The Perfection of Despair

Chapter 1: Seventy One

o6037o

Despite it all, I wasn't able to prove that Celes had murdered Yamada after tricking him into murdering Ishimaru, with everything pinned on Hagakure. Togami sided against me and where he went Fukawa followed. Celes managed to convince Aoi that I was being totally unreasonable, especially in the face of the well-fitting suit I knew Yamada had made for Hagakure. Sakura sided with Aoi's decision... leaving only Hagakure and myself sure of his innocence.

Everyone but myself, Hagakure, and Kirigiri voted wrong and Celes was allowed to graduate.

We were all going to burn for my mistakes.

As the flames licked my feet, I barely had time to ponder the errors I'd made before Monokuma drove a fire truck right through us.

I felt an infinite pressure on my chest for a moment before everything went bright and I lost all sensation.

o6038o

I woke up in the desk.

Again.

I stretched and pondered my mistake. It seemed to me, in those last moments before time reset, that I'd forgotten to gather the actual evidence proving Yamada had moved his own 'corpse' by discovering the glasses-cloth in the garbage bin in the infirmary.

Without that, I couldn't conclusively prove to anyone that he'd moved himself.

Without proof that he'd moved himself, it could have been Hagakure before we found him, sneaking about and donning the suit afterward.

I nodded once to myself in confirmation. I couldn't forget that, next time. It was an amateurish mistake, and one Kirigiri would have given me no end of grief over. If we became friends this time.

Then again, maybe I should finally focus on learning a bit more about Kuwata? He was typically killed so early that I've never really gotten to know him, yet. There's hardly any time at all before Maizuno tricks him with the note and gets herself killed after attempting to murder him. I suppose too, that I did tend to feel some resentment towards him from the first time, when he killed Maizuno. I knew it wasn't really his fault, but... first impressions are a big deal for a reason.

I put off the decision for now.

It's time to go meet everyone in the entrance hall before Oozawa knocks me out in the gym.

o6038o

Enoshima's death bothers me because, for all that I've tried to prevent it, nothing seemed to work. With the others if I don't stick to the script, the general series of actions which leads me down a path I can predict, if I can nudge them one way or the other things changed. If I confront Maizuno about her plot, she breaks down sobbing and becomes wracked with guilt. If I switch the nameplates back before Kuwata visits her in my room, the murder never happens and Kuwata is just annoyed by "my" prank. If I'm with Fujisaki when he confesses his secret to Oowada, he doesn't lose control. If I spend time with Celes and pretend to notice she's really common but accept her for it, it breaks down her facade enough that she doesn't enlist Yamada in her murder plot.

However for Enoshima, she always mouths off to Monokuma, crushes him under her foot, and then gets stabbed by a bunch of spears. It's almost like she's following some script of her own.

I can try calming her down about the situation in the entrance hall and even if she's a little grateful, she gets riled up anyway in the gym. I can try shoving her out of the way, but without fail she just backhands me away with reflexes better fitting a fighter like Sakura than a supermodel before stomping Monokuma, barely missing a beat.

Charging Monokuma myself just ends up with me killed: If it changes things, I don't know how. I just find myself waking up once more on that desk, to a fresh bout of despair academy. All this and more went through my mind as I made my way to the entrance hall.

I met Maizuno's eyes, seeing the flash of recognition, and suppressed a wince as I greeted my fellow classmates. This is the worst part about all of this. If Maizuno starts her plan and tries to frame me for killing Kuwata, I can guarantee the sequence of events which will follow.

After I prove my innocence and Kuwata's guilt, Oowada will bond with Ishimaru and then kill Fujisaki... and because all of that is so straightforward, I know what Togami will and won't do, generally. I also know that the money Monokuma offers will be enough to drive Celes over the edge, and as long as I'm careful, I'm sure I can soon conclusively prove her guilt.

