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Kyouko stood in front of the giant metal door along with the other five survivors, enchanted by the fact that freedom was so close, but still unwilling to reach out and take it. After all that had happened, it seemed impossible that it would be this easy, that she could open a door and it would all be done. Surely it wasn’t that easy. There had to be something else, something that the relieved part of her brain was stopping her from seeing. There was no way that there wasn’t something.

“Well, I guess this is goodbye! And goodbye...to Sakura,” Aoi interrupted her thoughts, melancholy but certain. “But hey! If we gotta say goodbye, we may as well do it with a smile on our face!”

There were nods among everyone. Kyouko only moved her head once she realized it was the proper thing to do, still not fully out of her own mind. What was she missing here? Was it really going to be as simple as a door?

“Hey guys!” Yasuhiro offered from the far right, looking down the line. “You guys want your fortunes told, anywhere, anytime, you just let me know and I’ll be there!”

“You know how much I hate being annoyed, but if something does come up, you may as well let me know, too.” Byakuya sneered from far on her left. The day Togami Byakuya genuinely expressed emotions would be the real end of the world, so this was as close as they would get. Part of Kyouko appreciated the effort, but there would be no point in telling him that. “I can’t guarantee I’ll actually bother listening, but you know…”

Touko seemed to be bouncing up and down as she waited, a constant blur that Kyouko couldn’t train her eyes on. “I don’t know why, but...I have a b-burning desire to start writing! I might b-be able to pull it off…! A story about Master and me! A-And the rest of you, I guess…”

“I can’t say I’m sorry about what happened, but still, it does feel kind of strange.” Kyouko admitted. There was no other way to say it, really. They were leaving one set of horrors for another one, but she couldn’t regret it. Not when she knew what it was like to be trapped in here. They had made the right decision. There was no room to doubt that, but it still felt wrong, somewhere deep in the back of her brain. There had to be something that she was missing. There had to be. She just didn’t know what it was.

“I really don’t know what to say.” Makoto began, and all five sets of eyes turned to him. Somehow, through almost being executed and falling through the garbage disposal and playing a major role in saving them all, he still had the energy to try and talk to them, probably to say something inspiring. Kyouko couldn’t understand it, but she could admire it. The feeling, warm and soft as a Hope’s Peak blanket, wrapped around her rushing brain and forced it to slow down, to accept that things really were alright. That they had made it out and that it was as easy as opening this door to get to the other side. With Makato around, it was really that simple. “I guess we graduated?”

On that note, Makoto pushed the button to open the door. The lights dimmed and the air was filled with the whirring of machines as the door went through the organized mechanics of opening. Kyouko felt a phantom cramp in her hand, one of the ones that bugged her from time to time, and she stretched it out. Somewhere along the stretch, she brushed Makoto’s hand and he wrapped his fingers around hers. It took concentrated effort for Kyouko not to jump out of her skin and press her free hand to her blushing face. She could feel his gaze on her like a physical weight, but it wasn’t a burden. Just something that she wasn’t quite ready to face, like looking up on a sunny day. She squeezed his hand lightly and kept her gaze ahead, preparing to look at her future in a terrifyingly empty world that was coming to her with the simple opening of the door.

***

Kyouko didn’t even have a foot out the door when she saw the first camera go off. Cameras were still around? Well, they had to be if she was seeing them. One click, and then another, and then another and another off in the distance and then closer, closer, closer. A bigger camera on the move, news camera, reporters. Microphones, people, the sun, no bodies, green grass, clear skies. Tokyo, out there, seemingly intact. The whole world, seemingly intact.

To her right, Yasuhiro shrieked and Aoi held her hands over her eyes. Makoto stumbled, squeezing Kyouko’s hand as if to say Please don't let go of me. Kyouko squeezed back, hard. To her left, Touko tried to re-enter the building and was stopped by her hand on her elbow, a gentle force pressing her forward. There was no going back, not for any of them.

“She lied.” Kyouko realized, her cracked voice almost lost among the circus of police cars and reporters. “Enoshima. She lied.”

Further to her left, Byakuya chuckled.

“Of course she did.” He said, the hollow sound ringing in her ears. “We should’ve seen this coming. Of course she lied.”

The first of the reporters, a woman with too much hairspray, got close enough to shove a microphone in the nearest face, which just so happened to be Byakuya’s. Her eyes were shiny and bright, and she was repressing the smile of someone having the best day of their life. Kyouko wanted to vomit. “What happened in there? Where are the other students?”

“They’re dead.” He hissed, adjusting his tie. “The others are dead. Enoshima and Ikusaba locked us in that school and forced us to kill each other. Now step back, won’t you? Naegi needs an ambulance and you’re going to make Fukawa piss herself. Let the police interview us first before you try to get your hands on us. And pay well for our interviews, won’t you? There are only six of us so your options are limited, and at least four of them are in desperate need of the money.”

The reporter stepped back and others moved forward, excited for more answers. More details. What did he mean, Junko and Mukuro did it? Forced to kill each other? How did they die? Makoto lunged for a microphone, trying to smooth everything over and only managed to fall flat on his face, nearly tugging Kyouko down with him.

Kyouko knelt down next to him and untangled their hands, shielding his body from the cameras with her back. “Someone call for an ambulance, and step back.” She demanded, not looking away from Makoto. Judging by their footsteps, they were listening to her request, which was a comfort. The last thing that Makoto needed was to be swamped with reporters.

Makoto propped himself up on his elbows and then managed to sit up properly. “Well, that was embarrassing.” He tried for a smile, but with a face full of gravel, it wasn’t particularly convincing. His eyes were shiny enough that Kyouko wondered if he was going to cry, and before she could think twice about it, she placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Just sit here for now. You shouldn’t be walking on that ankle.” She advised. The heels of her boots dug into her thighs and Kyouko shifted to sit cross legged instead, making herself at home on the ground next to Makoto.

“That’s not a bad idea.” He agreed, wiping at his eyes with the sleeve of his hoodie and removing most of the rocks that had gotten lodged in his face.

The rest of the reporters were slowly cleared away by police, and Kyouko watched as Touko emerged from behind her hands and Yasuhiro and Aoi emerged from the sets of microphones they had been buried under. An elderly man that Kyouko didn’t recognize approached them and she resisted the urge to shove him away and insist that he bother someone else. She could tell that he wasn’t a detective, but he wasn’t being cleared away by the police, so this wasn’t someone she could shove away. Not yet.

“Did something happen to that ankle, young man?” He asked, sitting down with them.

“I fell down a garbage chute.” Makoto admitted, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Oh dear.” His eyes widened in sympathy. “You must have some other injuries too, then.”

Makoto nodded, and Kyouko felt that unfamiliar guilt again. She fussed with the hem of her skirt, clearing off dirt that wasn’t there just for something to do with her hands.

“Did you fall down the chute, too?” The man asked her. Instead of opening her mouth to answer, Kyouko simply shook her head. This man was a stranger, and her voice could tell him something about her. Voices gave much more away, but a shake of the head only gave away that she wanted to give nothing away.

“Well, that’s fortunate! If you’re not injured, you should look over there for your family, then. I’m sure they miss you.” He gestured to a group of people further away, gathered by a fountain.

“They won’t be here.” Kyouko predicted. Both of her parents were already dead, and based on her loose memories of her grandfather (stern face, glasses, short, a very serious detective), he was probably away on another case. He ought to be away, anyhow. She couldn’t think of a reason he would stay.

“It couldn’t hurt you to look though, could it?”

Kyouko quickly decided that she disliked this stranger and his over-friendly twinkling of the eye, his too-kind smile. He was hiding something, but she couldn’t glean what it was, not when the sun was so bright and everything in her head was so foggy.

“...If I find your family, I’ll send them over to you, Naegi-kun.” Kyouko said, diplomatically not responding to the stranger and then heading over to the fountain.

