But when you low, the don't tend to you (tend to you) Actin' new when they run into you (into you)
In the previous chapter. Mullet and Robbie were baited to distract from Yuu's plan that ended up killing Taro-senpai – right before they are all planned to gather at the school. However, his final words become their question mark. What does it mean anyway?
That third-year student death pierced Robbie's eyes – not knowing that he was the person who ended up being sacrificed instead of Shouko. The blazer that covered the stab wound is now colored red thanks to the blood that poured out.
Aside from all, he tried to pursue Mullet and Shouko, who are upset by his (somehow) negligence. In his mind, Robbie tried to convince his reason how Taro-senpai lost from his watch, but it is vain to do so since Mullet's anger still infested his mind.
Until he recalled Kano's three words…
Robbie now focused on Shouko, trying to help her and keep her by his side.
"Shouko. Hey… wait…" Robbie reached her.
She doesn't respond.
"Look. I know you're mad at me, but please-"
"Shut up! Just leave me alone!" Shouko slapped Robbie's right hand, refusing any kind of offer.
Robbie stopped following the two. He knows that it's no use to talk to them right now. His disappointment and sadness mixed into one overshadowed his mind from the beautiful sun. Not long after that, the school bell finally rang – wrapping up the school day into a forgotten-soon tragedy.
Bzzt Bzzt Bzzt
Robbie's phone suddenly diverts his feelings as it vibrates. He pulls up to reveal who calls him, which his second dad, Alco-san, dials him.
"Hey. Both of you have free time tonight, right?"
"Uhh… I do. But I dunno about Mullet,"
"Can you meet me at my garage at 8? There is something I wanna talk to both of you," Alco-san replied.
"Why not in the basement?"
"I locked it since no one is there. Jimi is in his tent, deserving his day off,"
"Alright. We will come," Robbie sighed.
"Good. I will see you both later. And make sure no one follows you, okay?"
BEEP BEEP BEEP
"Well… I better tell him now,"
The clock on the TV shows 19:17, a couple of minutes before Robbie decides to step outside to meet up in the abandoned garage. His left hand fidgeting his black hair - killing his boredom. A few minutes later, Robbie lowered the TV volume. Sending a PM to Mullet.
Robbie: Hey, we're going to his garage at 7:45. Do you want me to pick you up?
After sending a chat to his friend, Robbie continued to drink his guava juice. The pure sweetness of the guava itself spread all over his taste buds.
"Man… I really have a tough day today…," Robbie muttered.
He continues to drink the remaining guava juice until it's empty, leaving its carton to be thrown into the trash can, thanks to Robbie's laziness to get off the couch. However, he checked his phone to make sure Mullet replied to his chat. But no vibration buzzes.
He picked up the phone and decided to send another chat, knowing if Mullet still be angry at him.
Robbie: Look. If you don't want me to pick you up, I guess I will walk by myself then.
Robbie: I will see you there.
After sending two chats, Robbie throws the juice carton perfectly into the trash can. Sadly, some drips of it fell down to his red t-shirt and grey track pants despite no stain marked there. He leaves the living room by turning off the TV – going upstairs to read some books before going out.
Later on. The time reached 7:40, time for Robbie to leave the house and go to the garage by walk. He was too tired to use the car, and Mullet didn't reply to his chat. With his woodland camo pants and black hoodie, Robbie walked downstairs. Wearing his work boots before cruising down the cold night by himself.
"I'm going out now. Bye, mom,"
"Don't go home late, sweetie," His mother replied.
After stepping out of the house, Robbie realized that it was too late to reach Alco-san's garage. He knows that no bus or taxis pass by to pick him up. He regrets his choice and decides to walk back home, but kind of useless since he is already a couple of blocks away. Not to forget, he skipped the bus stop where he always used to go to school.
Luckily, upon reaching the second stop, A white-blue metallic bus stopped there – dropping two passengers before speeding away. Doesn't want to miss it, Robbie approaches by sprinting.
He boarded the bus – bringing him to each stop until reaching This Pizza.
The time from his phone shows 8:07. He arrived seven minutes late than the supposed time thanks to his inaccurate timing when leaving his home. Robbie walked off the bus alone – proceeding to the garage. A few steps later, his ears just recorded another tapping footsteps from behind.
Mullet appears out of nowhere, resulting in Robbie's confusion (since he didn't see his friend while looking against the bus window all the time). Robbie halted directly.
"I don't see you before. How did you get here?"
"Got myself die walking…" Mullet replied in a grunt.
"Oh sorry," Robbie scratched his head, "But you're the one refusing your own chance while I want to pick you up… at least to make you feel better,"
"Feel better?" Mullet scrunched his eyebrows.
