Shuichi felt his knees buckle, causing him to collapse on the floor. For her part, Kiki shook with emotion, barely able to keep herself standing as part of her desperately tried to deny reality.
This…this isn’t real…this can’t be real…please…please tell me this is all fiction! I guess it doesn’t really matter…Real or not…Kaede’s gone. Kaede Akamatsu…no longer exists in our world.
“What…!” Keebo’s shocked, horrified shriek shattered her thoughts. “What in the world…is this…!?”
“A-Are you…kiddin’ me!?” Clover exclaimed.
“Talk about overkill…!” Lotus muttered.
“Indeed.” Snake mused sadly. “I suppose this is one of the blessings of blindness…”
“Puhuhu!” Monokuma giggled. “All this adrenaline creates such an exquisite feeling of despair! It’s moments like this that make all the killings worth it!”
“W-Why…are you doing such a terrible thing…?” A terrified Tsumugi stammered.
“You’re the worst of the worst!” Kiki growled. “Does human life have no value to you at all!?”
“Hey, I know human life is precious.” Monokuma replied. “I’m not a monster, y’know.” The murderous bear grinned maliciously at the survivors. “Cuz if human life wasn’t precious, ending it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun! There’s no greater joy than witnessing such a display of despair entertainment!”
“You’ve surpassed psychotic by a wide margin.” Ace scowled, causing Ryoma to nod in agreement.
“…I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite this…irritated.”
“I…I won’t forgive you for this!” Seven gritted his teeth and clenched his fist. “Got that!? I won’t ever forgive you!”
“Spoken like a marked man!” Monokuma retorted.
“What is your objective, Monokuma?” Kirumi angrily demanded, causing Sokyu to nod.
“…Do you hate us? If so, have we done something to make you hate us?”
“…Hate you?” Monokuma cocked his head in confusion before he giggled and shrugged. “Puhuhu…Who can say? That’s your job to figure out. If you really wanna know what’s going on, you’re gonna have to work for it…Though the corpse formerly known as Rantaro may have had a hunch.”
“…Huh?” Gonta’s eyes widened in shock.
“What do you mean?” Keebo demanded. “What was Rantaro’s hunch?”
“Puhuhu…What, indeed?” Monokuma mockingly wondered as Kirumi’s brow furrowed in concentration.
“He did say he would end this game, and he also knew about the hidden door…Could that be at all related to this hunch you claim he had?”
“Hey!” An impatient Lotus roared. “What the hell’s this hunch you’re goin’ on about!? Spill it!”
“If you have no intention of telling us…then keep your mouth shut.” Sokyu ordered.
“You’re focusing on Kaede instead of her deadweight victim. Well, it’s not his fault he was useless. He died before his past could be revealed. If he had lived long enough to reveal it, maybe he would’ve been more useful…Oh well! He’s dead and that’s that! That’s the indifference of death for ya!”
“He…wasn’t really the mastermind, was he?” Ryoma concluded.
Monokuma cocked his head, his voice bleeding with exasperated confusion. “Huh? Are you still pestering me with these annoying questions!? Aren’t you guys focusing a little too much on whether or not there’s a mastermind? If you keep this up, you’re all gonna end up like Kaede.”
“Wh-What!?” Don’t talk about her like that! Kiki barely held her tongue as she gritted her teeth in fury.
“Maybe spend less time worrying about nonsense and more time watching your back, okay? You never know who’s gonna become the next killer. Ah, I can’t wait! I wonder what kind of killing game we’ll get to see next!”
“Shut the hell up!” Seven roared. “We’re…not gonna have another killing game!”
“Agreed.” Ace nodded. “We’re not going to let you have your way anymore!”
“Oh, really…? That seems unlikely.” Monokuma predicted. “I’m pretty sure you won’t live long enough to promise that. Anyway, you guys have a lot to think about…Work hard and do your best to graduate! Cuz the fun’s only just begun!”
Good riddance… Kiki thought as Monokuma left the trial room.
Everyone watched as the elevator took the psychotic bear up. Eventually, the now empty platform returned to their level.
