanaka boomed. Because he was curious, too, looking between Hinata and Souda suspiciously. “To what is this symposium between lesser beings?”

Souda screeched again. Matsuda’s ears were left ringing.

I could just cut his vocal chords out, he thought to himself. I am more than capable of doing that without killing him. It wouldn’t be hard.

When that stupid-ass rabbit finally opened the path to the third island with the hospital, that could very well be a reality. Hopefully they would all survive until then.

“I-It’s none of any of you people’s business!” Souda yelled as Matsuda picked at his ear. “W-What kinda creeps are ya, butting into a private conversation—!”

Hinata shrinks a little, as if feebly denying his part in all this, but Komaeda kept on smiling.

“You were being a little loud for such a private conversation, Souda-kun,” he pointed out kindly.

“Shut the HELL up, creep!”

Tanaka chuckled under his breath before bursting into boisterous hooting.

Over yonder, ever cool as a cucumber, Nanami Chiaki played the tabletop even as Saionji stared at her in open disdain.

“There’s still food upstairs, right?” Matsuda asked. “Like, I didn’t miss breakfast this time, did I?”

“Ridiculous, the presumption of mere dirt towards the godly beings who trample it,” Tanaka was muttering. “Such drivel, such conceit! It truly is amusing...!”

“Y-You’re also a creep,” Souda snapped.

“Yeah, we should just go to breakfast,” Hinata said quickly. “Talk about this later. Restaurant now.”

“The most important meal of the day,” Komaeda sing-songs as Hinata quickly scrambles up the stairs. Souda is quick to follow. Tanaka remains behind.

“I, Supreme Overlord Tanaka Gundam, who strikes terror into the souls of even the divine have no need for mortal frivolities! I merely call for chilling silence... Yes... Yessss...”

Matsuda was quick to tug Komaeda away as well, thoroughly disinterested in Tanaka’s sulking. Saionji nearly barreled into him. Nanami yawned softly, and she wasn’t stumbling far behind.

“Everyone here is so fucking obsessive and weird except Mahiru-onee,” Saionji complained. “At this rate, I’m scared I’m gonna get infected.”

He was inclined to share those concerns if nothing else.


The second everyone got to the restaurant however, Saionji was already starting an argument with Owari over diet. Being a sugar glutton to just a regular glutton. Truly fascinating stuff that would no doubt be of great narrative significance later.

Speaking of that, Komaeda kept trying to get by with only a slice of bread again so Matsuda irritably and aggressively piled other food onto his place, surly when Komaeda had the audacity to look dismayed. Matsuda shoved him along, he didn’t verbally complain, so all was as well as well could be.

Of course, they were missing a few people. The expectable people. Koizumi he already knew about, and then there was that troublemaker.

“The little tough guy skipped again, huh?” he asked.

“Yes, he was uninterested in attending as always,” Pekoyama replied. “But what is far more suspicious is Koizumi’s absence.”

“S-She’s feeling a little bad and gonna go responsibly guard the thing!” Saionji yelled. “She’s not like you worthless lards!”

“I’d eat lard,” Owari chirped, to Saionji’s disgust. “Better than an all-sugar diet.”

“Ugh, you’re more of a pig than that weepy coward!”

Tsumiki whimpered, but Nidai folded his arms.

“Isn’t Koizumi’s behavior a bit strange?”

“Mahiru-chan going out on her own instead of meeting up with us isn’t very Mahiru-chan-like behavior,” Mioda added.

“If she was worried about the arcade, I would’ve immediately gone to guard it,” Pekoyama agreed. “Going by herself was unnecessary.”

“Maybe, she...” Souda trailed off. “Well, y’know.”

“If you imply anything untoward about Mahiru-onee again, I won’t show mercy,” Saionji snapped. “I’ll kick you off a cliff and you better yelp like a dog after hitting the ground.”

Souda did, indeed yelp. Like a dog.

“That’s a horrible way to die!”

“And you’re horrible for suspecting Mahiru-onee! She’s not a damn game-obsessed zombie like that bitch!”

Nanami blinked slowly. She blinked again.

“Oh. Am I that bitch?”

“Y-You really shouldn’t upset Saionji-san so much, Souda-san,” Tsumiki murmured, hands clasped. “But, if you do continue, I-I do think I can treat you afterwards...”

“Y-You’re not gonna STOP her?!” Souda exclaimed, horrified.

“Goodness, what a tense situation,” Sonia remarked, a little exasperated. “But we really should place our faith in each other...”

Faith...

“So,” Matsuda finally spoke up. “Anyone know where that pinstripe prick is?”

“Kuzuryuu?” Hinata asked warily. “I imagine he is either still in his cottage or wandering around.”

“He is,” Pekoyama said. “In his cottage.”

“Then, I’ll check on him.” Matsuda downed the rest of his juice. “Komaeda, come on, I’m gonna have to drop you off first for obvious reasons.” He noticed the other’s plate. “For fuck’s sake, you eat so slowly.”

“It’s because you’re so excessive, Matsuda-kun,” he complained.

“Urgh. We’re not going to argue about this too.” He shook his head. “Just take it with you. You can eat the rest in your cottage.”

“You’re so impatient. The least you can do after piling on my plate is give me time to eat.” Komaeda pouted at him. “It’s not like you have anywhere to be, Matsuda-kun.”

Matsuda groaned. He noticed Hinata’s staring and scowled, causing him to hurriedly look away.

“It is unwise to rush a person’s diet,” Nidai said, grinning. “If you overdo it, you can end up puking your guts out!”

“Eh, I’ve only barfed a couple of times in my life,” Owari said.

“GROSS!” Saionji screeched. “What kind of freaks talk about that shit while people are eating?! All brawn no brain for sure! Have some tact!”

“I-I mean Nidai-san is right, though,” Tsumiki murmured only to wail when Saionji turned on her in a fury.

And Souda was glaring at them intensely. Well then.

It’s funny—this group really has its ups and downs. They really are just a bunch of chaotic kids. If Togami were still here...

He imagines Togami would reprimand Komaeda similarly, that he’d also help out with a lot less dragging his feet. He imagines that, hell, Togami would enjoy being at the forefront considering how eager he was to step up in the beginning.

All while not trusting any of them. A lot of prettier words and a much warmer visage, burdening everything all the while. The worst kind of self-importance.

Matsuda clicked his tongue in annoyance.

Still, I wish he were here so that I could tell him off to his face. But I have plenty of people to snap at already. I don’t want that number to drop more than it already has. Maybe I’m overindulgent too.

“Matsuda-kun? I’m finished.”

“Ah, finally? Then let’s go. Hurry, hurry.”

Komaeda does smile and nod, standing up and skipping after him obediently if nothing else. The rest of the kids are still bantering, with some conversations light and easy and others a lot harsher. Hinata does glance their way again, but so does Pekoyama.

Matsuda shrugs it off and leads Komaeda out.


“So, you’re going to leave me behind again? Ehe. How boring.”

“It can’t be helped. You’ll definitely make pinstripe a lot fucking angrier by saying something stupid.”

“You say that like you’re not guilty of the same, Matsuda-kun.”

“Well. You’re right. I’m a total hypocrite, but, I’d rather have one thing to stress about at a time.”

Komaeda giggled as Matsuda waved his finger at him.

“So stay here for now, alright? I’ll come get you later.”

“Aw, okay. I would much prefer to tag along to observe, though...”

“I’ll tell you about it later. Be patient.”

Komaeda nodded along, cheeks a little puffed. Matsuda sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Actually it might be better to have him come as a witness, but it goes without saying that I don’t think Komaeda’s presence is that much of a deterrent towards murder.

He sucks in his breath, pondering it.

The others already know I asked about Kuzuryuu... So I should be fine, right? Still, for fucking once, I have to keep some calm. Urgh. God. I’m not cut out for this shit but—I have to push forward.

“Matsuda-kun?”

Komaeda’s head tilted, eyebrows raised with a twinkle in those moss-green eyes. An utterly dangerous look, one Matsuda deflected with his hand immediately.

Forward.

He waves and turns on his heel. Kuzuryuu’s cabin is just across, so it’s not much of a walk. He turns, irritably shooing Komaeda away so that he wasn’t just left standing on the porch like a fucking dog. When Komaeda did perk up and open his door, Matsuda waited for it to close before he let out his breath and rapped his knuckle against Kuzuryuu’s door.

“Knock, knock, asshole.”

A few more knocks and he didn’t get an answer. Hmphing, Matsuda kicked the door a couple of times.

“Hey, hey, asshole.”

The door is practically yanked open, and Kuzuryuu glares up at him, shoulders tense and teeth gritted like a cornered animal ready to strike.

“Can I fucking help you?”

“Wah, you actually answered,” Matsuda said, a little surprised. “Really thought you’d just scream at me to fuck off and leave it at that.”

Kuzuryuu’s face was already pretty red, but the shade got even darker.

“Fuck off.”

But before he could slam the door shut, Matsuda stuck his foot in. At that, Kuzuryuu seemed to hesitate, weirdly. His glare did get sharper, expression more unimpressed.

“Alright brainiac, what the actual hell do you want?”

“I wanted to know if you were up for a game.” For his own sake, he got straight to the point. “You were super eager to play it earlier, and I guess I feel a little bad. So, let’s go and play it. You and me.”

Kuzuryuu seemed honestly taken aback. So much so that his knees buckled a little. It wouldn’t have been noticeable if his posture hadn’t been so stiff.

He’s really, really on edge, huh. Is he that agitated?

“Is this some kind of fucking joke?”

“No, no.” Matsuda shook his head. “I’m serious. Let’s actually try and cooperate. Fuck the killing game, yeah? Sound like a plan?”

Kuzuryuu’s jaw dropped before he just chuckled, sound low and almost manic with his shoulders shuddering.

“What are you planning? What, that other fucker wasn’t enough?”

“It’s a truce. You really aren’t interested?” Matsuda frowned. “Geez. Say what you will about that guy, but he’s pretty compliant.”

Kuzuryuu scoffed.

“What’s with the change of heart? A guy like you wouldn’t offer to work with a guy like me unless your arm was getting twisted.”

“You think this very situation isn’t twisting my arm?”

Kuzuryuu’s gaze dropped to somewhere vague. He shook his head, sighing as he did.

“Pweh. You’re a fucking moron after all. It’s because of this situation and who I am that we can’t work together. But... I guess I might as well take advantage of that idiocy a little. So tell me, what exactly do you think will happen if I play that fucking game?”

Matsuda remembers the flash of the bat and that burning, hateful glare. Compared to that, Kuzuryuu’s irritated expression looked downright jovial.

“I think it’ll both confuse and infuriate you,” he answered slowly but flatly. “And you’ll get super worked up and demand answers. I think maybe, then, I’d be able to come up with some and ideally we’d prevent bloodshed.”

“So you’re scared of me. Got it.” A smirk pulled at Kuzuryuu’s sneering lips. “That’s what this is about. You’re just a fucking coward after all.”

“And what if I am?”

Kuzuryuu flinched as Matsuda cocked his head to the side.

“Fearing death and loss is natural and human. I have things I still need to do before I fucking kick it, and I’m sure you do, too.”

Kuzuryuu bared his teeth before rolling his eyes.

“I’m a yakuza. For me, death and loss are shit that I expect and get used to. Don’t put our asses on the same fucking level. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

It seems I’ve really hit a brick wall.

“So do you want a bribe, then?” Matsuda threw out in a last ditch effort. “I don’t have money but I guess I have snacks. You like those, right?”

Kuzuryuu was unsurprisingly unmoved and uninterested.

“Just get your face out of my fucking sight. I’m done looking at you. Now or I will break your fucking ankle with this door.”

Sighing, Matsuda pulled out his foot. He didn’t even get a second word in before Kuzuryuu slammed the door shut. Matsuda lingered there for a moment, shifting from one foot to the other.

Of course that wouldn’t have worked. Why would I expect anything else? Why the hell would I expect otherwise? Especially with how that tiny fucker was in an even worse mood than usual.

Cursing, Matsuda nearly pulled out his hair in frustration.

What to do? What to do? Should I just wait? Am I really supposed to just fucking wait?

He muffles a scream but to clear his head, he wanders towards his cottage on the end.

Wait for him to calm the fuck down. Wait for more information to surface. Wait, wait, wait. All of this is a fucking waiting game. I have to wait for things to either get better or worse. God. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

He even had to wait for access to the fucking hospital of all things. God, this was all so frustrating he wanted to scream until he was blue in the face and hoarse in the throat.

At this rate—at this rate at this rate at this rate at this rate at this rate—

He covers his face, shoulders trembling, and then, a call rang out and shattered his thoughts.

“Matsuda-kun!”

Komaeda was ever carefree and cheerful as he caught up to him. Despite the fact—or maybe even because of the fact that Matsuda looked downright murderous, Komaeda’s grin widened.

“You shouldn’t let this stop you! As an Ultimate, you have to persevere no matter what, right?”

Dementia erodes a person’s ability to read the air. Knowing that, I can’t get too angry at him but good fucking god is this not the time right now.

Taking a deep breath, Matsuda mentally went over every part of the brain before letting himself talk.

“Why didn’t you wait? Just couldn’t stand to see me like this? I’m not any worse off than I was before.”

“You did seem a bit down,” Komaeda remarked. “And I wasn’t the only person worried about you.”

Matsuda blinked, and the world stilled for a moment.

“I apologize for not making my presence clearer sooner.”

He didn’t relax at the voice, nor at his realization that Pekoyama was now standing there just past Komaeda. She bowed deeply, and did not meet his wide-eyed stare. After nearly biting his tongue, Matsuda grumbled.

“For fuck’s sake, you better be. Sneaking up on someone under these circumstances. Just what the hell were you thinking?”

“You needn’t be so harsh, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda tutted gently. “Pekoyama-san is just keeping a watchful and diligent eye, isn’t she?”

“That you wished to approach Kuzuryuu was surprising,” Pekoyama said lowly. “I followed in case the situation should escalate. That is it. That is all. I truly did not mean to frighten you.”

“Because we’re all allies!” Komaeda exclaimed. “Working together, supporting one another! You don’t have to burden the world’s troubles on your own, Matsuda-kun!”

Allies...working together...

His head hurt, but he gave a rueful smile.

“Right, right.”

What a crock of shit. As if I’d understand anything about stuff like that.

Everyone working together now? This early on? After those disastrous first few days? Even if miracles could happen, it’s past his suspension of disbelief.

The only person who would believe in any of them would be a guy with rotting gray matter clogging his skull. They really were that fucking hopeless.

But I’m responsible for that one person, at least.

“Come on.” He grips Komaeda’s sleeve. “Let’s go see if the third island’s open.”

“The island?” Pekoyama parrots. “Perhaps I should see if swimming to them is possible before the meetup at the beach house.”

“Oh, have fun!” Komaeda chirped. “Matsuda-kun, we should meet up with the others later to revisit the game.”

“Yeah, I guess.” He noted that Pekoyama was staring, now. Crimson red eyes bore into him, and he bit his lip, feeling weirdly like he was doing something wrong. “Did you want to come or something? You should say that rather than stare.”

“No, it is nothing,” she replied quickly. “See you.”

She walked away briskly, but that feeling didn’t go away.

“The hell’s wrong with me these days?”

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Komaeda said sweetly. “Besides your language and sloppiness, probably.”

“Your priorities really do need work, don’t they.”

Komaeda tilted his head.

Why couldn’t we be stuck on an island with the Ultimate Therapist again? I’m sure s̶̤͕̀h̷̫̄̑e̶͓̼͑͂'̶͙͒ḓ̷͒ know what to do.

Matsuda perked up. His head hurt, but he quickly shook it off to the best of his ability.

“We really do need to get to a hospital as soon as we can.”

“If you say so, Matsuda-kun.”


He tried to just focus on what was before him. One thing at a time. Unfortunately, he witnessed Monomi get flung across the island again so he was still stuck going nowhere.

“Oh dear, how incredibly disappointing even for her,” Komaeda remarked. “It is only the second monster.”

Matsuda knelt, staring at the ground as he contemplated just slamming his face into it.

“Ah, Matsuda-kun! No need to get down!”

The headache has dissipated a bit, but it starts up again the more I think. Is it because I’m trying to remember? Remember...what, exactly?

“Matsuda-kun? Matsuda-kun?”

Komaeda poked his head a few times before tugging at that one flyaway strand. Matsuda immediately smacked his hand away.

“Keep that up and I’ll put you in a strait jacket.”

“Wah! Scary! But you’re still down, Matsuda-kun. That’s no good,” Komaeda scolded. “An Ultimate should stand tall! Up, up!”

“Urgh.” At his badgering, he took Komaeda’s hand but made Komaeda struggle to pull him to his feet. Komaeda was left wheezing a little, to Matsuda’s mild amusement. “Wow. Fragile like withered leaves.”

“W-Well I am,” Komaeda gasped sharply, swallowing back saliva. “I-I’m not in the best health, Matsuda-kun!”

“Yeah, I know.” Matsuda’s would-be smile soon dropped. “Are you worried about dying on this island?”

“Death doesn’t scare me,” Komaeda chuckled. “It’s a part of life. And if my death can help the living carry on further, what’s there to worry about?”

“Right. I forgot who I was talking to for a moment.”

“The Ultimate Neurologist forgetful!” Komaeda exclaimed. “Now that’s worrying!”

Yeah. It really, really is.

Playing with his fringe, Matsuda looked towards the ocean waves. They’ve receded considerably.

Actually it worries me so much that I might just be driven insane.

“Oh! Matsuda-kun! Something washed up on the shore!”

“Hmm?”

Komaeda was already hopping down across the beach. There were countless shells scattered about, quite a bit of seaweed, and the strange glimmer that had Komaeda’s attention. It was curious, yes, but Matsuda couldn’t be bothered to care about that now when he knew what was about to happen.

“Oi, you fucking dumbass! Get back here before the tide rushes back in!”

“Stay back, Matsuda-kun!” Komaeda yelled. He swept up the object and held it tightly in his fist. “It’s quite dangerous so I don’t want you caught up too!”

Fucking seriously?!

To make matters worse, Komaeda had that same cheerful expression.

Don’t smile like that! What the hell is wrong with you?!

He rushes forward, but the tide is faster, and it gets to Komaeda before he does with a thunderous splash. It soaks his knees, and the salt stings his eyes. He rubs them fervently, cursing and shouting, but there’s no response besides the rolling waves and his pounding heart.

“Komaeda? KOMAEDA?!?!”

He looked around frantically, and finally saw something floating atop the water’s surface. Something round, distorted, and white drifting closer and closer and a blurry stick waving at him. Too far away to be heard, but as it drew nearer—Matsuda could finally hear broken syllables of his name being called.

“Komaeda...?”

A wave brought Komaeda all the way back. He was coughing and clinging to a fainted Monomi, but otherwise seemed to be in one piece as he stood. Matsuda, too, stood there, beyond dumbfounded by what the fuck just happened.

“A...re you alright?” he managed. “I didn’t have to swim my ass over to get you. That’s...”

“Lucky?” Komaeda finished with the same inane smile. “Ehehehe. I’m sorry for the brief episode. But I’m okay.” Side-stepping Monomi, he held out his closed hand. “Here, Matsuda-kun!”

Matsuda extended his own and got a wet stone for his trouble. Actually on closer inspection it seemed to be a pearl that was white on one side and black on the other. A hybrid pearl. He didn’t know nor cared if that was biologically possible, but he did understand that it was, above all else, a fucking rock he had no real use for.

“You’re the kind of person who’d sell their own soul for a corn chip,” he muttered, pocketing it all the same. “You also reek. Ugh. It’s unbearable.”

“I think Monomi also bled on me,” Komaeda said. “But if she hadn’t been there, I would’ve drowned. Lucky! Although that doesn’t exactly make her more worthwhile for preventing the loss of my worthless life.”

“Whatever. You need to take another shower.”

“Ehehe! You’re right, you’re right.”

Monomi was still floating on her back, still unconscious. Matsuda did glance at her as Komaeda waded out of the water. Soaked to the brim, torn in places, leaking an unknown but blood-like fluid, the tacky mascot really was just a sad sight. So much so that it made his gut churn a bit.

Ugh.

“Matsuda-kun?” Komaeda wondered, blinking when he saw Matsuda treading after him, carrying Monomi under his arm. Her face still in the water, causing a trail of bubbles to follow. “Eh? You’re bringing her?”

“Just seeing a stuffed animal in this state is too depressing, even for me,” he replied. “Yeah it’s expendable, but I feel like a kid would start wailing if they saw this.”

Monomi gurgled, still partially in the water.

“Oh.”

“What do you mean ‘oh’?”

“I mean...” Komaeda positively beamed, blinding under the vibrant island sky. “You really are kind, Matsuda-kun!!”

His grip on Monomi tightened.

“Whatever.”

It’s something to do. If she’s in a better state, she has better chances. It serves a practical purpose. If I say any of that out loud, I’ll feel like I really am just spinning my wheels.

I need some semblance of control.


While Komaeda showers, Matsuda gets to work. He finds a container big enough, fills it with water and scrubs the plush with dish soap. She was dead to the world, for all intents and purposes, which made the process much, much easier. He dunks her a few times, but is nonetheless thorough in lathering her up. He wrings the water from her when he’s done and hangs her up to dry. He does thoughtlessly rinse off the salt water for his legs as he waits, and it’s then that his brain whirls.

The others are probably busy with their meetup. I wonder if I should try my luck with Kuzuryuu again.

He doubted a couple of hours could change a guy’s mind, but the longer he was left dawdling, the more uneasy he felt.

 I could read manga, but I have a feeling that the video game would start flashing in my head again. It still wouldn’t help the situation.

“Matsuda-kun!”

Komaeda bounced up to him, looking good as new.

“I showered and washed my hair four more times, so I should be good.”

“If you overdo it, your hair will fall out and you’ll turn into a wrinkly prune,” Matsuda muttered, unimpressed. “But, yeah, you don’t stink of sea water anymore. So.” His lips twisted into a sardonic smile of his own. “Now what?”

“I’d rather not defile anyone’s fun bonding experiences,” Komaeda hummed. “But you look anxious. Would you like to check on Koizumi-san, at least?”

He brushed himself off, shaking his head.

“Wouldn’t exactly know what to say. Don’t see the point.”

Komaeda nodded, sympathetic and pitying in the most infuriating way.

“Then do you want something to eat?” he asks instead. “There’s the restaurant or the diner...”

“Not particularly hungry,” Matsuda said before he could finish. “Although I guess you should eat something, huh.”

Komaeda frowned before full-on pouting at him.

“This isn’t about me, Matsuda-kun,” he huffed. “Your attitude is just unbecoming, especially of an Ultimate!”

“You know.” Matsuda clicked his tongue. “To other people, there are far more important things than that.”

“Like what?” Komaeda asked, still irritated.

“Like peace and quiet, for starters.” He waved his hand. “Your noisiness is seriously irritating. I think I’m just going to retreat to my cottage for a bit. I might be able to think properly, then.”

To his minimal surprise, Komaeda perked right back up.

“I can’t wait for what you come up with! If it’s you, it’s sure to be great, Matsuda-kun!”

In one ear and out the other. Maybe the damaged brain tissue just dissipated. Turned to dust and blew away in the wind. Like my childhood innocence.

“I’ll grab you again later. We definitely should at least check back with Princess Weeb and the space cadet. Preferably when there’s less people to bother us.”

(That was wishful thinking, of course.)

“Right, right! And we can revisit the game, perhaps we can try again with Kuzuryuu-kun...”

“What do you mean ‘we’?”

“Oh right! Ahaha, sorry, sorry! I really am wretched to say something so—so audacious!”

“Jeez...”

(Of course, he expected it sooner or later, but...)

“I’ll see you, Matsuda-kun! Bye-bye!”

Somehow, that exchange was what frazzled Komaeda enough to have him scampering off. Matsuda rolled his eyes and went on his way. Monomi was left flapping in the wind.

(The body announcement was not even an hour later. There really hadn’t been any time at all.)

Chapter Text

Komaeda had been the one to get him. He would’ve been angry, but instead his mind was racing. His body, too, was racing. He practically bursts into the beach house where the crime took place—and what he saw was what he should’ve expected from the start.

Ah.

Aha.

“Oh, Koizumi-san,” Komaeda sighs softly. Matsuda only registers it distantly. There are others there, but he’s detached from all that, instead stepping forward to properly meet the corpse.

Koizumi Mahiru laid there slumped against the door, her head bashed in. The offending bat was placed close by, dyed with the blood smearing the wall. To say the scene bore a significant resemblance to that of the video game—well, it was obvious at a glance.

Because he already knows she’s dead, Matsuda just gets to work checking her body. On impulse, he holds up her head to get a better look at her neck. No bruises, nor did her expression look particularly twisted. It was the bat after all—and by the look of things, she had been struck on the back of the head while conscious and died instantly. He expected that both Tsumiki and the file would confirm as much.

She still had the pills pocketed. He left them there, not in the mood for that right now. What was more important was the blood-stained letter that he shuffled immediately into his coat after giving it a quick read.

“Truly despairing,” Komaeda lamented. “For such a bright, shining individual to have met a truly gruesome fate. What I would have given to take her place!”

“Hey,” Owari growled. “Shut. The fuck. Up.”

“Now’s not the time to start fights,” Matsuda reprimanded. “Wait until after the trial.”

“T-The trial,” Hinata stammered, pale as a sheet. “There’s going to be...another one...”

“Obviously!” Monokuma chirped happily. “Unless the culprit is sickness, everyone must face justice! Upupupu!”

“W-Why now,” Souda groaned, pulling his beanie down further. “T-This was supposed to be such a wonderful occasion just, just why now?”

“We’ll answer those questions during the trial,” Matsuda said, pulling back from the body. “We’ve only got a limited time to investigate though, so suck it up for now.”

Komaeda nodded along happily. Of course everyone else was less than enthusiastic. The shitty beach house had become a gloomy tomb, the occupants largely distraught and in disbelief. Matsuda, detached from it all, wasn’t surprised.

Koizumi Mahiru...

While she could be pushy and unreasonable, she was also hard-working and responsible. She wasn’t a leader like Togami, but she did have the instinct to guide others just the same. Others like Saionji, who wasn’t present. Huh.

The one to have found the body was Souda, still in shock and yammering to himself about the misfortune of it all. Hinata and Mioda had burst in next, both attracted by Souda’s scream. Then came the rest of the girls, save for Saionji.

Monokuma delighted in the scene as he was prone to doing. But after sending them the file, he thankfully skedaddled with a chortle.

“Hey, um,” Nanami speaks up. “There’s footprints leading out of the door, so take care not to disturb them. That’s probably evidence. At least, I think so.”

Komaeda was already knelt down beside them, chuckling to himself as he studied them. While his giggling of course attracted glares, he was largely ignored for the time being.

“Evidence...for the trial,” Pekoyama mused. “Not that this situation makes any sense. It is unimaginable that Koizumi met such a fate.”

“I-I can’t take it,” Souda whimpered. “Another investigation, another trial?! I can’t fucking take it! I can’t do all that again!”

Matsuda stood up.

“You say that as if you had done much of anything last time. If you decide to opt out, I don’t see it being a significant loss.”

“Oi, Matsuda!” Hinata exclaimed while tears pricked at Souda’s eyes.

“Y-You—you—like you have any room to talk! You agreed to take on that fucking psycho and yet someone still turned up dead! You’re all high and fucking mighty when you don’t have a heart at all!”

“T-That’s going a bit far,” Hinata hurriedly stammered. “I mean, Matsuda’s an asshole, but to say he doesn’t care at all...” He shakes his head, as if Matsuda gave a damn about any of this. “Anyway. We can’t just ignore this. Koizumi is dead. Someone killed her. We need to know why if we’re to get through this.”

“Well said!” Komaeda chirped, clapping his hand. “After all, regardless of how we feel, a trial is inevitable isn’t it? It will be the innocent versus the culprit! If you wish to avoid punishment, you have to try your absolute best to expose the truth. Or obscure it.”

“You’re speaking too lightly of it, I think,” Nanami said lowly. “Regardless of their reasoning—hasn’t the culprit done something unforgivable? Even if Monokuma is the most at fault, we can’t overlook the crime of killing.”

“That’s true, isn’t it,” Hinata murmured half to himself as Nanami nodded firmly.

Of course. I had a feeling that’d be her stance on this.

“It’s not just about that,” he piped up next. “I have no interest in dying. Nor do I care for taking the punishment meant for someone else.”

