Chapter 9:

Killing Yourself To Live

66 Hours

The blood in my veins has turned to ice, and my brain has completely shut down. I feel like even the will to flee has escaped my body. I need to get out of here, but fear has completely paralyzed my every cell.

“Hideki!” Tanaka-san’s roar, or more like battle cry, snaps me out of my thoughts. “Run!”


The urgency in his voice has my body moving before I know it. He doesn’t need to tell me twice. Having blocked the stairs, the creature leaves us no choice but to dash down the hallway. And of course, that’s exactly what we do. The three of us are now running for our lives.

As we run, I can hear the heavy marching of footsteps behind us. They’re faster than before, but they’re still somewhat slower than us. The whole floor feels like it’s gonna collapse any moment.

We take a left turn down the hallway, and I glance at a nearby, random door as we run.

“Here!” I announce and open the door next with a wild swing of my arm. It’s a bet, but if we continue onwards we’ll eventually be trapped against a dead end. The hallway isn’t endless after all.

The others seem to understand my reasoning, and follow closely behind me. I take a brief, deep breath and step foot in the classroom. When my foot comes into contact with the ground, and nothing happens, I realize we’re on the clear. But I can’t exactly celebrate that little victory yet, since the heavy stomping on our backs grows louder, closer…

I scan the room and point at a closet, “Let’s hide there!”

In a frantic manner, me and Mochizuki-senpai walk to the closet, and realize that the space is far smaller than I imagined.

“Tanaka-san, th-“

“Don’t worry, I’ll be over here!” He quickly hurries to hide himself behind the big lectern across the room.

Me and Mochizuki-senpai share a brief, shaky nod, and pull ourselves inside the locker-like closet.

As we’re huddled together, I peek through the thin gap lines of the closet door.

The footsteps grow heavier. The creature is now just outside the door. With a loud, ear-breaking thud, like the sound of thunder, the door flies off its hinges, and crushes straight at the wall ahead. Crouching, the monster steps inside through the hole it has just created. Me and Mochizuki-senpai hold our breaths. I can feel her body shaking against me, her fists clenched against my chest.

The monster slows down its pace and looks around. I gulp as it glances towards Tanaka-san’s spot, but it quickly averts its gaze elsewhere. It’s looking at nowhere, and everywhere at the same time. Then, as it walks past the lectern, its foot stomps towards the center of the room. Its eyes travel around the darkness. My blood turns cold. It’s looking at the closet. The very obviously disturbed closet.

Mochizuki-senpai lets out a shaky breath, resembling a quiet sob next to me. I instinctively cover her mouth with my palm and halt my every movement.

Could it have… heard her?

The both of us lock eyes for a second, and I can clearly see the agony in Mochizuki’s face.

Bear with me senpai!


The creature makes a sudden sound, resembling that of a word. Having locked its sights on the closet we’re hiding in, it takes yet another big step towards our hiding spot. Soon, the dim light coming from the hallway is completely blocked by the mountain of flesh standing before us.


It raises its arm in one quick motion, and suddenly a voice echoes loudly through the room.

“O-Over here! Y-you bastard!” Tanaka-san screams at the top of his lungs, and the creature freezes mid-swing. In a sluggish turn, it now directs its gaze at Tanaka-san, who’s jumped out of cover.

Tanaka-san! Why?!

I want to scream, but that would defeat the whole purpose of it all. Tanaka-san is trying to protect us.

“Come and get me you, asshole!” He shouts out once again, despite the shaking of his body. The monster breaths dryly in response.


With that as its final word, it starts wobbling hurriedly towards the human standing before it. Just as Tanaka-san is about to run through the door, and out the hallway, he looks back at us once again.

“Tanaka-san…” I grit my teeth as I watch the scene unfold before me.

“Hideki! Don’t forget!”

With that, he’s out of the door, and the creature trails behind him, an aura of pure bloodlust around it. The footsteps grow distant, and then, just for a brief moment, silence.