The problem is that if I don't let Maizuno die by Kuwata's hands, if I don't let her scheme be the first, Togami and Fukawa become total wild cards as soon as Monokuma starts pressuring us to commit the first murder. Sometimes Togami learns that Fukawa is Genocider Syo early enough to use her like Celes typically uses Yamada. Sometimes he convinces Fukawa to take the fall for him. Sometimes he gets creative without either of those two personalities and, at a whim decided by God knows what, he'll murder someone chosen at random in a near-perfectly undiscoverable way after someone else cracks and he learns how Kirigiri and I investigate.

Whatever causes it, even with these repeats, I can't predict his movements from one moment to the next if he makes the first move. Because I can't predict his movements, even if I catch him, whatever happens afterward is nearly as random... though Genocider deciding to take revenge on me happens quite often if I'm the one who proves Togami's guilt and gets him executed.

Those memories brought me a bit of a shiver. Syo is damned creative with her scissors, she knows very, very well how to corner someone where nobody can hear them scream, and as long as her identity isn't revealed she's quite willing to kill. At least Monokuma's executions tended to be over in a matter of minutes.

As I went along with the flow, I pondered my options. Either I could stick with my script for this reset and see who the fifth victim would be after Ishimaru and Yamada, or I could go off the rails of my own plan and try to spend more time gathering information about the people I was still in the dark about. Both would give me more information which might eventually allow me to escape this place with everyone alive.

While I was musing and following my script without really paying attention, Oowada had enough of my backtalk and moved to punch me out. I was so lost in my thoughts about Enoshima and my plans, however, that I forgot to suppress my instincts: I slipped inside his guard, the blow slipping by my left shoulder as I put all my weight into a beautiful right uppercut which rocked the Super High School Level Biker up into a wobble before he fell on his back, unconscious.

I blinked at my fist while the rest of my classmates blinked at me. I noted Sakura's sudden grin and was very, very sorry I'd given into the instincts she'd trained into me, many resets ago.

The first time Sakura had trained me it was basic self-defense stuff, which I'd requested fresh off of a reset which ended at Genocider's tender mercies. However the next reset, she'd noticed that I moved like an ill-trained warrior, and offered to coach me a bit more right from the start. A dozen resets later, and I was someone she thought she might be able to train into a worthy opponent one day. A couple hundred resets or so after that and she was actively lamenting that someone with my obvious skills didn't take care to sculpt his body to the degree his skills needed to truly shine.

While I treasured the time I spent with the slightly terrifying girl, I'd had to cut them off at that point. If I befriended Sakura that early she would not befriend Asahina to the extent she usually did. Without Sakura around as a big scary watchdog, the ditzy girl usually got murdered in short order when someone was looking for a victim.

It was the only thing more unpredictable than Togami: Without Sakura Oogami constantly spending time with her, Aoi Asahina would get murdered in a dozen different ways by a half-dozen different people. I don't even know how she got Ishimaru to kill her that one reset, but it happened.

However as I tightened my fist and grinned, I had a realization. I hadn't yet tried to prevent Enoshima's death since my resets with Sakura. I could easily do it this time.

o6038o

It was now the same tableau I'd seen thousands of times before by now.

Monokuma and Enoshima having their standoff, though this time was unique: This time, I knew I could stop it. So as Enoshima stomped on Monokuma, I charged. Enoshima turned as I did, knowing as she somehow always did that I was planning to interfere.

This time, when she moved to backhand me away, I slipped underneath and dove forwards in a running tackle which would have carried us both clear... Had she not turned her backhand into a backflip, using me as a launching pad and leaving me to stumble and grasp air as I fell on top of Monokuma .

I can't say being impaled was a new experience, but it was still very unpleasant. I got a confused impression of a blond wig falling off and Enoshima's short, black hair tumbling down beside her surprised face before I coughed one last time and died.

As I woke up in the first classroom once more as time reset, I laughed out loud.

Well, this explained a lot.

Enoshima was a faker. She wasn't blond at all, and if she was truly just a Super Duper High School Supermodel there was no way she'd have been able to manhandle and dodge me the way she just had, not with the skills Oogami Sakura had drilled into me over the time I'd been resetting.

