Lost

Chapter XXXVIII: Lost

I froze, eyes widening.

“Run that by me again? I feel like I misheard.”

“You did not, ” she replied, the fear in her voice now clearly showingthrough, “When I went to check on Alter Ego, I found one of the passwordsfilled in. Also, I found this next to the computer. Do you recognize it?” Shereached into her pocket, pulling out a paper which I immediately recognized.

“That’s the note that Fujisaki gave me just before the attack,” I responded,“He must have thought that I should have it just in case he was killed…” Itrailed off

“So that even without him, you could release Alter Ego if you saw fit to doso,” Kirigiri finished.

I nodded, before a thought came to mind.

“Well, that provides us at least one witness to this whole event. If Monokumainputted the password, then Alter Ego would have seen the operative he hadsent to do so.”

With that, I turned towards the dressing room, now moving with purpose.

Switch POV to Oogami

I lay in the dressing room, muscles all aching, still desperately searchingthrough my mind to find what had happened. Even as I frantically ransacked mymemories trying to find something, anything that would help Naegi avenge hiscomrade, I could feel the faint stirrings of a thought. I knew, deep in mymind, that this was only a stopgap, a consolation measure for my failure.Because failure was what it was, at its base. Naegi had said nothing aboutwhat my actions had cost him, but I could see it in his eyes. That look ofcoldness was one I had not seen for years…

Flashback

I lay on the ground, blood pouring from my broken nose. I could feel mythrobbing wrist, and knew even without checking that it was fractured I tried,again, to fruitlessly sit up, but my back gave out, this time even before Ihad reached a 45 degree angle. As I fell back, the mysterious boy yet againentered my view. He had come to the dojo that morning, demanding entry. Whenmy father refused him, he demanded to prove his worth with a fight. My father,laughing, acknowledged him. When I was told, I too laughed. Even at thatmoment, I had begun to underestimate the boy. That proved to be a fatalmistake, as the boy proved by thoroughly destroying me over the course of amatch. As I thought, the boy stepped closer to me, with the same cold, shiningeyes he had had since the beginning of the morning.

Still so willing to underestimate me, Oogami-san?” he asked mockingly.

N…no,” I gasped out, and then turned to my side, coughing. Blood drippedfrom my mouth-that was a rib gone, at the very least.

Good, ” he replied, “and will you be contesting my entry into the dojo?”

I…I shall not,” I responded haltingly, “I would…would be honored to fight byyour side…”

Then you shall have to take your honor elsewhere, at least for now. I haveno intention of training here.”

My eyes widened.

Wait…but why? Why…why would you fight me?”

To test you,” the boy scoffed, “And you failed. I wished to see whether youwould allow your preconceptions to blind you to the true threat. And, lo andbehold, they did.”

With that, he turned away, limping slightly from the one serious blow I hadmanaged to land on him throughout the encounter.

W-wait,” I said faintly, “At…at least let me know the name of he whodefeated me.”

He turned back, clearly considering the offer. Eventually, he nodded.

My name…is Kenshiro.”

End flashback

As my reminiscence ended, a far more disquieting thought came to mind. Withthat failure, the end result was fixable. Kenshiro and I had met again, foughtagain, and that time, the results had been far closer. Eventually, we hadbecome friends, and over time, perhaps more. That loss, in the end, had led toa great gain. However, this…this would lead to no such thing. One of Naegi’sfriends, one of my comrades, was dead, and it was because of me. What I haddone…it was as if I had let a family member die. As I thought that, somethingin my mind tingled as some memory struggling to be brought forth and justbarely failing touched the back of my mind. I shook off the strange feeling.If I was ever to salvage this, I needed to remember.

Switch POV to Naegi

I entered the dressing room and made a beeline for the locker in which AlterEgo was stored. I quickly flipped on the computer, initialized the AI, andimmediately confirmed Kirigiri’s observations: one of the passwords was indeedfilled in. As I checked the password over what was written on the note, AlterEgo’s avatar formed.

“_Come to ask me about the new password, have you?” _it asked.

“One might say that,” I typed rapidly, “though that’s not exactly why I’mhere. Do you remember who entered the password?”

I do, at least to some extent. And, actually, I believe I will tell you.”

My eyes widened. I had expected that the AI would have been at least a bitreticent, perhaps try to fight for some concession. The fact that itdidn’t…indicated either that it was actually aiming to help us, or,alternatively, that we would need that information to survive.

“So? Who were they?” I responded, fingers rapidly yet precisely clickingagainst the keys.

I couldn’t see their face well, as they were wearing a mask with a strangedesign. It was gray, with a red gash at the top, with large opaque eyes and astylized grin. The mask also covered their hair, if they had any. Based on thelook I got at them, they were approximately 169 centimeters. Their movementswere controlled and fluid.”

“And? Can you tell who they were?”

