Chapter 35

Words failed to escape Leon's mouth as he stared in shock. Memories of the chaos created by the first tragedy filled his mind. He could recall his brief memories of the outbreak of people attacking and killing each other before he and the rest of his classmates locked themselves away within the school. He couldn't understand why anyone would want, let alone consider, to bring back that horrible event. He had heard the world had continued to endure through its despairful hell even after Junko's death; the full effect of her death finally putting an end to the fighting a near two years later.

The red-head wanted to believe the man before him was only making a joke; a horrible joke to throw off their guard. But from staring at the man's demented smirk and the excitement shining in his eyes, he could see Kano was very serious with his wish. This left the teenager to return to the original question filling his mind, that being why Kano would want such a horrible event to return. Before he could even stop himself, the question rolled off his tongue with ease, not giving him a chance to consider if asking was the wisest decision.

Kano chuckled as he leaned forward on his stand, easily intimidating the six teens in the room with his presence.

"I suppose you all made it this far, I should explain myself." the businessman began with his eyes glinting in mischievousness, "I believe you'll find my reason to be quite intriguing."

He paused in his explanation to drink in the tense atmosphere for a few moments before continuing, "The thing is, I careless about hope or despair. I know I might look like one of Junko's brainwashed lackeys at the moment, but I'm not really crazy into the concept of despair. I guess maybe if you squint, then yeah, I can probably technically be considered a Remnant of Despair since I'm trying to revive despair in the world with this killing game. But point being, I'm not doing this for the sake of despair or even some crack pot plan to test the strength of hope. Hope and despair is meaningless to me. I'm doing this for the conflict."

At the mention of the word, Kano was practically shaking with joy. Barely able to contain his excitement, he revealed when his interest in conflict had began. For him, life was boring as a child. Having stemmed from a rich and prominent family in Japan allowed him to live a life of luxury; a life he couldn't stand. He could recall the dull and continuous pattern he had endured through days on, mostly created from his father trying to groom his as the successor to Sachio Construction. He had never imagined he would find escape until the day he saw the news on TV.

"It was discussing the tragic event at Hope's Peak Academy where two-thousand, three-hundred, and fifty-seven students from the Reserve Course went on a murdering spree before committing mass suicide. That news section was my first exposure to conflict." he stated; his blue eyes glimmering with excitement.

He could remember his interest and amaze only grow stronger from that day on. The more days passed on, the more people started fighting and killing each other until finally the world slipped into despair.

"It was the first different thing to enter my life. It didn't follow the same boring pattern of my rich peaceful life. I could watch the countless number of fights between people for hours on. I wanted it to never end." Kano sighed before slowly his smile faded from his face and he continued in a venomous tone, "Then Makoto Naegi had to steal that all away from me."

The purple-headed man clenched his teeth in hatred at the one responsible bringing hope back into the world. With hope restored, the conflict he had come to enjoy as a child had came to an end. Much to his disappointment, his family had easily regained their standing on the social latter after the Tragedy. All the destruction caused by the riots proving to be a great opportunity to advertise their specialties in construction.

"I wanted that enjoyment back. I didn't want to live the rest of my life with the tedious boredom that is the rich life. I wanted the excitement and the thrill of conflict. That is why I'm dedicating my everything to creating this killing game that will serve as the beginning of a chain reaction. I may not care for despair, but if I have to allow myself to be seen as the next Junko Enoshima to reignite conflict in the world, then so be it!" Kano finally finished with a psychotic grin.

Leon remained silent, too stunned to respond from hearing the man's words. He knew exactly why the businessman was so confident that his identity being exposed as the Mastermind would trigger the second tragedy. Before Hiroko died, he remembered her discussing how Makoto wanted to help repair Hope's Peak Academy's reputation by going to great lengths to insure no one like Junko Enoshima would attend again. He knew Kano clearly was a famous figure in Japan, one people would immediately know who was an Ultimate that attended Hope's Peak Academy. People for hope would be enraged that Makoto had allowed another Junko Enoshima to attend the school who would go on to repeat her actions, while those for despair would see Kano as a leader to inspire them to spread despair. With both sides empowered, it would create the conflict Kano craved.

Taking a moment to allow his pale-blue eyes to glance around the trial room, he noticed the terrified expressions on his companions' faces. For a few brief seconds, the bitterness of regret formed in the pit of his stomach. He had insured them that exposing the Mastermind would end the killing game and bring everyone peace. Instead it only seemed like they had played right into the businessman's scheming hands. His teeth clenched tightly in rage as he slammed his fist on the stand.

"So in other words, you've already succeeded. Surely you're airing this killing game to everyone watching, just like Junko Enoshima." Toshiro noted in a defeated tone.

