When Sachiko wakes up before Monokuma's morning announcement, she goes through the motions of her new morning routine, mentally exhausted.

She sighs as she stares at herself in the mirror, water dripping from her face.

This really wasn't how it was supposed to go. She had a plan.

After reviewing everything carefully and going over what I learned from Tatsumi, I've determined that Mitsuki and Yuuji are innocent of any involvement in my Master's death.

I can't speak for Yuuji's mentality outside of being locked up here but there's a chance he wouldn't have snapped the way he did had I not brought him here. The burden of his and Mitsuki's deaths are on my shoulders, Tatsumi. Not yours.

Sachiko grabs a towel and dries off her face. She sighs again.

I just can't say so yet. I know it's hard, but I need you to stay strong, Tatsumi. I'll do my best to help you.


When I wake up the next morning, I nearly have a heart attack when I open my eyes to see Ryoji's sleeping face.

I blink, sitting up and rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. "What the…?"


"Hey, Tatsumi," Ryoji says. "Why don't we share a room tonight too? Keep each other company." he suggests.

"I think that's an excellent idea." Sachi says. "I'll walk with you two." she says.

"Up and at 'em, Tatsumi." Ryoji hups as he and Sachi pull me onto my feet.

I don't really have a choice in the matter as the pair guides (pushes) me towards the dormitories.

"So," Ryoji says. "I sleep better on my left side. What about you?" he asks. "I don't mind facing the same way if you don't."

Oh dear.


Ooooh, that's right.

Just my homies offering to sleep with me. Totally not gay.

I groan as I feel a blush rise to my cheeks. We had to cuddle a little bit to fit on the bed together but that's neither here nor there.

As soon as I step out of the bathroom after getting dressed and ready for the day, Monokuma's morning announcement goes off and wakes up a groggy Ryoji.

The blond sits up and looks around like he doesn't know where he is…probably because he can't see. I walk over to the bedside table and put his glasses in his hands. "Good morning, Ryoji."

Ryoji jumps slightly, startled. "T-Tatsumi?" he yawns. Then, "Ooooh, Tatsumi." Ryoji nods, remembering the events of last night as he puts his glasses on. "Good morning. You feeling okay?"

"I'm…okay." I answer. "I'm not back to one hundred percent but I'll be okay." I say with a reassuring smile.

Ryoji doesn't look satisfied.

I sigh. "I just can't shake the feeling that I'm still responsible for Yuuji's death, y'know?" I say. "If I hadn't…" I trail off.

Ryoji stands up, stretching out his limbs. "All of us voted for Yuuji." he points out. "You didn't force us too. If you want to make someone responsible for Yuuji's death, then wouldn't it be all of our faults?" he asks.

I manage to hide my grimace.

If he puts it like that, then isn't it my fault a bunch of Ultimates have blood on their hands?

"And I mean, if you wanna get super technical with it, it's Monokuma's fault for putting us in that position in the first place."

Well…I guess that makes it a little better.

Just a tiny bit.

I smile. "Thanks, Ryoji."


Ryoji leaves for his room and I head to the cafeteria. To my surprise, I only find the members of the Milk Tea Gang inside and when they notice me, Takagi quickly ushers me to go get breakfast and join them.

I head into the kitchen, grab myself some toaster pastries, and head back to join the famous little group.

"Good morning, Tatsumi." Sumire says and gives me a soft smile. "Feeling better?" she asks.

I nod. "A bit." I say and look around the table, a thought coming to mind. "You know, for such a random assortment of people, you guys are a pretty famous group - especially for First Year Ultimates." I remark.

Takagi clears his throat and puts his hand on his chest, getting ready to tell the tale of the Milk Tea Gang.

Oh god. What have I done?

"It all started when I was first building my empire." Takagi says. "The Ultimate War Musician, known only as Kikuo then, was the only companion by mine side - having met each other in a previous battle." he explains.

So Takagi and Kikuo were friends first and they met at a theater…probably.

Takagi continues, "On a supply run, Kikuo and I met Kite - of whom would become my Ultimate Advisor. I deemed his intelligence worthy of nurturing and he too knew how to translate Kikuo's silence so we continued to meet after various training sessions and battles."

Takagi and Kikuo met Kite when they went out for what I can only assume is Milk Tea and they got along so they agreed to continue hanging out…I think.

