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This article, Danganronpa: Serial Bonding/Chapter 4 - The Challenge of Moving Forward, is property of OPZoroark.

This is a single chapter of a larger story. For more information on the full story, see the base page: "Danganronpa: Serial Bonding"

(Ab)Normal Life

Chapter 4 Title Daily post

Day 10

According to the clock on my cabin wall, I woke up at about 11 a.m. that morning. I somehow slept a full four hours past the morning announcement.

I changed into another of the dozen or so identical uniforms in my closet and started to reach for the doorknob, when I stopped and remembered that I wouldn’t be able to spend the day with either Hirokazu or Marise anymore. I mean, sure, the others are nice enough, but I still felt like a part of me was missing as long as the other two were gone. And if anyone would be able to help me overcome the events of yesterday and put me in the mood to check out whatever new area Monokuma probably made available for us, it would be Riku, but she was gone too.

I stepped back from the door and plopped back onto my bed, deciding to spend some time recovering until I felt myself to be sufficiently ready to face the world again. Yeah. That’s all. Just take some time to myself.

I hung out for another couple hours, before a knock came from my front door at around 1:15 that afternoon. I waited a couple seconds and opened the door to see who was there.

Ayumi Imagawa: Hey.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh. Hi, Ayumi. Did you need something?

Ayumi Imagawa: Not in particular. I just thought you might wanna check out the new area.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Thanks for the offer, but I think I just need some time to recover. I’ll check it out tomorrow.

Ayumi Imagawa: I get it. Still, considering how things have been in the past, we’re probably gonna get threatened into listening to Monokuma’s stupid blabbering about the new motive by the end of the day. I doubt that would be the best thing to start on after, uh… yesterday.

Hoshiyo Shimura: ...Yeah, I guess you’re right.

Ayumi Imagawa: Great. Everyone else’s been exploring since after breakfast, so they’ve probably settled down by now.

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s OK. Not really up for much excitement at the moment anyway.

Ayumi Imagawa: Well, it’s not like any of us has much of a choice in that regard. Easier to do this when we’re not as worried. Anyway, when you’re ready, I’ll be waiting in front of the open west gate. You know where it is, right? It’s right next to the Ultimate Psychologist’s Lab.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yeah, I remember. See you in a minute.

Ayumi Imagawa: Later.

Ayumi started walking away from my cabin and toward the new territory. I quickly brushed my teeth and left the brush in the cup next to the Monokuma-print curling iron that came with the room. I then put my shoes on and went to meet her by Riku’s old lab. Sure enough, the gate was open and the electricity was turned off.

Ayumi Imagawa: Took you long enough.

Hoshiyo Shimura: My toothbrush got locked in the cabin for the entire last motive. Sue me.

Ayumi Imagawa: Did you literally just wake up or something?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey, I fainted, OK? Cut me some slack.

Ayumi Imagawa: Fair enough. Anyway, I’ll show you around the new area. C’mon.

I followed Ayumi through the gate and up a set of concrete stairs up the slope of the hill. When we got to the top, the concrete path turned to a gravel intersection, with paths leading several directions. I looked over what I could see. The area appeared to be a massive clearing with various locations built all around to use. To our left was a new Ultimate lab with a pink exterior and several emojis printed all over it.

As I entered the building, the contents confirmed that this likely would have been Mayuko’s Ultimate Trendsetter’s Lab. The walls were the same shade of pink as the exterior and covered in posters of popular celebrities. There was one of those dressing room mirrors covered in lightbulbs on the leftmost wall with several drawers full of what I discovered to be outfit accessories under the mirror. The entire back wall was a massive walk-in closet with nearly a hundred pieces of clothing inside. There was also a photo booth by the rightmost wall with a picture of Monokuma holding a surfboard on the side.

Ayumi Imagawa: Oh, dear lord. I think I’m gonna barf.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So this is the Ultimate Trendsetter’s Lab. If Mayuko were still with us, she’d probably love this place.

Ayumi Imagawa: Honestly, I dunno why we just got access to this. Knowing that bitch, it’s hard to believe Monokuma would expect her to live this long without getting killed or executed.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Isn’t that a little harsh?

Ayumi Imagawa: Maybe, but at least it’s accurate. How does someone get so egotistical that they try to kill someone over something as stupid as losing what would have been maybe 0.1% of their followers?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I dunno. If it was really that important to her, she might have had at least an explicable reason for why it was so dire in her mind.

Ayumi Imagawa: As far as I could tell, she was just a selfish, short-sighted attention hog. Whatever sort of stupid backstory you could have given me for her, I would still wholeheartedly disapprove of her attitude.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I guess…

Ayumi Imagawa: Ugh. Let’s just get out of here before I OD on this stuff.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, I don’t think that’s really possible.

Ayumi Imagawa: Still not risking it.

Ayumi ran out of the room in a full sprint. I doubt there’s any way I could make her dislike Mayuko less, but I still doubt she was really pure evil. If only I could talk to her and find out why she cared about her popularity so much…

Deciding to not get left behind, I left the lab and caught back up with Ayumi. I decided to check out the small building to the right of the intersection. It was about a meter off the gravel path and the size of a larger shed. The exterior was decorated with crudely drawn pictures of Monokuma punching a pink rabbit in the face, as well as what I can only assume were supposed to look like flowers. The small sign hanging above the door read “Craft Corral.”

I opened the door to find Tansho rummaging through a plastic bin of art supplies. There was an old dining room table against the back wall with a stack of colorful pieces of construction paper, a cup of scissors and drawing supplies, and a fluorescent light hanging above it. The walls had several drawings taped up that matched the crude style of the images on the outside of the building. There was also a large set of shelves next to Tansho that had assorted supplies and miscellaneous objects on them. I assume that’s where the bin she was digging through came from.

Tansho Ogura: Oh, hey. You’re finally up. Kinda surprised you came out before tomorrow, to be honest. You were out COLD yesterday.

Ayumi Imagawa: You could be a little less blunt, ya know.

Hoshiyo Shimura: You’re one to talk.

Tansho Ogura: Anyway, check out all these cool art supplies! A ton of them are kinda childish, but I’ll take what I can get. Especially since my stupid lab still isn’t open yet.

Hoshiyo Shimura: You’re kidding! How many more areas even are there?

Tansho Ogura: Probably can’t be too many. I mean, we’re down to only nine of us. Besides, apparently mine and Tamaki’s are the only labs we haven’t found so far, so there’s probably only one or two more levels to this place.

She’s right. We’re down to almost half our original number already. I still can’t believe how quickly we’ve been losing our friends to this twisted game. I don’t want to think about it, but it’s the truth. Not like we can bring them back, though I wish we could.

Ayumi Imagawa: So, I take it you’ll be hanging out in here mostly until you find your lab.

Tansho Ogura: Big time. It’s even one of the few doors in camp with a lock on it, which is pretty helpful. Not too big on getting interrupted when I’m in the zone, ya know?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh… you mean like now?

Tansho Ogura: Well, not yet, but once I come up with an idea, that’s when I need concentration to keep the idea fresh in my mind.

Ayumi Imagawa: So, does that mean you want us to leave?

Tansho Ogura: It would be preferable, yes.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Sure thing. Later, Tansho.

Tansho Ogura: Uh-huh.

We left the building and faintly heard the Craft Corral’s sliding lock click shut.

Ayumi Imagawa: So, which way do you wanna go now? I’ve already seen it all, so I’m fine with wherever, but there’s more stuff in a straight line down the left path, so I’m thinking you might wanna go right or straight ahead first.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Makes sense. Let’s go right.

Ayumi lead me down the right path, which swerved to the side at the end toward a wide, wooden building. She brought me through the doorless entrance and the gravel I was walking on quickly turned to straw. Held in five metal pens to the left along the back wall were several horses, standing tranquilly. To my right was another doorless opening in the wall, with saddles, helmets, and obstacles lining the small room.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Since when do summer camps have stables?

Ayumi Imagawa: Dunno. Granted, this isn’t exactly a normal summer camp.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I guess that’s true. I’ve never actually seen a horse in real life before.

Ayumi Imagawa: What, were you that one girl in every elementary school class that’s super obsessed with horses or something?

Hoshiyo Shimura: No, I just think it’s cool that I’m seeing something new, that’s all. Were you that girl back in elementary school?

Ayumi Imagawa: Nah. I was that one wallflower who always volunteered to take care of the class pet over break.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Why does that not surprise me?

Ayumi Imagawa: I’ll admit, I actually do think this place is cool. I’ve always gotten along better with animals than I have with other people.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Still not too surprising.

Ayumi Imagawa: Bite me.

I checked around a bit more. There was a small area fenced off behind the stables for horse-riding. I’ll admit, if I knew how, that would have been pretty fun. The equipment room had a total of sixteen helmets, each under a small 8-bit image of our heads, like the ones on our cabin nameplates. From the looks of it, all the helmets were made to fit the indicated student perfectly. There were a few large, PVC hurdles and slalom poles placed against the wall for advanced riders. On a shelf above the helmet rack was a wooden shelf with saddles and boxes of treats on it.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey, how long do you think those horses have even been sitting here?

Ayumi Imagawa: Probably at least this whole Killing Game so far.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So does that mean Monokuma’s been feeding them this entire week?

Ayumi Imagawa: I would assume so. It’s really just a guess, though. For all we know, he could have just thrown them in yesterday during the investigation.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’m kinda surprised he would go to all this trouble to maintain the area in the event we made it this far.

Ayumi Imagawa: That’s a random thing to think about. I wonder why he even went through the trouble of making such a convoluted setting like this just for a group of teenagers who might not even get to it.

Monokuma: Why, because I have faith in you chumps, of course! Also, because I use the extra stuff if I ever get bored.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …

Ayumi Imagawa: Why don’t you just fuck off? Unless you wanted to talk to us about something important, I’d rather you stay as far away from us as possible.

Monokuma: Yeah, yeah! I get it! You ungrateful slugs hate my adorable, stuffing guts! Do ya have to broadcast it every time I address any of you?

Ayumi Imagawa: We don’t have to. We just choose to. Daily.

Monokuma: Hate you too, Scary Mary! Anyway, you were correct to assume I have something important to tell you. While I have enlisted care of my mighty steads to Monosquatch all this time, that was mostly just to keep ‘em alive until you saps committed enough murders to unlock this area! Also because he really likes fluffy things.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Now that DOES surprise me.

Monokuma: Anywho, since you can now access the stables, I’m leaving horse duty up to all y’all!

Ayumi Imagawa: And you didn’t tell me when I searched the place this morning because…?

Monokuma: I wanted to wait until there was more than one person around to hear me. You may be gifted, but I still didn’t want whoever I told to space out and end up with a pile of rotting horse meat! Although, it could help me save a fortune on your food for a bit…

Hoshiyo Shimura: Ew! I am NOT eating horse meat for dinner!

Monokuma: Then you better appoint a caretaker! Their daily routine is on the wall by the door out there for your reading pleasure! Remember the potential horse burgers, kids! Later!

The bear hopped into a pile of hay in the main room and vanished again.

Hoshiyo Shimura: That lazy little jerk!

Ayumi Imagawa: Eh. It’s fine. I’ll take care of them until we get out of here.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Really?

Ayumi Imagawa: I like animals. I also don’t trust the others to not do something stupid or forget. It’s for the best.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Understandable.

We finished investigating and headed out to search somewhere else. We made it back to the intersection and headed down the middle path, finding that the path once again split into five more short paths to different sporting fields. Fortunately, since this area wasn’t covered in thick woods, I could easily tell what they were from the fork. On the rightmost path was a tennis court surrounded by a tall chain-link fence. The next lead to a recreational-sized soccer field. The middle path lead to a baseball diamond. The fourth path lead to a basketball court surrounded by another tall chain-link fence. Unlike the one in the main field, this one seemed to be full-sized with two hoops instead of one. Finally, the leftmost path had some sort of building slightly larger than the Craft Corral. Even with all the sports fields, there was still a large amount of undisturbed, grassy field visible before the electric fence on the far side and the woods started again.

Hoshiyo Shimura: This place is huge!

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah. I guess it’s kind of impressive.

Hoshiyo Shimura: It takes a lot to impress you, doesn’t it?

Ayumi Imagawa: Not always. There are still some seemingly little things that I would be extremely impressed by.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Really? Like what?

Ayumi Imagawa: Well, the people here not being idiots and killing each other for stupid reasons would be a start. Not that hard, yet still sadly amazing.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I have a feeling you aren’t invited to many parties…

Seeing as the only thing I couldn’t survey from the fork was the small building to the left, I decided to check out the inside. I opened the door and stepped inside, discovering that it was some sort of equipment storage shed like the one in the stables. There were four room-like cages making up most of the building, each containing a ton of athletic equipment organized by sport. On the door of the leftmost cage was a poster of a tall teenager with spiky black hair and a red tank top dunking a basketball. On the second was a poster of a boy with spiky red hair and a goatee throwing a baseball fast enough to catch fire somehow. On the next was a picture of a boy with blond hair held up by a headband kicking a soccer ball. The final cage had a picture of a short, almost cartoonish-looking boy in black and blue clothing hitting a tennis ball. The non-caged part of the room had various items like outdoor water coolers, clipboards, and reusable plastic water bottles. The door to the tennis cage was open. Inside, I found Kenta repeatedly tossing a fuzzy, green ball in the air and catching it when it fell back down.

Kenta Higoshi: Glad to see you’re awake.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yeah. I’ve been getting that a lot. So, this place is pretty much a ton of sporting equipment, right?

Kenta Higoshi: Obviously enough. From what I can tell, these posters on the doors are of Ultimates from each sport. I only recognize one of them from history class, though.

Hoshiyo Shimura: History class? Really?

Kenta Higoshi: Yeah. The baseball guy is Leon something. He was one of the original Hope’s Peak students whose Killing Game was broadcast during the Tragedy.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh yeah! I kinda remember learning about that. There still isn’t much information the public knows about it, though.

Kenta Higoshi: Probably so no one would try to repeat it. Although, it’s not like that worked too well, considering our situation.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I wish we knew how the survivors managed to escape the first Killing Game. Then we could at least try it ourselves.

Kenta Higoshi: Like it would be that simple. If that were the case, whoever’s controlling Monokuma would likely take the previous events into account when planning this game.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh yeah.

Kenta Higoshi: Well, have fun, I guess.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Thanks. You too.

Kenta went back to tossing the tennis ball in the air while I took another glance around the cage. There was a metal cart with about a dozen tennis racquets sticking out the top, several metal bins filled with tennis balls, white sweatbands and towels hanging off hooks on the wall above a small bin that said it was for used ones, and a small booklet on proper form sitting on the floor by the racquets.

I then went to search the soccer cage. Inside I found, unsurprisingly, several bags of soccer balls. I also found several replacement nets for the goals, a set of sixteen cubbies with cleats and shin guards for each of us, and a set of hooks with sweatbands color-coded to indicate a different camper.

Next I checked the baseball cage. Most items inside seemed decently ordinary. There was a rack of aluminum bats on the wall, several metal bins of baseballs and softballs, sixteen helmets that were color-coded for us again, and a full shelf of gloves. However, the object that seemed to stand out was the massive automatic pitching machine in the center of the room.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wh-what is this thing?! It looks like a pitching machine or something, but it seems almost excessively powerful!

Ayumi Imagawa: You can tell its power just by looking at it? How does that work?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I dunno. It’s kind of like… a feeling. I’ve never actually used a pitching machine before, but for some reason this one just seems a bit ominous to me.

Ayumi Imagawa: Maybe it’s haunted.

Hoshiyo Shimura: D-don’t SAY that! I don’t like creepy stuff like that!

Ayumi Imagawa: Ha.

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s not funny, Ayumi! Knock it off!

I didn’t want to stay in the cage with that machine any longer, so I left to check the last cage. Looking around, I spotted a cart of basketballs, a shelf with replacement nets for the hoops, more color-coded sweatbands, and a box of chalk next to the nets.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What’s that box of chalk for?

Ayumi Imagawa: I think it’s for playing HORSE.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What’s HORSE?

Ayumi Imagawa: You’re kidding, right? It’s that game where one person shoots a basket and the other person has to make the same shot if the first one went in. If the second person misses, they get a letter and you keep playing until one person has the full word “horse.” You use chalk to keep track of your letters and where to shoot from. Were you never a kid or something?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, I was never really the athletic type. I mostly stayed inside and read books in elementary school.

Ayumi Imagawa: That explains a lot.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Why? What sports did you play as a kid?

Ayumi Imagawa: Mostly softball. It’s how I got so good with a bat.

Hoshiyo Shimura: How good?

Ayumi Imagawa: Piss me off enough and you’ll find out.

Remind me to never get on her bad side…

We left the equipment shed and went back to follow the leftmost path. The first new thing we found was a black building with glass double doors held up by golden metal frames. Both doors had yen symbols printed in the middle. I entered to find what appeared to be an office similar to Natsumi’s lab, yet noticeably different in terms of organization and eccentricity. The desk near the back of the room looked more ornate than hers, there were several papers strewn about the surface, a light display of what I could only assume was the current stock market went in a full rectangle around where the walls met the ceiling, and a large leather couch sat against the rightmost wall. Maro stood by a bookcase against the leftmost wall, reading through the contents of a leather-bound folder.

Azumamaro Gensai: Hey, Super Potion! We missed you at breakfast!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Thanks.

Azumamaro Gensai: Whadaya think of my Ultimate Entrepreneur’s Lab? It’s an almost exact replica of my actual office! I dunno how psycho Paddington managed to pull it off, but it’s totally dope!

Hoshiyo Shimura: It seems like it would suit you.

Ayumi Imagawa: I honestly expected something like a gold statue of yourself or something.

Azumamaro Gensai: Just goes to show how much you don’t know about me. I didn’t reach the top of the business world through frivolous spending on crap like gold statues.

Ayumi Imagawa: Hmph. You may be less egotistical than I thought, but I still don’t like you. It would take a LOT to change that.

Azumamaro Gensai: Not too keen on you either, you know. As of now, this lab is officially a buzzkill-free zone. Keep your criticism to yourself until you leave the premises. Three strikes and I’m suspending your mini-fridge privileges.

Hoshiyo Shimura: You have a mini-fridge in here?

Azumamaro Gensai: Uh, duh! What office would be complete without one?

Ayumi Imagawa: I would think most of them.

Azumamaro Gensai: That’s strike one. Anyway, it’s built into the desk. I got Prof. Pepper, Armin Cola, 5 flavors of Panta…

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’ll take a cherry Panta, if you have one.

Azumamaro Gensai: Your wish is my command. Catch!

Ayumi Imagawa: Well, we’ll leave you to your goofing around for now. We still have a few more places to check out.

Azumamaro Gensai: Strike one and a half. I only gave you a half because you’re not entirely wrong to assume that. Later!

We left Maro’s lab and headed further down the path. To our left, we found a small, tarred path immediately alongside a metal fence. Inside the fence was a large, five-story rock wall. We decided to walk down the side path since we could see everything from outside the fence. The ground was covered in blue pieces of rubber. Another helmet rack hung off the side across from the wall, with a second rack next to it for harnesses. The four belay systems were all automatic, hooked onto metal loops near the bottom of the wall to keep them from launching up to the top. Inside the rightmost side of the fence was a smaller free-climb wall that only went about two stories high.

I’m kind of surprised Tamaki isn’t there, though. If I remember what Tansho said earlier, only the Ultimate Sculptor and Daredevil’s Labs have yet to open. Hers is still closed. Then again, maybe she’s hanging out at Razor’s for the time being. Ah well.

Ayumi and I followed the tar path behind the rock wall. It turned toward the back of the unusually wide wall, ending at a door built into the back of the structure. The door had a picture of a cartoonish, mascot-like monster printed on it. A speech bubble pointing toward the creature read “come on in.” I turned the knob and pushed the door open to find a room inside the rock wall. No wonder it was so unusually thick. The Ultimate Otaku’s Lab was built inside it! Looking around, it seemed like a pop-culture enthusiast’s ideal paradise. There were several comfy-looking seats, anime posters all over the walls, entire bookcases of manga, a glass case full of action figures, and a couple computer monitors displaying either anime, games, or webcomics, with a drawing tablet hooked up to one of them. There was even a gumball machine and a cabinet full of snacks. Masahide sat in one of the stuffed chairs, reading an issue of Fullmetal Alchemist. Natsumi stood by the shelves, quickly flipping through something called The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

Natsumi Furusawa: What exactly is the appeal in this drivel? Why does the protagonist wish to be so pointlessly average when he has such astounding capabilities? It makes no sense!

Masahide Osaka: He wants to be left alone by his eccentric cast of classmates and keep his psychic powers hidden, so he tries to be as average as possible to avoid drawing attention to himself.

Natsumi Furusawa: But he has such astounding potential! Why would he willing choose to be less than he can achieve? It’s against the natural order!

Masahide Osaka: Because then the antics would be less hilarious.

Natsumi Furusawa: But why-?

Masahide Osaka: Natsumi, it’s a comedy manga. Don’t overthink it or it’ll make less sense.

Natsumi Furusawa: I’m never coming back here.

Masahide Osaka: You do that. Anyway, hey, Hoshiyo! How’s it going?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Not great, but it could still be worse.

Ayumi Imagawa: I take it this is your lab.

Masahide Osaka: Yep! Isn’t it great? If I could afford it, I’d have all of this back home! Too bad no one would ever hire me…

Natsumi Furusawa: I assume it was your own fault for coming off as lazy.

Masahide Osaka: I’ll have you know, I am an ideal employee! I only got rejected by everyone because I didn’t have any paid experience!

Natsumi Furusawa: Ah. So you were unprepared. Also foreseeable.

Masahide Osaka: Gimme a break! How am I supposed to get paid experience if no one hires me? It’s a stupid catch-22 that makes entering the working world practically impossible!

Natsumi Furusawa: And yet, I became a lawyer over a decade before the normal age. I blame a lack of effort on your part.

Masahide Osaka: That’s different! You’re an Ultimate at the job! It’s not like I’m some kind of “Ultimate Pizza Delivery Boy” or something!

Natsumi Furusawa: You must admit, even that would be more useful than your current title. If you ask me, an Ultimate Otaku is essentially rewarding lazy behavior.

Masahide Osaka: Hey, why the hell are you even in here? If you disapprove of me so much, you could just be literally anywhere else in this massive goddamn camp!

Natsumi Furusawa: I must admit, I was mildly curious as to what you find so appealing about this dreck. I at least wanted to get a glimpse once I had access to some of it.

Masahide Osaka: Well, now you have, and I’ve been thoroughly chewed out. Can you please leave? It’s hard to enjoy my new happy place what with the constant disapproval. I don’t barge into YOUR lab and tell you to be more like Phoenix Wright or whatever the equivalent to this ridicule is for you.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, we’ll leave too. I may come back if I want to read something, though.

Masahide Osaka: As long as you don’t damage it or try to make me feel bad about myself, I have no problem with that.

Ayumi Imagawa: Later.

Ayumi and I made our leave and headed back to the main path.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Those two are even more volatile than usual. Do you think anything bad’s gonna happen because of it?

Ayumi Imagawa: Well, tension in our current situation is pretty much a recipe for disaster. Hopefully they’ll settle down a bit before it gets out of hand. Of course, that’s just the best-case scenario.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …

Trying to think about something more positive, we continued down the path past the rock wall. At the end of the gravel way, directly in front of us, we found a brick building with neon signs covering the front. Halfway between the building and rock wall, there was a wooden construct a couple meters off the path.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What’s that thing?

Ayumi Imagawa: It’s some sorta amphitheater. It’s pretty much like someone made a fusion between the fire pit and the auditorium. Nothing that interesting to check out. You can pretty much see anything important from here other than a table with marshmallow forks on it and a structure with fire wood under it.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Sounds fun. I assume this one doesn’t have an elevator underneath it?

Ayumi Imagawa: As far as I know. Doubt that stupid bear would need to put another one somewhere.

Hoshiyo Shimura: You’re forgetting his apparent habit of doing things he doesn’t need to anyway.

Ayumi Imagawa: I guess that’s true. Anyway, we’ve only got one more new place to check out. After you.

I pushed open the double doors to the building and was hit dead on by a blast of deafening noise. I think it was supposed to be music, but I couldn’t discern what it actually sounded like over how insanely loud it was. After a couple seconds, the volume cut off, leaving me unsure if it was because the music stopped or I’d just gone deaf. Turns out it was a bit of both. I started to hear a faint, muffled voice that gradually rose back up to normal human volume that allowed me to determine it was Razor’s.

Robert Marren: …-shiyo? Hey! You OK?

Tamaki Ozu: Maybe she’ll respond if I scream in her ear!

Ayumi Imagawa: Dear lord, please don’t.

I opened my eyes, having reflexively shut them upon physically feeling the soundwaves bash me in the face. Looking around, I saw what looked like some type of music venue. A large, complex drum set sat on the stage with Razor sitting behind it. Tamaki stood a bit more to the front and side of the stage holding a microphone. I could see a few other instruments peeking out from behind the curtain including a guitar, a gong, one of those wooden xylophones from that ringtone my mom has, and some other stuff hidden in the shadows backstage. There were even more neon light displays inside than there were on the building’s exterior. Attached several places on the walls around the room were massive speakers that were probably responsible for getting the music so incomprehensibly loud. Such a place could only possibly be the Ultimate Percussionist’s Lab.

Ayumi Imagawa: You know there’s this thing called noise pollution, right?

Robert Marren: Ha! Good one, Ayumi! There’s no way noise can be pollution! It just goes away after a second or two!

Ayumi Imagawa: And during said couple seconds, particularly if it gets that loud, it can cause hearing loss, stress, tinnitus, and other problems. And then there’s however the hell it’s effecting you two at the epicenter. Quite frankly, I’m surprised you numbskulls are even still alive, let alone able to hear me and respond to my statements.

Tamaki Ozu: The trick is to just ignore common sense and do fun stuff!

Hoshiyo Shimura: As a scientist, I’m pretty sure ignoring facts doesn’t make you immune to them.

Robert Marren: So what brings you guys here so early in the afternoon? Did we wake you up or something?

Ayumi Imagawa: Routine investigation, obviously. Hoshiyo here finally got out of bed, so I volunteered to help her check out the area before things take a turn for the worst again.

Robert Marren: Yeesh. Again with the whole “we’re all gonna die” bit? Stop being such a pessimist all the time. It’s probably worse for you than whatever that “noise pollution” thing you made up can do.