In the sea of faces, Kyouko didn’t see anyone she could call by name. She hovered around the edge of the group, hands in the pockets of her skirt. There was still a notebook in there, something that would be helpful. It would be a good time to take notes, but there was nothing to take notes on other than a probably helpful man that she didn’t like and people who were trying to deal with the crushing reality of grief. Nothing that could help an investigation. Besides, further rifling revealed that she didn’t even have a pen.

That was something to do, at least: Obtain a pen. She scanned the crowd for someone likely to have one and emotionally stable enough not to be offended by her going “Hello, I understand that you’re grieving the loss of your loved one whose murder I may or may not have assisted in, but would you mind if I borrowed a pen so I could begin conducting an investigation?”, but she turned up blank.

“Excuse me, but have you seen my sister?” Someone to her right asked, and Kyouko turned her head to see a boy in a blue sweatshirt. A quick glance made it clear who he belonged to, but it was proper to ask.

“Is your sister Asahina-san?”

“Mhmm!” He nodded, hopeful, and Kyouko was relieved to be able to give out some good news.

“She’s alive.”

“Really?! Where is she?!”

Kyouko looked around, but before she could find an answer, he called out “AOI!” There was shuffling, and then running, and then a hug so enthusiastic that she was surprised that neither one of them broke a rib. All in all, it was kind of heartwarming.

They let go of each other after a minute and Aoi looked around. “Yuta, where are mom and dad?” She asked, and Kyouko struggled not to wince. If her brother was here alone, it was pretty obvious where her parents were.

“Mom and dad…” Yuta wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand and allowed himself to take a deep, shuddering breath before continuing. “They were kidnapped when you guys were forced to start closing the school off—a lot of people were—and when you were finished barricading the school, they were killed. They wanted to let us know that they were serious.”

Aoi started crying upon hearing the news, which was understandable, but Kyouko couldn’t help but focus on the details. “What did you say a second ago?” She asked, her face turning into that of an interrogator’s. It was an easy mask to wear.

“My parents are dead?” Yuta repeated, his brows furrowed in confusion.

“Before that.”

“They were kidnapped?”

“After that.”

“Um...A lot of people were kidnapped?”

Before that.”

“You guys were forced to close off the school?”

“Yes, that.” Kyouko said, and Yuta sighed in relief, glad to have gotten the right phrase. “The video we found shows that we did it of our own free will to protect ourselves from…” It was then that it hit her that they wouldn’t have barricaded the school because of a Monoworld that didn’t exist.

“No, you didn’t! You were held hostage! A little before winter break started, after all those Reserve Course kids killed themselves. They sent out a message that one of them was still in there and holding you guys hostage in one building and the student council and Class 77 in the other, and then they forced you to lock the place up! I stood right out here and watched you guys do it.” Yuta insisted. Everything he said was plausible given the fact that the world was still normal, but there was something basic that she needed to know. Something that she needed to orient herself in what was going on.

“Yuta-kun,” She began. “I’m sorry if this sounds strange, but what’s the date?”

“It’s March 3rd.” He said. “Why?”

“What year?” Byakuya asked. Kyouko hadn’t noticed him approach, but he was certainly here now and sans his family.

“2014?”

“She lied about how many memories she took, too.” Aoi sniffled. “What else? What else did she lie about? What else did she take from us?”

“We’ll never know.” Byakuya told her, crossing his arms over his chest. Sometimes it surprised Kyouko how unsympathetic he could be, but only because she wasn’t used to observing that sort of callousness from the outside. Usually, she was the guilty party there.

“Who is this Reserve Course student that you mentioned? As far as we know, Enoshima wasn’t in the Reserve Course.” Kyouko craved a pen now, but she had to trust that she would remember this. That her brain wouldn’t fail her again.

“Wait, Enoshima-san did all of this?”

“As far as we know.”

“Huh. Well, we don’t know for sure if this guy is involved, but he’s the only Reserve Course dude that there isn’t a body for and like, it’s the only thing that makes sense. His name is Hinata Hajime. I think I have a picture of him, hold on.” Yuta rifled through his pockets and pulled out his phone before showing them a photo of a boy who looked eerily similar to Makoto. They could’ve passed for brothers, or maybe twins.

“Can you send that photo to me?” Kyouko asked, looking for her own phone and then realizing she no longer had it. “Well, once I get a phone.”

“Yeah, sure, although you’ll find a million of him online. He’s become sort of famous.” Yuta shrugged and put his phone away.

“Thank you.”

“No problem! Oh, do you have a family to look for or something? Aoi and I can search if you want!” He offered, but Kyouko shook her head.
“They wouldn’t be here, but thank you for offering.” Kyouko couldn’t linger on Yuta’s quiet horror for long, because Touko came flying towards them and into Byakuya, clinging onto his suit and trying to get behind him

“Co-come on, let me hide! I don’t want to see them!” She begged. “Master, please!”

“Let go of me. This suit is worth more than any house you’ve ever been in, and I don’t want you to get vermin on it.” Byakuya said coldly, shoving her off of him. Three people who seemed to be following Touko got closer, and Kyouko watched with mild interest as they closed in.

“Touko, sweetie!” The man that Kyouko assumed was Touko’s father cooed, wrestling his daughter into a hug.

“G-get off of me!” She shrieked, trying to push him away. “I don’t want to see you! Or my mothers either! I-I know you didn’t miss me.”

“Honey, of course we missed you.” Two women said at the same time, and Kyouko raised an eyebrow. Aoi and Yuta took that as their cue to step away, which was wise of them. She would step away, too, if she had anywhere to go.

“Yeah, missed having someone to shove into a closet and starve half to death.” Touko muttered, wrapping her arms around herself and stepping back once her father let go of her. Both of them women tried to grab her for a hug at once, and thus started a small squabble. Kyouko made a guessing game of it, trying to figure out if this was a stepmother situation or an overinvolved aunt or a family dynamic that no amount of analysis could solve.

“I’m not going to bother myself with this.” Byakuya muttered, and he left as well, heading towards a police officer. That wasn’t a bad move, all things considered, but then the woman who seemed to lose the hugging argument turned to Kyouko and smiled in a way that might have been charming if Kyouko had been completely blind and socially oblivious. Despite its failure to be effective, it essentially trapped Kyouko where she was. God dammit.

“I don’t know if she’s told you, but we’re both Touko-chan’s mom! You see, we both had children at the same time from the same man, and one of them died. We never tested to see whose child it was, so we both became her mother because we just love Touko so much! You should come over some time, we can make you dinner!”

“Funny joke, Mom!” She spat at her. “Now let me go to the hospital already. That’s what the detective said he wanted us to do.”

There was more squabbling from all of them at that statement, but soon enough, they were gone. Kyouko looked for anyone resembling Makoto so that she could send them over to him, but a look back in his direction revealed that there were already two more people surrounding him, a girl around Kyouko’s age and a woman in her 40s. A sister and a mother, probably. He was settled. He wouldn’t want to see her now.

She took a few more steps back from the crowd, disengaging herself further. Kyouko watched Yasuhiro search and then come towards her, looking like a particularly hopeless and sad puppy.

“I swear I saw my mom earlier!” Yasuhiro said, gesturing to the amassed family members who were listening intently to the police. He rubbed at a red spot on his face and winced, but he didn’t stop rubbing it. He must’ve had an interesting few minutes while she was busy.

“I’m sure you’ll see her soon.” Kyouko told him, not having the heart to tell him that there was a possibility that his mother was dead. “Also, did you get punched in the face?”

“Yeah. Leon’s cousin. She’s, uh, not happy that he didn’t make it.” He explained with a shrug.

“Hm.”

“Hmmmmmmm.” Yasuhiro mimicked her. “Do you wanna help me look for my mom? I’m sure she knows where your ‘rents are at, too. She has a funny way of knowing everybody, and it’ll be something to do.”

