Chapter 31:

Open Up Your Eyes

66 Hours

I'm walking on a concrete pavement. Rain falls all around me as I clutch my umbrella within my hand. The wet sounds of my own footsteps, mixed in with the thunderous roar of rain are the only sounds present, and the distinct smell of wet grass plays on my nose like a gentle note. Instinctively and for no particular reason I turn my head up and gaze onto an unfamiliar building.

It looks like a school...

I think to myself as I'm tempted to walk inside. I push the rusty metal gate open as it creaks loudly underneath my push, and step onto the dirt path. Before I go any further I recognize the crest painted next to the gate. "Kirihama..." I whisper and the rain gradually gives in, like a showerhead slowly being turned off. I close my umbrella and look up at the gray sky. Then, a simple, yet peculiar thought occurs to me. I look up and down at myself. After a few seconds I realize that I'm wearing an unfamiliar uniform. I don't remember what it should look like, but it definitely wasn't like this. As my feet guide me towards the school building, I feel obliged to follow them, as if I’m being pulled in by gravity itself.

I push at the big double doors in front of me and they move slowly, as they too creak under my touch. What I see before me is not what a normal school should look like. Even in this weird state of mind that I’m in, I can at least tell that much. The space around me feels distorted, and the inside of the school itself looks like it's portrayed from inside a broken, foggy camera lens. A thousand eyes take shape, and fix their gazes on me. The eyes shape into faces, and the faces turn into people. Soon, a big group of students forms. They’re all wearing the same uniform as me…

Without warning, they all point their fingers in my direction, their eyes… accusatory. I start hearing their muffled voices. Voices that I can't make out. Yet, I soon realize that they're not talking about me. I turn around slowly, to see a short and lean girl, standing behind me, her head hung low. Her short and straight dark brown hair cover her face and expression. Suddenly, I feel obliged to step aside and let her walk by, as if my feet have a will of their own.

Who is she?

She seems… odd.

Why are they pointing at her?

She seems… upset.

Why does she look so… alone?

Before she gets lost through this flood of faces, I instinctively call out to her. My voice comes out low, almost like a strained whisper.


She turns around, and instantly, my surroundings turn into a black and never-ending void. As I’m facing her, I notice she’s missing a… face. Yet I can tell that her gaze is fixed on me.

Her uniform is of the same colorway as mine and her posture is slouchy. The students have disappeared and we're now standing alone inside an endless pit of darkness. Suddenly, a sound resembling a voice ensues. But I can't make out what she's saying. Is that her voice? It’s monotone and chilly. Abruptly, my heart starts racing and my mouth runs dry.

"... me."

Her voice sounds like it’s lost in a deep, mind-numbing fog.

"... me."

She repeats yet again. Her words feel like static on an old radio.

"... ME!" she shrieks, breaking the layer of bone-chilling silence. Yet her fury feels even more frightening than that. Even so, I still don't understand what she means to tell me. My feet slowly start taking small steps backwards as the now furious girl stomps her way towards me. A weird sensation tempts me to look down at my hands and I notice that they're covered in a red thick liquid.

"You..." She speaks lowly, her tone threatening and angry.

I can hear her clearly now, as if she is speaking through a microphone transmitting straight into my brain. With every moment she edges closer, I desperately try to turn around yet my feet are rooted in place, my gaze… cursed, fixed only on her. I hear the sound of a door shutting closed with extreme force and a key turning immediately after. My heart sinks to the pits of my stomach. Despair overwhelms my entire being. Soon, the sound of a laugh rings out. A clear-sounding, mocking laugh. I turn to the girl before me. That faceless girl, who’s now smiling at me.

She walks and walks, while I hear her small footsteps get closer with each passing second. It feels like she’s been walking for ages, and a mere second at the same time. I want to run, I want to get out of here. But I can't. Finally, she has reached me. My breath catches on my throat as I feel her cold, icy breath against my neck. I shut my eyes, and all at once, she disappears. Instead, a weird weight rests on my hands. It’s a book. I feel like I’ve seen it somewhere before, yet I can’t quite recall where. I realize I’m standing in a library, between a set of two abnormally tall bookshelves.

