Chapter 50: Save the Origins of Despair
While the campus of Hope's Peak Academy stood abandoned after its downfall, Chiaki's memories filled it with life as if she could see the ghosts of the past walking around. She strolled through, taking in all the past experiences she recalled so accurately. Nearly every square inch had some story behind it involving her vivacious class. Since the responsibility of the class fell on Chiaki after Chisa's expulsion, the gamer found herself acting more mature than she ever did to keep them all in line. Chiaki laughed to herself, certain she couldn't do that again if she tried.
The gamer lost count of home many times her class almost got caught in a Nagito-like situation where they'd go a little too over the top with their antics. Like the time Kazuichi almost made a rampaging robot with weapons, or Ibuki held a concert on exam day, and a weird series of events led to Sonia almost being in Fuyuhiko's gang because of her enchantment with old mafia movies… But, mostly, things were tame.
Most of what her class did was hang out somewhere, go on trips, or relax around campus—the impeccable photography of Mahiru capturing all those events in a catalog that's been lost. While Chiaki did take on the responsibilities of Chisa, Mahiru pretty much took up the "team mom" role, and Fuyuhiko sort of became her enforcer if others wouldn't fall in line. Mahiru and Fuyuhiko always went on saying how Chiaki helped them move past the deaths of Sato and Natsumi, but Chiaki—never one to like taking all the credit—always thought they moved past whatever that situation was on their own.
While she wanted to focus on the warmer times of being a Hope's Peak alumni, the tragedy that was Hope's Peak Academy made that impossible. Chiaki gazed over across the campus where the Reserve Course once stood, the ugly reminder of how talent and the lack thereof can corrupt others. Once she learned what it was, Chiaki hated starting at the building. She'd always tell any Reserve Course student she met it didn't matter if they have talent. Sadly, the venomous words of Junko Enoshima usurped anything Chiaki could have said.
And thinking of the Reserve Course led her back to a certain spot.
"Heh," giggled Chiaki, "it's still here."
Chiaki sat on the bench she and Hajime usually hung out every day, but the fountain behind her dried up long ago. Even so, she sensed the ambiance in this spot she did those years ago. Looking back, Chiaki wished she would've pushed harder. Maybe she could've invited Hajime to see her class in secret. The gamer still recalled the empty look in his eyes, like the one she used to have. Still, with everything bad that's happened, Chiaki took solace in knowing everyone was alive and happy.
Then, Chiaki gasped when something came to mind. "If Hinata still has his memories…then does he know I'm still alive…?" She didn't know the specifics of what he remembered and didn't. Did he know the things Izuru did? If he did know, then Hajime should be aware that Chiaki lived after her execution.
Chiaki shook her head. "It doesn't matter. The others…did what they needed to do. I can't look back now…"
The gamer stood, taking a deep breath before continuing her way. This walk down memory lane eased her soul a bit, but she kept in mind why she came here. If she interpreted the letter correctly, then her destination should be in another place she spent a lot of time.
She walked into the remains of the main building, the infrastructure damaged after everything this school went through. Struggling not to get herself lost in memories again, good and bad, she made her way through the hallways. After some turns, she ascended the stairs and walked until she reached the room.
"I can't believe…it's still here…"
Chiaki took in the sight of her old classroom. The evening sun flooded the room in light since the wall had been blown off. She spotted some scorched papers lying behind Chisa's desk. Chiaki picked them up, eyes widening when she realized these were the burnt remains of Mahiru's photos. Her fingers slid across the burnt surfaces as she tried to make them out as best as she could. She hardly recognized them anymore, but no question these were her class photos. Putting the photos aside, her eyes drifted towards her goal.
And sure enough, there on her old desk rested a small glass vase holding flowers. The sight took her breath away. The surroundings around her were burnt, destroyed, and ugly. Yet, here the flowers stood, still alive and untouched like a magical barrier protected it. Somebody must've been taking care of them this entire time—perhaps Izuru or one of her classmates. Regardless, Chiaki approached them holding her breath in anticipation.