"Well. You are still mad at me because of what happened before. So, I thought you still infuriated when I'm talking with you now,"
"Oh. That one…" Mullet recalled, "Nope. I am not mad anymore. I was on edge back then – can't control things in my mind. But now I am sober,"
"Well, I am sorry about that. But wow… I guess you're good on anger management…," Robbie let out a sigh to release the excess air in his lung.
"Thanks," Mullet smug – planning something, "unlike you. Short-tempered,"
"I pulled back my words…," Robbie pouted.
Robbie and Mullet finally arrived at the garage, where Alco-san is preparing some wood to lighten up a campfire – heating himself and cooking something for his dinner.
"Sorry for being late, Alco-san. I had to walk thousands of steps for a bus," Robbie greeted him.
"Reasons are reasons. But that's okay," Alco-san replied without glaring at them both, "Come in,"
Both Robbie and Mullet sit down on a sturdy chair that is still enough to hold their weight. Meanwhile, Alco-san sets up a cooking pot over the campfire – cooking the canned soup inside.
"How are you guys, by the way?"
"We're doing good. Thanks for asking," Robbie replied, "so… what do you want?"
"Wait until I finished this thing…,"
After Alco-san finished mixing all the ingredients, he moved to take a paper out of his backpack.
"As I asked you before," Alco-san opened the letter, handing it to Robbie.
"Wait. Why don't you use the stove?" Mullet, out of nowhere, asked about that man cooking on the campfire instead of the stove.
"Do you think the fuel is affordable like me?" Alco-san facepalmed, "Plus, cooking that soup on the campfire tastes better,"
"Oh… I dunno about that,"
"Anyway… after days of scoping around this city, I ask some of my friends the latest info about the pre-pass – the thing before you entered the supposed portal. They sent me an update, which I have good news and bad news,"
"Oh, thanks. What is it?" Robbie asked.
"The good news is, that paper gives the brief description of where that pre-pass located. But the bad news is, the actual location is still unclear," Alco-san pointed the paper on Robbie's hand.
"What do you mean it's still unclear?" Robbie scrunched his eyebrows.
Robbie moved his eyeballs to the paper. Although the letter that written is faded, it is still readable:
Sadly, that suspect has not been located.
We had to go anywhere that might be worth looking at.
Such as places that are crowded and lonely.
Even though we had to go to a private or weird place.
It might be easier on the place that is not crowd–dominated.
So, we can locate that person who did that drive-by.
When I said crowds, he might hide in nature.
"Hmm…" Robbie tapped his forehead, "How do you know this letter gives the brief description?"
"I re-read that single letter. It's kinda easy to decipher it. At first, I was suspicious of the last words on each line. When I used the UV torchlight, those last words were circled. So yeah…," Alco-san explained.
"You mean… it says Located at lonely place. Dominated by nature?"
"Yes," Alco-san nodded, "Which means the pre-pass might be located around the forest in this city. But we have no idea which one,"
"Why don't we search it one by one?" Mullet asked.
"Won't work," Alco-san shook his head, "It's still not time for the portal to open,"
"You mean it will open on certain days?"
"It's random, to be exact,"
"Oh yeah. One thing," Mullet finally have a question to ask after minutes of being wordless, "One of our friends got killed this afternoon. Before dying, he said agonizing red static, game over, slowed down, and error. Do you know what it means?"
"What?" Alco-san turned his back – not expecting the question.
"I said Before my friend's death, he said agonizing red static, game over, slowed down, and error. Do you know what it means?" Mullet repeated his question.
"Hmm…. I don't expect such questions since no one went there before," Alco-san scratched his head, pulling out the answer from his black hair.
"Went there? You mean there is another place to go or something?" Mullet repositioned his seat.
"Actually, it's more like you should avoid that place. Unless you want to die," Alco-san turned around.
"I have never encountered such an event before. But I can explain this. After you interact with that pre-pass. You will get to the altered dimension before going into the internal plexus of that school. There are some of the portals that might lure you. Those will lead you to your death. But if you remember which one is correct, then you're good to go,"
"Internal plexus of the school? Robbie asked.
"I remembered that like back when we were visiting the forest with the photo club," Mullet recalled his mind about the moment where everyone vanishes after he went out of the store (read chapter 20).
"Do you still remember it?" Alco-san asked.
Luckily, Mullet still remember his moment when he walked into the altered version of Jimi's bunker. He explained the story, from how a sphere brought him in and how he got back. Not to forget that Mullet forget to tell this long ago.
