Actions

Work Header

15,5%

Chapter Text

"Hiya." A silhoutte of a man in a dark room greeted.

"Just a random question, but you know what a majority vote is?" He's voice was friendly despite the odd inquiry, but still left an eerie feeling in my skin, making my hands sweat in spite of the chilly air of the room.

As if sensing the tension in my body, the man chuckled, the sound echoing in the close walls surrounding us. "No need to get mad. It's helpful to start conversations with an easy question." As he was saying that, a panel lit up showing a blue figure of a man beside a red figure of a woman. "Oh? Looks like somebody's over there."

A new cheerful male voice started to come off the panel. "I love majority votes! They represent the way democracy should be, following the will of the people! It's a method that minimizes conflict!" Just as the blue man finished speaking, an apprehensive female voice started. "I hate majority votes! They're just a way to silence minority! It only makes more darkness build in the shadows!"

The silhoutte sighed "Sounds like they're having some tedious argument. Incidentally, whose opinion do you support? Mr.Blue's or Ms. Red's?"

I wasn't sure what all of that was about, but it felt like a bad idea leaving the silhoutte waiting too much for a response. Still I couldn't trust my own voice to say what I was thinking.

Is there a right answer? What does he wants to hear?

But ultimately, I just pointed towards Ms. Red on the panel, hoping that that was the right answer.

On the panel a rock fell on Mr. Blue, crushing him with a dull thud, leaving only a pool a blood to be seen.

"Aw... He died." The silhoutte stated nonchalant. "But good for you! Your opinion had more supporters! With that experience, your side's learned the terror of a majority vote."

Don't knowing what to feel about that, I stayed silent.

"Huh...?" He seemed to eye me for a second."If that makes you happy, then don't you have to recognize the appeal of majority votes?"

With the lack of response he continued. "...Sure is complicated."

Another moment passed as I tried to make sense of what the silhoutte was saying. 

Majority Vote? What's this nonsense? Where even is this? 

All questions I didn't have an answer for, wich could only put me more on edge.

"...Hmm? What's with that look? If you had known the other person would die, you wouldn't have voted?" He said mockingly. "Sheesh... That won't get you anywhere, okay? Its what the game is all about..."

The game.

"...You don't look pleased, huh?" The silhoutte appeared to have moved closer, I could faintely see the white teeth, forming a casual smile. "Alright, if you insist, let's hold a vote! Your opinion versus mine!"

At this distance I could easily look into the silhoutte's eyes. Eyes that from a first look might seem cheerful, joyful even, but taking in the dark scenario, and the context of what he just said and showed, those eyes seemed more frightening than anything.

"Okay then... Let's go."

 


 

When Sara woke up she had a sore jaw from sleeping with her head on the desk, looking at her surroundings it became clear how late it was, the sky was dark with a few grayish clounds lurking around. Her head felt a little woozy, her tongue was dry, and eyes tired despite beeing asleep for god knows how long.

Gathering her things Sara started to make her way out of the classroom, the school was entirely dark, the silence was so great that her footsteps spoke louder than any scream. It was unusual for her to sleep around the school grounds for so long, no one had bothered to wake her up, or warn her about the hour, wich wasn't surprising considering how empty the school seemed to be, there was no one around, wich only make her more nervous, considering she was walking around an empty school by herself at night.

Seeing the school like that, completly dark and devoid of any life, it felt like a totally different place, a place Sara didn't want stay any longer.

On her way to the gate she noticed that one of the windows on the second floor was emitting a dim light, most probably the guard was still there, doing whatever he does this late at night. Sara felt a little better with the knowledge of not being totally alone there. Altough mere seconds later the light went out, leaving everything in darkness once again. 

(Weird.)

She kept walking towards the half open gate, but with closer inspection, she noticed that there was a silhoutte standing just outside. that was enough to make her stop on her track. Sara couldn't make out if there really was someone there, but the familiar feeling of being watched started to creep upon her once more. It was as if someone was physically holding her at place, her blood starting to run cold, while she felt her face getting paler from the fear. She just couldn't move. Couldn't look away from the shape that might disappear once she averts her gaze.

Sara knew that it could be just someone passing by, looking around, or maybe it wasn't a person at all, but that kind of fear wasn't logic, she couldn't pinpoint why, she just felt.

Someone's There...

After a few seconds the silhoutte appeared to have also noticed her, starting to approch her while waving.

"Watcha 'doing, Sara?"

"Joe...!" Sara could immediately feel some of the tension leaving her body. Jou, or "Joe" Tazuna was a second year high schooler, just like her, they were good friends, oftenly founding themselves together. Just the sight of Joe's big brown eyes, gaudy clothing and accessories, made her release a breath, she didn't even realized she was holding until now.

"You stuck around this late for clubs?! I was gonna wither up from waiting!" Joe said dramatically. "Well it's fine! Listen! There's something I wanna tell you!"

"Something to tell me?"

"My thanks!"

"Thanks...? For what, I wonder..." 

"Oh, you know! You introduced us, right?! Me and Ryoko!" Joe beamed, showing his teeth. "She's such a good girl! I'm moved!"

I couldn't help to smile at that. "Cute, huh?"

"Adorable!" He agreed enthusiastically. "I ate a doner kebab in one bite today! I'm a real glutton!"

(A whole done kebab...)

"Wait... You two went on a date?"

Joe chuckled a bit sheepish at Sara's surprised tone "Was on it 'til just a second ago!" Seeming to regain his compusture he continued. "I came back to school so I could brag about it to ya!"

Sara had no ideia how Joe knew she still was on school grounds, or what he and Ryoko were doing on a date at such an hour. But nonethless, she couldn't be more glad that Joe was there, just his presence made the environment lighter, beareable. It was a convenient excuse to ask him to walk her home.

