Mark walked along the hallway, the light bulbs replacing the sunlight that would have normally filtered through the now sealed windows. For some reason, a chill ran through him. It was fairly understandable to be like this, though: they had all just been trapped inside this building and told that if they wanted to see the light of day again, they'd have to commit a murder and get away with it.
The question on his mind was simple: was anyone actually going to go through with it? He hoped not, and if his interviews had been any indication, they were all good people.
“Good people can turn bad, though...” he told himself as he climbed the stairs back up to the second floor where the cafeteria resided. He wasn't even sure why he was heading in this direction, but it felt like the right way to go. His camera felt oddly heavy in his hands, as if the guilt of knowing he could have filmed a potential killer was manifesting itself as the weight of the equipment. No, he told himself. If anyone was to kill, it would not be his fault.
Besides, with Shauna's party being planned, it would take everyone's minds off of the School Life of Mutual Killing, provided Monobear didn't try anything. If he did, that would probably dampen the mood further.
Mark glanced at his camera again. The device was on, and was displaying a frozen frame of the latest recording: Monobear's face was on the screen. Shame burned inside him for filming the entirety of the welcoming ceremony, but he felt he had to. He had to document every moment within this hellish academy as proof it actually happened.
“Yo Mark,” a voice said from behind him. Mark tensed up and switched off the camera. He turned around to see Dirk standing there.
“Oh, hey,” he replied. “Are you okay?”
“About as okay as you can get regarding the situation,” Dirk said airily. “Anyway, I need you to come with me.”
“What?” Mark asked.
“We're heading up to the IT room,” Dirk said. “There's something I need to do.”
“But why me?” Mark said. “And what about the party?”
“We'll get to that later,” Dirk said. “It's not until tomorrow anyway, is it?”
“I suppose,” Mark said. “But let's hurry up.”
The IT room was on the floor above the dorms, and was essentially a large room lined with computers. A large screen was on one of the walls, with a projector facing it. Every computer was turned off except for two. Ella was sat at one of them, and the other one Dirk was using, Mark assumed.
“Hello Mark,” Ella said, looking up from her screen. She was wearing a large pair of headphones.
“Hi Ella,” Mark replied. “What are you doing?”
“Creating the playlist for the dance,” Ella said. “Dirk helped me remotely access everyone's music players to create a playlist nobody will hate.” She smiled wryly. “I feel like some kind of super-spy.”
“Don't worry,” Dirk said to Mark. “We just copied the files from everyone's iPods.”
“Even mine?” Mark said, curious.
“Yeah,” Dirk said. “I didn't actually alter anything though. That's saved for when I can hack Monobear's network.”
“You think you can do it?” Mark said. “And can we speak about this? Isn't Monobear monitoring everything?”
“He is,” Dirk said. “But he's confident that I won't be able to do it.”
“Anyway,” Mark said. “What is it you wanted to talk to me about?”
“Oh yeah,” Dirk said. He motioned to the computer. “Take a look at this.”
“All right then,” Mark said. He cautiously sat down in front of the computer, and moved the mouse. The screen burst to life, displaying the paused image of a video. A chill ran throughout Mark's body as he stared at the screen. He recognised the scene immediately: it was from when he did the report on the Despair event in Japan. This was his interview with a member of a group called the Super High School Level Despair. He vaguely recalled the name – Junko Enoshima or something.
“Seem familiar?” Dirk said.
“Yeah,” Mark said, trembling. “But how are you accessing it?”
“Found it on your iPod along with your music,” Dirk said.
“Okay then,” Mark said. “What's the significance of this then?”
“You don't remember?” Dirk said. “Just play the report. You'll see it.”
“All right,” Mark said. He pressed play, watching the interview.
“Who are you?” the girl said. She was stood in the middle of a burning street. “I'm Junko Enoshima, leader of the SHSL Despair!”
“I'm Mark,” Mark heard himself say. “And I'm doing a report on this incident. Do you have a few minutes?”
“Of course!” Junko chirped. “Anything for my adoring public! Upupu~” Mark froze when he heard the words escape Junko's mouth. She had said it in exactly the same way as Monobear had done. He glanced at the screen, and nearly fell off his chair when he saw it: Junko was holding Monobear in her arms, giving the peace sign to the camera.
“Switch it off,” Mark said harshly. “Now.”
“Okay,” Dirk said. He pressed a button. The video disappeared. “So you now see?”
“Yeah, I see it all right,” Mark said. “I have no doubt that girl's responsible for this.”
“Then that means the Despair Event's spread,” Dirk said.
“What if it's affecting our families?” Mark said.
“That's why we need to get out of here right now,” Dirk said. “We may actually be on the brink of the end of the world.”
“What?” Ella said from across the room, having taken her headphones out. “Did you say the end of the world.”
“I did,” Dirk said. “Our families may be in great danger.”
“No way,” Ella said. Her face turned pale. “Are you sure?”
“Monobear is from the Despair Event,” Dirk said. “He seems to be the puppet of the leader – Junko Enoshima.”
“Oh my god,” Ella said. She walked over to the two of them. “I have to see.”
