Kaede sighed deeply. "I can hear you following me, Kokichi."
After a moment, her shadow skipped out from behind the corner a few yards back, whistling. "Well, that's a bit self-absorbed, isn't it? Can't someone walk down the hallway without being accused of stalking? I'm hurt!!" To emphasize his suffering, he let out a loud sniffle.
"You were only taking a step when I did," she said wearily, "so I wouldn't hear you."
Kokichi's tearful face cleared immediately. "Oh, you noticed? Yeah, that was a lie." He broke into a bright, beaming smile. "Wowww~ that's amazing, Kaede! Are you sure you're not the Ultimate Spy or something?"
Kaede rolled her eyes. "If you wanna walk with me, you can just do it, you know."
Kokichi's smile didn't falter. "Nishishi-- Wait, are you serious? You think you're worthy of walking beside the Ultimate Supreme Leader?"
"That's funny," she shot back, tapping her finger on her chin and smirking. "I don't see any supreme leaders here. How can you be a leader when your evil organization isn't even here for you to lead them?"
Kokichi grinned wider. "Oh, they will be here. And when they get here, I'm going to make sure they take care of every person who dared talk back to me or messed with me! Aren't you scared, Kaede? You're in wayyyy over your head now!" He snickered again.
Kaede snorted, annoyed, and shook her head. She was tiring of the back-and-forth; every conversation with this guy turned into a nightmare. But still, she didn't mind terribly if he wanted to hang out.
"I'm heading to my ultimate lab." She finally announced. "I feel like playing something to relieve the stress. And I obviously can't stop any supreme leaders who decide they want to come with…"
With that, Kaede turned and walked away, wedge heels clicking on the stone floor. After a few seconds, Kokichi effortlessly fell right into step beside her, arms up and hands behind his head in a careless pose.
"Heyyy, wait up!" He whined. "It's rude to walk away when people are talking to you!"
"If you wanna talk, we can do it in my lab," Kaede said firmly. Kokichi heaved a sigh of long-suffering.
"Fine, I'll come with you since you obviously really want me to..."
Kaede's eye twitched, but she refrained from replying. The short boy grated on everyone's nerves with his constant lying. Despite herself, though, she actually found him pretty entertaining. And as creepy as his light-heartedness was in such a dire situation as a killing game, Kaede had never gotten the impression that he was seriously capable of murder. When he acted that way, he was bluffing, she was… pretty sure of it.
While she had gotten lost in her thoughts, the liar in question had continued rambling, occasionally swiveling his eyes towards her for a reaction. When she had been mostly silent for a minute or so, he smiled and tapped his fingers together.
"I have to wonder, though…" he murmured, almost to himself. "Was it my roguish charms that made you fall in love with me, or do you just like me for my power?" he asked, offhandedly.
Kaede did a double take. " Huh ??"
"Welllll~? Answer the question!" Kokichi trained his eyes on her as they reached the door to Kaede's ultimate lab, halting before it.
It was weird to be put under his direct gaze like this. Despite herself, Kaede found a bead of sweat rolling down her temple. While Kokichi's lips were pulled into a light smile, his eyes were intense, and stretched wide open. His face was creeping her out!
"What kind of games are you playing?? Who ever said I was interested in you, much less in love with you!!" Kaede wanted to screech, but she held herself back. Clearly Kokichi was testing her, yet again, and she was tired of being the only one toyed with during their verbal spars. He just loved to poke and prod at others in order to push their reactions one way or another...
But two could play at that game, couldn't they?
An evil thought popped into Kaede's head, and she didn't think twice about it before she lowered her eyelids and smirked at him.
"Well, I can't choose between two equally important things. Besides, how can a girl like me resist someone like you?" Kaede teased, leaning down to be eye-level with him and reaching out a hand to softly brush against his cheek.
He almost looked shocked, but Kaede blinked and in a flash, Kokichi had jumped back, subtly avoiding contact with her. And he was laughing again.
"I was kidding ! Jeez, Kaede, who are you trying to seduce? You can't win over a supreme leader so easily."
Kaede felt her face burst into crimson heat, cursing her cheeks for being so easily flustered. "Well, I don't know!" She stammered out. "Jeez, Kokichi, If you're just gonna mess with people, you should--"
"Man, even with a lie, it's easy to get you riled up, huh!" Kokichi snickered again, covering his mouth. "It's almost cu--"
"Be quiet !" Kaede yelled. Instantly, the boy clamped his mouth shut from sheer surprise.
"You can be as much of a jerk as you want to be out here, but in MY lab, you've gotta follow MY rule," she commanded, pointing a finger right at his nose. Kokichi stared at it, shell-shocked for a second, before breaking into a smile again.
"Silly, silly Kaede," he cooed, before letting the smile drop off his face like a stone. "Like I'm going to obey someone else's orders."
"If you don't, you're not allowed in my lab with me! But if you do, we can hang out, and I won't kick you out. How's that sound?"
Kokichi blinked and tilted his head, unimpressed. "But I don't want to go in your lab anyway. I was lying."
Kaede's head was spinning, as it often did when she dealt with this boy's nonsense and misdirection. She forced herself to try to reason with him. "How about you hear the rule first, then you can decide what you want?"
"Fine." He examined his fingernails and sighed deeply. "What's your rule."
"While I'm playing the piano, you have to be perfectly silent. That means no talking, no breaking things--"
"You think I b-break stuff??" Kokichi's eyes filled with tears again.
"-- which doesn't mean you can't talk at all while we're in there, it just means no noise while I'm doing my stress reliever thing. This is my space, and I wanna use it doing what it's made for. Got it?"