Then, Chiaki put a hand over her chest in shock as below the flowers a letter rested—just as she thought.
"It's here…" Chiaki gulped, carefully removing the flowers that acted as her grave before holding the letter in her hand. Along with the letter, she found a small bronze key. She took another deep breath before opening the contents, reading the letter out loud.
"At the time of writing this, we just had our duel. I'm assuming that I have died, you've discovered Junko Enoshima is alive, and you made the choice to stand against her once again. I'm sure you're confused as to my motives for writing this considering everything that's happened. I don't expect you to forgive me for everything I've done, so it's your choice of what you want to do. If you think this is a trick, you can walk away and stop reading."
Chiaki looked away for a moment, narrowed eye starting at the ground before resuming.
"However, if not, then follow my directions. Using all the resources I had from the Future Foundation's database, witness testimonies, belongings we found in her castle, and my deductive reasoning—I've compiled a collection of information to piece together the dubious past of Junko Enoshima. That key is for the library door; inside is all the information I compiled. Don't be afraid of the truth."
After the initial reading, Chiaki read the letter five more times. She checked the back, but that was it. Without question, Chisa wrote this for Chiaki. This confirmed the housekeeper knew about Junko the entire time. That didn't surprise Chiaki as much as Chisa's actions to research the mastermind.
Did she plan to take Junko down or herself? thought Chiaki. The gamer skimmed the letter again. No, this was meant for me. But why…? The gamer thought back to her last confrontation with the housekeeper, no doubt in her mind Chisa tried to kill her. Maybe in her final hours, she reconsidered? Chiaki grunted, frustrated. She put aside Chisa for now since she already had her hands full understating one insane women. Right now, she just wanted to check the authenticity of this information.
Chiaki headed towards the school's library. Chisa never specifically said which library she hid the information, but she couldn't think of any others. Thankfully, the library stood in one piece, the dust coating the room causing Chiaki to sneeze. She switched the lights on, revealing the messy library, books strewn across the floor. Chiaki shuffled her way through the mess before arriving at the door at the back of the library.
Chiaki didn't visit here often during her school days, a bad habit she got scolded for often. But she knew this room housed important books donated to Hope's Peak Academy. In the mutual killing game of the seventy-eight class, Junko filled this section of the library with tops secrets texts and government documents. These were all confiscated by the Future Foundation as soon as the game ended. Chiaki stood in puzzlement as to what Chisa could've put in here now.
Chiaki tried to open the door only to find out it was locked. She used the bronze key, and just as she thought—the door opened after a click. In contrast to the messy front, this room looked neat and organized. Books and documents were neatly stacked on the shelves, the room lacked any dust—a clean and well-organized area that told Chiaki someone neat and orderly visited here recently.
The gamer observed the room, picking a random folder off a shelf. She gasped upon opening the cream-colored folder. Inside contained old photos; they varied in location and what people were in them—but a constant always remained Junko. Some had her original look while others had the new one she made to become a fashionista. Either way, this folder unquestionably contained photos of Junko's past. Next to every photo was a sticky note written by Chisa, mostly giving an estimate of the location and date the photo was taken along with some description of the event taking place.
This room had much more information such as a mountain of documents containing full, unredacted transcripts of Despairs and partners of Junko. The gamer found videos of interviews she's done, all the magazines she was featured on, and travel records of everywhere she went. Even things like some old books Junko read, diaries, and school papers were all there. And Chiaki found all these in just a few minutes. What else is there in the ninety-nine percent of things untouched?
"It's all here…" murmured Chiaki, turning and gazing at everything in disbelief. Of course, it occurred to her this all could be fake—one last prank by Chisa on her part. But as Chiaki looked into Junko's childhood pictures, staring into her dead eyes… These photos couldn't be anything other than real.