That got me wondering... What else was she hiding? Now that... Well, that would be interesting.

Well... No time like the present.

o6039o

There are two ways to solve a mystery like this.

Were I not trapped in time as I was, it would have been a long sequence of slowly peeling back the layers of her deception to get to the core of things. However I had picked up a few tricks over my thousands of deaths and the first thing I'd learned was that death was cheap for me now.

Being able to go back to the beginning whenever I die gives me the ability to do something incredibly reckless if it will solve a problem for me quicker.

So as soon as I came within sight of the entrance hallway, I began sprinting at top speed. I flashed through the open door at a full run and Junko Enoshima barely had time to glance towards me to see what the fuss was before I launched a quick right hook towards her face.

Despite poor footing and being caught off guard, Enoshima twisted her body smoothly out of the way and guided me to the floor with a trip. Only my time with Sakura allowed me to get my feet down and step once before turning and launching a brutal roundhouse kick right where Junko's face had been.

She, however, had thrown herself back and produced a knife from somewhere on her person as I observed her, my momentum bled out from the kick.

"The only person here who should have been able to block that attack is Oogami," I declared, glancing at the silver-haired amazon. She looked unsettled by my sudden attack, but was also staring at Enoshima with undisguised interest. "There is no way you should have been able to dodge that. Who are you?"

"I'm as interested as you are," Junko declared, glaring viciously at me. "Makoto Naegi could never have been so skilled. Who are you?"

"Oh, I'm Makoto Naegi," I shrugged simply. "Perhaps you just underestimated me?"

"Impossible," Junko hissed, before charging me with her knife.

Oogami, in previous resets, had come at me with her full strength during the rare times she decided we should spar seriously. She'd felt I was ready, but the quick work she generally made of me proved her wrong on that count.

As Enoshima closed on me she didn't quite hit Sakura's overwhelming speed and strength, but she was a lot better at predicting my movements: If I'd been asked to pick who would win in a fight between Junko and Oogami, I'm not sure I could have picked correctly.

As my classmates scattered and even Sakura stared at the fight, stunned, I quickly lost ground as I ducked, dodged, and weaved out of the way of my foe's attacks. It didn't help when one of my shoes got knocked off by a sweep attempt, leaving me with slippery footing on one side. Before long I was pinned to a wall, the knife at my throat.

"Who are you!?" Enoshima yelled at me, and I flinched in the face of the raw anger there. There was desperation there. Perhaps even just despair. I'd never seen that in her eyes before.

"Who are you?" I whispered in turn, and her face crumpled a bit.

"So we're both imposters," Enoshima hissed, too quiet for anyone else to hear. The knife began to press in. "Your game stops here, though, whoever your are."

"You're right," I agreed, wrenching my head to the side and slitting my throat on her knife. It surprised her quite a bit, if the panicked scream she let loose was any indication of her feelings on the matter. I had a moment to ponder that as I bled out.

o6040o

So... Enoshima wasn't Enoshima at all, huh? Interesting. It explained why she'd never quite looked right to me beside the photos of her in magazines. I had to internally applaud her for coming up with the photoshop ruse, though. I'd have never suspected anything if I'd been a normal person.

Well, that had been a short reset.

This one, however, would be shorter. Whatever game Monokuma's owner was playing, he really didn't like it when someone knew more than they should have. However if I played the situation right, I could typically get a bit of useful information out of him.

I coughed, sure it would get the attention of whoever was behind all this.

"I wonder if the headmaster has cleared his files out of the secret room behind the second floor men's room supply closet?" I asked, seemingly to myself.

That one always got a Monokuma front and center.

"How does a naughty boy like you know that?" Monokuma's voice demanded. That would rattle the person controlling him long enough that my next statement would typically get an unfiltered response out of the situation.

"The same way I know Enoshima is an imposter," I said with a smug smile. It always drove them over the edge when I was smug about it. I'm not a smug person, but for whoever controls Monobear, I can make an exception.

