Arc One: Chapter 001
Those dead and cold eyes never blinked, not even once, and the devilish confidence that dripped from every syllable of his word, I could tell, even from that far — it made the black suit guy uneasy to his knees.
And, even though he looked like he truly believed in his numbers and his odds, I could see that somewhere deep down, he had the same insidious intuition about this. The same intuition which echoed in that silence— something was not right like something could— no, something would go wrong there.
That intense pressure felt too straining to think straight, and a dozen dead bodies lying all around certainly didn’t improve the situation.
I always used to imagine how it would feel to get in a death-like situation... again. And I learnt that I felt pitiful, scared and pathetic. Everything that I felt all those years back. But, something more. This sensation, a calmness and numbness in my mind which strangely resonated with that deep frustration in my heart.
It was like I was scared of it all, but still could not help moving away from it.
“Let me spell it again for you... Uhmm... what was your name, again? Ah, Mr I-don’t-care-about-your-name. I will not use rock in my play. If I win or tie the game using rock, then that will be my loss.”
Dreading the game, fearing the situation, Black-Suit looked like he was trying to recollect himself and maybe think straight. All the while I was hidden in the farthest and the darkest corner near to the exit of that evacuated and poorly lit building— watching the things unfold and trying not to shriek the next second. I was terrified but curious too.
But... why was I here? How did I wake up here, in this situation?
The only thing that I remembered was following a guy chased by a dozen men. And, the only thing that was somewhat visible to me was a guy in a black suit and another with those eyes. Those dead eyes that oozed an eerie emptiness.
The flickering light from the half-broken bulb on the ceiling could only help that much.
“And... w-what if I-I lose and y-you used Rock ?”
“Then, that’d be a tie match. And of course, you’re free to choose any one of the rock, paper or scissor. Also, I’ll give you two chances, and that’s just because I am feeling quite generous today.”
“Now... if you lose by any chance then, unfortunately, I’d have to kill you, and you’d end up just like the rest of your friends here. Yeah, I know, sad.”
“But luckily for you, I don’t want to do that. That’s why I am giving you this chance.”
From dead-eyes’ voice, I could tell that he was the same person who was shouting when being chased earlier. But those dead-eyes and this current situation strongly refuted that.
“S-So... w-what if I win?”
“Well, I won’t bet on it, but believe me, I want that to happen more than you do.”
“And yes, you’re free to do anything to me in that case, along with the bonus of escaping from that explosive, you are standing on.”
“Also, if you’re worried about me keeping my promise, then rest assured, as if there’s anything I am loyal to, it’s gambling and game promises...”
“...But, I think you already know that. Don’t you... Kazuma’s pet?”
Maybe it was an act.
Maybe to him, all this was a simple little game, but to me, it was too surreal to believe. After all, everything was so wrong, and I was stuck right in the centre of it all, with no recollection about anything.
One second I was following a helpless guy being chased, due to my curiosity and maybe due to my stigma and the next second, I woke up hidden in a corner. Not to mention the place where I could see dead bodies lying around with the killer playing rock-paper-scissors.
“And... i-if I don’t want to... p-participate?”
“Well, I am giving you a real chance here and I’d like to think that you’re not senseless enough to waste it. Are you?”
“Besides, do you see me standing on my tombstone? No... so, you should know that you don’t really have many good options here.”
I was creeped out by almost everything that was happening but even more by that use of words with that unnatural meticulosity in those sentences. Along with such steadiness in that voice — if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that dead-eyes was a machine or a computer, talking.
Why was he betting on a game that he had more chances to lose? Why he was going to kill Black-Suit? And if he was, why give him a chance?
So many questions had aroused my curiosity but all I could do was muffle my breath, and wait to see what happens next. Even though, honestly, I was not sure if I wanted my answers at that point. But it was not like I could run anyway, as I was caught up in that mess and there was no opportunity to leave, at least not yet.
Now seeing that Black-Suit was still and silent, I figured that he was lost in his thoughts, probably thinking about escape or about winning this game or maybe both.
“...How did it end up like this? How do I get out of it? What’s going to happen?”
“No... No... wait... I have to calm down...”
“I have to think straight, otherwise, there’s no way I can escape from this”
“So even though I am in the worst and most ridiculous situation possible, where my life depends on an irrelevant rock-paper-scissor game, I still have a chance—"
“I just have to think and beat him in this game, which is actually more in my favour too. I should just think about winning.”