"Upon one particular meeting, when Kikuo and I arrived, we discovered Kite to be accompanied by the sisters Kotobuki who would become my Ultimate Lady-in-Waiting and Ultimate Spymaster." Takagi says. "They too managed to translate the wisdom of Kikuo's silence."

Translation: Kite randomly brought the twins to meet Kikuo and Takagi and they managed to get along together too.

Kite raises his hand, silencing Takagi. "And before this drags on any longer, people noticed a bunch of moderately famous kids getting milk tea together over and over and when our enrollment into Hope's Peak was announced, the 'Milk Tea Gang' stuck." he finishes.

Takagi pouts. "Blasphemy, Sir Kite, I was getting to that."

"You were taking too long." Shion yawns, waving him off, and Kite plays a 'womp-womp-womp-womp' tune on his flute at the dejected look on Takagi's face.

I laugh as they continue their banter and look around the cafeteria as I finish my breakfast.

Damn. Were these five really the only hungry ones this morning?

Then again, there's also everything that happened yesterday so people probably want their space…

Just as the question leaves my lips, Sachiko enters the cafeteria and answers the question as she passes by our table on her way to the kitchen: "I was in here earlier. Hakuma left to go do whatever people like him do, Jotaro is working out, and Katashi is probably in a corner sulking somewhere now." she says dryly.

"He's in the infirmary." Sumire supplies as the Ultimate Pharmaceutical Scientist enters the kitchen.

"Oh? Paying special attention to him, were you?" I say jokingly. "Taken a special interest in him, have you?" I ask, wiggling my eyebrows.

Shion narrows her eyes and pulls Sumire's chair closer to her and farther from me; I'm glad to see their sleepover last night seemed to bring them somewhat closer. Shion opens her mouth to speak but someone else's voice fills the silence before she can speak:

"Trying to sink your claws into another student, Milk Tea Gang?" a certain cheerleader says, her tone mocking and hostile.

All of our eyes turn towards the athlete entering the cafeteria and a sense of dread creeps up on me when I see the look on Min's face.

Kite frowns, annoyed. "What are you talking about?"

"That whole stunt you all pulled during the trial." she says, glaring at the freshmen. "Sure it worked out this time but what about next time?" Min challenges. "A mob mentality in a place like this is dangerous and stupid." she says bitingly. "You can't expect us to keep believing your innocence on the word of you and your friends alone." Min says, crossing her arms.

Takagi scoffs, standing up and adjusting his sleeves. "Thou dost protest the bond of trust and loyalty between myself and my most trusted subjects out of envy and fear." he says and smirks. "Does the Ultimate Acrobat fear being overwhelmed should a motive of numbers be thrust upon us?" he asks.

A motive of numbers…? Like a voting game?

God, forget Kikuo, how do these guys manage to translate whatever comes out of Takagi's mouth?

Min grits her teeth.

"Is that so terrible, though?" Rui's voice asks suddenly, giving me a heart attack and poking her head up from behind Min's shoulder. "What's so wrong with being scared of being outnumbered?" she asks in a much more sensible tone than Min's.

Nobody has an answer for her.

"And besides…" Rui's gaze drifts toward the twins. "It's kind of obvious Sumire and Shion have been spending a lot of time with Hakuma. To quote Min's earlier words, I think she's right to worry about you 'sinking your claws into another student'." she says.

Looking back at Min, her attention seems to be somewhere behind the group. "Don't even get me started on her…" she mutters and turns on her heel, stalking out of the cafeteria.

Huh?

Rui follows Min's gaze curiously and smiles. "Good morning, Sachi."

I turn around to see Sachiko approaching the table with a frown. "...Morning. What's her problem?" she asks, gesturing at the cafeteria doors slamming shut.

Kikuo plays a tune that sounds vaguely like the theme from that shark movie 'Mandibles' while Kite explains, "She just came here to pick a fight." he says, his gaze drifting towards the twins. Sumire and Shion seem a bit surprised to be called out by the upperclassmen; Kite and Takagi look like they want to say something but decide against it.

Kikuo's light hearted expression falls slightly, having noticed their reactions too, and looks at me for help.

I clear my throat, "Well you've successfully brought down the mood, so if that's all you came here for," I say with a half-joking half-serious tone and shoo Rui away with my hands. "Run along now."

"Right. My bad." Rui says and flashes another smile before following after Min.

It seems like it's too late for apologies, however, because when my attention returns to my tablemates, their moods don't seem to have shifted.

