((OOC.... yeah, it's here. Post length fail, all the more because it's effectively filler =/ The only liberty I took with PC control was what I believe Daviid and Lili said in email correspondance... and I just ran with it; I hope it's okay. I also skipped the bit with Kazuo physically dying, cos... yeah, that would have put me back another week... but Tomar, as I said with ye, I'm more than willing to work something up with ye =) Guys, let me know if anything needs changing, please. Because I'm just taking forever here, and I'm really sorry to all this is inconveniencing &hearts))
And as one who dreams of something harmful,
Wishes in his dream that he was dreaming,
And so desires what is, as if it were not,
So did I, nor I was not able to speak;
I wanted to excuse myself, and was doing so
All the time, and did not think that I was.
'A lesser shame would erase a greater fault,'
The master said, 'than which you have been guilty of;
Therefore let fall any unhappiness,
And take account of the fact that I am here,
If it so happen that fortune should bring you
Where there are people in the like disputes:
To want to hear them is an inferior wish.'
[Inferno: Canto XXX: 136-148]
Shogo knew more than most that the Program was full of the unexpected. When it came down to it, there were so many variables, from the children to the weapons, to the location, and back to the children again. It was almost impossible to say for certain that any outcome would probably prove true in the end.
He had, however, made two assumptions, which he felt were pretty safe. The first was that—so long as he made it clear that their death was more or less guaranteed otherwise—the prospect of trying to escape would appeal to virtually all members of the class. Of course, he had been very cautious about which ones he made the offer to, but that was to be expected, because there would surely be plenty ready to shaft Kawada the moment his back was turned.
The other assumption he had made was that once Kazuo Kiriyama was eliminated, everything would pretty much be under control. Shogo was capable enough to handle most threats to his person, but Kazuo... well, he was in a different league to everyone else. A lot of the thought Shogo gave to killing these kids was exhausted on Kazuo; he would try to notice small things about the boy that might help (when did he ever use his left hand for things? If dodging something, does he go in a particular direction? Exactly what does
make him pause?), although in truth, he hoped to dearest God that somebody else out there would save him the hassle, and that Kiriyama would be finished off by some other kid.
Of course, God had decided that killing Kiriyama was a trial that only Kawada would be entrusted in performing. But that aside, Shogo felt the two assumptions he had made were pretty damn robust, and hoped they would stand firm long enough to spite the Government to the ends he so craved. That, if there were any justice in the world, would be right.
God, being the miserable son-of-a-bitch that He is, had conspired to spite both of these assumptions in one fell swoop.
He looked down at the fallen mass that was once Kazuo Kiriyama. He was dead... somehow, somehow
he was dead. After all that fear, and all the worry, and preparation and anger... he was as mortal as the next teenager.
For some reason, Shogo found that concept so fucking weird
For some reason, Kazuo Kiriyama never ever seemed likely to die. It was as though if anybody was going to find a way to accomplish immortality, it would be him. But even so... he was cut short just like everybody else.
For some reason... it surprised Shogo to discover that nothing was safe, and nobody was sacred. Even if he had learned that the hard way with Keiko. Seeing Kazuo dead on the ground was like a slap to the face, a stark reminder to when he found Keiko's body, and how he didn't know how to react because his brain was bottle-necked with every emotion imaginable, all trying to burst out of him at once
She was lying there, and her eyes was red, but she wasn't crying, she wasn't crying or doing anything else any more... she was looking over his shoulder, at a little point behind him, her gaze hadn't changed the entire time he was there... he moved into her line of vision because she couldn't be gone, not her, and she would focus those eyes in a moment and at least do something
He blinked the thought away. He didn't have time to consider what almost was. Life was cruel, and everybody had to live with it. That was the only thing he could ever say was a fact.
