“So, uh… shouldn’t we find a way to make sure we all come out alive?” you asked meekly.
Everyone turned to look at you. Nao raised her hand, directing your attention over to her.
“Um, could you elaborate on that?” she asked while looking to the side, “I don’t get it…”
You waved your hands in a panicked manner, “I mean, to this woman--” you waved a hand at Miley. “--we’re all disposable. She’s probably gonna kill the one who gets the most votes. So what if we uh... all vote for ourselves so no one dies?”
“I disagree,” Sou’s voice said as his words cut through the air like a knife. You turned to face him as he glared at you. “That’s too much of a big risk. Like you said: we’re disposable. What’s to say that she won’t kill us all?”
“He’s got a point,” Keiji spoke up as he nodded at you. “That’s too much of a gamble we’re willing to take. I don’t think any of us would be willing enough to side with your idea--”
“I’ll do it!” Joe exclaimed as he raised a confident hand in the air. “I trust Y/N, and her thinking is… way different than ours.”
Q-taro snorted. “You gonna side with her just like that? You could die!”
Joe narrowed his eyes at the tall male. “Better I die with her than making her die alone.”
“I… I’m also going to side with Y/N,” Sara said as she clenched her fist.
“Sara…!” Reko exclaimed as she stared at the girl like she had gone insane.
Sara held her gaze level with the entire room. “Y/N… has a point. Although it’s true, we could all die, the rules are a bit hazy.”
“Hazy? What do you mean?” Mishima inquired with a questioning gaze.
“Let me explain,” you said as you pointed at Miley, who was staying silent the entire time. “She said that whoever gets the most votes will die. While that is true, she never said what would happen if we all get the same amount of votes.”
The room went quiet as everyone thought to themselves. You looked over at Sou, who was looking over at you disapprovingly. Distrust. It seemed that there was a barrier between the two of you that you couldn’t get past. Well, not really your problem.
“So, um… what does happen if we all get an equal amount of votes?” you asked Miley, staring at her heterochromatic eyes.
The doll just smiled maliciously, eyes glinting. “Who knows? Seems you lot haven’t used your eyes well enough.”
‘Eyes?’ you thought as you looked around the room. ‘Did we miss something? What?’
“I still think we shouldn’t do it,” Q-taro said as he pointed at you. “I’m not trusting some girl with my life!”
Keiji let out a cough and mumbled something which made Q-taro panic.
“That’s not--! You know what?! Never mind,” the redhead grumbled as he closed his eyes.
The blonde policeman scratched his neck. “For me… I don’t fully trust Miss L/N over there… but I trust Sara. I have faith in her judgement.”
“Just like that?” said girl asked while raising her eyebrows at the blonde.
The man smiled. “You bet.”
You began to shuffle around and search around the stuffed bunnies for a clue. Anything. You peered behind the shelves and went on your toes to peer through the vent. Then something grabbed you by the cuff of your shirt.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” Miley asked as she stared at you with two cold eyes. "How dare you come near me. Learn some respect."
Her face was perfectly blank. The calm before the storm, you would often say to Itsuki. You felt your stomach drop as your body swayed and suddenly went flying across the room. The pain registered before realization as a sharp pain shot up your butt as you landed near the door. You gripped the door handle as you slowly stood up.
“Aw, fu--” you cursed as you bit your tongue to prevent yourself from saying such words in front of children.
“Y/N!” Joe and Sara exclaimed as they rushed over to you.
“Are you alright?” Keiji asked as he frowned at you.
“Oh my goodness!” Nao shrieked as her face turned several shades paler.
You waved them off and grunted. “Fine, I’m fine. Anyway--”
There was something behind the door. Before you could reach to open it, a voice reached the pits of your stomach.
You turned around to see Miley, the Laughing Doll, smiling at you with no laughter or glee reaching her eyes whatsoever. It looked like she came straight out of a horror movie.
“I’ll let you off easy,” she said swiftly as she rubbed two of her fingers together. “There is a way to forfeit this practice round. That is: for there to be a tie.”
“A tie?” Professor Mishima asked as he fixed his glasses.
You noticed Sou tense up.
“Correct,” the doll announced as she stared straight at you. “If you vote for a tie, the game is forfeit like you said.”
‘Should we… trust her?’ you thought as you swallowed harshly. It was hard to tell whether or not the doll was lying. You can’t trust her. Don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t--
“There’s something behind this door,” Sou said as he pushed it back a little. “This is…!”
You peered beside him and stared at the bold black words written on a piece of paper. It read:
The Second Trial ~Practice Round~ This is a practice for the Main Game. The start is signalled by the doll’s revival. Follow instructions and hold a majority vote. The one with the most votes is the one to be sacrificed. However, this is a practice round. If the votes come to a draw, the game is forfeit.