"… Okay," Chiaki said to herself. "I don't know what it is you wanted, Ms. Yukizome, but I have to just move forward now and do it." Then Chiaki took another look around and felt a heavy weight on her shoulders upon realizing something. She suddenly got flashbacks from her study sessions and the busywork. It was a good thing Junko gave her a month because she'd need every day.
"Where do I even start…?" Chiaki sighed. "I'm going to need those snacks…"
Kyoko sat in her bed, already on her fifth novel since she entered the hospital a few days ago. Her quick thinking during the Future Foundation killing game saved her life, but her body was far from healthy. It wasn't anything life-threatening, but she'd need to stay off her feet for a while. While in the hospital, the detective would break out her laptop and do any work she could before her friends or doctor forced her to stop. Her father always said not to work herself to death, and Kyoko came close a few times.
It's not something she'd ever say out loud, but the insanity of the Tragedy did somewhat motivate her to greater lengths. A sad thing about a detective is they're the janitors that clean up villainy and untruths. Junko Enoshima made sure there wouldn't be any shortage of that for years. Now with things calming down, she feared her skills would dull. Then again, given what Chiaki told her yesterday, who knows what the future will hold?
Upon think of her friend, Kyoko gazed at her phone. She talked to Chiaki first thing this morning. The gamer, never a morning person from what Kyoko understood, sounded hyperactive as if she'd been injected with sugar. She went on about how she'd been up all night reading more than she ever did. Kyoko asked her to slow down and explain slowly, but she'd already hung up.
Kyoko still occasionally thinks she shouldn't have let Chiaki go. She could only imagine all the emotions running through her head after finding out about everything, and now her mind would erode under some mysterious influence of Junko. For reasons such as that, she wondered if Chiaki was even in her right mind to make decisions. Against her better judgment, Kyoko put faith in her as she did on their mission together. In contrast to when they first met, Chiaki seemed determined of her own free will to do what she needed.
Her stomach turned when she thought of Junko still living. Kyoko struggled not to tell everyone the truth and lead a full last assault against the mastermind. However, if what Chiaki said was true, she didn't think that'd make a difference. She felt frustrated, wondering if this is how detectives in the books react when meeting their ideological foils. It tore her up inside, but she didn't know exactly how to confront Junko. As much as she sought revenge against her father's killer, she acknowledged that only Nanami always got close to her for whatever reason.
Just as Kyoko thought on it more, her eyes widened when she heard someone yell, "Kirigiri!" The detective sighed, dreading this moment she knew would have to come.
"Kirigiri!" yelled Aoi, at the door and out of breath with a furrowed brow. Lagging behind her was Makoto, hands on his knees.
"S-sorry…Kirigiri…" he said, panting. "I…tried to… hold her back…"
"What's this I hear about Nanami leaving and you letting her!" yelled Aoi.
Kyoko rubbed her forehead, wondering who and how Aoi interrogated that out of one of the agents. "You don't under, Asahina. Nanami chose to leave."
Aoi pumped her fists. "Still, after everything that's happened, she shouldn't be out there alone! She should be here with friends!"
"Did she think she's in trouble?" asked Makoto.
"No, I explained everything that happened. Even knowing the truth about Chisa Yukizome came out and her friends are alive and well, Nanami felt like her responsibilities lied elsewhere."
