You hate me, don't you?
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Something has Changed
"What the?!" disappointment, surprised, and confusion merged into one in Robbie's mind, "Why I got scapegoated?"
"He said you're mistake. You are the actual perpetrator of anything, and I am your victim that invited to your fuss. Plus, he said I am still compliant with him," Mullet glared at the window, "Anyway, what I heard back then was about the problems that we did. But actually, we didn't,"
"Huh?" Robbie was dumbfounded by the illogical statement.
"Do you remember when Mary and Nino died?"
"He said that we tried to electrocute the whole pool, stole a brushcutter, and canceling a podcast. But in reality, we save somebody from being electrocuted, and we didn't steal and cancel anything,"
"Oh. Uhh…" After few taps on his chin, Robbie starts speaking, "Is he high or something?"
"Pfft. Probably," Mullet chuckled, "Since this school has bricks to sniff!"
"Hell yeah! He was like: Man, Robbie is the real threat. I always got a bad vibe, sniff sniff, ugh…,"
Both Robbie and Mullet enjoyed their laughter for a moment as their stress reliever. Nevertheless, they only have a couple of minutes before Shouko walks back into the clubroom.
"But you know what," Mullet stopped laughing, "this might be few separation ways since he trusted me… kind of…,"
"You mean I had to do some things on my own. So, he can't see what we are actually doing? Like you stay out of trouble to keep his trust, and I can stab him from behind,"
"Sounds like that, probably," Mullet answered after humming, "Anyway, here's the paper he gave to me. Probably something stupid again,"
While receiving the folded paper from his friend, an idea suddenly flew into Robbie's mind that might be something impatient to do now.
"Mullet. May I ask you something? How many days we passed on this school?"
"Oh," Mullet pulls his cellphone and sees the date – calculating the days passed, "37 days. Now is day 38,"
"See? It's 22 days left before day 60 – two months staying here. Before we are trapped in here forever," Robbie reminded.
"Now you wanna be foolish about this? Why don't we ask our dad how we can get to the portal or we better search for it? So, we can get to our pact and destroy it for good!"
"Robbie, we don't have enough information for-"
"That's why I ask you to find it together. There is still time. So, why not?"
Suddenly, when they are conversating about their escape plan, footsteps tapped along the hallway. Robbie calculates the person is about 6 meters away from the club room. The noise caused him to halt the conversation.
The footsteps are getting closer and closer, only a few seconds until someone's silhouette is visible through the door window. This leaves 2 possibilities, whether it was Shouko or someone just passing by.
Luckily, the person was just passing through their room.
"That's really gets through my nerves," Robbie sighed, "Anyway, if you said we had to separate ways for a few days until we rendezvous, what should we do soon when we're alone? The main things to do,"
"I dunno. But I am really sure he still doesn't know about this. And moreover, that shadow person told us to stay together, right?" Mullet scratched his head.
"Well, uh… maybe we need to change the plan for a bit," an idea flew into Robbie's idea, "We are may still doing this together, but we had to find some information alone… I guess,"
"Yeah… just to make sure,"
After one discreet dialogue, Robbie and Mullet run out of ideas to talk about because they finished what they wanted to discuss. Robbie, who is facing against the door, turned back and stared through the window, thinking about colorizing some problems that are still vague and grey. Even the grey clouds are covering the sky from its beauty.
"Man…" Robbie sighed, "Can we hold someone that we have and we love here? Even after we make our way out – either we breaking the cell or dig our own tunnel,"
"I hope so," Mullet wiped his face with both of his hands.
The door suddenly slid open without knowing who walked to their clubroom. Robbie and Mullet quickly turned 180 degrees facing it, where Shouko just walked back from the toilet. Her appearance indirectly gives a glimpse of memory of her friends, Nino and Mary.
"Oh. You come back," said Robbie.
"Yeah. I was just having my time there. Sorry for leaving you," Shouko replied while wiping her arm, "Anyway, Taro-senpai wants to meet you on the rooftop at 4,"
"Why?" one word came out of Mullet's mouth.
"I don't know. But he really needs you,"
Robbie glimpsed his wristwatch, where the time reads 15:41, 19 minutes before they are going to meet the man on the rooftop.
"So… I guess there's no more club activity today?"
