When we exited the elevator, we found ourselves in a large circular chamber. The walls were made of checkered black and red tiles, and disappeared into darkness above us, masking the true height of the room. Opposite of the elevator door, there was throne and in the middle of the room, were 16 podiums arranged in a circle. Each one had a name carved into it. Unsure of what else to do we all headed to our assigned podiums. Before long, Monokuma was sitting in the throne.
"Do you like the trial room?" He asked, gesturing to the chamber. "It took a whole hour to decorate."
Koharu pointed at the 16th podium, where there was a stand with Koizumi's picture on it. The picture had a large X painted onto it.
"What's that for?" She asked. Monokuma shrugged.
"Just because she's dead, doesn't mean she shouldn't get to take part." He explained. "Now, I think it's about time I explained the basics of the class trial. 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!"
"So this punishment..." Akio began, "Is it like, detention? Or, what?"
"Puhuhu. Nope! The punishment is... drum-roll please... Execution!"
"As in, electric chair? Hanging? That kind of execution?" Akio asked. Monokuma nodded. Before any of us had time to object or comment, he began talking again.
"Alright, since this is your first trial, I'll give you a hand. Why don't you begin by talking about the murder weapon!"
And with that, his explanation was over. We had been thrown into a battle of life or death. A battle of right or wrong. A battle for freedom or execution. A battle between hope and despair.
The first to speak was Sota.
"So, um... the murder weapon was the belt right?" He asked. "Since her neck was all bruised."
Nori scoffed and tossed her hair.
"Did you even read the Monokuma file you idiot?" She replied. "It clearly says that the cause of death was falling from the second floor of the library. The belt had nothing to do with it."
"Oh. Whoops. My bad." Sota said. "I kinda forgot about that part." As he finished speaking, Mayu put up her hand to get everyone's attention.
"In that case, why were there bruises on her neck?" She asked. "Do you think that the killer strangled her afterwards to make sure she was dead?"
I tried to think things through, remembering what I found at the crime scene. No. Not at the crime scene. Above it.
"There were signs of a struggle on the second floor." I said. "So she must have gotten the bruises on her neck and wrist during the fight." Hamano nodded.
"So you're saying that the killer tried to strangle Koizumi, but then she fought back? And in the end, she fell over the railing and ended up dead like a fly on a windshield?"
"So the killer is whoever owns the belt?" Akio asked. Everyone nodded. It made sense after all. I was happy that we were able to figure things out so easily. Mayu put her hands on her hips.
"So will the owner of the belt please speak up?" She asked. There was silence as everyone waited for the owner to speak. After a moment, Ren reluctantly raised his hand, fixing his glasses with the other.
"The belt belongs to me."
So that was what he had been trying to say back at the crime scene.
"Then you're the killer!" Sota exclaimed. Kinji shook his head.
"There's no way Ren would kill anyone." He argued. "I refuse to believe he's the killer."
"I agree." Ren said. "My belt may have been at the crime scene, but I never stepped foot in that library."
"No! That's wrong!" I shouted. "Asami saw you heading to the library this morning."
"That's Right!" Asami said. "When I was at the gym, I saw you walking towards the library, and then later on I saw you heading back."
"You were also late for breakfast," Missa said quietly. "But-" She jumped as Mayu shouted out next to her.
"That's right!" She exclaimed. "The time of death was 7:00, so if he did kill Koizumi, he'd definitely be late for breakfast!"
"I was asleep." Ren argued. "Not at the library committing murder."
"You can't prove that." Nori snapped. "For all we know, you're just lying to protect yourself."
"But..." Missa said, trying to finish what she had started saying before. "He wasn't the only one late to breakfast."
Missa was right. Thinking back, I remembered several people being late to breakfast.
"Asami and Kinji were late too, right?" I asked. Missa nodded. Asami was quick to defend herself.
"I was at the gym." She said.
"And I was out jogging." Kinji added.
Neither of those were very good alibis, but at the same time, Asami and I had gotten to the dining hall at around the same time. Even if she had been late, it wasn't late enough to make her suspicious. Kinji on the other hand... My thoughts were interrupted as Ren began to speak.