Picking through the guns Kazuo had accumulated, juggled, boasted and ignored, he tried to understand what They hoped to achieve... and—as isn't uncommon in people who have fallen as low as they can go, picked themselves up and fallen back down again—he started to turn the blame on himself.
have the chance. He could have alerted the class that they had been chosen to participate in the Program, and saved their lives at the expense of his own... but he had chosen to say nothing and do nothing, trying to shoulder up his own pride and sense of purpose like it was worth more than the forty-or-so children's lives. Somehow, he had told himself that what he wanted out of all this was somehow better and more important than their chance to life free, happy and undisturbed lives. As if their sacrifice was for some sort of greater good, or higher purpose.
In the end, he was no different to the Government, was he?
Like Kazuo Kiriyama: a perfect example. Shogo still didn't quite understand what the hell happened to him that caused that... that change
in him. He was never going to go anywhere good in life with Mitsuru and the others round him... but in his own right, he could have done anything. "Build hand-gliders. Hunt bugs. Do nuclear fusion. Eat candy."
Even unbalanced, Kazuo had shown himself able to dream, the same as any other boy or girl. And there he was, lying dead on the ground, his murderer picking at his spoils like a fucking vulture.
Shogo picked up Hirono Shimizu's old revolver.... he recognised it at once, because she had made such a big fucking deal about using it and playing and making everything bend to her will because she had the fire to fight her corner. After Kazuo, she could have won this game just as easily as Mitsuko. She just had the right mind for it, the whole what-the-fuck-ever
and to flip off bad fortune with a scoff of disdain... she could have gone far. And if he had stopped this class from being picked? She could have gone anywhere. To prison, to a different country, to have a kid or two, to dodge on and off the drugs for life... or maybe, just maybe, she would have had the opportunity to stand up, brush herself off, and clean up her act. After all, she was good at picking herself off the ground. She was a fighter. She could have done that.
Except Shogo had let the class be taken. He wouldn't even get to see her body any more. He'd managed to reach beneath her harshness for a moment, the scent of her nicotine breath on his whiskers, and he saw she was just a kid, like everyone else, and she could have fought, and he just wanted to turn the clock back and do something
Anything at all. But she didn't even move, and her body was cooling, and she had gone so stiff; he tried to shut her eyes but even the eyelids were locked in place and here eyes looked so dry because she hadn't blinked in so long... she hadn't cried in so long even the tears had dried away leaving the skin underneath blotched but pale... a milky colour like really bad tea or something or something he felt ashamed for looking at because when he did it reminded him of how he could have saved her, and how he felt so ashamed to see her in a state like this
He stood upright, bag loaded with bullets and weapons. He didn't know how many students he had to kill, but it was perfectly possible he would need to take out some of the soldiers. He needed enough of an arsenal to take down an army, because that was basically his goal.... But....
He held Hirono's old gun in his hand, and remembered her firing a bullet straight into Kaori's chest. Another victim. They all killed her. Hirono, for pulling the trigger, the Government, for putting them there in the first place, and Shogo, for not stopping things sooner. All these students he was too late to save, and it was starting to get too much for him because his plans were in jeopardy, and it would have all been for nothing. He could handle dying (so he thought, though he hadn't managed it yet), but knowing his gambit fell through and turned 3-B into another fucking slaughterhouse... that would have been the thought he took with him to the grave.
Kaori... she was always a quiet girl. Often picked on, often taunted, and pretty insular. She was the type of girl who would read a magazine full of boyband interviews, then be too embarrassed to look at the pin-up in the centre pages. In his mind (imagination, probably... though the guilt was carving the thought into reality like a hot knife), he visualised the path Kaori Minami's life would have probably taken: She would have graduated school with decent grades, though nowhere near excellent ones, and scraped entry into a college by the skin of her teeth, because she knew it would be important to her parents to keep in education.
She would have fallen out of touch with her old friends, and made new ones, and been constantly unlucky in love.
