Dangan Ronpa, City of Despair

Chapter 19

"Let's begin with a basic explanation of the class trial." Monokuma began. "The result of the trial is determined by your own votes. If the correct culprit is chosen, then only they will receive punishment. But if you choose the wrong one, I'll punish everyone besides the blackened, and they alone will get to leave!"

"It looks so empty in here now." Asami said, looking around. Sota nodded.

"It doesn't help that Missa isn't here."

"The sooner this trial is over, the sooner we can help her." Isoya added.

"Hey! I was talking!" Monokuma said. He sounded a little insulted by the fact he had been ignored. Ren nodded.

"Yes you were." He said bluntly before turning back to the rest of us. "So to start, let's talk about the murder weapon." Monokuma just sat down on his throne in a huff. Ignoring him, Akio put up his hand.

"The Monokuma file said that Nori was stabbed in the back right?" He said. "So that means the weapon is a knife!"

"But if that's the case, then we have a problem." Koharu argued. Akio looked at her, his head tilted to the side.

"What?" He asked. Koharu took out her E-Handbook and turned it on.

"The Monokuma file said that the weapon wasn't taken out of the body." She explained. Akio just shrugged.

"Yeah. So?" he asked. Michiyo sighed.

"If the weapon wasn't taken out, the there should have been a gigantic knife in her back." She said bluntly.

Akio looked away, obviously uncomfortable from the baker's glare.

"Wasn't there?" He asked.

"There wasn't."

"Oh. Never mind then."

Akio started looking away. It was easy to see that he was trying to hide his embarrassment. Sota rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

"What if the knife was invisible?" He asked. Ren shook his head.

"Can you please think before you speak." He said. This time, Saruwatari put his hand up.

"What if the knife disintegrated?" He asked.

Disintegrated? That was definitely an out of the box idea.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well," Saruwatari began. "If the knife wasn't taken out, but there was nothing in the wound, maybe the knife disintegrated in the water." Now Ren seemed to be interested.

"So you're saying the knife melted?" He asked. Mayu slammed her hands on her podium. She always got way too enthusiastic.

"That's ridiculous!" She exclaimed. "Knives aren't ice. They don't melt."

She had a point. Knives didn't melt. But...

"What if the knife was ice?" I suggested. Michiyo raised an eyebrow.

"Are you saying the killer stabbed Nori with an icicle?" She asked.

"In a way." I replied. "More specifically, they made a knife out of ice."

"How would someone do that?" Sota asked. I thought back to the things I had found in the change room. The killer just had to use the freezer and one other thing.

"If you poured water into a knife shaped mold, then froze it, then you would have a knife made out of ice." I explained. Asami shook her head.

"But knife shaped molds aren't exactly easy to find." She argued. She had a point, but she also hadn't investigated the change room. Now that one piece of evidence made a lot more sense.

"You're right." I admitted. "But they are easy to make if you know what to do."

"How exactly would you make one?" Isoya asked. I took out the paper that I had put in my pocket.

"This paper was in the garbage can in the boy's change room." I explained. "There are lots of creases in it, and I think if we folded it along those creases, we'll have the mold we've been looking for."

I began to fold the paper, being careful not to make ay mistakes. Everyone waiting in suspense, watching my every move. It was a bit unnerving. After a bit, I finished. When the paper was folded, it was unmistakeably a mold of a knife.

"There! See!" I exclaimed. "The killer must have poured water in this, and then frozen it over night. That would also explain why the paper was wet when I found it." Saruwatari nodded.

"And that's how they made the ice knife." He agreed. Ren nodded as well.

"It would also solve the mystery of the missing weapon." He said. "An ice dagger would have dissolved in the water, just like Saruwatari said."

"So we've figured out what the murder weapon is." Isoya said. "But there is no way to narrow down who the killer is. It could be anyone." Saruwatari shook his head.

"No, that's wrong." He said quickly. I could see that Isoya was annoyed. I knew that he wanted to get this done quickly, but being impatient wouldn't help anything.

"I don't see what's wrong with my logic." Isoya said. "Any one of us could fold paper and fill it with water." Once again, Saruwatari shook his head.

"No, I think there's a way to significantly cut down the number of suspects." He argued. "Right Yui?"

Huh!? Me? How would I know? The vet seemed to notice my confusion.

"Remember what you found in the boy's change room?" He said.

I found quite a few things in there. Which one could he have been talking about. I thought for a moment and remembered that Saruwatari had reacted strangely to one of the items.

"You're talking about the bloody towel?" I asked.

"Yep." Sota's face lit up as he realized what we were talking about.