“Sure,” Dirk said. He began to browse through the files. “I'll show you.”
“Just make it quick,” Mark said. He was still reeling from the fact that he had interviewed the person that was now imprisoning him.
“And here,” Dirk said. A new video was displayed on screen, the thumbnail being that of Junko Enoshima holding Monobear in her arms in a way that was strikingly similar to Shauna with Cammy. “Let me just press play, and—God damn it! What the hell?!” All of a sudden, the computer froze before going into a blue-screen crash. After what seemed like ages of staring at the error message, the computer shut down.
“Whoops! I guess I didn't iron out all these problems before letting you bastards loose! Oh well!” Everyone turned around to see Monobear standing in front of them.
“G-get away from us!” Ella shrieked, backing up against the table. “You... you gremlin!”
“What's with all the insults?” Monobear said. He lowered his head and sighed. “I'm nothing but a benevolent headmaster! I'm not even forcing you to kill against your will!”
“Benevolent my ass,” Dirk said. “You shut down this computer to stop us seeing the footage, didn't you?”
“Accusations flying everywhere!” Monobear fumed. “Why would I do such a thing?”
“Don't insult our intelligence,” Dirk said. “You didn't want us seeing any more footage of the Despair event. Admit it.”
“Okay, okay!” Monobear snapped. He turned to face Mark, his red eye glowing. “I admit it! And if you show it ever again, you will be executed!”
Mark shrunk in his seat. “S-sorry,” he stammered. “But I didn't even play it!”
“Don't hurt him,” Dirk said. “I accessed his private files.”
“And why would you do that?!” Monobear said.
“Let me explain,” Ella said. “We're throwing a dance tomorrow, and I'm compiling a playlist of everyone's favourite songs.”
“Eh, how boring,” Monobear said. “I was expecting something fun! Like a firing squad!”
“That's not very fun...” Mark said.
“Your tastes just aren't very refined!” Monobear said.
“Anyway, that's why we're looting through everyone's files,” Ella said. “Nothing to worry about.”
“If you say so...” Monobear said. “And in fact, I can't wait to see you all at the dance! I wonder who'll dance with Monobear...? Just thinking about it gets me all sweaty!”
“That's repulsive,” Dirk said.
“Shut up,” Monobear said. “Anyway, I'll see you bastards around. Have fun with the School Life of Mutual Killing! Upupu!” And with that, Monobear left.
“Damn it,” Dirk said. “Sorry Ella, but I guess I can't show you.”
“It's fine,” Ella said, visibly shaken. “That thumbnail was more than enough for me to see anyway.”
“Anyway,” Mark said. “I don't think Monobear wants us talking about that any more.”
“I'm okay with that,” Ella said. “Now if you don't mind, I'm going to continue to create the playlist.” She walked away from the two of them, returning to her computer.
“Now what?” Mark said to Dirk.
“Not sure,” Dirk said. “But I do know that I won't rest until we're out of here.”
“Yeah,” Mark said. “Anyway, any plans for the dance?”
“I'm personally on the fence about it,” Dirk said.
“Why?” Mark asked.
“Because Monobear's more than likely to gate crash,” Dirk said. “However, it otherwise sounds like a good idea.”
“Yeah,” Mark said. “And besides, it allows for us all to be in one place, making it nearly impossible for a murder to happen.”
“There's that too,” Dirk said. “Although, I'm just wondering about getting out still. This dance may provide us with the perfect opportunity.”
“How?” Mark said.
“Simple enough,” Dirk said. “We all go to the dance. Monobear gate crashes, leaving him unable to monitor everything. I leave the dance early, and try and hack the system.”
“You think you can do it?” Mark asked.
“Probably,” Dirk said. “If the timing's right, and Shauna doesn't drag me along.”
Ella then suddenly stood up from her seat. “I've finished the playlist,” she said.
“That's great news!” Mark said.
Ella smiled. “Glad you think so.” She then began to walk across the IT room. Mark noticed that the computer had been switched off. “I've got the playlist on a USB drive, if you're wondering.”
“Where are you heading now?” Dirk said.
“I'm going to see Shauna,” Ella said. “I need to see if she's had any luck in finding some more speakers.”
“Okay then,” Mark said. “See you around.”
“See you,” Ella said. She left the IT room. Mark and Dirk remained there in silence for a few moments.
“Now what?” Mark said.
“I'm gonna stay here for a while,” Dirk said. “Gonna try my luck with the network again.”
“All right then,” Mark said. “I might go and see if anyone needs help anywhere.”
“You do that,” Dirk said with a grin. “I might head out soon if I don't get anywhere.”
“Okay then,” Mark said. He stood up from his seat, and walked towards the doorway. “Later.”
“Charlie, could you place the palette over there?” Ben asked.
“Oh! Sorry,” Charlie said. She carried the palette over to the table on the far side of the art studio. Nina was perched on the edge of the table, engrossed in playing on a GameBoy.
“A little retro, don't you think?” Carlos asked. He was stood over Nina, watching her play Kirby.
“I know,” Nina said. “You can't beat the classics though!”
“Um, shouldn't you two be helping?” Charlie said as sternly as she could muster.