"Nope," Shouko shrugged, "All done. I wanna sleep at the infirmary right now. I leave the keys to you, guys,"
"Heh…" Robbie chuckled, "Sleep deprived?"
"No!" Shouko replied by emphasizing the word, "I was just walking out late last night, and I sleep at 3.30,"
"Wait," Mullet blocked Shouko from continuing, knowing something weird, "Why did you do that?"
"About what you did last night, of course," Mullet knows if Shouko hides something from them.
"Tell us. We are your friends," Robbie got infected by Mullet's curiosity.
"I was just…"
Shouko stammered in a moment before answering, afraid of she did last night had something to them. Her eyeballs are averting Robbie and Mullet's gaze while she licks her own lips thrice.
"I have no idea why, but I can't sleep last night. It feels like I need to going out. So, I crept out of my house and took a walk around Kemuri District," Shouko starts telling her walking chronology.
"Wait, you walked there?" Mullet halted.
"Dude. Just let her finish," Robbie hit Mullet by his elbow.
"Well. I live there," Shouko lifted her eyebrows, "anyway when I was walking there, the 24/7 was left without cashier and a complete mess. But it's impossible someone robbed it since it was too messed up,"
"Too messed up? Can you tell me more about it?" one question grew inside Robbie's mind after her explanation.
"Uhh… some of the groceries were scattered across the floor. And the employee door was left opened,"
"The convenience store next to the Pizza stop, right?" Robbie double-checked if it was the place she went.
"Yes," Shouko nodded, "How do you know?"
"I went there before,"
"Anyway," Shouko blocked Robbie from asking more questions, "When I walked to the other place, I saw the bookstore was left open as well – messed up, and all doors were left open. I dunno why, but I think something weird happened lately, right after you guys are here for a month,"
"Weird things happened a month after we're here?" Mullet repeated the statement.
"Just tell us what you saw before," Robbie decided to take a step further and ask her without knowing their secrets.
"Kano starts to behave weird lately. Your English teacher starts ranting about both of you, streets are less crowded than before, and I recently see some strangers wandering alone with no good intentions. I am scared to go out, Robbie. I feel like things are getting worse," Shouko covered her temple with both of her palms as a sign of paranoia that haunting her for days.
Strangers wandering alone? Are they looking for us?
"How about the strangers you met? How their look?" Mullet broke the silent atmosphere to make it less awkward.
"Well, uh…" Shouko tapped her chin, "Oh! Most of them are wearing hats or shades, trying to hide their identities,"
"You mean at least to hide their faces?" Robbie replied.
Robbie recalled his memories about the mysterious man they met before (read ch.34 - 35), leading him to make a hypothesis if the strangers Shouko met yesterday are might be another mysterious man as well, or they are some people who is sent to locate and hunt Robbie and Mullet down. It might be.
"Can you tell me their appearance?"
"They are all wearing black,"
"Wearing black?" Mullet lifted his eyebrows, followed by Robbie looks at him, having a short inner conversation.
There are more than one?
I think so. This might be harder than we thought.
"Shouko. Just stay safe, okay. If you think they are trying to after you, just call the police or us. We can help you. And last but not least, try not to go outside for now if it's not necessary. You will be fine," Robbie convinced her and helped her to stay alive at the same time.
"Thanks for your advice, guys," Shouko smiled, "Now excuse me. I wanna go to the infirmary now. See you tomorrow,"
Shouko slid open the door and gone from their sights without closing it back. The clubroom now is occupied by two boys, decolorizing the whole room back to greyscale as well as the comfortable atmosphere that has gone by her.
"Let's stay here, shall we?" Mullet spoke after closing the door.
After 10 minutes of staying in the pale green room full of club objects, Robbie took a look at his wristwatch that less shiny due to no sunlight. The reflection of the lamp censored the time on his watch – causing him to move his left arm a bit until 15:57 shown.
"Yo. Let's go, bro,"
Robbie slid open the clubroom and stepped outside first, waiting for Mullet to enter the hallway atmosphere with him. The hallway itself is empty without any living kind walking around. The silent atmosphere inside suffocates them with fear and mystery for the next 30 minutes.
The brothers walk to the stairway to the rooftop, whereas promised. Taro-senpai is waiting for them to arrive. He faces forward – staring against the panorama in front of him emptily with his arms resting on the wall. He turned back as Robbie and Mullet's footsteps became louder and closer to him.