"You mean the one you guys found in the boys change room?" He asked. Mayu seemed to figure out what Saruwatari and I had realized.

"Oh. I see." She said. "You're saying that since the bloody towel was in the boy's change room, the killer has to be a boy?"

"Yep." I replied. "There's also the fact that we didn't find anything in the girls change room, so I'm guessing the killer never went in there." Akio, who had finally decided to participate again, put his hand up.

"What if someone just put the towel in there during the investigation?" He suggested. Sota shook his head.

"I was in there the whole time and I didn't see anyone do that." He said. Asami counted the boys in the room.

"So that leaves us with five suspects." She said. Ren sighed.

"Considering the time of death was around five in the morning," He said. "I guess none of us have an alibi." Akio groaned and held his head.

"Then how are we going to figure this out?" He asked. "There's no way to know who went to the pool this morning."

"No, that's wrong." I said.

"What are you talking about?" Michiyo asked, though, based on her tone she didn't really seem to be interested in the answer.

"I know that one person went to the pool this morning." I said.

"We are speaking of people besides the victim." Isoya said. I was getting very tired of his attitude.

"I know." I said. "I'm talking about Sota." Sota's head snapped up.

"Me?" He asked. For some reason he seemed really surprised. Was his memory actually that bad?

"You told me that this morning you were sleep walking, and ended up in the third area." I reminded him. Mayu quickly turned to the botanist.

"Wait what? How did you get there?" She asked. Sota shrugged.

"I don't know." He replied. "I just woke up near my flower garden." Ren fixed his glasses before turning to Sota.

"So you left you room, took the train, got off at the third stop and made it all the way to your garden while sleep walking?" He asked. The disbelief was painfully apparent in his face.

"Yep!"

"That's some... impressive sleep walking." Ren replied. Sota smiled, not picking up the doubtful tone in Ren's voice.

"That's nothing." He said. "I once woke up on an plane travelling to Canada! I had bought the ticket in my sleep and taken a taxi over. Luckily the plane hadn't left yet though, so I was able to get off."

Ren's disbelief had become complete shock.

"Well... I'm not actually sure how to react to that." He said.

"Sota's sleeping habits aside," Isoya interrupted. "We still need to discuss the issue at hand. If Sota was at the third area, then does that not mean he is the most suspicious suspect?" I nodded, as much as I didn't want it to be true.

"Unfortunately yes." I said. Sota became panicked, no doubt thinking about what had happened in past trials.

"But I'm not the only one who went over there!" He said quickly. "I saw someone else."

"You did?" Mayu asked. "Who did you see?" Sota frowned and furrowed his brow.

"I saw... I saw..." He almost looked like he was in pain from the effort. "Darn it! I can't remember!"

"He must be lying then." Michiyo accused. Sota shook his head.

"I'm not lying. I did see someone!" He said defensively. "It was when I just woke up, so I thought it was a dream, but I think it must have been real." Ren put up his hand to stop Sota's talking.

"Sota," he began. "I think I might be able to help jog your memory." Now Sota almost seemed to be in awe.

"You can?" He asked. Ren nodded slowly.

"Yes." He said. "There was something that Monokuma said that's been bothering me for a while now. It was when Isoya lost his composure." He paused to look at Isoya for a moment. "When Monokuma was speaking of sneak attacks, he said that you would know how to do one. At first I just assumed he was trying to make you seem suspicious, but you did that yourself by lunging at him to cut him off."

"Oh! I see!"Asami exclaimed. "You're saying that Monokuma was talking about Isoya killing Nori?" Once again, Ren nodded.

"Yes. That's right." He said. "Why else would Isoya try to cut him off?" He turned his gaze from Isoya back to Sota.

"So was Isoya the one you saw when you woke up in the third area?" He asked. Sota thought for a moment and then started nodding.

"Yeah! It was actually!" He said. "He was far away, but I'm pretty sure it was him!"

"Pretty sure isn't going to cut it." Akio said. "Did you see him or not?" Frightened, Sota nodded faster.

"Yeah. I saw him." Everyone's gaze turned to Isoya, who despite the accusations was as emotionless as ever.

"Is it not possible that Sota is simply lying in order to frame me for his crimes?" He asked.

"I don't think he has the mental capacity to do that." Michiyo said.

"Nonetheless." Isoya cotinued. "You cannot accuse me based on his words alone." Saruwatari tapped his fingers and tilted his head to the side.

"But if you think about it" He said. "Based on the motive, you're much more suspicious than Sota."

"He's got a point." Mayu agreed. "You and Missa are pretty much inseparable. I can see you doing something rash in order to get her out of the gazebo." Isoya was starting to break, and there was a hint of panic in his eyes. Like a cornered animal, ready to pounce.

