Sun's Joy: Academy of Despair

Sixteen students carrying the world's hopes on their shoulders suddenly find themselves in the academy of their dreams. But this hope soon turns to despair as they find there is no way out. Well, unless you count what the strange black and white teddy bear said. But really, who would actually go as far as to kill another? Surely there must be another way out.

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8. Piecing the Puzzle

Ding-dong! Ding-dong!

 

Attention you bastards! It is now seven am, marking the end of Night Time. The cafeteria has been unlocked, and the lights turned on. Here's to another day of mutual killing! Upupu~”

 

Naomi's eyes fluttered open. For a few moments, she stared blankly at the ceiling before sitting upright. As soon as she did so, a dull pain resounded in her head. She tried to move, but found that she was wrapped in a white sheet.

Huh?” she said aloud as she took in her surroundings. She was in the meeting hall, with a table cloth wrapped around her. Gingerly she pulled it off, and looked at herself. She was still wearing her dress from the dance, and there was a long shallow gash along her right arm. It had stopped bleeding some time ago, though.

 

To Naomi's right was a buffet table: it had split down the centre, and there was a pile of food and drink scattered around. There was the distinct smell of booze in the air. It all came back to her at that moment: the dance, Ben, Chelsea, the fight... Naomi buried her face in her hands in shame. Oh God, what had she been thinking? Was Chelsea okay? Had she accidentally killed her as a result?

Oh God, I'm a killer,” Naomi whispered softly, trembling, before realising how preposterous that idea was. If Chelsea was dead, then the others would have woken her by now for the investigation. Plus, wouldn't she have been executed by now? Naomi sighed softly; she was worrying over nothing. She pulled herself off of the chairs she was laying on, and stood up, stretching. Despite herself, Naomi's stomach growled: breakfast was sounding like a good idea right now. It'd also be a great time to reconcile with the others. With that decided, Naomi took a few steps towards the middle of the hall.

 

But then she saw the far wall, and all these pleasant thoughts vanished.

 

There was a long, red splatter going up the wall, contrasting horribly with the decorations. Naomi felt the air around her go cold. Surely not...

“No. It can't be...” Naomi said aloud, trying to calm her nerves as she crossed the room. She looked at the buffet table, seeing the table cloth half-pulled down, and also splattered with red. She suddenly felt very afraid, and an urge to run from this room and never look back hit her all at once. But still Naomi walked over to the other side of the table, past the overturned chairs, and to the source of the red. She looked at the floor, and let out a scream that filled the room, and would have surely echoed around the hallways if not for the closed doors.

 

It was Andrew, slumped back against the table in a pool of blood, still wearing his dance outfit. His head was facing down, his eyes vacant and unseeing. There was blood everywhere, but Naomi still managed to make out two deep wounds: one was a deep stab wound on his chest, and the other a deep slash across his throat.

 

The sight in front of Naomi didn't lie: the ETL Racer was dead.

 

After a few moments of staring in horror, Naomi's mind began to spin. If Andrew was dead, then that meant that he had been killed. There was a murderer in Sun's Joy Academy. Someone had killed her friend. Someone had bought into Monobear's game.

 

Letting out another shrill wail, Naomi turned tail and darted towards the doors, her skates leaving red tracks. The others had to know.

 

Melissa sat with Dirk, Ella, Shauna, and Mark, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she ate away at a particularly large pancake. She glanced over at the cafeteria doors: a few more students were still filing in.

“So, that dance was possibly the greatest disaster ever witnessed by humanity,” Dirk said breezily, his hands on his PDA.

“Only because of Monobear,” Mark pointed out. “Otherwise, it was pretty fun. Wouldn't you guys agree?”
“I suppose so,” Melissa added.

“What about you two?” Mark asked Ella and Shauna. “What did you think of the dance?”

“Oh, sorry,” Ella said. “Guess I spaced out for a moment.”

“It's my fault,” Shauna said. “Cammy broke last night, and Ella kept watch whilst I fixed him. We were in there until three this morning, and barely got any sleep.”

“Hey, where is that little puppet anyway?” Dirk asked.

“In the workshop,” Shauna explained. “I had to apply another coat of paint, and he's still drying out.”