"Even if I was late for breakfast." He said. "Besides the belt, which could have been stolen, there's nothing proving that I was at the library." Sota shook his head.
"You were seen going to the crime scene." He argued. Ren sighed.
"Okay, I'll humour you. If I wasn't asleep in my room, and Asami did see me, she only saw me heading towards the library. She never saw me actually enter the building." Ren had been calm so far, but he seemed to be losing his composure. "Though all of this is completely impossible because I never left my room!"
"That's wrong." Isoya stated bluntly. "There is more evidence proving you went to the library."
"Impossible." Ren said. Isoya shook his head.
"It's actually quite possible, and Yui would agree with me."
I would? I thought for a moment, trying to figure out what he was saying. Was there anything else that would prove Ren was at the crime scene? More specifically, something that apparently only Isoya and I knew about.
"Oh!" I exclaimed, figuring it out. "You're talking about Koizumi's dying message?" Isoya nodded. But Bessihiki apparently didn't understand.
"What dying message?" He asked. "There was nothing but blo-" His face grew a faint shade of green again as he remembered the crime scene, but the nausea spell passed once he took a deep breath. "nothing but blood."
"The blood was the dying message." I explained. Koharu gasped.
"Oh! The lines look like letters!" She exclaimed. Nodding, I continued my explanation.
"She wrote out the name of her killer with her own blood. It got smudged when someone stepped in it, but if you connect the lines that you can see, it spells Ren."
"But how could she write anything?" Akio asked. "She was dead, and last time I checked, dead girls couldn't write."
"I'm pretty sure dead people in general can't write." Mayu said.
"No! That's wrong!" I shouted. "Well... not the dead people writing part. That's true. What I mean is Koizumi could have written that message since she was still alive for three minutes after she fell."
"How would you know that?" Kinji asked. I could tell that he was worried. It wasn't surprising since his brother was the main suspect.
"Using her watch." I replied. "It broke from the impact of the fall, and the time it stopped at was 6:57. However, the Monokuma file said the time of death was 7:00 exactly. Which means she survived the fall and used her last few minutes of life to write down the name of her killer. Ren." Saruwatari decided to help me prove my point.
"She also had blood on her finger, which proves that she's the one who wrote the message."
Ren had been listening to all of this quietly, but apparently he had reached his limit.
"But why would she write my name!?" He asked. "I was never there!" Mayu slammed her hands on the podium, the way a lawyer would in a movie. I think she was getting a bit too into it.
"Stop lying!" She shouted. "You were seen going there!"
"And I'm saying that I was asleep in my room the whole time!" Ren shouted back. His breathing was starting to speed up. Asami shook her head.
"But all the evidence points to you!" She argued. "You weren't asleep. You went to the library and tried to strangle Koizumi, but she fought back. So you pushed her over the railing. After that, she wrote your name, and you smudged it as you left. Then you ran back to the hotel, and even though you somehow managed to get there in three minutes, you were still late."
"I think it's time to vote." Nori said. "I'd like to get this over with so I can go to bed."
At this point, Ren was sweating and couldn't seem to catch his breath. Was this because we had cornered him?
"I'm not the killer!" He shouted, his quick breathing turning into hyperventilating. He still tried to speak.
"You're. Going. To. Get. Your. Selves. Killed."
We all prepared to vote, but the action was cut short as Ren suddenly couldn't breath. Doubling over, he fumbled around in his pockets, desperately searching for something. Once he had found it, he pulled it out. It was an inhaler and he began to use it, returning his breathing to normal. It all happened so quickly that none of us had time to react.
"What just happened?" Mayu asked.
"He had an asthma attack." Saruwatari answered.
Suddenly, I realized that something wasn't adding up. Somehow we had been wrong the entire time. And Ren had been trying to tell us that.
"Wait!" I cried out. "We can't vote yet!"
Everyone looked at me, silently asking me to explain. Ren looked relieved, knowing that I had finally caught on.