Ayumi Imagawa: It’s really not. And I’m only stating my certainty that things will go wrong again because it’s already happened three times in the past week and a half! In fact, it’s technically been four times!

Hoshiyo Shimura: …

Tamaki Ozu: Aw, come on, Ayumi! It’s not like we’re gonna buy into whatever trick Monokuma pulls this time anyway!

Ayumi Imagawa: Oh really? I seem to recall that sort of bullshit denial being exactly what you idiots tried to convince yourselves of before every single fucking murder!

Robert Marren: But if you think about it, all of us who are here never gave in to Monokuma’s motives before. What’s to say we won’t stay as strong as before?

Ayumi Imagawa: Maybe the fact that none of the others tried to kill someone up until that one point either? Honestly, no matter how I look at it, the only way we could possibly make it any further in this godforsaken game without killing each other again is by chaining ourselves to a goddamn wall, far out of reach from each other until we die of natural causes! And it’s because you idiots don’t seem to have any sort of self-control whatsoever!

Tamaki Ozu: Who? Us?

Hoshiyo Shimura: …

Robert Marren: Uh, maybe you should lay off for now. I think Hoshiyo’s stuck in that disturbed trance again.

Ayumi Imagawa: Huh? Oh crap! I forgot about that!

Robert Marren: Is she OK? She’s been doing that every so often since yesterday.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yeah. I… I’m fine. Thanks for asking, though.

Robert Marren: No prob.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, Ayumi? If there’s nothing else here, I think I’m just gonna head back for now.

Ayumi Imagawa: Sure thing. Take care, I guess.

Robert Marren: Hey, maybe get something from the Dining Hall on your way back! You know, to make up for breakfast so you don’t pass out again?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Good idea. Thanks again. See you guys whenever.

Tamaki Ozu: Bye! Have a nice day!

I left the lab and walked back down the path to the main field. Taking Razor’s advice, I entered the dining hall and dug through the kitchen for a snack. After digging for a bit, I decided to put together a sandwich. While I was making it, Kenta walked into the building as well. I kept making my sandwich, but I figured talking to Kenta wouldn’t hurt, so I called out through the large opening in the wall.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey, Kenta. How’s it going?

Kenta Higoshi: Oh. Hello, Hoshiyo. I didn’t see you there.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.

Kenta Higoshi: It’s fine. I’m used to sudden loud noises from hunting.

Hoshiyo Shimura: By the way, why did you get into hunting in the first place? Just out of curiosity, I mean.

Kenta Higoshi: Well, I guess it just sorta grew on me while I was growing up. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.

At this point I had finished making my sandwich and walked into the seating area to eat it.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Seriously?

Kenta Higoshi: Yeah. To be honest, I kinda grew up in the middle of nowhere. The reason I adapted to this camp so quickly is because the environment is practically identical to where I grew up. There weren’t many stores near enough to access, so my father taught me how to hunt for dinner. Turns out I was a natural. I entered all those marksmanship contests for the prize money so I could help out some more and have something to do.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wow. That’s actually really cool!

Kenta Higoshi: Eh. I don’t think it’s that interesting.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Are you kidding? It totally is! If it weren’t for my supposedly genius IQ and natural skill at chemistry, I’d just be your average Mary Sue. Other than the occasional science experiment, none of my interests or hobbies are really all than unusual.

Kenta Higoshi: Give yourself more credit. You may not be eccentric or anything like that, but you still stand out in your own way. You are an Ultimate, after all.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yeah. I guess. Why’d you come in here anyway?

Kenta Higoshi: Tossing a ball in the air is only interesting enough for so long. I also got hungry.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I get it. Anyway, I’m gonna go hang out in my lab for a bit. Hopefully mixing chemicals is enough to clear my head so I can function like normal tomorrow.

Kenta Higoshi: You don’t seem that different to me.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Not in my head I’m not. I’m thinking the use of my talent will sort of reboot my psyche and have me a bit less effected by the yesterday that shall not be named.

Kenta Higoshi: You know, I think I’ll do that myself. Hopefully Maro won’t barge in and mess up my concentration again.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Well, you ARE probably his favorite person here. Maybe you shouldn’t take it for granted.

Kenta Higoshi: I’m used to seclusion. The lack of personal space bothers me at times.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Lucky for you, he might just spend all day in his new lab. Speaking of labs, I’m headed to mine for now. See ya.

Kenta Higoshi: Bye.

I finished my sandwich and headed around the building to the Ultimate Chemist’s Lab. I haven’t used it nearly as much as I would have expected when I found it. Granted, there’s been a lot of things to distract me from it lately. I spent the rest of the afternoon writing formulas and creating solutions in my lab. Before I knew it, a bell rang over the monitor next to my cabinet for storing photosensitive mixtures. The screen then displayed the stupid image of Monokuma wearing that stupid hiker backpack.

(Ding-dong-dong-ding!)

Monokuma: Attention campers! The time is now 10:00 p.m. and nighttime has officially begun! Sleep tight! Don’t let the bed bugs bite!

I wanted to stay up a bit longer and work, but knowing myself, I’d probably lose track of time again and either work till morning or lose consciousness while holding volatile chemicals. Wanting neither to be the case, I packed up for the day and headed back to my cabin. I think one day primarily to myself was enough for now. I still wasn’t over yesterday’s tragedies, but at least I was ready to hang out with everyone else again. Probably.

I crawled back into bed, finally having time to realize how comfy it was compared to the shacks. It didn’t take long before I dozed off, hoping for the best tomorrow.

Day 11

The next day I attempted to go back to my normal routine. No more moping around for this girl. I’m still sad, but I refuse to let it keep me from being myself!

…At least, I hope so.

I woke up with the morning announcement I had been lucky enough to sleep through yesterday and got ready to face the day head on. I marched over to the dining hall to eat breakfast and socialize, possibly even to find my new potential besties. Marise may be gone, but I can still learn from her never ending optimism.

…And now I’m dwelling on the last trial again. Crap. This may be harder than I thought.

I arrived at the dining hall to find half of everyone else present. As soon as I stepped in the door, I was greeted by a voice calling from the communal table in the center of the room.

Azumamaro Gensai: Hey, Super Potion! You actually woke up before noon today! Excellent progress so far! I applaud!

Hoshiyo Shimura: It isn’t that impressive. I only slept in once so far.

Azumamaro Gensai: I’m just trying to be friendly and encouraging. Didn’t mean to make fun of you or anything if you thought I was.

Ayumi Imagawa: Well, you did sound kind of sarcastic.

Azumamaro Gensai: I suppose you of all people would know about sarcasm.

Ayumi Imagawa: Ha-ha. Fucking hilarious.

Azumamaro Gensai: Yeah, like that. That’s what I’m talking about right there.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Where’s everyone else? Usually Natsumi’s one of the first people here.

Robert Marren: Still was. She took a piece of dry toast and locked herself in her lab. Said she had work to do.

Azumamaro Gensai: I saw Future Reference carrying a stack of manga into his cabin yesterday, so he may be reading them or still asleep from staying up and reading them. From what I can tell of the guy, second one’s more likely.

Tamaki Ozu: Tansho came in earlier too! Grabbed a bowl of steamed rice and headed on up to the new area! Didn’t seem to notice when I said hi either!

Probably one of her artistic trances. She probably went to the Craft Corral.

Azumamaro Gensai: As for SBD, I think he’s still in his cabin too. He’s been more distant than normal lately, but I’m gonna wait him out. He’ll have to eat eventually, you know?

Ayumi Imagawa: Why does this sound vaguely similar to when you tried to drag him out of bed a couple days ago on the island? You seem particularly invested in the guy all of a sudden.

Azumamaro Gensai: I’m just being friendly, that’s all. He doesn’t seem to have many friends or hang out that often, so I’ve made a point to hang out with him when I can.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Has it ever occurred to you that maybe he’s alone most of the time because he wants to be?

Azumamaro Gensai: What? That’s crazy. Why wouldn’t he wanna hang out with everyone?

Ayumi Imagawa: Unlike yourself, he doesn’t exactly come off as the most extroverted individual. Besides, when we first got here, you flat out ignored Yoshinaka when he obviously wanted to be friends with you. Why focus on someone who wants to be alone all of a sudden?

Azumamaro Gensai: Hey, I hung out with Bland as Rocks a few times before None-tractions got to him! Anyway, the reason I want SBD to hang out with me now is because I want him to feel comfortable with the group and avoid anyone assuming he’s an easy target! That’s all.

Ayumi Imagawa: You’re kidding, right? He’s the Ultimate Marksman. If anything, he’s one of the hardest people for anyone to attack. I bet you just want him to protect you instead of the other way around.

Robert Marren: Hey, no one thinks anyone is an easy target! We’re obviously done with this stupid murder bullshit!

Monokuma: I don’t think so, muddafukkah!

Tamaki Ozu: Hi, little bear gremlin!

Hoshiyo Shimura: …

Azumamaro Gensai: Great. Teddy Stuffington is back. What do you want now? You already gave us access to the new area so you should be done for now!

Ayumi Imagawa: Actually, we still haven’t received his new stupid motive. Strangely enough, he usually gives us one by the evening after we explore the new area. Any particular reason you decided to wait around this time, you fluffy little asshole?

Monokuma: Eh. I thought the events of this story were getting kinda rushed. I mean, seriously! You guys managed to get two whole trials in the time it normally takes to get to just one! Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I just have to keep our audience in mind since they prefer to “make friends” and “learn more about you” and all that boring stuff!

Robert Marren: So you aren’t giving us a motive this time?

Monokuma: No, you’re still getting another incentive of course! I just thought I should give you a bit more time to get attached to whoever ends up biting the bucket this time around!

Ayumi Imagawa: The phrase is “kicking the bucket,” dipshit.

Monokuma: Nobody cares! My version makes way more sense anyway!

Ayumi Imagawa: I care and no it doe-…

Monokuma: Anyway, now that you all agree with me whole heartedly…

Ayumi Imagawa: No we don-…

Monokuma: I have your next fabulous motivation right here in the paw of my hand! Who wants to find out what I’ve got in… WAIT JUST A GODDAMN DEMON SECOND!!! Where the hell is everyone?! You guys normally all show up here or at the equivalent at this time of day!

Azumamaro Gensai: Aren’t you watching us at all times? You should know that already.

Monokuma: For your information, I was busy writing the contents of these here mystery letters! I told Monosquatch to assume temporary control of the monitor room while I was working!

Ayumi Imagawa: Well, we already explained to Hoshiyo, so why don’t you just go watch the footage of that? Or better yet, look for them on the current feed.

Monokuma: Ugh! Fine! But if this happens again, I swear to Junko I’ll blow up this entire camp myself!

Tamaki Ozu: Wait, what’s in the envelopes?

Monokuma: Well, I was GOING to pass them out now, but you chuckleheads will just have to be patient and see where it goes later! Who knows, maybe you’ll kill each other in impatience or something? Toodle-friggin’-loo!

The maniacal plushy pivoted around and stormed off, dropping into a trapdoor in the floorboards and vanishing from sight once more.

Tamaki Ozu: Bye, little bear gremlin!

Robert Marren: Come on. Don’t treat him like he’s people.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …I’m gonna get some food.

Ayumi Imagawa: I’m good for now. That bear’s rambling left a sour taste in my mouth.

Azumamaro Gensai: Same.

Just then the door to the dining hall opened.

Masahide Osaka: (Yawwwwwwn!) Mornin’.

He looked around the room at all our less-than-happy faces.

Masahide Osaka: …Did I miss something?

Breakfast commenced normally after that, minus the other three’s arrival. We all dispersed after a few minutes to do our respective things. May as well start making friends now. I decided to start with the easiest potential friend, who I seemed to already be making progress with. It took me a bit, but I eventually found her in the picnic area on Mono Island.

Ayumi Imagawa: This stupid island is probably the least disturbed spot in the whole fucking camp. And there’s still not one sign of any sort of wildlife. I dunno how Monokuma managed this shit, but I refuse to accept it. There has to be SOMETHING living around here.

Hoshiyo Shimura: If there’s anything on this island, we’ll probably find it near the nature trail. It’s about 2 square kilometers of nearly unchanged woods.

Ayumi Imagawa: I was thinking that too. We should probably check it out.

I spent some time searching for animals with Ayumi. After a couple laps around the trail, we decided to give up for a while.

Ayumi Imagawa: Dammit! There can’t just be nothing! We should have at least found a bird!

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s definitely weird. Too bad there’s nothing we can do about it anyway.

Ayumi Imagawa: I take it you haven’t participated in many protests before, have you, Hoshiyo?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I mean, I signed a couple online petitions, if that counts.

Ayumi Imagawa: Pthh. I guess.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Did I say something wrong?

Ayumi Imagawa: Not really. Every little bit counts. Still, anyone can just say they want something on the internet. It’s the people who actually go out and work to inspire change that care about what’s going on in the world.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I care about important issues. It’s just kinda hard to do much about them as a high school student.

Ayumi Imagawa: Equally understandable. Just because I go out and rally up people every other week doesn’t mean it’s everyone’s cup of tea. It doesn’t mean you don’t think things matter. It just means you have your own way of expressing your ideals. In my case, it’s through protests.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What made you want to become an activist in the first place, anyway?

Ayumi Imagawa: Heh. Admittedly, you probably don’t see me as the type to thrive in crowds, do you?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wait, that’s not what I-…

Ayumi Imagawa: Nah, it’s fine. You’re right. I always stuck by myself as a kid and I still prefer to now. Never really been big on being the center of attention.

Hoshiyo Shimura: But then why did you start forming such massive protests if you hate crowds?

Ayumi Imagawa: I barely understand it myself, but from my understanding, I don’t actually consider the people I’m protesting with to be just an uncomfortable amount of strangers. If they decided to take time out of their lives to stand up for something they know is right, I consider them to be the same as me. It’s like the crowd becomes a part of myself, standing together as we face our true opponent.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh. That kinda makes sense.

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah. It’s probably how I manage to work the crowd so well too. I know they have my back, so I conduct them as if we’re all a single unit. Honestly, there’s nothing like it.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Who knows? Maybe if we were more unified, we’d have found a way to escape by now.

Ayumi Imagawa: Maybe, but we’ll probably never know. Anyway, nice talking to you.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Same. Later.

Having spent enough time on that traumatic island for today, I headed back to the mainland as quick as I could. There was still a decent amount of time left in the day, so I headed up to the west territory to find something to do. I wandered behind the rock wall and entered Masahide’s lab, finding the Ultimate Otaku sitting in one of the lab’s chairs and scribbling in a notebook.

Masahide Osaka: Hey. What’s up? I was just trying to predict everyone here’s Nen affinities.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh yeah. You mean based off Hisoka’s personality theory, right?

Masahide Osaka: Exactly! I almost forgot you were a Hunter X Hunter fan. Wanna help? A second perspective might give me more accurate predictions.

Masahide and I compared our understanding of our classmates to his side project for about half an hour.

Masahide Osaka: Man, you really know your stuff! I never thought I’d meet someone who enjoyed Togashi’s work IRL!

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s really not that obscure. I’m just surprised that you’re primarily a Conjurer.

Masahide Osaka: Honestly, me too. Until I took about 15 personality quizzes online, I thought I was a Manipulator. But now that I think about it, Conjurer honestly makes more sense.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I would’ve said Emitter, but I guess I was slightly off in my understanding of that one anyway.

Masahide Osaka: Still, you knew way more than anyone else I’ve met. Whenever my brother or sister skim one of my manga or watch the anime over my shoulder, they just think it’s weird.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh yeah. You mentioned you had younger siblings. You can’t blame them, though. Everyone has their own interests,

Masahide Osaka: Yeah. Try telling them that…

Hoshiyo Shimura: What do you mean? Are you OK? You sound kinda upset.

Masahide Osaka: Oh! Uh, it’s nothing, really.

Hoshiyo Shimura: No fair. You already know my issues since you found them before I did.

Masahide Osaka: I don’t really wanna talk about it…

Hoshiyo Shimura:  Come on. I’m sure I’ll understand. Maybe you’ll feel better if you just talk to someone about whatever this is.

Masahide Osaka: …Fine. But only because we’re Togashi buddies. The truth is… I’m kinda the lowest rung on the family totem pole.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Really?

Masahide Osaka: Yeah. Even though I’m the oldest, my siblings practically have full authority over me. They clearly see me as inferior just because my parents like them more.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Inferior? But you’re an Ultimate. I’m sure that at least earns you some respect.

Masahide Osaka: It did for a bit. Until my family figured out my talent.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh?

Masahide Osaka: My brother and sister are both star athletes and straight-A students. Growing up, I was always behind them and my parents put more and more pressure on me to rise to their level. I was sick of all the criticism and being compared to what I’m not, so immersed myself in fiction as an escape from my stressful reality. I read, watched, and played story after story. Eventually, I had turned fiction into the basis of my lifestyle and mentality. I created my blog as just a dumb little thing to pass time when I ran out of stuff to watch and share my appreciation of the stories I loved with like-minded people I had never found in my own life. I still got criticized and spent a ton of hours in cram school or sport clubs, but I was able to put up with it for so long because I had somewhere I didn’t have to worry about them in between.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So what happened when you got scouted?

Masahide Osaka: I coasted on my acceptance into Hope’s Peak for about a month. I knew my parents would be impressed if they thought I was actually good at something, so whenever it came up in conversation I always shifted the conversation away from my talent. Eventually, my brother Kazuomi found my letter where I hid it under some old drawings and showed it to them. Once they learned I was officially known as the Ultimate Otaku, their respect for me just went straight down the drain again. In fact, it was probably even lower than before.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Seriously? Why would they be against you having any talent in the first place?

Masahide Osaka: I was just getting to that. Essentially, my parents thought that receiving recognition for hobbies over academics, occupation, or competition made my future less secure. By becoming the Ultimate Otaku instead of something like the Ultimate Mathematician or Ultimate Track Runner, they felt I was wasting the time and effort they put into improving my grades and physical performance. They see me as just a lazy, ungrateful failure. Especially when compared to my stupid little siblings.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wow…

Masahide Osaka: Anyway, once I went away to the school, I got my own dorm just like everyone else. At least I don’t have to live with them breathing down my neck all the time. But yeah. You happy now?

Hoshiyo Shimura: ...Do you agree with them?

Masahide Osaka: Huh?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Your family. Do you think they’re right to think that about you?

Masahide Osaka: …I dunno. I mean, it’s not like I’ve never wished my talent was more useful or anything. But still, even if my family disapproves, I’m still an Ultimate, so I’m obviously doing something right. I’ve made peace with myself just as I am. Not like I would’ve accepted my title otherwise.

Hoshiyo Shimura: That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear.

Masahide Osaka: Yeah, I figured as much. You aren’t really the type to let someone stew in their own self-pity, after all. You know, you should probably take your own advice some time.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Heh. Thanks. Just keep being yourself, Masahide.

Masahide Osaka: Unless I somehow gained Mystique’s abilities, I doubt I ever could ever stop being myself.

Hoshiyo Shimura: There he is.

Masahide and I switched to a lighter topic for a bit and parted ways. I feel like I understand him much better now. I felt the need to spend time with one more person today. I walked over to the Craft Corral and discovered the door was unlocked. I opened it to find Tansho spinning a paint brush between her fingers. Since I hadn’t really seen much of her these past couple weeks, I decided to give hanging out with her a shot.

Tansho Ogura: I’m happy we got access to this place until my lab opens up. Wax and paper and stuff are no scrap metal, but they’ll do for the time being.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I hope it doesn’t open if it means going through another murder.

Tansho Ogura: Yeah. Still, at least it would be a bright side if it does happen.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I guess.

Tansho Ogura: Wait! Hold that look on your face! I just got an idea!

Her sudden exclamation startled me, but I tried to keep my face as still as possible while she scribbled something on a piece of construction paper. Eventually, my cheek muscles started cramping up.

Tansho Ogura: There we go. I think I got enough. I’ll store this somewhere until I find a way to embody its essence.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I relaxed my face for the first time in what felt like an hour. I snuck a peek at what Tansho was drawing when she set it down on the old table in the middle of the room. While not the most flattering depiction of my face, the image was astoundingly realistic.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Whoa! That’s amazing! I didn’t know you could draw too.

Tansho Ogura: Eh. I’m decent at best. The attention to detail from my sculpting just kinda carries over. The lack of three-dimensional capabilities throws me off a bit, though.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Still, this is way better than anything I could have done.

Tansho Ogura: I have my skillset, you have yours. I’m nowhere near as good as you probably are in science.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh come on. I bet you could understand it. Chemistry just makes so much sense.

Tansho Ogura: Yeah. To you. I was never really an honor roll student. I even got C’s in art a couple times.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wait, seriously? How did you get less than an A in art class? You’re a freaking artistic prodigy! You drew that insane picture of me in ten minutes and said it was decent at best!

Tansho Ogura: Oh come on. A grade schooler could have drawn that.

Hoshiyo Shimura: As someone who couldn’t draw something half as good, not cool.

Tansho Ogura: Look, I didn’t get lower grades in art because I’m bad. It was just for not following directions. Whenever the teacher gave us an assignment like “make a paper maché cast of your partner’s arm and coat it in cut-out newspaper strips,” I would always get carried away to the point where the end result didn’t even resemble the other students’ projects. Like that arm cast project? Took some creative liberties and made the fingers 75 centimeters long and spiraling around each other until they wound around a metal bowl that I used as a torch.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Holy cow! That sounds awesome!

Tansho Ogura: It was, but I got points docked for “not completing the assignment.” But in my defense, I left out the newspaper coating because I knew it would probably catch the whole thing on fire. Wasn’t the only time I went off task either. I got tons more. I don’t even remember what I was supposed to do with most of them in the first place.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So why did you keep ignoring the instructions? It seems like an easy problem to fix by just doing what you were supposed to.

Tansho Ogura: Hmph.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What? Did I say something wrong?

Tansho Ogura: Clearly you aren’t the artistic type.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I already told you I’m not.

Tansho Ogura: I get it. You’re a master of science, where there’s normally only one correct way to do things. It’s why I never liked the subject myself. The thing about art is that it’s only truly something noteworthy if it’s unique. Even though my classmates did everything exactly according to the teacher’s instructions, their projects always ended up looking like mass-produced crap. I’ve always realized that reality, so even if I’m told to make things a certain way, I always try to come up with a way to make it better.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I get it. The reason you became so successful is because you constantly think outside the box. As awesome as that sounds, though, I think I’ll stick to chemistry.

Tansho Ogura: You do you.

Tansho had me pose for her some more to come up with moods. Once we ran out of ideas, she shooed me out of the Craft Corral so she could work in peace. I decided now was as good a time as ever to get some work done, so I headed down to my lab to continue with my mixtures.

About half an hour into my attempt to make an algae crystallizer, I was startled by the bell going off early and nearly dropped the vial I was measuring.

(Ding-dong-dong-ding!)

Monokuma: Attention all campers! Please report to the auditorium for a special announcement! I could tell you now over the intercom, of course, but where’s the inconvenience in that? Anyway, get your lazy asses over here! You know what happens if you ignore me!

Great. Now we have to listen to him talk again. I should probably be used to him ordering us around at this point, but I hate his obnoxious voice more and more every single time I hear it. Since disobeying the bear’s orders wasn’t worth finding out how quickly Monosquatch could drag me to the auditorium, I trudged up the gravel path to the small clearing and waited patiently in front of the stage as the others began to file in.

Tamaki Ozu: Ha! I win again, slowpoke!

Robert Marren: No fair! I don’t have enough balance to sprint down a wooden railing like that!

Tamaki Ozu: And you paid the price for it! I told ya to work on your legs more!

Natsumi Furusawa: I leave my lab for five minutes and the first thing I hear is two halfwits yelling about idiotic adventures in nearly breaking their necks. How foreboding.

Azumamaro Gensai: Nice to see you too, Phoenix Uptight.

Natsumi Furusawa: You know, those childish nicknames were annoying enough before you started calling me that. I advise you cease and desist before I get angry.

Ayumi Imagawa: Good luck with that. He doesn’t even stop when people he likes ask him to.

Azumamaro Gensai: For your information, my nicknames are dope! I put way more thought into mine than Monokuma does.

Kenta Higoshi: Speaking of which, where is Monokuma? We’ve all been here for a while now.

Suddenly, a loud noise, almost like an alarm clock, resonated throughout the auditorium. Everyone except Tamaki and Razor started wincing at the sound. After a couple seconds, Monokuma rose out of the stage, holding his head until the ringing stopped a couple more seconds later.

Monokuma: Ow! The hell, guys?! It’s flattering, but stop mentioning me! My ears are ringing like crazy!

Masahide Osaka: Oh my Innominat! I felt that in my molars!

Natsumi Furusawa: Spare us the theatrics, bear! You clearly called us for something at least slightly more pressing than your latest terrible comedic stylings!

Monokuma: Hey, blame yourselves for that, not me! But yes, I do have something important to share with you all!

Tamaki Ozu: Cool! What is it?

Azumamaro Gensai: Considering the other things he’s given us in here, you have an odd definition of “cool.”

Tamaki Ozu: New stuff is always cool! Y’all are just pissing mist!

Kenta Higoshi: Please tell me you meant “pessimists.”

Monokuma: Shaddup! I’ve had enough of your silly interruptions for today!

Masahide Osaka: Look who’s talking.

Monokuma: AS I WAS SAYING…! (ahem) I couldn’t help but notice all the fun you guys have been having lately. Did you enjoy your extended break from your responsibilities?

Hoshiyo Shimura: What responsibilities?

Monokuma: Oh, you know what I’m talking about! I expect each and every one of my campers to spend at least a solid half hour a day thinking up how to spread the despair’s good word! And you chumps have been slacking off big time!

Robert Marren: How many obscure ways have you figured out how to say “kill each other?”

Monokuma: Eleven-thousand and thirty-seven! Thanks, Thesaurus.com!

Masahide Osaka: I don’t think they do phrases.

Monokuma: Stop getting me off topic! Now, I was going to give you all this tantalizing motive at breakfast this morning, but SOME OF YOU decided to be anti-social brats and left before I could hand it out! I’ll forgive you this time because I know how hard it is to put up with Threads for too long…

Azumamaro Gensai: Hey!