Sumire's glaring at Shion, Shion's staring at her lap with a frustrated look on her face, Takagi and Kite look like they have something to say but don't want to poke the bear, and Kikuo's still looking at me for help.

Ugh.

And we were having such a good morning too.

I, in turn, look at Sachiko for help. The look on her face clearly says she doesn't get involved but she sighs and sits herself down in an empty seat anyway.

"So…" Sachi starts. "...Cheerleaders, huh?" she tries awkwardly.

…Maybe I should've done this myself.


Sachiko made her exit very quickly after that and I moved the conversation along by myself. After breakfast, I encounter the socially inept pharmaceutical scientist again near the bathrooms talking to Aria.

When I get close enough to see Sachi's face, there's a mixture of emotions on her face: confusion, frustration, and…panic?

"Sachi?"

Sachiko jumps, startled at the sudden addition of my voice. "T-Tatsumi…er, sorry about breakfast." she apologizes.

I wave her off. "Don't worry about it." I say and look between her and Aria. "Is everything okay?" I ask.

Aria sighs. "Sachiko was just asking me if I could talk to any spirits that could help us look around the school." she says and gives Sachiko a tired look. "And no matter how you phrase the question, my answer is still the same: that's not how it works - there's not some metaphorical switch I can flip to talk to spirits. Ryoji asked me the same thing during the investigation yesterday." Aria explains.

Sachiko grits her teeth and glances at the bathrooms with a rather angry look on her face. Before I can ask her what that's about, the loudspeakers click on and Monokuma's voice fills the room: "Attention, attention! Now that everyone's awake, I just have to say what an absolute delight it is that you solved the first trial! I'm so proud of you kids!"

The three of us scoff. "As if we want your damn praise, stupid bear…" I mutter.

"It would've been such a short and boring story if I had to kill you all so soon…" Monokuma's voice trails off, sighing. "...Anyway, I'm opening up the stairs to the second floor in five minutes! Be there or be square!" he says and the loudspeakers click off.

I guess I can talk to Sachi later.

"Shall we?" I ask the girls.

"We might as well, I suppose." Aria nods.

Sachiko grits her teeth and unhappily stalks ahead of us after giving the bathroom one last dirty look.

Aria and I exchange a confused look, shrug, and follow after her.


When Aria and I arrive, Monokuma, Sachi, and Hakuma are the only three waiting by the barred staircase.

Sachiko is very blatantly glaring down at the bear while Hakuma attempts to hold a conversation with Sachi as he looks between her and an unbothered Monokuma.

The awkwardness doesn't last long when our classmates quickly start trickling into the room.

Monokuma does a little spin when he does a head count and sees we're all here. "Alrighty, kiddos! I just have one more thing to say before I unlock these stairs…" he says and leans in close to us. "I beary strongly suggest you explore the second floor thoroughly…and be prepared for a surprise!" Monokuma says, jumping up again and doing another twirl. "Unlike the first floor, I was able to make changes to this one so make sure to appreciate every inch of my hard work!" he says and claps his hands together. As soon as he does, the bars blocking the second floor whirl to life and rise off the ground into the ceiling. "Too-da-loo!" Monokuma says and runs upstairs ahead of us.

I roll my eyes and turn to the group, the sixteen of us automatically gathering in a circle to face each other.

"We should get this done quickly." Kite says. "Let's split up so we can investigate faster and report our findings." he suggests. "Make sure no one misses anything."

Jotaro nods. "Smart, smart…I'll group up with Aria-"

Aria flinches almost imperceptibly. Almost. Luckily for me, I have the eyes of a hawk.

Hm…


"Tatsumi?"

I turn around to find Aria still in her daywear. "Aria," I nod. "What's up?"

Aria frowns, clearly tired but also confused. "Where have you been?" she wonders. "I knocked on your door a while ago but obviously you weren't in there."

"I was invited to the baths with the other guys."I answer. And then, "By the way…stay away from Jotaro." I say jokingly.

Aria's expression shifts and she looks down. "...Yeah. Goodnight, Tatsumi." she says and quickly enters her room.


"Um, I just wanted to apologize for last night." I say. "I didn't mean to make you feel bad or anything, it was just a bad joke on my part." I apologize.

Aria blinks, seemingly caught off guard. "Oh. Yes." she says and looks down for a second before meeting my eyes again. "It's alright, Tatsumi. My shift in mood had nothing to do with you, I assure you. But thank you for the apology, nonetheless." Aria says and smiles again.


