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11 August 2009 @ 03:57 pm
    “Oh, Shuuya.” Yukie Utsumi covered her mouth with her hands as she let off a giggle, exchanging a glance with Tanizawa before continuing. “You always play rock’n’roll. It’s so-”

    “-Loud!” Yuka cut in rather, well, loudly, guffawing at her own response.

    “Yeah!” Utsumi nodded, chuckling. “You should try something different, something slower.”

    From across the room, Mizuho made a chuckle of her own as she watched Shuuya’s eyes widen from his place atop his desk, the boy leaning backwards in feigned shock. She knew the girls were joking, but…she kind of agreed with them. It really was a shame that all Shuuya ever sung was rock n’ roll. He had such a beautiful, soulful voice; he’d have been absolutely brilliant singing a nice pop or classical, non-illegal tune.

    “Wh-wha-?” Oblivious to Mizuho’s thoughts (or even existence, it seemed), Shuuya laughed, shaking his head. “Seriously!?”

    Twisting his body around, the boy turned to face Yoshitoki. “Whaddaya’ think, Nobu? Do you agree?”

    Kuninobu’s eyes widened, the boy practically falling from his seat as he chortled in responce. “H-hey, I’m staying right out of this one.”

    “Ohh, I see how it is.” The guitarist chuckled, shaking his head. “I guess I’ll just have to get another opinion then, won’t I?”

    Mizuho watched intently as Shuuya turned and scanned the room, eyes darting from student to student, eventually stopping on-

    Megumi gasped.

    -her table. She cocked an eyebrow as Shuuya’s smile widened, thrusting a finger towards the small desk.

    “You guys! Inada… Megumi. What do you think?” His eyes narrowed playfully.

    “Oh, uh.” Mizuho could hardly contain a giggle as Megumi stuttered, the girl flushing brightly as she responded. “I-I don’t…know.”

    “Oh…” Shuuya frowned for a split-second, gaze shifting towards Mizuho. “You?”

    “Um,” The girl bit her lip, tilting her head ever so slightly as she gave her own response –a watered down version of her true feelings. “It might be nice to hear you do something slower…”

    “… Oh, well, fine then!” Nanahara’s face went a dull red as he twisted his body around, facing Utsumi’s group again. “You win! I’ll play a something all slow and classical, and you’ll see how much worse it is.”

    Straightening his back, Shuuya raised his instrument, glancing back over his shoulder towards Mizuho. “This is for you, Inada. This is for 9B.”

    Taking a moment to breath, the boy closed his eyes and began to strum his guitar.



    Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

    That sav’d a wretch like me!

    I once was lost, but now am found,

    Was blind, but now I see.


She couldn’t do it.

Mizuho’s eyes bulged as her bullet flew completely off-course, her attacker’s own tearing right into her stomach, pain searing each and every part of her body. She tried to catch a glimpse of her killer –of Yoshitioki, but his silhouette was already fading into the scenery alongside all of the colour. The plant life was no longer green and the earth, too, was losing its saturation; everything was so grey and… and lifeless.

Tears trickling down her cheeks, Mizuho felt her tongue quiver, the last semblance of a whisper slipping past her lips. “Ahura…”

There was no response. Nothing.

“A-… Ahura?” The tears were falling harder. She could hardly breathe; hardly speak or move or do anything, and h-he was… gone. Where was he?

Where was her god?

Receiving no answer, the warrior slowly fell to her knees before, after a single moment, she collapsed forward onto the hard, cold embrace of the ground beneath her.


    Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,

    I have already come;

    ’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

    And grace will lead me home.


There was no elegance in Prexia Dikianne Mizuho’s passing.

From her place on the ground, tears in her eyes and pain in her chest, the girl could do nothing but glance at the puddle of blood resting by her head. It was glowing softly beneath the moonlight; so much so that... if she squinted, she could almost catch sight of her own reflection -of her face.

She could see her father’s nose; her mother’s lips and… and…

A pair of completely unrecognizable eyes. They were filled with a sense of mania, void of colour or emotion, of love or hope. All Mizuho could see was what she saw in Yoshio; in Yoji and Yuko. Bleak desperation.

… Everything made sense.

Sh-she was… She was no better than any of them. She was a monster. A killer. Ahura wasn’t…wasn’t real. H-he was just a figment of her imagination. An excuse; a reason to start… start killing. To get revenge for Kaori’s death.

She deserved the pain she was feeling. Deserved to never see her parents again; deserved to never love or laugh or cry.

She had killed six people… She deserved to die.

“M-m... Me-…”

Unable to stay awake any longer, Mizuho's tears ceased as she allowed her eyelids to slowly flicker shut. Her last breath was not one of despair or anger, not hatred or betrayal, but... instead, a sigh of relief. Relief from the horrors of the program, from the vile grasp of her subconscious –Ahura, and... and relief from the pain. It was all gone. She was... she was free.

Little by little, everything faded to white.




    Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,

    And mortal life shall cease;

    I shall possess, within the veil,

    A life of joy and peace.


    A life of joy and peace.
 
 
22 March 2009 @ 02:00 pm
((OOC, whoops forgot to put this up! But the game's over anyway. Congrats Lili, hope to see you in V9, for which claims open in the near future! ♥ ))


"And that's that! Game over! Congratulations, Mister Kuninobu! You've put up one hell of a fight, haven't you?

It wasn't too hard, after all. All you had to do was shoot the lot of 'em.

Just to verify the names of the newly deceased:

Boy #05 Shogo Kawada!
Girl #01 Mizuho Inada!

But of course you knew that, didn't you? They're both at your feet.

I need to have a chat with you before we get you out of here, so come back to the school building in zone D-7. Don't sweat it; all the danger zones have been deactivated, I promise. Leave your weapons where they are, and don't try any funny stuff, or my soldiers are going to get nasty. And that would be a shame, wouldn't it?

If you come back quickly, I might even have something for you to eat. I know parents tell their kids not to eat this late at night, but it's not like you've got any parents anyway, so relax. Sakamochi out."


Kinpatsu Sakamochi powered down the danger zone grid and ordered the soldiers to get ready to leave. "Another job well done, guys... that's a wrap!"

Game Over - One Survivor.
 
 
A loud bang resonated across the area as a bullet was released from Shinji’s gun, moving almost in slow motion as it slammed into Shogo’s side, the behemoth of a school student grunting as he tumbled to the earth.

We have him now.

From the other side of the clearing, Prexia could barely hear Ahura beneath her own breathing, eyebrows arching in intrigue at the sight of her mortal enemy –the boy who ruined her life and killed her best friend- lying in agony on the ground. Blood slowly trickled from his chest as he rolled onto his stomach, wincing in pain.

Unsure of what to say or how to say it, Prexia remained silent as she moved towards him, her grip on the gun tighter than ever. She was… completely shocked. Shocked that, well, she had beaten him. Beaten Kawada, the head demon. Mizuho Inada, the weird girl. The girl who wasn’t supposed to have feelings. The girl who wasn’t meant to have a home life or care about friends. She was just some girl, some nobody… And she’d done it. She’d avenged her friends’ deaths.

Finish him.

Reaching her foe, Prexia raised her gun level with his head, eyes narrowing as she wrapped her index finger firmly around the trigger. This was it –what she had wanted. She was about to kill not out of defence, but in spite. In revenge. She’d thought she could trust each of her classmates and each of them had betrayed her; shot her in the back.

Not this time.

She wasn’t willing to give Kawada that cha-

“I’m sorry…” The dying boy spluttered.

“Wha-…” Prexia’s eyes widened, index finger wavering. She could hear Ahura groan with impatience but…but what? Shogo Kawada was a demon, was he not? Why was he apologizing?

Mind games.” Ahura spat.

Ignoring the deity, Prexia frowned, allowing the boy to continue.

“Sorry for… Y’know. Killing Minami…” He moaned, body shuddering. “She was a good kid…”

“…” Prexia’s eyes watered without even thinking, the girl habitually fumbling against her breast for her pendant. Regardless of Ahura’s presence, she needed its support. “… Y-you’re… Sorry?”

He grunted again, coughing a little. “… I may lack a lot of tact, Inada, but I’m no monster…”

“O-oh…” And in that single moment, everything Ahura had told Prexia had lodged itself out of place. The girl’s eyes widened, blurred from the tears, as she looked down apon her victim –shirt stained red from the blood. The blood she’d caused to leave his body.

He was no demon… He was just… Just like her.

You’re wrong, Prexia.” Ahura hissed in her ear immediately, pendant throbbing with energy. Prexia felt herself yelp, eyebrows furrowing in confusion. “This… This beast. He speaks lies! All lies! You are not at fault here, he is! He is the demon!

She felt herself yelp, almost involuntarily, as her gun wavered before her very eyes. Ahura’s words all made sense, they really did, but… Shogo seemed so sincere in death (or, as it was, near-death), just like Sakura. He didn’t seem like a demon at all, just… Just some boy who shot her friend. Slaughtered her friend, but… but regretted it.

“Look, Mizuho… I…” A choking Kawada broke Prexia’s silence. “I’m ready to… to go.”

Just… promise me one thing, yeah?” Twisting his head around, the gruff boy narrowed his eyes as he looked up at Prexia, pupils glistening with what appeared to be acceptance. The warrior made a loud gulp. “Just… don’t forget any of their faces. Any of them… even the ones you didn’t like… they were important, too.”

“…” Mizuho didn’t know what to say. There she was, with the boy she’d shot at in her own merit, not Ahura’s. The only person she’d honestly, truly wanted to kill, and he was making the most sense out of anyone she’d spoken to in the last few days. She hated him so much for what he’d done, but… he was right.

So right.

All of her classmates, as much as they hated her, as much as she might have resented them only three days ago… were beautiful human beings (possessed by demons or not) and… The face of the matter was that the program had made them what they were. They’d become the vile, hideous demons they were because of the situation and nothing else.

Slowly, a few tears drifted down her cheeks. None of them deserved death. None of them. And yet…

There she was. About to kill for the sixth time.

Shogo closed his eyes. “Do it… Take the gun and finish the job. C’mon, I’m… I’m ready.”