Where am I?

I don’t know.

Why am I here?

I have no idea.

Yet despite that, my pulse seems to have calmed down. I look down at my hands, and calmly graze the weird, golden symbol etched on the black cover. It’s a key.

What does it mean?

As I’m asking myself, my consciousness seems to fade, before a warm, bright light gathers round me, and ultimately swallows me whole.


As if yanked out of my dark bedroom and into a sunburnt field, I feel my eyes burning and subtly peek through my eyelids. Through this tiny peek, I notice a familiar face. It’s Mayu, my childhood friend.

"Gimme 5 more minutes..." I plea desperately, while I sigh and shift into place next to…


Next to who? This time my eyes shoot open, as I glance to my left. There, Ayase-san is fast asleep against me. My arm… snaked over her shoulder.


Sadly, I do not have the privilege to gaze lovingly at her sleeping visage because apparently we’ve been compromised. Everyone’s gathered around us, their eyes boring holes through my face.

As soon as I realize that we fell asleep like this, heat immediately rises to my cheeks.

"Hehe if it isn’t Mayu!" I say with a smile, trying to brush off the fact that Ayase's sleeping in MY GODDAMN ARMS. "Good morning!!" While trying to diffuse the situation, I simultaneously move my arm in a way that the sleeping Ayase will notice.

"Ha ha ha." Mayu laughs mockingly, while giving me the usual doubtful Mayu look. Her eyebrow raised, her tone sips with distrust. "Care to explain what IS happening here, oh sweet childhood friend o’ mine?”

“Happening? Nothing is! Or nothing did! Happening is not what happened and u-“

While I fumble over my words like the total fool that I am, Ayase finally stirs.

"What's happening..?" She groggily wipes her eyes with her sleeve, and turns to look at everyone in front of us. She looks at me and then at the others, then back at me. Soon, her eyes go as wide as saucers, in the face of Mayu’s glare and our impending demise. "E-E-Everyone?!” She gapes fumbling over her words “You …see... Uhm tha-this is... this... is...."

Realizing Ayase isn’t in any state to hold a conversation, Mayu turns to me.

"Kobayashi-kun? Anything to add?"

“Kobayashi-kun?” Weren’t we on first name basis?

“Ayase-senpai, you know what this looks like… right?” Noriko finally chimes in lowly.

“This…” Ayase passes me a look, and thinks for a moment. “…Is exactly what it looks like.”

"Yes! This is exactly what it looks like!” I chime in, with a thumbs up. Then realization hits me “Wait what?"

The group erupts into a big gasp.

"What?" Ayase turns back to me, her face red. "We fell asleep like that, didn't we?"

. "Well, yeah, that we did but..." I nod as I turn back to Mayu. I mean, we didn’t do anything indecent, or bad so… "See? You got your answer." I finally state while looking all smug.

Suddenly Mayu's frown turns to a grin.

"I'm super-duper proud of you, Kobayashi-kyun!" She exclaims as she edges closer to me, that grin of hers slowly turning evil "...But talk to your FRIEND beforehand about this!"

"Ow, ow, ow!”

She grabs ahold of my ear and pulls aggressively.

“Okay, okay! Got iiiit!" I give in before she pulls my ear clean off my skull.

Then, Noriko turns to me with an utterly straight face. “Hideki-kun, should I pray that she doesn't get pregnant?"


"Wow, you move fast dude." Kazuya finally joins in, his usual deadpan face ever present.

"What the hell are you all saying!?” I turn to my distrustful comrades in disappointment. With the last throw of the dice, I plea for the help of the only logical person in this mess. “I summon thy Hotaru! Help me, please!”

“But Hideki-kun…” The short girl fidgets, her face as red as a tomato. “…You held hands, right?”