Makoto had a worried look. "I can't imagine all the emotions she must've felt learning everything. And even then, she still felt the need to go back out there…"
Aoi got closer to Kyoko, eyes like steel. "You know how I feel about this kind of thing. I couldn't help her when she was abducted or when Yukizome framed her in front of everyone. I…I don't want anyone else to die…! She told you didn't she, where she'd go? There's no way you would have let her if she didn't. What did Nanami tell you…? Please, Kirigiri…"
Kirigiri averted her gaze. She made an honest effort not to hide too many things from her friends anymore, but she didn't want to betray Chiaki. "… Asahina, I can't tell you everything. You must understand that Nanami isn't doing anything she doesn't want. No one is forcing her to do anything anymore. Everything she's doing is of her own free will for the first time in years. It's for that reason I let her go with the understating I might not see her ever again…"
"So that's it…" said Aoi, eyes tearing up. "I don't get to see her again…to say sorry for not helping all those times she needed me…? How can you make me accept that after everything that's happened? Why can't you just—"
"Hina…" murmured Makoto, drawing Aoi's eye before he gestured to Kyoko. The detective tried to hide it, but she knew her face looked less than composed now. "She's worried too…"
Aoi breathed in and out a few times. "Sorry, Kirigiri"
"Kirigiri isn't the type to do things without a good reason," said Makoto. "And I don't think Nanami is either. I can't imagine what she's feeling or what's she out to do. We must hope she's found peace in whatever it is she decided to do. I'm sure she wanted to see you as much as you want to see her."
Aoi paused for a minute. "Yeah…you're right, Naegi. Always count on the Ultimate Hope to make things better." The swimmer hopped in place before shouting. "Alright, I'm better now!"
Kyoko smiled, impressed by how fast Aoi bounced back. "I can tell you the truth in due time. Honestly, I'm still debating on what I should do."
"Well, maybe this wasn't a good time then," said Makoto. "I came here to pitch you an idea but if you're too busy…"
Kyoko waved her hand, always willing to hear what Makoto had to say. "What is it?"
"The thing is…" murmured Makoto, eyes darting from left to right with a nervous grin. That told Kyoko this must've been serious. "Now that everything is settling down, I got to thinking… Don't react too strongly because like I said, it's just a thought I had but—"
Aoi groaned before she said, "He wants to make a new Hope's Peak Academy." The swimmer put a hand on her hip. "Sorry, Naegi, but it would've been midnight by the time you got to the point."
Naegi scratched his chin. "Hehe…always having back, Hina…"
Meanwhile, Kyoko sat in bed, unsure of how to respond. For anyone else, she would've considered this some ridiculous rambling or a joke. But she knew Makoto and knew him well enough to know he believed in this idea. She knew the lucky student held strong enough in his principles to not only considered this idea but take the steps into making this insane vision a reality. Still, the practicality of this idea is something even Kyoko couldn't work out.
"Close the door, Asahina," said Kyoko, closing her laptop. After the swimmer did as instructed, Kyoko started Naegi directly in his eye. "Who else have you told about this?"
"I pitched the idea to Togami yesterday, but I ended up coming up with the idea with my sister."
"And how did they react?"
"Well, my sister seemed enthusiastic—so much so, that she wanted to help set things up herself. Togami…his reaction was kind of like yours at first…"
Kyoko raised an eyebrow. "At first?"
"He shunned the idea at first, saying something like that was a foolishly naïve goal. But, when I explain what I wanted the new Hope's Peak Academy to represent, he started to soften up on the idea. In the end, he said his connections could get some backers to help fund the new project if you got on board. I was pretty shocked actually…"
A grin threatened to escape from Kyoko, Byakuya now a complete contrast from the persona of the uptight affluent progeny he used to embrace. "He has changed…"
Makoto nodded. "He's come a long way from obstructing murders for his enjoyment at the very least."
"Regardless," said Kyoko, putting on a serious face, "you do realize how bad the optics are with this, Naegi? Our school isn't the famous pinnacle of talent it used to be. Its name is forever synonymous with Junko Enoshima and the collapse of society. It has become the most infamous place on Earth, and you honestly think people will go for that? The media will eat us alive, and that's not even counting actions the government might take. Even if you are Ultimate Hope, it won't help you."
"I thought the same thing," said Aoi before Makoto could get another word in. "That place…there's awful stuff that happened there. It's taken a long time…but now I realize that a lot of good happened there too. At one time, we had fun every day as a class without a care in the world. I'm not as smart as you, Kirigiri, but I think if we can make a place like that again without all the horrible crap—it's worth a shot."
