Hi! I did an additional side story just to incorporate Chiaki and some of the DR3 characters. You can consider this a spin-off or a sequel of sorts as it takes place after the ending. I also altered parts of the original story just a little to make Kyoko find out about Makoto's time travel slightly later. Let me know what you think!
'My name's Hajime Hinata. Nice to meet you.'
Hajime took a deep bow as he faced his new classmates. There were murmurs everywhere until Chisa Yukizome, their homeroom teacher, clapped her hands to bring everyone's attentions back.
'So Hinata is our first ever transfer student from the Reserve Course!' Yukizome said brightly, blatantly ignoring the suspicious looks cast by the majority of her students. 'The school has considered various aspects of his performance and has decided to award him with a transfer to the main course and the title of Ultimate Luckster—'
'He's Izuru Kamukura, isn't he?' a scathing voice cut Yukizome's speech. The voice came from a green haired boy sitting right in front of the class who had been staring daggers at Hinata ever since he stepped into the room.
'You can't be serious!?' a girl's voice quickly followed. 'You mean… THAT Izuru Kamukura? The one who's said to have been involved in the killing game? THAT product of human experimentation?'
'Now, now…' Yukizome began awkwardly. 'Those are gossips—'
'Gossips that the school neither confirms nor denies!' the girl impatiently cut back in.
'If he's really Izuru Kamukura then he's got no right to be here!' another voice joined in.
'Right he's got no real talent!'
'If someone can get into the main course with manufactured talent then what's so exclusive about Hope's Peak Academy?'
One after another, harsh comments came flooding in. And soon the murmurs that Yukizome had just only hushed down became a full blown commotion.
The loud noise instantly quietened down the entire class. But this time, it did not come from Yukizome. Instead, it came from the back of the class where Yasuke Matsuda sat slouched on his chair, with his hands inside his pockets. Some distance away from him, the table he kicked lay, crashed over to the side, and a few students around the area reflexively stood up from their seats out of shock.
'If all of you are really so talented, why would you worry so much about a "Luckster" joining your ranks?' he asked in a scathing tone. 'Haven't you learnt anything from the media frenzy concerning Izuru Kamukura? Accepting students in the reserve course without any prospect of ever transferring to the main course is considered fraud. Izuru Kamukura or not, this guy deserves a shot in the main course.'
The other students immediately fell silent.
'Now, now,' Yukizome said, breaking the silence, 'shall we resume with our class for today? Hinata, you can go ahead and sit at the back seat over there.'
Hajime nodded and briskly walked to his seat, avoiding the suspicious and wary looks cast by his new classmates. He had expected this, and maybe even worse had it not been for Yasuke's intervention. Nobody will let him forget about his brief stint as the "Ultimate Hope", not even himself.
The bell rang to signal the end of his exasperatingly long first day as a main course student. He packed his books slowly, all while avoiding the suspicious glares targeted at him.
'I don't see you as the type to get affected by other people's comments,' a voice broke off his determined concentration. Yasuke Matsuda stood beside him, his bag casually slung over one shoulder. 'I thought this was obvious from the moment you signed up for this program. Not everyone will be accepting of you. Heck, most won't be.'
Hajime snorted. 'I wonder which program are you talking about. The main course… or the other?' he let out a small sarcastic smile before continuing. 'Don't worry, a few snide comments won't hurt me.'
Yasuke smiled back. 'Good to hear that. Anyways if you need me I'll be in the lab.' He then turned towards the door, casually throwing a small wave as he did so.
Without a regular destination like Yasuke, Hajime let his feet carry him to the school plaza where he then sat on the bench beside the fountain, basking in the afternoon sun as his mind wandered off.
'You're my new classmate… aren't you?' a soft voice interrupted his daze. Startled, Hajime looked around to find a girl with pink, shoulder-length hair sitting beside him, seemingly focused on the handheld console she was carrying.
'Ummm… I guess?' Hajime said. His mind vaguely recalled the same girl, sitting at the corner of the class, with the same handheld console, during his introduction.
'My name's Chiaki Nanami. I'm the Ultimate Gamer. Nice to meet you.' the girl said flatly without lifting her gaze from her game screen.
'Nice to meet you too…' Hajime said, unsure of how to react to such an irregular girl.
'There's more to life than just talent,' Chiaki said again. 'Since you're accepted into the main course, I'm sure the school's talent scouts saw that there is potential in you… I think.'
'Ummm… thanks.' Hajime said, slightly surprised. He did not expect the girl to be perceptive of the negative remarks he received given how absorbed she seemed to be with her games.
'You can play games with me… even if the rest of the class doesn't like you.' Chiaki added bluntly.
'I… uhh… appreciate that,' Hajime stammered.
This time, Chiaki looked up from her game, turned towards Hajime and pouted. 'So you won't play games with me?'
'What… No! That's not what I meant…' Hajime quickly said. 'I… Of course I'd love to play games with you.'
'It's a deal, then,' Chiaki said, turning back to her game. 'I'll bring another console for you tomorrow.'
'Well… that's interesting…' Yasuke said as he read through a report file.
Hajime looked up at Yasuke from the hospital bed where a number of strange wires kept him bound. 'What is?' he asked.
'You see… even though I have reverted your brain functions to the way it once were before the Kamukura experiment, you still possess whatever skills you acquired during that short time span that you were Izuru Kamukura.' Yasuke explained.
'Are you saying that I'm multi-talented now?' Hajime asked jokingly.
'A jack of all trades but a master of none,' Yasuke sneered. 'Tell me what have you mastered during the experiment?'
'Playing the piano, learning French, flying to the moon…' Hajime answered sarcastically, 'Like I'd remember what I learned during that period! I have absolutely zero memories of my stint as Kamukura!'
