“Couldn’t we just stay away from the beach?” Tsumiki suggested.
“You know he’ll find a way to force us there.” Souda snarled, wringing the life out of his beanie.
This prediction came true with dismaying speed, as the teens attempted to return to their cabins, following the latest announcement from Monobear.
Hardly thirty minutes earlier in the evening, the wicked bear had summoned the group together once again for an announcement. It would seem that it had been too long since the previous murder, so a special event would be called for to liven things up. The students would need to chose two from their remaining number to go to the beach after night fall. If more or less than two showed up, it would be game over for everyone. He refused to detail exactly what awaited the two ‘sacrifices’.
“You’re locked out too, am I right?” Komaeda caught up to Tsumiki, who was looking more fretful than usual.
“I-is this how he’s going to force us onto the beach?”
“That seems very likely.”
“W-why are you so calm?”
“I just think that we shouldn’t get too excited until all of us get back together in one place. There’ll be safety in numbers, and then we can take some time to figure this out.”
The group reconvened outside of Hinata’s cabin, which somehow seemed like the logical place to be, though no one knew quite why.
“We can just settle down here tonight. It’ll be like a big sleep over.” Komaeda cheerfully suggested.
“I’ve never been to a sleepover before…” Tsumiki was quickly beginning to calm down, which is what Komaeda had been hoping for. He knew how much she enjoyed being on the island, sans the murders, of course. Even if something nasty was about to go down tonight, it might be nice to see her enjoy herself for as long as possible. He quickly realised that seeing rare glimpses of her cheerful expression was something that he found quite soothing. Not having either friends as a child, Komaeda definitely understood how she felt. He caught himself enjoying moments on the island as well. Even though the other students would occasionally yell at him, he could tell that they were actually good people with a great amount of hope deep inside. They wouldn’t become cross at him if he didn’t deserve it, after all, even if he was never quite sure just what he was doing wrong.
“Well, I don’t think anyone should do any actual sleeping. It sounds like we’d just be begging for a murder.”
“You don’t trust your friends at all, Hinata-kun? That’s so sad…” Komaeda lamented.
“I just think that maybe this part of Monobear’s plan? Maybe the whole beach sacrifice thing is a bluff to get us to all kill each other out here.”
“Nobody really sleeps at sleepovers, anyway!” Mahiru chimed in. “Let’s all just stay up and have a good time!”
“Exactly what I was thinking,” Komaeda agreed.
The group settled down and got to chattering and eventually even Hinata began to loosen up.
Komaeda noticed, however, that Tsumiki’s sullen mood seemed to be returning as the night progressed.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“Oh, um, sure! I just need to use the bathroom.” Tsumiki stood and began to hurry off.
“Where’s she going?” Saionji asked accusingly.
“The restroom, but I really don’t think she should go alone…” Komaeda frowned.
“It might be safer for her to go by herself. If everyone else stays here, we know she won’t be murdered.” Hinata argued.
“What if all of the girls go with her?” Ibuki suggested.
As the group began to argue, Komaeda took the opportunity to scuttle away behind the cabin. Once he was sure no one had noticed him, he took off for the beach.
He knew darn well that Tsumiki had not gone to use to the bathroom, despite her odd fascination with the places.
“Sacrifice number two has arrived.” Komaeda announced, causing Tsumiki to startle. She had been staring into the ocean like a maiden waiting for her knight to return.
“A-are you coming to stop me?” she began to wring her hands.
He moved to stand beside her. “No,” he looked at the ocean rather than the girl as he spoke. Despite it being a warm summer night, a cool breeze came packaged together with the salty air. “This will save the other students, so they can continue to keep hope alive. It’s more important to sacrifice two than to lose everyone. If only one sacrifice was needed, then I’d be sad to not be able to see you smile anymore, but as it stands right now, I might be able to see it soon anyway. Then again, who knows, maybe my luck might help us out a little.”
He tried to smile at her, but she wasn’t there. It was just dark. Dark, wet and cold all around. Perhaps he was upside, even?
Ah, I’m drowning.
It was a little different than he had expected. He had thought drowning might feel similar to the time when his dog or his parents had died- a crushing pressure, a clawing desperation to escape. In actuality, it was soft and embracing at first. Quickly, however, his lungs began to feel as if they were had joined the space program and where preparing for launch from his chest. Funny that his luck hadn’t kicked in this time. Still, it was alright. There was no need for struggle. He trusted the other students would prevail against despair. They didn’t need him. This was really for the best. The colors parading behind his shut lids were really quite soothing.
Drowning was exactly how she imagined it. It was just like all the times her friends and family had ignored her- suffocating, all-encompassing, a feeling that would soon cease to exist. It was very dark, making it impossible to tell which way was up. As a nurse, she had learned about drowning victims, but it was much different in reality than a textbook. She tried to swim to the surface, even though she knew it would be safer to relax and float. She didn’t want to die. She knew that she was selfish, and everyone would clearly be happier without her around. Even so, Tsumiki wished that she could have stayed on the island with her friends forever. Maybe they would remember her fondly for her sacrifice. No, they’d forget…They would forget all about her…
She was still drowning. Something was wrapped around her body, entangling her, prompting her to thrash and sputter.