The detective let silence consume the room before she said, "I understand where you're coming from, but you have to look at the reality of things. Personally…I loathed the school the moment I stepped into it. The fact Enoshima used us, what happened with our classmates, my father…" A lump in her throat appeared for a moment. "That school was a mistake. Making a place where your worth is determined by a random trait called talent could never work…"
Makoto and Aoi both looked disappointed, but those were Kyoko's true feelings. While she did miss those warmer times at school, the despair that place carried with it now could never vanish from her mind.
"… Is that true, Kirigiri?" asked Makoto with a resolute gaze, drawing a raised eyebrow from the detective. "I know it's easy to say you regret it all in retrospect, but can you say that you'd rather Hope's Peak Academy never happened?"
Kyoko closed her eyes, getting what Makoto meant. "I'm not saying I regret meeting you all, Naegi. However, if us not meeting could've prevented this all—"
"No, you can't look at it that way. What happened to us was a tragedy, but now that everything is over—we need to turn all the despair of the last few years into a new beacon of hope. Just imagine a Hope's Peak Academy without something discriminatory like the Reserve Course, or the Steering Committee, or Junko Enoshima. Nanami said something that stuck with me: talent should not define who you are. The new Hope's Peak Academy should become a place where everybody comes to find their true purpose, not just a place where talented people are rounded up while those without pays the bills."
Makoto stared at the ceiling. "I always have this image in my head. Things turned out so bad for all of us…but what if it didn't? Our class, Nanami's class, the Future Foundation leaders—we are all different except for one thing we all have in common…Hope's Peak Academy. I always imagine all of us, taking a huge group photo in front of the school as alumni. Kirigiri…I want to give future generations something that was stolen from us. I want to be there one day…and stare into the faces of those I helped show it's okay to believe in hope before they go out into the world!"
Kyoko sat back, not frustrated but amused. Twice in two days, she had Chiaki and Makoto preach their foolish ideas to her that the old Kyoko never would've gone for. Still, even with all her logic and deductive reasoning they lacked, she couldn't refute either one them. Kyoko laughed at herself, thinking these times of peace really were dulling her detective skills. That, or maybe she slowly started becoming like the gamer and lucky student.
"Honestly," said Kyoko, smiling, "how do you expect me to turn you down after that showing?"
Makoto rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry…guess I got a little carried away. So, does this mean you want to try?"
"… On one condition. I don't want some committee or investors to decide the direction of the school. I'll agree to help with establishing a new Hope's Peak Academy only…if you become Headmaster.
Makoto gasped before Aoi shrieked in delight before she said, "Oh wow, I thought the same thing! A bunch of boring suits will complicate things, but if it's Naegi deciding things—no way it could go wrong!"
Makoto frantically swung his hands back in forth. "W-woah, hold it a minute! I don't know anything about running a school!"
"Then I suggest you started researching," said Kyoko, opening her laptop before typing rapidly. "I'll research and send you numerous books to help you get started, you'll also have to meet several of Togami's contacts in person, then you'll need to decide things like the location and design choices. We'll also need to set up a media day, and you'll also need to personally meet people and start networking on your own to get some benefactors. That'll be a good start I presume."
"U-uh…" murmured Makoto, his face nervous.
Kyoko grinned, amused Makoto thought there wouldn't at least be this much worked involved. The lucky student probably thought he'd pitch the idea and it'd all work out.
"Hey, Hina?" said Makoto, turning towards the swimmer with a hopeful grin. "Think you could help with…"
Makoto stopped when he saw Asahina at the door, waving enthusiastically. "Good luck, Headmaster Naegi! I got a box of glazed donuts with my name on it!" Aoi used her athleticism to sprint out of the room faster than during the Future Foundation killing game.
