Danganronpa: Despair Never Dies: PROLOGUE

My name is Kanon Amari. I am an amateur photojournalist, from an ordinary school and a generic family. I didn't really have much going for me in the way of talent - just some above-average photography skills, and a little bit of skill in journalism. Imagine my surprise when my family received a letter from Hope's Peak Academy, saying that they wanted... me. The letter claimed that I was the "Ultimate Photojournalist" and was absolutely necessary for the school. While awestruck, I just couldn't help but feel surprised that they chose me of all people. I would be attending this school with the absolute best of the best - and for whatever reason, an amateur photojournalist such as myself seemed out-of-place with revolutionary scientists, child prodigies, and pro athletes. Was I… really deserving of such an honor? Certainly better photographers, and journalists than I did existed.

I took a deep breath and gulped, my arms and legs trembling as I inched toward the imposing building of Hope's Peak Academy. I tied the back of my long, charcoal hair up into a ponytail and flicked my braids behind my ears. I reached into my backpack, pulling out a compact Canon camera, then pressed the button atop the device as the screen on the front flashed with a bright white, displaying the word "Canon" in white letters as the view in front of the lens appeared on the screen of the camera. "Alright, I need to get a picture of this place before going in." I muttered to myself, snapping a photograph of the prodigious high school. Before I got the chance to get a good look at the photograph, the camera's screen flickered and went black. "Oh no, did I seriously forget to put in new batteries before my first day at Hope's Peak Academy?! Kanon, you idiot." I sighed, and just put the camera back into my bag. "Oh well, I'm sure Hope's Peak Academy has spare batteries lying around somewhere."

Essentially forgetting about the camera, I took a step toward the school, and before I could react, I felt a chill run down my spine. I gasped as the whole place seemed to be moving in slow-motion. My blood flow ground to a screeching halt, my heart froze in position, and I appeared to be in midair as I felt my body hurling downward as I began to trip and fall onto my face. Oh no, these are my good glasses, too! I thought to myself, this one second feeling like hours. Before I could even land, everything faded to black.


I opened my eyes, and found myself lying down, face-down against a soft, gray cushion. I grumbled, pushing myself upward. I sat upright, pushing my back against a surface which felt similar to the one I apparently was sleeping on. I looked up to see a white metallic strip overhead, smooth and without a scratch to be seen. To my left was another set of seats made of the same material, with a another set of seats facing them and a table between the two seats. Several rows of seats before and after lined the narrow room, and between the seats on my side and the seats opposite me was a walking space, lined with a black fabric. That's when it hit me - I was on a train.

"I'm... on a train...?" I muttered to myself. It seemed that I was completely alone. To my right was a white, metallic wall, with not so much as a window for me to look outside of. I slumped down in my seat as I pulled my phone out of my bag, checking the time. Twelve PM sharp. Noon. Just as I had finished checking the time, I heard a soft, baritone voice call in my direction.

“Oh, good! You’re awake!” The voice called out. I jolted in my seat, the voice catching me by surprise. I looked up from my phone to see a man of above-average height, reaching about six feet high. He wore a turquoise tank top over his muscular torso, veins bulging in his arms as he walked. A pair of shabby brown pants covered his legs, though they appeared to be rather tight and ill-fitting on his thighs, though they were held up by a bent and . His jet-black hair was scruffy and messy, though definitely clean. Oddly enough, he was devoid of any sort of shoes or footwear, instead opting to go barefoot. His broad, angular face was lightly adorned with black facial hair, as if he had just shaven hours earlier.

"Who are you?" I asked him. I had never seen this man before in my entire life, though he seemed to appear to me at the best possible time. He smiled in my direction as he sat down opposite me, his blue-gray eyes glistening underneath the light on the strip above.

“The name’s Masaki Domoto," the man introduced himself, leaning backward as he looked into my eyes. I turned away for a split second, which he chuckled at. How was Masaki so... cool-headed? "And I am the Ultimate Thief!"

The Ultimate Thief? Were talents such as that even allowed inside of Hope's Peak Academy? Even so, why was he so open about it? One would think he would be more hesitant to give away crucial information such as that.

"I found you passed-out at the station, and took you here before the train could leave without you.” Masaki explained to me.

The... station? I looked down at the table, trying not to make eye contact with him. My heart pounded in my chest as my arms and legs trembled. Why was a cute, talented boy like him talking with an average girl like me? It simply didn't add up. A lot of things didn't add up about this boy, or our situation. "What's your name and title?" he asked me, flashing a sort of half-smile in my direction.

I giggled a bit, taking a moment to readjust my glasses as I took a deep breath. I placed my hands on top of the table, and looked him in the eyes. "My name is Kanon Amari," I replied. “And, well... thank you for earlier. But... may I ask why we’re on a train, exactly?”

Masaki inhaled, then turned toward the wall to my right. He clasped his hands and sighed. “Not entirely sure myself…" he muttered. "I think it might be a train to the academy, but I could have sworn we all arrived there already. In the meantime, you might as well come meet all your classmates.”

"That sounds like a good idea." I replied. Masaki stood right up.

"Follow me!" He instructed, making a "come here!" motion with his hand as he turned around and into the walkway. I stood up and followed him as we walked toward the door of the car we were in. Masaki pushed the door open, and the two of us entered the adjacent train car, as pleasant, mouth-watering aroma filled my nose.

I practically drooled as the two of us entered a similar-looking car to the last one, though the walls this time were lined with tables topped with delicious-looking food. Plates filled with sushi, meat on the bone, fried fish, donuts, ramen, tilapia, and many other foods lined the tables, and large dispensers filled with different drinks were at the very ends of each table.

"Whoa... I guess I'll never grow hungry here!" I exclaimed, my stomach rumbling from the sheer smell of it all.

“You probably already guessed, but this is the food court section of the train. I mean, I guess it's no five-star restaurant, but hey, it's food, right?” Masaki stated. "I can hear your stomach growling. Why don't you grab some food and then we'll meet up with everyone else?"

“Oh, you’re hungry too, huh?” asked a higher-pitched, quiet voice, almost like a squeak. I turned behind myself to see a girl definitely around my age, though taller and slightly chubbier than myself. One thing that caught me off-guard for a split second was the v-neck t-shirt outstreched over her large bust, much larger than my own. I looked down at my tiny B-cup chest and sighed, suddenly feeling self-conscious about my own body. She also wore a pair of long, gray sweat pants, and some old black strapped shoes to go along with them. Her dark purple hair was short and uneven in most areas, and it appeared to have gathered a bit of grease as she didn't look like she had washed it in a few days. Atop her head was a pair of large silver headphones, plugged into a cord which reached down to the left pocket of her sweatpants. She had a blank look on her face as she just stood there and blinked at me for a few seconds, staring at me with her vacant, dark-blue (almost violet) eyes. For a second, I got a whiff of a rather strange odor - it smelled like an unlikely combination of body odor and roses.

