Chapter 8:

The Take-Downs!

Life is Just a Bugless Game


Enzu’s collapse left everyone in shock.


If you have ever imagined helping someone that has collapsed, you’d think it would be a piece of cake.


In reality, it’s not.


When someone collapses in front of your eyes, your mind stops workings for some mere seconds. You can’t get your feet moving. You’re just frozen there, standing in front of a person who has lost their senses. The shock conquers your entire body, making you tremble in fear, feel cold and shiver. Your thoughts become short and blurred, as many situations and outcomes go through your mind, eventually causing your mind to go blank.


The moment you snap and realize that you should help, you start feeling loads of hesitation. The question that prevails in your mind is: ‘Can I bear the burden of helping a person without messing up?’


If you’re confident enough, the answer should be positive. If not, you just stand there, waiting for someone else to take the initiative.


[A person who doesn’t offer help when they can is merely a coward running away from a responsibility.]


*


Picking up where we left off: After following Kazuto, we found one of the mansion’s medics. He then led us to one of the many spare bedrooms this monstrosity of a residence has and gave Enzu a bed to rest and some medicine to take when she wakes up, so I guess her condition wasn’t anything serious, just a light fever.


In this room, other than Enzu, it’s me, Anzu, Reiji and Kazuto. Reiji rushed to find us when we asked him where to find a medic by the way.


This specific bedroom is quite vast and excellently decorated. On the east side of the room, there are consecutive windows covering half of it, facing the city and the garden below. The wall is painted light yellow all around, completed with a human sized painting hanged next to the windows, full of colors to contradict the dullness of the single-colored room.


The bed sits at the middle of the north side of the room, back-to-back with the wall. On the west side of the bedroom, beside the door that leads in here, there is a small Western-style bathroom.


Anzu hasn’t stopped being by Enzu’s side from the moment we came here, holding her hand constantly.


As for me, I’m now changing the towel she had on her forehead to help her body cool down a bit and getting a new one.


The moment I lift Enzu’s fringe to put the towel, a sobbing Anzu asks me: ‘’Onii-san…will she be okay?’’


‘’Of course! The doctor said so!’’ answers Kazuto on the spot.


‘’But…’’


‘’Don’t worry, Anzu. Enzu isn’t so weak to let a mere fever get the best of her.’’


‘’So you DO care about Enzu after all.’’ jumps Reiji into the conversation, wearing a kind of smirkish smile.


‘’You imbecile, I don’t. I just don’t want Anzu to worry so much. Everything I do about Enzu is just out of responsibility, that’s all there is to it.’’


As soon as I finish talking, I place the wet towel on Enzu’s forehead, taking away the old one.


A few seconds later, Enzu opens her eyes.


‘’Where…am I?’’


‘’You’re awake, you big jerk!’’ Anzu falls to her grip as firmly as she can. ‘’You made all of us worry so much!’’


Enzu slowly attempts to raise her upper body.


‘’No need to worry, Anzu, I’m alright now, don’t cry.’’ she strokes Anzu’s hair to calm her down. ‘’What exactly happened to me?’’


‘’We had just arrived here and you fainted all of a sudden.’’


‘’Is that…so? Sorry, I don’t really remember that much.’’


‘’Are you surely alright?’’ Anzu asks.


‘’Yeah, I just got a bit dizzy that moment. It’s nothing to worry about.’’


‘’Surely sure?’’


Oh God, it’s her persistence again…


‘’I would never lie about my health, Anzu, not even for a joke. Do I need to say more?’’


Anzu hesitates to answer, but decides to respond with a bright smile instead.


‘’The doctor said to take that medicine next to you just in case your fever doesn’t go down by itself.’’


‘’The doctor? Is this the one who brought me here?’’


Reiji rapidly and ignorantly replies: ‘’Actually, Yuusuke did.’’


Woah, someone sure is digging their grave here!


Enzu’s reaction to this is all kinds of weird. First, she is left with her mouth open. Then, she closes it and puffs her cheeks. This, in turn, causes her to get red to the ears. Finally, she bursts and falls down on the bed again.


Anzu jumps worried at that instant: ‘’E-Enzu, what’s wrong?!’’


‘’Just give me a second to reconsider my life.’’ she mutters in a monotonous voice.


‘’Geez, your brother got into the trouble to bring you here! You should at least thank him!’’


Well, in a sense, Anzu isn’t wrong…


But in another sense, she is. Having Enzu thank me would be the last thing I’d want to hear from her mouth, let alone the last thing she’d resort to.


‘’Oh right, Kazuto, didn’t you say that when Enzu-chan collapsed, Yuusuke-‘’


Anzu hurries to cover Reiji’s mouth at light speed and, as she drags him out of the room, she giggles: ‘’I think I need to have a little talk with Reiji-san!’’


