After informing the rest of the group of our findings and answering all kinds of questions for them, we are ready to continue following Mei-san, onto the unknown… Or just through the school’s corridors.
“I’m sorry for earlier, Ayase-senpai. I didn’t think you’d find something as important as that.” Mayu apologizes, bowing her head.
“Hey it’s okay. It could have been a waste of time anyway, so no need to apologize.” Ayase kindly smiles at Mayu, as a sign of accepting her apology.
“So we cool?” Mayu asks once again while Ayase-senpai replies with a nod and one of her extremely dazzling smiles.
“See? I knew they would find something useful.” Yoko-senpai scoffs at Mayu, who immediately narrows her eyes at her.
“Last I remember you were against the idea, Yoko-senpai…”
“Me? Pfft… You must have misheard me.”
Mayu, probably wanting to avoid another headlock, dismisses the topic quite quickly, instead of protesting to her senpai’s blatant lie.
“I can’t believe you found out so much… You might be able to get out of here after all…” Mei-san speaks up, her tone low.
“Come to think of it… Who told you about the time limit and the keys when you were trapped here, Mei-san?” I can’t help but ask.
“A Girl… I remember a girl, wearing our school uniform…” Her voice trails off, and she shakes her head. “… I don’t remember anything else.” She finally answers, albeit somewhat vaguely.
“Was she uhm… a ghost as well?” I ask with a certain amount of caution. Wait…
Hideki you idiot! You don’t call a ghost, ghost!
While I’m mentally beating myself up the spirit answers, quite clearly looking unbothered. “Yes she was.”
“Are you ready?” Mei-san inquires, and we all nod, as the spirit takes the lead once again and glides past the rest of the bookshelves surrounding us.
“This whole curse thing… It’s kinda like we’re in Corpse Party!” My hearing senses are suddenly heightened, as my geeky side takes over and I turn around, to the sound of someone muttering excitedly. There, right behind me, I find Kazuya.
“You’ve played Corpse Party?!” I ask quite energetically, before Kazuya raises his head.
“Of course! It’s a must play if you like horror!” He quickly replies with the same enthusiasm as me and before we know it, we’re walking side-by-side.
“Hah! Finally someone with taste!” I exclaim exaggeratedly, as a gamer conversation ensues. While I’m thrilled to talk about games, I could think of a number of them I’d rather be in, instead of corpse party. Guess that’s just my luck…
“So have you played Older Scrolls?”
“Of course! I’m already level 58 and I’ve cleared all the main quests! Actually the reason I was sleepy in class yesterday was because I pulled an all-nighter playing…”
“Really?? I’m level 50 and I was just getting into the DLC content! Maybe we can play online together, when all this is resolved of course…” He proposes and I smirk in response.
“Count me in!”
“So what’s your gamer tag?” Kazuya casually asks, and I open my mouth to reply. And that’s when I remember, and a feeling of cringe overcomes my whole body...
“Well about that… I had this Stem account since edgy middle-school years so it’s something like JackTheRipper02 or something…” I can seriously feel the embarrassment on my phase.
“Wow, now I don’t feel so bad about mine! It’s DarkKazuya77!” Kazuya replies with a smirk, as we both can’t help but laugh.
Wow it’s been a while since I’ve had a strictly gamers-only conversation…
“Say, are you playing that new game coming out on Monday?”
“Oh you mean Bandoi’s new release? I think it was called Code something?” I tap my chin trying to recall.
“Yeah, Code Blood. I’ve already pre-ordered it and I can’t wait to play…” He explains, his eyes lighting up like stars. He can’t help but soften his expression, as his thoughts take him far, far away from the troubles of our reality.
“Oh yeah I was planning on buying that one on the day of its release.” I casually reply as I recall.
“Will we live to see that day though?” Suddenly a gloomy expression replaces his childlike innocence, and I can’t help but look down at my feet in response.
Don’t lose hope.
With that earlier conviction still fresh in my mind, I find the mental fortitude to raise my head, with a determined nod. “We will Kazuya. I know we will.”
“I hope you’re right.” He replies, before we both smile in unison.
“So is the nerdy talk over?” Mayu smirks, jumping into the conversation. We both turn around to see everyone staring at us. And quite quizzically at that too.
“Did you happen to hear the whole thing?” I sigh after realizing there’s no point in even asking.
“Yep! And you were so cute and excited!” Mayu teases me, pinching my cheek.
“Ow! That hurts!” I protest, as Yoko-senpai sidles up besides us.
“Hey, leave your boyfriend be, he’s doing a hard enough job babysitting you!”
“Babysitting? Hideki? Me? Pffft…” Mayu laughs it off, while Yoko gives her a disapproving look.
“What, you thinks it’s not plain obvious? Without this idiot here, you wouldn’t be half as sane!”
“Huh?!” Suddenly Mayu’s face goes completely red.
Yoko-senpai used TEASE!
“Me and Hideki? No there’s no way this is possible because…” Mayu fidgets with her fingers, and trails back, further and further away from the group, muttering to herself all the while.
It’s super effective!