Could it be…

is her problem with Jotaro?

I glance at the young bodybuilder, a grin on his seemingly stupid face.

If there is some kind of issue between them and he keeps making these comments about her…

"And let her do all the work?" Katashi scoffs at Jotaro. He glances at Aria. "I'll go with you. There should be at least two pairs of eyes in each room."

Aria untenses, making my frown deepen. "Very well. I have no issue with this arrangement." she says, the corners of her mouth upturned in a slight smile.

Jotaro shrugs. "Whatever." he says and starts idly flexing.

Rui smiles innocently and raises her hand. "If they're a group of three, the rest of us should split up into three groups of three and one group of four." she says.

Min examines her nails, looking at us as if she'd rather be anywhere else. "In that case, Rui, Kaguya, Mikasa, and myself will be the group of four." she says. "Figure out the rest yourselves."

Kaguya and Mikasa give each other a look, unbothered with their assignment.

Rui's smile brightens. "Wonderful!" she says and gasps. "Oh! But you guys are a group of five…" Rui points out, looking at the Milk Tea Gang. "How about this: since you two are friends with him anyway, why don't you group up with Hakuma?" she suggests, looking at the twins.

Sumire's gaze hardens and Shion clenches her fist. "What a wonderful idea." Shion says, giving the Ultimate Mangaka a forced smile. "Let's go on ahead, hm?" she says, roughly grabbing Sumire's hand and shooting a look at Hakuma.

Hakuma stares at Rui for a moment before following the twins upstairs.

Takagi, Kikuo, and Kite all exchange a worried look before heading up the stairs next. Every other group follows suit until Sachi, Ryoji, and I remain.

I smile at them. "It was always going to be us three anyway, right?"

Sachiko nods and glances at Ryoji, a troubled look on the blond's face. "What's the matter, Ryoji?" she asks.

Ryoji frowns. "I was just thinking…Rui and Yuuji were pretty close, right? Do you think his death is bothering her more than she's letting show?" he asks. "I mean, I don't know anything about what just happened between her and Shion and Sumire, but by the looks on their faces it seemed like it was a bit of a jerk move on her part." Ryoji wonders.

Sachiko and I glance at each other.

"It's…complicated." Sachiko says.

I nod. "I'll explain later. Let's get upstairs."


Going by the hallways of the second floor, it seems a bit cleaner and more put together than the first floor. The walls aren't as yellow or ruined, the ceiling doesn't look like it's about to collapse, and the floor has less cracks and less dirt.

As soon as we come up the stairs, I think I have some sort of direction of where everything is.

As the Ultimate Paparazzi, my knowledge isn't limited to just the current Ultimates enrolled in Hope's Peak - it includes former Ultimates as well. I've done my research on the survivors of the Killing School Life and some of that research included the old Hope's Peak building. If I'm correct, the room directly to our left should be…


…the Pool Entrance!

Fortunately, the machine guns that were attached to the ceiling have long since rusted over so I doubt they work. Other than that, there's not much to note here.

When we approach the doors to the changing rooms, it seems like one of the 'changes' Monokuma spoke of included repairing the card readers locking each changing room.

"Huh." Ryoji muses and nods. "Glad to know the Mastermind has some morals, at least." he approves.

After explaining that each changing room has a door on the opposite side that leads to the pool, Sachiko agrees to go into the girl's locker room to investigate there while Ryoji and I head inside the boy's changing room…


…and after finding nothing out of the ordinary there, we move onto the pool.

Sachiko concluded her investigation of the girl's changing room faster than Ryoji and I finished in the boy's room. She's across the pool talking to Mikasa, the other three members of the Ultimate Video Game Developer's group gathered around another area of the pool.

Just taking a look at the pool I can tell that Monokuma fixed that up too. The pool water is clean and clear, the bleachers aren't rusted over, and the floor around the pool is shiny and white.

Sachiko looks past Mikasa when she sees Ryoji and I approaching. "Tatsumi, Ryoji." she nods. "Find anything?"

"Nope." I shake my head. "It was cleaned up and everything but it just had new workout equipment, just like it used to." I say.

Sachiko hums. "The girl's room too."

Mikasa nods. "It seems like everything on this floor is going to be pretty new, like the sauna on the first floor." she says.

