Countering

Chapter XLVI: Countering

XxX

Naegi

My head whirled towards the microphone as I forced my face to remain calm. Monokuma had found a hole in the plan I hadn't anticipated. Find us he couldn't, but he certainly could bring us to him. While I could hypothetically ignore his summons, he might then respond with violence or escalation. As I thought, Alter Ego's voice cut into my reverie.

"The PA systems do reach into the subterranean wing, Naegi. You won't be able to avoid the summons that easily."

"Hadn't even considered that," I responded quickly. "The question now becomes whether I leave immediately, or give Monokuma the impression that I climbed from the depths...ah, I see it."

I turned to the three girls near the entrance.

"Kirigiri, Celeste, Asahina, go. I'll be there momentarily."

They nodded. Asahina and Celeste left, but Kirigiri lingered near the entrance, concerned.

"Naegi, what are you planning? There's no access to any camera-blind areas from this location, as far as I know."

"I'm going to be a bit unorthodox," I replied, before leaning down to Ikusaba and attaching a small syringe to the small of her back. "I mean to make an entrance."

Kirigiri's eyes widened.

"You can't be serious. What happens if this doesn't work?"

"We'll just have to see, won't we," I responded flippantly. "But in all seriousness, go."

She left reluctantly and I turned back to Ikusaba.

"The syringe currently on your neck is full of enough tetrodotoxin to kill an elephant, so I wouldn't suggest making any sudden moves. You and I are going to make a deal," I began, my hands moving down and undoing her bindings.

XxX

Mastermind/Monokuma

The mastermind leans back in their chair, their eyes flitting across the cameras, searching for motion. They didn't expect their gambit would actually draw Naegi out, but it was still worth it to try. After all, they did have an important announcement to give the students. One which would change their lives...or lack thereof...upupupupu...

The mastermind suddenly stops laughing when they catch sight of movement. Three students are leaving the Rationalist's room. The Swimmer, the Gambler, and the Detective...his 3 accomplices. Strange. Why would those 3 have separated from him? They would have been useful backup, if nothing else. The Gambler would have been able to read the Soldier's face, the Detective and the Swimmer able to provide useful reconnaissance...their eyes widen. Of course, the boy must think himself a great planner. He had sent his helpers elsewhere, trying to fool the Mastermind into believing that Naegi had remained in his own room for the interrogation. An interesting tactic, that. Naegi would have to be congratulated if he was the last one to survive. After all, he was only a few steps from Despair...

XxX

Ikusaba

Feeling gradually returned to my body as the paralytic wore off. I slowly freed my limbs, carefully standing up. I could feel the cold metal of the syringe pressing into me with every motion. Naegi watched me with detached interest.

"What kind of deal did you have in mind?" I asked, voice tinged with steel. " I will not betray my commander and throw my life away."

"Of course not," he responded. "I just want something rather simple from you. Show me the tunnel entrance in this room. Don't insult my intelligence by telling me there isn't one. I know you wouldn't have risked being seen in the hallways while walking down to this room before your attack on us. Just tell me where it is now and we can save any fuss."

My eyes widened slightly and I turned towards the back wall.

"Why do you need the tunnel entrance?" I asked, my voice tinged with false nervousness. Years of mercenary work had taught me lessons about information retrieval, and I was confident I could learn something from his response. I turned back to observe his face when he replied and was met with cold, stony silence, barring a slightly tilted head. So much for that idea. My hands lifted, flicking outwards to touch very precise places on the wall. As a portion of the wall swung open, Naegi pointed towards the interior.

"Stay in front of me. We are going to the gymnasium tunnel entrance, which you will open for me. You are going to remain inside the tunnel system for approximately 15 seconds after I leave it. After that, you may leave from any entrance."

I nodded, and we entered the tunnels. After a minute or so, we reached the last turn and began heading towards the tunnel entrance. As we got near hearing range of the students within the gymnasium, Naegi stopped me, putting a hand on my arm.

"Ikusaba, I'd like to ask you a favor. If Monokuma does try to kill me and fails, please do try to find me before he does. And remember that a person can always be redeemed."

I nodded, shaken, and we continued crawling. Once we reached the entrance, I quickly opened the latch, my fingers trembling. Naegi slipped through the opening without another word. I turned back to the darkness of the tunnel, trying to hide the water gathering in the corners of my eyes.

XxX

Naegi

I slowly slid from the opening into the gymnasium, standing up quietly behind Monokuma on the stage. As the eyes of the other students widened, I tapped him on the shoulder.

"Sorry, I got a bit lost on the way." I said with a grin on my face.

"Oh, I don't mind at all!" the bear responded sarcastically. "Not like I had something important to say or anything...damn tardy kids..." He trailed off into grumbles before brightening up.

"I suppose I couldn't really start without you though. After all, you are my guest of honor!"

My eyes widened. Clearly, this had something to do with Ikusaba's capture, but what? Before I could finish my thoughts, Monokuma's paw landed on my shoulder.

"This boy took something of mine," he began, voice booming. "And, in return, I'm going to take something of all of yours: your time. As of now, you have 12 hours to commit a murder. If nobody dies before 8 am tomorrow, all of you will be killed. Slowly and painfully. I'm sure I can come up with something suitable, don't you agree?"

With that, he pushed me off the stage onto the floor. By the time I turned around, he was gone. I whirled back to the other students, training my eyes on their expressions. All of them met my eyes. After a few seconds, Togami broke the silence.

"I'm afraid that our mutual relationship will have to be terminated for now. You understand."

