Dangan Ronpa, City of Despair

Chapter 23

Inside the dining hall the girls had pushed together all the tables, creating one large one. There were also table cloths all along it. The boys and I stood in awe at the hall's transformation. How had they done all of that in such a short time?

"Where did you get the table cloths?" Saruwatari asked.

"They're actually some extra bed sheets." Asami answered. "It was Missa's idea." Missa's cheeks went red.

"I wanted it to feel more like a party." She explained. We placed the dishes next to the ones already on the table before sitting down. It seemed like someone had already brought my salad out, and Asami had already poured a glass of punch for everyone. Akio held his glass in his hand.

"Don't people usually give a toast at these sort of things?" He asked. Koharu gestured to Mayu.

"Well, it was Mayu's idea." She said. "So how about she does it?" Mayu quickly shook her head.

"Me? Nah, I'm not very good at improvising." She said. "I work behind the camera for a reason."

"How about Yui?" Ren suggested.

Huh?

"Yeah! Yui can do the toast!" Asami exclaimed.

"Me?" I asked. "Um, I guess I can." I stood up and held up my glass. That's how these things usually started right? I felt really nervous.

"Well, I suppose there are a lot of things we could toast to." I began. "We could toast to the memory of those we've lost. We could toast to our old lives, or our new ones. We could even toast to this delicious meal everyone has made together." I gestured to the dishes on the table. Everyone smiled. "But, I think that we should toast to the reason we're having this potluck in the first place." I continued. "Our friendship. Monokuma said that before we were here, we were all classmates at Hopes Peak Academy. He stole those memories from us, but in doing so he gave us an opportunity to meet each other again. He gave us a fresh start. I'm glad he did that, because even if there have been hard times along the way, I've enjoyed meeting all of you here. We went from classmates, to strangers, to friends, or if you ignore how cheesy it sounds, we've become a family. So, I guess I'll toast to that. To our family."

Everyone raised their glasses.

"To our family!" They cheered together. I sat down, my cheeks flushed with colour.

"That was an awesome speech Yui!" Mayu complimented. "You're a natural!"

Somehow my cheeks reddened even more as I thanked her. Oblivious to this, Mayu turned to everyone.

"Now that we've done a toast, let's eat!" She said. Immediately, everyone began to dig in. While they did this, I turned to Ren and nudged him with my elbow. Probably more forcefully than necessary. He turned towards me.

"What was that for?" He asked, rubbing his arm.

"Why did you say that I should do the speech?" I asked. "You put me on the spot!" Ren shrugged.

"Whether you know it or not, you're good with words." He explained. "Not to mention, you always speak from your heart, so I thought you would be the best person to do it." He smiled and turned back to his plate.

"Oh! I, um... thanks." I said. Completely flustered. I hadn't realized that he thought that. "But you still completely put me on the spot. Next time talk to me first." I noticed him smiling.

"Why are you smiling?" I asked.

"When you hit me with your elbow, it reminded me of Kinji." Ren replied. "He used to do that all the time."

Ren seemed to be lost in thought. I thought back to how he had been at the beginning of all of this. He had been asocial, rude and didn't seem to care for any of us. Now he was much more open to everyone. It was amazing how much someone could change in such a short amount of time. I decided to leave him be and turned back to the food in front of me. I grabbed a slice of pizza from Saruwatari's dish, and some of the salad I had made. Next, my eyes wandered over to Koharu's... questionable mashed potatoes.

"Are you going to take some Yui?" Koharu asked. I stared at the multicoloured potatoes.

"I would love to, but... I'm not a big fan of potatoes." I said. Koharu nodded.

"Yeah. Me neither." She said. "It's just the only thing I know how to make."

The artist turned back to her own plate, easting some of the nachos she had taken. Looking around some more, I saw Michiyo's fruit cake. Only one person had taken a slice. Michiyo must not have been very happy about that. It was probably just because no one there was a fan of fruitcake. I took a cookie instead and took a bite, before immediately spitting it out again. It was completely burnt!

