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Twilight Syndrome: The Tragedy of Hope’s Peak Student Council

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No matter how much I’d rather deny it, there’s a part of me that wants nothing more than to leave this island…

Hinata locked his door at night with this in mind, and presently lay on his side on his bed, the humid summertime air drifting through his cracked window.

He closed his eyes and reflected on his predicament.

No matter how many nights he did this, a part of it still seemed unreal. Like a bad dream he’d eventually have to wake up from.

One person had already died, another already executed, and despite Komaeda being tied up and not a present threat, tensions were still high among his classmates.

If he wanted off the island badly enough to start thinking about it—even for a second—there wasn’t any guarantee that nobody else would act on those thoughts.

As much as Hinata wished that he could trust his classmates, blindly having faith in everyone could get him killed.

I’m just thinking realistically!

He didn’t know his classmates. Not really.

The only person he’d gotten to know even a little bit had proven himself to be the most unstable and potentially dangerous student on the island, and knowing now that anyone could be masking that same level of unpredictability…

Anyone was capable of masking themselves.

This was a life or death situation that demanded caution, and caution was often accompanied by manipulation…at least, in Komaeda’s case.

Because Komaeda had done an A+ acting job prior to the first trial. Hinata had actually mistook him for being a friend.

So who else was hiding their true motivations?

Hinata really couldn’t trust anyone.

He rolled onto his other side, now facing the wall, and forced his eyes shut.

Sleeping was a struggle now, and in the few days he’d already been confined here he’d gotten maybe one night’s worth of rest.

Komaeda…

He was tied up right now. For the second night in a row, at the very scene of Togami’s murder…being chained up like that, Komaeda was vulnerable.

Souda and Nidai might have chained him up with the best of intentions, hoping to deter him from setting up any more murders, but now Komaeda was a target.

Had anyone else even considered that?

It was a statistical impossibility that no one else had thought something like, “hey, Komaeda is tied up and helpless and no one would miss him and if I murdered him, literally everyone would be a suspect!”

Someone had to be considering it…there were twelve other people on this island, discounting Hinata, Komaeda, and the recently deceased.

Twelve people who had families back home. Friends. Pets. Lives.

Because of their talents, they had to lead at least decently busy lives, right?

Kuzuryuu couldn’t be missing for too long without attracting some sort of attention, maybe even sparking an international manhunt...Owari probably had gymnastic tournaments to attend…everyone had something to do, surely?

Except for me, that is…

Hinata sat up, tossing his pillow behind his back and folding his knees up to his chest.

I don’t even remember what my talent—

The realization hit him then that maybe he did have somewhere to be right now. Maybe, he had been in the middle of something really important!

If Monokuma had taken everyone’s school life memories, he probably took Hinata’s memories of his talent and anything relating to it!

Now that I think about it…the only thing I remember about life before Hope’s Peak is that everything was…normally dull. Nothing particularly exciting ever happened…I went to school, I came home, I did my homework, I browsed the internet for a bit or played games…

He stood up, paced around the room, and finally stopped by his window, pulling it completely closed and flipping the latch to lock it.

Just how many years did Monokuma did take from me? If he took all of my memories from the time I discovered my talent for myself, then…I could be drawing a blank on over half of my entire life and not knowing it!

And there was nothing he could do.

He was powerless against his own amnesia, and even though their school years had been taken from everyone, Hinata had been hit the hardest.

I don’t even know what I’m good for!

He tried to think of something—anything—else and his mind repeatedly circled back to Komaeda, how he was laying there, in the middle of the night, helpless to defend himself.

Anyone could kill him, and everyone would be a suspect.

If anyone really, really wanted a ticket out of here and didn’t care to throw the rest of us under the bus….

Of course no one else cares!

When it came down to the wire, to the possibility of escaping, Hanamura had caved to his concerns about his mother, even if he hadn’t originally wanted to kill anyone…everyone had a weakness like that.

There was that one special thing—that one factor back home that could push anyone in the heat of the moment…everyone had one, it was just a matter of what it was.

Then I wonder what mine is. No, I’m probably better off not knowing…

He shook his head, already heading out for the door; whoever killed Komaeda would have a high chance of getting away with it, and Hinata suddenly felt like a fool for not considering any of this previously.

If someone kills him…it’s over for all of us.

He placed his hand on the knob and turned.

I won’t talk to him. I’m just making sure he’s alive.

- - - - - - - -

“Oh, it’s Hinata-kun!”

Much to Hinata’s relief (and now he was fighting irritation, too), Komaeda was still alive, lying on the floor with his hands bound behind his back and feet shackled.

He was breathing heavily, wearing that same ear to ear smile from before. It was like he didn’t even care that he’d been stuck in this room for over a day with nothing to do, nothing to eat, nothing to drink….

When did that expression become so eerie?

It was the same smile that had greeted Hinata on their first day here on the island, and although he’d thought Komaeda was strangely calm for their situation, he didn’t distrust the look on his face. He didn’t give off that air of someone dangerous; neither did anyone else here, except maybe Kuzuryuu, which was all the more concerning considering that Hinata had just been contemplating how anyone here could be hiding their true nature all too easily.

The most capable person of leading the class as a group was dead...everyone was free to go haywire now…

“Hinata-kun? Are you alright? You didn’t answer me.”

“What…?” Hinata mumbled, mind having trailed off despite ensuring  that he had continued to watch Komaeda. He rubbed his eyes tiredly.

“I asked you if there’s anything I can help you with? Well, not that I’m going to be much of a help to anyone like this. I’d have to ask you to sully your hands and untie if you’ve decided to take me up on my offer.”

“What? What are you talking about?” Hinata said, confused.

“You came here to kill me, right?” There was that ominous lilt in Komaeda’s voice, and his eyes widened with delight.

“That offer I made you... If you did come here to kill me, I realize how suspicious it may seem that I’m suggesting my own demise, but I can promise you that I’ll make sure you get away with it. I normally like to play fair and give both the murderer and the rest of the class a chance to prove whose Hope would truly shine the brightest in the trial…but since I won’t be around to see such a beautiful clash, but I would like to assure your victory, Hinata-kun...how should I say it? Inside of you, I believe there’s a Hope that goes beyond anything I’ve ever felt before...and I want to make sure you’re able to realize it one day--”

“Komaeda, just...just shut up!” Hinata cut him off, in near disbelief of what he’d just heard. “I came here to check up on you, thinking that anyone could have had it in their head that you’d be the easiest target if they wanted a ticket out of here!”

And you seemed to be thinking the same thing…I don’t know what I expected! I can’t believe I was actually worried…

Komaeda laughed softly, a hoarseness behind his voice--probably from not having anything to drink. “Of course I’m the easiest to kill now! Anyone could come here at any time and do whatever they wanted to me, and I’d be powerless to stop them even if I wanted to!”

“If you were to die, and there had to be another class trial, it’d be a lot of trouble for everyone!”