“We have no choice if we wish to survive,” Pekoyama agreed solemnly.

“It is what Koizumi-san would have wanted,” Sonia added. “We must give her closure, if nothing else.”

“I-I... I...” Tsumiki’s breath hitched. “I understand. I-I’ll do my best too, but... I think I need some time. T-To compose myself. I’m sorry. I... I-I’ll go alert the others. They may not know—where the body is, so...”

“Go get them,” Matsuda said simply. “And after you compose yourself, check over the body again with me.”

“E-Excuse me,” she sobbed before rushing off, careful to not trample over the footprints.

“We’ll get to the bottom of this and stop any future killing,” Nanami said.

“Don’t get too ahead of yourself,” Matsuda snapped irritably.

Mioda gurgled helplessly, foaming as she did before.

No hesitation. Just as before. I need to push onward.

“Right, then,” he said in a lighter tone now. “Mechanic, if you’re actually going to be of use, why don’t you tell me what happened before you saw the body?”

Souda trembled. Color was already all drained from his face.

“It was... It was supposed to be um, a-a great time, y’know... Just a great...wonderful time...”

“I had thought it would be invigorating if us young women were allowed a group bonding activity,” Sonia said. “We were to meet up at the diner before having snacks and taking a swim.”

“U-Urgh... Both Mikan-chan and I showed up first,” Mioda groaned. “We already had our swimsuits on. But Hajime-chan and Kazuichi-chan were already at our meeting place... The suspiciousness of it was only second to Mahiru-chan’s...!” She covered her mouth. “Uuu...”

“Ah, so you two intruded,” Matsuda said dully. “On the girls. When they would be dressed for swimming. I see.”

“I expected this behavior from Souda-kun but to hear Hinata-kun guilty as well,” Komaeda hummed. “How unsightly.”

“S-Souda talked me into it!” Hinata exclaimed, flustered. “I didn’t even really have a choice in the matter!” At Matsuda’s darkening stare and Komaeda’s deepening frown, he insisted. “I-I swear!”

“As if! You’re the real pervert!” Souda screeched.

“It’s the truth!”

“Um, I showed up in my swimsuit first,” Nanami said, to which Hinata swallowed. “I thought to bring in snacks. Owari-san and Pekoyama-san came next...then Sonia-san... I think?”

“Ah, right,” Hinata exhaled. “Owari showed up bloodied from a fight with Nidai.”

“The old man can vouch for that,” Owari said, waving her hand. “It was all my blood, no one else’s.”

“Alright.” Matsuda nodded. “And Pekoyama...?”

“Pekoyama said she attempted to swim to the other islands,” Hinata said. “But no dice, apparently.”

“You were serious about that?” Matsuda asked, almost disbelieving. “That’s really fucking dangerous, you know.”

“I had thought it would be helpful,” was her only response.

“Urgh. You should have been more careful.” He shook his head. “Anything else?”

“Sonia-san showed up in a wetsuit,” Souda said, fiddling with his fingers. “Protecting her porcelain skin from the unsightly sun...”

Matsuda looked toward Sonia who was fixated on the cheap plastic mask. She hadn’t seemed to hear a word.

“I changed my mind. I think I’m good never hearing you say anything ever again.”

“H-Hey, what’s the big idea?!” Souda exclaimed. “Is there any fucking pleasing you?!”

“Souda-kun, you just have no sense of timing or tact,” Komaeda said simply. “We’re asking about events that could relate the murder, after all.”

Souda gawked, maybe with incredulity or at the audaciousness of Komaeda being the one to say that. Matsuda would’ve rather made good on his words and so, he turned to Hinata, eyes narrowed sharply.

“Anything else? Something that might be related to what happened?”

“H-How should I know...? Wait, um.” Hinata hesitated. “I, um...”

“Earlier before Nanami-chan and the other babes showed up, we saw Hiyoko-chan!” Mioda jumped in. “She was running from the beach in tears! It was, as the song would call it, A Crying Dash! Can you believe it? She said she wasn’t going to come because she couldn’t swim but we saw her running from the beach anyway! Female fickleness!” Mioda paused. “Come to think of it, Mahiru-chan declined the offer, too, even though this was totally her thing. And now...”

She shuddered, gritting her teeth.

“Ugugugu! Mahiru-chan, Mahiru-chan, Mahiru-chan, Mahiru-chan—this kind of brutality should only be in songs!”

“I did think that was weird,” Hinata recalled. “And Saionji-san crying—that was weird, too. Souda and I did also see Kuzuryuu loitering around the parking lot, too.”

“He got all defensive! Yelling and cursing! He just wanted in on our plan but was too much of a wimp to go through with it!” Souda huffed. “And then he ran off! Well, better for us! If only not...for this...”

“I doubt Kuzuryuu-kun cared about intruding,” Komaeda said, humming. “How interesting.”

He’s the only one with an actual motive. But would it be that easy?

“What do you think, Matsuda-kun?” Komaeda asked brightly. “You’re so deep in thought!”

He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t really have the time to, because someone else spoke up.

“Um, by the way, you and Komaeda-kun got here quickly without knowing what happened,” Nanami pointed out. “Was that just...coincidence?”

What’s with that fucking tone?

“Aha, I know you’re rightfully suspicious, but it was just coincidence,” Komaeda chirped. “I fetched Matsuda-kun and I just had a feeling.”

“S-Suspicious!” Souda exclaimed. “Definitely suspicious!”

“I was with him for almost the entire time and had to deal with his shenanigans,” Matsuda said flatly. “And if you’re that suspicious then check Komaeda’s smell.”

“S-Smell?” Hinata echoed but Owari was already sniffing him.

“He smells like soap. Overwhelmingly so.” She squints. “Huh, come to think of it, that’s a little weird...”

“A freak accident caused Komaeda to get soaked by a tidal wave,” Matsuda explained. “He had to wash off all the seawater. We separated for a bit after that until the body announcement. But if Komaeda still reeks of overused shampoo...”

“He doesn’t smell like saltwater at all,” Owari remarked.

“I wash myself thoroughly,” Komaeda answered. “It really makes me happy that even you agree, Owari-san!”

“I didn’t say anything like that, ya fucking creep.”

“Ah, sorry! You’re right!”

“Koizumi’s murder was recent,” Matsuda went on. “Komaeda’s cleanliness aside, we weren’t anywhere in the area recently. Otherwise, we would have been seen.”

“That’s true; we didn’t see Matsuda or Komaeda until after the announcement,” Hinata said even as he had a weird expression. “But, does that mean that the people near the area were the only ones who could’ve...?”

Owari was still sniffing Komaeda.

“It really is weird I can’t smell any salt on ya...”

Komaeda just giggled as Matsuda ignored them, checking the student handbook.

The time of death was around 3pm.

“What time did you get to the diner again, Hinata?”

“It was...” Hinata lowered his voice. “It was around 3pm. Both Souda and I were together at that time.”

“We were supposed to meet up at 4pm,” Nanami said. “But both Saionji-san and Koizumi-san declined to show up.”

“That is odd, isn’t it,” Pekoyama mused. “Suspicious.”

“I don’t know,” Nanami replied. “But I do think the footprints outside are weird.”

“There’s still sand all over your shoes, Hinata-kun,” Komaeda pointed out, making Hinata jump. “Yours too, Souda-kun.”

“G-Get the hell away from us, you freak!” Souda yelped.

“They’re all accumulated by the door facing the beach,” Matsuda said. “Because the door facing the tunnel is blocked.”

He glances at Koizumi’s body, grimacing.

“I-It actually is weird, though,” Souda stammered. “I saw them when I tried the door facing the beach, and they’re leading from the beach house all the way to the tunnel. Pekoyama, are they yours?”

“I swam here from the beach on the first island, so no,” Pekoyama said. “And if I had left footprints, they would’ve led from the beach to the tunnel.”

“That makes sense,” Nanami said.

“That’s still seriously fucking dangerous,” Matsuda snapped. “No more swimming in the fucking ocean for any of you.”

“Saltwater tastes like shit,” Owari said. “Smells like it, too.”

That’s not why I’m against swimming in the ocean but I’ll take it from her, I guess.

Pekoyama does bow in apology, but Matsuda still feels on-edge. Given the situation, it’s understandable. Annoying, but understandable. Owari wanders off, and when his gaze does follow her, he ends up distracted by Sonia picking up the mask.

“Oi, princess?”

She doesn’t jump but her frown does deepen.

“This mask was right next to the body, Matsuda-san!” she exclaimed. “That’s—quite particular, don’t you think?!”

“I suppose,” he replied, eyes sliding over to the mask in question. “That’s from the sunny witch anime, right?”

“Correct! It’s Itou-chan!”

“I don’t know who that is, but plastic masks like that are usually for festivals, right?” Hinata asked. “What’s it doing here?”

“If I had to guess, I would suspect the culprit wore it to hide their face,” Pekoyama said.

“That wouldn’t be very effective without the right attire,” Matsuda pointed out. “Not to mention there are people here who could wear a mask and a cloak and still be recognizable because of build and height.”

Also this doesn’t seem Kuzuryuu’s style. A yakuza wouldn’t bother hiding their face when punishing someone. But this mask seems like a pretty purposeful choice. Why?

“Maybe it’s a signature?” Komaeda suggested before waving his hand. “No, no, that’s silly. There’s just no way it’d be something like that.”

“Like what?” Matsuda asked. “What do you mean by a signature?”

Komaeda kept on smiling, but he didn’t answer. While that was suspicious, Sonia cleared her throat.

“I-I shall look further into this! Please excuse me!”

She sprinted out of the building, still carrying the mask. Matsuda was half-tempted to yell at her for disturbing the crime scene but, honestly, it was best just to let things be. Pekoyama had already brushed off the situation, Hinata still looked confused, and Komaeda was looking at his nails as if they were the most interesting thing on the planet.

“Hey,” Matsuda said lowly, snapping his fingers. “Are you just going to tag along? You don’t want to do your own investigating?”

Hinata flinched. “W-What, do you have a problem?”

“Of course I don’t, but I’m surprised you’re alright with this considering, well, you know.” Rolling his shoulders, Matsuda gestured toward Komaeda, who perked up with a bright smile. Hinata’s face immediately twisted up.

“Ah.”

“Owari-san ran off to the broken shower room, I think,” Komaeda said serenely. “Why don’t you check on her, Hinata-kun?”

Before he could even finish asking, Hinata had rushed past him and shut the door behind him. The note taped to the shower room’s door fluttered a bit. Matsuda quirked an eyebrow as Komaeda chuckled under his breath.

“Still hates me, I see.”

“Hey look, the closet door is pushed open.” Matsuda spun Komaeda around to face it. “Weird, right? Let’s go dig around.”

“O-Oh, yes. We should. Ah, careful, Matsuda-kun!”

Matsuda shoved him forward without a second word.


Komaeda nearly got knocked into one of the shelves. He steadied himself before he did, but froze up when Matsuda pressed up against him.

“Sorry,” was the insincere response. “It’s pretty cramped in here.”

“Yeah,” Komaeda agreed quietly, taking a deep breath. “Not much of a hiding spot for any would-be culprits, huh?”

Not unless you were really fucking short.

Matsuda fascinated himself with just how messy the closet’s interior was. There were items scattered all over, both on the ground and on the various shelves. Most of them were swim gear and the like, and they were arranged pretty haphazardly. Even on the shelves, it was crammed beyond belief with surfboards and cases stuffed where there was too little space. There were several empty cases, too. This was the closet of someone who had no fucking idea how to tidy up.

I get neither of the mascots have thumbs but this shit is just disgraceful.

Komaeda reached up and shut one of the open cases, humming softly as he did.

“What a disgrace,” he said cheerfully. “Is this a child’s closet?”

“There are cleaner children’s closets,” Matsuda said and he wiggled to try and take a step and...something soft was squished under his shoe. Blinking a few times, he lifted his foot and knelt down to pick it up. A sad, slightly battered, yellow gummy bear stared back at him from between his fingers. Matsuda furrowed his brow before biting its head off.

“Matsuda-kun, that was on the ground!” Komaeda reprimanded, mortified. “It’s filthy! You even stepped on it!”

“It’s lemon,” he remarked, swallowing and sticking out his tongue. “Sour. Want the rest?”

Komaeda snatched it out of his hand. He wrapped it up in a tissue and pocketed it.

“It’s a clue. Seriously, what are you even doing?”

“Eh.”

“Come on,” Komaeda huffed and pushed him a little. He had the strength of a weak kitten. “There’s not much else here.”

“Kay.”

Of course when he tried to move, he ended up knocking down several of the haphazard cases. Komaeda gasped sharply, but Matsuda quickly yanked him out of there before he could say anything.

But, eyes were on them because it was clear the others heard the ruckus.

“Are you two alright?” Pekoyama asked slowly, unimpressed. Over her shoulder, Souda was scowling at both of them.

“That was quite the crash,” Nanami remarked. “What happened?”

“A mess was made in the closet, but we investigated all there was,” Matsuda explained. “But with how messy it already was, it was annoying. Worse than the storage closet back at the old building, honestly. Super tight fit, too. Not much to report.”

“Is that true?” Nanami asked, head tilted.

“Well,” Komaeda said, and for a second Matsuda worried, but instead Komaeda smiled at him. “Matsuda-kun may have bruised his elbow.”

He’s not going to bring up the gummy?

“It...throbs a bit, but it’s fine.” He’s not sure whether or not to be relieved. “What about here? Anything new discovered since our escapade?”

“I mean, what else is there?” Souda griped. “There’s not even a good drink to grab.” He stiffened, perhaps realizing the idiocy of such a remark before he hurriedly muttered, “n-not like that...matters or anything... I-I guess I could just go to the diner if it were that big of a deal...”

Matsuda, noting the fridge of shelved drinks, went to it without another word. Souda gave him a weird look.

“Uh...? Matsuda?”

The front row of bottles were all of various, gaudy neon colors. There were still a couple of canned coffees, but those seemed scatted about. Komaeda skipped after him, humming as he did.

“Why are ya looking so intently at it?!” Souda cried. “I-It’s no big deal!”

“All the water bottles are gone,” Matsuda said simply. He glanced over, noticing that the trash can was even filled to the brim with empty plastic bottles. “Impressive. I did not think this class would have the sense to stay hydrated.”

“S-Seriously...!”

“You’re getting all worked up, Souda-kun,” Komaeda pointed out kindly. “Perhaps you should go to the diner and hydrate yourself as well.”

“Ugh! Forget it!” Fuming, Souda did in fact stomp out. “I-I’m gonna look for more clues out here!”

Nanami watched him leave dully before turning back to them.

“There is one thing that I definitely want to check out there,” she said. “So can I leave, too?”

“You mean the game, right?” Matsuda asked.

Nanami nodded, eyes alit with intent. She even began bouncing with anticipation.

Matsuda grimaced, but shook his head.

The murder was obviously motivated by that game. For Koizumi of all people to be killed like that... It can’t be coincidental. Still.

He remembered Kuzuryuu’s burning gaze. His growling words, loaded with hate.

That guy just feels too obvious. But he’s still the only one with potential motive where the game’s involved.

He still remembered being killed with the most unpleasant feeling. Actually, he feels like he’s fighting off a serious sickness both from the memory of the game and the reality of now.

“If you’re going to play any of the other routes, have it be Girl C,” Matsuda found himself saying, slowly and purposefully. “We don’t want you getting a concussion from that other one.”

“Other one?” Pekoyama asked.

“We’ll explain at the trial,” he answered immediately.

Nanami puffed out her cheeks but she nodded along.

“I’ll try to find out any secrets. I’m good at that. Many games have codes, you know.”

“Imagine if the Konami Code worked,” Komaeda said, laughing before he trailed off. “Well, that would be amusing, I think...”

“I have no idea what the fuck that is,” Matsuda snapped.

“I do,” Nanami said. “I guess I’ll try that one first. Can’t hurt.”

She leaves as well without much fanfare. Matsuda, still irritated especially by Komaeda’s shit-eating grin, simply huffs and resumes looking around. When he catches sight of the bloodied bat once more, he swallows back bile.

“C-Concussion,” Mioda mutters, trembling and still pale-faced. While she wasn’t in complete shock anymore, it was clear she wasn’t in great shape. “U-Uuurgh. P-Peko-chan you might have to hold back my hair.”

“Very well,” Pekoyama responded without batting an eyelash. Completely unbothered with a cold gaze. Something about that—irked him.

“O-Oh, Akane-chan and Hajime-chan seem to be having a moment,” Mioda rambled on, likely listening in for a distraction. “Um, hmm, I, uh, I wanna go check it out b-but my legs won’t move.”

“Guess that’s our cue, then,” Komaeda remarked. “Let’s see what Owari-san and Hinata-kun might’ve discovered.”

Matsuda can only nod along. When Pekoyama does take a hold of Mioda’s hair, he hurries.


“C-Careful, careful!”

“Oi, hold steady, Hinata. Why are you so wobbly anyway?”

“M-My arms just hurt...!”

“Quit looking at the ground! You need to look up here, up here!”

“U-Um.”

Of all the things to expect, Matsuda supposed that Owari balancing atop Hinata’s shoulders should’ve been higher on the list. He looked up, past Hinata’s flushed face to where Owari was signifying, with her hand pushing up the window high against the wall.

“Ah, definitely big enough for any culprit,” Komaeda said. “But also too high to jump, if Hinata-kun’s predicament is any indication.”

“Oh!” Owari called out. “You two see this, right?! This is totally where the culprit escaped! I’m sure of it!”

“O-Owari...” Hinata grunted. “I-I don’t...I don’t think I can...”

“Huh? Can’t keep lifting me up? Man, you really are weak.” Owari maneuvered off his shoulders gracefully, jumping down without missing a beat. As Hinata rubbed at his aching shoulders, Owari just threw her arms behind her head. “Hell of a discovery, don’t ya think so, Katsu?”

“So impressive!” Komaeda cheered, applauding to which her grin soured. “As expected of the Ultimate Gymnast!”

“I wasn’t talking to you.”

“It’s at least something to keep note of,” Matsuda said. “So good job. Meanwhile, Hinata, do you need a massage?”

“Oh, I might know a guy,” Owari said, to which Hinata shook his head frantically.

“No, no, no, I’m fine! Absolutely fine! Urk, don’t even worry about it!”

“The macho act isn’t going to work when you struggled so much carrying Owari-san,” Komaeda pointed out, to Hinata’s rising embarrassment.

“H-Hush up! That’s not why! Anyway! Did you come in here to investigate or cause more trouble?! Because aside from that window and the broken shower, there’s nothing here!” Hinata breathed in sharply, trying to calm himself down as he rubbed his neck. “A-And that window is so high up, it’s impossible to reach on your own. You’d need an accomplice.”

“What’s that supposed to be?” Owari asked. “Like, a leash? Rope and stuff?”

“S-Someone working with the criminal!” Hinata exclaimed. “Y’know, like a partner. But there’s no benefit to that since Monokuma allows only one culprit, right?”

“Unless you believed in that person,” Komaeda said. “So much so that you’re willing to give your life for them. To become a stepping stone.”

The atmosphere dropped several degrees. Both Hinata and Owari looked weathered. Matsuda just sighed.

“It’s not an issue with you anymore since I wouldn’t allow it,” he said. “So maybe stop bringing it up.”

“T-There’s no one here like Komaeda,” Hinata grumbled. “So it’s impossible. Totally impossible.”

“Nah, there’s gotta be a way to do it on your own!” Owari protested. “Like—if you could run up the wall super well!”

“If you can’t do that, I doubt anyone else could,” Matsuda said. “But you might be able to get up there with certain supplies.”

“Eh? Supplies?” Hinata’s eyes went wide. “L-Like what?”

“A grappling hook, I guess.” A pause. Matsuda’s head tilted. “Maybe they have those at the market?”

“I don’t think so, but we can check,” Komaeda said. “But until then, that’s everything in the beach house, huh?”

“I’m gonna check the market!” Owari exclaimed. “I’ll figure out the culprit’s tricks for sure!”

“Knock yourself out,” Matsuda said. “But yeah, I think I’ve seen everything here. So...”

“There...is one other thing, right?”

When Hinata spoke up, it was quietly and hesitantly. He only seemed to shrink in on himself more when eyes were on him.

“This murder it—it resembled the game. Right?”

“Yep,” Komaeda chirped. “Quite poetic, no?”

“What the fuck are you saying now?” Owari growled, unimpressed.

Matsuda covered his mouth.

“The space cadet already left to go check out the game. So, let’s go meet up with her. We can move on from there even if she hasn’t found anything.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Hinata agreed. “Alright, let’s—let’s go.”

Komaeda made his own muffled, happy sound of agreement, which just made Matsuda’s grip tighten.


“Here, here.” Nanami waved them over. The game already displayed a game over screen. “Okay, so, I actually figured it out earlier, but I decided to play through a few other routes to learn more.”

“Including Girl E’s?” Matsuda asked, gritting his teeth.

“I was actually going to do that one next but I decided to wait.” Nanami looks them over before nodding. “So, okay, here I go.”

“W-Wait,” Hinata mercifully spoke up. “You said you figured it out? What’s it?”

“The secret of the game unlocked by Nanami-san already!” Komaeda exclaimed. “How wonderful!”

“It wasn’t like an epilogue or a bonus cutscene,” Nanami said. “It was just the credits.”

...the credits?

“Why would the credits be unlockable?” Hinata wondered. “Is it really that important?”

Matsuda shivered, and Komaeda’s smile remained. He then stepped forward, reaching out towards the controllers of the arcade machine.

“Nanami-san. Mind if I...?”

“Oh you figured it out with a glance, Komaeda-kun?” she asked. “I guess last time, we were all so focused on the game starting that we didn’t notice. I have to admit, I thought it was a weird design choice too.”

Design choice?

When Komaeda selected Girl E, Matsuda almost screamed and yanked him back, but rather than proceeding with the game as normal, Komaeda jerked about the joystick.

“I did think Dull Start was a strange way to greet new players,” Komaeda muttered lowly. “It’s not the Konami code. It’s Dull. Down, up, left, left, start.”

“Ah,” Matsuda intoned. “So that’s it.”

Both him and the space cadet...are total fucking nerds. What even the hell?

But the credits were rolling, and he couldn’t help but focus on the text.

Producer: Monokuma

Director: Monokuma

Supervisor: Monokuma

Script: Monokuma

Programming: Monokuma

Graphics: Monokuma

Sound: Monokuma

Cast

Tsumiki

Saionji

Mioda

Koizumi

Satou

Kuzuryuu

Kuzuryuu

A Monokuma Production

“That...” Hinata trembled just as Matsuda registered the sting in his palms from his nails digging in. “Wait—those names!”

“Yep!” Monokuma chirped, popping from nowhere as per usual. “Congratulations! You found the hidden credits! What a victory for you bastards! Cheers! Hip, hip!”

“You just had them listed all along?” Matsuda asked, gritting his teeth. “Behind some stupid code?”

“D-Don’t call it stupid!” the bear exclaimed. “The credits are the most important part of a game! They show the real backbone! The crooks and nannies!”

“It’s only semi-important in this case,” Komaeda said. “It’s a clarification, after all, of those forgotten connections you were talking about.”

The lost memories. No. Matsuda bit his lip hard enough to taste blood. The memories that were taken from us.

“The events, characters, and organizations as depicted in this game are non-fiction. Any similarities to individual people, living or dead, is entirely deliberate,” Monokuma parroted the words from before, grinning widely. “It was all based on a beary true story!”

“Y-You could be lying,” Hinata shakily pointed out. “There’s no way to know for sure if any of this really happened!”

“No way, you say,” Monokuma hummed thoughtfully. “Weeeeeeeell, actually there is a prize for accessing the credits. Something that’s pretty good proof, I think. Too bad I’ve already given it away.”

What?

“Someone else figured out the code before me and there’s only one prize,” Nanami said quietly. “He told me when I saw the credits for the first time. I was too late.”

Who...? Aha. That’s a stupid fucking question to ask isn’t it? Isn’t it?

If he said something now, who knew what would come out. All Matsuda could register was bubbling feeling, hot-cold sensations, his head whirling—in that very moment, he could’ve been consumed. That wouldn’t be helpful so he had to breathe, nostrils flaring. He felt sick. So. Fucking. Sick.

And thinking of Koizumi didn’t help.

“Sucks to be all of you! Looks like you can’t trust each other after all!” Monokuma cackled. “Who could’ve saw that coming but me?”

“Wait.” Matsuda steadied himself. “This game was being guarded almost all hours of the day. I remember the schedules. We’ll just have to question everyone. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”

“Still, what about your shattered trust? You can’t just fix that, upupupu! But, you know,” Monokuma sighs dreamily. “Matsuda-kun’s cool side when he’s boiling with fury is super uber sexy! Hey, hey, turn that burning gaze towards me! Kyaaaa!”

Matsuda doesn’t look at him, but his head hurts, likely from the shrillness of the mascot’s shitty voice.

“How about a bribe, instead?” he asked and shuffled around his pocket. “Tell me when you gave away the prize. I don’t need to know who. Just when.”

Monokuma blinked up at him curiously. Matsuda pulled out that black and white pearl, holding it up.

“This is your kind of thing, right? You can have it if you just answer my question.”

“Oh, that’s what you’re going to use it for, huh,” Komaeda commented, shoulders slumping a little. “I see. I don’t mind, but, I see.”

“What is going on?” Hinata asked and was ignored.

“You really do know the way to a bear’s heart,” Monokuma fawned. “Okay! I’ll give you a little something-something! Just for you, Matsuda-kyun!”

Swallowing, Matsuda plopped the pearl into Monokuma’s grubby paws. Monokuma made a sound of euphoric delight. Disgusting, especially with how those beady eyes were sparkling.

“Here!”

And in his hands, Monokuma had shoved in a fucking notebook.

It was white on one side, black on the other. It was also tattered.

“What the hell is this?” Matsuda asked, ever intelligently.

“A Memory Journal,” Monokuma answered, batting his eyelashes. “Don’t think I didn’t notice your sweet little head aching! This is for writing stuff down! The storing of precious, precious memories! It’s a little gently used, but I’m sure you’ll make great use of it!”

Matsuda stared at him. And then at the apparent memory journal. And then back at him.

“Great. Awesome. I gave away a rare, priceless pearl for fucking garbage. Get the fuck out of my sight before I throw this at you.”

With a giggle, Monokuma bounced off.

“It...was worth a shot?” Hinata attempted. “Although I’m not surprised Monokuma did...that.”

“It’s a charming notebook,” Komaeda said. “You’ll make wonderful use of it, Matsuda-kun!”

Flipping through the journal, Matsuda could see that many pages were torn out and there was damage rendering would-be text illegible. To say even lowly use could be made of such a thing was pretty fucking generous.

“Well, we can figure out the prize stuff later,” Hinata said. “What’s more important are those credits, right? That—that this game actually...contains lost memories.”

“I already figured that,” Komaeda chirped. “And Matsuda-kun did, too.”

“W-Wait, what?!”

I should be impressed it took him this long to stab me in the back, Matsuda thought irritably, shoving the journal into his pocket.

And unsurprisingly, Nanami’s stare bore into them both. Him and Komaeda. Cold and unimpressed.

“So, you two already knew who the characters were based on?”

“It was obvious due to the manners of speech,” Komaeda answered serenely. “Pretty distinct ways of talking. Hard to miss. And the fact that Girl D happened to carry around a camera... Ehe.”

“Yeah,” Matsuda agreed, not looking at any of them. “I didn’t need to credits to figure it out on my own. I already knew it had something to fucking do with the people here. Their lost memories.”

And as much as I’d like to believe it’s all a lie—that flash of Koizumi holding that girl and crying...that was a little too real.

As was the sensation of dying. As was everything else.

“So why didn’t you say anything?” Hinata asked, aggravated. “You and Komaeda both.”

“Isn’t it better for your development that you figure things out on your own rather than having them told to you?” Komaeda returned, eyes wide. “Then again, you only found out because of the credits, huh?”

“We’re supposed to be working together, aren’t we?!” Hinata exclaimed. “I’d expect this from Komaeda, but you, Matsuda—!”

“What?” Matsuda didn’t bat an eyelash. “After I died in the game, I needed time to reflect on what happened and what it all entailed. I didn’t want to be tricked by Monokuma, y’know.”

“You still could have...told us...” Hinata trailed off, fizzling. “Still, to have you and Komaeda be the only ones who knew...”

“Not just us,” Matsuda pointed out. “Someone else saw the credits before us, remember? And they have strong evidence for all that being real.”

