They figure you out, eventually, just like you always knew that they would. This is what happens every season without fail.
It’s always trial six.
It’s always dramatic.
It’s always intense for the players, but for you, it’s just disappointing.
Still, you play your part well. You don’t know why you do it; maybe because it’s too late for you to do anything else. You explain about the fiction and the game and the tv show and how you’re just a producer while going through various cosplays as fast as lightning.
As you explain, you can’t help but think about the cosplays instead.
It was the one you made of Chiaki when you were ten that caught the producer’s attention. By eleven, you were in costume design, making the uniforms for the Ultimates. You also got an official sponsorship by Team Danganronpa.
Your Mondo one was the first one you did with your sponsorship. Everyone was amazed how this little timid girl could pull off being a motorcycle gang leader.
You worked on each costume and cosplay with the care and patience of a saint. By thirteen you were giving advice to the writing team, making quiet suggestions as you adjusted the hem of schoolgirl skirts. Your eyes were still bright back then, the whole thing still seemed glamorous and exciting for you, the girl who no one noticed.
Even with the sponsors and the costumes and how close you were to the production of Japan’s most popular TV show, you still couldn’t make friends and you still couldn’t make your parents proud and you just couldn’t do anything right. Well, except for cosplay.
Your Junko cosplay was the one that catapulted you straight to fame. You gained a mob of supportive fans, but none of them ever seemed to care about you. They just cared about Junko Enoshima, and you were as close to Junko Enoshima as they were ever going to get.
By fifteen, you were a producer. Sixteen, you dropped out of school to work full-time. Your mother smiled at you for the first time when you brought home your first paycheck that contained a comma. Your father never smiled, not even when there were three, four, five, six commas in every paycheck and you moved to a fancy highrise in Tokyo.
Seventeen was when they decided that you would be the mastermind. They said that it would make ratings soar, and they were right. For the game that would kill you, they gave you over 5 million USD and let you design each character. A final gift, since you didn’t want to die. You wanted to participate, sure, but you wanted to live through it. You wanted to see the other side of despair, but you could settle for this. You thought this could be fun.
You made the best characters you could imagine, trying to change as little of the base person as possible. Somehow, that made them even better than the unrealistic hybrids that had become popular around season thirty-five. You went back to the roots, back to the core of the text everything was based off of and back to season one. It was the most popular season in ten years, that’s what the producers told you when you went back into the production room during the night.
It was around Toujou’s execution that you got sick of it. It was supposed to be fun, but when you watched the girl you knew as intimately as the back of your own hand struggle up a vine and then fall to her death for a false hope while the others cheered her on, it became too real to you.
It was disgusting.
It was repulsive.
How could you have ever thought this could be fun?
You buried her body and wept for hours, locked away in your bedroom. Something changed in your heart when you finished weeping, something that let you know that there was no going back.
That was when you raided the set, took season fifty’s survivor hostage, and made them rig the place to blow. She still wore the skirt you made her when you were fourteen, the pink one with all of the frills. You remember her character profile and you remember changing her talent from SHSL Warrior to SHSL Bomb Technician. You were never as grateful for it as when she handed you the detonator that would bomb the whole set straight to hell.
When the other four vote for you as the mastermind, you sigh softly and pull the detonator out of your jacket pocket. You know that they want to end all of it forever, and you’ll give them the tool to do it. After a second, you hand it to Kiibo.
“Once I’m executed, press this. It’ll blow up the whole set.” You tell him. “Walk away before you do it, and keep your back turned. Oh, and can you do me a small favor? Just one last thing, just for me.”
Kiibo glares up at you, robotic eyes squinting. You focus on the black lines on his face. You remembering painting them on, saying that they made him look cooler, more obviously like a robot. “What?” His voice sounds colder and more mechanical than usual.
“You’re the main camera, so for my execution, can you keep your eyes right here?” You point to the tip of your nose, an inch or so beneath your glasses. “It’s my best angle.”
Stubbornly, he turns his head away and clutches the detonator. He doesn't have to speak for you to know that he won’t look at you. He won’t give the audience the satisfaction of watching another death. You almost love him for that.
“Tsumugi.” Saihara begins, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Any messages you want me to pass along? To your family or friends?”
You think about it for a minute, frowning at a point right above his head. What do you have to say to your mother, who only loved you once you started becoming useful? What do you have to say to your father, who just took the money and told you that it was time that you started paying him back for all the work he put into raising you? What do you have to say to your “friends,” who only pretended to care about you once you put on Celestia’s hair drills or Hajime’s ahoge?
“Tell them that I know.” You say. “Tell them that I know all of it.”
Saihara doesn’t ask you for clarification. He just nods once and averts his eyes.
Maki does not avert her eyes. Her arms are crossed and she’s giving you a glare that could wither flowers. “I’m sorry.” You say timidly. “I’m sorry for all of it.”
“I don’t care.” Maki tells you, shaking her head and scoffing at you. “You did all of this. Sorry won’t fix that.”
“I didn’t have a choice.” Your voice cracks on the last word and you want to weep, but you bite your lip until you taste blood and push up on your glasses. “If I didn’t, they…” They would have taken away your sponsorship, your job, the things that made you up and at the time, nothing mattered more.
You would have just been another reserved honors student who liked to watch Danganronpa and cosplayed on the weekends. You would have been ordinary, and you indirectly killed so many people just because you didn’t want to be ordinary.
Maki looks like she almost feels bad for you right then, but not quite. You can understand why.