“Not for you if you get to leave here. Listen, Hinata-kun...I don’t know why we were suddenly forced into this situation, but it’s been made clear that we have no chance against the power holding us here. Maybe fate arranged this for us, maybe my Luck arranged this for me ...my time has been running out long enough, so perhaps seeing to it that Hope flourishes will be my last bit of Good Luck, blessing me with at least a peaceful conclusion. Well, no matter the reason, we’re being forced to follow the rules of the people who brought us here...we have no choice but to play their game. Hinata-kun, you have family back home, don’t you? Friends? A lover, maybe?”

“Komaeda, just...be quiet….” Hinata didn’t want to listen to his anymore, and questioned why he was even still standing here. He’d come to make sure that Komaeda hadn’t been murdered, and he hadn’t, so there was nothing else for him to see or do.
Except...if he just left, Komaeda would still be a sitting duck.
Untying him would not only be potentially putting the rest of the class in danger, but would subject Hinata to their collective wrath should Komaeda opt to mention who released him.

“I know what you’re trying to do!” He continued. “And it isn’t going to work. I’m not going to kill anyone...especially you...after what you did, giving you what you want...I’m not doing that…”

“Well, I’m safe and sound here. Feel free to tell me if you change your mind.” Komaeda didn’t sound disappointed in the slightest, and had probably been expecting Hinata to turn down his offer--the thought sparking a tiny flame of anger in the pit of his stomach, because something about that smug attitude of his…it really irritated him.

Looking back on it from the beginning of this nightmare, it did seem like everything had played into Komaeda’s hands just as he’d expected, and it somehow felt like the flow of events would continue to sway in his favor.

So this is SHSL Luck, huh…If I had a talent like that, I wouldn’t be using it like this...if he really wanted to, if it’s that powerful, I bet he could get us out of here…

Hinata glared down at him assertively and crossed his arms. “Well, I’m not going to.”

And with that, he turned around and left without casting Komaeda so much as another glance. If he did, he had the feeling that seeing Komaeda continuing to smile up at him would’ve just pissed him off even more, and he knew he was already going to have a hard time sleeping tonight.

Hinata was at an impasse at what to do or not to do, seeing as how leaving Komaeda like this put him at risk, still.

He decided that he’d bring it up the first chance he got at breakfast.

Nidai and Souda weren’t the brightest people on the island, and probably hadn’t even considered the danger they were putting Komaeda in (and, by extension, everyone else).

They’re both just kinda stupid...right?

- - - - - - -

Unfortunately for Hinata, just as he’d reached for the door of his cabin, resigning himself to just sleep and not think about Komaeda, another door slammed shut nearby.

“I’m so fucking sick of this shit!” Kuzuryu was shouting next to him, hands stuffed in pockets as usual. He noticed Hinata staring at him. “What the hell is your problem, huh?!” he retorted. “If you think I’m going to walk with you to the park or something, you’re dead wrong! Don’t you dare fucking follow me!”

“I wasn’t going to,” Hinata snapped back, not making any attempts to stop him from wherever he was going.

After he’d disappeared from view, Koizumi emerged from the girls’ cabins on the other side, followed by Mikan, and then Nidai opened his door with a grim frown on his face.

Hinata almost wanted to ask him what was going on, but decided better of it; it was obvious that an announcement had been made, and from what Kuzuryu had said, they were to gather at the park as usual.

. ...Great.

Just what we need, he thought bitterly.

- - - - - --

The next motive, he soon discovered, was a game called Twilight Syndrome: The Tragedy of Hope’s Peak Student Council.

It looked kind of junky, an older machine with a joystick and a few buttons.

Monokuma had decided to wait until nearly two in the morning to unveil it, and Hinata decided he probably just wasn’t going to sleep tonight.

Why now?! Why can’t we just have a few moments of peace…?

He stood with the rest of the class, fists clenched, listening to Monokuma talking about how he’d created this game from scratch and that it was sure to become a cult classic. Whoever was pulling the strings here had an annoying amount of self confidence.

As they had before, when Monokuma insisted that everyone present had lost their school memories, the class insisted that they would not only not play this game and not kill each other, but that they were all friends. They’d stick together. No one would die.

That attitude had given Hinata just a spec of optimism before, but now two people were already dead.

“I don’t know about that!” Monokuma snickered, paws to his mouth. “Are you sure you wouldn’t want to kill someone, even if they posed a danger to everyone else?”

“Of course we are!” Koizumi insisted, not missing a beat. “Komaeda was a danger to all of us and we took care of that peacefully!”

As if she’d been the one to tie him up.

“Puhuhuhuhu….” Monokuma turned his back to them, and suddenly Hinata felt something in his stomach drop.

Saionji, backing up her best and probably only friend on this entire island, scoffed at him and pointed an accusatory finger. “We locked up the only dangerous weirdo here, so it’s obvious this ugly thing just wants us to turn on each other.”

“Yeah!” Owari punched her fist into her hand. “He thinks we’re stupid or something!”

Monokuma pat the arcade machine heartily. “‘Only’ dangerous weirdo? A lot of you could be dangerous if you put your mind to it! It’s mind over matter, kids!”

Kuzuryu, somewhere in the back of the crowd, too short for Hinata to see past Owari and Nidai standing nearly shoulder to shoulder, “tsch’d” as he always did and had to yell. “What a huge ass waste of my fucking time! The motive this time is some stupid game? Listen up! When I’m ready to leave here, I’ll kill whoever I want when I’m good and ready, you hear me?!”

“Getting angry right now won’t help matters,” said Pekoyama calmly, crossing her arms.

“What we should do,” Nidai decided, “is promise each other that we won’t touch that thing!”

“As if I can trust any of you assholes!” Kuzuryu retorted.

Monokuma cleared his throat, only to hunch his back, as if he were actually pouting. “Seriously, no one wants to play? After all the time and effort I put into programming this thing….after digging through the memories of your school lives to make sure this would a fulfilling experience for all of you…”

“Wait!” Hinata blurted out. “Our school memories?”

“It’s just another trick,” Koizumi turned to him. “He’s obviously just going to say anything to try to get us to play it.”

“Yeah!” Sainoji snorted. “Stupid.”

“I’m telling the truth!” Monokuma insisted, chuckling to himself. “Puhuhuhuhu….you’ll see…I wouldn’t lie to any of you! I want this game to be fair, so that someone slipped past me that could pose a danger to all of my precious students...I’m just giving you a fair warning about the murderous psychopath hiding among you!”

Tanaka spoke up this time, Sun-D poking her head out of his scarf. “Convincing words from a fiend such as yourself...it matters not what may or may not have happened during our supposed school life, for that is just one life among many! I, Tanaka the Forbidden One, have been subject to the cycle of reincarnation thousands of times! A mere one is insignificant!”

“I agree,” Sonia nodded, an undertone of panic in her voice. “No matter what may or may not have happened during our school life, right now, we’re all friends...we have to focus on the ‘here’ and ‘now’, as they say. Thinking about the past is nothing more than a distraction.”

Hinata noticed that they’d both seemed to completely block out the “there’s a murderous psychopath hiding among you” part, probably on the assumption that it was just a lie to entice the class to play the game and turn on each other.

The class went silent, dwelling on what she’d said. A true princess, able to move an audience with such variant temperaments to mutual contemplation..

Sonia was right, although maybe too optimistic.