“We're just taking a break,” Nina said.
“A break that's been going on for over an hour,” Chelsea said dryly from across the studio as she painted onto a banner. It currently read 'Enhanced Talent Level Dance Night!'. Melissa had come up with it earlier when she and Shauna had checked up on them. Chelsea had found it charmingly clever. Ben had had no argument either. So that was the current motto.
She dipped the brush in the water, before dipping it in a pale yellow and placing the brush on the outline of a sun in the corner.
“Wait!” Ben called over to Chelsea before she touched the banner.
“What is it?” Chelsea asked.
“Don't use that brush,” he offered. “The strokes will be uneven. Try a thinner one.”
“Oh, okay,” Chelsea said. “You're the artist here.” She placed the brush down and picked up the thinner one, dipping it in the same paint. As Ben had said, the strokes were much smoother, and she had managed to evenly coat the shape in around five minutes.
“Looks good,” Ben said. He was currently using spray paints on a large sphere – he was creating a disco ball.
“So's yours,” Chelsea said. She smiled warmly.
“Thanks,” Ben replied. “I'm glad to hear that.” He then looked behind him. “Hey, Nina, how are the tablecloths going?”
“Oh,” Nina said, quickly hiding the game console. “They're going great!”
“I can see from here you've only painted one of them,” Ben said dryly. “The aim is to complete everything today to allow it time to dry overnight.”
“Sorry,” Nina said.
“Charlie, could you help them?” Ben said. “They're useless on their own...”
“Okay,” Charlie said. She picked up a paintbrush, and sat down at the table, beginning to paint palm trees onto the cloth.
“Much better,” Ben said.
“You're good,” Chelsea said.
“Well, after running a pre-school art club, you learn how to deal with this kind of behaviour,” Ben said.
“It's kind of funny, you know?” Chelsea said.
“What is?” Ben said.
“This entire situation,” Chelsea exclaimed. “I mean, we've been trapped in this school by a demonic teddy bear, told to kill each other, are instead preparing for a dance, and you're comparing Enhanced Talent Level students to preschoolers!”
Ben chuckled. “I suppose it is kind of funny when you put it that way,” he said.
“Hey now! That's not funny at all!” Monobear suddenly appeared from nowhere, standing between Chelsea and Ben. Chelsea leaped back, letting out a yelp of surprise. “I'm not a teddy bear!”
“Get out of here!” Chelsea cried out.
“Why?” Monobear said. “So you can get back to flirting with the ETL Abstract Artist?”
Chelsea flushed red. “I am not flirting!”
“Whatever,” Monobear said. “Just remember, keep it PG-13 if you're not in the dorm rooms.”
“Oh my god!” Chelsea exclaimed.
“I don't actually care,” Monobear said. “Just be careful that he isn't actually plotting to murder you!”
“Why would I do that?” Ben said. “I'm not stupid enough to fall into this game, Monobear.”
“That's what they all say!” Monobear said. “Anyway, you're distracting me from the main point!”
“Which is?” Chelsea said. She folded her arms, and glared at him. The others had become aware of the commotion, and were watching from across the room.
“You bastards and your appalling secret planning skills!” Monobear cried out. “I've overheard you bastards are planning a dance for tomorrow without telling your dear headmaster. I feel put out!”
“Of course we're not going to tell you,” Chelsea said, keeping her voice steely. “And could you stop calling us bastards? It's not really appropriate language for this kind of setting, and especially not from a headmaster.”
“I'm just imitating the vocabulary of a modern teen!” Monobear exclaimed. “You bastards swear like sailors all the time! I'm trying to connect with you!”
“To be fair, I only do that when I'm annoyed at a game,” Nina pitched in. “I don't think anyone openly swears to people as casually as you do.”
“And I think if Charlie tried to swear, the world would implode,” Carlos said. He smiled at Charlie. Charlie avoided his gaze, and returned to painting the tablecloths, going bright red.
“Ah, yes, how sweet-mannered!” Monobear said. “I'd watch out; she's most likely going to be the first culprit!”
“What!” Charlie exclaimed. “I wouldn't ever—”
“That's enough,” Chelsea said. “Now, is there a point to your presence? Or are you just trying to rile us up into killing each other left and right?”
“I would never do such a thing!” Monobear said. “You bastards can be so mean sometimes!”
“Just get to the point,” Ben said.
“Okay, okay!” Monobear snapped. “I just want to know about the dance you bastards are putting on, is all.”
“And why do you want to know that?” Nina said.
“So I can be crowned prom king!” Monobear said, chuckling.
“You're not invited,” Chelsea said.
“Hurtful!” Monobear said. “And after constructing this academy just for you!”
“Fine,” she groaned. “I guess you can stand outside of the hall or something. Just don't interact with us on the evening, okay?”
“Yes!” Monobear cried out. “You bastards are the first to let dear Monobear come to a social gathering! I promise I won't instigate any further murders! Upupu!”
“Is that all?” Ben said.
“Yeah, yeah,” Monobear replied. “See you bastards around.” But before he left, Monobear glanced at Chelsea's banner. “Hey! There's something missing!”
