Grief, more than any other emotion, is intensely personal. Everyone looks attragedy differently. Some respond by hiding from their emotions, retreatinginto a shell of cold evaluation. Others let their feelings control them, andsink under a sea of sadness and rage.
Red. So much red. So pretty — she was dancing — such a nice color, warm andbright. Silvery robots darting at her — she was so strong—, a person facingher, and then red, so much red, spilling out, everywhere, blurring into myvision and into my head until I open my mouth and a long red scream spillsout, trying to cover up the blood but it’s everywhere and she isn’t dancinganymore and her body is just lying there, not moving, not strong, not anythinganymore — this is a nightmare, isn’t it, it will end soon —
Monokuma’s shrill voice cuts through the other noise. The faint sobbing I canbarely hear abruptly stops, and my scream suddenly stops too and now it’s justechoing inside my head. “Upupupupu! This class trial is over! You aredismissed!”
People are moving back, whispers and words now floating between them, and Ishuffle along unthinkingly. I am waiting to wake up. This can’t be real life,it isn’t, real life isn’t like this, it’s not this cruel and mean and red —
Somehow I am in front of my door. My hand stretches towards the handle andonly now do I see that it’s red, covered in blood. I can kind of rememberbeating my hands on bars, but it’s swallowed up in the memory of —
I feel a hand on my shoulder and I would jump, but there’s not enough energyin me to be surprised anymore. I turn around, and there’s the cold dark-eyedboy, Naegi, I remember his name. “Are you all right?” he asks quietly.
What does he want me to say? “Um, yes, I think so, or at least, I will be.” Iwill be when I wake up, when this nightmare ends.
He looks doubtful. “You just fractured your wrist on your door. You’ll forgiveme for not taking your words at face value.” I can almost hear some care inthose words but that makes me think of _her _and then the redness comes backand it’s all I can do not to scream
“Just…just leave me please.” I turn, barely managing to open the door beforemy arms drop, shaking, to my sides.
I hear him turn away as his footsteps sound against the floor like _hers_sounded in the moments before the red, and with him gone I slump down on mybed hoping that maybe if I go to sleep then this will all be over. I’ll wakeup tomorrow and everything will be back to normal—normal without the red,without the bear, without the pain—
I wake up, breath coming in short gasps because there are pictures in my headand they won’t go away. They have to be dreams they have to they have to butI can’t stop them from playing again and again and again like some horrormovie. The red is gone, but now I can see everything and she’s just lyingthere, still, not moving, and the man looms above her and blood iseverywhere_. _The bear just stands there laughing. Suddenly it’s like a switchis flipped and all I can see is the bear watching her die and doing nothing.He’s laughing and the red comes back, only this time it’s a good red becauseit makes me feel strong like she was. The pictures change and I can see myselfpushing past the bars to the bear and smashing into him like she smashes intothe silver robots. He crumples under my hands and his body sparks. The bearsaround her stop moving and she looks up at me with pride, smiling. Part of meknows this is wrong, this isn’t what happened, but I don’t listen to it.Slowly, my racing heart calms and my panicked breath turns into the long, slowbreaths of sleep.
The door to my room swings open and I jump up, red rushing back into my head.Naegi is standing at the entrance to my room with his hands held up like he’ssurrendering.
“I’m not armed, and mean you no harm,” he says, and the red trickles out.
“Don’t…don’t scare me like that…” Adrenaline is running through my veins likeI just ran a marathon. I barely stop myself from screaming at him.
“I suppose it makes sense for you to be scared. I came to check on you. I knowyou said you were ok, but I still find that hard to believe. Anything you wantto talk about?” He sits down on my bed, his shoulders shaking a bit..
“Are—are you fighting the bear?” My voice wavers.
His eyes widen and he stands up.
“I suppose one could say that. Why do you ask? Interested in joining me?”
I step closer to him as the red slowly flows back into my mind and creeps intomy vision like blood.
“I’m going to kill it. Will you help?”
He nods startledly. “Yes.”
I calmly walked back to my room with Kirigiri by my side. I could feel thepain just beneath the surface, waiting to break out. I held it back throughthe trial, through the execution, but my resilience was waning. As Iapproached my room, I heard a sharp crack and turned. Asahina was pounding herhands on her door, crying. It looked like one of her wrists had broken Iwalked over, putting a concerned mask on my face.