"But this is all just speculation!" He argued. "You have no proof!"

Did we really have no proof? I looked down, trying to remember everything I had found. I noticed the paper on my podium. I hadn't realized before, but now that I looked closer I saw that there was something printed on it.

"We do have proof though." I said. Isoya's icy stare turned to me. He didn't seem sweet anymore.

"That's impossible." He said. I held up the paper so he could see it.

"The paper that was used to make the mold was torn from a book." I explained. "The water faded the ink, but you can still see the lines of the music."

Isoya must have realized where I was going with this, since he remained silent.

"It was torn from the book Missa gave to you as a gift. Wasn't it?" I asked. Isoya was still silent. Was he still not willing to admit it?

"If I explain this case from the start, I think you'll see that you can't deny your guilt." I said.

"First, the killer tore a piece of paper from the book and folded it into the shape of a knife. They needed a disposable mould if their plan was going to work. Then they filled it with water and left it in the change room over night. The next morning, they followed Nori to the pool, knowing that she went there every morning since she announced it to all of us a while back. While she was changing, they grabbed the dagger and towel. Once Nori was by the pool, the killer stabbed her in the back, dropping the body into the water. The knife stayed in the body, but blood still got on the killers hands. They wiped this away with the towel. In the change room, they hid the towel in the hamper. No doubt they debated bringing it and the mould with them, but after what happened to Bessihiki, they decided against it. With the towel in the hamper and the mould in the trash, the killer left the change room. Unfortunately, Sota saw them when he woke up in the middle of sleepwalking. Fortunately, Sota thought it was just a dream. It would have been a perfect murder if the killer had simply taken the mould and towel with them, but they didn't and that's what got them caught. After all, the paper came from your book, right Isoya?"

Isoya was silent as he listened to my explanation. Once I finished, he nodded slowly.

"I suppose you are right." He admitted. "I cannot deny my crime any longer."

Monokuma, who was done sulking, stood up excitedly.

"Alright then! It's time for the long awaited voting time! Please use the levers next to you to vote. Will you choose the right one? Or the dreadfully wrong one? What's it gonna be? What's it gonna be!?"

We all pulled the levers and once again, the jackpot machine appeared on the screen. The face that appeared this time was Isoya's.

"Corrrrrrect!" Monokuma said. "The backstabbing liar was Isoya Taiki!"

I felt my stomach knot. Once again, we had condemned a friend to die.

"Isoya..." I began. "I'd ask why you did it, but I think we all know already." Isoya sighed.

"You are probably right." He said. "I could not leave Miss Miissa in there. Monokuma knew this, and he approached me. He promised that if I were to become the blackened, then he would release both myself and Miss Missa."

"Isn't that against the rules though?" Michiyo asked. Monokuma nodded.

"Yep! It is!" He said cheerfully. "So, in other words, I lied." Isoya turned to the bear in shock.

"What?"

"I can't exactly let two people out can I?" Monokuma teased. "I'd be breaking my own rules." Isoya clenched his fist.

"Damn you Monokuma." He said, but quickly calmed himself. "Though I suppose I should have seen this coming." Mayu had tears in her eyes. No doubt it was because she didn't want to lose another friend. I felt the same.

"You're as calm as always." She said. "How are you not freaking out right now?" Isoya smiled. I don't think I had seen him do that before.

"If I had done nothing, then lady Missa would have died and we would have all suffered the consequences." He said. "If I had succeeded, then all of you, including lady Missa would have died. In a way, I'm almost happy that I have failed. This is the only way all of you get to continue living."

"It really is a shame though." Asami said. "That you're going to be executed before you remembered your talent." Isoya was silent for a moment after hearing this. It almost seemed like he was debating something.

"I suppose that since I'm going to be leaving you all soon, I should tell you the truth." He said.

"You mean you've been lying?" Saruwatari asked. Isoya just nodded in response.

"I did not forget what my talent was." He admitted. "I was simply keeping it a secret." Ren tilted his head to the side.

"Then what is your talent?" He asked. Once again, Isoya was silent as he seemed to debate sharing his answer.

"I am the Ultimate Hitman." He said after a short time.

"Wait, what?" Akio exclaimed. "You mean you... you kill people?"

"Yes." Isoya replied. "Though, at the beginning of this game, I swore to myself that I wasn't going to kill anyone. My employers were not here, so I had no reason to kill any of you."

Hitmen? Employers? This all seemed so surreal. Part of me wished that it was all a dream, but I knew that despite the strange story, it wasn't.