Hinata flinched, and Nanami hummed.

“I imagine though that the motive only really affects those represented within the game,” Komaeda said, back to bright and cheerful. “We have it narrowed down, right? Unless, of course, the culprit is using the game to frame someone else. But, oh, if that were the case, the victim could have been anyone, not just poor Koizumi-san.”

“But it was Koizumi,” Hinata cut him off tersely. “That’s all there is to it.”

Someone merely motivated to use the game as a cover...that’s actually a pretty good theory. But so much about this crime feels personal. The fact that it was Koizumi...the fact that the culprit used a bat...the fact that the way her body was slumped against the door...

He can already imagine it. Koizumi toppling over after she was struck. At least it was quick. At least it was instant. At least it wasn’t like Satou. The pain being so much that she collapsed. The way her face likely twisted in fear.

Matsuda tried not to blanch.

“We need to know more about the crime than just the victim and how she was killed,” he spoke up, clearing his throat and swallowing back rising bile. “We also need to learn the setup.”

She had a letter on her. Asking her to go to that location at a specific time. Signed by a specific someone. But it’s not so cut and dry. For one thing, if the name signed was the culprit—that’d be quite the leap, wouldn’t it?

It was like before. Even though there was clear evidence of a certain someone involved—there were factors that made it close to impossible to be that person.

Close...but not completely impossible. But just like before, I have a hard time believing it could be that one. Because—that person wasn’t like Komaeda. When they smiled so brightly and adoringly at Koizumi, it wasn’t done vapidly.

“In that case,” Nanami said, voice higher than usual. “I should play the Girl E route, right? To see every situation of the characters. Hinata-kun, you should stay with me. That way if I collapse, you can pull me back to my feet.”

“H-Huh?!” Hinata flustered. “You’re trusting me with that?!”

“I guess Komaeda-kun or Matsuda-kun could stay instead if you wanted to investigate elsewhere.” Nanami looks at both of them. Her lips are pulled into a solemn line. “I guess.”

“As much as I’d love to support you, there is something else I’d like to do first,” Komaeda said. “But I did want Hinata-kun to come with us. Maybe after you’re done with Nanami-san? Or, oh.” His smile brightened to an infuriatingly blinding degree. “You’d prefer to stay with Nanami-san, wouldn’t you?”

“This idiot needs to be watched either way,” Matsuda muttered, bored with it all. “And if you’re that fucking set on doing something I warned you against, there’s nothing more I can do. So, Hinata, I’ll trust you to dunk her head in the ocean if she faints.”

“I’m not going to do that!” Hinata snapped, aghast.

“Um, yeah, if Nanami-san does pass out, the best way to handle it is...” Komaeda paused, blinking a few times. “Hm. Actually, Matsuda-kun, why don’t you stay with Nanami-san after all? Let’s go, Hinata-kun.”

“Excuse me?! Why am I suddenly incapable?!”

Nanami said nothing. She just stared, meeting his gaze unflinchingly and indifferently. He’s used to all kinds of unimpressed stares, each one varying in level of contempt and displeasure. But there’s also the air of expectation in Nanami Chiaki’s visage. How grating.

“If you don’t pass out, it’s a non-issue,” he said. “Nothing to worry about if you can handle it. Right?”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “I won’t pass out. I think.”

“Ooh! Of course! If there’s anyone who can handle the wretchedness of this shoddy imitation of Twilight Syndrome, it’s the Ultimate Gamer!” Komaeda exclaimed. “Let’s just leave you to it!”

Hinata, startled by this turn of events, still hesitated.

“I, actually, I...”

“You should play through the game, too,” Matsuda said. “And the princess, later. That way we’re all on the same page, yeah?”

“Just don’t faint and hold Nanami-san back, Hinata-kun,” Komaeda added cheerily, to Hinata’s ire.

“Shut up. You had somewhere to go, right?”

“Yep, yep.” Komaeda took his arm, clasping onto his sleeve. His grip really was so weak that it’d be easy to break his fingers. Rigor mortis wouldn’t help remotely. “Matsuda-kun, let’s get going.”

What does he have planned? If it’s productive, I might as well go along with it. And these two—it’s best to stop thinking about it.

“Yeah, sure.”

The two had already turned away when he glanced back. He felt Komaeda’s fingers dig a little into his sleeve, but that smile on his face remained.

Chapter Text

“What do you think you’re going to use that memory journal for, Matsuda-kun?”

“Food for a fire, maybe?”

“Would Monokuma allow that?”

“Probably not.”

Komaeda gives a light chuckle.

“Hey, can I borrow it for a bit? There are some things I’d like to write down and sadly, I don’t carry paper on me. I have a pen, though!” He pulls it out, clicking it happily. “Look, it’s a Hope’s Peak pen! The school’s symbol is on the cap here...”

He’s talking about it as if it were a souvenir. Urgh.

“Just take the damn thing,” Matsuda snapped, shoving the journal into the other’s face. “Both it and you piss me off so it’s a match made in heaven as far as I’m concerned.”

“Aha! What a lovely sentiment! It is just a journal though.” Still, Komaeda seemed pretty happy with it, expression dreamy as he looked it over. “I promise I’ll return it. Even if I must apologize for using it.”

“I really, really don’t care. Use it for the toilet if you want.”

“I won’t do that! I’ll treat it gently! Because it’s the possession of Matsuda-kun!”

Matsuda rolled his eyes. Komaeda pocketed the journal with all that said. He was still giggling to himself. After a while, he paused. When he turned back to Matsuda, his eyes were twinkling.

“So how easy do you think talking to the other girls will be?” Komaeda asks now, casually. “I also want to talk to Kuzuryuu-kun if I can help it. But I don’t really see that happening.”

“Pinstripe didn’t bite when I asked him to play the game with me,” Matsuda recalled. “But do you really think the other girls will know anything? Two of them have alibis because they were together at the time.”

“One of them might,” was the easy, obvious response. “And I know you have a lot of questions to ask her too, Matsuda-kun.”

Obviously. But gremlins can be difficult.

“Oh, about Kuzuryuu-kun, when Matsuda-kun went to his cottage earlier...” Komaeda trailed off. The silence dragged on as Matsuda’s brow furrowed. Komaeda shook his head. “Never mind.”

“What?”

“It’s probably nothing,” Komaeda said, waving him off. “We’ve gotten enough off-track as it is. Let’s go see the girls, Matsuda-kun. And Kuzuryuu-kun if we can.”

Probably nothing? Did he see something? I’m not in the mood for this, but... Whatever. We really should try and get as much information out of the others we can. If we can.


“Look, I’m not in the mood to talk to either of you fucking creeps! Leave me the hell alone!”

“You seem quite troubled, Saionji-san. I understand. Koizumi-san’s death was a tragedy but you must look forward—toward a hopeful future!”

Matsuda yanked Komaeda back so that Saionji missed stomping on his foot by mere centimeters.

“Aren’t you supposed to be fucking watching this freak so that he doesn’t get his ass killed?” she asked him darkly. “You’re doing a shit job. Get him away from me before something happens.”

“Sorry,” Matsuda said, bowing his head a little albeit with an unimpressed gaze. “But this is important. You should get to the damn point, though. Before your mouth gets sown shut.”

“Ooh, scary! Well,” Komaeda inhales. “Monokuma actually wants us to gather at the airport in a bit.”

Saionji blinks up at him, eyes wide. She trembles a little, her fists curled into balls.

“It’s a life or death situation,” Komaeda goes on ever blithely. “We don’t want to lose anyone else, now do we?”

“I... I don’t care about you,” Saionji hissed through gritted teeth. “I don’t give a shit about anyone! Mahiru-nee was... Whatever! Fine! I don’t want to die, so fine! Now get out of my face!”

“I’ll see you in a bit, Saionji-san.” A pause. Komaeda’s smile widened. “After I gather the others, of course.”

Saionji scrambled off without another word. Matsuda watched her go dully. Komaeda waved and waved until Matsuda gave him a withered stare.

“So that’s our tactic? Just lying to their faces?”

“It’s just for the investigation!” Komaeda chirped, though he did have some decency in looking a little ashamed. “Saionji-san is so on edge! We don’t want to scare her off!”

Or for her to lash out. But I can’t exactly wait until she calms down. It’s either now or during the trial. We don’t have time. And if it’s during the trial—

“I’ll go to the airport, too, then.”

“Eh?” Komaeda perked up. “But, Matsuda-kun, we need to talk to the other cast members.”

“I’m aware,” he replied. “You go gather them. Tell them that I’m already at the airport. It might make your inane lie a little more believable.”

“Is that really what you would prefer?” Komaeda frowned, head tilted. “I’m not supposed to be running around on my own.”

“I know that.” But with you there, interrogating that brat is going to be next to impossible. So I need to take advantage of the opportunity now. “I already know who you’re going to talk to. Where you will be. Obviously if I’m left waiting too long, I’ll have to come after you. But.”

He couldn’t just ignore that one piece of evidence. And he sure as shit wouldn’t get away with obscuring it during the trial if he hadn’t figured it out by then. He may have some good will built up among the class—but it wasn’t much. It would be disastrous if it all toppled down.

“If you don’t want to be alone, then go grab Hinata and that game otaku,” he snapped. “I know you can handle gathering people up. God fucking knows you have a way of subtly manipulating them.”

“You’re giving me too much credit,” Komaeda said serenely. “Still, I’ll trust you, Matsuda-kun. Whatever makes you shine! For the sake of hope. And everyone. Ehe.”

A subtle manipulator whose real talent is pissing people off. Good thing the not-nurse and punkcore are too on the mild side to get aggressive. I still worry.

There’s also—

“Don’t bother with Kuzuryuu.” The words slipped out before he knew it. They were cold and heavy, and despite everything, Matsuda stuck with them. “It won’t do any good in questioning him. He’s closed off.”

Komaeda’s smile didn’t change as his eyes fell shut.

“Matsuda-kun, do you think Kuzuryuu-kun is the culprit? Out of the cast, he’s the odd one out, right?”

He’s the only one with a potential motive. The key word is potential.

“We don’t have enough evidence to make any conclusions,” Matsuda said simply. “Peculiarities are hardly concrete.”

“You’re right,” Komaeda conceded cheerily. “So, we should question him, too. Right?”

“He will refuse, Komaeda.”

“But it’s worth a shot.” Komaeda laughs, turning on his heel. “I might get lucky, Matsuda-kun.”

“Just don’t.”

Komaeda waves him off without another word. Matsuda has half a mind to follow, everything else be damned but for now, he lets it go. He lets Komaeda go.

If Kuzuryuu doesn’t hurt him, I’ll kill him myself. I’ll fix him and then I’ll break that idiot into pieces.

But for now, he has other things to worry about.


It’s not quiet in the airport because Saionji is shifting noisily. She’s fidgeting with her kimono and tugging at her hair. He imagines her heart is hammering. He suspects she’s anxious. His suspicions are confirmed when he sees her stiffen upon noting his presence. Her cherubic face is marred with a deep grimace.

“And why are you here?”

“I’m supposed to be here, too,” he says easily because it’s not a lie. Not exactly. Even though he knows he’s still bullshitting her and it’s not something to be proud of.

“You’re supposed to be watching over Komaeda-nii,” she retorted. “Did you get bored already? So unreliable.”

“Well, I guess I was more worried about you, kimono gremlin.”

Saionji’s face was stony.

“That’s rich. A guy like you giving a shit about me? Wow, Matsuda-nii. Give up medicine and take up comedy. You’d be a pissing, puking riot.”

“You just lost the only person on this island you kinda liked.” He thought about wording it gentler, about regarding her by name. Both ideas were ridiculous, given the kind of people the two of them were. “That stings, doesn’t it?”

“Of course it does,” Saionji whispered. Admitting it was a good sign, even when she turned away. “But that’s just the kind of shitty situation we’re in, right? Kill. Be killed. Those are our options.”

“Or stay alive. There’s that, too.”

“What do you really want?” Her tone is now hostile and scathing. “You clearly had ulterior motives for meeting me here. Fucking creep. If you do something—anything, I will scream.”

I was expecting this. Tread carefully even if no one’s going to take her seriously. She’s still in a vulnerable state.

“When I worked in the hospital, I’ve found that some of the patients would take to writing letters.” He straightens up, noting that Saionji eyes him like a hidden mouse watches the hawk soar above. “To friends, family, those outside...and sometimes those already gone. It can be pretty therapeutic—I’ve been told.”

But there was no point in me writing letters to someone who completely forgot about me.

“Since you’re definitely upset, why don’t you try it?” Matsuda shrugged, expression impassive. “You can even sign it. I could look over it. I won’t say a word to anyone about it. I’ll cut my tongue out if I do.”

There was no response. There was the slightest flicker in Saionji’s gaze and a twitch in her mouth, but it went by too quickly to be properly identified.

“Are you serious right now? Who the fuck are you?”

“What?” Matsuda bristled. “You think your calligraphy is too fancy to be bothered with the lowly task of writing a fucking letter? You can write, can’t you?”

Push a little, but not too much.

“I can, but that—that’s just stupid.” Saionji sputters, finally. “That’s such a fucking stupid thing to do.”

Matsuda raised an eyebrow.

“You’ve never written anything to Koizumi before? Not even a note?”

“What the hell are you talking about?!” Saionji scowls, tensing. “Are—are you making fun of me?! I’ll kill you...!”

Ah. And now she’s sounding like that other brat. Well. Well.

That was fine. That was enough. This utter bewilderment was something.

“Pweh, see if I try and be considerate towards you ever again.” Matsuda huffed, turning away. “Just forget it. Forget all about it.”

Saionji opened her mouth to say something but shut it quickly. Tucking her hands into her sleeves, she twisted her body away as well. Her shoulders were trembling. Matsuda did grimace at the idea of her breaking down into tears. Her breathing hitched in places, but it never escalated into anything more. It was just breathing, erratic and fragile much like a beating heart.

Matsuda’s eyes fell shut.


“Hiyoko-chaaan! Oh! Yasuke-chaaan! Both of you are here after all! Ciao!”

Mioda greeted with a bounce in her step, looking much better than before.

“Peko-chan held my hand earlier, so I’m in the highest, happiest spirits!” she exclaimed, hopping before them. She does frown for a moment, swaying her hips. “Oh, oh, but I was surprised Nagito-chan went around all solo. I was worried that something happened to Yasuke-chan! Hiyoko-chan, you aren’t threatening him, are you?”

“Shut the fuck up, you’re so damn noisy,” Saionji snapped with dulled venom. Mioda blinked once.

“Uwah! That adorable face looks so deflated! Hiyoko-chan! Hey, hey, Hiyoko-chan!”

“Leave me alone.”

The snarl did get Mioda retreating a bit, eyes wide. Matsuda remained quiet until he heard unsteady tottering. Sure enough, Tsumiki was scampering after Mioda. She heaved a bit, already on the verge of tears as she sniffled.

“I-Is Monokuma already here? I-I...” Tsumiki looks between them hesitantly, and the moody atmosphere seemed the heaviest on her shoulders. “I-I didn’t miss anything did I?”

“Eh, no, barely anyone’s here,” Mioda said before whistling. “Barely. Bear. Ly. Monokuma-chan didn’t even appear for a chortle.”

And thank god of for that, Matsuda thought sardonically.

“I-I guess all we can do is wait,” Tsumiki murmured, clasping her hands together and wringing them. “Um, um, Matsuda-san do you know what all this is about? I did—find it strange that you weren’t with Komaeda-san.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“I-I...okay.” She swallowed. “I-I, s-sorry, earlier I, I didn’t—w-with Koizumi-san’s—!”

“No one wants to fucking hear your shit-spewing bile, you disgusting pig,” Saionji snarled. Tsumiki clammed up, eyes welling with tears. Saionji just went on, “In fact, you should just shove your damn grubby hooves all the way down your—!”

“It’s not an issue,” Matsuda spoke up, cutting her off. “Once this is dealt with, let’s move on.”

“So cool!” Mioda gasped, stars in her eyes. “So cold! It’s Byakuya-chan’s spirit shining from Yasuke-chan’s demeanor! That’s—that’s rad!”

“No, it’s just Matsuda-nii,” Saionji retorted, quieter than before but still considerably ignored. “Ghosts don’t shine through people. That’s just utter nonsense. Unless you’re saying he’s possessed?”

“P-Possessed?!” Tsumiki squealed. “I-I don’t know how to deal with possessions!”

Oh my fucking god.

“I’m not fucking possessed.”

“Would Byakuya-chan really admit to that?” Mioda wondered. “I—I do wonder!”

“Shut up.”

She mercifully does, but there’s still a low resounding chuckle.

“My, my,” Komaeda hums as he strolls up. “It’s good to see a healthy bit of banter in spite of our situation.”

An irritated Hinata was stumbling after him.

“What were you all even talking about?” he asks, rubbing his head. “Something about ghosts?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Matsuda responded. “Where’s the gamer girl?”

“Because I was such an utter failure with Kuzuryuu-kun, Nanami-san took it upon herself to try and engage with him!” Komaeda sighs wistfully. “I do so hope she can succeed where I didn’t, but I should have expected such worthlessness from a lowly being as myself.”

“I’m here because I can’t believe you’d even let Komaeda wander around unattended,” Hinata huffed. “What were you thinking, Matsuda?”

“Would you like to know what I’m thinking now?” Matsuda raised an eyebrow. “Shall I say it in front of everyone?”

Hinata flustered.

“N-Never mind. What the hell ever.”

“Even though Kuzuryuu-kun sadly can’t join us, we can just get started,” Komaeda said cheerfully.

“Started?” Saionji echoed. “You mean—we didn’t have to gather here?”

“W-What about Monokuma?!” Tsumiki demanded pitifully. “W-Weren’t we at risk of being executed by him if we didn’t show?!”

“Oi, Komaeda,” Hinata said lowly. “What did you tell them?”

“Lies,” Matsuda answered before Komaeda could. “He told them lies.”

“WHAT?!” Tsumiki shrieked.

“Sorry!” Komaeda exclaimed oh so fucking happily. “I did lie! I really am sorry!”

“You TRICKED US!” Mioda yelped. “That’s so mean! Yasuke-chan, you dirty rotten heartbreaker!”

Yeah. This would reflect poorly on me. But I didn’t exactly get this far in life by playing nice.

“I’m so pissed I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to say anything!” Saionji turned on her heel. “I’m leaving!”

“Oi, gremlin...” Before Matsuda could go further, Komaeda had already stepped in front of Saionji. He waved his hands placatingly, keeping enough distance that his feet couldn’t be stomped on. Saionji scowled, but Matsuda resumed quickly, “We did have a reason for asking you all to be here. It wasn’t just for kicks.”

“Right, we just wanted to discuss Koizumi-san and the game,” Komaeda added. “Please. You can hold this wretched lie against me, but we need to information to solve the murder, you see.”

He couldn’t see Saionji’s face, but he did see the way her head lowered. There was a slight tremor in her shoulders and frame. Her fingers dug viciously into the fabric of her kimono.

“Mahiru-nee?”

“Yeah,” Hinata agreed. “I can’t speak for Komaeda or Matsuda, but...I do want to know what you all thought of Koizumi? Were any of you close...?”

“Like, close-close?” Mioda asked, head tilted. “The sexy kind of close?”

Matsuda gave her a hard look, glare so piercing that shivers went up and down her spine and Mioda couldn’t help but positively squeal.

“S-Sexy! Way too sexy! So cold it’s hot!”

“Just tell us what your general relationship with the camera girl was,” Matsuda snapped, irritated as Hinata was exasperated. “Friends? Associates? Or would you still consider her a stranger?” He turned to Tsumiki, addressing her as well. “And what about you? You explain, too.”

“U-Um,” Tsumiki stammered as Mioda hummed thoughtfully. “W-We all first met in that classroom where it all started. W-We didn’t know each other before that, or at least I didn’t... Since then, I guess I’ve...spoken to Koizumi-san a few times. I-I guess she’s...was pretty nice...”

Saionji said nothing. That was fine.

We already know that they were close.

“Mahiru-chan, Mahiru-chan,” Mioda sighed, mournful now. “Now that I think about it, when I asked her to join us for swimming, she looked suuuuper down. That’s so awful! The last time I saw her wasn’t with a smile on her face!”

“What do you mean she looked down?” Hinata asked.

“Apparently, she wanted to hold a meeting at 2pm,” Mioda explained. “But she said, if you have plans already, Ibuki-chan, you should go. It’s fine.

“O-Oh, wow, that’s a good impression,” Hinata remarked, eyes wide. Mioda grinned widely.

“Right, right?! Not only do I have Ultimate Ears, but also the Ultimate Voice!”

I guess we should be glad she’s too dippy to use that power for evil, Matsuda thought. What’s more concerning is Koizumi’s planning.

“Did she say what the meeting would be for?” he asked. “She didn’t think to reschedule?”

“Eh? No, she didn’t.” Mioda shook her head. “She left it at that.”

“I-It was the same for me,” Tsumiki stammered. “She told me she wanted to arrange a meeting with such a serious face—b-but I told her I already had plans. She looked so sad. W-Why...?” Trembling, she pulled at her hair. “I-If I had just agreed to go—would she still be here?!”

“Who knows,” Matsuda muttered, to which Tsumiki sobbed into her hands. He noted that Saionji uncharacteristically remained quiet. Even now.

Considering how much she loves yelling at her, that’s not insignificant.

“To approach specifically Mioda-san and Tsumiki-san, I think it’s not a reach to suspect Koizumi-san of having played the game,” Komaeda whispered to him and to Hinata. “Or do you think it’s mere coincidence?”

“I-It could be, but...” Hinata ran his fingers through his hair irritably. “Honestly, I do doubt it’s...coincidental. Koizumi has guarded the game before, right?”

“She has,” Matsuda muttered. “But there’s still an issue.”

“Issue?” Hinata repeated. “What issue?”

“Yeah, what?!” Mioda exclaimed. “You’re talking all sneaky-sneaky over there while I’m right here hanging on every word! You really think Mahiru-chan played that game?!”

And still Saionji said nothing.

“It would make logical sense,” Matsuda said. “But, the thing is—that arcade machine had an adverse effect on her.”

“A-Adverse?” Tsumiki wondered. “I-I suppose that game did have...a really negative aura. I wasn’t really a fan of it either.”

“Saaaaame! It gave off major, MAJOR ultra-bad vibes!” Huffing, Mioda crossed her arms. “I can’t even imagine coming near something that wicked without melting!”

Both of you feel that way?” Hinata blinked. “Did Koizumi also—?”

“Yeah, she said the same,” Matsuda confirmed with a nod. “Familiarity doesn’t go away with the memories. The brain’s more complicated than that. While these girls may not remember the events, the emotional impact remained. Thus, their subconscious was still aware of how negatively they were affected. So all of them took care to avoid the game that represented it, and all of them voiced discomfort.” A pause. “But if Koizumi really played the game despite how bad it made her feel...”

What could have motivated her? Pinstripe can’t help but seek danger due to his stupid yakuza pride, but Koizumi is more cautious. More practical.

“We’ll have to further look into it,” Komaeda said. “But before that, let’s not forget Saionji-san, shall we?”

Saionji stiffened, but her lips pressed tightly together.

“Did you ever get a bad feeling from the game?” Hinata asked, brow pinched. “Or—did Koizumi ever go to you?”

“Surely she did,” Komaeda agreed as Matsuda’s stare sharpened. “Did you agree to meet with her when the others wouldn’t?”

Admirably, even with all those eyes on her, Saionji didn’t crack. She just inhaled and exhaled. She calmed herself down, steadied herself, and she turned to them with a bright grin.

“Haha, nope!” She shook her head furiously. “Nope, no way! Mahiru-onee didn’t say aaaaaaanything like that to me! In fact, I have nooooo idea what any of you are even talking about! I didn’t care for that stupid game because it was a stupid game! That’s it! That’s all!”

Straightening herself up, she feigned surprise.

“To think you simpletons would ask such dumb, easy questions! What a shock! Well, if that’s all it is—that’s all it is! Buh-bye!”

She sped off without a second word, running out of the airport with surprising speed for those small legs and that baggy kimono.

“W-Wait, Saionji!” Hinata called out to no avail. “What was that about?!”

“She’s so transparent,” Matsuda sighed. “She couldn’t be more suspicious if she tried.”

“S-So then...” Tsumiki shuddered. “D-Did Saionji-san...?”

“We’ll figure it out during the trial,” Komaeda said simply and easily. “For now, we have more investigating to do.”

“Y-You better!” Mioda exclaimed. “Cuz, mass death is not cool!”

“Y-Yeah, we will,” Hinata grumbled. “We’ll definitely find the culprit no matter who it is.”

That goes without saying, Matsuda thought. We’ll send them to their death.

He rubbed his forehead with a deep grimace, earning Tsumiki to squeak in surprise.

“M-Matsuda-san, you’re paling! And looking a bit nauseous!”

“Do you need to throw up?” Hinata asked worriedly.

“I’ll hold back your hair if you do!” Mioda exclaimed. “It looks super silky but I’ll grip the strands real tight!”

“I’m fine,” he says so through his hand. “Really. I can handle it.”

His eyes do flicker and unsurprisingly, they land on Komaeda’s unconcerned smile.

I can handle it.


“Are you sure you’re alright, Matsuda?”

“I just fucking got that not-nurse off my back and you’re still pushing it? I’d threaten to kill you under better circumstances.”

“U-Urk! Fine, fine. Jeez. I was just making sure. You’re such an asshole.”

“It’s Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda chirped.

He might be saying it with a smile but I doubt the meaning is all that positive.

“Anyway, is that really all you wanted me for, Komaeda?” Hinata asked, annoyed. “A few interrogations?”

“Well, you wanted to ask them too, didn’t you?” Komaeda pointed out, blinking back at him. “Although it is such a shame that Nanami-san couldn’t join us. Why don’t you go tell her what happened, Hinata-kun?” Without missing a beat, he was back to grinning without a care. “You want to go see her, don’t you?”

“D-Don’t just push me around!” Hinata shot back, flustered. “It’s not your call what I want and what I don’t!”

“Is now really the time to have a lovers’ quarrel?” Matsuda snapped. “It’s tiring, watching you two go back and forth.”

“L-Lovers?!” Hinata jerked away, face beet-red. “I-It’s nothing like that...! Nothing like that at all! W-What are you even saying, Matsuda?!”

“What are you saying, I wonder,” Komaeda mused. “Don’t be so ridiculous, Matsuda-kun. I highly respect you, even now, of course, but it’s hardly the time.”

That’s why I called you idiots out. But obviously these two are going to be even more stupid about it.

“We’re going to Koizumi’s cottage,” Matsuda said, moving on. “Of course, we’re going to have to ask that fucker to unlock the door, probably.”

“You mean Monokuma? Oh, there’s no need.” Komaeda waved his hand. “I asked him earlier and he complied. He even unlocked all the doors.”

“All of them?” Hinata made a face. “Oi, what did you do when no one was watching you?”

“Many, many things.” Komaeda beamed. “If you really want to know, you can lick my shoes.”

“E-Excuse?!”

“You’re excused! It was a joke! Aha!”

“What the hell kind of joke was that?!”

Someone just died and those two sure are going at it. Matsuda looked blankly up at the sky, questioning himself and humanity’s decisions that led to this point. Did I ask to be in a shitty romcom? Did I fucking ask to star in a shitty romcom during a battle royale? Is this punishment for Love, Love Sugar Cherry? No, I refuse to believe that masterpiece’s existence is to blame.

“Matsuda!” Hinata exclaimed, fuming. “Never leave Komaeda on his own ever again!”

“Whatever.”

“Aw, Hinata-kun, you don’t have to burden Matsuda-kun with me to such an extent...”

“Whatever.”

When he saw Koizumi’s cottage, it was like nothing else mattered. He quickened his pace, skipping a few steps to get onto the porch. He heard Hinata call out after him, but he had already pushed open the door.

First, he noticed the fragrance of the room. Fresh linen, courtesy of the air freshener plugged in. Koizumi’s room was clean. Comfortable. Lived in, from the gently smoothed out sheets of the bed to the carefully pinned photos on the cork boards she had set up. On the table, there were more carefully arranged pictures and stacked photography books. Koizumi even had film set aside along with a spare camera. The pictures were taken from the island. Various shots of the setting, but most of them of the other classmates. All of the faces smiling.

There was one particular envelope that caught his attention, and so he picked it up.

