[KS] The Game

Apr 10th, 2013
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  1. Original post:
  3. The shadows of slumber lift from my mind as my consciousness slowly becomes aware of the outside world once again. I try to force myself back into sleep’s silent embrace, but a nagging feeling in the back of my mind gives me pause.
  5. I blearily open my eyes, squinting heavily to oppose the morning – well, nearly midday – light. Only in seeing it do I realise that my covers are thrown off and that my bed’s other occupant is missing. I’m not surprised in the slightest. This is not the first time I’ve found myself in such a situation.
  7. I sit up, yawning heavily and stretching out my muscles as best I can. When a girl’s gotta paint, a girl’s gotta paint, I guess. I look around my room, taking in its state after last night’s romp. Well, at least she remembered to put her pants on before leaving this time.
  9. I throw on a shirt and pants, and my favourite sweater vest. Hopefully the cafeteria is still serving breakfast. I’d hate to miss out on some of that delicious bacon they make on the weekends; it’s about the only thing they can’t turn into a flavourless white gruel.
  11. As I make for my dorm room door, I hear a crinkling beneath my feet. I squat down to pick it up, and realise it’s a note addressed to me. I open it and find a familiar script within. Writing with one’s feet doesn’t make for particularly neat hand – or should that be foot? – writing. Nevertheless, the note is legible enough for me to read.
  13. [Hisao,
  14. I hope you didn’t have any plans today, because I made some plans for you and if you couldn’t follow them that would be sad. There are a series of steps you need to take, kind of like one of those treasure hunt games that kids do, where the parents make the clues and the kids follow them to strange and exciting places, except I’m not your parent and you’re not my child because that would be weird. The first step is below. I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done. Have fun!
  15. Rin.]
  17. I scratch my head absent-mindedly. I can’t say there’s a precedent for this. That said, I find the idea of a treasure hunt quite appealing. It makes me wonder what kind of goodies Rin has in store. With that in mind, I read the first clue Rin has left for me.
  19. [My actions trump words
  20. Shaping the revolution
  21. Once more, with feeling]
  23. Huh? What is this, poetry? There’s definitely not a precedent for this. I read over the clue again. It seems pretty cryptic. And somewhat like a ‘who am I?’ riddle. So… the clue refers to a person? Someone involved in a revolution of some kind? I’m not well versed in history… maybe I should ask Yuuko?
  25. A sharp knock at the door diverts my attention. A lilting voice calls out from the other side.
  27. “Hicchan~, are you awake?”
  29. I groan audibly. Perhaps too audibly, as I hear the person on the other side of the door clapping her hands excitedly.
  31. “I heard you, Hicchan; open up~!”
  33. “Okay, okay, just give me a sec.”
  35. I hastily deposit Rin’s note on my desk, then take a deep breath to prepare for whatever pedantic wrath the Student Council has in store for me. I open the door slowly, peeking through the gap.
  37. “Hi hi~!”
  39. I sigh tiredly as I utter my response.
  41. “Good morning, Misha. What’s up?”
  43. “Shicchan has a message for you!”
  45. Misha pauses briefly for effect, before Shizune starts signing with rapid pace. As usual, Misha’s translation lacks the sting of the intended delivery.
  47. “Shicchan says that all student correspondence should be done through the proper channels and that it is expressly forbidden to stick un-sol-ic-i-ted letters to random doors; especially ones that lead to the Student Council room!”
  49. “Huh? What are you talking about? I haven’t been sticking anything to any doors.”
  51. Misha falters slightly, and a look of embarrassment appears in Shizune’s eyes for the briefest of seconds.
  53. “Y-yes, well… Miss Tezuka wasn’t in her room, so we came to see you, since you are her boyfriend~ and all…”
  55. I bury my face in my palm. I never would have guessed that hiding clues around the campus breached any rules. And, by the sounds of it, there are more of them elsewhere in the school. I sigh with exasperation.
  57. “How many clues did you find?”
  59. “Clues, Hicchan?”
  61. “Yeah. The letters. You must have found some to be asking about this.”
  63. Misha and Shizune share a glance before Shizune starts to sign her reply.
  65. “We just had the one, Hicchan. It was stuck on the door of the Student Council room.” A glint appears in Shizune’s eyes, and her hands fly faster than before. “Why, Hicchan? Are there more? Are you an accomplice in Miss Tezuka’s shenanigans~?”