Monokuma: …but if it happens again, I’m gonna get seriously pissed off! Got it, chuckleheads? Be! More! Social! It’s hard to kill each other when you have no idea where anyone is, ya know!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Isn’t that a good thing?

Monokuma: NO IT’S TRUCKING NOT!!! And let me get to the motive already! Geez! It’s like your entire generation has chronic ADD!

Masahide Osaka: I actually do ha-…

Monokuma: NOW! As I was trying to say - THIS ENTIRE TIME! – is that your new motive is gonna be dwelling on the past a bit!

Natsumi Furusawa: Do you mean the past as in the previous killing game?

Monokuma: Well, only kind of. I took the basic concept from it, but I already recycled an old motive in chapter one, so I’m tryna make the concept different enough so I don’t look like I’m running out of ideas. That’s not the only correlation to the past, though! These motive envelopes will inspire at least one of you to kill based on your own shameful pasts! Catch!

A small hatch opened in the ceiling, sending nine standard envelopes fluttering down toward us. Each envelope had one of our names written on the front in big markered letters. We each gave each other the corresponding envelope as Monokuma snickered and watched us stare perplexed at what we received.

Natsumi Furusawa: Based on how you stated “shameful pasts,” I assume these have some moment from our pasts that we wouldn’t want revealed. Are you attempting to blackmail us into another murder with embarrassing or confidential information?

Monokuma: Nope! I said I changed the concept this time around, didn’t I?! I did that already.

Azumamaro Gensai: Then what’s in these envelopes?

Monokuma: Well, I thought to myself, “gee, Monokuma! What would be a way to shake up this old basic ‘secrets’ concept and turn it into something fresh?” “I know, Monokuma! Instead of embarrassment, why not make them kill out of anger instead?” “That’s a great idea, Monokuma!” “Thanks, Monokuma! You’re so kind and humble and sexy!”

Tamaki Ozu: Hang on! Why would stuff from the past make us angry?

Monokuma: It’s simple, really! I would explain some more, but why don’t you saps take a peek for yourselves? Upupu!

I had no idea what he was getting at, so I decided to finally check what I got. I tore the flap off the envelope and reached inside to find a folded piece of paper. And on that paper read…

Tamaki Ozu tried to convince Hirokazu to perform a dangerous stunt with little regard for his personal safety.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …Wh-What?

Azumamaro Gensai: What the dicks?! Is this true?!

Natsumi Furusawa: Ggh!

Robert Marren: Hey! Is she really thinking of doing this shit?!

Kenta Higoshi: Monokuma, what is the meaning of this?

Monokuma: Isn’t it obvious? I’m letting things come to light about your fellow campers that you would be totally pissed at them for if you knew! Every blast from the unrevealed past contained in those nifty little envelopes is 100% accurate and at least 25% rage-inducing!

Robert Marren: This isn’t cool! I oughta give that inconsiderate-!

Monokuma: Whoa now! Hold your horseflies for a sec, Little Drummer Boy! Before you do anything you end up regretting, in spite of how much I would love to make you regret anything, this motive has a few conditions added to it, just like last time! Condition number first! None of you bastards is allowed to share whose info you got! It takes all the fun out of solving the next murder if you just automatically know who wanted the victim axed, whether it be from finding out beforehand or the spotless sharing theirs and using process of elimination!

Masahide Osaka: Somehow, I half expected that when he mentioned the conditions.

Natsumi Furusawa: As did I.

Monokuma: Condition number second! No sharing what the thing is that’s making you pissed! In several cases, you can easily figure out who it is with just that and we’d have the same problem the first condition was supposed to prevent! Condition number third! Don’t leave those motive notes where someone could stumble onto it! Tripping hazards are a lame murder concept anyway!

Azumamaro Gensai: Ya know, the crappy jokes aren’t making this more enjoyable.

Monokuma: They are for me and that’s all that matters! Condition number last! Since a certain SOMEONE is so good at finding loopholes in things, intentionally revealing anything about this new motive in any way, shape, or form is explicitly prohibited! And trust me, I will know if it’s intentional, so don’t try to play dumb!

Tamaki Ozu: But what if I am dumb?

Monokuma: Then don’t be yourself, I guess! How am I supposed to know with my godly intellect?! Yeesh! You people are so aggravating sometimes!

Masahide Osaka; Doesn’t that last condition sort of include the first three conditions anyway? Why not just say that first and not bother with the others?

Monokuma: Because I said so, smartass! And stop making me mad! I’M supposed to be making YOU mad! That’s not how this works!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Is that all? Because if it is, please just crawl back into your pathetic little den and leave us alone indefinitely.

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh snap! Super Potion is unhinged! It’s goin’ DOWN!

Ayumi Imagawa: Please shut up. Everything you say makes my brain feel like puking.

Azumamaro Gensai: You just have to ruin every good thing, don’t you?

Monokuma: I hope not! Ruining things is my job! Back off my turf, Scary Mary!

Ayumi Imagawa: YOU shut up as well.

Monokuma: Oh fiiiiiiiiiiine. I guess I’ve got you fighting amongst yourselves anyway! Looks like my work here is done! And perfect timing too!

A trapdoor opened in the stage under Monokuma’s feet, dropping him into the floor as a bell rang over the speaker system once again and the monitor on the back wall over the A.V. booth lit up to reveal Monokuma wearing his hiker backpack again.

(Ding-dong-dong-ding!)

Monokuma: Attention, campers! It is now 10:00 p.m. and nighttime has officially begun! Sleep tight! Don’t let the bed bugs bite!

The monitor went dark again and Monokuma popped back up on stage.

Monokuma: Well, would you look at that! What a handsome bear that was! You should all heed his words and do whatever it is you kiddos do afterhours! Anyway, I’m out! Toodles!

The trapdoor opened yet again, dropping Monokuma below the floorboards for the second time this meeting.

Masahide Osaka; Did he seriously pop back out just to say that? Talk about unnecessary.

Natsumi Furusawa: Unnecessary. Adjective. To be unimportant or pointless in nature.

Masahide Osaka: I didn’t mean literally…

Natsumi Furusawa: I knew that. I was simply answering your request in the unlikely event that was the case. Or do you not consider all alternate possibilities like I do almost instinctually?

Masahide Osaka: Not like that I don’t.

Natsumi Furusawa: Hmph! Simple, inferior Masahide. Once again, I am a full step ahead of you.

Masahide Osaka: Wait, what?

Azumamaro Gensai: Yeah, not sure what that was about, but I’m gonna hit the hay. Night, everyone.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I think I’ll do the same.

Tamaki Ozu: Aye-aye, cap’n! As if I’d risk sleeping in!

Robert Marren: Hey, Tamaki. Mind helping me with something first?

Tamaki Ozu: Sure thing!

Masahide Osaka: Hey, just a heads up, I might be at breakfast late again. I still have a ton of manga left from my lab.

Natsumi Furusawa: I shall retire for the day as well. A good night’s sleep does the mind wonders, after all.

Masahide Osaka: Uh, great, I guess?

Everyone dispersed from the auditorium and went to our cabins for the night. Just like before, the new motive was at the forefront of my mind. I was admittedly less than pleased with Tamaki for this revelation, but honestly, the biggest impact the note I received had on me was reminding me of my fallen friend once more. I wanted to believe that none of the others received something warranting another murder, but look where that got me the last three times. Still, the reactions from the others left me wondering just what everyone else could have done that would be worthy of killing to someone. Hoping to not find out soon, I stashed my own note in the wastebasket under the sink after brushing my teeth. Trying to think pleasant thoughts, I crawled into bed, closed my eyes, and fell asleep.

Day 12

The next morning, I headed over to the dining hall for breakfast as usual. Unlike yesterday, everyone seemed to be here except Kenta.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh, hey! You guys decided to join us today!

Natsumi Furusawa: Of course. I have enough common sense to realize isolating myself will only heed negative results. Of course, even if I were to become a target, it’s not like anyone would be cunning enough to get the upper hand on me.

Azumamaro Gensai: We get it. You have a superiority complex. You don’t need to remind us every two seconds.

Tansho Ogura: I was just getting a bagel before I get back to my sculpture.

Masahide Osaka: …

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey, Masahide!

Masahide Osaka: …

Hoshiyo Shimura: Um… Morning, Masahide!

Masahide Osaka: …

Before I attempted to say hello again, Natsumi walked up behind Masahide and slapped him on the back of the head.

Masahide Osaka: OW! What was that for?!

Natsumi Furusawa: Hoshiyo was attempting to get your attention. You were blankly staring into your cereal like a mind-dead zombie. I simply helped you regain consciousness so you could functionally interact with your surroundings.

Masahide Osaka: Still, was it really necessary to whap me in the head like that?! Oh, and hi, Hoshiyo. Nice to see you.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Thanks. For the record, I didn’t think she was gonna do that.

Masahide Osaka: It’s cool. I know you’re at least a rational person. Unlike SOME people.

Natsumi Furusawa: I assume that quip was directed at myself. For your information, rationality happens to be one of my strongest qualities. I wouldn’t have become a successful lawyer if it wasn’t. At the very least, I have enough common sense to abstain from staying up ridiculous hours to stare at picture books written for grade school students.

Masahide Osaka: For your information, manga is not just some “childish picture books!” It is a timeless art form that tells intriguing, mature stories with illustrations that the mangaka puts their heart and soul into creating at the highest quality they can! To not read it would be a slap in the face of those who dedicate their livelihood to expressing their ideas for fans to enjoy!

Tansho Ogura: Same goes for all artists, really.

Masahide reached up and held his hand behind him. Tansho just stared at it confused.

Tansho Ogura: Why are you raising your hand?

Masahide Osaka: I was going for a high-five.

Tansho Ogura: With who?

Masahide Osaka: You.

Tansho Ogura: Oh! Yeah, right.

She slapped Masahide’s hand, which he put back down after.

Natsumi Furusawa: Still, that doesn’t mean staying up late every night reading is anywhere near a good idea. It puts you at risk of being an easy target due to your lack of attention from sleep-deprivation.

Masahide Osaka: I can’t help it. I’m a natural night owl. Besides, if I stopped now, I’d never catch up on Detective Conan.

Ayumi Imagawa: Wait. You’re reading murder mysteries in our current situation? The hell is wrong with you?

Masahide Osaka: Monokuma put the entire current series in my lab. Probably to push his own agenda. Still, it’s insanely long. Takes up the entire middle three shelves.

Azumamaro Gensai: Dang. I gotta say, your lab is probably the most suitable for everyone’s enjoyment so far.

Natsumi Furusawa: Everyone with no sense of productivity anyway…

Tamaki Ozu: Aw, come on, Natsumi! Lighten up a little!

Natsumi Furusawa: “Lighten up?” We are trapped in a life or death situation where the slightest mistake could easily lead to disastrous consequences. Once again, I am the only one here with any sense of logical skepticism toward the wolves hiding in the clothes of sheep and dwelling within our midst. I don’t need to lighten up. You naïve fools need to wizen up.

Robert Marren: See, there’s that gloom and doom outlook again. Hell, if anyone here is suspicious, I’d say it’s you.

Natsumi Furusawa: Excuse me? I happen to be giving you troglodytes useful advice. How am I quote-unquote “suspicious?”

Azumamaro Gensai: Come to think of it, you’ve been acting kinda weird for a couple days now. Usually you’re just dismissive and snarky, but lately it’s been more elitist or condescending than anything you’ve shown us these past couple weeks.

Natsumi Furusawa: Hmph! Maybe you idiots have just given me more reason to. Ever think of that?

Hoshiyo Shimura: No. I think we’ve at least been acting normal this whole time.

Ayumi Imagawa: Come to think of it, the time you started getting more uptight was right after the last trial. You know, when you had kind of an off day and started going off the rails on everyone?

Natsumi Furusawa: I did no such thing.

Tansho Ogura: You started screaming at everyone for like half the debate.

Natsumi Furusawa: Nonsense. I would have no reason to do so. I successfully guided everyone to victory by solving the case.

Masahide Osaka: Are you kidding? We were all there the whole time, you know.

Azumamaro Gensai: Yeah. I think what really sent you over the edge was when Future Reference found that one clue that pretty much saved all our asses.

Natsumi Furusawa: …Stop talking.

Azumamaro Gensai: Uh-

Natsumi Furusawa: Stop talking. NOW!

Holy crap! If looks could kill, we’d probably be hearing the body discovery announcement a fifth time. Natsumi started glaring at Maro with a look that seemed to overflow with just pure malice. He stopped dead in his tracks and just sat in silence. Everyone else stared nervously Natsumi, unsure whether it was best to butt in or keep quiet until she stopped shooting mind daggers.

Natsumi Furusawa: …Excuse me. I have work to do in my lab.

She got up from her chair, placed her plate on the counter between the dining room and kitchen, and briskly walked out the door, leaving us all to talk amongst ourselves.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …Maybe we should leave her alone for now.

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah…

Masahide Osaka: Yep.

Azumamaro Gensai: Full support.

We ate for a bit longer, then started leaving the dining hall one by one. Even ignoring the Natsumi incident, a decent amount of us seemed kind of off today too. Some less vocal, some more irritable. I wish I knew what information everyone else got from the motive. Mostly out of concern, but similarly out of curiosity.

Well, no time like the present to hang out with everybody. Who should I spend time with today? I started wandering a bit, making my way to the Ultimate Percussionist’s Lab. Fortunately, when I opened the door, the amplifiers weren’t disorientingly loud this time. Razor stood up on the stage, playing a song I didn’t recognize on a marimba.

Robert Marren: Oh, hey! Come on in, Hoshiyo! I’ve been wanting an audience! Wanna hear me play something?

Hoshiyo Shimura: A free performance from the Ultimate Percussionist? Sure thing.

Robert Marren: Awesome! Hang on! Let me set up first.

I spent about an hour listening to Razor play a bunch of different songs and cadences on a bunch of different instruments. I have to say, I was really impressed.

Robert Marren: Woo! So, that’s all I got for now! Whadaya think?

Hoshiyo Shimura: That was awesome! I knew you were good, but I never thought it was possible to move your arms that quickly or accurately!

Robert Marren: I get that a lot. I mean, what can I say? I was scouted internationally for a reason, after all.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh yeah. You’re an exchange student.

Robert Marren: What, you forgot? How?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I didn’t forget, I just don’t think about it that often. You’re surprisingly fluent in Japanese.

Robert Marren: Thanks. I actually improved a lot over the past semester. Got some tutoring from this Ultimate Linguist girl who taught me a bunch of tricks to remembering different terms, grammar, and how to speak in a casual manner. Still have trouble with writing in a new alphabet, though.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I would imagine. Plus there was probably some level of culture shock, I assume.

Robert Marren: Oh, big time.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’m kinda curious. What would you say were the biggest differences from your home culture?

Robert Marren: Well, aside from the language and alphabet, I’d say the biggest shift was the school year being configured differently. American school years start in August or September and go till May or June. I ended up having to catch up on an entire semester of non-talent-related material over the summer so I could transfer in for the 2nd semester. It was brutal.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yikes. Even I would hate that, and I normally spend my summers reading inside anyway.

Robert Marren: On the bright side, the past year has been considerably easier since I didn’t have only half the time to learn everything.

Hoshiyo Shimura: You must be glad about what it lead up to, though.

Robert Marren: Oh, hell yeah. Hope’s Peak is even cooler than I thought it would be, and I had pretty high expectations from the start. Well, you know, minus the whole “being targeted for a Killing Game” thing.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …

Robert Marren: OH! Sorry! Forgot about the whole “trigger topic” thing!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. Kinda hard to avoid mentioning at least every once in a while anyway.

Robert Marren: Here. I’ll play something to change the subject. How do you feel about Led Zeppelin?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Who?

Robert Marren: God, you guys are missing out on everything.

I stayed a bit longer and listened to Razor play a couple more songs. I must admit, while I had no idea what the English lyrics were, I was fully invested the entire time. I eventually said goodbye and went in search of something else to do. I decided to check out the Ultimate Entrepreneur’s Lab since it was close. When I entered, Maro was sitting behind the desk, stacking a bunch of sodas into a pyramid.

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh! Hey, Super Potion! Howzit?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Decent. How’s what appears to be a soda pyramid?

Azumamaro Gensai: Great so far. I’m running low on materials, though. Maybe I’ll get some more from the dining hall later.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Want some help?

Azumamaro Gensai: Absolutely! I’ve been trying to add a few more cans, but it’s kinda unstable. Would you mind handing me the remaining ones so I can keep it steady in the meantime?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Sure. Sounds interesting.

Azumamaro Gensai: You’re a lifesaver, Super Potion!

I spent a few minutes helping Maro with his soda pyramid until we emptied out the mini-fridge’s supply.

Azumamaro Gensai: Another great success! The Leaning Tower of Pepsi is complete!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Gotta admit, this is surprisingly impressive for a structure made of a bunch of soda cans.

Azumamaro Gensai: And I never would have achieved this spectacular feat of architecture without your invaluable assistance. I thank you for randomly walking in here when you did.

Hoshiyo Shimura: No problem. I’ve been randomly walking around a lot these days anyway.

Azumamaro Gensai: OK! This settles it! Super Potion, after minutes of careful consideration, I have decided to make you my official apprentice!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Your what-now?

Azumamaro Gensai: Apprentice! You know, someone I can teach all my fantabulous wisdom for both their benefit and the sake of my mastery of life continuing through the generations!

Hoshiyo Shimura: But we’re in the same generation. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I’m older than you.

Azumamaro Gensai: Potato-Potato.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I think you’re supposed to pronounce the second “potato” differently.

Azumamaro Gensai: Lesson number first! Keep people expecting the unexpected through intentionally quirky behavior!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Is that why you said “lesson number first” instead of “number one?”

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh good. You get it already. However, this is only the beginning. You still have much to learn, Super Potion-kun.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Why are you randomly using honorifics now?

Azumamaro Gensai: Lesson number second! The business world requires a certain degree of respect, especially to your subordinates. We are in a business-related meeting now, therefore I am showing that I respect you through the use of honorifics.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hang on. I never even agreed to be your apprentice yet.

Azumamaro Gensai: Lesson number third! Be assertive! Taking “no” for an answer with factors linked to your agenda will only decrease others’ faith in you and your chances of success down the line!

Hoshiyo Shimura: But I’m not assertive. Have you met me?

Azumamaro Gensai: Lesson number fourth! Believe in yourself! Confidence is the rocket booster that will launch you to new heights of success!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I feel like I saw that line on a poster once…

Azumamaro Gensai: Probably. There are only so many metaphors that apply to certain situations.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Is that lesson number fifth?

Azumamaro Gensai: Of course not. If it were, I would preempt it by saying the number. Don’t worry, though. We’ll work on pattern recognition later.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh…

Azumamaro Gensai: But for now, let’s get back to the true lesson number fifth! Now, it’s a bit more involved, so you might wanna borrow this notepad.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wait, hold on! I-…

Azumamaro Gensai: Now, let’s go over how to determine the perfect outfit for any given situation. Bear in mind, I don’t have nearly as much experience in utilizing these concepts for female outfits, but a decent amount of them can easily carry over.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wha-…

I spent the next couple hours learning Maro’s secrets for success. Eventually, we decided to pause for the day and continue at a later time. My brain was still attempting to process most of the stuff that had been crammed into it as I walked away from the lab. There was still a decent amount of time left in the day, so I decided to find one more person to hang out with.

I made my way to the stables and found Tamaki pulling a bunch of obstacles out of the supply closet. I was still mildly pissed at her for the information on my motive letter, but I got over it for the most part by now. I also had to admit I was decently curious about her lifestyle choices.

Tamaki Ozu: Oh, hey! ‘Sup, Hoshiyo? You here to try horse-jumps too? I didn’t take you for the thrill-seeker type!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’m really not. I was just looking for something to do.

Tamaki Ozu: Well, you’ve come to the right place! Grab a helmet!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, no thanks. I don’t even know how to ride a horse.

Tamaki Ozu: So what? Neither do I, but there’s no way I’m letting that stop me!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I think I’ll just watch for now.

Tamaki Ozu: Suit yourself! More horses for me that way!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, I think you’re just supposed to use one anyway.

Tamaki Ozu: Which is exactly why I’mma use all six!

…This oughta be good.

Tamaki Ozu: Let’s do this! Giddy up, suckas!

I stayed a safe distance away as I watched Tamaki backflip from horse to horse as they navigated the PVC obstacles for a solid ten minutes. Somehow, she made it the entire time without getting hurt and kept her tricks seemingly unique every time.

Tamaki Ozu: WHOOOO!!! That was awesome!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I have to admit, that was extremely impressive!

Tamaki Ozu: Aw shucks, that was nothin’.

Hoshiyo Shimura: How long have you been doing stuff like this? I mean, it would probably take a while to get used to doing things in the face of insane levels of danger.

Tamaki Ozu: Not really. I just up and started one day and now we’re here!

Hoshiyo Shimura: There’s no way it’s that simple.

Tamaki Ozu: But it is! I don’t have some kind of superhero origin story or anything. I just started doing stunts because it was fun!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Well, you must have started somehow.

Tamaki Ozu: Nah, I’ve always been like this! Ever since I was a baby! As soon as I could walk, I started climbin’ everything in the house at least twice a day! My stunts developed with my motor skills over the years and now I’m slingshotting myself off office buildings and stuff!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’m kinda surprised you became an Ultimate through such a simple progression. Then again, it would take actual talent to progress this simply in the first place.

Tamaki Ozu: Why you actin’ like this is so weird? I mean, didn’t you just naturally progress into being the Ultimate whatever-your-talent-is?

Wait, does she seriously still not remember my talent after all this time?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, I mean, kinda I guess. I spent most of my free time in grade school reading and baking inside. I became interested in chemistry because I thought it would help me get better at baking, so I started studying it on my own and branched out into more official experiments because I thought it was fun.

Tamaki Ozu: See? No matter how much work you have to put in, getting really good at something is simple if you like doing it! If you don’t really wanna do something, it’s harder to get up to Ultimate level anyway! That’s why doing what you love is so important, after all!

I have to admit, Tamaki has a surprisingly good point. I never really had problems with her happy-go-lucky attitude, but I think I understand and respect it at least a bit more now.

Tamaki Ozu: Anyway, I’m getting’ kinda sick of standing around! Come on! Let’s go parkour off the cabin roofs!

Hoshiyo Shimura: What?! Hold on a sec!

I had to do some quick thinking, but I managed to talk Tamaki out of dragging me onto a roof with her. We said our goodbyes and I ran back to my cabin as fast as I could in case she changed her mind.

I sat down on my bed, out of breath from sprinting all this way. About half a minute later, the bell rang over the monitor on the wall again.

(Ding-dong-dong-ding!)

Monokuma: Attention, campers! The time is now 10:00 p.m. and nighttime has officially begun! Sleep tight! Don’t let the bed bugs bite!

I’m getting sick and tired of hearing that announcement every night. Oh well. I’d better get to sleep if I’m gonna be up in time for breakfast tomorrow. I hope it’s less volatile than this morning’s gathering.

I wiped the sweat off my forehead with the washcloth provided with my bathroom and headed back to my bed. Hoping for the best tomorrow, just as I did every evening, I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

Day 13

I woke the next morning on what was sadly a normal day at camp at this point. I went about my normal routine of brushing my teeth, setting my toothbrush in the cup next to the provided curling iron I had no use for, changing into one of the ten identical uniforms in my closet, and heading over to the dining hall for another normal breakfast with my classmates.

Except this was no normal morning. For when I opened the door to the dining hall that day, I recoiled at the sudden exposure to the pandemonium within…

Masahide Osaka: I KNOW it was you! Stop playing coy with me and just confess already!

Natsumi Furusawa: Oh for heaven’s sake! Do you seriously consider myself to be immature enough to do something so petty?!

Masahide Osaka: Against me, yeah! Pretty much!

Natsumi Furusawa: ExCUSE me?! How dare you accuse me of being petty! Especially with no fucking evidence that it was actually me!

Masahide Osaka: Oh yeah?! How do you know there’s no evidence when you supposedly weren’t at the crime scene?! Because you WERE there when you fucking did it, that’s how!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey! What’s going on here? Why are you two screaming at each other?

Natsumi Furusawa: Frankly speaking, Hoshiyo, this is none of your concern, but the short answer is that a certain immature numbskull is accusing me of ransacking his lab with not one iota of evidence!

Masahide Osaka: Oh come on! You’re literally the only person here who had any motive to trash the place! You’ve hated me for days now and you hate that my lab is a so-called “waste of time!”

Natsumi Furusawa: Maybe it was whoever received your information from Monokuma! Did you ever think of that?! No! You didn’t! Because you’re so clearly short-sighted!

Masahide Osaka: Oh, please! Like Monokuma would give mine to anyone but you! I don’t even think I’ve done anything that would piss off anyone else! Unlike a certain SOMEONE who’s regularly talked down to everyone since we got here!

Azumamaro Gensai: Guys, knock it o-...

Natsumi Furusawa: STAY OUT OF THIS, DIPSHIT!

Azumamaro Gensai: Eep!

Natsumi Furusawa: Look, Masahide! Despite my annoyance with your irresponsibility, I don’t actually hate you! I recognize that you actually have potential! What quote-unquote “pisses me off” is that you choose to waste that potential by devoting yourself to this trash and I would feel better if you got your life together before you end up living a meaningless life.

Ayumi Imagawa: Shit. It’s going down now.

Masahide Osaka: Unbelievable! You just can’t let me live my life, can you?! Hell, I bet you’re just pissed I made you look bad during the last trial, you elitist prick!

Natsumi Furusawa: THAT WAS A MOMENTARY LAPSE IN REALIZATION! YOU JUST STUMBLED UPON IT THROUGH DUMB LUCK! I WOULD HAVE CAUGHT IT EVENTUALLY!

Masahide Osaka: Yeah! After we all voted wrong and got executed for relying on your “greatly superior intelligence!” You’re obviously not superior! You know what you REALLY are?! YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A FUCKING NARCISSIST WHO REFUSES TO ADMIT EVEN THE SMALLEST MISTAKE BECAUSE SHE’S OBSESSED WITH BEING BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE!

It all happened so fast. I was so concentrated on processing the screaming match that I didn’t realize what was happening until it already happened. Natsumi’s chair fell back and hit the floor behind her as she leapt forward and...

WHAM!

Natsumi Furusawa: …

Masahide Osaka: …

Natsumi Furusawa: …

Masahide Osaka: …OW!