After a few awkward seconds, I took it upon myself to break the silence. “O-oh, hello." I muttered to her, still trying to avoid eye contact. She didn't quite seem like the personable type, unlike Masaki. "My name is Kanon Amari, Ultimate Photographer. Who are you?”

Giving only the faintest hint of a smile, the messy girl in purple chuckled and gave a response. “I’m Tame Maeda. They call me the Ultimate Anime Artist.”

Tame Maeda? I recognized that name! Although I was only more of a casual fan, I recognized that name from an anime series I once watched with a friend of mine. At the end of each episode, the credits would say "Illustrated by Tame Maeda" at the end. Steady Heart, that was the name of the anime! It was a beautiful series about a schoolgirl who fell in love with the cutest boy in her class - only it turned out that he was a ghost, and as such, the two could never truly be together. “Oh!!! You’re the artist for Steady Heart!” I exclaimed.

Tame gave another half-smile as she passed in front of me, grabbing three donuts, seven pieces of sushi, and at least five cups of ramen. "Yeah, I wrote that one," she replied, not turning back to me as she gathered all her food.

“Well... is there going to be a Season 2?!” I asked her, basically shouting at this point.

A few seconds passed before she reached into her left pocket, and suddenly the pop-rock theme song to an anime burst from her headphones, being loud enough for Masaki and I to hear from less than a meter away. “Maybe.” She whispered back to us, strutting away with her full plate of food.

"Hmm… she’s not really the talkative type…" I murmured to Masaki, placing a few rolls of sushi onto m plate.

“She’s a little quiet and aloof," Masaki replied. "It’s pretty hard to talk to her, much less engage in a real conversation.”

I sighed. The first person I met besides Masaki, and already they had achieved something far greater than I likely ever would in my lifetime. Not to mention that she completely brushed me off entirely. Worse yet, I was still feeling self-conscious about my boobs thanks to her...

“Hey, uh... why don’t we check out the rest of the train, and meet everyone else?” Masaki suggested. "Come on, there's actually a car just below this one that's pretty good. I think you'll like it."

I sighed, taking my plate of sushi with me as Masaki led me down the stairs to the next car.

Below the food car was one with more seats lined against the walls, though this time two gigantic windows were on the walls rather than blank metal. I stood there in awe as I gazed upon the surroundings, which comprised of some tall evergreen trees and tall bushes. The sky above was almost completely clear, with the exception of some thin white clouds in the air, the linear ones exuded from planes.

“This is the scenic car. It’s where you can look out the windows and see all the beauty of the outside world…” Masaki informed me. My mouth slowly grew into a wide smile as I pulled my camera out of my backpack.

"I need to get a few pictures!" I exclaimed, turning my camera on.

"Hey, now." Masaki began, turning to me with a smile. "There'll be plenty of time to take pictures after you've met everybody!"

I'll remember to get lots of pictures here... I thought to myself as Masaki and I toured through the walkway. About halfway through the walkway, I turned my head to see two people sitting opposite each other at a table. The two were completely silent with each other, and just looking out the windows. One of them was a tall and twig-like man likely older than Masaki and I, dressed in a dark blue uniform sort of resembling that of a pilot's, with a long, narrow blue hat to go along with it atop his balding head. The other was a boy closer to our age, dressed in a smokey-gray suit with thick glasses upon his head, and a full head of slicked, gelled brown hair.

“Masaki, who are they?” I asked him, not wanting to disturb their peace. I figured that Masaki had already met everyone else, so it was only natural to assume that he knew who these two were.

“Oh, the one in the uniform is Hikooki Kawata, the Ultimate Pilot, and the one in the suit is Rai Yoshizawa, the Ultimate Meteorologist."

After a few seconds, the man named Hikooki let out a long sigh, and put his head down onto the table. I figured this would be the perfect time to come in. Maybe he just needed someone to talk to right now?

“Oh, hello!” I chimed in. Hikooki and Rai turned their heads in our direction as I waved at the two of them. "Nice to meet you!"

Hikooki grumbled something under his breath and turned away from me. “Hey there… what do you want?” he whispered, his voice garbled and dejected.

I backed away. I really hoped that I didn't upset him or anything. Maybe he just wasn't a very sociable person, like Tame? “Oh, I'm Kanon Amari, Ultimate Photographer... just... saying hi.”

The Ultimate Pilot let out a long huff, then turned toward the window again. “I’m not one for small talk…” he admitted. "I'm sure you're a nice girl, Kanon, just... do you think you could leave me alone right now? I'm not in the best of moods."

"Oh..." I turned away from the troubled Hikooki. I didn't want to cause him any more trouble.

“Yeah, Hikooki is kind of a grump," Masaki whispered into my ear. "He’s older than the rest of us.”

Suddenly, Rai called out to us, breaking the quietness of the conversation. I turned to him and waved in his direction. “Hey there!"

“Oh, hi!" I called back. "You’re Rai Yoshizawa?”

Rai pressed his glasses against his face, grinning wide. “Sure am! I can make an extremely accurate prediction of tomorrow’s weather, and the next day’s, and really, all month’s! Just from this weather we’re having alone.” He bragged, pointing out the window and observing the sky. Could he really predict weather that far in advance? Maybe the title of Ultimate Psychic would have been more befitting of him.

“Oh? Is that so?” I asked him. Rai gave another grin, this time lowering his glasses.

“That’s right!" He confirmed. "It will be sunny all week and most of next, except Thursday is supposed to be rainy all day with a bit of hail, somewhere in the afternoon, likely from 3 to 5 PM.”

It was rather bold of him to make a prediction like this so far in advance, but I still admired that sort of boldness Rai had within him. “Y-you know that all from this weather we’re having right now?!”

“That’s correct!" Rai answered. "Years of studying meteorology will do that. Want to know how you can figure out the weather of the next month just from looking at the sky?”

Truth be told, I was quite intrigued. So far we had a famous anime artist, an actual pilot in a high school setting, and a meteorologist who could predict the weather a month in advance. There was also a thief, but I still didn't know what made him Ultimate yet. In a sense, part of me wanted to know exactly how Rai predicted weather with such confidence. “Well-” Before I could finish my sentence, Masaki cut me off.

“Why don’t we go?" Masaki suggested. "Great talking to you guys, but Kanon here needs to meet everyone else!" He excused us from the scenic car as he began to walk away, and I followed suit. "Rai can talk for hours on end about meteorology. It gets a little grating.” He whispered in my ear.

For hours? I certainly found his skills interesting, but I hardly had the patience to listen to a a subject such as meteorology for hours on end. “I’ve got to go. Talk to you later!” I called back to Rai.

“O-oh, okay. Later!” Rai shouted back.

Masaki led me upstairs again and up into the food car, and then in through the door across from the door we had previously entered from. In this room stood five lounge chairs and a few cushions, and in the corner of the room was a gigantic flatscreen television, at least 200 centimeters wide and 150 centimeters tall. Playing on the television appeared to be a program about snowboarding, where a man dressed in snowboarding gear was boarding down a snowy hill, jumping over rocks and swerving around trees.