'Don't skip your sessions with Gekkogahara, that's my advice for you.' Yasuke replied indifferently as he snapped the file shut.
Before Hajime could answer, however, the lab door opened to reveal none other than Nagito Komaeda.
'Ah Hajime,' Nagito greeted him cheerfully, 'what a coincidence! I happened to arrive early for my check-up session with Yasuke and here you are!'
'Another one of your "lucky" occasions?' Hajime asked, his brows raised.
'Fortunately,' Nagito replied with a wide smile on his face. 'And fortunately for you… I brought some cakes for everyone.' He lifted his hand to show a gigantic paper bag emblazoned with the logo of a renowned pastry shop that happened to be in vogue lately. Word is, the confectioner was a graduate of Hope's Peak Academy.
'Wow… thanks…' Hajime said, feeling slightly touched by the gesture.
'Don't sweat it,' Nagito replied, 'An ex-upperclassman gave me these sweets that she got from her friend, the confectioner herself, because she can't eat them.'
'Really…?' Hajime said weakly, silently wishing that Nagito would stop being so factual about his tremendous luck. It sort of kills the mood somehow…
'Anyway,' Yasuke said, cutting in, 'since you're here, we should start your check-up now, Nagito.'
'Right,' Nagito said, 'Please take this and share them with Makoto and the others.' He handed the paper bag over to Hajime.
'Thanks, Hajime!' Makoto Naegi said, his eyes wide with gratitude as Hajime handed the bag of pastries over to him. Beside Makoto, Kyoko Kirigiri peered over curiously.
'Don't thank me,' Hajime said, 'thank Nagito.'
'Are those from Andou Pastry Shop?' Aoi Asahina's screeching voice suddenly cut into the conversation as she skipped over from across the cafeteria where she had been sitting with her best friend, Sakura Ogami.
'Umm… yeah,' Hajime replied nervously as he watched Aoi snatch the bag from Makoto's hands.
'Aoi, please remember to share,' Sakura gently reminded her friend as she slowly walked over to the group.
'We are gonna have a par~tay~' Aoi whistled, whipping out her cell phone. Within seconds, all their cell phones beeped in unison as Aoi's broadcasted message entered: Cafeteria, NOW! Cakes for everyone! 'Don't worry, I only sent them to our friends!' she added cheerfully as she tucked her cell phone back into her shorts' pocket.
'Well, I'd better get going now,' Hajime said, taking a step back towards the entrance.
'Wait, aren't you going to have some of these?' Makoto asked, gesturing towards the box that Aoi was hungrily unwrapping.
'I'm good, thanks!' Hajime replied, 'There's someone I'd promised I'd meet.'
Hajime found Chiaki by the fountain at the deserted school plaza, the exact same spot he met her days earlier. As usual, Chiaki's eyes were glued to her console, and yet, she still noticed when Hajime sat down beside her on the bench.
She paused her game and smiled at Hajime. 'Let's play Gala Omega today,' she said.
'But we just played that yesterday,' Hajime said weakly, 'and the day before too…'
'It's my favourite game.' Chiaki said, matter-of-factly, handing another handheld console over to him.
'Well, it is fun,' Hajime admitted, taking the console from Chiaki, 'but quite frustrating when you keep losing…'
'It's not about winning or losing isn't it?' Chiaki said as the opening jingle of Gala Omega started to play. 'Playing games is about having fun… I think.'
Hajime sighed, but gave a small smile as his screen begun to show the familiar little pixel spaceships. Even if he kept losing, there's no denying that he enjoyed these small sessions with Chiaki.
As they entered their fifth round in Gala Omega, scuffling noises can be heard, which attracted Hajime's attention. He looked up to see two figures, seemingly in an argument, behind some trees by the edge of the plaza. Chiaki, sensing Hajime's distraction, followed suit.
Hajime recognised the two men. One, tall with silver hair and a regal flair, smartly dressed in white suit was Kyosuke Munakata, the officer-in-charge for Hope's Peak Academy's overseas expansion program. He was the former Ultimate Student Council President and was widely known to be perfectionist and ambitious to a fault. The second, an elderly man with a bent back, Hajime recognised as Kazuo Tengan, a former headmaster of Hope's Peak Academy, who was now sitting on the school board.
Intrigued, Hajime put a finger on his lips, signalling to Chiaki to remain quiet before creeping up quietly towards them.
'…Junko Enoshima's plans need to be eradicated completely!' Hajime could hear Munakata's raised voice as he approached the two men. 'Mukuro Ikusaba is her sister. Sister! For goodness sake! And I have yet to even mention the rest of them!'
'Mukuro Ikusaba knows nothing of Enoshima's full plan!' Tengan said, his voice sharp, but strained, clearly making an effort to not raise his voice as Munakata did. 'She passed the lie detector test. No one. And I repeat, no one, truly understood Junko Enoshima. She gave bits and pieces to all her pawns, but nobody else could piece them together as she did.'
'What if someone manages to do it?' Munakata demanded, glaring at Tengan.
'And who are you expecting to continue in Enoshima's footsteps?' Tengan asked. 'That girl? Monaca Towa?'
'She's a likely possibility,' Munakata said. 'Or it could even be someone else entirely. But regardless of whether or not someone can piece together Enoshima's fragmented plan, there is absolutely no reason for those students involved to still remain in Hope's Peak Academy! They are ticking time bombs! Look at Mukuro Ikusaba! She's a killing machine… God knows how many she's killed for Enoshima's sake!'