The baseball player inhaled sharply, preparing himself for more taunts to emerge from the twenty-eight year-old man.

"Funny thing about that, they actually don't know yet." Kano began to explain, surprising everyone in the room, "I couldn't afford to set up security measures to insure no one would disturb the killing game as that would have drawn people's attention to the factory before the killing game could even start. Now I simply couldn't have that. So I was left with no choice to have this entire killing game filmed and show it to the audience as a pre-recording rather live viewing like Junko's. That's why it was important that you guy's spirits be utterly crashed, hence why I killed your friend to start the final trial. No one would feel angry enough to come after me if they think you kids already beat me."

"Aren't you worried confessing this would only make the audience do the opposite that you claim they would?" Shizko questioned with confusion, not understanding why the older man felt at ease with confessing his intentions.

The purple-headed man snickered whilst waving his index finger, prompting the six teens to grow worried. He was convinced that he could admit to every single one of his dark secrets and he still would succeed in triggering the second tragedy. His smirk twitched into a demented grin, stating that his plan would work because people fear the past.

"Just think. With every murderer in this killing game, aside from the motives, what was the driving force that sent them to desperation for escape?" Kano asked while propping his hand underneath his chin.

Just with one glance, Leon could tell his companions all shared the same answer in their minds. He didn't want to admit it, but Kano had brought up a good point. Looking back at the previous trials, he knew each of the killers before being executed shared a common fear. Not a fear connected to their past but rather the past of the killing game itself. It was common knowledge that everyone forced to play the killing game feared dying like the victims of Class Seventy-Eight. It was that fear that served as the driving force as each killer desperately tried to fight for their lives in trial. It was a fear he didn't blame anyone for having, especially when he had held that same fear at the beginning of the killing game.

The red-head felt sick when he noticed Kano's grin grow larger and more confident. It was clear to him that the Mastermind had already realized that everyone had their answer. Allowing his sights to roam around the room once more, he saw all of his friend's were silent. He could see Isamu trembling in fear, Mineko hugging herself, Shizko crying with wide eyes, Naoko collapsed on his knees, and Toshiro staring in the floor in disbelief. All of them had fallen into despair at the realization that their drive to survive out of fear of dying like previous killing games victims only fulfilled Kano's wishes.

Leon's hands formed into two firm fists as he glared at the demented man before him. Before he was unnerved by the man's unhealthy obsession, now it simply annoyed him. He refused to back down and let the businessman have his way. No matter what, he intended to keep his promise to his friends both dead and alive. He would end the killing game and take down the Mastermind.

"There has to be something, anything to unnerve this guy." he thought to himself, "Think, out of everything in his mad ramblings, what is the one thing he can't stand?"

He took a few moments in thought until finally the answer struck him. The athlete's mouth twitched into a smile of confidence.

"Funny all this talk is coming from a guy that fears his own past repeating." he stated, prompting the older man to raise a brow in confusion, "You taunt us for fearing the past, yet you're scared of your life going back to boredom. So you concocted this insane plan in the hopes history would repeat itself and your boredom problem would be avoided."

Kano couldn't help but sneer at the teen's words, especially when he notice the others teens slightly perk up at their companion's words.

"I don't know what you're implying, but you've proven to do nothing but fear your past, Leon Kuwata." he replied with a hint of a snarl in his voice, "Isn't that why you've gotten this far? Isn't it because you were afraid to die in the killing game yet again? People who fear the past are doomed to repeat it! That's why I'm confident this killing game will trigger the second tragedy no matter what!"

"Originally, yes, I was trying to survive to avoid dying to a killing game yet again." Leon began, his smile never left his face, "But that fear eventually faded away, leaving me to careless if I died. I think we both know when was the moment I stopped fearing my past."

Snarls of frustration managed to escape Kano's mouth with his right eye twitching slightly. He knew the teen was referring to his sacrifice to save Mineko. It had both angered and shocked him when he had seen the red-head jump in the middle of the execution and risk his life to save his friend. It was too mind baffling for him to understand at the time, but now he knew the reason why. He knew that the teen was only wanted to at least save one of his friends from their punishment after standing by and watching three of his friends be executed.

"You're trying to convince us that we can do nothing but fear the past and that everyone would rather try to avoid it. Except I'm living proof that you're wrong. It's true some people would rather fear the past and try to run from it, but there's others that want to face it head on, just like I'm doing right now!" the nineteen year-old replied with conviction in his voice.

At that instant, Kano slammed his fist down on his stand, audible grunts and growls of rage emitting from his mouth.