The past didn’t matter.

Right now, they had to focus on not killing each other and uniting in the face of the person holding them hostage.

But still…

If Hinata could regain knowledge of his talent, then maybe he could use it to help get everyone out of here. To go home.
However, if his previous assertion had been correct, and his talent was something that would hinder the mastermind’s plans, then it was possible his talent would be useless, anyway.

But still…

With Monokuma’s announcement over, the class started heading back towards the cabins one by one with a collective air of uneasy confidence that there would be no more killings.
Hinata stood there, motionless, looking over at the game machine.

It gave him a bad feeling.

A really, really bad feeling.

It wouldn’t be worth it to fall into the mastermind’s plans, to give them what they wanted, all for the sake of maybe finding out his talent. There wasn’t any guarantee that this game would disclose any useful information, unless it was for the sake of raising suspicion and causing conflict.

No way.

There was no justifying it.

But still...I want to know…

And so he stood there for a few more minutes, waiting for the last of them to file out, walking slowly towards the exit to the park, realizing that he’d already made his mind up. He continued on inconspicuously towards the cabins.

When Ibuki and Pekoyama were out of sight, Hinata stopped in his tracks and immediately turned back to the park.

If he chose to not playing the game, it would loom over his head the rest of the night and he really wouldn’t get any rest.

Instead, he made a deal with himself: no matter what this game showed him, unless it involved his talent, it meant nothing, and even if it did involve his talent, he would act on nothing he saw.

I’m not playing Monokuma’s game...well, I am, but not his mind game...no matter what I see, I’m not killing anyone.

- - - - -

Twilight Syndrome’s startup screen was a photo of the front of Hope’s Peak Academy, with the title text stretched across in an eerie font that looked like it belonged in some vintage horror anime.

There were only two options: play or help, and the help screen only provided an explanation for the controls.

Hinata gulped, glanced to his left and then to his right, taking extra care to focus between the trees to make sure that no one was watching him.

Here goes nothing…

He pressed play, and the game started up.

~ ~ ~ ~

Twilight Syndrome: The Tragedy of Hope’s Peak Student Council.

DAY 1

[With all the graphical technology of a classic Playstation, a generic, pixeled sprite of an unremarkable boy walks outside of Hope’s Peak Academy’s gates, bookbag tucked under his shoulder. He stops and looks up at the behemoth of a building.]

Boy A: Hope’s Peak Academy...the Main Course building…

[He turns his head down solemnly]

I wish that I could go there...there is always a chance for me, if I take up the headmaster and the board on their offer…

DAY 3

[Boy A is standing outside of the gates again, this time it’s noticeably closer to nighttime. There’s another person by the gate, a larger figure with his arms crossed.]

Boy A: Please, I have to go in there to ask a main course student about something regarding the murder that happened…

Guard B: Get lost, kid. You Reserve Course students get a little attention from a Main Course student and suddenly you think you’re somebody!

[Boy A tries to charge into the gate anyway, but Guard B promptly shoves him to the ground and kicks him continuously.]

Guard B: One student killed another, then committed suicide and that’s all there is to it...you need to keep your nose where it belongs. Honestly, this is why I hate normal people...untalented trash…both of them got what was coming!

Boy A: That’s wrong! Talent or not, people’s lives are equal…

Guard B: As if...you can’t make diamonds out of beer bottles, kid.

[Guard B continues to kick Boy A, and then exits off screen into Hope’s Peak’s gates, closing them behind him. Boy A struggles for a moment, then stands up and wipes blood from his nose.]

Boy A: “Talentless garbage”...he’s right...

DAY 240(???)

[There’s a classroom full of students gathered, with the words “Student Council” written on the board. The doors open, and three individuals walk in: two girls and a boy, one of the girls pushing a cart full of boxes in.]

Girl C: Hey, party people! I’m the cute and lovely Girl C, and welcome to our game! This is my sister, Girl D, and my hot date, Boy E!

Council F: Game? Enough of being vague, why did you gather all of the student council here?

Girl D: We’re here to make you kill each other.

Council G: What? That’s insane!

[Some members of the council have stood up and began shouting]

Council H: No way would we do that…what are you trying to pull?

Council I: Why would we just do what you say, anyway?!

Council J: I’m leaving, this is insane…

[Council J gets up to do just that, but without even taking two steps, Boy E grabs him by the neck and holds him up in the air.]

Girl C: No can do, buckaroos! See, my boy Boy E here has a lot of pent up rage against Hope’s Peak, so I promised to let him kill all of you to take out some of his anger!

Boy E: . . .

[There’s a crunching sound, and Boy E throws Council J to the ground. A pool of blood forms around him. Boy E steps forward towards the classroom, and the screen fades to black among generic sound effects of screams, blades clashing, gurgling, crying…]

[After a few seconds, the scene has changed. Boy E now stands in the center of a room full of corpses, Girl C and D in the background.]

GAME OVER

DOWN FIVE

~ ~ ~ ~

Hinata watched the credits roll with a bemused look on his face, recognizing none of the names under the “cast” section.

If this was really about their school lives, then it was extremely vague and seemed to have nothing to do with anyone on the island. Maybe it was a hint towards the mastermind’s identity? There was a killing game at the end of it. Had the mastermind done this before? That was looking more and more likely…

Hinata rubbed his head and let out a frustrated sigh.

Well, it didn’t matter.

This game provided no details regarding his own missing memories or, more importantly, his talent.

Just as he’d promised himself, he decided not to pay the game anymore mind, and go to bed.

- - - - - -

If Togami were still alive, Komaeda would have likely never been tied up in the first place. Not only because there’d be no reason to tie him up, but because it’d have been obvious to Togami why imprisoning anyone like that would be a bad idea for everyone, and he’d have never let it happen.

But Togami wasn’t alive anymore. He was dead. Thanks to Komaeda. And now Hinata was having to awkwardly stand up in the middle of breakfast, banging a fork on his cup of orange juice to attract his classmates’ attention.

He had it instantly, despite Saionji muttering “this better be good” before shoving a spoonful of marshmallow cereal into her mouth.

“H-Hey, everyone, I have something I want to say…” He cleared his throat nervously. “And I’d like for you to listen to my reasoning here before you interrupt me.”

They waited, some exchanging confused glances.

“I think we should untie Komaeda--”

Instantly, Souda sprang out of his seat and shouted, “what?!”

“Are you crazy?!” Koizumi joined him, agreeing with him for the first time ever. “He’s a total psycho!”

Hinata set down his orange juice, ignoring the onset of murmuring. “I said to hear me out! Listen...being tied up like that, not able to move, he’s in danger. And Komaeda being in danger puts all of us in danger--anyone could murder him, and it would be easy for the killer to get away with it since none of us trust him.”

“Hold up!” Koizumi was going to continue to argue with him. Of course she would. “So you’re saying that letting him walk around freely would be the better option?! No way! There are girls on this island who are more feeble and weak than even him, who he could easily overpower or worse...”

Hinata frowned. “If Komaeda were to be murdered right now, it would be nearly impossible to narrow down the killer! And then the rest of us would die, so I’m saying that yes it is a better option.”