She would have eventually met somebody who treated her like the special girl she always wanted to be, probably would have dropped her popstar crush by that stage (or maybe it would have matured into something more sensible and proper), and they would have married. She would have left her job when she discovered she was going to have a baby, and then stayed at home... she would have had two children, both girls, and always told them both just how important and special they were, all the time they were growing up, from the day she cooked the eldest a red rice meal, to the day the youngest's final pimple disappeared.
She would stay close to her husband during ill health, and still feel sad when she read a clipping in the newspaper about her schoolgirl celebrity crush passing away. She would see her children become parents themselves, laugh as her eyesight got worse, joking about how she used to have glasses this unstylish when she was a teenager, dote over her grandchildren, and make many more true friends in old age than what she had as a youth.
Ultimately, she would die a peaceful, happy death. She may have never risen to any great fame, but she would have had the fairytale ending she dreamed of in her darkest hours.
She never even got that peaceful death. She never even reached her first kiss. Because Shogo Kawada—and the big fucking ideals
he had decided to champion—didn't allow it. She just wasn't useful enough at that moment, so she got shot by a teenager with jumped-up ideas and left to bleed to death somewhere.
Fuck it. Why was he even here? He stood up and walked away, because he was ashamed to be surrounded by those he killed....
Because there was a torrent of blood congealed down her school shirt. There were two bullet wounds, each one covered by a matt of dried red now, cotton fabric fused to flesh; he wanted to pull them apart but it had clotted, and there was a faint cracking sound as the bond was ripped in two. And here she was, she was dead, and without her, there was nothing left for him in this world, was there? He was going to die, just like her, wasn't he? He was going to spend his last few hours feeling sorry for himself, because some sick shit thought they had more of a right to live than she did. And he was feeling cold but he didn’t care because he wanted to trade places with her, he wanted her to have the chance to live again and he would die, because she had always been better than he had and this was all the wrong way round... and he didn't even hear the report announce her name because the world was dead to him now, and so were all the others. He didn't pay any attention to her name being read out as he sat there alone in the dark:
Girl number four... Keiko Onuki....
And Shogo walked away, and he saw in the late afternoon light that he was in a familiar place, only with a world more hurt, and a pint less blood. He could smell something sickly, and guessed he was approaching another body, and sure enough her found her: Fumiyo Fujiyoshi, lying dead on the floor, with most of her skull blown apart.
That had been his doing. He did that to save her, could you believe that?
Now he was bleeding out; the injuries had pulled themselves open again, despite his and Kazuo's best efforts. It was just weight and fatigue and despair, probably. Shogo didn't even bother trying to sort it out... because what was the point? He was a hypocrite, and he had turned into everything he hated, and stood against.
Fumiyo probably would have been able to mend his hand. She was the nurse's aide, wasn't she? That quietish girl who often spoke at the worst possible times, who still never said anything bad about anyone. Keiko had friends like her at school, and they were the sort who should have never been put here in the first place. None of them deserved this, but Fumiyo certainly had a future... she had it all laid out. She had a past, too, and opened up a window on that when Shogo came in to listen to her final thoughts. It was just the present that Shogo had destroyed for her, because he was destroying the present for everyone, because he had decided it was important. Fumiyo, Kazuo, and Chisato. Three children in this class died by his hand, but none of their lives were more expendable than anybody else's, and now Shogo had broken through the walls of his own lie
, it broke his heart.
And he stayed with her body as it got colder and colder, and no less stiff. He didn't think rigor mortis was this fast acting, but apparently it was. He didn't notice, though. He didn't really notice anything now. He just wanted to stay with her until someone finally put that bullet in his head.
And when he finally heard footsteps, he didn't even look round, he just wanted it to be an easy kill, and let them get on with it without fuss, because they wouldn't understand how important Keiko had been. None of them—not even her own family—gave her the respect she truly deserved, and he wished he hadn't made her upset all the damned time, and he had no way of saying sorry to her.
An apology carried in the air. A trembling, nervous apology.
"Kawada? I... I'm so sorry... I am really so very, very sorry..."