"So… what do you want to talk about?" Robbie opened the conversation with cold air hitting them three.
"Make sure this place is isolated. Then I can talk to both of you," Taro-senpai turned back again, refusing to inform them.
"What do you mean? Only three of us here,"
"I am not talking to you then. Think about it. Then, I will talk to you,"
Taro-senpai puzzled them with his words, leaving a huge question mark on their head about what they should do to isolate the rooftop from the whole world. Robbie looked around his surroundings while Mullet walked around the rooftop to ensure no one is there. But still, that third-year student refused to turn around.
"The door!" Taro-senpai grunted.
"Huh?" Robbie turned his head like an owl.
"You left it opened!"
"Oh," Robbie scratched his head.
"Good god. When people said that you are smart, why aren't you smart enough for such a puzzle?" Taro-senpai roasted him straightly.
After Robbie sealed the rooftop from the outside world, he walked back towards that third-year student without speaking a single word after he got roasted. Meanwhile, Mullet, who already arrived, wheezes at his friend with his right palm covering his mouth.
"What?!" Robbie threw a death stare against Mullet.
"Nope… nothing…" Mullet replied while still wheezing.
"Yea… whatever," Robbie pouted, "so what you want to talk about anyway?"
Taro-senpai finally turned his back. His appearance is different from usual – a complete opposite of his reckless behavior. His pupils contracted a bit as his sights moved to two boys in front of him.
"Do you guys realize things changed a lot recently?"
"Huh?" a question mark floated on Robbie and Mullet's head.
"I know you guys are still new to this school. I mean, you guys are here for a month, so you guys might not see something contrast," Taro-senpai glanced at his left and right like a drug dealer, "But things are not supposed to be usual,"
"Okay. Explain it to us," Mullet nodded.
"Weeks after you guys here, things changed. Students are getting less crowded and more silent, just a couple of them are buying some foods in the cafeteria, but no one was eating there. Even most of the foods are tasteless. In short, the whole atmosphere went dead morbidly,"
"How was the school's atmosphere usually back then? Colorful?" Robbie had a chance to interject the explanation as Taro-senpai took a breath.
"Yeah. I haven't seen Hideki for weeks too. Even my friends are barely in touch. I feel like we are separated since that spiky-haired boy was gone. But that is not what I am scared of. The fact is, I really worried about this whole situation and myself. I cannot sleep because I feel paranoid – feel if someone sneaked up behind me among this dead-silent atmosphere,"
"Just… calm down. Pull yourself together," Mullet lifted his hand, pushing down air with both of his palms.
"How can I calm down?" Taro-senpai started to sweat, "Robbie, you know Yuu, right?"
"Yuu?" Robbie scrunched his eyebrows, "Oh! That kid you bullied, right?"
"Yes. I feel like he's preparing something like a vengeance. I feel like literally being stalked everywhere that I go, probably waiting for the perfect time to do something to me that I cannot defend myself from it. I have no idea what to do. But I think Yuu sees you as a friend. Please, look after him and stop him if you can. Just… please do something for this whole situation," Taro-senpai stuttered as his heart beats faster, "I-I will do anything. I would protect both of you if I had to. But please… do something. I know I am going to hate myself after admitting what I have done to you all. But I don't care. I feel helpless now,"
"Look," Robbie gave one piece of advice, "If you feel being followed or something, try not to go home and stay out of touch. We will take care of Yuu and everything as best as we can. But keep going to school so we can give you some information. Just calm down, put yourself back on track, and trust us that things will get back to normal, at least for you,"
"Thanks…," Taro-senpai showed them a mild smile as a sign of gratitude before his expression went 180 again, "And as for Tommy… that English teacher that I do not want to say his name, I feel like he been dismissive about this all. It's like he wants us to ignore it and undergo his new normal program. I think he is actually doing something evil. So, I am mad at him. I cannot even put my fist at his head. The reason why I tell this to you guys is that you two are the only guy who is aware of such a situation,"
"Uhh…" Robbie gapped his mouth without he realized.
"Just don't let him know I tell you this. Or anyone knows about this. I am counting on you, buddy,"
"Well… we will not let you down, brother," Robbie sent him a mild smile of confidence.