"I hate when people insist I'm wrong. I'm not wrong, you just want to ruin my fun." he accused, his blue eyes full of anger, "You know, Kuwata, I found you amusing, now you're just annoying me. Why don't you just accept I've won and give up just like your friends?"

"Heh, you're even dumber than you think if you believe my friends have given up. They may feel down, but I won't let them forget the promises they made to everyone here!" Leon replied, his words successfully resonating with each of his companions.

Shizko pursed her lips with her eyes focusing on her hands. She could remember how she used to be afraid of losing a close friend. Memories of her coughing up liquid with pink pigments in secret in her room filled her mind. She had wanted no one to learn of her heart illness, worrying she only would leave behind heartbroken friends upon her death. Kiyoshi was the first one to shatter that concept for her. For the first time in her life, she had momentarily forgotten about her fears and simply enjoyed being the cartoonist's friend. It wasn't until Kiyoshi accidentally committed murder that she was reminded of her fears.

Tears brimmed in her eyes, prompting her to squeeze her eyes shut when she remembered Kiyoshi's sad smile and final words. Since that moment, the sculptor had allowed herself to grow close to her companions and make more friends. She took a moment to sniff as she wiped away her tears.; She knew Leon was right, she couldn't let the past scare her anymore. If she allowed that, she could almost picturing Kiyoshi being angry at her for giving up. Allowing her smile to shine bright on her face, she lifted up her head with a confident gaze.

"I made it this far for my friends. It would be silly if I gave up now. I won't let you tear me down like you did with so many of my friends!" she proudly proclaimed.

Naoko was surprised by his companion's words. It amazed him to see the silver-haired girl manage to overcome her negative emotions in such a short amount of time. His yellow eyes glance down to his feet bouncing back and forth a bit. Anxiety and depression were overwhelming him, especially with Kano's claims he would have helped trigger the second tragedy. His breath hitched at the thought the one thing he was trying to avoid would end up plaguing the world once again. He was no stranger to despair, especially after nearly succumbing to it himself when he tried to murder Shizko.

His thoughts drifted to his memories over the course of the killing game, it had disappointed him to learn his belief of staying positive prevents despair was wrong. But the one thing he learned was the peace he felt from facing that part of himself, evident with his encounters with Leon and Shizko. The ginger-headed teen sighed as he crossed his arms. He had only made it this far in the killing game because he had chosen to face his fear. Had he continued to ignore it, he would have snapped long ago and killed one of his friends in a desperate attempt to escape.

With his mind set, the sprint runner sighed before raising his gaze to the Mastermind and responded "If I had a mindset like yours, I wouldn't be here. It's only because I chose to face my fears that I learned it's okay to have some negative feelings. Keeping them bottled up is unhealthy and stressful. I have to thank my friends for helping me realize that. That is why I stand by Leon's stance that we need to face and accept the past, not constantly fear it!"

Toshiro pursed his lips as he considered his friend's words. In the past he was much like Kano. He was desperate to please people that he disillusioned himself. He had allowed himself to grow bitter and hateful all because he simply thought he was embracing the image people wanted him to be. But now, he could see he was being a heartless jerk. During the killing game, he had never stopped to consider how hurtful his praises of the executions were, especially to those mourning for their dead friends. He had treated the killing game as casual entertainment rather than a life threatening situation. He was blind to this fact until Hideyo had given up her life just to open his eyes to the situation he was in.

After that trial, he was forced to comes with terms with a part of himself he never wanted to admit having. He had always blamed people for his flaws, believing that simple hated him without any reasons. In his mind, he thought no one would come to care for him and he carried that thought process into the killing game. He sighed as he took off his green hat to run his freehand through his brown hair. The memory of Leon and Isas sticking with him despite being at his worst still stuck with him. The two could have easily used their emotions to dictate their actions would have resulted in everyone but Mineko being executed. But in the end they chose they have faith in him despite being at his worse at the time, showing that people do care about him.

"While I'm amazing in every way," the director began in his typical arrogant tone before shifting to a more serious one, "Hideyo forced me to take a good look at the ugly side of me I had been blindly harboring for years. That side was created from the fear of being hated by people. I was only able to reel in that part of myself by facing my past, something I could never do with your kind of mindset!"

Mineko raised her brows in surprise at the teen's words. She had never expected such wise words to come from Toshiro of all people, but she understood he was simply inspired by Leon and the others. Her hands clasped against her chest as Kano's words drifted in her mind. She hated to admit it, but she carried the very same mindset for many years of her life. She could recall her constant insistence of wishing not to be a burden all because of her past mistakes. Her hands tightened whilst she bit down on her lip. That fear had followed her into the killing game, with her trying to avoid staying out of other's way when she wasn't needed and always jumping at the first chance to help out when asked.