 

~~~~~~

 

"...And then, Ryoko and I finally..." 

(How long even is this story...)

"You listening?! We made huge progress!" Joe exclaimed melodramatically.

Sara feeling a little exasperated from all the nonsense Joe was saying, asked. "Did you kiss or what?"

"Ki...?! Don't be stupid!" Judging from the look on his face, the question seemed to be scandalous. "Doing that on the first date... They call people like that monsters! We held hand! Outrageous progress, right?!"

(Oh my, so lewd)

"For how gaudy you look, you're awfully shy..." Sara stated, feeling humored by Joe's display.

"Huh?! Gaudy this ain't! I'm hurt man... That seriously gets to me..." He said that, with a wounded look, but Sara knew best than to fall for his dramatics. "Dammit... Maybe I should go back to a crew cut like in middle school..." 

(And now he's started moping.)

While walking down the poorly lit street in silence, Sara started to take notice of how chilly it was, she wasn't sure exactly how late it was, but she couldn't see any establishment or houses with the lights on, the street was deserted, completly silent. She knew it was late, but it's unusual to not have a single person out there.

Joe seeming to note how tense she was, tried to lighten the mood. "What's up? Wanna hold hands?" 

"Uh..." Sara in a way to retaliate agreed. "Yes"

Joe surely wasn't expecting that, judging from the slight glow on his cheeks. "Ah, I'd probably crush you with my amazing grip. Nah, forget it, Sara!"

(Since when do you have an amazing grip?)

"But real talk... Wouldn't it help things if you got a boyfriend?"

"..." Sara didn't know how to answer that, and the way her body tensed at the question, she wouldn't bet that her face wasn't betraying what she really thought about the matter. They both stopped for a second, looking in each other's eyes, Joe grew tense as well due to the lack of response. His expression becoming serious, he took only a second to ask about the elehant in the room.

"...You can't sleep, right? 'Cause of your stalker..."

And that was the matter right? Sara had been having this feeling of being watched from afar for quite sometime now, she barely comment it the issue with her friends, not wanting to seem paranoid, or insane, but apparently she wasn't being as subtle about it as she wished herself to be. If Joe knew, than that was proof enough.

"Is that... why you always go home with me?" Sara asked feeling a little vulnerable from the direction the conversation took.

"D... Dummy... I just wanted to brag..." They both knew that wasn't he whole truth, but Sara was glad that he was trying not to make a big deal, about him walking her home, trying to look like he didn't pity her.

"Thank You."

"For what, man?! Well, if you just feel like bein' grateful, I won't stop ya!" Sara made no effort to hold back the chuckle that left her mouth. 

"Alright... Let's move along now." Joe regained his composure, as if nothing had happened. "Your parents'll be worried if you're late" She thought it was redundant worrying about being late now.

As they were about to return to walk, she noticed a man standing just below the lamp from the light pole, he appeared to have been running if the deep gasps were anything to go by, he seemed to try to say something, to reach for them, but Sara didn't wait any longer to take Joe's wrist and start to run, she ran as fast as she could, not taking a single glance at her back, she wasn't aware of where exactly she was running to, wich ended with the both of them having to take another route to her home, but the strange man hadn't followed them, wich was a relief.

When they got to her home, they were both panting, not being used to run such long distances so fast. 

"Phew... We made it home..." Sara didn't answer. "I-It's okay. Should be fine now that we're here."

"Joe..." Sara was scared, she didn't know what that man wanted with them, if he even wanted something, but she felt restless and tired of the situation, tired of feeling helpless, and tired for dragging Joe into this mess. She was thankful to him, but at the same time worried, until today the "stalker" never tried anything, but the spine chill she got from the feeling of being watched was real, she didn't know if that man was indeed the stalker, but she was scared that someday he would act, that he would try something to hurt her, or her friends, or her family. And Sara hated feeling that helplessness of the situation. "...I'm scared. If I'd gone home by myself... "

Joe gave her a sympathetic look "Well, your parents are waiting, Sara!"

"Yeah..." She manage to get her brath back. "Hey Joe... Be careful."

"Okay, see you tomorrow at school."

She watched as he went on his way, when she looked at her house, she immediately noticed the lights were off, the only light source came from the bulb on the front porch, wich meant it couldn't have been a blackout, a blackout would've explained why it was so dark on the neighborhood, but apparently that was not the case. Wich was weird on itself, since one of her parents should be watching tv on the living room, waiting for her to come home. Looking through the window on the living room, she couldn't make out anything, it was pitch black.

She had no choice but to enter and see what was going on. But she could already feel the eerie air over the house. Entering didn't shake the feeling off, the first thing she saw was the pot plant fallen over the floor, inside was totally quiet, Sara could hear her own heart beating on her ears.

(Something's weird about the house.)

Once entering the living room, it wasn't very different from looking through the window, she could barely see her own feet, so she decided to turn on the lights. Going against the bad feeling on her guts, telling her to run away from there. But with the bit amount of courage she still had left she turned the switch on.

"...M...Mom...? Mom!!" The first thing she noticed was her mom laying on the floor passed out, Sara couln't feel her feet, she dragged herself close to her mom, while screaming trying to wake her up. She seemed to be breathing wich was great, and it didn't seem to have any sign of wound or injury. "Mom! Hang in there!"

She needed to call for help, she was barely pass the door to the hall when she almost collided with Joe, that for some reason had come back, and was standing close to the door. 

"Sara!" "Joe!" They both said at the same time.

"Please, help! My mom's collapsed!" she was aware of her trembling hands as she reached for Joe's forearms, trying to emphasize her hysteria.

"Calm down! Did you call the hospital, the cops?!" Joe took in the seriousness of the situation fast, the look on his eyes showed how serious he was.

"No, not yet... I need... I need to call..." 

"Don't worry I'll handle it! Listen, Sara! You need to be calm!" Joe started to make a call, while Sara rushed to her room on the second floor looking for her father or her phone. For some reason the door was locked, so she had to unlock it with her trembling hands, barely managing to fit the key on the key hole.

Her room was the same way as the house, completly dark. "Dad?! Dad, are you here?! Mom collapsed! Dad... Where are-"

She could only feel the hands on her back as she tried to struggle from the sudden grip, it ended being useless seing how much stronger her oppenent appeared to be, ultimately the only thing she remembers after being overpowered, was Joe talking on the phone to the emergency on the floor below, but she was already feeling weak and light headed, her consciousness slipping from her.

Chapter Text

Openning her eyes might've been one of the hardest things Sara had ever done, her head was fuzzy, she wasn't sure if her limbs were still sleeping, having forgotten any sensation, everything felt numb and too much, the bulb above her was blinding her, it's light reflecting in every direction due to the white walls.

Sara was lying down on a surface, similar to a bed, a migraine was starting at the back of her head, an insistent pang, close to the juncture of the neck and skull.

It didn't take long for the events of the night came rushing back all at once. The pitch black house. Her mother passed out on the living room. Someone ambushing her on her room, she couldn't remember a face, only the feeling of being tackled on the ground powerless. Joe...

Trying to move her legs, she immediately took notice on the restraints, they made so that she couldn't move. Her legs, torso and head were trapped, she could only move her right arm, with the left one, she could barely move her hand. Sara had close to no freedom to move. Sara was about to scream when she remembered the sensation of being watched,

(The Stalker)

Since she woke up on the classroom, that feeling wouldn't come off her back, seeming to grow bigger each minute, like a ghoul, sinking it's nail deeper and deeper, getting under her skin.

(Am I... Going to be killed...?)

Once more, the terror and nausea freezing her on the spot, not letting her breath, like a hand wrapped around her neck, choking the life out.

"Sara! Are you there?!"

(That... Voice...)

"Joe?! Are you next to me...?!"

"Yeah...! But I can't move! Can't you do something?!" Joe's voice answered on her right side.

(Joe's in the same situation?)

They seemed to be trapped in a tiny room, with only one light bulb. Moving her head to the right, she could see Joe right beside her, he was laid upon a similar bed, restraints attached to his body and head, except for the right arm, just like her. 

Disrupting her thoughts, a phone started ringing on her right.

She tried to look into the pocket of her uniform, but came empty handed, suddenly remembering not founding the phone before being attacked.

"Joe! Is that yours ringing?!" Sara asked hysterically.

"Eh...?" Joe started doing the same, searching the vest pocket for the phone. "You're right! Something's in my pocket! Here...! Hello?! Whoever you are, help us !"

At the same time, an robotic female voice started speaking.

"The first trial will now begin. Sara Chidouin, and Jou Tazuna. Find the key hidden in this room. Then remove your restraints."

A heavy silence befalled them in the second the voice paused.

"If you cannot do so before the time expires, the device on the bed will activate. And your body will be crushed with a thud."

Sara was aware of her fingers closing on the bed, the slight tremors running down her spine.

"By all means, please enjoy this thrill with all your body and soul. The time limit is a healthy 5 minutes."

Her eyes couldn't leave the dim light bulb on the floor, everything became numb, as if she had falled asleep again. Her eyes starting to wet was the only sign that she didn't misheard what the electronic message just said.

"And note that there is only one key, so please discuss who will use it.

