“Don’t look at the tank.”
That voice wasn’t Amami’s, which meant…
Someone else had died.
Someone else had died.
Glancing around the gym, Kaede tried to find who was missing among all the worried faces…Yumeno was there, of course, as were Yonaga, Tojo, Chabashira, Gokuhara, Harukawa, Momota, Saihara, Shirogane, everyone else, except—
Except for Hoshi.
Kaede looked to her left, where she’d heard the voice. Sure enough, there he stood, just as see-through as herself or Amami.
A sinking feeling coiled in Kaede’s chest. Hoshi was dead. He was dead, killed by someone in this very room, probably before the magic show even started, and Kaede—well, she hadn’t even known. If she’d found out, she could have saved him. Maybe.
But he was dead now. There’s no coming back from that.
“Okay.” Kaede gave Hoshi a nod. She had a good guess about what he didn’t want her to see. “When the curtains are opened, I…I won’t look at the tank. Thank you for warning me about that.”
Kaede stared at her shoes. Another killing had happened, and she’d done nothing to stop it. She’d felt so confident the other day, gazing out the window of the hallway that led to Amami’s research lab, but now—
A clanking sound jolted her out of her thoughts. The curtain was opening. Kaede turned around so she was facing the back wall of the gym—she didn’t want to see another dead body.
“Akamatsu?” Hoshi said.
“I hope this isn’t a rude question, but is Amami a…ghost, now, as well?”
“Yep.” Kaede fidgeted with the end of her sleeve, in order to avoid picking at her nails. “He didn’t want to watch the magic show, though. Said he had some things to look at in his research lab.”
“Figures. Amami didn’t seem like the type to move on quickly.” Hoshi sighed, pulling his beanie over his face. “Especially after what happened.” He paused. “Wait,” he asked, “Research lab? Last I heard, his lab hadn’t been found yet.”
“Well, he—” A crashing sound cut Kaede off, followed by a scream.
“That sure is one way to break the tank.”
“What happened?!” Kaede spun around without thinking. “Sorry,” she said, “should I have—”
“You’re fine. I was just about to say you could turn around. Anyway, “ Hoshi said, “to answer your question, it seems as if that noise was caused by Kiibo being…thrown at the tank to break it.”
“Thrown? At the tank?” Kaede noticed broken glass littered across the floor. “Is Kiibo-san okay?”
“Yes. And I can’t tell for sure, but he seems to be physically fine, if a bit depressed.”
Was Hoshi mad, or just surprised?
Kaede couldn’t tell, as his beanie hid his face from this angle. If she were in his situation, though, she’d be more than a bit annoyed at whoever suggested throwing Kiibo at the tank.
If she were in his situation. Kaede swallowed. If she had been killed with no warning. She’d at least known she was doomed, as soon as Monokuma had appeared in the library.
Hoshi, though—and Amami, as well—neither of them had had any way of predicting what would happen to them.
Kaede felt sick. Two of her classmates had died, just like that—and so had she, as much as she hated thinking about it. This wasn’t over, either, as long as the one who’d trapped them all here walked among everyone, feigning concern as if everything that had happened wasn’t her fault, talking to Saihara—
Whatever. Kaede would do the best she could in these circumstances. She did not want to mess up again and get someone else killed, that was for sure.
“Hoshi-kun,” Kaede said.
“Yes?” He looked up at her in confusion.
For the past minute or so, the two of them had been standing at the back of the gym, not talking and not trying to help investigate. Kaede had something she wanted to say.
“I…” she began, but her voice trailed off.
Ugh. Emotions were hard. If only she had a piano handy, and could just play a piece that reflected how she felt.
“It’s ok,” Hoshi said, “take your time.” He sounded calm, Kaede noted—but why was he looking out for her? He had just died, so shouldn’t it be the other way around?
“I…” Kaede began again. “This situation. It’s really messed up. And you didn’t deserve to die. I’m sorry that I couldn’t save you.”