“Now, if dead-eyes chooses rock, then to win, I can use either rock or paper. If he goes with paper, then to win I should choose scissor. If he goes with the scissor then I’d have to use rock.”
“It seems like I have four cases of wins here and two of them use the rock to win.”
“Compared to this, he can only win in two of the cases. Yes, this means that I have twice as many chances to win. I can do this...”
Brooding over something that can literally be the last choice of someone’s life, apparently creates much pressure. Even then, Black-Suit sounded a bit more confident when he finally spoke up. Well, definitely the odds seemed to be in his favour and even I really thought at that time — what could possibly go wrong?
“Should we begin or can I order a pizza while you’re thinking?”
“I am ready — Rock, paper, scissor... shoot...”
Appalled and dismayed, Black-Suit looked at his own hand and then at dead-eyes’. Probabilistically he should’ve won, but instead, I could hear the not-so-surprised voice of dead-eyes and a very-so-surprised voice of Black-Suit.
“We should move on for your second chance at the game, what’d you say?”
“H-How? I-I don’t understand...”
“...I had a higher chance of winning with a rock while you could have chosen either paper or scissor but you don’t seem even a bit surprised, much less for a fifty-fifty chance that went right with paper.”
“Hm... did you think that only you could calculate the chances of your wins? ‘Four chances of winning from using rock’ well, of course, I would use paper. There’s no fifty-fifty for this.”
“...But why would you do that, losing-guy?”
“No, not the game... I mean, who in his right mind would chase the only guy known to have made out of Elpida Corp? And that too without any plans or strategy or anything...”
“I make a distressed face, show a little concern, act a little bit, and all of you idiots rush to chase me down here. Never really thought this could be a trap, did you?”
“And now you’re thinking that how did you even get in this situation... Has Kazuma gone senile or what... thinking about sending you lot, for me?"
“Anyway, since I know that you’re a lot more stupid than you give yourself credit for, I’ll make the bet even easier.”
“I will only use rock and if I use paper or scissor, I will lose or tie like before. And if you win this game, the whole victory is yours, meaning that my previous win will be rescinded.”
“But, if you lose or tie the game, then I will be the winner.”
“Will that be easy enough for you?”
“...So, for example, if you use paper and I use rock then that’d be a tie?”
“And... the bets, are they the same as before? You’ll not kill me if I win, right?”
“Of course, and you are free to do whatever you chased me for — take me to your boss, kill me or something...”
Judging from his face that I could barely see in that light, Black-Suit was not able to interpret how dead-eyes could possibly expect to win this bet when literally his chance to win was just one in all the possibilities of the game.
Not that I could.
“Oh... Oh... This is a lot better chance for me. Now he has only one chance to win and that’d be when he uses rock and I choose scissor.”
“And, choosing rock will result in two chances of me winning and one chance of a tie; using paper will give me two chances of winning and one of tying while scissor will give me one chance of losing but two chances of winning.”
“From this, I think using paper or rock will be a good choice.”
“But the paper would be better as he said that he will not use anything but rock.”
Black-Suit looked like he made up his mind, but then he stopped midway and started thinking again. I understood that probably the confidence in those cold eyes which showed eagerness or that no-surprise-look from earlier made him reconsider his choices once more.
“No, wait... I should be more careful. He said that he’d be using rock then that means he’s expecting me to use paper to counter it.”
“Yeah... he’s no idiot he knows that him winning has only one possibility, and I’d be fully expecting it. So this means that his statement of using rock is a misdirection . Meaning — ”
“What he’s trying to do is tie the game and not win it... Yes, that’s why he specifically made a rule for tying this game.”
“I will not fall for this... not this time. I have figured you out, dead-eyes. You’re not going to use Rock, you’re going to use Paper. ”
“I am ready, let’s go... Rock, paper, scissor... shoot...”
“...Oops, well... a hundred for trying, right?”
“Huh...? H-How’s this p-possible? I was certain that you’d use paper this time, how come you chose rock? “What happened— ”
“You missed the point again... see, this time there was no misdirection. All there was the paradox of misdirection, as I call it.”
“Worry not, pal... Let me explain it to you.”