“What are you doing?!” Chelsea yelled as Monobear grabbed the thickest brush available.
“Making it pretty,” Monobear responded. Chelsea watched helplessly as Monobear began to paint in the corner. After a minute, a sloppily-painted Monobear face was underneath the text, which was encapsulated by a speech bubble.
“You've ruined it,” Chelsea said harshly.
“No I haven't!” Monobear said. “And this is now the official banner for the dance! It must be used! I'll make it a new rule!” Everyone's ElectroIDs suddenly bleeped. Chelsea looked at hers, rolling her eyes.
New Rule: The banner Monobear so beautifully helped to create must be used for the dance.
“You're kidding, right?” Nina said. “As in, this is a real rule that we must follow?”
“Of course it is!” Monobear fumed. “And if any of you bastards don't hang it up, I will execute someone!” He sighed. “I won't let you bastards stifle true art!”
“It's not art though!” Chelsea snapped. “It looks like a crude drawing that a five year old would be ashamed to create!”
“Eh, everyone's a critic in this modern day and age,” Monobear said. “Anyway, I'll see you bastards later! Enjoy the School Life of Mutual Killing for all it's worth! Upupu~” Monobear then suddenly left, leaving the students in the art studio alone.
“Oh my god,” Chelsea said. “Is this bear for real? I'm actually tempted to throw this banner in a furnace.”
“I wouldn't do that,” Ben reasoned. “It'll just provoke him further. Humour him on this; it's not like this banner is of a significant purpose, anyway.”
“You're right,” Chelsea sighed. “But he just pushes all my buttons in the wrong way.”
“Ignore him,” Nina offered. “He's only trying to get a rise out of us.”
“I suppose,” Chelsea said. “All right. I won't let him bother me any more.”
“That's the spirit,” Nina said with a smile. “Now, let's continue to prepare for this dance!”
“Um, Nina,” Ben said. “You and Carlos still haven't done anything. You could really learn from Charlie; she's completed two tablecloths during the time Monobear was here.”
“What?!” Carlos exclaimed. “No way!”
“It's true,” Charlie said. She cracked a timid smile. “Just look.”
“Haha, man we're useless...” Nina said. “In fact, we should probably let Charlie do all the work since she's the only competent one!”
“Not so fast,” Ben said. “You can get to decorating the cups and plates. It's not too hard: just follow the patterns on the tablecloths.”
“All right then,” Carlos said. “Let's go, Nina.”
“Argh! But Meta Knight and the—” Nina began. Carlos switched off the GameBoy.
“We're helping out,” he said.
“Hmph,” Nina huffed. “Fine.” The two of them walked over to the table which contained hundreds of white Styrofoam cups and plates. Carlos let out a nervous laugh.
“That sure is a lot, isn't it?” he said.
“It is,” Ben replied. “And if you begin now, you should be finished by Night Time.”
“What?!” Nina exclaimed. “But that's twelve hours from now!”
“Suck it up,” Ben said. “That just means you get more free time tomorrow.”
“Huh, I guess,” Nina said. “Come on, Carlos, let's get to it.”
Ben watched with a smile as Nina and Carlos began to work on the plates and cups. They were all on schedule to complete everything before Night Time, provided too many breaks weren't taken.
“You think they'll complete it all?” Chelsea said.
“I hope so,” Ben replied. They both smiled at each other, and Ben returned to his disco ball. The thought of murder did not exist within the art studio, and that was just how they all wanted it.
Melissa stood next to Shauna in the meeting hall, holding a stack of chairs. She grunted with the effort.
“Just place them on the stage,” Shauna said. “If we can't find a place to store them, we'll just keep the curtain shut so we don't see them.”
“Okay then,” Melissa said. She walked past Shauna, and up to the stage. John was also on-stage, moving a stack of chairs. Melissa placed her stack next to his.
“Tiring, huh?” he mused.
“Yeah,” Melissa said. “Please tell me you didn't need to psychoanalyse to come to that conclusion.” She offered a weary smile.
“No,” John replied warmly. “I'm tired as well.”
“I doubt it's possible to not be,” Melissa said. “But it'll be worth it in the end, won't it?”
“Should be,” John said. “And to psychoanalyse, I can tell you're looking forward to it.”
“Well yeah,” Melissa said. “I've never actually been to a dance before.”
“Have you not?” John said, startled.
“It's my first time,” Melissa said. “Which is kind of funny, considering how one of my novels revolves around a prom.”
“I guess so,” John replied. “To be honest, I always found dances to be a little bothersome. It's hard to enjoy yourself when you have desperate teens wanting to know if their crush feels the same way.”
“Sounds harsh,” Melissa said.
“It was amusing at times, though,” John said wistfully. “Although, it's not the best feeling in the world when you're crushing someone's dreams with the truth.”
“I can imagine,” Melissa said. “My peers always hated me, so I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of knowing that I was still willing to go to events they participated in.”
“I can see why,” John said.
“Hey, you two,” Shauna said. “You can talk later: we need to get this hall ready for when the others begin to bring in everything!”
“I guess we've been speaking for too long,” Melissa said. “I'll talk to you later.”