Expression hardening, Prexia forced herself to remember the emotion surging through her veins -tearing through her mind- as she came across Kaori’s corpse, raising her gun to the back of Shogo’s head. Remembering what he did was the only thing that would get her through what she was about to do.

BANG.

Through her blurred tears, the blood looked so serene as it floated through the night air, the earth around Prexia’s feet shuddering as Shogo’s skull hit the ground with a thud.

“Finally. One to go.” Ahura spoke stoically and Mizuho felt her eyes widen dramatically, lips shuddering at the thought that no, Kawada was not the final task at all, that he was just a prelude to the last student remaining. That there was a chance she’d have to do exactly what she did again and that if she didn’t do that… she would die. She didn’t want to die.

Flinging her body around, tears still streaming from every direction of her eyes, Mizuho nearly screamed at the sight of Yoshitoki Kuninobu, Nanahara’s best friend. The class goof.

The boy didn’t say a word. Unlike Yoji or Kawada or… Or even herself, he was ready to kill. All he did was raise his gun, raise his gun and stare right down the barrel, right at her.

Raising her own gun, Mizuho squinted, hardly able to see through her tears, through the doubt running through her mind. Nobu may well have been a demon, but… but she’d achieved her revenge. She’d killed Shogo –done what she wanted. Yoshitoki had no relevance to her situation, no anything. He was just some guy. Some guy who wanted –and probably had reason- to win.

What was she compared to that? Could she do it? Just…raise her gun and shoot him? Would she be able to kill again, for nothing but her own personal gain?

Raising her gun, Mizuho Inada (Female Student No. 1, Third Year Class B, Shiroiwa Junior High School, Shiroiwa Town, Kagawa Prefecture) closed her eyes and screamed at the top of her lungs.

She’d just have to wait and see.

BANG!!!



(OH MY FUCKING GOD. Talk about right on the deadline! PC-Control vaguely approved by Rob (if you need anything changed tell me and I'll edit it, I promise) and, um, yeah. All I can say is that this is the vote post for a FTD between students Mizuho Inada and Yoshitoki Kuninobu. This is it, this is... it. You've played a brilliant game, Lili, and I wish you the best of luck. ♥ Please wait for the mod post before voting!)
 
 
And, this...
this was it, wasn't it?

The final fight before he could go back home, to The House, to Ms. Ryoko's smiling, crying face. He'd get to watch as her face fell when he told her that no, Shuuya's not with me. We didn't win. It would feel like the ceiling had crashed down over their heads, a sudden shadow masking the upper halves of their faces and there'd be a long pause ending with a question mark. Did you see it happen, Yoshi? Were you there? What happened?

And his hands would start shaking from the memory, his finger feeling the slight imprint that the trigger had made when he pulled it, not only once but at least three times - enough to make sure when there wasn't a reason to even make sure. His bottom lip would tremble, his tongue burning as it, too, remembered their last conversation before he pointed - aimed, trained his gun on Shuuya (enough to make sure). His eyes, long passed the tears, would dry up painfully, unsure of how to look her in the eyes.

He would twitch and nearly lose his footing, and Ms. Ryoko would know. She'd know in a way only mothers could, even though she wasn't a mother in the literal sense, and she'd take him in her arms, holding him against her as thirsty sobs racked his boyish body. And she'd know, just knew that maybe she shouldn't ever know what truly happened on that island, because although one "son" had come home that night, both of them were gone.

Nothing could go back to normal, a fact that Yoshitoki had realized a while back, maybe on the first day in that classroom. Winning the Program wasn't winning anything at all, especially when you had no more life to return to. There wouldn't be any more sitting up late at night, talking and listening to guitar playing. Shuuya's guitar would be propped up against the bed as it always was when he was gone, waiting for songs that would not, could not be played again.

The questions. The reporters. The rumored stories. Would they know that he had done the impossible, would they know that he had actually killed his best friend? Every time they'd bring it up, he would feel like he were sinking, spiraling down, down, down out of view. The best place to be.

Yoshitoki looked down at the GPS tracker's dimming screen. He knew the result before he heard the report. Kiriyama was down. Three to go, with him finally on top of the stage. The spotlight shined on him now. (so, how does it feel) like i've lost my only friend except worse
because it was my fault
- his hand on the trigger, his glaring barrel, each bullet was his delivery, and then that twist in his dying soul when he realized that his best friend had missed his shot on purpose.

As many guns as he carried, he would still only need two shots to end this game. It was down to a tight wire. The retired sidekick trying to make his name a name, the hulking brute of a classmate that said sidekick had shot at earlier (I can't believe it didn't work), or the fantasy-obsessed girl that Yoshi didn't know much about other than she was weird and had ran from Shuu hours before? Who wins, who dies?

It was funny how things turned out. If Kuninobu hadn't killed Oda, maybe Kotohiki wouldn't have attacked Shuuya. And if she hadn't done that, Inada wouldn't have ran away. Then, maybe it could have been the three of them together, a little more sane than crazy. Or would things have turned out worse than they had? Shuuya had to have gotten the tracker from somewhere and that somewhere had probably been from Kotohiki.

Maybe, you would be in my place right now, Shuuya. That was how it was supposed to be, if things had gone differently. But now, as they were, there was a Kawada with a hand shot to hell and an Inada probably bloodthirsty after hearing that, like Nobu only differently, she had lost her best friend. And he had been there to watch her best friend Megumi's eyes fall eternally closed.

Thinking stabbed a pain back into his chest, so he allowed his mind to go elsewhere, back to snippets of wordless images flowing through his mind. The first door slamming in his face, the first time his tooth fell out. The first time he met eyes with her, and the way her mouth shaped her every syllable. Yoshi beat a fist against his chest, right at the heart. It was time to keep moving towards a future that was as dead as gun metal.

What do we have to live for after this?

A beer and a steak for Kawada. Yeah, he seemed like the type of guy that once this was over, he was just gonna have a long cigarette and say, "shit." For Mizuho? A new set of roleplaying dice or something. A ticket to an asylum. Wouldn't that be lame? Both endings didn't fit the story, for it was his lone spotlight on the stage now.

Yoshitoki stepped into the zone in time to see an explosion of blood in five different shades of red. He was close enough for it to splash over his shoes, staining the bottom of his pants. From the size of the figure, Yoshi knew it was Kawada. He had lost the fight. Two more to go, one more wall to make it over before --

He didn't say a word, his gun raised and already exchanging glances with hers. There wasn't a congratulatory speech. There weren't any questions other than the ones that could be solved with a swift trigger pull. It's the game.

(no one can forget me now)

And this is how it ends.

BANG!!!

((OOC: Fight to the death - the final vote of the game. It's Yoshitoki Kuninobu versus Mizuho Inada, part one. Wait to vote. I had to skim the details about Shogo's death for time's sake, sorry. And thiscould be my last post as Yoshitoki...I'll miss him. Best of luck.))
 
 
BANG.

Stopping dead in her tracks, Prexia tilted her head upwards as the sound of gunfire echoed nearby, several birds scattering from their positions within the forest’s trees. Sighing softly to herself, the girl allowed a waft of cold air to escape her lips, the grey of the released fog quickly evaporating before her eyes.

Another gone.” She jumped a little as her pendant pulsed, Ahura’s voice resonating against her ears. He hadn’t said anything since they’d left Sakura and Yuko’s bodies; she’d nearly forgotten he was with her.

“Probably…” Breathing a response, the warrior felt herself frown a little, thoughts of decaying classmates lingering in the back of her mind. After a moment of silence, she shook her head and pushed the thoughts into her hypothetical rubbish bin, turning her body around to face the direction of the gunshot. She had to stay focused. There wasn’t much time left, nor were there many students. A single mistake or hindrance could have led both her and… and Megumi, to their demise. That was unacceptable. She had come so far since Kaori’s death, since the game began… A stuff-up was out of the question. She had to k-… Kill.

Ignoring the moisture accumulating beneath her eyes, Prexia’s grip on Shinji’s pistol tightened as she took a step closer towards the island’s latest murderer. Whoever it was, he was close and had no idea where she was. She had the upper-hand, she could take him by surprise. She knew she could. She… She wanted to. For Megumi.

That’s the spirit, Prexia. Stay strong.

Nodding, Prexia continued to walk before she was stopped in her tracks for the second time in five minutes as a closer-than-expected speaker began to crackle, a nearby crow squawking in retaliation.

“This is the end.”

Taking a deep breath, Prexia dropped to her knees and reached for her class list.

    ”Come on Miz’, hurry!” Kaori’s voice boomed from the end of the hallway, “We shouldn’t even be here; We’ll be late!”

    Standing at her locker, Mizuho let out a loud groan, throwing her best friend a glance. “I’m nearly done, I promise! This blasted device wont open!” Frowning and looking back down at her lock, Mizuho ran her thumb around the metal surface for the fourth time. She’d had it and it’s combination since her first year of junior high and quite liked it, but lately it had been… Well, rather busted. She’d been unable to open it first try for the past few weeks.

    “Four, eight… Fifteen…” Mumbling to herself, Mizuho closed her eyes as she input the last number, giving the lock a rather forceful yank.

    Click!

    It slid out of place, Mizuho mouthing an excited ‘
    yes!’ as her door flew open.

    “Are you done?” Kaori’s tone was laced with frustration.

    “…” Quickly, Mizuho reached inside her locker, grabbing at the manga titled ‘Forgotten Warrior Kaiyo’. “… Yep!” She laughed, slamming her door shut, flicking her body around and running to her friend.

    As she reached Kaori, the sullen girl let off a frown, glancing down at the book. “I hope that was worth it.”

    “Oh, it is.” Mizuho nodded in agreement with herself, slumping her bag over her shoulder. “Now let us get a move on, otherwise we’ll miss our ride!”

    “That’s what I’ve been
    saying the whole time.”

    “Oh Lorela.” Mizuho laughed as her friend rolled her eyes, picking up her own bag.

    Turning around, the girls ran down the hallway, lockers and classrooms flying past them as they reached the front office, exiting from the school’s front entrance. As they stepped outside, both girls stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of the school bus looming over them from the curb.