(First trial...? We'll die... in 5 minutes...?)

Joe's shouting was enough to remember the gravity of their situation, 

The message said there was a key. One key. She already checked her pockets not founding anything.

(Where is it?!)

"When I took the phone from my pocket... I might've dropped something...!" Sara could only hear Joe trying to reach the floor. "Got it...! Grabbed it... it's the key!" Sara felt dread upon hearing that. That meant that Joe had the key, he would use it to save himself, letting her to die, unable to do anything.

I Don't wanna die... I can't...

Her hands locked on the skirt, so tight she could rip it, if she pulled out.

I could convince him to give it to me, he would trust me right...? Afterall... We're friends...

Taking a look sideway, she could see the uncertainty on Joe, he was eyeing the key terrified. Sara was certain he was holding back tears, the color from his tanned face getting shades paler, sweat dripping from his temples, the way his eyelids were trembling, the petrifying fear emanating off his pores.

(I can't.)

"Hurry and use the key!" Sara said, dwelling on her thoughts would do them no good, only wasting precious time.

"You sure...?! If I do, you'll..." Joe seemed startled from her request, and Sara could exploit that and convince him to hand her the key.

(...I can't...)

"Joe, I'm sure you can figure something out!" And what other option Sara had? Tears were already dripping from her swollen eyes, the trembling on her hands became a whole body shiver. Cold sweat everywhere.

Joe didn't waste any more time. It took a couple of overwhelming seconds to fit the key on the mechanism, longer to take off the restraints. With each second Sara could feel as if the restraints were pulling tighter, promising her inevitable demise.

She couldn't make herself aware of what Joe was doing, from her peripheral vision, she could could make out Joe scratching something close to the wall.

(He's gotta save me... He has to...)

"Time is up. The device will now activate."

"It's unlocked!"

(...Did he made it...?)

"Really?!" Sara said without hiding the expectance mixed with uncertainty.

"Yeah! I'll remove this now!"

The restraints were removed barely after the bed curved in itself, smacking one extremity on the other. 

Sara latched herself on Joe, both going down on their knees, she was gasping for air as if she just ran a marathon, she felt boneless, the tears stuck on her jaw, refusing to drop. Couldn't bring herself to move, the migraine turned into a full headache. For a moment she felt completly numb, as if her soul had just left it's place, her body felt alien. When the realization that she was still alive dawned on her, she was sobbing on Joe's shoulder.

They stayed like that for longer than she would've like to admit, but couldn't bring herself to care. Sara was alive, Joe had saved her.

"You're unexpectedly a crybaby aren't ya?" Joe asked trying to appear more confident, and carefree than what he really felt.

The suddenness of the statement with the context of their situation, made Sara laugh.

To her own ears sounded more hysterical than anything, like a rabid hyena.

"Shut it..."

Once they both recomposed themselves, it was decided to open the door that would lead them out of the room.

The hall they entered was completly dark, Sara couldn't see anything, beyond the light of the room they've left.

"I can't see a thing..." Sara felt uneasy with the memory of her own house gone pitch black. "Joe, can you use that phone to light the way?"

"I tried, but it stopped working for some reason." That wasn't the answer she was hoping for. "But stay close Sara, don't let us get separated."

They kept walking for a long time, but they still come make out how long the hall really was, or maybe they were only walking really slowly. I could've passed several minutes and they still hadn't found anything.

Suddenly there was wind blowing from underneath, Sara couldn't pinpoint how, but once it clicked, fear started bloom again. The floor gave away.

"We're falling!"

(How long? How high? How are we falling?)

Sara could only feel as her senses grew distant by the second.

 


 

The sound of rushed conversations was the first thing Sara took notice once her consciousness came back. Lifting her head, she could see a bunch of dumbfounded people speaking amoung themselves, the walls and floor was of an electric bright blue in the format of squares, it seemed to be a long hallway, with passages similar with the one she was close to. Looking around there were all kinds os persons,  all different looking, ones appearing to be more ominous than others. There was a girl with long hair and overalls sitting a few feet from her, hugging her knees and trembling, she seemed tottaly shaken.

"Graagh!! We've been abducted! By some crazy assholes!!" Sara heard some restless woman shoutting, with  her unusual choice of makeup and clothes, it was easy to guess she was adept to the punk culture.

The others didn't seem to be paying Sara any mind while discussing. Sara noticed Joe in the middle of the commotion, with his arms crossed and wary stare trying to look more intimidating than he was. For some some reason Joe wasn't even looking at her, but looking more closely there was something on his neck, on everyone's neck, a suspiscious collar sitting around their neck. With a shiver, Sara touched her own neck.

The chilly feeling that welcomed the tip of her fingertips, was a giveway of her being in the same situation. The collar didn't seem to budge over her attempts to take it off. Apparently having noticed her struggle, Joe took off from the crowd of people and stepped closer to her. His hands landing on her shoulders, his intimidating facade dropped while his eyes filled with worry.

"Sara, are you alright? You were passed out for quite some time." He seemed distressed, but relieved too.

"Joe...Yeah, thank you...What is this place...?" Glancing around she could see that their companions finally realized she was awake. They formed a weird group, completly distinct from one another, from hair to age to clothing, they were completly different, except for two girls standing beside each other with the same green school uniform, similar to her and Joe.

"Eh... Joe and Sara, uh...? You two are friends?" Came the voice of the blond guy with a hand scratching his neck, he was intimidating given his stature and the lazy look he was given them.

"Uh... Yes we are." Sara agreed a little hesitant not sure how to feel about the guy, and taking the looks they were throwing at her and Joe, Sara thought she'd have to be wary not only of the lazy looking guy.

"Thanks for that, Joe here wasn't speaking up, see... Must've been wary of something... Wouldn't even tell me his name." Joe looked a bit conflicted with that, as if wanting to argue but admitting to himself about the accusation. "I bet we're all thinking the same thing. What is this place? Why was I brought here? And about all you know, is who you are."

"And where are you going with this?" The older girl in the green uniform asked, with a hand landed on the shoulder of the shorter girl,

"How about we give introductions? Should ease the suspicion a little, at least." He waited a few seconds as the others took in, before continuing. "Not much else we can do. Eh, Sara?" He finished asking for support.

"Please, don't be friendly with me." Sara had no ideia why the guy was asking for validation, her validation above all. Maybe it was because Sara and Joe knew each other, wich would make them seem less suspicious to an extent, but she was not buying it. The blond guy seemed a little taken aback for her declaration, but didn't appear to be that bothered about it.

"Okay then. Once any of you feel comfortable we can introduce ourselves. I'll begin. My name's Keiji Shinogi, currently working as a policeman." Sara and Joe were taken aback by that, the guy, Keiji apparently, definetely did not look like a policeman, Sara had her doubts, but seeing that she had no way to refute what he was saying, choose to keep quiet.

"Huh?! Police?!" Joe seemed to be more ready to believe Keiji, but she coud see he wasn't as relieved as he wanted them to believe. "T...Then you should've mentioned that sooner!"

After the exchange, the others appeared to assume there wasn't really anything else to do as they presented themselves one by one. The punk girl declared to be Reko Yabusame, who apparently had a band famous enough to appear on magazines. Q-Taro Burgerberg was tall, taller and bulkier than anyone there, but didn't seem the kind of guy to abuse his strengh, contrary to Naomichi Kurumada, who was a boxer, and made no effort to hide the fact. Kugie and Kanna Kizuchi were sisters, Kanna was a middle schooler, couldn't be above fourteen, while Kugie must've been Sara's age.

Kai Satou and Hayasaka Shunsuke seemed less eager to talk, but ended up declaring to being a rather unremarkable housemaker and an office worker. Sara felt uneasy with the look on Kai's dead eyes, eyes that left an impression that she'd already met him. Sou Hiyori at first was wary keeping to himself, but complied admitting being a job-hopper rather sheepishly, gaining a snarky comment from Gin Ibushi, the youngest of the group, dressed in a cat-like costume and holding a cat plushie close to his chest. 

They were all in the same situation, kidnapped and put into that place for no apparent reason, no one could remember much about the kidnapping, instead focusing on telling others about their first trial, who apparently everyone did. Kugie and Kanna had to go through the same trial as Joe and Sara, being restrained in a bed device. At the mention of their trial, the girl in overalls who until then stayed quiet, started to sob and shake her head.

"Professor..." The girl stuttered, trying to hide her face in her hands, but that wasn't enough to hide swollen red eyes due from crying. Reko tried to calm her down, asking what happened but it was futile seeing how disturbed the girl looked, she sat right beside her, putting a hand on her back to try soothe her down.

Q-taro explained that his first trial was to bring a large yellow box to the hallway. Upon inspecting the box, Sara noted the three key holes imprinted on it. Joe searched his pockets and found the formerly red key, Kanna also had the same key, and Reko not so politely searching the pockets of the girl's overalls picked another key, but this one diffrently from the other two was still mostly red. Wich meant it was used only once. The sight of the key covered in red resine made Sara understand the girl's state, apparently the girl went through the same first trial, but her partner whoever they were, weren't so lucky.

