Chapter XLVIII: Hunting
I froze, digesting the new information. Only a few people knew of the existence of that aerosolized knock out drug. And, of those who did, only one could have been the culprit.
"The Gambler. You, me, her, and Asahina were the only ones who saw that vial. Unless the Soldier noticed it during the interrogation, we are the only 4 people who would have thought to look for it. Asahina and you are obviously not the culprits. That leaves Celeste and I as possibilities, and you and I both know I wouldn't kill someone now."
Naegi tilted his head, clearly considering something. After a few seconds, he turned back to me, seemingly satisfied.
"Putting aside the question of what you and I supposedly both know, that logic holds water. Now, the next question is what could possibly have caused that death. I have an idea myself but I'm curious what you come up with. Consider this an experimental test."
I nodded and considered what we knew. Asahina's organs had seemingly all failed nearly simultaneously. Also, she had no other major injuries. Putting the two together, there was only one real possibility.
"It has to be some kind of incredibly potent toxin," I replied. "Nothing else could produce that combination of effects. I don't know where that toxin could be, though. Nothing that we found from the chemistry lab could have done anything like this."
"As far as I know, that is also the case. That leaves another possibility: the biology lab."
The pieces fell into place. Of course, the biology lab would contain poisons more suited to destroying life in scientifically interesting ways. The doors to the lab were locked, but Celestia had been participating in many of our plans. A lock was no obstacle. Of course, there was one lingering issue.
"Makoto, how exactly do you expect us to get into the biology lab?"
"Glad you asked. After some...prodding, Alter Ego revealed to me something which I'm sure you'll also find very useful. Follow me."
He stood up and left, heading towards the school side of the building. I walked after him, curious.
I dove through the window of the classroom, glass tinkling to the floor as I rolled to my feet. I whirled to face the hole I'd just made, hands already dropping to my holsters. I didn't know who the SDHS Ballistics expert had been, but I owed them my life for convincing the Academy to keep such a well stocked armory. Jin Kirigiri would never have done something like that for me. I couldn't really blame the man, honestly, given what ended up happening. As a metal claw slid over the windowsill, I cleared my head. Now was not the time to think, it was the time to fight.
As the Monokuma chassis poked its head into the hole, I quickly shot it in the comms array centered in its left eye. It collapsed to the ground, sparking. I quickly glanced out both windows to ensure it hadn't alerted any of the nearby bots to my presence, before placing claymores by both entrances. I then walked over to the downed bot, removing a small tablet and a screwdriver from my pockets.
"Let's see if I can't make these numbers a little more even, shall we?"
The mastermind leans back in their chair, watching the progress of their legions of Monokumas through the cameras. It was only a matter of time before that rogue operative found her employment...terminated. Suddenly, one screen in the corner of the room begins to flash.
"WARNING: NETWORK INTRUSION DETECTED."
They jump to their feet, running to the Monokuma control room. As they start up the machine, they immediately notice a problem. Monokuma chasses are rapidly vanishing from the control network. However, if their internal position sensors were any indication, the affected bots were most definitely still moving. That could only mean one thing: someone was trying to seize control. And that was something that couldn't be tolerated.
Naegi slowed down next to the bio lab, hand sliding into his pocket. As he came up to the door, he lifted a key. My eyes widened.
"Makoto, was that from-"
He cut me off.
"Yes, right before Fujisaki died. I haven't yet had the chance to use it. Hopefully Alter Ego wasn't lying about what it could do."
He slid it into the lock and turned it, unlocking the door. After pulling it open, he turned to me.
"Come on, we don't have much time. If prior murders are any indication, we might have a few more minutes maximum before the mastermind calls us to trial."
I nodded and followed him inside. The chill hit me immediately. The room looked reasonably scientific, filled with instruments and the like. One wall was lined with what appeared to be lockers, some of which were glowing and some of which were not. I counted 9 glowing lights in total. I reached towards one to open it, and Naegi stayed my hand.
"I wouldn't open those if I were you. According to Alter Ego, one of the things this lab was working on was cryogenics research."
My eyes widened. Each one of those lockers contained a body, then? That was an interesting fact all its own, but led into a far more important question.
"Do you have any idea who's in there?" Naegi asked, finishing my thought. "Actually, never mind, that's a matter that can wait until we find the toxin that killed Asahina. You take the left wall, I'll take the right?"
I nodded and we began searching.
The tablet in my hand beeped and I glanced down at the screen.
"Network intrusion interrupted. Percentage of machines corrupted: 20."