  67. “What? No. I got a letter too. It said I had to find someone, and had a clue on it.”
  69. “What was the clue? Show us.”
  71. I retrieve Rin’s note and hand it to Shizune. The way she reads it is intense; almost like she’s staring it down. Conversely, Misha peeks cutely over Shizune’s shoulder, wide eyed and mouthing each word.
  73. After a few seconds, Shizune emits a short, snorting kind of sound from her nose, which I presume to be some sort of expression of success. She adjusts her glasses, smiling smugly, as she hands Rin’s note back to me and signs her answer.
  75. “Are you really so dense, Hicchan? The answer is obviously me!”
  77. I look confusedly at Shizune, who in turn becomes confused. I suspect Shizune’s response was mistranslated. I look to Misha for clarification.
  79. “Oh! Me as in Shicchan, not me as in me. Sorry~!”
  81. Well that makes more sense. Relief fills Shizune’s expression as mine shows my understanding. I’m somewhat ashamed that I didn’t make the connection before; Shizune can’t say words, so her actions speak for her. Pretty loudly, actually.
  83. Furthermore, the last line probably refers to her drive to get things done properly. I’m not so sure about the middle line, but I take it to have something to do with running the Student Council.
  85. “Huh. You’re right.”
  87. “Of course~ Shicchan’s right! And, if these are clues like you said, then your clue leads to Shicchan. Which means our letter is the next clue!”
  89. “Okay, cool. Where is it?”
  91. Shizune produces a folded piece of paper from the back of her belt. I realise just how strange it is to me that Shizune and Misha are dressed in casual clothes; I’ve only ever seen them in uniform. Shizune’s blouse and skirt are quite flattering, while Misha’s attire is unexpectedly plain.
  93. Refocusing on the paper before me, I take it from Shizune’s hand, unfold it and read the message therein.
  95. [Student Council president,
  96. Please make sure this note is visible, so Hisao can find it. It’s important. Plan-destroyingly important. I’m sure a planning kind of person like you will understand. Also, don’t yell at him.
  97. Rin.
  99. I see who you are
  100. But others do not see me
  101. Behind my façade]
  103. I look up expectantly towards Shizune and Misha. Presumably, they would have already read the clue. Misha shrugs, while Shizune tents her fingers thoughtfully. With a loud snap of her fingers, Shizune starts to communicate her thought process.
  105. “Maybe it’s ironic? Maybe this person doesn’t~ see us, strictly speaking. And maybe others do see them, but don’t see~ them, because they have this façade up.”
  107. I see where this is going. Pun not intended.
  109. “So then this clue refers to Lilly?”
  111. Shizune stands proud, one hand on her hip, the other adjusting her glasses, and lips curved into a broad smile.
  113. “Sure does~! Let’s go, Hicchan!”
  115. “What? Are you two coming with me?”
  117. “Wahaha! Of course we are, Hicchan! You know how much Shicchan loves games~!”
  119. I shrug, and lead Shizune and Misha out of my room. Rin never said anything about bringing other people along. We make our way over to the girls’ dormitory, Shizune leading the way to Lilly’s dorm room once we’re inside.
  121. When we arrive, I note the lack of anything stuck to Lilly’s door. My companions notice this as well, and without a second thought, Shizune raps loudly on the door. We wait a few seconds, with no response. Naturally, Shizune has no way of knowing this, so Misha signs the results to her.
  123. “So, what now?” Misha asks.
  125. I cup my chin in my hand, considering our next possible course of action. We decided the clue referred to Lilly. Were we wrong? There’s a whole class of vision impaired people at Yamaku; it could have been any one of them. And that’s assuming Shizune’s irony hypothesis was even correct in the first place. Maybe…
  127. “The clues refer to people, right? But our person isn’t here. Therefore, Lilly’s dorm isn’t where we’re supposed to go. We have to find Lilly. And I think I know just the place.”
  129. *****
  131. As I suspected, the disused classroom on the second floor is not entirely disused. My knocking and call of ‘Lilly?’ is replied to by a measured voice from within.
  133. “Hisao? Please, come in.”
  135. I enter Lilly’s tea room, Shizune and Misha right behind me. As usual, Lilly is seated at the table by the window, teacup in hand. I approach her, and casually brush her shoulder with my hand to inform her of my presence.
  137. “Sorry to intrude, but I believe you have something for me?”