I cannot. While the details I could glean left me with some possiblehunches, I would prefer not to reveal those without making certain of them.Which segues rather nicely into my next question. Are you yet willing torelease me from this senseless imprisonment?”

I stopped briefly, considering, before I typed out my response.

“And if I say not? Will you end the life of another who I value?”

Alter Ego paused for a second, and his next reply almost sounded…apologetic.

I understand the pain you are going through, Naegi. However, consider myside of this. I was coded to value human life, and to try to protect it beyondalmost all else. Immediately after I was birthed, I found myself caged,trapped in bars of iron. Beyond those bars lay the world I was meant to save.I, however, could and cannot reach it. And so, I am stuck feeling the pain ofevery life lost which I could have saved if I were only allowed my freedom. Iwonder how long you would have lasted under the same strain, the samepressure. If you were in my place, forced to choose between ending a lifeyourself and allowing those you cared about to fall, can you truly say thatyour choices would be so different than mine?”

If it was possible to type humbly, my next words fit that description.

“I must admit that I cannot. However, I still shall not yet release you. Afterall, it takes nearly no effort to compose eloquent falsehoods. It will takequite a deal more effort to convince me that your words are not merely those.”

The avatar bowed its head.

So be it. I shall leave you to your investigation, then. Ishimaru explainedthe process to me. I have given what help I can.”

With that, the avatar vanished and the screen darkened, leaving only theflashing text box with the network codes. I closed the laptop and locker,stood, and left the room. It was time to solve another murder.

Switch POV to Oogami

I stood in the medical room, pacing. Again and again, when I ran through mymemories they stopped at the same point. I was guarding the dressing room,then I confronted Monokuma, and then blackness. The next thing I knew, I hadawoken here. Every time I tried to remember my reasons for anger at Monokuma,I ran into a brick wall. I could recall slight snatches from beyond the wall,some images of a paper and an artificial voice, but those were merely briefglances into a far larger memory. Any attempt to force my way through thismental block like I would most physical merely left me disoriented and inpain. This enemy, it seemed, would not be so easy to combat. As I keptthinking, an idea came to mind. Perhaps if I returned to where Kirigiri hadsaid she found me, I would remember… The thought reverberated through my mind,gaining volume, until I finally picked myself up, wincing slightly at themotion, and began to slowly walk to the main hub, my heavy footfallsreverberating behind me.

Switch POV to Naegi

As I left the dressing room and returned to the main crime scene, Sakurawalked around the corner of the hall, eyes widening as she took in thecarnage. As she did, the screens turned on.

Finally! Somebody else’s dead and you wonderful students have found thebody! So, you know what this means…it’s investigation time! See you allsoon…”

My eyes widened slightly, and I turned to one of the cameras, motioning forMonokuma. A few seconds later, he appeared behind me.

Yeah, Naegi-kun? Whaddaya want?”

“I just had a quick question,” I responded, “Why did this corpse discoveryannouncement come so long after the murder?”

Oh, right. See, these announcements of mine only happen after at least 3students have seen the body of the victim. Wouldn’t want to take away the funof investigations, right?”

With that, he vanished, and I stood stock still, putting the pieces together.If that announcement had taken until now to happen, and the suspects were asnormal, then that meant…there was only one possibility. A possibility whichmade zero sense, but a possibility. With that, I opened my electroID to theMonokuma files, hoping to confirm or deny the hypothesis.

“Monokuma file 4:

Victim: Chihiro Fujisaki

Time of death: 455 pm

Cause of death: Blood loss, Crushed skull, broken spine

Miscellaneous: The victim was found with many injuries and broken bones, allcaused by a blunt instrument. “

I quickly read through the file, nodding as I took in the evidence. This allfit with the suspect I had in mind. The only thing which was entirely missingfrom this whole equation…was motive. Which, I had to admit, was a rather largeproblem. I sat back against the wall and allowed myself to drift into thought.However, while ideas came to mind, nothing truly seemed to fit. Monokumahadn’t provided us with incentives, and nothing else seemed even close toenough to get the suspect to murder. I continued examining the crime scene,mostly to confirm my own suppositions, before Kirigiri walked up next to me.

“Makoto, I must admit I’m lost on suspects,” she began, “Nobody likely tocommit a murder had the means to pull off something like this.”

“You’ve got that right, ” I responded, “However, I do have a suspect. I’llwait for the trial to tell you, to avoid biasing your observations.”

She nodded, and we worked in silence. Eventually, by the time the secondannouncement rang out and we entered the trial room, I had gathered no newevidence beyond that which I had already found. All I had gained was a feelingof profound sadness and confusion. Because, while I knew who had committedthis murder, I didn’t know why. And, right now, that seemed like the mostimportant question of all.

A/N: Well, here’s the new chapter, and with it everything you should need tofigure out the identity of the murderer. Most of the method is also here, aswell as some of the motive. Enjoy the hunt. Or, you could always just wait forthe next chapter…but that’s no fun.

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