“Not your responsibility.” Hoshi sighed. “The way I see it, you’ve been doing all you can to get everyone out, ever since this whole mess started.”
“Thanks.” Kaede smiled. She was a bit surprised, though. Hoshi didn’t know that she hadn’t really killed anyone, so why wasn’t he even a bit wary of her? Was it because…Right. Kaede remembered what she’d heard about Hoshi—and found she didn’t distrust him at all because of it.
“Oh, hi, Amami-kun,” she said, noticing that Amami had returned from his research lab, and was floating just above the floor in front of her.
Amami waved. “Hey, Akamatsu-san…” His expression fell when he noticed Hoshi. “Oh, and Hoshi-kun, um. Hi.”
Kaede waved back at Amami. He looked at her, then, a strange mix of sympathy and accusation in his eyes. The gym seemed very big all of a sudden—and very empty, even with everyone here.
“What happened? Amami asked. “Did…” he paused. “Did something…happen, while I was gone?”
“No, it was earlier than that.” Hoshi frowned. “But seriously, you two. Don’t blame yourselves for this.”
“Okay,” Kaede replied, “I’ll try not to.”
Amami didn’t say anything.
Kaede remembered a conversation she’d had with him the day before, as they watched their classmates argue over those motive videos that had been distributed to the wrong people.
“I know who’d be in mine.”
“Huh?” Kaede didn’t know how to respond to that.
“I said I know exactly who would be in my motive video if I’d gotten one.”
“You…know? What do you mean by—”
“Which is why I think exchanging those videos is a terrible idea.” Amami crossed his arms. “If someone’s reminded of how they failed in the past, they’ll do anything to avoid repeating their mistakes.”
He’d known this would happen.
Kaede sighed. Right now, she needed to move forward. Someone may have watched their own video, but her classmates would find that person.
And then that person would be executed. Even in the best-case scenario, someone else would still die. Kaede hated this.
Eventually, after what seemed like ages of floating around and trying to help investigate, to no avail, Monokuma’s voice chirped through the speakers. The class trial was about to begin. Another trial—but this time, Kaede would be a spectator while her living classmates fought for their lives.
“Well?” Amami asked, “Are we going? I mean, if neither of you want to go to the class trial, that’s fine too.”
“I’m definitely going,” Hoshi replied.
“So am I,” Kaede said. Although she couldn’t do much, she had to show up.
The three of them were silent as they followed their classmates outside, gathering in front of the obnoxious statue that everyone hated. Kaede took a deep breath. An entire day seemed to pass as the ghosts floated down, down, down behind the elevator.
Finally, the elevator creaked to a stop, and they all entered the trial room.
For a second time, Kaede paused to gaze up at the ceiling above her. It was impressive, with beautiful glass windows that seemed to reach up into the clouds—but like everything in this place, it seemed almost too impressive to be real.
No. Scratch that. Nothing here was impressive or beautiful.
Especially not that ceiling.
Kaede looked straight down at the floor. Deep breaths, she reminded herself. In, then out. In, then out.
She needed to pay attention—after all, the second class trial was about to start.
“Everything they’re saying is wrong.”
“Huh?” Amami responded before Kaede could.
“They’ve got the order of events all wrong. And I’m pretty sure Yumeno didn’t hide my—didn’t hide anything suspicious inside the staircase.”
Amami frowned. “Yumeno-san isn’t the culprit, is she?” he asked.
“She isn’t.” Hoshi stared at the floor. “The culprit is Tojo.”
Tojo? The Ultimate Maid, who had accepted a workload that seemed absurd to ask of anyone, even an Ultimate student—all in order to take care of her classmates? Kaede shifted in her seat, although she was floating about a centimeter above the uncomfortable-looking stair. Tojo didn’t seem like a killer.
But then again, Shirogane didn’t seem like a killer or a mastermind.
And there they both stood, Shirogane and Tojo, debating and helping the trial inch forward—as if they hadn’t put their own personal goals before the lives of others. Hypocrites. Even she, who had gotten Amami killed by forgetting that someone other than the mastermind could trip the sensor, was better than either of them.
