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“Hey, what’s going on?” Ichizen asked a passing student.
“There was a lockdown five minutes ago. Something about an armed person in the area. I don’t know why we aren’t inside. It’s weird unless…. you don’t think they’re inside, do you?” the student informed us, a scared expression appearing on his face.
“That does sound weird. Thanks for telling me,” Ichizen said.
The police remained at the front entrance, their faces stiff and serious. It seemed counterintuitive for everyone to be outside. Something didn’t add up.
“Oh, Old Stone, you’re still here!” Ichizen called out to our sub.
Ichizen waved at someone near us. The teacher glanced over, nodding his head in acknowledgment. He walked toward us, a cigarette still dangling from his mouth. I guess no one cared since he didn’t actually light it. I’m sure numerous reprimands concerning him were heading to the principal’s office.
“Your school is way too fancy about their security protocols,” he said.
“Do you know what happened?” Ichizen asked.
“Not really. They just kicked me out of the teacher’s offices. Something about an armed man in the vicinity,” Old Stone replied.
“Why the hell are we outside then?” I asked, looking around.
“The hell if I know. Unless…. damn it,” Old Stone exclaimed, dashing off with a serious expression.
“He knows something. Let’s follow him!” Ichizen decided.
I prevented him from advancing any further. Who knows what kind of trouble Ichizen would get himself into? Besides, I didn’t want to see Ichizen die again, even if it wasn’t real.
“Yuki’s right. Don’t be an idiot,” Chihiro agreed.
“Guys, come on, it’ll be an adventure,” Ichizen argued, struggling.
“No, it won’t. Did you not see him earlier in class? If he’s not afraid to pull out a knife in class, who knows what else he can do?” I refused, dragging him back.
“But….. but….,” Ichizen whined, staring at me with sorrowful eyes.
“Just listen to Yuki! Wait, something’s happening,” Chihiro said, pointing at the entrance.
One of the police officers departed from the entrance, heading towards the large crowd of students. She spoke with one of the teachers and returned to her original spot.
“Attention everyone, you’re all dismissed from classes for today. Something has come up and we request everyone please head home in an orderly fashion,” the teacher announced.
Student chatter filled the area. It grew louder, but then dropped down, after a few teachers shouted out warnings. Great idea, everyone. Let’s talk louder so the possible armed person in the area could notice us.
“Yes! No school. Does that mean we’re on break starting tomorrow?” Ichizen looked at us.
“I guess. The school will probably contact us. They’re pretty good about stuff like that,” I nodded.
“Alright, time to go home and play games,” Ichizen shouted, dashing off.
“Seriously, is that all he ever thinks about?” Chihiro sighed.
“At least he didn’t follow…. oh crap,” I suddenly realized.
“Huh? Yuki, what’s wrong?” Chihiro asked, noticing the concerned expression on my face.
“You don’t think he chased after Old Stone, do you?” I asked.
“Damn, do you want me to go with you?” Chihiro offered her help.
“If you’re not busy. I don’t think he ran off too far with all that food,” I answered.
We checked the sports field first. There was a hidden shortcut that led to the school basement. Most students used it when they wanted to skip, or as a shortcut if running late. I never even knew about it until Ichizen told me.
“Seriously, I actually think he went back home, and dropped off his food,” Chihiro said, walking through the path.
“That actually might be true. Let’s take a look just in case,” I suggested.
When we arrived at the basement, there were voices. Chihiro and I hid ourselves, making sure we weren’t seen. Wait, that voice, it was familiar.
“I don’t know. The person you’ve been looking for is probably after me,” Old Stone said.
I peeked from behind our cover, seeing Old Stone with two other people. One was…. the Zhuyu look-alike, and the other was an En look-alike? Damn it, s*** was weird.
“Are you sure that it’s not us?” Zhuyu asked.
“I can’t say for sure. The police are everywhere. If we’re going to do something, it’ll have to be fast,” Old Stone replied.
“Fine. You know where they are?” Zhuyu questioned, pulling out a handgun from his belt.
“There’s a room on the third floor that has soundproof walls. That’s the best place for them to go, if they’re going to do anything,” Old Stone suggested.
“Are there still police inside?” Zhuyu inquired, checking his handgun.
“They’re still searching for the suspect. I have no idea how they haven’t found anything yet,” Old Stone answered.