“Should be done by this evening, hopefully,” Ella said. “The glue has to set as well.”

“Oh, I forgot about that,” Shauna said sheepishly. “Must be the sleep-deprivation.”

“Are you sure it was a good idea to be working with such dangerous tools so late?” Mark asked, concerned.

“Don't worry,” Ella said. “Nobody died, so there's nothing to be concerned about.”

 

At that moment, the cafeteria doors burst open, revealing a pale-faced Naomi, still in her dress. Her eyes were wide, and her skates were coated in a thin layer of blood.

“Naomi?” Marian asked from across the room. “Are you all right?”

“Oh God oh God oh God oh God!” Naomi muttered, trembling.

“What is it?” Marian repeated. “Naomi, what happened?”

“Th-the...” Naomi whimpered, crying now.

“I've got a bad feeling about this,” Melissa said to her group. She glanced back over to see Chelsea approaching Naomi.

“Naomi, what's wrong?” Chelsea asked, standing in front of the ETL Skater. Naomi looked up at Chelsea and her face went white, her breathing laboured.

“There's a dead body!” she finally screamed, before sobbing into Chelsea's shirt.

 

A stunned silence and a feeling of sheer terror filled the air. Without thinking, Melissa stood up, seeing a few others joining her. She surveyed the room, trying to see who was missing. Everyone was here except for Nina and Andrew. Melissa's heart dropped to her stomach.

“Where is it?” Dirk said uneasily. “Naomi, where's the body?”

“In the meeting hall...” Naomi wept. “There was so much blood... Oh my God...”

“We need to go there immediately,” Marian announced, taking control. “Chelsea, you stay here and try and calm Naomi down. She's in shock; the last thing she needs is to see the body again.”

“We'll let you know everything, though,” John said.

“Okay,” Chelsea said. “Be careful!”

 

And with that, the other twelve students burst out of the cafeteria, and rushed down the hallways and stairs to the meeting hall. The doors were shut once more, but the bloody skate tracks were visible on the ground. However, as they drew closer to the hall, every last one of them slowed to a halt.

“I don't wanna go in there...” Carlos whimpered, standing next to Charlie. However, before the conversation could continue, another voice sounded out.

“Hey guys. What are we all doing here? Did Monobear summon us all or something?” Everyone turned to see Nina walking down the hallway nonchalantly, seemingly unaware of the terror that plagued the others. If any of them had had a clearer head, some might have thought of Nina as a suspect, but instead the harrowing realisation came to them: it was obvious who was behind those doors.

“Worse,” Ella said. “There's a dead body in there.”

“What?!” Nina cried out, her face going pale. “No... it can't be!”

“We don't know for sure,” Shauna said. “But Naomi did look horribly panicked and the blood on her shoes makes me think she's right.”

“So these tracks on the floor...” Nina gasped, leaning against the wall. “It's blood?”

“Yeah,” Shauna said.

“Have you looked yet?” Nina asked breathlessly.

“Well... no,” Mark said. “None of us want to see it.”

“I'll do it,” Dirk said, walking towards the doors. He pushed them open, revealing the meeting hall. “Now come on; I'm not doing this alone.”

 

Dirk stepped into the room, followed shortly by Marian and John. The others reluctantly walked into the hall as well. The first thing any of them noticed was the trail of blood from Naomi's skates leading to the less damaged buffet table.

“I guess they're over there,” Marian said, even though they already knew who it was.

“Yeah. Let's get this over with,” John added as they approached the table. Dirk took the lead, and followed the blood trail past a bunch of overturned chairs, until he stopped in his tracks.

“Damn...” he whispered. Marian and John soon reached up with Dirk, and also stopped upon laying their eyes on the corpse of Andrew.

“Oh my...” Marian said, clearly distressed, but she forced herself to adopt a professional demeanour.

“I can't believe it... Andrew...” John added, closing his eyes in reverence for their departed friend.

 

Bing-bong! Bing-bong!

 

Attention students of Sun's Joy Academy! A body has been found! A body has been found! You bastards will have a little while to investigate, before the school trial begins!”

 

Dirk, Marian, and John all exchanged bewildered looks as the other students all entered the hall.

So, was it...?” Charlie asked feebly.