"Looks like you're on your own."
"Great…" Makoto sat near Kyoko's bed, hands on his knees. "I was also thinking of tracking down Munakata. He's way more qualified for something like this than all of us. Building a new and better Hope's Peak Academy might the best thing for him to move on after all he went through."
"I have my doubts. He views Hope's Peak Academy as his greatest failure and sees you as something he couldn't be, even with all his talents. The former vice-chairman made it clear he wanted to find meaning on his own. I don't think getting involved in something like this would interest him."
"Yeah…you're right." Makoto had a far-off look, his mind a hundred miles away for a moment. "I know Nanami told you to keep it secret, but could you at least tell me if she'd be interested in helping after she gets done doing what she needs? I think she'd be lots of help."
Kyoko looked away. "I have no idea. Even I don't completely understand Nanami's motivations at this point. But…I don't think she'd want any part of it either."
"… What happened in the Future Foundation was our mess, and her classmates bailed us out. Not to mention how they saved the day back in the Neo World Program. We couldn't help them, so when I heard Nanami was alive—I thought that'd be our chance." Makoto stared at the ground. "I just wish…we could've done more for her…"
"I do as well…" Kyoko didn't know if Chiaki would succeed, fail, die, or go mad. Still, she doubted the gamer would ever come back to them. She made her final goodbye sound more optimistic than it was, but Chiaki knew she probably wouldn't return. "I might even miss those absurd rumors about our relationship went around."
"Oh yeah…" Makoto bobbed from side to side in his chair like he mulled something over. Finally, he said, "So…about that… Was anything of that for real or…?"
"No, we were just friends," Kyoko said faster than she meant to.
"Ah, okay…just wondering." The duo shared a smile before Makoto looked somber. "I just hope Nanami can find what she's looking for…"
Kyoko nodded. "Nanami is strong; she'll be fine…" Sadly, Kyoko didn't know if she believed the latter part of that.
A week passed since Chiaki returned to Hope's Peak Academy to begin her research, and she wanted to die even faster than she already was. She'd spent day and night in the library, reading everything she got her hands on. Her only breaks were for sleep, the bathroom, or food. She didn't even have her faithful Game Girl since Junko stole it. It might've been Junko's influence, but she felt herself going mad reviewing everything while her crucial answer hadn't been solved yet.
That isn't to say she hadn't figured out anything of interest, however.
Junko Enoshima was born in a small town, minutes apart from her twin sister, Murkuro. Their father worked at a convenience store and their mother became a stay at home mom to take care of them. Their living conditions were rough; police reports of disturbances often came from their household, the source their parents getting into loud and sometimes physical arguments.
Outside of the house, Junko's grades were stellar. She never failed a test, got a question wrong, and stayed out of any trouble. In elementary school, Junko came to meet Yasuke Matsuda—the boy who'd grow up to become the Ultimate Neurologist. Since his research became vital for Junko's endgame, Chisa hypothesized in her notes that their meeting might not have been by chance. She further went on to say that Junko might've had more to do with Yasuke's eventual delve into the medical field than expected.
Beyond this, Junko was a loner. While nobody hated her, many people admired her acumen, Junko never hung out with anyone and rarely spoke much. An incident caused Junko to see a counselor, much like Chiaki did with Miaya. Strangely, her counselor went missing one day until her body was discovered—her death ruled a suicide. This tied to a string of suicides that arose around the town at the time. Chisa speculated that not only was Junko discovering her love for despair at this time, but she might've also played a part in the suicides. Though, no evidence of this ever appeared.
Her parents died in a house fire, the cause ruled to an electrical failure instead of arson like Chisa suspected it was. Junko and Murkuro ran away to parts unknown for a while. Then, out of nowhere, Junko appeared as her famous strawberry blond persona before starring on television. Her popularity exploded after this, achieving fame unheard of for someone her age. Her fame only grew as she aged, starring in movies, television dramas, and other things. What really made Junko famous is her work as a fashionista and a stunning understanding of marketing. Her magazines, advertising deals, and clothing line made her the world's youngest billionaire.