I release my hold over Mochizuki-senpai who takes a deep breath and looks up at me.

“What… just happened?” She inquires, her voice wobbly like her knees.

“Ta-Tanaka… san?” I mutter in disbelief. Why did he do that? The monster is now after him… “We need to help!” I look back at senpai.

“Help? How?” The girl before furrows her brows. But I honestly, don’t want to hear it. I quickly open the door to the closet and dash out.

“Wait!” Suddenly somebody grabs my arm. It’s Mochizuki-senpai. “I know how you’re feeling, but… what sort of help can we even offer?”

I break free from her hold and dash out the classroom. I’ll figure something out on the way. If we mull over it for too long, then it will be too late by the time we take action.

“Wait, you idiot!”

Despite her protests, senpai follows closely behind me.

As we’re about to take the turn back to the main part of the hallway, the thunderous roar of lighting comes crashing down. Our vision is filled with light once again, and then after a brief silence.


A shriek. That was Tanaka-san’s voice.

The two of us share a brief moment of eye-contact and dash down the hallway.

Tanaka-san! Hold on! We’re coming!

Then, just as we run, we see it. There, at the end of the hallway, the monster is standing right before Tanaka.

If it was chasing him, how did it end up in front of him?

But there’s no time for me to mull over that. The creature grabs Tanaka-san as if he was a ragdoll in one hand, while the man helplessly wriggles around in an attempt to break free.

The monster, not sparing even a second thought, clenches its fist, and squeezes the foreign object tightly.

“AAAAAAAAH!” Tanaka-san’s voice rings out, twisted in pain and agony. Soon, there’s a new sound mixed in the mayhem of screams. The clear snapping sound of bones giving in.


Right as I’m about to step in, Mochizuki-senpai grabs my arm tightly.

I’m left looking at her pained expression for a moment, before another snap catches my attention. The monster brings its hand over Tanaka’s head, and curls its palm around him, like a snake suffocating its victim.


As if fueled by those very words, the monster clenches its fist harder around the man’s head.


Right as the man’s resistance seems to reach an all-time high, the monster decides to put an end to this game of theirs. In one, clean motion, the monster pulls, and separates his head from the body.

The screaming stops, and silence ensues, save only for our heavy breathing. Soon, a red waterfall starts to flow, endlessly through the monster’s fingers. Tanaka’s body is swiftly discarded to the side, like a toy that had ceased to be entertaining.

My stomach churns, and I feel like throwing up.

Then, as if it had found its fresh new prey, its gaze falls at us, and I swear I see a smile forming on its hideous visage.

That bastard…!

Right as anger is about to take ahold of me, I hear a voice from behind me.

“We need to go!” Mochizuki-senpai grabs my hand, as she makes for the stairs to the ground floor. Soon, discarding my anger aside, my self-preservation instinct kicks in, and I dash down the stairs behind her. The footsteps behind us grow louder, stronger, and the monster is now back on our trail.

Its previous toy had outlived its time, and now the monster was hungry for more. Hungry, to make all those who step into its domain, snap like puppets underneath a giant’s touch.

As we reach the ground floor, we make a beeline for the exit of the building, hoping to get as much distance between us, and the puppet master as possible.

As we dash through the lockers, another blinding flash of light washes over the room, stripping us from our vision. But only briefly. With the crack of thunder, the light disperses, and we begin to move again.

“WAIT!” Before Mochizuki-senpai starts running again though, I grab hold of her arm.

Both of our gazes instantly fall on the enormous figure before us. It’s now standing between us and the door, blocking our exit with its entire body. It was then that I realized it’s big enough to block a whole set of double-doors even with an abnormally bent back.

Its red, bloodshot gaze pierces through mine, making me feel like my soul is being glared at intensely.

The lightning… Does it teleport with it? Was that how he ended up in front of Tanaka-san?

“N-no r-runn… hall…w-way…”

I take a deep breath, and a brief step backwards, with senpai firmly glued to my back.