Robert Marren: Natsumi, what the hell?!

Azumamaro Gensai: I know he was insulting you and all, but slugging him in the face was a bit much!

Natsumi Furusawa: I… Uh…

Natsumi’s face turned beet red as she slowly stepped back from Masahide, who was attempting to get off the floor while rubbing his face where she punched him. Then she turned around and bolted from the dining hall. The room was left in a stunned silence for several seconds. We’d never seen Natsumi anywhere NEAR this level of panic before. It was somehow even more surprising than her losing all sense of rational thought and punching someone in the face.

Masahide Osaka: Owwww…

Tansho Ogura: Holy shit. Are you OK, Masahide?

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah. I’m no Marise, but even I can tell you hit the floor pretty hard there.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …

Ayumi Imagawa: Oh, sorry! Keep forgetting to stop bringing that up.

Tamaki Ozu: It can’t be that bad. I hit my head way harder on stuff all the time and I’m perfectly fine!

Ayumi Imagawa: I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that the staff at your local hospital know you by name.

Tamaki Ozu: Because I’m an Ultimate?

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah. Sure. Let’s go with that.

Masahide Osaka: Guys, I appreciate the concern, but I think I’m fine.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Are you sure? You still might be mildly concussed.

Azumamaro Gensai: What’s 3940 times 74?

Masahide Osaka: How the hell would I know?

Azumamaro Gensai: Yeah, he’s normal.

Tansho Ogura: You should at least drink some water. Here, you can have mine. I didn’t drink from it yet anyway.

Masahide Osaka: Oh, thanks. Mine got knocked over in the incident.

Robert Marren: Tamaki and I could walk you back to your cabin, just in case.

Ayumi Imagawa: Yes, because being within close proximity of the loudest person here works wonders for a concussion.

Masahide Osaka: I’m fine, really. If I had a concussion, I’d probably know it by now. Besides, I should probably go reorganize my lab. Looks like a tornado hit it. You could make snow angels in the heap of manga on the floor. Which I actually kinda wanna do first. Later.

Masahide finished his water and walked slowly out the door.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Should someone keep an eye on him?

Azumamaro Gensai: I dunno. He’d probably feel bad if we didn’t trust his self-analysis. He seems kinda self-conscious, ya know?

Ayumi Imagawa: Oh, sure. Just leave him wandering around in a possibly hazardous state all day. THAT sure won’t make him an easy murder target.

Tamaki Ozu: You know, giving people ideas won’t exactly help either.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I get what Maro’s saying, but we can’t just leave him like this. What if we kept an eye on him in some way that didn’t seem like we were watching him?

Tansho Ogura: I guess that would work. But how do we do that anyway?

Robert Marren: Well, his lab’s built into the rock wall, right? What if some of us used the wall today so we could stay near him while still acting casual?

Ayumi Imagawa: That’s actually a decent plan. Nice job, Razor.

Robert Marren: Thanks, but you don’t need to act like it’s a major accomplishment.

Azumamaro Gensai: I’ll try to get SBD in on it too. He probably wouldn’t agree to using the wall, but he could definitely hide in the bushes and scout the place out from behind with that get-up of his.

Ayumi Imagawa: We’d need multiple people to go there initially too. Any volunteers?

Robert Marren: I’m in.

Tamaki Ozu: Me too! Been meaning to use the rock wall anyway!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’ll go with them. I feel kinda bad about doing nothing earlier, plus an extra set of eyes and ears wouldn’t hurt.

Azumamaro Gensai: You really shouldn’t feel bad. I tried to help and accomplished absolutely nothing.

Robert Marren: You can still help, though. The more the merrier.

Tamaki Ozu: Yeah! We could free-climb blindfolded! It’ll be fun!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, maybe we should use it the normal way. It’d be hard to keep an eye on Masahide if we can’t see anything, ya know.

Tamaki Ozu: Oh yeah! Good idea!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Phew.

Ayumi Imagawa: So what do we do about Natsumi?

Tansho Ogura: I am NOT dealing with her. I have common sense and it’s telling me to stay the hell away.

Azumamaro Gensai: I agree with Purpleangelo. We should give her some time to cool down first. We obviously shouldn’t just ignore this, though. We’ll confront her either this evening or tomorrow.

Ayumi Imagawa: Fine by me.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Great. Now that that’s settled, we should probably make sure Masahide got to his lab. I think everyone else can just go about their normal business.

Robert Marren: Agreed. See you guys later.

Tamaki Ozu: Bye, everyone!

We adjourned for the day and went our separate ways. Tamaki, Razor, and I walked toward the west territory, fortunately not finding Masahide collapsed anywhere along the way. We made it to the rock wall and the other two headed over to set up the equipment while I went to check the lab around back. Turns out someone really did trash the place. There were piles of manga all over the floor, the case of figurines and models was open and the contents were knocked over, and the large, pillow-like surface from the chair was taken off the frame and thrown on top of the computer monitors. Masahide was squatting down in the manga pile, picking them up off the floor.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey, Masahide. Want some help?

Masahide Osaka: Huh? Oh, no thanks. I kinda have my own system of organizing things, so I like to do it myself. Gives me some time to think and get blissfully sidetracked by finding something I wanna read. (yawn) Thanks for the offer, though.

Hoshiyo Shimura: That’s understandable. Anyway, Tamaki, Razor, and I wanted to use the rock wall today, so if you hear thumping outside, it’s just Tamaki leaping from edge to edge or something.

Masahide Osaka: Cool. Have fun.

Hoshiyo Shimura: You too.

I left the lab and headed around to the climbing side of the structure, rejoining the other two.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yeah, he’s fine.

Tamaki Ozu: Awesome! Let’s get to climbin’!

Hoshiyo Shimura: We still have to keep alert, though. Remember?

Tamaki Ozu: Yeah-yeah. Fair enough. Anyway, HEY RAZOR! First one to the reach the top while climbing backwards gets to punch the loser in the stomach!

Robert Marren: You’re on!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I am NOT doing that!

Tamaki Ozu: Fine! You get to ref then! Count us down, Hoshino!

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s “Hoshiyo,” but OK. Uh… ready-set-go, I guess?

Tamaki Ozu: YAHHHHHHHHHH!

Robert Marren: Upper-body strength, don’t fail me now!

The two leapt back-first at the wall and somehow grabbed hold of the rocks behind them. They looked under their arms for more to grab onto as they crab-walked vertically up the wall.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey, wait! Neither of you are wearing harnesses!

For the next couple hours, Tamaki and Razor challenged each other to various competitions. All of them were too close to call, though my trance of disbelief at their reckless abandon and insane capabilities may have made me less concentrated on who was winning.

Tamaki Ozu: OK! Thirty-seventh time’s the charm! We’re up here anyway, so let’s see who can do the most mid-air flips in a row off the top of this free-climb wall!

Robert Marren: Front-flips, side-flips, or backflips?

Tamaki Ozu: Let’s go with all of ‘em! We could get extra points for style and shock factor too!

Hoshiyo Shimura: …How the hell are you two not seriously injured by this point?

Robert Marren: Hey! Knock on wood! Don’t jinx us like that!

Hoshiyo Shimura: That’s just superstition. And there isn’t any wood here anyway.

Tamaki Ozu: I smell a chicken! Someone gettin’ scared over here?

Robert Marren: I’m not scared. This is easy. It’s just more likely to go wrong now.

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s really not. Superstitions like that have no actual feasibility.

Robert Marren: If it weren’t feasible, then why would it be so popular?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’m pretty sure it was also a popular belief that the world was gonna end in 2012. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

Tamaki Ozu: C’mon, Razor! I’m not letting you give up until I finally win something!

Robert Marren: You know, you technically haven’t lost anything either.

Tamaki Ozu: And I shall continue to do so, especially if you up and quit like that!

Robert Marren: …Eh. Fine. You go first, though.

Tamaki Ozu: Yay! He’s back! Better watch closely, Hoshino!

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s “Hoshiyo.” I pretty much JUST told you that.

Tamaki Ozu: Good for you!

I have a feeling she isn’t even listening to me at this point.

Tamaki Ozu: Three!... Two!... One!... Unleash victory mode!

Tamaki launched herself off the edge of the free-climb wall, flipping forward several times in midair and landing gracefully on the rubber chips below.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I saw about twelve. Razor has to get twelve to tie and thirteen or more to win.

Tamaki Ozu: Eat it, sucka! You’re as good as doomed at this point!

Robert Marren: Oh yeah? Prepare to eat those words! Hoshiyo, you ready?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yep.

Robert Marren: Let’s do this! Three!... Two!... One!... CHA-!

Monokuma: Booga-booga-booga!

Robert Marren: GAHH!

Razor lost his footing in surprise from Monokuma popping out of a trapdoor less than half a meter from him on the wall, tumbled off the top of the free-climb wall, and landed face-first in the rubber chips below.

Tamaki Ozu: What?! No fair! I don’t wanna win like this!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Razor! Are you OK?!

Robert Marren: Owwwwwwww…

Tamaki Ozu: The hell was that for, ya stupid bear?!

Monokuma: Who, li’l ol’ me? I was just stopping by to see how my campers are doing today! Is that so unusual?

Tamaki Ozu: When you randomly pop out of a rock wall and startle us like that, then yeah! It’s kinda unusual!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Come to think of it, why didn’t you pop up earlier this morning after the fight broke out? You know, to rub it in our faces or whatever.

Monokuma: Why, you ask? Because my presence would distract you from breaking down further, of course! I know when to stay out and just watch from the side, ya know! Besides, you guys need to learn these valuable life lessons on your own every so often!

Hoshiyo Shimura: So you’re essentially just trolling us for your own amusement.

Monokuma: Not how I woulda put it, but pretty much, yeah!

Robert Marren: Fuck you, Monokuma! I think I sprained my ankle or something!

Tamaki Ozu: Are you freakin’ kidding me? This is why you need to work on your legs more!

Hoshiyo Shimura: It doesn’t look swollen, but you should probably try to keep it from bending for at least a day or two just in case.

Robert Marren: How the hell do I do that?

Monokuma: Well, there IS some gauze for sale at the camp store! Why don’t ya try that?

Tamaki Ozu: I swear to god, if you only did this so you could push your stupid merch on us…

Monokuma: Mayyyyyyybe… Anyway, my work here is done. Toodles!

Robert Marren: I REALLY wish I could rip his stupid stuffed head off.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Monokuma aside, I think the gauze he mentioned would work, but the camp store’s all the way back in the east territory and there’s two flights of stairs on the way.

Robert Marren: Eh. I could probably make it. I’ll just hop on one foot. You two could stay here so we have at least two people still guarding the lab.

Tamaki Ozu: Oh yeah! I forgot we were doing that!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Well, ordinarily I’d be worried you were on your own, but you’re one of two people here I’d actually consider capable of fending for themselves while injured. Plus we really need to keep guarding the lab.

Robert Marren: So it’s settled. I’ll get the gauze and wrap my leg up, you two stay here.

Tamaki Ozu: Sounds like a plan!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Stay safe.

Robert Marren: Later.

We helped Razor on his feet – well, “foot” – and he hopped his way out the gate and eventually to the entrance of the west territory.

Tamaki Ozu: Well, now that he’s gone, I guess the competition is over for now. You know what that means?

Hoshiyo Shimura: We can devote most of our attention to watching Masahide’s lab like we were supposed to be doing in the first place?

Tamaki Ozu: No, silly! It means it’s your turn!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Say what-now?

Tamaki Ozu: You haven’t used any of the walls all day! Come on, Shibuya! Get up there already!

Hoshiyo Shimura: First of all, it’s “Shimura.” Second of all, you realize I’m wearing a skirt, right?

Tamaki Ozu: Yeah. So?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Whadaya mean “so?!” I’m obviously not gonna climb a rock wall in a skirt!

Tamaki Ozu: Why not?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Do you just not know how skirts work or something?!

Tamaki Ozu: You put it on your legs and it stays there. What else is there to know?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I am not arguing this with you right now!

Tamaki Ozu: So you’ll get on the wall now?

Hoshiyo Shimura: No!

*WHAM!*

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh?

Tamaki Ozu: The hell whazzat?

Hoshiyo Shimura: It sounded like a loud wham.

Tamaki Ozu: Sounded like it came from near the stairs. I’mma check it out!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey, wait! You need to help me keep an eye on Masahide’s lab, remember?!

Tamaki Ozu: Aww! Fine.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Look, I know this isn’t the most interesting thing to do all day, but it’s for our friend’s safety.

Tamaki Ozu: Yeah, I get it. We’re just trying to keep each other from dying again. I’m cool with that.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Great. Even if it’s difficult, it’s worth it just to keep the worst from happening.

Tamaki Ozu: Totally. I’m all for danger, but I agree that this is important.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yeah. Anyway, I’m gonna check on Masahide. I’ll be back in a bit.

I headed toward the gate and reached out to open it, but stopped dead in my tracks when a familiar bell rang over the camp’s P.A. system.

(Ding-dong-dong-ding!)

Hoshiyo Shimura: …!

Tamaki Ozu: Wait, isn’t that the…?

Monokuma: A body has been discovered! After a certain amount of time, a class trial will be held! Everyone, please report to the Lake Zetsubou Waterfront immediately!

The speakers shut off as I stood there, frozen in place with my hand reaching toward the metal gate and my heart plummeting down into my stomach. I’d been through this enough times to know it likely wasn’t a false alarm, but there was still part of me that refused to believe someone else was dead.

Tamaki Ozu: What the hell?! How did someone die again?! More importantly, WHO the hell died this time?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: …Ggh! Tamaki, hurry to the lakefront! I’ll get Masahide!

Tamaki Ozu: Right! I’m on it!

Tamaki sprinted to the side of the climbing area and hurdled over the fence, continuing at full speed until she turned the corner to the stairs. She nearly ran into Tansho, who was leaving the Craft Corral. I ran around the rock wall to the Ultimate Otaku’s Lab, flinging the door open.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Masahide, there was a-!

My sentence cut off as I scanned the lab, finding something I never thought I would: a complete and utter lack of Masahide.

Hoshiyo Shimura: M-Masahide? Masahide, where the hell are you?!

I quickly darted around the room, which had only about a quarter of the mess picked up based on when I was here earlier. I looked everywhere I could think of in my panicked state: under the desk, beneath the chairs, in the back of the book shelves, none of which contained Masahide’s presence.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Masahide?! MASAHIDE, THIS ISN’T FUNNY!!!

Dammit! I knew we should have been paying more attention to the lab! Where the hell could he have gone?! Unless…

Hoshiyo Shimura: Don’t tell me the body discovery announcement was for…!

I quickly slapped myself on both cheeks.

Hoshiyo Shimura: NO! Get it the hell together, Hoshiyo! You don’t have time to feel responsible for whatever’s happening right now! You need to get your ass to the lakefront as quickly as possible and find out what’s really going on!

While psyching myself up was only doing so much, I still found the courage to leave the lab and run all the way across the camp on sheer adrenaline. I was exhausted and panting when I finally reached the wooden gate to the beach. I gave myself a couple seconds to catch my breath while observing the group of people gathering just past the Lakehouse. The only people I was able to make out were Tansho, Maro, and Ayumi. I flung the gate open and jogged over to them.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Guys, what’s going on?! Was there really another body?!

Tansho Ogura: There was an announcement, wasn’t there? It should be pretty clear to you by now that Monokuma doesn’t fake those.

Ayumi Imagawa: Nevermind that! What the hell happened to “guarding Masahide’s lab?!”

Hoshiyo Shimura: WHAT?! IS HE HERE?!

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh, big time. The first one here, believe it or not.

Hoshiyo Shimura: MOVE!!!

I ran past the others and looked around for Masahide. He was nowhere to be seen. Although, I did see Tamaki’s bright orange hoodie as she stood in the open doorway of the Ultimate Lawyer’s Lab. I ran up the wooden boardwalk to the door, ducking under Tamaki’s arm and bursting into the room.

Hoshiyo Shimura: MASAHIDE!!! ARE- you… h… here…?

It’s funny. Back when I woke this morning, I never would have expected my day to turn out like this. Maybe something similar in the darkest corners of my imagination, but never this exact scenario. I had feared many painful and crushing ways this day would play out, but I never, even in my darkest mindset, could have seen this coming.

For there, in the once immaculately organized office, I found my missing friend, covered in bloodstains from head to toe…

Despair Pollution Noise

The Challenge of Moving Forward BDA

…staring wide-eyed at the bloody mess that was once the Ultimate Lawyer, Natsumi Furusawa.

Deadly Life

Chapter 4 Title Deadly post

Investigation

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Natsumi was probably the last person I expected to find dead. But what somehow left me more perplexed was seeing Masahide covered in blood and being held against the floor by Razor.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wh-what’s going on here?! Why are you holding Masahide down?! And how did he even get here in the first place?!

Robert Marren: One question at a time, Hoshiyo! For starters, it’s pretty obvious Natsumi’s been murdered. I don’t know how Masahide got here, but we’re almost 100 percent certain he’s the one responsible for this bloodbath.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wait, WHAT?!

Kenta Higoshi: We’ll explain later. For now, it’s pretty likely that Monokuma will show up any minute with another of his famous “in your face” rants.

Monokuma: HEY! I do NOT rant in your faces, thank you very much!

Robert Marren: Really? Because everything you’ve ever said to us kinda proves otherwise. And for the record, I’m still pissed about my ankle!

Monokuma: Aw. You’re still going on about that? I said I was sorry…

Robert Marren: No you fuckin’ didn’t!

Monokuma: Oh yeah! Whoopsie-doodles! I’d apologize for real, but it would be awkward if I had the opportunity all this time, ya know?

Robert Marren: You little…!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Just give us the autopsy file and get out.

Monokuma: Yeesh! And I thought Pantsuit over here was stern! Already replacing her, huh?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Monokuma. The file. NOW.

Monokuma: Yeah-yeah. Ya know, I don’t HAVE to give you these. Keep pissing me off like that and maybe you’ll have to solve the fifth chapter entirely on your own!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Grr…

Monokuma: But, seeing as I already went through the trouble of preparing one, I guess I’ll hand it over and go cool off before the trial! Here ya go!

The bear tossed a black and white file folder my way and scurried past Tamaki, diving into the shallow water below and burrowing beneath the sand like a gopher. I started to calm down a bit, looking back at Natsumi’s body. After a couple seconds, it occurred to me that I wasn’t internally freaking out like I did when we found the others.

This is insane. I can’t believe I’m actually starting to accept this as normal. Half my friends are dead. I should be shocked at the mere notion, but I’m somehow just notably upset. Am I really starting to become desensitized to these horrible deaths? Or have I just accepted the fact that we’re bound to lose more and more people as the days go by?

Either way, we need to figure out who did this. Until then, we need to focus and press onward. Wanting to waste no time figuring out what happened, I opened the file and read aloud to those in the room.

Hoshiyo Shimura: “The victim is Natsumi Furusawa, the Ultimate Lawyer. The victim was found in the Ultimate Lawyer’s Lab. The time of death was 10:15 a.m. The cause of death was blunt force trauma. The victim has several large bruises on her arms, legs, and torso, as well as a severe head wound, internal bleeding, cracked ribs, and a fractured left arm.”

Monokuma File 4 has been added to your Truth Bullets

Hoshiyo Shimura: Holy shit, this is brutal!

Robert Marren: I was thinking that even before we read the file. Gotta be honest, I never thought this guy had it in him to do this kinda sadistic shit.

Masahide Osaka: I told you, I didn’t do it!

Robert Marren: Come on, dude! Fess up! It HAD to be you!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hang on, Razor! Why are you accusing Masahide of doing this?!

Kenta Higoshi: Perhaps it would be best if I explained what happened.

Robert Marren: Knock yourself out, bud.

Kenta Higoshi: Well, you see, Natsumi was found by Maro, Razor, and myself. Maro and I were getting back from Mono Island since he convinced me to help with your plan to guard Masahide’s lab.

Masahide Osaka: Wait, you were guarding my lab?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I mean, we were really just using the rock wall and making sure no one tried to attack you.

Masahide Osaka: Then how the hell did I end up here?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Well, that’s kind of a funny story…

Masahide Osaka: …(sigh) Did Tamaki do something reckless that distracted you all for a while?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Kinda.

Robert Marren: Uh, maybe?

Masahide Osaka: Oh my Innominat.

Robert Marren: Hey, Kenta’s talking! You can share your side of the story next!

Masahide Osaka: Fine. Just as long as I actually get to explain what I’m pretty sure happened.

Kenta Higoshi: As I was saying, we were getting back from Mono Island and crossing the beach to meet you in the west territory. But before we got to the gate, we heard this loud, high-pitched scream coming from Natsumi’s lab.

Masahide Osaka: Oh, gee. SO sorry my scream isn’t manlier.

Kenta Higoshi: …We ran over to the lab and tried to open the door, but it was locked. We stood on the boardwalk trying to open the door while calling out to whoever was inside. No one responded and the door didn’t budge. Eventually, Razor made his way over to the lab too. Apparently he was at the camp store and heard us yelling. Why was he there, by the way? I heard he was with you and Tamaki.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh yeah. He injured his ankle when Monokuma startled us, so he went to the store for some gauze.

Kenta Higoshi: Interesting. I’ll have to ask him about that later. So, Razor joined us in trying to open the door, when it was eventually unlocked from the inside. Masahide opened the door, covered in blood, just as you see him now. He seemed appropriately disturbed for the situation, though he seemed more panicked then sad about the situation. He stepped out of the way and fully revealed Natsumi, triggering the body discovery announcement when we saw her.

Robert Marren: And now we’re here. The end.

Hoshiyo Shimura: And you think Masahide is the killer because he was in there when you found Natsumi?

Kenta Higoshi: I’ll admit this definitely seems out of character, especially for him, but the door was locked in two different manners and no one else was in the lab. As it stands, he’s the only one who could have done it.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. All the evidence seemed stacked against Masahide. I know he and Natsumi were fighting, but there’s no way he’d actually kill her. Right?

Kenta’s Account has been added to your Truth Bullets

Hoshiyo Shimura: Thanks for your help, Kenta.

Kenta Higoshi: No problem. Anyway, while we should still give Masahide the benefit of the doubt in case he truly is innocent, it’s probably best if we don’t just leave him at the crime scene.

Masahide Osaka: I AM innocent, but I understand your reasoning. Can you please just let me go now? I’m worried Razor will accidentally dislocate my arm at some point.

Robert Marren: Fine. But we’re gonna make sure you stay out so you don’t tamper with any evidence. I’ll guard in here. Tamaki, stand watch outside.

Tamaki Ozu: You got it! Let’s go, Mitsuharu!

Masahide Osaka: Do you seriously still not know my name?

Tamaki and Masahide left the lab, leaving the rest of us to investigate the inside. As they left, Ayumi entered the room, looking down at Natsumi’s corpse.

Ayumi Imagawa: Holy shit, that’s brutal.

Hoshiyo Shimura: That’s what I said. Hey, wanna work together?

Ayumi Imagawa: Sure. Worked pretty well last time. So where do we start?

Hoshiyo Shimura: We should probably investigate the body first. I really don’t wanna look at it, but it’s necessary at this point.

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah. It’s pretty sucky. Could I see the Monokuma File?

Hoshiyo Shimura: No problem. I’ll start the investigation while you’re reading.

I handed Ayumi the file and started checking Natsumi’s corpse. The bruises mentioned in the Monokuma File were large and slightly oval-shaped. I didn’t bother to verify the ones on her torso out of respect.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Looks like the file is accurate. That’s good, kinda.

Ayumi Imagawa: My main question is why the killer just beat the living shit out of her like that. A swift whack to the head would probably be enough.

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s almost like they were trying to make her suffer.

Ayumi Imagawa: But what reason could they possibly have for going this far? It’s unreal.

From my crouched position, my attention diverted from Natsumi to a slight shine underneath her desk. I reached under and retrieved a baseball bat from the leg-room area underneath. As soon as I realized it was covered in blood, I flinched back and dropped it on the floor.

Hoshiyo Shimura: GAHH! Ew-ew-ew-ew-ew!

Ayumi Imagawa: How’re you still squeamish about this stuff? You’ve basically been a primary investigator in all the cases so far.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Marise did pretty much all of the gross stuff, OK?!

Ayumi Imagawa: Ha.

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s not funny!

Ayumi Imagawa: Anyway, getting back on topic, I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that thing’s what caused Natsumi’s injuries.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Definitely. From what I could tell, the bruises were shaped like they came from a bat. I didn’t get the best look at her head wound, though. I have my limits.

Ayumi Imagawa: (sigh)

With a quick sigh, Ayumi walked over to Natsumi’s body and stood behind her head, squatting down to get a good look at the wound. She then grabbed the bat off the floor and held it up near the body.

Ayumi Imagawa: From the looks of it, the wound seems to perfectly line up with the bat. It’s almost definitely what left the head trauma.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Well, that’s good. I guess.

Ayumi Imagawa: I guess this means we’ll have to check out the sporting equipment shed at some point. The bat isn’t painted like my Whackatha replicas, so that’s the only place it could have come from.

Aluminum Bat has been added to your Truth Bullets

Hoshiyo Shimura: …Hey, Ayumi?

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Do you think Masahide really did this?

Ayumi Imagawa: I mean, he seems pretty harmless on the surface. I’ll give him that much. Still, he DID have the most notable disdain for Natsumi out of all of us.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I mean, I guess. Things got pretty bad this morning at breakfast.

Ayumi Imagawa: She trashed his lab, called his talent a “frivolous waste of time” or something like that, and punched him off his feet. Gotta admit, she was clearly hitting a bunch of obvious triggers.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yeah…

I admit, Masahide was definitely pissed at Natsumi for the events this morning. Still, would he really go as far as to murder her in such a brutal fashion because of it?

Breakfast Incident has been added to your Truth Bullets

Hoshiyo Shimura: Anyway, pissed at her or not, Masahide was in an admittedly suspicious situation when the body was found.

Ayumi Imagawa: Oh, right. Maro told me they found him locked in here. Still can’t believe she got Monokuma to give her safety features of any kind.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I mean, she said she told him they might make the Killing Game more interesting. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ayumi Imagawa: There’s really nothing else on the floor, so let’s check out the locks next.

Ayumi leapt over the body in front of her, being careful not to interfere with the crime scene any more than we had already. She then walked the short remaining distance over to the entrance and shut the door.