Yeah,” Marian said grimly. “It was Andrew.”

No...” Joel said softly. “Who could have done this?”

I don't know yet,” Marian said.

So he's behind that table?” Melissa asked, wide-eyed.

Yes,” Dirk said. “He's there, and it's not pretty.”

 

What's with all the grim faces? It's like I've walked in on a funeral or something!”

 

Every student looked as Monobear appeared in the middle of what was the dance floor.

Monobear...” Ella said apprehensively. “What the hell do you want?”

What do I want?” he replied breezily. “Why, I have presents for you!”

Presents?” Shauna questioned sceptically. “Why would you give us presents!”

Because you have proven that you do in fact have the balls to kill!” Monobear said. “It's like December 25th in here! Although, we are lacking the green to counter the red...” Monobear let out a depressed sigh, before springing back up. “I have an idea! Why doesn't the killer just add miss ETL Gardener's thumbs to the corpse! The green in those will definitely balance it out, making it as festive as possible!”

I... I can't do this any more...” Charlie whimpered. “I'm sorry...!” Crying, Charlie turned and ran from the meeting hall, her sobs echoing around.

Wait! Charlie!” Carlos called out, going to follow, before Ben placed a hand on his shoulder.

Let her get it out of her system,” Ben said.

Aaaanyway,” Monobear sung. “It's time for the presents!” He did a little pirouette, and then everyone's ElectroIDs bleeped. “Ta-da! Monobear Files!”

Monobear Files?” Shauna asked. “What?”

They're little files containing as much information about the victim as possible to help you bastards in your investigation!” Monobear explained. “After all, it'd just be cruel and unfair to force you to determine all the extra tricky stuff that only an ETL Inspector or ETL Detective could have any chance of finding out!” He let out a little giggle. “But, you still have to find out the culprit on your own.”

I see,” Ella said.

That's all for now! Good luck in your investigation!” Monobear chimed. “See you at the school trial!” And with that, Monobear was gone.

 

Well, I suppose we should at least check these files,” Marian said. She loaded up her ElectroID, and read through the Monobear File.

 

Monobear File #1

 

The victim was Andrew Cyrus, Enhanced Talent Level Racer.

 

The time of death was 02:08

 

The body was found in the meeting hall.

 

The cause of death is a sliced jugular vein.

 

As well as this, a stab wound to the chest was inflicted prior to the fatal injury.

 

That's horribly vague,” Dirk said, reading through the file. “There's nothing here that could help point us towards the culprit.”

But it does give us a time and method,” Marian said. “That's more than enough to go on.”

And that time is really handy,” John added. “We can use it to establish alibis.”

At two in the morning?” Wyatt questioned. “Wouldn't everyone have been asleep in their dorms at this time?”

Well, we know for sure Andrew wasn't in his dorm at that time,” Marian said. “Neither was Naomi.”

Shauna and I were repairing her puppet in the workshop until an hour or so after the murder was committed,” Ella said.

If only we had thought to check on them,” Shauna said sadly. “Maybe Andrew would still be alive.”

Don't blame yourselves,” Marian said. “It's the culprit who's at fault here.”

Anyway,” John said. “So far, we have established three people who were not in their dorms at the time of the murder.” He looked over at the rest of the students. “Was anyone else up at this time?” Silence.

Uh, well,” Mark said. “I did go to the IT room at some point in the early hours to edit the film for the documentary because I couldn't sleep; I don't know what time that was, though.”

But why bother with individual accounts?” Ella suddenly asked. “I find it odd that Naomi was in here at the time of the murder, and wasn't killed either.”

She does sound like our prime suspect,” Nina said reluctantly.

Maybe,” John said.

In that case, I suggest a small group goes to ask her about her account of last night,” Marian said. “We'll then need teams to investigate the school for a murder weapon, and a further group to investigate the crime scene.”

Count me out,” Dirk said.

What?” Marian asked.

I'm investigating on my own,” Dirk replied, placing his PDA in his pocket. “If you remember, the culprit can kill up to two people, and I'm only seeing one corpse right now. I don't trust anyone enough to investigate with them.” He glanced over at Marian. “But don't worry; I'll share my findings at the trial.” Before anyone could say any more, Dirk had left the meeting hall, leaving them all with an underlying feeling of distrust.