  139. Lilly takes a small sip of her tea and hums lightly as she places the cup on the table.
  141. “You are correct. I haven’t the slightest idea what, beyond it being a piece of paper. Miss Tezuka asked me to hold on to it for you.”
  143. “It’s probably another clue~,” Misha interects.
  145. “Might that be the Student Council accompanying you, Hisao? This is a most interesting scenario.”
  147. “Yeah, Shizune and Misha are here. They’re helping me. Rin set up some kind of clue game, and the last one we found led us here.”
  149. “Then I suspect you might require this, so you can continue this game of yours,” Lilly says, withdrawing a folded piece of paper, much like the one that led us here, from under a saucer. I unfold the note and read its contents aloud.
  151. [Hello Lilly.
  152. That’s what I would say if you could read this. But you can’t. I tried to do those dot things but it didn’t work out too well. What were they called again? I dunno. Anyway, I should stop writing now so I can fit the next step on here.
  153. Rin.
  155. The phantom lingers
  156. My poker face hides my pain
  157. I run from my past]
  159. When I finish, the room sits in silence as everyone ponders the clue.
  161. “Man, this one’s really dark compared to the others, with its talk of phantoms and pain and whatnot,” I think aloud. Misha looks at me inquisitively.
  163. “Wait, Hicchan, what did you say?”
  165. “Uh… the clue. It’s moodier than the others because of how it uses words like ‘phantom’ and ‘pain’.”
  167. Misha neglects to add to the conversation, instead signing rapidly with Shizune with a devious look in her eye. As if she can understand their inaudible communiqué, Lilly’s mouth forms a silent ‘ohhh’ of understanding. I must be a bit slow on the uptake for this one.
  169. Shizune and Misha finish their signed conversation and Misha puts her hands on her hips, puffing her chest out and grinning like an idiot. Evidently, she’s figured out the answer.
  171. “Phantom. And pain. Put them together, Hicchan~! Phantom pain!”
  173. “Like one missing a limb may suffer from,” Lilly continues. “And who do we know that is missing limbs and runs?”
  175. “Resident detention expert Emi Ibarazaki!” Misha finishes, beaming with pride.
  177. I pull an impressed face, nodding sagely.
  179. “Nice work, Misha. So we need to find Emi. She’d either be at the track, in her dorm, or at the nurse’s office, right? Maybe we should split up. I’ll head out to the track.”
  181. “Okay okay~! Shicchan and I will check Emicchan’s dorm and the nurse’s office and meet you there!”
  183. Misha dashes out the door as she speaks, while Shizune gives a wave that more closely resembles a salute, which I return in kind, before she too dashes off. I turn to Lilly, still seated at the table beside me.
  185. “Would you like to come with me?” I ask.
  187. “I think I will; thank you, Hisao. This puzzle business has piqued my interest quite a bit.”
  189. I assist Lilly in packing away her porcelain tea set and, arms linked, lead her out towards the track.
  191. *****
  193. As we approach the track, I can see a tiny figure running at breakneck speed around it. It doesn’t take a genius to know that it’s Emi. She’s quite recognisable with her twin tails, gym uniform and bladed legs.
  195. What comes as a surprise, though, is the other person running the track. At first, I assume from their long, dark hair that it’s Miki, from my class, but, as Lilly and I get closer, I come to realise the mystery runner is, in fact, Hanako. She veers off of her lap to greet us.
  197. “Hi Hisao, h-hi Lilly!” She squeaks, panting slightly and wiping sweat from her forehead. As strange as it was seeing the Student Council out of uniform, it’s even stranger seeing Hanako in the gym uniform with her hair in a ponytail.
  199. Lilly raises her hand to her face in surprise.
  201. “Hanako? What are you doing out here?”
  203. “Training!”
  205. “What for?” I enquire.
  207. “Track! Well, sorta. I’m not g-good enough for the track team just yet. B-but I’m getting there!”
  209. “Give yourself more credit, Hana-banana; you’re better than you think!” Emi calls out, as she too abandons her run to greet us. “What’s up, guys?”
  211. I direct my question to both girls. “Did Rin leave anything with you two? Like, a note of some kind?”
  213. “Actually, yeah. She dropped it off just as we were getting started. I didn’t check what it was, though. I just assumed it was another one of her weird, arty things,” Emi answers, as she drapes a towel around her shoulders.