“I…I don’t think I can take all this…” Tsumugi breathed, trembling from despair. “I can’t stand this anymore…I-I feel like…I’m going to go crazy…”
“Tsumugi, you mustn’t give up hope.” Kirumi encouraged.
“Is there even hope to be had here?” Snake pondered. “The room feels utterly drained of it.”
“K-Kaede!” Gonta wept, mourning the deceased pianist.
“What are we gonna do from now on…?” Clover asked, tugging on her brother’s sleeve.
“Y-Yeah, I’d like to know, too…” Teruaki stammered. “I’m so over this already…”
“Let’s…just head to bed…” Seven suggested.
“Agreed.” Ace nodded. “I’m sure we could all use it.”
Everyone mumbled in agreement and turned towards the elevator. As she was about to follow the others, Kiki turned back to see Shuichi still kneeling in place. Not having moved an inch, he still wept, his back turned to them.
“Hey, Shuichi…” Kiki circled around him and shook his shoulder, her eyes staring down in concern. “Everyone’s waiting at the elevator. We’re about to…”
“…Don’t touch me.”
“Huh?” Kiki gasped as Shuichi glared up at her, radiating anger and disdain despite his cap obscuring most of his eyes.
“You left Kaede, abandoned her to die…” Shuichi’s words broke her heart, causing her to bite her lip and clench her fists.
Shuichi…that’s cold… Her empathetic sorrow burned into anger as she gritted her teeth.
“Hey!” Shuichi yelped, stunned as Kiki gripped him by his jacket and hoisted him into the air.
Shuichi fell silent as Kiki growled, her hazel and lavender eyes seeming to burn into his soul. “You think I wanted her to die? That I wanted to convict her?”
Robbed of his voice, Shuichi could only listen as Kiki continued to speak. Gone was the calm girl who bravely stepped up to the plate when he was too cowardly to do so. In her place was a grieving girl whose sobs bled into her voice, her eyes glossy with tears.
“I hated having to expose her at the class trial, or did you forget that she was my friend too?! She was my anchor, my source of strength! She stood up for me when I was suspected! And when I realized that she was the culprit…I don’t think I ever felt so horrified in my life, even if I had my memories! I…I cared about her…I respected her…I…”
At last, Kiki felt her knees buckle, causing her to collapse. Tears fell from her lashes as she released her grip on Shuichi’s jacket. She wrapped her arms around the despairing detective in a bear hug, burying her face in his shoulder.
“I MISS HER SO MUCH, SHUICHI! I HATED WATCHING HER DIE! I WANT HER BACK MORE THAN ANYTHING RIGHT NOW!! WAAAAAAHHHHHH!”
“Kiki…” Fresh tears streaming down his cheeks, Shuichi returned the embrace, crying along with the distraught girl as they took comfort in each other’s arms.
“…S-So…” Kiki stammered as she pulled away and wiped her eyes. “Don’t you ever, ever say I abandoned Kaede. Got that?”
“Kiki…” Shuichi bowed his head in guilt, feeling awful for lashing out at the closest friend he had left alive.
The two of them breathed heavily, allowing their emotions to run their course. Having calmed down, they shared a mutual, apologetic smile, wiping the remaining tears from their eyes.
“Pardon me…” Both of them looked up at Snake, who was now standing over them. “Perhaps this might help to ease your sorrow.”
Kiki and Shuichi’s eyes widened as they stared at the familiar item gripped in Snake’s hand. “That’s…Kaede’s backpack!”
“Indeed. I heard it fall off her when she was pulled away.” Snake explained. “It should have her room key. Perhaps you can go to her room and pay your last respects.”
“Pay our…last respects…?” Kiki and Shuichi breathed hopefully.
“Quite. I know it’s not the same as an actual funeral, but given the circumstances, it may be the best option you have to find closure, especially given how close you two were to her. The rest of us are certainly grateful to her for trying to save us…but we certainly didn’t know her like you did. So if anyone has the right to pay last respects, it’s you two.”
“Yeah!” Snake turned and the three of them saw Clover running up to him. “My brother’s right! Go…go and pay your last respects to Kaede. If my brother says it’ll help, it’ll help.”