“My parents were dead before this.” Kyouko said. “And I can’t find her if I don’t know what she looks like.”

“Oh, right. Well, she’s about your height and has pink hair, but not like, bright pink. Sort of light! She’s normally smoking and she has a mole on her face and...Oh! Oh, there she is! Thanks a ton!”

Yasuhiro was off before Kyouko could tell him that she didn’t do much of anything, but there was no point in going after him and saying that. Instead, she watched the ambulance roll in and take Makoto out, watched the cars that she guessed belonged to the Fukawa and Asahina families leave, watched Yasuhiro and his mother head towards the front gates. Off to the hospital, if Touko’s word was to be trusted.

Someone approaching the building stopped and gave Kyouko a look before approaching her. She spotted a badge tucked into his belt, so she braced herself. Judging by the fact that he was in plainclothes, he was probably a detective. Judging by the fact that he was wearing a fedora, he was probably a ridiculous one.

Before he could speak, she stuck out her hand and launched into a greeting. If she was going to get her questions answered first, it was best to start things first. “Kirigiri Kyouko, Super High School Level Detective. I have a few questions for you, if you don’t mind.”

“We’ve met before.” He told her with a chuckle. “You don’t remember me?”

“I have amnesia. I don’t remember much of anybody.” Kyouko told him. “Forgive me for the indiscretion.”

The stranger blinked, taken aback by the news, but then recovered and shook her hand. “Kizakura Koichi, private detective. The Tokyo PD asked for my help on this one. I was a Hope’s Peak recruiter, too, and a teacher, although I wasn’t any good at that.” He seemed amused by his own failure at teaching, something Kyouko couldn’t even begin to comprehend, so she didn’t try. At least, not yet. She could examine it later.

“...You’re the one picked me, aren’t you?”

“Sharp mind.” He said. “I’m glad that being inside hasn’t changed that.”

“Now, about my questions…” Kyouko pulled out her notebook. “First, do you have a pen?”

“I do, but before I give you any information, I have to get you to the hospital. It’s just procedure. However, once you get checked out, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.” Kizakura readjusted his hat. “If you would follow me, my comrade on the police force is already taking your friend to the same place. I think it would be easiest to join them.”

“I don’t have any objections to that.” She said, even though a car ride with Byakuya was bound to be as fun as a barefoot walk over hot coals. Kyouko slipped effortlessly into the back seat while Kizakura sat in the passenger. Byakuya was preoccupied with a phone that looked like it didn’t belong to him, so they drove off in silence.

(Halfway through the ride, Kizakura quietly handed her his pen. Kyouko thanked him by getting straight to writing down everything that happened and reading it again, and then again, and then a third time. Making sure she hadn’t forgotten anything.)

***

The routine tests were a nuisance. Kizakura sat awkwardly to the side as they weighed and measured Kyouko, looked in her ears and eyes and nose and then took her pulse, her blood pressure, her temperature. After that, there was a form on medical history they handed her.

“I have amnesia.” She said, handing the clipboard back to the nurse. “I won’t know enough answers.”

The nurse blinked. “Do you remember anything at all?”

“...Not much.” Kyouko admitted.

“Well, that’s better than nothing. Fill out what you can, and I’ll contact our neurologist.” Then she was gone and Kyouko managed to get through some of the basics. Her name, her date of birth, her father’s name (her mother’s was a mystery), any ongoing medical issues. If there were any other than her hands, she didn’t know about them.

“I might remember some things from your forms.” Kizakura offered. “You filled some out before getting accepted into Hope’s Peak.”

“Alright.” Kyouko said, continuing to flip through the papers. Ultimately, she asked him nothing about her medical history. Her pride forbade it.

The nurse returned, and there were more tests to be done. They took her blood, felt around her neck, had her follow a pen with her eyes. She drew a clock from memory and then they pressed on her abdomen, hit her knees with a small hammer, and gave her another set of papers. These ones were about her moods, if she had been feeling depressed or anxious or stressed over the past two weeks, the past six weeks, the past six months. Kyouko did the best that she could; it was hard to tell when she didn’t even know how many days her working memory actually existed for.

(They had tried to look at her hands exactly once. Kyouko had pulled away hard enough that they hadn’t asked again.)

In the wait for the doctor, Kyouko took out her notebook and pen. “How long has my grandfather been dead for?” She asked.

“How did you know?”

“A guess. I figured it was more likely than not, since it doesn’t look like the Asahina parents or Naegi-kun’s father made it. It seems like whoever had them tried to kill those that mattered most to us, and from what I can tell, he was the only person I had on the outside.” Kyouko shrugged off the strange sadness she was feeling. There was no need to mourn someone she barely remembered, but the urge to do it was still there.

“I’m very sorry for your loss.” He said.

“Do you know what they’ll do with me now? I’m not familiar with the social services of Japan, and my father died inside of there. And before you ask, no, I can’t remember what happened, but from my analysis of the bones, he burnt to death. Or maybe smoke inhalation. Either way, there was some sort of fire.”

Kizakura took a sip from his flask and looked at the ceiling for a moment. He must’ve known her father if he was a Hope’s Peak teacher, but his sadness seemed more personal than that. Closer. “They’ll look at his will and see his wishes. If he hasn’t designated anyone in particular, you’ll go to the closest living relative.”

“Which would be…?”

“I’m not sure. Knowing Jin, though, he would’ve designated. I don’t know if you remember, but he had...issues with your extended family.”

Hearing that sparked not quite a memory, but a deep, instinctual knowledge, something she had been told before. “He didn’t want to be a detective, so he left.”

“Something like that, yeah.” Kizakura pulled down on the brim of his hat. “Did you remember just now?”

“Something like that, yeah.” She parrotted, and then the doctor came in, presumably for another round of tests.

***

The MRI machine droned on deafeningly as it photographed her brain. Checking for abnormalities, the neurologist had told her. He was a nice enough man and the only medical professional she had seen so far that hadn’t been put off by the amnesia, so she saw no problem with listening to him and believing what he said. Laying in that machine was akin to laying in a tomb, but it was a comfort. Kyouko didn’t have to worry about observing everything when there was nothing to observe.

She closed her eyes and stayed still, just as she had been instructed. Not more than a minute, which left her with not more than a minute to think about the case by herself.

(They had believed Junko. All of them had eventually believed Junko. Why?)

When the realization hit her, Kyouko wanted to jump out of the machine and hunt Touko down, but there was no way for her to get out. Not yet, anyways. Besides, she didn’t even know where Touko was. She could have been discharged by now. She probably was discharged by now, since she left for the hospital earlier than Kyouko did and probably didn’t have to deal with neurologists for as long as she would have to deal with them since she only had a touch of amnesia. So that meant Kyouko would have to hunt down her address, which would be a pain, but not at all impossible.

All of the whirring stopped at once, and it only took a few more seconds to get out of the machine. A nurse led her back to her room and as they walked through the halls, Kyouko spotted the back of a familiar blond head.

“Excuse me a moment.” She said to the nurse, and then took after Byakuya.

Byakuya turned his head before Kyouko could call out for him. “What do you want?”

“Syo agreed with Enoshima.” She said in lieu of a proper explanation. “That’s why we believed everything she said.”

“And?”

“And if Syo was lying and knew what was truly out here, there’s a chance that she truly remembers what happened when we knew we were being held captive. We could get valuable information from her. I’m going to need your help, though. You’re the only person she reliably listens to.”

“And why should I help you?” Byakuya looked down at her. “You have thirty seconds to answer before your nurse catches up with you. She’s very fast.”

Kyouko hummed thoughtfully before an answer that would appease Byakuya came to her. “If you help me, you get answers that’ll help all of us find out what really happened. Syo almost certainly knew who was in charge of things and who helped. And if it turns out that there are people involved that are still alive…”

She didn’t finish the thought. There was no reason for her to do so. What she implied was best left to the world of implication, and Byakuya arrived at the answer quickly. Judging by the smirk, he liked it. “Fine. If you’re really in such desperate need of my assistance, I won’t refuse.”