Even though it’s obvious something’s dodgy, Anzu trying her best to not be heard by others beyond that door is ultimately pointless.


That doesn’t go to say that I can make out what she’s saying to Reiji, but I can confirm she’s whispering to the point of shouting. And that’s perfectly audible.


‘’What was that about…’’ Enzu asks in a confused manner.


You see, that’s what I would like to know too, what a coincidence!


‘’You should rest a bit more and take it easy. Take that medicine next to you too while you’re at it.’’


‘’You don’t need to say that twice, dumbass.’’


‘’I see Enzu-chan hasn’t changed at all, has she…?’’ giggles Kazuto.


‘’Don’t laugh.’’


The door is opened at that moment.


Along with Anzu and Reiji, an unknown person walks in with them –more accurately, a beautiful adolescent girl.


Her appearance is quite eye-catching, and I think Kazuto’s commentary on it is more than sufficient to help get the gist of her appearance.


‘’Straight, silky purple hair! An angelic smile! Gorgeous blue eyes! And look at those bazoongas! Don’t forget the slim waist! And that short skirt combined with the black thigh high socks resulting in an S class Absolute Territory! Plus, you can’t take your eyes off of those child bearing hips! A true Yamato Nadeshiko! A real life 3D wai-!’’


‘’Shut it, you’re going too far.’’ I scold him.


‘’But she’s truly the epitome of perfection!’’


‘’And you’re the epitome of hopelessness.’’ I let out a deep sigh. ‘’Can’t you understand how rude you’re being right now? What if she heard you?’’


‘’But I don’t think it’s bad to point out someone’s uniqueness, no?’’


‘’It’s not, but only to a point. Not everyone can handle praises calmly. You could make her feel awkward and embarrassed. Surely, her body type kind of stands out, but she might not want that to be pointed out for whatever reason.’’


‘’Hmm…’’ he enters his ‘deep thought’ mode: ‘’Are you speaking from experience?’’


‘’Like hell would anyone sane answer that!’’


‘’I would.’’ he replies.


‘’Because you’re not sane!’’


‘’Tch, her boobs piss me off.’’ murmurs Enzu.


‘’Like one of you wasn’t already enough!’’ I scold her too.


I really don’t get people with this kind of complexes…


I can’t say I don’t see where their arguments are coming from. Let me explain why: first of all, it is only natural and instinctive to be interested in what you don’t have –humans are creatures of curiosity after all-; aka, boldly said, women wanting to have more modest breasts than others and men craving for them. Plus, curves attract the eye, and this has been scientifically proven.


Surely, that should apply to both of them too, but they should be able to show some self-control at the very least.


‘’Sorry for before. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Ruri.’’


‘’Nice to meet you all! I’m Ruri~!’’


Well, she certainly is cheerful. That’s something anyone would want to be pointed out, unlike what Kazuto’s choices.


‘’Wait, no last name?’’ is one of the great Kazuto’s ‘remarks’.


‘’That is a secret!’’ she winks at him. ‘’I prefer being called by my first name, if you don’t mind.’’


Her expressions were quite seductive to make Kazuto lose his mind for a moment -I can tell since we’re childhood friends and stuff, please don’t doubt my skills.


‘’I went looking for her when I left you the first time, but she refused to come with me at that moment and said she’d meet me here. I’m surprised you didn’t get lost though.’’


‘’I’m always aiming for my target! I can’t afford to miss it!’’


Anzu, unable to respond properly to that, says: ‘’Is that so…hahaha…haha…’’


I sense there’s a story there with Anzu and her…


For some reason, I’ve had a feeling I have met her before since she came in; after all, her face does seem like one you would hardly ever forget.


‘’Ruri is two years younger than me, Yuusuke and Kazuto. In fact, I’m pretty sure you have noticed by now that she is attending our school. She’s part of the Student Council too.’’


Wait, that’s too many info in 3 sentences!


‘’A freshman AND part of the council!?’’ Anzu exclaims.


“Yes, she is quite popular with everyone.’’


Unfortunately, I can already see why’s that. Talking about you, Kazuto and Enzu.


‘’Yuusuke, how come we haven’t heard of her?!’’


‘’Well, we never really rely on the student council… Plus it’s the president that is given the most attention, so…’’


As if anyone actually doesn’t know who the Student Council president is by now. He has done so much for the school in such a short time that he’d never go unnoticed.


A loud swallowing is heard around the room, followed by a ‘’How cute…’’


It was Ruri’s, who has turned her gaze at Enzu, staring at her with wide-open, baby-like eyes, approaching her in slow steps.


‘’A-Are you talking about me?’’ Enzu asks.


‘’Of course!’’


Ruri’s white, almost doll-like hands now touch Enzu’s face smoothly.