“We should listen then, huh?” Keiji huffed as he stared at the paper as well.
“What if you’re lying?” Mishima inquired as everyone froze in fear again.
Miley smiled. “I swear it’s the truth. Those are the actual rules.”
“... it won’t hurt to try,” Sara said as she pulled up her tablet. “After all, it’s the only shot we’ve got. Shall we?”
A few moments of silence, which was enough time to be seen as a silent agreement.
“Good idea,” Sou added as he nodded with approval, “That way, we won’t have blood on our hands.”
‘Man, did he have to word it that way?’ you thought as stared at the other people in the room uncomfortably.
“I agree,” Kai said softly, “Shall we all vote for ourselves then?”
“Alright,” Reko said as she showed everyone her tablet.
She pressed her finger against her face and put in her vote. Soon, everyone started to put in their vote. You looked out of the corner of your eye to see the Smiling Doll frowning. Her gaze slid over towards your figure like that of a predator as you quickly directed your eyes somewhere else.
‘Oh crap!’ you thought, internally panicking, ‘I just had to look over huh? That’s how you make enemies. Enemies, Y/N.’
Sara: 1 vote
Joe: 1 vote
Keiji: 1 vote
Kanna: 1 vote
Q-taro: 1 vote
Sou: 1 vote
Reko: 1 vote
Nao: 1 vote
Kai: 1 vote
Gin: 1 vote
Mishima: 1 vote
Y/N: 1 vote
Most votes: None, tie
Your eyelids blinked at a rapid pace like a camera shutter. You looked at Miley’s face, carefully watching her reaction. Her expression was completely neutral, besides the way her eyes widened slightly. And that feeling in your stomach you got whenever you wanted to puke while seeing the sinister grin spread across Miley’s face wasn’t good.
“How interesting,” she cooed while covering her mouth, “You all managed to escape a possible death.”
A large sigh escaped your lips as you realized you had been holding your breath. Your nerves were a jumbled mess as you could feel your heart rate slowing and returning to its normal pace. You needed to keep a level head. Panicking and causing disarray would just make everything worse. Especially since you almost saw someone else die.
“Congratulations!” Miley cackled, spreading her hands, “I’m surprised! Maybe I was right for making a few changes! How interesting…You got lucky.”
Her giggles sent a cold ripple down your spine which caused goosebumps to pop up. You ignored the feeling, dismissing it as you redirected your attention to the Laughing Doll.
“Soon…” she giggled while looking at everyone. Still, you felt that her gaze was directed at you. “Soon you will die. One. By. One.”
“Why are you doing this?!” Kanna asked as her eyes shimmered with a mixture of fear and tears, “Everyone… everyone’s a good person here?! How can you do this…?! What did we do?! I won’t stand for this!” She clenched your hoodie which was draped around her frail shoulders.
‘She has balls,’ you thought as you stared at the little girl in awe with widened eyes.
Miley still held a huge grin on her face as she laced her fingers, “Heehee… heeheeehee… you annoy me, you powerless little girl… No. You sister-killer.”
With widened eyes, you watched the blood drain from Kanna’s visage. Her teary eyes looked like they were about to pop out of her head. Her eyes began to look down to the ground in shame and sorrow. In the corner of your eyes, Sara looked like she was about to explode. Kanna began to speak in mumbled whispers as Miley mercilessly cut her with her harsh words.
“Haha, I saw all of it. How useless you were in your First Trial, Kanna,” Miley said with a gruesome smile.
You had no idea what was happening, yet the world around you felt like it was crumbling apart. Mishima’s face was becoming increasingly pale as horror began to dawn on Sara’s face. You flinched out of instinct as someone across the room shot out at Miley.
Blood trickled down Miley’s forehead towards her twisted grimace. The doll trembled in anger as her attacker stood before her in silent fury.
“Gah…” she gasped as if she was in pain with clenched fists. She probably was.
“Forgive me,” Kai said dismissively, as if the issue didn’t matter, “The hand with the frying pan must’ve slipped.”
‘Must’ve? Must’ve?!’ you thought while grinding your teeth in stress, ‘Geez, I think he just gave her a fucking concussion.’
“You little…!” Miley growled as she jabbed an accusing finger at him.
Kai nodded, “So even dolls bleed red.”
‘...he’s right,’ you thought as your eyes grew wide in realization, ‘She claimed to be a doll, yet she’s bleeding. She must be human just like the rest of us.’
The “doll’s” teeth just gritted against one another as she continued to point directly at the homemaker, “...Don’t think that you can do this… and just get away scot-free!”