“A-Ah, Matsuda-kun.” Komaeda sounded winded behind him. “Monokuma said earlier that you’re not to take anything from the cottage.”

“Really?” he asked. “That’s a pain in the ass. What if there’s evidence?”

“It’s still not allowed.”

“Boo.”

“Urgh.” Hinata wrapped his arms around himself. “It’s not any easier the second time.”

“Do you wish Nanami-san was here?” Komaeda asked cheerfully, to which Hinata growled.

“That’s obviously not the issue!” he yelled. “This is Koizumi’s cottage!”

“Ah, yes, you did seem fond of Koizumi-san, too...” Komaeda hummed, pondering for a moment. “How unfortunate Hinata-kun is.”

“T-That’s...not something I want to hear from you.”

“If you’re trying to lighten the mood, you’re doing a shit job of it,” Matsuda remarked.

“Aha! As expected from myself. I really am so incompetent.” Komaeda giggled. Hinata gave him a weird stare, but he said nothing more on the matter. He just directed his attention to Matsuda.

“What’s that envelope?”

“What, indeed,” Matsuda mused as he opened it. There were more photographs, but also a hastily scribbled down note. The paper written on was crumbled and torn in places. He dumped the contents unceremoniously onto the bed and began to sort through. “Ah. Of course.”

He recognized the pictures immediately. Komaeda and Hinata peered over his shoulders, and Hinata let out a sharp gasp as Komaeda softly inhaled.

“These pictures are from Twilight Syndrome,” Komaeda said quietly. “They were taken by Girl D—by Koizumi-san. I remember...taking them as well.”

Matsuda stared at them. The picture of Saionji, Mioda, and Tsumiki bantering. The scene he never got to see. The picture of a shattered vase. The image that had before sent such shocks of panic through his system in the game, and he feels nothing towards it now. But the other pictures—both are of two dead girls.

“She didn’t completely delete them.” His fingers trace the edges. It’s the image of Girl E—of Satou that has him still. That has the world still with a sickening realization. “Koizumi took this?”

He remembered her sobbing, her holding onto that girl’s body. He remembers the initial rush of horror and disgust at her discovering that body—don’t look don’t look don’t look—and now there’s a picture of it. Immortalizing it.

Why? Why the actual hell would you do that?

He feels sick. So incredibly, incredibly sick.

And Komaeda takes away the pictures of the dead girls with a curious, unaffected hum.

“There’s no denying it. This is Kuzuryuu-kun’s sister, and this is Girl E. Satou-san, was it?”

“Kuzuryuu’s sister?” Hinata wondered. He grimaced, forcing himself to look and shuddering for it. “I—I can definitely see the resemblance.”

“Same blond hair, same freckles, same cheeks, aha.” Komaeda’s lips popped. “If her eyes were open, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a mirroring shade. This is definitely Kuzuryuu-san.”

Matsuda did recall the photo that Kuzuryuu himself had. Of his sister sticking her tongue of. She had been winking at the time, and the color of her eye was a sharp shade of green. It actually hadn’t been the same color at all.

“There’s the piano in the background, and the girl had been killed in the music room, right?” Komaeda asks, even though his voice sounds muddled and distant. “So, it was Kuzuryuu-kun’s sister who was murdered.”

“I do remember—Nanami mentioned she saw him in the game,” Hinata said. “But to be involved to this extent...”

To be in a situation that inflected him with such a hateful look. That’s what Monokuma was aiming to use against us. That hate.

Matsuda reads the note, and yes, he can practically feel the anger radiating from the words, and the handwritten letters that nearly tore through. It wasn’t like the note that Koizumi had on her person at all.

Play Twilight Syndrome. Pick Girl D.

Once you finish that route, then load another one. It doesn’t matter which so long as you enter the following code: down-up-left-left and then start.

If you haven’t remembered, you will then. You will remember what you bastards fucking did to my little sister. I’ll never forgive you.

But once you remember, we will talk.

“My little sister,” Matsuda read. “So maybe that dipshit really did play the fucking game. But how? Who the fuck let him do it? And why hide it?”

“That really is a mystery, isn’t it?” Komaeda asked as Hinata flinched.

“So—was Kuzuryuu the one who killed Koizumi? I-I mean—this is pretty damning.”

It is, isn’t it? If anyone looked at this—they’d point a finger at him without a second thought. And unlike with Komaeda, I wouldn’t blame them. I already know he’s capable of killing someone. And I know he’s spiteful.

But—could it really be that simple? Something about this still bothered him. Something just didn’t fully click.

“If it was Kuzuryuu, then...” Hinata stopped, eyes going wide. “Fuck. Nanami.”

Hinata immediately rushed out, Komaeda watching him as Matsuda kept his attention on the note.

“...it could be a setup.”

Komaeda turned to him, blinking a few times.

“I-It’s just—it’s too easy,” Matsuda muttered, digging his hands into his hair. “This is just so transparent. It could be a setup. But—if that’s the case, it’s not just Kuzuryuu who’s being set up. Just what the hell—what the hell happened? Did Kuzuryuu really play the game? Was that why he didn’t...?”

My head hurts. There are so many factors.

So much so that it was suffocating. This wasn’t something he was equipped to handle and yet he had to. For the sake of himself. For the sake of so many other idiots.

“It’s okay, Matsuda-kun.”

Hands squeeze his shoulders. Komaeda presses up against him, soft in spite of the sharp protrusions of bone from his wrists to his elbows. He had a scent different than that of Koizumi’s room. Surprisingly sweeter, surprisingly floral.

“The trial will undoubtedly become a stepping stone for everyone’s hope. Radiance will prevail over the darkness. And I have no doubt you’ll lead beautifully.” Komaeda chuckled, and Matsuda felt the cold puff from his sigh against his nape. “Matsuda-kun, you really will shine so bright, I’m sure of it.”

There’s a chilling edge to this situation. One that worst of all, is mildly familiar. It’s a headache. He hates it but—he knows it could be so much worse. How—he’s not sure.

But, I can’t lose sight of myself. Yes, shit’s confusing, but there’s only one truth. There’s only one person who wielded that bat against Koizumi. Think about the murder. The actual murder.

His eyes squeezed shut.

The way Koizumi was killed—all that blood—

He realized.

There’s no way some of it didn’t get on the culprit. And this time, there wasn’t a sheet to prevent that. So—how could that be washed off?

There were a few ways. Not many, and not few enough to be conclusive—but it was a start. There were just a few other things he needed to figure out along the way. The most difficult part will no doubt be navigating during the trial and trying to keep everyone from panicking along the way.

Matsuda breathed in, breathed out, and he shoved Komaeda off of him.

“Right,” he said, holding out his hand. “Give me that stupid journal back.”

“Oh?” Komaeda tilted his head. “What for?”

“For evidence,” he explained. “We can’t bring the pictures, so I’ll trace the images here in the journal. I’ll copy the note, too.”

“The images?” The other made a bit of a face. “Even of the bodies?”

“Yeah.” Matsuda swallowed. “Even of the bodies. It’s fine. I’ve drawn anatomical maps before.”

It won’t be the same as performing a biopsy—but it’s something I can manage. It’s absolutely within my skill set.

Komaeda beamed, handing him the memory journal easily with that.

“What a good idea, Matsuda-kun!”

He snatched it back, scowling. He flipped through it, and he noted there were already traced images on the pages—traced images of shoeprints. Each one was subsequently labeled in Komaeda’s shitty handwriting.

Oh wow, this explains his stupid shoe remark earlier.

“You broke into every cottage you could to compare shoe sizes with the footprints on the beach?”

“I couldn’t get Kuzuryuu-kun’s, unfortunately,” Komaeda said. “But—it’s pretty obvious who owned those prints, isn’t it?”

Yeah. It is. But.

“The fact that I’m going to be stuck with this shit in this journal—not a fan of that.” He’d get over it, but god if someone accused him of a foot fetish, that would be the cherry on top of his shit sundae. At least it was better than being grouped in with the fucking weirdos just because he was a connoisseur of manga and had good taste. “Whatever. I can just eat the pages later.”

“Burning them might be considered littering,” was Komaeda’s ever intelligent response. “But if you need more fiber, Matsuda-kun, paper isn’t really the best source.”

 “Go off on what would be, then.”

“Bread, for instance—!”

Somehow, listening to that dumbass’s inane ramblings was a tad comforting while he sketched the image of a dead girl with a dented skull.


With the images traced and sketched into his ‘memory journal’, Matsuda left the cottage with a chipper Komaeda in tow.

“With that done, I guess what’s left to do is reconvene at the beach house?” he wondered aloud. “Right, we definitely need to meet back up with Princess Weeb. Hopefully she has something to tell us about that tacky mask.”

Komaeda hummed but said nothing. Almost as if he was uncomfortable. About something.

“What is your deal?”

“I’m a pathetic and lowly being who can’t do anything right!”

“Ugh.” Matsuda rolled his eyes but something else struck him that he probably should ask. “Did you pick anything else up from the cottages you broke into?”

“Broke into is so harsh, I merely opened the unlocked doors,” Komaeda pointed out before nodding. “But I did. Well, actually I went to the supermarket to grab what was the same item since Monokuma forbade me from stealing.”

The one decent fucking thing that bear has done except it was still incredibly inconveniencing.

Matsuda heard the crackling of plastic before he saw the colorful bag that Komaeda pulled from his pocket. He blinked at the various shades and reached for it—only for Komaeda to smack his hand away.

“Argh, you bitch, what the hell?! I can’t have any?!”

“It’s evidence, Matsuda-kun!” Komaeda scolded. “These gummies are the same ones that Saionji-san always eats! There are various types and flavors, but this is the one Saionji-san favors by far. It’s pretty much all she has.”

Matsuda grumbled. “And I can’t have any of it?”

“After the trial if we survive, maybe, but we really should do something about your sweet tooth, Matsuda-kun.”

“Something? I didn’t get this fucking far in life without snacks, both of the salty and sweet variety. How the fuck did you live?”

“Luck, of course!” Komaeda exclaimed, beaming. “I can’t die until I see the world’s greatest hope blossom!”

What does he even imagine that would look like? Do I even want to know?

“Anyway, we can get more gummies if you want some that badly, Matsuda-kun.” Komaeda tutted, stuffing the bag back into his coat pocket. “These, however, are for the trial.”

“It’s not that big of a deal. If I ate something now, I’ll definitely throw it up when we get back to the beach house.” Because Koizumi’s body is still there. Stiffening and cooling. Blood caked and drying. Ugh. I feel sick already. “Let’s hurry, let’s hurry.”

“Understood, Matsuda-kun.”


“Komaeda-san! Matsuda-san! Good, I do not have to search for you after all!”

“Oh, Sonia-san, what luck!” Komaeda chirped to which she smiled and agreed. Matsuda noticed Souda also standing there, arms folded and grimace turned in distaste. “We actually needed to inform you about something. The game, in fact.”

“Oh! Is there something about it that connects to Koizumi-san?” Sonia asked, eyes wide.

“Yeah, it directly connects to her,” Matsuda said. “She’s Girl D. Among other things.”

“What?! So, then...!” Sonia casts a troubled, mournful look in the direction of Koizumi’s body. It’s still propped up as before. The stench of her blood still permeates the inside of the beach house. It’ll be cleaned up before it decomposes, at least. “I see, I see, allow me to share what I’ve discovered as well. Perhaps it connects to the case.”

“W-Wait!” Souda yelped. “Wait, wait, wait! Sonia-san, you’re responding as if you’ve played the game!”

“Because I have,” she answered simply, clearly confused by the outburst. “We played it in a group. Oh, Souda-san, I never asked you to partake, did I?”

“G-Group?! Oi, Matsuda, what the hell is this all about?!” Souda fumed. “D-Did you seriously manipulate our pure-hearted princess into this?! And after I told you to stay the hell away!” He scrambled to get between Matsuda and her. “You fucker! You’re not going to get away with this! If you don’t back off from Sonia-san now, you’re gonna regret it!”

Sonia blinked. Matsuda stared, unimpressed. Even Komaeda was exasperated by all this. Souda puffed his chest out, and Matsuda just sighed.

“Right, alright.” He looked over Souda’s shoulder to address Sonia. “So, princess, what’cha got for us? Is it something to do with that mask you found?”

“Yes! Much yes!” Sonia exclaimed, stepping around Souda, to his shock, more so when he yelped out her name and was promptly ignored by everyone else. There were stars in her eyes as her fists pumped. “Listen, listen, Matsuda-san! Itou-chan’s mask was not just a cover, it was a signature!”

“Signature?” Komaeda flinched beside him. Matsuda felt a little unsettled now. “That was mentioned earlier, but what the hell do you mean a signature? Like a set piece?”

“A signature,” Komaeda murmured. “For a serial killer.”

“A...” Matsuda swallowed. “What.”

“The signature! The Patchman’s burned handprint! Heart attacks from Kira! The Heart Ripper’s heart ripping! Genocider’s BLOODSTAIN FEVER! The signifier between an ordinary killing and a serial killing!” Sonia gasped, now completely worked up. “That! Mask! Is! Kirakira-chan’s! Signature!”

The actual fuck?

“The one who encapsulates humanity’s darkest desires! The so-called warrior of justice! Dawning the mask of heroes, a killer of criminals!” Sonia struck a pose. “Sparkling Justice! Kirakira-chan!”

Quite a few of the surrounding people were in dumbfounded silence. Both Souda and Tsumiki in particular. Komaeda coughed into his hand. Matsuda squinted.

“That serial killer you mentioned before?” Pekoyama asked. “Are you sure, Sonia?”

“Yes!” Sonia exclaimed, far too merrily. “After all, Itou-chan is a magical girl! A heroine!”

Well, I can agree with that part.

“So, you believe the one who murdered Koizumi is a serial killer?” Pekoyama frowned, lips pursing.

Komaeda was similarly thoughtful, humming as he did.

“If that’s the case, one of our classmates is a serial killer. Aha. Haha.” He chuckles softly. “That’s ridiculous. What a ridiculous twist, as if this were a middling video game...”

“Princess, how many people did you tell about this Kirakira-chan?” Matsuda asked, flatly. “Me, Komaeda, and Hinata, right?”

“And Saionji-san as well! At least,” she sighs. “I tried to. She seemed quite unwilling to listen to my rambles.”

Unsurprising.

“Yeah, I doubt this is the work of any serial killer,” he said, waving his hand. “It’s a red herring.”

“While it would be easy to dismiss such a ridiculous scenario, I do believe we should prepare ourselves for any possibility,” Pekoyama murmured. “Thus, do you mind informing us more of this Kirakira-chan’s character, Sonia?”

Oi, are you sure you’re not encouraging her because you’re curious?

“Gladly!” Sonia exclaimed. “It is time once more to don the mask, the very symbol of justice! To expose and revile evil’s disgusting remains—!” Another swooping pose. “Justice...served! Striking the heart of night with righteous, shining light! Of justice! The most radiant of stars! Sparkling Kirakira-chan! Is here!” Her arms dropped into her usual prim and proper posture. “That’s their catchphrase, as reported by the only journalist to have ever witnessed them in person. Before,” she sighs again. “Before Kirakira-chan had done away with them as well.”

“Involvement with serial killers can be quite dangerous,” Komaeda murmured. As if he had experience with that.

“Sadly, that is all that is known about Kirakira-chan,” Sonia went on. “Not even their age or gender has been recorded. But!” She inhaled deeply. “It is not impossible that they were hiding amongst us on this very island!”

Yeah, no. Monomi confirmed there wasn’t anyone else. And I’d hate to take her word for it, but it’s far easier to believe in this case. Matsuda rolled his eyes and shook his head. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kirakira-chan is just a mass hallucination caused by an unwitting but overworked animator.

“Do you really believe that, Sonia-san?” Komaeda asked, smile strained.

“It may seem far-fetched, but it is the only possible explanation,” Sonia asserted. “Because who here—could do such a thing?!”

“Kuzuryuu, if I had to guess.”

The words slipped out before he even realized. Sonia jumped, as did Pekoyama.

“K-Kuzuryuu?! Him?!” Souda exclaimed. “T-That guy is a criminal, so...!”

“But could that really be so?” Pekoyama asked, swallowing. “We do not know for sure.”

“While Kuzuryuu-san is...difficult, I do not wish to doubt him, either,” Sonia murmured, forlorn. “He is still our classmate. And what purpose could murdering Koizumi-san so brutally possibly serve?”

There is a motive, but...

Matsuda rubbed the nape of his neck.

“Yeah, sorry. Ignore I said that. I was just making a bad joke.”

“T-That’s such a shitty joke!” Souda stammered. “I almost believed ya, freak!”

“You really shouldn’t joke about such things, Matsuda,” Pekoyama said more seriously. “You do not want to cause pandemonium.”

Yeah, I don’t, he conceded. But I can’t deny it points to him. There are still elements that keep me from being sure, however. Such as—wouldn’t the culprit get covered with blood? And isn’t this—too obvious? Even if he was stupid enough to act because of Monokuma’s game, he’d at least have some self-awareness that he’d be the first suspect. But also—the fact he’s been so closed off...what is he thinking? Is he involved? Or was he framed? What does he know?

“U-Um...” Tsumiki quivered as she spoke up. “S-Sorry to, um, butt in... R-Really sorry!”

“It’s fine,” Matsuda stated quickly. “You checked over Koizumi’s body, yeah?”

She nodded frantically.

“Um, um, Matsuda-san likely already knows, but...”

“It helps to have someone collaborate,” he said. “So just spit it out.”

“Koizumi-san was struck on the back of the head, and h-her death was instant.” Tsumiki fiddled with her fingers. “I guess that means—she at least didn’t s-suffer. She was hit almost...precisely.”

Precisely?

“So, are you saying whoever killed her could’ve been experienced?”

“K-Kirakira-chan!” Sonia exclaimed.

“I-I wouldn’t know that for sure,” Tsumiki whined. “I-I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

“Tsumiki-san and Matsuda-kun’s talents combined make for an amazing team!” Komaeda cheered. “Such hope!”

Tsumiki hiccuped. Such hope.

“It could have been a really lucky hit, but striking with that amount of precision does point to a culprit who knows how to kill,” Matsuda said. “And—there’s only one hit, too.”

Compared to Togami who was stabbed multiple times. This culprit only needed to strike once. Come to think of it—doesn’t that suggest confidence? Confidence...

Matsuda clicked his tongue.

That—might be the most troubling thing, then. Because confidence sure as shit doesn’t match Kuzuryuu. And so much about this feels calculated, too. Also not characteristic of the bratty pin stripe.

He looked around swiftly. Souda cowering, Tsumiki shivering, Sonia wavering, Komaeda smiling—even Pekoyama had her hands tightened into tense fists. He thought about the others, too. Saionji’s fearful silence, Hinata’s usual hesitance, and Nanami’s cool stoicism.

He even thought of Koizumi. Stubborn, fussy Koizumi, whose so-called crime was protecting the friend she loved. And it may have gotten her killed.

The ringing over the speakers was resounding.

“Thanks for waiting, bastards! Who’s ready for your SECOND TRIAL?!?! Wooooo! Upupupu! Well, it’s starting soon! Please make your way to the Monokuma Rock on the double! The elevator will be waiting! As well as death! But will it be yoooour death? Upupupu! I’ll be seeing youuuu!”

Another announcement. Another investigation over with an incoming trial that promised to be everything except short and sweet.

“It finally begins again,” Komaeda said, eyes sparkling. “It’ll all be okay. No matter the verdict, hope will triumph. Aah, what a rush!”

“S-Shut up! Shut up forever!” Souda hissed. “This is nothing to be so fucking excited about!”

“Ignore him,” Pekoyama said, arms folded. “Whatever the case, our only option is move forward.”

Tsumiki let out a tearfully choked up sound before nodding. Matsuda had already taken Komaeda’s frail wrist and squeezed.

Komaeda smiled at him oh so adoringly, and he said nothing.


“N-No! No! I don’t WANT to go! G-Get off of me! Someone, someone, HELP!”

The crying was almost worse than Monomi’s shrill whining. Speaking of which, Monomi was softly sobbing at the sight. Matsuda could only grimace as Saionji struggled against an uncomfortably buff Monokuma’s grip.

“Y-You mustn’t be so violent towards girls, you big bully!” Monomi exclaimed, trying to pry Monokuma off but only getting a sharp kick to the gut. “O-Oof!”

“Pipe down! SHEESH! Both of you are such BRATS!” Monokuma huffed. “And if Saionji-san doesn’t STOP HER WHINING right now, she’s gonna be an example for the salmon!”

“Oi, that’s enough,” Matsuda snapped. “If you can just kill us over something so trivial, why even bother with the pretense of this shitty fucking game?”

Saionji sniffled, covering her face as she shuddered.

“Let her go,” he said sharply. “Surely you have bigger concerns right now.”

“As a matter of fact, you’re right!” Monokuma exclaimed before flinging Saionji at him. He managed to catch her but not without accidentally getting kneed in the shins. “Where the hell is Kuzuryuu-kun?!”

“Tried to bail again?” Matsuda murmured, lightly nudging Saionji away before she could shove him. She did flinch but rather than her usual scowl, she quickly turned away and refused to acknowledge, much less look at him or anyone else.

“I’m here, you fucking assholes.”

Matsuda turned first. Kuzuryuu was predictably in a sour as hell mood, but he was also flanked by an unsettled Hinata and the inexpressive Nanami as always.

“I-I’m actually surprised he came too, considering how much he ignored Nanami,” Hinata muttered as if it offered anything. Anything at all.

“But that’s a good thing,” Nanami said. “We’re all together so this can start.”

“Of fuck off with that shit,” Kuzuryuu sneered. “Like hell I’d run away. As a yakuza, I’ve got my pride—and that means I’m not in the business of losing shit.”

“Like your pinky?” Matsuda asked dully, to which he fumed.

“Like my LIFE, you jackass.”

His life, huh? So, did he really...?

But he noticed the slightest of tremors in Kuzuryuu’s tightened fist, and he could only exhale.

We’ll find out. I’ll make sure of it.

“Whatever makes the trials more interesting,” Monokuma remarked before deflating to proper size. “Well, then! Hop to it, my darling bastard students!”

“T-The fact that a bear like that can bulk up is seriously freaky,” Mioda whined.

“I-I’m not mentally cut out for any of this,” Souda grumbled.

“We don’t got time for that,” Owari snapped.

“IF YOU AIN’T GOT THE GEARS, THEN RUN ON FUUUUMES!!” Nidai bellowed, to which Souda sobbed.

“T-That’s not how it works!”

Tanaka cackles. “The beginning—of the end.”

“Let’s do our best!” Komaeda exclaimed. “Hope’s radiance awaits!”

“Let’s go,” Nanami droned.

An infuriating bunch to the end, all of them.

Matsuda said and thought nothing more as the escalator came down.

And the elevator ride was just as quiet as before.

Chapter Text

“So what do ya bastards think? Spiffy, huh! This tapestry is quite the artsy addition!” Monokuma exclaimed, gesturing to the decorative piece in question, detailing what just looked to be the sand underwater. Funny, considering how drowning in the ocean might very well be preferable to this bear’s antics. Especially with it giggling and twirling. “Just to keep things fresh! Can’t be having my number one source of entertainment getting dry, y’know what I mean?”

“Entertainment?!” Owari exclaimed, seething. “You really think this shit is funny?!”

“Oh yeah, it’s hair-lair-ious!” Monokuma chortled. “There’s nothing better than just living by the ropes! Playing by ear! Going with the flowing! Not everything has to have some big important goal! Follow my lead and enjoy this trial to its fullest! You’ll know true relief, then!”

“What utter foolishness,” Komaeda stated ever pleasantly as they went to their stands. Matsuda noted Koizumi’s portrait, and then his eyes darted to Hanamura’s, decorated with inked tableware instead of the usual cross.

It really is just a fucking game to this guy.

Matsuda sucked in his breath and brushed back his fringe. Speaking of living by the ropes, Monomi was left dangling and tied up once more. What a hassle. He wondered what her purpose here even was, but he supposed that she’d be present just to see how things turned out.

“Anyway,” Monokuma chirps, settling into his high chair. “I’ll give you bastards an easy way to begin! Let’s start out with discussing my little masterpiece, the Twilight Syndrome Murder Mystery game, hmm?”

“Haaaaa, who cares about that wicked dumb thing!” Mioda whines. “Let’s talk about Mahiru-chan instead!”

“The purpose behind these so-called trials is to unmask the culprit,” Tanaka rumbled. “How is that inferior parody of life significant?”

“Well, quality aside, that game was the motive,” Komaeda pointed out. Nanami nodded along in agreement.

“The murder of Koizumi Mahiru matches the events of Twilight Syndrome in which a girl named Satou was killed the same way,” Matsuda spoke up. “I doubt it’s a coincidence.”

Tanaka harrumphed. “What a plain and insignificant-sounding moniker.”

Look who’s talking.

“There’s more to it than just similarities,” Komaeda went on. “The game was actually based on true life events from our own school years, thus it involved some of the very people here.”

“R-Right, I remember hearing that,” Mioda stammered. “B-But how do we really know that lead to Mahiru-chan getting struck out?”

“Some of us have not played the game, myself included,” Pekoyama pointed out. “So a recap would be appreciated.”

“And while I have played the game, there were parts of it I missed, no?” Sonia asked willingly. “I truly am sorry for this inconvenience.”

“You shouldn’t have even played the game in the first place, Sonia-san,” Souda mourned.

“W-Wait! Hold UP!” Nidai shrieked. “What’s this about some of US being involved?! We’re not video game characters! Is this the same Satou I coached for baseball?!”

“No, Satou was in the archery club apparently,” Matsuda corrected. “But I suppose I ought to make it clear who was present in the game.”

“U-Um, wait,” Mioda said, raising her hand. “Mahiru-chan approached those who were, right?”

“S-So I was there?!” Tsumiki yelped. “Why me?! That should be an invasion of privacyyyy!”

“Someone as trashy and skanky as you has no right to privacy!” Saionji huffed.

“The game followed five girls, one of which being the Satou that Matsuda mentioned,” Hinata recalled. “The others in order were Tsumiki, Saionji, Mioda, and Koizumi. However, there was also a girl who got murdered before the plot started and a boy who showed up towards the very end of Satou’s route.”

“Why am I even associated with all those weirdos?” Saionji demanded. “That’s definitely a stretch of the imagination!”

“So Mioda-san was the one I played,” Sonia mused.

“You PLAYED me, Sonia-chan?!” Mioda exclaimed. “That innocent face of yours must be hiding something fierce! Like a rabbit with wolf fangs!”

“Playing through the game first resulted in a prize of photos as proof of those involved,” Matsuda said, flipping through his memory journal to show the sketch of the girls. “These were allegedly taken by Koizumi in real life, and they’re pretty damning.”

“Ooh, wow, that’s a good sketch, Yasuke-chan!” Mioda whistled. “You got a lot of my good sides!”

“W-Why would I ever wear a stinky uniform?!” Saionji wondered, flustered. “Are you sure that’s not fake?!”

“Not fake!” Monokuma sing-songs. “Definitely noooot fake!”

“Anyway, both the girl who was murdered before the plot and the boy who appeared at the end were listed under the same surname,” Nanami said. “Kuzuryuu.”

“Both were listed as Kuzuryuu?” Nidai asked. “Is that no mistake?”

“It’s a load of bull is what it is,” Kuzuryuu said, hand on his hip. “It don’t mean a fucking thing.”

“Really?” Matsuda asked doubtfully. “It’s just a coincidence then that you happen to have a little sister?” He flipped again, to the picture of the first corpse, showing it off. “And it’s just coincidence this dead girl happens to look like you?”

That got him to flinch.

“W-Why you—”

“W-Wait, wait,” Souda stammered. “I’m a bit lost, here. I mean, yeah Kuzuryuu’s a suspicious guy, but—how does that relate to Koizumi again? And what’s this about another dead girl? Wasn’t Koizumi’s murder compared to someone named Satou?”

Ah. I suppose I should lay out the plot. Right.

Pekoyama was even looking at him sharply. He avoided her stare for now.

“The game starts with the five girls, Satou included, discovering the corpse of a different girl in the music room,” he explained. “That girl is the other Kuzuryuu. She, too, had died due to blunt force trauma.”

But she had passed out first due to strangulation, he remembered. Because of the argument her and Satou got into beforehand.

“The five girls agreed to pretend they hadn’t seen anything, and the police reported that the person who killed that girl was a pervert who had earlier broken into the school,” Sonia said. “I recall that much.”