“This is where we get our television," Masaki began. I stared at the huge television in awe. Just imagine watching Steady Heart on that! "Only a few channels actually work, but it’s good for killing some time with.”

“Well, that’s cool-!” I began, when suddenly a chill ran down my spine. All of a sudden, I realized something - it was actually getting cold in here! I shivered, my teeth chattering as I crossed my arms over my chest.

“Come on, you can make it! Only five seconds left!” A high-pitched voice shouted. Masaki and I walked over to a chair placed in front of us, where a shorter, slender girl dressed in a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, sitting on the edge of her seat. Her snow-white hair was long and wavy, reaching down past her waist. "You're almost there!"

“Excuse me," I began, approaching her at a snail's pace. "May I ask who you are?”

“Not right now, I’m watching this- oh, man! Are you kidding me?” she shouted at the screen. I noticed that the snowboarder in the show had fallen face-first into the snow.

“Huh?” I asked, tilting my head at her. She certainly seemed like the hotheaded type.

“Sorry, I get really passionate about snowboarding," she replied, taking a deep breath. She stepped onto he feet, standing up and facing me with a smile on her face. "I’m Yuki Hatano, the Ultimate Extreme Snowboarder!” she introduced herself.

“Oh, it’s nice to meet you!" I replied. "Kanon Amari! I’m the Ultimate Photojournalist.”

Yuki grinned at me and jumped back onto her chair. “One day you gotta get a pic of me doing a 360 off a high jump! I can look pretty cool when I do it!” she bragged. "Though it's not really the best snowboarding season with how hot it's been lately..."

“I can try!" I answered. I have covered sports stories before, and getting pictures of athletes right as they are about to make a pivotal move was just something I had grown accustomed to. "I’m not too good with cold weather though.”

Yuki raised an eyebrow at me. “What? It’s not even that cold." she answered. "It’s like… 9 degrees Celsius at worst.”

What? I stepped back a bit. It was pretty clear from this car's temperature that Yuki preferred cold environments, but... really? “9… degrees? That’s way too cold!”

Yuki shrugged, turning back to the television. "I guess that's okay. The cold just isn't for everyone. I feel right at home there, though!”

“She's really good." Masaki informed me. "Right now, she holds the world record for most 360-degree pivots in a single snowboard jump, and she won a snowboarding competition with a broken leg.”

“Whoa… that’s really cool!” I replied. The pun wasn't quite intentional, but it was certainly well-timed.

“Yuki, are you bragging again?” A different high-pitched voice called out.

“You bet I am! I always do that!” Yuki shouted back. A slender, darker-skinned, toned-muscle girl burst in through the door, wearing a green muscle shirt and short shorts which she appeared to be zipping on as she walked in. A white towel was wrapped behind her neck as sweat poured from her forehead.

"Ah, so nice and cool in here..." she noted, giving a relaxed smile as she plopped in a seat next to Yuki's.

“Oh, and who might you be?” I asked her.

The sweaty girl grinned at me, stretching out her arms as she turned toward Masaki and I. “Name’s Guadalupe Garcia, the Ultimate Track Runner! Were you the girl who was passed out just a few hours ago?”

I turned away, blushing a bit. I almost forgot that I had been unconscious only minutes ago. “Y-yeah, that was me. Kanon Amari, Ultimate Photojournalist here.”

Guadalupe beamed at me as she flashed a "peace!" sign in my direction. “Nice to meet you, Kanon! I was just getting a drink after a nice exercise!" she bragged. "Can’t do a ton of running here on the train, so I’ve been using the treadmill in the gym.”

I widened my eyes, now curious. “We have a gym? On this train?” I asked Guadalupe.

“We sure do!" she answered, winking at me. "This train is top-notch, after all. Provided by Hope’s Peak Academy and what-have-you!” she then leaned back in her chair, watching the same snowboarding program that Yuki was watching. "Hey, why are we watching snowboarding? Turn on something else!"

I tuned out Yuki's and Guadalupe's playful quarreling as Masaki turned back to me again. "Guadalupe here can run a mile in less than six minutes, she can run for six hours on end without getting tired, and she almost got the world record for marathon completion, but just missed it by two seconds.”

"Wow..." I just looked back at Guadalupe and Yuki. These two athletes were top of the line, the types of people you only read about in magazines. There was just no way I could even compete with them in the "Ultimate" category.

“One day, I’ll win that world record! Just you watch!” Guadalupe boasted.

Yuki snickered in response. "And in that time, I might have two world records!”

“Just you try!” Guadalupe taunted.

I just sighed in response. Two pro athletes with incredible accolades under their belts, along with everyone else who was here. Who was I kidding? I simply didn't belong here. I gave a sigh, but then Masaki put his hand on my shoulder. I jumped a bit at his touch, but his hand felt so warm, so comforting. I turned to look back at him as he smiled at me.

“Why don’t we see who else we can meet up with here?" Masaki suggested to me again. "There’s still a lot of people to meet, though we have plenty of time. Anything else you’d like to do?”

I looked back at the television, and back at Yuki and Guadalupe. “Not really. I’m interested in seeing what other interesting people we will meet here. I’m sure there’s quite a few!”

Masaki chuckled again, scratching the back of his head. "This is only the surface. Wait until you meet the rest!”

I gave a short laugh in response. “Oh, now I’m a little frightened!”

“Don’t be!" Masaki replied. "Trust me, you’ll like everyone else here!”

Masaki led me down the stairs of the train, where we entered a car with twenty-four different computer monitors.

“We have a computer room?" I asked Masaki. "This means I can print my pictures here!” With all the pictures I would take while on this field trip, having some place to print them all out was a godsend to me.

“We sure do!" Masaki replied. "You can access the internet here too, somehow. Just be warned that some websites aren’t available here, for some reason. As in, they just won't even load.”

I observed each individual computer, until I noticed an overweight man sitting in a chair. He wore a sweaty yellow t-shirt and brown cargo pants, and his hair was greasy and borderline dreadlocked. A large pair of headphones rested upon his head and a microphone sat in front of his face. “Oh, looks like someone beat us here.”

“Yes!" exclaimed the fat man in the chair. His voice was deep and visceral, and I could see from the reflection of his computer screen that he wore a thick pair of glasses and uneven facial stubble. "We just hit 3 million subs! I’ll have to play an hour longer today.”

A few seconds passed, and Masaki leaned in closer to me. “Him? Oh, that’s just Kaemon Nakama. He’s the Ultimate Game Livestreamer. Apparently he’s the biggest streamer on Twitch.”

“H-hello, Kaemon!” I greeted him, approaching the Ultimate Game Livestreamer.

Kaemon gave an exasperated huff. “Alright, hold on for a minute, guys.” He then turned to Masaki and I, shooting us a cold glare. “Can’t you see I’m in the middle of a stream right now? Get out of here or something.”