Tengan shook his head solemnly. 'Hadn't the school board agreed that we forgive those involved as long as they swear to stand against Enoshima's ideals? These survivors managed to put an end to Enoshima's plans. If it weren't for them, what would become of this world?'
'The school board agreed to do so because Enoshima's plans leaking out will be a scandal,' Munakata said through gritted teeth.
'And are you proposing otherwise?' Tengan asked with a glint in his eyes.
Munakata looked taken aback for a second before continuing in a softer voice, 'I'm not saying we should blow this matter up. I'm saying that we should detain these students and place them under close surveillance.'
'Put them in jail, you mean,' Tengan said.
'In essence, yes,' Munakata said. 'Until they reveal everything they know and repent for their sins.'
'Munakata, sometimes, the best action to take, is non-action,' Tengan said, sighing deeply. 'I cannot agree on your proposed course of action. And I can guarantee, neither does the rest of the school board. If I were you, I'd focus on that expansion program. Where you belong.'
As Tengan begun to step away, Munakata roared back at him, 'Why inaction? Because these students have talent? Because your loyal researchers need to continue researching these students' talents? What have you got to say about the Izuru Kamukura Project?'
Tengan stopped in his tracks, and with his back still turned on Munakata, he replied in a hollow voice, 'There's no denying that the Kamukura Project violated human experimental policies. However, I still believe that it is a necessary evil for the progress of research on human talents.' And with that he walked away, leaving Munakata standing there, shaking, with clenched jaws and fists, before he too finally walked away.
Hajime stood frozen behind the large tree, even after Munakata's shadow disappeared round a corner. He had heard rumours that Kyosuke Munakata was harsh and merciless, but he did not expect an officer-in-charge of the overseas expansion program to meddle in the affairs surrounding the infamous killing game. So he did not want to leave behind any traces of Enoshima… Hajime thought. Incarceration. That's what he's after… And that'll most certainly include Mukuro, Yasuke, and Kazuichi… And if he's really thorough, he'd want to severely interrogate Makoto, Kyoko, Chihiro and Nagito too… And all the others… they won't be spared. Least of all, not Izuru Kamukura… Never mind that half of them have graduated, Munakata will track them down, especially since most of them have continued on to Hope's Peak College…
These thoughts swirled wildly inside his head until the gentle touch of a hand on his shoulder brought him back to reality. 'Let's go back to the school,' Chiaki whispered.
Hajime nodded stiffly. 'Yeah… Let's.'
The sky was dark and tumultuous, and large droplets of rain had just begun falling onto the ground. Whilst students everywhere scurried to the nearest school building for fear of the impending downpour, Mukuro Ikusaba strolled serenely past the lawn, barely making any audible footsteps. Her past training as a soldier had instilled that habit of hers. She closed her eyes and heaved a deep breath, taking in the wafting smell of rain as drops of water fell upon her pale, freckled skin.
These mundane occurrences are a luxury to her. Even now that she had been away from the battlefield for a significant period of time, she could not help but stop to appreciate them every time they come to pass.
The sound was faint, very faint, but it did not escape her highly trained hearing. Her almost animalistic instincts immediately told her that the sound she just heard did not belong to any regular student. She kept her eyes closed, but perked up her ears as she stopped in her tracks. In the midst of the rain-soaked lawn, she could not imagine a situation whereby someone would try to walk so stealthily.
The sound grew louder and the footsteps quickened its pace as it drew close to her. And without warning, she leapt away from the knuckle which would have hurt her had she been a split second late.
She opened her eyes and saw a well-built man standing in front of her, his fists curled up in the position where she had been standing earlier. The man's dark green hair fell over his face as the rain drenched it. He clenched his jaw in disappointment that his punch missed its mark.
Mukuro recognised him.
The man was Juzo Sakakura, Hope's Peak Academy's Chief of Security and the former Ultimate Boxer. He had been on Junko's watchlist. Mukuro remembered her sister telling her to keep an eye on the man, citing him, or rather the man he worked for, Kyosuke Munakata, as a dangerous foil to her plans. Munakata's ruthless, she recalled Junko saying. He's like a landmine. The slightest footstep can trigger his suspicions. And when it does, you can expect his loyal guard dog to come running in an instant.
Mukuro did not know what authority Juzo Sakakura or Kyosuke Munakata had over the school board's ruling, but she did have an idea as to why Sakakura was attacking her now. After all she has heard of Kyosuke Munakata, there was no way he would take it lying down if Junko Enoshima's sister runs free.
'So you're as good as they say…' Sakakura grunted, positioning himself in his fighting stance.
Mukuro's eyes narrowed. Her hand reflexively reached inside her pocket for a survival knife which she always carried around out of habit.
'A weapon…hm?' Sakakura saw through her. 'As expected, you're a dangerous person, Mukuro Ikusaba.'
'You're worried over a weapon?' Mukuro sneered. 'I expected more from a grown man who attacks a student in the middle of a deserted lawn.'
Sakakura gritted his teeth in anger before throwing another punch at Mukuro which she again avoided before launching a kick at Sakakura's head. Sakakura parried her kick in the nick of time but barely dodged the knife that Mukuro had unsheathed. A large gash formed on his forearm, drenching his jacket in blood.
Sakakura grunted. 'You're getting weak. You could've killed me with that knife had you targeted my neck. Yet you chose to target my arm.'
'I have no intention of killing on the school grounds.' Mukuro replied. 'But I won't hold back if my life depends on it.'
'You have no right to a life!' Sakakura spat. 'You're part of the Ultimate Despair, Junko Enoshima's other half. The school board has been too lenient on you. You ought to be incarcerated as Monaca Towa was. For the sake of the school and everyone else, I suggest you spit out everything you know about Junko Enoshima's plans!'