"Your... employers?" I asked. Once again, Isoya nodded.

"I assume you have heard of the Kuzuryuu clan." He said. This time it was Ren's turn to nod.

"The infamous Yakuza clan?" He replied. "Of course."

"When I was young, my parents owed a great sum of money to them." Isoya explained. "They decided that rather than pay the price, they would offer them their first born son. The Kuzuryuu clan raised me to be a killer. I would assassinate those who could not pay the debts they owed, or those who were simply the clan's enemies."

"So you were pretty much their executioner?" Sota interrupted.

"That is one way to put it." Isoya replied. "Though I would never kill without reason. I would only kill those I saw as evil." Koharu raised her hand to get his attention.

"Why would you keep this a secret?" She asked. Once again, Isoya thought silently before answering.

"Because I was confused." He said. "I did not understand how someone with such a gruesome and violent talent could be accepted into Hopes Peak Academy. I felt as though I did not belong here." Mayu had finally started to cry.

"We would have accepted you though!" She exclaimed. "You didn't need to hide who you are Isoya!"

"Nonetheless," He replied. "It is too late now. There are people who deserve to die. Sinners, liars, cheaters, each of them brings nothing but negativity to this world. Now, I am one of those people. I lied to you all, and I put you at risk. I have become one of the people who time and time again I hunted down to kill." He paused and scanned the room, looking at each of us.

"I do not remember the time I spent with each of you at Hopes Peak Academy." He said."But I doubt any of you have sinned so greatly that you deserve to suffer through this situation. You are good people, and I pray that you will all make it out of here."

Monokuma had been waiting patiently, but now he rolled his eyes.

"Enough of this lovey dovey emotional stuff." He said. "Booooring! Now. I've prepared a very special punishment for the Ultimate Hitman Isoya Taiki! It's punishment time!" Isoya smiled again.

"Do not mourn my death." He instructed. "Use it as an incentive to get out. Let this punishment be the last."

The chain wrapped around his neck and he was pulled into the corridor that had opened. The doors slammed behind him as he closed his eyes. This time, the screen flickered to life to show the second area. It had been transformed into a parade and hundreds of Monokumas were cheering at the passing floats. It cut to Isoya, wandering through the crowd. One of the floats caught his eye. In it was Missa, lying unconscious. Isoya ran towards it, but stopped when he noticed something on a nearby roof. On top of it was Monokuma, pointing a gun at Missa. Time seemed to slow as he pulled the trigger. The bullet was heading right for the young pianist, but then it was gone. Instead of hitting Missa, it had hit Isoya, who had jumped into it's path and was now sitting in a pool of blood on the pavement. The screen went black.

Afterwards, no one said a word. However, this time there was no long silence. This time we all ran quickly to the elevator. The ride seemed longer than ever as we slowly made our way back to the surface. I was sad that we had lost Isoya, but if we didn't move quickly we could lose another friend as well. Once the doors opened again, we all sprinted to the second area. Ren, who couldn't sprint, still moved quickly. In the second area, all signs of the parade were gone.

Including Isoya's body.

In the middle of the road, we found Missa. She was unconscious and looked pale. Ren was last to get there, but first to react.

"Akio." He said. "Can you carry her to the dining hall?" Akio nodded and picked up Missa. She looked so small in his arms. We all followed him to the dining hall and once again, Ren was the first to react. He sent Michiyo and Mayu to heat up some soup, and then told Saruwatari to make a pillow using the tablecloth. Once all of this was finished, Akio laid Missa down and Ren began to feed her the soup. After she had swallowed a few spoon fulls, Missa opened her eyes.

"I-Isoya?" She said weakly. "Where's... Isoya?" Saruwatari rushed over to her and placed a hand reassuringly on her shoulder.

"You need to rest Missa." He said. Since she must have been too weak to argue, Missa closed her eyes. Ren placed down the bowl and spoon and turned to Akio again.

"Could you carry her too her room now?" He asked. Once again, Akio nodded and lifted the small girl. After a quick nod, Ren turned to Asami.

"Could you keep an eye on her?" He asked. Asami nodded and followed Akio out the door.

"Alright then." Ren said. "There's nothing else we can do now. Everyone get some rest."

We all did what we were told, heading to our rooms. I felt sad that we had lost Isoya. He had saved both Missa and the rest of us. We were living because he was willing to pay the ultimate price. For some reason I couldn't cry. Was it from relief? Or maybe I was just happy that Missa was back with us. So much had happened since the incident that morning and my head began to spin just thinking about all of it. I felt dizzy after a while, but eventually sleep overtook me.

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