“On the contrary,” Kai said, his eyebrows creasing in anger and his hands tightening their grip around the frying pan, “I don’t think you’ll be getting away with so little as this. I will have you pay for toying with people’s lives.”
Miley trembled in pure anger as she violently shook her hands, “Dammit! Damn it! I’ll remember this! I’ll be waiting… on the grounds of the Main Game!”
The Laughing Doll shoved her way out of the room and ran away. You watched as she disappeared into the darkness of the other room.
“Are you alright?” Kai asked as you began to space out.
‘We barely escaped death,’ you thought, ‘From Joe, to anyone in this room. Crap, this is not good.’
Keiji sighed while rubbing his neck, “Well, no one died. So let’s just be grateful for that.”
“He’s right,” Joe agreed while shakily nodding, “Well… I need some time alone. I’m gonna go…”
The brunette boy staggered out of the room like a zombie. You just let out a shaky breath and pounded your chest lightly a few times. Meddling with death… it wasn’t really your forte. In fact, the very thought made you want to throw up. You tried to calm your thoughts as you saw Sou whisper to Keiji, who exited the room. Your stomach suddenly lurched again. Wow, you really were sick.
“I’m gonna go search some more,” you agreed while holding up a hand, “Is everyone alright though?”
“Quite,” Mishima replied, though his and Nao’s face were inexplicably pale.
“...okay…” you said in a disbelieving tone as you turned towards Sara.
“You gonna be okay?” you asked her while gesturing towards her.
She fiddled with the ribbon in her hair, “Yep. Don’t worry about me, Y/N.” She started to exit. “See you later.”
The brunette left the scene. You sighed and decided to go search as well. You saw Keiji emerge out of the darkness, seemingly out of nowhere.
“You gonna go anywhere?” you asked Keiji while shrugging.
The taller male went to lean up against the wall and tilted his head towards the side, “Nah… I feel like I should keep an eye on those two.” His gaze darted towards Mishima and Nao. “They look pretty shaken up.
You nodded, “True…”
‘Maybe I should go join up with Sou again, huh? Where did he even go?’ you thought as you walked through the dark room, ‘I have a feeling he wouldn’t be too happy with me telling others about the hidden room yet. Though, I swear I saw Keiji walk out of there a few seconds ago. It’s his own business after all.’
“Keep your nose out of our business!” the girl growled, causing you to shy away.
“She’s right, just… please. Stop worrying about me .”
You shook your head side to side furiously, swatting the thoughts out of your head, ‘Stop that. You told him that you’d stop thinking that way.’
As you walked into the cafeteria, you realized it was dark. Suddenly, the lights flickered on.
“Whoa, what just happened?” you asked as you looked around the room.
Your gaze went towards Kai who was now facing you.
“Miss L/N. Hello,” he said softly while bowing a little, “The lights just went off for a while.”
Sara brushed her skirt as she nodded, “Yeah. Don’t worry. Nothing happened.”
“Okay…” you said as you walked past them, “Stay safe…”
‘Why do I feel like everyone is hiding something from me right now?’ you thought as you made your way to the main room in a rushed manner.
Upon entering you noticed Sou and Q-taro staring at a staircase that appeared out of literally nowhere.
“Whoa,” you gasped under your breath, your eyes widening. You walked besides Sou. “What the hell is that?”
“I’m gonna guess that’s where the ‘doll’ escaped to, if you could call her that,” Sou replied while touching his scarf again, “Are you thinking of going up?”
“...maybe,” you said, while squinting at the brand new structure, “Although… I think I lost the will to venture into dangerous places a long time ago.”
“I don’t really recommend it,” Sou said, gripping his scarf, “It’s dangerous… Ah! Miss Sara!”
Sou turned to chat to Sara as you stared at the staircase. You were left standing there as Sou completely ignored you.
‘Should I go up?’ you thought as you began to pick at your nails nervously, ‘Still… if Miley is up there… she could kill me. Maybe. Who knows. She treats this like… a game.’
A vision of Haruka's contorted expression as she died flashed in your head. You pressed your lips together and shut your eyes tight with annoyance.
‘Why am I thinking about that right now?’ you thought as you fought the urge to pinch yourself, ‘I should be glad no one else died. If they did… I don’t think I’d be able to comprehend it. I’m still… processing her death. I just can’t believe she’s really gone. All that anger and hatred I cursed towards her… and it came true? It’s just way too wild to believe. I don’t think her death has settled into my thoughts yet. But… was it considered murder? Am I justified to have clean hands?’ Thoughts swirled in your head like a washing machine. Over and over and over again.
You blinked, turning to look at Q-taro, “Huh? Yeah. Why?”