The keys fit perfectly, but once the box was open, everyone startled at the sight of what it contained. A head. At first glance it seemed to be a woman's head, eyes thightly shut, and long strands of brown hair falling over.

"Haaah!!" Sara couldn't help to scream. "F-For real...?!"

"Wait... Isn't it just a doll?" Sou noted, hidind his face with the scarf around his neck, inspecting the head closely, and after regaining their compusture it was clear to see it was indeed a doll's head, but that didn't made it any less ominous. 

"Oh, yeah" Keiji agreed as he looked inside the box, and picked up a letter. "Hm? A letter?"

Find my body

Bring me back

For I don't have arms or legs

"Find her body...?" Keiji seemed troubled by the what the letter said, Sara felt the same way, the head was skillfully crafted and detailed, if she looked closely she could spot tiny blood vessels underneath the fake skin. 

They discussed if they should follow the orders on the letter. In the end, it was decided they needed to explore outside the hallway, afterall, standing at the same place wouldn't do them any good. So it was decided to explore the floor with partners, an unspoken mesure to avoid anyone doing something suspicious alone. Sara knew Joe, and Kugie was related to Kanna, but the others were complete strangers to each other, meaning they couldn't trust just anyone. As Joe pointed out later, there might be one among them working with the kidnappers.

Unsurprisingly Sara and Joe partned up to explore. Entering a cafeteria they found numerous large tables, in two of them was placed a expensive looking zippo lighter and a dart, they didn't understand the meaning of the items, but thought it was better to just keep it for now, there was a window to the kitchen, they couldn't make out anything relevant, but the door was locked shut.

Crossing the cafeteria, led them to an pitch black hall, at the other side was the shape of a door, illuminated only by a eerie looking red bulb. The sight was intimidating, but it wasn't as if they could have the luxury to not explore the place. Weirdly enough, the room was the complete opposite of what the hall suggested, the interior was exactly like the dream of six year girl, or so Sara assumed. The walls were a pale pink, with a ventilation in the form of a purple heart. There were shelves full of rabbit plushies. But the torso positioned on the center of the room was what got her attention.

"Woah...! Is that...a body?" Joe startled at sight of the doll's torso.

"Yeah. Must be the "body" the letter was talking about, or so I think." Sara agreed, not able to take her eyes off the creepy torso. "We should try to look around here".

And so they did. At first they could only find new bunnies all around. But taking a look behind the torso itself, Sara found bullets, there were six of them, they were blueish and much lighter then she thought bullets were supposed to be. When showing it to Joe, they decided to better let Keiji take a look at them, he being a policeman should have more expertise then two high schoolers. The room had nothing useful except for the bullets, so they quickly made their exit.

Coming back to the main hallway they found Reko, Kugie and Kanna watching over the overall's girl, she was still hugging her knees, but seemed to have stopped crying.

"Did you guys found anything?" Kugie was the first to note them, she was still keeping close to Kanna, as if to shield her sister with her body in case of something happening.

"We found the doll's torso at the back of the cafeteria. Super creepy, but we think that's what the letter was talking about." Sara didn't mention the bullets, and the look she gave at Joe's way was clue enough for him to do the same. Sara wasn't sure how the girls would've react if they showed the bullets. For now they were better off not knowing about it.

"Creepy indeed. If something happens you guys come running back here, okay? Us three are going to stay with Nao for the time being." Reko said.

"Nao...? Is that her name?" Joe seemed surprised at the revelation, as if he assumed the girl wasn't going to speak any time soon.

"Yes. She told us just now." Reko didn't formulate any farther, so Sara and Joe decided not to ask anything either.

Following a new hall they found a sign written "BAR" and beside it, a vending machine with high prices for a single water bottle.

Once entering the bar they found Hayasaka and Gin looking around the balcon and the massive shelf filled with alcoholic drinks. Gin was searching at low eye-level behind the balcon muttering something about an alcoholic father, while hayasaka inspected every inch of the room in hope to find something hidden.

Sara didn't payed them much attention, but what did got her attention was the chalkboard on the left of the shelf, written on it was a bunch of names, divided in two categories (Can drink - Can't drink). Sara found her and Joe's name on the "can't drink" categorie, everyone else's names were included in one of the categories, but what surprised her was to find seven other names she didn't recognize. Alice - Kazumi - Mai - Megumi - Anzu - Hinako - Ranmaru. There were thirteen of them kidnapped, adding the other seven names there was a total of twenty names, meaning that at least seven people died before arriving at the blue hall. Amongst those seven names was the partner of the girl in overalls. Sara knew about the severity of their situation but the possibility of death didn't seem that close since her first trial.

Exiting the bar and following straight led them to a game room with a dartboard in the middle of the room, what was uncommon was the long and dark hole surrounding the target. Maybe a way to prevent against cheating? Since she had found a dart it kinda made sense. Taking a look at the hole, it appeared to have no bottom, she couldn't see anything down there, wind was blowing from underneath. Sara wasn't too curious about what was down there.

Kurumada was trying and failing to make his way in the red room a few feet from the dartboard, no matter the number of punches he throwed, the door wouldn't budge. Kurumada was not taking that very well from the way he was cursing at the red door.

Beside them, was a blue door. Sara and Joe didn't spare a second glance at Kurumada as they entered the blue door. The room was crowed, and not only by people. Kai and Q-Taro were looking around the armchairs around the room where stood five dummies, there was a total of nine armchairs, five situated on the first floor, while the other four occupied the space of the second floor, Q-Taro and Kai were checking the dummies while Keiji observed the weird painting of a faceless man with a suit and hat. Even without any feature except for the sly smile, Sara felt as if the man in the painting was looking her way.

"Woah, what are those?!" Joe muttered under his breath, but it was enough noise to get Keiji's attention.

"Oh, hey you two. Hey Sara, put out your hand." Keiji stepped closer and holded something in his closed hand. Sara wasn't sure what to think about it, but decided to just obey the request. When she openned her hand Keiji dropped three tiny red capsules, but they weren't capsules, just like the bullets they've found on the pink room, those tiny capsules were bullets, the only difference except for the color was their weight, those three red bullets weighted more then the six blue ones.

"W-What?! Why are you giving me this?" Sara felt her hand grow heavy, as if instead of tiny bullets Keiji had given her a dumbbell.

"Found these while checking the seats. Dangerous stuff. Since you guys are a pair, thought it was better to leave it to someone trustworthy." Keiji said with a tone of nonchalentness as if he wasn't just handing her real bullets. Since he was considering that an act of trust, she decided to show him the bullets they've found on the pink room.

"Do you know if these are real? We found them in strange room at the back of the cafeteria." Keiji took a close look at the blueish bullets, but stated that those were dummy bullets, that's the reason they were lighter. After giving the bullets back, Keiji had a contemplative look on his face, maybe wondering about the meaning of the bullets. Sara didn't like the prospect of keeping such a dangerous thing with herself, but the thought of leaving it with someone else was worst, at least with her, she would know where and how they would be used.

Keiji went back to try to move the painting.

Kai and Q-Taro were still checking de mannequins, Kai discovered the heads were filled with some kind of liquid. Sara and Joe decided to go up the stairs and search the other seats. On the second floor there was only one armchair occupied with a dummy, when she got close she noticed something stuck sandwiched between the back of the dummy and the seat.

A gun.

Sara took it in her hands feeling the weight of the gun. Sara wasn't an expert in guns but it looked to be a revolver. Sara immediately glanced towards Joe, their gaze met, they stayed that way staring at each other for a couple of seconds. Breaking the trance, Joe put a finger on his lips while maintaining his eyes locked on her's. She understood. Quickly she checked the gun's chamber, seeing it was empty she quickly hided the gun on her skirt, thankfully the revolver was small, but Sara was selfaware of where the weapon was touching her skin. Glancing at Joe's way again showed the boy was sweating a little, but they understood what the other was thinking.

When they were about to go down the stairs, a metallic noise filled the room. Looking at the entrance Sara noticed there was iron bars over the exit. They were trapped in there.  

"Hey now, don't put yourselves at guard." 

Chapter Text

The painting of the man was talking to them, Sara wans't sure how that was even possible. Maybe it was a video call? It didn't matter anyway.

"W-whose voice was that?!" Q-Taro exclaimed looking around the group, he hadn't noticed the mouth of the painting moving then.

That appeared to amuse the painting that gave a low chuckle. "Don't sweat the details. I'm the master of this room. You can call me Meister. Now, to get right to it, lemme explain the rules of the next game." The man stayed completly still, only his mouth moving as he explained the basics of the game.

A game where one would be chosen as the challenger and the other four would sit on the empty seats as "targets". Hiding the gun was futile now that Meister announced he gave them a gun. Now the problem would be chosing a challenger among the five of them. Joe had asked her to do it in a way not so subtly to keep her safe, seeing that the challenger would not be taking any risk of injuring themselves. But Q-Taro and Kai weren't sure about her handling a gun, considering she was a high-schooler she could understand their reasoning, but Sara wasn't about to agreeing with them either, she also didn't trust any of them with a gun.