“Yeah,” John said. The two walked off the stage on separate sides, picking up more chairs.
On the other side of the hall, Naomi and Andrew were sweeping up the floor with brooms Joel had found in a storage cupboard. Joel was currently taking down welcome posters from the walls.
“Whoo!” Naomi said, skating across the floor with her broom. “Andy, you should try skate-sweeping! It's like the best thing ever!”
“Maybe later,” Andrew said as he swept up a pile of dust into the corner. “I'm not really a skates kind of guy.”
“But you're a race-car driver!” Naomi exclaimed. “You'd love this!”
“Skating's nothing like being behind the wheel,” Andrew said. “That, and, I've kind of had a traumatic past with roller skates.”
“What do you mean?” Naomi said. “How can skates cause you trauma! They're nothing but goodness!”
“When I was ten or so,” Andrew said. “Yeah, I think it was ten... Anyway, I got this sweet pair of roller skates for my birthday. And being the eager speedster I've always been, I just had to try going down a hill.”
“And...?” Naomi said. She twirled on the spot, smiling.
“I kind of ran into a truck,” Andrew said. “I was hospitalised for over a month.”
“Whoa!” Naomi exclaimed. “Is this for real?!”
“Yep,” Andrew said. “Since then, I've never worn skates again.”
“Aww, how awful!” Naomi said. She stuck her tongue out. “Then again, if you hadn't have done that, then you could have maybe been the ETL Skater instead of me!”
“Maybe,” Andrew said. “But racing's always been my passion anyway.”
“That's a relief,” Naomi said. She then turned away from Andrew, and looked to Joel. “Hey, Joel! How are you doing?”
“I'm doing fine,” Joel said. He tore down another poster. “You?”
“I think we're nearly done here!” Naomi said. “Andy's swept up everything on his side of the hall!”
“And you?” Joel asked.
“Uh,” Naomi faltered. “I'm kinda nearly close to the end?”
“You've barely started, haven't you?” Joel said flatly.
“But I have a good reason!” Naomi said. “I was skate-sweeping!”
“Skate-sweeping?” Joel said.
“Yeah!” Naomi said. “It's where you skate around whilst sweeping up! But it's kinda hard to actually do any sweeping up...”
“Just as I thought,” Joel said. Another poster fell from the wall. Joel placed it in the pile. “I've just got this strip of wall to do, and then I'll help you out.”
“Woo-hoo!” Naomi cheered. She skated up to Joel, and kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks!”
“Uh, you're welcome,” Joel said, blushing. “That's an odd way to express gratitude, though.”
“Oh, that's not my gratitude,” Naomi said. “You're just so cute I couldn't resist!” She winked, and returned to sweeping.
“Don't worry,” Andrew said to Joel. “She does this to everyone. Think of it as a compliment.”
“Okay then,” Joel said. “I'll try not to put too much thought into it.”
“Good! Since that kind of stuff borders on upping the age rating!” Monobear sprung out of seemingly nowhere, glaring at Joel.
“Wah!” Joel cried out, stumbling backwards into the wall.
“What do you want now?” Andrew pressed, leaning on his broom.
“Just letting you know that your favourite bear is going to be the star of this dance!” Monobear said.
“That's not cool!” Naomi said. “I hereby decree this dance to be one hundred percent Monobear-free!”
“You can't do that!” Monobear taunted. “I'm the headmaster, and besides, the bastards in the art studio gave me the okay!”
Joel gave Monobear a withering look. “They were just trying to get rid of you,” he said.
“I don't care!” Monobear said. “And I think you're going to love the special Monobear decorations!”
“What have you done to the decorations?” Andrew asked.
“Don't worry! It's not like I've laced them with cyanide or something,” Monobear said.
“Why would you even think of that?!” Naomi said.
“One of you bastards is sure to kill,” Monobear said. “I'm just trying to give you friendly advice!”
“In what twisted world does lacing decorations count as friendly advice?!” Joel said incredulously.
“Upupu!” Monobear giggled. “You bastards haven't lived yet if you don't think that's friendly advice!”
At that point, Shauna walked over to the group, seeing the commotion.
“What's going on over here?” she said.
“Uwah!” Monobear cried out. “It's the creepy puppet girl!”
“How many times do I have to say it?” Shauna said. “Cammy is not some demon-spawn hell-bent on usurping you as headmaster! He's just a puppet!”
“That's what the last one said,” Monobear growled. “And I had to end up executing her along with ten of her remaining units! But at least that taught me a valuable lesson about adopting others as siblings!” He then leered at Cammy. “So don't get any ideas, you chuckle-monkey!”
“Cammy's incapable of making noise,” Shauna said. “You're being paranoid.”
“I don't know,” Monobear said, shrugging. “He seems awfully likely to commit a murder!”
“Oh my god,” Shauna said. She groaned. “He. Is. Not. Alive!”
“I'm just messing with you!” Monobear said. “After all, I wouldn't want to upset the lead party planner so much that she denies me entry!”
“I don't think I'm actually capable of stopping you from entering,” Shauna said. “You could just pop up anyway.”
“True,” Monobear said.
“Wait a sec,” Naomi added. She pulled out her ElectroID. “Did you make this new rule up?”
