After a short period of time, the broadcast over the PA system resumed. By this point, a crowd had gathered within the lounge, making the loft seem much smaller than it had before.
“So I guess we gotta explain how things go down from here, right, Kino? I’m good at encouraging the stabby, but you’re better at rules and stuff, so…”
After an exaggerated yawn, Asuta resigned himself quietly to allow Kino to take over. His breathing was still audible, though, so at the very least he hadn’t ditched to take a nap, but his excitement levels were still remarkably low. Boy could use a coffee.
“Now that the body has been discovered, you will be granted a period of time with which to investigate the facility before the trial proceedings begin. You may use the time as you see fit, but we recommend being as thorough as possible if you have any interest in catching the culprit. You are permitted to work alone, or in small groups not exceeding four people. A file containing some information about the body will be sent to you momentarily. We will explain the trial rules when the time comes, but in the meantime… best of luck.”
Kino sounded even less enthusiastic than usual, as if she were doing the bare minimum to recite a pre-prepared script. That was actually a distinct possibility, given that they’d announced their intentions on the first day of your captivity, but not one worth giving much thought at the time.
You had more urgent matters to worry about.
‘A body has been discovered.’ That was preposterous, right? It wasn’t as if the children had ever lied to you before, or at least not about matters pertaining to murder. Still, there was no way to be certain without seeing for yourself. For whatever your personal reasons may have been, one by one you made your way from where you had just been sleeping over to the northern lounge loft. There was an overwhelming sense of dread in the air, especially so for those of you coming from the south. Those in the north would certainly feel it too, but they at least had the luxury of knowing their partner was safe.
Perhaps it was that horrible feeling which spurred you along, or perhaps you were simply going along as instructed. Ignoring that directive, tempting as it might have been to simply return to sleep, would have been foolish. As you made your way to the lounge, most of you were able to pick out the face of your partner along the way. It was surely a relief to see them, until you remembered one of the unspoken truths of this twisted game.
Relief was not a luxury you could afford.
It was not a gruesome sight, it was not sensational or particularly dramatic. Lily laid on the couch looking serene, as if she were simply asleep. Like at any moment she would sit up and stretch, but she didn’t. The dead don’t rise again. Aite was poking at her body, prodding bruises, at least until Spydr shoved them aside. Shiloh Lee seemed to be throwing back a drink as fast as he could, looking a bit lost and confused by the whole matter. Keahi stood not too far from the body as well.
The fact that Lily looked almost perfectly at peace was not lost upon anyone. The motive conditions had been hard on just about everyone. Seven days spent separated from half of the others with no access to basic comforts, and yet there she was. Resting eternally, serenely. While certainly a tragic occurrence, perhaps there was some beauty to be found in the apparent bliss she attained in her last moments of life. Perhaps it was even poetic?
No. There was nothing beautiful or poetic about this.
It was just sad.
It was shortly after three in the morning, and just about everyone was asleep. By day seven, a routine had formed and people drifted to their sleeping locations by instinct. If things had gone on longer, perhaps, people would have grown accustomed to it just simply being the new way of life.
Yet in the wee hours at the end of the seventh day and the beginning of the eighth, where the dates felt like they would cross over, the PA emitted a harsh buzzing sound, like the beginning of an alarm that was cut off before it could continue. Exhausted voices leaked through the speakers.
“Ugh… This is the worst, you know that? We told you oysters to kill but why at this time? I was having such a good dream, too…”
Asuta’s voice sounded completely devoid of energy. The surprise of that change alone almost completely brushed over the implication that someone was dead.
“… A body has been discovered. Proceed to the lounge loft if you are not there already, or remain in place if you are. For those of you on the other side… you will–” a curt, uncharacteristic yawn cut through her words “– regain access momentarily. Please stand by, and stand away from the wall.”
The glass wall retracted. You were free to move as you pleased, it seemed.
Well, with the threat of punishment, it was hard to not go. These kids, as childish as they were, still held your lives in their hands.
You trudged over and looked around to realize only half of the students were with you. And more importantly, your partner was not present. As soon as you came to this realization, the ground rumbled. A wall of thick glass rose from the floor and extended up to the top of the ceiling, both on the bridges and above the room. You were cut off from one of the most influential people to you.
A television mounted in the hall began to glow, revealing the image of the two children once more. Whether you wanted to listen or not, they made themselves known.
“Hey toilet paper!! It’s day four and none of you have murdered ANYBODY!!! We’re starting to get REAAAALLLL bored up here, right?! So we, the awesome Asuta and Kino and friends, decided to spice up the deal a little bit!!”
Asuta swayed back and forth, teeming with excitement.
“As you can see, the floor has been divided into two halves - the north half and the south half. The barrier will remain in place until a murder occurs. Until then, you will not have access to half of the facilities here. For those of you who no longer have access to the dorms, you are hereby granted permission to sleep elsewhere for the duration of this motive.”
The implications of Kino’s words slowly dawned on you all. You weren’t just cut off from your partner - you realized you were cut off from either the beds or the showers, both important amenities that provided some semblance of normalcy and comfort.
“Yeah yeah yeah so we know that there’s like, sinks and rags and stuff still so we decided to turn the notch up a little for you southerners!! The only ingredients you rats can get from the feeders is cabbage and wonder bread and potatoes now so enjoy your cruddy Irish diet!!! I call it… the potato famine.”
He snickered with delight, infinitely more pleased with his own joke than Kino ever would be. That just added some flavor to the stress. Or pulled out the flavor, rather, but… This was… doable? Perhaps?