“Is there an alternate way of getting there without anyone seeing us?” Zhuyu glanced up at the ceiling.
“No idea, I don’t exactly have the blueprints. Let’s go. We’re wasting time,” Old Stone decided.
They left their spot. There really was an armed person in here. The people inside must be dangerous, if Zhuyu carried a gun.
“What now, Yuki?” Chihiro asked.
“Leave. I don’t want to get caught up in something unnecessary,” I replied.
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Chihiro concurred.
When we backtracked, I saw three police officers blocking our exit. Not to mention, two security guards from our school too.
“This sucks. Should we just go out and pretend we’re leaving now?” Chihiro suggested.
“That might work,” I agreed.
One of the security guards stopped us. She waved us away after Chihiro provided an excuse. Good, that worked out well. We headed toward the bus stop, relieved we managed to get away.
“That was close. Ichizen can’t get past them so it should be safe,” Chihiro said, breathing a sigh of relief at our escape.
“Yeah. Even an idiot like him won’t try something like that,” I said.
“Yuki, there’s a phone call from school!” Mom shouted.
I answered the phone, listening to the recorded message. Looks like we were finally on break. There was also a warning about security and how the school took it seriously. Blah, blah, blah. I fell back into my bed, sleeping again.
“Yuki, get up!” I heard a voice.
Mom poked me with her laundry basket. She smiled at me, opening my closet.
“What time is it, Mom?” I asked, sitting up in bed.
“Almost ten. Did you get enough sleep?” she responded, throwing my dirty clothes into the basket.
“I did,” I answered.
“Ichizen’s already here. He’s waiting downstairs,” Mom informed me.
“So early?” I muttered, changing clothes.
Ichizen sat at the dinner table, playing his portable gaming device. He saw me, closing the cover. Knowing his gaming schedule, I assumed Ichizen would wake up at noon, or at an even later time. I stared at his face, but he didn’t seem sleep deprived. Did he actually sleep early for once?
“Morning, Yuki,” he greeted, eating a sandwich.
“You’re early. I thought you might still be sleeping, since we’re on break,” I commented.
“I was scared we actually might have school today, so I slept early,” Ichizen revealed.
“Really?” I stared at him in surprise.
“Hey, I’m worried about my grades! If we really had school, it would have been bad,” Ichizen said.
“Your grades aren’t even that bad. There’s only one class you suck at right now,” I disagreed with his statement.
“I guess you’re right, but you still never know about these things, Yuki. Let’s have fun today,” Ichizen said, giving me a big smile.
“What do you want to do?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t something crazy.
“Let’s go to school,” Ichizen answered.
First day of winter break and he wanted to go to school? I stared at him, hoping he was joking.
“Yuki, come on, I want to find out what happened yesterday,” Ichizen repeated his request one more time.
“Why would you want to go when we’re on break? Come on, it’s just common sense,” I shook my head.
“That’s why it’s the perfect time, Yuki. No one will be there, so we can explore,” Ichizen explained his reasoning.
“There’s still going to be police around, you know? How are we going to get in?” I questioned.
“That’s what makes it an adventure. Besides, there’s always a window open somewhere. We’ll just climb in,” Ichizen answered.
“Ichizen, I wonder why I’m friends with you,” I said.
“Is that a yes? I think I just heard a yes,” Ichizen misconstrued my words.
“I’ll go with you, but I have a few conditions. First, we leave immediately if there are police. If we can’t find a way of getting inside, then we leave,” I provided him with my conditions.
“Wait, that means we’ll end up leaving, no matter what,” Ichizen said.
“Of course, I don’t want to get in trouble. Besides, it’ll be a pain for me to explain to Auntie that her son got into a mess. So, do you agree?” I said.
“Fine, it’s not going to be as fun anymore,” Ichizen agreed to my terms.
I ate breakfast and then we headed out. Ichizen carried a small bag, no doubt a sandwich inside. We arrived at the school and Ichizen scouted ahead. He returned with a smile, which meant I was suckered into another one of his brilliant schemes.
“I didn’t see any police around. Like I said, there’s a window open,” Ichizen reported.
Ichizen crawled through the open window with ease. I followed him, finding ourselves on the first floor. He looked around, heading toward the stairs. It was weird being at school, no one around. Ichizen stopped midway up the stairs, beckoning me over.