To frame her, Shirogane had to have known her plan. Kaede had told no one about that, not even Saihara, so how had Shirogane found out?
That wasn't relevant right now. Kaede sat up straight and smoothed out her skirt. Right now, the most important thing was that her living classmates find Hoshi’s killer. Maybe, they would expose Shirogane as well, and—no, that was wishful thinking; nothing so far in this case made Shirogane look suspicious.
Her classmates would not all die here, though. Kaede believed that.
“They keep getting things wrong,” Hoshi said, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets. “And I know it’s not their fault, but…”
“Yeah.” Amami floated upward a bit, and leaned back in the air as if it were a chaise lounge. “It’s frustrating,” he said, “watching people make all the wrong guesses about what happened when you can’t correct them.” He sat up and looked directly at Kaede. “Especially in a scenario where being wrong could get someone killed.”
“There,” Hoshi nodded at him, “you get it.”
“Hey, they’re trying their best!”
Neither Amami nor Hoshi said anything to that.
Kaede suddenly felt like hiding in a hole. “Uhh, except for Tojo-san and the mastermind, I mean,” she backtracked. Amami and Hoshi were still silent. “I’m sorry,” Kaede continued, staring at the floor. “That was rude. I shouldn’t have said that just now.”
Hoshi sighed. “No worries,” he assured her. “It’s annoying to hear them be wrong over and over again, but you’re right. They are trying their best, they just…” He pulled his beanie over his face again. “They don’t know as much about this as I do.”
He really wasn’t mad? Either that, or he had gotten over it very quickly. Kaede looked up and to her right. Amami was still floating in the air next to her. Hoshi was still sitting-but-not-really on the edge of the bench. Both were focused on the trial, their expressions changing by the second with each thing that was said.
Okay, if neither of them were mad at her, then Kaede wouldn’t be mad at herself. For now, she would watch the trial as well.
As she watched her living classmates debate back and forth, Kaede noticed something: Saihara was leading all of them. He had moved the conversation in a direction that made sense, uncovering each truth about what had happened. A true Ultimate Detective. Kaede felt a swell of pride in her heart—she knew her friend could do this—which was immediately crushed by guilt.
Saihara shouldn’t have to do this. The killing game should have been stopped—
“Hey. Akamatsu-san.” Amami had floated down from his perch in the air. His voice sounded quiet, but tense.
“At the ceiling?” Kaede glanced upward. “There’s nothing there, though.”
“No, at the screen.”
Kaede turned her gaze to the huge TV screen above the trial stands, the very same one that had spelled her doom. Right now, though, it held no tallies, and no painted illustration—it was showing a video. A motive video.
Tojo’s motive video, to be exact—the video that had driven her to kill. Kaede had wondered at first, with a sort of morbid curiosity, what the culprit’s motive video would show. Who was that important to them?
Wait, Tojo had run the country?
Kaede would have expected Tojo’s motive video to show a rich but kind family, maybe, or possibly a relative who needed Tojo’s help to pay expenses. She would never have expected that Tojo was running an entire country behind the scenes.
And as much as she hated what Tojo had done, a part of her understood. To Tojo, this was just a large-scale version of that philosophy problem with the trolley—but instead of a choice between one person or five people, this was a choice between less than twenty people or a population of over a million.
Either way, people would die. And either way, Tojo would see herself as a killer.
In theory, all that sounded reasonable.
When the video finished, though, and Tojo began to talk on and on about how she believed she had done the right thing, her words didn’t sit right with Kaede. The motive videos might not even be real. And even if they were, Tojo had still killed Hoshi.
Even if Tojo’s motive video was true, and Hoshi’s was as well, and even if Hoshi had said what Tojo remembered him saying, none of that matched up with the expression on Hoshi's face right now.
And none of that made it okay for Tojo to kill him.