“Oh yeah,” Monobear said. “You bastards were so insistent on denying my beautifully crafted banner to be hung up in here!”
“Well yeah,” Shauna said. “I can imagine that this banner is anything but beautiful.”
“Bleh!” Monobear yelled. “Just remember that if it's not up there, the body count will rise rapidly!”
“You'd really kill someone over a banner?” Andrew asked in disbelief.
“Don't try me!” Monobear said. “I'll have you know I once blew up someone for insulting my colour scheme!”
“You can't be serious!” Naomi cried out.
“I am,” Monobear said.
“We're derailing here,” Shauna said. “And if you keep us talking for too long, then we won't have this place ready by tomorrow.”
“Oh no!” Monobear said. “That simply cannot happen! If this dance doesn't go on, it'll be so despair-inducing that I just might faint!” Monobear placed a paw to his forehead as if to exaggerate.
“Exactly,” Shauna said. “So if you could leave us alone, we'll get done much quicker.”
“Okay, I'm off,” Monobear said. “See you bastards later. Or sooner, if a murder takes place. Upupu~” He then vanished from sight, off to who knew where.
“Man,” Joel said. “That bear is a real piece of work, huh?”
“Tell me about it,” Shauna said. “I just hope he doesn't ruin this dance.”
“I don't think he will,” Andrew said. “It provides too perfect a scenario for a murder motive.”
“Don't talk like that!” Naomi said. “You'll just bring bad luck!”
“I wouldn't worry,” Andrew replied. “None of us are stupid enough to actually commit a murder.”
“Yeah,” Shauna added confidently. “And as long as I'm here, nobody will die!”
“That's a little over-confident, isn't it?” Joel said.
“Not really,” Shauna said with a smile. “There are only sixteen of us, and if we're all at this dance, then nobody can commit a murder without being caught.” She smiled. “That, and, I'm pretty sure we're all good people who wouldn't dream of killing.”
“Hopefully,” Andrew said.
At this point in time, the doors to the hall opened, revealing Ella, who was holding a USB drive.
“Ella!” Shauna said. “How's the playlist going?”
“Done,” Ella said with a smile. “Now it's just a matter of rigging up the speaker system.”
“That's great!” Shauna said.
“I think I saw some speakers upstairs,” Ella said. “Could you possibly come and help me to look?”
“Of course!” Shauna said. “Do you need anyone else to help carry them?”
“That will be unnecessary,” Ella said. “I wouldn't want to hinder the progress here. Besides, we could easily just pick them up tomorrow.”
“All right then,” Shauna said. “I'll help you look.” She smiled at the others around her. “I'll see you all later!” They watched as Shauna and Ella walked out of the hall. The doors slammed shut loudly.
“Okay then,” Joel said. “I think I'm done with the posters.” He motioned to the now bare wall.
“Wha?” Naomi said. “You were working whilst we were talking?!”
“Yeah,” he said. “Is that a problem?”
“Not really...” Naomi said.
“Besides,” Joel continued. “That means I can now help you with the sweeping!”
“Hell yeah!” Naomi said. “Broom buddies!”
Joel chuckled. “That's the spirit.” He grabbed a spare broom from the corner of the room, and walked up to Naomi, beginning to sweep.
Andrew watched this with a smile. Everything was going perfectly, and despite Monobear's threats, everyone was still in a good mood.
This dance was going to be perfect.
Wyatt was sat at the desk in his room, working away at his sewing machine, when the door knocked.
“I'll be one second,” he shouted, returning to the sewing machine. He soon finished the stitch, and stood up, stretching and adjusting his glasses. He quickly walked over to his door, and opened it up. Marian was standing on the other side, holding a pile of fabric. It was stacked high enough that it nearly towered over her face.
“I found some more fabric,” she said. “You think this'll be enough?”
Wyatt laughed. “Should be.” He then reached his arms out. “Here. I'll take half of the pile.”
“Thanks,” Marian said. Wyatt reached up to the top of the pile, and took roughly half of it. Immediately he was surprised by the weight of it, but still smiled.
“Just put it on my bed,” he said as he walked across the room.
“Okay,” Marian replied. Wyatt placed his fabric down first. She followed suit. “So, how are the outfits going?”
“I'd say they're going quite well,” Wyatt said. “I've finished all the base outfit shapes, and now I just have to individualise them all.”
“Awesome,” Marian said. “And you have all the right measurements?”
“Yes,” Wyatt said. “I can tell someone's measurements from just a passing glance.”
“Really?” Marian said. “That's impressive.”
“Says the girl who can convince any judge of a person's innocence or guilt,” Wyatt countered wryly.
“That's not particularly exciting, though,” Marian said. “There are more talented lawyers than there are fashion designers.”
“Hey now,” Wyatt said. “Need I remind you that you were single-handedly responsible for convicting Sunshine Sally?”
“I suppose,” Marian said. “Sorry. It's just that I'm so used to my talent it feels kind of useless.”
“Never say that,” Wyatt said. He gave her a warm grin.
“Anyway,” Marian said. “Can I get some spoilers for our outfits?”