"Still," Ryoji puts his hands on his hips as he looks around at the pool again. "Why would they fix up some rooms but not all of them?" he asks.

"Maybe they're just fixing the rooms that we might need to survive." Mikasa suggests. "Bathrooms and entertainment and all that."

Sachiko crosses her arms. "The dining room wasn't fixed…" she mutters, making Ryoji laugh.

I tune out their conversation, my eyes trailing over to Min, Kaguya, and Rui, all three of them still crowded around whatever they're looking at. I mumble out some sort of goodbye to the three here and head over to the girls.

When I reach them, I find a curious Rui tugging on one of the towel racks attached to the wall.

…Why?

"Why?" I ask just that.

Kaguya fiddles with her umbrella. "L-Listen to it." she says. "It's not - it's not secure."

Secure?

Before I can repeat that thought out loud, Rui yelps and falls back onto her ass, towel rod in hand.

Ooooh.

"Aha!" Rui says, holding the towel rod up like a trophy. "I knew it! All of the towel rods in here are loose! …And pretty heavy." she says, letting out a tired groan as she lowers her arm.

"You checked them all?" I ask. "It could just be the one-"

"No no no no NO!" an angry Monokuma climbs out of the pool, his fur dripping wet. "Didn't I already tell you? I've prepared the entire second floor for you! Everything is as I want it to be!" he says as he stomps over to me. "Do you know how much work it was for me to get all of those heavy steel rods in there by myself?! A LOT of work!" he says, shaking off the pool water like a dog.

"Hey!" I frown, stepping back.

"Ignore him," Min says, beckoning me over as she nudges a nearby box with her foot. "Check this out."

And by 'check this out', she means investigate it for her.

Still, better company than Monokuma.

I walk over and peer into the box she pointed out. I frown as I pull the box out so Kaguya and Rui can see what's inside.

Monokuma giggles as he skips over behind Kaguya and Rui. "Ooh-hoo-hoo! I see you found my latest business venture~" he says. "I tried to get into the laundry detergent game but my product was lost somewhere out of this world." Monokuma sighs dejectedly.

I reach into the box and pull out a half black half clear inflatable arm band, Monokuma's face emblazoned on the clear half. Underneath his face, "'Suffocation Guaranteed'...?" I read out.

"Yes!" Monokuma says gleefully. "If y-!"

"We should hide these." I say, interrupting him. "That's a murder waiting to happen." I say as I toss the arm floatie back in the box. Among an assortment of arm floaties, there's also various other inflatable pool toys.

"A-Agreed." Kaguya nods.

Rui hums and looks down at the towel rod in her hands. "What should we do with these then?" she asks.

"Toss them in the pool." Sachiko says as she approaches with Ryoji and Mikasa behind her. "That way they're too heavy for everyone but Jotaro and Hakuma to pull out." she says.

Min stares at Sachiko with a look I can't quite identify but doesn't say anything.

Rui, Min, and Ryoji get to work on tossing all the towel rods into the pool while the rest of us start collecting towels to hide and bury the Monokuma floaties. We work while ignoring an increasingly upset Monokuma.

When we're finished, Sachiko, Ryoji, and I stay to chat with the girls for a bit longer before moving on to the next area.


I try to lead the three of us to what the reports on old Hope's Peak say is the Library and Archives, but an observation by Ryoji makes us pause next to a classroom.

"Hey," Ryoji says, examining the walls and floor. "I think this is directly above the classroom you woke up in, Tatsumi."

"Huh?" I blink.

Ryoji points at the walls. "The walls out here are the same shape as the walls downstairs-"

"...stupid!"

The three of us glance at the nearby classroom, its door slightly ajar.

That sounded like Shion's voice…

I already let her have a private conversation. As the Ultimate Paparazzi, I'm obligated to eavesdrop now.

Sachiko's and Ryoji's eyes widen. "Wait! Tatsumi don't!" Sachi hisses.

La-la-la, I can't hear you~


"I can take care of myself, Shion." Sumire snaps. "I don't need your guard dog following me around all the time!"

Hakuma raises his hand. "I have a name, actually-" he tries.

Shion scoffs. "And like I said, you're being stupid!" she retorts, interrupting Hakuma. "We both know you're the easiest target here, Sumire!" Shion snaps, making Sumire flinch. "I'm just-"

Hakuma's head suddenly snaps in my direction as I walk in. "Hello, Tatsumi." he says, making the twins cease their arguing.