I looked to the side, just wanting to get this introduction over with. I wasn't sure if I just came in at the wrong time, but Kaemon was definitely rubbing me the wrong way right now. “Umm… my name is Kanon Amari, and I’m the Ultimate Photojournalist-”

Kaemon rolled his eyes, turning himself back to his computer and putting his headphones back on. “Yeah, this bitch here won’t leave me alone. Casuals, am I right?” He then gave a laugh to the computer.

I fumed, clenching my fists so hard that steam might as well have been rising from them. "What a jerk!" I shouted. "See if I ever talk to him again!"

Masaki sighed, then approached Kaemon. "Alright, listen here, you little shit. Apologize to Kanon right now."

Kaemon simply put up a middle finger in our direction, not even dignifying Masaki's demand with a response.

"I'm so sorry about that." Masaki apologized to me. "Yeah, when I said you'll like everyone else... I guess I meant ALMOST everyone else."

Before Masaki-san could continue, the lights abruptly flickered out. The whole car went dark and Kaemon's screen shut off.

“Son of bitch!" screamed Kaemon. I stepped backward, suddenly frightened of what Kaemon would possibly do. "I just reach three million and four subs too!”

“What happened here?” Masaki asked. "And how did it happen?"

I was about to add something in, but as quickly as it had started, the lights came back on. Kaemon's computer screen turned back on as well.

“Well, that was fast," Masaki began. "I know who that probably was-”

“Heh, sorry about all that!" a higher-pitched voice with a heavy Arabic accent, possibly Lebanese. "Everything should be under control now!” After calling that out, a darker-skinned girl dressed in a yellow vest above a black undershirt, with black shorts adorned with yellow stripes below. She wore yellow glasses as well as a yellow hat with a large black patch on the front, as she smiled at us.

“Oh, hello!" I greeted her. "You fixed the lights?”

"I sure can!" the girl confirmed. "It’s what I do best!”

“This is Azizah Ali." Masaki informed me. "She’s the Ultimate Electrician. She’s not actually from Japan, but rather, from a small town in Lebanon. She apparently built a generator which functions as their primary source of power now.”

Azizah shrugged her shoulders. “Yep, that’s all true!" she replied to Masaki. "I don't really like to brag, but... something like this? It was just easy for me."

“Thank you, Azizah!" I thanked her, bowing to her. "I’m Kanon Amari, the Ultimate Photojournalist!”

“Why, it’s nice to meet you, Kanon!" Azizah replied, giving me a similar bow of her own. "I look forward to seeing you around more!”

In the midst of my visiting with Azizah, Kaemon piped up and shouted at all of us. "Hey! Can you guys go somewhere else? I'm in the middle of a stream here!"

Azizah shrugged, giving a sheepish smile.

“Why don’t we go somewhere else?” asked Masaki. "We'll see you around, Azizah! And hopefully we don't run into Kaemon too much more..."

Masaki and I walked in through the door across the room, and inside we found a completely white room, lined with solid black tables which had many different clear beakers filled with differently-colored liquids. Standing behind one of the tables was a short person with pure white hair, whiter than even Yuki's. They wore a pale blue lab coat, and their face was covered with a pair of clear goggles, and they wore blue rubber gloves on their hands. They seemed to be mixing a few chemicals together as a figure opposite them watched from a chair.

In the chair sat a rather pale woman dressed in all black, wearing a thin black tank top, and above it, what appeared to be a long-sleeved shirt without the front. She sat cross-legged, wearing a black skirt above black leggings, and long black boots tied with belts. Her eyes seemed to glow a blood red, and she had this ominous wide grin upon her face. Her black hair was mess of split ends and tangles, and in her gloved hand appeared to be a doll of some sort, which she was sticking needles into.

The science lab certainly had a terrible smell to it, worse than Tame's from before. It smelled like rusted iron and burning alcohol, not the best combination of odors. Before I could say anything to Masaki or to the two people there, I heard the one in the lab coat give us a warning.

“Cover your eyes.” They instructed us.

“What?” I asked, tilting my head.

“Better listen. They know what they're talking about.” Masaki advised me. The two of us shielded our eyes with our hands, as suddenly a burst of smoke and fire rose from a beaker in front of the person with the lab coat.

BOOM!

I coughed, still closing my eyes. After a few seconds, I opened my eyes back up, gasping for air. “What... was that?” I asked.

“Why, that was... magical! Like the finest of black magic incurring the wrath of the demon lords! Quite the spectacle if I say so myself.” raved the girl in all black. Her eerie smile got wider as she said those words aloud. I reclined a bit, trying to keep good distance from her.

“E-excuse me," I began hoping I wasn't interrupting anything. "But may I ask who you two are?”

The person in the lab coat scratched their chin. “Well, there was nothing really magical about this, really, but-" They then turned to Masaki and I, and raised their eyebrows. "Oh, hello. I see we have a new face today. My name is Shiro Sakai, the Ultimate Chemist.”

Masaki leaned in close to me again. “Shiro is headed toward something really big. They’ve won a Nobel Prize in chemistry, and some people are already comparing them to Curie or Einstein.”

I tilted my head a bit - Shiro reminded me of a boy, but why was Masaki referring to them as... them? “Them?” I asked Masaki.

“Yes." Shiro replied. "See, I’m non-binary.”

Oh, that made sense. I had learned about non-binary people before, that I hadn't met any in real life quite yet. “O-oh, alright! You go by ‘they/them’ then?” I asked them.

“That is correct." Shiro confirmed. "Thank you, you seem to be more accepting of that than others." They murmured a bit, before clearing their throat. "Anyway, I was just showing what happens when you mix a little bit of pure potassium with water. It’s a fun little party trick to show off when others are bored out of their minds.”

“What other magic spells can you perform?" asked the girl in black. "The dark lord would be very impressed with your skills. He may even offer to let you join in his army.”

Shiro gave a sigh, then rolled their eyes. “I told you, this wasn’t the result of magic…” They picked up another beaker, holding it up in the light and swirling it around in the air a bit.

With great reluctance, I turned my head toward the girl in black, hoping this encounter wouldn't last too long. “And who are you?” I asked her.

“The name is Dark Lady Aiko Amane!" she boasted, grinning wide at me. "I, uh… seem to be unable to remember what my petrifyingly awful title is. I’m the Ultimate, umm… something. Allow me some time to think, mortal.” She then gave a nervous laugh as she poked and prodded at her voodoo doll some more.

“Aiko has kind of a bad memory, so you might have to remind her your name a few times." Masaki then leaned in close again. She’s also a little on the eccentric side...”

“It’s, um, nice to meet you, Aiko! Kanon Amari, Ultimate Photojournalist!” I introduced myself.

“Ahh, so the mortal is an Ultimate as well!" Aiko exclaimed. "You’re a master of the black magic which seals a moment of time into a square, yes?” She asked me, tilting her head. Her wording was rather confusing, and it took me a few seconds to finally understand what she was talking about.

