Case Five: Cops and Robbers
Warnings: Some blood/a rather messy scene, and it's an AU. See below for details on the AU itself – it relates to Dangan Ronpa, but no knowledge of that series is required to read this story.
Length: 11,600 words.
Ship: Lonershipping (Mai X Thief King Bakura)
Handicap: Because it's important to the plot, I won't reveal it until the end.
Important Note: This story is a crossover of sorts with/an AU inspired by the Dangan Ronpa series. However, the characters from those games do not appear in the fic (with the sole exception of the ever–present Monobear), and the fic is very much readable without having prior knowledge of that series.
And before I go on, I'd just like to say something to that Person In The Contest (you know who you are!): Imitation is the finest form of flattery - and yes, I basically ripped off someone else there. Yeah, maybe I didn't attempt anything with the fandoms you used, but you still showed me that crossovers can actually work, which is a major part of the reason I even gave this silly idea a shot. Thankyou, muchos!
Anyway, for those not acquainted with Dangan Ronpa, here's the basics:
– Sixteen people wake up one day to find themselves trapped inside a school, with little clue of how they got there or who their colleagues are. All they have in common is that each of the sixteen are talented at something, and have received a title of a 'Super High School Level Something" at some point in the past (often abbreviated to "SHSL Something") – for instance, "Super High School Level Nurse" and "Super High School Level Good Luck" are both existing titles in the games.
– The group is given access to food, shelter, their own rooms, and so on; they are looked after by a mysterious controller who speaks only through a robotic bear puppet called Monobear. However, they are completely blocked off from the outside world, and there is no way out, aside from 'graduating': killing someone else, and not getting caught doing it. Occasionally, Monobear releases motives to kill, such as refusing to give the characters food until someone dies. There is a limit of two on how many people a culprit may kill.
– If a death occurs, a public announcement is made once at least three people who are not the culprit see the body. After this announcement, a short time period is allowed for investigating and evidence–hunting, followed by a 'trial' in which all the surviving characters attempt to figure out the killer. At the end of the trial, they all vote on who they feel did the deed – if they are correct in their guess, only the culprit is executed, and a new area of the school is opened up. If they are incorrect, everyone but the murderer is executed, and the culprit is allowed to leave. If an accomplice is involved, they will be treated as though they had no part in the murder - they will be killed if the murderer 'wins' the trial.
– As a general rule, the murders make use of the culprit's special ability in some way; for instance, a SHSL Mechanic might do something to the cameras that lets them carry out their murder and/or frame someone else (not that this happens, but it's a good example).
This story takes place after four murder cases have been solved successfully in this way, thus the title of 'Case Five'.
If we catch a criminal,
There's nothing you or I can do,
Line them up against the wall
I'll get a gun and shoot them all...
The Hoosiers – "Cops and Robbers", which is... thematically appropriate, but musically inappropriate for this one.
Case Five: Cops and Robbers
The day after an execution is always a bad day, but today, Otogi decides, is worse than usual. There is no chatter between the six survivors as they hunch over their breakfasts, no friendly looks given – in fact, they do not even bother to wait for Marik to arrive before they begin breakfast. They simply eat, no–one sparing an ounce of energy on anyone else–
–well, Mai Kujaku calmly kissing the man known only as Thief casually forgotten all about, of course.
It's definitely not an easy task for Otogi to ignore it, however – as unlikely as the pair is, as much as he'd like to pretend that what's happening right now never happened and never will, the fact remains that the kissing has been a regular part of the breakfast routine for some days now. The whole stupid thing started when Thief lost that fateful bet to Otogi's Super High School Level Good Luck, and had never really stopped. It was a joke that had somewhere in the middle become serious, probably around when Atem forced Thief to take the punishment and kiss Mai – come to think of it, he hadn't meant for that to be the punishment in the first place, seeing as the Super High School Level Socialite was near–certain to have given Thief a beating he wasn't about to forget. No – someone else must have suggested that, and the suggestion had been taken up, and then poor Mai was being kissed by the thief whilst the other boys laughed sheepishly and looked away, glancing back occasionally to see if the unwilling suitor had been thumped yet – only Thief must have done something right, because Mai decided to continue with the kissing. That, of course, brings us back to where we were before and are now, at the breakfast table four days later, with Otogi keeping his head down and trying desperately to find something very interesting about the arrangement of his rice bubbles.
To the raven–haired teenager, the kissing is quite a disgusting display, always was and always will be. After all, in Otogi's opinion, it's enough to put anyone off eating for life, definitely not something he's happy about seeing at breakfast – and yet somehow, he eats whilst it's going on; in fact, that's exactly what they all do. Luckily for him, most of the time it's possible to leave the room as soon as the cuddling starts – but the breakfast kiss is, put simply, unavoidable if one wants to eat; the two of them arrive always punctually to the cafeteria at the sound of Monobear's raucous voice, and remain for the duration of the time allotted to breakfast. It's not like the compulsory viewing would have been an issue for Otogi if the kissing was at all nice or pretty or romantic, but there isn't much beauty that can be taken from the sight of a battered and scarred man greedily attempting to eat whatever 'breakfast' lies between an aristocrat's lips, his fingers leaving black trails through her hair and down her neck. The general silence at the table only makes it even worse; one can hear the ugly little sucking sounds of lips parting and pressing back together, the soft little moans and hisses that make Otogi realize why exactly people clap so loudly at weddings. No–one wants to hear that sort of thing; heck, no–one wants to see it, not unless the two kissers are both immaculately dressed, so that the nobodies of the crowd can then pretend that it's not real, something utterly fantastic...
Suddenly, Thief breaks off the kiss, wipes his chin with the back of his hand, leans back in his chair, and after a long pause, decides to muse out loud: "Breakfast isn't quite the same without Ryuuzaki, is it?"
Being all too happy to put the whole kissing thing out of mind, Otogi wisely figures that he has a point, and focuses solely on that point as opposed to anything else. With Ryuuzaki's death, his execution yesterday, they've lost an important part of the atmosphere – breakfast just isn't the same without him and his idiotic jokes, his wooden dinosaur models battling joke titles out on the table, his constant attempts to take Kaiba down a peg or hit it off right with Mai. It lasted the whole two weeks that they've been cooped up here – and now, with him gone, all that's left of the once dynamic group is a scattering of broken alliances and icy stares, a far cry from the friendships that used to exist (again, ignoring the bizarre attraction between Mai and Thief, which is hardly a friendship so much as a relationship anyway). Granted, Thief and Kaiba have never been the friendliest of people – but when even Anzu Mazaki – the Super High School Level Cheerleader, for goodness's sake – appears to be sadly contemplating the meaning of life in her cornflake bowl, and the determined Super High School Level Pharaoh Atem isn't spouting one of his usual 'we must believe in hope!' speeches, Otogi can't help but feel a bit hopeless himself.
The main problem, he decides after some thought, is that Ryuuzaki just didn't deserve it; not to have been forced to kill in self–defense, and certainly not to have been executed in the utterly undignified way that he was. The worst bit must surely be that the Super High School Level Archeologist hadn't hidden away the evidence, hadn't even tried to hide what he'd done – he'd simply gone back to the creaking, rusty springs of his mattress and cried himself to sleep, leaving the corpse of the demon who tried to kill him lying where it had fallen by his bedside. The next day, he'd barely tried to lie; only the decree from Monobear had forced him to lie before the trial, and he had immediately confessed as soon as he was allowed to. Tough as he pretended to be, Ryuuzaki clearly hadn't been able to handle killing someone – and yet, the seven of them had sentenced Ryuuzaki to a horrible, horrible death; to be pursued for half an hour, and eventually crushed by the very dinosaurs he so much loved researching.