The room - well, what remains of the room anyway - isn't much to see. The majority of it is caved in with several holes in the floor (peering down into one of them, yeah, that's the classroom I woke up in). There's overturned and rotting desks scattered around but that's about it.

"What could you three possibly be doing in an obviously empty room?" Sachiko asks, coming in behind me. "This looks more like a hazard than something to investigate." she says.

Shion clenches her fists and Sumire crosses her arms, both of them still ticked off from whatever argument they were just having.

Hakuma sighs and speaks up. "We're just taking a look at the podium and any scattered desks for anything useful." he says, gesturing around the room. "I'm keeping an eye on them, don't worry." the Ultimate Vigilante says.

Sachi glances at the expressions on the twins' faces. "Really? That's all you're-"

Shion grits her teeth and mumbles something under her breath as she storms out of the room without another word, pushing past me and Sachi. Before either of us can say anything, Sumire mutters a quick apology and follows after her sister.

Hakuma sighs again and starts walking to follow them. "Sorry, guys. I've gotta keep up with them." he says and leaves the room.

Hm…

Sachiko gives me a look. "What do you know?"

"I'm still piecing it together but I think I'm on the right track." I say thoughtfully.

Ryoji pokes his head into the classroom, a worried look on his face. "Are they okay?" he asks.

"They will be." I hum, not providing much of an answer. "Come on, let's get to the Library."


And what a library it is.

I definitely will not be touching any of these dusty, cobweb covered books, but the collection of them is still quite the sight to behold.

Sachiko frowns, a disgusted and calculating look on her face as she examines the shelves. "Filthy." she mutters. "Unacceptable." Sachi says and clicks her tongue as she runs a finger along a dusty shelf. "I'll have to ask Monokuma for cleaning supplies. If I start there, I can finish by…"

Oh? Maybe I will get to read some of these books.

Ryoji and I leave Sachiko to…whatever gear she just shifted into, and head over to the Archives, another thing I can easily tell Monokuma messed with.

The doors to the Archives have been replaced with a shiny new set of silver double doors, Monokuma's signature red eye printed on the middle of them. They open by themselves as Ryoji and I approach, revealing Aria's group investigating inside.

"Ah, hello, Tatsumi." Aria says with a small smile. "Ryoji." she nods.

Ryoji gives her a small wave. "Hey. What's this place?" he asks as he looks around. "Another…smaller library?"

"Something like that." Aria says as she hands over the book in her hands. "Monkuma was here earlier. He called this the, ah, 'How to Get Away With Mur - I Mean Being the Blackened' room." she says with a slight frown.

Ryoji and I look down at the book in my hands. "'Killing School Life - Volume 1: Leon'." I read out.

Ryoji tilts his head to the side. "Leon…like, Leon Kuwata?" he asks as I flip open the book.

Skimming through the first couple of pages, the book details the murder of Sayaka Maizono and each and every step Leon Kuwata took after it was done. It offers tips on what to do better and where Leon went completely wrong.

"All of the books and files here are like that." Aria explains and gestures to a silent Katashi. "There's even reports on unreported Killing Games. Katashi has one about a game called the Killing School Sentence - that one only has one file, though…"

"Sentence? Like, prison?" Ryoji thinks out loud. "Can't help but wonder if they deserve it if that's what the game is called…" he says, trailing off and getting lost in his own thoughts.

I shake my head and turn back to Aria, handing the book back to her. "This is…definitely something." I say, unsure of what to make of the room. I turn towards a bored Jotaro. "What are the files on the top shelves like?"

The strongman perks up at being assigned a task. "Oh! Uh, let me see…" Jotaro says, turning towards the shelves.


Just more files on reported and unreported Killing Games. Normally I would doubt the authenticity of the files on the unreported Killing Games, but considering how we're in a so far unreported Killing Game…

Never mind that, Tatsumi. Get it together.

With nothing else to check out, Ryoji and I drag Sachiko away from the dusty shelves and exit the library.

"I'm getting hungry." Ryoji groans as we exit the room.

"There's one more room, isn't there?" Sachi says. "After we take a look there, we can head back downstairs and eat while we wait for the others to regroup." she says.

I nod. "It's just a classroom but since we went into the other one, we might as well check this one out too." I say.

Ryoji wags a finger at me. "Correction, you went into the other one and interrupted a private conversation." he says matter-of-factly.

I huff. "Well if you want to put it like that, Sachi went in too." I point out.