“If you mean taking photographs, well, I guess I’m pretty good at it, but-” Before I could finish my sentence, Aiko cut me off.

“Mwahaha!" Aiko laughed. Her "evil laugh" sounded fake and forced, and not intimidating in the slightest. Not even the most comical of supervillains would have picked Aiko's laugh as their signature laugh. "One day, you and I shall be joined in the art of black magic, with fellow occult member Shiro!”

Shiro simply sighed at Aiko, rolling their eyes at her again. “How many times do I have to tell you that what I do is not magic…?”

Masaki started to walk out the doorway. “Uh, Kanon… there’s plenty of other people for us to meet, why don’t we go see them?”

I nodded as Masaki and I went back through the door of the science lab, and the computer room, television room, and food car as we ended up back where we started.

"There's more that way," Masaki informed me, pointing at the door on the other side of the car. We walked all the way to the other side and entered into the next room, the kitchen. A heavenly aroma wafted through the car, smelling of the world's finest bakery. Even though I had eaten sushi earlier, my stomach suddenly demanded lots of baked goods.

"Good lord, it smells delicious in here!" I exclaimed, on the verge of drooling again. "It's like I entered a five-star bakery!" My mouth began to water immediately.

Right as I said that, a short and plump woman dressed in a baker's apron with a beige shirt and pants underneath and pink oven mitts approached us, holding a pan with a cake inside. She also wore a maid's headband atop her head, "Oh, hello! I’m baking cake. Did you two want any?” she asked us both.

My eyes lit up with excitement. “I would love some! It smells so good!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, yes please!" Masaki replied to her. "This is Asa Miyoshi, the Ultimate Baker. One of the sweetest people on this train.”

Asa blushed, and then giggled a bit in response. I glanced back at Masaki, suddenly feeling a little jealous of Asa for some reason. It might have simply been for the reasons I was jealous of everyone else - they were all deserving of the title of "Ultimate", while I really... wasn't. But that might not have been it either. “Aw, Masaki, you’re making me blush! You’re quite sweet yourself!" Asa replied. I inhaled deeply, trying not to lash out.

She's just being nice. I told myself.

"Now, who is this cutie here? She looks so thin. You should eat lots of cake!” asked Asa. I blushed a bit, reclining again.

"Y-you think I'm cute?" I asked, trying to hide my reddening face. Masaki shrugged a bit, smiling back at me. I almost lost myself in the moment, until I realized that I hadn't yet properly introduced myself to Asa. “Oh, I’m Kanon Amari, the Ultimate Photojournalist. It’s so nice to meet you!” I greeted her. She gave me a warm smile in return.

“It’s so nice to meet you too!" Asa replied, pulling a cake with only one slice missing out of the refrigerator next to the oven. "Please, help yourself to some cake! There’s enough for everyone on this train!”

The cake did look absolutely beautiful. It was a large round one, frosted with light blue icing and topped with a little bit of hot pink frosting as well. It was a vanilla-chocolate cake inside, and it looked absolutely perfect.

“The cake is finished?!" squealed a high soprano voice. Suddenly, a very tall girl easily the same height as Masaki rushed in through the door. Her hair was in a large variety of fashions - very long in the back, with two ponytails up behind her head and two curly pigtails in front. It was also flashy hot-pink, with blue-purple tips. She wore a midriff-exposing white schoolgirl shirt, adorned with a large red bow and paired with a blue pleated skirt. Below she wore pink leggings which turned purple and then blue the lower they went, as well as high white high heels which made her even look even taller. The final touches were a pink winged face mask, a heart-shaped crystal necklace, and a large blue star painted on the side of her right cheek. "It smells so oishii!” she exclaimed, her accent clearly not sounding Japanese whatsoever but still making the most desperate attempt to sound that way. She was either an idol, or cosplayer. Or both.

“Hey, where did you come from?” I asked her. She did seem to rush in here almost immediately.

“I was just in the bathroom, getting my hair done-" She replied, but then she looked at me and jumped. Then, she gasped in an ear-piercing shriek. "Oh!!! You’re the kawaii girl who was asleep on the seat!! You’re finally awake! This is so sugoi!! What’s your name?”

“Um…" I looked to the side, suddenly feeling nervous. This girl was clearly a lot to handle at once, and she would definitely drain my energy if I were to spend too much time with her. "Kanon Amari, Ultimate Photojournalist… you?” I muttered to her, trying to get this over with as soon as possible.

“This is Amy-” Masaki was about to introduce her to me, but then she cut him off at just the right second.

“Oh. My. Kami. Do you really not know??" she asked me, her eyes widening with the most ridiculous amount of shock I had ever seen in someone's face. "I’m the famed Amy-chan Sakura, the Ultimate Cosplay Idol!” Wait, was her name really Amy-chan?

“Her music is very popular in the United States and Japan. I’ve heard she’s gone Platinum with each album she’s released.” Masaki informed me. Say what you want about her personality, but she's quite the sensation here.

“Th-that’s amazing!” I replied to Masaki. I had to hand it to her - she certainly had more of a place here than I did.

“If you’d like," Amy-chan began, flashing a "peace" sign and a cheerful smile. "You can attend my super sugoi, kawaii concert tonight! I just need to eat some of Asa-chan’s oishii sweets! They make me feel even more kawaii!”

“Y-yeah, that’d be… great.” I replied. Truth be told, I kind of wanted to say "No". Concerts weren't really my thing, and Amy-chan was someone whose energy would really start to wear you out if you weren't as happy and peppy as she was. She was really better in small doses.

Amy-chan suddenly grabbed both my hands, something which surprised me quite a bit. “You’re a super sugoi photographer, right? Could you please get lots and lots of pictures of watashi?? Please, Kanon-chan??” She practically begged.

I sighed, pulling my hands away from her. “Look, Amy-chan, you're cute and sweet, but you can tone down the gratuitous Japanese and the honorifics… besides, you’re supposed to do that with the last names.”

Amy-chan puffed her cheeks out and pouted. “Aww... but it’s soooooo much more kawaii to do that with the first names, Kanon-chan! What about you, Masaki-kun? You agree with me, right?” She asked Masaki, giving him a so obviously feigned pouty-face.

Masaki shrugged, then scratched the back of his head. “Heh… whatever you say, Amy-chan.” He replied.

"Yay!" Amy-chan exclaimed, jumping up into the air and almost hitting her head on the ceiling of the train. Amy-chan, Masaki, and I then finally had some of Asa’s cake. It was absolutely delicious! My tongue danced with joy as I slowly chewed the soft crumbs and creamy icing. It was the best cake I’d eaten in my entire life! Of course, Masaki and I couldn’t stand be around Amy-chan much longer.

"Oh!" Masaki began. "We just remembered, we've got... places to go! Yeah, lots of other places to go. We'll catch you two later!" Masaki excused us. He walked down the stairs of the kitchen, and I followed right behind him.