Her breath hitched when she realized that reason was precisely why Kano, under the guise of Monokuma, demanded she fix the broken camera. He wad getting ready to create a blackout and set her up in a trap that would leave her indirectly responsible for murder. Because she was constantly fearing her past, it had nearly lead to her death had she not been saved by Leon's desperate act of sacrifice. After that day, the music composer had forced herself to take a good look at herself. She kept looking back to the past, fearing repeating actions that would cause her to be a burden, but never considered learning from her mistakes. It was the first time in her life she looked back at what she did wrong and how she could improve, inspiring her to seek out clues herself.

"If it weren't Leon's sacrifice, I would have died never realizing how much of an idiot I was being about burdens." Mineko began with a smile, "Because I lived, I learned that avoiding the mistakes I made in the past doesn't mean I should avoid them completely. I need to learn from them which is what finally gave me the strength to help my friends end this killing game!"

Isamu remained silent from hearing all of her friends' words of confidence. Her eyes squeezed shut as the memory of Isas smiling her filled her mind. She had never stopped to consider how she would survive on her own in the killing game all because the racer had been by her side. Every time she grew anxious or depressed, he would be by her side with comforts of reinsuring and inspiring words. But now she no longer had that luxury, forced to move on alone. Her body trembled as many anxieties filled her mind. She had to wonder if they were truly capable of beating the Mastermind at his own game if they had only done what he wanted in the end.

Before she could slip deeper into her own despair, she almost swore she heard Isas' voice telling her not to give up. Her head immediately sprung up with a gasp, her eyes glancing around the room. She didn't see any sign of the deceased racer, leaving her to believe it was her subconscious trying to cheer herself up. The robotics expert smiled as she wiped away a few stray tears. She now realized what needed to be done. If it were the other way around, with her being deceased and Isas alive, she knew the racer would have pushed on for her sake.

"I was always afraid of falling into despair without Isas around. I knew how much I suffered from anxiety before he came into my life and never wanted to go back to that point of my life. But Isas is no longer with me, leaving me to endure this alone. Except now I don't fear my own despair. There was no way Isas could stay with me forever, which means I need to be brave on my own. After all, Isas would have done the same in my position. Besides, I still got my friends by my side!" the sandy-blonde-headed teen proudly proclaimed.

Seeing all his friends agreed with him, Leon smirked as he stared at the horrified form of the Mastermind.

"You see, Kano, we all feared the past at some point just like you." he began, his voice brimming with confidence and victory, "But we learned the one thing that never occurred to you; instead of constantly living in fear of the past we can learn from it. That is why we can look to the future with confidence, because we aren't afraid to face our pasts!"

Kano was practically seething with rage. His hands curled around the edges of his stand as he snarled. Suddenly without warning he began shouting a string of insults and counterarguments. He wouldn't allow the killing game to have a happy ending, otherwise everything he was working for toward for years will have gone to waste. As he continued, his mind was filled with memories of Takechi discovering his plot and trying to insist that nothing good would come of a killing game, leading him to be executed as an example to those who stood in his way.

Unable to handle his rage anymore, he screamed "Why are you trying to ruin this for me?! This killing game was my only chance at happiness!"

Leon sighed with the shake of his head. He couldn't believe the purple-headed man remained stubborn, even after hearing all of his friends' responses.

Deciding to put an end to the nightmare once and for all, he answered "You don't get it, Kano. You always had a choice. You say you didn't want to go back to your life of boredom. But your past doesn't control your present, you do. Had you came to realization with your position as the head of your your construction business, you could have used your past experiences to change your future without forcing anyone to play this hellish game!"

Kano was speechless from the red-head's words. He didn't understand how looking back to the past would have changed anything about his future. He was convinced from the moment he was born that there was no escape from the boring rich life for him. The tragedy was the only thing to shatter the tedious pattern of his daily life, leading him to believe that this was the only solution. But much to his disappointment, even that goal was now out of reach for him. Unable to handle the realization he had failed in breaking the surviving teens, a maniacal laugh slipped from his lips.

"Well I see I have no other choice left." he muttered as he reached into his pocket.

At first, Leon didn't understand what the man meant until he saw him toss something at him. Using his reflexes from baseball, he managed to easily catch the object. Much to his surprise, he saw in his hands was a large remote with a red button.

"That's the control for the lock on the entrance." Kano revealed, prompting the teens to glance up at him.

The survivors grew nervous when they saw the purple-headed man grinning sadistically while holding a small black remote in his hands.