"Ren just had an asthma attack right?" I said. "If he has asthma, then there's no way he would have been able to run from the library to the hotel in such a short amount of time."
"Yui... is right..." Ren said, still recovering from the attack. "I... was asleep... the whole time."
Nori tossed her hair to the side, stubbornly refusing to listen.
"I'm still having a hard time believing that." She spat.
"I'm not." Someone said. Looking around, we realized that it was Michiyo. She had been quiet the whole time, but had decided to speak up now for some reason. Her reason? She was holding it in her hand.
"I found this bottle at the crime scene." She said in her usual monotonous voice. "I thought it was Koizumi's so I didn't bring it up, but now I think it might have been the killer's."
"Can I see that Michiyo?" I asked. She nodded and tossed it over. Reading the label, I saw that it was a soporific. Suddenly, things were making sense.
"Of course!" I exclaimed. "The real killer must have used this soporific to knock out Ren in order to frame him, and then the bottle fell out of their pocket at the crime scene!" Asami shook her head.
"But I'm certain it was Ren I saw heading to the library." She said.
"Perhaps it was someone who looked like Ren?" Isoya suggested.
Someone who looks like Ren? But that meant... I felt a chill run down my spine. Was he really the killer? Was he really capable of doing something like that?
"But that would mean that..." I began. "The person Asami saw, was Kinji."
"Me!?" Kinji exclaimed. "I'm not the killer!" His objections were interrupted by the same monotonous voice who had condemned him.
"It makes sense if you think about it." Michiyo said.
"She's right." I agreed. "If you had knocked Ren out, you could have taken his clothes and dressed up as him in order to frame him."
"There's no way I'd frame my own brother!" Kinji argued. But he was once again interrupted.
"You were late for breakfast." Missa said quietly. "Just like Ren."
Kinji was starting to worry. Just like before. Only this time, I knew he was frightened for himself.
"I told you!" He said. "I was out for a run!" I nodded.
"Yes, that's true." I said. "But you weren't running to wake yourself up. You were running from the crime scene. Pretending to be Ren." Asami eyes lit up as she came to a realization.
"That's right!" She said. "The person I thought was Ren was out of breath. If it had been the real Ren, then he definitely would have been having an asthma attack by then."
"But if I'm the killer, then why would I wipe away the bloody message?" Kinji asked, desperate for a way out. "Wouldn't I have kept it there if I was trying to frame Ren?" Saruatari rubbed his chin, quickly coming up with a solution.
"Perhaps you didn't mean to wipe it away?" He suggested. "If you didn't notice it, you could have wiped it away with your foot by accident." Isoya nodded.
"In that case, there would still be blood on his shoe, correct?" He asked.
"Take of your shoe creep." Nori commanded. Reluctantly, Kinji bent over and took off his shoe. As he turned the sole towards him, he froze in fear. Letting the shoe fall to the floor, he revealed the dried blood.
"So I guess you didn't realize that you stepped in it." I said.
Kinji seemed defeated for a moment, but suddenly got his mental second wind.
"That blood is from... it's from... who cares!?" He cried out, the desperation obvious in his voice. "Some blood on my shoe doesn't prove I'm the killer!" I shook my head, despite how much I wanted to agree with him.
"It does." I said. "And if we view this case from the beginning, then we'll see that all the evidence points to you." Taking a deep breath, I prepared to explain the case, trying my best to remember every detail.
"First, the killer went to the store, buying the soporific at the pharmacy. After a while, they gave the soporific to Ren, most likely through food, and knocked him out. They changed into Ren's clothes, and headed to the library. On the way, Asami saw them as they walked by, mistaking them for Ren. Once the killer reached the library, they saw Koizumi on the second floor. They went upstairs and tried to strangle Koizumi, but she fought back. This is when the soporific bottle fell out of the killer's pocket. During the struggle, Koizumi fell over the railing. However, she managed to grab the belt from the killer, landing on top of it, and her watch, when she hit the ground. Her watch broke on impact as well, stopping at 6:57. In her final moments, she wrote the name of who she thought was her killer. However, she had fallen for the killer's trick and wrote the wrong name. The killer then ran downstairs, fleeing the scene. As they fled, they unfortunately ran through the bloody message, staining their shoe red. They then ran all the way back to the hotel in the span of three minutes, running into Asami on the way. But their attempt to create an alibi unfortunately only served to prove their guilt, because due to his asthma, Ren wouldn't have been able to make it back without having an asthma attack. However, this would be easy for the Ultimate Jogger, Kinji Saruwatari!"