“Shh! Shh, it’s okay. You’re okay now, Tsumiki-san!”
She would recognize that velvety voice anywhere. It was like a warm knife through butter, penetrating through her confusion.
“Komaeda-san!” she gasped, shooting up into a sitting position up and looking around.
It was still very dark, and everything around was very cold and hard. She guessed that they must be in some sort of cave. He must have carried her in here after they washed up. The thing engulfing her was Komaeda’s coat. It was surprisingly dry already, indicated some time had passed. She began to slide it off, intending to return it, but the boy stopped her.
“Tsumiki-san, I think you may want to keep that on.”
“Your clothes were torn in the accident. I tried my best to give you some modesty, but maybe I should have given you my shirt and pants instead? I didn’t want to invade your privacy too much… ”
“Oh, that was very nice of you! You can have it back now, it’s really okay.” She moved once again to shrug it off further, but winced as it brushed her leg.
“Please, I’d really like for you to keep it on. It looks like that wound under the bandage on your leg reopened. I wouldn’t want you to catch a chill and get sick on top of everything else.”
Tsumiki managed to wriggle the coat off regardless in order to inspect the injury.
The current injury extended further than the scar that had originally been forming. Her entire lower leg, from knee to ankle, was sticky with crimson and caked with sand. The area was completely torn open and jagged, like a bag of chips someone had been too eager to get into. The inner layers glistened. Any deeper, and there would have been bone exposed.
“It-it’s going to need stitches…. I should be okay if I can get to some supplies. I’ve gotten pretty good at stitching myself up, you know! Um, are you alright, Komaeda-san? Were you hurt anywhere?”
Komaeda picked up the shed jacket and placed it gently around the girl’s shoulders. She wiggled her arms back in the sleeves. Her arms were far too short, causing her hands to disappear within floppy cuffs.
“I’m fine. Just a little bruised.”
“Oh, that’s too bad…” she looked to the ground, disappointment evident.
Komaeda got the feeling that she would have been delighted had he needed her help. Instead, it was the other way around.
“Um, Komaeda-san, what do you think happened?”
“Well, my best guess is that somehow Monobear created that giant wave in order to separate two of us from the others. He probably figures that we’ll kill each other. Maybe that injury of your’s was part of the plan. Do you think I’m supposed to put you out of your misery?”
Tsumiki made a dismayed bleat as she tried to scoot backward in the sand, but her leg wouldn’t cooperate. The pain caused tears to form in her eyes as the jacket slipped onto the beach once again.
“Relax! I wouldn’t kill you. There’d be no hope in that at all.” The boy drew near once more and used one of the jacket sleeves to blot at the corners of her heather eyes. Once they looked a bit less dewy, he wrapped the coat around her once more.
Her skirt had been mostly torn away in the accident, exposing her underpants. They looked be a size or two too tight for her, digging in at the waist and other assorted areas. Komaeda thought to himself that perhaps she didn’t get shopping too often and had trouble judging her size. Either way, he found himself wishing that she’d pull the front of the jacket closed at least a little.
“Don’t you think you should at least wrap that up somehow until you can suture it?” he suggested, instead.
“Oh, it’s not really bothering me; I’ve gotten kind of used to pain.” She chuckled unconvincingly. “I guess I can use what’s left of the skirt…”
She tore off a strip resulting in a sound that would make any seamstress cringe. Once the make-shift bandage was in hand, Tsumiki made a valiant attempt to get into a position in which she could apply it, however, Komaeda found himself unable sit by and watch as she squeaked and frowned with each incremental movement of her leg.
“Please, let me do that for you. You can walk me through it so I don’t mess it up,” Komaeda insisted.
“Oh no! You shouldn’t! Please don’t waste your time on me…” She ceased trying to place the bandage and began to wring it in her hands instead.
Komaeda laughed. “I can assure you, I’m really not occupied with anything else at the moment.”
He gently tugged the cloth from her and wound it neatly into a roll, so it would be easier to wrap around the injured limb.
“What would you do if you let it get infected?” he asked.
“I guess I’d just have to chop it off…” The hypothetical loss of a limb didn’t seem to rile Tsumiki much. It was as if she had been asked to toss out some rotted vegetables.
“Chop it off, huh…” Komaeda looked to his hands. The tattered cloth was still clasped in one, while the other remained idle, waiting to be called upon for a task. He shook his head and held the end of the cloth over the wound. “I probably won’t do this very well, so tell me if I do something wrong, okay?”
He carefully slid one hand under her lower leg, gently lifting it. Tsumiki’s breath hitched in pain; he could tell she was trying to not squeak anymore, perhaps in an attempt to not upset him.
Just looking at her, he had imagined that her skin would be very soft and delicate. However, it was somewhat dry to the touch. On second thought, she didn’t seem the type to go in for expensive body washes and lotions. Plain bar soap was probably what she preferred. The salt from the sea water probably didn’t help either.