  215. “It was pretty w-weird,” Hanako continues. “Rin told me I wasn’t s-supposed to be here. She said I was being too much like Emi and n-not enough like me.”
  217. “That sounds like something Rin would say…” I sigh. “Can I take a look at it?”
  219. “Sure. I put it in my b-bag.”
  221. Hanako steps over to her bag, set upon the bleachers a short distance away, and starts digging through it as she speaks.
  223. “To be honest, it creeped me out a little when I r-read it.”
  225. “Why’s that?”
  227. “Hmm? Oh, cause it was about m-me. Odd subject for a haiku, I’d say. H-here, take a look.”
  229. I take the note from Hanako’s outstretched hand, and read out its contents.
  231. [Emi,
  232. Can you please hold onto this note? You need to give it to Hisao when he shows up. If he shows up. He probably will, because Hisao is a smart boy and I think he’ll know to come to you. Absolutely don’t go to him.
  233. Rin.
  235. Shrinking violet
  236. Hidden within my armour
  237. Flames of passion burn]
  239. “See? That’s m-me in a nutshell, right?”
  241. “I daresay you’ve changed a lot in recent times. For the better, may I add,” Lilly says. Hanako blushes and fiddles with her hair in response to Lilly’s flattery.
  243. “Heh. Thank you, Lilly. W-what’s this stuff about, anyway?”
  245. “It seems dear Rin has conjured up a game for Hisao here to partake in. These notes are his clues.”
  247. “Really? No w-wonder Rin wanted me somewhere else, if this clue p-pointed to me.”
  249. “You don’t have a note of your own, do you?” I ask.
  251. “Nope. Rin only left this one f-for Emi.”
  253. “Well, great. Now we’re at a dead end.”
  255. I plant myself heavily on the first row of the bleachers. How could we come this far, only to get stuck? We followed the clues. We found Shizune, then Lilly, then Emi, and finally Hanako. But now there are no more clues to follow. Did we make a mistake somewhere?
  257. I examine the clues we already found once again. My clue definitely pointed to Shizune. I was meant to go to the Student Council room, where the next clue was stuck up, but Misha and Shizune brought it to me instead. Lucky break, I guess, since they helped me figure out later clues.
  259. Their clue pointed to Lilly. Probably. There’s always the chance that Shizune was wrong about it being ironic. But following it to Lilly got us another clue. It’d be quite the stroke of luck to answer a clue wrong and still end up at the next step.
  261. Which was the clue pointing to Emi. It seemed more allegorical than the others, but the phantom pain idea combined with the running part left only a few potential candidates. Again, it would be incredibly lucky to get it wrong and still find another step.
  263. So we rightly ended up with a clue pointing to Hanako. But, Hanako is already here. That said, Hanako did say that Rin told her she shouldn’t have been at the track. So… Hanako was supposed to be somewhere else. But where? The library?
  265. “Oh, damnit, not the Student Council!”
  267. Emi’s protest breaks my concentration. I follow her gaze and find that Shizune and Misha have arrived. Even if I hadn’t have looked, Misha’s booming voice would have alerted me only milliseconds later.
  269. “Oh, good good~, you found Emicchan!”
  271. “What? Me again? What’d I do this time? I swear I wasn’t running when I knocked that freshman over!”
  273. The group falls into silence. It’s kind of comical, especially with Misha stuck in the middle of forming a word, index finger pointed upwards. She opens and closes her mouth a few times before getting back on track.
  275. “What’s this about a freshman?”
  277. “Uh… nothing! Never mind! What are you doing here?”
  279. “Meeting up with Hicchan of course~! Oh, that reminds me – look what Shicchan found outside the nurse’s office!”
  281. Misha hands me a folded piece of paper, identical to the other notes. I frown at the thought of its location.
  283. “I think this was supposed to be Hanako’s clue. Why was it at the nurse’s office?”
  285. “It was blowing around in the draught, Hicchan. Shicchan thinks it was stuck up… uh, elsewhere in the medical building.”
  287. A quick shared glance between Misha and Hanako suggests to me that the actual location of ‘elsewhere’ is between the Student Council and Hanako. I put the thought aside to focus on the task at hand. Here it is; the next clue. Once again, I open it up and read it aloud.
  289. [Receptionist lady,
  290. Please stick this up in the window or give it to Hanako when she finishes her appointment. She won’t know what it’s for but it’s essential that she takes it. The fate of the world depends on it. Almost.