You know, he has a point,” Nina said. “The killer could strike again.”

I doubt it,” John said. “Looking at the body, the culprit required a lot of effort to kill him. I don't think they'll have the time to recover the murder weapon, and kill.”

Besides, if we all go off on our own,” Marian added, “it'd just be easier for the culprit to dispose of any evidence.”

I see,” Nina said. “But let's not go off in groups with less than three people. Just to be on the safe side, you know?”

It's fine,” Marian said. “I wasn't planning on having small groups anywhere either.”

Moving on,” Joel said. “Who's going where?”

I'll be staying here,” Marian said.

Me too,” John added. “I'll see if I can infer any more about the culprit from the crime scene.”

You know, I might stay here as well,” Joel said. “You could use the extra strength to move stuff around if there are any hidden clues.”

Good idea,” Marian said.

I'll go to the art studio,” Ben said. “Along with Nina, Shauna, and Ella. The weapon's probably some kind of knife, and since the cafeteria was locked, that leaves those places as the only locations where they could have picked one up.”

I'm fine with that,” Nina said.

I'll go see Naomi about last night,” Wyatt said.

That's fine,” Marian said.

I'm thinking of going around with Melissa to film the investigation,” Mark said. “That way, if anyone gives us an account and then tries to contradict themselves in the trial, we'll know.”

Okay,” Marian said.

Uh... I'll go and see Charlie,” Carlos said. “I don't know what else to do.”

Why don't you come with us?” Melissa asked. “Safety in numbers, and it's a little less upsetting than the other tasks.”

I'll do that then,” Carlos said.

Then it's settled,” Marian said. “Let's begin the investigation.”

 

The groups quickly dispersed, leaving Joel, Marian, and John alone in the meeting hall.

So what's the first thing we do?” Joel asked.

I think John can provide the answer there,” Marian said.

Oh?” John questioned.

You're going to be investigating the body,” Marian explained. “A la Sunshine Sally.”

I see,” John said. He walked over to Andrew's corpse.

I don't see,” Joel said.

John can determine a lot about the killer just from looking at the body,” Marian said. “Like if it was premeditated or a spur of the moment. And he can figure out roughly what was going through their mind as they committed the crime.”

Whoa,” Joel said. “I'm impressed.”

How's it going, John?” Marian called over after a few minutes. John was crouched down, studying Andrew's body with fervour.

I got nothing,” John said in disbelief, standing up.

What?” Marian asked.

There's nothing,” John said. “Besides the fact that it took a lot of effort to wield the weapon, I can't infer anything about the killer.”

You're kidding, right?” Marian asked. “Please, tell me you're kidding.”

John shook his head in defeat. “I'm not,” he said, glancing at the body. “There's nothing there. The entire crime feels so... robotic. The weapon might as well have just attacked Andrew on its own accord and it wouldn't make a difference.”

Wait,” Joel said. “So it's like the killer wasn't even thinking?”

Exactly,” John said.

I have an idea,” Joel said. “What if Monobear did it?” After seeing the other two give him confused looks, he elaborated. “I'm saying that he's not exactly a person; maybe he has an off switch for emotion? He'd be able to kill Andrew with ease like that.”

Except that Monobear wouldn't directly kill a student,” Marian said. “He's been waiting for us to kill one another since this thing started. Sorry, but I think one of us definitely did it.”

So the body's a no-go,” John said. “How about the rest of the room? We need to solve one mystery before anything else: how come Naomi lived whilst Andrew died?”

That is puzzling,” Marian said. As she spoke, Joel rushed over to the make-shift bed Naomi had been resting on.

Guys!” he called out. “Look at this!”

 

Marian and John rushed to join Joel, standing over the chairs.

What is it?” Marian asked.

Look at the table cloth,” Joel said, lifting it up. “Naomi was using this as a blanket, judging from how it's still wrapped around one of the chairs.” He pointed to one section of it. “...There!”

Oh,” Marian said in surprise, seeing a long red stain across the white fabric. “Blood.”

I thought I saw something when we first came in,” Joel said. “I was right.”