Ayumi Imagawa: Let’s see here… So we got a deadbolt and one of those u-shaped thingies. Hey, Razor. Do you remember hearing either of the locks clicking when Masahide opened the door?

Robert Marren: Oh. Uh, lemme think. The deadbolt was definitely locked. The door wouldn’t move an inch when we tried to get it open. Either way, I’m, like, ninety percent sure I heard two sets of clicks and stuff just before the door opened.

Ayumi Imagawa: I suspected as much. There’s bloody fingerprints on both of them.

Robert Marren: Huh? Then why’d you ask?

Ayumi Imagawa: Just to have more than one source of reasoning. Never hurts.

Robert Marren: Makes sense.

Deadbolt has been added to your Truth Bullets

Safety Lock has been added to your Truth Bullets

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey, Razor? Since we’re already talking to you, would you mind letting us know if you saw anything on your way to the Camp Store?

Robert Marren: Sure thing. Unfortunately, I don’t really have much to say. It took me maybe eight minutes to get to the bottom of the stairs from the west territory. I spent maybe twelve more minutes heading over to the store. That’s when I heard Kenta and Maro pounding on the door and went to check out what was happening.

Hoshiyo Shimura: And you didn’t see anyone else on your way there?

Robert Marren: Oh yeah! I actually walked past Ayumi. She was sitting in front of the dining hall, but she never really acknowledged me. Also, when I got to the Camp Store, I noticed the clock inside said it was about 10:40.

Hoshiyo Shimura: That’s actually really useful. Thanks, Razor!

Robert Marren: No problem.

Razor’s Account has been added to your Truth Bullets

Ayumi Imagawa: Hey. I took a closer look around the room while you were talking. Doesn’t look like there are any alternate exits. The bay window doesn’t open or anything and there’s no hidden doors behind the bookshelf or in the floor.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Did you seriously think there would be any?

Ayumi Imagawa: I mean, we’re investigating a supposed locked room mystery. I wanted to rule out any obscure options just in case.

Hoshiyo Shimura: If you say so…

Ayumi Imagawa: Hey! Don’t make that smug face at me! I make smug faces at you!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh, fine. Anyway, I say we go question the primary suspect.

We left Razor to guard the body and headed out to speak with Masahide. Fortunately, as we discovered, Tamaki wasn’t doing anything harmful to keep him in place. He was sitting on the sand next to her just outside the lab.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hey, Masahide. Do you mind if I ask you a couple questions about the incident?

Masahide Osaka: Only if you’re willing to actually listen to me.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Of course I am. Letting you tell your side of the story is super important, after all.

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah. You’d think the others would’ve learned from all the false accusations we’ve had by now.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So, what exactly happened while we were at the rock wall earlier? Specifically anything about when you left or what you did after that.

Masahide Osaka: See, that’s the thing. I don’t actually remember leaving.

Ayumi Imagawa: You’re kidding, right? How could you get all the way across the camp without realizing it?

Masahide Osaka: I’m not really sure what happened. I was putting the stuff in my lab back when I started zoning out a bit more than usual. I tried to keep my eyes open and finish the manga I got sidetracked on, but I guess I blacked out anyway. When I woke up, I was under Natsumi’s desk, holding a bloody baseball bat. If that wasn’t disturbing enough, I got really startled when I actually saw Natsumi herself. I ended up screaming, then the others overheard and tried to get in.

Ayumi Imagawa: Why didn’t you just let them in?

Masahide Osaka: Because I was afraid this exact situation would happen! I knew it looked like I killed her and they would jump to conclusions as soon as they saw the room, so I started having a panic attack. It took me a bit, but I managed to calm down enough to unlock the door. You already know the rest.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So you just fell asleep and woke up locked in the crime scene with the murder weapon?

Masahide Osaka: I know it sounds like a shitty attempt at lying, but I’m telling the truth! I really have no idea how I got here or what happened after I blacked out!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Masahide, it’s OK. If that’s what you say happened, I’ll consider it just as much as everyone else’s testimonies. I promise.

Masahide Osaka: Thanks, Hoshiyo. But frankly, it’s not you I’m worried about.

Ayumi Imagawa: Ah, quit moping. If you’re really innocent, I’m sure we’ll find some way to prove it.

Masahide Osaka: I hope so.

Masahide’s Account has been added to your Truth Bullets

Ayumi and I walked a bit further away from the others to discuss what to do next.

Ayumi Imagawa: Looks like we got everything we could here. I say we go check out the sporting equipment shed.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Good idea. If the bat came from there, we might find something the culprit left behind. Oh! And while we’re in the territory, we should probably check around in Masahide’s lab too. Whether he did it or not, it’s probably important somehow.

Ayumi Imagawa: Agreed. Let’s go.

Ayumi turned and left the lakefront. I started to follow her, but stopped and turned to look back at the Ultimate Lawyer’s Lab. I stared for about five seconds and was about to turn back and leave, when I noticed something small and somewhat reflective sticking out of the sand near the end of the lab’s boardwalk. I went over and picked it up, discovering it was some sort of thin red ribbon like you’d curl on top of a present. One of the ends had a small knot tied in it.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh. That’s weird. Why’s this here?

I took the ribbon and put it in my pocket. It seems like a minor detail, but minor details have been important before, so I figured it was a good idea.

Ribbon has been added to your Truth Bullets

I turned around again and jogged over to the west territory. I hadn’t been to the equipment shed since I first investigated it, but I remembered the way pretty easily. I entered the building and found Ayumi searching through the baseball cage.

Ayumi Imagawa: Took you long enough.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Sorry. I kinda got sidetracked.

Ayumi Imagawa: Eh. It’s not that bad. Anyway, turns out one of the bats is missing from that rack on the wall. It’s almost definitely the one we found in the lab.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Good to know.

Bat Rack has been added to your Truth Bullets

Hoshiyo Shimura: By the way. What were you doing around the time of the murder?

Ayumi Imagawa: Hmm? Oh, I was hanging out in front of the dining hall. Razor can support my claim, but only for the maybe seven-ish minutes he would have been able to see me on his way to the camp store.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh good. He actually told me about that. Glad to see he was telling the truth. On the bright side, if that’s true, that might be pretty useful.

Ayumi Imagawa: How so?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I mean, think about it. The dining hall’s on higher ground, so you can see pretty much the entire main field from there, right?

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah. It’s pretty fun to just sit there and chill for a bit. Though, I think I know what you’re thinking.

Hoshiyo Shimura: If you’re thinking you’d be able to see if anyone who came and went from that area, then that’s exactly what I’m thinking.

Ayumi Imagawa: Excellent idea. The thing is, though, I actually didn’t see anyone other than Razor the entire time. I guess everyone just stayed in whatever area they went to initially after breakfast.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh? But then how did Masahide end up on the other side of the camp?

Ayumi Imagawa: That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out. He left before all of us, so my main theory was that he just went to the east gate straight away.

Hoshiyo Shimura: No, that can’t be it. I poked my head in when Tamaki, Razor, and I started guarding the area. He was definitely there this morning.

Ayumi Imagawa: Anyway, let’s discuss this later and get back to investigating. We can get back to figuring this out at the trial.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh, right! Let’s try to find more clues!

Ayumi’s Account has been added to your Truth Bullets

Ayumi and I searched for a couple more minutes, but found nothing else different from when we first inspected the building.

Ayumi Imagawa: Dammit. It’s all normal. Minus the bat rack, it looks like this place was a dead end.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I mean, I wouldn’t expect to find similarly substantial evidence in one of the other cages, but it was at least worth a shot, don’t you think?

Ayumi Imagawa: I guess.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Anyway, we probably don’t have much time left. I’d say we should definitely check Masahide’s lab. It has to be important somehow.

Ayumi Imagawa: …Actually, you can do that. I have a theory about something that I think would at least be worth looking into for now.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh. Sure, I guess. The more angles we have, the better, after all.

Ayumi Imagawa: Great. Anyway, let’s get out of here. We probably need to hurry if we wanna get the most out of our search.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Way ahead of ya.

We walked over to the door and I reached out to open it. However, when I grabbed the knob, I noticed the back felt kinda weird.

Hoshiyo Shimura: The hell?

Ayumi Imagawa: What is it?

Hoshiyo Shimura: There’s some kind of bumpy stuff on the back of the doorknob.

Ayumi Imagawa: What do you mean by “bumpy stuff?”

Hoshiyo Shimura: I dunno. From what I can see, it’s a couple of small rounded things. It looks like it should be a liquid, but it’s definitely solid. I think it’s blue.

Ayumi Imagawa: That’s weird.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Anyway, it’s not like it’s trapping us in here or anything. Let’s continue the investigation.

Blue Substance has been added to your Truth Bullets

And so, I opened the door and the two of us walked back to the fork in the road. We started to split up when something caught Ayumi’s eye. She walked over to a pile of wood near the stairs to the central field and grabbed a silver object out of it. Upon closer inspection, one end was completely encased in a primarily brown and blue shell.

Ayumi Imagawa: What the hell is this thing?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I think it’s a curling iron. Looks exactly like the one from my cabin, aside from that weird stuff on the end.

Ayumi Imagawa: Why’s there a curling iron in a pile of wood? That doesn’t make any sense.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yeah. And what’s with that weird, lumpy shell thing? Mine didn’t come with one of those.

Ayumi Imagawa: I think it’s stuck on. It’s not coming off when I try to remove it.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh. That’s so weird that it’s probably worth noting.

Ayumi Imagawa: Big time.

Curling Iron has been added to your Truth Bullets

Hoshiyo Shimura: Anyway, I’m gonna head over to Masahide’s lab now. See ya at the trial.

Ayumi Imagawa: Cool. Later.

I headed back over to the Ultimate Otaku’s Lab. Looking around, it was just as trashed as I remembered. Admittedly, if there were any evidence here, I probably would have either found or messed it up during my panic earlier. Still, it was worth a shot.

While checking the desk with the computer monitors, I ended up picking the cushion from the butterfly chair off the machines to see if anything was under it. There was nothing underneath, but I did notice something off about the cushion itself.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh? What happened to this thing?

The front side of the cushion was covered with small scratches and rips. The stuffing inside was lightly spilling out of several tears, with what appeared to be dirt stuck in the fluff.

Hoshiyo Shimura: How did this get so beat-up? The lab just opened, but it looks like this thing’s been stabbed with a couple dozen pencils or something.

Scratched Cushion has been added to your Truth Bullets

I took note of the chair and spent a solid twenty minutes searching every inch of the lab. Unfortunately, other than the fact that Case Closed seemed to make up about a quarter of the manga contained in the room, I didn’t find anything of note. Still, it was a complete mess. Why would someone do this in the first place?

Ultimate Otaku’s Lab has been added to your Truth Bullets

Since the investigation probably wouldn’t last much longer, I stepped outside the lab to see if there was anywhere else I should investigate, when I spotted Monokuma standing by the bushes bordering the south side of the territory. Knowing I may likely regret it, I went over to the bear’s location.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What the hell are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be preparing another of your stupid death traps or something?

Monokuma: Oh, hey, Four-Eyes! Don’t sneak up on me like that! You know what they say about poking bears, after all!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Just shut up and answer my question. You wouldn’t be standing in some random place for no reason, so what’s your game?

Monokuma: Ah, you got me! Truth be told, I was supervising my beloved meathead while he does some quick maintenance on the camp!

Hoshiyo Shimura: You mean Monosquatch? Why? Where is he?

Monokuma: Well, don’t go spreading rumors about this camp being underprepared or nothing, but between you and me, we’ve been having some problems with the electric fence on the south side of this territory.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What kind of problems?

Monokuma: Oh, nothing too major. Turns out the system was primarily designed for use during the summer, understandably. Unfortunately, the snowfall from the last motive kinda ended up causing a teensy little power failure on this particular stretch of the fence. I’ve been so busy with keeping you guys at each other’s throats that I kinda haven’t gotten around to delegating responsibility until a few minutes ago.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So the fence was deactivated this whole time, then?

Monokuma: Yeah, but it’s not like it was that big a problem. Even without the extra juice, there’s still a healthy layer of barbed wire circling the top, after all! And you’d have to be a total masochist to try clearing that!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Then why electrify it in the first place?

Monokuma: Why not?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I probably should have expected that answer.

Suddenly, I saw a bright flash and a loud ZAP from inside the foliage that obscured the fence. I stared in curiosity as Monosquatch stumbled out of the brush and trees, completely singed black and smoldering, before toppling forward and landing face-first on the ground.

Monokuma: Oh goodie! It works! Nice job, me! Way to be a leader who gets stuff done around here!

Hoshiyo Shimura: You are just so freaking insufferable, you know that?

Monokuma: What can I say? It’s part of my charm!

Defective Fence has been added to your Truth Bullets

Monokuma: Anywho, now that we’ve got that over with, it’s time to have some real fun! BRB!

The plushie dove into the bushes. After about a second, the P.A. system activated, playing the all-too-familiar bell throughout the campgrounds.

(Ding-dong-dong-ding!)

Monokuma: Time’s up, campers! Everyone, please report to the fire pit immediately! The class trial is about to begin!

Crap. Out of time. I still don’t know exactly what’s going on, but at least I have a decent amount of clues. Plus, like always, I have everyone else’s assistance. Minus the killer’s of course. Still unsure on exactly what was happening in this case, I walked over to the central field and made my way to the fire pit. Apparently, I was the last one there. All seven of the others were standing around the pit, waiting for the elevator to arrive. Before I got to the “big” group, however, Ayumi walked over to me and presented a folded piece of paper.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What’s this?

Ayumi Imagawa: Remember how the camp store works?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, lemme think… If I remember correctly, each of the items for sale has a set price. But since none of us have any money in this camp, Monokuma set up some kind of I.O.U. system to pay him back once we leave.

Ayumi Imagawa: Exactly. So anyway, I followed this hunch I got and it turns out Monokuma was keeping a record of the issued I.O.U.s behind the counter. And that record is exactly what is written on that piece of paper.

I unfolded the paper and skimmed the contents. There was a table printed on it with information divided into four categories. From left to right, the categories read “sale,” “price,” “time,” and “camper.” The “sale” category had a list of items sold underneath, the “price” category stated how much each item cost, “time” contained a bunch of different timestamps indicating when the items were sold, and the “camper” section listed a series of several names indicating who bought it. However…

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh? Why are some of the “camper” slots empty?

Ayumi Imagawa: Ah. You noticed that too.

Sure enough, there were three slots on the table that listed all the form information except the name of the camper who purchased them. The first was a bottle of laxatives purchased on July 21st, four days after we arrived here. There was a consistent number of labelled purchases, such as Maro buying a bunch of sodas over the course of the past week and Masahide buying some decongestants on the 26th, but yesterday on the 29th, there were two unmarked purchases bought less than a minute apart from each other. The first was a bottle of sleeping pills and the second was a Monokuma ice cube tray.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I don’t get it. There’s definitely something special about these items if Monokuma omitted certain information, but they really don’t seem all that special. I mean, I would say it’s for medical confidentiality due to the laxatives and sleeping pills, but it says Masahide’s name next to the decongestants he bought. And why would the name be omitted from the purchase of an ice cube tray of all things?

Ayumi Imagawa: I have one idea, but I think I should wait until I’m confident enough in its accuracy. It’s gonna take some convincing for the others to get on board if I’m right.

Hoshiyo Shimura: If you say so. I hope it helps!

Store I.O.U.s has been added to your Truth Bullets

I gave the paper back to Ayumi and we walked over to the fire pit.

Tamaki Ozu: Hey there, Hoshino! Took ya long enough!

Azumamaro Gensai: How can you be so upbeat still when one of our classmates is dead? Again?!

Tamaki Ozu: Because at least it’ll be easy to figure out who the killer is this time! The smart stuff has never really been my thing, you know?

Masahide Osaka: Hey, stop acting like it’s already settled! I told you a dozen times it wasn’t me!

Tamaki Ozu: Doesn’t make you any more believable, ya know!

Ayumi Imagawa: If Natsumi were still here, she’d probably tell you to stop being such a loud idiot. Or something like that.

Tamaki Ozu: Hey! Rude!

Ayumi Imagawa: Not my opinion. Just speculating someone else’s.

Tansho Ogura: I’ll admit, Natsumi probably would have said something along those lines.

Kenta Higoshi: Reflect upon the dead later. For now, our priority is finding her killer.

Azumamaro Gensai: I’m really getting sick of this. If it weren’t for Monokuma’s stupid threats, I’d probably just ditch these.

Monokuma: Hey! Don’t go knocking the class trial system, Threads! I put a lot of brain power into coming up with it, ya know!

Robert Marren: Oh great. IT’S here.

Hoshiyo Shimura: You know, we’re always doing just fine without your interference. Maybe you should take a vacation for a week. Or two. Or fifty-three.

Monokuma: Aw! How nice of you to consider me like that, Four-Eyes! But no, I don’t need a vacation! I already feel all comfy cozy swimming in the sea of despair you guys are bringing me! Upupu!

Masahide Osaka: Just raise the damn elevator, already. I just wanna prove I’m innocent and move on from this stupid situation. I have enough anxiety as is, thank you very much.

Monokuma: You people are always in a rush! It really bugs me sometimes, ya know that? But fine. I suppose the anticipation of the class trial is just too exciting to wait that long. See ya at the trial grounds!

With that, the furry little monster hopped back down his sitting stump and the fire pit began to rise out of the ground, revealing the dreaded cargo elevator. The door opened and we all hesitantly stepped inside before it shut on us and began the fourth descent of our time here.

One the ride down, I thought back to the victim. Natsumi Furusawa… she was definitely one of the most difficult faces in the group, but it was only because she strove to do the best she could in any situation. Even if she went a bit too far sometimes, her logical, relentless personality helped us through pretty much all the class trials so far. Yet, in spite of her strong will, she still became another victim in this cruel game. If even she wasn’t safe from this tragedy, then no one truly was.

My thoughts cut off as the elevator reached the trial grounds. This time, the walls had been decorated with a western motif. In addition, two more pictures took the place of those fallen since the last trial. Behind Marise’s podium was a picture of her with a wreath around it on the back and the words “In Memoriam” written above and below her portrait. Drawn over Natsumi’s face were two crossed gavels.

Monokuma: Tada! Whadaya think about the new improvements this time?

Ayumi Imagawa: You know, it doesn’t exactly put us in a better mood when you go fishing for compliments like this.

Monokuma: Aww. I just love this witty banter we have at all times! It makes me feel so good at my job!

Tansho Ogura: Maybe you could try being a bit less good at it. Just a thought.

Monokuma: Nah! I love my job! Why would I halfass something I love if I could lose it by doing so? You’re so silly, Highlights!

Tansho Ogura: Oddly enough, I actually get his point.

Robert Marren: Cut the crap, bear! Let’s just get this stupid trial going so we can get it over with already!

Monokuma: Huh? Oh, yeah, sure, whatever. Everyone, take your stands or something.

And so, the remaining eight of us stepped up to our podiums and stared at each other across the trial grounds. Even though we made it this far without giving in to despair, it seems another one of us has reached their breaking point. And that person, just like before, is here in this courtroom. They’re one of our friends. And now, just like before, we have to find and convict them for their crime. I steadied myself and held my head high with resolve. And so, this awful class trial, filled to the brim with selfishness and selflessness, finally began.

Truth Bullets

  • Monokuma File 4 - The victim is Natsumi Furusawa, the Ultimate Lawyer. The victim was found in the Ultimate Lawyer's Lab. The time of death was 10:15 a.m.  The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the forehead. The victim also has several large bruises on her arms, legs, and torso, as well as internal bleeding, cracked ribs, and a fractured left arm.
  • Kenta's Account - Kenta, Razor, and Maro were near the lakefront when they heard Masahide scream. They tried to get in, but the door was locked. He eventually opened the door and the three found him covered in bloodstains and Natsumi lying dead on the floor.
  • Aluminum Bat - Bloody metal bat found under the desk in the Ultimate Lawyer's Lab. It is silver in color.
  • Breakfast Incident - During breakfast this morning, Masahide accused Natsumi of ransacking his lab. The latter claimed she was completely unaware of the supposed ransacking. The two angrily argued for a couple minutes before Natsumi punched Masahide in the face, knocking him over and mildly disorienting him.
  • Deadbolt - Heavy-duty lock to Natsumi's lab. It was engaged until Masahide opened it from inside.
  • Safety Lock - U-shaped lock to Natsumi's lab. It was engaged until Masahide opened it from inside.
  • Razor's Account - Razor was heading to the Camp Store around the time of the murder. On his way from the west to the east territory, he did not pass anyone except Ayumi, who was sitting on a bench near the dining hall.
  • Masahide's Account - Masahide claims to have fainted a bit after breakfast and woken up in the Ultimate Lawyer's Lab several minutes after Natsumi's recorded time of death.
  • Ribbon - Piece of ribbon found on the plank near the door of the Ultimate Lawyer's Lab. There is a small knot tied on one end.
  • Bat Rack - One of the baseball bats is missing from the sporting equipment shed. The ones in the cage match the murder weapon exactly.
  • Ayumi's Account - Ayumi claims to have been in front of the dining hall all morning. She saw no one other than Razor pass through the main field after breakfast.
  • Blue Substance - Solid blue substance found on the back of equipment shed's doorknob.
  • Curling Iron - Curling iron found buried in a pile of wood near the top of the stairs to the west territory. It appears to be coated in a brown and blue shell that won't come off.
  • Scratched Cushion - Cushion from the butterfly chair in the Ultimate Otaku's Lab. It is covered with small rips and tears, with dirt stuck in some of the stuffing.
  • Ultimate Otaku's Lab - Masahide's Ultimate lab. It was completely ransacked last night by an unknown culprit. The contents were scattered around the room, including the entire collection of manga on the shelves.
  • Defective Fence - The electric fence between the west territory and auditorium has been faulty since the snowfall. The electricity did not return until Monosquatch fixed it during the investigation.
  • Store I.O.U.s - List of items taken from the camp store to be paid for after the Killing Game. All but three of the purchases have camper names listed with each item. The purchases with omitted names are a bottle of laxatives, a bottle of sleeping pills, and a Monokuma ice cube tray.

Class Trial

Monokuma: Let’s begin as we always do – with a quick rundown of the rules surrounding this class trial! One of you li’l shits is responsible for the murder of Ms. Natsumi Furusawa! The rest of you will have to figure out whodunit! If you guess correctly, I’ll punish the blackened and the rest of you can go back to camp and do whatever it is you do around here. But, if you guess wrong, I’ll punish everyone BESIDES the blackened, who will be sent home from Camp Zetsubou for disturbing the peace!

Azumamaro Gensai: We know all this already! You say it before every damn trial!

Monokuma: I like to be consistent. Anyway, trial begin!

Masahide Osaka: So, how exactly do we start this thing? Natsumi was always the one who got us up and running.

Ayumi Imagawa: Well, she normally suggested we start by disclosing any alibis or statements of where we claimed to be during the murder.

Tamaki Ozu: But do we even have to go through the entire process this time? We already know who did it, ya know?

Masahide Osaka: I keep telling you, it wasn’t me!

Robert Marren: Dude, we literally caught you red-handed! Things don’t exactly get more obvious than that!

Masahide Osaka: But in the event that somehow, some way, I’m actually telling the truth – which I AM – wouldn’t it be a good idea to be absolutely certain there are no other possibilities?!

Ayumi Imagawa: I agree with Masahide. We may have found him in a decently incriminating state, but there have still been several majorly suspicious incidents where the suspect was found innocent before. You of all people should be familiar with this, Razor.

Robert Marren: Uh… yeah, fair point.

Tamaki Ozu: But he was locked in the crime scene and covered in blood! If he’s really not the killer, then how the hell would he end up in there?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: We’ll be able to determine if Masahide’s claim is possible if we just listen to what he has to say. I propose we let him tell his side of the story before we jump to any conclusions.

Ayumi Imagawa: Exactly. We’ll just be stuck in one place if we don’t have the opportunity to hear both sides of the argument.

Azumamaro Gensai: I guess that’s a good idea.

Ayumi Imagawa: Great. Masahide, you have the floor.

Masahide Osaka: OK. So, here’s what happened. After breakfast this morning, I went to my lab to try and tidy it up.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I can back that claim. I looked in for a bit before Tamaki, Razor, and I started using the rock wall.

Masahide Osaka: I’m not sure how long I kept cleaning after that, but I felt really tired for most of the time. I ended up falling asleep at some point. Eventually, I opened my eyes and found myself under the desk in Natsumi’s lab, holding a bloody baseball bat. Once I crawled out and found Natsumi’s body, I ended up screaming on instinct and attracted the others’ attention. I didn’t open the door for a bit because I got freaked out that you’d think it was me and had a panic attack. You know the rest.

Robert Marren: Do you really expect us to believe you just fell asleep and woke up at the crime scene?

Masahide Osaka: I’m just telling you what I know. I know it’s not the most believable testimony, but I don’t wanna jeopardize my credibility just to come up with something slightly less unusual. That would cause more harm than good for all of us.

Tansho Ogura: You have a good point, but are we really sure he’s telling the truth? Like, is there any solid evidence he fell asleep?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Well, nothing concrete so far, but it’s not that unbelievable that he fell asleep at some point.

Azumamaro Gensai: Seriously? Why the hell would he just conk out in the middle of the day?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Because of sleep-deprivation. He’s been staying up reading manga since his lab opened, remember?

Masahide Osaka: Uh, yeah. Heh-heh. I lose track of time easily.

Azumamaro Gensai: Dude, how late have you been staying up all week?

Masahide Osaka: I think I went back to my cabin at around three last night?

Tamaki Ozu: Three in the morning?! But that means you only slept for…!

Tamaki’s sentence trailed off as she held up her hand and started counting on her fingers.

Masahide Osaka: …Four hours.

Tamaki Ozu: Four hours!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Considering Masahide’s likely been keeping up this pattern all week, he’s clearly missed a lot of sleep. Therefore, we can’t completely rule out the possibility that he fell asleep.

Kenta Higoshi: Actually, yes we can.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh?

Kenta Higoshi: Masahide’s lying. There’s no way he could actually fall asleep as he claims.

Azumamaro Gensai: Whatcha talkin’ about, SBD? Why are you so sure Future Reference didn’t fall asleep?

Kenta Higoshi: Because he’s still alive.