Tsumiki gave no guidance as he wrapped the blue cloth round and round her. With each layer, the quickly forming red stain could be seen less and less until he reached the ending, tying it into a pert little knot that would make any boy scout proud.
“Y-you did a very good jo- EEP!” Tsumiki’s compliment turned to a squeal upon feeling warm breath, followed by a soft brush of lips on the skin just above the bandage. “Wha- wha-?” she babbled.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Komaeda softly eased the limb back onto the cave floor. “I was just remembering how my dog used to kiss my injuries when I fell down as a kid… It always helped cheer me up.”
“I-I think that dogs lick things, actually…They, uh, don’t really ‘kiss’…” she continued to babble as she began to fiddle with one of the jacket tie-strings.
“Hm. You’re right,” he considered, “Should I go back and do it again?” he asked, opening his mouth wide and closing in near the girl’s leg once again.
“No! No, that’s alright. You… did it fine the first time. I’m all better now, see!” she smiled a wide, reassuring smile that didn’t extend to the rest of her pale face.
“If you say so.” Komaeda swallowed his saliva with an audible gulp and settled back down against the opposite wall of the tiny cave.
Some time passed as the two listened to the crash of the waves in silence.
Tsumiki finally spoke up. “S-should I do something to thank you for helping me? Um, I could eat a bug or something. Everyone at home always thought that was really funny! I’d take off the coat if, um, there was anything you wanted to see, but seemed like you didn’t like that before…”
It wasn’t that he didn’t like it, really….
“Tsumiki-san, please stop. I helped you because you’re a good person and I don’t like seeing you hurting. Seeing you suffer even more would kind of defeat the point.”
“I see…” She fixed her gaze to the injured leg. “You said before that your dog would cheer you up when you got hurt. Did your, um, parents help you any?”
“No, not really. They didn’t have much time for me.”
“Mine either… Um, do you mind if I ask how you’re able to be so confident? I mean…um, if you’re parents didn’t pay much attention to you, it must have to been hard to be so self assured…”
Komaeda barked a laugh. “You think I’m confident? I’m trash. Haven’t you heard me say that before?” His fingers began to dig into his arms, causing white blooms to form under the digits like clover blossoms.
“I-I think that maybe it takes a lot of confidence to portray yourself in such a poor light… And anyway, you’re so confident in your luck and in your belief in us…I think. I wish I could be more confident like you.”
“I would like for you to learn to have more faith in yourself, Tsumiki-san. Just don’t take it far. Sometimes being too confident is just a recipe for a letdown. Like, if you just assume that everyone will be your friend, but then it never happens, it’s usually a worse feeling than if you had just assumed that no one would ever like you.”
“Everyone does like you, Komaeda-san! Hinata-san and Nanami-san and…and me. I like you, Komaeda-san. You’re scary some times, and I don’t always understand what you’re saying, but um, I think you mean well? Thank you again. Um, for the coat and bandage…”
“You’re most welcome, Tsumiki-san, but I’ll be needing it back now.”
“Oh, um, sure. Here you go…” She been to wriggling the jacket off once more. She managed to remove one arm before she was stopped abruptly by a very different arm placing itself into said sleeve immediately after.
“I never said you couldn’t still be in it.”
Komaeda had quickly moved across the cave floor, so that he was facing Tsumiki, straddling her hips while taking care to not put any weight on her wounds. One pale arm was around her shoulders, while the coat sleeve-clad arm clasped around her back, contorting the coat and forming an awkward embrace.
“Y-you’ll stretch your coat out!” the girl wailed.
“It’s okay. It’s my lucky coat. Nothing bad ever happens to it.”
Whether that was a joke, superstition, or a true result of his talent, she couldn’t guess.
“I’m tired. Let me rest like this.” Closing his eyes, he alighted his chin her shoulder.
“Do you… think your luck saved us?”
“I think my luck tried to drown us.”
“That was the bad part that always comes right before the good.”
“Oh. When do you think the good part is coming?”
The boy settled his chin even further. It was somewhat bony, causing the girl some discomfort, but she remained still. “Hmm. I wonder,” the boy replied.
“Hey, you little pig! Quit hiding!”
“Saionji! That’s enough. Take a break and go back to the cabins. Nanami says they’re unlocked now.”
“Komaeda! Where are you, you weirdo!?” Hinata shouted.
Tsumiki heard voices nearby the cave. Everyone had been looking for them, even Saionji. They really didn’t need to go through so much trouble… She thought, despite her feeling of relieved surprise. She had half way forgotten that there had been a very real possibility that they could have become separated from the others forever. For the past few hours it had just been herself, Komaeda, the cave, and the lazy lapping sound of the sea and she had been okay with that.
She opened her mouth to shout back, but Komaeda shifted on top of her, reminding her that he had fallen asleep, one arm still in the coat sleeve, the other now around her waist.
She shut her mouth after only a squeak had time to escape. Maybe they’d think to check in the cave on their own…