He couldn't help but pin the voice of the speaker, because it's just natural to know who your killer was, isn't it? The voice was male, and slightly sophisticated... and Kawada's eyes snapped open to meet those of Yuushiro Kadai.
"Boy three, Yuushiro Kadai."
A tall student in the desk next to Shogo's made to stand. This was the chance.
"Tell Keiko to wait," he hissed sideways out of his mouth.
Yuushiro shrugged, grunted under his breath and ambled forwards. Shogo wanted to yell at the bastard, but a warning glare from the soldier stopped him. The boy took his kit and he was gone.
The one boy in the whole class who could have told Keiko to wait for him, didn't fulfil this one request. The bastard as good as killed Keiko himself, because if she and Shogo had been together from the start, this wouldn't have happened, right? She would still be alive, and he...
It didn't take much effort to rationalise the next move. Shogo let loose a bellow, grabbed the Kel-Tec that had once belonged to Yuri Fukuuchi, and—screaming—emptied the entire clip into Yuushiro's belly.
The boy fell, although "fall" wasn't really the right word. It was more as if he had collapsed, or had folded. And Shogo was still screaming and yelling incomprehensible gibberish as the fresh body bled out, and Shogo had ended his third life.
The first two had been different. Yuri had been the one who helped cause the clinic group to collapse, and Shogo felt some sick enjoyment watching her die. She had calculated that tactic with Eisuke, and they were caught out. Too bad. And the other kill—Yuigo Matsuzaki—was purely self-defence. He took out the first two kills of the game, put an arrow through Kyoji's head, and laughed because he got first blood, and... this was just justice. Shogo took him and smashed his head in with a rock. Revenge, and anger... the two feelings Shogo felt brewing in him as he realised how ugly mankind was.
But Keiko saw this, and she ran away. There was God's sick sense of humour again.
The third kill... Shogo did it because it made him feel better, and everything made sense. He would fight to win now.
But he had no interest in doing so for revenge. Not yet.
He just wanted to take down every other motherfucker on this island, because it was the only sure way to be sure the shit who slaughtered Keiko Onuki got exactly what they deserved.
Finally, he walked away. And he would never truly remember what life had been life before.
11 students remaining
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing, because if left unmonitored, it can lead somebody to obsess over the past, to remember it as being some sort of golden age, and make the present and the future meaninglessly bleak. In a way, Shogo had somehow managed to survive for so long following his first Program by not remembering what life had been like Way Back When, mostly because he was hollow and spent hours staring at fixed points, catatonic.
Right now, he had failed in keeping atop the memories. Being back in the environment that drove him insane once before, watching history repeat itself and just letting it happen had proven too much. He was that person
The barriers were coming back up. Shut out the rest of the world, Shogo. You cause more harm than good.
The memories weren't even particular ones, just a general ghost of his past, haunting his thoughts, echoing in his ears, the distant whispers of people muttering about him and his burdens.
He didn't care any more. Mission be damned, he wanted it to be over.
A crackle of the microphone. This was it. The final hurdle. After this, he was either gonna die, or...
He didn't even want to consider the option that he would live again. That would have been worse than death.
He heard her name read out during the roll-call. Yuka Nakagawa, his unlikely (and only) ally was a goner. Also, someone had taken down Nanahara.
Huh, that was weird... Nanahara seemed the sort to survive these things. So now what?
There was him, and Mizuho Inada, and Yoshitoki Kuninobu. The final three. Whoever said the oddball and the misfit would be his last two companions at the start of this game, Shogo would have laughed at them. But this was the reality, and it was God (whom he had spent so much time hating, despite not really believing in him) who was having the final laugh.
Shogo's first assumption had been that other people would rather try to escape instead of face certain death. What he had overlooked was the detail that—by the end of play—there would be very few people left to kill, not to mention those still standing would have likely done a few of the murders themselves. It was not the best time to take on new allies, not when the finish line was so close, and the victory was within reach.