    “W-wow.” The word slipped out of Mizuho’s mouth without much thought. The class trip had been in the students’ minds for weeks; months, even. It was so surreal for it to finally have come together. “It’s… It’s really happening.” Kaori nodded silently in response, taking a step towards the bus’ entrance, where Mr. Hayashida stood.

    “Ah, girls. Glad you could make it!” Their teacher grinned, checking their names off on the class list. “We’ve been waiting for you. You wouldn’t happen to know the whereabouts of Mitsuko and her friends, would you?”

    “No, sorry.” Mizuho responded half-heartedly, shaking her head as she moved past Hayashida and onto the bus with Kaori. Students were spread out all over the joint, chatting, laughing, some even hanging from the ceiling. Mizuho’s eyes widened as she looked around, before she smiled at the sight of Megumi sitting all alone near the back. Moving down the isle, her lips widened as her friend waved.

    “Greetings, Megumi!” Voice filled with cheer, Mizuho sat herself in one the seats at Megumi’s front as Kaori took the seat to her side. “Thank the lord we had a few minutes spare before this vessel departed!”

    “Um… Yeah.” Megumi tittered, covering her mouth with her hands. “Any later and it would’ve left without you!”

    Mizuho laughed in response before turning to face the front of the bus –or, perhaps more literally, the back of Yumiko Kusaka’s head (the tall girl was seated directly in front of her). Sighing pleasantly, she glanced down at her lap, eyes focusing on the Manga she’d retrieved earlier. Flicking a few pages into the book, she felt herself cock an eyebrow at an image of the main character, Kaiyo, smashing a boulder with her bare fists.

    It was… quite pretty, actually. She hadn’t read the book yet, so the page was new to her. New, and, well, very exciting! Powerful female protagonists were her favourite type of character because she felt she could relate them to herself, or what she wanted to be.

    Giggling, she span around, shoving the page beneath Megumi’s nose. “Look!” She shook it a little, grinning. “It’s me –It’s definitely me! Can you see the resemblance between our forms?”

    Megumi made what sounded like a meek yelp, jumping in her seat a little, before she offered a polite simper. Nodding her head, the poet’s eyes closed happily. “Oh, yes… Very much like you.”

    Mizuho squealed in excitement before the sound of a loud, boyish scoff interrupted her. “Keep dreaming, she ‘got bigger tits than you!”

    Such a strong disregard for common courtesy and basic Japanese could only have come from one boy. Glancing upwards, Mizuho glared at the towering Kazushi Niida (standing alongside Hatagami), making a sharp hissing sound as she snapped back at him. “Mind your tongue, mortal.”

    The boys shared a glance, then a laugh, before they moved down to their seats at the back of the bus. Reaching for her pendant, a slightly flustered Mizuho returned to facing Kusaka’s head, glancing back down at her book as she frowned.

    “I’ll show you.” She whispered, anger getting the better of her. “I could be a warrior…”

"Remember at the start of this game, where you kids killed four people in each report? Don't you think it's funny that this was the pace you needed to maintain from the last time we spoke to secure a winner? Four deaths in this report, and four deaths before your deadline. Almost poetic, no?”

“…” Sakamochi sounded less repugnant than usual, but still held an air of contempt for the students. Prexia didn’t like it, not one bit.

“No? Suit yourselves.

Anyway, you've exceeded this pace tonight. Six deaths since the last report! Ready? One last time!”


Six deaths? That meant there were only three students left. Eyebrows furrowing, Prexia held her breath…

”Girl #3, Megumi Etou!”

… And felt herself heave a tremendous splutter, eyes widening, tears already building up at the mention of her friend’s name.

“Wh-what?” She felt her breathing grow heavy, her gun clattering to the floor by her side. Pounding onto her shuddering chest a few times with her hand, she eventually grabbed Ahura’s pendant, squeezing tightly with both palms. “Ahura… Ahura! Megumi, she… she… N-no!”

Dead?

Prexia…” Ahura responded softly, tone filled with remorse. Prexia felt the tears begin to stream rapidly down her cheeks, hardly able to breath, to think, to do anything.

“Prexia what!?” She shrieked, eyes snapping shut, skin digging into the edges of her pendant. She could feel the rage boiling up inside her, that intense feeling of utter defeat returning. Megumi was dead? It couldn’t be! Ahura promised she wouldn’t die! He promised! He was the god of light, the almighty being… He… he couldn’t be wrong. “Y-you promised…”

That I did…” Ahura sighed and Prexia let out a defeated sob, lips shuddering violently. “But time was of the essence, Prexia. I told you that. I told you to kill.

“And I did!” She screamed, throat hurting. “I killed Sakaki… Killed Sakura. I d-did what you wanted!”

But you hesitated.” Ahura grew less compassionate by the minute. “You took your time doing so, and look at the consequences. She’s gone.

“N-no…” She opened her eyes, looking at the ground through blurred tears. “She can’t be gone… She’s all I… All I…”

Unable to finish the sentence, Prexia let out a rough cough. She didn’t get to hear the rest of Sakamochi’s report, but she didn’t care. How could she? Megumi was dead, Kaori was dead. She had no friends left, no… No anything. Ahura had cheated her; he’d lied. He promised Megumi would live but look what happened! Someone, some demon killed her!

The thought was too disgusting to handle. She tried to picture the expression Megumi might have shown as she lay on the ground in a puddle of her own blood, but the concept was too much. She felt herself gag and heave another painful cough, fingers tightening further around Ahura’s pendant.

Please, Ahura… Do something.” She whispered, throat sore from screeching. “Help me…”

The tears kept coming; she really couldn’t help it. She was stuck with nowhere to go. Megumi was the one thing that kept her going, the one thing that kept her sane in the entirety of The Program and… And she was gone. Just like that. She was gone and the people who killed her were still alive and well.

It wasn’t fair.

Nothing is fair, Prexia Dikianne.” The pendant began to pulse. “Lady Megumi has indeed been slain, but there is nothing we can do about that now. She’s gone.

Prexia whimpered, tears still blurring her vision. “She can’t be…”

She is. The demons killed her. The sooner you face that, the better.” Ahura’s tone deepened; Prexia’s lip quivered. “Time is of the essence, Prexia. The demons need to die.

“…” She didn’t know what to say. Her breathing was still rushed, her head still plagued with about a thousand and five thoughts. Megumi had been slaughtered. How could she ever be happy, knowing she sat and let that happen? She deserved to die for letting the demons reach her.

If you die, the demons win.

“…”

Sobbing, Prexia couldn’t deny the god had a point. Earlier, he’d spoken of her classmates being demons and she’d been hesitant to listen. She refused to kill Sakura for a long time and… And in that time, Megumi was killed by other demons. And all for what? Sakura turned out to be nothing more than scum, as did Sakaki. They assisted in taking the life of an innocent, peaceful, gentle girl. A girl Prexia promised she would take care of. What they did was unforgiveable.

Eyes snapping shut, Prexia tried to ignore the tears prickling her cheeks as she clenched both her fists. “Y-you’re… You’re right, Ahura.”

Of course I’m right, Prexia. You refused to let go of your morals and all hell broke loose.” The pulsations of the pendant grew stronger with the growth of Prexia’s rage. “We can’t let that happen again. It’s up to you to avenge Lady Megumi; vanquish the demons!

“…”

Breathing slowing down ever so slightly, Prexia gulped, before her eyes shot open. Looking down at her pendant, she held back her tears as she let off a nod, reaching for her gun.

“I can do this.”



Trees and shrubbery flew past Prexia’s face as she moved through the woods, gun at her side. It was nearly night, but she barely noticed. Time seemed endless in the program; it was hard to acknowledge anything but the presence of other students.

”He is nearby, Prexia.” the warrior nodded as Ahura interrupted her train of thought with a sly whisper, slowing her pace to a mild saunter. She was so scared, still filled with emotion over Megumi’s death, but she had to try to stay focused. It wasn’t about rescue or hope anymore, it was only revenge that mattered. Her classmates were demons. She’d refused to admit it earlier, but the proof was there. How else could her best friend have d... Passed on?

Allowing a single tear to trickle down her left cheek, Prexia frowned. She couldn’t give her classmates any more chances. They were evil. Pure evil. She couldn’t believe she’d even let Shuuya or Sakura into her personal space at all earlier; she really was quite lucky to be alive.

Passing a large tree, the girl gasped as she noticed a tall, stocky figure looming in the distance. Pulling herself back into hiding, her eyes narrowed as she peeked through some stray branches at the beast.

It was a male student, that was for certain. He had a wide frame and a familiar short haircut, large firearm in his left hand. Prexia felt her breathing slow down in anticipation as she watched him stand cautiously, eyes focused intently on his head.

As he turned around, Prexia could have very well screamed at the revelation of his face –a dark aura radiating from his very pores.

Shogo.” She hissed under her breath, eyes stinging at the sight of the demon’s cold, emotionless countenance. She hadn’t thought about him for a while, but she remembered their last encounter moment-by-moment. He killed Kaori. Her best friend. He separated her and Megumi in the first place, caused her to die.

Prexia couldn’t stop her breathing from hastening, nor could she prevent her body from shaking. It was such a disgusting thought, knowing that one boy -one boy in her class-, one she hadn’t ever spoken to, had caused her so much pain. So much pain with out so much as looking at her.

Teeth clenched, the warrior latched onto her pendant with her free arm, her other hand tightening its grip on the pistol.

“Ahura… He…” The tears started up again, Prexia unable to finish her sentence.

This man, Prexia… He is the head demon. The most powerful demon of them all.” Ahura spoke almost silently, the pendant glowing with strength. ”Kill him. For Lady Megumi, for Lorela. This is your final test, your moment of triumph! Show him what it means to mess with a vanguard of all that is holy!”

“Y-yes.” Prexia nodded, breathing more frantic than ever. He was standing right in front of her; Shogo Kawada -no, the head demon, in all his parasitic glory. By killing him, she could repay her debt to Ahura; show him she believed him -trusted him.

And more importantly, the head demon’s death would mean payback for all the pain she had caused both herself and her friends. It was the least she could do for them.

Taking a deep breath, Prexia finally summoned the courage to step forward, tears still staining her cheeks. Her feet pitter-pattered against the dirt as she stepped into the clearing, raising her gun. Her eyes narrowed as Shogo flicked his body around and raised his own firearm similarly, eyes widening as they locked onto Prexia's own.