Ayumi Imagawa: Oh yeah. I see where he’s going with this. One of the Killing Game rules is that we’re prohibited from sleeping outside our respective cabins. But if Masahide fell asleep in his lab, he’d be in clear violation of those rules!

Kenta Higoshi: Exactly. And I doubt Monokuma would just let it slide so easily.

Monokuma: Of course I wouldn’t! Rules are made for a reason, after all! If any of you li’l delinquents just up and fell asleep where you weren’t supposed to, I’d execute you on the spot!

Robert Marren: But if Masahide couldn’t have fallen asleep, then his entire testimony would have to be false!

Masahide Osaka: What?! No! I really did fall asleep! I swear!

Tamaki Ozu: Will you just give up already?! Your lies have already been proven impossible! You’d probably have better luck just coming up with another excuse!

Masahide Osaka: But then I really WOULD be lying! Look, I don’t know how the hell I’m still alive, but I’m telling the truth! Maybe there’s some kind of loophole or something like last time!

Tansho Ogura: But what kind of loophole could there even be? The rule looks pretty straight-forward to me.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I mean, we can’t ignore the possibility that there is one and we’re just missing it.

Tamaki Ozu: Seriously?! Why are we still debating this?! I know I’ve said this before, but was super friggin’ obvious before and now it’s pretty much confirmed that Masamune did it!

Azumamaro Gensai: Danger Girl, did you hit your head lately? I don’t remember you forgetting our names this often.

Monokuma: I know, right? It’s almost like some amateur writer’s shitty attempt at adding in a character element more than halfway through a story!

Tansho Ogura: That example seemed oddly specific…

Robert Marren: Hey! We’re getting off topic!

Ayumi Imagawa: Yep. Thank you, Razor. Now, getting back on track, I would like to bring the subject to something important relating to our primary suspect.

Azumamaro Gensai: What about him?

Ayumi Imagawa: After breakfast, I spent the entire morning in front of the dining hall, up until the body discovery announcement played. Aside from Razor making his way to the camp store about twenty minutes after the stated time of death, I didn’t see a single person enter or traverse the central field. But this poses one key problem.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Right. Regardless of whether Masahide is the killer or not, there remains the fact that he still somehow went from the west territory to the east. Since Ayumi would have eyes on the gates to both territories, he would have had to pass her to make it to the crime scene from his lab.

Azumamaro Gensai: I know! Maybe Eyeliner Girl is lying!

Ayumi Imagawa: What reason could I possibly have for lying about this? If I were an accomplice, I’d just get executed along with the rest of you. If I were the killer, it’d be much easier to just say I saw Masahide at some point to make him more suspicious, and as an innocent person, which I am, I’d just be randomly obstructing the trial with nothing to gain from it.

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh yeah. Nevermind, then.

Robert Marren: Maybe he used the secret passage in the auditorium.

Tamaki Ozu: Oh yeah! I almost forgot about that thing! That would totally work!

Tansho Ogura: But the path to the auditorium is easily within eyesight of the dining hall. Even if the exit from the west territory was somehow outside Ayumi’s peripheral vision, Masahide would still have to cross into her sight to get to the path leading there.

Kenta Higoshi: Essentially, no matter how Masahide ended up in the east territory, it’d be impossible to avoid detection. After all, Ayumi supposedly had eyes on the only possible exit from the west territory.

Hold on! Now that I think about it, there was probably one more way Masahide could have left!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wait! The gate to the central field wasn’t the only way out of the west territory!

Ayumi Imagawa: Huh? It wasn’t?

Azumamaro Gensai: Did we miss a gate while we were investigating?! Aw man! Now I just feel stupid again!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Uh, th-there’s no need to feel stupid, Maro. There aren’t any more gates.

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh! Phew…

Tansho Ogura: But if there wasn’t a second gate, then what other exit was there?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Well, I think Masahide could have gone over the fence on the south side of the territory!

Masahide Osaka: Um, I don’t mean to be rude, but there’s no way that’s possible. The fence is electric. If I even poked that thing, I’d end up looking like I pissed off a Zekrom!

Tamaki Ozu: Zek-what?

Masahide Osaka: Oh come on! I CAN’T be the only one of us who plays Pokémon! It’s like the most mainstream thing in this entire friggin’ country!

Ayumi Imagawa: We’re getting off-topic again…

Masahide Osaka: (sigh) My bad. Anyway, my point is that I’d get completely barbequed if I got too close to the fence. There’s no way I or anyone else could climb over it.

Monokuma: Well…

Tansho Ogura: Uh, what’s up with Monokuma? What does he mean “well?”

Hoshiyo Shimura: During the investigation, Monokuma informed me he was fixing the fence at the south end of the west territory. Apparently, the snow from last motive shorted out a section of it!

Robert Marren: Seriously?!

Monokuma: Aww. It’s true. I can’t believe I got so wrapped up in my camper’s personal lives that I neglected the quality of their summer fun experience for so long! Oh, whoa is me! Whoa is dear ol’ Monokuma!

Ayumi Imagawa: We could do without the pity party, thank you.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Ignoring Monokuma’s overacting, it’s possible the killer somehow found out about this hole in the defense and used it to transport Masahide out of the territory. Or, if it was him, then he could have just climbed over himself.

Azumamaro Gensai: Whoa, Super Potion! Back up the truck just a little!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh? What is it, Maro?

Azumamaro Gensai: Even if the fence wasn’t electrified all this time, there’s still that huge-ass bundle of barbed wire on top! I trust your brain power and all, but nobody’s perfect, so your mistake is understandable.

Hoshiyo Shimura: That’s a fair point, but I still don’t think we should rule out the possibility.

Azumamaro Gensai: Fine by me! But I’m not backing down until you give me a good reason!

Guess I should hear Maro out for now.

Azumamaro Gensai: I’ll admit, the current through the fence being shut down is a great point, but there’s no way over the barbed wire on top of the fence! Anyone who tried to go over that mess would be covered in obvious wounds! I mean, if they somehow survived, anyway…

Hoshiyo Shimura: I agree that the barbed wire would certainly stand in the way of climbing the fence, but there’s no other option if Ayumi is telling the truth!

Azumamaro Gensai: And that’s entirely true. But still, it’s practically impossible to accomplish. I know I keep saying this, but that much barbed wire is insurmountable! The only way it could work is if they used something to avoid it, but there was nothing that could actually prevent it from hacking them up while they crossed!

Wait a minute… That’s it! There was something!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Thank you for making this rebuttal, Maro. You really opened my eyes.

Azumamaro Gensai: No problem! So I was right, then?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Actually, you helped me remember something that further proves my point.

Azumamaro Gensai: Wait, what? I did?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Yep. I now realize that I have conclusive evidence that not only makes it possible that Masahide went over the fence, but also proves that this was definitely the method used!

Tamaki Ozu: Aw, sweet! What is it?

Hoshiyo Shimura: While I was investigating the Ultimate Otaku’s Lab, I noticed the cushion for the butterfly chair was flipped on top of a couple computer monitors. Once I looked closer, I found a bunch of small and medium-sized scratches on the front! Additionally, there was dirt stuck in the loose stuffing!

Masahide Osaka: What?! Nooooooo! I liked that chair!

Ayumi Imagawa: Was that seriously what you took away from that?

Tansho Ogura: Wait, I don’t get it. What does that have to do with Masahide going over the fence?

Hoshiyo Shimura: It’s perfectly fine, Tansho. I can see how someone wouldn’t immediately think of this solution. Essentially, I’m thinking that Masahide or whoever brought him over the fence used the cushion to protect themselves from the barbed wire!

Masahide Osaka: Aw what the hell?! I mean, it’s a good idea and all, but what the hell?! You don’t just rip up someone’s chair like that!

Kenta Higoshi: I don’t think you’re seeing the bigger picture here…

Ayumi Imagawa: That might actually work. I’ve heard of people laying rugs over barbed wire to go over it without getting cut up. If you think about it, the chair cushion could operate on the same principle.

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh! And the dirt in the stuffing is probably from when it hit the ground!

Tansho Ogura: OK. I’ll believe it.

Ayumi Imagawa: So since Masahide and some hypothetical person likely went over the fence, it means that the most likely route for him or them to take was through the secret passage in the auditorium closet.

Robert Marren: OK. So we got the route Masahide travelled to the east territory. What now?

Kenta Higoshi: Now that we’ve determined how he arrived at the crime scene undetected, we should turn our attention back to considering the impossibility of his alibi.

Masahide Osaka: Huh?!

Kenta Higoshi: The matter still stands that you couldn’t actually fall asleep outside your cabin without Monokuma executing you for violating the rules. Unless there really is some loophole in the rules like last time, it means your alibi was fabricated for some reason. Which only adds to the suspicion of catching you red-handed in the locked crime scene.

Masahide Osaka: Dude, I told you like ten times! I really did fall asleep! I don’t know how I avoided being executed for it, but I swear I’m telling the truth!

Kenta Higoshi: The fact of the matter is, unless we determine some way your claim is even possible, you practically have to be the killer.

Masahide Osaka: Fine! You wanna know how it was possible?! Well, so do I! So let’s get thinkin’! Taking all theories!

Ayumi Imagawa: Let’s calm down and think this through. The rule states, and I quote, “sleeping anywhere other than the cabins will be seen as sleeping during camp activities and punished accordingly.”

Robert Marren: I got nothing. The rule seems pretty loophole-free from my perspective.

Masahide Osaka: There’s gotta be something! Maybe my lab counts as an extension of my cabin or something?

Monokuma: Don’t be silly, NEET-o! Cabins and Ultimate Labs may both be designed for the designated student, but that doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply in them!

Azumamaro Gensai: Well, that’s out. Maybe you were only half-asleep!

Masahide Osaka: I think I’d at least feel myself moving across the camp if I were partly awake.

Tansho Ogura: What if you actually fainted from your head injury and only thought you fell asleep?

Masahide Osaka: Definitely on the right track, but I’m still not demonstrating any actual concussion symptoms. I’d probably show at least a couple by now.

Ayumi Imagawa: The only thing I can think of is if it wasn’t your fault. Like if someone else made you fall asleep unnaturally.

Kenta Higoshi: But how would someone do that?

Ayumi Imagawa: I have a couple ideas. They could have hit him in the head again, drugged him, hypnotized him…

Masahide Osaka: My head would have still hurt when I woke up if someone hit me. I also don’t think anyone here is actually capable of performing successful hypnosis. I think the most likely scenario would be if someone drugged me.

Kenta Higoshi: Very well. Let’s see if that works. Monokuma, would Masahide be safe from execution if someone else drugged him into falling asleep?

Monokuma: Wellllllll, I really shouldn’t be helping you bastards any more than I have been already… but the answer is yes! Drugging someone into unconsciousness does not count as a violation of the sleeping clause! Hell, you probably coulda come to the conclusion on your own if you remember a certain someone being sedated just a few days ago!

Hoshiyo Shimura: …!

Azumamaro Gensai: OK, that last part was just unnecessary and you know it!

Monokuma: Yes. Yes I do. Ain’t I just a li’l stinker like that?

Ayumi Imagawa: IGNORING the peanut gallery’s attempts at taunting us, this proves that it actually was possible for Masahide to lose consciousness as he claimed without being executed.

Hoshiyo Shimura: R-right…

Ayumi Imagawa: But now we have a new question to consider. That question being if anyone actually had the opportunity to sedate him and how they could have done it.

Azumamaro Gensai: Huh. That’s a tough one. Where would the killer even get sedatives in a friggin summer camp?

Tansho Ogura: Did you even pay attention during the last trial? There’s a stash of sedatives in the Ultimate Mortician’s Lab, remember?

Azumamaro Gensai: Uh… vaguely?

Robert Marren: So the killer supposedly prepared the sedatives, snuck into the Ultimate Otaku’s Lab, injected Masahide to knock him out, and dragged him to Natsumi’s lab from there. Am I getting this right?

Azumamaro Gensai: Sounds about right.

Masahide Osaka: Um…

Azumamaro Gensai: Huh? What’s on your mind, Future Reference?

Masahide Osaka: I mean, I know this is probably shooting myself in the foot or something, but… I don’t think I was injected with anything.

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh, you have GOTTA be shitting me!

Tansho Ogura: Yeah, you’re definitely shooting yourself in the foot, dude.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What do you mean, Masahide?

Masahide Osaka: What I mean is that I don’t remember getting stuck with anything before I blacked out. I mean, you’d totally remember getting spontaneously jabbed with a needle, wouldn’t you?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Come to think, we never actually found a syringe anywhere weird like last time. If there was one, it’d probably be somewhere along the killer’s path to Natsumi’s lab, right?

Robert Marren: So even if he really was sedated, there’s no actual proof that it happened.

Kenta Higoshi: Which means there’s still a chance he’s trying to deceive us.

Masahide Osaka: I doubt my stating “I didn’t do it” over and over will change anything, but I’m gonna keep that habit going anyway. I’m really not lying to you guys about anything, even if my admissions keep putting me back in the hot seat.

Tamaki Ozu: OOH! Question!

Ayumi Imagawa: Yes, Tamaki? What’s your question?

Tamaki Ozu: I know we were probably gonna talk about this now anyway, but if Mitsuharu wasn’t put out with a needle, then what else is there exactly?

Tansho Ogura: She’s right. If we rule out injection, blunt-force trauma, and falling asleep on his own, there really isn’t anything left that could make Masahide’s testimony plausible.

Ayumi Imagawa: You guys are clearly overlooking a simple possibility.

Tansho Ogura: Seriously? What else is there?

Tamaki Ozu: Yeah! What she said!

Ayumi Imagawa: Ingestion, obviously.

Tamaki Ozu: Whazzat mean?!

Ayumi Imagawa: “Ingestion” really isn’t that advanced of a word, but it basically means he could have eaten something that made him lose consciousness.

Robert Marren: You sure? Hoshiyo checked on him after he went up to his lab, though. I’m pretty sure he didn’t bring anything with him and I know there wasn’t any food supplied in his lab already.

Ayumi Imagawa: Which is why anyone with basic deductive reasoning could theorize someone may have slipped something into his breakfast this morning.

Masahide Osaka: I mean, I guess that makes sense, but would it really take that long for them to start affecting me? It had to have taken at least ten minutes for me to actually fall asleep. Hoshiyo can confirm that I was awake for quite a bit after breakfast.

Hoshiyo Shimura: He’s right. I checked on him maybe five minutes after breakfast. Still, I think we’re onto something with this theory. I would check the available tranquilizers if I could, but I don’t have either a sample of whatever we think could have caused this or the equipment necessary to analyze one.

Azumamaro Gensai: If we’re considering the sedatives in the Ultimate Mortician’s Lab as a possibility, why don’t we just go off what we learned from last time?

Tansho Ogura: In that case, it would be obvious they weren’t used on Masahide. In order for them to work before, it only took a few seconds to fully sedate Hirokazu. Any more and he would have probably found some way to wake up everyone else.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …!

Tansho Ogura: Oh. Uh, oops. Sorry about that.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I-it’s fine, Tansho. If it’s relevant, it would be a problem not to discuss the topic. Don’t, uh, delay the trial on my account.

Ayumi Imagawa: Anyway, while we’re on the subject, I’m sure Hoshiyo’s probably figured this out too, but I doubt the sedatives would even work in the manner we’re proposing.

Azumamaro Gensai: Why not? Sedatives are sedatives.

Hoshiyo Shimura: The problem is the means of distribution. As observed, uh, “before,” the sedatives from the Ultimate Mortician’s Lab are meant to be distributed by injection. In the case of most injected medicines and toxins, the make-up is created specifically to be directly introduced to the bloodstream. In any of the cases I’ve heard of, ingesting these formulas would do essentially nothing but leave an awful taste in your mouth.

Azumamaro Gensai: So they wouldn’t work anyway? Damn. There goes that idea.

Kenta Higoshi: In other words, there’s essentially no way for anyone to succeed in drugging Masahide.

Masahide Osaka: But there waaaaaaas…

Kenta Higoshi: And that would be what, exactly?

Masahide Osaka: …I dunno.

Kenta Higoshi: At the risk of sounding like Natsumi, that is not an acceptable argument.

Ayumi Imagawa: You know, if y’all would let me share my actual point before you go off on stupid arguments of your own, that’d be great.

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh, you were actually going somewhere with this? Shit, my bad.

Kenta Higoshi: Go ahead, Ayumi.

Ayumi Imagawa: Ahem! As I was trying to say, during the investigation, I obtained this from the camp store.

Ayumi pulled the piece of paper from before out of the inside of her jacket.

Ayumi Imagawa: It’s a list Monokuma’s been keeping of the items purchased from the store since our arrival.

Monokuma: Damn right, I have! Just a quick reminder that I’m fully aware of the tabs you bastards have been racking up! So don’t think you can weasel out of coughing up once you get sent home!

Azumamaro Gensai: So that’s got literally everything we’ve ever bought here on it?

Ayumi Imagawa: Can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t put it past Monokuma. And for the record, Maro, you drink way too much soda for your own good.

Azumamaro Gensai: Agree to disagree.

Ayumi Imagawa: Not how basic health works, but we have more pressing matters than how miraculous it is that you’re somehow still a toothpick in spite of your sugar intake.

Azumamaro Gensai: Someone’s ruder than usual…

Ayumi Imagawa: Among the items purchased yesterday was a bottle of sleeping pills. The name section is blank, so I can’t tell who bought it, but this proves there was at least one other possible means of drugging Masahide that just happened to have been purchased the previous afternoon.

Robert Marren: That’s way too close to be a coincidence. Right?

Ayumi Imagawa: Let’s find out, shall we? Anyone here wanna own up to buying those pills and maybe explain another possible use? I’m all ears.

The room fell into a deep silence. Everyone looked around, trying to gauge the others’ reactions to the proposal.

Ayumi Imagawa: No one? Thought so. If none of us has a logical explanation for this phantom purchase, than it’s highly likely the buyer doesn’t want us to know it was them. And the only reasonable conclusion for why that is would have to be that they used the pills to aid in their murder plan.

Tamaki Ozu: I’m not buyin’ it.

Tansho Ogura: Wait, really? That’s kinda surprising.

Tamaki Ozu: It is?

Tansho Ogura: Kinda, yeah. You don’t really question our ideas that often.

Ayumi Imagawa: What’s the problem, Tamaki?

Tamaki Ozu: Doesn’t it seem kinda weird for Monokuma to do somethin’ different like not add a name or somethin’? I mean, he’s totally a little shit and all, but he’s never broken a rule or habit before, ya know?

Tansho Ogura: That’s… a surprisingly insightful point.

Tamaki Ozu: Thanks, T!

Azumamaro Gensai: I don’t think that was much of a compliment…

Ayumi Imagawa: I’ll admit, I haven’t actually figured that out yet. I tried asking Monokuma myself, but all I could get was that the list has some kind of secret condition that leaves certain items nameless. Wouldn’t tell me what the condition was, of course.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So now we know there actually was a way the killer could have drugged Masahide! Therefore, he’s not the only possible suspect!

Masahide Osaka: Oh, thank Igor!

Kenta Higoshi: Sorry, but I still think he’s guilty.

Masahide Osaka: Oh, come on!

Azumamaro Gensai: Hate to say it, but SBD’s got a point. We can’t rule him out entirely just because it was possible he didn’t do it.

Robert Marren: Plus, there’s still the fact that he was locked in the lab with no way to close it from the outside. I still don’t see how anyone else could do this.

Tamaki Ozu: But the missing name is totally suspicious! There’s gotta be somethin’ else going on!

Monokuma: Uh-oh!

Hoshiyo Shimura: “Uh-oh?” What’s “uh-oh,” bear?

Monokuma: It looks like you guys are at a fifty-fifty stalemate! How will we ever settle this split down the middle?

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh, god. You aren’t gonna do that floaty thing again, are you?

Monokuma: Hey! That’s a great idea, Threads! Hold onto your britches, everyone! It’s time for a scrum debate!

Once more, Monokuma pulled a key out from what I assume was underneath him and stuck it into the mechanism in front of him. He turned the key and the podiums we stood behind started to lift off the floor one by one into the area above. The eight of us were split perfectly down the middle. Four of us still accusing Masahide, and the rest of us wanting to explore other possibilities.

Monokuma: Let’s see what we got here! On the “guilty” side, we have…!

Kenta Higoshi: Kenta.

Robert Marren: Razor!

Tansho Ogura: Tansho.

Azumamaro Gensai: Maro.

Monokuma: And on the opposing side…!

Ayumi Imagawa: Ayumi.

Masahide Osaka: Masahide!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Hoshiyo.

Tamaki Ozu: Tamaki!

Monokuma: Okie-dokie! Let the games begin!

Is Masahide the killer?

Kenta Higoshi: The sleeping pills on the list are certainly unusual, but there’s no proof they were used to drug Masahide.

Tamaki Ozu: But it still could’ve happened! We can’t just ignore that if it’s not certain!

Azumamaro Gensai: When we found Future Reference, he was locked in the lab! There’s no way someone else could’ve just locked it and left!

Ayumi Imagawa: We’ve pretty much only discussed what could have happened to Masahide till now. There hasn’t been nearly enough consideration of the actual crime scene to say what was and wasn’t possible at this point.

Tansho Ogura: Who’s to say Masahide didn’t just buy the pills himself to shift suspicion away?

Masahide Osaka: I didn’t even know Monokuma was keeping a list until Ayumi showed it to us! And even if I did, there’s no way I would know what the condition is to not be marked as the buyer!

Robert Marren: If someone abducted Masahide from his lab, wouldn’t we have seen it during guard duty?

Hoshiyo Shimura: That was the idea, but it wouldn’t be too hard for someone to realize we were all distracted by you and Tamaki challenging each other to random crap.

Kenta Higoshi: Why can’t you see that the answer is obvious? Masahide is the only person who could have killed Natsumi in this manner.

Hoshiyo Shimura: No he’s not! We’ve found several pieces of evidence that support his claims! If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the past, it’s that we need to ensure that his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before we make a final decision!

Hoshiyo, Masahide, Ayumi, and Tamaki: THIS IS OUR ARGUMENT!!

The others stayed quiet, no longer arguing Masahide’s evident guilt. Monokuma took that as a sign that we had won the debate and returned us to the trialgrounds below, glaring at the losing side with a cheeky grin on his stupid face.

Ayumi Imagawa: I suppose that settles it, then. In light of the evidence we’ve collected proving it possible for Masahide to be telling the truth, we need to review the case in a much more unbiased fashion. Are we in agreement?

Robert Marren: Yes. That was admittedly a very convincing argument.

Azumamaro Gensai: Yeah. Sorry for kinda rushing things.

Masahide Osaka: It’s cool. I know we all just wanna get this over with. I’m glad you’re willing to hear me out for now.

Kenta Higoshi: While the circumstances are still heavily obvious, I must admit we still need to take much more into consideration before concluding this trial.

Ayumi Imagawa: Fan-flippin-tastic. Now, as I suggested at the start of the trial, we should all establish alibis for the indicated time of the murder. Masahide and I already gave our statements, so where the hell was everyone else this morning?

Robert Marren: Tamaki, Hoshiyo, and I spent the whole morning at the rock wall. Around maybe 10-ish, Monokuma decided to be a little shit and try to prank us. I ended up twisting my ankle and hopped down to the camp store for some gauze. Ayumi and I can back each other up on our alibis after I left. We could see each other the whole time I was crossing the main field. Said hi for a bit before heading into the east territory.

Azumamaro Gensai: Wait, so Eyeliner Girl saw an injured guy hopping across the field and just sat there the entire time? Doesn’t your talent require compassionate action or something?

Ayumi Imagawa: Of course I tried to help. I’m not an inconsiderate asshole. He refused my help, so I figured it wasn’t that bad and backed off.

Robert Marren: Yeah. I didn’t want to bother her. Besides, I’m more than capable of keeping myself out of harm’s way even with a messed-up ankle. Anyway, who’s next?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Like Razor said, Tamaki and I were with him at the rock wall before he got injured. We ended up staying there and talking for a bit after he left up until the body discovery announcement.

Tamaki Ozu: Yep! Me and Hoshino are clear! OH! Plus, I’m pretty sure T was in her artsy-fartsy place all day too! I saw her leaving on my way to the lake!

Tansho Ogura: Not how I would’ve put it, but I was, in fact, working in the Craft Corral all day. I spotted the others on guard duty when I got there and locked myself in until I heard the body discovery announcement.

Robert Marren: Oh yeah, I forgot. I can also back her up. Not sure if the girls noticed, but I kinda stumbled a bit and bumped into the shed. I checked to see if I startled her, but she didn’t seem to notice I was there.

Tansho Ogura: You did? Damn, my bad. I kinda get big-time tunnel vision when I’m working. I’ve legit gone entire days without remembering to eat.

Masahide Osaka: Ooh. I get that too. Life rule number twelve – always have snacks on-hand during major projects.

Tansho Ogura: Trust me, I learned that lesson a while ago.

Kenta Higoshi: Anyway, I was exploring the nature trail on Mono Island after my morning target practice. Maro came to ask for my help in guarding Masahide and found me a minute or so after the murder. There weren’t any clocks or anything, but hunting for most of your life makes you really good at telling time with the sun.

Azumamaro Gensai: You really freaked me out, by the way! You know how long it took me to find you in that place?! A freakin’ hour and a half! It’s way too long to find someone fast enough!

Kenta Higoshi: It’s great. But yeah. I was there. So was Maro. I could hear him yelling into the woods for a solid hour.

Azumamaro Gensai: You knew I was looking for you the whole fucking time?!

Kenta Higoshi: By your account, only for about two-thirds of the time.

Azumamaro Gensai: You’re mean, SBD.

Kenta Higoshi: And you’ve been borderline harassing me all week. But moving on, that’s everybody.

Ayumi Imagawa: So that seemingly clears Hoshiyo, Tamaki, Razor, me, Tansho, Kenta, and Maro.

Masahide Osaka: Wait, what?! Oh come on! That’s literally everyone but me!

Ayumi Imagawa: Not necessarily. Some of us actually still have room for doubt. The guards, Tansho, and I all have visual testimony backing our claims for where we were during the murder. However, Kenta and Maro actually have a hole in their alibis.

Azumamaro Gensai: Excuse me?!

Kenta Higoshi: Care to explain?

Ayumi Imagawa: I’ll admit, Maro’s is actually better, seeing as you claimed to hear him yelling for a while before the time of the murder. If he weren’t actually doing so, you’d have no reason to lie for him. But there’s still a chance you’re setting up your own false innocence by pretending to have heard him all that time.