What... what has happened to us? Two weeks was all it took, for all of us total strangers to become... this. We're monsters, almost. Self–denying, traitorous, hardly any human left in ourselves...
Otogi stares about gloomily at the others. They used to look so much more cheerful, even though they were in the same situation back then (yes, a whole two weeks is now a 'back then', how slowly time goes when one's in such a bad situation!). Maybe they were just acting, and he didn't know how to tell, seeing as they were all strangers to him, as they were strangers to each others – but now, he definitely can see in their eyes that they're all getting close to giving up altogether, survival instinct being all that keeps them alive – even Atem, the ultra–disciplined member of the group, is hunched over, looking a little pale.
"At least there's only one trial left to go", Mai says quietly, snapping Otogi from his reverie. "And it appears that someone has made use of the motive Monobear released last night..." Purple eyes lock with green, pause; the moment is brief, the Super High School Level Socialite soon turning her attention to the rest of the table, but it still leaves the raven–haired teen feeling somewhat intimidated. Maybe he shouldn't have stared when Thief was kissing her; Otogi knows that if that's the case, he's lucky to have gotten away with a mere withering look. Just because he has the dubious title of "Super High School Level Good Luck" definitely doesn't mean that he should abuse it.
"The game", Kaiba growls, and Mai nods, all business as usual. In fact, before she's opened her mouth, Otogi knows what she's about to say; the expectation alone sends his heart plummeting into his stomach. Trying hard to keep the disgust off his face, he pushes his bowl away, waiting patiently for her words.
"Yes. Someone has played it."
"But we all agreed not to play that game!", Atem snarls, scattering crumbs from his toast in all directions. Anzu nods furiously with him, blue eyes narrowed in anger.
"It was a promise!"
"Then please explain this", Mai purrs, drawing a slip of paper from her jacket pocket and placing it on the table. It is clearly a receipt for the game; its title ("Sands of Egypt") printed across the top, with a single name next to the score. The blonde passes the paper around the table without another word, Otogi struggling to keep the horror off his face when he sees the name. He certainly struggles to manage that, too – after all, this person was once described by the ever–calculating Kaiba as 'the single most dangerous player in this game'.
Much as Otogi would like to believe otherwise, it all makes horrible, horrible sense that Marik would have taken up the motive; and looking at the others, he can see that they think so as well.
The one person who still isn't here at breakfast...
The one person who never promised not to play last night, because he fainted when he saw Ryuuzaki die...
"Laws are useless, Pharaoh!", Thief says in a sing–song fashion, his voice echoing far too joyously in the grim atmosphere, grinning cheerfully even as he watches Atem fume. "One of us was going to play the game, sooner or la–"
"Quiet!", the other teenager growls, his voice so menacing that a complete silence falls over the table. The scraping back of his chair when he stands is like a sword being drawn from a scabbard; he cuts an impressive sight in his robes, despite his small stature. "Regardless of whether or not laws are useless, someone could die because another person went and broke this particular law! Do you understand?"
To Otogi's surprise, the Super High School Level Thief merely shrugs off the verbal blow with deceptive ease, smiling sweetly at his opponent as though he's heard it all before, even as he waves Atem back into a sitting position. "Oh, I understand, of course. But, I must ask this – what if someone else is killed? Why should I care? I mean–"
The double doors of the cafeteria fly open, and in storms Marik – striped pyjamas clinging to his thin frame, his straw–coloured hair messy as though he just got out of bed, and his expression undoubtedly one of unbridled fury. The Super High School Level Hypnotist sways a moment against the door, displaying weakness for a second – but he soon straightens and charges noisily towards the rest of the group, vaulting over tables and chairs in his haste to reach his target.
"You! I might have known it was you!", he snarls, and pausing perhaps a metre away from Atem, the golden Hypnotizing Rod glittering in his right hand, he jabs it angrily in the Pharaoh's general direction. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't force your body to stop breathing! And make sure it's a good reason!"
The other teen reluctantly breaks off his staring match with Thief to confront this new threat, glaring his way; however, Kaiba intervenes before the Pharaoh can reply to the challenge, his voice taking on a high–and–mighty air. "Could you at least try to explain what you are talking about?"
In reply, Marik points accusingly at Atem's head. "He should know already! After all, he's the one who killed my family!"
"I what?" Atem blinks in surprise, then rises from his chair once more, taking a cautious step back from the Egyptian. "Whatever makes you say that?"
"What makes me say that? I'll tell you what makes me say that, murderer!", Marik yowls, advancing furiously towards the Pharaoh. He might be scrawny and under the bright lights of the cafeteria, but he still cuts an intimidating sight somehow; his eyes glint dangerously in the harsh lighting, and the floppy cloth of his pyjamas flaps where it hangs loose around his wrists and ankles, for instance, making it appear as though he is caught in a storm of his own creation. "That game was based on real events! My family are executed by Your Majesty, and you get this when you win!" He hurls something at his enemy, just missing Atem's head; the other teenager ducks, and the projectile skitters across the table, Otogi picking it up and passing it around the group without a word. It is a glossy photo, taken with a fairly good camera, of three Egyptians battered and bleeding on the floor, with what can only be described as a ten–year–old Marik whimpering on the floor besides them.
The Pharaoh merely stares silently at his opponent, barely flinching when Marik tears the end off his Hypnotizing Rod, flinging this at the table so violently that they automatically cower in response, Otogi wincing as the piece of metal swishes over his head, humming as it cuts through the air. However, this is far less of a worry than what is left of the Hypnotizing Rod – for now the Egyptian is brandishing a long dagger, the golden end glinting maliciously in the cafeteria's white light.
"S–say something! Anything!" The last word is the very definition of a scream, a final, desperate yowl, the Egyptian's voice strained and hoarse – and yet Atem still says nothing, standing with his head inclined politely in his opponent's direction (almost coldly, but not quite). To Marik, Otogi imagines, this silence is nothing less than a call to arms – and sure enough, the general lack of a response only makes the hypnotist even angrier. Cutting loose with a blood–curdling shriek of fury, Marik charges straight at his opponent, bowling Atem over for what seems to be the sole purpose of snarling – no, stuttering – accusations in his face. The blonde's crying for the first time Otogi's ever seen, and something tells him that there's every chance that Marik will kill the young Pharaoh right there and then; something inside his psyche has clearly gone snap, you can see it in his eyes and hear it in the sobs disguised as stutters.
"A–admit it! You killed my family! I know you did! Even if I don't remember you, if my memories of you and everyone have been wiped... This phot proves that you did it! A–and... and in revenge, I should–"
Atem doesn't even allow him the luxury of finishing, doesn't let him think that he's in control for a moment; instead, he goes on the offensive, seemingly unimpressed with Marik's hinting. "If you kill me, what will that solve?"
Otogi doesn't even get the time to think 'That was a bad move' before it's all over.
"It'll solve everything! You'll see!", Marik screams; as he brings the Hypnotizing Rod down towards his target, point first. It happens in slow motion, the point coming closer and closer to the Pharaoh's exposed neck, Marik leaning into the attack, the girls on the verge of screaming, even Kaiba's usual mask momentarily vanishing as the young duelist gapes in shock–
– and then the Egyptian abruptly flops over onto his side, the dagger sinking deep into the carpet, as the Super High School Level Thief calmly pushes back his chair and gets to his feet, his right hand held stiffly before him, fingers spread wide as though they are being pulled away from each other by invisible strings. "Much as I'd like to see you dead, Pharaoh, there's really no point if it's done in front of all of us. We would all be killed if that happened, after all."