I grinned. 20% didn't seem like a lot, but it was around 400 chasses if my commander hadn't drastically changed her troop count in the past week. I pulled up the tactical display on my handheld and began directing the machines to take various objectives throughout the school. After I'd dedicated 350 of the bots to various tactical necessities, I called the last 50 to surround me. After a few seconds, they crashed through the wall to my left and arranged themselves in formation around me. I took a moment to look them over.
"Well, I suppose you aren't Fenrir's advanced commando unit, but you'll have to do," I whispered, before pulling up a map of the school's sub-basement. In order to get where I needed to, I'd need to fight my way to the central lift system. That would provide me access to any modular segment. The quickest way there from the classroom I was in was through...the geology lab, followed by the newsroom, followed by...my eyes widened. It seemed I had to go through the assault course. Well, wasn't that fitting. I quickly typed a few commands into the tablet, instructing my vanguard of robots to stay formed up around me at all times, before turning to the left wall and planting a breaching charge.
"A person...can always be redeemed," I murmured, before detonating the explosive. The wall blew backwards to reveal a horde of robots. I charged.
General Argos, commander of the Future Foundation's military arm, sits at his desk. His hands blur back and forth between the papers on his desktop, a computer, and a large map, moving pins, sending messages, and organizing possible troop movements. If his current tactical reports are anything to go by, he's losing this war. Despair's troops are just too strong, aided as they are by what seems to be the entirety of the planet.
As he tries to plan yet another retreat, this one from a battlefield in the midst of Angola, his door opens. His aide enters quietly, looking penitent.
"General, sir, I know you said you weren't to be disturbed, but-"
Komaru Naegi strides past the aid, standing directly before him.
"I insisted. General, there's something you need to see."
Argos raises his eyes from the packet before him, only to have a printout roughly shoved in his face.
"Would you care to explain what this is, Ms. Naegi? Or am I supposed to read it cross-eyed?"
"This, General, is a ULF pulse we received from Kibougamine academy approximately 48 hours ago."
The general's eyes widen.
"What? 48 hours ago? Are the scans displaying anything different?"
"No, sir. Besides one. Doppler sensors on the 5th floor have detected air movement consistent with ventilation. This ventilation ceased after the school was taken, so around one month ago, and only began again a few days ago."
"So you're saying-"
Komaru cuts him off.
"There are could still be people alive in there. Permission to take a strike team to the site?"
The general thinks for a moment, before nodding.
"Permission granted. Delta Battalion was in the area on reports of some 'Monokuma kids' group. Pull them off that mission to help with this. Whatever that group is, it doesn't sound like much of a threat."
"Thank you, sir. I'll keep you informed on the progress of the strike. My current estimate for initial contact is about an hour."
I placed yet another microscope on the ground, grimacing as I realized I'd emptied yet another cupboard and have nothing to show for it. I turned to Naegi only to see that he, too, had met with no success. I moved to the next cupboard only to discover that I had reached the corner of the room. If there were any toxins, they were on Naegi's side.
A few seconds later, Naegi finished his last cupboard, also empty handed. He placed the earpiece connected to Alter Ego into his ear and listened for a few moments before nodding.
"Alter Ego just confirmed it. Any toxins in this room were moved to the chem lab."
My shoulders slumped slightly, and Naegi caught sight of the motion. He walked over to me, putting his arm around my shoulder.
"Kyouko, are you alright?"
"Whatever we do, Monokuma wins. All we're doing is solving the murders he sets up for us and digging further into this deathtrap of a school."
Naegi moved slightly closer to me.
"Well, that's all he knows we're doing. On the other hand, what we've achieved is far more than that. Every one of our successes has made him more and more desperate."
I smiled slightly as a tear rolled down my cheek.
"Even now, you can say that? Even after everything?"
"I can say that because of everything. At the beginning of this, we were an unconnected mass of people who couldn't trust each other. Now, we are an admittedly slightly smaller mass who are willing to let their lives depend on each other. Except for the murders."
I laughed quietly, turning to face him. My arms wrapped around him, pulling him into a quick hug. As I pulled away slightly, my eyes closed. At that moment, the screen in the corner of the room flashed on.
"It's time for the trial! Get to the elevator, or I'll be very annoyed with you all!"
My eyes flashed open and we both stood. As we left the room, Naegi turned to me.
"When we really fight, Monokuma loses. Remember that."
A/N: I'm really, really sorry about the update delay-I contracted De quervain's tendonitis a few weeks back and am only now recovered enough to be typing large amounts. I'll hopefully upload the next chapter by this weekend to make up for it. After that, there won't be another update for 2 weeks...but then again, I shouldn't give away surprises so easily.
Plotwise: That's everything you should need to solve the murder and find the cause of death. Also, yes, Ikusaba is now leading her own army of Monokuma bots. I felt I owed you all, so I decided to make the next arc a good deal more...exciting.
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