Hoshiyo Shimura: As much as I don’t wanna doubt either of you, Ayumi’s right. Neither of them has any concrete means of determining what time it was when they met. Even if Kenta’s internal clock or shadow-reading skills are accurate enough, we can’t simply accept one person’s estimate as fact.

Azumamaro Gensai: Now wait just a goddamn minute...!

Kenta Higoshi: It’s fine.

Azumamaro Gensai: Huh?!

Kenta Higoshi: They’re right. I could easily be making this up. They’re just being cautious, as I’ve been toward Masahide’s claims as well.

Azumamaro Gensai: I mean, I guess. But you’re seriously fine with them suspecting you like this?

Kenta Higoshi: It’s unfortunate, but justified. I’m still going to defend myself, but they have every right and reason to doubt my claims.

Masahide Osaka: Least it’s not just me anymore…

Hoshiyo Shimura: Now that we have an idea of who had a general opportunity, let’s finally try to figure out how the killer committed the murder. Starting with the murder weapon.

Ayumi Imagawa: We found a bloodstained baseball bat underneath Natsumi’s desk. The bat matches the shape of her head wound perfectly so it’s safe to say it’s what killed her.

Hoshiyo Shimura: There are only two places in the camp containing some sort of bat. The replicas of Ayumi’s favorite bat in the Ultimate Activist’s Lab and the baseball supply cage in the athletic equipment shed. The bat in Natsumi’s lab was silver in color under the bloodstains, meaning it had to come from the baseball cage. Ayumi’s replica bats are all coated in multiple colors of paint, while the ones in the athletic cage are a perfect match. We also confirmed one of the bats on the rack on the wall is missing.

Ayumi Imagawa: Now, according to both the Monokuma File and the general fact that our eyes work, Natsumi was hit several times before the killer dealt the final blow. Two of the strikes succeeded in cracking her ribs and fracturing her left arm. Both of these hits would incapacitate her with the pain on their own, so it’s likely she was made to suffer on purpose.

Masahide Osaka: Holy shit…

Tansho Ogura: I can’t even imagine any of us doing something that awful.

Robert Marren: What could even drive someone to do this?! It’s insane!

Kenta Higoshi: I’d guess whatever information someone got on Natsumi was worse than expected.

Azumamaro Gensai: The hell did she do to one of us?! Dammit, if we could check around for who got her info, this would be so much easier!

Ayumi Imagawa: No duh. Hence the rule against sharing until the trial’s over.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I wish we could find out why too, but the killer’s motive isn’t going to help us until we find out more. I say we turn back to the “how” before we worry about “why.”

Kenta Higoshi: She’s right. Let’s go over what we know from the beginning.

Masahide Osaka: Uh, so it started this morning. I was cleaning my lab and the others were hanging out at the rock wall. The killer made me fall asleep somehow and snuck into my lab while the guards were distracted.

Kenta Higoshi: Regardless of whether Masahide or someone else is responsible, the killer rested the butterfly chair cushion over the barbed wire of the fence to the auditorium. Since it was shorted out temporarily, they could scale the segment without being electrocuted.

Ayumi Imagawa: Masahide and/or the killer travelled through the secret passage provided to Juichi as a motive. No one noticed them crossing the camp and they made it to the lakefront near Natsumi’s lab.

Azumamaro Gensai: I can confirm that Phoenix Uptight went to her lab right after leaving the dining hall this morning. I tried to get in before looking for SBD on the island. The door was locked up tight and she grumbled at me to go away when she heard me rattling the knob.

Oh, yikes. She must have been really upset about what happened at breakfast. It’s actually pretty sad that her shooing Maro away was probably the last anyone heard from her before the murder.

Robert Marren: So if the killer really wasn’t Masahide, they brought him and the bat into the Ultimate Lawyer’s Lab. They attacked Natsumi, hitting her a bunch of times and killed her with a blow to the head. Then they left Masahide and the bat, somehow locking them in the lab with the body.

Kenta Higoshi: On the other hand, if it was him, he locked himself in the lab with her and waited for me and Maro to return from Mono Island. He then screamed as loud as he could to draw our attention, pretending to wake up and discover the crime scene. He waited several minutes to open the door, likely from nervous hesitation and for a third person to arrive. That way, we couldn’t deduce him as the killer instantly when the body discovery announcement didn’t play, since there would be four people observing at once instead of the minimum three.

Masahide Osaka: ...Oh. My. Fucking. Innominat.

Robert Marren: What? You OK, Masahide?

Masahide Osaka: How… in the hell… did I forget about the goddamn body discovery announcement?! I am a fucking idiot!

Ayumi Imagawa: I wouldn’t say an idiot

Masahide Osaka: If I’d just opened the goddamn door right away instead of having another stupid panic attack, I would have just been proven innocent right away! Stupid, stupid anxiety! Why must you screw me over like this?!

A soft thunk sounded from Masahide’s spot as he rested his face on his podium in frustration. Everyone stopped and watched awkwardly as he clenched his hair and groaned, likely at himself for his apparent oversight. After a bit, I overheard him softly muttering to himself.

Masahide Osaka: …Why the fuck am I like this? You screwed yourself over. You screwed everyone over.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wait, Masahide-

Masahide Osaka: Why couldn’t you be more fucking rational? Why couldn’t you just use your goddamn head for once instead of being an oblivious fucking dumbass? The solution was so easy. It was right the fuck in front of your dopey face the entire fucking time. And you did nothing. You didn’t think of it. You didn’t think at all, did you?

Ayumi Imagawa: Dude, are you OK?

Masahide Osaka: They were right. They all were. Your teachers, your siblings, your parents, they were all right. Natsumi was right. You can’t bring yourself to buckle down and do what needs to be done. You can’t just be objective for five fucking seconds and just look at the obvious shit that’s right in front of you! You just can’t find it in you to apply yourself to what matters!

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was nothing like the Masahide we’d known before. Gone was the quirky, carefree demeanor we were so used to by now. In its place stood a frustrated, sniffling boy who just stood there, shrouded in fear and regret over such a simple mistake. All this doubt, this animosity, this despair, I doubt any of us thought he was carrying enough underneath the surface to just start blurting it out in the middle of a class trial. Even Kenta was displaying noticeable shock toward his self-deprecating meltdown.

Azumamaro Gensai: Holy shit, no! Futu-… Masahide! That’s not-!

Masahide Osaka: Why? Why can’t I function right? Why can’t I just pay attention to what’s going on around me instead of being trapped in my stupid fucking head all the goddamn time? We’re gonna die! We’re all gonna fucking die and it’s all my fault! I can’t fix this! I could have fixed this but I didn’t! I’m sorry! I’m so fucking sorry! I couldn’t just pull my head out of the clouds like a functional human being and we’re all gonna die because of my pointless, selfish, BULLSH-!

WHAP!

The room went silent at the sound of the strike. If the others weren’t dumbfounded before, they most definitely were now. Ayumi stared at me from a podium over, her eyes darting between Masahide and the hand I was clutching to ease the mild stinging sensation. Masahide slowly turned to face me, his hand reaching up to touch the cheek where I slapped him. It was the second time he’d been hit in the face today, but I didn’t care. It was the only thing I could think of to stop him from going out of control. I guess there’s no way out now…

Hoshiyo Shimura: Masahide, please calm down! This isn’t like you!

Masahide Osaka: …

Hoshiyo Shimura: Well… I guess I can’t really say that. Not honestly, anyway. None of us can claim to know everything going on inside each other’s heads. For all I know, you’ve been thinking stuff like this since before we got here and just hiding it from us the whole time. Not like that’s unusual or anything.

Masahide Osaka: I…

Hoshiyo Shimura: Look. Whatever you’re telling yourself in your head… that doesn’t matter now. Yes, things are more difficult than they could have been, but you can’t fault yourself for being reasonably freaked out at the situation you found yourself in.

Masahide Osaka: But-

Hoshiyo Shimura: No! Whatever regret you’re holding onto… it’s only going to make things harder in the future! You can’t live your life just beating yourself up whenever you can’t stop something from going wrong! Your past failures are only going to multiply in the future if you don’t try to let them go!

Masahide wiped a tear from his eye and looked down, gripping his arms across his chest. He seemed to be pondering my words and his mood was obviously a lot calmer. Thoughts of Hirokazu and Marise danced to the front of my mind, standing alongside Masahide and Ayumi. The corners of my lips slightly quirked up into a somber smile as I imagined them standing there, supporting me as they always did.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Then again… I’m probably the last person who should be preaching about moving on, huh? Their deaths weren’t even my fault, but I can’t stop myself from freaking out in my head whenever I’m reminded of Hirokazu and Marise. And it’s not just affecting me. We still need to consider their losses to progress in both this trial and in everyday life here. If we’re going to get anywhere, I have to move on and accept what happened. For everyone’s sake.

With a quick sniff, Masahide’s face morphed into a somber smile of his own. Ayumi smiled too and lightly patted him on the shoulder with an impressed smirk.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So I’ll work on overcoming my issues. And you work on overcoming yours. We won’t have to fix it alone, at least not for now. Right now, all that matters is figuring out this trial. You’ve been a huge help in solving the puzzles before, and I know we can figure this out if we focus on what we have. I won’t give up on trying to prove your innocence, and you won’t let some unchangeable regret keep you from doing the best with what you have.

Masahide Osaka: …Thanks, Hoshiyo. I wish I could say I didn’t need that, but I did, and I’m glad you could help. And for the record, if anything, the hypocrite is the guy who was freaking out about freaking out too much.

Hoshiyo Shimura: There he is.

Monokuma: AHEM! As much as I love a good ol’ fashioned despairing breakdown, can we PLEASE get back to the trial already?! Your counselor’s getting sick of all this wannabe-Oprah crap! Wrap it up already or I’ll fall asleep and end the trial prematurely! And for Junko’s sake, get back to your damn podium already, Four-Eyes!

Kenta Higoshi: I hate to agree with Monokuma, but he has a point. We still need to solve Natsumi’s murder.

Masahide Osaka: Right… Sorry about that, everyone.

Ayumi Imagawa: It’s cool. Mental health happens. For the record, though, on the off-chance we find out it really was you, I’mma be real pissed.

Masahide just stared at her with an unamused glare.

Ayumi Imagawa: Hey, it only matters if you really are the killer. And I’m actually pretty sure you didn’t do it, so don’t worry about it for now.

Masahide Osaka: I guess. Still, I honestly feel pretty bad about going off on that little episode in the middle of a trial. Really wish this place had bathrooms to hide in.

I walked back to my podium and took a deep breath, taking a second to collect my thoughts and refocus on the mystery. The shift felt particularly abrupt, particularly since I wanted to help Masahide a bit more than I had, but I knew Monokuma wouldn’t hold back on his threat of getting bored.

Robert Marren: So, uh, now that… “that’s” over, what exactly are we supposed to discuss?

Kenta Higoshi: As convincing as that apparent breakdown was, we still shouldn’t assume he’s innocent. There still exists a chance it was some elaborate attempt to garner sympathy.

Ayumi Imagawa: Are you shitting me?

Azumamaro Gensai: Damn. You really aren’t letting up, are you, SBD?

Kenta Higoshi: I’m simply stating a possibility. Besides, even if that was real, the only other actual suspects are Maro and myself. Both of whom I know firsthand are innocent. Masahide is still the only one of us who makes sense as the killer.

Tamaki Ozu: Oh yeah! We never figured out how anyone else woulda locked the door from the outside either! Didn’t we?

Tansho Ogura: Surprisingly enough, Tamaki has a point. If we can’t deem it possible for someone to lock the deadbolt and safety lock from the outside, then there’s no reason to push our other accusations any further. Therefore, eliminating any and all possible manners of locking him in should be our main priority.

Kenta Higoshi: Excellent proposal. So, does anyone have any sort of suggestion as to how they could have accomplished this feat in any way whatsoever?

Ayumi Imagawa: Let’s go over what we know about the locks on Natsumi’s lab so far. There are two locks provided by Monokuma: a deadbolt and a u-shaped safety lock.

Masahide Osaka: When I first observed them after waking up, both locks were engaged.

Tansho Ogura: The deadbolt had no key or outside lock mechanism to be picked.

Ayumi Imagawa: Even if there was, it’s pretty tricky for even a professional to pick a lock shut.

Azumamaro Gensai: How the hell do you know all this stuff?

Ayumi Imagawa: I read a lot.

Kenta Higoshi: So if we exclude using a key and picking it shut, then what, if anything, is left?

Robert Marren: Magnets?

Masahide Osaka: Door’s too thick. None of our labs or any of the other buildings would have a magnet that’s strong enough to reach through.

Azumamaro Gensai: Maybe they could’ve built some kind of mechanism.

Kenta Higoshi: If that were true we’d have found traces of one during the investigation. And if such a thing were discovered, then we’d obviously have brought it up by now.

Ayumi Imagawa: Let’s just think over the crime scene for a bit. Did anyone find anything out of the ordinary in Natsumi’s lab or the surrounding area?

Tansho Ogura: Nothing we didn’t mention already. Outside the weapon, state of the body, and some stuff that got looked knocked over, there was nothing all that different about the lab or the lakefront.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I have nothing either. All I found on the beach was some random litter.

Ayumi Imagawa: Litter? Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve actually seen any around this camp before. I half expected to be picking up after the slobs in our group since we got here.

Azumamaro Gensai: What kinda litter?

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the offending item.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Just this piece of gift ribbon. I dunno why I kept it. Just didn’t wanna ignore anything.

Masahide Osaka: Wait… Hoshiyo, could I see that ribbon for a sec?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh? Sure thing. Why?

Masahide Osaka: Gut feeling, I guess? This all seems really familiar for some reason. Like déjà vu or something.

Hoshiyo Shimura: If you think it’ll help, go ahead. Maybe you’ll give us another insight like last time.

Kenta Higoshi: I’d argue against letting the prime suspect hold a potential piece of evidence, but I doubt a piece of ribbon will actually be that relevant to the case.

I handed Masahide the red ribbon and he grabbed each of the ends with his thumbs and index fingers. He made some sort of funky inquisitive face, seeming to pay extra attention to the small knot on the very end.

Masahide Osaka: Where have I…?

Azumamaro Gensai: Future Reference, quit making that face. You look constipated, man.

Masahide Osaka: Hang on. I know I’ve seen this somewhere before. I just…

Suddenly his eyes shot open as his expression turned to one of realization.

Masahide Osaka: Wait! That’s it! I just remembered! The ribbon is the key!

Robert Marren: Huh…?

Tansho Ogura: You’re kidding right?

Kenta Higoshi: Masahide, how could a scrap of material be as important as you’re making it seem?

Masahide Osaka: Because it’s the key! This ribbon is literally the key to this crime scene!

Azumamaro Gensai: I think he lost it…

Ayumi Imagawa: Masahide, you’re misusing the word “literally.”

Masahide Osaka: Actually, I’m not! The killer used this ribbon as a literal key to lock the door behind them!

Tamaki Ozu: Seriously?!

Kenta Higoshi: How could they lock a door with a ribbon?

Masahide Osaka: OK, so hear me out. A while ago, I started having this weird feeling that I’d seen this kind of scenario somewhere before. It kept nagging me in the back of my mind, but I didn’t think much of it ‘cuz I get weird déjà vu feelings all the time.

Ayumi Imagawa: And your point is…?

Masahide Osaka: My point is that once I looked over this ribbon, I realized why I felt like I’d seen this kind of crime scene before! It’s because I actually have!

Azumamaro Gensai: How? We haven’t had any locked room mysteries. And it’s not like you’ve been around a ton of crime scenes before.

Masahide Osaka: Maybe not real ones. I couldn’t dream of actually living the life of an Ultimate Detective or Forensic Scientist. And honestly, I doubt I’d want to. They see some messed up shit.

Ayumi Imagawa: Again, your point?

Masahide Osaka: Right. Anyway, even though my talent isn’t usually that useful, I’m still the Ultimate Otaku for a reason. I become so absorbed in the stories I encounter that I have all of them stored somewhere in my latent learning. Trivia, voice actors, lore, and especially characters and stories are all stored within my subconscious to be retrieved when I need them. I presume you’ve all heard of a particularly popular series called Case Closed.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh yeah.

Robert Marren: Not really.

Kenta Higoshi: Me neither.

Masahide Osaka: It’s the fourth most popular manga of all time and you two disappoint me. Anyway, the reason I recognized our particular locked room is because it just so happens to be a part-for-part replication of the gimmick used in case 250, episode 752, the Case of the Lucky Calico!

Azumamaro Gensai: Wait, seriously?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I don’t think I’ve seen that one. How’s it relate to this case?

Masahide Osaka: Well, in the original case, a man was found bludgeoned in his apartment and barely breathing. All his keys were still in the apartment and the door was locked. With a deadbolt and a u-shaped safety lock!

Ayumi Imagawa: That seems almost too convenient…

Masahide Osaka: Anyway, the victim had gift-wrapping supplies in his living room. After observing the available evidence, Conan realized the culprit used the supplies to leave the apartment and lock the door behind them. More specifically, a piece of ribbon exactly like this one here!

Tansho Ogura: How the hell would anyone lock a door with a ribbon?

Masahide Osaka: Well you see, the culprit cut a similar length of ribbon off the spool in the victim’s living room and stepped outside the apartment. They looped the ribbon around the safety lock and held onto the ends, stepping out and closing the door behind them. When they were in position, they pulled both sides at the same time and the lock was dragged into place by the ribbon!

Ayumi Imagawa: That actually sounds possible. But if they pulled it off, the door would only open part way. How would they engage the deadbolt too if the door would have to be all the way closed for it to work?

Masahide lit up at Ayumi’s question, grabbing his chin with his thumb and index finger and putting on an excited grin. He held up the ribbon in his other hand with the side containing the small knot prominently displayed at the top.

Masahide Osaka: By tying this knot on the end, of course!

He turned to face Ayumi and pointed dramatically at the knot, somehow giving off even more enthusiasm for his discovery than before.

Masahide Osaka: FOR YOU SEE, once the knot is tied a small section of the end becomes too wide to fit through the space between the twisty-thingy and the door! The culprit slid their hand in the gap between the door and the frame to slide it over the bolt! They closed the door all the way again and pulled on their end of the ribbon, causing the knot to get stuck on one side of the bolt and pull it into place, slipping out once the knob was turned all the way!

Azumamaro Gensai: Holy crap… I think he’s right! Nice one, Future Reference!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I agree. In light of this new evidence, I think it’s safe to conclude that Masahide was not the only one of us who would be capable of perpetrating this crime. So long as someone utilized the method he explained to us…

Kenta Higoshi: No. You’re getting off target.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Huh?

Kenta Higoshi: If anything, this explanation only further proves that Masahide is the most likely suspect.

Masahide Osaka: Can I get one stupid break?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Kenta, how does proving someone else could have locked the room enforce Masahide’s guilt?

Kenta Higoshi: You still don’t see? The answer’s right in front of you.

Hoshiyo Shimura: How so?

Kenta Higoshi: It’s simple. Masahide already knew the basis for this copycat crime. He said it himself. He can recall information about the series he’s read when the need presents itself. Since he admits to having prior knowledge of the gimmick the culprit supposedly used, it’s not farfetched to think he’d plant evidence to the method being used to throw us off.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’ll admit it seems possible that he’d think of such a thing, but it’s possible someone used his connection with the source material as a means of casting more false suspicion on him!

Kenta Higoshi: Fair point. However, let’s consider the general obscurity of this method in general. It was from one episode of a series he claimed to have over seven-hundred and fifty episodes in total. The likelihood of one of us having not only seen the episode, but still recalling the exact gimmick used is extremely low unless it was a more recent memory. There’s no way anyone else would be able to obtain knowledge of such a trick recently enough to remember how to pull it off.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Actually, Kenta, I’m pretty sure there was.

Kenta Higoshi: How?

Hoshiyo Shimura: The Ultimate Otaku’s Lab, of course. When I first investigated, Masahide pointed out that the shelves contained almost the entire series of Case Closed manga. I estimated around a couple hundred, so it’s not a stretch to consider that particular mystery was included in the collection.

Kenta Higoshi: Are you suggesting one of us just happened to discover that exact mystery while perusing Masahide’s lab? It’s far too unlikely.

Hoshiyo Shimura: But not impossible. In fact, if Masahide really is innocent, I think I know when they discovered it too.

Ayumi Imagawa: When was that?

Hoshiyo Shimura: If this scheme runs as deep as I think it does, then it was probably when they trashed the lab to frame Natsumi.

Masahide Osaka: Wait, huh?! Are… are you saying that wasn’t Natsumi’s doing? But she was the only one who had any motive to do it, wasn’t she?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Not necessarily. Considering the unnecessarily brutal manner in which she was murdered, it’s obvious the killer was directly targeting Natsumi from the start. Everyone had noticed the obvious tension between you two at that point. My theory is that they decided to work behind the scenes to fuel your resentment until you had just enough motive for everyone to consider you the killer without a second thought. One such measure would be to target something you hold dear that Natsumi disliked enough for you to single her out. And what have you shown a more obvious love for than pop-culture? After all, you’ve become drastically sleep-deprived from reading manga all night since the west territory opened.

Masahide Osaka: So… does that mean she was really telling the truth?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Maybe. I never saw her as the type to cause a huge mess to prove a point. She’d probably just keep verbally chastising you or something.

Masahide Osaka: …Dammit now I feel even worse.

Kenta Higoshi: So we’ve established the possibility that someone was likely attempting to incite unrest between Natsumi and Masahide and that it was in fact possible for someone else to leave him in the room and lock it from the outside. I’ll admit, there may be some merit to his claims after all.

Masahide Osaka: About time.

Little by little, we inched closer to the root of this incident. Masahide wasn’t fully out of hot water, but now that we’d made a significant stride toward proving the possibility of his innocence, things were starting to look up for us. I can only hope our efforts work out in our favor…

Ayumi Imagawa: Great. Now, anyone wanna give us something else important to figure out?

Tansho Ogura: Well, now that we know Masahide really isn’t the only possible killer, we should probably go over how the other determined suspects could or couldn’t have pulled off the murder.

Ayumi Imagawa: Perfect. So, we should start with how the killer would have hypothetically drugged Masahide this morning.

Azumamaro Gensai: Didn’t we already say that they’d have to use the sleeping pills from the camp store?

Ayumi Imagawa: Congratulations. You proved you were paying attention at some point. The sleeping pills were in fact the only believable way for the killer to hypothetically drug Masahide into unconsciousness. And now that we know it’s entirely possible for that to be the case, we should work on figuring out how and when this hypothetical drugging took place.

Robert Marren: Well, they’d have to get him to eat the pills somehow, right? So they probably slipped them into his breakfast this morning.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Since no one else seemed to have been affected by the medication, it’s safe to assume it was isolated to Masahide’s food. Since he was specifically targeted to be framed, the killer needed some way to make sure he and he alone was given the samples of sleeping pills. Masahide, can you tell me how exactly you acquired your food this morning? Did you leave it unattended for a short amount of time in the kitchen or dining hall?

Masahide Osaka: See, that’s the weird thing…

Hoshiyo Shimura: You didn’t leave it unattended?

Masahide Osaka: Not exactly. It’s more that I, uh… never actually ate anything this morning.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …What?

Masahide Osaka: Yeah, I know. I’m shooting myself in the foot again. But it’s not like I’d be able to pretend otherwise. Everyone who entered the Dining Hall already knows that the first thing I did after barging in was confront Natsumi about my lab.

Robert Marren: He’s not wrong. He literally just threw open the door, stomped up to her seat, and growled “Natsumi, what the hell is wrong with you.” Everyone got kinda quiet when the door slammed open and we pretty much just watched for the whole time.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Oh. I guess I wouldn’t know the exact details. The argument was already in full swing when I arrived.

Kenta Higoshi: Frankly speaking, I’m just as uninformed about this as you are. I just grabbed some trail mix when the doors unlocked and went straight to my lab for the day. The only other person there that early was Tamaki.

Tansho Ogura: So if Masahide really didn’t eat anything, then wouldn’t it be impossible for someone to covertly give him the sleeping pills? That kinda throws the whole argument out the window.

Masahide Osaka: But it’s gotta be possible somehow! The sleeping pills were marked on the I.O.U. sheet! Someone had to have used them!

Robert Marren: He’s right. If someone just bought them to kick their insomnia or something, they’d probably mention it by now.

Kenta Higoshi: Unless they were afraid it would incriminate them since they’d have no proof of how they were actually used. In fact, for all we know, Masahide bought them himself to establish a red herring hinting at him being rendered unconscious.

Masahide Osaka: But I didn’t even know about the list in the first place! None of us did until Ayumi asked Monokuma about it during the investigation!

Ayumi Imagawa: More importantly, even if he did know about the list, he wouldn’t have known how to keep it from listing his name. I asked Monokuma myself and he refused to just up and tell me. Plus there was only one other instance of the buyer’s name being excluded before it, so it’s not like he could’ve figured it out from just that.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I say we try to figure out why that happens ourselves. If we can determine why the sleeping pills didn’t have a name written next to them, it may provide us valuable information into the case.

Azumamaro Gensai: Great idea, Super Potion! Whoever bought the sleeping pills may not have had enough information to work with, but now that there’s more examples we have a better shot at figuring it out!

Ayumi Imagawa: Anyone opposed to pursuing the redacted categories on the list?

No one responded.

Ayumi Imagawa: Great. Let’s go over what we have to work with. The first purchase to not list a name beside it was a bottle of laxatives on July 21st. The list has a consistent indication of who purchased everything after until yesterday, July 29th. Even stranger is that it was two items, bought within a minute of each other, that both come up nameless. One was a bottle of sleeping pills, the other was a Monokuma ice cube tray.

Tamaki Ozu: What makes it a “Monokuma” ice cube tray?

Monokuma: Why, because it’s colored and shaped like yours truly, of course! Excellent question, Kick Buttowski!

Ayumi Imagawa: The style of the ice cube tray is unimportant. What matters is that it throws off a majority of the theories I could concoct around the meaning behind the anonymous purchases.

Robert Marren: In what way?

Ayumi Imagawa: Well, looking at just the other two blank purchases, one would assume they were excluded for medical confidentiality. However, an ice cube tray seemingly does not fit in with this pattern. And even if it were to be counted as such when used to ice an injury, it states three days prior that Masahide purchased a bottle of decongestants without excluding his name.