Sonia stood from her seat, raising her hand. “Hinata-san has a point. Despite what Komaeda-san has done, I don’t wish for him to die, as should none of you. That’s just too cruel...I already felt that his punishment was too harsh, truthfully.”

Souda turned to her, panicked. “Too harsh?! I-I was only trying to protect you!”

Sonia ignored him and continued. “I understand what Hinata-san is saying. We put Komaeda-san’s life in danger in an attempt to stall any further killings, but really, what we should be doing now is reaching out to him. We seem to have forgotten, myself included, that if one person dies, it means another person murdered them, and that all of our lives are on the line henceforth. Now is not the time to turn against each other. Hinata-san, because you are the person proposing this, I would like for you to charge yourself with Komaeda-san. Look after him after you’ve released him, please.”

For someone who only deemed herself a figurehead incapable of leading, Sonia’s little speech seemed to have swayed the class, including Koizumi who was crossing her arms and looking away from everyone dejectedly. No one had any further protests. Souda had already sat down, tears in his eyes, obviously not really concerned about Komaeda but rather about Sonia’s disapproval of his attempt to “protect” her.

- - - - - -

Komaeda was still in the center of the floor in the old building, eyes instantly fixated onto Hinata when he entered the room.

“Hinata-kun!” He said excitedly. “You’ve come back. I’m so happy to see you again, I--”

“Shut up, shut up…” Hinata saved a hand dismissively at him, kneeled next to him with a pair of pink and white scissors that Monomi had said he could borrow (but only to cut the rope tied around Komaeda’s legs) and the key to the shackles in his back pocket. “Listen up, Komaeda. This is how it’s gonna go.”

Komaeda smiled expectantly.

“I’m going to free you. But you are not to kill anyone, set up a murder, or encourage a murder--including your own. I made the argument to let you go, so I’m responsible for you, got it? That means if you mess up, everyone is going to be mad at me, and we’re going to have a problem.”

Hinata was pleasantly surprised with himself for keeping his voice stern and serious. Not that he really expected this to go over well, but really, he didn’t have any other choice. It was too risky to leave him laying here like this.

Komaeda chuckled, closing his eyes for a few seconds. “That someone who radiates Hope as much as yourself would go through such lengths for someone like me...truly, I’m in your debt, Hinata-kun. You’re amazing! You have my word. I’ll act only with your best interests in mind from now on.”

Hinata was already cutting the rope around his legs. “That’s cryptic and not what I asked you to promise me, but okay.”

He wasn’t in the mood to argue technicalities with Komaeda. He still hadn’t gotten much sleep last night, and if his nerves allowed he planned to take a nap in his cabin immediately after this.

Next, he dug out the key from his pocket and released the cuffs behind Komaeda’s back, freeing his hands. “There.”

Komaeda brought his hands to his frontside, cringing, his shoulders and arms sore and stiff. He sat up, groaning under his breath, and sighed in relief.

“Hinata-kun, thank you.” He smiled over at him, then attempted to stand up only to fall back onto his ass.

Being chained up for so long...it’d somehow made him look even more pathetic, and Hinata once again couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. Rolling his eyes, mostly at himself, he reached forward and offered Komaeda his hand. “Don’t mention it...but you’d better not get into trouble.”

Komaeda took it graciously, allowing Hinata to help him up to his feet. He nearly fell over again, but Hinata looped an arm around his waist to hold him up at an awkward angle.

“Even helping me stand up...Hinata-kun, you really are merciful! Just what I’d expect from someone as Hopeful as you.”

“Please be quiet.”

- - - - - -

For the first time in nearly three days, Hinata was sleeping, and he was actually sleeping well. It was probably because he was too exhausted to sleep with one ear open, but he was out the minute his head hit the pillow.

Hinata didn’t often remember his dreams, and right now that was probably for the better considering that this island would likely give him nightmares for the rest of his life (however long or short that may be). He rested for a long while, long enough for the sun to be setting outside of his window by the time he woke up.

As he sat up, rubbing his eyes and staring out at the orange sky, he realized that no one had woken him up, so Komaeda must have been behaving himself.

Ugh...thank goodness…

He yawned loudly and laid back down with a thud, rolling over so that his back was to the wall.

I’ll sleep just a few more minutes…

But something caught his eye--a sealed manila envelope that had been slid under the door.

Thinking that whatever it was couldn’t be good, Hinata stood up, fetched the envelope, and found that he was now fully awake and his heart was beating really loudly.

He quickly tore the top open and emptied the contents onto his bed.

It was...a bunch of polaroid photos and a few pieces of official looking papers, with a folded piece of notebook paper laying in the center.

He grabbed the photos first, eyes widening as he overlooked corpses of...Hope’s Peak students? The images made his stomach twist uncomfortably, and had he actually eaten anything at breakfast this morning, he would’ve been sick.

A boy and girl had been stabbed through one another with a sword. Another boy’s entire head was sawed off, albeit violently given the shreds of flesh lining the rim of this neck. A girl’s neck was broken, twisted around almost cartoonishly.
There was a boy riddled with blotches of blood in his chest, shot to death.

Hinata flipped through the photos, jaw dropped.

The last photo was the only one that hadn’t been taken at a crime scene.

The face was blotched out with black marker, but an individual with long black hair stood like he was getting his picture taken for an ID. Below this one was written “Kamukura Izuru”.

Hinata shook his head, told himself he needed to look through everything in this envelope before attempting to make sense of it.

Those papers next…

Sitting on his bed, holding his head in one hand, Hinata grasped the papers with the other, the pages fluttering as his hands shook. He had a bad feeling.

“The Kamukura Project…”

That was that person’s name! The one in the photo!

Hinata scanned the papers hurriedly, extremely uneasy and feeling exceptionally overheated despite his air conditioner being on maximum settings. He couldn’t place his finger on it, but everything about this was rubbing him entirely the wrong way. If those photos weren’t faked, if the events that transpired in Twilight Syndrome really were based on true events...then Hope’s Peak might not exist as it had before.

Monokuma could be telling the truth.

He shook his head, tried to focus on reading.

In order to create a Hope that will lead humanity to a brighter future, Hope’s Peak Academy Board of Trustees have initiated a project that will insert every imaginable talent into a single vessel.

This research is estimated to cost nearly five times our government subsidies, and so a vote to open the Reserve Course has been approved by the board.

Tuition will cost six figures, but due to concerns voiced by the Boards and risk of potential damages in mingling Reserve students with the talented Main Course, the entire campus will be expanded and a new set of buildings will be constructed strictly for the Reserve Course. Interaction between the two courses is to be at a strict minimum, and security staff will be encouraged to enforce this at any cost.

Since the opening of the Reserve Course, we’ve received so many applicants that we had to close submissions. What the Board has determined, however, is that our test subject for the Project needs to be scouted out considering the procedures they’ll be undergoing. They must be 100% compliant with the project’s goals and willing to allow our doctors and scientists to modify everything about their brain structure.

To find the most qualified subject, we’ve decided to hold an essay contest opened to anyone of high school age. The subject of the essay is what the applicant likes about Hope’s Peak, why they wish to attend, and what the word ‘talent’ means to them. The goal is to find a subject that values talent as much as our faculty and staff.