“Nu-uh,” Wyatt said, winking. “You'll have to wait and see.”
“Aw, come on!” Marian said. “Not even a peek?”
“My lips are sealed,” Wyatt said. Marian began to laugh at that. It was that contagious type of laugh, and Wyatt joined in. However, the sound of the door knocking was still louder than the camaraderie.
“Who could that be?” Marian said.
“Not sure,” Wyatt replied. He stood up. “I'll go check.”
“Stop right there,” Marian said. “You get back to making our stunning outfits; I'll deal with the door.”
“If you say so,” Wyatt said.
Marian walked over to the door, opening it.
“Hello?” she said, seeing Mark standing there. “Oh, hey Mark.”
“Hey Marian,” Mark said. “What are you doing here?”
“Helping Wyatt out,” she said. “You?”
“Shauna directed me here,” he explained. “She told me that the art studio and meeting hall already have enough people, and that Wyatt might need some help.”
“I suppose,” she said. “Come in. We'll see if there's something for you to do.”
“Thanks,” Mark said, walking through into Wyatt's room. Marian closed the door behind him.
“Oh, hello Mark,” Wyatt said, sorting through the piles of fabric.
“Hi,” Mark said. “I came here to see if you need any help. Shauna sent me.”
“Did she?” Wyatt said. “Well, I'm pretty efficient on my own, but if you want to help out with things like going on expeditions to find accessories for the outfits, be my guest.”
“I'm fine with that,” Mark replied. “I did want to help out.”
“Not to mention it cuts my work load in half,” Marian said.
“Haha, that too,” Mark added, smiling. “Hey, Wyatt, how are the outfits coming along anyway?”
“The base outfits are done,” Wyatt explained. “It's just a case of personalising now.”
“Cool,” Mark said.
“And before you ask, you can't see them yet,” Wyatt said. “You'll have to wait until they're done.”
“Oh well,” Mark said with a shrug. “So, anything you need right now?”
“Not really,” Wyatt said. “But I tend to get absorbed in my work, so you could probably keep Marian company for a while.”
“All right then,” Mark said as Wyatt returned to the sewing machine with a pile of blue and green fabric.
“And he's off,” Marian said, motioning to Wyatt as he so carefully operated the machine. “You'll be lucky to see him surface before dinner.”
“Oh yeah!” Mark said. He lifted a hand up, revealing a bag. “I got some dinner on the way here.”
“It's already that time?” Marian said.
“Yeah,” Mark replied. He set it down on Wyatt's empty bedside desk. “What do you want?”
“What do you have?” Marian asked.
“It's essentially the same menu as yesterday,” Mark said. “Except no lasagne. I caught Monobear eating from it and I wasn't going to risk contamination.”
“Smart,” Marian said. “In that case, just pass me a veggie burger.”
“Vegetarian?” Mark asked.
“Yeah,” Marian replied. “Not that it really matters.”
“Okay then,” Mark said. He reached into the bag, pulling out the sealed food item. Marian took it from him, and began to eat.
“Oh, this is good,” she said between mouthfuls. Mark grabbed a hot dog, eating it. It was still warm, he noticed.
“I know,” Mark said. “Hey, who do you think makes this stuff?”
“It can't be Monobear,” Marian said. “I don't think he's physically capable of cooking.”
“Maybe it's whoever is operating Monobear?” Mark said.
“Could be,” Marian said. “But why would they do all this?”
“Perhaps so that there's no risk of us starving,” Mark replied. “After all, to mimic Monobear, 'it would be despair-inducingly boring to watch you bastards starve!'”
Marian chuckled. “That's pretty accurate.”
“And the truth!” Without warning, Monobear appeared in the room. “I would hate for you bastards to be hungry! Just knowing that one of you could be your killer is despair enough!”
“You again,” Mark said.
“Why are you here?” Marian asked.
“Isn't it obvious?” Monobear said. “To see how your dance preparations are going!”
“So much for secrecy,” Marian muttered as she finished her food.
“I have this entire school under heavy surveillance!” Monobear said. “You can't hide anything from me!”
“Okay then,” Marian said. “But what do you want from us in particular?”
“I want to see how the beautiful outfits are coming along!” Monobear said.
“Good luck with that,” Marian said. “Wyatt's liable to impale you with a sewing needle if you peek.”
“Upupu!” Monobear said. “No he isn't! If he even raises a hand to me, he'll be executed faster than a rabbit would dissolve in a vat of acid!”
“That's repulsive...” Mark said.
“To each their own,” Monobear huffed before moving across the room. “Hey! Fashion Designer! Let me see my dance outfit!”
“Your what?” Wyatt said, facing Monobear.
“I can't go to the dance without an outfit,” Monobear said. “So where is mine?”
“I haven't made you one,” Wyatt said simply.
“What?! Outrageous!” Monobear snapped. “I'm your headmaster! It's only common courtesy that you make me an outfit!”
“Oh my god,” Wyatt said. “Will you just shut up?”
“Not until I have my outfit!” Monobear said. “And in fact, just to ensure this, it'll be a new rule!” For the second time today, everyone's ElectroIDs bleeped. Marian opened hers up, seeing the update.