  291. Rin.
  293. Broken heart and head
  294. We fell, and were born anew
  295. Love blooms in new life]
  297. I laugh heartily as I read out the clue. This has to be the last one. It would be fitting. Emi frowns and crosses her arms, evidently not understanding the clue. Honestly, I wouldn’t have expected her to.
  299. “What’s so funny, Hisao?”
  301. “I was wondering how this would end. I never would have guessed the final clue would have two answers.”
  303. “Two? And who might these two people be?” Lilly enquires.
  305. I chuckle slightly as I answer, “Rin and me.”
  307. Hanako taps her lip thoughtfully.
  309. “So… where do we go? The art room? Room three-three?”
  311. “Nah. I know exactly where to go.”
  313. Without any further words, I turn and start walking away from the track. For a second, no one else moves. Then, the crunch of footsteps in grass signals that I am being followed. I make no effort to escape. It’s not like I could, with Emi – and Hanako, it would seem – here, anyway.
  315. “Hey~ where are you going? You’re not going to leave us behind, are you?” Misha’s bubbly voice calls out.
  317. “I never said you couldn’t come with me.”
  319. “Good good! Shicchan says we’re going to follow this through to the end~! It’s no use putting in all this hard work if we don’t find out what the prize at the end is.”
  321. “Then let’s go.” I stop, and turn back towards Lilly, Hanako and Emi. “Are you three coming, too?”
  323. Emi and Hanako scramble to collect their gym bags and lead Lilly over to catch up to Shizune, Misha and me. Together, we head back towards the main grounds.
  325. We end up in a two-person-wide line formation. I lead the pack, with Lilly beside me, while Emi and Hanako chat quietly behind us and Misha and Shizune bring up the rear. In little more than a whisper, Lilly speaks.
  327. “I am most curious, Hisao; what did the clue that led you to me say?”
  329. I relay the haiku in an equally hushed tone, though it seems I am not hushed enough, as Emi interrupts her conversation with Hanako.
  331. “Hey yeah, what did mine say?”
  333. As with Lilly, I recite the clue that led us to Emi. She ponders it for a few seconds, before shrugging and looking off into the distance. I can’t help but notice that her strides are slightly less springy. Lilly speaking up again, though, draws my attention away from Emi.
  335. “You know, those haikus are really quite personal. I don’t claim to know anyone intimately, let alone the recipients of these clues, but I get the feeling they tell more than what their words say.”
  337. “I wouldn’t worry about it. They were made just for this, right? Rin lacks tact sometimes, but I don’t think she’d go putting people’s personal secrets in poetry.”
  339. “I do hope you’re right. Some of their implications were quite concerning.”
  341. “Like I said, don’t worry about it. It was all in good fun.”
  343. Lilly hums her response. Its tone leads me to believe that I haven’t assuaged Lilly’s worries. I try to clear the thought from my mind by studying the brickwork of the building ahead.
  345. “Heeeey…” Misha whines. “I just realised I didn’t get a clue about me…”
  347. Amidst the light giggling of our group, Hanako speaks up.
  349. “H-how about this; ‘Sweet like bubblegum; Hair to p-pierce the heavens; Misha is the best’.”
  351. “Wahaha! I love~ it! ‘Misha is the best’; classic~!”
  353. By the time the laughter subsides, we arrive outside my dorm room. Back where we started. It’s kind of poetic, really; which makes sense given the clues we’ve been following all afternoon. I look at each member of my entourage in turn.
  355. “Are you ready?”
  357. With a simultaneous nod, I have my answer. I turn the handle and slowly push the door open. Nearly everyone gasps in shock.
  359. My chest tightens somewhat.
  361. Shizune makes an expression somewhere in between confused and infuriated.
  363. Misha’s mouth and eyes spring wide open.
  365. Hanako covers her eyes with her hands and squeaks a high-pitched ‘eep!’
  367. Emi covers her mouth, probably to prevent herself from swearing.
  369. Lilly, being unable to see the scene before us, can only try to coax an explanation out of one of us.
  371. “What is it? What’s happening?”
  373. Inside my dorm room, posed on my bed and surrounded by an assortment of rose petals, Rin’s expression remains unchanged. She looks to each of the girls in turn, then down at her exposed breasts and crotch, then to me.
  375. “Well, this is embarrassing.”
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