"Thanks. I'll catch you up when I got an update on something. Now leave me alone up here,"
Robbie and Mullet walked away – leaving the silent rooftop atmosphere smothering that third-year student alone in the cloudy weather. The air inside the fifth-floor hallway suffocates their lungs a bit due to the false tranquility offered by it.
"Yo, I'm going to the toilet for number 1. I will get back here later," Robbie spoke after they passed the fourth floor.
They split ways each other while Mullet continues his footsteps to the school lobby. Being on his own, Robbie rushed himself to the toilet located not far from the stairway. The green plastic door in front of him is closed as usual, but not for long until Robbie opened it.
The restroom itself has no one inside except him, giving advantages and disadvantages, which he can do anything undetected. But there are chances someone will going in there. Without wasting his time, Robbie entered a toilet, opened his pants, and finished his job.
After Robbie pulled back his pants up, he realized that he still has that piece of paper that Tommy-sensei gave to him. Despite being told to not open it, he deviated from the rule and unfolded the paper…
And suddenly, the paper gave Robbie a shock and horror, where it reads:
DON'T YOU EVER
After his eyes captured the four words written in that loose-leaf paper, his ears caught a person stepping loudly along the hallway. The tapping noise penetrates through the white concrete that insulates it with the toilet. Oh, snap! Someone's here!
"Where is he anyway?" The unknown voice goes with a frustrating tone, signaling a threatening yet unclear target and purpose.
Oh no… is that guy is after me? That is not Mullet…
The unknown person goes closer and closer to the toilet door. After a few taps of shoes, the sound of footsteps was abruptly gone. It was not finished naturally, where it doesn't echo away, and the guy has just gone in a snap.
The unfinished footsteps noise did not bring relief up to Robbie's mind. Instead, it gave him a collateral paranoid with one extra unsolved question, whether the person is waiting for him to come outside or he just vanished with no footprint. Nevertheless, Robbie had to move out. Since the sun moves down to the ground, and darkness wants him to die.
Robbie folds back the paper and opens the toilet door slowly not to make a creaking sound. The total silent atmosphere makes it harder for him to keep quiet during his stealth mission – forcing him to tiptoe toward the door.
Upon reaching the door that is half-meter away from him, Robbie gently moves his left arm to contact with the doorknob made of metal. The cold steel of it touches with his left hand. His soul sucked out of him and replaced it with a coward. Now, time will tell Robbie who is behind him – a death or a second chance.
Here goes nothing…
With a tip of courage left, Robbie pulled open the door slowly without a creak – revealing the answer to his temporal question.
No one is waiting for him. Only an empty hallway and a cloudy view from outside that gives an unknown status of the atmosphere. However, this relieved him for a while, where he let out a sigh and walked down to meet his friend, who is waiting for him in the lobby.
After minutes of riding the bus, Robbie finally reached the bookstore where his friend, Chiyo, works there (read ch.18). Unfortunately, he was not welcomed nicely. A bloodied student sits there with his left hand clutching his left chest from the stab wounds – breathing heavily to sustain his pain away. Red liquid stains his yellow blazer and his white shirt.
"Just ignore me. I'm just stopping by here," the kid spoke without glaring at Robbie.
Robbie continued into the bookstore, where another cutscene meets him again. The bookstore is very messy, with some shelves overturned and books were scattered across the floor. It reenacts a fight and murder scene that happened there with a bloodstain on the counter. Robbie looked behind the counter, wondering who got knocked out by the shaggy brown-haired kid while staring at him with the bookstore uniform.
But only leave him a shock. Chiyo, his friend, lies prone with her blood coming out of her head – creating a small pond.
With a command of instinct, Robbie charged to the brown-haired kid to attack him, "Hey!"
Unfortunately, his hand is faster than him. The kid pulled out a taser gun and pointed it straight to Robbie's forehead.
"Cross this counter, and you are done!" the kid threatened Robbie with his finger almost pulled the trigger – made Robbie ended up canceled his attack.
"What have you done?!" Robbie still cannot hold the anger that was about to burst.
"None of your concern," The kid replied sourly, "What do you want?"
Robbie froze in his position, unmoving as his eyes give a repulsive memory about his friend's death (or was it really her) after a futile struggle.
"Could you hurry up?! My shift should be done now!"
Still, Robbie didn't answer.
"If you're not buying anything, you should leave now! We are closing soon," the kid evicted him with bloodstains on the left side of his eyeglasses.