Hinata flipped through to the next set of papers. This wasn’t making any sense. Reserve Course? He’d certainly never heard of anything like that within Hope’s Peak...so it was some sort of fundraising campaign? To create a superhuman with every talent?

That’s something straight out of science fiction…

He move to the last paper, and at least a few dots connected.

We’ve found our ideal applicant, __________, who shares our ideals that talent is the uttermost important trait in the world, and is essential for the future of humanity.

The Board has taken a vote and decided that after a successful operation, his memories will be completely wiped and a new personality will be installed.

The name of the person they’d selected was blotted out in black marker, leaving no hint as to the identity of whoever won their contest, but Hinata deduced two very possible facts from everything he’d read so far: Kamukura Izuru had previously been the person they’d picked out, and was also Boy E from the game.

And more importantly, whatever name he’d used previously was likely the name that Hinata knew him by. He...possibly really was on the island. But judging from the picture included of him, there wasn’t anything that looked event remotely close?

Maybe if he cut his hair...but he’d still be recognizable, right?

A few notecards were attached to the back of this paper, with nearly illegible handwritten notes in red ink.

I knew this would come back to bite us in the ass. We invest billions of dollars into this thing, and it turns around and murders the entire Student Council. This is going to cost us to cover up.

On the flipside of the notecard was a name Hinata didn’t recognize, with a single black line through it and the words “a HPA trustee” written in neater, blue ink.

“What the hell even is all this…” Hinata mumbled, letting all of this information sink in, reaching for the last article from that had fallen out of the envelope--a neatly folded piece of notebook paper.

Upon unfolding it, he let out an audible sigh.

Of course.

Hinata-kun,

I was the first person to beat the Twilight Syndrome game! How lucky! This information and the pictures were given to me by Monokuma as a “prize”, so I thought I would share with the person who so generously untied me! This game has some really important information about you, so it’s important that you play it. There’s a trick to unlocking the “true ending” and seeing all of the information it has to offer, and I think it’s really vital for you specifically to see the entire thing!

I knocked on your door but got no response, then I saw through your window that you were napping and didn’t want to wake you up. Come to my cabin when you get this. I’ll be waiting for you!

 

  • Komaeda Nagito, your classmate

 

The last time Komaeda had given someone a note, that person wound up dead, but Hinata couldn’t argue with getting more answers. All of this was...immensely disturbing to him, and because Komaeda had pointed out that it contained “important information about him”, Hinata felt like he’d really missed something.

The ending to the game didn’t make any sense. If it contained any information about Hinata personally, then he’d missed it, which meant it was in the “true ending” Komaeda mentioned. Which meant...it was probably important.

Hinata hurriedly shoved all of the papers and photos (careful to place them facing away from him) back into the envelope and shoved it under his mattress.

Great hiding place. Real smooth. But where else am I supposed to put it?!

He made sure that his sheets were somewhat hanging off the edge of the bed, and thought to himself how silly it was that he was hiding anything to begin with. The right thing to do would be to present the information to the entire class, to talk it out, but...that probably wouldn’t go over well.

Komaeda was supposed to behave himself, for one, which likely barred him from indulging in anything Monokuma offered them.

And secondly, if Kamukura Izuru really was among them...tipping him off that his specific presence had become known wasn’t a good idea if he’d murdered a dozen people.

So I can’t tell anyone. The only thing I can do is…

He made a quick detour to the bathroom to wipe the sweat from his brow with a washcloth, dampened it, repeated the action, and then left his cabin, locking the door behind him.

Just to be safe.

- - - - - - - -

Komaeda was waiting just like he’d promised, opening the door for Hinata before he could finish the first knock.

“Hinata-kun!” He flashed him that personable smile of his and stepped aside, closing the door when Hinata stormed in, fists clenched to his sides. “I see you got my message! Thank goodness. You read over everything already, I take it?”

“Yeah.” Hinata glanced around Komaeda’s room, took in how unsurprising it was. There was a bookshelf full of titles he hadn’t seen before, the floor was clean, and Komaeda’s bed was made up neatly.

He decided to keep his wits about him, making a mental note to keep at least three feet between himself and Komaeda.

“There’s no need to be so on guard, Hinata-kun!” Komaeda held both his hands up innocently. “I’m unarmed, and I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you! I wanted to talk to you about the game and what it means for you...really!”

“Then start talking. What do you mean that this game has some sort of...relation to me? I was never involved in anything that happened in that game, even if it is based on true events! And you shouldn’t have been playing that game to begin with! If anyone finds out, I’m going to get in trouble because I’m the big idiot who untied you in the first place.”

Komaeda paused for a moment, finger to his chin, eyes darting to the corner in thought. “Hinata-kun, I think it’ll be best if I just showed you instead...the true ending to the game, that is. Days 2 and 4 are unlocked by following the instructions on the Game Over screen and pressing down five times. It’s getting late now, and I realize it’s a burden to be seen publicly with someone like me, so I’ll go on ahead to the park and make sure no one else is pla--”

“Let’s just go.” Hinata would rather just go with him now rather than go through the trouble of devising a plan to assure no one saw them together. If anything, he was fairly certain that anyone on this island would rather see Komaeda with someone, anyone, than wandering around on his own.

They trust me that much, at least.

“Hinata-kun, that’s bold of you!”

“And listen, this better not be a trick…”

“I would never trick you, Hinata-kun!”

- - - - - - -

DAY 2

[Boy A is standing in the center of a room, before a long rectangular table full of men and women in suits staring him down.]

Headmaster: Boy A, we’ve selected you to become Humanity’s Hope.

Trustee C: This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to not only become talented, but to hold the torch for the entire world.

Trustee B: As it stands right now, there’s nothing you’re good at, and you feel like you’re just a leech hanging off the side of the world, yes?

Boy A: …

Headmaster: You can, of course, still turn down the offer. But this is where we stand right now. We’ll give you a few weeks to think on it.

 

DAY 4

[Boy A is at the same scene, and it looks like there’s dirt on his uniform.]

Boy A: I’ve...made my decision. I’ll do it. ...I’ll become...everyone’s Hope....

And with that, dear audience…

...Izuru Kamukura was born!

Hands trembling, Hinata took a step back from the machine, still staring at the flashing game over screen. Komaeda, next to him, watched him with a concerned look on his face.

“Hinata-kun? You look really pale…”

“I don’t get it…” Hinata couldn’t tell if Komaeda was messing with him, or if he’d really missed something here. “What does this have to do with me?”

“You still don’t get it?” Komaeda’s eyes widened in surprise. “Hinata-kun, Izuru Kamukura is you…”

No. That can’t be true. Izuru Kamukura looked completely different than him, even with the face blotched out in that one photo!

“What the hell?! Komaeda, stop joking around! This isn’t funny!” Hinata exclaimed, pointing an accusatory finger at him. “If you’re saying that I’m Izuru Kamukura, then that would mean that I...I killed all of those people...and that’s assuming anything in this game is even true! It’s probably something that Monokuma just made up! I would remember something like this--I would never kill anyone! No matter how much I want to leave...I would never…”

His voice was cracking; even entertaining the idea that he was some sort of artificially created genius who had slaughtered some of Hope’s Peak’s finest students was sending him into a panic. His stomach was twisted into knots, and his eyes were stinging.