Do we risk going up again? No, that would defeat Tanaka-san’s sacrifice! We avoided a trap by sheer luck, we can’t keep doing this! The only place left to hide is in the bathroom buildings, but we need to get him to move out of the way first. Move out of the way… HOW?!

My thoughts rush through my head like flashes of light, fast and fleeting, almost desperate.

There’s no way we can get him to move out of the way without losing one of us! Wait…

I suddenly get an idea. It’s crazy, but it could work. We don’t need him to get out of the way, we just need to “create” a new way out!

Out of the blue, I turn around and grab Mochizuki-senpai by the arm, Dragging her behind me, we hastily make for the far left room of the floor, where there’s a…

“What are you doing?! We’re at a dead end!” She yells at me, seconds before hyperventilating Oh, if she could punch me right now, she SO would.

The monster’s hot at our tail yet again, as its heavy steps echo throughout the small hallway. Without wasting a moment myself, I immediately turn my back to the both of them, and focus my gaze on the glass panel before me. I take a quick step back, and smash my elbow against it.

"That door is not the only way out!" I ram the window once again.

What’s this shit made out of?!

“What are you on about?!”

“Just break already!!!” I shout, giving it everything I’ve got.

Of course, the monster doesn’t relent either, as it slowly but surely crawls closer to us with each passing second. Noticing that, senpai joins in, and connects a not-so-graceful kick, that cracks the surface.

“Yoshi!” I pull my arm back and with a soldier-like war cry, smash my fist straight against the ripples of the glass. Giving in to the force of the blow, the window collapses into pieces.

“Go!” I shout at Mochizuki-senpai, who hurls herself over the gap.

I can practically feel the monster’s breath at the back of my neck, as its breathing grows heavier.

“Whoop!” With one, sloppy but adrenaline-filled jump I find myself on the other side of the window. Before I can turn around, I can feel Mochizuki-senpai’s pull as I fall flat on my face, on top of a soft sensation. I stretch my head over my shoulder, to see an outstretched hand, through the gap of the window.

That was close…

“Th…anks?” I suddenly question the softness of my cushion.

“Okay you can get off now…!” A red-faced Mochizuki pushes my head away from her… chest?!

Okay, now’s not the time for that!

I pull myself off Mochizuki… and the grass at my feet, and look around briefly, to see that we’re closer to the bathroom buildings than I imagined. We’re standing at the side of the school building, right around an area with thick greenery. After we share a brief nod, we make for the only sure place we could think of, before the monster can come round again.

“Haah… Haaah...”

Thank god there was no more lightning…

I sit down on the bathroom floor, panting heavily, my back and head resting on the big metallic door behind me. Mochizuki-senpai sits next to me, her chest moving up and down, as she takes big, fitful breaths.

“That was close… to say the least.” I break the coordination of our exhausted breathing.

“You don’t say...” She replies before exhaling deeply.

“Well, at least we made it…”

As I mutter that in between my heavy breathing, I look down to see the knuckles of my left hand covered in blood. As if my brain hadn’t noticed either, a sharp pain runs through my hand.

“Tch.” I click my tongue.

“Woah…” Senpai exclaims, looking over her shoulder.

“It’s… no big deal. I’ll deal with it in a sec…”

“Hey what’s with that attitude? What if it gets infected? Get up and show me that hand!”

Apparently she’s having none of my bullshit, as she’s already standing up, hand extended and all.

I look back and forth between my hand and her, with an unamused and exhausted expression.

“Come on, we haven’t got all day!” She insists, gesturing towards me with her outstretched hand.

After heaving a deep sigh I grab hold of her hand "…Yes ma’am"

She examines it, like she’s some kind of expert doctor, with her finger resting on her chin.

“It looks like there’s no piece of glass stuck in there, so it’s just a flesh wound.”

She just missed the chance to say “Tis but a flesh wound”…

Fair to say I’m disappointed in her.

Without warning, she places my arm on the sink and immediately turns the valve, causing water to shower all across my hand, and of course my wound.