So saying, the pale–haired teen yawns loudly, then flicks his hand upwards, Marik jerking up and off Atem, like a marionette dragged across the stage by a cruel puppetmaster. Another few hand gestures, and the Egyptian is standing with Thief leering over his shoulder, both teens facing the Pharaoh. The Super High School Level Thief smirks playfully as he reverses whatever he's gone and done, letting his right hand fall until it drops heavily onto Marik's shoulder. "And seeing as you just tried to kill Atem, I guess you'll want to run about now."
Disoriented for a moment, the Egyptian freezes on the spot, shaking in fright as Thief draws a rope from the folds of his robe, abusing his height advantage for all it's worth whilst he drags the coarse cord across Marik's exposed neck. "Or maybe, if you don't run, we should tie you up. Maybe I'm just a stranger who you've known only two weeks, but I think you'll find that I'm very good at kno–"
And Marik evidently can't take any more of it at that stage, because he turns and runs, darting over tables and knocking down chairs in his haste to get away. Kaiba leaps from the table with a low growl, and gives chase, Anzu and Mai following suit as Otogi struggles to come out of his shocked state. By the time he can move properly, the others are disappearing out the door, Atem getting to his feet, Thief settling back against the table as he looks on. "Soul–stealing really drains me..." He yawns. "Hey, aren't you going to run?"
We ran down the corridor after Marik, but he was fast; he dodged us at every turn, and made it to the lift – after that there was nothing we could do but wait the minute it took for the lift to return empty, seeing as the stairs were on the other side of the school.
The raven–haired teen heaves a sigh, leaning against the wall with arms folded as he tries to catch back his breath; monologuing is freaking hard after you've been running. You can't even run a thought monologue properly, because your brain only seems to run in between your gasps, and jumps from word to word, and so the above italicized text is a very rough approximation of Otofi's attempt at a monologue, which in all honesty went much more like 'ran... Marik... dodged... t–tired... lift', albeit with more swearwords and a very liberal use of onomatopoeia (both omitted for clarity's sake).
At least Marik is less dangerous now, for his Hypnotizing Rod was found by Kaiba on the floor near the lift – it must have fallen out of the Egyptian's belt – but the Egyptian is still dangerous quarry, panicked as he is. At this thought, Otogi automatically looks over at Atem; the young Pharaoh is shaking, and he's ultimately the most likely to be targeted by Marik, but the determination in his eyes says it all.
"We're going to have to split up to find Marik", Mai points out as they wait. "Maybe we shou–"
"Atem, you're the obvious target. Search the ground floor", Kaiba decides after a moment. "Of course, I am the strongest out of all of you, and the Pharaoh is undoubtedly the weakest, so I will patrol this floor as well. Everyone else, go to the second floor." And before any of the others can argue with that, he's gone, striding away with his white coat billowing behind him in some unseen breeze as the lift doors creak open.
The journey upwards is slow, tense, and on the whole uneventful; Otogi hoping against hope that maybe the lift will become stuck, or Marik will magically appear bound and gagged in the centre of it. Neither happens, of course, and so he reluctantly splits up with Mai and Anzu at the top, each taking a different corridor at the T–Junction that greets them on stepping out. Taking the passage directly in front of him, the raven–haired teen moves silently forwards, opening the first door he finds with a terrible feeling deep in his stomach. It slowly creaks open, and the first thing Otogi sees is the red of the carpet, as he slowly moves his eyes upwards with a horrible sense of dread, until he realizes that he's looking at the ceiling and still hasn't seen anything worthy of such dread. On the whole, there is nothing out of the ordinary in the sight before him, just another Identical Classroom Number One, with a rude message courtesy of Monobear scrawled on the blackboard. Identical Classroom Number Two is the same, and so is Number Three, and Number Four, and so on and so forth; the once tense moment fast becoming dull and boring and repetiti–
– until the door of Classroom Number Twenty – Six slams behind him, as he checks under a desk at the center of the room. It cannot be a draft, for the windows of the classroom are blocked with plates of solid steel; Otogi knows what's coming, even before he turns around to see a tan blur coming at him, just barely managing to halt its momentum before it can smash the raven–haired teen into the nearest wall. Marik's panting, amethyst eyes wide and wary, seeming to search Otogi's face for any sign of trust. The teen guesses that the Egyptian must have found it; as he shoves what at first appears to be a red business card into Otogi's hand a moment later, though the mess of scarlet dripping all over his slender fingers tells a different story.
For a long moment, the teen looks up, into Marik's worried face, before he slowly looks back down, dreading what he's about to be shown, yet silently accepting that he has to look; there's no other way to move this sick plot along. The message has been written in dark blue pen, on stiff white cardboard, and recently dipped in what he prays is red food colouring – yeah, it's just, very thick, very dark, very red food colouring, slick crimson trickling over Otogi's wrists as he stares in silence, desperately trying to understand what this all means before his brain can even begin to translate what the words on the card actually say. By the time the letters finally start to get some semblance of meaning, he's already well into the process of hypothesizing what the heck's going on – if Marik has really found the letter, if it's all just a setup, if maybe someone's dead, if it's just a wild goose chase, if, if if– justice and blood, the realization hits him at last, and he's running back towards the lift without another word, praying silently on the way down that what could have happened, might have happened, might have could have not no no no–
–'If you want to see justice, come to the bedrooms' – that's what the goddamn card said, and that's exactly where they run, feet flying as they skid on the polished wood of the floor, Marik only just stopping himself from smacking into walls when he takes corners a little too hard. Otogi has somewhat better balance than that, but not much better; this floor clearly wasn't made for running on, and so they slip and slide all the way back to the lift. The ride back down to the ground floor is spent in a silence as cold as the metal doors, doors that Otogi's always half–hoping won't open; but they do, and then–
...well, after a long and thoroughly boring search through Otogi's belongings, the two of them find him in Marik's bedroom, with eyes glassy and unseeing, his face twisted into an expression of terror that roughly mirrors the horrified expressions of the people who discover him. Long gashes cover his arms and chest from where he has been stabbed, and they ooze blood; the white covers of the bed becoming spattered red as the liquid silently drips off the young man's arms. Not even Kaiba's barging into the room with a rough noise can stop a high keening from continuing, utterly shattering the deathly peace. It's a horrible noise, rough and grating – and to make matters worse, it's one that Otogi only realizes that is the sound of his own scream when he eventually runs out of air, and draws a halting breath, his jaws clacking shut like a rat–trap as he desperately fights his own instinct. His consciousness isn't helping; it's yelling that it's wrong, all wrong; Atem is dead, dead, dead
because someone killed him
you know it's true
"I... can't believe it", the Egyptian comments after a long silence – then his will simply seems to give out, and he faints as he always does at the sight of blood, falling with a little coughing gasp and a dull thump as his knees hit the wooden floorboards. Luckily for his face, Otogi just catches him before Marik can smack his head, lowering the unconscious teenager gently to the ground. Kaiba, being Kaiba, steps smartly over the two of them, moving swiftly to the body on the bed. He stands there over it with his back to Otogi, tall and gaunt, back ramrod straight as he contemplates the mess–that–was–once–Atem in stony silence; when he speaks, his tone is crisp and cold.
"Dead", he muses. "Dead, dead, dead – and yet, there is no Monobear announcement for his death, despite us three seeing it..." Turning back to his companions, the Super–High–School–Level Duelist waits triumphantly for some sort of response; though he is undoubtedly disappointed by Otogi's reaction. After a moment of them staring at each other (Kaiba's meaningful gaze revealing absolutely nothing, Otogi's puzzled stare failing to impress), the brunette lets the other teen off the hook with a derisive snort. "Leave him here. We should find the others."