Kyouko held back the urge to tell him that she wasn’t in desperate need of anything, but that was a lie and he would know it. As much as she disliked Byakuya, she would be the first to admit that he was good at spotting a liar. “Thank you.” She said, managing to sound genuinely grateful before turning back to her nurse.

Kyouko managed to ignore the scolding all the way back to her room.

***

When she came back to the room, Kizakura was on the phone, which was more than alright with her. That gave her more time to write down all she remembered of Hope’s Peak. She sketched a loose map from memory and went through marking locations. Here was where they found Sayaka, here was where they found Kiyotaka, here is where they found Mukuro, here is where she actually died. Here was where they found the murder weapons, hammers from the art room and knives from the kitchen and poisons for a suicide. And the execution sites, the motorcycle cage and the ambulance and the desk on its way to the slammer. Here was the limits of her entire world; all she could remember on one page.

(Her father’s bones. She marked down the location, mentioned the box. For the sake of clarity, she even drew it on the flip side of the page. Just in case they couldn’t find it.)

After making another copy, Kyouko ripped it out and handed Kizakura the map. He had long ago finished his phone call, but he hadn’t interrupted her work. She appreciated it.

“Is this what we’ll find inside?” He asked.

“To the best of my memory, yes. The bodies are in the morgue, but I marked the locations of the murders on here as well.”

“The murders…” Kizakura said. “What happened with those? I heard some details from the reporters, but nothing directly. You up for telling me?”

“It’s not that complicated.” Kyouko began. “We were told that we had to murder another student and get away with it if we wanted to escaped. Monokuma—he was the avatar that Enoshima ran the game through—gave extra motives, too. He told us that he had hurt our families, offered money to a murderer who could get away with it, that sort of thing. It was deceptively simple.”

“What happened to the students that didn’t get away with it?”

“Executed. We were told to guess the suspect to the best of our abilities. Choosing wrong meant that everyone but the murderer would be executed.”

“Looks like Enoshima-san was really thorough about all of this.” He took another sip from his flask and then got up. “Well, I’ll go see if Sakakura is outside with your things. I told him to bring what he could recover of yours and Byakuya-kun’s straight to the hospital until we can find your families.”

Kyouko nodded and then he was gone. Not even a minute later, the neurologist entered. There were dark circles under his eyes, but he seemed wide awake. The oddity of the day took a decade off of him, made him look forty instead of fifty.

“Have you ever had brain surgery?” He asked, sitting down on the spinning chair.

“Are you asking because I need brain surgery or because you think I’ve had it in the past?”

“The second one. Look at this.” He started rifling through the papers on his clipboard. “As I look for the pictures we got, just a quick test. Do you remember my name?”

“Dr. Nakamura.” Kyouko said.

“Excellent! The scans didn’t seem to indicate any issues with the memory formation part of your brain, but it never hurts to check. Now, let’s look at this.” Dr. Nakamura put a piece of paper on the table beside Kyouko. “What part of the brain do you want to tackle first? There’s a lot to discuss.”

Kyouko frowned at the image and then pointed at something that looked like a screw that wasn’t in her brain, but her skull.

“A good place to start! That’s why I asked about the surgery. Usually we only see screws and plates like that after we’ve cracked open skulls to operate. There’s no bruising in your brain, so that rules out most traumatic brain injuries, and the screws look pretty new to me. New enough that there’d still be bruising if it was the cause of the surgery. So I don’t think you’ve taken any hard hits to your head in the past few months.”

“We’re ruling that out as a cause of my amnesia, then.” Kyouko deduced.

“Correct. You know, I’ve never had a detective as a patient before, but that might make some of this easier. My wife would know, though. She loves detective novels.” Dr. Nakamura told her. “Now, here’s something we can’t quite rule out. See how close your brain is to your skull?”

Kyouko squinted at the image. “It’s not supposed to be like that, is it?”

“Encephalitis. Basically, brain swelling. Have you had any headaches recently?”

“...I thought they were just stress migraines.”

“That could play a part in it, but headaches plus the fever—you were running a slight temperature when you came in—plus the swelling we’re seeing here is classic encephalitis. I’ve never heard of it causing complete retrograde amnesia like you have, but encephalitis can cause memory issues. However…” Dr. Nakamura pointed to another part of her brain. “You see these? These are pathways that connect your hippocampus to the frontal and temporal cortices of your brain. Some of them look totally fine, but take a look at this one. It’s damaged.”

“So I have pathway damage.”

Weird pathway damage. It looks almost deliberate. What I’m seeing is damage only to pathways that allow you to access long-term memories. None of the ones associated with short-term memory or procedural memory or anything like that, just long-term. I’ve never seen anything like it until today, when I looked at the scans of your classmate’s brains. Yours is more severe than anything else I’ve seen on theirs, but the damage is the same. That and some of the screws in your classmate’s heads leads us right back to brain surgery, but I can’t think or a surgery that would cause damage like this. Unless the surgeon was trying to deliberately cut off your memories—”

“They were.” Kyouko interrupted. “Enoshima never said anything about surgery, but she did mention taking memories.”

“...Huh. Well, that explains it.” Dr. Nakamura took the scan back. “Now, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to get you formally admitted for the next few days. The encephalitis might not be the worst case I’ve ever seen in my life, but it’s still encephalitis. That’s on top of vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition, which is not a great combination. I’m going to start you on some anti-inflammatories for the swelling and push fluids just to keep you hydrated. In the morning, we’ll run some tests to find the cause and might add some medicine there, but the number one thing you need to do is rest, okay?”

“Okay.” Kyouko said, already plotting out the best way to ignore that advice and get straight to investigating. Escaping the hospital would be a bad idea at this point, so she’d just have to find a way to speed up her recovery. That would take work, but she wasn’t afraid of work.

From there, Kyouko was taken up to a new floor, given a new room. This one had a bed, a bathroom, a window, chairs for visitors who weren’t going to come. She let the nurses set her up how they wanted her with the single exception of her gloves, which she wouldn’t let the touch. She gave them her elbow for the IV and then they were gone.

After that, she was alone. Completely alone. Kyouko stared up at the ceiling and tried to sleep, but instead she found herself wishing that Junko was right. That the world had ended. That there was nothing left outside but her and every living person she could remember. That it was ridiculous, unheard of, completely new. That way, she wouldn’t have to be alone all by herself.

***

At two in the morning, a nurse opened her door. Slowly, softly, as if she expected Kyouko to be asleep.

“...You’re still awake, sweetie?”

Sweetie. Kyouko could never remember being called sweetie before. Hearing it made her want to recoil, but she stood firm. “Yes.”

“I can get you something to help with that. You need to get some rest.” She looked at the bag of fluids that Kyouko was attached to and frowned at it. “I’ll get you some melatonin and a new bag of fluids.”

She was gone, and then back again. Kyouko swallowed the pill obediently and let the nurse check her temperature.

“It’s down a degree, which is better than nothing.” She said. “Hopefully the melatonin will kick in soon and you can get some rest.”

And it did kick in, very slowly. By the time Kyouko realized that she couldn’t remember sleeping anywhere but Hope’s Peak before, she was already most of the way gone. Or at least, far enough that there was no going back.

***

When Kyouko opened her eyes, there were people in her room and a box by her feet. She blinked, sorting through the blurs in her vision and making sense of Touko pacing between the window and the chair where Byakuya sat, looking bored. Makoto was semi-comfortable in a chair moved as close to her bedside as possible. His hand was an inch from hers, maybe less. Her gloves were still on, and there were crutches propped against her bed. Bright green, his favorite color.

“You’re awake!” Makoto announced, and Kyouko managed a smile just for him.

“It would seem so.” She agreed.

“I thought it was never going to happen. It’s rude to sleep through guests, you know.”