“Hinata-kun,” Komaeda spoke softly, stepping closer to him. “I’m not your enemy. I’m not going to tell anyone. I have no doubt that you don’t remember being Izuru Kamukura, since our memories have been erased, after all....”

“Stop saying that! It’s not true!”

“Oh, but it is!” Komaeda nodded his head very matter-of-factly. “It’s all a very simple process of elimination, really...that paperwork I got for beating the game first, that had all of the information on the Kamukura Project, clearly stated that they needed an untalented vessel from the Reserve Course. The only person here who doesn’t remember their talent is you, Hinata-kun. When we first met, you talked about how much you loved Hope’s Peak, just like Boy A on Day 1 of the game! It all fits together and it’s painfully obvious, at least to me. And if I can figure it out--”

Komaeda’s words started to run together, echo, and repeat, and Hinata realized that listening to him was actually making him dizzy. “Komaeda, just...be quiet…”

Hinata held his head and began pacing in a small circle; he wasn’t just dizzy, his head hurt--a lot--like someone had just sliced it open.

There had to be at least one solid, good reason why he wasn’t Izuru Kamukura.

Even with what Komaeda just said being true, it was always possible that since Kamukura had multiple talents, he’d picked one and decided to make up a fake identity while he was here, right?

And plenty of people admired Hope’s Peak. That was why the messaging boards existed...why thousands of people spent hours reading and re-reading them...why he’d spent hours reading and re-reading them...

“Hinata-kun,” Komaeda spoke more softly. “Now that you’ve seen the ending, it’s best that we not stay here, you know? But don’t you worry! I’ve come up with a plan to make sure no one ever finds out! We can discuss it back at my cabin.”

Hinata wanted to do nothing of the sort. He wanted to go back to his own cabin and lay back down and think on this, because he was fairly confident that if he did, he could write an entire essay in his head as to why Komaeda was wrong.

Because he had to be.

If that really was me, if I really did kill all of those people...how can I live with myself…?

“Oh, and another thing, Hinata-kun! The way you’re holding your head--it hurts, right? Like someone has cut into it with a scalpel? You had to have had brain surgery during the process, so I’d say that your body is remembering right now!”

“Komaeda…”

“Sorry, sorry! You told me to be quiet...but alright, let’s say you aren’t Kamukura-kun--”

“Don’t just add ‘-kun’ to his name.”

“Regardless, the fact that you’re the only person here who doesn’t remember their talent automatically makes you the prime suspect, don’t you think?”

Well. That is true…

“...I guess,” Hinata mumbled, fed up and no longer making eye contact.

“Then please, allow me to help you. I’ve thought of a way that we can both keep this is a secret between us.”

“Why do you want to help me?” Hinata wasn’t about to dismiss his own suspicion that Komaeda was up to something--because he always was!

But despite that, something about the way Komaeda was acting so selfless towards him right now was kinda comforting. It really did feel like he didn’t value himself at all, and although he’d already proved that he was an ace liar, that much had felt sincere from the start.
“Because, Hinata-kun...I’m on the side of Hope, remember?” Komaeda said simply, smiling at him pleasantly. “And as Izuru Kamukura, that’s what you are. SHSL Hope! I had a good feeling about you from the time we met, no matter how like a normal person you looked…”

“Hey!” Hinata wasn’t sure why he felt offended by that (he knew he was average), but he did. And maybe a little embarrassed.

“Hinata-kun, you’ll let me help you, right? Cover this entire thing up for good? If we don’t, there’s a chance that you’ll get even worse treatment than I did, and you don’t deserve that…”

“...” Hinata scratched his head, looked into the vast blackness of the surrounding woods, and thought that if he really was Kamukura-- a huge if! --then he would deserve a lot more than getting tied up and thrown around like a sack of flour.
But as it stood right now, Hinata didn’t remember anything that had happened in the game, if any of it was real at all, and it wouldn’t be fair to punish someone for something they didn’t remember doing, right?

Those photos of the dead student council...could have been photoshopped…

“Alright,” he finally deflated, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. “I’ll let you help me, Komaeda...but don’t think this is paying me back for earlier! And that afterwards I’ll let you just...run around and do what you want…”

Komaeda stuffed his hands in his pockets and started back to his cabin. “Don’t worry about something as silly as that, Hinata-kun!”

- - - - - -

The sun had completely set by the time they arrived back at Komaeda’s room; they’d almost avoided running into anyone, but Ibuki and Pekoyama were standing outside of the girls’ cabins talking to each other. They either hadn’t noticed them, or weren’t making a big deal out of Hinata and Komaeda hanging out together.

Pekoyama looked too annoyed with her to pay attention to much else.

Well, it’s not unusual...he’s my responsibility…

Komaeda opened his door, held it open for Hinata, and locked it once they were both inside.

“So…” Hinata sat on the end of Komaeda’s bed, surprised by how even thinking about all of this had sapped him of energy. “What did you have in mind?”

Komaeda sat next to him, a little close for comfort, and smiled over at him. “Hinata-kun, isn’t it obvious? You have to get off the island!”

Hinata scooted over a few inches and huffed. “I knew it. It always goes back to you wanting to kill someone.”

He threw his hands up and huffed again. “Why did I think for even a second you’d start making sense otherwise!”

“No, no, Hinata-kun, you misunderstand! I’m not going to kill anyone!”

“Not directly, right?”

“Nope, you’re going to be doing the killing!”

“...What?”

“You’re going to kill me!”

“No. I’m not.”

“Hinata-kun, it’s the only way...you want to get off the island, right?”

“Well, yeah! Don’t we all? But I’m not going to kill you…”

“Someone has to die if we want Monokuma to switch out the motive, otherwise...everyone is going to play that game, eventually. A few of our smarter classmates will figure out the Down Five trick, and it’s possible one or two other people will piece it together.”

“...”

“Hinata-kun, please…?” Komaeda was right next to him again, desperation lacing his voice.

He was breaking down Hinata’s neck, whispering in his ear, and although Hinata was extremely uncomfortable right now, he didn’t want to move.

“Hinata-kun, if I could die getting you out of here...if I could die for the sake of the incarnation of Hope...my life would finally have meaning…”

Hinata looked away from him. Now, Komaeda just sounded...sad.

“You’re being really stupid right now, Komaeda,” Hinata replied, trying to sound harsh, but failing. “I’m not going to...I’m not going to kill you. Why is hope so important to you, anyway? I get it that we all have our own philosophies but you’re...really enthusiastic about this…”

“Eh?” Komaeda tilted his head, then chuckled, the soft lilt in his voice sharpening. “That’s because...my talent is tied directly to Hope, don’t you think? Hinata-kun, when we used to hang out--”

“Before you got someone killed.”