He stared at her for a few seconds, expression completely blank and devoid of emotion. Kaede's stern expression didn't waver-- she wasn't backing down.
Suddenly, it was as if a light switch flicked on above Kokichi's head. He beamed as bright as the sun.
"So you will let me in after all?" He gushed. "Thank you, Kaede~! I'll be as quiet as a mouse!"
"But-- I thought you just said you didn't actually care!" Kaede couldn't help but protest, exasperated, as she opened the door.
Kokichi laughed lightly. "Oh, I was lying, of course! I toootally want to hang out with you and be friends with everyone, and that's the truth!"
As he cut in front of her to get inside, Kaede frowned, concerned. Everyone had to be dealing with the stress of this situation differently. Even though he seemed to be having a ball, Kokichi had to be stressed and worried as well, right? He was an enigma to her, bouncing around without a care in the world, toying with others' feelings as much as he pleased for his own entertainment.
But… Kaede clenched her fist in determination. She wanted to-- she would! She was going to find a song to play that Kokichi would appreciate!
While she thought, Kokichi had wandered over to the bench and hopped into it. He was just a bit too short for his feet to reach the floor, and absentmindedly began kicking his legs. Kaede found herself smiling at his childishness.
"Wellllll?" he said pointedly. "You said you were gonna play the piano. So play! This is getting boring."
"Fine, fine." She closed her eyes-- the first piece that came to mind for Kokichi, what was it?
Oh, of course. That would do perfectly. Kaede smiled and lowered her hands, resting her fingers lightly on the keys.
"I'll play a song fit for a Supreme Leader."
Kokichi blinked, then gasped. "Don't tell me! The ultimate high school level pianist is actually performing for me and me alone ? Gosh, Akamatsu-chan, you sure know how to make a guy feel special!"
Kaede snickered. Obviously he was being sarcastic… but she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of getting a reaction out of her. She was in her comfort zone now. "Yup, this one's just for you, so sit tight and relax!"
Not giving him the chance to respond, she pressed down on the keys, beginning her piece. If Kokichi had been about to speak, he didn't continue-- guess he had been serious about following her rule after all.
As Kaede lost herself in the music, she paid less and less attention to the boy on the bench. She didn't notice his head begin to slightly bob along to the tune, or his nasty little smile to slowly fade into a blank expression of thoughtfulness. Luckily, by the time she finished, Kokichi had made a full recovery, and was able to applaud obnoxiously as the last note faded out.
"Wowww!! I'm starstruck!" He gushed, clapping madly. Kaede, playing along, stood up and took a bow.
"Thank you, thank you," she said, beaming.
"I wish I had roses to throw at you."
"Don't you mean 'to' you?"
Kokichi stared at her blankly. "Anyway, what was that song called? It sounded familiar."
"Oh, it was just Waltz no. 2, nothing too complicated." Kaede sat down beside Kokichi on the bench, throwing her arms up behind her head. "But it reminded me of you."
"WAAHHH, Kay-yay-dayyyy!" Kokichi wailed and threw himself at her without warning, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and pulling her close. "You're so MEAN!"
“How can you tease me like that??” he sobbed into her shoulder. “To show me the extent of your skill after having refused to team up with me…”
Kaede wanted to facepalm. That was what he was flipping out about??
“Oh, come on!” she said in a sour tone, nevertheless wrapping her arms around him and reciprocating the hug. “I know you’re just messing with me. But still. . . Once all of us get out of here, I might be willing to play for your giant evil organization.”
“Of course you would!!” Kokichi exclaimed, beaming and leaping out of her embrace. “You’ll have to play that again sometime. It sounded like a dance, maybe we can dance to it next time, and I can sweep you off your feet! Nishishi!”
“How can we dance if I’m the one playing the piano?” Kaede asked, dumbfounded.
“Oh, I guess you can’t. What a shame, you’ll never be able to experience that dance!” He giggled and put a finger in front of his lips. “Well, what can you do? Guess I’ll have to steal your heart some other way.”
“You really should stop kidding around like that,” she huffed, folding her arms. The warmth of his hug had been nice, and his pulling away so abruptly was annoying, but it wasn’t like she could say that.
“Guess I should continue my plans. Can’t murder anyone without setting up properly first!”
“Don’t even lie about that!” Kaede exclaimed sternly.
“Who knows, maybe I was telling the truth that time!”
Kaede scoffed aloud and rolled her eyes. “As if you could kill anyone.”
Kokichi’s smile disappeared, replaced with that blank look. “Huh?”
“We’re not going to kill each other at all. I’ll make sure of it.” She stood up and walked over to the piano again, taking a seat to begin another song. “You can still stay if you’d like. Remember the rules!”
Kokichi didn’t move for a while. She almost thought he’d slunk out without making a sound, but Kaede was too stubborn to turn her head and check. Finally, she heard him mutter something under his breath, and stopped playing immediately.
“What’d you say?”
“I said you might be surprised.”
Now she did turn, meeting his eyes, but whatever expression he’d had on was gone, replaced with his winning grin.
“Oops, don’t want to give you any spoilers for my schemes, nishishi! Guess I broke the rules, though. Gotta run!”
But Kokichi had already scampered out, swinging the door shut neatly behind him with a click. Kaede couldn’t help but look after him for a minute or so before returning to her comfort playing.
Still, his actions and words were lingering in her mind for a while after. Kaede shook her head, dismissing the eccentricities of her classmate and directing her attention back to the piano.
“What a weird guy.”