Then this may mean Naomi was attacked in the night,” John said. “Only the culprit wasn't successful here.”

Perhaps they were tired out from killing Andrew,” Marian offered. “They might have only had the time to give a passing slash.”

Unless she got it at the dance?” Joel asked.

No,” Marian said. “The only blood was from Chelsea's nose; there was nothing to hurt Naomi like that anyway.”

We need to find the weapon,” John said.

It's unlikely they left it here, though,” Marian said. “The only thing we can do is hope the others stand a better chance of discovering it.”

 

The elevator pinged open, and the group of four students walked out into the hallway.

So, the art studio,” Nina said. “You really think the killer used this place to get the murder weapon?”

It's highly likely,” Ben said. “There are all kinds of knives down here – pallet knives, sculpting knives... you name it.”

Any idea which one it could be?” Ella asked as they continued towards the door housing the studio.

Probably a sculpting knife,” Ben said. “It's probably the only thing large enough to deal the damage it did to him.”

Yeah...” Nina said. “I can't believe he's dead.”

I know,” Shauna said, looking odd without her puppet in her arms. “I just hope we find out who did this.”

Same here,” Ben said as he placed his hand on the doorknob. He pulled on it, and opened up the door, stepping inside. What he saw caused him to gasp out loud.

 

The art studio was a wreck: boxes of paint were everywhere, giving the room splatters of rainbow everywhere. Easels were spread across the floor, shattered. And the cupboard containing all the knives had been opened and emptied. Ben spotted a couple laying amongst the mess.

What... is this?” Nina asked, staring.

Someone's trashed the place,” Ella said, her eyes wide.

We'll never find anything in here before the trial,” Shauna said hopelessly.

Well, we could always clean the place up,” Ben offered. “We may find something in time.”

Hey, I have an idea,” Nina said. “Half of us could stay here and rummage through, and the other half could look elsewhere.”

But where could we look?” Ben asked.

The wood workshop has a bunch of sharp objects as well,” Shauna said. “The culprit could have hidden it there after Ella and I left.”

But what if that room's just as bad as this one?” Ben argued.

Then that means someone destroyed Cammy,” Shauna said airily. “If that's the case, then I'll stop at nothing to find out who the culprit is.”

I'll stay here and help look for the weapon,” Ella said.

I'm staying too,” Ben added. “I know this place better than anyone; we may just get lucky.”

I guess that means that Shauna and I will be going to the workshop,” Nina said. She put on a determined smile. “Between us, I'm sure we'll find some evidence!”

Well, let's not waste time,” Shauna said. “We don't know for sure how long we'll have until Monobear calls us to the trial.”

All right,” Nina said. “We'll meet up with you here if we find anything, okay?”

Okay,” Ben said. “Good luck.”

 

Nina led Shauna out of the art studio, and down the hallway. As they walked, the sounds of Ben and Ella rummaging through the mess reached their ears.

So the workshop's on the next floor up, right?” Nina asked.

Yeah,” Shauna replied. “It's actually quite big, and if it weren't for the circumstances, I'd honestly be impressed. I mean, I was able to fix Cammy with the stuff there.”

And there are objects that could have killed Andrew, right?” Nina asked.

Definitely,” Shauna said as they continued towards the elevator. “You can find anything from hammers to screwdrivers to carving knives.”

Ouch,” Nina remarked.

And that's not even going into the machinery,” Shauna added. “It's a deathtrap if you're not careful.”

 

They reached the elevator, and Nina pressed the button. A few moments later, the door opened, and the two girls stepped inside. Shauna pressed the button for the correct floor, and the elevator ascended rapidly, eventually opening up to the hallway containing the workshop. As they stepped out, Nina took it in: it was a lot thinner than the art hallway, and the lighting was used more sparingly: it had an almost eerie quality to it.

It's a little creepy,” Nina said, voicing her thoughts.

If it helps, I'd imagine it'd be a lot more cheerful with the windows not being sealed,” Shauna responded.

Wait,” Nina said. “Didn't Monobear say that he'd unlock the school building after the trial?”

Oh yeah,” Shauna said.

Hopefully by tomorrow we'll see the sun again,” Nina said hopefully.”

Just too bad we'll be another person short by then.”