“That’s not her fault, she’s in a hospital! She’s supposed to be resting.” Makoto defended. “Oh, and Asahina-san and Hagakure said hi! They got discharged last night and went home to sleep, but the three of us just got out this morning. We figured it would be nice to stop in and see you before leaving, though.”

Kyouko looked at the box by her feet and not at Makoto. “Thank you. That was very kind.”

He put his hand on top of hers and squeezed it lightly, causing Byakuya to roll his eyes and Kyouko to be absolutely certain her fever was skyrocketing. “It’s not a problem.”

“If she’s supposed to be resting, then we should…” Touko didn’t finish her thought and all fell silent, and then Makoto’s sister walked in.

“They said breakfast is soon!” She said as Makoto yanked his hand away. Noticing that made her grin widely, and she figured Makoto was in for a world of sisterly hurt later. “You’re probably super hungry, right?”

Right. She was addressing Kyouko, who had no idea if she was supposed to know her name or not. “Not really.”

“But thanks for telling us, Komaru!” Makoto said, and Kyouko would’ve thanked him for clueing her in on the name if there was any reasonable way to do that.

Touko muttered something under her breath, and it was then that Kyouko remembered what she wanted to ask her, what Byakuya probably hadn’t done yet.

“Komaru,” She began, smoothing out her blankets. “Why don’t you go get something to eat from the cafeteria? You must be hungry, too, if it’s so close to breakfast.”

“Thanks for your concern, but I’m not hungry.” Komaru told her with a glance in Makoto’s direction.

“Being an awful liar must be a family trait.” Kyouko said, the words coming out colder than intended because she couldn’t stop thinking about her own family traits, the things that she was now the only person to carry. “Go get some food. I promise that Naegi-kun will be fine.”

Komaru rubbed the back of her neck and avoided her gaze. “Yeah, but what if I miss something?”

“You won’t miss anything!” Her brother promised. “And Kirigiri-san’s right. Mom said that you didn’t eat anything before coming here to get me, so you must be hungry!”

Komaru considered that logic and then head towards the door. “Alright. I’ll see you guys later! Stay out of trouble!”

“I-It’s not like we’re going anywhere, Omaru.” Touko mumbled. “No need to worry about us.”

“There’s lots of need to worry about you guys!” She insisted as she left the room.

“Your sister is stupid.” Touko said to Makoto, who just shrugged.

“Eh, I wouldn’t say she’s stupid. She’s just worried about us after everything that happened.” He insisted, fussing with the cast on his leg. Kyouko frowned at it and then recalibrated, got back into action.

“Alright. Now that she’s gone, I need you to do something for me, Fukawa-san.” Kyouko grabbed her notebook and pen from the bedside table and flipped it open to a blank page. “I need you to sneeze. I have a question for Syo”

At the concept of bringing out her other personality, Touko shuddered. “No! I don’t want to! Why do you want to talk to that bitch? D-Do you like her more than me?”

“No.” She said, keeping her voice steady and even. “She just—”

“You’re lying!” Touko exclaimed, pointing an accusatory finger at Kyouko. “I know that...that you’re lying!”

“Fukawa, stop being ridiculous.” Byakuya complained, turning his head to look at her. “She’s telling the truth. There’s something that she needs to ask Syo, and you’re the only person who can get to her. I need you to bring her out. Now.”

With that said, she was more than happy to sneeze and suddenly there was Syo, who was looking around and grinning. “Heh, how’d we get here? And how did Master get so close? Isn’t this fantastic~”

“Back up at least three feet.” Byakuya insisted. “We have questions for you.”

“We do?” Naegi said, looking to Kyouko for a solid explanation.

“We do.” She confirmed, not offering an explanation beyond that. “We know you lied about the Monoworld, Syo.”

She laughed, her tongue half sticking out as she did so. “Of course I did!”

“Why did you do that?” Makoto asked, as if serial killers lying was the most shocking thing he had ever heard.

“Do you want the short answer or the long answer?” She asked as Kyouko put her pen to the paper.

It was Byakuya who replied. “Short answer. We don’t have time to waste.”

“For the lolz.” Syo admitted, shrugging and then stretching out her legs. “Master said he wanted things to be interesting, so I thought it would be interesting if you all thought she was telling the truth!”

“For the...For the lolz?” Byakuya repeated, not even bothering to disguise his rage. “I almost agreed to stay locked into that school for the rest of my life because you agreed with Enoshima’s testimony and you did it for the lolz?”

“Mmhmm. It was all for you, so that you could make an interesting choice!” Syo smirked up at him and Byakuya raised his hand to slap her, but Kyouko clicked her pen viciously and he brought it down.

“Bring Fukawa back.” He requested, but before Touko could sneeze, Kyouko stopped her.

“There are still more questions, Syo. Togami-kun, get ahold of yourself.” She said, causing both Syo gasp in offense.

“How dare you speak to Master like that!?” Syo said, reaching for scissors that weren’t there.

“Syo, um, I’m sure she didn’t mean anything of it! She was just trying to help.” Makoto cut in, wiping his hands on his knees. Sweaty palms when nervous. That was something to keep note of.

“Aw, Naegi, you’re defending her! That’s sooooooo cute! It makes me want to stab you!” She cooed, briefly pinching Makoto’s cheeks.

“What do you know about Enoshima’s plan?” Kyouko interjected, looking down at the notes she had written so far. She couldn’t remember moving her hand to do them, but there they were. Focus.

“A lot.” She said, grinning at Kyouko before sitting down on the edge of her bed.

“Do you know the whereabouts of Class 77 or the student council?”

“Yup!”

“Where are they? Are they alive?”

“Not gonna tell you that!”

“Why?”

“Because it’s more fun that way!”

Kyouko withheld her sigh and kept going.

“Who is Hinata Hajime?”

“A Reserve Course kid! He looks a little like Naegi, but he’s wayyyyyyyy less cute. Looks like he’s from the discount protagonist bin, honestly.”

“Is he dead?”

“That I will tell you! And the answer is not technically.”

“Not technically? What do you mean by that?”

“Mmmm, not gonna tell you that, either! Just know that the answer is probably somewhere in that ugly notebook of yours.”

“Is he the one in charge of the hostage situation in the new building?”

“Once again, not technically! It’s part of Junko’s plan, but he’s following it. But also he’s not following it!”

“By ‘he’s not following it’, do you mean that he’s disregarding parts of the plan or that he isn’t really the one doing it?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know!”

“Syo, maybe if you could just give us a straight answer…” Makoto interjected.

“Maybe what?”

“Maybe...Maybe Togami-kun would kiss you!” He said, his eyes lighting up as he thought of the idea. “Maybe he would be so grateful that you helped the investigation and led him down the right path that he would just…” Makoto paused and mimed giving a kiss, looking over at Kyouko to see if his offer was a good one. She almost felt tempted to laugh, but it was undeniably a good idea if it would work.

“I would sooner die.” He protested, wrinkling his nose at the offer.

“Togami-kun, don’t doubt the power of love! Maybe you’ll be so grateful that you’ll be overwhelmed with emotion and kiss her on the cheek! I promise that Syo doesn’t have any diseases or anything! The doctors would’ve told us if she did.” Makoto was all but begging now, and Kyouko put down her pen and notebook to briefly take a drink of water before picking them back up. Nothing good for investigation here, but it was very good to watch Makoto work what amounted to magic.

“...Maybe. Love is truly an unpredictable force.” He said, looking away from Syo who was all but drooling.

“Alright, bitch, ask me what you need to know!” Syo sat up straighter and Kyouko set to work.

“Who is Hajime Hinata, really?”

“Izuru Kamukura.”

“Where can I find information on Kamukura?”

“Your notebook, somewhere, and in the Hope’s Peak database.”

“Who else is involved with this plan?”