The two of us arrived downstairs, where we saw that the floor was covered with several blue mats and many different weights and fitness machines were spread all over. This must have been the gym.

“Oh, I think you mentioned this train having a gym before. I just didn’t think it would be this big…” I muttered to myself. I was never quite the athletic type, but I guess it never hurt to try.

“Yep, it’s pretty big-" Masaki began. Suddenly, his eyes widened as he stepped backward, and leaned close to me again. "Hey, Kanon? I’ll just be in the next car. You meet these two.”

I raised an eyebrow at Masaki. "Where are you going?" Before I could even get anything resembling an answer, Masaki had already dashed off.

“Hey, were you just with Masaki?" asked a smug, deep voice. Suddenly, a tall and muscular man dressed in a police uniform walked out to me. He wore thick sunglasses as well, and his belt had a holstered gun and a baton to its sides. He gave me a smug grin as he reached for the baton on his belt. "Don’t try and lie!”

I squeaked, jumping backward as I froze in position. I suddenly feared for my life as this imposing policeman interrogated me. “Well, I was just-”

“Listen to me!" demanded the policeman, pulling out his baton. "I’m Hideki Harada, the Ultimate Interrogator! Where is Masaki?! I clearly saw you with him!”

My eyes widened as my arms and legs began to feel weak. My knees wobbled as he yelled at me, and his grin only grew wider and more smug. Oh, how I wish Masaki were here right now! It would have been less scary if I wasn't alone...

“Hey, Hideki!" called out an unfamiliar baritone voice. "Leave that girl alone!” Right behind Hideki was the tallest man I'd seen here today - he practically towered over Hideki, who was a little taller than Masaki! He wore a a red t-shirt with black gym shorts, and his muscles were incredibly toned. I was glad this guy was sticking up for me, at least.

Hideki's grin turned into a scowl as he turned away. “Grr… You just got lucky, alright? What’s your name?”

I gulped down my fear, now feeling a little better as the voice seemed to get him away from me.“K-Kanon… Amari… Ultimate Photojournalist…”

Hideki scowled at me again, clenching his fists. “You’re a photojournalist, huh?" He sighed, and then turned away from me. "You better not get any pictures of me while I’m on duty, alright? I don’t do anything wrong.”

The very tall man shook his head and approached me, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t listen to Harada. He just likes to scare people because he’s an officer in training. I’m Ryo Shinobu, the Ultimate Basketball Star!" He flashed a grin and thumbs-up in my direction, and then turned back to Hideki, and glared at him. "And Hideki, if you ever threaten Amari-chan like that again, you’re goin’ down. Don't act like you're so tough when you're not being Mr. Vigilante here.”

Ryo was a real life-saver here. I smiled at him, and gave a polite bow. “Thank you so much, Ryo-" Then, I gasped. I realized something - I had seen this man before! "Wait, I recognize you! I saw you on television once! You were in an interview, where someone called you the Michael Jordan of Japan!”

Ryo scratched his head and chuckled, looking away for a second. “Heh… I’m not sure if that’s quite a fitting title for me… but what the hell, I’ll take it!”

The difference between Harada and Shinobu was absolutely astounding astounding… Harada was scary and mean, but Shinobu was nice and friendly… and not to mention really tall. This guy had to have girls all over him! He was kind of like Masaki, except taller.

“Amari-chan, how about it? Wanna lift some weights with me?” Ryo offered.

I smiled at Ryo, but then shook my head. “I’m sorry, but I’m not really the active type. Maybe sometime later?”

Ryo shrugged, and then flashed a smile and thumbs-up again. “That’s just fine! I guess I’ll see you around, Kanon!”

Hideki shook his head as I exited the car, but I didn't look back. I hoped I hadn't been keeping Masaki too long.

The next car had some smaller shelves packed with various books, and a few small tables to supposedly read said books. Masaki was waiting for me at one of the tables, looking into the distance.

“Okay, good," Masaki began. "Looks like nothing bad happened. I just... can’t be around Hideki, I just know something bad will happen between us…”

That certainly made sense. A thief and an interrogator don't exactly go hand-in-hand with each other. I took a deep breath, as the library was quite peaceful. I expected this one to be quieter than the last two rooms. I sat in silence, inhaling the old and dusty library air. There was something oddly pleasant about the smell of a library.

“There’s lots of people here too." Masaki stated, breaking the silence after a few seconds. "You might want to talk to them.” I nodded. Right behind Masaki was a woman dressed like a teacher, school uniform and dress and all. She had thick glasses and her dirty blonde hair was neatly trimmed and groomed, save for one cowlick in the center of her head. She was going through the various books, seeming to look around for one in particular.

“Hmm, these are all high school-level books…" she muttered. "I wonder if there are any college-level textbooks around…?”

Why was she looking for college-level textbooks? We were all high-schoolers. But what if she was a teacher? “Oh, hello! You a teacher?” I called out to her.

She huffed, and then turned to Masaki and I. “No, but that’s just a common mistake," she replied, dusting off her dress. "I’m just an advanced student who tested at college-level thinking, and as such, I’m just looking to improve my skills even further.”

“This is Michiru Rakuyama." He introduced her to me. "She’s the Ultimate Scholar. She gets straight A’s in all of her classes and is well-rounded in every single school subject. Everything any of us here can do, she can do too. Just, probably not quite as well.”

“Which is why I must improve myself!" Michiru exclaimed. She slammed the book she had pulled out back in, with a glimmer of frustration in her eye. "I’m so tired of being a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. One day I will be a master-of-all!” she shouted.

“Well, you know what they say!" In actuality, I had no idea what to say. Oh, crap! I thought to myself. Now I had to come up with something. "Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, better than a master-of-one!”

Michiru shrugged her shoulders and gave me a shrug. “I suppose that much is true…" she murmured under her breath. "Anyway, I really should be getting to my studies. I have a promising future at prestigious college, after all.” She then pulled out a few books from the shelf and walked off toward a table, carrying all her books.

“It was great meeting you, Michiru!” I called out to her.

“When it gets down to it, Michiru is actually really nice." Masaki informed me. "She’s just a little upset that everyone else has a talent, but she doesn’t really stand out anywhere in particular. Just goes to show that anyone can have poor self-esteem, you know?”

Then, a voice from behind me called out. I turned to see a short boy wearing a mask on his face, with a sheathed sword behind his back. “Could you please keep it down? I’m trying to read.” He requested.

“Yes, sorry about that.” Masaki replied with an apology.

“Who is he?” I whispered to Masaki.

“That’s Kenji Yang, the Ultimate Swordplayer," Masaki whispered in return. "He’s a pretty quiet and cold kinda guy. I feel bad for him, though… I’ve heard some pretty awful stuff about his past.”

I turned around to face Kenji, then got up and sat adjacent to him. “Hello, Kenji," I whispered to him. "I am Kanon Amari, Ultimate Photojournalist. What are you reading?”

“Just some Lao Tzu. His works calm my nerves and soothe my soul.” Kenji replied, not once looking up from his book.