I nodded, and he turned to leave. As he left, I felt a strange buzzing coming from my pocket and froze. Something strange was happening with my electroID. I pulled it out to reveal a red light shining in the corner with a timer next to it ticking down from 12 hours. At the same moment, the screen in the corner of the gymnasium flashed on.

"I'm sure you've all noticed my gracious new addons to your electroIDs! These red lights will all simultaneously blink off if a student dies. After last trial, I've decided to waive the body discovery requirements...after all, it'll be so much more fun this way! upupupu..."

The screen shut down, and I replaced my electroID in my pocket. As I walked out of the room, Kirigiri came up besides me.

"What are you planning?"

"Not now," I motioned to the cameras and she nodded. Once we returned to the room, she slumped down on her bed, fear showing through in her expression.

"What now, Makoto? Do we wait in silence for someone else to die?"

"Normally, I would suggest something like that," I replied. "In this situation, though, I don't know if we can rely on something that easy."

"Why not?" she asked. "Someone like Togami or Celestia would kill in a heartbeat if it meant saving themselves."

"Not if they could reduce the risk to themselves still further by letting someone else do the killing. If they wait long enough, Asahina or Fukawa might kill out of desperation, and then as long as they can ensure they aren't the target then they'll survive with minimal risk. Togami and Celeste will be playing the waiting game. Maybe, if time's nearly up, one of them might kill, but until then..."

She nodded.

"Then what is our next move?"

"We give them a little time to come to the same conclusions we did. Until then, there's not much else we can do but wait."

She leaned back against the wall, her eyes closing. I caught sight of a slight quiver in her shoulders and sat down next to her, looking her in the eyes.

"Kyouko, listen to me. We are going to survive this. I am going to make sure you survive this."

"I know you'll try," she responded. "I worry because you have always been trying, and yet..." She trailed off, uncertainty tinging her expression.

"And yet Fujisaki still died." I finished darkly. "I know what mistakes I made there, and I have no intention of making them again."

"I did not mean to offend," she quickly replied. "I only wished to-"

I laid my hand on her knee and she fell silent.

"I know you meant no harm. My anger is at myself, not you."

She opened her mouth to reply before we heard a knock at the door. I stood up and walked over to the entrance, gripping the spray bottle of fentanyl as I turned the knob with the other. Asahina stood in the hallway.

"Am I interrupting something?" She winked at me. "I'd leave you two alone if I could, but my chance of getting murdered was rising faster than the temperature of donut dough in a deep fryer."

I grinned and motioned for her to enter.

"Worry not, there was nothing to interrupt."

She laughed.

"I might not be some expert at reading people, but I'm also not a total idiot."

She stepped inside and I closed the door behind her. Now all I had to do was wait.

XxX

Ikusaba

As I crawled through the tunnels to my recon station on the dormitory's second floor, my hidden communicator suddenly switched on. My commander's voice emanated from the speaker seconds later.

"Soldier, respond. What is your current status?"

I quickly pulled the communicator from the small of my back.

"I am in the clear. Naegi has left me behind. However, I deem it unwise to return at this moment in time."

"Unwise?" they responded. "What do you mean, unwise? I need a report from you! What did Naegi do to you?"

"Nothing significant that I was conscious for," I replied. "However, I was under the effects of the sedative for a long while. I could well have been tagged with a tracking device during that time."

After a few seconds, my commander spoke again.

"Understood. Don't return, then. However, keep me informed on anything you notice."

"Understood."

I clicked off the communicator before closing my eyes. While in the tunnels with Naegi, I could feel the moment my loyalties broke. As of now, I was a lone wolf. The events of the next day would determine whose side I joined.

XxX

Alter Ego

Current operational status: 301x reaching critical point 1. 690x reaching beginning.

Possible operational dangers: 301x may be hindered by significant military presence. Asset Rat has prepared sufficiently to avoid initial dangers M and S. Post-S survival chances at 95%. After critical point 3, Asset Wolf will be introduced.

690x is proceeding at a rapid rate. Reasons for success: Improvisation of Asset Rat. Likely causes of improvisation: Asset Rat has realized the necessity for 690x or similar. Update cognitive models to account for this change.

Next steps: Observe. 301x critical point one occurring in T-30 minutes.

XxX

Mastermind/Monokuma

The mastermind sits in their chair near the bank of cameras, idly twiddling their thumbs. Given the time limit on their motive, they didn't expect anything major to happen for at least another 6 hours. As they lean back to reminisce, a flash of movement catches their eye. A door opens and a figure steps out. The mastermind's eyes widen.

Her? Really? They would never have expected her, of all people, to be the first to leave the rooms. After all, it was the murderers who would be leaving at a time like this, not the victims. And someone like this would never have been expected to be a murderer. She would have to be watched carefully.

The mastermind's eyes stay glued to the screen as the female figure walks quickly to the school side of the building before ascending the staircases to the 5th floor. Once at the top of the final staircase, she turns, heading straight for the bio lab. As the mastermind watches in shock, she turned the knob and opened the door, quickly going inside. They quickly switch cameras to the inside of the lab and a laugh escapes their lips as they see who is already waiting inside.

Someone's become rather audacious, haven't they...upupupupupu...

A/N: And the fun begins...it has been too long since the last murder, don't you think? Its time I remedied that. Also, remember to keep track of Naegi's resources!

General story announcement: After this arc and the ensuing interlude(Hard Landing) I will be taking a hiatus to work on rewriting parts of this as well as continuing my other writing projects.

Please review!


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