It was time, Kaede realized. Everyone knew Tojo had killed Hoshi—and everyone knew what that meant. Another failed plan would end in more death. Tojo would—
“I WILL NOT DIE!”
What? Kaede exchanged confused glances with Amami and Hoshi. Tojo couldn’t just run away, right?
But run she did, a scream tearing itself from her. Kaede wasn’t sure whether to feel embarassed, about not having thought to run, or scared, that a killer might get away, or hopeful—finally, someone here might actually defy Monokuma, and by extension, beat Shirogane at her own game.
Kaede didn’t have time to decide.
In a matter of seconds, Monokuma surrounded Tojo with a crowd of angry-looking plywood cutouts. Tojo’s eyes darted frantically around, searching for a way to escape—and at the one moment when it seemed as if Tojo was done for, a rope dropped down for her. A rope covered in thorns.
Oh, so this was Monokuma pretending to give Tojo a chance.
Tojo took the chance, grabbing the rope with a determined expression on her face. She climbed, and climbed—oh no. Was this it? Would Tojo die there, cut up by all those saw blades above her?
Apparently not. She kept going, even though she had to be in immense pain right now. She climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed, she was almost at the top, the wide-open blue sky within her reach—
The rope broke.
For a split second, Tojo froze in disbelief and horror. Then she fell.
Everyone was silent as Tojo’s body hit the ground.
After a while, one living person spoke up, then another, and another, saying that it would have been better if they had voted wrong. Kaede disagreed. As painful as it was, finding the truth and exposing the culprit was a good thing.
“Excuse me,” a voice said from across the room. “I believe I am…not alive now, is that correct?”
Kaede didn’t want to say anything to anyone right now, but she had a responsibility. As the closest ghost here to being another culprit, she needed to step up and respond. “Yeah,” she said. “That’s correct, Tojo-san.”
One by one, all of Kaede’s living classmates left the room, the remaining bears disappearing with them. Yet again, the room was empty of anyone alive.
Now, with most of her classmates gone, Kaede could actually see Tojo—who didn’t look angry or scared or horrified at all, just sad, her back slouched as she turned her gaze to the floor. Kaede felt sorry for her, almost.
But Tojo was a killer. Kaede couldn’t make herself feel too sorry for her.
“Hoshi-kun?” Tojo said. Her voice was quiet, but hoarse, and plaintive, nothing like her usual even tone. “Why is—what are you doing here? If you did not have a reason to live, then…”
“Then what?” Hoshi’s words cut across the room.
Tojo fidgeted with her glove. “Surely you would not have a reason to remain in the world of the living.”
“Thought the same thing myself.” Hoshi sighed. “But here I am.”
For a fraction of a second, Kaede thought she saw guilt in Tojo’s eyes.
Kaede pushed herself up and joined the other ghosts near the door. She glanced to her left, where Amami silently stood, adjusting and readjusting one of the rings he always wore. What was he thinking?
After all, he had known what the motive videos would lead to.
“Let’s go,” Kaede blurted out. She wasn’t sure if it was for everyone else’s benefit or her own. Either way, she needed to get out of here; she was beginning to hate this room and everything it represented.
No one, not even Tojo, disagreed with her. The four of them were soon at the surface, the dome stretched out above their heads.
Whatever this place was, Kaede realized, it was very quiet at night.
“I…” Tojo’s voice echoed into the cold. “Hoshi-kun, I am truly sorry for what I have done to you. Even if I had a reason, murder is never justified. And while I understand if you cannot, I hope that you will be able to forgive—”
“You’re not sorry,” Hoshi said.
Tojo looked at him, eyes wide and her mouth in an O.
“I don’t hate you,” he continued, “but you don’t seem sorry at all. Don’t lie to yourself.”
“But I am—”
“Now if you will excuse me, I’d like to be alone.”
With that, Hoshi was gone. Tojo turned on her heel, then, about to leave as well, when Amami stepped forward.
“What is it,” Tojo said, her voice icy. “Are you going to lecture me as well, Amami-kun?”