New rule: The ETL Fashion Designer must make Monobear a beautiful outfit for the dance
“Oh my god,” Marian said. “This is getting ridiculous, is it not?”
“It's the only way I can get you bastards to pay attention to me!” Monobear said. He then looked at Wyatt. “And if I don't get my outfit, we'll be having a public beheading instead!”
“What?!” Wyatt exclaimed. “That's far too extreme for such a petty matter!”
“Then to avoid this, just make my outfit already!” Monobear fumed.
“Okay, okay!” Wyatt groaned. “Just give me a sec.”
“Make sure it really shows off my personality as well!” Monobear said. “And I only want to see black and white used! No other colour!”
“Got it,” Wyatt said, rolling his eyes. “Marian, could you pass me the white fabric?”
“Okay,” Marian said. She picked up a sheet of white fabric, and handed it to Wyatt.
“Thank you,” Wyatt said. He then began to feed the black and white fabric into the sewing machine.
“Stop! Stop!” Monobear cried out. “The shade's all wrong!”
“Oh, I'm sorry,” Wyatt snapped. “I didn't know you were also the ETL Fashion Designer.”
“I don't appreciate your sharp tongue,” Monobear growled. “Start over.”
“No,” Wyatt said. “It's this or nothing. And before you execute me, think: who else is capable of producing an outfit for you?” He sneered at Monobear. “Well?”
“Fine,” Monobear huffed. “I suppose it will do. But this is the last time any of you bastards gain the upper hand on me!” He glared at Wyatt once more, before vanishing from the room.
“You know,” Wyatt said as he continued working at the fabric. “If I didn't know better, I could swear Monobear's trying deliberately to make himself end up being the victim.”
“I'm not sure there,” Marian said. “Especially not for the first case; he'll definitely want it to be contained within the ETLs.”
“Well, he's gonna be disappointed,” Wyatt said. He grabbed a pair of scissors, and began to cut at the black fabric. “Nobody is going to be committing a murder any time soon.”
“Hopefully not ever,” Mark added. “He'll eventually give up on us after a while, and then there wouldn't be a reason to murder.”
“And the authorities will come to our rescue anyway,” Marian said. “I'd give it maybe two months tops before we're out of here.”
“Yeah,” Mark said. “I think we can hold out until then.”
“Won't it be hilarious seeing Monobear get taken down?” Wyatt said with a chuckle.
“Definitely,” Marian said. She looked over at the bag. “Hungry?”
“Not really,” Wyatt said. “I might grab a bite to eat once I'm done with Monobear's appalling outfit.”
“Okay then,” Marian said. “Don't spend too long on it though: it's essentially no different to making an outfit for Shauna's puppet.”
“Don't say that,” Mark said. “You might bring him back.”
“I doubt it,” Marian said. “The little creep probably has business elsewhere.”
“Yeah,” Mark said.
The conversation then died down for a while, and Mark and Marian sat on the bed whilst Wyatt slaved away over on his desk. He quickly finished Monobear's outfit, but like the others, refused to show it. At one point, Mark pulled his camera out, and filmed Wyatt making the outfit, talking over it.
“Still filming?” Marian asked wryly once Mark finished with the camera.
“Yeah,” he said. “I'll be putting the first episode together after the dance.”
“You're going to be filming the dance?” Marian said.
“Of course,” Mark said. “It's no beach party, but it'll do.”
“I suppose,” Marian said. “Just don't glorify it.”
“I'm not,” Mark said. “I'm just presenting the reality. And the current reality is that we're all banding together to fight Monobear's School Life of Mutual Killing.”
“It is,” Marian said. “Can't fault you there.” Mark went to reply, but was cut off by a sound ringing out.
“Attention you bastards. It is now ten pm, meaning that it is now Night Time. The cafeteria has been locked, and the hallway lights have been turned off. Pleasant dreams!”
An uneasy atmosphere soon descended. Mark, Marian, and Wyatt all looked at each other, their eyes wide.
“Well,” Marian said. “I guess we should all head to our rooms for the evening, then.”
“I suppose,” Mark said. “We don't want to be too tired for the dance, do we?”
Wyatt was the one who spoke their thoughts. “Do you think there's gonna be a murder?”
“I don't know,” Marian replied, uneasy. “I hope not.”
“There probably won't be,” Mark said. “It's just tiredness and fear talking here.”
“Yeah,” Marian said. “That's all.”
“Are you going to bed now?” Mark asked Wyatt.
“No,” he said. “I naturally fall asleep at midnight, which gives me two more hours to finish a couple of outfits.”
“I guess,” Mark said. “In that case, goodnight.” He began to walk towards the door.
“Yeah,” Marian said, following Mark. “See you in the morning.”
Wyatt smiled. “I'll try and get your outfits done before then.”
“You'd better hold to that promise,” Marian said. She and Mark then opened the door, and stepped out into the hallway, heading towards their dorm rooms. Wyatt returned to working on the outfits.
The other ETLs soon returned to bed as well. All sixteen dreamed peacefully, but in their minds, one clear thought stuck out: one of them could be planning a murder, and they could be the victim.