'I have told the school board everything I knew of Junko's plans,' Mukuro asserted. 'There's nothing more I can say that the school or the police don't already know.'
'Liar…' Sakakura hissed.
'How can you be so sure?' Mukuro retorted. 'Because Kyosuke Munakata said so?'
A nerve twitched on Sakakura's forehead. The mention of Munakata's name seemed to have hit a sensitive spot. He roared as he launched another punch in Mukuro's direction with his non-injured hand. But again, Mukuro foresaw his attack and evaded it before landing another slash on the man's heel, thrusting him onto the muddy ground in pain.
'You're a man accustomed to conditioned battle situations,' Mukuro said. 'You live in the ring, whereby rules are absolute. I lived on the battlefield. Compared to radicals in Afghanistan, you're nothing. In a life or death battle, I'd best you anytime. So I suggest you stop trying and tell your dear Munakata, that if he wanted me taken in for questioning, do it the proper way.'
With that, she left Sakakura grunting on the ground, flipping her survival knife shut as she walked away soundlessly in the midst of the pouring rain. Sakakura could only crash his fists onto the ground in frustration as he watched his prey slip away.
'You're kind of late with your information,' Mukuro said, her arms crossed. 'Juzo Sakakura attacked me earlier this afternoon. It seemed like they knew they would get nowhere with the school board and chose violence instead.'
'What!?' Hajime exclaimed. 'Sakakura did?' He had just told his friends of the exchange that he witnessed between Kyosuke Munakata and Kazuo Tengan only the day before, yet as it stands, Munakata had already set whatever plans he had in motion.
Yasuke sat in the corner with a comic book in hand, his legs crossed. He seemed nonchalant but Hajime could tell from the faint line on his forehead that he was concerned by this development. 'So Munakata'd ring everyone of us in if he could,' he slowly said.
'There's no way Kyoko's dad is gonna let that happen!' Chihiro almost shouted.
'Well it doesn't seem like he's going to go through the headmaster, judging from the situation,' Byakuya said, sipping his tea.
'Well if he doesn't, then HE's breaking the rules!' Kiyotaka's loud voice boomed through the classroom where they held their little meeting.
'But apart from Juzo Sakakura, I don't see Munakata relying on anyone else to round us up,' Makoto said thoughtfully. 'To defy such a direct order from Mr. Tengan… Not everyone will be willing to do that.'
'Agreed,' Kyoko concurred. 'And the only people I can see Munakata trusting completely are Sakakura and Chisa Yukizome. Anyway, it's best if we keep our guards up and also warn everyone else. From what Mukuro and Hajime said, I think these people are relentless.'
Just as Kyoko finished her sentence, the door swung open. Mahiru Koizumi stood at the doorway, her short red bob framing a frowning face.
'Mahiru!?' everyone exclaimed, not expecting a graduated student at their doorstep. And based on her worried look, Hajime had a strong feeling that whatever news Mahiru came with, it was not good.
'I-I passed by the baseball field earlier,' Mahiru explained, 'Leon told me you guys are having a meeting here. He also said to tell you guys that he's sorry he couldn't come for the meeting.'
Makoto shook his head. 'It's all right. It's not like this is a big meeting or anything.'
Mahiru nodded nervously, her hands tightly gripping a thick book which she had been holding.
'Say, Mahiru,' Kyoko said, 'what brings you here?'
'Oh this,' Mahiru hurriedly placed the book she was carrying on an unused desk. The rest of her friends immediately gathered around the book which she was carrying. It was thick with a navy leather-bound cover, and on top of it, the Hope's Peak logo was emblazoned in gold. 'This is our yearbook,' Mahiru explained. 'We were supposed to receive it during graduation, but with everything that has happened, the production was delayed.'
She opened the book and quickly turned to the page which she had marked with a yellow post-it on its corner. The page that was marked contained headshots of all the students in Class 76 with their names and titles written below. 'This,' Mahiru said, pointing towards the bottom right hand side of the double-spread. Beside Mikan Tsumiki's headshot, name and title was a grey box with the silhouette of a head indicating the absence of a photo, and under that box was written the name 'Ryota Mitarai — Ultimate Animator'.
'Ryota… Mitarai?' Makoto read it aloud. 'I've never heard of that name before. Who is he?'
'I… I feel ashamed to be saying this,' Mahiru said, a red tint formed on her freckled cheeks, 'but I faintly recall Ms Yukizome mentioning this name a long time ago. You see, she was our assistant homeroom teacher during our first year. When the attendance was called during the first day of school, Ryota Mitarai was not in the class. And she kept calling his name out for about a month after that, whilst persistently asking us if anyone knew where Mitarai was. But Mitarai never came to school — not in the whole 3 years. We thought that this Mitarai might have been someone who dropped out of Hope's Peak, but the yearbook seems to suggest otherwise.'
'That Mitarai might have been enrolled all along without ever stepping foot inside the classroom?' Kyoko suggested.
Mahiru nodded. 'But how and why? Surely the school would have noticed a student whose attendance rate is 0. And I know that we don't exactly have to pay any school fees, but there are administration fees to be paid every year. Why keep paying them if you don't intend on coming to school?'
'It does seem rather odd,' Yasuke said scratching his chin. 'But why are you so concerned about this? This Mitarai might just be some weirdo who can't make up his mind whether to come to school or not.'
Mahiru gazed downwards hesitantly for a second before she finally said, 'Well… remember when you told us that Junko Enoshima was targeting every member of my class? What if… just what if, that included Mitarai?'