Kiki smiled and took the strap of the backpack, nodding gratefully at the two siblings. “Thanks Snake, Clover.” She finally got to her feet and extended a hand to Shuichi. “Let’s go, Shuichi. Let’s…say a proper goodbye to Kaede.”
With a hesitant nod, Shuichi shakily got to his feet. Kiki smiled sadly at him as she laced their fingers and squeezed his hand. Stabilized by Kiki’s support, he allowed her to lead him to the others waiting at the elevator, Snake and Clover flanking him from behind as they rejoined the reduced survivors.
“Kiki…” Koto and Kiri muttered sadly.
“Onee-chan…” Mokubo’s heart went out to the big sister he considered a role model.
“Our baby…” Kyoko sniffled, feeling guilty that she couldn’t prevent her daughter from knowing true despair.
“Kyoko, it’s not your fault.” Makoto assured her as she leaned into his side.
“I am curious to know why Monokuma said that Rantaro might have had a clue.” Maki admitted. “I can’t help but wonder if he was involved in this more than his memories allowed him to remember.”
“It’s…a possibility…” Kyoko admitted.
“They can worry about that later.” Makoto frowned. “Right now, Kiki and Shuichi need to find closure. Shuichi especially, since he fought so hard to protect the girl he loved.”
Everyone nodded, turning their attentions back to the TV as the survivors left the elevator boundary and walked back to their dorms.
“Well…here it is…” Kiki fished through the backpack as they stood in front of Kaede’s door. Once she fished the key out of the backpack, she offered it to Shuichi and asked, “Shuichi, you wanna do the honors? She was your girlfriend after all…”
“…Thanks…” Shuichi replied gratefully before he shakily inserted the key into the lock.
Kiki held her hand over his, stabilizing it as he turned to look at her with surprise. The young girl smiled encouragingly at him, causing Shuichi to nod.
“…On three…” Kiki suggested. “One…Two…Three.”
They turned the key in the lock and pushed, causing the door to swing open. With a shared look of hesitation, they reluctantly stepped inside, glancing around Kaede’s now abandoned room.
“It…doesn’t look all that different from mine…” Kiki observed.
“Yeah…” Shuichi nodded. “I saw this room once, though I was just getting Kaede, so I didn’t get a close look or anything. I think our rooms have the same base construction and are just slightly personalized to fit our personalities and hobbies.”
“Yeah…I can see why this room might be personalized to fit Kaede…look, there’s a piano over there.”
Shuichi smiled at the piano sitting on the far end of the room. “Yeah…I would have loved to watch her play…I wish I could remember one of her concerts…”
“Didn’t she say there was a special song for calming someone’s heart?” Kiki pondered.
“…Clair De Lune…by…Debussy.” Shuichi recalled.
“Let’s see…” Kiki began to rummage through the backpack, piquing Shuichi’s interest. “Ah!” Kiki gasped as she pulled out several music sheets. “She had that exact song in her backpack! Shuichi…why don’t we play it on that piano…as a tribute to her?”
“P-Play it…?” Shuichi stammered hesitantly, feeling his nervousness spike at the prospect. “I don’t know…I’m not even sure if I’ve ever played piano…”
“So? Even if we botch it, I’m sure Kaede’s spirit will appreciate the fact that we’re even trying!”
“Well…alright, I’ll try…” Kiki smiled as they both approached the padded bench chair and sat down on it. “Alright, let’s see…G…G…”
As Shuichi tapped the keys, the melody came out horribly off-tune, causing him to hang his head in shame.
“…You suck at this, Shuichi.” Kiki teased, causing him to pout.
“I’d like to see you try…”
Shuichi’s grumbling ignited Kiki’s competitive spirit. “Alright, challenge accepted! Let’s see…let’s try…these keys!”
Kiki attempt at piano however fell just as flat as Shuichi’s, if not worse. Shuichi couldn’t help but elbow the dejected girl and smile teasingly at her failure.
“Not so easy, is it?”