"Sachiko went in to save you from yourself." Ryoji says. "It doesn't count." he says, trying to look serious for a moment before cracking a self-amused grin.

The three of us make idle conversation as we head towards the second classroom but our banter is once again halted by a member of the Milk Tea Gang:

"...n-nothing wrong!" comes Kikuo's weak voice.

"I concur that that's the most likely case," comes Takagi's voice. "They did stick up for me in the trial of the disgraced Ultimate Auteur, but I cannot help but wonder what business they have with the Ultimate Rogue…"

Are they talking about the twins? They have to be talking about the twins.

"I have the utmost confidence in the sisters Kotobuki but I have not yet had the opportunity to investigate the Ultimate Rogue myself - nor has the Ultimate Investigator made any reports about him." Takagi says, sounding conflicted. "I have no desire to share any classified information with him just yet."

I guess I'll be asked about Hakuma soon.

"Then we cut them off." Kite's voice suggests. "If we ask them what their deal is and they don't tell us, we can just cut them off until they reveal whatever they're hiding."

Or not.

"I don't…I don't like this." Kikuo says. "They're - Sh-Shion and Sumire are our friends!" he insists.

"Exactly. They're our friends. They shouldn't be hiding anything from us and they should be relying on us to help them - especially in a situation like this." Kite says. "We'll talk to them tonight or sometime tomorrow. Agreed?"

"...Excellent advice, Sir Kite." Takagi says reluctantly.

Kikuo doesn't say anything.

Sachi grabs my arm. "Let's go, Tatsumi." she hisses quietly.

I nod and quietly flee the area with her and Ryoji.


We don't discuss what we overheard Takagi, Kite, and Kikuo, but the looks on Sachiko's and Ryoji's faces tell me they know I'll be investigating it regardless. We get to the cafeteria without any more incidents.

I open the doors to the cafeteria and-

"Just take it off."

It seems I spoke too soon about the 'no incidents'.

Sumire's tails and Min's group beat us to the cafeteria. Walking in, it seems like all the girls are surrounding…Hakuma?

"What, have you got a bunch of nasty scars on your face or something?" Min scoffs.

Rui leans in, tapping Hakuma's helmet experimentally. "You have to eat, don't you?" she asks. "Taking it off would be a lot easier than trying to shove food under the mask and into your mouth." Rui says.

"I-I'm curious to see what you look like too." Kaguya says shyly. "Aria says I have to stop running away and s-screaming when I see you. I th-think it'd be easier knowing what you look like…"

Mikasa nods in agreement. "As cool as the helmet looks on you, I wanna see what you look like too."

Shion narrows her eyes at Hakuma. "Now that I think about it…I think I'd like to be reassured you're not some pervy forty-year old man." she says.

Hakuma crosses his arms. "I think I liked you all better when you were scared of me or thought I was weird," he says. "Fine. I'll show one of you."

"Oooh!" I cry and run up to the group. "Pick me!" I beg.

"No." Hakuma states flatly and points at Sumire. "Sumire can see because she's not asking." he says.

Sumire smiles smugly. "...Heh."

Hakuma leads Sumire into the kitchen, the Ultimate Cosmetologist sticking her tongue out at us playfully before following him inside.

Disappointing.

At least it seems like she and Shion have made up…again.

The two of them exit the kitchen a beat later. They rejoin the group silently.

"...Well!?" Min asks. "What's the sitch?" she asks.

Sumire shrugs. "He's a teenager like us." she says.

"But how does he look?" Ryoji asks the question we're all thinking.

Sumire thinks for a moment.

She gives us two thumbs up. "He's cute."

Our heads snap towards an unmoving Hakuma, then towards Shion. "Shion! You know her taste, what's Sumire's definition of cute?" I ask.

Shion thinks for a moment.

Shion gasps, taken aback. "He's ruggedly handsome!" she cries.

The rest of us cry out in desperation, our curiosities piqued even more.


Not too long later, the rest of the groups join us in the cafeteria and we exchange information on everything we found. The discussion passes fairly quickly, most of us finding everything of note ourselves.

Now, finally, I can eat.


A/N it's been long enough since the last update that i can once again say:

surprise bitch

bet you thought you'd seen the last of me

the end of the year is near but if i power through the chronic pain that is my back, i can still finish cbr before 2024 - so assume all my stories are ongoing until i remove the chronic pain disclaimer in my profile