“However, that turned out to be a coverup,” Komaeda continued cheerfully. “The real culprit was Satou-san, who killed her because of how she had bullied Koizumi-san. And the only one who knew this was Koizumi-san who had taken not only incriminating pictures of the body, but also a photo that exposed Satou-san’s crime.”

“It’s a broken vase,” Matsuda said, holding up his sketch of that picture too. “It was a bitch to redraw so take a good long look at it.”

“Koizumi confronted Satou about this, but she decided to not turn her in,” Hinata murmured, grip tightening on the stand. “Because. They were friends.”

“However, Satou-san was found dead the next day,” Nanami finished. “Because Kuzuryuu-kun had discovered Koizumi-san’s photos that Satou-san tried to throw away.”

And he had been so angry that he couldn’t even take it.

“He killed her,” Matsuda said, and he looked right at Kuzuryuu. He showed Satou’s picture. “You killed her. In revenge for your sister.”

“At least that’s as much as we can gather!” Komaeda exclaimed cheerfully. Matsuda blinked, shutting the book before he sucked in his breath.

“It’s all according to the game supposedly based on ‘true events’,” he added. “But it wouldn’t be unlike Monokuma to twist things a bit.”

“HEY! I object to that!” Monokuma exclaimed, affronted. “Those events are a hundred percent real! Can you imagine what kind of hack writing it’d fucking be if I just lied to get my way?! True conflict should be born of the truth!”

“A prickly prick once said, truth does not do as much good in the world as the appearance of truth does evil,” Nanami droned. “So, I wonder.”

Who’s this prickly prick? He sounds like the worst kind of pompous dick.

“It’s the TRUTH!!!” The tacky mascot screeched. “If you question me any further, I’ll hack those doubting ears off with these claws!!”

“Y-You say that with such a rotten liar’s mouth!” Monomi cried.

Matsuda shook his head at their antics. Before he could get back on track, Komaeda had already spoken up.

“If it is true, isn’t that incredible? Isn’t this game such a potent motive as it pertains to those involved?”

Kuzuryuu growled. “What’s potent is that fucking personality of yours.”

“Oh, my!” Komaeda exclaimed, eyes sparkling. “I’m unworthy of such praise!”

“It’s not praise, you dipshit!”

“Still,” Tanaka rumbled. “If that facsimile of reality does in fact mirror our memories of lost, our attention cannot help but be directed.”

Kuzuryuu scoffed.

“While I do have a sister, I don’t know shit about what y’all are talking about. So, what if Monokuma used our likeness in some fucking game? That’s not proof!” He shook his head furiously. “My sister wouldn’t die like that! You think I wouldn’t know? That I haven’t tried to kill her myself?!” His hands slammed onto the podium. “It wasn’t that fucking long ago that bitch was giving me attitude as I prepped for coming to Hope’s Peak!”

“Exceeeeept, you have lost memories,” Monokuma giggles. “Who knows how long ago that was, really? Upupupu.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Kuzuryuu practically screamed. “If you keep talking, I’ll kill you! I’ll fucking kill you!”

Matsuda watched this quietly, hand covering his mouth.

The tough little guy is shaking. He has no composure at all. Could someone like think really have killed Koizumi so efficiently? Was it luck?

“Is Kuzuryuu really the culprit?” Nidai asked. “What do you think, Matsuda? He’s certainly the most suspicious.”

“If it were that simple, it’d be quite despairing,” Komaeda lamented. “Hardly worthy of a stepping stone, really.”

Souda groaned, but Matsuda thought that over.

I still feel like there’s more to this beyond Kuzuryuu. And thank fucking god people seem more confused on what to think than frantic. There are too many uncertainties to call it.

“As particular as this game is, it’s not conclusive,” he decided on. “We still need to figure out exactly how this relates to Koizumi’s murder. Is it truly directly connected, or a ruse?”

“W-What do you mean, ruse?” Saionji wondered.

“I’m saying the culprit may have thought the game would serve as a red herring.”

“As in fish?!” Owari gasped.

“As in a distraction,” Matsuda gritted out. “Smoke and mirrors, that kind of thing.”

“Still sounds fishy!” Mioda exclaimed. “Who would’ve even played the game? It was constantly being guarded! Unless, we have a morning bird eating the fish!”

“I-I want fish!” Owari cried. “I’m starving from all this talking!”

“You can’t snack during the trial!” Monokuma snapped. “Unless you’re me!”

“Please shut up, all of you,” Matsuda groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Let’s get back on track. Now that we’ve discussed the game, we can discuss Koizumi’s actual murder.”

“W-With all due respect, there are still questions I’d like to ask in regards to the game,” Sonia said. “You are saying that Satou-san, Girl E, was the one who murdered that girl in the beginning?”

“When playing the game as her, I had her thoughts running through my head. I felt what she felt, even remembered what she remembered,” Matsuda murmured. “She killed that girl. I’m sure of it.”

“How could that be true,” Kuzuryuu muttered, gritting his teeth. “How the fuck could Natsumi—?”

“I see,” Sonia said. “So then, she was in fact killed in revenge. That was even why the way she died was the same.”

Kuzuryuu swallowed, and under Matsuda’s stare, he laughed softly and mirthlessly.

“I still don’t have shit to do with it. In fact, I don’t even believe it.”

“The way she died was the same?” Mioda wondered. “There were two bats?”

“I don’t think so,” Nanami replied. “Satou-san might’ve used a makeshift weapon instead.”

Mioda’s frown deepened.

“And Natsumi-chan didn’t defend herself at all?”

“D-Don’t use her fucking name!” Kuzuryuu screeched.

“But that’s her name, isn’t it, Fuyuhiko-chan?!”

“J-Just shut up!”

“Satou strangled her until she passed out,” Matsuda spoke up, voice raised. “That girl was utterly defenseless and thus, easy to kill, yakuza or no. The human body can be pretty frail, so she could have killed Kuzuryuu’s sister via slamming her head hard enough onto the floorboards.”

“How gruesome,” Pekoyama remarked.

“Maybe she used her swimsuit to...” Nanami trailed off. “Ah. It’s not really important, is it? When either way, it’s clear Satou-san is guilty if one just plays her route.”

“I-It’s very important!” Monokuma exclaimed. “I worked really hard on that game, y’know! Too hard for you bastards to just brush it off!”

“But Nanami-san is right,” Komaeda chirped. “The specifics of that subpar Twilight Syndrome Murder Mystery aren’t as important as the details of Koizumi-san’s murder.”

“Regardless of how Satou committed the murder, what’s important is that Koizumi covered it up,” Hinata said. “That at least makes her an accomplice, even if she wasn’t involved until then.”

“Koizumi? A what, now?” Owari asked.

“M-Mahiru-onee involving herself in something like that is pretty big talk,” Saionji said, shoulders hunched and tense. “Why would she even do something like cover up for a dirty killer?”

“Because,” Komaeda said cheerfully. “The two of them were friends.”

“W-What killer friendship! Literally!” Mioda exclaimed, awestruck. “I never would’ve taken Mahiru-chan for the type!”

“But weren’t you also present?” Nidai asked, grumbling. “Does NO ONE really remember?!”

“I-I’m sorry!” Tsumiki cried. “I-I don’t have...any idea, just—just a bad feeling!!”

“Well that’s what happens when mean ol’ Monomi steals your memories,” Monokuma sing-sang again as Monomi trembled.

“Hearing all this does make me feel pretty icky,” Mioda said, grimacing as she pressed at her cheeks. “Like it’s striking! Striking!”

“Even if they don’t remember, the effects of the events remain on those involved,” Komaeda hummed.

“That’s normal, like being hydrophobic after almost drowning as a toddler,” Matsuda muttered. “I wonder if actually playing the game—could act as a traumatic trigger.”

“That is, if you were one of the characters,” Nanami said. “Could that strengthen the motive?”

“I-I don’t know about that,” Tsumiki stammered. “I don’t know what I would do, but—I-I do feel like I understand what Satou-san and Koizumi-san were going through. They were dealing with someone so difficult, after all.”

“Yikes!” Mioda yelped. “You’re shockingly scary, Mikan-chan!”

“Though, I am still curious,” Sonia said. “If this negative effect is as potent on those involved as you suggest, why would Koizumi-san still play the game?”

“The photos I showed were taken from Koizumi’s cottage along with a note directing her to play the game for an explanation,” Matsuda answered. “In other words: she was pressured into it by an outside force. Maybe the culprit.”

“The culprit, huh,” Souda mused. “G-Gotta admit, that kind of thing would freak me the fuck out...”

“To be presented with visions of a lost past of crimes is quite harrowing for the weaker willed,” Tanaka rumbled.

Kuzuryuu’s scowl darkened, his lip bleeding under his teeth. Matsuda regarded this neutrally.

He likely remembers the anger and hatred. Did he really kill Koizumi? If he had in fact wanted to—how would it look? How would it have been?

He blinked, rubbing his head idly.

Satou’s death hadn’t been instant and painless. But had that been the case in reality? How were the true events transcribed? No, focus. Focus.

“What does any of this matter?” Saionji spoke up, voice growing louder. “We’re going in useless circles! The killer’s right there, isn’t he?!” She pointed at Kuzuryuu, trembling all over. “Who else could it be but this scummy crook?! Who else would hurt Mahiru-onee?! There’s no other explanation! Mahiru-onee was so kind! So nice! You—you wouldn’t kill someone like her unless you were super fucked in the head! Not to mention he’s apparently killed before!”

“I guess blaming me would be the easiest, huh?” Kuzuryuu asked, snorting. “Whatever. I’m fucking used to it.”

You say that so resignedly, and yet I can’t help but continue to wonder about you. Matsuda hummed as he thought that reaction over. Pinprick’s at least nervous.

“You killed Mahiru-onee the same way you killed what’s-her-face!” Saionji shrieked. “Just confess! You let that stupid, shitty game fool you into taking revenge on someone who didn’t deserve it! You idiot! We all already know Monokuma’s a liar, right?!”

"Hey, quit calling me a liar!"

“O-Oi,” Kuzuryuu griped. “Shut the hell up! I had nothing to do with that fucking game!”

“This is going in circles,” Pekoyama said. “It is unproductive.”

“Yeah, it is,” Matsuda agreed. “Let’s all take some deep breaths and just go over the case slowly. Just screaming at each other isn’t going to accomplish anything.”

“B-But, he,” Saionji stammered, only for Pekoyama to cut her off.

“Matsuda had suggested the possibility of the game being a ruse, correct?”

“Hah? Yeah, I did.” He rubbed at his nape. “What of it?”

“That’s just some stupid theory,” Saionji argued albeit weakly. “Because—Mahiru-onee wouldn’t get hurt for no reason. It had to be because of that stupid, slanderous game.”

Slanderous? Is she seriously in denial?

If he focused, he could see how troubled Saionji really looked. How she rubbed idly at her head. How her expression twisted. As if pained. Bitterly, Matsuda wondered if even a headache would keep her quiet.

“It is a possibility,” Pekoyama stated, coolly and indifferently. “The game was a mere smokescreen to obscure the true culprit. A trap that leads us all to suspect Kuzuryuu, the most convenient of targets.”

A trap? While it is true I haven’t ruled that out—it strikes me as off that she’d just outright suggest it.

“Wouldn’t you agree, Matsuda?” she asked, then, looking at him with piercing expectation.

“Yeah, I guess.” He rolled with it for now. “It’s possible that the culprit played the game and set up Kuzuryuu as an easy scapegoat. Hell, even I’d be a little tempted to believe the prick was at least involved.”

But, the thing about that is—Kuzuryuu’s not the only one who got set up, if that were the case.

“Y-You seriously buy into that, Matsuda-nii?” Saionji demanded, gritting her teeth. “How stupid are you?”

“There could be another explanation,” Sonia suggested. “A culprit from the shadows, perhaps.”

“W-Who the hell else could it be?!” Saionji shrieked.

Pekoyama’s answer was simple and sweet.

“You, of course, Saionji.”

Matsuda blinked. Slowly, he turned to see Saionji freeze up. Shock, most likely. But the way Pekoyama stared her down left no room for doubt of her intentions.

Ah, wait.

Seriously?

“I have reason to believe Saionji is the culprit,” Pekoyama said. “Well?”

“Well?” Saionji echoed before she burst out laughing. “Kyaha—hahaha! Seriously? Fucking seriously?! Is this your shitty idea of a fucking joke?! You fugly fucking bitch. Get better material.”

“That’s a pretty hefty claim to make,” Matsuda pointed out. “So, what’s your reason?”

“I do not make these claims lightly,” Pekoyama replied. “Saionji had been at the crime scene, correct? Is that not damning?”

“Ah, huh,” Matsuda intoned. “Are you referring to the footprints?”

“The ones leading outside of the beach house, right?” Hinata asked. “Those—didn’t they belong to her?”

“W-What are you freaks talking about?!” Saionji exclaimed, affronted. “I didn’t go anywhere hear that stinky rotten place!”

“Really?” Komaeda hummed. “Matsuda-kun, can you show them?”

“Oh, right,” Matsuda sighed as he pulled out the journal again and turned back to the page depicting the prints in question. “These are yours, right?”

“Ugly prints like that could only belong to that weepy pig!” Saionji shot back, to which Tsumiki yelped.

“D-Don’t say that just because they’re ugly!”

“Nah,” Matsuda said, flipping through the shoe sizes that Komaeda had drawn. “Tsumiki’s are freakishly small, yeah, but they’re still bigger than these. Yours, on the other hand.” He showed her the page with her prints. “A perfect match.”

“W-Where did you even get that information?!” Saionji shrieked, horrified.

“Oh, I recorded it from your shoes in your room,” Komaeda replied cheerily.

“AND WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU DOING IN MY ROOM?!”

“That doesn’t matter,” Matsuda snapped. “The prints still match.”

“More to that, the prints in question at the scene of the crime lead away from the beach house,” Pekoyama said. “Thus, a different entrance must have been used. The one Koizumi’s body was blocking.”

“To be able to use that door in spite of Mahiru-chan,” Mioda mused. “That’s pretty remarkable.”

“It simply means the body was not there before, doesn’t it?” Pekoyama asked dryly. “Perhaps, Koizumi was not even dead yet when Saionji had arrived.”

“Hold on,” Matsuda cut her off. “Now you’re just jumping to conclusions. Koizumi’s body had clearly been moved at some point given how she died.”

“Could someone as small as Saionji have moved her?” Nidai wondered.

Not without getting blood smeared all over her, Matsuda thought darkly. And certainly not with ease.

“I-I...” There was a moment of hesitation before Saionji perked right up. “A-Aha! Actually, I did go to the beach house earlier!”

“Is this a confession, puny one?” Tanaka asked.

“No way!” Saionji shook her head. “As you all know, I go on morning walks eeeeevery morning!”

“F-First I heard of it!” Mioda gasped.

“ANYWAY, that’s when I made my way to the beach house!” Saionji went on, smile so wide it looked grotesquely plastered. “For my walk! That’s all! That’s it!”

“Ah, okay.” Owari nodded understandingly. “Glad that settles it.”

“D-Don’t fall for such an obvious fucking lie!” Kuzuryuu yelled, to her surprise.

“Eh? Lie?”

“Says the killer!” Saionji scowled, fists tightening. “Says the real liar!”

“E-Except,” Souda stammered. “Uh, Saionji, I definitely saw you earlier.”

“I also did,” Hinata agreed. “It was at about 3:30pm. Both Tsumiki and Mioda were with us, too.”

“Yeah—yeah!” Mioda said. “You were running from the direction of the beach house in tears! A dash of tears!”

“Likely guilt after murdering Koizumi,” Pekoyama added, sighing. “Her actions would fit within the time frame of the killing, after all.”

“N-No...” Saonji trembled, shaking her head once more. “No, shut up, that...that’s not...”

“Didn’t you see her too, Kuzuryuu?” Souda asked. “You were also at the diner.”

He was, wasn’t he?

“No, I didn’t,” Kuzuryuu huffed. “I was passing by due to chance and went straight to my cottage. I didn’t see shit.”

“No shit?” Mioda asked. “That’s sus!”

“It may be suspicious, but it’s the truth.”

The truth, he says.

“Enough about Kuzuryuu,” Pekoyama said, arms folded. “Continuing to question him is a waste of time. Saionji is the truly suspicious one, isn’t she?”

“Is she, though?” Matsuda found himself asking, just a little disgruntled. “What we got on her is hardly conclusive. Kuzuryuu was also spotted by the beach house.”

“I-I was just passing by!” Kuzuryuu shot back. “And do you fucking suspect me or not?! Or are you just going back and forth to be an asshole?!”

Bitch, I might be. But, that’s not exactly productive.

“I’m just pointing it out,” he replied simply. “I don’t exactly see any reason to suspect Saionji over you, regardless of where she’s been.”

“Y-You shouldn’t suspect me at all,” Saionji whined. “What reason would I have to murder Mahiru-onee over...over that criminal?!”

“Is there really nothing else that points to her?” Pekoyama asked. “Matsuda, I did see you retrieve and pocket a note from Koizumi’s body.”

Ah.

“Ah,” Matsuda exhaled. “You saw that, huh?”

“A-A note?” Tsumiki wondered. “What did it say?”

“Why didn’t you mention that earlier?” Hinata griped. “That kind of thing’s really important!”

“So, what was it?” Nanami asked next, dead tilted even with her eyes slightly narrowed.

“Was it just too personal?” Komaeda asked cheerfully, as if all eyes weren’t on him.

Matsuda mulled over those stares; Pekoyama’s in particular. Red eyes sharp and piercing. Intent and expectant.

“It was a love letter,” he said simply. “Addressed to someone on the island.”

And there it was. A shift and a flinch in that person’s eyes. Matsuda felt like he knew then and there.

Except why. And how. Aha. Hahaha.

He definitely wanted to laugh, not just at their shocked expression but at everyone’s shocked expressions.

“A-A-A love letter?!” Souda exclaimed. “Koizumi?! REALLY?! She liked someone?!”

“S-Seriously?!” Kuzuryuu stammered before growling. “Is NOW the time for fucking jokes like that?!”

“No, no,” Matsuda said, waving his hand. “It was a love letter.”

“Whoa, dang! So Mahiru-chan had a crush!” Mioda gasped, awestruck. “Who was it?! I HAVE to know!”

“W-Who the hell could it be?!” Saionji demanded, flustered. “There’s no one here remotely worthy enough for that!”

“Those are meant to be PERSONAL!!!” Nidai roared. “Read only by the one it was MEEEEANT FOR!!!”

“Yep,” Matsuda agreed with a nod. “It sure as hell isn’t something you share with the class. Certainly not during a murder trial. Maybe afterwards. That is, if the intended recipient isn’t also the culprit.”

“To be slain by a beneficiary of affections would truly be a tragic fate,” Tanaka murmured.

“I would prefer to not think that way,” Sonia sighed. “That kind of tragedy is better suited to the dramas.”

“T-That’s a lie, isn’t it?!” Kuzuryuu stammered out. “There’s no way in hell that what you took was a love letter!”

Now the question is—are you saying that to save your own ass or for a different reason? It would benefit him if I agreed to play along, but...

Matsuda felt that other person’s stare. Dark and foreboding. One that likely promised death. As if that decision hadn’t already been made. He didn’t return the look even as his back pricked.

“What were you expecting it to be?” Matsuda pursed his lips. “Earlier, Koizumi went around talking to the other girls involved within the game. If she and Saionji agreed to meet, it would have been done face-to-face.”

“Hey, that’s right!” Mioda agreed. “Mahiru-chan was going around asking people for a meetup! She asked me and Mikan-chan, too!”

“B-But neither of us could make it,” Tsumiki stammered. “And Saionji-san said...”

“I-I didn’t meet up with her! I didn’t see Mahiru-onee all day! I certainly don’t know anything about letters!” Saionji shrieked. “I don’t know anything at all! I didn’t even step foot in that beach house!”

“But is that true?” Pekoyama cut through, crimson eyes aflame. “You were at least within the general vicinity at the time of the murder.”

“I just said that was from my walk!!” Saionji shot back.

“That is what she said,” Owari affirmed.

“Do you really just believe everything told to you?!” Souda exclaimed in exasperation. With a groan, he rubbed his temples. “U-Uuuurgh, but we really are going in all kinds of circles! W-Who did it?! Was it Saionji or Kuzuryuu?!”

“ONE OF YOU SHOULD JUST FESS UUUUUP!!” Nidai boomed.

“It was neither of them!” Sonia yelled with royal decree. “You all saw the mask at the scene, correct! I declare that the mask betrays everything! The true culprit was the sparkling justice, Kirakira-chan!”

“Y-You mentioned that person before,” Saionji muttered. “But i-if they owned that mask, then maybe...”

“Wait, uh, hold up, who?” Owari waved her hand. “Now I’m lost again.”

“The...serial killer, right?” Hinata asked, making a troubled face. “The one from that magazine?”

“The very same!” Sonia affirmed. “The killer that fancies themselves a champion of righteousness!”

“Another word of such nonsense and I’ll tear you asunder!” Tanaka exclaimed.

“Hey!” Souda balked. “Sonia-san’s from a different culture! Be more considerate, you ass!”

“It’s not nonsense—!” she protested. “It—it is better than believing another one of our own committed murder, is it not?!”

“That would be easier on our minds, probably,” Matsuda agreed with a sigh. “Sending a stranger to death instead of a classmate—a heinous criminal, at that. If it were true, it’d certainly be convenient.”

“But, I don’t think it is true,” Nanami mused. “I don’t think there’s any serial killers hidden in the shadows of these islands.”

“T-There shouldn’t be!” Monomi squealed. “S-Someone else so horrible like Monokuma definitely shouldn’t be here!”

“As much as I’d like to pummel Monomi, she is right,” Monokuma chirped. “Potential culprits only exist among you.”

Sonia grimaced. “I...I understand.”

“Uuuum, so like, that totally went nowhere,” Mioda said, fidgeting. “We’re back in the battle of the shorties, huh? Hiyoko-chan or Fuyuhiko-chan? Which, which was it?”

Matsuda noted a grimace on a particular person. Fingers digging into the podium. Gritted teeth. A not-quite scowl. When his stare was noticed, that expression smoothed back into cool indifference.

“Matsuda,” that person said. “Are you certain about that letter?”

It was an unspoken challenge, and he nodded along.

“Alright,” he said. “How about we flip the chessboard?”

“As in think things through from the culprit’s perspective?” Nanami suggested. “A new way to look at things might be exactly what we need, huh.”

“So, uh, where do we start?” Hinata asked. “Like how Koizumi was led to the beach house?”

There was a twitch.

“We don’t have enough information on that,” Matsuda said simply. “How about we skip to when Koizumi enters the building.”

“R-Right,” Tsumiki stammers. “S-She was struck from the back of the head...so the culprit had to sneak up on her...”

That’s the first question. How did the culprit sneak up on her? Matsuda mulled that over. Koizumi definitely would have reacted to seeing someone standing there with a bat.

“The beach house is a very open area,” Pekoyama said. “The only place one could hide was either in the closet or the broken shower room. And Koizumi would have to be facing a peculiar direction for the latter to be used effectively.”

“So the closet is the more likely of the two,” Hinata agreed. “But it’s really cramped in there, right?”

“If you were Saionji’s stature, you could hide easily,” Pekoyama replied.

“But wouldn’t the same go for Fuyuhiko-chan?” Mioda asked.

“Tch,” Kuzuryuu huffed. “Like hell I’d crawl into some cramped, crowded place.”

“I wouldn’t do that either!” Saionji screeched, affronted.

“Was there any evidence in the closet?” Pekoyama asked. “Matsuda, Komaeeda, you both checked, correct?”

Just as Matsuda opened his mouth, Komaeda answered with a chirp.

“As a matter of a fact, there was!” Pulling from his pocket, Komaeda brandished the gummy with pride. “It was this!”

“Okay, uh, what the hell is that supposed to be?” Souda asked. “It just looks—congealed.”

“Um,” Nanami hummed. “I think it’s a half-eaten gummy.”

“Now, who do we know always chowing on gummies?” Kuzuryuu retorted.

“W-What are half-eaten gummies?” Saionji grumbled, covering her face with her long sleeves. “I-I only fully eat gummies...e-even when I get full...”

“Sorry,” Komaeda laughed. “I had to keep Matsuda-kun from eating all of it.”

“O-Off the ground?!” Tsumiki yelped. “That—that’s so unsanitary!”

“It’s not as bad as eating dirt,” Matsuda responded.

“True that,” Owari agreed cheerfully.

“But that gummy implicates Saionji, doesn’t it?” Nidai huffed before roaring, “OIIIII, SAIONJI!!! EXPLAAAAAAIN!!!”

“T-There’s nothing to explain!” Saionji cried. “Nothing at all!”

“I can come up with an explanation,” Pekoyama said. “After speaking with Koizumi and setting up a meeting place, Saionji went to the beach house and lied in wait. She dropped the gummy in the midst of springing her trap on Koizumi and killing her.”

“Shut up! Just shut up! That’s not how it happened!” Saionji stamped her foot. “That’s not how any of it happened!”

“Then how did it happen, Saionji?” Matsuda asked cuttingly. “You know...”

Even though you’re such a brat...even though you have the nastiest personality and sadistic streak...

You’re n̶̹͗̑͜0̸̛̳̲̟̥̦̮͈͆̓̊͝T̸̫͓̞͚̆̌h̴̠͍͇͉̒̀!̸͔̈́͗̚ń̶̡̗̳̰̥̖͛̃̄͝@̵̢̭̝̺̋ ̸̡͓͙͈̺̳̒̄̈́̃͝L̶̡̬̳͍̼͉̍̾̌̿͝!̸̨̡̞̫̤̟͉͑̈́͐͆̈́%̵̲̺͔̗̞̀͛̌͝ể̶̞̌ ̸̯͍̬̣͉͌̈̄̐Ḣ̵̤͍̕e̸̮̊̌̚R̴̡̡͈͕̝̜̳̐̐͒͝ ̸͈̃̔̐̇͗̍̕ because—

“You’re a pitiful fucking liar.”

Saionji flinched as he sighed.

“You make it so fucking difficult to defend you. You lie and lie and you’re so bad at it, too. Really? A morning walk? Fucking really? You didn’t talk to Koizumi at all? Even though if she was going to speak to anyone first about that game—it’d be you?” Matsuda shook his head dismissively. “Even without concrete evidence, no one’s going to believe that shit. This is a trial where people have to believe in your innocence if you want to survive.”

“You are only making it more difficult on yourself,” Pekoyama added as Saionji quaked. “Accept your crime with grace and perhaps the execution will be quick.”

Monokuma chuckled as Matsuda turned on her with a scowl. But rather than say anything, his gaze darted back to Saionji. Her lower lip was wobbling, her eyes filling with tears.

“I-I didn’t... I didn’t...”

“If you’re apparently lying so much,” Owari mused.

“I-It is really suspicious,” Mioda agreed, pushing at her fingers.

“B-But...could Saionji-san had really...?” Tsumiki whispered.

“I’m... I-I’m...” Saionji sniffled before throwing her face into her hands. “I’m being fraaaaamed!!”

“Likely fucking story!” Kuzuryuu yelled. “If anyone’s getting framed, it’s me, you fucking brat!”

“B-But something doesn’t feel right,” Hinata threw in quickly. “Something’s off!”

“W-Well we already know how fucked up Saionji is!” Souda pointed out. “Always crushing crabs and squashing ants for the thrill!”

“Such insolence should be eradicated from this world immediately!” Tanaka snarled. “Confess your sins and face the wrath of gods!”

“I’m being framed!” Saionji cried out again, sobbing. “I-It’s not what happened! It’s not, it’s not! Mahiru-onee... Mahiru-onee...!”

“S-Saionji-san, please get ahold of yourself!” Sonia pleaded.

“Mahiru-onee, Mahiru-onee, Mahiru...!” Saionji gasped sharply before she screamed with everything she had, “I would never hurt Mahiru-onee!

“And I believe that.”

Souda balked, Sonia perked up, Nidai turned with that burning gaze, and he wasn’t the other one. Matsuda’s clear declaration cut through with surgical precision, and he didn’t falter even then. Even there.

“I believe that she’s not the killer,” Matsuda said. “You couldn’t pay me to believe that shit.”

“W-What?!” Kuzuryuu stammered.

“Ooh!” Komaeda exclaimed, hands clasped with a sparkling gaze. “Matsuda-kun, such radiance!”