Enzu –who has yet to fully comprehend what’s going on- hasn’t moved an inch. She must be quite embarrassed to have her ‘sworn rival’ -as I believe she considers her right now- be so casual with her.


‘’Wook at your cute wittle face! It’s wike you and Anzu-chwan are twins!’’ she starts rubbing her face with Enzu’s.


‘’That we are, I must say…’’ Anzu giggles hopelessly after running out of fitting reactions.


‘’And my little sisters, to top it off.’’


‘’Wow, is that so!? You’re so lucky to have such sweet sisters, Yuusuke-senpai!’’


‘’Ruri, you’re interrupting our other guests with your behavior. Learn to hold yourself back.’’


‘’Sorry~ ’’ she mutters and walks back.


I never expected Reiji to be so casual with a girl. I’m not saying this because I want to degrade his socializing skills or anything –if anything, he is quite popular with the ladies at school-, but he’s never gotten close to any girls.


It’s honestly a bit surprising to see him get along with her. I also feel kind of relieved to know that someone else appreciates Reiji for who he is and not just because of his handsome appearance.


‘’Since we’re all gathered here-‘’ Reiji breaks the silence: ‘’-how does creating a guild sound?’’


‘’A guild?’’ ask the twins simultaneously.


‘’A guild is a group of people with different talents and skills trying to achieve a common goal.’’ answers Kazuto –like hell would he ever let anyone else handle his specialty.


‘’It’s as Kazuto said. For instance, my specialty would be face-to-face battles. Yuusuke’s, on the other hand, is programming, and so on. So, which of you are willing to take on the 4 Dei along with me?’’


‘’I’m in no matter what you say!’’ Ruri proudly declares.


‘’You already know my answer bro!’’ Kazuto follows.


‘’I see. Thank you, you two.’’ Reiji turns his look at me. ‘’It’s just you and your sisters remaining, Yuusuke. Remember, I’m asking for your help because there is something each of you excel at and you can’t let a talent go to waste like that. We must attempt to create the strongest guild in this world and beat this hellish game before any losses start happening. Are you with me?’’


‘’My answer depends on my sisters and you, Reiji. Anzu, Enzu, do you want to leave this place once and for all?’’


‘’Both me and Enzu do, but-‘’


‘’Neither she nor me can do this... There is nothing we can do to-‘’


‘’I’m sure both of you have something that’s unique to you! Anything! Enzu, you’re bitter, low tempered, always angry and the like!’’


‘’HEY!’’


‘’But I know you’re more than just these! Your sense of duty and will are admirable and you can trustily act on your own! You’re not afraid to cover for anyone, no matter what happens to you! Such courage and pride are necessary for this! You are far more capable than you deem yourself!’’


Why am I saying all of this?


‘’Anzu, you’re patient, calm, you help everyone and always make the right decisions! Isn’t that enough!? No one will force you to kill or see anyone get killed!’’


Why am I not stopping?


Talk to someone as pure as Anzu to think about murder even for a second? Is this my selfishness taking over what would actually benefit all of us?


‘’Even if you say that, I don’t think-‘’


‘’Stop trying to find cheap excuses! I feel I’m not talking with Kodo Anzu!’’


No, what am I doing?! I can’t stop!


‘’Onii-san…’’ she points her head to the ground. ‘’Sor-‘’


‘’And you’re saying that you’re useless? You’re just degrading yourselves!’’


I NEED to stop myself, but I can’t. I’m basically trying to force both of them into the battlefield.


‘’I know what I’m talking about! I know…because I’m your older brother, and I couldn’t be more proud of you dammit!’’ I scream at the top of my lungs.


Why I can’t stop? Simple: Because I don’t want them to feel like I’m abandoning them.


Then what will they achieve if they’re forced into a war?


Complete silence prevails after my echo disappears.


‘’Enzu-chan, Anzu-chan, you both now see what you are to your brother. No one will force you to state your decision this instant, but I believe your answers should be obvious by now.’’


Enzu cracks a faint smile: ‘’I won’t mind if-‘’


‘’I refuse.’’ mutters Anzu.


‘’B-But… Anzu! You said you would help him just a couple of hours ago! Look, even I am-!’’


‘’Please consider my own feelings for a second, Enzu. Do you think I have what it takes to set foot in a battlefield? Just look at me. I’m weak and fragile… I can’t even try and hurt a fly. And yet you want me to see people get killed in front of my own eyes? Don’t you get it?!’’ she finally lifts her head, showing her tears that are overflowing on her face: ‘’I’m just a good-for-nothing! Don’t ask me to help you! I don’t want to die! And I don’t want anyone to die because of me either!’’


Anzu’s long monologue causes her to start breathing heavily, and Enzu embraces her to help her calm down, repeating the word ‘’Sorry’’ a dozen of times.