"Yeah..." Sota said. "All the cookies are burnt to a crisp." I was about to reply, but was cut off by the sound off coughing next to me. On the other side of Ren, Asami was clutching at her throat.

"Is she choking!?" Mayu asked, the panic obvious in her voice. As if to answer her question, Asami's mouth began to foam.

"That doesn't usually happen with choking." The atmosphere changed instantly, and I felt the urge to help Asami. But I couldn't move. My muscles were frozen stiff from fear. I saw Ren's face go pale.

"She's been poisoned!" He exclaimed.

And Asami's body went limp.

It all happened so quickly that none of us had time to react. One second Asami was smiling and talking, and then the next second she was... she was dead. Saruwatari ran over to her to check her pulse, but was cut off by the monitor turning on.

"A body has been discovered! After a certain amount of time has passed, a class trial will be held. Please use your time effectively."

There was no need to check her pulse. Asami had just died in front of us. Not even a metre away from where I was sitting. Isoya hadn't been the last.

"Everyone step away from the table!" Ren shouted. Startled, we all did as we were told.

"Why do we have to move away?" Akio asked.

"If Asami is dead," Ren explained. "Then this is now a crime scene." Mayu was shaking as she stared at Asami's body.

"W-Who's dish was poisoned?" She asked. Ren looked at Asami's fork.

"It seems like she was eating the mashed potatoes." He said. I felt my heart skip a beat as I realized I had come close to eating that dish.

"Isn't that Koharu's dish?" Missa asked. Her voice shaking as much as Mayu's body.

"Yep." Koharu answered. Akio turned to face her.

"Then Koharu poisoned Asami?" He asked with an accusing undertone.

"Nope." Koharu replied. Sota had tears forming in his eyes as he turned to the artist as well.

"You're just lying!" He shouted. "Asami died when she ate your dish so it has to be you!" Ren held up his hands to silence everyone.

"We wont know if she's guilty or not until we've investigated." He said. It seemed like heagreed as well.

"He's right!" Monokuma said cheerfully. "So get your butts in gear! The Class Trial will be happening soon!"

We were all startled by Monokuma's appearance, but not surprised.

"What are you doing here?" Michiyo asked bitterly.

"You mean besides gracing you with my presence?" Monokuma asked. I'm here to give you the Monokuma File!"

He pressed some buttons on a device and our E-Handbooks beeped to announce the file delivery. Monokuma left and Saruwatari opened the file and began to read it aloud.

"Victim, Asami Tanno. Cause of death, ingested poison. Time of death, 4:36. No external injuries were found."

He sighed, before putting down the file.

"If the cause of death was poisoning, I can't really perform an autopsy." He said. "I'll watch the crime scene here with Koharu instead." Mayu shook her head.

"But if she's the killer, won't she mess around with the crime scene?" She asked. This time, Saruwatari shook his head.

"That's why I'm watching too." He explained.

"We'll also need to investigate the kitchen." Ren said. "That's where the poison was put into the dish, so there may be evidence there."

"Which kitchen?" Mayu asked.

"Both." Ren answered. "But we need to make sure a girl investigates the boy's kitchen and vice versa. That will ensure that the killer can't interfere with the evidence."

"I'll go to the boy's kitchen with Mayu if that's okay with our fearless leader." Michiyo offered. There was a hint of sarcasm on the "fearless leader." part. Ren was seemingly unfazed by this.

"I'm not trying to be your leader." He said calmly. "I'm just trying to make sure this is done in an organized manner."

"Yeah, we understand." Mayu said as she grabbed Michiyo's hand. "Come on Michiyo. I really need to get away from the body." The two of them left and Sota put up his hand.

"Akio and I can investigate the kitchen." He offered. Akio shook his head.

"No way." He said. "I'm not leaving Koharu at the crime scene. I still don't trust her." Ren sighed.