In the shadows, however, Junko made deals with several different organizations and people of interest. She met Kitta Takara during this time, her sister Murkuro started her feared reign as the Reaper in Fenrir, and thousands of other groups that admitted or were suspected of aiding her. The airport massacre Chiaki had visions of might have been an initiation of sorts for Junko to gain the trust of one of the world's biggest organized crime syndicates. But, because of Junko's genius—her connections to these groups never rose to light until the Future Foundation interrogated these groups years later.
Chisa even made a timeline of Junko's stay Hope's Peak Academy. It went into depth about what she did with the seventy-eight class, some theories on her behind the scenes work with the Steering Committee and Ryota. She even met with her eventual supposed heir, Monica Towa. It even cataloged some weird event involving an alternate persona she made to test the neurological findings of Yasuke. Junko's supposed bond with Yasuke intrigued Chiaki since she couldn't imagine the blond genuinely loving anyone. Again, however, nothing here gave her any new insight about the mastermind.
Beyond this, most of the information contained smaller details about Junko from her favorite foods to which brand of cereal she liked best. Even with this wealth of information about the fashionista, Chiaki still didn't get that long-awaited moment. She waited for a line of text to make her eyes light up as everything became clear. Alas, that moment of enlightenment continued to elude her. She'd almost seen everything Chisa complied, but the rest seemed like more trivia that wouldn't do her much good.
Chiaki sighed. "Where is the answer…?" The gamer stood, stretching her numb legs. She rested her eye for a moment, standing in the quiet space alone with her thoughts.
"Having trouble?" said a voice that made Chiaki's eye burst open. The library around her changed into a dark void. In front of her laid a dark portal of twisting shadows, the silhouette of Junko Enoshima standing inside. "Just give in; it's so much easier."
And then the familiar dissonance came as Chiaki felt herself slipping away. She grabbed her head, trying her best to shake it off.
"What's the point of shaking it off?" said Junko in an eerily toneless voice. "We'll be one soon enough—"
"No…never!" yelled Chiaki, who ran backward before tripping over an invisible object. She winced in pain before opening her eyes, the normal surroundings of the library restored. The gamer ran into a pile of books, her form in the mess of texts and documents she caused. Hugging her knees after sitting up, she took a deep breath. Dealing with Junko's will was like knowing someone followed behind her, but it would vanish every time she turned around. It snuck up quietly, taking anything it could before being forced to withdraw. Soon, she wouldn't have anything left.
I'm like a game whose data was corrupted. Ms. Yukizome, how did you deal with this…? Despite the bad blood between them, this affliction gave Chiaki a weird admiration for the deceased housekeeper. How she could be so efficient while dealing with something like this for years is something Chiaki couldn't comprehend. The gamer stood, refocusing on the dilemma she had.
"All this information helps, but it still isn't making me understand Junko. Her actions are one thing, but unless I could know what she thought and felt, how can I—"
Chiaki stopped when something caught her eye. She picked up a sketchbook by her feet that stuck out like a sore thumb among all the books. She flipped through the pages, finding only two drawings inside the whole thing. The first was a crayon drawing of a girl with her eyes downcast that meant to resemble Chiaki. On this page, a note by Chisa read how she found it in Junko's castle.
While this mystified Chiaki as to why Junko drew her, the drawing on the next page made her heart skip a beat.
"This picture…" murmured Chiaki.
This picture, also drawn by crayon, depicted two girls on opposite sides of the page with buildings in the background. The girl on the left had scarlet hair, and the girl on the right had cream-colored hair. The picture portrayed two girls standing on opposite sides of a city street, staring at one another. The moment her vision hit this page, a memory entered her mind.
And that's when Chiaki began to realize.