“Other than the Despair Twins and Kamukura? Some dead Reserve Course students and a few ex-yakuza guys that I heard that the Kuzuryuu Clan was tracking down.”

“The room we saw on the fifth floor...Was that really the remains of the student council mutual killing?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

“Did you help plan this?”

“No.”

“How did you find out so much?”

“Junko told us everything before she wiped our memories for the first time.”

“First time...How many times did she wipe our memories?”

“Twice. The first time was after what she just called ‘The killing game upstairs.’ I don’t remember who got killed, though, or if there were survivors. I just know that Izuru and Mukuro got stuck with burying the bodies. And the second was right before we went into our game.”

“Do you know if Enoshima left any records of this?”

“I don’t know, but I think she did. Girl wrote down everything, just like you. As long as she didn’t burn her notebooks, you should be able to find it.”

“Do you know if the people in the new building are alive?”

“Probably! Junko said that if the game over there ever ended, we would hear about it.”

“So they’re alive and still trapped?”

“Yup! And supposedly Kamukura is running the show, although I’m not sure specifically how. As far as I know, he doesn’t have a twin or anything so I doubt there’s any disguise shit going down.”

“Do you know how to break into the building?”

“No clue, but I’m fairly sure that there’s some sort of passageway. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to travel back and forth, you know?”

“Um, guys, Komaru’s coming back.” Makoto said, eyeing the window into the hallway.

“Sneeze.” Togami instructed, and Syo did. She turned back into Touko, who was incredibly confused by what had happened and Komaru came back in, holding a bottle of orange juice, and everything returned to something like normal. Something that Kyouko was still unadjusted to.

***

The room emptied slowly, but by lunchtime, Kyouko was alone again. Then there was more blood to be taken, more tests to be run. The swelling was down, but still bad enough that she had to stay.

After being wheeled back to her room, Kyouko considered the box. Rifling through it revealed mostly clothes and textbooks, but tucked away at the bottom was a cellphone and a charger.

She rushed to plug it into the wall and wait for it to power on. The screen lit up quickly, and then Monokuma appeared on the screen along with the message No phone access for prisoners! in cutesy, 8-bit font. Turning it on and back off did nothing, and after an hour of fiddling, she gave up on it and laid down.

The headaches usually started around now, and Kyouko could feel it coming on. She pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes and laid flat on her back. If she pressed hard enough, she could make colors appear on the back of her eyelids, and that gave her something to focus on without letting in any light or sound. The window into the hall had no blinds, but the one to the outside had been drawn shut for hours. She was as comfortable as she was going to get.

Which, of course, meant that she wasn’t comfortable at all. The strength of the pain made her nauseous, and now that she knew what it was, Kyouko could name the pounding in her head as swelling, knew that her brain really was pushing up against her skull. She bit down on her cheek when footsteps in the hall attempted to get a scream out of her and retreated further into the bed, hoping to fortify herself against sounds as she kept on pressing against her eyes.

She had summoned an interesting shade of blue when the door to her room was flung open and the door hit against the wall. Kyouko winced and pressed down harder, turning the back of her lids bright red.

“Be quiet.” She hissed. “And if you aren’t a nurse, get out of here.”

“Headache?” The voice she recognized as Kizakura asked.

“Could I make it any clearer?”

“You could say ‘I have a headache.’” He suggested, and the lightness in his tone made Kyouko want to slap him.

“I have a headache.” She forced out. “And I managed to get information from Syo, who, if you really were a Hope’s Peak recruiter, you already know about. Take down a copy of my notes and go.”

“I can do that.”

Kizakura at least had the decency to try and be quiet as he located her notebook. Still, searching through the pages created noise, and the scratch of his pen on paper. He briefly paused to press something near her bed, and then kept on working.

The door. Again, the door. Kyouko lifted one hand and opened that eye to see who it was this time and found herself staring at a nurse.

“What do you need?” She asked. When Kyouko said nothing, she said “You hit the call button.”

“Oh, that was me, actually.” Kizakura chimed in. “She’s having a pretty serious headache, it seems. Or is doing a very good job of trying to avoid conversation with me, but I’d put money on it being the first.”

Kyouko returned her gloved hand over her eyes, so she just barely caught the nurse’s frown. “How much does it hurt on a scale of one to ten?”

“...Six.” She decided, because it certainly couldn’t be worse than Makoto falling down the garbage chute or Celestia getting burnt and then crushed or Leon’s baseballs. Nothing she would experience could ever be close to those damnable baseballs, so if that was a ten, this would have to be a six. Maybe a seven, if Kyouko was being generous with herself.

“She’s under-exaggerating. That’s an eight, at least.” Kizakura said.

“I’ll be back.” The nurse opened and shut the door again—ouch—and then things were temporarily quiet.

“Why are you here?” Kyouko asked.

Kizakura wrote down something else, and then answered. “I’m your legal guardian.

Kyouko moved her hands from her eyes and jolted upright. The pain that caused nearly forced her back down, but she managed to stay balanced and only semi-hunched over. “You’re what?”

“I knew Jin designated a guardian for things like this, and frankly, I figured it would be me. The lawyer just confirmed it. I know you don’t remember, but we were close.” He smiled at her with something genuinely soft and caring. Kyouko still felt sick. “You used to call me Uncle Koichi when you were little.”

Kyouko looked up at him through her bangs. She could’ve maybe said ‘I barely know you, I can’t live with you,’ but she barely knew anyone. She could count her memories of life before the game on one hand: there was her father picking her up, her grandfather’s face, the duties that he had passed down to her, the knowledge that her father had left the family, and a ceiling with stars painted on it. Some sort of observatory. That was all. She knew Kizakura as much as she could know anyone, really.

“I want to see the papers.” She said. “And I want to be part of the investigation.”

“I’m not in charge of the investigation, but I’ll ask Munakata. He was SHSL Student Council President in his day. He’s quite the detective now. But I’m warning you, he’ll probably say no.”

“I’ll convince him.” Kyouko decided. She moved to sit up again. “I can go and convince him now. Time is of the essence.”

“Pain medication is of the essence.” He corrected. “As for the papers, I have them in my briefcase.”

Kyouko watched him open it and pull out a small packet. Her father’s will. Kyouko skimmed it until she found the phrase she was looking for: Should anything happen to me that leaves me unable to care for my daughter, custody of her should be given to Kizakura Koichi.. The signatures at the bottom checked out, so she handed them back.

“I just wanted to make sure.” She said.

“I understand.”

The nurse came back with a small cup of pills. “It should take about fifteen minutes to set in.”

Kyouko swallowed them and chased it with water. When the nurse head for the exit, she paused. “Do you want me to turn off these lights?”

When Kyouko looked to him, Kizakura shrugged. “I can read well in the dark.”

“Then yes.” She said, and then the world was plunged into semi-darkness, something that was much more comforting.

Kyouko laid back down and shut her eyes once the nurse was gone for good and settled into dealing only with the sound of pen on paper. Still agonizing, but not as horrible as footsteps or conversation or sitting up, all of which she could only force herself to do through a haze of confused adrenaline. Now that there was nothing left, she was sore and exhausted. The scratching stopped, but Kyouko heard no footsteps towards the door.

“You can leave if you’re done.” She said. “Being my legal guardian doesn’t mean you legally have to be here, and I assume the investigation misses you.”

“The investigation can wait for a few hours. Forgive me for being sentimental, but I would feel bad leaving you here by yourself.” Kizakura sat down in a chair and took a sip from his flask, settling down as if he planned to stay there for the rest of his life.

“I’ll consider it.” Kyouko decided, and then stared at the back of her eyelids until the pain faded and she managed to get some sleep.

(Kizakura was still there when she woke up.)