There were three of them left. Two kills, maximum, and they would be free. Who would listen to a trick right now, eh? If Shogo had built up their trust earlier, then that would be less of a problem, but due to bad planning on his part, and unfortunate hindrances, the chances of either of these two building bridges and helping Shogo play the hero were virtually nil.
Actually, it was Yoshitoki and Mizuho. The odds were
Because the second assumption had proven itself wrong, too. Shogo had assumed that once Kiriyama was a goner, then he would be able to handle most things that came to him.
Normally, he probably would
have been able to. It was just pure bad luck that the two people he had been left with were... well.
Mizuho wasn't going to go anywhere near him, because she witnessed him assist in her best friend's slaughter. If she saw him, she would probably slay him on sight. And as for Yoshitoki... Shogo had just seen him with Nanahara, and now Nanahara was dead. It didn't take a genius to work out what happened there. Of Yoshitoki was prepared enough to kill his best friend, what chance did a big-talking stranger have?
And then there was his hand. Who was going to believe he could rig the collars, when his hand had no dexterity, and his face was covered in ink?
All in all.... Shogo guessed the chances of this plan working were a trillion to one.
....So there's still a chance, right?
He didn't know where the voice came from. It sounded like Keiko's (in fact, it was
Keiko's), but it sounded so... real. It was like she was sat there next to him, trying to inject her old brand of optimism, the way she always did when people were down.
Shogo would have thought a comforting voice and a positive message would have comforted him in the dying hours of his life. In truth, it scared him witless.
Even if it was just his imagination.
He was sat at Keiko's place, as her parents had gone out for the evening, and left her to babysit their pets. The animals were extremely well-behaved anyway, so it really just gave Shogo and her some privacy.
They had been together for nearly four months now. It was a March evening, and they were sat in her lounge, watching Tonight, at the Same Place, which aired every Thursday night at nine. Shogo had never really been one for dramas such as this, but he made the effort because Keiko loved it, and he just wanted to spend some time with her.
The episode in question showed Mizue—the best friend of the main female lead—listening to her love interest tell her he had a serious kidney infection. Shogo already knew they were going to kill the character off, because the actor had famously quit the show to follow a singing career, and they had been building up this storyline steadily for weeks.
"What was the doctor's name again?" Shogo said wearily during a commercial break.
"Tadamasa Nozoe," Keiko said. "He's a pretty minor character."
"But he's somehow related to Ai Nozoe, right?"
"Father and daughter," Keiko nodded, before re-explaining the complicated love heptagon that involved Ai, Mizue, the guy with the illness and a few other characters. Shogo heard his girlfriend make sounds, but the sounds weren't forming into any coherent sentence, as far as he could tell, finally catching the closing sentence: "But now Shinichiro has this illness, he needs to choose between the two girls, because either his cousin gets hurt by losing the chance to be with Mizue, or Mizue discovers what Ai has been doing behind her back all this time."
Shogo stared blankly at the screen, before shaking his head. "Seriously, I cannot figure out how you women keep track of all these things. My head would explode."
Keiko laughed. "Tsch, that's men for you! This guy has to choose between the two girls. The other will lose out anyway, and no matter which one he picks, there's gonna be problems."
"Can't he just go without?" Shogo suggested.
"That's real romantic, Sho," Keiko said with a roll of her eyes. "No, he can't. I don't think the girls want to be ignored."
"Damn well hope not," Shogo said, sipping a drink. "They're both hot."
"..." Keiko pursed her lips together, disapproving of her boyfriend's comment about the actresses; one of the two looked a little like an older version of Honami, Shogo's ex-girlfriend, and even he had commented on the matter once.
"The one wants him more, but the other is probably the better person? There's no real good outcome here, is there? "
"No... not any more."
"So we've got... damage limitation, right? Thinking on his toes?"
"Yeah... but he's going to keep putting the decision off. That's just what Shinichiro does. He's too much of a playboy."