The mood between them had become tense, air filled with waryness.

"Straight to the point: I have experience handlin' guns. I got acquainted with shootin' when I went to the US. So leave bein' the challenger for me." Q-Taro was confindent about his expertise that was clear, but even so Sara wasn't exactly sure about leaving her safety in his hands. Taking another look at the manequins and the armchairs she presumed the game wasn't about skill at all. There were three real bullets, six dummy ones, nine armchairs and apparently nine targets counting the four other humans, but it also couldn't be about luck, right? Searching the revolver in her hands she confirmed the gun had a chamber with nine empty slots plus a big hole in the center, so maybe it was something to do with the slots for each bullets.

The others were more focused in deciding who would be the challenger, Keiji said that even with Q-Taro's experience he couldn't trust him, and Kai pointed that Keiji should've been the one volunteering since he was a policeman, but instead was keeping quiet and supporting the ideia of Sara being the challenger. Sara was curious about that too, she couldn't think of reason Keiji would want her to be the challenger.

"I trust somebody determined to save her friend more than an amateur with average training." Keiji explained. "And about me not volunteering, well... I shot a person." His expression became darker, eyes glued to a random spot as if he was suddenly in another place. "Since then... I haven't been able to fire a gun."

It was shocking to know that, Sara wanted to ask more but Keiji didn't seem to be willing to elaborate.

"I think I might have an ideia about what this game is about." She had stayed quiet up until then, letting the others speak their mind, but now that things had settled a bit, she thought it was wise share her opinion. "There is nine bullets, six of them being dummy ones, so I think the challenger willl have to shoot one bullet in each target, and it's not about luck either, I think the trick is about how the challenger will load the gun."

"See? That's why I think Sara should do it, she's super cool-headead, I trust she can save us all!" Joe was the first to pipe up at her ideia. Keiji also seemed convinced. Q-Taro and Kai were still unsure about it, but fastly agreed too, seeing that she was probably right about the game.

"I still feel a bit uncomfortable leaving such a burden to you miss Sara, but I think it's already decided." Kai didn't seem uncomfortable at all, but she would have to take his word for it.

"Yo, that took forever. Now that you decided let me explain the rules now." Ultimately Sara was correct in her assumptions, it was a Russian Roulette game, she would have to load the gun as she pleased and then roll the chamber, wich meant that no matter the pattern she loaded the revolver, the first bullet would be random. If she fired all the bullets in all targets without killing anyone they'd win. "Alright! Let's begin!"

"I know you can do it Sara." Joe had took the only empty seat on the first floor, the others had climbed the stairs, Joe then proceed to stay quiet since Meister explained that the targets couldn't argue with the challenger.

Sara opened the chamber and started loading the gun with the pattern where after a real bullet the next two were dummy bullets, that way it was guaranteed to have one real bullet amongst the first three shots, and then she could just follow the pattern from there.

When she was ready she pointed the revolver at the mannequin on Joe's right side, even knowing that logically her strategy was a sound one, she couldn't stop the wave of hesitation as she was about the press the trigger, what if she was wrong? What if she overlooked something? But indulging those thoughts would help no one, least of all Joe who was starting to get antsy on his seat, so she just pressed the trigger.

There was a loud sound that made her shut her eyes in reflex, when she peeked through her lashes she saw the dummy's head intact, meaning that the next shot had 50% of chances to shoot a real bullet, so she aimed at the other dummy at Joe's left side and pressed the trigger without hesitating this time.

Another bang echoed on the room but once again the dummy's head was intact, but that was good since now she knew exactly the pattern of the next seven bullets, aiming at the head of the third dummy was easier even knowing that the shot would fire a real bullet, this time the gun recoiled and the bang was louder, the dummy's head had exploded and sent a green goo all over itself. Her next shot was aimed at Joe who seemed utterly relieved at being safe, then she climbed up the stairs and shooted at Kai who was the closest to her.

After a few more shots it was over.

Her last shot was real bullet, the ringing in her ears was uncomfortable but she felt the tension dripping off her body all the same, the chamber was empty and she followed the rules accordingly. 

"Ohhh! Fantastic! Now that's a job well done! No complains here, you win! Seems a puzzle like this was piece of cake to you! Truly brilliant! You deserve a hand!" Out of nowhere a hand fell from the ceiling startling her with the loud thud it caused. "So here's my right hand! Be glad and accept it! See ya!" Meister's mouth stopped moving altogether, the painting going immobile once again.

"What even is this?" Sara checked the arm closely and noticed that just like doll's head the arm was intricate detailed.

"Find my body... wasn't it?" Keiji send a lazy glance at the arm's way. "Seems relevant to that note with the doll's head."

"So we should bring it to the doll's torso right?" Joe said and Q-Taro wasted no time in putting the arm in the yellow box he was carrying with him. "So let's see if the others had any luck founding anything else?"

As they were getting out of the room Kai went in her direction. "Miss Sara, allow me to state my gratitude for taking on such an important role. Thank you very much for saving us amid such great pressure." She believed in his words although his face being completly slack, she couldn't pinpoint why but his blank expression and the dead eyes gave a sensation of deja vu, like she've met him somewhere.

"Miss Sara... Is something the matter?" Sara hadn't realised she was staring so she quickly looked away and nodded trying to recompose her composure.

Following Joe out of the room without any explanation to Kai she found that Kurumada wasn't smashing the red door anymore, so he must've given up at some point, she tried the handle and door was still locked shut. Now that she had the gun she could try to use the dart and hit the dartboard, it wasn't like there was another reason for the big hole on the chamber, after firing real bullets she thought herself to be used to the recoil, but even with a dart the draw back made her wrist twist in painful way.

A loud voice came from the speakers praising her for hitting the bullseye, and then comanding them to take a peek at the bottomless hole, and there was something within reach, Joe sticked his arm and reached for the thing. Just like the arm, Sara was already expecting it to be another limb, but it didn't made her feel any better having her suspicion been proved right. Joe was holding the leg between his arms with a weary face, so they decided to head in the room at the back of the cafeteria.

Sara was quite surprised to find more people in there, Hayasaka and Gin were standing against the shelfs with Sou across from them, while Keiji and Q-Taro were attaching the limbs, counting the leg Joe was carrying made a total of four limbs, so she suspected that he others might've found the other limbs.

"Ah, so you guys found the last one, huh?" Sou pointed towards the leg.

"You found the other parts too!" Joe said dropping the leg on box sitting on the floor in front of the torso. Joe took a look around the room landing his eyes on the others. "What about everyone else? Shouldn't everyone be here when we finish?"

"Kai just went out to gather the others up. I agree on having everybody here, we don't know what's gonna happen after all." Keiji had just placed the left leg. There was only the right arm and head left, somehow the doll was more creepy dismengled than just a bunch of weird separate limbs.

A few minutes later the two sisters accompanied with Reko and Nao entered the room giving suspicious looks at the unconventional decoration, the contrast between the hallway and the room was huge, Sara could relate to the feeling. After some more minutes Kai came back alone, once questioned about where Kurumada was he explained he couldn't find him anywhere.

"What do you mean he's not around? Where would've he gone to?!" Reko demanded not sounding very pleased by Kurumada's absence. "I mean... It's not like there was anywhere he could hide right?"

"The last time I saw him was before we entered the blue room, he was trying to force the red door open, when we finished the game he wasn't there anymore but the door was still locked." Sara recorded Kurumada's furious spats at the door as he tried to punch right through it, but she didn't think he managed to open the door by himself seeing that the door wasn't busted.

"Well it's not like we can just stand here waiting for him either, right?" Hayasaka spoke lowly, almost whispering and looking at nowhere specific. "I think we should just see what happens for ourselves."

"But what if everyone needs to be in the room?! Shouldn't we just wait for him?" Kanna said, it was surprising hearing the girl speak up, she had stayed quiet since they arrived, normally close to her sister and only observing.

"Yeah, but I agree with Hayasaka, we should just get this over with, the longer we wait, the longer we'll stay in the dark about our situation, maybe once we reconstruct the doll we might receive some answers." Sou didn't seem that concerned with Kurumada, more eager to know what was going on, and Sara felt the same way, she needed answers all the same.

Without arguing Keiji and Q-Taro placed the head on the torso, Sara felt antsy at the prospect of the doll suddenly moving or just waking up, but for a few instants nothing happened, she thought that maybe they'd placed the limbs wrong, but the thought didn't linger as just as sudden a white gas started to come off the walls. An uproar started, everyone shouting that it was poison gas, but ultimately what stopped everyone on their tracks was the loud giggle coming from the center of the room.

"It's not poison gas, everyone, so please relax." Standing where the doll should've been was a woman exactly like the doll itself, but now completly lively smiling at everyone's stunned expressions, her eyes were heterochromatic where the right one was right and the left one yellow, her clothes were ludicrous and gaudy, like a character taken from a cartoon. The doll's cartoon-like appearance made nothing to ease the eerie felling oozing out of it. "Ahaha. Good day!"