***

Kizakura left early in the morning, and so Kyouko took to looking through her box. The textbooks couldn’t tell her much, so she focused on the clothes. She held each garment in front of her and tried to summon an image of herself in it, a single memory of wearing it outside of the killing game. Had she gone ice skating with this scarf around her neck? Had she ever gone ice skating in her life? How about this skirt, had she worn it out somewhere? Where would she have gone in it if she did? The mall? The movies? The arcade? This shirt, had she studied in it? What had she studied? Was it for a test, maybe? Did she pass?

Her badge. Her badge was her biggest comfort in times like this. She put away the shirt she had worn during Sakura’s trial and supposedly other times in her life and took it off the table. And there, in perfect, exact letters, was what she knew for certain about her identity.

Name. Date of birth. Date of badge issue. Date the badge was set to be renewed. Country of origin. DSC number.

Kirigiri Kyouko. October 6th, 1998. December 15th, 2011. December 14th, 2015. Japan. 919. Kyouko wondered if she had leveled up during the years she had her badge, if she was maybe a 918 or 917 now. She remembered how obsessively she had repeated the information to herself when she found the badge in the headmaster’s office. How she had spent a whole night whispering it to herself, trying to make the dates and names sound natural. Instinctive. Of course Kyouko knew her name, her date of birth, what country she was from. She knew it all. She was just like everyone else, with all of her memories of the past in tact. So ordinary.

A knock on the door. Breakfast, and then the hospital worker was gone. Kyouko picked at her bowl of rice, wondering if maybe there was a particular way she had preferred to eat it before. Maybe her mother had a way of doing it she had loved as a child. Maybe her grandfather had tried to replicate it for her, or maybe he hadn’t. Maybe she had learned to make it herself, or maybe it had been lost long before Kyouko lost it all. Maybe some things weren’t meant to be recovered at all.

Another knock. More nurses, another MRI to check the swelling. When they took her back to her room again, someone she didn't know was sitting there. The woman looked nineteen or twenty and her dark hair was styled in a short bob. There were a few streaks of blonde in it, and red glasses framed her face.

“Kyouko-chan!” She exclaimed, getting up from her chair. She rushed over and gave her a hug, which Kyouko cautiously returned. When the stranger let go of her, Kyouko sat down on the bed and kept looking at her.

“It’s so good to see you again! Although you look so sick, are you sure what they’re giving you is working?” She asked, and Kyouko tried to categorize her. If she was concerned and familiar with her, she could be a friend. Kyouko didn’t know if she had friends on the outside, but it was safe to assume that she didn’t. That her unsociability wasn’t just a product of the game, but something constant about herself.

“I’m fairly sure. Supposedly I look better than I did before.” Kyouko told her. “Did someone tell you what happened?”

She nodded. “I know the outlines of it. I was away solving a kidnapping in Paris—I missed you on that case, it’s hard working with Interpol when all the French you know is bonjour and baguette—but I heard about the suicides and the hostage situation and all of that. I came over to work on getting you all out of there, but the man in charge of the situation got the DSC to formally tell me to leave the case alone. Apparently I was too emotionally invested in the situation, but...well, you’re my sister. Of course I’m going to be invested, you know?”

Sister. She had a sister? This woman certainly didn’t look like a Kirigiri, and there were no pictures of her in her father’s office. Maybe she was from her mother’s side, a half sister of some sort. That could make sense. They were both tall and somewhat pale, although this woman looked like she had actually been outdoors a few times in the past several months. But wouldn’t she have remembered a half sister? Sure, she would have gone to the other side of Kyouko’s family once her mother died, but wouldn’t a sister stand out? Wouldn’t there be a trace of a sister somewhere in those photos? And would her grandfather have allowed her to contact a sister? Would he have let them stay in touch? Would a sister know her well enough to come visit, to call her Kyouko-chan?

“Of course.” Kyouko said. “But maybe I wasn’t specific enough. Did they tell you what happened to me?”

“Yeah. You were kept prisoner in one of the buildings from December until just now. And you’re in the hospital because...Well, they didn’t tell me exactly what was wrong with you, but just from looking at you, I’m going to guess malnutrition and anemia.”

Kyouko sighed. “And amnesia. Focal retrograde amnesia.”

“...So you don’t remember me?”

“I’m so sorry, but I don’t.” Kyouko said. “I don’t even know your name.”

Her eyes widened and glistened and Kyouko braced herself for tears, but they didn’t come. Instead, the woman inhaled sharply and then let it out. “Well, my name’s Samidare Yui. I’m nineteen, and I’m a member of the Detective Shelf Collection. My numbers 887, and I’ve known you for about three years. You’re one of my best friends in the world, all things considered, and we’ve been calling each other sisters after a pretty interesting case. It was at an observatory, and—”

“I remember that.” Kyouko interrupted. “I remember the ceiling. That’s all I remember of it, though.”

Yui smiled at that. It was a huge, warm thing that made Kyouko feel somewhat better. Some part of her brain must have remembered her, then. Some ugly, emotional part must have wanted to see Yui happy.

“Do you want to hear about it?” She asked. “I mean, if you want to make a whole new identity and not dwell on this sort of thing, I understand, but…”

“If you wouldn’t mind, I would like to.” Kyouko admitted, and so she made herself comfortable and listened to Yui talk about how she had conducted an investigation while handcuffed to a bed under suspicion of murder, how she had been dubbed the princess detective, how she had threatned to set herself on fire to solve the case. How Yui had been charmed by her. How much Kyouko made her think of her own sister sometimes, all things considered. And Kyouko soaked up these details like a sponge to water, trying to become familiar with who she had been instead of the person she had become.

***

Kyouko had fallen asleep shortly after Yui left and gave Kyouko her phone number for when Kyouko got a phone that worked. When she woke up, she was greeted with the largest bouquet of flowers she had ever seen get smashed into a vase. She wanted to feel the petals beneath her fingers, but that would require taking off her gloves, which she wasn’t going to do.

Until she looked over and saw Makoto asleep in the chair, snoring softly. Then she risked it and felt the purples and yellows beneath her scarred fingertips. She plucked one of them, a canary-yellow thing that felt like silk, and rubbed it with her thumb until Makoto woke up with a start.

“Oh, you’re up!” He exclaimed. “Sorry for falling asleep there, but you were out and I was kind of tired, so I just…”

“It’s alright.” Kyouko said, unable to contort her face into something neutral. “Thank you for the flowers, by the way.”

“It’s not a problem! I just figured that the room looked a little blank and I saw them while I was walking up here, so…” Makoto let the sentence trail off and fiddled with a hangnail. Kyouko wondered if maybe she was having acid reflux or a heart attack, because that small action left her with a sharp, warm pain in her chest. If she was having a heart attack, certainly something attatched to her would beep, so it must have been acid reflux. That was the most logical explanation. Hangnail-induced acid reflux.

“It was kind of you.” She told him. “How’s your ankle doing?”

“Not too bad! It’s broken, but it doesn’t hurt too much. There’s not really a lot they can do for the ribs, but those aren’t too bad, either. Just not fun.” Makoto said. “Your doctor came by while you were asleep, by the way! He said to tell you that the swelling in your head has gone down and that as long as it’s still down tomorrow, you can go home.”

Home. Kyouko had no idea what home would look like. She imagined that Kizakura probably owned an apartment, and she figured it would be fairly nice. Probably with a guest room she could use. It wouldn’t be too far, either, if he was dealing with Tokyo PD on the regular and had worked for Hope’s Peak. It would be close enough that she could at least stay in a familiar city, but how familiar was she with it, really. “That’s nice.” She said, unsure how to admit all of this bunched-up feeling to Makoto without burdening him.

“Yeah! Do you know where you’ll be living yet?”

“Yes and no.” Kyouko said. “I know who I’ll be living with, and I can guess that it’s in Tokyo, but I don’t know exactly.”

“We’ll be in the same city, at least!” Makoto’s face lit up. “We’ll still be able to hang out!”

“I think I would have found a way to hang out with you even if I had to take a train across the whole country.” She admitted, and it was fun to watch Makoto blush and hide his face.