“Oye! Mochizuki-senpai! Warn me first!” I bark gritting my teeth in pain.

“And to think you were acting all tough a few seconds earlier…” Mochizuki-senpai replies with a sadistic smirk. “And also... Ayase.” She turns back the valve, cutting off the stream of the water.


Ayase what?

“Just call me Ayase. Mochizuki plus whatnot is just unnecessary long to say…”

(And even more unnecessary to write, Miss Ayase.)

As she mumbles that, her cheeks take on a rosy, soft color.

“Okay, you can call me Hideki… If you want.” Despite the awkwardness I’m feeling, I manage to sound composed. Mo… Ayase gives me a nod.

“So Ayase-senpai?”

“Too long.” She shakes her head.

“Ayase… chan?”

“Definitely not!”


“No, too formal.”

“Ayase-san it is!”

“Hey!” She glares at me, and I find myself smiling at her scowl. “..Enough of that!” She grabs a roll of toilet paper, and wraps it around my hand, squeezing tightly and firmly.

“Once we get back to base, you can wrap it in a clean, sterilized cloth. But for now…”

“Toilet paper…?” I give her a look, and she glares back at me. Suddenly, I realize how close we’re standing, and grow conscious of her delicate hands around mine. Her small frame feels so fragile compared to mine, and I realize how even though she’s older, I’m significantly taller than her. Despite her mafia boss antics, she’s still a girl. I remember how she was shaking just a few minutes ago. And how…


Suddenly, I’m reminded. A shudder runs through my spine.

“What’s wrong? If you don’t like it then I’ll shove it in your-“

“Woah, there!”

Kids friendly, please. She’s sure got some spunk to spare, despite her delicate appearance.

“What? I was gonna say mouth!”



Despite her foul mouth, she did do all that for me, though…

Touched by the tenderness of her gesture, I feel my lips reflexively forming a grin “Thank you, it was simple, but I still appreciate it.” I pause briefly. “…Ayase-san.”

“Well consider it a thank you for getting us out of that situation.” She averts her gaze in response, without letting go of my hand. As she speaks, I can notice the color return to her cheeks, while I’m left astonished by this cute side of her.

Fake persona or not, she’s quite kind at heart.

“Don’t get any weird ideas though.”

Tsundere mode: activated.

“Yeah, yeah.”

I plop back down in front of the bathroom door once again, and she follows suit.

After sitting down we both heave a sigh and turn to the ceiling.

“I’m sorry about… Tanaka-san…” Ayase brings her knees closer to her chest, her tone somber. “…You two seemed kinda close.”

“I’d like to believe we were. At least for a little bit…” I heave a sigh, this time of a different nature. “…He believed in me…” I mutter, unable to contain it within me. “And he risked his life for that.”

I’m suddenly reminded of what he said, as he ran out the classroom.

Hideki! Don’t forget!

I feel like I can still hear him. Just like Kurosawa-senpai… I can feel them talking to me, despite them being gone. Gone beyond return. What does death even mean? I wonder…

Don’t forget.

But I’m gonna honor my promise. I have to. For Tanaka-san.

As I’m thinking, I feel a sudden weight on my arm.

Without saying a word, Ayase-san had rested her head against me. Probably as a way to show, that she’s here for me. Or she may just be tired and I’m misinterpreting things.

All this running, all this talking… all this thinking, has made me tired. Tired beyond measure.

Who am I? And where am I going? What have I been fighting for?

If I were to die, would I be able to lay down my regrets and say I lived a good life? A fulfilling one? I wonder if I could…

Death… Death is hanging over us. Everything I knew, has somehow been turned on its head.

I really took everything for granted. My life, my home, my mum. Everything. If I get out of this alive… what then?

I suddenly have this feeling… Maybe, just… maybe if I get out of this alive… I will try to be a better person. And live a better, more fulfilling life. One I could be proud of.



“It was… just a bad day, right?”


“We’ll try again tomorrow, right?”

“We will…”

I find myself, leaning against her, as my eyelids droop.

It was just a bad day.