Mayu finds it amusing to chime in. “Agh, you’re already to third-base then!”

“What?! Do y’all even know what it takes to get a girl pregnant?!” I shout at the top of my lungs, trying to put an end to this farce.

Meanwhile, Ayase-san is silently short-circuiting next to me just from the mention of the word "pregnant".

Safe to say this lousy awakening was enough for me to momentarily forget about the eerie dream I just had minutes ago.

After having a quick, yet lively breakfast, we all sit gathered round the table to discuss our next course of action.

“Mayu, bring out the STUFF.”

“You got it.”

And she does. Digging into her bag, she pulls out the…

Book from yesterday. That’s the stuff.

I’ve been in a weird mood this morning, so cut me some slack okay?

“Hehe…” Hotaru giggles awkwardly, probably being too pure to understand our weird joke.

“Okay, first things first…” Mayu takes on a serious tone, before turning to our expert, AKA Noriko. “Any idea on what this book may be?”

“Hmm…” The expert in question taps her chin in thought for a second, before Kazuya intervenes.

“Can’t we uhm… read it and find out?”

“What if something… jumps out?” Hotaru adds, staying as far away from the book as possible. “I believe we shouldn’t mess with it just yet…”


That was awfully specific.

Ayase shakes her head frantically.

“Things don’t just jump out of books like that! Right, Hideki?”

Why did Hotaru say that? Is she just scared or is there a reason for—

“Right, Hideki?!”

While I’m thinking to myself, Ayase is right about to freak herself out.

“I don’t believe something will jump out of the book, don’t worry Ayase-san.”

Why was she asking for my confirmation anyway?

I reply nevertheless and shift back into thinking gear. Truth be told, it wouldn’t be uncalled for, for the book to be a trap, but I think it’s for the better that Ayase doesn’t know that.



“I think we should see what’s inside. What was the point of taking it with us, if we don’t, right?”

“She has a point.” Kazuya nods along. And of course I’m with them too.


“Don’t worry Hota-chan I will protect you!” Mayu latches onto the girl next to her, and nuzzles her cheek against her shorter friend’s head.

“Mayu-san, that’s not why…”

“Or would you prefer Kazuya-kun instead—“

“Mayu-saaan…!” Hotaru instantly takes on a whiny tone, scared that Mayu had let the really obvious cat out of the bag.

“Huh?” Kazuya raises a confused brow in response. Seems like he wasn’t really paying attention.

Mayu just threw a bombshell out in the open, yet Kazuya is as oblivious as ever…

“I wonder who he reminds me of…” Ayase elbows me lightly, her eyes narrowed into thin lines.

“Can you please stop peeking into my narrations already?”

“I think we should read the contents, but we should be cautious.” Noriko suddenly speaks up, having deduced the situation during the time all of us had spent bickering.


I can’t help but be skeptical. Cautious about what, I wonder?

“I think that this book may hold something sinister, as well as useful.”

“Great, even books are sinister now…” Ayase rolls her eyes, while Mayu tilts her head to the side.

“Are we sure this isn’t a math’s textbook?”

Why can’t we just be serious about this, guys?

“How exactly can we be cautious with a book?” Kazuya makes a valid point.

“Maybe we should read it… slowly?”

Before Mayu says something dumb again.

I sigh, and raise my hand.

“I’ll read it.” Might as well get this over with.

Everyone eyes me, then they turn to Noriko.

“Okay, I’ll inform you if it gets dangerous.” Ultimately, she nods.

I can’t quite imagine how reading a book would be dangerous, yet again in this school everything seems weirdly eerie, so I won’t question it further.

Thus, I pick the book up, and after making eye contact with everyone, I flip the cover open. Noriko positions herself behind me, so she can guide me through any trouble.

The contents of the first page are… blank.

After confirming with the girl behind me, I flip through some more pages, and discover they’re all just as blank too.

Is this some kind of weird joke that I’m not getting?

Turns out the book is… completely empty.