"How about her? She's my friend, you idiot!" Robbie snapped.
"None of your freaking concern! She is not even your friend," the kid repointed the taser to Robbie's forehead, "Leave!"
With full anger, Robbie shoved open the door rudely with a slamming sound crash with his hands. He wishes not to go back to the bookstore after the worst memory marked that place. But suddenly, just after he stepped outside, the zombie-like student talks to him.
"Why can't you save us all? Or at least me?"
The kid tried to scare Robbie about his mistakes during the bloodbath in school. But Robbie was too numb to feel due to the anger and regret that blinded his mind and brain. He ignored the kid and walked away subsequently.
"I'm going out to buy some bread and stuff. You guys need it too?" Robbie put his hoodie sleeves into his arms due to the unforgiving cold temperature outside.
"Can you buy me a mousse, sweety? Mom hasn't eaten that for months," his mother spoke while watching TV with her husband.
"Oh. Can you buy me a red velvet?" his dad followed.
"Sure. I put those two on the list. I'm going now," Robbie rotated the doorknob and pulled open the door – leaving the house.
After hundreds of steps away from his home, Robbie finally arrived at the destination – the bakery next to a convenience store. But again, the same unsettling aura flies out like a fume as he put his foot inside.
The bakery itself has no customers, with all the cakes and bread are arranged neatly on each shelf without one sold. And again, Chiyo laid stiffly in front of the counter with her head bashed by apparently a blunt weapon, unmoving. The shaggy brown-haired kid appears again, replacing Chiyo's roleplay.
At that point, Robbie didn't feel wrath inside of his mind. Instead, a fear smothers him.
"What are you looking at..." The kid's expression changed as he realized Robbie arrived, "Hey! I recognize you! You look very familiar!"
Robbie didn't reply. His eyes are still focused on Chiyo's carcass for the second time – leaving a question mark about how many of her appears in his eyes.
"Have we met before?" the kid breaks Robbie's focus.
"I dunno," Robbie pointed his finger to his friend with a bit of fear, "What is this?"
"None of your concern, buddy!" the kid rubs his hands, "like what I said. This is all not even real, and it was not meant to happen. She already demonstrated it to you,"
Unfortunately, Robbie forgets the fact if Chiyo told the same thing as the kid mentioned before.
"So, what do you want?"
Knowing that his parents want cake, Robbie moved his feet to a shelf with a mousse first. But just before the tip of his fingers contacts that chocolate dessert, the brown-haired kid interrupts him.
"Hey, that is not for sale,"
"Then what can I buy here?" Robbie confused.
"Well. All these cakes are meant to be destroyed. That means you can't buy anything here,"
"You son of a devil! I'm outta here," Robbie grunted.
After a few meters away leaving the bakery, the fear still keeping up with him, which is from him witnessing Chiyo's death twice, and the fact that none of this is real or supposed to happen. Suddenly, a mind flew into his brain.
If he said that all of this is not real or supposed to happened, then how about Chiyo? Is she's real? Like how she got killed twice in a different place?
The question leaves him another side mission. Making sure his friend is real, or it was just his schizophrenic mind lied to him, and she was just an imaginary friend. Nonetheless, on his way home, Robbie heard someone with his footsteps. He halted and hid behind the bushes without creating any noises.
With a small gap from the bushes, Robbie looks through to the barren road 30 meters in front of him. The footsteps are gradually louder as two-person are getting close to an electric pole. They are the mysterious man in a black trench coat and a kid in a black hoodie and pants. He decides to hear their conversation.
"As what I expect. Glad you come here," the mysterious man finally spoke.
The man gives a hoodied man a dagger. The dagger itself has a black grip with a red accent.
"You know the deal. Get rid of the target. That target is too dangerous to be alive since it can leak more information. So we better stop it before it gets worse,"
The hoodied kid nodded.
"Good. Give me the information if the target is dead. So, I can move on to the next. See you,"
The mysterious man and the kid finally leave the scene. Only Robbie alone – hiding behind the bushes. By hearing their conversation. He already knows that he will get killed in a few days, forcing him to talk to Mullet to plan their escape quickly.
"A dagger… I better tell this all,"
To be continued…
And that's all for chapter 36.
Chapter 37 will be continued soon… if I have the will to write it down.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you guys are having a good day!