'What makes you think that way?' Chihiro asked. 'Mukuro gave us a clear list and that list did not include this Mitarai. And besides, Junko Enoshima… gone.' He added the last part hesitantly after casting a quick glance at Mukuro, but Mukuro did not even wince.
'Enoshima had a clear list while not being in our class,' Mahiru retorted, 'Which means that she must've gotten our class list from somewhere. And there's a high chance that that list included Mitarai's name.'
'But if Mitarai wasn't in school in the first place?' Kiyotaka asked.
'The school would have his home address,' Mahiru replied. She then turned towards Mukuro, 'Do you know anything about this?'
Mukuro shook her head solemnly. 'No, this is the first time I've heard of this name. But then again, I do not recall Junko ever bringing out a list.'
Before Mahiru could reply, Byakuya spoke up, 'Why are you so insistent on this anyway? I've yet to see any concrete reason on how this Mitarai trail will lead us anywhere. And besides, Chihiro's right, Enoshima's gone. Whatever she had planned with him would have gone up in smokes.'
'You are forgetting that the only reason we overcame despair was because all of you were present!' Mahiru retorted. 'Had Makoto not been there, I would have fallen into despair. And the same goes for everyone in my class who were targeted by Enoshima! If Mitarai had been under Enoshima's influence, then he would still be even now. Despair won't dissipate just because Enoshima's dead.'
'I see your point…' Kyoko said. 'How about we visit Mitarai's home then? Just to check on him.'
Mahiru nodded. 'Yes, I suppose that'll be a good idea.'
'Is it possible for you to find out his home address?' Kyoko asked again.
Mahiru contemplated this for a second before slowly saying, 'I suppose I could try asking Ms. Yukizome… After all, she had been the one most worried sick by Mitarai not showing up.'
'Will do,' Kyoko said. 'we'll make the visit this weekend.'
'You seem troubled by something,' Chiaki said as she paused the game they were playing.
'Wha-What made you say that?' Hajime asked, focusing back on reality. 'Was I exceptionally… bad?'
Chiaki nodded. 'Care to tell me why?'
Hajime sighed. 'I… I don't quite know how to explain it… or where to start…' he began. Chiaki remained motionless, still staring at Hajime through her soft pink eyes, waiting. 'You see… what they said was true. I meant, what the class said on my first day. I was Izuru Kamukura. And I did undergo a procedure that allowed me to gain as many talents as I wished. Manufactured talents. For a brief while, I was the one they called "Ultimate Hope".'
'So?' Chiaki asked, her expression not changing the least bit.
'I expected you to be more shocked by this news,' Hajime remarked.
Chiaki shook her pale pink head. 'I told you before, there's more to life than just talent. It doesn't matter the least bit to me whether or not you have talents. And there's more to this story, isn't there? You can't possibly have let remarks that were made on your first day of school to affect you now… I think.'
'No,' Hajime concurred. 'And I suppose you've heard of the killing game that was staged by Junko Enoshima?'
'I… guess?' Chiaki said.
'Well, I was a part of that too,' Hajime added. 'Junko Enoshima made me take part in that in a bid to "crush" the Ultimate Hope. And even though the school board has agreed to spare me, and the other participants, from any complications which may arise as a consequence of Junko's plans… hmmm… let's just say some people aren't content with that decision.'
'But what's done is done… right?' Chiaki asked, unsure. 'Besides, I don't think you chose to take part in that game voluntarily.'
'No one did,' Hajime said. 'But these people view me as a disgrace to the school, a scandal, much like the rest of our classmates. And they view anybody around Enoshima as a potential successor to her plans, and that includes me and everyone involved in the killing game. These people… they suspect everyone, and want to leave no stone unturned. Their goal is to eradicate Enoshima's plans, and also possibly the very fact that Enoshima once attended Hope's Peak Academy, in its entirety.'
Chiaki gazed down, looking to be deep in thought, before saying, 'Well… I'm not well-trained in philosophy or anything related to humanity… but that just sounded very wrong.'
'I'm in no position to say whether it's right or wrong,' Hajime said, 'I'm the one being judged here. But these people are using backhanded means to hunt us down because the school board decided that no actions shall be taken against us. And that, I do not agree with.'
Hajime stood in front of an old apartment building alongside Kyoko, Makoto and Mahiru.
'So this is the place, huh?' Kyoko asked. 'Which floor?'
Mahiru looked down at the small strip of paper that she was holding in her hand. 'Yes, I'm pretty sure this is the address that Ms Yukizome gave me. It says third floor, unit number seventeen.'
Before long, they were standing at number seventeen's doorway. A woman with dirty blonde hair appeared at the crack of the door, the lines on her face further accentuated by the worried look. 'C-Can I help you?' she asked.
'We're Ryota Mitarai's schoolmates,' Mahiru began, 'Could you be Mrs Mitarai?'
'Y-Yes, that's right,' Mrs. Mitarai said, the creases on her forehead subsided a little and she opened the door a little wider so that she could take a better look at her unexpected guests. 'What is it that you need — I mean — what brings you here?'
'We're actually looking for Ryota,' Mahiru explained, 'is he in?'
'Ryota?' Mrs Mitarai's eyes widened, 'Isn't he in school?'
'In school!?' This time, it was Mahiru's turn to look surprised. 'Which school?'
'Hope's Peak Academy of course!'
'Mrs Mitarai, Ryota is supposed to be in our class.' Mahiru said, bewildered by this strange turn of events. 'And we just graduated last spring! He should no longer be in Hope's Peak Academy!'
'What!?' Mrs. Mitarai's face immediately turned pale. 'What do you mean? Please explain to me! Ryota has never once told me about any graduation!'
'Mrs Mitarai, where exactly is Ryota?' Mahiru asked.
