hope and despair together (wait in a dimension that's paper thin)
A Danganronpa One-Shot
Notes: This one-shot is set in a universe where Makoto and Junko's alignments (as Hope and Despair, respectively) are swapped. Timeline-wise, this is set during the final Class Trial of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, after the Mastermind reveal. Spoilers are inbound, though that's a moot point by now.
The title is derived from the lyrics to Poopturd's English cover of Kami-Iro Iwase, the opening theme for Danganronpa 3 – Side: Despair.
Hope's Peak Academy
Basement – Trial Room
His eyes are a swirling cesspool of despair.
Looking into them, it's honestly frightening just how much pure, unadulterated hopelessness is concentrated into his expression; a twisted vision from which the only things you can see is pain and suffering—and ways as to induce more pain and suffering.
No person should have that gaze etched into their eyes, ever.
But that's not the reason this disturbs me so much.
The reason why this frightens me beyond belief… is because once upon a time, I used to wear that expression, all the time.
What… What happened to you, Makoto? I asked myself, if only to try and make sense of this out-of-nowhere plot twist. How could someone like you—someone who seemed so hopeful—fall into such a deep despair…?
"M-Makoto…?" my sister tentatively spoke up, unwanted uncertainty entering her voice. "That's… That's not you, i-is it?"
"Hmm, let me think," the Luckster-turned-Mastermind said, tilting his head in an unsettlingly familiar manner. "Am I Makoto Naegi, or am I just a bear wearing his skin? The real-deal Ultimate Luckster, or just an imposter?" He giggled—like, actually giggled—and continued, "It'd be pretty ugly if I got your hopes up because of either explanation—but then again, so long it drives you and me into the pits of despair, then I say: believe what you want! It doesn't change a thing! Puhuhuhuhu!"
I hated how insecure she looked.
(An insecurity you allowed to persist—because of your own selfishness.)
"You tricked us all," Kyoko said, voice hard as steel. Glancing down, I could see her clenching her hands into fists, doing her best to disguise the hurt she was feeling. "Fooled us into believing you were dead, executed for breaking the rules—and for what? To make us 'despair' over the senseless loss of someone we cared about?"
"Of course! What better way to bring everybody to their knees than to take away the one thing that was giving them all hope?" He pulled out a bevy of objects, each and every one of them I recognized as coming from the MonoMono Machine: a Sonic Cup-a-Noodle, a Self-Destructing Cassette, a Cherry Blossom Bouquet… I'd know because I've given quite a few of those items out myself.
"You loved me so much—loved me so much to stave off your own guilt and darker thoughts—that you couldn't handle it when I took myself out! Do you regret trusting me, now?" He leaned over his stand, a perverse smile taking over his lips. "Do you regret thinking my nonexistent hope could save you? Now that I've broken through your delusions—how does it feel to be on the receiving end of your own hypocrisy?"
He blinked in surprise. "Hmm? Say that again?"
I glared directly into his crimson eyes—crimson eyes deeply resembling the ones I hide behind my contacts. "Stop it," I hissed, louder this time. "Stop talking like—like you think you know ourselves better than we do. Like all you wanna do is break us down 'til we're just! Like! You!"
(But would that really be so bad? To go back to what you know…?)
"Junko," I heard Mukuro gasp, "wha—?"
"Ohhhh… projecting a little, are we?" Makoto grinned. "That's fine. Perfectly fine. I wouldn't have it any other way! Besides, we're not even done yet! You think you've solved everything? You're nowhere near my level—not when it comes to what I know!"
"Of course I'm nowhere near your level," Byakuya scoffed. "I'm much higher. Your abnormality elevates you, but it doesn't change your peasantry at heart."
"Y-Y-Yeah!" Toko jumped to agree. "M-Master's more perfect than you! 'Cuz on top of everything else, he's got that n-noble blood!"
"Ha! Noble? He's no more noble than I am—not anymore, anyway!"
"…what did you just say? What do you mean by that?"
I didn't like the implications of that sentence.
He's speaking in past tense. Something must've happened to his family, or the Togami Corporation. Something devastating. But we would've heard about it if it did—it'd be all over the news.
…could it be…?
"Puhuhuhuhu…" The Luckster brought out a Monokuma—likely tuned not to go off in his presence—and looked at us in an irritatingly patronizing way. "If you want to find out, then you'll have to finish this Class Trial. Finish solving all the remaining riddles—" Our memories, this school, whatever happened to the world outside "—and see this through to the end! Do you think you can do it? Hope for the best and despair at the worst!?"
He cast an eye on me, fascination and curiosity and provocation mixed all into one.
I took the bait. "Bring it," I growled, pointing a finger at his chest. "You want us to fight so bad? Fine! We'll tear apart your mysteries and win over this killing game, once and for all!"
"So confident, are you? Very well, then! Let the real Class Trial begin here!"
I wanted his truths to be a lie. Just an awful, awful lie, made only in twisted jest.
But it wasn't. I knew it couldn't be anything except the truth.