The shock of a dead body once again shoves Otogi into an obedient state, and so he obeys the order; following the other man as they sweep out of the room and down the corridor. The world, in the teenager's mind, is currently composed of short sentences and little details, seconds skipping between his steps – now that they're at the end of the corridor, now they've found Anzu stepping from the elevator, now they're heading back, because Kaiba has just dictated that one more person seeing the body should be enough (though being his usual self, he hasn't exactly said why. They walk the long, dull, walk down the corridor, past dark grey walls and scuffed white doors, and it is indeed long and dull; predictable, and for a moment, Otogi feels that everything is safe and predictable as well.
But only for a moment, because then time skips again.
The little group starts to run when they hear a distressed yelp from somewhere further down, quickly seguing into an all–out scream; and when they break into a sprint, Otogi finds that the corridor simply blurs, as though he were in a badly filmed movie. The doors go out of focus as they speed past, the grey walls mixing with them in colour, the brown of the wooden floor bleeding into them, until all that is real is the firm hand of Kaiba bundling him along, and the sound of his own panicked gasps ringing in his ears. Even Marik's wail of terrified confusion or confused terror (or whatever it is) becomes mixed with the dull throb of the air conditioner (if they ever had one, did they ever have one); or perhaps it is a fan, but Otogi will never know now, because everything's a haze around him, it's not like he could answer his own buzzing questions about air conditioners and floors and floor conditioners, even if he honestly wanted to answer them–
–they stop, and the world comes snapping forwards like an elastic band on a slingshot, slamming into ridiculous amounts of detail, before it recoils backwards into vagueness, and then begins to swing, a pendulum of focus and unfocus, Otogi's head reeling as his brain desperately tries to make sense of it all. It takes him over a minute to straighten and taken in his surroundings properly, so muddled is his head, but what he sees only confuses him more – for Marik is sitting up on the floor, knees drawn up to his chest, whimpering like a baby animal. "Are you all right?", the raven – haired teen asks after a moment, despite knowing full well that his addressee definitely isn't; asking is what you do in this sort of situation, after all.
At the sound of Otogi's voice, the Egyptian attempts to drag himself up, leaning against the wall in a desperate attempt to not fall over, his voice barely above a hoarse whisper. "I... I just woke up, and Atem–" Here, Marik nearly loses his balance, and the raven–haired teen quickly shoves him into the wall. Luckily, the technique works, even if it puts them both in a great position for the fangirls, and the Egyptian does grunt a bit in mixed pain and surprise.
"Um. That body you mentioned on the way – was it in here?"
Shifting around so that he is no longer viewing the bizarre sight of Marik pinned to the plaster, Otogi sees that Anzu is standing in the doorway, confusion written all over her features. Kaiba stands next to hear, mouth hanging wide for the first time Otogi's ever seen it; but then it shuts with an ugly clack, the Super High School Level Duelist turning on his heel and rushing from the room. A bit more shifting around, and the raven–haired teenager finds that he can see what they were looking at – the bed.
Yes, not the body, the bed, because it's not like you can look at something that isn't there, even if it was there only five minutes ago.
Sure enough, there are bloody footprints leading from the room now, spots of blood on the bedcovers, but little else – Atem has completely vanished in the few minutes it took Otogi and Kaiba to find Anzu and bring her here. The teenager stands agog, his suddenly shaky legs just barely able to support the weakened Egyptian, who has now decided that leaning on him is a better idea than being forcibly held against the wall. It's ridiculous, preposterous, it can't be – and yet it is; the body's completely vanished without trace, and in a matter of minutes as well.
Somewhere, out in the hallway, Otogi can hear Kaiba charging about, boots slapping loudly on the wood as the duelist throws his weight against every single locked door in the corridor – until, judging from the crash and the bang, he falls straight through a door that wasn't closed properly with yell of surprise. Anzu turn and sprints towards the open door across the hall, calling anxiously after him:
"Kaiba, are you all righ–"
And then she screams.
It takes painful, painful seconds to cross the hall, the duo's progress slowed exponentially from Marik's fatigue, but as soon as Otogi enters, he promptly wishes that they'd never made it; collapsed on the floor outside the door, perhaps, that would be fine. After all, here is Atem's body, lying as though it had always been there, blood trickling onto the white sheets, Anzu and Kaiba standing in pure shock as the announcement crackles through the speakers. Marik, needless to say, faints all over again, and Otogi just barely manages to hold back a second scream.
"A body has been discovered in Seto Kaiba's room..."
"It was Marik, wasn't it?"
It's not so much the dialogue preceding this line, as the long silence following it which is important; for it marks the end of the game for each of them, the end of the small talk exchanged over a dead body and the usual canoodling between Mai and Thief. Here is where the accusations start, where the trial before The Trial begins – after all, it's been at least twenty minutes after the death, and aside from the usual useless Monobear File, the bloody footprints leading out of the other room and into this one, and the curious lack of blood on Atem's palms and fingers up to the second joint, none of them have found a single clue – no murder weapon, no hidden message, nothing. This, then, indicates that there are no further clues to be found – and so all eyes turn to the obvious suspect, sitting with his back pressed against the wall, as he quietly recovers from the experience of a double fainting.
Or, perhaps, he was recovering; now, with Mai's fresh accusation ringing in their ears, Marik's got that sick look back on his face, and is holding his head in both hands. "I – I didn't do it. I'm sick of hearing it, I didn't really want to kill him or anything, please believe me..."
Silence falls again. No–one really wants to agree with the accusation, of course – but the silence alone is proof that they all silently support the sentiment. Not even Otogi objects; waiting and waiting and praying that Marik has at least something to prove himself innocent. But nothing is said, not until the Egyptian breaks down with a little whimper of terror, his tough act all gone to pieces.
Kaiba, being Kaiba, snorts. "You had better save that for the trial." He sends Otogi a sharp look. "You. We do not have long until the investigation period is ended by Monobear. Recite everything that we know for certain."
Thief sighs, running his fingers several times through his hair in a sign of slowly building frustration. "Do we have to go through this?"
"Yes. He will tell it to us, and you will listen. Otogi, you may start."
That's a command without a doubt, and for an instant the raven–haired teen considers refusing to answer simply because it's a command (Thief certainly doesn't like it, judging from the glare he gives Kaiba) – but eventually, Otogi decides against that idea. It's extremely important that they try to find out who killed Atem, after all – because if they don't get the right person, they'll all be annihilated in the culprit's place, making the deaths of those who came before them worth absolutely nothing. Thus, the teenager takes a deep breath, then recites the details that over the past twenty minutes have been burned into his brain:
"The Monobear File did not state the cause of death, only the time – that was nine–thirty in the morning. It also said that before his death, Atem suffered stab injuries from a sharp blade of some description. We couldn't find it anywhere, though. There was no announcement when Marik, Kaiba, and I found the body in Marik's room, but there was an announcement about five minutes later when Anzu joined us and we found the body the second time, only it was now in Kaiba's room. At the time of the second discovery, there were footprints leading from Marik's room and into Kaiba's room, but there were none going into Marik's room or out of Kaiba's room…" He trails off, choking on his words as though they have been harshly shoved back down his throat by some force unseen – the ghost of Atem, perhaps, with its fingers down his–
–don't think about that!
Kaiba nods curtly. "That is all. Now, Thief–"
"Oh, I expect I will be... shall we say, busy." He grins cheekily, leaning quite deliberately on Mai. "Very, very busy. Mai and I have work to do, don't we, dear?"