“Cover your mouth since I can’t do it for you,” Matsuda snapped and Komaeda cheerfully obeyed. Nodding, Matsuda’s unimpressed look remained. “Right, then. I believe this kimono gremlin, while definitely a bitch who’d sell us all to Satan for a corn chip, didn’t kill the camera girl. But. I can’t prove it.”

“Then why insist it?” Pekoyama asked.

“I can’t prove it if she doesn’t give her own testimony,” he answered simply. “For that reason, that girl needs to tell us what really happened.”

“I-I...” Saionji swallowed. “I don’t...know anything.”

“That’s fine,” Matsuda said. “Just tell us what happened. You and Koizumi definitely talked, right? She asked you to meet up later as she did the others, but you were the only one who could make it.”

Saionji bit her lip, squirming.

“This is pointless,” Pekoyama huffed.

“If we don’t give her a chance, we might as well embrace execution now,” Matsuda retorted. “Don’t forget. All of our lives are on the line, here.”

“Saionji-san,” Sonia said softly. “I—you were close to Koizumi-san, were you not? If that were the case—then I shall believe in your innocence.”

“I don’t need your belief,” Saionji bit back albeit weakly. “I don’t... I don’t...”

“Koizumi wanted to meet up,” Matsuda said, humming thoughtfully. “She told you the time and place—but later you received a message that changed the plans.”

Saonji snapped up, eyes wide. She wasn’t the only one to have that reaction. Not by a long shot.

“How...how do you know that, Matsuda-nii?”

Bingo. I think I’ve pieced things together a little more.

“W-Wait,” Souda stammered. “H-Hold up, hold up! Saionji did go to meet up with Koizumi?!”

“What’s this about a change of plans?” Nanami pondered quietly. “Where would you get that idea, Matsuda-kun?”

“Gremlin,” Matsuda spoke up, firmer and louder, ignoring her. “If that’s the truth, then fill in the rest. What happened?”

Saionji still hesitated before she sighed, eyes shutting as she gave in.

“If you already know that much I don’t see why I should tell you anything else, buuuut,” she grumbled, cheeks puffing. After deflating, her head dropped. “It’s true. This morning, Mahiru-onee wanted to set up a meeting. The time—was supposed to be 2pm.”

“2pm?” Hinata echoed.

“That’s approximately a full hour before Koizumi-san’s death,” Tsumiki noted.

“So you LIED about not seeing Mahiru-chan?!” Mioda exclaimed. “You’re the worst! What a shock!”

“Well not for Matsuda-nii seeing as I’m such a pitiful fucking liar!” Saionji yelled back, seething. “Matsuda-nii, you’re going to regret that remark, too! I’m going to pull your ears until they turn blue!”

“Kay,” was his only dignified response.

“But yeah,” Saionji sighed. “I lied. I thought I’d be suspected of shit if I didn’t, so that’s why. But Mahiru-onee—I trusted her.” Her frown deepened. “She wasn’t like the rest of you creepy weirdos. I didn’t have any problems with her—I even liked her, because she was actually cool.”

This got Souda grumbling, but Saionji went on.

“Even when the plans changed at noon, I didn’t suspect anything because it was Mahiru-onee.”

“Matsuda-kun said something about a letter, I think?” Nanami asked, to which Saionji nodded.

“Yep. Mahiru-onee didn’t tell me in person. Instead she stuck a letter in my mailbox.” She tugged it out from within her kimono, brandishing it with a flick of her wrist. “It informed me of the plan changing.”

“There was a letter after all,” Komaeda hummed. “Aha.”

“Pass it here,” Matsuda said, holding out his hand. “I need to get a close look at it.”

With only muffled murmuring amongst the others, the letter passed from hand to hand until it reached him. As he unfolded it, Matsuda noted the handwriting.

Ah.

He then pulled out the bloodied letter found on Koizumi’s person and unfolded it.

“H-Hey wait, wasn’t that supposed to a be a love letter?!” Souda cried.

“Yeah, sorry,” Matsuda replied dully as he looked over both letters, comparing and contrasting them. “That was a total lie.”

“A WHAT?!” Nidai bellowed.

“HUH?!” Hinata exclaimed. “M-Matsuda, SERIOUSLY?!”

“You lied,” Pekoyama stated, voice unforgivably low and dangerous.

“Oh, goodness!” Komaeda admonished. “Matsuda-kun, that’s so unsightly!”

“I was just not going to bring it up,” Matsuda said, shrugging as he did. “Bringing in information like this too soon was too much of a risk.”

“You really don’t trust anyone,” Nanami remarked, ever stoic. “You knew that letter was significant. Tell us now. What was really on it?”

“Arrangements,” he answered, holding it up. “For a meetup. At the beach house. At 2:30pm. Signed Saionji Hiyoko.”

“SIGNED SAIONJIIIIII?!” Nidai echoed resoundingly.

“What?” Saionji immediately denied it, “I didn’t write that—!”

“Of course you didn’t, given the different time among other things,” Matsuda affirmed, holding up the other letter. “Both of these were written by the same hand.”

“Even so, you denied showing this earlier,” Pekoyama pointed out harshly. “Were you protecting Saionji, then?”

“I was protecting all of us,” he said. “Because I don’t want the results of this trial to get any innocents killed.”

“S-Still, to lie,” Hinata griped. “Urgh.”

“So why the hell should we believe you now?!” Kuzuryuu hissed. “How do we know this isn’t another fucking lie for kicks?!”

“U-Um, I, I think the letters having the same handwriting, is, well—clear as day,” Tsumiki murmured. “S-So that means, Saionji-san...”

“She was being set up, even before Koizumi’s body hit the floor,” Matsuda finished, passing the two letters to share with the class. “Also, that gummy? Lemon.”

LEMON?!” Saionji shrieked. “I HATE lemon! Sour is the worst!”

“It is indeed lemon,” Komaeda chirped, pulling out a bag of gummies. “And Saionji-san is indeed particular about her gummies. When checking her cottage, she had a specific combination each and every time. Strawberry, melon, grape, and orange. Without fail.”

“Orange is a bit tart though,” Mioda remarked. “I guess I’m more amazed that Hiyoko-chan doesn’t get bored of the same flavors, over and over.”

“It’s none of your fucking business how I live my life,” Saionji huffed, puffy-cheeked.

“Only those flavors?” Pekoyama mused. “Is that really true?”

“H-Hold it.” Kuzuryuu gripped the podium hard enough to turn his knuckles white. “So what about the letters? So what about the fucking gummy being the wrong flavor? This doesn’t prove that broad is innocent! She was still at the crime scene, right?!”

“I-I did go, but when I got there, someone snuck up on me and knocked me out!” Saionji said, flailing as she did. “When I came to, Mahiru-onee was already—!”

“SHUT UP!!!” Kuzuryuu roared. “It doesn’t matter if there are a few inconsistencies! At the end of the day, she’s clearly guilty!”

Someone’s worked up. But—this is strange. Is he really like this because it’d be beneficial? Or...?

Is he protecting someone?

Matsuda rubbed his temples.

I can’t let myself get distracted. Let’s tear him down, one bit at a time. Starting with the simplest.

“Koizumi’s body had been moved,” he said. “Could Saionji, with her small stature, really accomplish that?”

“If she was strong enough!” Owari exclaimed with gusto.

“But, then there’d be another issue,” Nanami murmured. “The blood.”

Yeah. The blood.

Matsuda tried not to blanch and managed to push on confidently.

“If she did have the strength, she sure as hell wouldn’t have escaped getting blood on her.”

“She didn’t have a drop on her from what I remember,” Souda commented. “And I feel like—I would’ve noticed.”

“Then she undressed,” Kuzuryuu said bluntly. “And redressed.”

“It likely would’ve gotten in her hair, too,” Matsuda pointed out. “Because of the height difference. With her hair being as light as it was, wouldn’t it have stood out?”

“There’s another reason that couldn’t have happened,” Hinata said. “Saionji can’t get dressed on her own.”

That actually got Matsuda pausing, and reeling.

“She’s—how old?”

“S-Shut up! It’s because the process is too peculiar to do haphazardly!” Saionji shrieked. “A gross lard like you wouldn’t understand!”

“Ooh, yeah!” Owari chortled. “The morning after the last trial, she stunk so bad! Koizumi had to go and take a bath with her before helping her get dressed!”

I missed that morning—but met up with the two just came back from the bath. Matsuda made a face. This crowd—is more useless than I thought. Wow.

“Saionji-san wouldn’t have been able to wash off, either,” Nanami said. “Because the shower’s broken.”

“I guess her best bet would’ve been dunking in the ocean,” Matsuda huffed. “Of course, that would’ve made her reek of salt.”

“Talk about bath salts!” Mioda chuckled.

“Salt, huh?”

What, now? Perking up, Matsuda turned to a wide-eyed Owari.

“Huuuuuh,” she droned, expression twisting up in complicated thought. “I feel like—like that’s important.”

Matsuda blinked.

A dunk in an ocean—because of an nonworking shower. Nonworking. How, then, could the culprit wash off? A dunk in the ocean? Or...?

He remembered.

The water bottles.

Kuzuryuu growled.

“The hell even is all this?! Y’all really fucking believe this shit! It’s a fucking trial! Trials are all about suspicion, not belief!” With fire, he declared, “The only way you can survive is through not trusting anything beyond yourself! And now—even though Matsuda and Saionji are both fucking liars, y’all choose to still listen?! That’s so fucking stupid! It’s like you have no self-preservation at all!”

“No, that’s wrong, Kuzuryuu-kun.”

With a soft smile, Komaeda shook his head.

“Trials are not about distrust nor doubt, quite the opposite. It’s the ultimate opportunity for faith and cooperation. Everyone has the common goal of survival—working together is optimal!” With nothing short of shimmering euphoria, Komaeda went on. “The innocents—and the culprit—both have the same aspiration and can only fight using their unwavering ambitions! Their hope! Beautiful! Striking! Inspiring! These class trials are the truest form of humanity’s splendor!”

“Y-You make it sound like you don’t care what the results are!” Souda protested.

“The results will all be the same,” was the simple answer given with Komaeda’s sparkling gaze. As if things could ever be so simple. “Those with the strongest hope will triumph. Will raise from the ashes, burning ever so brilliant. I’m more than willing serve the hope so powerful it could be called absolute!”

“The simple titles of good and evil go beyond such a wretched creature who only dwells in the grays,” Tanaka murmured. “No matter the victor, no matter the loss even if it is his own life, all that matters is that there is a victory in this miserable battle.”

“He’s just a wild card,” Mioda groaned. “And those are fun but here—it really should be one or the other!”

“We’re wasting time listening to him,” Hinata hissed.

Komaeda’s words can be simplified into a pretty annoying sentiment, Matsuda thought. The ends justify the means. But more to that—this guy doesn’t value his life at all. The desire to live above all else is something he only understands tangentially. And yes, there is something striking when the living fight to survive, from those on the dirty streets to those in the sterile hospital room.

But.

But.

“These trials are nothing more than overblown spectacles,” Matsuda said, voice low and cold. “They’re a mockery of humanity’s will to survive. The goal for us may be to survive, but when it comes to Monokuma—the goal is execution.”

Komaeda’s smile did fall.

“Aah, Matsuda-kun, so difficult.”

“The murder trial is just an excuse,” Matsuda bit back. “At the end of the day, we’re voting for someone so that they die and we don’t. Maybe without that middle man, you’d understand that. Not just Komaeda but all of you. This trial isn’t for Koizumi. It’s for that tacky fucking bear.”

“You’re so sexy when you insult me,” Monokuma chuckled. “But if it really doesn’t matter, then we can just vote right now.”

“W-Wait!” Souda cried out. “We can’t vote NOW!!”

“There’s still too much to discuss!” Hinata protested. “Too much of the mystery obscured!”

“B-Besides!” Tsumiki cried. “W-We still have no-o-o idea who it i-is!”

“Well, Matsuda-kun seems sure of himself as always,” Monokuma hummed. “Maybe he already knows.”

“Why the fuck should we put our faith in a lying fuckhead?!” Kuzuryuu yelled. “What if he doesn’t fucking know either?!”

“H-Hey, Matsuda-nii!” Saionji called out to him. “I-If you don’t—if you don’t know who killed Mahiru-onee, I—I’ll kill you! I’ll tear out your tongue and stomp your face in!!”

Ba-dump.

“C-Could Yasuke-chan already know?” Mioda wondered, whimpering. “I-If he doesn’t have a clue—we could all very well be done for!”

Ba-dump.

“It’s true that I don’t understand absolutely everything about this case,” Matsuda said, inhaling sharply. “But. I’ve figured out a few things.”

Ba-dump.

“What is it, Matsuda-kun?” Nanami asked.

“Tell us, MATSUDAAAAA!” Nidai roared.

“I believe in your hope, Matsuda-kun!” Komaeda cheered. “Even if you don’t!”

BA-DUMP!

“Everyone,” Matsuda exhaled. In, out. In, out. “Vote for Pekoyama.” With his heart pounding in his ears, he made his voice clear enough to be resounding. “She’s the culprit.”

Chapter Text

“Pekoyama...san?” Sonia blinked, as if seeing the other for the first time. “Is that...really true?”

Pekoyama said nothing. Still as a statue with that piercing gaze. Even though he was reasonably used to it from both her and Nanami, Matsuda still found it unsettling a way that was hard to pinpoint. And in a deeper way that went beyond natural suspicion.

“Why Pekoyama?” Hinata asked simply. “What about her makes you sure she’s the culprit, Matsuda?”

“He—he’s just looking for someone to fucking blame!” Kuzuryuu claimed. “After all, he fucking lied to her and kept fighting her about whether or not Saionji did it! He’s just a fucking asshole!”

“The fact that she targeted Saionji is one of the reasons why I believe she’s the culprit,” Matsuda pointed out. “We have evidence to believe the culprit wanted us to suspect Saionji over others.”

“I-Is that true?!” Saionji demanded. “Was it you who knocked me out and then killed Mahiru-onee, you creepy four-eyed hag?!”

Still, no answer. It was as if the one called Pekoyama Peko wasn’t even human.

“H-Hey, say something, Peko-chan,” Mioda pleaded. “A-At this rate we’re gonna have no choice but to believe Yasuke-chan’s right!”

“He’s NOT!” Kuzuryuu burst out. Matsuda perked at this, confused.

This anger—what is the feeling it emanates?

“I don’t really like the idea of having to believe that guy either,” Souda grumbled. “But, uh, we do—have to vote for someone if we don’t all want to die.”

“Still, I’m not sure I follow Matsuda’s line of logic,” Nidai murmured. “There are—many burning questions I have.”

“We cannot see into Matsuda-kun’s head, after all,” Nanami said. “So, if it will be permitted, can you explain? Matsuda-kun?”

“Upupupupu,” Monokuma chuckled. “This tension—gotta love it!”

“Y-You’re so cruel!” Monomi sobbed. “Even in a moment of trust and teamwork between these students, you always have to sully it!”

“Monomi I don’t love at all,” Monokuma yawned. “In fact, she’s completely unlovable.”

“U-Unlovable?! You really are such a hateful fiend!”

At least he doesn’t seem interested in immediately casting the vote, Matsuda couldn’t help but notice. That’s unfortunately for the better. I nearly fucked up with my outburst. But this gamble paid off. Still, argh, how could I stupidly lose my fucking temper like that?!

Komaeda was still smiling without a care, and despite his obligation towards him—or maybe even because of it, Matsuda really wanted to throttle him. Or maybe just keep him on a leash with a tight grip. He shook his head quickly.

It’s not his fault. It’s mine for not being able to handle the stress. Let’s try and do this correctly now. Where should we start?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of you had questions,” Matsuda said with a sigh. He glowered when Mioda raised her arm in response. “We need to keep things organized so let’s start back with the kimono gremlin’s testimony.”

“Yeah, the bitch who’s probably the actual culprit,” Kuzuryuu seethed.

“Shut your midget mouth,” Saionji scoffed back. “You say that like you’re not the one with a big fat motive.”

If they get to arguing again, it’ll just distract us.

“Revisit the events that happened in the beach house,” Matsuda said slowly, snapping his fingers to get their attention. “And let’s analyze the scenes carefully.”

“Think critically!” Komaeda chirped. “Consider the culprit’s perspective!”

“I don’t like listening to you, but I’m curious about where Matsuda’s going with this,” Owari hummed. “Personally, I just wanna know where Pekoyama learned to jump.”

“J-Jump?” Tsumiki repeated, at a hopeless loss.

Yeah, jump, Matsuda thought dryly. That’ll definitely have to be explained if my accusing Pekoyama is to be logically sound. But Kuzuryuu’s still in a huff.

In fact, Kuzuryuu looked the angriest he’s ever been.

What even the hell? That’s the real mystery—but it’s not one our lives hinge on. Kuzuryuu can deal with his weird personal hang-ups after everything’s said and done.

At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself.

“When you entered the beach house, you were knocked out and after a while, woke up in the closet, right?” he asked Saionji. “I’m guessing you didn’t see signs of anyone else.”

“I didn’t see anyone in the closet and I didn’t see anyone in the shower room,” Saionji confirmed. “I definitely checked before I—got scared and ran away.”

“So, was she just dumped and ditched?” Souda asked.

“If you keep talking, your body will be dumped into a ditch,” was her retort.

“H-Hey! N-Now’s not the time to be making threats!”

“It’s pretty unlikely that any culprit would just abandon the person they’re meaning to frame,” Komaeda pointed out.

“Did we ask you?” was Owari’s retort.

“No, he’s right,” Matsuda argued. “That’s just shitty planning, especially if they were going to plant evidence to frame her. The culprit had to be hiding somewhere. Likely in the closet as well.”

“Just because it was dark didn’t mean I wouldn’t have seen anyone if they were there!” Saionji yelled irritably. “Not to mention how little space there was!”

It’s true, when Komaeda and I investigated it, we were squashed up against each other. But, still.

“There were surfboard cases in the closet,” Matsuda recalled. “Maybe she hid in one of those.”

“It was quite messy in there,” Komaeda added. “Was that the culprit’s doing as well, stacking all the cases and boards so haphazardly?”

“Nobody asked you for your two cents!” Owari exclaimed.

“You both caused quite a ruckus when you knocked all of them down, I think,” Nanami said. “That said—if the culprit was there, it would have enough space inside. Probably. And after Saionji-san fled the scene, they could slip out and set up the rest of the crime scene. Maybe.”

“The call of the narrow depths is a siren like any other,” Tanaka murmured. “A delight that the devas know quite well.”

So—he’s a weirdo who likes to squeeze into tight places. Alright. Good to know.

“T-That’s so fucking creepy!” Saionji screeched. “Just lying in wait from within a dark, scary case!”

This is a culprit comfortable with killing. Lying in wait might be something they’re also used to.

“S-So, we know how the culprit could’ve been hidden!” Hinata exclaimed. “Let’s move on!”

“Oh, you know what’s next?” Matsuda asked, waving his hand. “Then, please, by all means.”

Hinata flustered.

“N-Now’s not the time to be an ass, Matsuda! Especially now—when you—!”

Komaeda hummed loudly, cutting Hinata off.

“K-Komaeda!” he exclaimed, flustered. “What the hell is it now?!”

“What part of you shutting the hell up is so hard?!” Owari demanded, cracking her knuckles. “Do you want me beating that through your head or what?!”

“Owari-san, is that how the saying goes?” Sonia asked, curious and concerned.

“What saying? All I’m saying is that Komaeda should shut his damn mouth,” Owari huffed.

“Oi, oi, that guy’s my concern, not yours,” Matsuda replied. “If he’s acting up, I’ll deal with him. That said.” He shot a glare in Komaeda’s direction. “Exactly what the hell is so pressing a fucking matter that you made a noise like that? Are you a child?”

“Ah, apologies, Matsuda-kun, Owari-san.” With that vapid smile and half-assed apology that neither recipient would accept, Komaeda cupped his chin thoughtfully. “There is a matter I wish to ask Monokuma about.”

“The turn of the early 20th century was quite the spectacle—two great empires forming an alliance!” Monokuma exclaimed. “And yet—it could be so easy to throw that to the particularly large dogs with just enough murder!”

“Better that than speckled bands,” Mioda said, eyes sparkling.

“I really have no preferences,” Komaeda said, shaking his head with a sigh. “Right now, the murders I’m concerned about are situated within this killing game.”

“Upupupu,” Monokuma chuckled. “Isn’t that so sad? We really can only care about what involves us directly.”

“Anyway, about the body announcement,” Komaeda went on cheerily, wisely choosing to ignore that remark. “According to the rules of the killing game, it goes off when three or more people discover the corpse, yes? I wonder—is the culprit included within that number?”

“Um, huh, you’re wondering about that, huh,” Monokuma muttered, head drooping. “It’s, it’s y’know, y’know?”

“Stop stammering,” Matsuda hissed. “Answer the fucking question.”

Monokuma jumped before swooning.

“Ooh, Matsuda-kyun, ooh...”

“Stop that!” Monomi shrieked. “He’s a precious student! A student! Quit being so inappropriate towards him!”

Monokuma made a series of fart noises in response to that.

“I do want to know,” Komaeda insisted, doe eyes wide. “Can the culprit be counted among those who discover the body or not?”

“Pfffpffpfpfpffff.” Monokuma huffed. “Urgh! Rabbits are so ANNOYING! The worst! No matter they’re the world’s prey! Don’t you know that the body announcement is for YOU BASTARDS’ benefit?! Spit in the face of my generosity some more, why don’t ya?!”

“I don’t mean to come across as ungrateful, of course,” Komaeda says, though it’s in the same bored tone that someone would take when asked a question during the most monotonous lecture. “But give specific circumstances, the announcement could be used as critical evidence.”

“Where’s the fun in just telling you,” Monokuma grumbled. “These trials are for you bastards to figure out all on your own. I can’t weigh in at all.”

“You’ve weighed in before,” Nanami pointed out. “When clarifying the situation. Such as when Sonia-san suggested the culprit being a serial killer outside of the group.”

“U-Urk!” Monokuma flinched. “I-I mean, well—that was just... I want you brats to be flexible but not too flexible.”

“Flexible, huh,” Komaeda mused before perking up. “Then, did the last body announcement take into account the culprit or not? I would like to know.”

Monokuma stared, the mascot predictably in a neutral, unreadable expression before he let out a growl.

“Fine—I’ll just say it after all! It didn’t include the culprit this time! Next time it might not depending on my mood!”

“I see, I see,” Komaeda chirped.

“Is any of that relevant?” Hinata asked, grimacing.

“You never know, Hinata-kun!”

By the time Komaeda and I got there, a sizable crowd was already present, Matsuda recalled. But—what about before that? Should I just ask when the announcement went off? Maybe later.

“Ugh, for now,” Hinata said, now pointedly looking away from Komaeda. “The culprit—could it really be...?”

That person still wasn’t saying anything.

“There is a matter which calls to me of its mystery,” Tanaka said. “The culprit had moved the body—thus they should have been stained with the vermilion streaks of blood. And yet the damning crimson has escaped notice.”

Damning crimson. Wow. Matsuda tried not to make a face. That’s—a phrase.

“O-Owari was covered in blood,” Souda pointed out.

“Because the old man kicked my aaaaaaaaass,” Owari droned, unimpressed. “I said that earlier. Geeeeeeeez, pay attention, Souna.”

“IT’S SOUDA!!!”

“It was indeed the result of a sparring,” Nidai laughed. “I got a little too fired up, gyahaha!!”

If that guy was the murderer, he wouldn’t need a bat.

“What if—the culprit put on a wet suit, took it off, tore it up, and flushed it down the toilet?!” Mioda suggested. “Disposal of the evidence!!”

“THAT WOULD JUST CLOG THE PIIIIIIPES!!” Nidai thundered.

“T-There also weren’t any toilets nearby,” Tsumiki murmured.

“What about simply washing them off?” Nanami suggested. “In the ocean, like Matsuda-kun suggested?”

“Then they would’ve reeked of salt water,” Owari said, huffing.

“So Pekoyama!” Souda claimed.

“Peko-chan said she was swimming to try and get to the other islands, though,” Mioda pointed out.

Got’cha.

“Hey, red meat.”

“Did someone say meat?!” Owari gasped, swerving to immediately turn to him. “What is it, Katsu?!”

“Pekoyama,” Matsuda said. “Did she smell like salt water?”

“What a sexy question!” Mioda exclaimed.

“Eh?” Owari blinked. “I mean—uh.”

“Earlier, you remarked on Komaeda not stinking of salt water,” Matsuda pointed out. “You’re not a fan of the smell—so I imagine you would’ve picked up on it. Back at the diner, where all of you met up—did you smell salt water at all? If Pekoyama really was soaked from her swim, then...”

“Actually.” Owari’s eyes went wide. “Y’know what—I don’t remember smelling salt water from anyone today! Not Pekoyama—nor Komaeda! That’s really weird, how do you two keep avoiding that stench?!”

“W-Wait!” Kuzuryuu exclaimed. “Fucking wait! What—what the hell does that mean?!”

“There was another means to rinsing off the blood, wasn’t there?” Nanami asked. “Besides the ocean, which would have left a distinct smell.”

“That’s right,” Matsuda affirmed. “The water bottles in the beach house. The trashcan was filled with empty bottles, and I knew there was water there before. I saw them earlier.”

“I drank a water from there once,” Souda muttered. “I-I’m pretty sure.”

Pekoyama’s stare was ever impassive.

“If it was the water from the beach house, then—Pekoyama could’ve dumped all of them onto herself to get the blood off,” Hinata realized. “And she’d be left to air dry because there aren’t any towels at the beach house—hence being soaked at the diner despite never having gone into the ocean.”

“That’d do the job!” Mioda agreed. “B-But—wait! So, so, Peko-chan—she really—?”

“She’s been all clammed up ever since Matsuda-nii suspected her!” Saionji exclaimed.

“You’ve been quiet for long enough, don’t you think?” Matsuda accused, eyes narrowed dangerously. “Pekoyama, say something.”

Pekoyama’s eyes swept the trial room. With a simple duck of her head, she implored,

“How do you know the water bottles were not all drank before the murder?”

“I don’t,” Matsuda retorted. “But if that’s your only argument, it’s pretty fucking flimsy. Owari confirmed you weren’t in the ocean. And I doubt you took a dip in the pool instead.”

Pekoyama said nothing more. Her lips pressed together, as if there was no need for further words in the first place.

“That mask, too—you heard the princess go on about that serial killer,” Matsuda went on. “And then—you were the one to push so hard for the kimono gremlin to be suspected. Even the most minor details of that crime scene—point to you and your behavior.”

“Hold it! Fucking hold it!”

Kuzuryuu slammed his fist down.

“You’re wrong! Fucking wrong! I—I saw Pekoyama after I left the diner on the way to the hotel! It couldn’t have been her!”

“Eh? Eh?” Mioda frowned. “But earlier—you said you didn’t see shit!”

“I-It slipped my mind! What the hell ever!” he yelled. “Point is—she was coming from the opposite direction of the beach house!”

“Really? Fucking really?” There was the slightest twitch in Matsuda’s scowl. “It slipped your mind?”

“There’s no way that’s true, Kuzuryuu, and we all know it,” Hinata pointed out. “You can’t change the story this far in and expect to be believed.”

“T-That...!” Kuzuryuu gritted his teeth, cursing colorful yet distorted. “But there are still too many uncertainties, right?! There’s no way any of this shit is conclusive, y’know! It could all still fucking be a bunch of coincidences!”

“Do you really believe that?” Nanami asked. “I wonder.”

“What the hell are you doing, pinprick?” Matsuda asked coldly, cutting straight to the chase. “Since fucking when were you so defensive when someone else was involved? If you don’t think it’s Pekoyama, then who the hell else could it be?”

“If you say me, I’ll cut out that lying tongue of yours!” Saionji yelled. “I’ll steal Matsuda-nii’s scalpels if I have to!”

In any other situation, Matsuda would think to himself about how he’d now need to sew his scalpels into the inside of his coat so that they’d be harder for any potential gremlins to nab. In any other situation, Matsuda would make a snappy retort. In any other situation, he’d make it a point to show he was entirely capable of carrying out Saionji’s threat himself.

Instead, he coolly observes Kuzuryuu’s twisted up face, the desperation straining every feature and dimple.

“It’s not enough,” Kuzuryuu said, lower lip wobbling under Matsuda’s sharp gaze. “We don’t—we don’t even have any fucking idea how the culprit left the beach house!”

“T-That is quite the mystery, isn’t it,” Tsumiki whispered anxiously. “B-But, um...”