"Why don't you tell me about this?" Alco-san scrunched his eyebrows.
"Sorry. I forgot,"
"But that explained enough that the bunker you went before is the actual entrance. Remember that once you both are going in there," Alco-san nodded, "For your information, you will go into the real portal once, far before you go in again to make your escape,"
"Does that means I already know which the real portal we had to get in later?" Mullet repeated the question.
"Yes," Robbie sighed.
"Anyway…," Alco-san turned around, checking the soup in the pot was already cooked, "I cook a soup for dinner. You guys want some?"
Both Robbie and Mullet raised their eyebrows, accepting, "Sure!"
Unfortunately for Mullet, his phone vibrates, holding him to walk forward.
Meanwhile, Robbie prepared three cleaned bowls – only counting minutes before the soup was cooked.
"Sorry, guys. My brother told me to go home. There is something important right now," Mullet alarmed them both, cannot join the dinner.
"So, you're not joining us?" Robbie asked.
Mullet shook his head, "It's ok. Just enjoy it, I already eat before,"
After packing up his stuff, Mullet raised his left hand once he stepped out the garage – waving bye, and his existence was gone.
"Well… I guess it's ours now, Alco-san," Robbie poured the soup into two bowls, ready to eat.
After the delicious yet cheap treat from that homeless person, Robbie lingers on the chair thanks to his full stomach slowing his movement.
"The gravy is still sticking on my mouth," Robbie spoke while fidgeting a toy in his hand.
"Indeed," Alco-san replied, "Anyway…,"
Alco-san stopped packing his cooking utensils – wants to say something, "How is your relationship with Mullet?"
"We're good. I guess," Robbie replied to the out-of-nowhere question.
"Well. I want to give you a bit of advice. Just stay and look after him, okay?"
"Umm… okay," Robbie scrunched his eyebrows.
"Good. Don't let your guard down,"
"Why do you say such things to me? You're getting on my nerves a bit, Alco-san," Robbie recoiled.
"Meh. Just kidding. I wanna test your fear, hehe," Alco-san smugs.
"Now, mind if you help me clean these bowls and the pot?"
Day 43 – 18 days left
Three days have passed, nothing has happened after the death of that third-year student. Everything seems to be more and more absent in Robbie and Mullet's eyes. Only Shouko, the ones who are still alive today. The hallway tiles now only recalled their memories about red puddles that gushed out of anyone who lost their innocent lives.
"Do you wanna go to the rooftop?" Robbie asked with his bento on his right hand.
"I dunno. I don't feel like want to eat,"
They walked their legs up to the stairway minus Shouko – deciding to go into the rooftop and enjoy the lunchtime anyway. Thanks to the students, they make the whole hallway crowded. Otherwise, it was just only a dead silence that haunted them on the noon.
"I hope these can end soon," Mullet muttered.
"A man can hope. But it takes a better one to fulfill them," Robbie replied.
"You mean us? – the better ones,"
Robbie let out a breath before speaking.
"What do you think?"
"I dunno. But I think it takes someone to make him die trying to break the cage," Mullet revised Robbie's words.
Upon reaching the fifth floor (the clubrooms), they meet with the bullies. Plot twist, all of them are just stopped in the hallway, have no idea what to do next. Robbie stepped forward – ignoring them. One of the bullies, Kuro, pulled himself back. But weird still, the whole gang tried not to contact either Robbie or Mullet, along with their terrified expression (that can be read from Kuro's sweaty palms and his breaths that barely blow from his nose).
"We're cool, right?" Kuro spoke to Robbie.
"Just… don't hurt us, okay?" he randomly replied.
"Alright…," Robbie scrunched his eyebrows, "Get outta here…,"
The bullies (weirdly) obeyed him and started to run down the stairs for their lives, except Sena. She is still confused with her friends that acted weird recently. She just raised her eyebrows – staring them agape.
"Hmm," Robbie gave her a sign by waving his hand to the stairway.
Sena confusedly followed her friends down the stairway. She is the only one who doesn't fear Robbie and Mullet's existence. No sweat is visible from her skin, and her eyes blink normally.
"What is wrong with them?" Mullet asked.
"No idea," Robbie shrugged, "Maybe Taro-senpai's death caused it all?"
"Dude. You know if he leads the bullies like back in our first days on this school?" Robbie plugged that memory back to him.
"Oh. That one," Mullet nodded, "So, you mean… after his death. The bullies have nowhere to go?"
"Yeah. But I don't think that answer is strong enough," Robbie tapped his chin.
"Or maybe like after he comes to us and Hideki's disappearance gave some sense to them?" Mullet polished his answer.