Otogi's jaw drops; he's surprised to the point where it takes Marik savagely kicking a sneaker into his side to make the other teenager try to keep a straight face. It's definitely not Thief's way to be flirtatious; he tends to just take what he can get, whenever he wants it.
Kaiba smirks. "It's not like you two were going to be much help, anyway. I will take Anzu with me in my investigations. Otogi, you should just keep watch on Marik and the body until the trial comes around." His eyes rest on Thief for a moment, and the raven–haired teen can't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, the duelist is challenging the robber to a game of some kind...
And then, with a swish of his white jacket and a cry of "Wait for me!" from Anzu, Kaiba has turned on his heel and strode away.
Now, all there is left to do is wait.
As I rode that rickety lift downwards with the others, I realized that for the very first time, I hadn't done a single bit of investigating for a case. None of us had, really, aside from Kaiba, who had made sure that the rest of us stayed together in the room with Atem – Mai, Thief, myself, Marik, Anzu. He said that he couldn't trust us, and hadn't exactly been subtle; though I guess it's true that for once, none of us seemed to have an alibi. Mai was Thief and Thief was Mai's, but Kaiba didn't seem to believe them; maybe he had seen or heard something on his patrols, or maybe he was simply well aware of their relationship; it wasn't like they were trying to hide it after all, kissing even in the lift as though it was to be their last one…
…Anyway. This, I told myself on that silent, yet somehow shaky ride – this was the final trial, what all the others were sacrificed for. And when I thought about that, I couldn't help but see the strangers of two weeks ago, everyone disoriented and wondering where they were, who they were, what was going on, and then they were dying, one by one–
(Such a cheerful girl, a Super–High–School–Level Fangirl – but she was killed by a deadly toxin, collapsing right in front of us…)
(Always aloof, mysterious, a Super High School Level Psychic – executed, despite his confession; he just wanted to go home to his little brothers...)
Ryou and Jounouchi
(Unlikely friends, yet inseparable; the Role–Player and the Street Fighter killed each other in a game of death, but not their game...)
(The one–and–only Super High School Level Fisherman, generous, naive, and murdered in such a strange way: hung by his own fishing rod…
(A Super High School Level Inventor – executed, and the one guy I was half glad to see go, even if it was such a horrific way to die...)
(Marik's hatred, put into its own body to save us the trouble of working out which was which – a Super High School Level Psychopath, stabbed...)
(The Archaeologist, who killed in self defense; I swear he screamed "It wasn't murder!" just before that robotic dinosaur stomped on him...)
–and now, here we are, two weeks since Vivian and a day since Ryuuzaki left us. The doors have creaked open, showing us the final – well, not the final light, because it's actually darker in the trial room than it is in the lift. So, I guess we see the final dark, and we walk right into it and its snares, standing in our places around the circular trial–table in tense silence.
Here, right here, we're going to decide who to kill.
But... it's going to be okay, right?
After this, it's gonna be just fine.
Remember, this is the final case.
The final trial.
I hope you're watching over us now
because the bell's just rung, I'm ready
(of life and death...)
(of life and death...)
(of life and death...)
(of life and death...)
(of life and death...)
A School Trial
(of life and death…)
"Let's start things off", Thief growls, "because I'm in a hurry to end this. I wanna get out – and it's simple, right? Marik killed Atem!"
The room is darkened, lit only by the yellow glow of a sputtering chandelier set in a ceiling high above the group, which with swings almost mechanical sends shadows scattering across the room at random, painting the faces of the people present in ever–shifting, yet always–sickly hues. Playing across the red drapes covering the walls, the light even creates the illusion that these are liquid in some way, a shifting, swaying pillar of blood; and the knowledge that they are about to discuss a particularly bloody murder only aids the deception.
Don't think about that. It's important for Otogi to keep his head here, so that he can help the others figure out who did it, and save himself in the process. This is the last time they'll ever have to solve one of these ludicrous cases, if that stupid stuffed bear keeps his word, if they survive it. Hunching over the bench before him, he glances around at the circle of sixteen desks, most of them empty save for photographs of the dead students, their faces crossed through in crimson. Once upon a week ago, each table would have had a concerned face behind it, but now those remaining are standing far apart from each other, literally surrounded by their dead friends, each of whom either were killed or killers, in some cases both the predator and the prey–
and one of us killed killedkilledkilledkILLED–
–and Thief laughs from his position on the opposite side of the desk–circle, throwing his head right back and passing a tanned hand over his eyes as he does so. It's a high–pitched, ugly cackle that takes Otogi's attention, and gives only shivers down his spine in return. "C'mon, this case is easy! I mean, Marik obviously waited for everyone to split up to look for him, then he stabbed the good Pharaoh to death with that Rod–dagger of his! Even I can see that!"
"I did no such thing!", Marik growls, standing only two places to Otogi's left; glancing over, the raven–haired teen can easily see that his fists are tightly clenched by his sides, his teeth grinding hard against each other in a show of frustration. "A–and if you say that again, I swear I'll kill you – Rod or no Rod, I'll KILL YOU!" He loses it at the end of his sentence, his voice going into a roar of total outrage for a moment, before the Egyptian cuts himself off with a little choke; such is the performance of the First Person Accused.
"Ahahaha!", Thief giggles, clearly enjoying Marik's emotional display, and shooting furtive looks around the table to see if anyone else is having a good time too (and luckily for Otogi's sanity, the answer to that is a resounding no). "Hey, don't those sound like the words of a murderer to any of you...?" Taking the silence as his approval, the Thief grins broadly. "Well, that was easy! Now, all we have to do is vo–"
"Wait a minute!", Anzu frowns, bringing a delicate finger to her top lip and keeping it there as she thinks things through, desperately attempting to appear calm despite her shaking shoulders. "Even if Marik did... kill... how could he have managed it? Kaiba had his Hypnotizing Rod with him the entire time Marik was out of sight, and Atem was stabbed... So, he would have needed a weapon to do it with, right?"
Mai snorts. "That's simple. He took the lift to the ground floor, then ran into the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and - well, yeah."
Kaiba shakes his head, blue eyes flashing in annoyance for a moment. "There was no blood on Atem's left palm, indicating that he held the knife himself."
"Fine. Marik shoved the knife into his hand and–"
"No! There were no signs of a struggle, were there?!", Kaiba snarls, his patience clearly wearing thin by this stage. "From the positioning of his body, the murder was clearly copied from that game! And if you knew anything about that ga–"
"Oh, the one Marik was screaming about this morning? He'd know all about that game, right?", Thief grins, tilting his head to one side as he enjoys the chaos his offhand remark creates; Marik leaping to his feet as though about to commit a murder himself, only to back down when a robotic arm shoves a large and dangerous machine gun into the side of his head. "I'll take that as a yes."
"I – I didn't play it! I never played it!", Marik snaps, sitting back down and waving the gun away as best he can. "I was only told about it by this note someone shoved under my door, with the photo attached to it–"
Kaiba clears his throat, and the Egyptian wisely shuts up.
"If you are quite over your squabbling, then I will explain this game to you all. It claims to be based on real events – in the plot, the Marik representation kills his own family, blames the Atem – character for it, then watches the good Pharaoh exercise his general might by killing the entirety of his best friend's family… Thief's family. At the end of the story, Thief kills himself, and is found sprawled on his bed in a position identical to the one our Atem was found in." He smirks. "I took Anzu with me to watch and confirm that this is all correct – and as I'm sure even the dumbest amongst you can see, there's something in that story that proves Loser Egyptian here innocent."