Kinji was silent, rendered speechless by the explanation. Saruwatari tilted his head to the side.
"I assume that afterwards, you went back to Ren's room and changed back into your own clothes." He asked. Ren nodded, finally able to speak normally again.
"That would make sense since Ren was the one who woke me up and told me I had slept in."
Kinji couldn't reply. His head was hung low, his hair hiding his expression. Mayu signalled Monokuma.
"We're ready to vote." She said. Monokuma quickly stood up.
"Alright! 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!?"
Reluctantly, we all pulled the levers. A screen came down at the side of the room, showing a short animation of a jackpot machine. The face that appeared on the machine was Kinji's.
"Correct!" Monokuma shouted. "Congratulations! The identity of the killer, Koizumi's murderer and the one who tried to frame his own brother, is Kinji Saruwatari!"
Monokuma danced around a bit, but the rest of us were less than thrilled. Did this mean that Kinji was going to get punished? Was he going to get executed? Why would he do such a stupid thing? Why did he kill her? I needed to know.
"Why did you do it Kinji?" I asked. Tears forming in my eyes. "Why would you kill someone? Why would you frame your own brother? Why did you lie to us? To me?"
"It wasn't you guys that I wanted to fool. It was Monokuma." He said. He looked up. I had expected him to be crying, but his eyes and cheeks were dry. "I thought that if even our own parents got us mixed up, he would too, and he would think that Ren had committed the murder." Asami tilted her head to the side.
"Why would you want Monokuma to think that?" She asked. Kinji sighed.
"I knew that Ren wouldn't murder anyone, so if he was going to get out, then I'd have to step in." He explained. "I came up with a plan and chose a victim. Koizumi was the obvious choice because as the Ultimate Forensic Scientist, she'd figure all of this out right away. I found out that she went to the library every morning and put my plan into action. I bought the soporific and snuck it into Ren's drink when I visited. I couldn't have him walking around after all. My plan would be ruined if someone saw both of us." Saruwatari nodded.
"I know that I would find it suspicious if I saw two Ren's walking around."
"Exactly." Kinji said, before continuing his explanation. "I really wasn't trying to frame him. I was just trying to trick Monokuma. And if I had just pushed her off in the first place, then she wouldn't have grabbed the belt. Then I actually might have been able to pull it all off." Michiyo shook her head.
"We still would have found the bottle, and the bloody message, and the blood on your shoe." She said. Kinji laughed, apparently finding that funny.
"I guess murder really isn't my strong suit." He said smiling. "I never really was good at anything besides sports. I always had Ren to help me with everything else." When Kinji said this, I heard Ren sigh.
"You idiot." He said. "Why couldn't you just let me take care of myself?" Kinji shrugged.
"I don't know." He replied. "I just... didn't want to be here anymore, and I realized that if only one person could get out, I wanted that person to be you. After all, you're smarter than me, and you have so much more to offer the world."
I expected Ren to have some sort of response to this. To say Kinji was wrong, or even call him an idiot again. But instead, he simply closed his eyes and sighed. Kinji then turned to me.
"I'm sorry that I lied to you Yui." He said. "The only thing I was thinking about this whole trial was that if I pulled it off, it would mean that you... that all of you guys would die. I'm almost happy that you guys figured it out, because that means you get to keep on living, even if it's in a horrible place like this."
Monokuma pulled out a hammer from behind the chair and turned to face Kinji.
"Alright!" He said. "It's time for the punishment." Kinji shrugged.
"Okay." He said. Monokuma looked over in shock.
