Dangan Ronpa, City of Despair

Chapter 18

The next morning, I woke up before the Monokuma announcement. I debated going to the gazebo right away, but decided against it. We had decided to meet at the dining hall every morning, so I could make people worry by not going. Once I was there, I looked around.

One, two, three, four... I counted the people coming in. Nine, ten, eleven...

Eleven? That was one too little. Where was Nori? I waited for a while, but the door still didn't open. Apparently I wasn't the only one who noticed her absence.

"Has anyone seen Nori?" Mayu asked. Everyone shook their heads.

"Hmm. I'll go check her room." The director said. Asami stopped her.

"She won't be there." She said. "Nori goes to the pool every morning before breakfast, so she's probably there."

"Then I'll check there first." Mayu said. "Could someone come with me?"

Asami and I offered to come and the three of us headed to the pool. Normally a trip to the pool felt happy, but this time the atmosphere was anything but that. The change room was empty, so we headed to the pool area. Part of me seemed to know that what we would find wouldn't be good. I felt the now too familiar sense of despair as the change room door opened.

Floating face down in the water, limp and lifeless, was Nori's corpse. Her hair was like silk, beautiful and weightless in the water. There was no blood, no doubt thanks to the chlorine. It almost seemed like she was still alive and well. Like at any moment, she would lift her head out of the pool and ask us why we were staring.

But I knew she wouldn't.

The body discovery announcement went off, but I didn't listen. Mayu was shaking and Asami put her hand on her shoulder, trying to calm her down.

"I... can't believe this happened again." I said, struggling to put together the words. I didn't feel faint this time. Was I getting used to seeing dead bodies? I shuddered at the thought.

"It solves the problem with Missa." Asami said. Despite her attempt to sound confident, her voice was shaking.

She was right though. Monokuma said that if someone died then Missa would be let out. I ran through the change room and turned towards the gazebo. I got there quickly and looked at the building. Missa was sleeping on the ground, shivering from the cold. The glass was still sealed. She was still trapped.

"What! Why is she...?"

"Sorry, but she's not getting out until after the trial."

I turned around to see Monokuma standing behind me. I felt the urge to punch him. What kind of sick game was he trying to play?

"Why!?" I asked. He had said she'd be released once a murder had occurred and, as horrible as it was, one had. Monokuma just laughed.

"I have my reasons." He said in a sickly sweet voice. It made my skin crawl. "But you have somewhere more important to be."

He left, laughing again.

"Damn it." I said. Clenching my fist I turned to the Gazebo. "Don't worry Missa. You'll be out of there soon."

And then I ran back to the pool. Everyone had gathered by the time I got there.

"Where's Missa?" Asami asked.

"She's still stuck in the gazebo." I answered. Isoya snapped to attention when he heard this.

"What!?" He exclaimed. His eyes seemed fierce and I instinctively stepped back. Asami held up a hand to calm down Isoya, and the boy took a deep breath. In an instant he was as emotionless as ever. However, I noticed that his knuckles were white. He wasn't completely calm yet.

"Why is she still in there?" Asami asked. "I thought that..."

"That she would be let out when someone is murdered?" Monokuma asked, once again appearing out of nowhere. "Well, I've changed my mind. She's in there until after the trial"

"Why!?" Sota asked. Monokuma just shrugged.

"I got my reasons." He answered nonchalantly. "And you've got your own problems to deal with."

The ferocity had returned to Isoya's eyes as he glared at the bear.

"Monokuma" He said. Monokuma turned to face him.

"That's my name."

"I don't care for liars or cheaters, and at this moment, you are both." Isoya said. "I should warn you that when I have the chance, I am going to tear you apart limb by limb." In response to this, Monokuma tilted his head to the side.

"You must be new to the whole sneak attack thing." He teased. "It doesn't work if you tell the victim you're going to kill them. Though you must know that. After all, you..."

He was cut off by a sudden movement from Isoya. The boy lunged at the bear, only stopping once both Akio and Saruwatari had grabbed him. Even with their combined efforts, they looked like they were struggling. Monokuma simply laughed.

"Wow! I must have struck a nerve!" He said cheerfully, but then he became dead serious. "It's a good thing those two stopped you, because violence against the mayor is prohibited. It would have been a shame if we had two dead bodies to deal with."

After listening to Monokuma's words, Isoya stopped struggling. He calmed himself and turned away from the bear. Monokuma laughed again.

"Well, now that that's done," He said. "I present to you... The Monokuma File!"

He used his device and sent us the file. I waited silently for him to finish. I just wanted him to leave.

"The clock is ticking in more ways than one." Monokuma warned. "So get a move on okay!"

Then he left again. Saruwatari let go of Isoya's arm, shaking out his own.

"Hey Isoya... you okay?" He asked. Isoya nodded.

"I apologize." He said. "I should not have lost control. Thank you for restraining me." Saruwatari laughed.

"It certainly wasn't easy. You're pretty strong."

As this strange interaction went on, I noticed Ren staring at Isoya. He seemed to be deep in thought.

"Monokuma is right." He said suddenly. "The clock is ticking, so let's start the investigation."

"I'll read the Monokuma file." I offered. I opened the file and began to read.

"Victim, Nori Ayuma. Cause of death, stabbed in the back. Time of death, around five in the morning. The body was thrown into the pool, and there are no signs of the weapon being taken out of the victim's back. No other injuries were found besides the stab wound." Saruwatari nodded slowly as he listened to what I was saying.

"We should send some people to watch Missa, have two people guard the murder scene, and then the rest of us investigate the area." He said once I was finished.