Masahide Osaka: Oh yeah. I got worried the snow would end up giving me a cold. Glad my immune system’s pretty strong, but I wish I didn’t have to pay for the stuff if I never actually used it.

Tansho Ogura: So medical stuff is out. You said the pills and the tray were bought within a minute of each other, right? Maybe it has to do with the time they were bought. Like there’s one minute a day where it doesn’t take down names for some reason.

Ayumi Imagawa: That was also debunked. The laxatives were purchased at 10:46 a.m. Meanwhile, the sleeping pills and ice cube tray were bought at 9:42 last night. And there are other purchases in the forty to fifty-minute mark of the hour, so it isn’t ten minutes every hour either.

Azumamaro Gensai: If I were to guess, I’d say it’s why they were used.

Ayumi Imagawa: Interesting theory, I’ll admit. But I don’t see how an ice cube tray would have similar motivations to the other two purchases.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wait… actually, I think Maro’s on to something there!

Ayumi Imagawa: In what way?

Hoshiyo Shimura: You said the laxatives were bought on the 21st, right?

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah.

Hoshiyo Shimura: So wasn’t that our fourth day at this camp?

Ayumi Imagawa: Yeah, but what does that have to do with… Oh… OH! I think I see what you’re getting at!

Tamaki Ozu: Why? What does the fourth day here have to do with anything?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Well, think about it. What happened on our fifth day trapped here?

Tamaki Ozu: I dunno! I can barely even remember what happened yesterday!

Ayumi Imagawa: That really isn’t a good thing.

Kenta Higoshi: …That was when the second murder occurred.

Robert Marren: The second…?

Kenta Higoshi: I remember… five days after we came here, we tried to throw a lake party to become closer. We all pitched in to set everything up, but… our work was used as a cover for Juichi’s scheme. He murdered Yoshinaka and we convicted him in the subsequent trial.

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh, crap! That really was just five days in! I almost forgot about that!

Kenta Higoshi: You would have…

Azumamaro Gensai: Wait, what?

Robert Marren: Wait, so how does that play into the name going missing on the fourth day? Does one of them just get left out the day before a murder?

Hoshiyo Shimura: No. The reason it was excluded… is because it was used in the murder!

Robert Marren: It was?!

Ayumi Imagawa: Remember what happened in the second murder. Juichi lured Yoshinaka to the auditorium by shutting down the two other restrooms that were closer to his location than the auditorium’s. And in order to ensure his victim would have to use the restroom during the party preparations, whadaya think we figured out he spiked Yoshinaka’s breakfast with?

Kenta Higoshi: …It was laxatives. A third of a bottle of laxatives.

Azumamaro Gensai: Hang on, so does that mean I was right?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’m almost positive you are, Maro. If Masahide is telling the truth, then the most notable connection between the bottle of laxatives and the bottle of sleeping pills is that they were both incorporated into a murder plan!

Kenta Higoshi: …

Ayumi Imagawa: Hey, Monokuma. Mind telling us if we got it right?

Monokuma: Well, I know I said I wouldn’t tell you, but… I guess if you figure it out on your own, it’s only fair! So yes, the condition that must be met for a camper’s identity to not be listed on the I.O.U. registry with their purchase is if the item in question is officially incorporated into a successful murder! After all, it’s no fun if the killer’s name is just up and written down somewhere for you hooligans to find! But it’s gotta be used for realsies! None of that “fake buying something that you say is gonna be to kill someone” crap!

Azumamaro Gensai: Am I the only one that thinks that explanation was a bit longer than it needed to be? He pretty much just told us that someone actually used the stuff on the list.

Monokuma: Huh…? OH CRAP I DID SAY TOO MUCH!!! Uh, you nice campers would be fine just ignoring that last part, now wontcha?

Ayumi Imagawa: Oh hell no. But it is pretty amusing to see you squirm for a change.

Monokuma: Aw! No fair! You guys are mean!

Masahide Osaka: Wait… then if the sleeping pills were actually used in the murder plan, then… oh sweet baby Kanji, I think Monokuma just accidentally proved my innocence!!

Monokuma: Wait! No! This wasn’t supposed to happen! Forget-forget-forget beeeeeam!

Masahide Osaka: Not in a million years, you stupid discount Teddie! You proved I was drugged for real! I’m actually free!

Monokuma: DAMMIT!! This is why I don’t talk during these things!

I honestly never expected anything like this to be happening. Monokuma was pouting on his chair, Masahide was practically crying tears of joy and clutching the front of his t-shirt, Kenta was just staring vacantly at Masahide, and the others were just a mix of shocked and amused by the seemingly too sudden revelation.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wait, so… we seriously just proved him innocent… by complete accident?

Ayumi Imagawa: Holy shit, this is hilarious.

Kenta Higoshi: So then… he didn’t do it? But how? That doesn’t make any sense. Everyone else has an alibi. There’s no one left who could have done this.

Ayumi Imagawa: Oh please. You know there’s one person left with a particularly shaky alibi.

Kenta Higoshi: (sigh) I assume you mean me. I must admit, I was so certain it was Masahide that I didn’t think it would come to this. Fine then. Guess I have no choice but to defend myself instead.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’m sorry, Kenta. I really am, but you’re the only one of us who can’t prove where they were during the murder. I’ll still consider the chance you may not have done it. It’s what helped Masahide out this whole time, after all.

Masahide Osaka: I mean, aside from the fact that I didn’t do it, but yeah, you guys were definitely a huge help.

Kenta Higoshi: I’m sorry for doubting you, Masahide. I only hope you’ll be able to understand that I’m innocent as well. Fire away, everyone. But I won’t give in until I convince you of the truth.

After putting so much effort into defending Masahide, we’ve finally begun to pursue another lead. Regardless of how this plays out, we’re still another step closer to finding the truth behind this case.

Ayumi Imagawa: Now that we’ve narrowed the list down to one person, let’s go over everything he would have to do to successfully pull off this murder. Any discrepancies will once again be treated as potential for innocence.

Masahide Osaka: This morning, Kenta managed to slip me the sleeping pills they bought at the camp store in spite of the fact that I neglected to eat anything. We should probably save time by reviewing this later since it may take a bit to figure out and there may be something simpler we’re missing in the other aspects of the case. He then hid somewhere in the west territory to ambush me.

Azumamaro Gensai: When Masahide fell asleep in his lab, the killer snuck in and abducted him. They took the butterfly chair cushion and laid it over the barbed wire on the busted fence, sending Masahide over to the other side and climbing over themselves.

Robert Marren: Kenta dragged Masahide through the secret passage in the auditorium to the lakefront shed. He brought him to the Ultimate Lawyer’s Lab and broke in somehow.

Tansho Ogura: Kenta whacked Natsumi a ton of times with the bat he brought from the equipment shed, killing her. Then he left Masahide’s unconscious body under the desk and put the bloody bat in his lap.

Kenta Higoshi: I then presumably snuck out and locked the door using the ribbon trick, after which I took the ferry to Mono Island after Maro had been searching for over an hour and ran into him on the nature trail, pretending to have been there the whole time.

Azumamaro Gensai: I explained the situation and we headed back on the ferry, hearing Future Reference scream when he found the body and trying to get in ourselves.

Masahide Osaka: I panicked and couldn’t bring myself to let them in for a couple minutes. Then Razor showed up and tried to get in too. I finally unlocked the door and they burst in, seeing the body and restraining me. Since there were four people who had seen the corpse at that point, the body discovery announcement went off without being able to indicate if one of us was responsible, since the minimum of three spotless witnesses was met all at once.

Robert Marren: And that’s about it, right? Anyone got a question?

Masahide Osaka: …Hang on. I think there’s something off about that summary.

Azumamaro Gensai: Whadaya mean?

Masahide Osaka: Hoshiyo, you noticed it too, right? The inconsistencies in the run-through. If we take them all into consideration, it actually affects our accusation severely!

The inconsistencies? I need to think for a sec. I guess the first part that caught my attention was…

Hoshiyo Shimura: …Do you mean the incident at breakfast this morning?

Masahide Osaka: Exactly. Who was present in the dining hall when Natsumi and I were fighting?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I mean, my memory isn’t perfect, but I think everyone was there, right?

Kenta Higoshi: Actually, I was absent at the time.

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh yeah! I had to leave to get SBD pretty soon after since he wasn’t there! I got there before Future Reference ran in too, so neither of them were actually there at the same time!

Ayumi Imagawa: And that was the culprit’s primary opportunity to plant the sleeping pills! If Kenta and Masahide were never there at the same time, it’d be impossible to plant them in his food!

Robert Marren: You’re forgetting one thing, though. Masahide himself claimed he never actually ate anything, so does that even actually matter?

Masahide Osaka: Razor has a point, but that’s not the only discrepancy. Hoshiyo, think back to the butterfly chair. Specifically where you found it during the investigation.

Where I found it? That would be…

Hoshiyo Shimura: It was on top of the computer monitors in the Ultimate Otaku’s Lab. The killer tried to make it blend in with the mess.

Masahide Osaka: Nice one! Now, riddle me this. How did the cushion get there in the first place?

Robert Marren: Why are you even asking her? Just tell us yourself.

Masahide Osaka: I have a flair for the dramatic. Not like I hide it or anything.

Azumamaro Gensai: The killer put it there, duh. Not like anyone else had a reason to do it.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Wait… I get it now!

Tansho Ogura: Get what? What’s so special about where the cushion was found?

Hoshiyo Shimura: Actually, a lot! In fact, it actually proves that Kenta couldn’t have committed this murder!

Kenta Higoshi: Huh. Now that I think about it, it does.

Tamaki Ozu: Yeah, but how?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: If Kenta really committed the murder, he’d have to use the secret passageway to make it past Ayumi’s watch from the dining hall! But if he returned the cushion to the Ultimate Otaku’s Lab, he’d be stuck on that side of the fence!

Ayumi Imagawa: Oh yeah. Since Maro found him on Mono Island without him walking past, he would have to have ended up on the auditorium side of the fence in the end, leaving the cushion there with him. But the chair cushion was on the opposite side of the fence in a location that was both inside and significantly far away enough for throwing it over to be physically impossible. Even for the Ultimate Marksman.

Masahide Osaka: Therefore, if Kenta were the one who committed this murder, the butterfly chair cushion would be left somewhere outside the west territory! That makes it straight-up impossible for him to have actually done it!

Tansho Ogura: Oh damn… he’s right.

Hoshiyo Shimura: In fact, taking this into account, we can also vindicate everyone who was outside the west territory when the body was discovered!

Masahide Osaka: Damn. Shoulda noticed that one way earlier. It actually makes my innocence definitive too.

Azumamaro Gensai: Hell yeah! Ya hear that, SBD? We’re totally innocent!

Kenta Higoshi: Don’t celebrate. This is still a problem.

Robert Marren: In what way?

Kenta Higoshi: It’s like I said when we proved it wasn’t Masahide. Everyone else has credible alibis. If it has to be someone who was in the west territory, then we’re entirely out of leads.

Masahide Osaka: …Ah shit. He’s right. Everyone who was there has at least one witness placing them in where they claimed to be either at or too close to the time of the murder to pull off everything in time.

Ayumi Imagawa: Even so, it still would have to be one of them. We can start by figuring out which alibi is the weakest and go from there.

Hoshiyo Shimura: The five people who were even remotely near the west territory this morning were myself, Tamaki, Razor, Tansho, and Ayumi. Tamaki and I have one-hundred percent solid alibis. We were together all morning at the rock wall. Razor can testify for both Tansho and Ayumi’s locations while the murder was occurring, and Ayumi can vouch for his activities as well. Besides, based on when Razor left the rock wall, she couldn’t have returned the chair and made it back to the dining hall from the west territory without running into him earlier. But that only leaves us with the three we can exclude from suspicion since they were in the east territory! We can’t seriously be out of suspects entirely, can we?!

Ayumi Imagawa: …No. We know for a fact that one of us is responsible. That part's just a given. Even if we all seemingly have alibis, we know for a fact that someone is deceiving us. We just need to pick out the alibi that’s least certain in its vindication.

Azumamaro Gensai: But everyone has visual confirmation! Aren’t all of them certain at this point?!

Ayumi Imagawa: Not necessarily. Just think over all eight of our alibis and compare them. At the very minimum, one of them has the potential to be fabricated.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …

Ayumi Imagawa: Think it over, Hoshiyo. You picked out the culprit last time, I have full faith you can do it again.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, looking around at each remaining classmate in the room. Considered every last aspect of every last alibi. Narrowing down the list one by one, removing each testimony from consideration that had no room for reasonable doubt. Searching for the weakest link in the chain of deception. Eliminating alibi after alibi, until finally…

The smallest fragment of uncertainty showed itself in one person. It may still be a long shot, but I’ve run out of options at this point. The only person whose alibi isn’t one-hundred percent airtight at this point is…

Hoshiyo Shimura: …Razor?

Robert Marren: Yeah?

Hoshiyo Shimura: I have a few questions to ask you about your journey across camp this morning.

Robert Marren: Wait a sec, are you accusing me? But I have a solid alibi!

Tamaki Ozu: Yeah! Hoshino, what the hell?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Please calm down, guys. I never said anything about accusing him. I just want to run down the information he provided about what happened on his way to the camp store this morning. Just be as truthful as you can and things should work out.

Robert Marren: If it’ll help, sure. Lemme think for a sec.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Take your time. The more accurate, the better.

Robert Marren: So, after Monokuma startled me and I strained my ankle, I started hopping to the camp store to get some gauze. Figured I could use it with one of my drumsticks as a makeshift splint. Before I left the west territory, I stumbled into the wall of the Craft Corral. Tansho was in her artist tunnel-vision mode so she didn’t really notice. Then I pushed myself off the wall and headed over to the stairs. I headed through the main field and saw Ayumi sitting in front of the dining hall. It took me about ten-ish minutes to make it to the east territory and another five to get to the camp store. I heard Kenta and Maro trying to get into Natsumi’s lab and went to see what the commotion was. That probably took another five minutes.

Hoshiyo Shimura: …Thank you, Razor. It’s thanks to your testimony that I’m certain which of us has the weakest alibi.

Tamaki Ozu: Whadaya mean?! Razor didn’t do it! There’s no way!

Hoshiyo Shimura: You’re right. He didn’t kill Natsumi. His alibi is actually solid. The only reason he left the rock wall in the first place was because of an unforeseen incident caused by Monokuma. Had it not been for his antics, Razor probably would have stayed with us up until the body discovery announcement. And the killer’s plan was far too complex to rely on Monokuma just randomly showing up to mess with us.

Azumamaro Gensai: I mean, he could’ve gotten Monokuma to go along with it beforehand.

Ayumi Imagawa: No way. Monokuma doesn’t interfere with murder plans. Even by helping out. Besides, Razor was with either Tamaki or Hoshiyo the whole time after Masahide got punched up until Monokuma showed up. He had no time to ask for his help anyway.

Hoshiyo Shimura: There’s also the fact that he left way too close to the actual time of the murder to actually pull everything off in time. He was only gone with enough time to hop across camp by the time the announcement played. And Ayumi can vouch for his whereabouts for most of that time.

Tamaki Ozu: Oh. So… you weren’t accusing him then?

Hoshiyo Shimura: No. I wanted to confirm the details of his testimony since it holds the only actual information about the relatively weakest alibi. The one belonging to you, Tansho!

Tansho Ogura: …!

In an instant, all eyes in the room were on the purple-haired girl. Her mouth opened slightly as she glanced around the room at those who redirected their attention towards her. Masahide’s expression read a similar mix of confusion and surprise to her own, staring at her in half-concealed disbelief as he tried to process what was going on.

Masahide Osaka: Tansho...?

Azumamaro Gensai: Wait, you think Purpleangelo did it?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’m not completely certain, but so far she actually meets all the criteria we determined so far.

Ayumi Imagawa: Interesting… Aside from those tasked with guarding Masahide, Tansho was the only other person who was in the west territory when the body discovery announcement played. Razor is capable of backing both her and my alibis, but since Razor witnessed her for a shorter amount of time and he would have seen me heading back to the dining hall based on when he left in comparison to the time of death, my alibi is notably more solid in basis.

Tansho Ogura: Wait, but he still saw me there! If Ayumi wouldn’t have had time to get past him based on the time of death, I couldn’t have snuck past to the Craft Corral either!

Masahide Osaka: She’s got a point. Even if her alibi is technically the weakest, Razor still saw her through the Craft Corral window before she would have been able to pull everything off and return. Would it even be possible to fabricate that?

Ayumi Imagawa: Well, let’s think. Razor, how long did was Tansho within your eyesight this morning?

Robert Marren: Uh… I think it was like ten seconds? I tipped into the door and took about seven-ish seconds to get back on balance. I checked through the window for a sec to see if I startled her or anything, but she never even turned around. Just kept staring at the work desk all zoned-out like nothing even happened.

Kenta Higoshi: Are you sure you saw her? It wasn’t just a shadow that looked like a person?

Robert Marren: Nah, man, it was definitely her. She wasn’t hidden in a shadow or anything, the light from the window was hitting her right in the back. Same outfit, same instantly-recognizable hair, everything.

Tansho Ogura: See? I never left the Craft Corral all morning. I went straight there from breakfast this morning and locked myself in like I’ve been doing all week.

Kenta Higoshi: Even so, I find it odd that you never so much as noticed Razor tipping into a wooden door. Even if you were in some artistic trance, someone of his size should have made a loud enough sound to snap you out of it if you weren’t wearing headphones or something of the sort.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Come to think, I’m pretty sure Tamaki and I even heard him all the way from the rock wall. Remember that loud banging sound we heard a few minutes after he left?

Tamaki Ozu: Oh yeah! I forgot about that! It was pretty loud, now that I think about it!

Robert Marren: Banging noise? That wasn’t me.

Tamaki Ozu: Huh? Whadaya mean it wasn’t you? There was this crazy loud banging noise coming from the other side of the area after you left! Sounded just like my basement door that one time I kicked it down! That had to be you, right?

Azumamaro Gensai: Wait, why the hell did you kick down your basement door?! Were you stuck or something?!

Tamaki Ozu: Nah! Just wanted to see if I could! Point is, that noise we heard sounded just like it!

Robert Marren: Nah, I don’t think that was me. I hit it with more of a rough thud. Sure it was loud, but I don’t think it would’ve been audible from across the territory.

Tansho Ogura: OK, the banging noise, I actually heard. Didn’t see Razor though.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Now that I think of it, the noise only happened a couple minutes before the body discovery announcement. Razor should’ve been long gone by then.

Tamaki Ozu: Then where the hell did it come from?!

Masahide Osaka: Maybe we should figure that out later. It does seem odd to just come out of the blue like that, but we don’t really have anything to connect it too right now. For now we should focus on analyzing Tansho’s alibi.

Tansho Ogura: You won’t find anything wrong with it, but be my guest. Razor confirmed that I was in the Craft Corral within what was apparently a few minutes of Natsumi’s stated time of death.

Robert Marren: Right. I definitely picked out her purple hair and outfit through the window. She was just sitting there at the work desk, looking some stuff over or something. Couldn’t really tell. She never turned around or put her hands where I could see em or anything like that. I only saw her for about ten seconds anyway.

Masahide Osaka: Interesting…

Ayumi Imagawa: Did you notice anything remotely out of the ordinary about her?

Robert Marren: I mean, her hair was kinda shiny, but that was probably just the sun’s doing.

Kenta Higoshi: Shiny hair?

Tansho Ogura: Oh yeah. Come to think of it, I forgot to wash my hair yesterday evening. It’s kinda oily today.

Robert Marren: Doesn’t look nearly as bad now. Either way, I can’t deny that she was definitely in the Craft Corral when I went past. I don’t see how it’s possible for her to not have been.

Masahide Osaka: …But what if it wasn’t her?

Robert Marren: Dude, I just said it was totally her. Same height, same hair, same outfit. I don’t see how she could’ve faked that.

Masahide Osaka: Actually… I think there is a way. One only Tansho would have been able to pull off.

Hoshiyo Shimura: What way? And how could only Tansho pull it off?

Masahide Osaka: Well, this may sound a bit out there, but I think it could play into her Ultimate talent.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Her talent… as the Ultimate Sculptor?

Tansho Ogura: Yeah, so what? I was in the Craft Corral to work using my talent, but that doesn’t have anything to do with anything other than how I was spending my time!

Masahide Osaka: It’s not that you were using your talent. It’s how you could have used it to appear to be in the Craft Corral if you weren’t. I mean, think about it. What makes someone an Ultimate Sculptor?

Tamaki Ozu: She makes stuff outta metal, right?

Masahide Osaka: Primarily, yes. But even if she’d only used metal before being recruited to Hope’s Peak, I’d be surprised if her training in the use of her talent didn’t branch out to include other mediums. After all, she’s the nation’s best of the best in the sculpture medium as a whole.

Azumamaro Gensai: OK, but how does that let Purpleangelo fake an alibi? Tell us the damn answer already!

Masahide Osaka: Easy. Sculpture is the art of creating three-dimensional constructs. Therefore, since Tansho’s skills are the real deal, it shouldn’t be outlandish to suggest she could create a replica of herself using her talent, would it?

Hoshiyo Shimura: …!

Tansho Ogura: W-what?! That’s stupid! Of course I couldn’t make a replica of myself! Sure, I’m the Ultimate Sculptor, but I can’t work without materials! What would I even make a life-like sculpture of myself out of in this damn camp?! My lab’s not even open yet!

Ayumi Imagawa: …How ‘bout wax?

Azumamaro Gensai: Oh yeah! It’s used to make sculptures of people all the time!

Robert Marren: Come to think, it would also explain why her hair looked even shinier than it does right now.

Tansho Ogura: I mean, I guess, but where the hell would I get wax around here?

She has a point. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any kind of wax anywhere in the camp since we got here. I racked my brain, trying to think of a solution but coming up empty.

Then I heard a sigh from one of the podiums to my left.

Ayumi Imagawa: When I first investigated the west territory, I found a couple boxes of scented candles in the Ultimate Trendsetter’s Lab. There wasn’t enough to make a full-scale human body, though. I checked in there again before the trial in case the killer left behind supplies or something and noticed they were both empty.

Robert Marren: Seriously? Why didn’t you tell us about that earlier?

Ayumi Imagawa: I was HOPING someone else had looked hard enough to find it so I didn’t have to admit I spent even twelve seconds in that abomination of a building, but I guess that didn’t happen and, frankly speaking, not dying is more important in the long run.

Masahide Osaka: Was it really that bad?

Ayumi Imagawa: It was utter hell on earth and I’d like to forget my time there as thoroughly as possible.

Hoshiyo Shimura: Any comments, Tansho? I’d like to believe you didn’t do this, but as it stands, you’re the only one who could have fabricated their alibi. Especially when this evidence points toward this method being used.

Tansho Ogura: But… so what if some candles were missing? Someone could have just taken them! There’s nothing actually tying them to the murder!

Wait a minute… I think that one piece of evidence is capable of proving just that!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Actually, Tansho, I think there is something.

Tamaki Ozu: There is?

Tansho Ogura: You’re bluffing.

Hoshiyo Shimura: When Ayumi and I investigated the equipment shed, I felt some weird, blue bumps on the back of the doorknob. I took a look at it and thought it looked like it should have been a liquid, but it was solid in composition. Taking our newly presented theory, it makes a suspicious amount of sense for the bumps to be made of hardened wax! So tell me: what business would wax drops have in a shed intended for storing athletic equipment aside from being left while the killer was obtaining the murder weapon?

Tansho Ogura: …! I…! I don’t…!

Azumamaro Gensai: Holy crap! She’s freezing up!

Hoshiyo Shimura: I’m sorry, Tansho. I really don’t want to believe you did something like this, but all the evidence is pointing to-

Tansho Ogura: Your perspective’s all off!!

Ayumi Imagawa: The hell was with that art pun?

Tansho Ogura: Look, I know this looks sketchy, but I still didn’t do this!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Tansho, I wish I could say otherwise, but everything is pointing to you at this point. If you have evidence that proves otherwise, I would love to discuss it.

Tansho Ogura: Of course there’s evidence! I know it wasn’t me, so I know there’s something that proves it! Your argument is focused on the speculation that I made a wax dummy of myself and set it up in the Craft Corral. And yeah, I guess I could have done that using my talent, but not if all I had available were a couple boxes of scented candles! Ayumi said so, right? There wouldn’t be enough wax to fully form my body! Even I couldn’t pull that off with such limited supplies!

Hoshiyo Shimura: But Razor said he only saw you from the back. If it was set up so only enough of it were visible to be a convincing stand-in, you would only have to fully sculpt part of it!

Tansho Ogura: Still, Razor said that only my hair looked shiny, right? I’ve sat at that desk long enough to know how the sun hits my back while I’m working! Around the time he saw me sitting there, the sun hits down to just above my jeans waist! If it were a wax figure instead of a person, the clothes would be shining too! There’s no way he’d miss something as obvious as a dark-colored flannel shirt reflecting sunlight!

Hoshiyo Shimura: But you’d be able to take this into account. You just admitted that you’re fully aware of this factor, so it makes sense that you’d plan around it ahead of time. It wouldn’t be hard either. We all have multiple exact copies of our clothing in our cabins. It’d be a simple fix to put one of your extra outfits on the sculpture so the material would appear exactly the same as your normal outfit. In fact, it’d even help you save time on construction.

Tansho Ogura: OK then, how about this?! I’d still need some way to shape the wax into a replica! I don’t blame you for not knowing, since you probably haven’t done it yourself, but wax needs to be melted before and during the sculpting process! Even if I had enough to sculpt part of my body and put my own clothes over it, I’d still need some way to melt it into a shapeable state! There’s no way I could’ve done that with what I had, especially with the limited amount of time I would’ve had for throwing everything together!

A fast way to melt the wax… Wait! That’s it!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Tansho, you’ve just backed yourself into a corner.

Tansho Ogura: The hell are you talking about?!

Hoshiyo Shimura: Not only was there a way for you to melt the wax quickly, but Ayumi and I have physical proof that the method in question was actually used!

Tansho Ogura: There’s no way. You’re just bluffing.

Hoshiyo Shimura: I wish I were, but unfortunately for you, that’s not the case this time.

The evidence we found that proves someone melted the candles is that item!

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