“You know, Hideki…” Having claimed her first victim, senpai now turns to me.
“Y-Yes?” I can’t help but be anxious…
“I misjudged you at the start. You’re a lot more thoughtful than you let on.” She suddenly smiles.
Wow, that was unexpected.
“It’s okay, Yoko-senpai. I had you misunderstood too.”
She really is kind at heart. Her first outbursts made me think otherwise, but she really thinks of the group as a whole. We’re kind of the same, in that regard.
“Well, with that said, keep looking after that idiot back there. She needs it.” Yoko points to Mayu, her smile getting softer. She really has a soft spot for her… I heard from Mayu that they were clubmates, but they actually seem far closer than I thought.
I didn’t even know if I was actually taking care of Mayu, like senpai said, but I felt like agreeing was the right choice.
“I will, Yoko-senpai.”
I give her a small smile, which she returns.
Having reached our stopping point, the spirit in front of us cuts this wholesome moment short.
“We’re here.” She says, gliding past the closed door, like the ghost she is.
We’re already here, huh?
The whole group looks at Noriko, as she steps forward in determination. She pauses for a moment and then speaks “I sense danger… but it’s not imminent. I believe it’s safe to enter the classroom and see if we can get the key.” She explains, while everyone nods in response. After checking back with us, Noriko opens the door and we all step inside.
“Isn’t this the biology classroom?” Yoko-senpai inquires, as we all take a look around.
“It’s… normal?” Ayase-san voices, her tone audibly confused. And she is right. Unlike a lot of the other classrooms we’ve seen, this one looks perfectly normal. The lab tables are set up like always, the anatomical model of the human body stands in the corner, while numerous scientific charts cover the walls.
“I believe there is a key in here.” The spirit hovering across from us states. “But where is it?” Mayu inquires.
“I do not know that specifically. I only know that it is here.” Mei-san replies, her tone as calm and disembodied as ever. Disembodied… come on, it’s no time for jokes man.
“Great. What do we do now?” I ask not looking amused, as we’re all huddled together in one corner of the room. I can almost hear my heart beating against my chest furiously… The air here feels dense, and the atmosphere feels so suffocating, that the oxygen might as well have been drained out completely.
“Be careful. The sense of danger is gradually growing. But I still can’t pinpoint its location.” Noriko warns us and we all stay on high alert, like we’re walking on sharp deadly nails.
“What’s it gonna be this time? More crumbling floors? More spikes?” Yoko-senpai asks nervously, her voice shaky.
“I don’t know … it’s like something… is stirring… or approaching us…” Noriko replies slowly and vaguely, clutching her head as if she’s in pain.
“Noriko?” Ayase touches her shoulder in concern.
“Let’s split up and search, before the danger has time to manifest!” Mayu suggests, as we’re still huddled together at the far corner of the room.
Split up? That doesn’t sound good…
My heart’s been beating nonstop since we entered the room… I feel anxious beyond belief. What IS going to happen?
Whatever it is, splitting up probably won’t help, so I open my mouth to voice my disagreement.
“No, if we split up then-“
I don’t even have the time to protest, because Noriko has already seized her chance to warn us.
She speaks aloud, her tone shrill and anxious as we all frantically look around the room. Everything seems normal, so why…? Everything is perfectly—
Suddenly, a soft rustling sound makes even my thoughts freeze over. I slowly turn my head towards the source and what I see makes my heart stop for a quarter of a second.
In the corner of the room, across from us, the anatomical model has begun to move. Like a robotic monster in an old science fiction film, it takes one jerky step forward… and then another.
”Everybody run!” Noriko shouts once again and her cry jolts me out of my paralysis. Not a second later, we’re all running for the classroom door, much like we did on our first encounter with Mei.
“NO! Get off of me!” I hear Yoko-senpai’s desperate voice and I immediately whirl around. The model is clutching her arm with one hand, its grip insanely strong. As she struggles to free herself, the moving model doesn’t even budge. Like a seasoned predator, having got ahold of its prey, it clamps its other arm around her neck.
“No!” Her head jerks back, as she cries out. “Hideki! Help me!”
Yoko suddenly calls my name, desperate for help as she resists the monster’s grip. Tears dancing at the edge of her eyes.
“YOKO-SENPAI!” I finally call out to her and lunge at the anatomical model without a second thought. I plant my feet firmly on the ground, and grab at the arm, snaked around Yoko’s neck. The living anatomical model, though doesn’t pay me any mind, and just tightens its grip on Yoko-senpai. I pull at its arm with all I have, senpai’s tear-stricken face right in front of my own.
“Hold on senpai!”
As I call her name, the arm finally moves. But… I’m not the one responsible. With one quick and horrible motion, the skeleton thrusts her neck to the side, and a loud snap rattles my ears. The light from Yoko’s eyes disappears in a flash, and her lifeless body is now swiftly discarded to the floor. All I can do, is stare in horror at my upperclassman’s limp body. The upperclassman I failed to save. But despite having claimed one of our own, the anatomical model’s hollow eyes, now fix their sights on me.
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