“Yuki, there’s someone here!” he hissed in a low voice.
“Let’s leave. I don’t want to get involved,” I told him.
“It’s Old Stone. Don’t you want to know what he’s doing here?” Ichizen asked.
“If he’s here, then that must mean something bad will happen,” I disagreed.
“Yuki, come on, let’s go. He’s moving,” Ichizen dashed up.
I would leave you here, but who knows what might happen? I reluctantly followed him to the third floor. Ichizen hid behind a wall, scoping out the situation. I peered out, seeing Old Stone stare at the ground.
“Do you think he’s looking for treasure? Oh man, that would be great!” Ichizen came up with an outlandish suggestion.
“No, dumbass! Of course not,” I hissed at him.
Old Stone took out his knife, placing it back on his belt right away. Looked like he changed his mind. Ichizen and I trailed behind him, making sure he didn’t notice us. At this point, I’m sure he was aware of us.
“What kind of secrets is the substitute teacher hiding?” Ichizen pondered, watching Old Stone exit the classroom.
“I don’t think you want to know,” I warned, watching the door open.
Old Stone headed back downstairs. Huh, weird, did he not find anything? Probably small enough to keep it inside his pocket.
“There’s nothing interesting,” I said.
“Something is definitely going on. I can’t just leave it like this. Old Stone might have found a treasure map and now he’s going around, uncovering secrets,” Ichizen hypothesized.
“That’s very unlikely. Let’s just leave. There’s nothing else to do,” I ordered, heading towards the window.
“Fine,” Ichizen relented.
Old Stone noticed us climb out, waving us over. Not a surprise, I suspected he allowed us to follow him. Now what?
“The kids from yesterday, right?” he asked.
“Yep, that’s us. What are you doing here today?” Ichizen replied.
“I could ask the same. Anyways, I was here to retrieve something,” Old Stone answered, tapping his briefcase.
“You left your stuff inside?” I asked.
“They didn’t let me go back until today. See, there’s a bunch of other teachers here too,” Old Stone said, pointing at a teacher entering his car.
“Oh, so it wasn’t treasure!” Ichizen exclaimed.
“What?” Old Stone asked, looking over at me.
“Don’t even ask,” I replied.
“You guys get home safe. I’ll forget you were here,” Old Stone said.
I didn’t believe him. He went to the third floor for a specific purpose. I wouldn’t pry. Someone like Old Stone, better if I knew less. Who knows what would happen if I got injured, or worse die in this strange world?
“He found us out. Oh well, it was still fun today, don’t you think?” Ichizen laughed, after the substitute teacher left.
“The other teachers here might notice us, let’s leave already!” I said, dragging him away from the sports field.
When we were near the bus stop, I saw Kanshou again. He carried a tennis bag, Meshino accompanying him. He looked down at a piece of paper, before walking over to me.
“Excuse me, are you a student of the school there?” he asked.
“Yeah, were you planning on going? It’s closed since we’re on break,” I replied, a bit put off by his smile.
“That’s okay. My friend and I were wondering if the courts at your school were open. One of your tennis members wanted to practice,” Kanshou revealed.
“I don’t know. If they said it’s okay, it should be fine,” I said.
“Thanks for the help. Let’s go, Sueo,” Kanshou ordered, thanking me with yet another smile.
I watched them head toward the sports field. Kanshou was really nice but I didn’t like him.
“Yuki, that guy was really good looking,” Ichizen brought up.
“That’s what you figured out?” I sighed.
“Yeah, don’t you think so too? That guy with him seems familiar. Like I know him from somewhere, but that’s impossible. They’re from Mantan, right? I’ve never been there,” Ichizen answered.
You probably know Meshino, because he’s your gaming buddy, Nex. I didn’t say anything though. I put the pieces together, after hearing Meshino’s friend call him Nex. Did that mean Ichaival had the same connection with Ichizen too? Couldn’t be a coincidence.
“We watched them play, remember?” I responded.
“Oh yeah, you’re right. Man, I almost forgot about that. I’ll head back home and see if Nex is on. Hopefully, he is so we can do some team missions,” Ichizen decided, taking out his phone.
Your friend is not going to be on. I’ll let you figure it out. I missed these times, but knew that it was only a matter of time before I returned.
Synopsis: The online game <