Both Robbie and Mullet finally arrived at the rooftop. The heat from the sun is ready to keep their food warm yet make them sweat. Some of the students are also hanging out there whether to have lunch together or have fun. But again, Shouko is still absent since she has work to do.
Suddenly, after they finished their lunchtime, the metal door creaked out – stealing their sight to it. Sena popped out of it – alone. She walks towards Robbie with her blazer that is not really ironed neatly – proving that she is not good at it.
"Hey you," Sena pointed at Robbie, "Follow me,"
"Uhh… yeah," Robbie nodded once, "Come on, Mullet,"
"No! just you," Sena scowled.
Robbie spoke to Mullet before leaving his seat, "I'll be back,"
He followed that woman. They both back into the stairway that is always empty when students are busy enjoying their lunch. After double-checking the situation is crowd less, Sena glares at him – resulting in Robbie's confusion.
"I actually want to talk to you about something,"
"Something secret?" Robbie guessed.
"Yeah," Sena nodded.
"Why don't you just talk it to your friend?"
"I don't know. But I feel like you know anything about what happened here. I feel like something is missing, a lot," Sena scratched her hair.
Robbie stays unmoved, whether he is confused or his mind floated hearing her reason. Even the heat winded up to him, making him start to sweat from his hair.
What is she talking about? Does she know?
"What do you mean something is missing?" Robbie started with an easy question.
"I have no idea too. But I feel like some people are gone, and I don't know who and how it happened," Sena replied with a lower volume, yet audible.
"Maybe you just overthinking about it?" Robbie gave a weak answer.
"Overthinking? You're not answering my question!" Sena frowned, "But that does not matter. I want to show this,"
Sena took off her untidy blazer and handed it to Robbie. She rolled up her left sleeves almost up to her armpit. A zig-zag-shaped injury is shown on her upper arm apart from her white and soft skin (thanks to the good treatment)
"Don't touch it. It still hurts,"
"Did you get into a fight or something?"
"No," Sena shook her head, "It just suddenly appeared when I woke up this morning. But I don't even respond to such pain when it happened,"
"You don't feel the pain when you're sleeping?" Robbie repeated.
"Yeah. I don't even in a coma. I just sleeping,"
Sena rolled down her left sleeve and put on her blazer back. This time, her breath went slower, and she fell a bit dizzy – pausing herself before speaking one last word.
"Sena. Are you okay? You look so lousy," Robbie holds her shoulders.
"It's okay. I am fine," Sena spoke softly.
"Just go to the infirmary, get some rest,"
"One thing," Sena took Robbie's arms off her shoulders, "There is someone who wants to meet you tomorrow morning at the hill park,"
"I don't know her name," Sena shook her head slowly.
Sena nodded, "I gotta go now. Take care,"
"Are you can walk by yourself?" Robbie asked her since she feels more unstable, "If you can't, I can bring you there,"
"I can go by myself,"
Sena refused his offer and walked downstairs slower than usual. After the wall separated Robbie's sight from her, he decided to walk back to the roof to take out his belongings.
It might be her…
Day 44 – 17 days left
Robbie detached his school blazer from his body. He knows that was no use to walk to the same place every day. Hence, he takes a day off from school and tells Mullet about it without explaining his purpose. But still with his backpack on. Plus, He doesn't bother boarding the bus today because the route is not in line with his journey.
It takes about 32 minutes for him to reach the hill park, thanks to his stamina and walking speed.
The park itself is empty yet confusing. Not only because this is the first time Robbie visited the place, but also several things are absent to be called so.
But there, Robbie's sights focus on Chiyo, with her white shirt and brown suspenders that look like newly bought. She just sits on a bench.
"So, you told me to get here, right? I am here," he greets.
"Yeah," Chiyo leaves the bench, "It has been a while since we meet each other,"
"What do you mean? We just met each other like weeks ago," Robbie raised his eyebrows, "And are you actually you this time? I hope there are no clones of you are hiding now,"
"Of course, I am, silly," Chiyo walks closer to Robbie until their distance is about one meter, "And what are you babbling about?"
"No… nothing," Robbie shook his head, "And what are you want right now? I just sacrificed my school day, tho,"
"Oh. You're really wanted to get to the point, right?"
Chiyo pulled out something from her suspender's pocket. Which is a picture of her and Robbie taken 7 years ago. The paper itself is dirty, proven by some dirt marks roughen the paper texture.
"They told me I might see you if I waited here. I thought you never come,"
"And you just wanted to hand me this picture?" Robbie asked.
"Yes. You actually asked me for a copy of it, remember?" Chiyo gave the picture to Robbie.