My Analyst skills wouldn't fail me like that.
Makoto ended the world. Somehow, the Ultimate Luckster—our Ultimate Luckster—ended the world.
I don't have the full details yet—I suspect it may have something to do with that bloodied room from earlier; a prior Killing Game with other Ultimates?—but it doesn't matter. I could decipher enough information from what I have: the world put too much stock in Hope's Peak and its propensity for talent, and once it's shining beacon fell… despair took over everyone's hearts. And civilization gave way to anarchy.
With the collapse happening only two years after we started attending Hope's Peak, we were unprepared to go out and face the new world order—especially since the other classes were slaughtered in the chaos. Jin Kirigiri, the now late headmaster, made this place a shelter for us—Class 78—in order to keep hope alive… playing right into Makoto's hands.
And so, Jin Kirigiri was killed. Our memories of the past two years were erased. And we became trapped in a Killing Game with Makoto as its mastermind, broadcasted everywhere as the climax of his plan to cast the world into despair.
(Masterful, isn't it? Such a shame you didn't get a chance to pull it off.)
That was the gist of things. Now, only one question remained.
One very personal, and yet, very important question.
Makoto paused in his gloating, bringing himself to a thinking stance. "Hmm? What was that, Junko? I can't hear you~"
"Why go this far? Why cause so much pain? You say it's all for despair—but that can't be your only reason."
His face went blank; I couldn't read him at all. "Is it really so hard for you to believe that, Junko? Despair is despair is despair. There's nothing else that needs to be said."
"…no, that's wrong," Mukuro said quietly. "I trust my sister. If she thinks there's something else, then there's something else."
Kyoko nodded, even through her tightly-wound expression. "She hasn't… steered us wrong yet," she backed the Soldier up. "I admit, her ability to make deductions rivals my own. Whatever she has to say… it—it must hold some value."
I breathed in and out, everyone's eyes expectantly waiting for me to continue.
Mukuro gazed worriedly at me, silently asking if I really wanted to do this.
She frowned, but didn't say anything.
I breathed again.
In and out, Junko. In and out.
You can do this. Spill your deepest, darkest secrets to the world.
You've already had the rest revealed to everyone, far out of your own control.
What's one more?
"…I know what despair feels like," I finally began. "And I don't just mean in the superficial sense—the 'oh my god why is this happening to us' sense. I mean in the 'ha ha ha I can't get enough of this' sense."
I resisted the urge to fiddle with my inventory of items or take a glance at my fri… fellow Ultimates. "Mukuro and I… didn't have the best of childhoods. I… won't go into detail—" Because you don't want to know how unclean my hands are "—but it really messed me up. Well, part of it, anyway.
"So, I craved despair. Lots and lots of despair. It was a drug for me; it kept me happy, not sad, and definitely not bored—a problem which stemmed from being able to analyze everything. It wasn't until Mukuro and… two others staged an intervention that I managed to come to my senses."
"…I'm not quite as good an Ultimate Analyst as I used to be, I won't lie. I can't figure you out entirely. Even still—I can tell there's more to this than what meets the eye!" I slammed my hands on my stand, ignoring the sting that came from doing it so hard. "Why the hell would you let your hope degrade so far, when you had so many of us—so many of your friends—to lift you up!? There's no way you should've ever fallen into despair—not enough to do something I would've done a few years back!"
Silence. Utter silence.
"Hahahahaha… Hahahahaha… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" It started out low and disquieting, a sound that—like everything else—did not fit the Luckster at all… before escalating to full blown mad laughter, head tilted to the ceiling in clear insanity. Then he abruptly cut himself off and snapped, "Don't play that game with me! You think your hope can compare to my despair!? You have no idea what it's really like—to feel that you're lower than the all the rest of the so-called elite here, and at the same time, be so much higher!?"
His face was totally deranged now, the brunt of his madness on full display. "You of all people, Junko, should know—Hope's Peak wasn't the epitome of cleanliness that everyone portrayed it to be! Experiments, mismanagement, coverups—it was an enormous cesspool, one society elevated above everything else! I couldn't let such a world stand… not when despair would be a much better substitute!"
"So that's just it? You decided nothing else would work, chose despair, the end?" (You've gotta be kidding… right?)
"It'd be nice if that was all, huh? But no. I tried and tried to fix things, but all that happened was that I suffered—and was told I was wrong. And no one else cared enough to really help. So then I thought… if hope won't work, I should give embracing despair a shot. And wouldn't you know it…? It worked! And it felt like a such a dream, too!
"And I have you to help thank, too."
He grinned wickedly. "I whittled quite a bit of information out of Mukuro about you, before she lost her memories. About all your old plans, about all the different types of despair there were." In the corner of my eye, I noticed Mukuro looking absolutely horrified—but I couldn't spare her a thought at the moment. (Business as usual, I see.) "You'd love to join me, wouldn't you? Somebody like you, I know they can't turn their backs entirely from despair. That little voice must be whispering in there—it won't hurt to let it out for one last big bang! Come on…"
He stretched out a hand, more as a gesture than as a true offer.