“Inada!” He grunted, muscles bulging from his shirt. The sight of him up close made Prexia all the more distraught, images of Kaori’s cold, limp body lying amongst the shattered glass molesting her head.

“… Sh…” She tried to spit his name out, say something, but the adrenaline was too much. All she could hear was her heartbeat and the sound of Kaori’s blood-chilling scream. The glow of his eyes as he ran from her corpse like a coward. The slow trickle of her tears as she cried over her friend's body.

She… She hated him.

She didn’t even notice the entrance of a third party as she shrieked at the top of her lungs, pointing her gun at the demon and pulling the trigger with all her might.

For once, Mizuho Inada had forgotten about her morals.

All she wanted was to see his blood.



(FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF. This is a FTD between Mizuho Inada and Shogo Kawada!! Eeeeek, how exciting! Thanks to a lack of time we’ve decided to count Rob’s last post as the first FTD post, which makes this post the vote one! Please wait for the mod post before you vote! AAAAAHH, good luck Rob! Thanks for a super duper version! ♥ )
 
 
 
20 February 2009 @ 10:22 pm
((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.

He did 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.

Everything.

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 again.

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 nil.

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 on sight.

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 ))
 
 
05 February 2009 @ 10:42 pm
An intense burning sensation seared through Prexia’s body as her foe’s grip tightened around her neck. She could feel her pendant thumping against her chest, Ahura’s voice screeching in an intense rage. It was hard for her to focus on Ogawa’s eyes as she strained to lift her gun, letting out a groan as she pulled on the trigger.

BANG.



For a moment, it seemed as if time had frozen. Sakura’s eyes widened in shock, the girl’s mouth opening just a little before she flew backwards in a stream of crimson, landing on the floor with a rough thud.

Panting, Prexia fell to her knees and gasped for air, holding back her tears as she let her gun clatter to the floor beside her. Caressing her neck with her hands, she felt her heartbeat slow and the adrenaline leave her body. Her pendant had stopped burning and Ahura had made an end to his piercing shriek.

She was left in silence, still breathing heavily.

Both of the girls she was with were dead. There were three of them, and only one had survived. Only Mizuho, only Prexia. The girl no one would so much as talk to back at school, let alone acknowledge. Prexia had always accepted that fact and ignored it, but in the game she was in, with the situations she had found herself crawling through… It was thrown in her face constantly. None of her classmates trusted her or her friends, they only cared about themselves and their own peers. It… It wasn’t fair.

She deserved better.

    ”Forgive my lateness, sir!”

    Breathing heavily, Mizuho fumbled her books before slapping a late pass on the teacher’s desk. Looking up at her, Mr. Hayashida nodded, rather used to students being late for the morning classes (With people like Mitsuru and Yahagi in the class, Mizuho couldn’t really blame him).

    “Thank you Mizuho. We’re working on Chapter 4, take a seat.” He gestured to the desks.

    “Okay.” Making a smile in response, Mizuho felt it quickly fade away as she glanced over the class. Kaori and Megumi were seated at a two-person desk on the far left side of the classroom, not a spare chair nearby. The closest one was on the other end of the room, beside Motobuchi.

    Letting off a long sigh, she slowly made her way in-between the desks, frowning as she walked past Mitsuko’s table, the delinquent’s gang bursting into a fit of giggles.

    “Why me…” She mumbled to herself, placing her books on the class representative’s desk. “Hello.”

    “Hi.” Kyouichi groaned a rushed response, head buried in his workbook, pencil wobbling furiously.

    Sitting herself down, Mizuho smiled at the boy. She’d never really spoken to Kyouichi, but he didn’t seem all that bad. Perhaps a bit pernickety, but nothing awful. “So… How are you faring?”

    “Please.” The boy shuddered beneath hunched shoulders, his hair gleaming under the classroom’s fluorescent lights. “I’m trying to work.”

    “Oh… Okay.” Furrowing her brows, Mizuho sighed, propping her chin on her hand and glancing across the front of the room. Everyone was doing something. She could see Utsumi’s clique laughing over one of Yuka’s jokes, the deliriously gorgeous Shinji helping Yutaka with his work. Heck, even Yoshio was enjoying a conversation with Yuichirou and Keita.

    Yep, everyone was working happily. Everyone but herself. No one had even bothered to look at Mizuho, not even the person she was sitting next to! It didn’t make sense that people always wondered and asked her why she never socialized, yet when she
    wanted to no one care for her. No one wanted to so much as speak to her.

    Glancing across the room to her friends’ table, Mizuho felt herself jump a little in excitement, eyes widening as she noticed Megumi and Kaori were looking straight at her.

    Sorry.’ Megumi mouthed as Kaori offered an empathetic smile, both girls waving girlishly.

    Mizuho couldn’t help but grin back, laughing a little (and causing Motobuchi to grunt in the process). Recess began in only an hour, and in an hour she’d be able to hang out with the only people she knew how to socialize with –the only people that liked her enough to socialize back.

    Then she wouldn’t need to care what the other kids thought.

She sniffed, only to be interrupted by Ahura’s voice. He had a much softer tone than what was available during the scuffle; he seemed to have calmed down considerably. ”Don’t lose focus, Prexia. We have breathing time now that the girls have been vanquished, but do keep in mind that there are others out there. Other demons.”

“Demons…” Prexia felt herself sigh, tilting her head to look at her recent victim’s face. Sakura looked genuinely sad in death, a hint of poignance resting in her eyes. She didn’t seem demonic at all, she looked… human.

The tears built up beneath Prexia’s cheeks.

Prexia,” Ahura’s voice grew a little stern, retaining its placidity. “The girl was a demon. You musn’t cry for her.

“But…” Prexia replied doubtfully, reaching for her crystal and rubbing it with her finger. “What if she wasn’t, lord? What if I just killed her… killed Yuko, too? I was so angry back then, I could barely think…”

You killed them because they were evil. They were out to get you.

Prexia felt her eyes fill with sorrow, biting her bottom lip. “That doesn’t make them demonic, though, does it? What if I…” Her breathing grew unsteady. “What if I wanted to kill them? Wanted to get rid of them, not the demons?”

Ahura paused for a moment, unsure of how to respond. “You wouldn’t have done that. That’s against your morals. Your code.”

“Yes, but, what if I’m different now? Yoji was different, remember? Maybe I’m like him. Maybe I’ve changed…”

Tears beginning to fall from her cheeks, Prexia looked to the side, down at the floor. She thought of Megumi’s scared face, how much she wanted to free her. Save her from the death hole they’d found themselves in. Perhaps she had changed, perhaps… Perhaps she really had thrown her morals away in order to save her friend. It was more than a little plausible, if not distressing.

You can save her, Prexia.” Ahura spoke softer than usual. A calming aura radiated from his pendant. “Remember. Remember what I told you.

“Yes, I remember…”

Kill everyone.” Prexia’s body tensed a little as he spoke. “It’s the only way.

“…” More tears flowing from her eyes, Prexia squinted, glancing over at Sakura’s corpse. “I don’t know if I can.”

There are only a few left, Prexia.

“B-but… B-but how do I know they’re demons?” Ogawa’s lips had begun to grow pale. “How was Sakura? What did she do?”

She killed.” Ahura responded immediately. “I saw her.

“… She… She did?” Prexia felt herself choke a little, sobbing.

I see everything. Do you think I’m lying?

“N-no…” Prexia pulled her gaze from Sakura’s fading eyes, snapping them shut. She couldn’t deny it, the chances of being lied to by God were slim to none, if not impossible.

Exactly. And Yuko hurt Lady Megumi, did she not?

“Y-yes… She did.” Prexia’s fingers gripped tighter on the pendant, remembering the anger she had felt for Yuko. The anger she still felt for Yuko, for hurting the last thing in her life that really mattered.

Everyone has committed evil. Everyone but Lady Megumi.” The pendant pulsed soothingly. “You know she is of a pure soul. She would never kill.

“That’s true…”

So many people have died for her cause already. She deserves to live, you cannot deny it.

“She… does.” Prexia nodded in agreement, tears still staining her cheeks. Megumi really did deserve to live, that was the one thing she knew for certain. After all, the poet had hardly said a bad word about Hirono in her lifetime, let alone anyone else. She could never be a spawn of satan.

You still have many qualms about killing. I understand.” More soothing pulses. “But at this point, we must make a decision before it’s too late. We must merge our opinions and find a medium. I want the demons vanquished, you want to save Lady Megumi. We can do both, there couldn’t possibly be a better outcome.

“…”

Prexia sat in silence. The tears burnt, they really did. She didn’t want to sacrifice who she was for anyone, not even Ahura Mazda. And yet… doing exactly that meant saving Megumi. To kill would mean to sacrifice her morals, but to not would result in destroying all she had left. No one else cared about her like Megumi did. No one else acknowledged her existence.

In more ways than one, it really was her god-given duty.

    The computer chair squeaked as Hibiki sat down, the light of the monitor causing her to squint a little. Exhaling, she placed her hand on the mouse and moved it to the small icon labelled ‘email’ on the left of the screen.

    After a five-second wait, the window popped up, completely empty. Glancing down at the bottom of the screen, Hibiki groaned as she read the words ‘
    completed 1 of 111 items’.

    “Damn it!” She slouched back on the chair, folding her arms. “She’s done it again.”

    “What have I done?”

    Hibiki nearly fell off her seat as a young voice sounded from the doorway behind her. Swirling her chair around, she frowned as she looked her daughter in the eyes, folding her arms.

    “You know exactly what you’ve done, Mizuho. You’ve wasted all our downloads for the month! The internet is as slow as a doorknob for the next ten days.”

    “Whaaaat,” Standing in her Pikachu-print pajamas, Mizuho scratched the back of her head, expression gravely serious. “How will I get on my Warcraft serve-“

    “Your
    Warcraft server? Seriously, Mizuho? Do you understand how mad I am!” Hibiki felt her temper flare, her daughter shrinking back from the doorway a little. “You spend all day on the computer unless you have school. You do nothing else but play your games, and then when I need to get on, I can’t. You’ve wasted our internet.”