"Yeah… and what do you mean they told you? Who are they?" Robbie throws a question mark from his friend's words.
The ambiguous statement confuses him, having no idea what Chiyo actually means (which can be either his any kinds friends or those who he doesn't know).
"One last thing," Chiyo continued, "They are also waiting for you too. They aren't as patient as I am,"
"My friends wanted to meet me too?"
"Mmhm," Chiyo nodded.
"I think I will see about that," Robbie confused, "just tell me, okay?"
"Yup," Chiyo throws a thumb up, "Looks like my work here is done. Go complete yours. Thanks for coming. I really appreciate it,"
"Okay. I will see you later, Chiyo. I got work to do since I don't go to school today,"
When they were about to separate, Robbie stopped his steps when he saw Chiyo walking back to the bench – looking down the cliff behind.
"What are you doing?" Robbie asked.
"Going back home," she replied.
"That's not the way," Robbie tilted his head.
"I know what I am doing," Chiyo put her hands on the fence that separates the park from that 10-meters-high cliff.
"Yeah… right. Just don't go home late,"
Robbie finally puts his foot off the park – ready to go anywhere he wants.
Just before Robbie stepped his foot on the sidewalk, Chiyo's voice attracted his attention. He turned his back, only to see her is now disappeared with no trace.
I knew it!
Robbie rushes to the fence, looking around where she is now. But Chiyo is nowhere to be seen except her left shoe dropped not far from the cliff like a Cinderella.
"Ugh… where is she,"
Robbie used the stairs to walk down the cliff. Upon arriving on the ground, he saw Chiyo's right shoes neat at one of the trees. Feeling curious and suspicious at the same time, he decided to search her by walking straight.
It doesn't take long for him to locate Chiyo. Some specks of dirt are scattered on the grass – creating a trail that leads him somewhere until a bush rustles loudly, as well as the dirt that goes through.
She's there, I guess…
Robbie cuts through the bushes to fulfill his curiosity, but only to his surprise and terror.
He encountered Chiyo lies there, half-buried. She also holds the same picture as she gave to him before, and a letter reads:
Sorry, I haven't told you before...
And at last, Robbie realized the reason why Chiyo is no more contactable. He flashbacks where after saving her on the beach. She says to him that she had to go somewhere. At first, Robbie was confused. But now, everything is answered.
"She… died?" Robbie muttered with the photo in his hand.
A sudden attack smashed Robbie's back head, hard enough to knock that athletic kid down and unconscious. With remaining awareness, he tried to look up – looking at who just hit him using a shovel. Alas, it's just too late.
Robbie regains his conscious left but only realizes that he is in his own house and darkness blinded him. However, he has nothing to be scared of since he knows who bought him there.
Robbie gets up on his feet, following the dimmed light that leads him to his bedroom. There, the shadow person sits on his bed, ready to tell that kid something.
"Looks like this is our last meeting now, and I don't need your friend to arrive anyway. I am sure either you know or pretend to know by now that this won't end well. Soon, you will be all alone. But that's okay," he said.
Neither Robbie nor his inner mind to reply any kind of word to him. He just stands there with both of his fists loosely clenched.
"Before we say goodbye, I will let you know. What you do from here on, will determine all of your plans and actions until the end, even a tip of your action. It's like a one-way road without any intersections. There will be no two options. There will be no Or. Only one."
The shadow person stands up before continuing.
"A tip of mistake you made… will agonize you more painful… before your demise,"
Robbie's door suddenly lightened by a dimmed light – leading him to go there.
"Now it's time for you to leave. There is a warm wooden bedroom across the hall from here. You might gonna do something worthwhile in there. And also, remember to close the door once you are inside,"
Robbie obeyed the shadow person without speaking any words. He feels like his mouth being sewn by an invisible thread – preventing him from speaking. The creaking door gets his sense once he pushes it open. As he expects, a brightened hallway greets him with a brown wooden door. He enters it and closes the door afterward.
The beautiful yet weird-charming effect from the room doesn't chill down his nerves, but not because of fear. He was just confused with the surroundings. Two comfy beds with a bed drawer each. A wardrobe and a drawer with a mirror are placed neatly. Also, a window that leads directly to the forest and field underneath.
Is this the place I will go?
Robbie looks at a sheet rope on the right bed – sitting down and examines it. But out of nowhere, the door he closed before suddenly violently knocked several times before it blasts to him.
To be continued…
That's for chapter 39.
Yes. I am currently trying on new hobbies. What I wanna do in the next chapter? I dunno...
Thank you for reading, and I hope you guys are having a good day!