“--remember how I told you that my entire life has been a cycle of good and bad luck? If you don’t remember such an insignificant detail about such an insignificant person, that’s fine, it’s why I’m reminding you. The Hope for something wonderful to happen after my dog died, after losing my parents, after being kidnapped...it’s a wonderful feeling, even for someone like me who doesn’t deserve that emotion at all. It blocks out the despair of what’s currently happening. When I was in despair, I held onto Hope for a positive result next...and when that result finally happened--like winning the lottery--I got to Hope for the Despair that would follow next, because the darker it was, the better the next thing would be that my Luck would throw at me!”

Hinata tried to follow, and rubbed at his temple. It kinda made sense.

Komaeda’s life had been overly and unnecessarily dramatic from what he’d shared, and it’d be impossible for anyone to live that out and not come out mentally maimed in some way, right?

Hinata couldn’t help feeling a little more sympathetic to Komaeda’s world view, no matter how twisted it was, because it was obviously the only thing that kept him going.

Komaeda didn’t have friends, and hadn’t had any before coming here...that much was obvious.

Because of how his luck would cast catastrophe after catastrophe on him when he didn’t expect it, in fact, he probably tried to avoid making friends for fear that they’d get caught up in the vicious cycle.

Hinata couldn’t say anything, couldn’t find the words to express that maybe he understood Komaeda a little more now.

Komaeda sighed contently and gazed out his window, the blinds up and giving him a full view of the night sky. “The last wonderful thing that happened to me, Hinata-kun, was getting accepted to this school! In fact, it’s probably the last good thing that will ever happen to me, because regardless of whether or not you kill me, I’m going to die.”

“What?”

“Lymphoma and frontotemporal dementia--I was diagnosed with that shortly before winning the drawing that allowed me to enter Hope’s Peak. ...Hey, you must have written a really amazing essay to have been chosen for the Kamukura Project! In a way, we both won a lottery, huh?”

“...What? You mean…” Hinata’s eyes widened. He didn’t really understood what that meant, just that it was...some sort of terminal illness. Komaeda was dying all along and he didn’t care?!

It did kind of explain why he was in such a hurry to get the killing game started, why he was so willing to sacrifice himself.

After such a dramatic life, a nondramatic death had to feel...inconclusive.

Hinata wasn’t sure what to say.

What could he say?!

“I don’t want to die a meaningless death, Hinata-kun.” Komaeda spoke sincerely, placing a cold hand over Hinata’s with a small, sad sigh.

Hinata’s first instinct was to move away, because Komaeda’s skin was freezing, but he didn’t. Something kept him there, like some mystic force was weighing his body down.

“Hinata-kun, you’ve shown me an incredible kindness from the time we met each other, all when I didn’t deserve it at all. Even after I made sure the killing game got underway, you still stood up for me to the others to have me untied. I would’ve been fine at the time with dying in that room with my throat parched and my wrists sore from my shackles, but you wouldn’t have that...so Hinata-kun, let me repay you for your kindness. Let me be your ticket out of here. Please.”

Hinata inwardly cringed at feeling Komaeda squeezing his hand, and his face felt uncomfortably hot.

The firmness in Komaeda’s voice, the way he made murder sound so convincing...it made Hinata’s heart beat erratically against his chest. Komaeda was saying something else, too, but Hinata couldn’t hear him right now.

Komaeda...wanted to die, and wanted to die for him?

Someone dying for you...that’s a big deal, even if it’s Komaeda. …

All of this being thrown at Hinata today felt wrong, so incredibly wrong, and he wondered if maybe he should’ve never played that game at all and never suggested that Komaeda being imprisoned was a bad idea.

If not for that, maybe he wouldn’t be in this position right now.

But that wouldn’t change anything...the game would’ve still been the same...Komaeda would have eventually played it if no one killed him, and come to the same conclusion…

“Hinata-kun,” Komaeda’s voice drew him back out of his thoughts, and Hinata realized that his hand wasn’t so cold anymore, having absorbed nearly all of Hinata’s body heat. “So, what do you say? Tomorrow? My room? Around three o’clock?”

“...Yeah, we’ll talk, then.” Hinata didn’t want to talk about this anymore, and hurriedly stood up, a little dizzy.

“Hinata-kun, good night.”

“Night, Komaeda.”

He left without looking back at Komaeda, wanting nothing more than to lay in his own bed and to attempt to sleep on all of this.

- - - - -

Breakfast the next morning was uneventful, and Hinata couldn’t be bothered to care about anything Kazuichi was saying to him (something about meeting up in secret later and scoring “hot chicks”). He hadn’t even invited Kazuichi to sit with him, he’d just invited himself to sit in the chair across from him.

Hinata couldn’t comprehend this level of simple-mindedness.

They were stuck on a deserted island, in the middle of who knows which vast ocean, and Kazuichi was worried about seeing girls in their bathing suits?!

What kind of priorities are those?

Hinata reflected on his crisis the night before last, when he wondered if everyone here was secretly capable of murder, and concluded that at least one person wasn’t.

You can’t fake this level of stupid…

Hinata rubbed his head, fighting what felt like a migraine, and wondered if he was always this judgemental.

“C’mon, dude!” Kazuichi whispered desperately.

“I have too much to do today...sorry.”

It was convenient that the time the girls were supposed to meet up was around three, at least, because it meant at least half of the people on this island wouldn’t be anywhere near the cabins, and that was less people to see Hinata sneaking off to Komaeda’s later on, who had skipped out on breakfast completely.

Either no one noticed, or no one cared, because much to Hinata’s relief no one asked him about Komaeda’s whereabouts.

Sneaking...I’m not sneaking… Hinata thought to himself as he knocked on the door once, twice, then grabbed the knob and turned when he heard Nidai yelling from by the pool.

Hinata opened the door to see Komaeda standing in the center of his room on a stepstool, a noose wrapped around his neck and a wide smile plastered on his face. He’d tied the rope to the ceiling securely, and the noose looked...professional.

“Hinata-kun, there you are! I was waiting on you!” He waved excitedly. “I thought the time of my death would be more of a mystery if I didn’t attend breakfast with everyone!”

Hinata’s jaw dropped, and he immediately reach up on his tiptoes to sling the rope off of Komaeda’s head. “What the hell are you doing?!”

“Hinata-kun,” Komaeda said, sounding truly puzzled. “What are you doing? This is what we agreed on last night, remember?”

“No! Noooo.” Hinata shook his head fiercely, grabbing Komaeda’s arm and yanking him down from the stepstool, but pulled with strength he didn’t even know he had (or maybe Komaeda was just that frail), and Komaeda fell on top of him, sending them both crashing to the floor.

Komaeda landing on him hurt less than he thought it would, even though his elbow was jabbing Hinata right in the rib.

Komaeda’s eyes were wide, like a deer in headlights, as he stared down at Hinata’s face, strands of his hair tickling Hinata’s cheeks. “Hinata-kun…”

“Komaeda...get off of me…” Hinata was uncomfortably hot again, voice strained.

Komaeda immediately hopped up, started to ascend back onto the stool, but Hinata grabbed his wrist.

“Hey! Komaeda! What did I...what did I just say...what the hell are you doing?!”

“What we agreed on last night!”

“I didn’t--no way!”

