I’m sitting on the armchair in my living room, back home. I look around and see the warm yellow glow of the sun enveloping everything before me. Just then, I hear a familiar voice call out to me.
“Hide? Is everything okay?”
It’s my mother.
I stare at her quizzically for a second, and then reply in my casual tone “Yeah, everything’s okay.”
My mum… why does it feel like it’s been ages since I saw her? I’m so glad she’s here…
These thoughts rush through my mind as I look at her face. Her long and beautiful black hair falling to her shoulders, with some strands faintly covering her hazelnut eyes. “I’m so glad we get to spend the day together!” She says with her beaming smile.
“Yeah…” I agree with her, albeit somewhat hesitantly.
This feels… strange. Why do I have no recollection of what happened before?
“It feels like it’s been ages since we talked like that…” She looks down clasping her hands together. “Lately you haven’t been opening up to me…” My mother’s voice trails off. “In fact you barely even talk to me anymore.”
Suddenly, the weight of guilt comes crashing down on my shoulders, as I gaze at my mom’s hardened expression.
“You never told me anything about what happened that day… You are lucky that my job took the transfer application so well.” Suddenly, she looks me straight in the eyes. Behind her gaze, I can sense a glint of sadness. “I have to… no, I want to know, if something happened to my son.” She places her hand on top of mine. I try to say something, but the words won’t come out. I want to do something, but my body won’t move. I can only stare back at her, dumbfounded. “You’re not the only one feeling lost after your dad passed away…” She voices, as a tear streams down her face.
I want to hug her… reassure her… I want to say that I’m sorry…
“I know I’ve been really busy with work, and I know that doesn’t help our situation, but I need you as much as you need me, Hide!” Her voice breaks, as she stands up and wraps her arms around me. It feels strange. I still can’t move. I can’t reciprocate her feelings. Despite the embrace, I don’t feel any warmth. I just feel cold. Every part of my body, feels unbearably. I feel cold, as If I were alone. All alone.
Suddenly, I can hear the faint sound of sobbing, but I can’t even move my eyes to look at her. All I can do, is stand there looking at the wall across from me. My face not betraying a single hint of emotion.
I’m sorry mum… I’m so sorry…
I love my mother. I love her, as much as any kid loves his mom. And I will always do. But ever since we moved back to Kirihama, I changed. As much as I wanted to talk to her about everything that had happened before, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The words were stuck in my throat, and every time I tried bringing them back up, they stung like nails against my neck. So I kept them to myself. Bottled up everything inside me. Slowly, I came to realize how weak of a person I really was. Maybe, I had subconsciously given up on life.
But my mother was always there, watching me from afar. And I didn’t even pay any attention to how she must have felt… I had no idea if these were her true thoughts, or just a random hallucination of mine, but there was one thing I knew for sure. If even a small portion of what she said was true, then I need to get back home. I must…
And just like that…
“Nghh…” I groan, as the back of my eyelids are painted in a red fiery color. I hesitantly open my eyes, squinting in the process, as the light of the morning sun assaults my face. Instinctively I raise my arm, trying to take cover from the light of the morning. I look around and slowly recall the events of the night before. “We fell asleep… didn’t we?” I mumble to myself, as I become conscious of a peculiar weight on my right arm. I look to my side curiously, and hold back a grin, at the sight of my upperclassman, and number one beauty of the school, drooling against my shoulder. After having decided I’ve stared at her sleeping face long enough, I tap her head, in an attempt to pull her out of dreamland.
“Hey…” I suddenly hesitate, as to how I should address her. “…Wake up, Ayase-san…”
“Mmmh??” She hums in protest, as her eyelids slowly open up, to reveal her clear blue eyes. “…Wha…?” She raises her head, and turns to look at me, confusion clear on her face. Oh, and a bit of drool too. Suddenly her cheeks take on a reddish tint, probably having recalled what happened yesterday night.
Is she embarrassed that she fell asleep on my shoulder?
“You have a little… you know.” I point at the corner of my lips, and her face turns red 10 times over.
“W-What? What?! Where?!” She turns her back to me and like a flustered mess, dashes to a mirror.
As I stifle a chuckle, that would probably earn me a punch in the gut, I get up and groan almost immediately.
“Ugh, my butt hurts…”
“…Hey, it’s not like we slept on the floor or anything.” Ayase-san produces a witty remark, right as she’s finished washing her face.
“Touché” I shrug, and check the time on my phone. “…Seven on the dot.” I mutter, just loud enough for her to hear, and stuff it back in my pocket.
“I can’t believe we dozed off like that last night...”
”Well at least, that hideous thing didn’t… you know. Get to us.”
“That monster… Do you believe it’s somewhere around the school building as we speak?”
Faced with her question, I fall into thought. “Hmmm…” Not too long after, I nod, content with my theory “Well we can’t really be sure but I at least doubt it.”
“…Really? What makes you say that?” Ayase-san raises her brow in surprise.
“Well do you remember what… Mei-san said to us?”
“Yeah most of it...”
“So you remember the part where she said that she wouldn’t advise us searching for the keys after midnight? Also, I remember her saying something along the lines of “the supernatural forces are more potent at that time at night”. I’m thinking that the appearance of that monster is perhaps related to that.”
“So you think the monster “spawned” after midnight or something? Still that doesn’t explain why it won’t be there now…”
Spawned? Now that’s a gaming term I didn’t expect to hear from someone like her.
Shaking that little silly thought away, I continue my explanation.