Otogi furrows his brow, thinking hard, or at least trying his best to think hard given that Marik is on the verge of shouting as he insists that proof isn't needed, because I'm innocent, can't you people see? But right now, evidence is definitely needed; in a School Trial, one cannot simply trust others. Any of them could be the culprit, after all; so finding evidence to prove innocence is extremely important.
There's something in the story Kaiba told...
Mai frowns, tilting her head to one side in sudden realization. "Didn't Marik say at breakfast that the Pharaoh killed his family…?"
Could that be it?
Otogi frowns, but remains silent; waiting for one of the others to contradict her – and sure enough, Anzu steps in. "He could have been playing the part of his character, couldn't he?", she points out. "I mean, in the game, Marik blames his whole situation on the Pharaoh."
The blonde nods solemnly. "That's true."
All eyes go to Marik, who stares right back with an expression of pure and undiluted rage. "I never even played that game! I only had the photo because it was shoved under my door, along with this note, which I put in my pocket right before the trial..." The Egyptian searches his pockets, then scowls, though Otogi can see that his hands are shaking under the table; he's clearly worried, and for good reason. "D–damn, it's gone! That could have been evidence!"
Thief snickers, his pink tongue flickering hungrily about the edge of his lips. "Oh dear, it's not looking good for you, is it? Honestly, if even the great and mighty Kaiba cannot prove your innocence, or at least prove that you played the game–"
"I swear, I never touched the damne–"
There is, as requested by Kaiba, a silence; the duelist taking his own sweet time in staring furiously at first Mai, then Thief, and lastly Marik, before he decides to make his opinion on matters known.
"Did I ever say that you losers had found the evidence proving this other loser innocent? No." Kaiba folds his arms, expression so very stony that Otogi catches Marik going to object at being called an 'other loser', but then wisely thinking better of it. "You haven't found that evidence yet – and if you want to live, I'd recommend you actually try looking."
Mai sighs in exasperation. "Maybe we should just start at the start, instead – can we at least agree that this game–receipt is Marik's? After all, his name is on it..." The blonde takes out the slip of paper, smoothing it on the table before passing it to Kaiba, and Otogi blinks in surprise; it feels like an age since he last saw it, even though he knows that it was only this morning. Time seems to go so slowly around here – maybe it's because when things are good, it's so brief; those happy moments so fleeting, sometimes lasting for mere seconds before your laughing friend is shot clean through the neck, blood bursting from a pulsing vein and going all over the couch, onto you–
–don't think about that!
With an effort, Otogi drags his attention back to the happenings of the trial – Kaiba is smirking, the receipt sitting crumpled in his hand for a moment, before he raises it to the dim yellow light, and calmly tears the thing in two. "That name means nothing. You can put any name on there – I, for instance, have a receipt for my own playthrough..." Taking it from his pocket, he flicks it across the table to Mai, whose face goes several shades paler.
"Esper Roba? But he–"
"–was executed in the first case, yes", Kaiba grins, wolf–like. "He should feel honored that his name was picked. Of everyone I could have chosen to bear my name, he–"
"Yeah, yeah", Thief growls, clearly annoyed that his argument has just been shot to bits. "So, Marik didn't play the game; someone else told him about it."
"Which is exactly what I've been telling you for the last ten minutes!", the Egyptian wails, though this only nets him a sharp look from Thief.
"Don't you think you're out of this yet, scumbag. If someone else really told you what happened, you could still have committed murde–"
"No", Kaiba snarls, glaring murder at the pale–haired teen. "I told you before, Marik's innocence is completely proved by the fact that this is a copycat crime – and yet, not even one of you imbeciles have found the weak spot in the murder plot I gave you earlier!" He turns to Otogi. "I thought you would be more noisy about this, to be honest..."
Otogi closes his eyes for a long moment, somehow managing to think over the near–constant noise of Marik's furious protesting and the others' repeated attempts to shut the Egyptian up.
In the game...
Marik kills his own family, and blames Atem for it. He is then made to watch Atem kill the entirety of Thief's family, because Thief is his best friend. At the end of the story, Thief kills himself, and is found dead in a position identical to the one the real Atem was found in...
...he kills himself!
One green eye cracks open, Otogi's words relatively quiet compared to the raised voices of everyone else; yet carrying a certain edge to them, one that cuts through the general noise like a hot knife through butter. "The game–Thief killed himself – so, the Pharaoh must have killed himself as well for it to be a proper copycat crime."
Kaiba nods. "Thank whatever ridiculous gods you have that at least someone isn't as dumb as they look. Just as Thief did in the game, our Atem killed himself – or should I say, someone made him kill himself." He smirks. "After all, we never did find the knife he stabbed himself with, did we...?"
Thief grins, wolflike. "And Marik can brainwash anyone and everyone he wants to, right?"
"Not without his Rod, he can't", Anzu says quietly; and there is a long silence, Marik sagging back in his chair in relief as Kaiba pulls out the Hypnotizing Rod from under the folds of his jacket, placing it gingerly upon the desk.
"I had this with me the entire time – and yet, who did I see trotting down the corridor, looking more like a zombie than a human, barely able to speak? With this? Which she so happened to throw at me?" He reaches into his jacket a second time, this time removing a glad–wrapped package. The thin plastic comes away with a sticky krrrrrik! as the duelist calmly rips it off, revealing a knife slick with blood.
The reactions of the others are fairly normal, Otogi guesses – Marik's head hits the table with a loud thump seconds after viewing the murder weapon, Anzu inhales sharply, Thief begins laughing. "I've never seen that in my life!", Mai snaps, folding her arms sternly across her chest, as Kaiba holds the thing up to the dull glow of the chandelier for a moment – before he turns his gaze on her.
She must have done something wrong, but what?
"Whenever did I say that you had it?" At that, there is a horrible, horrible silence, while Kaiba turns the bloodied knife round and round in his hand, a smirk pulling at the corner of his lip. "So, I was right... so, you weren't brainwashed when I saw you whilst on my patrol, and you flung that knife at me in your haste to get away. But then, why act as though you were hypnotized? Trying to frame Marik, were we?"
Mai consults the floor for advice, but finds none; all too soon, she's forced to look up at Kaiba, Otogi shivering in the wake of the freezing stare the duelist shoots her, one that must have surely lowered the temperature of the trial–room by several degrees. "I... I..."
"Trying to – oh, I don't know – trying to kill Marik, were we?"
"If I could say something, Your Majesty...? Ah, heck", Thief grins lopsidely, effectively forcing his way back into the conversation – much to Kaiba's distaste, judging from his expression. "I'm gonna say this, whether His Little Highness likes it or not! Now, just from what I've been told about this case – the announcement didn't happen when Otogi, Kaiba, and Marik were viewing the body, right? But it did happen when Otogi, Kaiba, Anzu, and Marik were looking at it the second time. So, doesn't that mean that the culprit's either Otogi, Kaiba, or Marik…?" He waits for the others to nod, before continuing. "And just look who's deliberately taken control of this gathering! The little prince himself, the little lord of cards, who never even had an alibi in the first pla–"
"I played the game after the murder, Thief, and Monobear will only allow one playing of it per person!", the Super High School Level Duelist fumes. "Don't even think about trying that trick with me again!"
"So, then," Anzu muses. "Because of the announcements, it must be Otogi… or Marik…"
And it wasn't me, so could that mean – no way! Otogi glances over at Marik worriedly. No, that doesn't add up! He didn't even know what was in the game, so how did he know–?
"Otogi? Perhaps that is why you've been so quiet. Do you have anything to say for yourself, I wonder?"