"Saruwatari is watching her, and I'll be here as well. So go to the kitchen Akio." He said. Akio stared at Ren silently for a moment.

"Okay." He said after a bit, and then he followed Sota to the kitchen.

"Um, what do you want me to do Ren?" Missa asked.

"You can investigate the kitchen with Sota and Akio." Ren suggested. "That way you don't have to be near the body." Missa nodded slowly and headed to the kitchen.

Then that left Ren and I to investigate the dining hall. I headed over to the body. It wasn't effecting me as much as all the others had. Was I really getting used to seeing corpses? Trying my hardest to avoid looking at the body, I looked at the plate. Asami had taken food from three different dishes. She was the only one who took a slice of fruit cake, and any of Koharu's mashed potatoes. She also had one of Mayu's cookies it almost looked like charcoal. Based on her fork, you could see that the last thing she had eaten was the potatoes. A bite had also been taken out of the fruit cake.

"How could someone burn a dish so badly?" Ren asked, looking at Mayu's cookies. I looked over and saw that all of Mayu's cookies were burnt to a crisp. Was that because she had been moving around so much when she was cooking? Or maybe she was just a really bad cook.

I decided to look at the other dishes that Asami took from. The potatoes were the most suspicious, but a bite had also been taken out of the fruit cake. I moved over and picket up the knife.

"Do you mind if I cut the cake Ren?" I asked. Ren shrugged.

"Asami took a slice of it, so I see no reason to not investigate it."

Nodding, I slid the knife into the cake. The batter was still moist and I felt bad for not taking a slice before. It really did look delicious. It was also made by the Ultimate baker of all people. As I thought about this, the knife hit something hard. I stopped putting pressure on the blade.

"Did you find something?" Ren asked, walking over.

"Maybe." I replied. I used my hands to break away the cake around whatever the knife had hit. There, stuck in the dough, was a plastic bottle. I pulled it out and looked at the label. It as pretty faded, but I could still make out the word poison.

"There are bottles like that at the pharmacy right? Ren asked. I shrugged. I had never been to the pharmacy. Either way, it was a bottle of poison.

"Well, it's either Koharu trying to frame Michiyo." I said. "Or Michiyo trying to frame Koharu."

"Or someone trying to frame both of them." Ren added. I figured it would be best to keep the bottle a secret until we knew more about the case. I heard the monitor turn on, and we both turned to look at it.

"Ahem." Monokuma said. "I think it's about time we get this thing started so... make your way to the red door I guess."

The screen went black. Monokuma wasn't even trying to hide his boredom. Shrugging, we headed to the red door. Once were there, I walked over to Mayu.

"Did you guys find anything?" I asked. Mayu shook her head.

"Not a single thing." She said. "The kitchen was a mess from the boys using it, but there was nothing weird there."

I nodded. Did that mean that the boys were innocent? Or was the killer just good at not leaving evidence? I headed over to Missa and asked her the same question. Like Mayu, she shook her head.

"No. The kitchen looked just like we left it." She said. I could see a hint of a smile on her lips.

"Did something happen?" I asked. It wasn't like Missa to smile before a class trial. Missa shook her head.

"I was just thinking that it was nice of Ren to let me investigate the kitchen." She explained. "Ren is actually really nice. Not nice like Isoya, but nice in his own way."

The conversation was cut short by the sound of the large red door opening. We all stepped into the elevator and the doors slammed shut behind us. The elevator roared to life and began the descent.

Isoya hadn't been the last death. Asami had died right in front of us and we did nothing to stop it. Could we have done anything? Or had it been hopeless from the moment she ate Koharu's dish? I placed my hand on the bottle in my pocket. Who was the killer? Koharu? Michiyo? Or someone else entirely?

If we couldn't figure that out, then we would never go up this elevator again.

The killer was one of us, and the only way we could avoid sharing Asami'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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