That name certainly sounded familiar to me. Like one of those philosophers people quote out of context to inadvertently support their own ideals. “Lao Tzu? I remember reading about him back in middle school, but I can’t remember a thing he said… do you know any famous quotes of his?”

Kenji cleared his throat, and read off a quote from a page he was on. “‘Violence, even well-intentioned, rebounds upon oneself’. It’s a simplistic quote, yes, but it’s words I live by.” He replied to me. I nodded, interested in those words. Perhaps Kenji was more an Ultimate Philosopher than Ultimate Swordplayer?

“Oooohhhh. That’s a good quote." I replied, nodding my head up and down. "Any other philosophers you read?”

Kenji looked up for a second, then looked at me. “Hmm, mostly the well-known ones. I have also read Confucius, Buddha, and Zhuangzhi. Trying to make myself at peace.”

I smiled at Kenji. He seemedlike the kind of guy who really could find peace if he tried. “That’s… so cool. Well, I guess I’ll let you keep reading then. I’ll see you later!”

Kenji didn't really reply to me, but suddenly I heard a pretty loud voice across the other side of the car. In a wooden chair sat a short, petite girl with short black hair, save for two long pigtails on either side. She wore a pair of sunglasses on her face, as well as a white t-shirt. For some reason, she was wearing only one sock, a long black one which went up to her right knee. She was sorting through a collection of folders on the desk she was sitting at.

"Man… this script is never going anywhere. Trash for this one!” shouted a boisterous, mid-pitched voice.

“Who is that?” I asked Masaki.

Masaki's eyes widened. “Oh, don’t tell me you’ve never heard of Tomoe Shinkai! She’s directed all the good hit movies over the past few years!" He then sighed and looked down at the ground. "And that terrible movie, Glass Boxes.”

I gasped - a famous anime artist, a few famous athletes, and now the best movie director ever? “No way, that’s Tomoe Shinkai?!” I asked.

“Yep!" Tomoe answered from the other side. I guess she heard us. "The one and only! Though my cast and crew call me 'Cool Tomoe'. If you couldn’t guess, I’m the Ultimate Film Director.”

My eyes sparkled as I rushed over to Tomoe's chair. “Why, it’s an honor to meet you, Tomoe!" I exclaimed. Kenji and Michiru glared in my direction.

“Heh, thanks!" Tomoe thanked me, grinning. "I’m just picking out one of these scripts to use for a movie. So far, I’m not impressed with any of them.”

Masaki shrugged. “Guess Cool Tomoe has really high standards for scripts then, huh?”

Tomoe chuckled and tossed one of the scripts into a trash bin. “Oh yeah, trust me. Every day I get at least 200 new scripts, and on average, only about 3 of them are salvageable. The rest are honestly total shit.”

“Is it hard being a director?” I asked Tomoe. In all honesty, it was probably one of those questions that was pretty high up there on the list of questions you should never ask.

“Pffft, you kidding?" Tomoe asked me, It’s one of the hardest jobs in the whole world! I’ve gotta search through scripts, find people to hire for the selected roles, and then spend up to a few years directing my cast and crew. And worse, I can be working on up to three movies at once!” she vented at us. Who knew Cool Tomoe would be the complaining type?

“That sounds like a busy life…" I muttered beneath my breath. "Well, I don’t want to distract you too much from your work. Masaki, why don’t we go to the next car?”

“Good idea." Masaki obliged. "See you later, Tomoe!”

The next room over was a darker room, filled with lots of different tables for games and entertainment. There was a pachinko table, a pinball table, a few arcade machines, and what appeared to be a shooting game found at some sort of carnival. It certainly looked like a lot of fun.

“And this is our game room!" Masaki stated to me. "The bathrooms can be found in here, and it’s where you’ll find most of us, most of the time.”

At the pachinko table was a man wearing a brown suit, and with a fuzzy shaven head of brown hair. He was of modest height and stature, though his entire presence seemed to ooze class and importance. Behind him was a very short and skinny boy, dressed in a white button-up shirt and shorts. A silver studded belt held his shorts up, and he wore white high heels with his black socks. Atop his head rested a white top hat, and he held a black cane in his right hand. I had to admit it - one of them had class, the other had style.

"Huh, I never took these two for the pachinko-playing types." Masaki stated to me.

“I’m about to win this one! Just one more ball and I win!” shouted the one in the brown suit.

“Hmm, I don’t quite think you’re going to make it.” replied the one in the white top hat. He flashed a smug grin at the other guy, who was growing red in the face from his frustration at the pachinko game.

“Hey, I am the best at games like this!" The guy in the suit claimed. "Kids like you wouldn’t understand!”

“We’re the same age…” The one in the top hat replied, rolling his eyes.

“Oh, hey there!" I called out to the two of them. "I’m Kanon Amari, Ultimate Photojournalist-”

“Dammit, you just made me screw up!" shouted the guy in the suit, clenching his fists and glaring at me. "Now I have to wait until my next turn before I can win again!" He gave a long, exasperated sigh, then looked back at me and smiled. "The name’s Lorenzo Ricci, Ultimate Entrepreneur. I don’t mind that I just spent 200 yen on this machine… I have plenty of money to spare anyway.”

“Looks like it’s my turn to go up." The boy in the top hat noted. "I’m Utamuro Ozawa, by the way. I’m the Ultimate Clothing Designer. All these clothes I’m wearing right now? I made them all myself.”

Lorenzo and Utamuro were two of the coolest people I had seen so far! Lorenzo was super rich… and Utamuro made all those himself? If there was any doubt that these people were out of my league, it was all gone now.

“Well, whoever made these games surely knows how to do marketing well. Challenging, but not too hard or too easy, and simple enough to be addicting, but complex enough to maintain your attention. Yes, pachinko is really marketable.” Lorenzo mused, his voice quiet and calculating. He eyed Utamuro playing the pachinko game the whole time during his little comment.

Utamuro briefly turned to Lorenzo. “You know, if I make it, I win.”

Lorenzo scoffed, and then turned away from Utamuro. “Yeah, sure… you may be better at pachinko, but I’ve got enough cash to practice enough and one day beat you!” He boasted.

Utamuro smiled at Lorenzo, and pumped his fist into the air. “That’s the spirit! By the time you do, you may not be so rich anymore, though!”

Masaki and I both laughed at that one, as Lorenzo's eye twitched at Utamuro's remark. I had to hand it to him- Utamuro was rather clever as well.

“Damn… that was savage.” Lorenzo whispered.

“Yeah, it’s not really wise to try and make fun of Utamuro," Masaki stated. "Chances are, he’ll strike back with an even more brutal comeback.”

“You can say that again…” Lorenzo agreed.

“And I’ve just won!" Utamuro boasted. "Rematch?”

Lorenzo shook his head. “Nah… I know how these machines work. They’re rigged.”

Utamuro rolled his eyes and laughed. “Weren’t you just saying this machine was simple, but not too difficult?”