“Since I had already won once so you thought that I’d try to tie the match as there was only one possibility for me to win and I won’t wager my victory on it. And then those tie-game rules I had set, well, they helped you convince yourself that this was the correct theory. Didn’t they?”
“See, that’s where you got beaten, my friend. In the end, it was just a theory, and you don’t just blindly trust a theory based on what you hear or see, well I don’t, and you shouldn’t have either.”
“So, to cut it short...”
“...I expected that you’d expect me to go for a tie and use paper.”
“Hey, wait for a second... Now that I think about it, I realize, this all sounds more like expect-inception, am I right?”
“Maybe I should rename my paradox of misdirection to expect-inception. What’d you think, Kazuma-pet?”
The bewildered face of Black-Suit and shocked eyes of mine could not believe what just happened. Dead-eyes won, he actually won... he forced Black-Suit to use scissor which was the only chance he could lose the game. I had never seen such mind-play up close in my life, and that too for such a stupid simple game of rock-paper-scissor.
“Ah, man... don’t look so dejected. I didn’t break your hopes or anything. You never really had any chance to win from the beginning itself. I was just playing with you.”
“...Wha — what’s that supposed to mean?”
“That all of this was just me playing... and that I already knew what was going to happen.”
I could not see the face of the dead eyes guy and his eyes were just scaringly empty. But hearing that confidence in his voice, I knew that he was not lying or bluffing. But wouldn’t that mean that he had some kind of future predicting ability? It’s not possible, right? It’s just a mind-game... right?
“But... I-I don’t understand, it was not really on you. I could have gone with another option for my game. H-How could you have known th—"
“Yeah... but remember I started with ‘Checkmate’?”
“Well, I didn’t say that because it sounded cools or anything...”
“...Okay, maybe that too, but the point is that checkmate is something that you say when you’ve completely cornered your opponent and I already had.”
“I knew what choices you were going to make before you even thought about them.”
“H-How’s this p-possible? You’re ly—"
“Think about this... how did you find me at the end of the day?”
“Because you’re good at finding? Better than me? Do you think so? Even now? I was following you, observing you... You did not find me, pal. I found you.”
“So... don’t sweat it, and try not to take it personally, okay.”
While dead-eyes was chattering and I was listening to everything he said, I could not quite catch the moment when there was a strange sound and Black-Suit fell dead on the ground. But, maybe it was for good. Maybe I didn’t want to see someone die in front of me, again.
“Painless, right? I did not even use explosive on you.”
“Now... for your blood. Where is my syringe?”
Although those genius explanations, witty remarks and that sarcastic-cheerful tone of him made the gravity of the situation slip my mind, I was reminded about how dark the moments really were, the very next minute.
And those words made it pretty clear that Black-Suit was dead.
I could not understand what he meant by the blood or the syringe, even when it was quite obvious. Maybe because my mind felt dazed and kind of frozen. But when I saw a syringe shine on the neck of Black-Suit, sucking up blood in itself, I understood.
But, why did he need this guy’s blood? Was it something special? What was he going to do with it?
More questions started appearing but now I could feel that my fear and the rotten memories from that day were returning which quickly trumped my curiosity. Even knowing that someone just died before me, triggered those things. I had my hands pressing my mouth, so as to not leak an audible gasp, and my mind was choked with everything portentous.
And then, out of nowhere...
Dead-eyes started writhing in pain and fell on the ground. From the looks of it, he was feeling like something was hammering on his head and that too quite violently and relentlessly.
That cold look and the snarky grin that he wore all that time, quickly turned to a pained look and a groaning mouth that could let no voice out... while he struggled to stand. And the next moment I saw him pierce that large syringe full of blood in his neck.
Suddenly my mind signalled and I knew that this was possibly the best time to run... So I did, as discreetly and swiftly as possible, praying to make this whole event be one of those things in a nightmare that you forget when you wake up the next day. Faster, the better.
It was the first period and our teacher was a bit late but we knew that there was a new transfer student joining us today, so we were kind of, expecting it. I was talking with my friends, trying to blend in like always and everything was feeling normal.
Suddenly, the gate slid open, our teacher came and with him was the new transfer student— standing confident, looking cheerful but behind those spectacles, I saw the only thing I never expected or hoped to see... those same dead eyes.