I can’t find the right words to respond to this. I was basically asking her if she was okay with being forced into the battlefield instead of whether she wanted to actually be there.


THIS is why I had to stop when I should have.


I don’t want to utter anything that could make this situation worse.


Everyone in the room is left speechless by Anzu’s outburst. No one would have expected her to be so sensitive on this subject.


[And it’s all my fault.]


If I hadn’t mentioned murder, she may have accep-


NO! What am I thinking?! Even if I hadn’t mentioned it, it would still be wrong to force her into this deadly game!


Anzu, having calmed down a bit now, says in a quivering voice: ‘’Don’t make me carry so much guilt… I won’t be able to take it…’’


‘’Sorry, Anzu. I didn’t mean to make you angry. I was acting selfishly.’’


‘’It’s not your fault, Onii-san. I should have told you from the beginning that I didn’t want to be a part of this. I just wanted you to not give up trying before you even started. You always find the courage to move on if people count on you. I didn’t want you to lose that courage right away. Sorry for lying to you.’’


‘’There’s no need for you to apologize, you did everything to help me, and it was not in vain. Thank you, Anzu.’’


Even though the result is not favorable for the guild we’re about to create, it’s a given that, first and foremost, there’s the will and determination to overcome the fear that you’re knocking on death’s door from the moment you join.


We talk about ‘death’, but still don’t know if death is achievable in this game- no, let me correct myself: We don’t know what KIND of death awaits us.


‘’What about you, Enzu-chan? What will you do?’’


‘’Count me in.’’ Enzu confidently replies.


Anzu looks at her with a shocked expression with her mouth open, as if she were to object but couldn’t get a sound out of it.


‘’You do know what you’re getting yourself into, don’t you, Enzu-chan?!’’


‘’I do. That’s why I’m doing it. I don’t care if Anzu helps us or not. We can’t force her if she doesn’t want to.’’ she places her palm softly on Anzu’s head wearing her big sister-like smile: ‘’Anzu. Even if you don’t accept, I can’t run away from what we’re here for. I just don’t have it in me. I don’t want you to be mad at me. It’s my own choice, and we should all be content with it.’’


‘’What do you mean, Enzu-chan? What are we here for?’’ Reiji asks her with a penetrative look.


‘’[Do you think the Dei have told us everything we need to know about this death game?]’’


Enzu’s confidence in her words is concerning, but not that far from the truth.


No complicated game will tell you ALL of its elements with a mere tutorial. There are techniques and secrets you find as you move on with the story.


If this is the case, the Dei may have hidden something really important from us. Something so important that -judging from Enzu’s guess- I can only assume it can be about the players that don’t involve themselves in fights.


Certain games punish their players for not playing by lowering their rank or weaponry, so something similar to this punishment might apply here too.


But as far as I’m concerned, this game doesn’t give you any ranks or abilities and weapons to upgrade…so what could this punishment be in this case?


The only thing that seems plausible here must be…!


‘’Yuusuke, what’s the matter?’’


‘’I-It’s nothing.’’


‘’I see. Then, can you tell us your choice?’’


‘’I will fight. Until the very end.’’


Since Reiji can read people by their eyes, he surely can understand what I have in mind right now.


I’m leaving the rest to your skills, Reiji.


‘But only under a condition. No matter what happens to me, protect my sisters at all costs. I know it’s selfish of me, but if one of them dies in this, the other one wouldn’t last very long without the other.’


Again, the concept of death in this game is anything but known right now, but losing someone close to you will cause severe some kind of trauma, be it by death or not.


‘’That’s a given, no comrade is more important than the other. As a Kiba, it’s my duty to give my priority to the safety of others, even if it costs me my very life.’’


‘’Eh!? Did he just read Yuusuke-senpai’s thoughts!? How did he do that!?’’ Ruri looks at all of us flabbergasted.


It’s the first time Reiji is being so serious.


That smile of his sure is unsettling in this situation though…


‘’Thank you, Reiji.’’


‘’It’s settled then.’’ says Reiji. ‘’Everyone! Our goal is one! To beat the Dei with all our power!’’


‘’We’ll kick their asses!’’ is obviously Kazuto’s reply.


‘’You said it, Reiji!’’


‘’Don’t forget me too!’’ says Enzu.


‘’The Take-Downs will end this!’’


Ruri has just uttered something so silly that it’s actually fitting for a guild’s name.


‘’Wait, who?’’


‘’I thought it would be a good name, don’t you think?’’


‘’Let’s just go with this, Yuusuke. It’s not like the name matters.’’


‘’Not to mention it’s catchy!’’


It was a relief to have such an uplifting moment after everything that happened. Even Anzu found herself smiling at us despite her outburst and breakdown.


But deep inside, we all know that one thing is to be taken as granted: [Nothing will ever be the same once our battles start.]