Himiko says nothing to you. She just stares up at you with sleepy eyes and looks like she can’t wait to watch you die so it can all finally be over. You feel the same.
Monokuma hits the button with the hammer, saying “It’s punishment time!” in the voice that always makes the audience shiver. The four of them watch as you take Monokuma’s hand and let him lead you to your demise.
The masterminds always died smiling, always happy, always in the depths of despair and enjoying it.
You aren’t enjoying it.
You aren’t happy.
You refuse to smile or laugh or put on your Junko cosplay as you’re forced into a school desk and tied up with Monokuma on your lap.
The set up is just like your classroom back home and the fake kids are talking loudly and more than happy to ignore you. You’re able to find the camera quickly and you stare it down, keeping your chin up and determined to be unhappy.
You’ve never been bold before, but this is your last moment on Earth and you do not want to die as you’ve lived: quietly.
The machine behind you has a thousand long claws and they start with your hair first. You haven’t cut your hair since you were eight years old and a hairdresser nicked the top of your ear with the scissors and you cried. It was the last time you had ever cried in public.
Each claw starts at the end of your hair, taking a strand and pulling out. You move your gaze away from the camera to look at the other four. Kiibo is still stubbornly looking away while Maki and Saihara keep their cool gazes right on you. Himiko is watching through her fingers, but watching nonetheless.
Your hair is now stretched out and it hurts like hell as the tiny claws turn into two large ones and pull your head back. You open your mouth and scream when your neck cracks and every inch of hair is ripped from your head. Your scalp is raw and bleeding and Himiko is covering her eyes now.
Only Maki and Saihara are watching and you sob as Monokuma digs his claws into your stomach and the claws start pulling on your hands, which until now had been neatly folded in your lap.
The fake schoolkids are still ignoring you and between your pained sobs, you locate the camera again and look right at it, making your misery known.
That’s when the machine rips your hands off and you stare at the bleeding stumps. Your shoulders are screaming from the pain and your sobs are soft and certain as Monokuma moves his claws around in your stomach, saying dumb catchphrases that you don’t care to hear.
You kick frantically and accidentally send one of your detached hands flying into Saihara’s face. That’s when he looks away, unable to move his gaze away from the hand that died just a few minutes before you will.
Only Maki is looking now. Maki and the camera. Your eyes search for it again.
The people have to see this.
They have to see what it’s really like.
They have to see what the morbid cycle of demand and supply has created.
They have to look at you.
They have to.
You find it again, right behind the head of a mechanical kid and you stare it down, tears and blood dripping down your face.
The claws rip off your feet next, then your forearms and shins. You’re almost all torso now which is almost funny to you, because you remember being teased in elementary school for being all limbs.
Blood is everywhere and Monokuma decides to start attacking your face. From what you can see, the claws start collecting the bits and pieces of your limbs and throwing them behind you.
You aren’t sure what’s behind you until you turn your head.
(They’re going to set you on fire)
Beyond that, you see another fire.
(They’ll burn the ashes)
You will vanish entirely, all traces of your existence gone except for the unburnable Team Danganronpa pin that’s stuck to your jacket.
You will vanish.
Your sobs become hysterical as your face is mauled. You lose an eye, the rest of an arm, another part of a leg, your glasses.
You lost the camera when you looked at the fire, which is creeping closer and closer. With one eye, you try to find it.
There! There it is, above Maki’s head. Maki, who is now looking away from you and is instead looking at Saihara.
The camera doesn’t get your best angle. For once, you don’t want it to. You want it to see the ugly truth of your disintegration. You want it to see everything.
You’re all torso now, and the claws start attacking that, too. They rip off your breasts, all the spare fat they can find, and when that’s gone, they poke at exposed organs while you shriek and cry. What’s left of your uniform is in tatters. You spent two weeks on it, making sure every color matched and every stitch was perfectly in place. It’s almost gone now, just like the rest of you.
The fire will touch you soon. You have seconds. Less than seconds.
It will touch you and burn you until you are just ash, and the fire behind it will burn those ashes and all that will be left of you is the reminder that you were a monster.
It all feels the same to you.
You will die.
(It occurs to you that the cameramen could’ve cut the feed, maybe, if someone ordered them to)
You will die and there’s a possibility no one will see.
You will die as invisible as you lived, and no, you can’t let that happen.
“LOOK AT ME!” You shriek, saying those words louder than you’ve ever said anything in your life.
All four of them can’t help it, they look and see the ruins that you’ve become, the less-than-human thing that the machinery stripped you to. Kiibo does not look at the tip of your nose. You wonder if you even have a nose anymore.
“Just keep looking at me!” You beg, tears clouding the vision of the eye you have left. “Don’t let me die like this, kill me, please, Maki, Maki, please kill me, please, I know you can, please, please kill me, pl-AAAAAAAAAAAH!”
The fire touches your back and you shriek in the middle of your begging. You think you see someone crying. You can’t tell who.
Where’s the camera?
It’s moved now, moved to somewhere. Saihara guesses what you’re looking for and points to a spot a few inches in front of you and to your left. You stare it down as the flames swallow you up. You scream and sob hysterically, every repressed emotion finally coming out until the moment your heart stops.
Your body burns.
The fire behind it swallows them up.
Burns the ashes.
The pin is the only thing that’s left. When the execution is over, Kiibo smites it with a beam stronger than the fireproofing and then blows up the set.
Days later, when a crew comes to clean it all up, none of the ashes are saved. None of them are sent to your family to bury. They didn’t ask. Instead, the ashes are thrown away.
You vanish entirely.