The raven–haired teen grits his teeth, trying to hold out against the duelist's suddenly accusing stare. "I have a question – does anyone know how was the body moved between those rooms? I mean, we know that Kaiba has to be innocent, because he never played the game beforehand. I was with him when we left th–"
"He could have been rolled or dragged, couldn't he?", Thief butts in, quite casually annihilating Otogi's chance of letting his alibi be known.
"That's not possible!", Kaiba growls. "There were no blood marks aside from the footprints, and Atem was bleeding heavily when he was discovered."
"Maybe he walked out himself", Mai murmurs, looking rather surprised when she realizes that everyone is listening to her little monologue. "I mean... uh – isn't that a solution to the footprints only going one way?"
"And I have been brainwashed before", Anzu blinks. "I was hypnotized by Hate just after Monobear made him separate from Marik, but I never felt pain or anything... I think I could have walked all day, if Hate had willed it. Actually... maybe he did – I don't really remember anything I did, but I do remember that it didn't hur–"
"–and you already told everyone that I don't have the Hypnotizing Rod, and won't have it until Kaiba gives it back! We all know that I can't do anything without it!", Marik protests.
"But then, if it wasn't you, why are the signs leaning so heavily towards a brainwashing?", Anzu frowns. "Wait – we're not walking into a trap, are we? Something that just looks like brainwashing, like how Mai looked like she was brainwashed, but could still remember throwing that knife at Kaiba...?"
Something that looks like brainwashing, but isn't...
Something that made Mai move so jerkily when Kaiba saw her, and let her remember her actions afterwards...
Otogi blinks in sudden realization; then immediately feels rather stupid for not having noticed it before. Of course there's someone other than Marik who could have brainwashed another person here, why the heck didn't he see that before? He could have hit himself for not having figured it all out earlier; much earlier, because all this time, the answer's been right in front of his nose.
Kaiba laughs quietly, turning away from the table for a brief moment. "Well, it looks like Otogi has the answer at last. Please, do enlighten the others."
"Hey, remember how Thief broke up the cafe fight? He did it with that Soul Stealing Technique of his – you know, the one that tired him out so much that he couldn't chase Marik."
The master thief's eyes narrow, his lip curling just a little in a clear warning that no–one should even think about continuing that little thought. "What does that even have to do with–"
"What do you think it means? You made Atem stab himself, didn't you?", Kaiba smirks. "You played Monobear's game, and were so angry at how that dreadful Pharaoh killed your family, that you decided to frame Marik for your own crime. First, you slipped false information about the game under his door, information that you knew would upset him and lead into a confrontation with the Pharaoh. You then deliberately broke up the fight with your Soul Stealing Technique, and in the process scrambled Marik's mind so that he would run away. You were the one who encouraged us to pursue him, knowing that with his lead, he would get away, and we would all be forced to split up. Next, you took control of Atem, and had him stab himself. Your dear girlfriend, brainwashed to do your bidding, then took away the knife for you, to make it appear that Marik had stabbed the Pharaoh with his Hypnotizing Rod – but of course, how could you have known that I, Seto Kaiba had it all along?"
"What about the announcements?", Thief growls, clenching the edge of his desk so hard that his knuckles go white, as white as his teeth, bared as they are in a bestial snarl. "Answer me that! Why did the announcement not trigger the first time, when three people who were not the culprit found Atem?!"
Marik snorts, looking the most relieved Otogi's seen him so far. "That's simple! When we first found him, he wasn't really dead! That's why Atem could walk out of the room afterwards to confuse us and make us think that the body had disappeared as soon as it had been left alone with me! It wasn't like he was feeling pain or anything, so Thief could easily have made him do that! Then, after he had forced the Pharaoh to walk into Kaiba's room, Thief... he stopped Atem's heart."
Anzu blinks. "Is that why the Monobear File didn't have the cause of death, then?"
"W–wait!", Thief snarls, his face contorting in fury. "You think you're clever, then? You haven't come anywhere close to the real answer, which I worked out way before any of you idiots even considered it! You think I did it? Well then, why the heck would I have even played that stupid game in the first place? Why does that note say 'If you want to see justice, come to the bedrooms', when I clearly hate any form of law? Why are you blaming me, when the freaking Super – High – School – Level Hypnotist is right there in front of you?"
"How did you know about the note?", Otogi asks after a short silence. "I – I never said there was any note, and neither did Marik, or Kaiba... and we were the only ones to see it."
In answer, Thief only laughs.
Mai hangs her head. "You – you guys... so, you got it right."
"Wh–whaa?", Anzu stutters, eyes widening. "Wait, so, it was really – hang on, you knew the answer already?!"
"Go on, vote for me!", the teenager cackles, jerking his hand upwards in a sudden, slashing movement; Mai slumping forwards on the table a second later. "I'll just have Mai's soul brainwash the voting machine that gives the final result!"
Kaiba doesn't take his stare off Thief for a second, not even as he addresses the robotic bear that must surely be watching them all through cameras hidden in the shadows. "Monobear? Is this allowed?"
The robot appears before them with a squeak and a thud, standing upright on the table; somehow, the utterly adorable half of its body manages to look almost as angry as the demonically grinning half does. "Of course it's not!", it squeaks, then slumps. "But... I can't really do much. Whatever the machine displays is what the verdict is, y'know? I thought it'd be as simple as that!" It waves its little arms angrily. "If I wasn't a bear, I would have thought of this for sure! Bears don't steal!"
"Go on! Vote!", Thief howls, well into his bouts of maniacal laughter now and showing absolutely no sign of stopping any time soon. "This trial's gone on long enough already! Vote for me, and die! Vote for Marik, and die! When I'm standing over your corpses, I'll just put Mai's soul back, and we can walk out together!" He grins manically, running a hand through his pale, greasy locks. "Hah! If you'd all treated me as something other than dirt, you wouldn't be about to become– ah, heck, I'd probably have killed you all anyway, even if you all were nice to me! That's just the way I am!" Clicking open the lid of his desk, he draws back his fist and punches one of the buttons on the panel inside. "And I've voted, so now you all have to in the next fifteen minutes! You know the rule!"
With a weary sigh, Marik flips open the lid of his desk, poking a random button in resignation. "Why didn't you do all this before, Thief?"
The other man blinks. "Eh?"
"That's the one thing I can't figure out. If you're just doing this to get out of here, why not do it at the start? Two weeks ago, when we were all strangers?"
Thief shrugs. "I didn't have a motive, did I? I was happy to just ride things out, much as I didn't like the rules – but I told myself that if ever I got an opportunity, I'd take it. And then... Well, the game. That idiot Pharaoh killed my family because of whiny Marik trying to pin the blame on someone else... I mean, it's obvious why I killed Atem and framed Marik, isn't it?" He grins. "So, Otogi. You're going to sum this case up before you go, right? Same as usual?"
Otogi hangs his head in defeat as the pale–haired teenager gloats over him. "I... all right. So, last night, you played that game. You slipped Marik false information about the game, which made him angry enough to confront Atem about it the next day. Your accomplice was Mai, who you gave the game's receipt to – of course, it had Marik's name on it. At breakfast, you pretended to break up the fight with Atem and Marik, when in actual fact you were aiming to get Marik to run out of the room. He did, and you urged us all to pursue him; then, as soon as we split up, you had Mai plant that note written in blood on the second floor, knowing that we wouldn't find it until it was too late. You then took control of Atem, who was on the ground floor, and had him take a knife from the cafeteria; since you were in there, you knew full well that you could pretend that you hadn't seen it. You had him walk into Marik's room, then stab himself, just like you did in the game."