"Right..." Shogo said, still only half-understanding. "So he was planning to string the two girls along for as long as he could, and now he's getting the wrong sort of ending, he doesn't know what to do with himself?"
"Yup. But if you were in that situation, what would you do?"
Keiko had turned to look squarely at Shogo's face. He realised she had asked him one of those questions, to see how he would behave in certain situations within a relationship. And naturally, Shogo didn't have a damn clue what answer the girl expected.
"If I was dyin'," Shogo said, "I'd just go for the one who made me happiest. To hell with what other people thought; can’t make everybody happy, can you? Once I'm dead, it's not my problem any more, right?"
Keiko didn't speak to him again until the show had finished.
Shogo resigned himself to watching the ending in silence, ignoring the sulk, really not understanding why nobody on this planet— especially women— could give him a straight answer.
It was strange, re-assessing everything you had devoted your life toward achieving.
Considering his life ended, and he got resurrected through a miracle, and was always planning to die in the end, the idea that the prospects had been flawed from the beginning was something he had tried to ignore. Eventually—and perhaps inevitably—he was faced with the reality: his plan was almost certainly not going to work.
But he was calming down... he was getting himself back under control once again... Because he was remembering her
And he always knew it was dangerous to let his memories take control, and to lose his focus long enough to fail. But within these memories, he still found her
alive and well and faithful
, and even from beyond the grave, almost eighteen months since her violent death, Keiko Onuki still kept Shogo moving forward.
Yes, the mission was surely failed. But he couldn't bank on that until he was either dead or the sole survivor. He still had most of the equipment needed to bypass the detonators long enough to remove the collars, and he also had extra information written all over his face.
In fact, so long as he kept faculty of his left hand, he should be able to pull this off. He felt a little more confident. But it was still a weak confidence. It was like the fire in his heart had been stamped out, and now just some faint embers remained.
He just wanted this to be over. He needed to think on his toes, and get this over.
Now... someone had died to the west... and someone had died to the east. So he was, what, between Yoshitoki and Mizuho? The idea of that sandwich didn't appeal to him that much... although he finally got to consider his two foes.
Mizuho was a lost cause. No matter what, she had to be killed. Hell.... he even wrote her to die on his list
As for Yoshitoki... he was always quite a soft boy, wasn't he? He never seemed to get angry with anyone (but he killed Shuuya, didn't he – how do you know that wasn't self-defence?
), and... hey, perhaps he would understand something about rebellion. He was friends with Nanahara, right?
Shogo lit up a cigarette and sighed. If there is hope... it lies in the orphan...
He decided to start walking... with a gun in one hand, and the cigarette dangling from his mouth. He didn't really need to know where he was going; so long as he didn't veer too far north or south, he would be fine.
The question was: Which student would he run into first?
He wondered which would be the best option for him to encounter first. If it was Yoshitoki, then he would have to convince the boy to stay with him until they killed Mizuho, and if he could be reasoned with, why would he trust someone who was so open about murder? If he met Mizuho first, he would have to kill her, and then somehow stop Yoshitoki from killing him
Either way, it all came down to how much of himself Yoshitoki had lost to the Program. Really, as far as Shogo was concerned, the game all hinged on him.
He just would never tell Yoshi that.
Shogo stopped walking, as he heard footsteps crunching from nearby. As he considered trying to sneak a glimpse on which of his rivals was there, those footsteps stopped, too.
Behind him... there was another
pair of footsteps.
All three of them had come together. And now came the vital decision: when faced with the moment of truth, would he come through?
"The one wants him more, but the other is probably the better person? There's no real good outcome here, is there? "
"No... not any more."
"So we've got... damage limitation, right?
He clutched the Ingram, and steeled himself for the minute his life had led toward for so long.
This grassy island would probably be his grave. But at least if he died, he would have died trying.
He was ready to stop trying. He was ready to make the leap of faith.
But he just hoped God was ready to catch him.((OOC ....aaaand I tag.... BOTH OF YOU! >:D ))