“Quiet, I’m trying, aren’t I?” Kiki grumbled, causing Shuichi to chuckle at how cute she looked.
“Alright, let’s…investigate this keyboard.” Shuichi suggested. “You know…try out all the keys and see how they sound before we try and attempt the song?”
“Sure, that sounds like a good idea. Let’s start with this key, shall we?”
It took many, MANY tries, but eventually they familiarized themselves with the keys. Shuichi tapped the keys on the right half of the piano while Kiki played the left when needed. As they executed the song, Shuichi couldn’t help but stare in awe at Kiki’s elegant handiwork, as beautiful as a ballerina dancing from spot to spot.
“There, not half bad, huh, Shuichi?”
Shuichi hastily shook the blush from his face before he smiled and nodded approvingly. “Yeah, it wouldn’t be realistic for us to become a master like Kaede in one night…but I think she liked that we didn’t botch it eventually.”
Kiki giggled “Yeah.” She and Shuichi looked up at the ceiling as they clasped their hands in prayer. “We hope you liked the song, Kaede, wherever you are. We promise we’ll never forget you.”
“Kaede…” Shuichi apologized. “I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough to fight for the truth…but I promise…someday…I’ll be the detective you believe I am…”
Kiki smiled proudly at Shuichi before they both stood up. “Well, why don’t we go and get some rest, Shuichi?”
“Yeah…sounds good…” Shuichi agreed.
Kiki laced her fingers with his as she picked up Kaede’s backpack with the other hand. She led him outside before he closed the door behind them. Neither of them noticed the keys dancing on their own as the spirit inhabiting the room played the familiar song like a master maestro.
“Shuichi…Kiki…I trust you to keep your promise…survive and get out of this place! I believe in you!”
Chapter One: End!
Surviving Students: 14
Makoto and Kyoko smiled as Kiki and Shuichi parted ways, retreating back to their respective rooms.
“Well, at least they found closure.” Makoto muttered gratefully before he turned off the TV. “Alright, you three, it’s way past your bedtimes. Hurry up, all of you.”
The trio stood up obediently and walked back to their rooms, eager to fall asleep after everything they had witnessed. “Thanks for helping out, Maki.” Kyoko told the former babysitter gratefully.
“Of course.” Maki shrugged. “Alright, I’d better check in on Haruki before I go to bed myself.”
“Yeah, I’d say we could all use a good night’s sleep.” Makoto agreed. “Good night, Maki.”
With that, the three adults parted ways, Makoto’s arm wrapped around Kyoko as they walked down the hallway while Maki retreated upstairs.
“Makoto…I’m really scared for Kiki…” Kyoko admitted.
“Me too, Kyoko, but we have to believe in Kiki. After all…” Makoto couldn’t hide the proud smile as he pointed out “When push came to shove, she was able to take the torch Kaede had passed to her. I have no doubt she’ll be a survivor.”
“…I hope you’re right…” Kyoko muttered, wanting to believe in her daughter above all else.
“Hey, she’s got your brains!”
“And your optimism!” Kyoko giggled.
With a slightly greater peace of mind, the two parents entered their bedroom, falling asleep in each other’s arms once they collapsed on the bed. They took comfort in their love for each other, and their hopes that their daughter would survive the trials and tribulations that were forced upon her.
“WHAT THE HELL?!”
The officers jumped in their chairs as the steaming detective stormed into the room.
“WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG?! TWO OF THE CAPTIVES HAVE ALREADY DIED, AND YOU HAVEN’T EVEN GIVEN ME A LOCATION?!”
“Detective, we’re trying, but we don’t have that many landmarks to work off of from when that Naegi girl nearly fell to her death.”
“Yeah, we haven’t even narrowed down a prefecture yet…”
“Then give me your photo and video evidence and I’ll find you the prefecture. NOW!” The officers gulped and started frantically emailing various attachments. “…I’m going back to my office…” The detective stormed out of the room and back to their office, sighing as they collapsed in their chair and rested their face in their palms. I’ve failed to get them all out alive…but as long as I can get the rest out before that one gets killed…it won’t be a total loss…