 

Both girls looked ahead to see Dirk walking down the hallway towards them. He was holding his PDA, seeming to scroll through it.

Dirk?” Shauna asked. “What are you doing here?”

Investigating,” Dirk replied evenly. “You?”

The same thing,” Nina said.

I guess that's because one of our friends is laying dead downstairs at the hands of someone still breathing,” Dirk said.

No need to put it so lightly,” Nina said uncomfortably.

If you get worked up about it, then you won't think straight,” Dirk said. “And that might end up costing us our lives. Keep in mind that you don't have to grieve immediately after a death.” He walked past them, leaving a heavy feeling in the air. “Oh, and by the way, the ElectroIDs have cameras; use them to take pictures of evidence. See you at the trial.” He then entered the elevator, and left Shauna and Nina standing alone in the hallway.

Gee,” Nina said. “What's with him?”

He's just trying to discover the culprit as efficiently as possible,” Shauna said. “Let him be.”

I suppose,” Nina said with a sigh. “Anyway, let's get to the workshop.”

 

They continued down the hallway, eventually stopping outside a pair of wooden double doors.

This is it,” Shauna said. “Let's go in.” She walked up to the doors, and pushed them open, stepping inside. Nina cautiously followed, taking in the wood workshop.

 

Shauna was right: the room was huge. It could probably rival the meeting hall in terms of size, and was filled with tables and machines. Cupboards lined the walls, some half-open: Nina spotted a saw inside one. “Whoa,” she said aloud.

An appropriate reaction,” Shauna mused in response. She glanced over to one of the tables; Nina followed her gaze to find Cammy half propped up against the wall in a puddle of black paint. The puppet eerily resembled Andrew's corpse. Nina didn't dwell on this thought for long. “At least the place is still in one piece.”

Then maybe that's a sign that the culprit didn't come in here,” Nina offered.

It's likely,” Shauna said with a sigh. “I was really hoping we'd find something in here, though. Perhaps we should head back and help Ben and Ella with the art studio.” Without another word, Shauna began to head back towards the doorway. Nina hesitated for a moment, taking the room in. She felt uneasy just giving up when there could still be something to be unearthed. But if something was amiss, then Shauna would have picked up on it; she trusted her friend to do that. So Nina turned away from the room, and started to walk towards the door. But she barely made it four paces before seeing something laying on the ground. Instantly Nina's blood ran cold.

 

It was a cutting of an electrical wire maybe four inches long; the rubber coating had been removed enough for the metallic ends to stick out. Nina reached down and picked it up, finding that a black residue was left on her hand where the wire had touched it. She surveyed it, but couldn't find anything out of the ordinary. But a nagging feeling ate away at her as she looked at it, as if this wire was the key to solving a mystery Nina didn't know about.

 

Hoping that the smarter ETLs could make sense of it, Nina took a few photos, and set the wire back on the floor as Shauna walked back in.

Nina? What's taking you?” she asked. “We don't have much time until the trial and we need to try and discover something before time's up.”

Actually, I just found something,” Nina said.

Huh?” Shauna replied, lifting her eyebrows in surprise. “What?”

A piece of wire,” Nina explained. “It's short, but has some kind of black substance on it.”

Did you take a picture of it?” Shauna asked.

Yes,” Nina replied. “I'm hoping someone like Marian or Dirk can make sense of it.”

Wait a sec,” Shauna said. “Dirk just said he was in here, but he never mentioned anything about evidence. Doesn't that strike you as odd?”

What do you mean?” Nina asked.

Nothing,” Shauna replied. “Let's save it for the trial. Ben and Ella still need our help.”

 

Wyatt looked over at Naomi, who was still crying into Chelsea. She had been shaken horribly after Andrew's death, and normally he would be courteous and patient enough to allow her time to recover, but Wyatt was all too aware of the clock ticking down towards the school trial that would decide their fates. Desperate for any information, he gently took Naomi's hand.

Naomi,” he began. “We need to find out as much as we can to solve this case, so could you please try and hold it together long enough for us to gather information?”

Chelsea scoffed. “So much for tact,” she said.

We're on a time limit,” Wyatt reasoned.