"You can't know that. It's impossible!" Monobear hissed, before exploding. Needless to say, I woke back up in the classroom a minute or two previous to when I'd died, to begin a new reset once again.

While I'd learned nothing startling from the dual-coloured bear this time, it did confirm that whoever was running this sick game knew Junko Enoshima was a fake.

I got up and continued on with the present reset. It was time to see if my newly acquired knowledge could save the false Junko Enoshima, and if that would effect my plans.

o6041o

For all that I now knew, it was incredibly frustrating trying to get the fake Enoshima to open up enough for me to warn her properly. If I spilled the beans too early or admitted I knew too much, she would just get defensive about it and ignore me or sometimes even kill me if she thought I was an imposter. If I tried to interfere too late, she still died.

It took me seventeen resets just to get the approximate timing down. As we were walking into the gym to where she would soon die, I simply whispered, "Jump back after you stomp Monobear."

Those instructions were too direct. I saw her tense as soon as she stomped the remote controlled abomination, but when nothing happened, she relaxed. That meant she couldn't dodge the attack when it did come moments later.

Fourteen resets later, and I'd learned that I first needed a vague warning as we entered the gym. That would put her guard up just enough to listen to me when I shouted later, but I also needed to compact everything about her upcoming death into the second or two I had to shout before she died once more.

"Enoshima, at your feet!" or "Enoshima, below you!" and a few variations thereof only convinced her to kick the Monokuma duplicate away.

"Enoshima, the spears!" was completely wrong: Her eyes would dart up and she wouldn't even be looking Monokuma in the face when she was repeatedly impaled.

At this point, I took a vacation reset. I stopped Maizuno's plot, I was with Fujisaki when he confessed his feelings of weakness to Oowada, and I even managed to find time to convince Celes that trying to murder people was a bad idea.

Of course by this time I'd also been spending most of my mornings sparring with Oogami for a month, and I guess between being 'cool and aloof' because of ignoring Fukawa and a month of hard training putting the hint of abs on my thin frame, I made a perfect target for Genocider Syo when she broke free.

Especially with Togami being smart enough to be within shouting distance of Sakura most of the time once he'd figured out who Fukawa's other half was.

Not that he'd bothered to tell any of us that fact.

Togami's kind of a jerk.

At least Genocider Syo had struck in the baths, so I got a good look before things went bad. Despite all my time at the school, I'd never really grown close to Fukawa in that way. Between my generally helpful, outgoing nature and her general habit of becoming infatuated with Byakuya, we'd never really grown close enough that seeing her as I did that reset.

My view was rapidly distracted by the scissors in her hands. However, at the time I was confident that I could prevail. I'd long since lost track of how many hours I'd spent sparring with Oogami, so that surely counted for something. I'd braced myself for her charge, promising myself that I would resolve things without bloodshed.

The short fight showed me one thing: For all that I knew how to fight fist on fist, I knew exactly nothing about fighting someone who was adept with an edged weapon. The first pass had seen me cupping a pair of what I'd thought were minor wounds, but it hadn't taken me long to realize they wouldn't stop bleeding.

It didn't take long from there for me to grow weak and feeble, to find myself unable to fight off my assailant any longer.

I died screaming, in a lot of pain, with nobody to help me.

It was as good a wake up call from my little vacation as any.

After a couple resets to remember my frame of mind, I turned my attention to the problem: No matter what I did, the false Enoshima wouldn't recognize that the threat came from below Monokuma. She wouldn't see that the floorboards were...

It took a lot of effort to not smack myself in the face.

o6108o

"Enoshima, the floorboards!" worked on the first try, and she finally used her reflexes to dodge the damned spears. Her face actually went white with shock at the sight of the weapons, her freckles standing out even more than normal, and she completely ignored the way her wig had been knocked askew.

"Oh?" Monokuma declared from the gym's podium, ignoring his skewered twin. He tilted his head as he looked at me, and his voice changed. Grew desperate. "When did you get such good instincts, Naegi-kun? Is it that you're working with the terrorist Mukuro Ikasuba!? She's responsible for locking you in this school, you know!"

