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Towards This Red Sunset

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POPPIN’ PARTY’S TOYAMA KASUMI FOUND DEAD

In the early hours of XX.XX, the lead singer of the relatively unknown band Poppin’ Party, Toyama Kasumi, was found dead. Investigators are uncertain as to cause of her death, and whether it might be suspicious. A peculiar detail noted by the investigators is that her hair appears to have been violently cut –they are unsure whether this was before or after her death. The remaining members of Poppin’ Party have decided to take a period of rest to mourn their friend and regret to cancel their upcoming performances.

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“This is horrible!” Himari whimpered into her hands. Tomoe tried to comfort her, but no amount of pats on the back could fix this. Everyone stared at Tsugumi’s phone in the middle of the table, reading the headline to themselves over and over until they could begin to believe it.

“It’s awful,” said Tsugumi as she took her phone back to check if anyone from Poppin’ Party had replied to her message. She wanted to know if they were holding it together. No replies; none of them had even seen the message. As she scrolled through her open apps, the headline flashed up on screen again and her stomach lurched. “So awful,” she murmured, and turned her phone over.

Moca put her chin on the table and said, “I can’t believe they called Poppin’ Party ‘relatively unknown’!”

“Stop joking, Moca – Kasumi’s dead!” Ran snapped.

“Exactly – way to spit on her legacy.” Moca retorted, “They didn’t even put it on the front page. Poor Kasumi.” She unwrapped her breakfast from its paper bag. The piece of bread was different to normal. Yamabuki Bakery was shut this morning with an apology taped up on its door. Luckily, Ran offered up her pocket money and got her something from the cafeteria. She nibbled the crust and heaved a discontented sigh, “…Not as good.”

“I’m worried about the others,” said Himari, her chin quivering. “If anything happened to any of you guys-…” her voice faltered and wilted into nothing as tears trickled down her cheeks. Tomoe shunted her chair closer so she could hug her.

“Maybe we should send them something to show we’re here for them,” said Tsugumi. “We could all write messages in a card; we could get them fl-…” She stopped herself.

“…Ramen!” Tomoe cut in; too late, Ran was already squinting angrily into space.

Fl-amen… hmm,” Moca muttered into her bread. “Good idea, Tsugu. Let’s do-.” She coughed, once, twice, three times, and gasped. The others tensed up; Tomoe hurried to her feet in case she needed to perform the Heimlich like last time. Moca grasped her stomach, trembling all over. Face twitching, her eyes rolled back, and she slipped sideways. Tomoe yelped with shock and reached out. Her fingers snagged the hem of Moca’s sleeve but the dead weight of Moca’s shaking body ripped it from her grasp. Moca landed with a thump, her head smacking the wooden floor.

“Moca!” Himari and Tsugumi cried out.

“What’s wrong?” said Ran, calm despite the chaos. She stood up and followed Tomoe around the table and knelt on the floor next to Moca. “Can you hear me?” she called out, shaking her shoulders. Moca was pale, a ghoulish blue tinted her lips as froth oozed from her mouth.

“Ran! Let go!” Tomoe pried Ran’s tense fingers away from Moca. “You might hurt her!” she said, and took off her jacket, rolled it up and pushed it underneath Moca’s head. Tomoe, sweating with terror, leant closer to Moca and spoke near her ear, “We’ll get an ambulance, Moca! Hold on!”

Tsugumi already had her phone pressed to her ear; tears welled in her eyes. It rang too long. She reached over and held Himari’s hand tight. Himari pressed her forehead against her shoulder so she did not have to look anymore. Tsugumi could not tear her eyes away.

“Fire or Ambulance?” asked the dispatcher.

“Ambulance,” said Tsugumi. She stared at the scene before her, trying to take it all in despite the fear that threatened to overcome her. She had to explain it; she had to be concise and unafraid. What was happening – if only she knew. She gulped and looked Ran in the eyes. Ran looked back at her, solemn – eerily so. That was when Tsugumi realised Moca was not shaking anymore, and Tomoe was trying to find a pulse in her neck.

The dispatcher spoke again, “What is the emergency?”

Patient: AOBA MOCA

D.O.A

Cause of Death: Asphyxiation