    “Oh?” Mizuho tilted her head to the side, eyes widening. “I’m sorry. I need to get on, though. I can’t keep my clan waiting.”

    “Your clan? What about my work?! Who pays for this internet, Mizuho? I work fourteen hours a day to pay for it and I don’t even get to use it! I’m very lenient, you know. Most parents would have banned their children by now.” She glanced back at the screen. ‘
    completed 25 of 111 items’. Letting out an even louder groan than before, she stood up off her chair. “In fact, you know what? You are banned. You’re banned.”

    “What?!” Mizuho’s eyes began to water. The girl clutched the glass trinket around her neck, biting her bottom lip. “B-but that’s not
    fair! You’re always so mean to me! You don’t care about anything I do, do you? You don’t understand!”

    “You know what?” Hibiki fumed with rage. She hated that her child was so oblivious to how difficult her life was. She
    hated how no matter how much she tried to stop Mizuho from doing the weird things she did, no matter how hard she wanted it… The girl just wouldn’t change. You’d try to get her to stop and she’d cry and go even more introverted than before. She was absolutely sick of it. “You’re right. I don’t care, not anymore. You do what you want, Mizuho.”

    She marched out of the room, past Mizuho, down the hallway and into her bedroom, tears building up beneath her eyes. She remembered when Mizuho was born –back when she and her husband were together. She was so happy she had a girl. Boys were lovely and all, but nothing like a daughter. Mizuho Inada was going to grow up to be a nice girl. Hibiki and her were supposed to talk about boys and gossip and television, not… Not Warcraft clans. Mizuho was meant to be a good-natured, popular girl!

    Not the social mess she’d become.

    Sighing rather longingly, Hibiki sat on her bed in silence, deep in thought, before the sound of fingers tapping at a keyboard sounded through the wall. She couldn’t help but begin to cry.

“Okay…” Tears dying down ever so slightly, Prexia let off a small nod, reaching for Shinji’s gun. The metal felt cold and all too familiar, but she ignored that, tightening her grip. “I’ll do it.”

What other choice did she have?


(PC-Control for Sakura approve-diddly-oved by Andi!)
 
 
"This is the end."

Sakamochi was looking at the statistics, impressed by the sudden turn of events.

"Remember at the start of this game, where you kids killed four people in each report? Don't you think it's funny that this was the pace you needed to maintain from the last time we spoke to secure a winner? Four deaths in this report, and four deaths before your deadline. Almost poetic, no?

No? Suit yourselves.

Anyway, you've exceeded this pace tonight. Six deaths since the last report! Ready? One last time!

Girl #3, Megumi Etou!
Girl #9, Yuko Sakaki!
Girl #16, Yuka Nakagawa!
Boy #15, Shuuya Nanahara!
Girl #4, Sakura Ogawa!

And! The final dragon slain is none other than Mister Big himself:

Boy #6, Kazuo Kiriyama!


That means there are three of you remaining, with six hours on the clock. We're closing the zones in on you again. Get these down:

C5,
D3,
D9,
E5, and the final zone is:
D10.

"You don't want to stray too far from the path, now!" Sakamochi allowed himself a giggle, as the remaining arena looked a little bit like a penis. "You have served yourselves well to get this far, so don't screw up! We are watching your every move! You don't want to lose now, do you? Of course not."

Mizuho Inada, Shogo Kawada and Yoshitoki Kuninobu. I will speak to one of you three in six hours' time. All your problems can be solved with two little bullets. For God's sake, use them."

"It's been a pleasure, but you've gotta die now. Good luck, kids.

Sakamochi out."


3 students remaining.



[[ISLAND MAP]]
[[CLASS ROSTER]]
Tags:
 
 
04 February 2009 @ 12:12 am
((It's done! *breakdances* :D PC control approved from Tomar and Lucy. I also want to say a huge apology to those I've been holding up with this post, as much as I'd like to blame the real-life things what happened last week, I was just being a muppet. Vote opens now! :D))


After the fire had roared a little while,
After its fashion, the sharp tip moved
To and fro, and then breathed out these words:

'If I thought I was making my reply
To anyone who would ever go back to the world,
This flame would stay absolutely still;

But since no one ever came back alive
From this deep place, if what I hear is true,
I answer you without fear of infamy.'

[Inferno: Canto XXVII: 58-66]




The boy in front of Shogo right now wasn't Kazuo Kiriyama.

Not really, anyway. Sure, it looked like Kazuo, and at one point was him, but the one thing Kawada had been sure about was that Kazuo would be ruthlessly efficient, and shamelessly calm. The way he always was.

He didn't expect the guy to make small talk.

"Are you feeling different now, too?" Kazuo's voice was nothing like he'd ever heard it: weak, emotional... nervous. "Different-- unlike before. Strange. Altered. Shifted."

"I know what it means," Shogo replied cautiously. Kazuo was right about one thing: he had changed. Both of them had. Kazuo was behaving like a whole new person, whilst Shogo... he hadn't shot Kazuo on sight. Perhaps he should have. Perhaps this was all a trick.

"You're a doctor, right?" Kazuo's next question was even more bizarre. How the hell did Kiriyama find that out? It's not like Kazuo would have ever come down to Shogo's old neighbourhood in Kobe, and it's not like he left any traces moving to Shiroiwa... did he?

He was worried now, but he was more concerned that Kazuo was just... mental.

"What?"

"It hurts..." Kazuo's voice... he was lamenting? "I feel pain, and happy and sad, and I think girls are sexually exciting..."

"...."

"...?"


"What? This some kind'a fucking joke?" Shogo growled.


"No joke. But I think it's going away..."

And with that Kazuo dove down to grip his bag.

Whilst the taller boy's attention was distracted for a while, he allowed himself a gasp; the pain in his hand felt like it was spreading up and down his arm. It was numb... tingly... but painful. Like he was getting cramps in his hand. This was a waste of time. Shogo needed to get away, sort himself out the clock is ticking...

Seventy-two hours to change the world...

...But every second this guy stands in front of you is a second being wasted. Kiriyama is an obstacle as much as the next player, but no, he's got the advantage, you're at his mercy right now, and.... what the hell is going on?

And then he saw the huge spread of weapons that Kazuo had accumulated. A machine gun, a shotgun, two pistols...

Wait... he's seen that pistol before somewhere...

And he's asking Kazuo how many people he's murdered, and the list is so casual, yet she's on there.

Hirono Shimizu.

Kiss kiss. Bang bang. And Kaori is dead.

The bastard got to her. And for all his swamp of emotions...

...he doesn't even care.

    The only reason Shogo bothered to turn up for classes like Home Economics was down to the occasional opportunity to make themselves food which could be taken home with them. Mrs Sato, the home economics teacher, was particularly keen on classes like these; she showed the kids what to do, they spent the next lesson trying to copy what she did, and she walked around at the end, eating what they made, and giving them all Bs. It was an easy lesson plan, and nobody really cared.

    One of the main issues the class had with her, though, was her complete ignorance about who worked well together, and who didn't. Shogo had a feeling that she just paired people up at random, or pulled their names out of a hat. Or threw darts or something.

    "Akamatsu and Oda. Iijima and Tanizawa." She reeled the names off crisply, like a military roll call. "Ooki and Nakagawa. Oda and… no, we've had him… which Nakagawa? Oh, that one. Sure, why not? Okay… Kawada and…"

    Shogo's ears perked up.

    "Kawada and Seto."

    Shogo turned just in time to catch the colour drain out of Yutaka Seto's tiny face. Mrs Sato had not noticed (or cared) and continued reading the names out: Kiriyama and Shimizu (much to Hirono's displeasure)… Kuninobu and Inada (Kaori made a strange noise)… Kuramoto and Yamamoto (both seemed pretty awkward)…

    As the list went on,. Shogo gathered his belongings together, and shuffled his chair sideward to get a little nearer to Yutaka, who still looked like he was going to knife the runt (or worse, fall on him).

    The task was to make some sort of vegetable bake. Fry down the chewier vegetables, put them in a sauce, cover with potatoes and grill. As there were no meat or eggs involved, the chances of this class poisoning itself were minimal. Regardless, Shogo didn't feel reassured about being paired with Yutaka, whose very existence seemed to defy Darwin. The smaller boy was washing his hands compulsively under the sink, whilst Shogo tied one of the small school aprons to his chest.

    "Lookin' good, Kawada," Hirono said with a small wink. She had re-styled her hair over the weekend; it was now a pale red, with occasional blonde streaks in it. There was something about the style that resembled Chigusa's dyed streaks, though Hirono pulled it off with casual rebellion.

    "I always look my best," he said back with a small smile, rolling his sleeves up to the biceps.

    "I'd suggest you take the shirt off and cook in just the apron," she teased, "but you're paired with Yutaka, and I wouldn't want to be near Yutaka when he's got a pan of hot oil."

    The smaller kid resembled a rodent as he scuttled away from the two of them, and busied himself with some pots and pans.

    It was easy enough to prepare. Shogo put Yutaka in charge of the pan, and chopped the vegetables up himself. The meal was supposed to serve four, but as long as Yutaka didn't burn the vegetables, they could split it equally between them, and Shogo could make it last two days.

    "Seto, put these onions into the pan, please."

    Yutaka, who was in the process of frying carrots, made a squeak as the onions entered the pan, and rose in a billow of steam.

    "Reckon you might want to take over from him, before he blows something up," Hirono was no longer cooking her own meal, leaving the whole thing for Kazuo to prepare. She was now providing a running commentary of Yutaka, as though she were building up toward the inevitable catastrophe.

    "Hirono, could you lay off him for a bit?" Shogo eventually said. "I'd quite like to eat this food at the end, and I don't want it on the end up over the floor."

    "You're sticking up for Yutaka?" Hirono said, before something caught her eye. "Shogo, are you crying?"

    He was indeed blinking away water. "Onions."

    "We've got onions. I'm not crying," said Hirono, only for Kazuo to interrupt.

    "There is a way to cut onions without releasing the relevant chemical," he explained. "I simply cut mine that way."

    Kawada wanted to make a comment, but at that moment Yutaka screamed and clutched his own hand. It looked like he had burned himself on the fire. Shogo turned the heat down, then grabbed Yutaka's hand. "Lemme have a look at it."