Well, that was a lie if I've ever heard one.

"I nearly had her with that trap, and you let her get away!" Monokuma growled, turning to my fellow students. "My name is Besshiki Madarai, and I'm here to help! I'm the Super High School Level Hacker, and I've commandeered this Monokuma unit. Mukuro is a terrorist with Fenrir, and she's probably coerced Naegi into helping her!"

As everyone paused in shock, I frowned. The person Monokuma identified as Mukuro Ikasuba wasn't denying the allegation, I noted. Then again, I'd noticed enough discrepancies to foil the mastermind's current plot easily. As Mukuro inhaled to speak, I beat her to the punch.

And it wasn't even a student trial.

"You're wrong!" I declared to Monokuma, pointing with my finger. "If you were really a hacker coming to help us instead of the mastermind, you could have detonated the Monokuma unit you used to lure Ikasuba into the trap to simply blow her up if she was the real threat! Because you didn't, we know that the mastermind behind this was the one who wanted Ikasuba dead!"

I stepped forward and noticed that my fellow students, some of whom had been starting to be swayed by Monokuma's transparent lie, were now watching only the remote-controlled bear with wariness as they rallied behind my speech.

"Furthermore, isn't it suspicious that you only took control of Monokuma's speech when your plot to kill Ikasuba failed, Madarai? If it's true that your intention was to warn us about the threat, why wait until after your plot failed to speak to us? Also, if I'm in on it with Mukuro Ikasuba as you claim, why didn't you try to include me as one of your initial targets?" I heard murmurs of agreement behind me, and crossed my arms.

"Plus, if you're really a hacker trying to help us, why be so blatant? No doubt the Monokuma units are a lot harder to hack than some more subtle means of sending us a message, and by taking control like you have during the first announcement, the headmaster and whoever is working with him would be taking rapid steps to neutralize you and contain us right now. If you were really trying to help us, why wouldn't you open up an escape route when nobody was looking?"

Time to fire the kill shot.

"There is no Besshiki Madarai, and this is a transparent ploy to turn us against one another, Monokuma!" I finished.

Silence. Then...

"Upupupupu... Perhaps you should be the Super High School Level Detective instead of Kirigiri, Naegi," Monobear stated with a chuckle. He tilted his head a bit. "Did you really spoil my plans so completely just because you noticed the trap I'd prepared? I'll have to fix that for next time."

Next time? Then I heard it. The slight sound of gas being piped into the room. Given the way my head was starting to go slightly fuzzy, the headmaster had probably started it while I was in the middle of my speech.

I'd been gassed before by Monokuma. It typically cost me the useful memories from a reset, and sometimes even more. It wasn't something I planned to repeat. Thankfully, I had options. Holding my breath to keep from breathing in ever-increasing concentrations from the gas, I sprinted forward and nailed the active Monokuma with a pretty good kick.

"Oh?" The bear asked with a dark smile. "I guess you're right. You're probably too big a threat to my plans to allow you to live anyway. Bye bye!"

The explosion ripped me apart, and an instant later I was waking up at my desk.

Well.

Now I had a name to go with the fake.

o6109o

Author's Notes:

Yeah. So really, really don't expect this to be updated any time soon. This is just a random plot bunny I cooked up and hammered out after playing the game with my brother. It's been sort of a free-write project, and since it doesn't entirely suck I'll let you all take a gander.

I mean, it's on my "Gotta finish" docket, and I imagine it'll only be about six or seven more chapters about as long as this before the end, but I don't see it being a priority.

Upupupu...

Oh, and one more thing! Go watch Dusk Maiden of Amnesia right the hell now, if you haven't watched it already. Then order the DVDs so the creators will make more sweet shit which is awesome, because god damn that was awesome. I managed to miss the initial broadcast, and me and my bro watched the first episode on a whim the other night. Then we marathon'd entire series the entire night, getting him yelled at by his girlfriend for getting home so late, because it's a ridiculously good, refreshing series. Go watch. NOW.

-Gaming Ikari