“It’s simple, Hinata-kun. I would devise something more elaborate than this, to give our classmates the chance to best you, but when you’re SHSL Hope, it’s no contest, anyway!” Komaeda laughed joyfully, making no effort to escape Hinata’s warm grasp. “You said you said it was fine, that you’d kill me this morning. It’ll be simple! And everyone is busy today with their own activities, so it’ll be a while before anyone notices that I’ve gone missing. You might have to fake finding my body, since after all, I am your responsibility...but you’re SHSL Actor somewhere in your core, Hinata-kun! Or I should say, Kamukura-kun--”

“Don’t call me that!” Hinata snapped. “And I told you stop adding ‘-kun’ at the end of that weird guy’s name!”

“But Hinata-kun,” Komaeda pulled his hand from his effortlessly, noticing that Hinata’s grip had gone limp, and repositioned himself at the top of the ladder, wrapping the rope around his neck.

“Just think about it for a minute! I’m offering you a way off this island for sure...no one will ever suspect you. Too many of our classmates would love to see me dead! You could blame Kuzuuryu for sure, or maybe the class would really rule it as a suicide...you’ll get to go home.”

“Stop talking!”

“You’ll get to go back to Hope’s Peak, resume the life you’ve created for yourself as SHSL Hope.”

“Komaeda!”

“The life you return to could be so wonderful...if we’ve really lost two years, who knows how amazing things have gotten for you since your transformation! Your parents must be proud of you...maybe there are lots of people that you love, not that any mundane person is worthy of your affections, but they’re there for you to use. Just like me.”

“Komaeda…”

“No more having to deal with Monokuma, having to lay awake at night, debating who is going to kill next, running through every murder scenario you can imagine, having nightmares about the next trial...it would be nice, wouldn’t it? To get off this island and never look back?”

It would be nice. That much was true.

And Hinata couldn’t deny the part of himself that wanted off this island, no matter how badly he wanted to.

He looked from Komaeda’s grinning face to how his feet were so securely standing on the top of the silver stool, how he was wringing his hands on the rope so tightly with excitement.

Komaeda’s eyes were half lidded, his smile soft.

The way he was looking at Hinata, he was ready to die for him, ready to die for this Izuru Kamukura or whoever or whatever he was, and so convinced that he was right .

For all of his self loathing, Komaeda was arrogant. He was right a lot of the time, sure, but he was arrogant.

And more than that, he wanted to die, and he wanted to die before his own body took him out.

Dying without meaning...for Komaeda, that had to be the worst final Bad Luck.

It was...too sad.

Hinata felt his heart turn to lead and drop into his stomach.

He was considering it. Even though he knew he wouldn’t, knew he couldn’t, he had still thought about it for even a second and he was disgusted with himself.

“Hinata-kun, let me do this last favor for you.”

“I don’t…” He weakly clenched his fists.

“Let me do this for you. From the bottom of my heart, I’ve realized that I love you…the Hope in your heart that you don’t even know is there, is what I love most of all. You’ll find it again when you get out of here. I can see it in your eyes, Hinata-kun! I know I’m right about this. You’re about to do it, right? All you have to do is just kick the step-stool from under me, and you’re home free. I’ll die saving the world’s Greatest Hope. This is what I want, so don’t feel badly about it.”

So. Arrogant.

Hinata gulped, collected his nerves, and looked from the flimsy structure under Komaeda back to the rope around his neck.

He stepped up behind Komaeda,  carefully not sure how much weight this thing could really handle, and hurriedly pulled the noose from Komaeda’s neck for the second time.

Komaeda looked to him with a disappointed, open mouthed frown. “Hinata-kun…”

“You’re wrong.” Hinata spoke gently, taking Komaeda by the hand this time and tugged him back to solid ground. “This isn’t what you want. It’s just...easy for you to trick yourself, because you aren’t used to being close to people, and you’re afraid to be, because of your luck...I get it…kinda…”

The coolness of Komaeda’s skin was actually comforting for once, because Hinata had gotten himself so worked up he was overheated.

“Hinata-kun…” His voice cracked. “I’m not…”

“You are,” Hinata sighed. “But it’s alright...you’re my responsibility, like I said, so…”

The adoring look in Komaeda’s eyes was making Hinata feel even hotter, his heart beat faster, so he had to look away from him for a minute. “Wanting to die for someone you claim to love is way too dramatic...no matter your luck, not everything has to be so life or death all the time, even while we’re here...if you really want to help me out, sit with me at breakfast so Kazuichi doesn’t come over to annoy me about spying on girls at the beach or whatever.”

“But...Hinata-kun...if someone else plays the game and figures it out…”

“There’s no definite proof that I’m Izuru Kamukura, you know...there’s no proving that it’s me. If it comes down to it, I’ll deal with that whenever it happens and explain myself. I don’t remember being Izuru Kamukura. Until I do, I’m not guilty of anything.”

Komaeda laughed grimly, wiping a tear from his eye. “Hinata-kun, you really are amazing…”

“Just...come here…”

“Amazing” may not have been the word for it, but Komaeda himself was...definitely something.

And he was something that Hinata realized he didn’t want rid of, no matter his annoyances with his carefree and laidback attitude on the subject of death.

Hinata pulled him close suddenly, before he could think twice, reaching up to stroke his ghastly pale hair in an effort to comfort him.

Komaeda looked up at him, tears still brimming his eyes. “I really...want to die.”

“Komaeda...be quiet…” Hinata mumbled, looking from his eyes to his lips, taking in in soft features, and before he could stop himself, he kissed Komaeda.

It didn’t feel like he’d imagined a kiss to feel--Komaeda’s skin was smooth, but his lips were carelessly chapped, and he didn’t hesitate to kiss Hinata back, opening his mouth and pushing his tongue between his teeth.

That took Hinata by surprise and he pulled back at first, red overtaking his cheeks.

“Hinata-kun!” Komaeda gasped, taking a few steps back. “I’m so so so so so so sorry! I shouldn’t have...taken it upon myself…”

“It’s fine!” Hinata said quickly. “I did that so you’d be quiet…so...don’t freak out…”

Surprised by even himself, Hinata walked up the stepstool, untied the noose using knowledge of knots he wasn’t aware of having, and then tossed the rope into the corner and folded up the stool and set it behind Komaeda’s bookshelf where he wouldn’t have to look at it.

He was still blushing, his heart was still beating, but now wasn’t the time.

“Komaeda, promise me. No more of this. If you want to do something for me, promise me that, too.”

“O-Oh...alright...I promise, Hinata-kun.” Although it was clear from the crestfallen tone in his voice that Komaeda was disappointed, Hinata was proud of himself for a second, for turning this around on Komaeda, for having bested him, in a way.

He’s so arrogant...I may have even surprised him a little.

Hinata smiled a bit at him, then looked away when he caught himself. “I’m...going to stay here with you for a while. Just to make sure.”

“That’s fine, Hinata-kun! You know you can do whatever you want with me.”

Hinata sat on his bed and sighed, Komaeda positioning himself next to him, looking at him expectantly.

“Hinata-kun?”

“Yeah?”

“You really are worthy of the title SHSL Hope!”

“Th-thanks…”