    Shogo ran his eyes over Yutaka's palm, concentrating on it as though trying to read it. "It's a bit nasty, but no lasting damage. Run it under cold water, and I'll get the teacher."

    He looked round, only to notice that Mrs Sato was no longer in the room (she was the sort of teacher to vanish for twenty minutes at a time without warning). Sighing, he walked to the back of the room to where the first-aid kit is, and took it off the hook.

    "Promise not to tell teacher?" Shogo said with a small smile, helping himself to the pack. It probably only needed a plaster and some gel, but the plasters all seemed way too small. "I'll put on some of this dressing on. Keep still."

    Instinctively, he knew that Hirono was watching, but he paid her no further attention; Yutaka's eyes were looking deep into his own. "You… you know first aid?"

    "Just enough," Shogo said with a modest, cheeky grin. "That feel better?"

    "A lot, thanks," Yutaka replied, and Shogo noticed his eyes were watering for a reason that was probably not just onions. "I… you're not a bad guy, after all."

    Shogo thought about replying, but he realised that, no matter what answer he gave, it would only be a half-truth. "Keep it dry, and leave it on overnight. Oh, and if it blisters, try not to pick at it, okay?"

    Yutaka looked ashamed, eyeing the pans. "I'm sorry…. I think the sauce is bad."

    "Huh?"

    "I didn't prepare the sauce properly, and it's gonna taste bad."

    The short boy's voice was barely a whisper, but Shogo understood. He grinned.

    "It's good I made some of my own last night," he said, pulling out a sealed pot from his bag. "Call it preparation."

    "Isn’t that…"

    "What?"

    "Cheating?"

    Shogo laughed a bark. "Promise not to tell teacher about that, either?"

    Yutaka grinned, and they poured the contents of the ruined sauce away. Shogo replenished it himself, and with that, the two of them were back on track, though Yutaka kept away from the hot surfaces. Hirono was watching Shogo suspiciously.

    "Why did you do that?"

    "Like I say, I want to take the food back with me. That's all."

    "The hell that's all," Hirono said. "I'm gonna start think you're going soft on me, Kawada."

    "You can think what you like."

    "I do," she said, eyeing up Kawada's apron. "Guess you're kinda talented. More than a pretty face, huh?"

    Shogo did his half-grin again. "From you, that's a hell of a compliment."

    "Whatever. I just want this to lesson to be over already."

    Within twenty minutes, the class was drawing to a close, and Mrs Sato had told the students to take their food out of the ovens to be tasted and graded. She walked around the tables, sampling the various dishes, and saying a couple of things to the makers. She passed off from Haruka and Yumiko's minor disaster, and stepped to Shogo's table.

    With a combination of perseverance, teamwork, and forward planning, Yutaka and Shogo had managed to pull together a half-decent meal, and were rewarded with a B grade.

    Yutaka and Shogo gave one another a small grin. Once somebody broke the ice, Shogo found it hard to stay frosty.

    All the more so when the teacher passed over to Hirono's table, took a taste of Kazuo's meal, and coughed it up over the table. The class converged on the table, astonished, and held their breath as Mrs Sato pulled out most of a cigarette from the bottom of the tray.

    "I don't smoke," Kazuo said. "It must have been Shimizu who put those in there."

    Shogo noticed the look of outrage on Hirono's face as she was forced to choose between grassing someone up to a teacher or failing a class. In the end, she stalked off without warning. Shogo wondered at what point Kazuo threw her cigarettes into the mixture, and why exactly he did so. But it didn't matter, as Kazuo now swallowed a spoonful of the mix. It was surely revolting, but Kazuo didn't seem to care.

    Kiriyama didn't seem to care about a lot of things.



Kiriyama seemed happy. He had the advantage; the both knew it, but he was gloating, he was proud, he was behaving in a way they both knew to be foolish in the circumstances, but through disbelief on Shogo's part and fuck-knows-what on Kazuo's, the events continued to unfold in the most bizarre way possible:

Kazuo picked up all four guns, and had started to juggle them.

"..."

No... something wasn't right here.

Obviously. But there was something else... something he was overlooking.

And that was it. Kazuo was trying to bait him. If what he'd been saying about emotions being true, he was trying to give himself some kicks along the way.

But fuck that. Shogo had been through too much, lost too much, to let this fucker use him as a plaything.

"You bastard. Are you just messing with me?"

"Huh?" Kazuo faltered, and the guns went clattering to the ground. Shogo smiled. He was taking back control. And damn, it felt good. He was used to calling the shots, but the game had-- quite rightly-- worn him down. But all it took was one spark at the right moment, and he would be back on track. This would be his moment. He would call Kazuo's bluff.

If this was gonna go down, it was going to go down on his terms.


    "So? What do you think?"

    Finally, they had explained the plan to him.

    Well, they had given him a rough outline. From just a handful of these informal meetings, there was no point in trying to get explicit, lengthy specifics from anybody, because none of them knew more than Shogo himself. It was hard to believe this was any sort of organisation at all. In many respects, somebody pointed out to him, it wasn't an organisation at all. They were simply a group of people who happened to meet together once in a while for a casual chat. There were no secret handshakes, no banners, no protests, and-- oddly enough-- no huge ambition to do anything. Generally, the biggest thing people discussed was the sports matches, or pop music, or similar trivial stuff.

    Maybe it was because they didn't want to talk about the hard stuff. Maybe it was because Shogo was present. Maybe they were just aware that a nation cannot be toppled with a snap of the fingers.

    But this was the first time anybody had said anything to him about the actual intentions, about sending him into a class that had already been scheduled for the Battle Royale some point the next year.

    Either way, the plan sounded completely absurd.

    "Shiroiwa?" Shogo grumbled. "what, 'Castle Rock'? Sounds a bit of a lousy place."

    "You understand that you'll need to stay there for good, right?" The man who had explained this to him seemed to have some air of a teacher about him; late thirties, and fidgeted like he wanted to sit down all the time. "And the thing is... you'll probably die."

    "Yeah, I figured that," Shogo shrugged. He had assumed he was going to die some point in the near future, anyway, why not use it to prove a point? That the kids churned through that slaughterhouse do matter? That they aren't just cattle?

    Shogo leaned forward. "So what do I need to do?"

    "Just attend classes, be a student, same as normal," said the man. Shogo knew this guy was not the leader (if there was a leader; it felt impossible someone could manage this much chaos and lack of material strategy), but he was holding some air of knowledge anyway. "We're gonna register you under the name Shugo Kuwata. Just for the time being... is that okay?"

    "Why?"

    "This class is being tracked. I don't want any fireworks to go off when the Government check on the new kid," said the man, whose name Shogo still didn't know; they were huge on aliases round here, and Kawada appreciated he never would know this guy's name. "But get the school to change it once you've settled in. There's nothing against a Program survivor re-joining the school system. It's a huge coincidence, but someone could get picked twice. And the alias is close enough to your real name to pass off as a mistake."

    Shogo realised what was making him feel uneasy. "I... I don't like the idea that we're going to sit round and let these kids die. Why can't we intervene?"

    "Those aren't our instructions."

    Shogo closed his eyes. He knew he wasn't going to get a better reply. "It's fucked up, but... this is that shit about making a small sacrifice for the greater good, right?"

    "You can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs."

    "Fuck you," Kawada growled. The man seemed to realise what he had said, but was interrupted before he could apologise. "Forget it. Is there anything I need to know?"

    "Yeah, one big thing," the man said, passing Shogo a sheet. "There's a kid in the class, called Kazuo Kiriyama. He's... well. Put bluntly, early preliminary data puts him as the most likely winner. He is a huge danger."

    Shogo looked at the paper in question: this Kiriyama had been marked with an esitmated 28% chance of victory; one or two were presented as having between 7% and 4%, with the vast majority of the remaining thirty-five or so pupils hovering at about one percent apiece.

    "Make no mistake, this guy is the one to look out for," repeated the man. "We'll work on figuring out what his weaknesses are, but he is a huge danger. If you see him, kill him on sight."

    Shogo mumbled under his breath in reply, but he was transfixed by the pupil's school photograph. His face, so calm, gelled hair like some sort of yakuza wannabe, but with an expression of total apathy... there was something disturbing about him from that photograph alone.

    Something... missing.

    And those eyes. They were what kept Shogo from looking away. Even on the poor print quality, it was like looking into the jaws of oblivion. There was something fundamentally wrong about this student.

    "Make your plans from the outset, Kawada. And pray that somebody else gets to him first."

    That was it. The curtain between the two students had been set before they even met. Shogo had a task to do, which would probably cost him his life.

    And he had to beat him, no matter what.



Kazuo had started to cry.

Despite all the planning, his better judgments, and all previous knowledge he had about Kazuo Kiriyama, he was bawling his eyes out like some sort of kid. Heh... Kiddyama.

But really, this was the key. This was the key he needed to get into Kazuo's mind. He wanted a rush.... could Shogo use this to his advantage?

"What if there was another way for you to get your kicks? Something exciting?"

It certainly seemed to get Kazuo's attention. He had stopped flailing long enough to listen, and seemed to be as settled as Shogo ever expected to see him. Lowering his own gun, Shogo reached into his bag for a slip of paper and one of his pens (and God, he hoped he wasn't making the hugest mistake of his life right now), and clumsily scrawled out a note with his left hand; one that Kazuo read with childlike curiosity:

ATTACK GOVERNMENT. I'LL WALK YOU THROUGH COLLAR DEFUSING.

For reasons Shogo couldn't explain, Kazuo really had regressed into a child. It showed on his features, a curious eagerness, as if being bribed with an unexpected gift so long as they do their chores. It was like he was weighing the pros against the cons. What he wanted, versus what was being offered. Shogo just sure as hell hoped that Kazuo had the smarts to realise the potential to save lives and change the country forever was nothing to be sniffed at.

How much more of a kick could Kazuo want? What could be more unique than beating the system at its own game, and being the first one ever to do this? Shogo was ready to take passengers, but what if the passengers were as... individual as Kazuo? Was there some sort of triumph to be gained from that?