Lorenzo then buried his face in his hands, and let out a mufled “Why does this keep happening to me…”.

"Why don't we keep going and let these two sort out all their drama?" Masaki suggested. The two of us walked forward, until we passed by the bathrooms. I noticed that both doors just read "Restroom" on them, without assigning any genders to them whatsoever.

“The bathrooms aren’t gendered?” I asked, scratching my chin.

Masaki shrugged. “It’s just easier that way, you know? The builder of this train is really progressive.”

I smiled at that sentiment. “That’s pretty good-”

THUMP!

Before I could finish my though, the bathroom door to the right flung right open. A person wearing a lilac-colored school uniform exited, and they also wore a similarly-colored skirt and cowboy hat. Their lilac hair was put into twin braids, and they wore a pair of purple glasses upon their face. I gasped when I saw their left hand - and noticed a silver pistol in it.

“You two need to use the restroom?” they asked us. Their voice was a little bit scratchy, but definitely audible.

“Oh, hey! I haven’t met you yet-!” I began, trying to take any attention off of the gun they were holding at the moment.

“And where did you come from?” they asked me, pointing the pistol in my face. I flung my hands up, surrendering to this person completely.

“Aaaaaahhh! I-I-I promise, I w-won’t hurt you or anything! P-please get that gun out of my face!” I screamed. My heart pounded like a hammer. I could feel the inevitable coming up. That was that, this was the short life of Kanon Amari, Ultimate Photojournalist in name only-

“Kanon, it’s okay, they just-”

“BANG!” shouted the person with the gun. I shrieked, ready to accept my death as- Nothing. They just stood there, pointing the gun at me, and then put the gun down and gave a laugh.

“...W-what?”

“Ha, the look on your face was priceless!" They laughed. "Don't worry, it’s loaded with blanks. ...Sorry, I promise I won’t do that again. Name’s Toko Matsura, the Ultimate Gunslinger! I use they/them pronouns, just lettin’ ya know.”

I scowled at Toko, kind of upset with them for pointing that gun at me. I really felt like I was going to die back there! I figured the best I could do was introduce myself, though. “Th-that was quite the first impression… nice to, uh… meet you, Matsura-chan… Kanon Amari is my name… I’m the Ultimate Photojournalist.”

“So we have one thing in common! We both love takin’ shots!” Toko replied. I sighed, not really finding that joke to be necessarily funny.

“Your phrasing is really weird…” I muttered in return, giving another sigh.

“Hey, I was just about to head to the shooting range game! You wanna head there with me?” Toko invited Masaki and I. I really didn't want to go with them, but... I guess there wasn't much else I could do.

“Maybe not a bad idea. There’s a few others you still haven’t met yet.” Masaki informed me.

“S-Sure I guess…” I replied, clutching onto the side of my sleeve. Toko was really freaking me out… At least I still had Masaki with me.

Over at the shooting range portion of the room was a set of targets, and fake guns attached to joysticks. There were two stations there, one being occupied by yet another petite girl way too busty for own good. She had medium-length blue hair which was trimmed at a straight light at the bottom, with green tips. She wore a blue-green shirt with a circle in the middle of the chest, exposing much of her cleavage and a green bra. She also wore a skirt which was way too short on someone like her; I swore I could see her panties! For some reason, one of her eyes was purple, and the other was blue. She also had turquoise gloves and socks, and deep blue lace-less sneakers.

The one who occupied the other station was a tall and bulky black man, with a grease-stained grain shirt and pants. His black hair was shaven at the top, and it seemed that his arms and face had plenty of scars from burns and cuts. His pants were held up by a black leather belt, with several bends and notches in it. He overall towered over the girl he was sitting with.

“Aw, what?! Is my aim really this terrible?” asked the girl.

“You’ll get better, if you just practice a bit.” replied the guy.

“Outta the way, varmints!" Toko shouted out, appearing behind the two of them. "I’m the best gunslinger in town!”

“Toko!" shouted the girl. "Please, I’m losing! Tag me out?”

“Since when are there tag-outs in this game?” asked the guy.

“H-hello… my name is Kanon Amari, Ultimate Photojournalist. Nice to meet you all.” I introduced myself to them. Toko and the other two turned around to face me.

“Hi hi! My name is Saeko Nura, the Ultimate Collector! I’m not too good with guns, but Matsura-chan, my new friend, is helping me learn how to use them!” the girl greeted me with a huge smile.

“I’m Daquan Brown, Ultimate Steelworker." The guy did the same, with a smile on his face too. "Saeko, Toko, and I all became friends, and we’re playin’ this shooting game. I guess I’m pretty good at this game, but I can never hope to beat Toko.”

Saeko was so cute and bubbly, and not really obnoxious like Amy-chan. Daquan seemed like a wholesome kind of guy. Really, it was Toko I was a little on-edge about…

“Alright, looks like we’ve met just about everyone now!" Masaki concluded. "I don’t want to distract you guys from your game too much longer.” Masaki told to Toko, Saeko, and Daquan. We were about to head out of the game room, when suddenly-

BING-BONG, BING-BONG!

A sound like a bell chimed throughout. Everyone stopped where they were as suddenly, a yellow camera dropped down from the ceiling, pointing itself at us. A yellow monitor appeared out of the wall, and flickered a few times before turning itself on. A stuffed bear appeared on the screen - a teddy bear, one half white and innocent-looking, and the other half black with sharp teeth and a red eye. Then, the stuffed bear began to talk.

“Welcome, students of Hope’s Peak Academy!" The stuffed bear shouted out in a screechy, high-pitched voice. "My name is Monokuma! You have all been selected for a one-of-a-kind school field trip, where we will tour across the land by train, seeing all sorts of fun places and landmarks! Meet me in the main car as soon as possible! Anyone not there in ten minutes will face harsh consequences! Upupupu~” The screen shut off, and we all stood there in silence for a few seconds.

"What... was that?" I asked.

Masaki shook his head. "I'm not taking any chances. Let's go."

With not a moment to lose, we all headed toward and met up in the main car. I sat down where I had woken up an hour or so before, and Masaki took the seat next to me. Michiru and Kenji had arrived before we did, and after us followed Asa and Amy-chan. Next up were Lorenzo and Utamuro, then Toko, Saeko, and Daquan. Hideki and Ryo were next. Tame, Kaemon, and Azizah followed shortly after. Shiro and Aiko came in next, with Tomoe not far behind. Guadalupe and Yuki were net to arrive. Finally, Rai and Hikooki arrived, filling up the last two seats… except for one.

“Ah, I see we’re all here then, hmm?" asked the voice of Monokuma, who suddenly appeared to us, standing atop one of the tables. "Michiru Rakuyama, Kenji Yang, Masaki Domoto, Kanon Amari, Asa Miyoshi, Amy-chan Sakura, Lorenzo Ricci, Utamuro Ozawa, Toko Matsura, Saeko Nura, Daquan Brown, Hi