“You’ve been standing there for almost ten minutes,” Q-taro said, furrowing his eyebrows.
“Holy crap, I was?” you squeaked incredulously, “I’m gonna go search.”
You turned to run off and decided to head towards the bar. As you rounded the corner and entered, you saw Joe sitting by himself. Getting the feeling he was in a deep thinking process, you quietly approached, and took a seat next to him.
“Hey,” you started quietly as you slouched forward onto the counter, “You good?”
Joe didn’t say anything, just sitting in silence, then said, “I’m thinking.”
“Thanks. Even a genius could tell.”
Joe crossed his arms and huffed, “It’s just that… Y/N. Do you really think that Keiji is a cop?”
“Hm?” you asked as you stiffened at the question, “Well…”
“Hold on,” you said, “Where's your uniform? If you're here for an investigation, you should have a uniform, right?”
Keiji’s eyes seemed to narrow as he shook his head, “Well, if I recall we went out extremely late. There was an important discovery and I had no time to dress in a uniform at the time. So I just came in what I wore.”
“I have my doubts,” you said as you sat up, “I feel that he has the demeanor of a cop. But… I just have the feeling he’s lying.”
‘Are you really sure about that?’
“I mean, I could be wrong. This is just a hunch. An unreliable gut feeling!” you said, flailing your hands in a panicked manner.
Joe put a hand on your shoulder as a sign of reassurance, “Calm thyself. Have confidence in your judgement.”
“Confidence? Who’s that?” you asked jokingly while shrugging.
“Y/N…” Joe said, putting his hands on his hips.
“Ah, but seriously!” you exclaimed while leaning on him, “I’m kinda… worn out, Joe. I don’t know what I’ll do if I lose you. Or if I see someone die again.”
“Again?” Joe asked, tensing underneath you.
“Haha,” you chuckled uneasily while tugging down the cap on your head, “And guess who it was?”
“Who?” Joe asked as you got off of his shoulder.
‘My chest kind of hurts.’
“Haruka,” you said in a sarcastic peppy tone, “Out of all people. I can’t believe it.”
‘My throat hurts.’
“Wait, that Haruka?” Joe inquired, with widened eyes.
‘I can’t breathe.’
“Yeah,” you croaked out with a shaky voice, “How do I explain this…?”
After explaining what had happened, you had collapsed onto the table in sheer exhaustion.
“... are you okay after seeing that?” Joe asked quietly, petting your head through the cap.
“I’d be lying if I said yes,” you replied as you drew circles on the table, “But at the same time… it’s like I forget about one minute, but the next it’s back. I guess it hasn’t sunken in yet.”
“... that’s good, I guess,” Joe said softly as he sat up, “What are you gonna do now?”
You stood up, “Maybe get my hoodie? It’s kinda cold. I’ll… catch you later.”
You waved at him and left, feeling a little content with the conversation you just had. You walked through the quiet area and began to look around for Kanna. Perhaps she was alone? You gazed around the area and quietly opened the door to the room where you played Russian Roulette. There she was, the small, petite girl with green hair. She was all curled up one one of the couches, biting one of her nails. As you quietly approached her, her fearful eyes darted towards you.
“D-do you need something?” she asked, clutching her hands towards herself.
“Maybe my hoodie?” you asked while rubbing your neck, “It’s getting kind of cold.”
The little girl immediately got up and started hastily shrugging the hoodie off, “Oh I’m so sorry! Here! You can take it back! Here you go!”
“Ah, that’s alright,” you said as you gratefully took back the sweater, “Just kind of missed it.”
She quietly nodded and sat back on the couch. You watched as her eyes darted towards the cap on your head. The poor girl. She looked pretty worn out and tired. Her eyes were puffy, signifying that she had been crying. Honestly, she looked pretty defenseless, just sitting there all alone. You had the protective urge to comfort her. Questions filled your head as you pushed yourself to ask her.
“Is Bis Sis Sara really a good person?”
Her question came at you like a knife first. Your eyes widened as you turned to face her. Was Sara a good person? Why would Kanna even ask a question like that?
“I mean…” you croaked out while your eyes darted all over the room, “That’s not really something for me to decide for you… she’s been my friend for a while… you should get to know her too…?”
‘Kill me now,’ you thought as you looked up towards the ceiling.
“Kanna,” you said as you fumbled with your fingers, “Do you know who--?”
“What the?! What’s that?!”
You immediately stopped talking. You and Kanna peeked out the door to see Sara and Joe dragging a figure of some male away. You were about to start after them, but a hand grabbed your wrist. Kanna held you back as she hesitantly bit her lip. She stared up at you with a wavering, but determined gaze.
“C...could we talk about Itsuki…?” she asked quietly.