“…Mei-san also said that the majority of them died due to a fight that happened among the group, after having lost some classmates to the traps already. But there was no reference to THAT creature. I’m assuming that IF the monster keeps roaming around the school after “spawning” as you said, then there were bound to be victims ‘cause of it.” I take a pause, as I pace about the room. “…To add to that, even if he hadn’t killed a significant amount of students then Mei-san was bound to warn us about such a threat beforehand since, as she said, wants us to succeed where she and her late classmates failed.”
“But what she DID warn us about was the fact that it’s not safe to roam around the school after midnight. Meaning there are threats during that time span, which are not there after the sun rises.” Ayase-san catches on to what I’m saying fairly quickly.
“Exactly! So we can assume that this creature was roaming the school only for that specific period of time. Although we don’t know if the classroom-shifting is a product of the time or is here to stay, OR if the incidents that happened 10 years ago should be the exact same as the ones happening today, I say it’s still a pretty solid theory.” My train of thoughts comes to an end as I stand back, and await for senpai’s reaction.
“Agreed. I like that theory actually, since it’s a tad bit optimistic.” She replies with a shrug, slightly smiling to herself.
“Still we can’t be sure about this so we should act with caution. Not to mention that we need to find the others and fill them in on what happened…”
“Fill them in, huh?”
The both of us, suddenly realize we have to break the news to the others. The news about Tanaka-san…
Yesterday, we had lost yet another member of the group. And an adult at that. That could very well turn out to be a big blow to the group if we’re not careful.
Trying not to let it get to me, I focus on the matter at hand.
“Also, in case the classroom-shifting phenomenon is still present they might be in big trouble if they actually walk in somewhere they shouldn’t. So we should warn them before they go about searching for us, if they haven’t already…” Yet again, I find myself overthinking, a strange sensation overtaking me. “Yes, mister Sherlock.” Ayase-san chuckles lightly, and I look away in slight embarrassment.
I hope she didn’t think I’m a showoff or something…
“Okay, now out you go!”
Right as I’m shifting back in thought, Ayase-san starts pushing me towards the door.
And with that, I’m flung out of the ladies’ bathroom.
After freshening up at the boys’ restroom area I patiently wait for Ayase-san, my back on the wall, just like yesterday night.
Although this time I know what she’s REALLY like…
With that amusing thought moving to the background, I’m suddenly reminded of the weird dream I had last night.
I vividly recall what my mother said to me and how real it all felt. “It was only a dream…” I mutter, trying to not let it bother me.
But even If it was a dream, can I take that the things my mum said to me, as her honest, true feelings? Why did I only dream of her now? Is it because… I might never make it back…?
With these thoughts looming over, like a dark cloud, I didn’t even realize when the bathroom door had opened from the inside.
“Took you long enough…”
“Back at you, took you long enough to notice me.”
Ayase crosses her arms over her chest, looking back at me with sass.
Before I can give her one of my casual, but witty quips…
“Most importantly… Did you see anything out of the ordinary out here?”
“Nope, nothing. Seems like we might be right.” I reply as I lean forward and start walking ahead, with Ayase-san trailing behind me.
We cautiously walk towards the school building’s big double doors, as we look around every now and then. As we do, I notice that the space behind the school building, where the club rooms building, and the sports field used to be, is now wrapped in some sort of hazy veil. Deciding to check it out later, presuming it’s a variation of the invisible wall confining us here, we march on towards the entrance. Mei-san did say something about the other buildings being excluded from the search of keys after all.
Although I came up with that theory and wholeheartedly stand by it, I can’t help but feel somewhat anxious. And I’m sure Ayase-san is no different.
A quick look at her is enough for me to confirm it.
The two of us slowly but surely, make our way inside the school building and we're more than relieved to realize we're alone, and that none of those heavy footsteps from yesterday can be heard. Senpai and I heave a sigh of relief while we walk deeper inside.
"And now to confirm..." I say as I grip the doorknob of the first classroom I see and swing it open. "Yep, that sure as hell isn’t where the biology class should be..."
"Which means that the rooms will keep shifting no matter what time it is. Damnit..." Ayase clicks her tongue in visible annoyance.
"Yeah... Well there's nothing we can do about it. We just need to find the Home Ec class and inform the others."
I reply, closing the door before me. Just as I'm about to walk off...
I turn around in a flash, sliding the door open for the second time in quick succession.
It's still the same as before...
“What? You wanted to surprise it, or something?”
"No… but that means that the rooms are shifting places randomly, and doesn't matter if you close a door or not. It most likely is time-related…"
"Okay, now THAT is confusing."
"Yeah but at least we learned something. Now let's start searching. How about a room-by-room search?" I propose while looking at my clearly unamused upperclassman.
"Aghh... do we really have to look in EVERY DAMN room on EVERY DAMN floor?!" She groans, in her usual unladylike fashion.
"Do you have any better ideas?"
"I, ah... no..."
"Thought so. Now let's get moving.” Right as I’m about to walk ahead, I feel a tug at my shirt.
"Hey, Hideki… I don't think I need to remind you but if you talk about you KNOW WHAT to the others..." Ayase-san stares daggers at me, and I find myself gulping nervously. "...I'll cut off whatever's hanging."
“I mean, yes ma’am!”
“Yosh! Now let’s haul some ass!”
I find myself smiling wryly at her comment, as I’m the one to trail behind her this time.
Again, that’s not what a girl would say, Ayase-san…
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