'So Ryota Mitarai has never returned home since he first entered Hope's Peak Academy. He only contacted his mother through texts and occasionally phone calls. And Mrs Mitarai, being a single mother, was too busy to notice anything about his son or even when he's supposed to graduate. What mattered to her was that all her son's expenses were paid for and he had enough money for food and shelter.' Makoto said, summarising their short encounter with Mrs Mitarai who turned hysterical when she found out that her son had never attended class.
'Now this begs the question,' Kyoko said, one hand on her chin, 'where is Mitarai?'
'Could he really have gotten into trouble with Enoshima!?' Mahiru asked, panicking.
'I think we shouldn't jump into conclusions too quickly,' Hajime said, slowing her down. 'Our priority now is to find Mita-' he stopped midway through his sentence as Kyoko had suddenly swung one hand in front of him, indicating that he should stop talking. He looked at the direction which she was facing and immediately recognised why.
Juzo Sakakura was standing on the other side of the apartment courtyard, his distinctly green hair unmistakable. When he saw that the group had noticed his presence, he walked over to them.
'So, I take it that you guys did not find who you were looking for?' he asked gruffly.
'What are you doing here?' Kyoko asked.
'My business is not yours,' a nerve twitched on Sakakura's temples.
'Then neither is ours,' Kyoko replied.
At that point, Hajime predicted Sakakura would start cracking his knuckles at Kyoko, and sure enough, Sakakura brought his hands up. However, just as his fists touched, he stopped in his tracks. 'Nevermind, I'm not here for you guys today.' he growled, his face dark, obviously suppressing an inner desire to knock Kyoko out, 'But keep your noses out of other people's business if you don't want to feel sorry! You guys are in enough trouble as it is now!'
'Finding Ryota Mitarai?' Nagito asked quizzically.
The whole group who had survived Enoshima's killing game sat huddled in a karaoke joint that very evening where Hajime, Mahiru, Makoto and Kyoko told them about Ryota Mitarai and Juzo Sakakura.
Makoto nodded. 'Had Mitarai been at locked up at home, we could've put Mahiru's worries at ease. However now that it turns out that he was never at home, things get kinda complicated… Furthermore with Juzo Sakakura lurking around…'
'Eeeekkk!' Ibuki screeched. 'Then does that mean that Ms Yukizome snitched on Mahiru-chan to Juzo?'
'Juzo?' Hiyoko asked in a scathing tone. 'Don't make it sound like you guys are close! It's disgusting!'
'Well, it's not like we don't wanna help,' Leon said, scratching his head, 'but we've got absolutely zero clues on where to find this guy. We have never met him, we don't know what he likes, where he hangs out, and whatever else. How will we ever find him?'
'He might be in the school.' Yasuke suggested abruptly. The others turned to him in surprise, but Yasuke did not flinch. He sat slouched in one corner of the room, eyes fixed on an imaginary spot on the floor, looking to be deep in thought.
'Were you listening?' Mahiru asked, almost exasperatedly. 'We were saying, this is a guy who had never been seen in his class in the 3 years he was enrolled.'
'I heard you,' Yasuke said. 'Some of you might not know this, but the school is able to provide certain facilities for a student if said student requests it. I, for one, have that particular biology lab all to myself, had you guys not kept barging in, that is.'
'You can do that!?' Hifumi squeaked excitedly, possibly imagining his safe haven of 2D girls.
'Of course it's not that easy,' Yasuke said. 'For one, you can only request for a facility which corresponds to your talent. And to get approval from the school board, you need to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that your talents are worth the extra investment. The most basic requirement is to present a project to the board, have a certified expert or a staff from Hope's Peak vouch for your skills to back that project up and for another staff member to report on its progress to the board.'
'And what was this project of yours that won you the biology lab?' Owada asked.
'The Izuru Kamukura Project, of course,' Yasuke replied nonchalantly.
A cold silence briefly swept through the room and Hajime could feel secretive glances being thrown at him.
'Right…' Hajime began, awkwardly breaking the silence. 'So you're saying that Ryota Mitarai could've requested for a private, possibly secret, space where he could create animations?'
'It's a possibility,' Yasuke said. 'But think about it. It's a huge hassle for a high school student to deliberately rent a space outside school just to work on animations. Besides, that apartment complex you mentioned his mother living in is not exactly posh, she couldn't possibly have given her son enough money to rent a space for three years.'
'But what contribution could he have given to the school that granted him that facility?' Sonia asked. 'And besides, if he had been given that facility and he never attended class, it's a wonder that none of the school staff ever came to look for him.'
'We'll just have to look into the school records that granted students special facilities then?' Fuyuhiko asked. 'Surely the record would list the type of facility and where it's located. Once we find the room, then we can ask him directly.'
'Leave that to me,' Kyoko said and Hajime could see most of their friends relax slightly. He, however, was not convinced that finding Ryota Mitarai would be the end of it. They still had Kyosuke Munakata to worry about. And after their encounter with Juzo Sakakura, Hajime made a mental note to also look into Chisa Yukizome.
'Hey Chiaki,' Hajime called out to the slouched figure absent-mindedly walking down the corridor.
Chiaki turned around slowly, but her eyes were still glued to her handheld console. 'Hmmm?'
'There's something I'd like to ask you if you don't mind,' Hajime said.
'Hold on…' Chiaki said, still mashing the buttons with a vigour that did not match her sleepy expression. After about thirty seconds, the victory chime sounded and Chiaki finally looked up. 'Sorry. What was it that you wanted to ask me?'
'About Ms Yukizome, what do you know about her?' Hajime asked.
'Hmmmm… she seems like a nice person,' Chiaki replied. 'She's an alumni of this school too. The Ultimate Housekeeper, I think.'