“If you find these conditions to be intolerable, there are two ways to put an end to them. The first is, simply enough, to kill someone. As soon as the body is found, the glass will retract. This, obviously, would be beneficial to everyone except the unfortunate victim. If you’re not feeling quite so magnanimous, we would like to present you with a second option. Check your handbooks, if you please.”
Almost right on cue, your handbooks all buzzed. A new function simply labelled ‘BETRAY’ flashed on your screen, though it was still grayed out. No jumping the gun on that one.
“Should you choose to press that button, you’ll be able to improve your own quality of life for the duration of the motive. Regaining access to the restricted amenity, for example. This, however, will come at the cost of your partner’s quality of life. Whatever you gain, they will lose something equivalent in return. It’s up to you to decide whether or not that’s worth it.”
It was the day after the hectic game night. Despite telling everyone that murder was a necessity, the children from before organized and even joined in an event about friendship, of all things. It was out of place in comparison to the mood and the dismal surroundings. Occasionally, you would sneeze out a bit of dust kicked up from the floor, or feel the need to shiver due to the cold and stale temperatures.
There certainly were upsides to spending time here. Free food, of relatively nice quality, too. It wasn’t necessarily a five-star meal, but you could get all the high-quality ingredients you wanted by simply asking. There was a library, and games, and drinks… nice things. It was just more of an environment suited to animals than people.
The intercom faded in to the sound of Asuta singing a monotone note at the top of his lungs. What time was it? 6 AM, apparently. Considering the party concluded around midnight, the children had to be exhausted.
“Ah! Aaaaah!! Ah! Are you piccolos awake now? Or do I need to yell louder?!?! Uh. Yeah, I’m just letting you know a new tab is available on your IDs. Right now it should just say ‘GO TO THIS PLACE’ so go there and I’ll let you bozos in on a little more later!! You’ll be punished if you don’t go, ok?!”
The intercom turned off. Sure enough, your card buzzed and lit up with a shiny new ‘motive’ tab. You pressed the button.
((You will be messaged you location privately!))
Kyo wasn’t the most attentive person out there, but even they weren’t stupid enough to be in denial about this situation. That didn’t stop them from hoping, but the moment those kids talked about killing eachother… they’d thrown in the towel pretty quickly. Sure, sure, they were an Ultimate, which was something so big they still struggled to wrap their head around it sometimes, but the situation their class had found themselves in seemed almost inescapable. The technology and money needed for such a stunt, and with how fucked Kyo knew Hope’s Peak Academy was, they figured the school wouldn’t even bother with a rescue. Too much work.
…yeah, they’d toned town their cynicism for the papers, but that didn’t stop their mind from immediately wandering into a dark abyss if left alone at literally any opportunity.
They hadn’t slept too well following the announcement, either - in fact, they didn’t sleep at all, and failed to grasp how their roommates were able to. They’d spent the whole night pacing up and down the room’s length, and up and down the hallway and through the facility a couple times for good measure. It wasn’t until morning that they’d started to wear themselves out, and they silently cursed themselves for managing to fuck up their sleeping schedule even in a murder game.
Regardless, there in the gamer lounge they were in the morning, somehow looking more exhausted than usual as they paced back and forth. By the tracks on the ground, and how clearly-in-the-middle-of-something they looked, they’d been at it for a while. They’d occupied themselves with reading the backs of video game cases, cycling through their stack of about five like they were reading a novel. They fumble a step occasionally, either too preoccupied or too tired. They didn’t even like video games that much - could never afford them, and they’d probably just get addicted and burn away daylight, yet here they were.
They don’t notice anybody come in, at least not at first as they stop to rub at one of their eyes and stifle a yawn. Good to see they’re taking their potential last day alive well.
You had been wandering the unfamiliar areas of the facility for some number of hours now. No matter how hard you looked, it seemed that there were no answers to be found anywhere. While some of you had adjusted to it quicker than others, that lingering sense of unease remained in the air like a thick miasma. Any hope of imminent rescue had been slowly suffocated by the oppressive atmosphere, and the radio silence from your presumed captors hadn’t helped matters either. Perhaps some of you were even wondering whether or not you’d hear back from them when the collars around your necks chimed, and a familiar voice emerged from them with a simple command.
“Return to the hallway in front of the kitchen. We have an important announcement to make.”
Whether or not you really trusted either of those voices from earlier, any new information would be better than remaining completely in the dark. Whether someone had to drag you there or you went under your own power, within a few minutes you had all congregated back in the area where you originally woke up. Once you were all there, the television screen flickered to life again, displaying a familiar scene. This time, though, the figures were illuminated much more clearly and you could easily distinguish their features.
Cw: Depictions of uncleanliness
You awoke face-down on a dirty floor. Dirt and dust plastered to your face, you stood up as the strangers around you seem to stir. Strangers? Strangers, no… no there was someone among them you recognized, equally dirty and uncomfortable. A ka-thump of pain pulsed through your head, as you felt yourself waking up from a drugged slumber.
Where was this? There were clearly walls and doors around, though the floor below your feet was not a floor at all, rather than dried-out soil, similar to the trodden ground void of grass at a ren faire. The air was stale, air conditioning cold like a hospital hallway without the patients. Though the walls were clearly defined and painted a dark gray, the dank lighting gave the place a dismal vibe in general.
Small chatter faded in among you. ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Who are you?’ ‘Why are we here?’ Though the questions went unanswered, the noise did seem to catch the attention of someone else. Surveillance cameras installed in the corners shifted their positions to face the group, and lights brightened just a little.
The television mounted to the wall flickered to life. Two figures appeared as silhouettes in what seemed to be a PA room or something of the sort… And they began to address you.