It's so inviting, isn't it? The opportunity to return to the realm of despair. The realm you were born to live in.
No matter what, you'll always have it hanging over your shoulder. People'll always think of you under those terms—why not simply give up and turn it into the truth again?
It's not like anyone can do anything about it—not when the world's already ended…
Mukuro put a hand on my shoulder.
Kyoko walked around and did the same.
I breathed in and out, one more time.
No, I can't go back. I won't go back.
If I do—then everything I've done… it'll have been for nothing.
…I'd never forgive myself if that happened.
With a heart weighing like a stone, I looked at Makoto, and gave him my answer.
His twisted eyes narrowed.
"So be it."
And that was it. We defeated Makoto, gave ourselves a renewed sense of hope, and escaped Hope's Peak Academy with our psyches still intact.
We—We won. We survived.
So why can't I celebrate it?
"J-Junko, are you… are you okay?" my sister asked.
"…I don't know," I said, face pointed down. "We made it out, but… it doesn't feel like we won. It doesn't feel like much of anything, really."
That may just be 'cause I'm emotionally exhausted, though. What with all the revelations and all the desperation…
Mukuro gave a non-committal grunt. Try as she might, though, she couldn't hide her feelings from me.
I could tell she was haunted. Very haunted.
What do I say now? I want to discuss things with her, but where am I supposed to go with that? After everything that's happened… how I can be sure that anything I say won't just make things worse?
"I see both of you are deep in thought. Still thinking about Makoto, I assume?"
I turned around to see Kyoko. As usual, she had a rather stoic expression on her face. I sighed and did my best to compose a reply. "Yeah. He just—he reminded me of myself. Way too much. And Mukuro, she—she liked Makoto. Liked him a whole lot. He seemed so hopeful, but… it was all a lie. All of it."
Mukuro put her face into her palms and began to cry. "M-Makoto… wh-wh-why…?"
(And it was quite the beautiful lie, wasn't it? Look, he even broke your sister. Doesn't that just warm the heart?)
I silently willed that voice to quiet back down. Enough!
The Detective closed her eyes and crossed her arms. I kept going. "And the worst part about it all is, if circumstances were just a little bit different… it could've been me in his position. And that scares me—because my own despair tendencies are still with me." My hands clenched into fists, shaking unconsciously. "…one little push, and I'd be tipped back over the edge. Terrorizing people, picking at their insecurities…"
My eyes briefly glanced toward my sister.
"…treating my sister like garbage…"
And it'd be so easy, to falling back into habits…
"…so what now?" Mukuro cut in, eyes still welling with tears. "Makoto's dead. His hope and his despair—both of those, too. With the world as it is… what can we do to save anything?"
"I don't know," Kyoko said. "We don't yet have a clear path toward the future. But even with all we've been through, I believe we can forge our own hope. You did a good enough job back at Hope's Peak—so maybe you can do the same for everyone else."
"What if I get tempted toward despair, though…? And I can't convince myself to stop?"
Mukuro smiled a little, despite herself. "I'd be a pretty lousy older sister if I let you fall to despair again," she remarked.
"It's like she says," the Detective continued, "we'll be there to steer you back. We may not always see eye-to-eye, but we've long since earned the right to call each other friends. And between us and Mukuro, I think we've got things handled."
The edges of my lips twitched upward. "Maybe that'll be enough," I agreed.
Makoto may have fallen, and the memory of his actions may always stick with me, but… that's no reason to let his ghost dictate my life from here on.
If he wants to be the Ultimate Despair… I'll take the role of Ultimate Hope for him. For the kindhearted Luckster that once existed.
I won't let despair reign over me. Not anymore.
Happy late Valentine's Day. Even though this has, like, nothing to do with Valentine's Day.
So a while back, I read this fic entitled God save the prom queen, only eighteen (turned her tears to diamonds in her crown) by Buttercup_ghost, and I gotin inspired to write this little role reversal fic. At some point I should really stop writing so many drama-laden fics, but my brain just doesn't want to let go.
I could've come up with a more derivative setting from canon, yeah, beyond just swapping Junko and Makoto around (and keeping Mukuro alive) – but that would require a lot more work, and this is just a one-shot. I don't really need to make it any more complex than it honestly has to be.
Exploring the characteristics of a non-despair Junko was pretty interesting. If it wasn't for her eternal boredom, I'd imagine that Mukuro's false depiction of her—talkative, hot-tempered, a little bit too carefree—would be a lot more genuine. Of course, I couldn't leave her despair tendencies entirely—and so, here she is, still recovering from her past obsession and re-enabled empathy.
Unfortunately, I don't think this fic is quite as strong as I wanted it to be. I tried my best to write a believable Mastermind Makoto (though I will admit to winging it a lot). I'd refine it, but I've already spent enough time on it as it is—so I hope you guys have it in you to enjoy what's already there.
Well, that's all for now – see you guys around!