I know,” Chelsea sighed. She tentatively lifted Naomi's face so their eyes met. “Naomi, it's what Andrew would have wanted. You could really help us get that bit closer to finding out who's responsible.”

But... he...” Naomi wept. “I was fifty feet away from him when... oh my God... I should have...”

What's done is done,” Wyatt said, soft yet firm. “Now, Naomi, do you recall anything strange last night after the dance?”

No!” Naomi cried out, raising her arms. “I got drunk like an idiot and passed out! I was useless! It's my fault Andrew's dead!” But Wyatt had stopped listening: he was looking at Naomi's arm.

How did you get that gash, Naomi?” Chelsea asked, evidently coming to the same conclusion as Wyatt.

I don't know,” Naomi murmured. “I just woke up with it. Maybe it happened when we fought...”

No,” Wyatt said. “We would have seen it then. That can only mean that Naomi was injured at some point between us leaving and her waking up at seven.”

Then do you think the culprit...?” Chelsea thought aloud, looking worried.

I think Naomi was very lucky,” Wyatt said. He motioned to the ETL Skater's arm. “Look at the injury. Doesn't it look like it would have been inflicted by the same thing that killed Andrew?”

I don't know much about weapons, but maybe,” Chelsea said. “We'd need to see the weapon to be sure.”

Then let's hope Shauna's group has success,” Wyatt said glumly.

Hey, I'm kinda thirsty,” Naomi said suddenly.

Oh,” Wyatt said. “Would you like a drink?”

Yes,” Naomi said softly. “I'd like a coffee to clear my head; plus, I don't want to go into the trial as a sobbing mess.”

Makes sense,” Chelsea said. “Hey Wyatt, if you're going to get drinks, could you get me something as well?”

Sure,” Wyatt said. “What would you like?”

A Coke or something,” Chelsea said. “You know, just to give me a buzz.”

All right,” Wyatt said, leaving his seat. “I'll just be a couple of minutes.” He stood up, and walked across the cafeteria to the kitchen area to prepare the beverages.

 

Naomi and Chelsea were alone for maybe thirty seconds before Mark burst into the cafeteria, followed by Melissa. Carlos and Charlie made up the rear: Carlos was holding onto Charlie closely.

Hey guys,” Chelsea greeted. “Wyatt informed me: how's the interview project going?”

Pretty good if I do say so myself,” Mark said with a grin, holding his camera. “We got Marian's group in the meeting hall and filmed the body which was a little creepy, and we also checked out the art room.”

Speaking of which, have they found anything?” Chelsea asked.

No,” Mark replied with a shake of his head. “Someone trashed the place though.”

To hide evidence?”

Could be,” Mark said.

Does anyone seem like a suspect?” Naomi asked.

Not yet,” Melissa replied. “Everyone seems good.”

So besides us,” Chelsea began. “Dirk's the only one left, right?”

Yeah, he's been quite elusive throughout this whole investigation,” Mark said. “Shauna and Nina bumped into him on the way to the workshop, though, and he told them to photograph evidence to make it easier in the trial.”

That's actually not a bad idea,” Chelsea said. “I have to hand it to him later on.”

Anyway, we still have to get these alibi videos sorted,” Mark said, setting up the camera. “So let's begin: describe in detail what you did following the end of the dance.”

Well, I was out cold until the morning announcement,” Naomi said. “I woke at seven, and found...” She stopped to let out a sob. “I found Andrew maybe five minutes later.”

I headed back to my dorm with Ben, Melissa, and yourself and entered my room at around one,” Chelsea said. “I slept until just before the morning announcement, so around six thirty, to get some dance practice.”

Really?” Carlos asked.

Yeah,” Chelsea replied. “Just because I had a light hangover and we're in this hell doesn't mean I can let up on my training.”

Wow,” Mark said. “And then?”

I showered and joined you guys in the cafeteria for breakfast,” Chelsea said. “You know the rest.”

Got it,” Mark said, stopping the recording. “Now where's Wyatt?”

Getting drinks,” Chelsea explained. “He should be here in a moment.”

 

And sure enough, a minute or so later, Wyatt emerged from the kitchen. Only he wasn't holding any drinks, and his face was as white as a sheet.