Everyone was astonished to see the formerly inanimate doll just acting like a human being,

"Yo-you're the doll?!" Joe exclaimed.

Chuckling softly the doll answered "Yes, I am the doll that you just rescued. Advanced am I not?"

"Haaaah?! The hell's going on here?!" Reko was the most alarmed, she was curling her fingers so tight Sara could see the color draining from her knuckles.

"Hahaha. As it happens, I have revived to tell you what is happening, and support you through the trials and tribulations to come." Reko was not assured by that. "Hehehe. There's nothing to fear, you see? I will offer you all support..."

Nao was also shrinking on herself, just like Sara had first saw her.

With a low giggle the doll continued. "Is there no one who can speak calmly here?" 

"I'll ask. What are you?" Someone had to ask, dolls did not just reanimated themselves like that.

"Tell the friendly policeman too. I'm not really following here...?" Keiji agreed scratching his neck nervously.

"Ehehe. Then we'll begin with my introduction..." She took a step back and gave more room to them as she put her hands on her back. "My name is Sue Miley, the Laughing Doll. I'm the doll who'll  guide you on this first floor.Ehehe. My master instructed me to guide you brave souls, who have already overcome several trials, to the Main Game."

"Your master... So in other words, you're on the side of the kidnappers." Keiji said, his expression becoming completly lack at the acknowledge.

Miley started to laugh again amusement shining her eyes. "Stop laughing asshole!! You wanna die?!" Reko was one moment from jumping at Miley's neck.

"Heheheee... I'd rather not... No, I wouldn't like to be all torn up again..." For a moment she seemed to be pondering about something. "Oh... I know... I just have to tear you up first..."

"Tear us up...?!" Reko went completly rigid as her eyes flew wide open at the insinuation.

"Ahaha. As a warning, yes..."

Suddenly a ringing sound started, no one moved or spoke anything, the ringing continued echoing in the walls, Sara wasn't exactly sure where it was coming from.

"...Wha-?! My collar's... vibrating...!" Joe lifted his hands to touch his collar, and once Sara took notice it was indeed vibrating. Sara felt tremors run down her body, cold dread injecting in her veins.

What did that meant...? Would she kill Joe...?

"Hehe. Anyone would do, heehee. If it'll make you quiet..." Miley stated looking unconcerned, she just stood there smiling at them all as if nothing was happenig.

"What did you do?! Answer me?!" For a second she thought she was the one that screamed, but it was actually Joe, her tongue felt heavy on her mouth and her jaw locked, she could just stare at Joe's panicked face. "What d-did you do?!"

"Ahaha, oh, very well. I'm just making your collar explode." Miley started to laugh again at their despair, Sara was self aware of her trembling fingers, she didn't even noticed she was moving before her fingers found Joe's collar in a futile try to take off the collar, just as she did a bipping sound started to come off the collar.

Joe pushed her away and when the bipping came to an end everything went silent, she just stood there staring at Joe waiting for something to happen, mere seconds that were more like hours. But nothing happened. And the laugh started again.

"Hahaha! ... That was a lie, of course. Eheehee... Did you enjoyed it?" Miley said looking at a panting Joe.

"A... A lie...?" Joe's knees gave out and he collapsed on the floor panting harder. Sara wasted no time in coming near him again, placing her hands on his shoulders in a way to reassure, she just wasn't certain if she was reassuring him or herself.

"That collar can't actually explode, after all."

"...You piece of shit...!" Reko shouted at the laughing doll.

"Eheehee, it's so funny, I can't, heehee, even talk, mweheehee..."

"She's out of her mind, meow..." Gin muttered holding his plushie in front of his face.

"Why kidnap us?" Sara wasn't feeling like talking after what just happened (or what didn't happened), but that was a question she definetely wanted to hear the answer.

"Ehehe... You don't know do you..." Miley was looking in Sara's direction so she wasn't sure if the doll was asking to them all or directly at her. "Eheehee. What I'm about to explain... is in regards a fight you might take, haha, for your own destiny. You will soon undergo a great trial in order to escape outside. As it has been prior, the superior will live, and the inferior will die - it is far from easy. One among you... will certainly die. And thar person to die. Shall be decided by your own majority vote. "

Sara wasn't sure about what Miley was talking. A trial? Their majority vote? But she wasn't the only one perplexed with the doll's words.

Miley reading the confusion in their faces elaborated. "I'm saying that you'll pick it yourselves. The one most unnecessary, hated, and acceptable to have die."

"Stop talkin' nonsense...!! Like we're gonna do somethin' like that!!" Q-Taro certainly was not believing what Miley was saying, and was putting himself in front of her to emphasize his point.

"Ahaha. Then by all means, starve to death here, all of you." Miley stated nonchalantly, not even doing so much as look at him as she stayed with her eyes in half moons and smiled at him.

"Whoa, just lying it on the table..." Keiji contrary to Q-Taro was taking what Miley said at heart apparently, his whole figure was stiff and long gone was the lazy air around him. Just like Sara he understood what Miley had said, there was no reason not to believe her words, she was working with the kidnappers and she probably wasn't even human, so what could they possibly do if that was the case?

"Ahaha, don't go so pale, everyone! I've got something good to hand out!" Miley took her hands off her back and presented them all with tablets. Sara had no ideia from where the doll plucked those out, because they were certainly not there when they entered. Miley handed one for everyone in the room. "Eheehee. Does everyone have one now? Let us test the functionality with some use. When voting, if you know who voted for who, it turns into a quarrel, doesn't it? Thus, by voting with these tablets, you won't know who made what vote. So as a test, try voting for whoever!"

Then Miley opened her eyes and looked around them. "Huh? So not everyone is here...? Oh well, they don't know what they're losing!"

Sara saw the tablet lighting up showing the pictures of everyone in the room including her's, the others were sneaking glances in each other's way, the tension was palpable since now they couldn't trust anyone in the room, they could all vote for themselves and see what happens, but what if someone voted for them? Then the chosen one would surely die according to Miley. A game of doubt and trust commanded by the fear of the neighbor.

Sara wasn't sure about who voting for, should she just vote for herself? That would definetely be the reasonable approach. But was it?

Sneaking her own gaze around her eyes met with Hayasaka's, he was looking at her with a haunted expression and when she spotted him he quickly averted his gaze. Was he going to vote for her? She couldn't take the ideia off her head once she let it in, if she voted for herself and someone else voted for her then she would receive more votes than most of the others.

Sara knew it was pure cowardness and selfishness but she couldn't vote for herself knowing that somebody else might too, the prospect of having no guarantee of her own safety was overwhelming, so as bad as she felt about it, she clicked in Hayasaka's face and then confirmed her vote.

It didn't take long for everyone to make their decision

Sara saw the tablet lighting up and the images of everybody,  soon enough the results one by one started to appear on the screen.

Gin: 0 Votes

Nao: 0 Votes

Sou: 0 Votes

Joe: 1 Vote

Kai: 1 Vote

Kanna: 1 Vote

Keiji: 1 Vote

Kugie: 1 Vote

Q-Taro: 1 Vote

Reko: 1 Vote

When Sara saw the first results her assumption was proven right, if she did not received zero votes, it meant that somebody did voted for her.

Sara: 2 Votes

Two votes. Two people who voted for her demise, if she had indeed voted for herself she would have three and be the most voted. There was only one person who could surpass her on votes. For those few seconds Sara pleaded for her decision to be right one.

Hayasaka: 3 Votes

Sara knew what the implication of Hayasaka having the most votes meant, but she couldn't stop feeling glad that she had voted for him, she had no ideia two other people would vote for him as well but just the fact that she was safe was reassurance enough. Miley had said that that was merely a test, so if they were lucky maybe the vote itself wouldn't mean nothing. But Sara wasn't that naive to believe in such a positive outcome taking account their situation.

Her relief meant Hayasaka's despair, she couldn't make out the look he was giving her because of the reflex of the light on his glasses, but it couldn't be anything less than furious glare.

"Oh, I see that Shunsuke Hayasaka was the chosen one!" Miley piped up from the wall she was standing. "Do you have anything to say?"

All eyes were on Hayasaka, in contrast he wasn't looking at anyone in particular only staring down at his tablet, but when he spoke his voice was clear in the room that had gone silent. "It was you wasn't it?" When he lifted his eyes to meet Sara's she was startled to see such anger in his eyes. "You were the one who voted for me, weren't you?"

Sara couldn't answer anything, even though it was indeed her vote that condemned him, she was too afraid to admit it, so instead she just averted her gaze.

"Of course it was you... You're the reason we're all here after all." Hayasaka took a step foward in her direction, Joe putted himself between the two of them sensing the anger oozing out of the man. "I knew from the moment I saw you, you're the one to blame for this Death Game! We're all gathered here for your sake and their amusement! Damn you Sara Chidouin!"

"Now let's proceed to the conclusion of the first Mock Main Game shall we?" Just as Miley finished her sentance Hayasaka's collar started to turn a shade redder.

"It's hot...! It's burning!" His screams of agony and Miley's chuckles were the only thing filling the room. Soon enough Sara felt the lingering smell of burnt flesh in the air, she couldn't stand looking at the man her vote was killing. She heard the sound of blood evaporating, their shouts and screams mingling together, she wasn't quite sure who was making each noise, but Hayasaka's last words as he burned alive were hard for her to miss. "I'll damn you... from hell...!"