“Kiri!”

Kyouko chuckled and watched him compose himself as much as he was able to.

“But also, me too. Even if you moved all the way to England or something, I would’ve found a way.” He announced. “Who is it you’re living with, though?”

“A detective working on the case. My father had named him as my legal guardian if something should happen to him, and something most certainly did, so I’ll be living with Kizakura-kun.”

“The one with the hat?”

“That one.”

Makoto tossed that information around in his mind. “Well, I only talked to him for a little bit when the police asked me about what happened, but he seemed alright! He was probably the nicest out of all of them. Have the police talked to you yet? I know I don’t have any sway over that sort of thing, but I asked them to leave you alone while you were in the hospital and all.”

“Not yet.” Kyouko told him, barely able to process the fact that he had gone out of his way to try and make things easier for her. “Although I am eager to talk to them. I gave Kizakura-kun the information we were able to gather from Syo, and I asked him about my chances of being put on the investigation. He seems to think that they’re low, but I figure I can do my own independent investigation and once I make a decent amount of progress there, they’ll let me be on the case formally. Unless the DSC try to stop me, but that’s a whole different matter. I can deal with that when I get to it.”

“That sounds like a good idea! I bet it won’t take long, either. You’re the best detective I’ve ever seen. I bet by the end of the week, they’ll be begging to have you on the case.”

“Have you seen a lot of detectives?” She asked, hoping Makoto would brush off any blushing as her fever going up again. Never mind the fact that it had mostly stayed down today, but he didn’t need to know that.

“...Okay, but still! You’re really talented, and I’m sure you’ll be on in no time.” Makoto defended himself, and Kyouko gave him a brief, fond smile.

“Thank you.” She said. “How has everything else been going, though? Has there been any trouble?”

“Well, there’s been a lot of reporters, but the police said I shouldn’t talk to them much about case stuff and details until they work things out more. Which is a good idea, I think. They can be a little nosy, but if you talk to them enough, they’ll agree to at least not be right in your front yard. Being home is nice, but Mom and Komaru worry a lot. And Dad being dead is, well, kind of awful, but…” Makoto looked out the window and blinked, and Kyouko offered him her hand. He took it between both of his and squeezed.

“I know how that feels. It’s very lonely.” Kyouko said. “I don’t remember mine like you do, of course, but the feeling is there. It can be isolating.”

“It feels like I’m really on my own. My dad was always super helpful and had a plan for everything, but now he’s gone and I just...I just feel weird about it. I didn’t even get to go to the funeral.” Makoto said. “The funerals for our classmates are soon, too. Going to those is probably going to be hard, but I think I should go.”

“I’ll go with you.” Kyouko offered. Wherever he would be, she would go, too. She wasn’t much of a follower, but with Naegi Makoto, she knew that she would follow him to the ends of the earth.

“Thanks.” He fell silent and kept his hands over hers. Kyouko made peace with the comfortable silence, letting it seep into her skin as she relaxed. She could trust Makoto, more than anyone else she knew.

“I like holding your hand.” Makoto announced. “The texture of it is nice.”

Kyouko took a sudden interest in the blankets. “Well, it’s yours for as long as you want it.”

Makoto muttered something she didn’t quite catch, something Kyouko figured she wasn’t meant to hear, so she let him continue to hold her hand in silence until he began to cry. It was quiet, but certain, like someone had poked a hole in a bottle of water. Then, she took her back to open up her arms and hug him properly.

(If he noticed that Kyouko’s eyes were stinging before he dove into the hug, Makoto was kind enough not to mention it.)

***

Kizakura arrived in the morning with a bag and a cellphone. “I heard that the ones from inside didn’t work any more, so we can transfer the old information onto this.” He said, placing it on the table.

“Hm.” Kyouko regarded it carefully. A smartphone, the newest one on the market, and still in its wrapping. “You didn’t have to spend that much.”

Kizakura shrugged and he placed it down on the table before handing Kyouko the bag. She started moving her clothes from the box to it as he fiddled with the phones.

“I remember that Byakuya’s sister said there was a way to...There we go! Looks like everything is working now.”

She finished moving her clothes in silence and then zipped the bag shut. “Did you talk to Munakata about putting me on the investigation?”

“He shot it down, but he did say that he wanted you to do a walk-through of the building with a team of investigators. Could be a good place to show off.” Kizakura suggested. “And you won’t be totally out of cases to solve. Since I’ve been working on this, things at my own agency have gotten a bit backed up. I could use some help there, and I would pay you. I’ve got a kid working there now—he’s about your age—and he’s working towards getting DSC certified, but the place could use someone with a badge and a bit more experience.”

“I can do that.” Kyouko said. It was really the least she could do since he was going to be giving her a place to stay, but she wasn’t too excited by the prospect. It would mostly be missing cats and cheating husbands, something she would certainly turn down on any other day. Plus, Kizakura didn’t seem like the best boss. It would be both aggravating and boring; not a great combination, but one she subjected herself to anyhow.

“You can start sometime next week. Oh, and we’ll have to get you registered in a school, too. There’s one not too far from my apartment, and it’s pretty good. You tested well on your high school admissions exam back when you had to take that, so I’m sure they’ll let you in. Just about any school would.” He reassured, as if Kyouko’s biggest concern was school. It seemed like more of a nuisance than anything else; she just couldn’t imagine herself sitting in a classroom and being lectured at all day. She couldn’t picture herself reliably listening to someone else, or being with people her own age, or doing something semi-normal. It felt entirely surreal, like being asked to imagine herself as an astronaut living on Mars.

“I’ll have to take your word on that.” She said, because it wasn’t like she remembered her own scores.

A nurse came by with her discharge papers, and Kyouko quickly signed them and took the ones she was supposed to take home, the ones about how she was supposed to eat properly and take care of herself and what prescriptions she should pick up from the pharmacy. She’d surely get rid of them as soon as she could. There were more important things to do, after all. She was secondary to the case in front of her, to the students still inside the building. Her brain could swell up to the size of a balloon for all she cared, so long as the case got solved.

There were no reporters outside, which was a small mercy. She sunk into the passenger seat of Kizakura’s car and took out her phone. She had a series of text messages to respond to (it looked like someone had made a group chat for the ones who survived—Makoto, or maybe Aoi, or maybe even Yasuhiro) but instead she opened up the default internet browser and typed in Hinata Hajime. If she wanted to seem like someone worth taking seriously on this walk-through tomorrow, she needed to at least be caught up with the general public. She could get back to the texts once she got settled in the apartment.

Kizakura started the car and began to drive. “The building I live in is pretty nice. The landlady is probably going to force you to eat some of her baked goods once she gets a look at you, but she means well. You’ll have your own room, and you can do anything you want with it. Paint, decorations, a new bed, whatever.”

Kyouko thought about what she would want her room to look like, but all that came back to her was her dorm at Hope’s Peak, and every time she tried to change the image in her mind, it would inevitably turn back to what she had known before. She was out of Hope’s Peak, technically, but she didn’t think there was any real way out of Hope’s Peak. More than the hospital where she was born as a child, Kyouko was born there.

She rested her head on the window and stared outwards. “I don’t know what I want with it yet.”

“Don’t stress. You haven’t even seen it.”

“I’m not stressed.” She said, her voice even and perfect and empty.

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Well, then how are you feeling?”

Kyouko should be feeling glad. She knew she should be glad because she was out of a horrible situation and going into something bearable, something normal, something she once had but couldn’t remember. She should be happy, she should be enthused, she should be smiling and excited to see the new world before her, the one with hundreds of countries and thousands of cities that all dwarfed the buildings where she’s spent all the time that she could truly remember.

“I’m feeling fine.” She said, but the truth of the matter was this: Kyouko was more miserable than she could have ever imagined, and she wished that she could turn the car around, go back to Hope’s Peak, and lock herself up in there for the rest of time.