Wyatt?” Melissa asked, seeing his distress. He was holding something in his hands.

You have to see this,” Wyatt said. He walked up to the table everyone was gathered around, and emptied the contents of his hands onto the surface. There were two objects, but everyone was focused on the first.

It's a b-bloody knife...” Charlie whimpered in terror, staring at the bladed weapon caked in red.

I found them in one of the drawers near the back where the vending machine is,” Wyatt said as Mark turned the camera on, filming this.

I think we just found the murder weapon,” Chelsea said incredulously.

But what about that other thing?” Carlos said, pointing to the second item. It was a screwdriver, with the end bent at an almost ninety degree angle.

I have no idea,” Mark said. He continued to record it.

Wait a moment,” Carlos said. “The murder happened during Night Time. That means that the culprit hid the evidence this morning.”

Oh my God,” Chelsea said. “Who?”

I don't know,” Mark said. “We'll have to double check with everyone and find Dirk. We need his side of the story—”

 

Ding-dong! Ding-dong!

 

Attention you bastards! Time is up for the investigation period! Now for the real fun to begin! Make your way to the courtroom on the fourth floor so that we can get the school trial started! Upupu~”

 

The seven students all looked at each other in shock and dismay.

“Already?” Mark exclaimed. “But we didn't finish investigating!”

“We'll just have to get the answers in the trial,” Melissa said. “We shouldn't keep Monobear waiting: let's take the evidence and go.”

 

Wyatt carried the screwdriver and knife as they all left the cafeteria, and headed to the hallway. Each group eventually met up on the staircases, and eventually everyone was gathered in front of the large set of double doors that led to the courtroom.

“Hey wait a sec!” Monobear suddenly sprang up, surprising the group of students. “Someone's still missing!”

“What?” Marian replied.

“There should be fifteen people alive, but I only see fourteen students standing here!” Monobear yelled. “We can't start this trial until everyone's here!”

“Jeesh. Don't get your pretty monochromatic panties in a bunch. I'm here.” Everyone turned to face Dirk as he walked coolly down the hallway, joining the group of ETLs.

“And where have you been?” Shauna asked. She was now reunited with Cammy, who had no evidence of the damage sustained by the fall down the stairs.

“Solving a murder,” he replied with a shrug. Ella glanced at him nervously. He gave her a look in return as if to say 'we're really playing the blame game already?'

“Look, what matters is that we're all here and ready to start the trial,” Marian said. “We can only hope Dirk has unearthed some evidence to contribute to this case.”

“Trust me, I have,” he said.

“Care to elaborate?” Shauna asked.

“Not until we're in the trial, at the right time,” Dirk said. “One of you is still a murderer, and I'm not going to give you a heads up on what critical things I have to bring you down.”

“Smart,” John said. “We can't be giving the culprit an advantage, after all.”

“Hey hey hey!” Monobear snapped. “Save the debate until the school trial!”

“Whatever,” Dirk said. “Let's do it.”

“Okie-dokie!” Monobear chirped. He clapped his paws, and the doors swung open, revealing the courtroom. “Step inside, and let's begin!”

 

The courtroom was a large hall consisting of sixteen pedestals arranged in a circle. Each pedestal had a name engraved on it: the names of the ETL students. On the far wall was a large throne, which Monobear quickly climbed onto. “Take your places!” he called out, but nobody moved. Everyone was looking at the pedestal closest to the ursine creature's throne.

“What... is that?” Chelsea asked, blanching at the sight in front of her. There was a gold signpost with a grey-scale portrait of Andrew on top; it was his ElectroID photo. The portrait had been crossed over with a large red X. He was still smiling casually, reflecting his easygoing nature perfectly. It hit everyone with a stab of remorse.

“We wouldn't want our dearly departed ETL Racer to miss out on all the fun, would we?” Monobear replied.

“That's just sick,” Dirk said venomously.

“Hey! I didn't put that body there! One of you bastards did!” Monobear growled in retaliation. “Now hurry up and take your places!” Without another word, everyone stood at their podiums, looking around at everyone else. The suspicion and tension was palpable in the air: one of these people was a killer. And if they didn't find out who, then they were all dead. “Now, without further ado... let the first school trial commence!” 

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