"I refuse to go back to that boring hellish life of mine. So unless you want to be taken down with me, I suggest you all head for the elevator now. But either way, it's time for the moment you've all been waiting for. So get ready... IT'S PUNISHMENT TIME!" he laughed before pressing the button.

In that instant, all the Monokuma units lying around the room suddenly twitched to life.

Despairing Resignation of a Mastermind: Kano Sachio's Punishment

The sound of Kano's maniacal laughter filled the air as the Monokuma's units started dashing toward him. He grinned as he watched Leon yell at his companions to dash for the elevator. It didn't matter to him anymore the fate to befall the teens, all he wanted to do is escape his boring life. After all, a Mastermind being done in by their own execution seemed like a thrilling and exciting way for him to end life. His laughter continued as one of the Monokumas grabbed a hold of his leg and sunk its sharp teeth into it. Even through the pain, Kano continued to laugh, feeling the sensation of excitement overwhelm him.

Within seconds, more Monokumas swarmed him, digging their claws and teeth into his body. But the Mastermind continued to laugh, spreading out his arms wide to welcome his death. A small hiss escaped his mouth when he felt some Monokumas dig their claws into his waist while pulling down hard. In that instant, his body started sinking in the swarm of Monokumas. Glancing toward the elevator, he saw the door close with Leon staring at him from the the other side of the caged door. He easily noticed the teen's pale-blue eyes were filled with nothing but disappointment and pity for him. This prompted him to let out one last maniacal laugh before slowly sinking into the swarm of Monokumas. The last that was seen of him was his hand extended skyward before it disappeared as well.

Leon sighed as he squeezed his eyes shut. He considered Kano's execution gruesome, but couldn't completely feel sorry for the man. After all, he knew the businessman had allowed himself to succumb to his own fears to the point he would rather die than face his past. Shifting his thoughts away from the demented businessman, he reopened his eyes as the elevator reached its destination. Without a word, he traveled with his friends to the entrance of the factory; the first place they all met at the beginning of the killing game. It wasn't long till they finally reached the large set of metal doors sealed closed by a computer lock.

"Wow, feels kind of nostalgic to be back here. Back to where everything started." Toshiro noted.

"There was more people then. So many people died to this nightmare. I can't believe it's finally over." Mineko sighed.

"I almost thought it would never end, that we would be trapped in here until our deaths. Yet here we are." Naoko said with a small smile.

"We actually made it." Isamu said while trying to fight back her tears, "We survived."

"Kiyoshi and everyone who died would be happy for us. I hope their souls will be at peace now." Shizko replied, her hand unconsciously rubbing her arm at the thought of all her deceased friends.

Leon smiled at his friends, their words bringing happiness to his heart. He couldn't help but feel proud. Not only did he help his friends survive and take down the Mastermind, but he managed to keep his promise to Sayaka. Now all that was left for him was to continue living his life, enjoying every moment he has, looking toward a bright future. With this thought in mind, he pressed the red button on the remote. None of the teens uttered a word as the doors creaked open. For a brief moments they were blinded by the light of the outside world, but this light reminded them that the nightmare was finally over.

Back in the basement of the factory, Kano groaned as his eyes slowly slid open. He saw his body was lying in a broken and bloody pile, surrounded by the now deactivated Monokuma units.

"I'm... I'm alive?" he managed to croak out.

Using what strength he had left, he twisted his head upward to glance at his body. He noticed the Monokumas managed to severely injure him, but due to too many swarming him at once, they mostly ended up damaging themselves. This caused his vital organs to remain mostly untouched. Seeing he had failed to die to his own punishment, he threw back his head in anguish. Tears streamed down his face as a mixture of laughter and sobbing erupted from his mouth. He had tried to plunge people into despair in order to create conflict, even go so far to try to become the next the Junko Enoshima. But in the end, the only one who ended up drowning in despair was him.

The moment the teens stepped out of the factory, they were immediately surrounded by men in black suits. Leon watched as each of his companions were taken aside by the people in suits, leaving only one person to stand before him. His pale-blue eyes widened as his heart nearly stopped when he saw the man standing before him. He looked older and nearly completely different from the last time he saw him, especially with the black suit he wore, but he easily remembered the shaggy brown hair with the ahoge on top.

Makoto stared at the red-head before him in shock. He immediately rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn't seeing things, but his vision never changed.

Wanting to make sure he wasn't going crazy, he asked in an unsure tone "Leon? Is that really you?"

Leon sighed with a small laugh, seeing his friend hadn't changed much over the years. Without saying a single word, he allowed his mouth to twitch into its signature smirk. He felt no words were necessary, after all just one glance at him and anyone could see that Leon Kuwata was reborn.