Chapter 26:

Highway To Hell

66 Hours

“Hideki! Behind you!”

For a moment, my feet are frozen on the spot. I can’t move, nor turn.

The crawling sounds have halted, and I feel something cut through the air behind me. Just in time, I feel a forceful tug on my collar, and I stumble forward, barely dodging the creature that just landed at the spot I was in a second ago.

That hand that pulled me away, was none other than Mayu’s, who had heed Noriko’s warning.

I somehow manage to catch myself without falling flat on my face, before shifting my attention to the hideous creature before me. Amidst the dim light of the candle, and the ever-present darkness, I can barely make out a figure that resembles that of a spider. Its size though is considerably larger than any normal insect, and its eyes glow a menacing red in the darkness. What separates it from anything I’ve ever seen before is its skin. Despite resembling a gigantic insect to the T, its skin seems almost… human. A grey wrinkled mass covers the whole of its body, like the skin of a pale human corpse.

As the creature stops for a moment to stare at us, its jaws wide open and its yellowing, yet sharp teeth seep a black liquid onto the concrete beneath.

I shudder at the image of such a monstrosity… I don’t want to know what would have happened to me if I were a second late.

Despite being in shock at a sight like this, we don’t have the time to stop for more than a second or two. The creature’s numerous red beads, are eyeing us with killing intent.

We need to run!

But where to?

The door we came through earlier is locked… the only way is forward. Even if that door is closed too, we have to risk it.

“Everybody run!”

I voice, and point back down at the unknown. Noriko, who’s holding the only source of light in her hands, nods momentarily before we dash through the darkness.

Of course, the monster at our tails won’t let us off the hook that easily, as it cries out with a high-pitched shriek, and springs into action.

Noriko is supporting Ayase in the middle of the group, while Mayu is leading the line just one step ahead of her. I hang back, while practically feeling the monstrous spider breathing down my neck.

We don’t need more than 3 seconds to reach the end of the room, where we come face to face with another metallic door.


“Mayu!” I shout, my tone urgent, prompting her to open the door.

Yet, just as I call out to her, the presence behind me suddenly disappears. With a soft thud, it lands on the ceiling, and with the same ease, its light body falls at the top of the door, blocking our way forward.


“Retreat!” I reflexively voice, as Mayu is practically a breath away from that hideous predator. I can’t move a finger, as the spider fixes its gaze on Mayu, and opens its black deadly jaws wider than ever.

For a split second, all I can think about is Yoko, Tanaka, and Kurosawa. Have I failed to save yet another friend?

Just as I take a wide step forward, Noriko stomps her foot down, and shouts at the top of her lungs.


Her scream reverberates across the room, like a ball bouncing off the walls, and for a moment my ears sting sharply.

The creature shrieks in response, with a cry so pained, you would think it was gravely injured, before it flees, crawling along the ceiling.

We have no time to be amazed at Noriko’s new ability though, as we can hear the spider crawling along the ceiling yet again.

“Quick!” Mayu beckons us over, as she pulls the door open in one quick motion, without awaiting for Noriko’s confirmation. Such an action was definitely in the realms of recklessness, yet staying in here with this monster felt even more dangerous.

In a matter of seconds, the girls had all ran across to the room, leaving me the only one still in the darkness. Just as I hear the menacing shriek of our predator, heading straight for my head, I jump across the threshold with one long leap, and slam the door shut behind me.


The spider monster had slammed against the metallic frame of the door, but to no avail.

“Phew…” Exhaling, I slide down along the door, my back still resting against it. I feel like I just ran a marathon, although it was probably a mere 15 meters.

Thankfully for us, this room is illuminated by some torches along the way, albeit a bit dimly.

“Everyone… okay?” Despite being out of breath, Mayu turns to everyone present, to confirm our status.

“Yeah, somehow…” Ayase heaves an exhausted breath, as she nods. Thankfully, she didn’t have to run at full speed, and Noriko was there to assist her all the way.

“Noriko?” Concerned, I turn to our hero of the hour, who’s clutching her head, her brows furrowed in pain.

“Uh… I think I used too much of my powers today…” She somehow spells out, her tone lower than usual.

“Speaking of which, what was that… scream, back there?” Mayu cocks her head to the side.

“I don’t know… I think I somehow conjured an energy wave…”

“Wow…” Ayase looks on, wide-eyed.

“Thanks, Noriko. You saved our asses.” I get up, and pat the dust off my pants, before bowing my head momentarily.

“Yeah, you were awesome back there, Noriko-chan!” Mayu gives her a beaming smile, to which the girl in question nods happily in response.

“Let’s hope we won’t need that again today…” Ayase voices, leaning against the wall next to her.

Thank God we made it…

As we’re all basking in the afterglow of our victory, I look around to our group.


“Uhm, guys?”

“What’s up?”

We had neglected something important…

“What about Hotaru and Kazuya?”

Suddenly, we all freeze in place,

“Oh, no…” Mayu looks down at her feet, her brows creased in worry.

“Did they…?” Ayase looks back at the door from which we came through.

For a moment, we all think of the worst capable scenario. They up and disappeared out of nowhere after all… Anything could have happened.

They could have been taken away by the spider monster without us realizing it… They could have been hiding, and we just left them there…

But, if that were the case, I’m sure they would have called out to us. Instead, they kept silent… They might have even left the room altogether…

For a moment, I am tempted to turn back through the door and look for them… We can’t very well leave them behind to die like that.