“Are you all right?” I asked, putting a hand on her shoulder to try and stopher from injuring herself further.
She stammered out assent as her eyes seemed to look right through me. While Icouldn’t tell precisely what was going on, she clearly wasn’t emotionallystable.
“You just fractured your wrist on your door. You’ll forgive me for not takingyour words at face value.” I replied dryly. I saw her smile for a half secondbefore her face froze and her muscles tensed.
“Just..just leave me please.” She quickly grasped the door handle and whippedthe door open, bolting inside. I turned and walked back to Kirigiri, and weentered my room. The moment we got inside, my shoulders slumped as I let downthe restraints on my emotions that I’d kept up since I saw Fujisaki’s body. AsI thumped down on the bed, Kirigiri sat down next to me.
“Naegi, do not blame yourself for this-” she began, before I cut her off.
“The soldering iron that Monokuma used to plate the hinges was right in frontof me. Twice. I had spent the entire previous day thinking of ways to breakthrough doors. Sakura herself wouldn’t have been attacked if I hadn’t left herin front of the door. Why exactly shouldn’t I blame myself?” I replied, voicetinged with anger.
“Because that’s what Monokuma is trying to accomplish!” Kirigiri replied, hervoice slightly losing its typical emotionlessness, “Every single murder hasbeen centered around waiting for you to make a move and then countering it. Inthe first trial, Maizono was the counter. In the second, the murders werecommitted because of someone you left alive. In the third, he intentionallywaited until right after your defense lapsed. He’s trying to get you to drawthis exact conclusion. And you can’t let yourself fall into his trap.”
My eyes widened as I considered Kirigiri’s words. After examining the eventsof the past week and a half, I realized she was right; each murder hadoccurred only after I first made a move to try and protect against it. Whichin turn meant that Monokuma either was expert at replanning on the fly or hadintentionally left openings that he knew I would exploit. As I remembered hisresponses to my defenses, that became even more clear; Monokuma had never oncelooked angry in response to them…only anticipatory or disappointed. On theother hand, that brought with it many more problems…namely, how to actuallyescape.
“If that’s the case, then there’s only one real option for success.” I said,voice now colder.
“What would that be?” Kirigiri responded curiously.
“We step up our assaults. We need to assume every strike will lead to aretaliatory death, so we’ll have to make the strikes count. I can’t say morein these circumstances given the surveillance.”
Kirigiri nodded. I turned to my backpack, pulling out Alter Ego. Once heinitialized, I quickly began typing.
“I removed you from the locker for a reason-I’m going to need your help.”
“So I assumed,” the avatar responded, “Do you need anything specific atthis moment in time?”
“There is. First, I would ask that you display your next response rather thansaying it aloud. Second: do you know of any passages by which the school maybe safely navigated?”
The avatar appeared to think for a second, before it nodded.
“Yes. There’s a tunnel network that goes throughout the building that usesthe wall spaces. I believe the nearest entrances to your position are on the5th floor of the school and the second floor of the dormitory building.”
“Thank you,” I typed back, “And do you know of any place where several modularrooms could be stored and replaced?”
“The school’s basement and subbasement wing would probably be the best placefor that. However, only the headmaster’s key can get into that section of theschool.”
“What does that key look like?” I responded, as a mental hypothesis beganrising in credibility.
“It changes with every headmaster to display some insignia that fits them.”
I paused briefly, suppressing a grin. It may have cost a life, but the attackon the headmaster’s office damn well wouldn’t be in vain.
Kirigiri saw my expression flicker and smiled slightly.
“Realized something useful?” she asked, “Because, from what my observations,that quick flicker correlates with someone’s life becoming a good deal moreexciting.”
I grinned as the pain in my mind receded.
“That’s accurate. Although, from what I’ve seen, that person is normally me.”
Her smile grew slightly in response as some concern appeared in her eyes.
“Do you still blame yourself?” she queried.
“I do, but it is no longer as disabling,” I replied, “I should check onAsahina in the near future though; she did not look stable when I last sawher.”
Kirigiri nodded and I leaned back, closing my eyes as my emotions receded, thereckoning held back another day.
A/N: Sorry for the delay-I’ve had a lot on my plate the past few weeks.Hopefully the update schedule should become more regular after this, though.
Regarding the Asahina POV: As I’m sure you can tell, this is rather differentfrom my normal style. Many thanks to Lavender Dove for the help writing it.
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