“So, what?” Saionji shot back. “We still know who the culprit is. It’s that freak with the four eyes who almost disgusts me as much as you, pigshit.”

“A-Aaa...” A sniffle and a choked-up sob. “I-I’m sorry!”

It is disgusting though, isn’t it? Matsuda couldn’t help but think. This fucking idiot is arguing to protect a killer that’s supposed to be a stranger. Gross. Gross, gross, gross.

“Matsuda.” Even when growling out his name like that, even with a glare like that, Kuzuryuu looked so desperate and helpless. Completely unlike the hateful stare. “If you’re so fucking smart and still can’t figure out this much—why the hell should we trust anything you have to say?”

Nanami hummed nonchalantly.

“I don’t think—it’s an unsolvable mystery.”

“Are you certain?” Pekoyama is the one to ask this time. “After all, we have come up with no explanations thus far.”

It’s true. While I have ideas, there’s a problem. Matsuda sighed, eyes falling shut. It’d depend on Pekoyama having something on her person. And I wouldn’t know if she did because I wasn’t at the diner.

That same something his eyes briefly flicker to. He knows it could work. But he needs to make sure she—

“Aha, getting out of the beach house would have been simple with an accomplice,” Komaeda sighs. “Even a meager person such as myself could’ve provided some kind of stepping stool to hope! Wouldn’t you say so, Pekoyama-san?”

“You mustn’t continue going on like that, Komaeda-san!” Sonia reprimanded.

“Dude, do you ever stop?!” Souda growled. “Oi, Matsuda, control that bastard like you said you would!”

Matsuda didn’t. Instead he noted Pekoyama’s darkening stare as Komaeda shot her one of his usual smiles.

“Even as a killer, I would never have any intention of collaborating with you,” she spoke slowly with dripping purpose. “A sword protects and takes as many lives as it takes. As someone dedicated wholly to that, I have no further need. Your asinine chatter is a waste of breath.”

“A sword,” Matsuda echoed. “So, hey, it wouldn’t be reasonable to assume you’d take that sword on your back even on a swim around the islands.”

“That’s definitely some dedication,” Nidai mused.

“Actually, she did still have it with her at the diner,” Hinata recalled.

Perfect.

“With the right equipment, it wouldn’t be that hard to use the window in the broken shower room,” Matsuda said. “Just a grapple hook and a rope would get the job done.”

“The market doesn’t carry any hooks that can grab ya, unfortunately,” Owari remarked. “I checked.”

“And she wouldn’t be able to dispose of it!” Kuzuryuu exclaimed. “Littering is prohibited! So, what the hell are you supposed to do, right?!”

“Keep carrying it around, obviously,” Matsuda replied. “And wouldn’t that be simple when it’s already a part of your appearance?”

“L-Like her glasses and braids!” Mioda exclaimed. “B-But would Peko-chan really...really...?”

“You could use her bamboo blade as a stepping stool,” Matsuda said. “And you could tie the straps of the bag around the handle to pull it up back with you. So, if it were Pekoyama, escape from the beach house without using either door would be doable.”

“That’s like an actual ninja!” Owari noted excitedly. “Leaning your sword against the wall and using the hand guard as a boost!”

“A Japanese ninja!” Sonia gasped.

“T-That’s all ninjas, Sonia-san,” was Souda’s weak reply.

Not like any of that mattered.

“If that’s the case, it had to be Pekoyama, huh,” Hinata said softly, head hanging. “No one else could have managed something like that.”

“Indeed, it could have only been the Ultimate Swordswoman!” Komaeda exclaimed with gusto. “A truly clever and befitting method—and that had been her downfall! What a shame.”

“That’s still—not proof,” Kuzuryuu pointed out, trembling. “There’s no evidence that’s what happened it’s only a possibility! You could be pulling it from your ass for all we know!!”

Matsuda twitched. And he snapped.

“Alright. Fine. You won’t accept anything except evidence, right?”

“What is this foolishness?” Tanaka wondered. “Even without the very vision of the act, the perpetrator is clear.”

“There’s no way you’d be able to leave if you weren’t Pekoyama,” Souda repeated. “And with the water bottles—isn’t that evidence enough?”

“Apparently not,” Matsuda replied. “By the way—when did the body announcement go off anyway?”

“Huh? Who cares?” Hinata quirked an eyebrow. “Are you just curious? Shouldn’t—we be drawing the trial to a close? Even though Kuzuryuu...”

“Just answer the damn question, Hinata,” Matsuda snapped before he could finish. Wincing, Hinata gritted his teeth.

“It went off when Souda...” He trailed off, realizing. “When Souda—discovered the body.”

“W-Wait a MINUTE!” Nidai bellowed. “That would mean—!”

Just like that, Pekoyama stiffened.

“Souda and Saionji—that only makes two,” Matsuda mused, gaze sweeping the trial room. “According to Monokuma, the culprit wasn’t accounted for when the announcement went off—when at least three people discovered the body.”

“S-Someone else saw Koizumi-san after she was murdered!” Sonia gasped. “B-But who?! Who was it? Speak, right this instant!”

“It’s not that hard to figure out,” Matsuda said. “There weren’t a lot of people in the area at the time. Think. Who else was at the diner at that time that could have been present for the murder, before Souda saw the body?”

“Obviously there are Pekoyama-san and Saionji-san,” Nanami pondered. “But, also, a lot of us have alibies.”

“All the remaining girls had gathered in the diner, sans Saionji-san, of course,” Komaeda added. “Which Hinata-kun and Souda-kun can unfortunately vouch for.”

“U-Unfortunately?” Souda repeated, making a face.

“But there was one other person in that area at the time,” Matsuda said. “Someone who both Souda and Hinata saw.”

“That was...” Hinata blinked once, twice, and he turned quickly. “K-Kuzuryuu! Wasn’t that you?!”

“So what if it was?” Kuzuryuu asks the question quietly, almost anxiously, but he’s twitching with something that went beyond anticipation. “What’s that got to do with anything? You’re really going to be pointing fingers because, because what? It’s convenient?”

“That’s enough,” Pekoyama spoke up. “He is not involved. You have no proof.”

“The funny thing about a trial of this nature is that you don’t really need decisive evidence,” Matsuda murmured. “You just need enough reasonable cause.”

“I did find it weird,” Nanami admitted. “Koizumi-san’s murder mirrors that of Twilight Syndrome Murder Mystery, but—if Pekoyama-san is the culprit, it’s weird.”

“Because of the lack of motive,” Matsuda agreed. “There’s also—inconsistencies even accounting for the other possibility.”

“Such as?” Tanaka asked grumpily. “Are you suggesting the swordswoman using that mere trifle of fantasy as a veil is not potent enough?”

“If that shitty game was just a means of misdirection, then why pick Saionji as the scapegoat?” Matsuda pointed out. “Wouldn’t Kuzuryuu be the more obvious choice? He’d certainly be the easiest idea to sell.”

“When you put it that way, it is weird,” Hinata muttered. “Actually, Pekoyama acted as if she didn’t want Kuzuryuu to be considered as a culprit at all.”

“That’s enough.” Pekoyama’s much firmer than before. “You do not understand, you do not understand—”

“When you put it that way, it’s almost like—Pekoyama-san was considering Kuzuryuu-san’s best interests,” Sonia mused. “But—why? Do you two know one another?”

“Tch.” Kuzuryuu let out a snort. “What makes you fucking think we do?”

“Quiet.” Ironically, Pekoyama’s demand was soft-spoken and trembling. “Cease this.”

“It doesn’t really matter if they do,” Matsuda said. “Because this still could have happened if they didn’t if Pekoyama worked a certain way.”

“Worked?” Souda pondered. “Like, what kind of gears?!”

“If she was something like a hitman.” Matsuda snapped his fingers. “If she was already accustomed to that kind of dirty work, it wouldn’t be a problem at all if Kuzuryuu hired her.”

“H-Hold oooon!” Nidai bellowed. “A-Accusing someone of something like that is quite the lofty claim! Especially in this situation where she’d be risking her OWN life!”

“And maybe that doesn’t matter to her,” Matsuda shot back. “Maybe she’s so emotionally dead inside that the idea of dying herself doesn’t mean shit.”

“You know nothing,” Pekoyama retorted, darkly and blankly.

“U-Um,” Mioda stammered. “Y-Yasuke-chan, Peko-chan’s voice is...pretty...deadly sounding...right now...”

“P-Pekoyama-san a contract killer?” Sonia asked. “Could that really be possible?”

“Y-You know...it is...weird.” Tsumiki fiddled with her fingers. “Koizumi-san’s murder was very...precisely done.”

“It only took one hit to kill her instantly,” Matsuda said. “And there was an elaborate setup. One that took advantage of multiple parties. It’s hard to believe that any killer would be capable of all that on their first go.”

“You say this dastardly and grisly scenario is merely the last of many,” Tanaka remarked. “Could that be possible?”

“Kuzuryuu-kun using his connections as the Ultimate Gangster!” Komaeda exclaimed. “So much talent flourishing!”

“You put on a fucking tryhard tough guy act, but even you’re not stupid enough to spill blood in a situation where it’d risk your own head rolling,” Matsuda said, slowly and purposefully. “The much more obvious choice is to have someone else do the dirty work.”

Someone was trembling. Quaking so badly that it was unsettling.

“Are ya gonna vote for me, then?” Kuzuryuu asked simply.

“Cease this immediately!” Pekoyama exclaimed finally. “You are wasting time and breath with this foolish detour! You already uncovered the murderer!”

“I do wonder,” Matsuda went on. “How exactly Monokuma would calculate this. How about we split the votes so that these two get an equal amount? One of us may have to abstain from voting—or I can just vote for myself for the hell of it.”

Monokuma kicked his legs in glee. “That’s not a bad suggestion I suppose! Upupupu, it’d be easier! On me and on all of you!”

“Let’s reach an agreement,” Matsuda resumed. “Who’s going to vote for the pinstripe and who’s going to vote for the—”

“That’s ENOUGH!”

Pekoyama screamed, voice very nearly breaking. Matsuda did shut his mouth, looking towards her with eyebrows raised expectantly. Glaring with looks that could kill, Pekoyama met that unimpressed stare.

“The reason why Koizumi was killed was a matter of justice.”

“What, like that serial killer in the foreign magazine?” Matsuda shot back. “You really expect me to believe you were just copying that guy?”

“I was.”

“Liar,” Matsuda snapped back. “I have another piece of evidence, you know.”

Pekoyama flinched.

“Excuse me?”

“The note at Koizumi’s cottage,” he said. “What caused her to play the game in the first place.” He pulled out the memory journal, flipping through where he had the information recorded. “In addition to tracing the photographs, I also traced the penmanship.”

He held it up, comparing it to the notes of before.

“Doesn’t look like you’re the one who wrote this.”

“We just have your word on that,” Pekoyama murmured tensely. “Perhaps you are mistaken. Or lying once more.”

“While I question a lot of things about Matsuda, this isn’t one of them,” Hinata agreed, albeit begrudgingly. “I’ve seen the note as well and the handwriting was...distinct in how angry it looked.”

“I’ve never really seen Peko-chan angry until this moment,” Mioda mumbled nervously. “And she’s really, really angry right now.”

“And for what? Before, she maintained dignity when accused,” Tanaka snapped. “What could have moved such stoicism so severely?”

“It couldn’t be—that Pekoyama-san is truly concerned with protecting Kuzuryuu-kun, is she?” Komaeda pondered aloud. “If it were just business, that kind of sentimentality would be inappropriate.”

It’s unsettling, Matsuda thought. It’s beyond fucking unsettling.

“So, what? She shows sentimentality for that criminal but not for Mahiru-onee?” Saionji trembled. “Then, as Matsuda-nii suggested! Let’s vote both those fuckers out! If we’re lucky, Monokuma might just execute them both!”

“No!” Monomi cried.

“H-Hold on, Saionji,” Hinata hurriedly stammered. “We shouldn’t be trying to get more people killed! If they really were working together—shouldn’t the one who killed Koizumi directly be implicated?!”

“B-But does it really work like that?!” Souda snapped back. “If Pekoyama was indeed nothing more than a fucking hitman—!”

“P-Pekoyama-san has her own free will, doesn’t she?!” Sonia argued. “We can’t ignore that she could’ve refused!”

“But would she?” Matsuda asked coldly. “Hey, Pekoyama, if Kuzuryuu did order you to kill Koizumi...even if it meant risking your own life...would you have still gone for it?”

Pekoyama gripped her sword tightly.

“What exactly—is the meaning of this? You said before to vote for me. Why are you going back on all of that now, Matsuda Yasuke?!”

Kuzuryuu clicked his tongue.

“I get it. It’s because you hate me, huh.”

Matsuda didn’t dignify that with an answer, so Kuzuryuu laughed. Softly and under his breath.

“Y’know what, that’s fair, isn’t it? Considering what a pain in the ass I’ve been. With before. With this. Even to Peko.” He shook his head. “I fucked up real fucking bad. I deserve this.”

“No!” Pekoyama exclaimed. “No, no, no, young master!”

“Young master?” Hinata echoed.

“Young master,” Matsuda confirmed. “Case closed. Pekoyama Peko was just furniture all this time.”

“But then who the hell do we VOTE FOOOOR?!” Nidai bellowed.

“I-If we split the votes evenly, it doesn’t matter!” Mioda hurriedly yelped. “C-Come on! Let’s go halfsies! We’ll have to go in a pattern! Fuyuhiko-chan, Peko-chan, Fuyuhiko-chan, Peko-chan!”

“I-I guess I’ll vote for Kuzuryuu-san, then, s-sorry,” Tsumiki whimpered. “A-After all, we just—we can’t take any risks!”

“Are you really okay with this, Matsuda-kun?” Nanami asked quietly.

“Is this really what should happen?” Hinata wondered as well.

“What happened was that Pekoyama Peko let an idiot play a game because she had no will of her own,” Matsuda snapped in return. “Upon finding out the truth, that same idiot sent a threatening note to the only person he could feasibly take his anger out on, even if she wasn’t a direct factor. And then, he hired someone to take her out. That same person observed her movements, tricked her and another entirely innocent party, and then tried to cover up not only her own involvement but that of the fucker who made the orders. And for fucking what? Professionalism? Pride? Even though at the end of the day—that girl who killed someone is already fucking dead.”

It pisses me off. My head fucking hurts.

“Both of them are guilty as far as I’m concerned, and we don’t want to take any risks, right,” he sneered. “So, no more debate. Let’s vote.”

“That’s a call to action if I’ve ever heard one!” Monokuma exclaimed happily. “Iiiiiit’s voting time!”

“Stop, stop!” Pekoyama screamed. “Don’t!”

“Peko,” Kuzuryuu sighed, making her quiet. “Please. Just...no more. It’s too late.”

“Y-Young master...”

“Everyone! Please cast your ballots!!! Upupupu!”


The voting went as expected.

“An even split, aside from naughty Matsuda-kun who sustained!” Monokuma chirped. “I ought to punish you for that but these results, oh boy! Gotta say, that’s a new one for me! What even to do~? I have two culprits on the hot seat, upupupuuu!”

“Quit fucking jacking around,” Kuzuryuu snapped. “It’s over. So, let’s end it. Urgh.” His eyes burned as he rubbed his temple. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Peko, but I just couldn’t...”

“That’s enough, young master!” Pekoyama exclaimed, rushing to his side. “Regardless of the results, I won’t let anything happen to you! My role as a tool is not yet done!”

“Heh, heheh...” Kuzuryuu cracked a broken smile. “That’s probably the first time you ever talked back to me, even if I completely fucking hate what you’re saying.”

“S-So, uh, did we vote correctly?” Souda asked shakily. “A-Are we safe?”

“Yeppers! You voted correctly!” Monokuma threw his arms up with glee. “Two culprits for the price of two! Woo-hoo!”

“T-That’s not fair!” Monomi exclaimed.

“What’s not fair? Everyone voted fair and square, stupid Monomi,” he huffed. “If you keep mouthing off, you’ll be on the hot seat, too! And three’s a fucking crowd!”

“S-So we’re safe,” Tsumiki stammered uneasily. “Kuzuryuu-san and Pekoyama-san—they were both the culprit...”

“Good fucking riddance,” Saionji hissed. “The less scum around here, the better.”

“H-Hold up, hold UP!!!” Nidai yelled. “E-Even with the voting over and done with, I don’t see why BOTH of them are guilty! Pekoayama was the one who murdered Koizumi with her own hand!”

“You heard her, right? She called herself a tool,” Matsuda retorted. “And if this were an actual trial, it’d be the same. Hiring a hitman doesn’t mean you aren’t guilty of murder. Although it does make you a fucking coward.”

“It’s not an actual trial, though,” Nanami pointed out. “But, I guess... If Monokuma did consider Kuzuryuu-kun the true culprit and we had all voted for Pekoyama-san, instead...”

“Whatever,” Matsuda said, waving his hand. “It’s beyond us, now.”

“That’s so cold, Matsuda-kun,” Komaeda noted. “You weren’t like this last time.”

Matsuda glared at him.

“And the hell do you mean by that?”

“Nothing!” Komaeda exclaimed with shining innocence. “As you said, it’s beyond us! However...” Komaeda turned on the two ‘culprits’ with sparkling eyes. “It’s not the case for you two, is it?”

“What the fuck ever,” Kuzuryuu spat. “If this is where it ends for us, this is where it ends.”

“But, there’s only supposed to be one culprit, isn’t there?” Komaeda blinked, head tilted. “So, which one will it be?”

“Which one?” Pekoyama snarled, an arm in front of Kuzuryuu. “What foolish remark is that?”

“I mean, which one’s going to take the fall,” Komaeda responded easily. “Surely it can’t be both of you. Which one of you is the real culprit? Are you going to answer me, Kuzuryuu-kun?”

“I ain’t saying shit!” Kuzuryuu hissed.

“Really? Even though you fought so hard against the accusations leveled at Pekoyama-san?” Komaeda frowned. “You’re really alright with her still dying after all that?”

Kuzuryuu’s face changed as Pekoyama got between them.

“That’s ENOUGH.”

In a flash, Pekoyama had her sword ready. In a flash, Matsuda had yanked Komaeda behind him. Even with a rounded bamboo point at his throat, Matsuda’s heart predictably hammered. Pekoyama’s urge to kill didn’t decrease in the slightest with a new target.

“And are we really supposed to believe Pekoyama-san only behaved in accordance to Kuzuryuu-kun’s wishes?” Komaeda murmured, then. “Even though when Matsuda-kun went to confront Kuzuryuu-kun over the game—Pekoyama-san was the one who followed so suspiciously. What would you had done to him if I hadn’t called out? Is Kuzuryuu-kun really just your young master? Or is he more than that?”

“K-Komaeda!” Hinata called out. “Just—stop!”

“I am a tool,” Pekoyama hissed. “I have no desires of my own. I am nothing on my own. Someone like you, who was born and raised as a human, could never hope to understand.”

“Born and raised?” Matsuda repeated.           

“Fucking hell, Peko,” Kuzuryuu grumbled, lowering her hand. “Cut it out. This whole thing is my fucking fault.”

Matsuda’s frown deepened. As a precaution, he went to cover Komaeda’s mouth.

“Pinstripe, since it’ll probably be your last moments, just—tell us everything.”

Kuzuryuu huffed out a mirthless laugh, and Pekoyama shot him a tense look as his head shook and his shoulders quaked.

“When I was born, I was immediately abandoned,” she spoke up in his stead. “I was taken in by the Kuzuryuu Clan—and I was raised to be the young master’s sword and shield. To kill when necessary and to protect when necessary. Nothing more. And nothing less. I only existed as his property to utilize as he pleased. Even when interacting with all of you, I was only following his orders.”

For the time being, forget that we were ever even acquainted,” Kuzuryuu muttered. “Just act like a normal girl to the best of your ability.

“So, all those times we got along, you felt nothing?” Mioda asked. “Is that really, really true?”

“M-Mahiru-onee was so kind to you!” Saionji seethed. “She was kind and good and you didn’t even fucking hesitate, you freak!”

“I did not,” Pekoyama confirmed. “After all, when the young master played that game—all that mattered was his drive for payback against her.”

“That game,” Hinata said. “Kuzuryuu—you really decided to kill Koizumi based on that?”

“What other choice did I have?!” Kuzuryuu burst out. “After Peko let me play that game, my reward was a fucking picture of Natsumi dead! That she apparently took! And even after I sent that fucking note to her cottage, that bitch wouldn’t even look me in the face!”

“Koizumi-san didn’t remember either,” Nanami recalled. “So, she was likely just as confused and tormented.”

“Don’t fucking just, me!” Kuzuryuu roared. “Koizumi didn’t even fucking remember the name of the bitch who killed my sister! But I never fucking forgot about Natsumi! Not even for a second!” He shook his head. “She didn’t even remember covering for her—for my sister’s killer!”

“Of course she didn’t, you fucking idiot,” Matsuda snapped. “I doubt you even remember killing your sister’s killer.”

“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a fucking life!” Kuzuryuu exclaimed. “In the yakuza, that’s how shit works! She should’ve fucking known that!”

“Who? Satou?” Matsuda’s voice lowered. “Isn’t she already dead? Isn’t that debt repaid?”

“T-That...!” Kuzuryuu paused, hesitating before pressing his hand to his face. “It was only fair, it was only fair, it was only fair—that’s why, that’s why, that’s why—I had to grab the bat, see. Had to bash that bitch’s skull in. And you fucking know what she said?” He snapped, near hysterical. “That’s no excuse! She yelled that! You don’t have the right to pass that kind of judgement! Even if she killed your sister—that didn’t give you the right to kill her! How much better does that make you?! Can you fucking believe that shit?!”

“Um.” Mioda swallowed. “Y’know—the last time I saw her, what Mahiru-chan said was...”

“There’s not much I can do on my own, so I’d like us to work together. But, it’s okay. Whatever I have to do to make things right—I’ll do it. Even if there are things we can’t change today, there’s—always tomorrow...”

He could imagine her saying that, with a pained smile and her arms folded behind her back. Keeping a bright face even as the darkness around threatened to consume. She was that kind of person, it turned out.

She wasn’t as confident as Togami, but she still wanted the same thing.

“Whatever she had to do,” Nanami murmured. “Even if Koizumi-san did lose her temper with you—it doesn’t change that she wanted to make up for whatever she did. Even if she couldn’t remember it.”

“And you still killed her,” Saionji said, trembling. “You monster.”

“Saionji-san, judging from Kuzuryuu-san’s reaction right now...” Sonia sighed, unable to look at Kuzuryuu’s stricken face. “I—I believe he is aware.”

“I-I should’ve gone,” Mioda muttered, putting at her hair. “I really, really should’ve gone...!”

“Then you likely would have gotten caught in the crossfire,” Komaeda said cheerfully. “After all, that’s what happened to Saionji-san.”

“Koizumi made me so fucking angry,” Kuzuryuu recalled, grimacing. “And before I knew it—I was reaching for the bat I hid and then Peko...and it was a huge fucking mess all around.”

“All I did was follow orders,” Pekoyama murmured. “However...” She shook her head. “Young master—you must understand, young master is a kind person. Too kind-hearted for the yakuza. After I killed Koizumi, he told me to run! He ordered me to escape! He is not—he is not the type to sacrifice others in reality! So, please!” Just like that, she begged. “Punish me in his place! It is my fault for acting so quickly just because the young master had gotten angry! I was, in reality, a subpar tool!”

“Peko, fucking cut that out!” Kuzuryuu ordered. “Stop it, just—fucking stop! I told ya to just forget all that shit when we were here! Why—why the hell couldn’t you understand any of that?!”

“K-Kuzuryuu,” Hinata stammered. “Pekoyama...”

“Two pieces of one another clash,” Tanaka muttered. “This is—a roaring, personal tempest.”

“It’s a lovers’ quarrel,” Monokuma sighed. “Romantic, huh?”

My head hurts. It feels like it’s going to explode any minute now. Why... Why?

“Eh?” Komaeda immediately perked up when he noticed. “Matsuda-kun?”

Why does this all feel so agonizingly familiar?

“I in truth acted because I wished for young master’s survival,” Pekoyama went on. “Everyone, I truly do apologize! Please—protect my young master and never let this happen again!”

“If there’s anyone who needs protecting, it’s you!” Kuzuryuu argued back. “Goddammit Peko, what the hell am I supposed to do without you?! N-Not as a tool, a sword, a shield, any of that bullshit! All I ever wanted—was to be with you for you!”

He clung to her then. Just like that, Pekoyama Peko froze.

“So like hell I’m gonna let you die!”

“Y...oung...mas...ter...?”

“I’ll protect you this time! I fucking swear it! I swear it!”

Matsuda saw tears build up in Pekoyama’s eyes as his gut lurched.

Ah.

“Yaaawn, bored now!” Monokuma jumped up with his hammer. “All this melodrama has lost its edge! Square up, you two! Because—!”

“K-Kuzuryuu! Pekoyama!” Hinata called out.

“Fuyuhiko-chan! Peko-chan!” Mioda cried as Tsumiki joined.

“You can’t, you can’t!” Monomi wailed.

“Iiiiiiit’s—!”

“Young master,” Pekoyama sobbed. “Please, please, let go of me—”

“Punishment tiiiiiiiiiiime!!!”


It’s the middle of a turf war and the two are still close. Kuzuryuu keeps a death grip on Pekoyama’s arm as if their lives depend on it as the two of them flee from the fighting and destruction. But she, the ever faithful warrior, breaks that grip with ease when they’re cornered by the other gangsters.

When they charge at them, Pekoyama slays them all with ease, defending herself and her liege. Kuzuryuu cries out, and gets covered in blood from the various sprays. Pekoyama turns to give him a smile and—he notices a bright red dot on her forehead. Pekoyama perks up as she sense more come, this time from Kuzuryuu’s direction.

However, before she can brush past him, Kuzuryuu tackles her to the ground, and one gunshot rings out. When the other Monokuma-faced men come, there is then an onslaught. The blood soaking Kuzuryuu’s body is mixed with his own. The two lay there, crumbled. Monokuma, who was manning the sniper rifle from the roof, pulls back and shrugs the whole thing off.

Another bites the dust.


“Ba, ba, ba,” Monokuma hums, as Souda screams. “Another one bites the dust!”

“Kuzuryuu-san—and Pekoyama-sam—to suffer such a fate!!” Sonia broke down into sobs. “It’s too much! It’s so beyond cruel!!”

“Senseless bloodshed!” Tanaka hissed in disgust. “Wretched! Beyond vile!”

“I-It just shouldn’t happen,” Mioda garbled. “P-People shouldn’t be falling down together like that. I-It just shouldn’t happen like that—!”

“I-I can’t believe this,” Hinata whispered, falling to his knees. “K-Kuzuryuu—Pekoyama—why’d they have to go out like that?”

Urgh.

Matsuda stumbled before rushing forward. Cleared of the fighting and reeking of blood and gunfire, he nearly threw up before getting even a good look at the two bodies. Paling, he has to swallow it back as he kneels down and checks over them with a trembling hand.

“Such a waste,” Komaeda sighed. “It didn’t have to be this way. It’s a waste of two Ultimates!”

“Why the fuck are you still talking about them like that?!” Hinata snapped. “Don’t you get it?! They were people! Fucking people, Komaeda! They were our classmates!”

“You should be pissed, not disappointed!” Owari yelled.

“I understand that,” Komaeda retorted. “And I am angry—I’m more than disappointed! It’s so frustrating!  But, all the same...” He laughed it off. “It’s going to be fine! All the same! This much misery builds character, after all! With everything we endure, we become all the stronger! Despair’s just a stepping stone! The darker the darkness, the brighter, the light! Hope works like that!”

“Upupupu, you piss me off, acting like I’m just some character-building exercise,” Monokuma chuckled. “But, you know, that naiveté reminds me of a certain someone.”

Matsuda perked up, pulling back with a bloodied hand.

“I don’t know who you’re talking about, of course, but it doesn’t matter,” Komaeda said. “Mark my words—you will be defeated. You will be destroyed. Completely and utterly so that nothing so much as the slightest of remnants are left behind.”

“Upupupu.”

“And what about what remains of Kuzuryuu and Pekoyama?!” Hinata demanded. “Are we just supposed to forget about them?!”

“N-No!” Monomi exclaimed. “Because—because—!”

“Get your fucking asses over here!” Matsuda yelled. “Pekoyama’s still alive, but only barely!”

“WHAAAAAT?!” Nidai bellowed.