'Hmm… Would you say you can trust her?' Hajime asked thoughtfully.
'Maybe,' Chiaki replied after a brief pause. 'I haven't got any reason to doubt her, I think.'
'You don't sound convinced,' Hajime said, frowning slightly. 'Lack of doubt doesn't equate trust.'
Chiaki shook her head. 'No, trust only comes after overcoming doubt. I have no reason to doubt her, so I have no reason to trust her either. At least that's what I think.'
Hajime raised his eyebrows. He did not expect such a profound statement to come from a girl who barely paid any attention to her surroundings.
'What happened anyway?' Chiaki asked. 'You seem… bothered.'
'I am,' Hajime admitted. He proceeded to tell her about their encounter with Juzo Sakakura. 'I mean, how else would Sakakura know that we were looking for Mitarai had Ms Yukizome not told him? I know that's probably where her loyalties lie — Munakata and Sakakura that is — but did she not know about Sakakura's attack on Mukuro? It just doesn't fit with her seemingly caring and motherly persona.'
Chiaki pondered over Hajime's words for a moment before saying, 'if it'll make you feel better, let's look further into this. I'll help you.'
'Wha— but you weren't involved in the killing game, they aren't after you,' Hajime exclaimed. 'Munakata is not someone to be taken lightly of.'
'But all these investigation that you're doing is reminding me so much of the Ace Attorney!' Chiaki replied with a rare excitement that Hajime had never seen come out of Chiaki before.
'Ace… Attorney?' Hajime asked perplexedly.
'It's a game,' Chiaki explained. 'But more than that, I'd like to help you. We're friends… aren't we? At least that's what I'd like to think.'
Hajime could not help but gave her a big smile.
'You're right,' Kyoko said to Yasuke, placing a yellow file on the Ultimate Neurologist's desk in the biology lab. 'Ryota Mitarai did have access to a facility of his request.'
Yasuke did not immediately respond, but instead continued to type another series of commands on his computer before picking up said file and scanning through the first page. Intrigued, Hajime who happened to be in the lab for another series of tests, looked over Yasuke's shoulder to view the contents of the file. The first page consisted of Ryota Mitarai's basic profile, detailing his date of birth, talent, date of enrolment, date of application for the facility, etc. However, what caught Hajime's eye was the very last box on the bottom left corner of the page. It read:
Progress verified by:
Hajime's eyes instantly widened as he grabbed the file from Yasuke's hands. 'Oi!' Yasuke complained, but Hajime paid no heed to him. His hands shook as he reread the words inside the box once again, this time more carefully.
'What's wrong, Hajime?' Makoto asked.
'He must've seen the name of the teacher who had verified his project,' Kyoko explained, her face dark. 'Chisa Yukizome. And if you recall Mahiru's words, Yukizome had been the one to panic over Mitarai's continued absence. She shouldn't have done that if she was tasked with reporting back to the school board on Mitarai's progress.'
'But we have yet to prove that Mitarai was indeed hiding out in this facility,' Makoto said.
'Oh it's pretty much confirmed,' Kyoko said, 'Where else would he be? Besides I didn't get this file from my father. I got it from the school scout, Kizakura. He's — how should I put it — more generous with information. He had been the one to scout Mitarai and from the very moment he offered him a place in Hope's Peak Academy, Mitarai had asked whether or not he could get a place where he could create animations in peace.'
'But what has Mitarai done that allowed him access to the facility from the very first day of school?' Yasuke asked.
'Hope's Project…' Hajime whispered.
'I'm sorry?' Makoto said.
'It says here, "Name of Project: Hope's Project,' Hajime said, pointing to the file.
'What does that mean?' Makoto asked.
'So again, Kizakura has given me a background on that,' Kyoko began explaining, 'So when Mitarai asked about the facility, of course Kizakura asked whether or not Mitarai had a project outstanding enough that the school would be willing to invest an extra sum of money on him. And Mitarai showed him a clip of a project he had been working on. To put it in Kizakura's words, the video was… "mind-altering, and seem to make you lose part of your common sense".'
'How does that work?' Hajime asked, frowning.
'It uses a blend of technology and subliminal sensory tricks in order to manipulate the viewers' brains,' Kyoko explained. '"Very impressive" as Kizakura puts it and he's not even the type to be easily impressed. He immediately got the approval from the school board once they were shown the clip.'
'Why do I have a bad feeling about this?' Makoto shook his head. 'Let's check out where his allocated facility is.' He looked over Hajime's shoulder and found a box with the words:
Basement 1 Room 5
'Are there no maps or anything that tells us where room 5 is?' Makoto asked, flipping the pages.
'Doesn't seem like it,' Hajime replied, 'at least not on this file.'
'Basement 1 Room 5?' Yasuke asked, bewildered. 'But the basements are out of bounds to students. That was where the Izuru Kamukura Project was conducted. It's impossible that they'd let a random student wander around the basements where a top secret project is being conducted.'
'Could there be another part to the basement?' Makoto suggested. 'Somewhere that doesn't require Mitarai to trespass upon the Kamukura Project's territory, maybe?'
'All I can think of is the trash disposal facility,' Yasuke replied, shrugging. 'That can be considered part of the basements.'
'Separate sections of the basements,' Kyoko mused, 'seems more plausible than allowing Mitarai to wander around the Izuru Kamukura Project's site.'
Hajime shook his head exasperatedly, 'With a school as big as this, finding a basement we've never even heard of is not gonna be easy.'
'Unless…' Makoto pondered slowly before a wide grin formed on his face, 'you happen to come across it by chance.'