After some gentle coaxing, and a very careful selection of words, Shogo had convinced Kazuo to bandage up his hand. Kawada had tried to tell Kiriyama how to mend it up, but for whatever reason Kazuo seemed to be making it up as he went along (or rather, he gave off that impression). And in typical Kiriyama fashion, the bandaging was impeccable; although Shogo fingers felt like a lump of clay, they at least looked like they were part of his hand, plus a lot of the pain went away over time.

So when it became clear that Kazuo was fully capable of dressing the wounds, Shogo started to explain the ins and outs of collar removal. Kawada was as delicate with his wording as he possibly could. After all, there were fewer than ten people to monitor now (probably five or six, if those gunshots were any indicator), and Shogo was certain that the proctors would be listening keenly to every word being said... after all, they weren't stupid. He knew they knew about his history with the game.

Thankfully Kazuo was still-- for all his current eccentricities-- a quick learner. He understood the urgency of Shogo's secretive explanation, and deciphered it, as if he were playing along. The demonstration about bypassing certain wires, the use of a spectacle screwdriver to loosen up certain panels, what to avoid, what to sever... Kazuo seemed to figure it out at lightning speed.

And there was something theraputic about teaching somebody a skill. He remembered how he felt pride at helping his dad in the clinic, learning more about chemistry and biology than any teacher at that cruddy school ever did. He remembered passing notes to and from Keiko on study dates, before they decided that the study had gone on for too long, and it was time to drop the pretence and spend time in one another's company. And he remembered listening to the specifications about removing these trackers, and memorised every single detail about the collars, knowing that the safest place to store a secret is within the human mind.

Nearly an hour passed. Shogo had remembered something his father had always told him about crazy people, and that was to humour them without them catching on that you were doing just that. Vividly, he remembered some sort of heroin addict dropping by the clinic, screaming for some sort of fix, despite having a lengthy stab wound the length of his bicep; Shogo couldn't have been more than nine years old at the time, and he had been hiding in the next room expecting his father to get hurt, but listening intently to every word that was said, every comment about a scar, and about how the painkillers were going to help, and even something about sports. Somehow, his dad came to him about forty minutes later with a relieved smile, and told him that he should never let somebody unnerve him, especially when they are probably very dangerous.

He remembered this advice, as it was just a few weeks after they had buried Shogo's mother.

With a person such as Kazuo Kiriyama, though, it was hard to try this tactic. Shogo was under no delusions: Kazuo was ten times smarter than he was, and would probably work out his trick before even Shogo did. Therefore, the only option was to keep him distracted.

Distraction worked wonders, he recalled. Kazuo used to do it on kids at school who were upset, distracting them until they forgot what they were upset about. He wondered if the same trick would work on Kazuo. Or at least, until he worked out the best chance to strike.

Wait until Kazuo's guard was down. Then shoot him to hell with the machine gun.

Therefore, Shogo spent much of the time letting Kazuo explain everything that had happened to him on the island. From beheading Yuichiro (Kawada visibly recoiled, which made Kazuo laugh), to the point where he killed Hirono (Kiriyama showed something that could almost pass for regret, except he seemed thrilled that he was feeling anything at all). Kawada wondered… if Kazuo could be convinced Shogo were a friend… would this work?

"So you feel now, huh?"

"Mmm-hmm," Kazuo nodded, tilting his head as some sort of cockroach-type critter scuttled past.

"Well, can't tell you for sure if it'll stick," Shogo admitted, sure that Kazuo would see through a lie. "But it might, though. The brain does weird things…"

Kazuo looked up. "But it might not?"

Shogo could only shrug with non-committal. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. It was impossible for him to figure it out on an island with nothing but a bag of makeshift collar-tampering equipment to hand. But Kazuo would understand. They should get him to a proper doctor. Let them figure out exactly was happening. That would be the better thing to do.

Or not. Kazuo had dived for his gun. Apparently, Shogo had said the wrong thing entirely.

"Oh fuck!"

He wouldn't even be able to grab and aim the gun in time. This served him right for thinking.

Don't think. Shoot. The hunter instinct is everything.

Shogo did the first thing he could think of, and that was to throw the gun at Kazuo's head; apparently the unexpectedness of the action made him pause, but it was enough to grab the next gun he could, and point it square at Kazuo's head…

"DON'T DO THIS, KAZUO!" screamed Shogo. "FUCK! WE CAN GET OUT OF HERE! YOU'VE PROBABLY HEALED ENOUGH, WE CAN DO THE FUCKING PLAN…"

"NO! I'LL FEEL!" Kazuo screamed back.

"YOU'VE LOST IT!"

And Kazuo fired the gun, hitting Shogo's duffel bag, which was blasted apart.

So much for keeping frosty. A lot of the equipment was in that bag…

And Shogo grabbed the pistol and fired it left-handed at Kazuo when he stumbled, who dodged at the last moment, flying back over Shogo's head like in an action film, whilst firing his own gun…

And Shogo dodged it, praying he would have enough time to return fire… and Kazuo really no longer deserved to survive, because if this was a sign of what was to come, then escaping from the island would mean nothing if the passenger had lost his mind…

And Shogo pointed his gun at Kazuo, to see the barrel of the other one staring him square in the eye.

"Killers feel something! I know that! From when I killed Hirono, who was a great friend even if she was a whore!"

Shogo wanted to spit. What the fuck did he know about being a friend?

What the fuck did he know about Hirono?

"Fuck it, Kazuo! You've lived your whole life being a hedonist, and now you've got a chance to do something good…" And Shogo didn't care what he said, because if Kazuo was ever going to listen to someone's last words, it was now, so he was going to damn well make sure he spoke his mind, "but of course you'll do this. People like you always do!!"

"I have to, to feel as much as I can before I lose it!" Kazuo breathed, desperate, urgent, hungry.

"Feel good, Kazuo!"

"It all feels good!"

And that sealed it. Kazuo Kiriyama didn't have a clue what feeling good was really about. He had spent his whole life living in monochrome, functioning without a soul, and when fate finally dealt him one, he ruined it by filling it with so much bullshit that even if he did get out of here, his life would be just as pointless as it had been before. What the hell was the point of feeling good when you couldn't distinguish between right and wrong? How the hell did that make him any less of a sociopath?

What was the point of having blood in your heart when your mind is a blank fucking slate being scribbled on by a four-year-old without a fucking clue what it meant to be human?

How did he fucking deserve to get out of here when he didn't know what it was to love, or to grieve, or to regret? If he didn't know hate? Or loss? Or rage?

How did he fucking deserve to get out of here when he couldn't even conceptualize Shogo's motives for doing this in the first place?

How could he live with being Kazuo Kiriyama?


"I know!" Kazuo skipped a little. "I have the answer! This is like the coin-flip…. But there's no edge!"

"No edge?"

Pull the trigger, already!" Shogo was berating himself, but something was making him stop. Something. Maybe he couldn't kill a child who was happy.

Or rather, he had never done so yet.

Kazuo was rebalancing the gun's weight on his shoulder, whilst producing a marker pen from his pocket. "Remember those things you told me earlier? You can do them with the left-hand, too!"

So Kazuo wanted to help him, still. Perhaps there was still some good in there, somewhere

The thought was lost as Kazuo leaned in and started scribbling instructions on Shogo's forehead.

"…"

"I'll just put the things you can reach with your left hand to get the same effects," Kazuo said happily, writing what felt like a small novel on Shogo's face, "and then you just need to find a mirror."

"But… it'll be backwards."

"I'm writing it backwards!"

Shogo felt truly defeated. In a battle to get the upper hand against Kazuo Kiriyama, he felt humiliated in the failure, mostly because it went nothing like he had planned. And for all the expectations and worries he had put into the Program, for Kazuo to dominate him under the whims of a game… the whole thing meant cheaper.

If Kazuo won, the Program won. If Shogo beat him, there was still a chance. He could still defeat the game.

And although it would never avenge Keiko, at least Shogo would feel he had returned the gift the Dictator had given him, and both of these classes. The middle finger.

"Fuck it," Shogo growled, knowing what Kazuo was about to do. "I'd ask you to think about it, but you're not going to."

He squeezed the trigger. The die was cast.

And the two boys' destiny finally came to a head.


((Aaand the vote is opened! FttD, Shogo Kawada -vs- Kazuo Kiriyama. Opening the vote in a few moments! :D Good luck Tomar! Aaand yes, the report will follow straight after.)
 
 
Status: accomplishedaccomplished
 
 
He had felt the sounds - bullets blasting from gun barrels - before he had fully heard and realized the gravity of it all. They violently whipped the darkening air, shaping up a thick ringing within his ear, strong enough to knock him off balance. shit! In that split second, he shut his eyes, bracing himself for impact. this is gonna hurt this is gonna - huh A breeze picked up, ruffling his hair.

It was supposed to hurt when you got shot, right? Like, it was supposed to be crippling pain. That was how it had been like in every contraband movie he had seen when he was a kid. The yakuza guys got shot and they went down. Kawada went down. Kiriyama. Yuka - bam. And, it was supposed to be searing, like that was the only thing you could think about, right? Hot agony washing all over you, scrubbing places you'd never even felt before. But, for whatever reason, it felt more like wind pushing up against his sleeves. maybe - maybe it's one of those things you only feel when you look at it

Yoshitoki opened one eye and - shit, Shuuya! There, there Shuuya was looking all weird with one arm, the one holding the gun - the gun - more bullets there - at the sky. What the hell happened to your aim? And before he had the chance to fix anything, Yoshitoki shot him again, square in the chest. It sent him down to his knees, his gun dropping, and his body sort of at an awkward crouch with his hands gripping at his shirt.

Beneath his reddening palms, crimson plumed in the shapes of lilacs, growing and growing at a maddening rate. A bloodstained cough proved the main fact. Shuuya Nanahara was dying. He was dying and Yoshitoki Kuninobu was standing, living. And the guy whose back had always been there, always walking in front of him and blocking Yoshi from view, was dying. The glorified champion's chest and stomach had carnivored a bullet each.