“She won’t be alive for much longer if you fuckers don’t HURRY!” Matsuda screamed and the others were quick to rush over.

“I-I can—I can hear Peko-chan’s heartbeat!” Mioda exclaims. “M-Mikan-chan, Mikan-chan, hurry up and do something with Yasuke-chan!”

“I-I’m on it! D-Don’t worry!” Tsumiki sucked in her breath as Kuzuryuu was moved off of Pekoyama’s body, and she took in those injuries with wide eyes. “K-Kuzuryuu-san, he—his body must have taken the brunt of the gunfire...”

“But not all of it,” Matsuda gritted, pressing a handful of napkins to one wound to stop the bleeding. “She’s only hanging on by a little—and she passed out from all kinds of shock.”

“T-There’s so much bleeding,” Tsumiki sobbed. “We can’t just treat her here, she needs a blood transfusion!”

“What the hell is her blood type again?!” Matsuda demanded, then, he called out. “Oi! You caused this now fucking FIX this!”

“Oh, moi?” Monokuma blinked, feigning innocence. “But you said yourself they’re both guilty, Matsuda-kun. Why do you care now if the other one dies?”

“You still have a duty!” Monomi screeched. “Did you forget your own rules, you fiend?!”

“Haaaaah?” Monokuma growled. “Come again, little sis?”

“The only one that suffers death by execution is the culprit! Culprit! Singular! You can’t just kill two people and call it a day when only one of them can be guilty!” Monomi shook her head. “I-It was even done in a previous game—only one true culprit can exist!”

Previous...?

His head hurt again but now wasn’t the time for that.

“If you can’t follow your rules now, we can’t fucking expect you to follow them ever!” Matsuda yelled. “You’re the only fucking one who can act quickly, and it’s your responsibility!”

“That’s right!” Monomi agreed. “The third island has a hospital! So deliver Pekoyama-san right this instant!”

Monokuma snarled.

“Urghhh. Guh. Well, shit, yeah, even I’m not a rules breaker. Bender, sure, but I like to have some semblance of pride in my work. Guess Kuzuryuu-kun’s the culprit this time, whoopy-fucking-do. Guess I gotta save Pekoyama-san, then.” He turned around with a grin. “Good thing I’m always prepared! Emergency! Emergency! Calling the Monokuma Ambulance! Paging Doctor Death!”

With an onslaught of blaring sirens, the so-called ambulance pulled up to the scene. Monomi yelped, hesitant now.

“I-If you’re really called Dr. Death, that’s not an omen, right? Right?”

“We’re also taking the saccharine little sister Monomi on an account of brain damage!”

“W-Wait, no! Just Pekoyama-san!”

But despite her protests, both Monomi and Pekoyama were lifted up and taken into the ambulance. And with a cackling boom of laughter, Monokuma drove off. Somehow. Even though they were underground.

Matsuda threw up again, and wiping off his mouth caused all that blood to get smeared onto his face. Which made him even sicker.

“U-Urghhh... Urgh.”

“Matsuda-kun.” Through his blurring vision, he did see Komaeda offering a handkerchief. He took it, and Komaeda gave a soft smile. “As admirable you are, you have your frail moments, too, don’t you?”

“A-Are you alright?” Tsumiki asked quietly as he thoroughly wiped off his face and hands, grumbling all the while.

“I’m still human, that’s what it is,” Matsuda muttered. “A human who fucking hates gore.”

“Huh,” Hinata inhaled, glancing towards Komaeda before giving a pained grimace. “I guess—that’s better than being completely desensitized, huh?”

“If that comforts you, what the hell ever,” Matsuda griped as Komaeda softly giggled. “But I can’t exactly relax. Pekoyama’s no doubt going to be in a shit mood when she wakes up.”

“It’s going to take a lot to get through to her,” Nidai murmured. “What, with how she talked about herself and all.”

“Let’s support her to the best of our abilities,” Sonia suggested. “Despite those words, she showed humanity in those last moments with Kuzuryuu-san.”

“Y-Yeah,” Mioda agreed. “I’m kinda jealous, honestly.”

“It’ll be fine,” Nanami said. “That she lived in spite of everything—let’s celebrate that.”

“Why, though?” Saionji scowled. “She and Kuzuryuu both—they conspired and got Mahiru-onee killed. That four-eyed freak felt nothing towards her! Wouldn’t it have been better if she didn’t survive? Why the hell are you idiots all acting like it’s not a big deal?!”

“What’s done is done,” Tanaka replied matter-of-factly. “We can only truly move forward, where our gaze is already set.”

“Since Kuzuryuu-san died to protect her, I think—as Tanaka-san said it is best we move on,” Sonia murmured.

“That’s so fucking stupid!” Saionji screeched. “He deserved it for getting Mahiru-onee into that mess! She doesn’t deserve shit for killing Mahiru-onee! I’m not going to forgive them because it’s more convenient!” She turns on her heel in a huff. “Matsuda-nii said so too! Regardless of who started it, or who even ended it—they’re both guilty. They’re both the reason Mahiru-onee isn’t here anymore. All this talk about moving forward—and Mahiru-onee’s stuck where she is with her brains bashed out! How the hell is that fair?”

“It’s not fair,” Owari muttered. “It’s not fucking fair at all but—surviving’s all we really got against Monokuma, right?”

“If Monokuma’s means are to tear us apart and kill us, it’s best to stay together and survive, I think,” Nanami replied. “And don’t forget—it’s his fault that we’re even in this situation, right?”

“That can only go so far, you stupid narco-eyed bitch,” Saionji sniffled. Wiping at her eyes, she went on ahead. “I-I’ll never forgive them. Just like I won’t forgive that tacky mascot. E-End of story.”

“Oh, Saionji-san,” Sonia sighed as the kimono girl ran off once more, in tears.

“Hey, uh...” Matsuda groaned. “Can someone...go after her? Much as I’d hate to admit it, the space cadet’s right that we still need some sense of companionship to stand our ground.”

“I-If I went, she’d just get angrier,” Tsumiki murmured. “B-But I should still go... But then again, Matsuda-san still looks ill.”

“I’ll be fine,” he snapped. “It’s those two girls I’d be more worried about.”

Mioda’s lower lip jutted out before she pumped her fists.

“R-Right! This time no hesitation! I’ll follow Hiyoko-chan! Like a real chick!”

“I think I should go as well,” Sonia said. “I fear—the way I worded things to Saionji-san was rather inconsiderate.”

“Y-You didn’t do anything wrong, Sonia-san!” Souda hurriedly exclaimed. “It’s that brat’s fault for just thinking about herself!”

“Souda-san.” Sonia was ever calm and firm. “Saionji-san’s time has been rather tumultuous of late. Let us all do our best to show her consideration from now on.”

Without another word, she turned and followed in Saionji’s scrambling steps with simple strides. Mioda hurriedly scurried after her.

“S-Sonia-san,” Souda whined. “Why? Why? Why is it always the worst possible people?”

“We need even the worst possible people right now,” Owari murmured. “If only to keep ourselves on our toes.”

Komaeda hummed, saying nothing more as he rubbed Matsuda’s back. Matsuda groaned, retching a bit more, and he leaned away from Tsumiki’s worried prodding and staring. He noted Hinata looking down at him and glared back.

“Yeah,” Hinata said, and it wasn’t really to Matsuda. “On our toes.”

My head...really does hurt. Everything...seriously hurts.

His vision spotted, and despite everything, he found himself leaning against Komaeda.

“There, there,” Komaeda whispered. “You deserve some rest if nothing else, Matsuda-kun.”

Despite the stares on him, despite the particular stares, Matsuda found his eyes fluttering shut.

And yet, the piercing effect of a sharp crimson gaze was still imprinted within his throbbing head.

...the hell are you...?

He didn’t know if that stare truly belonged to a human or not. But if he had to give a name for the emotion expressed within those blood-red depths—perhaps it was despair.

It hurts too much to be anything else.

As if he were nothing more than a vessel lost in a dark sea, Matsuda drifted. He drifted and drifted.

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

And for some reason, apologies drifted past, heavy yet vague. He wasn’t even sure who they were directed to. Togami? Hanamura? Koizumi? Kuzuryuu? Pekoyama?

Or someone else entirely?

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

All he really knew—is that being forgiven sounded about as possible as a bright, clear future in a world so obfuscated by black.


“REALLY?! That fucker passed out?!”

“Oi, Souda, shut the hell up,” Hinata snapped. “After everything—I think it’s at least a little warranted.”

“I-It’s likely stress and exhaustion,” Tsumiki said. “I-I’d like to faint too...but I’ll keep an eye on Matsuda-san instead.”

“Matsuda-kun definitely worked hard,” Nanami murmured as Nidai carried the unconscious neurologist without a care. “Both in solving the case and keeping secrets.”

“You sound so disapproving of his methods, Nanami-san,” Komaeda laughed lightly. “Well, not that I blame you.”

“Every time you speak really does piss me off,” Owari muttered. “But, honestly, I’m kind of sick of snapping at ya. Just know that I still hate hearing your voice.”

Komaeda smiled like nothing was wrong with that at all.

“I...” Hinata hesitated suddenly. “Hey, Komaeda, did you...? No, no, never mind. Forget it. That would’ve been a horrible thing to ask. A terrible idea.”

“Hmph,” Tanaka huffed. “To let such unpleasantries even begin to crawl out the forefront in the first place...”

“Komaeda-kun, don’t you think it’s a good thing that Pekoyama-san survived?” Nanami just went ahead and asked, to Hinata’s shock.

“O-Oi, Nanami—!”

“Whatever do you mean?” Komaeda asked pleasantly.

“Yeah, what does that mean?” Nidai muttered, adjusting Matsuda so that his head didn’t loll off to the side.  Tsumiki bit her lip as she went to brush the fringe from Matsuda’s face. “The answer to that should be obvious, right?”

“Well,” Nanami said. “Komaeda-kun was antagonizing her after the trial. I found that...odd.”

“Are ya sure that wasn’t just his usual personality?” Souda wondered. “Like, in case you haven’t noticed—Komaeda’s a total fucking ass.”

“I didn’t think I was acting all that differently,” Komaeda said agreeably even as Souda made a disgusted face in response.

“I wonder,” Nanami replied. “Because when you mentioned the possibility of Matsuda-kun getting harmed, you seemed—more intense.”

“I mean, that’d be bad news for him,” Nidai retorted. “Matsuda’s the only one looking out for him right now.”

“Indeed, the sharp-tongued fool has deemed himself the watcher,” Tanaka chuckled. “Without him, that fortuitous fool would be left in solemn solitude. Which would be a deserving fate.”

“Please don’t burden Matsuda-kun with me more than he’s already been burdened,” Komaeda laughed. “Even if I disapprove, I’m still the one taking advantage of his kindness after all.”

“God, you’re so fucking creepy,” Souda groaned. “Nothing better fucking happen to Matsuda because if we had to deal with you on your own, it’d be a goddamn nightmare.”

Hinata was quiet at that, almost as if he were distracted.

“...kindness...”

“Hinata-kun?” Nanami wondered, and he quickly shook his head. Glancing briefly towards the still slumbering Matsuda, taking in how even in his sleep, his face was pitched up with tension and irritability, Hinata swallowed.

“It’s nothing. Nothing at all. Really, I just—regardless of who it is at this point, I just don’t want anyone else to die.”

“Let’s do our best to prevent it, then,” Nanami said. As if it really were that easy.

Komaeda’s smile remained, even as it faded just the slightest bit, as Matsuda let out a soft groan.

“T-There, there, Matsuda-san,” Tsumiki murmured.

“Just rest,” Komaeda added so quietly that no one else heard.

Chapter Text

He’s sitting blankly outside the school gates again. His chin tucked between his knees and his arms wrapped around—and it’s cold. There’s a chill dragging itself across the street, and he shivers because of that among other things. He buries his face.

It’s been two hours.

“Yasuke-kun,” someone says, and he doesn’t look at their face. Doesn’t want to see the oozing pity and irritation, even if the latter wasn’t against him. It was against her. And the idea of someone else expressing the feelings he was entitled to more than anyone else... He didn’t want to see it. “Come. I’ll take you home.”

“It’s okay. I’ll walk.”

“It’s a long walk.”

“It’s okay.” He gets to his feet. It’s cold. His nails dig into his palms, and he keeps his head down because he doesn’t want to look up and see that stupid fucking pity. “I’ll be fine. I know the way.”

The other sighs, now annoyed with him for being stubborn. For being difficult. That’s fine. He can handle that. She can’t, but he can. And so, he will. He waves them off and heads on his way.

It’s a long walk, but the quiet gives him time to calm. Walking helps with the cold, too. He’s getting better at numbing himself to it if he just has something else to do. Some other distraction. Like the stray cats he pets along the way, or the birds tweeting above. It’s cold, it’s murky, but it’s fine.

It’s. Fine.

He can’t even see anything beyond what’s in front of him anymore. No pitiful looks, no stares, nothing except his house. He skips up to the porch. He pauses, wondering if the door is locked, because if so, he’ll have to crawl in through the window.

If he bangs on the door, she’ll get frightened. Terrified. Sucking in his breath, he prayed she at least forgot to lock the door. Thankfully, it clicked open without resistance and he pushed his way in.

His mother sat in her favored chair, looking lost with an empty gaze. She snapped up with a yelp when he shuffled his feet awkwardly. She jerked her gaze towards what she thought was an intruder—but in reality, was just him.

“Yasuke.” Realization dawned as her face fell. “Oh—oh no, no, no, no, where were you?”

“Out,” he answered blearily and lamely. Standing there awkwardly, his legs hurt. “I’m fine.”

“Did I—?” Her voice rose to an almost horrified shrill, but he shook his head.

“Just tired. But fine.” There’s takeout in the trash. It hadn’t been there that morning. He’s not just hurting, he’s hungry, too. But, he really is mostly just tired. “I already did my homework. You don’t need to worry.”

“Yasuke—you look exhausted.”

He shrugged helplessly. He said nothing and didn’t want to. He was starting to regret even coming home when the sight of him like this brought tears to his mother’s eyes. Clicking her jaw, she beckoned him closer.

“Come here, sweetie. I wouldn’t normally allow you to sleep this late in the day, but just this once, okay?” She held a finger to her lips. “Don’t tell anyone, okay? Especially not your grandparents.”

He wouldn’t because they’ve been dead for a while now. The recent funeral only made his mother’s memory worse, and correcting her could make her scream.

“Okay,” he just says and crawls into her lap. He does relax as she squeezes him. She’s nice and warm. His eyelashes flutter as she strokes down his hair and begins to hum.

“White the caring moon in her peaceful court on high,” she sings. “White her court of stars in her black and noble sky.”

She nuzzles him.

“See, my love, they dance all your worries far away.”

She inhales sweetly, seemingly comforted by his scent. She recognized it immediately if nothing else. There were days where she sometimes didn’t recognize him on sight.

“And I'll be here come morning.”

Another stroke of his hair.

“As long as I remember this lullaby, I’ll always be your mother,” she had said so lovingly.

Liar.

Liar, liar, liar.

“I-I’ll be here come morning! I’ll be here come morning!”

He screamed that with everything he had, and she still didn’t get it. She just screamed back. She screamed and screamed and screamed—

“I’ll be here—come—m-mom—”

“Get him out,” she moaned. “Please, get that strange boy out.”

Mom—!”

You should never believe a liar.


Matsuda Yasuke’s eyes flew open, breath catching and hand outstretched in desperation. Once he realized he wasn’t reaching for anything, in particular, that hand dropped. His heart hammered in his chest as he stared at the ceiling, cold sweat on his brow. Bile nearly rose in his throat, and he remembered.

Pekoyama. Kuzuryuu.

He threw the covers off himself, nearly ripping them with how securely he had been tucked in. Who the hell was responsible for that? Fucking Nidai? Whatever, it didn’t matter—

Pekoyama, Kuzuryuu

He slipped on his shoes but left his lab coat hanging. He didn’t want to waste a second as he scrambled outside. His heart and steps thumping as he reached the third bridge.

“Matsuda-kyun!” Monomi shouted in surprise before bouncing towards him with joy. Her head was bandaged and she was considerably roughened up. “Are you here to celebrate sensei’s victory?!”

He does skid to a stop, and he doesn’t see the monobeast in sight. He breathed.

“It was very hard, but I pulled it off,” Monomi rambled on. “It was thanks to the support of precious students like you—!”

He didn’t hear her as he hurriedly sprinted across the bridge. Thankfully, he spotted the hospital quickly and immediately fixated on it. He didn’t think. He just ran.

All while the images from last night muddled together unimpeded in his mind. His vision was blurring as he shoved through the doors, and then, and then, and then, he stood there in the middle of the hospital’s lobby. Panting, drenched with sweat, and looking about frantically.

“W...Which floor would she...?”

“M-Matsuda-kuuuuuuun!”

He nearly tumbled over with the force that Monomi’s plush body rammed into him, clinging onto his leg.

“M-Matsuda-kun!” she gasped. “I-If this is about Pekoyama-san, she’s still resting! You don’t need to work yourself up into such a fright!” Sniffling, she stroked and patted his knee in a sad attempt at reassurance. “I-I know you’re very, very worried, but you mustn’t put yourself at risk, too...”

Still resting...?

Matsuda blinked and then, he realized, like a fucking idiot.

It was still dark outside. The sun hadn’t even come out yet.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” he grumbled. “I must look out of my fucking mind right about now.”

Monomi shook her head quickly.

“N-No, no, Matsuda-kun was just worried, after all!” She lit up with relief. “Because you’re kind! Still, let’s go back to your cottage, okay?” She squeezed his knee and that was just a weird fucking sensation. “After you get some more much-needed rest, we can celebrate! Hooray!”

He shoved her away with a grumble, rubbing at his eyes, and—yeah, yeah, if he hadn’t been sweaty before from the fucking nightmare, he was absolutely soaked now. He felt gross just brushing back oily strands. He can’t imagine going back to sleep like this.

He also can’t imagine just turning his back now.

“The room Pekoyama is in. Which one is it?”

“Eh?” Monomi quaked with dismay. “M-Matsuda-kun, you should let her rest.”

“Which room? Is she in?”

“I... Um.” Monomi fidgeted as she always did when asked a question she didn’t want to answer. He didn’t have the patience for that shit, so he stomped on his way, electing to just check each one personally. Monomi cried out after him. “W-Wait! Um! I-I was dragged elsewhere, but I think I know the general direction! Let your teacher guide you, Matsuda-kun!”

“Then hurry the hell up.”

“U-Understood...!”

There was that, at least.


It’s not just Pekoyama. I have to see what this hospital has to deal with Komaeda, too. I wonder how he’d react to me relocating him to one of the rooms? But this place doesn’t have a cafeteria. What a hassle.

Still, he sucked in his breath when Monomi finally pointed out the door. Room 4. Tasteful.

“This one, I think?”

“You don’t seem the surest.”

It wasn’t labeled with a name, either. Just an asinine doodle. He had half a mind to crumble it up, but there were more important concerns at the moment.

Sucking in his breath, Matsuda pushed open the door and—

Pekoyama was indeed lying there. Her hair in long cascades of silver, an IV in her arm, her glasses carefully put aside. Ah. Except they looked a little scratched. Not broken or cracked, thankfully, but—not in the best state. Matsuda exhaled, relaxing with both relief and exasperation.

It’s almost nostalgic. This sterility and scent. Even though this place still looks kind of miserable—it’s definitely a functional hospital, if nothing else.

It wasn’t terribly furnished. While there were a few pictures, and the floor was made up of polished wooden panels, it was serviceable, if nothing else. Although there were also flowers propped into a vase. Marigolds. Yikes.

That’s Monokuma’s shitty sense of humor, for you.

Monomi toddled uncertainly after him, tugging pleadingly on the back of his shirt. Quiet to be respectful. That was refreshing even if she found other ways to be annoying.

There was a wide window, showcasing the still-dark sky. But, if Matsuda peered, he could catch glimpses of a peering light over the horizon, dyeing the dark blues with a striking bit of gold. Fingers dancing along the rim, Matsuda made the decision to open it. Just a bit. So that fresh air could filter inside the room.

Monomi was still glued to him, although she was more observing him now, beady eyes rather intense. She yelped when Matsuda flicked her. Nearly tumbling backward, her paws slammed over her mouth in shock. She looked utterly mortified as Matsuda pressed a finger to his lips and shushed her.

“A-Ah!”

Pekoyama sighed heavily, irritated with them both.

“Pekoyama-san!” Monomi shrieked only to quickly cover her mouth again, ears drooping. “S-Sorry! So sorry! I didn’t mean to wake you!”

“It’s not exactly morning yet, but.” Matsuda held up a hand. “Yo. How are you feeling?”

“Annoyed,” Pekoyama muttered. “You did not wake me—but the two of you are still very annoying.”

“S-Sorry, we’ll leave right away!” Monomi yelped.

“You leave,” Matsuda huffed. “I still need to talk to her.”

“M-Matsuda-kun, is now really appropriate?!” Monomi exclaimed. “Pekoyama-san’s been through a lot recently! Maybe give her some time first?”

Pekoyama’s expression was as tired as it was indifferent. She didn’t even have to look at them.

“If I do that, I might lose my chance,” Matsuda said, avoiding that direction for now. “We don’t know if she’s all too keen on sticking around after what happened.”

Monomi stiffened and then hopped up to pull down the window. She hurriedly yanked the curtains together, obscuring it from view. As if that’d do anything.

“Kuzuryuu-kun wanted you to live, Pekoyama-san!” she exclaimed. “S-So, please, please don’t fall into despair.”

“The weight of young master’s body is too much. I cannot even move,” Pekoyama muttered. “You have no need to worry. Even if I were to die, the loss of a tool is hardly worth mourning.”

“P-Please don’t say that,” Monomi stammered, sniffling. “You’re still a precious person regardless of what nasty things you’ve been told, either by yourself or by others. Please, please believe that, Pekoyama-san.”

Pekoyama sighed again.

“Annoying. Please leave.”

“U-Uuu, please rest for now,” Monomi murmured. “Everyone will be sure to visit you and welcome you back with open arms once you’ve made a full recovery! For sure! Love, love!” She hesitated, turning to Matsuda briefly. “I’ll allow you to remain, but if you take too long, I’m going to come back and drag you out, Matsuda-kun!”

“Kay.”

I’d like to see her try.

With a nod and a friendly bow along with more warm regards, Monomi scampered out of the room. She manages to shut the door beside her with a bounce. Once she was gone, Matsuda opened the window again but left the curtains drawn.

“Fresh air helps,” he says almost idly. “These patient rooms can be suffocating otherwise. In my experience.”

“Matsuda Yasuke...” Pekoyama spoke with slow deliberation. Her voice, however, wasn’t much more than a drone. “Why are you here?”

“To check on you, as I said,” he replied. “As a doctor, I have to keep an eye out for red alert patients, right?” A pause. “I mean, that’s not really my field, but it has been a concern in the past.”

“If you cared about life so much, you would not have targeted the young master,” she whispered. “You would not have suggested splitting the votes.”

She’s right. I knew that was putting two people at risk.

He scratched at his cheek.

It’s not just my fault, it’s not even mostly my fault—but I definitely instigated the events that resulted in that.

He almost wants to dig his nails into his ears if that would claw out the thunderous resounding of gunfire.

I was just fucking pissed. And for what?

“Do you hate me for that, Pekoyama?”

“Of course I do,” she muttered, almost brokenly with a tearfully burning gaze directed at the ground between them. “How could I not hate you for taking the young master away?”

“Fair,” he affirmed, even though he knew it wasn’t. Not really. But, if she could still express anger like that—it counted for something. Something he was more than willing to sacrifice shitty self-righteousness for. “Are you going to kill me, then?”

Like you had Koizumi? Like Kuzuryuu had Satou?

Her head had lifted to more properly face him as he spoke. Pekoyama is quiet for a while. He doubts she’s mulling it over all that seriously. If anything, her empty glare bores into him. A simmering fury, but one that was also—resigned, if he had to put another word to it.

“Not now. Not here.” She shook her head. “I do not want another trial. Although, the trial cannot occur if no corpse is discovered, correct? I suppose, then, that I could simply cut you into pieces and feed them to the ocean.”

Yeah. That’s definitely an option.

“I still have things to do,” he mutters, head bowing. “Can I ask that you hold off until we’re off this island?”

“I suppose that is the least risky,” Pekoyama said coolly, eyes shutting as she nods politely. Like this is just some kind of arrangement. “I will take care, then, to survive until we can escape. So that I can kill us both.”

This pseudo lovers’ suicide is the best I can hope for, huh. That’s fine. It’s fine. As long as it doesn’t continue this stupid fucking death game.

“I...” But I still have so much so do. I still have so much to accomplish! I haven’t gotten that close to finding a cure...! “I understand. Thanks for that bit of mercy.”

Is that it, then? Even if I survive, I’m doomed to die? Just because of this?!

“Mm.”

...

“I guess I should get going. That’s all I wanted to talk about. I just—didn’t want another trial so quickly. Even if someone deserves to die, there’s no good that can come from that shitty mascot getting his way.”

“Yes. I agree.”

I want to scream. But, I can tell it’s not going to reach anyone. I made an enemy. Because I lost my fucking temper at a fucking idiot. I want to scream. But it’s not going to do shit.

“Ah, I guess someone should bring you breakfast later,” he pondered. “Uh. It’ll probably be the weepy not-nurse. You don’t have a problem with that, right?”

“I do not care.” It was pretty close to a snap. “It does not matter.”

I just hope Saionji doesn’t try to stomp her food in...

“I’ll let her know.” He waved his hand before finally heading on his way. “The others—probably will want to welcome you back. I know a couple of them will. They’re a bunch of fucking idiots, but, they’re not incapable of sympathy.”

“Worthless,” Pekoyama remarked. “I am not worth nor deserving. It would be best if I were simply left isolated.”

“If that’s not allowed for Komaeda, it’s not allowed for you, either,” Matsuda bit back. “And it’s not going to happen anyway. Not with how you broke down like that.”

She said nothing in response. But the air was tense. Heavy. Any moment now and he’d get suffocated either by it or by Pekoyama’s hands.

“Later.”

I know I can’t die now for damn sure.


“Um.”

Matsuda kept prowling. Searching.

“Matsuda-kun?”

Monomi tottered after him with a bit of difficulty.

“You really should—go back to your cottage, huff puff!”

“There are scans here, right? CT? MRI?” He felt antsy, nearly shifting from one foot to the other as he forced himself to keep on walking. Keep on looking. “Surgical rooms, too? But—no other doctors. No nurses. Not even other patients. We really are alone.”

“I-It’s okay!” Monomi exclaimed desperately. “You can still all live here peacefully! And sensei can take care of you all—I just need to get rid of that meanie Monokuma...”

He stopped and she bumped into him.

“Oof!”

Before she could tumble backward again, however, Matsuda yanked her upwards by the ears.

“Komaeda is sick. You do fucking realize that, right?” he hissed. “Even if he’s recovered from the fucking cancer, there’s not much that can be done about brain rot as far as I know. I’ve only found means of lessening the chances of it, maybe even dealing with the symptoms—but I still haven’t fucking figured out how to fix that. And the longer it lasts, the more his brain will break down. There’s no living peacefully when you’re dealing with your own fucking body against you.”

Monomi just sniffled.

“I-I know...but...it really is okay... I-I swear. Please believe me. I wouldn’t—I definitely wouldn’t let any of you lose to sickness...”

He dropped her in disgust, grimacing.

“You can’t even do anything about that fucking bear. Forgive me if I’m not remotely convinced, much less reassured.”

“I-I’m getting stronger!” she squeaked. “I—I won’t lose!”

“Four lives have already been lost,” he pointed out, making her flinch. With a sigh and a shake of his head. “We might not be able to afford more waiting.”

“U-Uu.” A soft whine. “Matsuda-kun... I... I’m really sorry.”

The reason why I didn’t apologize to Pekoyama is because I knew it wouldn’t mean shit. It wouldn’t change a fucking thing. A waste of breath, just like how these mascots are wastes of space and cotton.

“Whatever.” Turning on his heel, he resumed his search. “The best we can do now is survive with everything at our disposal.”


Despite the lack of people, the hospital really was clean. Spotless, even. Matsuda wondered if the mascots maintained it, and he couldn’t help but grimace at the idea.

If that were the case, I should be careful. Monokuma may have tampered with some of the machinery. I’ll have to run maintenance tests on everything. If something’s broken, the