"Really?" He asked. "You're okay with this? You aren't going to beg for your life or anything?" Kinji just shook his head.
"Well, if my plan had worked out, I would have ended up dying with everyone else anyways, and even though I got scared earlier, I think I'm prepared now." Monokuma shrugged.
"If you say so. In that case, I've prepared a very special punishment for the Kinji Saruwatari, the Ultimate Jogger! Let's give it everything we've got! It's Punishment time!"
Monokuma let the hammer fall onto the large red button in front of him. Suddenly, part of the wall opened up, revealing a long corridor. A chain appeared from the hall and wrapped around Kinji's neck. Despite the fact that he was smiling, the fear was obvious in his face. The chain pulled and Kinji was swept off his feet. He began to be dragged into the hallway. As we watched this happen, I felt someone running next to me towards the corridor. Turning to look, I saw Ren, reaching out towards his brother.
"KINJI!" He shouted as the door that had appeared slammed shut. The room was silent before an image appeared on the screen from earlier. We turned to look and saw Kinji being dragged through the corridor. After a moment, he was in a strange room. It almost looked like another hallway. The chain released him and he started walking forwards. Just as we all thought he might be safe, death appeared in the form of a giant bolder. It landed behind him and prepared to roll towards him. Horrified, Kinji began to do the one thing he did best. He ran. Desperately he ran faster and faster down the hallway, the bolder slowly getting closer and closer, until it finally caught up. Before our very eyes, Kinji was crushed to death. Covered in blood, the bolder continued rolling before slowly coming to a stop. There was nothing left.
We all stood in a daze, incapable of comprehending the horrible and gory scene we had just witnessed. Once again, I felt my hands trembling and my head grew fuzzy, but I stayed conscious. My body refused to even allow me the comfort of sleep. We stood silent for what seemed like an eternity. I desperately wished for it all to be a dream. Hoping that i would wake up. But hope had left me, and all I felt now was despair.
"We should go back." Someone said. Somehow finding the strength to move, I saw that the person who had spoken was Saruwatari. He gestured to the elevator and we all followed him, returning to the surface, our hearts heavy with the horrors we had found beneath the city.
Somehow, we all found ourselves back at the dining hall. Sota was panicking, Missa was sitting in a chair crying with Isoya standing close by, still showing no emotion. Oddly enough, Mayu was silent, and Nori seemed to be trying to hide her fear, but couldn't. Koharu spoke quietly to herself while Akio could barely even move. As I watched them all, still horrified by Kinji's execution, I noticed Ren. The mathematician seemed completely neutral. I approached him, tapping him on the shoulder.
"Are you okay Ren?" I asked.
"Yes. Of course." He replied. "After all, this was Kinji's fault. He was an idiot for thinking he could outsmart Monokuma." Upon hearing this, Asami stood up, her fear transforming into anger.
"That's your brother that you're talking about!" She said angrily. Ren turned to her. I realized in his face that his shield was beginning to crack. He wasn't alright. It was even more obvious once he began to speak.
"Well how do you want me to react to this?" He asked. "Should I believe that Koizumi is still alive? Should I believe that this is all a dream? Should I believe that I didn't just see my brother crushed to death by a giant bolder!? If I did that, it would give me nothing but false hope. My brother died because he committed a murder and got caught. It's not Monokuma's fault, or the Mastermind that controls him. It's his own."
Ren paused, trying to regain his composure.
"I'm never going to see him again, Because he tried to save me. He's gone, and there's nothing I can do about it. To think about it in any other way would be irrational."
We all stared in silence. Ren closed his eyes and took some deep breaths before turning to face Asami again.
"Was that reaction more to your liking?" He asked. "Or do you wish to see me lose control again?" Asami had no idea how to respond.
"I... um..." Ren cut her off before she could even form a single word.
"Now, if you'll excuse me," He said, standing up. "I'm going to retire for the night."
And then he left. I had never seen Ren like that before. I realized that he must have been suffering even more than the rest of us. After all, we had lost a friend, but he had lost his brother.