'So your big plan was to get me to wander around the school grounds aimlessly until I find some top secret computer room?' Nagito asked with his eyebrows raised. He was accompanied by Hajime as they walked in the school fountain plaza.
'Like I said, it was Makoto's plan, not mine,' Hajime asserted.
'Just a disclaimer,' Nagito said, 'I don't guarantee anything.'
Hajime, however, did not listen to the last part of Nagito's sentence. He had caught sight of a familiar figure sitting at a bench by the fountain.
'Chiaki!' he called out to her.
Chiaki, as usual, looked up from her console with a sleepy expression. 'Oh, Hajime,' she said, acknowledging him, 'what are you up to?'
'We're… uh… on a hunt,' Hajime replied, scratching his head. Makoto's plan seemed stupid when you tell it to someone who was unfamiliar with Nagito's talent. 'Meet Nagito Komaeda,' he introduced Nagito to her, 'an alumni of the school.'
'Nice to meet you,' Chiaki said. 'Chiaki Nanami, the Ultimate Gamer.'
'Pleased to make your acquaintance, Nanami.' Nagito said with a smile as he took her hand and shook it.
'So what are you hunting for?' Chiaki asked.
'Oh, we're just walking around school until we find some super secret facility,' Nagito said breezily, as though it was a common thing to do. Hajime resisted the urge to slap his forehead. 'Do you care to join us?'
'Like the game, Cry of the Spy?' Chiaki replied with an unexpected vigour. 'I'd like that!'
'What game did you play anyway, never heard of that one before,' Hajime asked with his eyes wide in surprise at her reaction.
'I play all kinds of games, even those that aren't in the market,' Chiaki replied as she got up from her seat, stowing her console in her backpack. 'So what facility are you looking for?'
'A room with a single computer,' Nagito replied, matter-of-factly, 'that's the basic requirement, but it may include a bed.'
'Are you looking for one of those special facilities the school loans out to students?' Chiaki asked to Hajime and Nagito's utter surprise. 'I've come across one by accident. Over at that block there,' she pointed towards one end of the school building. 'I was playing my game and I didn't realise it but I entered what seemed like a room for the Ultimate Therapist. It was fairly small with psychiatry files everywhere, so I'm pretty sure it was for a single student.'
'Show us where it is!' Hajime nearly shouted in excitement.
'It should be this way,' Chiaki said, turning towards the direction she pointed earlier.
'Did your luck bring about this?' Hajime asked Nagito as he followed Chiaki.
Nagito merely smiled and said, 'To be honest with you, I'm never really sure when my luck brings about anything.'
'I'm pretty sure it's around here,' Chiaki said, examining the walls closely. 'It happened during my first year so I can't remember it all that well.'
'Is the entrance a secret too?' Hajime asked.
'I think so…' Chiaki said, trying her best to recall. 'I was playing a the game No Escape, and then out of a sudden this door appeared in front of me and I just went in, thinking it was an empty classroom where I continue playing my game in peace.'
'You can actually remember the game you're playing but not the entrance…?' Hajime asked weakly.
Chiaki pouted. 'I remember all the games I played.'
'Now, if it's around here we should just start checking the walls for some secret switch,' Nagito suggested as he turned over a painting of the sea which hung on the wall. 'Lo and behold,' he whistled. Hajime turned to find him pressing a strange button hidden behind the painting.
A door opened beside Nagito, much to Chiaki and Hajime's incredulous surprise. Surely there must be a limit to how much Nagito's luck can do, Hajime thought as he entered the dark corridor with steps leading down to the basement.
'Hello?' he called out in the darkness. There was no answer. He called out a second time, 'Hello?', and the lights suddenly flicked open. At the end of the steps was a room, but before that room stood a boy with one hand still on the wall switch.
The boy was incredibly scrawny and had light brown hair that fell above his shoulders. But to Hajime, the most significant portion about the boy's appearance was in how tired and pitiful his eyes looked. Dark rings adorn his eyes and his listless stare made Hajime wonder how long has it been since he last saw sunlight.
'Ryota… Mitarai?' he asked.
'Who are you!?' the boy snapped at them, 'What do you want!? If you are after the videos, then you've come to the wrong place!'
'What videos?' Hajime asked, puzzled. 'We only came to look for you.'
'Liar!' Ryota retorted. 'The last person who came through those doors said the same, and yet she made use of my work to spread despair! My work, mine! I can't carry her sins… I can't…' and with that he broke down crying.
Hajime stood frozen, unsure of what he had just witnessed. Ryota Mitarai seemed to have been greatly traumatised by Junko Enoshima. Chiaki, on the other hand, walked up towards Mitarai, and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. 'You don't have to face this alone, let us help you.'
'No one can help me,' Mitarai wailed. 'Not after what I've done…'
'You're right,' Nagito said, much to Chiaki, Hajime and even Mitarai's surprise. So much so that Mitarai stopped crying. 'You won't atone for your sins by staying here, cooped up, closing your eyes to what's happening outside. If you really feel sorry for whatever it is that you've done, go out there and try to make things right.'
Tears streamed down Mitarai's cheeks. 'I've done the worst possible thing you can imagine. No one can undo that…'
'What is it that you've done!?' Hajime shouted impatiently.
'I… I made a video…' Mitarai stammered. 'It… brainwashes people… she made me do it! Trust me, she did! It-it causes people to fall into despair… become her pawns…'
'Junko Enoshima?' Hajime asked.
'Don't say her name!' Mitarai snapped. 'She used it… I know she did!'
'On who?' Hajime asked again.
'On her! On the teacher who came looking for me!' Mitarai squealed as he clutched his head. 'On Chisa Yukizome!'