The words were strained and dragged, wich wasn't a surprise seeing that his vocal cords were probably melting as well, but even so he managed to direct those last words at her. Cursing her at his last breath.

Chapter Text

The smell of burnt flesh saturated the entire room, not leaving a single trace of fresh air.

Hayasaka's body had stopped squirming altogether with his words, the sound of Miley's laugh echoed around the room while watching their astonished faces.

Sara couldn't take her eyes away from the limp body on the ground, the seared smell and the sight was enough to make her stomach sick. It seemed like someone else was in control of her body while Sara was merely an expectator, her tears were drying on their own and she wasn't aware of the bruising grip she had on Joe's wrist.

Kanna had dropped to her knees and her hands grasping her sister's skirt, Gin and Nao were also sobbing to themselves at the horrendous cruelty they've witnessed. Everyone else was holding hack tears or just too shocked to react in any way.

Joe had his eyes closed, trying to erase what just happened from his brain, but it was an useless effort, the images, the sounds and that damned smell were already carved deep into his brain, marked with an hot iron leaving the scars behind.

"Hahahaha! How unladylike. You wet yourself?" Sara hadn't notice Miley stepping foward and staring at Kanna on the floor.

"You're... A-Awful... Why would you do this...?!" Kugie kneeled before Kanna resting her head on her sister's shoulders and putting herself between Kanna and Miley. "Everyone... everyone's a good person here...! How can you do this?! What did we do?!"

"Well, you've learned what a majority vote means from this experience, haven't you?"

"I can't stand this...! I can't...!" Nao was muttering under her breath, but with the silence that had filled the air, it was loud enough for everyone hear what she was saying.

"You annoy me, you powerless girl..." Miley  said eyeing Nao with pure disgust, like the girl was the filth on the sole of her shoes. But then as if she remembered something a creepy smile formed on her porcelain lips. "...No. You murderer."

Nao suddenly lifted her head staring at Miley with eyes almost falling out of their socket, she had her mouth hanging while a desperate look took over her features.

"Hahaha, I saw all of it. How miserable you were in your first trial, Nao." Nao's expression became even more wounded, Miley's words apparently hurt more than a real wound. "Your actions killed your so beloved professor."

Nao went back to sobbing and almost fell face down on the floor in a desperate attempt to get out of the room, Reko followed her quickly. Sara returned her gaze to Miley just as she heard a thump and then right after Miley's yell. Kai was in front of her holding his skillet hostilely, he had attacked her judging from the thin lines of blood running down her face.

"Forgive me. The hand with the frying pan must have slipped." Kai's tone was blunt just as much as it was calm. An amazing facet considering Miley's furious stance and curses. "So even dolls bleed red."

"Don't think you can do this... And just get away scot-free...!!" Mileys heterochromatic eyes were burning with barely contained rage.

"On the contrary... I ask that you don't think that you'll be getting away with so little as this." Kai didn't seem intimidated at all by her threat. "I will have you pay for toying with people's lives."

"Damn it!! Damn it!! I'll remember this!!" Miley marched in the direction of the door, but before exiting she turned to glare at Kai. "I'll be waiting... on the grounds of the main game...!"

Gin gingerly placed himself close to Hayasaka's body grasping his suit, sobbing quietly and begging the man to move and come back, the sight made Sara feel dirty, as if she directly responsible for his death, and in a way she was. Her trance was broken with Joe dragging her away from the room, the air was edging close to unberable by then, and no matter how selfish it was it made her feel a little better getting out of that scene. Sara just followed Joe's lead staring down at her feet while consciously not taking in her surroundings.

Once they arrived at the bar Joe made her sit down and took the stool on her right, they stayed like that with their heads hanging and deep within their heads for more time than she could count. She just sat there staring fiercegully at her sweaty palms laid on the balcon. She heard the sound of cloth crumpling and lifted her gaze from the balcon towards Joe's direction, he was holding something between his hands, it didn't went unnoticed the painful half-smile forming on his lips and the fat tears that started to fall when he blinked.

"It's just..." Joe started while looking at a photograph Sara realized, whirling to her directin so she could also look into it. It was a photo of her, Joe and Ryoko on the doner kebab place they went regularly, the three of them smiling cheerfully at the camera without a care in the world, oblivious to the horrors they would've soon witness. "It seems so long ago. And it's been only a few days... or at least I think it was." The Sara and Joe staring back at them were so different from what they felt now, happy and out going instead of scared and helpless.

"I-I Know..." Her voice was hoarse from crying, and the sudden crushing urge to rewind time a couple of days and go back to the day they took that picture.

Sharing their tears and lamentations, they stayed staring at the picture as if to magically transport into it. But instead the lights went out.

With a gasp her hand subconciously searched for Joe who was also startled by the sudden absence of light. Now with the pitch black bar she noticed a dim neon light coming from the compartment below the balcon, Joe also seemed to take notice and crouched to take a look and then picked the thing up, when he brought it to his face Sara realized that the neon light was coming from letters printed at the back of a card.

The one who claim this: This now belongs to you.

Keep it on you always.

This is a key to the exit.

Let no one else know the existence of this card.

Otherwise, you will die.

Joe frightened by the message instinctively searched for Sara's eyes in the dark, the room went completely silent as them both stopped breathing.

Would they kill Joe? For something so trivial?

Just as the lights went out they came back once again startling them, the neon light from the letters had disappeared and all was left to be seen was a blue design of the back of the card. Turning the card around both Joe and Sara were faced with a playing card with the icon of a hoe and below it was imprinted one word:

Commoner.

Sara moved her gaze away so fast her collarbone popped and made an odd sound, the neon words were still ringing in her head, she had to pretend she didn't see anything, if there was the slightest chance of the kidnappers killing Joe because of something so trite, she would not take the risk.

Playing dumb was the best thing to do now.

"Sara... You saw...?" Joe asked uncertain, even not looking at him Sara could still feel how uneasy her friend was judging by the crack in his voice.

"No. What are you talking about?" Returning her gaze to meet his, she put as much effort as she could in making her thoughts be clear through her gaze. "I haven't seen anything. Have you?"

Joe apparently followed her train of thought as he hid the card on his front pocket and shaked his head lightly. The tense silence stretched fow a couple of seconds as they waited for some reaction, but nothing happened except for the footsteps coming their way from the main hall.

"Oh! You guys are here." Reko said as she stepped into the bar. "Sorry, I was just looking for Nao. Did she come here?"

Sara took the opportunity to divert attention from what they found and what that message meant. "No, sorry... But I thought you went after her...?"

"I did. I left her at the cafeteria to try and get her some water, but couldn't find anything, and now I can't find her anywhere! Not to mention the flight of stairs that surged on the main hall. I think Miley went up there..." Reko said exasperated, the line on her eyes were tense as she cast her look nowhere specific and then returned to look at them. "Are you two all right? Everyone is kinda out of it right now and I... I don't know."

They still had the track of their tears showing in their cheeks, they were far from all right, but it wasn't as if they had the luxury to avoid facing what happened to Hayasaka head on, he was dead, merciless murdered right in front of their eyes, there was nothing to be done about it, so no matter how bad or guilty they felt about it there was no other choice but to try and find a way out of this place, and the surprising news of a new flight of stairs was something they could not look past.

"Yeah, we're just... We're just taking a breath, we'll be right back in a moment." Came Joe's voice raspy and uneasy, Reko didn't appear to be very convinced but turned around and left without saying anything else.

Once Reko was out of the bar silence embraced them once again, Sara could hear her own heartbeat, blood rushing through her veins and vessels dilating due to her nervousness. Joe seemed to share the same feeling as the thin skin on his neck became a pink shade and sweat started to damp his palms.

"Sara..." Joe said looking back at her again since the playing card affair. "... Do you know why... Hayasaka said those things to you?" Sara was taken by surprise at the question, she was consciously avoiding the subject of Hayasaka's last words. And Joe apparently also realized that as he rushed to correct himself. "It's not like I suspect you or anything ok? It's just that... I don't know why he would say all those things about you."

"I don't know either. I'm not gonna lie to you Joe, I-I did voted for him, but I have no ideia what he was talking about... I've never seen him before all of this, but he was talking to me as if he already knew me somehow. So... I really don't know." She sat once again at her stool and rested her elbows on the balcon while supporting her head between her hands.

"It's ok. We're gonna figure out all right? I know we will." Sara was also not convinced with Joe's words, but she wasn't about to step on her friend's hope, so she decided to just nod lightly. "I think we should try to find the others now. I can't stay here anymore, Let's see the stairs Reko mentioned. I need to move."

"Me too." Sara agreed, and so they left the bar and went towards the main hall, but before they even got to the main hall they saw it, the enourmous flight of stairs that Reko'd mentioned earlier, it went at least ten feet off the floor leading to a narrow passage connected to the wall. The both of them stepped in front of the first step where droplets of blood were stained and regarded the eerie passage. There was no one around, so the others must've been exploring the second floor while they were on the bar.