"After that", Kaiba continues, "Mai came and took away the knife – when she was spotted by yours truly in the corridor, you took control of her in an effort to frame Marik even further. Shortly afterwards, we found the Pharaoh for the first time. However, Atem was still alive, and so there was no announcement – you had planned on this, too. After all, everyone here knows that Marik faints whenever he sees blood – and so as soon as Otogi and I rushed out of the room to find Anzu, you had Atem walk out of the room, into the next one, and then forced him to take his last breath then and there. Thus, it appeared that Marik had only pretended to have fainted, and had actually moved Atem whilst the two of them were alone. The announcement, of course, only went off when the body was found again, with one extra person in the group – because by that point, you had killed Atem, by making his heart stop!"
"So I did!", Thief declares, standing with his arms spreadeagled as the dials of the voting machine – a large box, rather similar to a slot machine in appearance – begin to spin. "Hey, Mai! Pick whoever you like, my dear! It'll be the first wedding present I'll give you before our honeym– uh?"
"Well, well, well. Will you look at that, ehh? Upupupupu..."
"Wh–what?! You picked me?! B–but... but!" He waves Mai's soul back into her body, jaw set and eyes desperate for the first time Otogi's ever seen. "Why? Why did you... It was such a good plan! We... we were going to escape together!"
Mai winks cheekily his way, and even blows him a kiss; though her eyes are cold throughout the maneuver, and her smile seems almost sadistic. Too late, far too late, Otogi remembers the story she told once, about the gamblers whose hearts she tore to pieces, all for the sake of money; and he knows what's about to happen.
So, that was her way of warning us earlier.
The blonde fiddles with her button for a moment, seemingly debating whether or not to push this one or that. "Hey, don't you remember the story about the guys whose hearts I broke? Or how many times I tricked the others into giving me information? All for the good cause, obviously."
"Y–you..." The young man's voice breaks, chokes. "Y–you really mean – y–you never loved me?"
"Darling, of course I do! It's just that I love everyone else much more than you, that's all! If you'd really loved me, you'd have known that!" She tosses her head, tears welling up in her purple eyes as she presses her own button. "I... Well, you shouldn't have trusted me, sweetie."
Monobear springs onto her desk, and dances a little jig atop the wood. "Guess what, everyone! You got it right! Thief is the murderer!"
"Y–you can't do this!", Thief screams, eyes wide and desperate, even as shackles rise from the floor to click around his ankles. "N–nothing can take you away from me! Nothing, you hear?"
"And today, I have a very, very special punishment for our Super High School Level Thief!", Monobear laughs, repeating the phrase that always comes seconds before the execution. Otogi tenses slightly, automatically bracing himself–
–but nothing can brace him for the shock he feels when Mai Kujaku turns from Thief's pleas and walks away, even as the usual chains click themselves onto the shackles, tighten, start to drag Thief backwards. "You seem to be forgetting that I can take myself away, if I don't like you." She looks over her shoulder, just once, just before the chains jerk hard, ripping the young man from the room. "Maybe if you'd remembered that, I'd have stayed."
And, before anything else could be said
That unnamed thief was gone, gone to us all, leaving behind only the faintest hint of an echoing scream
the sudden sobs of a woman whose facade has just broken
and Monobear's cackles in our ears.
UAB (Unnecessary Author's Babble)
General Babble/Ranting/Stuff I Probably Should Have Mentioned at the Start, But Didn't:
– The handicap here was called LoveBreak, and – well, the characters of the pairing had to be in an established relationship at the start, but be broken up by the end. Pretty simple, yet rather difficult, especially considering the pairing.
– "Upupupupu" is the text that's always given to Monobear's bizarre laugh.
– Thief's punishment was to be pelted with every object he had ever stolen, ending with a grand piano; this punishment was included in the original drafts, and it definitely fits the tone and style of the canon executions. However, much like many of the DR and SDR2 executions, it also completely broke the mood I was going for, and so it was ultimately left out.
– This AU required over five thousand word's worth of planning, which once again reminded me why exactly I don't run total AUs.
Stuff about the DR elements:
– If there's one thing DR and SDR2 are known for, it's ellipsis overusage. I tried to cut it down as best I could, but it wasn't easy.
– Monobear might be the only 'true' crossover element here, but this story contains a ton of elements that were found in the games' different murder cases; so if something bears resemblance to something in either game, then it's probably been 'taken' from there. Nothing was exactly copied, of course, but there's definitely a lot of referencing.
– In DR and SDR2, there were similarities between each case; I admittedly mixed a couple of numbers up when Otogi was going down the list in the elevator, but each of the mentioned cases bore similarities to the DR and SDR2 one. For the main event here, the core similarity was that the fifth (and always final) case involved a suicide.
Stuff about the YGO elements:
– For the record – as with the original Dangan Ronpa and with SDR2, all characters were affected by amnesia when they first arrived. Thus, they don't know each other very well by the time Case Five rolls round, and so canon relationships simply aren't in place.
– Additionally, every character here was written with a certain DR/SDR2 character/s in mind; and whilst they don't perfectly imitate those characters, there are some deliberately done similarities. Nothing that would make them too OOC, though.
– Marik's Millennium Rod is here the Hypnotizing Rod, and the Millennium Ring and Puzzle aren't mentioned at all – primarily because in Dangan Ronpa, there's not a whole lot of supernatural stuff at work. Mind you, a SHSL Thief who's just so skilled that he can steal souls is perfectly fine in that series, so that's where I went with Thief King Bakura's ability.
– Marik's situation was deliberately made to mirror that of the Hagakure situation; part of the reason that Marik is borderline cowardly is due to his being characterized as a Hagakure–type. The other part of it is just because earlier on, Marik would have swapped personalities at the sight of blood; he just faints now, due to YMarik being annihilated.
– Thief King is known as just plain Thief here, partly because he doesn't really have a name in canon, and partly because 'Thief King' sounds a bit like a normal name in itself – you know, like 'Stephen King'. And on the subject of Thiefy, I should probably apologize for the (possibly) bizarre characterization here. I'll freely admit that I'm not that familiar with Millennium World, so writing Thief King is definitely not my forte. He's basically how the manga portrayed him here – in other words, he's got the same personality as a more casual Yami Bakura, which is a long way from where the anime went with him.
– The SHSL Pharaoh was originally meant to be Yami Yugi, but his identity was badly confused due to his being a "Super High School Level Pharaoh", his lack of dialogue, his name of "Atem" with its marvelous ability to refer to either YYugi or Pharaoh, and Thief's absolute hatred for him. It wasn't deliberate by any means, but in this AU, you can probably say that 'Atem' here is either.
– Of everyone, Mai was probably the character most obviously affected by the obligatory amnesia thing; she's very manipulative, and like everyone else, doesn't remember her friends or enemies, which means that she plays out much closer to her early manga characterization, mirroring Celestia to a certain extent. She's strong, she's flirty, and she's definitely not afraid to ditch guys for her own benefit. ;)
– Anzu makes a perfect Aoi/Owari, in my less–than–humble opinion, being a cheerful support–character girl who everyone always knows must be innocent, because this Anzu we're talking about. Another good example of the amnesia; she isn't totally heart–broken when Atem dies due to never actually crushing on him, so she can at least help out during the trial. Aside from that, there's not much changed.
– Kaiba finally gets to live out his dream of being a SHSL Duelist; but due to his Togami–mirroring, is much more like his Duelist Kingdom self than his early manga self. Amnesia comes into play when you realize that the real Kaiba would never have taken Anzu with him to play the game in a million years; this Kaiba does it because he needs an alibi, already suspects Thief (and by extension, Mai) of murder, and knows full well that Otogi can be trusted to watch over the body and Marik.