“No.” Amami took another step toward Tojo. “I just want to talk. I know who the masterm—”
“You hate me, don’t you.”
“No…? I was about to tell you who—”
“And yet Akamatsu-san here is somehow a better person than me, even after what she did. Explain that one.”
“Tojo-san, that’s different. Now if you would just let me say what I want to say, I’ll explain—”
“It is not different.” Tojo turned on her heel again. “Goodbye, Amami-kun.”
Now Tojo was gone, too, leaving Kaede and Amami alone in the courtyard. Amami looked daggers at the path as if its stone tiles had offended him somehow.
“Are you okay?” Kaede asked.
“I’m fine,” Amami said, putting his hands on his hips. “It’s just…ugh. I was going to tell Tojo-san about Shirogane.”
“And Tojo-san interrupted you.”
“Like I said, it’s ok. I just wish…”
“Nothing.” Amami looked upward, his arms falling to his sides.
Was it really nothing? Probably not, but Amami might not like it if she pushed the subject.
“The stars sure are beautiful tonight, aren’t they,” he said, smiling. Kaede felt a twinge of concern. Amami’s demeanor had changed so quickly—was he experienced with hiding his emotions? Kaede didn’t want to seem overbearing or invasive, though, so she kept quiet.
Kaede followed his gaze. “They are,” she replied, surprise and wonder in her voice. Tonight, the sky was perfectly clear.
“And if you look over there, you can see a satellite, too.”
Amami pointed up. “There,” he said, leaning closer to Kaede. “Near the top of the dome. But it’s kinda hard to see, since it’s moving realllly slow…”
“Oh! I think I see it!” Kaede smiled, noticing herself relax. She felt a calm, safe feeling in her heart, the same one she’d felt when Amami painted her nails that one time. Amami was a good person. Kaede was lucky to know him.
“And yet Akamatsu-san here is somehow a better person than me, even after what she did.” Tojo’s words from earlier echoed in Kaede’s mind. Kaede had failed to stop two murders.
She didn’t deserve to be talking to Amami right now.
“Akamatsu-san? Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Kaede said. “I’m just…thinking. About what Tojo-san said.”
“That’s right…she was rude to you too, wasn’t she?”
“It’s fine, I’m only mad at her for being rude to you. I already know I’m a bad person.”
“Akamatsu-san, no.” Amami looked at her, a concerned frown on his face. “You’re not a bad person.”
“Thank you.” Kaede meant that.
“Yeah, no problem! If anything, I…”
“And you’re not a bad person either, Amami-kun. Got it?”
“I don’t…” Amami stared at his shoes before continuing. “…Okay,” he eventually said. “Thank you, Akamatsu-san.”
The two of them spent the rest of the night in silence, sitting down on the main building’s steps and watching satellites move across the sky. They sat there until the sun rose—a beautiful light pink that turned into a lovely gold, then finally a bright blue, ruined only by the bars of the dome.
A new day had started. Kaede looked to her left, where Amami seemed to be...asleep? Huh. Kaede didn’t think ghosts needed sleep. There he was, though, his eyes closed as he sat slouched over, lightly snoring.
He looked peaceful.
Kaede didn’t want to wake Amami up. Saihara was walking up the path, though, on his way to the dining hall, and Kaede didn’t want to find out what would happen if a living person walked through a ghost.
“Hey.” She tapped Amami on the shoulder. “Amami-kun, wake—”
“Eh—wha—I’m awake…” He batted her arm away. “Just five more minutes…don’t worry, your brother won’t sleep in on your birthday.”
“You’re not my brother, Amami-kun,” Kaede said gently. “I think you were dreaming.”
All his drowsiness gone just like that, Amami sat up straight. “Sorry, Akamatsu-san,” he said. “I probably weirded you out, huh.”
“No, no, it’s ok!” Kaede reassured him. “Who were you talking to, though? In the dream, I mean.”
Amami looked at Kaede in surprise for an instant, before turning away as if he were ashamed of something.