"Should we go up there too? Or maybe we should wait for someone else, it might be dangerous to go by ourselves." Joe said a bit more composed, his eyes once more focused on what was in front and tear tracks wipped away with the back of his hand. Sara wanted nothing more than to just get away from there, to just walk the few steps and feed off the curiosity and anxiety coiling inside her. Before she could answer as much to Joe, Reko came running back into the central hall panting and yelling at them to come to the game room.

"You guys have to come with me! We found someon-, I mean, Kurumada found someone else!!" Reko was restless and agitated, a fat drop of sweat was running down her temple, the panting only fomented the exhaustion she was carrying. "Please come with me!"

Left with no other choice they both hurried after her as she ran back towards the smoking area. When Sara stepped in the game room she saw it. A sturdy man with weird blue hair shaved on the side, and wearing a striped black and white vestiment that resembled a prisioner's uniform, was sitting on the floor with his wrists above his head restrained to the handle of the red room with ropes, Kurumada was standing before him with arms crossed and putting all his height to tower over the stranger. Kanna and Kugie were also in the room, both wary and keeping their distance from the intimidating men.

"Here, I got them. Couldn't find the beanie guy and Q-taro is with Kai on the second floor." Said Reko leaning on the wall to catch her breath. Observing the man thoroughly Sara noticed how pale he was, proeminent dark bags underneath his distrustful eyes. The man was similar to a caged animal, staring down his jailors defyingly awaiting his window of opportunity to break free. Altough being so suspicious looking, the stranger also had a collar like everyone else, implying he was a victim like them all. But was he?

Keiji entered the room a few seconds later carrying an asleep Gin on his shoulders, the boy must've passed out from crying if the swollen eyelids were anything to go by. "So that's the guy...?" Keiji said suspiciously as he readjusted his grip on Gin.

"I'm not some fucking circle animal for you fools to stare at!" The man spat harshly at Keiji. "Get me out of these damned restraints!" The guy's temperament was escalating fast, he tried to force his way out of the ropes for a short moment, but ultimately it was useless, ending up with his wrists burnt from the friction.

"I'm not happy with this either. But you suddenly appearing from nowhere is quite troublesome." Keiji answered.

"How's Gin? Were you guys still there... on the room?" Reko was fussing over Gin, but Sara doubted it was a good ideia to wake him up now in the presence of a suspicious individual. "How can these freaking kidnappers put a kid in a place like this!"

"Yeah, he was crying next to Hayasaka. I know I should've taken him out sooner, but I couldn't bring myself to take him away." Keiji exhale. "Not until a voice said we needed to get out of the room so the body could be retrieved, Gin was thrashing but I took him out of there anyway, it's unwise not to obey after what happened."

"Yeah, I guess you're right..." Reko said turning her gaze away with a pained expression.

"Is this everyone? Let's just get this guy talking already. I want some damn explanations as to why he was hiding in the red room 'til now, and you can be sure I'll get 'em, even if I have to punch 'em out of you." Kurumada who was silent until then was retaliating to the stranger's anger, his tone was louder than normally and his knuckles were turning white from the force he was holding himself back. Keiji also sensing the animosity between the two passed Gin to Reko and went to stand along side Kurumada. "So who are you,  punk?!"

"Hah, as if I'm gonna tell you anything, assume whatever you want." The stranger responded with an indignant huff.

"This guy's... a little riotous. That's troublesome..." Joe commented quietly next to Sara.

"Heh... all chicken, are you...?" The guy smiled defyingly at them.

Seeing that the man didn't seem to be that intimidated over Keiji and Kurumada, Sara took a step foward and politely asked with the softest voice she could make. "What can we call you then?" The guy landed his eyes on her for the first time since she entered the game room, and as soon as he did they grew wide and frantic, like the sight of her was enough to make the man tremble.

"Why is she walking around freely?! Hurry, Hurry! Someone capture her!!" The striped man shouted, his stance completely changed, he was scared of her that was clear. But why?

"What's this all of a sudden?" Keiji said as he side-eyed Sara.

"I know! Oh yes I do! This girl is bad news!!" The man said poiting one finger at Sara.

"Calm down, punk. Start at the beginning." Kurumada said as the same time Reko scolded the stranger for his weird tone. It didn't went unnoticed to Sara the look the man send Reko's way and then fastly recomposed himself.

"Hmph... Look at me, getting so disconcerted." He opened his eyes again and took in everyone on the room. "Just so it's clear, me and you are equals. Don't think I'll obediently listen to you."

"Then tell us your name. It's only fair." Keiji inquired stepping aside so Sara could also be in front of the man. "Mine's Keiji... Keiji Shinogi if you will."

"...I'm Sara, Sara Chidouin." Sara wasn't confortable in sharing her name with the man, but she thought it was as good as anything to start questioning him.

"... I-I am... Go... Gonbee Yamada..." 'Gonbee' relented hesitantly. "Call me Gonbee."

"What's your occupation?" Keiji continued to interrogate.

"My occupation is... err,,,well. A salaryman." Gonbee answered stuttering, Sara wasn't sure if it was mere nervousness or just a blatant lie, since the striped black and white cloth he was wearing said otherwise. So Sara questioned him as much, but Gonbee evaded pointing out that japanese uniforms had a different pattern, The fact that the man had such knowledge about the subject did nothing to erase her suspicion, Kurumada and Joe shared the sentiment. "True, I was imprisioned for a somewhat long time after borrowing from people a bit too much..."

"...Larceny, then?" Keiji commented a bit too loud.

"Surely even you've accidentally perma-borrowed a video game or two, right?!" Gonbee questioned exasperated. "That said... I was doing my time diligently, as a model prisoner! And yet suddenly, I was brought to this place...!" The man kept complaining about the tight ropes, but given the circunstance even Gonbee  was self-aware enough to acknowledge his dubiousness, wich made him more willing to explain himself. "When I awoke, I thought to myself... Yikes! This is a big yikes! ... Indeed. A speaker said something about a trial, but it was all foolish. I had already committed myself to hiding. So I went and locked myself in the red room."

"However... Several times, I did hear nearby sounds too dreadful for this world..." The stranger continued, his last statement made her curious, so she inquired as much, but once again Gonbee's physique became wary and disdainful. "... Don't try to feign innocence. I heard the sounds of a gunfight. nine gunshots... as many as nine people... died!" He gave another scornful glance at her direction. "When the punches at the door ceased I got out of the room to see what was happening. And there she stood! The killer wielding a gun... It was you Sara Chidouin!"

Thankfully that it was only that, Sara let herself release a breath and the tension that had formed on her shoulders.

"Err... So you were scared and hid, got in a panic because of the gunshots... Then saw Sara with revolver, and then went back to hiding?" Joe said at her back sounding tired with the whole argument. "That's all...?"

Once they explained the events that led to the Russian Roulette Game, Gonbee acknowledge his own missconceptions, seeing that he was seemingly in the same boat as them, there was no reason to keep him tied, Kurumada was still arguing about the decision, but easily enough agreed to keep a watchful eye on Gonbee.

"So, you gonna help us?" Keiji asked.

"Hahaha. You're all fools. Who would've assist someone they don't even know after hearing about the main game?" Gonbee was tall, not taller then both Keiji or Kurumada but definitely tall enough to overpower her, but otherwise his stance settled on nonchalance and mild amusement from the question. "Someone among you surely will turn traitor...! And only softhearted fools will die."

Reko who was keeping herself in front of the younger ones gave a nasty look in his away. His words sunk deeper on Kugie and Kanna who eyes grew wider and tense from the prospect of what was to happen.

"So... no will to help?" Keiji insisted.

"I refuse. But I won't interfere. So long." He exited the room without glancing back, Kurumada grumbled but followed behind him.

"Well... That's that..." Keiji said as he approached Joe and Sara. "Hey, after everything that happened I think there is something I have to show you."

"Show us what?" Joe asked curiously.

"Just follow me, it's near the dark corridor." Just as he answered he turned and made his way towards the exit.

"Hey! If you guys find Nao, please tell her to find us in the bar, I'm gonna watch over them for now." Reko asked as she also made her way out accompained by the sisters and Gin still passed out on her back.

Once they followed Keiji into the dark corridor, Sara felt her limbs grow heavy from so close from the pink room. She asked herself if she entered the room would Hayasaka's blood still be stained on the carpet? She knew she couldn't stand that sight again, so instead followed Keiji close to the right wall.

"Here." Keiji stopped and put his hand on the wall as to feel something. "Sou found this room earlier, we decided to keep it quiet for the time being, but I think it might be okay to show you."

His hand landed on a hidden handle and oppened a door that wasn't there a second ago, the door was completely dark, she could barely see the markings on the edge, there wasn't a single chance she could've find that by herself in such darkness.

The room inside was just as dark as the outside save for a small table lamp, the walls were decorated with bookshelfs filled with an abundant number of books, but what really caught her attention wasn't the books, the table or the blue floor, it was Sou's limp form on the ground, she could only see his worn out brown shoes and the glimpse of his pants, but it was definetely him.

Was he...

Was Sou...

...Dead?...