"Sounds good." I said. Isoya stepped forward.

"I will keep an eye on Miss Missa." He offered. Mayu walked over as well.

"I'll join you." She said. "I... I need to get away from the body."

The two of them left and Akio and Asami offered to watch the crime scene.

"That worked out nicely." Ren said. Saruwatari tapped the mathematician on the shoulder.

"I can't perform an autopsy this time." He said. Ren fixed his glasses and shrugged.

"Because of the water?" He asked. "That's fine. The Monokuma file had enough information."

While the two of them were talking, I decided to look at the body. At first I hesitated but... it didn't seem to be as bothersome as before. It really was terrifying what people could get used to.

The body was the same as before. The Monokuma file had said that being stabbed in the back was the cause of death but... there was no knife.

"That's strange." I mumbled.

"You noticed it too?" Koharu asked.

"Huh?" I said, startled by her sudden appearance. She was looking at the Monokuma file on her E-Handbook.

"The Monokuma file said that the weapon wasn't taken out of the body, but there's no weapon there." She said. I nodded, looking at the corpse again,

"Yeah. I wonder why that is." I said. Asami, who was guarding the corpse, shrugged.

"There's no use trying to figure it out right now." She said. "We don't know enough about the murder yet."

"I guess you're right." I admitted. Not sure what else I could do with the body in the water, I headed to the change room. Michiyo was already inside and she turned to face me when I walked in.

"If you're hoping to investigate, then you aren't going to find much." She said monotonously. "I've looked around the whole room and there's nothing here."

As much as I wanted to trust Michiyo, I still felt like she could be lying. I did a quick scan of the room anyways. Like she said, there was nothing there.

"I told you. so" She said. I could have done without the attitude. Before I could ask Michiyo anything, I saw Ren enter the change room. Michiyo had seen him as well.

"What are you doing here?" She asked. "This is the girl's change room."

"Monokuma is letting everyone into both change rooms for the sake of the investigation." He explained. This was news to me. Perhaps we'd have better luck on the boy's side.

The boy's change room looked pretty much the same as the girls, but there were blue walls instead of pink. Sota was already inside and he waved when I came in. He must have already known about what Ren had told us. Besides him, the only thing that stood out was a small freezer. Opening it up I saw that it was filled with soda and ice packs. Nothing of interest there. Next to the freezer was a small garbage can. It wouldn't hurt to take a peek right? I stuck my hand in and felt around. The only thing inside was a creased up piece of paper that looked like a page from a book. It almost looked like it had been folded into something. It was also wet.

"That's just unforgivable." Sota said. I turned around. Was he talking to me? He pointed at the paper.

"That should be recycled. Not thrown into the trash." He said. I suppose that as the Ultimate Botanist, it made sense that he would prefer to recycle.

"I'll move it to some recycling later." I said, putting it in my pocket. For some reason I think he thought that I was the one who had put it into the trash. I didn't want to have that argument at the moment. Though, it wouldn't hurt to ask Sota about the murder. I walked over to him. He was standing next to a large laundry hamper filled to the brim with towels.

"Hey Sota." I said.

"Yeah?" He replied. "Do you need anything?"

"I was wondering if you know anything about the murder." I said. He thought for a moment. It looked like he was really racking his brain.

"Actually." He said after a bit. "I do." He smiled. "This morning, I was sleepwalking and I ended up waking up in the third area."

I don't think he realized what he had just said. Did that mean he was near the crime scene around the time of the crime? Not wanting to make assumptions, I decided to just keep that info to myself for now. I didn't want a repeat of what had happened to Ren and Akio in the first two murders. There wasn't any other evidence pointing to Sota so... wait, what was that smell?

"Do you smell that?" I asked. Sota put his hands up defensively.

"It wasn't me!" He exclaimed. I shook my head.

"Not that kind of smell." I said. "It smells, kind of sweet. And really familiar."

It wasn't a good smell, and it seemed to be coming from the hamper. As much as I didn't want to look through a bunch of used towels, I did it anyways. I had to figure out what the smell was. As I dug through the white towels, I eventually found a different colour. Red. At the very bottom of the hamper was a blood soaked towel. I pulled it out just as Saruwatari entered the room. A look of shock appeared on his face as he saw it.

"That was hidden in the hamper?" He asked. "But that means..."

He was interrupted by the sound of the monitor turning on.

"Attention everyone." Monokuma said. "As I said before, the clock is ticking, so lets get this thing started."

The screen went black, and I turned back to Saruwatari.

"What were you saying?" I asked. Saruwatari shook his head.

"I'll tell you at the trial." He said. Then he left the room. Sota and I followed behind him and we made our way to the large red door.

As we waited for everyone to arrive, I noticed Isoya standing alone. I walked over and placed a hand on his shoulder. He flinched at my touch, but the relaxed.

"Are you feeling any better?" I asked. He nodded.

"I am fine." He said. "But Miss Missa has been better. The best thing we can do for her is get this trial done quickly."

I noticed that he was holding the book Missa had given him. He must have felt horrible seeing her locked up like like that. We both looked up as the large red door opened. Everyone headed inside and the door slammed shut behind us. The elevator roared to life and began the descent.

Despite our efforts, it had happened again. As the elevator clanged loudly, and we descended deeper and deeper, I felt hopeless. Missa was depending on us, and if we failed, we'd lose both out lives and hers.

If we failed this trial, we would never go up this elevator again.

Was the killer really one of us? At this point, it would have been stupid to deny it. The only way we would avoid sharing Nori's fate would be finding the culprit. As I thought about this the elevator came to a halt, and the trial, a battle between hope and despair, began.

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