Solid years of sports training hadn't saved him here. Yeah. His breathing came out jagged and awful, in a much more torturous state than Megumi's last gulps of air. Then again, that was what bullets were supposed to do. Hurt you and make you fall and kill you. And, this time, his gun had worked. It had actually worked. Nanahara the Great was going to die. I can't believe this -

I really did it... - I got him...! No more standing ignored in the shadows. No more being looked over, passed over in favor of someone better. No more exclusion. No more friends that were more of someone else's than his own. No more getting his heartbroken because of that someone else. No more blind followers of a false idol. No more feeling so alone.. No more people with him not because he was him but because he was someone's best friend. No more

basketball games between two friends. No more complaining about teachers. No more washing dishes together. No more singing. No more guitar playing. No more listening to a brand new song freshly figured out. No more listening to illegal American music and wondering what the hell they could be saying, but feeling the emotions all the same. No more eternal gratitude. No more best friend only smiles. No more two-from-ones. No more knowing that, no matter what, there was someone there for you that had your back. No more reassurance that, hey, maybe, I do have someone who loves me like we're blood and you know, I think I feel the same. No more.

Shuuya the best friend, the brother, was dying.
Sh... Shuuya...
Shuuya!

"Oh, God, no," Not like this. Yoshi had wanted his victory. be happy, you got what you wanted But, not this victory. "Nononono." Victory wasn't even the right word for it. This was a twisted something else, a horrible come-uppance knocking at his door.

The gun fell out of his hands and he rushed over to his brother, hands desperate to plug up the holes he had made. Everything kept gushing out. It wouldn't stop. From his stomach, from his ribs, the flowing refused to cease itself. Nothing was going to stop this - it was too late. "Shuuya, Shuuya, no." Repetitions of the name he was killing to keep it and all of its memories alive. "Shuuya!"

"Y...Yo-..shi, ...i-it's...okay." Between the coughing and shuddering breaths, there was a sad, sleepy smile on his face. A sleepy, strength fading fast smile. It sawed his heart open. The worst part of his face were his eyes void of shock and anger, filled solely by angelic serenity. "It's o-o...kay..."

"No, it's not!" Yoshi cried. The blood, the blood. It was getting everywhere, all over his hands, all over his jacket. It wouldn't stay in, despite the pressure he put on the wounds. Oh, why wasn't it going to stop? Just, stop, please!! His hands weren't enough to stop the bleeding. Nothing he could do right now was enough to end this. "Shuuya, I can't get it to stop. It's not stopping." So much of it. So much crying, so many claws gouging holes into his heart.

Shuuya slowly shook his head and placed his hands over Yoshitoki's. "S'okay..."

"No," What was so okay about kinslaying, especially when it was against Shuuya, of all people? Yoshitoki sobbed. "You weren't supposed to die here. You were supposed to get to go home. You were supposed to live, Shuuya!"

He was going to be the one, not Yoshi. He was going to win, go back to the Charity House, say sorry to Ms. Anno, talk to Shintani one last time and realize that she never had a clue, then pick up his guitar and fly off to America. And, maybe there, he'd start some kind of anti-governmental force to take down the Program and their so-called Great Dictator. Or just become the famous musician he was meant to be. Something. Anything better than this. The thought devastated Yoshitoki.

Again, there was a solemn head shake. "So a-are you. Y-y...you, too." He gently moved his hands, trying to push Yoshi's off of him.

"I take it back! I take it all back! Every word." Yoshi said, his volume fluctuating. "Everything. I didn't mean it like that. This...I didn't want this to happen. I didn't want you to die. I'm sorry!!" But, you can't take back a bullet once it's hit its target. No amount of tears or screaming would bury what had happened.

"D-don't be..." Another cough, full of blood. Shuuya held Yoshi's hands. "Ju-...ust be hon-honest with...yourself..."

Be honest? Look what honesty did to us. Honesty killed you. "But, I don't want you to go. Don't leave me, Shuuya. I need you here." One more hour. Two more hours. However much longer the game would allow, he wanted all that time to make amends. To pretend like they were kids again, playing tag or swinging or - shit, this isn't what I wanted. "Please, stay with me. I need you so much, you don't even understand."

Everything, Shuuya had been with him for everything. And losing him now
because of what he had done
was so - so wrong.

"N-n...no, ca-an't." Shuuya looked sad about it, but there was still that smile. Yoshi readjusted, so it would be his hands over Shuu's, and strengthened his hold, hoping that it would send the message better than words ever could. "S-so-sorry. Gotta g-go..."

"I forgive you, it's okay. Everything's okay now." Yoshitoki lost all his composure, not like he had much left, though. "You were never a bad person. You don't deserve to die like this..." Yoshi couldn't tell whose hands were shaking more, because as much as Shuuya was dying, so was he. "I was wrong about you. You're not a killer. Everything you've done was my fault all along. I'm the reason for everything."

Kayoko. She had come after Shuuya to rob him of someone he loved, just like how he had taken hers away. Shooting Kawada and Kiriyama had been for Yoshi, to save him from them. Yuka was killed to protect Yoshi just in case she tried to kill again. Same deal. All of that had been for and because of Yoshitoki.

There was no way he was going to let Shuuya die believing in a lie. Pure of heart, Shuu was better than that.

"Kotohiki wanted to kill you because of me," Yoshi continued. "She told me something before she let me go. I-I...I haven't been able to forget it. She said that I could live and see everyone I know, everyone I love die. And she told me she'd even help me see that happen. The tracker, it was hers, wasn't it? She must have looked for you and wanted to kill you because of me.

"Everyone else wasn't your fault, either. You never really wanted to kill them, Shuuya. You're not and you won't ever be a killer. You didn't even want to kill me when you knew I was going to." The last part made him wheeze. "You know, what Kotohiki said is so true. I'm watching you die. Y-you never deserved this game."

There, that was the real truth. Shuuya Nanahara had never lost. He had been himself, the same good guy that he was in school and at the orphanage. No one else alive on the island had earned the right to the number one spot like Shuu had. No one. After a long bout of coughing, Shuuya stared into Yoshitoki's eyes, never breaking his unwavering gaze.

"Th-th...ank you, but I ch-chose what I-I did... N-...not your fault." Shuuya's eyes were fluttering. "Hey, Yosh-..shitoki..."

"Yeah?"

"W-win this game. Go - go out a-and live your life. P... Please. Just... li..ve." The celestial smile hadn't left his face. "L-live my share, too, 'k-kay?"

He didn't know if he could. The remaining players had reasons they were in the top seven or six or so. No one was going to hesitate to shoot him on sight.

"I'll try to." There was no giving up now. Shuuya and Noriko's lives were worth more than his surrender. Giving up would have been the worst insult to their memories he could ever make. Yoshitoki's mouth formed a determined smile, straight from the shards of his heart. Ready to win this, not for himself, but for them.

Shuuya's grasp was weakening. "I-I...d-don't want you t-to be...sad anymore. Live, be ha-...happy." More coughs racked his body. Blood splurted from his chest, constantly reminding Yoshi that - that this was it. The final goodbye he never wanted to have to say. "I...I think I need...to be a-alone n-now, please."

Yoshitoki knew what that meant. "I love you, brother."

"Sa-same...here. T-two fr-from one..." Yoshi let go of his hands, knowing that he'd never be able to let go of him in his heart, and stood up. "See you l-la...ter, Yoshi."

"See you, Shuu."

And after that, he took everyone's supplies. Shuuya's two Smith & Wesson guns. Yuka's Czechoslovakian CZ 75 gun. That made four guns, loaded with experience and lives. Funny how the Program runners had given him a weak and useless wiimote and now, he was packing heavy heat. The scales had tipped in his favor. Yoshi holstered the M19 Magnum on his belt, kept his grip on his own Browning, and put the rest away in his bag, which he kept strapped tightly to himself. Preparation for his last trek out of hell.

Kuninobu looked back at Shuuya and a grim thought passed through his head. It's supposed to be you doing this, not me. They exchanged one last sincere smile, probably the last one Yoshitoki would ever give for the rest of his potentially short lifetime, before he walked away. He knew that he would never be able to forget Shuuya Nanahara and he also knew that he wouldn't ever want to.

It should have made him happy to get what he wanted - he had proved that he was worth it to the world - but where elation should've been lived only depression.

I never wanted this.

~ * ~ * ~

Dammit... The GPS was taking forever to find. It felt like he had been on his hands and knees forever, searching up and down throughout the grass for it. It was exhausting, but necessary to his survival. If time ran out and he couldn't find everyone else, then, that sucked. Memory told him that the dangerzones had worked to box everyone together...so, if he kept walking forward, he was bound to run into someone eventually.

Somehow, he couldn't put faith into that idea. The smarter, better move was to get the GPS, lie low, and take out whomever was closest. Chances were that he could sneak by them and shoot them from behind. Not the most honorable thing to do, but, hey, this was Battle Royale. And, why'd you have to throw it so far, Shuuya?
(he's dead now)

Thinking made him want to throw up, so he stopped and went back to combing the grass.

"Hey! There you are," Yoshitoki picked it up, cooing at its bright screen. Dirt had scuffed it a little, but other than that, it had stayed true. He clicked around the view mode. Five numbers left. A 7 (that's me) in D6. A 5 (Shogo Kawada) and a 6 (Kazuo Kiriyama) in D7, one zone over. Then, in D8, a 4 (Sakura Ogawa) and a 1 (Mizuho Inada). Wow. Top five.

Four more people. He had a one in five chance - a twenty percent chance of making it out of this place alive. The reality of it frightened him as much as it thrilled him. So, what now? As he watched the screen, the 4 disappeared. Dead. Mizuho Inada had killed her. Top four. Yoshitoki wanted to scream.

The game was #7 versus #5 versus #6 versus #1. And it was anyone's game to take, after all, outlasting thirty-eight other kids was a feat in itself. As soon as the next and last report was read off, Yoshitoki would move out to chase little fragments of hope, to tragic victory, to three more deaths and a new branch of hell.
and they'll never see me coming

Four students remaining.

((OOC: Top four, top four. :D PC Control approved. I miss Shuuya terribly, but thanks for all your votes. Yoshitoki Kuninobu now has the GPS, the Smith & Wesson .38 Chief's special, the Czechoslovakian CZ 75, the Smith & Wesson M19 Magnum, and still has the Browning Buckmark Bullseye & Wiimote. Overly prepared? Pffffft, noooo.))