"This…this is the dream I had!" Chiaki recalled her dream on Mizuki's helicopter ride. The images she saw matched this picture perfectly. The implications of this scared Chiaki because if this is what she dreamt of, then that event happened. And if the two girls staring at each other is who she thought they were… Chiaki took a step back, gathering herself before observing the picture again. Confirming the feeling she had, a note by Chisa had "this seems important" written on it and nothing else.
"This is it… Whatever happened on that day is what my answer is…" Finally, that moment of clarity hit Chiaki. She couldn't explain it, but this picture was crucial. Except, Chiaki couldn't remember the context of this at all. If the two girls in this picture were herself and Junko, then Chiaki possessed no recollection of what happened.
Chiaki closed her eye hard, trying with everything she had to remember. She paced around, ate some things to replenish her strength, she even kept trying to go to sleep to trigger the dream again. After spending the whole day trying, the gamer didn't succeed in remembering.
It's no use, she thought, on the verge of tears from being so frustrated with herself. I've remembered thousands of tips, strategies, and experiences from video games… so why can't my stupid talent help me remember this picture!
Chiaki calmed herself down before she got too angry. Then she thought about any method to pry this memory from her brain until something came to her. She rubbed her closed eye, acknowledging that her brain didn't contain just her memories anymore…
She gulped, beginning to realize what might need to happen. Junko's words about the truth being right before her eye came back to her as well as Chisa telling her not to fear the truth. Still, the thought of willing letting herself succumb to whatever is lurking in the dark corners of Junko's mind filled the gamer with paralyzing fright. Who knows what awaited in that endless abyss of despair?
But Chiaki realized her situation. Her game against Junko was three weeks away, she had no plan, no answer to what Junko is, and she couldn't remember an important moment in her past.
She didn't want to; however, she thought back to her classmates who selflessly rescued the Future Foundation despite the implication. Hajime and the others had the strength to do what they needed in her honor. Now it was her turn. With that in mind, she nodded to herself and left the library.
Chiaki didn't know if what she wanted would still be in the school, but she headed towards a certain infamous area. After some turns and an extremely uncomfortable ride in an elevator, her eyes landed on the trial room. The gamer hated this room. It's where Junko would harvest all the despair she planted previously and make her beloved execution. It also looked like where she nearly died. Despite the discomfort, she pressed forward.
She placed her hand on the stand, straight across from the chair Monokuma would sit. This is as good a place as any, thought Chiaki. She steeled her nerves, preparing for what she would endure. In a way, she was grateful for those despair video exposure sessions. A mind not used to resisting despair would've crumbled.
"I don't know how long I can hold it, but even so… Junko, let me into the abyss!"
Chiaki opened both of her eyes.
Across from her stood Junko, smirking while standing behind the trial stand. Her presence made her feel real, so much so that Chiaki had to keep reminding herself that the blond was an illusion. "There you are…"
"You sure you want to do this, nobody?" said Junko mockingly. "Once Pandora's box opens, you might not be able to close it."
"Yes. I'm going to use Ms. Yukizome's information and your memories to piece together the truth—right here and now before the final boss battle."
"You dweeb…" Junko closed her eyes before landing a piercing azure gaze on Chiaki. "Hope you don't regret it!"
An influx of emotions hit Chiaki as she grabbed her head. Pain, happiness, hope, despair—everything began hitting her at once. Then the world around her changed as parts her separated. She nearly panicked from this existential crisis, but she held on—determined to see it all through this time.
Show me…the truth!
The young Junko with her natural scarlet hair stood on the edge of a bridge, the wind fierce. This bridge had a nasty history behind it in her town, a central site for people to leave this cruel world forever of there own will. Junko came here daily, standing on the edge like this while deciding if today was the day. After her eyes, devoid of any emotions, stared down for an hour—she sighed and walked away.
"I get to live another day," she murmured, headed home under the red evening sky. "How stupid…"