It seems Mayu has the same train of thoughts as I, because she’s stomping her way towards the door too…

“Mayu, wait!”

“We can’t just-“

Just as she is about to reach for the door, we all realize the frame lacks a very important detail. There’s no handle, no doorknob, no lock, anything. Even the door itself feels like just a metallic prop, fixed to the wall. It won’t budge for anything.

“H-How…?” Mayu spells out in confusion, before hanging her head low.

“Didn’t we just come through that door a moment ago?” Ayase looks on in utter disbelief. We’ve already seen unexplainable things happen in this school, but they will probably never cease to surprise us.

It’s like we’re constantly running around in a maze, with the pretense of knowing what we’re doing, while in truth we’re just pawns dancing in the tune of a puppet master. No matter what, we can never escape the power this school holds over us. If it wants us dead one day, then it can very much kill us, in mere seconds.

What will Kazuya’s and Hotaru’s fate be? Are they alive? Are they dead? Will WE ever know?

Only the school knows. Only the puppet master.

Yet losing hope here will do nothing for our situation. Even if the situation looks bleak, we need to keep pushing. We need to keep moving forward.

I shake my pessimistic thoughts away, and grip Mayu’s shoulder tightly.

“There’s a chance they found another way out… Or they went back through the other door. We need to keep moving.”


“I know Mayu… I know.” I tighten my grip around her shoulder, as she wipes some tears away from her eyes, before they spill over.


With Mayu’s nod, we all turn down yet another hallway. This time one that is taller, and illuminated. We follow along the narrow steps, and before long, we come into a wider room…

Amidst the silence, we can make out faint sounds…

“Are those…?” Ayase gulps as we stand there in observation. From the entrance, we can make out a number of rusted cells lining the hallway from left to right. At the end of the paved path, there’s a concrete podium, with a set of items resting atop. From this distance though, I can’t quite make out what they are.

“Is that… the key?” Mayu squints at the podium at the end of the room, while Noriko looks around in confusion.

“Are these cells?”

After confirming with our guide, we all walk further into the room. The dark cells come into a clearer view, and inside we can make out a set of red glowing eyes in each one. They are 17 in total…

Having moved closer, we can even decipher the faint sounds we were hearing… They’re louder now, stronger…

And they resemble growls. Growls, like that of a caged beast.

The group hesitantly steps through the narrow path, and instantly, some of the creatures that we walk past, claw at the bars with all their might, tugging and pulling at their cage doors with menacing glares. At first glance they seem like mindless monsters, but their faces seem almost human. Their bodies are bathed in crimson, and their skin grey and withered. Yet their faces are pained, and angry. With teeth bared, they hiss and growl at us as we pass them by.

As we walk, my eyes fall on one cage in particular… One that is empty, its door slightly ajar.

Why would one of those be empty?

But thinking about something I have no way of knowing feels like a waste of time at the moment, so I just shake my head.

Huddled together, and avoiding contact with the creatures, we finally reach the end of the hallway, where a small flight of stairs lead us up to the elevated podium. The whole room feels like a chamber, almost like a sacrificial one. The torches bathe the room in a yellow glow, and the brownish stone around us makes me feel like I’m in the last level of a haunted dungeon.

“This is…” Having reached the podium, Mayu spells out in disbelief. “…The key?” She eyes the ornate-designed key warily, without as much as making a move to touch it. Despite it looking exactly like the other two, we don’t yet know if it’s safe to touch.

Noriko looks around too, having been silent all the way here, just like the rest of the group.

“The darkness in here is unlike anything I’ve ever seen… I can’t concentrate on one thing right now…” Still wearing a pained look, she informs us.

We all share a look, and scan over the second item on the podium.

“A book?” Ayase inquires.

“Seems like it.” I nod, scanning around.

The podium is made of stone, and the two items are resting on top of what look like slots, that have caved under their weight, deeper into the structure.

That doesn’t seem good…

“There’s a chance something will trigger if we take these away…” I observe calmly yet warily.

“Then… what do we do?”

Mayu turns to Noriko, who shakes her head in response.

“If there’s a book all the way here, then it’s bound to be useful, right?” Ayase looks over at me for confirmation.

Naturally, I agree with her. If it’s next to the all-important key then it has to have some kind of use… And if we don’t take it with us now, then we don’t know if we will have another chance to do so.

“I say we take it…” I eye Mayu and Noriko who look skeptical still.

“Okay, but what about the said trap?”

“There’s not much we can do, just be prepared to run at a moment’s notice.” I throw a glance towards Ayase, after saying that.

The other two girls nod, before Mayu walks up to the podium. After she inhales, and exhales deeply, she curls her fingers around the familiar key, and removes it from the slot. There’s a sound of stone moving against stone, as the slot slides and elevates out of the podium.

Right after, Noriko steps up, and removes the book from the other slot too, while the same sound and motions ensue. Now both slots are protruding from the podium, before there’s yet another sound, as if the slots lock into place.

“Uhm…” We all look around, but nothing happens. For a second or two, we all feel quite relieved, but to our dismay, the screeching sound of bars sliding down the stone floor ensues…

Instantly, we all spin in place to look back at the path we came through, where the cages that had been holding those creatures at bay, have now disappeared. One by one, the monsters jump out of their cages like feral beasts, and quickly turn to us, their eyes glowing, and their abnormal teeth leaking a transparent liquid.

We are trapped.

At that realization, we all freeze over in place, utterly dumbfounded.

Lucid Levia